FOOT STOMPING – Soul Singles of 1961

We continue excerpts from the History section of the Celebrate Good Times book with a retrospective of the Top 100 Soul Singles of 1961. Our previous dips into the Sixties soulful goodie-bag has revealed the Top 100 Soul Singles of 1962 and 1963 respectively. This latest journey into the archives presents a selection designed to celebrate the greatest rhythm  & blues records of the year previous. Again, they feature records only released in the UK on 45. Black harmony groups had been around for a long time, initially singing gospel. Recording groups like The Mills Brothers and The Ink Spots took a more secular approach, singing ballads, pop and jump tunes. They made an incredible impact on the global music scene during the Thirties and Forties and were hugely successful and influential. Their style spawned many imitators which in the late Forties gave birth to what we now know as ‘doowop’ – a vibrant and exciting vocal form which saw harmonized back-ups help to create a thrilling rhythmic backdrop and counterpoint to lead vocals. These type of groups became especially prominent in the Fifties which is considered to be the golden era of the genre. A pivotal record in 1959 by The Drifters – There Goes My Baby – saw the addition of lavish string arrangements, which announced the arrival of a new ‘soul’ sound. This drifting soul sound is earmarked in the selection by four of their classics – Room Full Of Tears; a Brill Building masterpiece written by Continue reading

1987 – UK Reggae Number Ones

The advent of dancehall, digital and ragga really shook things up on the reggae scene during the Eighties. However, this didn’t halt the proliferation of home-grown talent which specialized in producing lovers rock for the masses. The year was bookended by two of what have since become masterpieces of the genre. In between, the chart was dominated by dancehall tracks, a couple of soul covers, straight-ahead Jamaican reggae and a leftfield Big People’s anthem. Only eleven records hit the top spot during 1987. As usual, an asterisk denotes non-consecutive weeks at No.1. LATELY | The Natural-Ites | Realistics 6 wks The Natural-Ites hailed from Nottingham and had first made an impression with Close To Me. Their rootsy Picture On The Wall was a massive hit in 1983. Black Roses was another popular tune in 1984. Lately was in the lovers-rock style and features a wicked rub-a-dub ridim with blazing horns and heartfelt vocals with great harmonies. For me – and no doubt many others – their greatest song. AGONY | Pinchers | Live & Love 7 wks Appearing early in 1987 from Jamaica on Jammy’s, this digital dancehall classic was swiftly released in the UK on Third World’s Live & Love subsidiary on 12-inch and shot to the top of the charts. Pinchers (Delroy Thompson) is one of the greatest and unique dancehall singers and this was his biggest smash of the 80s. As one of the biggest and brightest stars of 1987 he produced a voluminous amount of tunes Continue reading

BOOGIE AT MIDNIGHT – R&B Singles 1950-1952

The last time we opened up the History section of Celebrate Good Times, we looked at the Top 100 Soul Singles of 1963. This week’s blog ventures even further back into time and focuses upon the earliest era the book covers – the early Fifties. It is the pioneering black music champion Jerry Wexler who is credited with instigating the term ‘rhythm and blues’ when he was writing for Billboard magazine in the late Forties. Until then, black music had been known variously as race music, sepia music, Harlem music and other terms. Even though these terms originated in the black community, by the end of the Forties they were deemed to cause offence. So Wexler coined the term to rename the ‘race charts’ which for many years had identified the strongest selling black music records. In 1950, ‘rhythm and blues’ was still a relatively new term (also called R&B) but it stuck around for a couple of decades before finally being dubbed ‘soul music’ at the tail end of the Sixties. Basically used as a marketing concept by the record industry to encompass the many different kinds of black music which were popular at the time, it meant that ‘rhythm and blues’ featured different styles and strands of Afro-American music being recorded during this pivotal and important era. For a music nut like myself, investigating this particular era of the book has been particularly rewarding and satisfying. Having been particularly interested in vocal group music since my late teens, Continue reading

1977 – UK Soul Number Ones

The first issue of Black Echoes in 1977 was dated January 1st. In the Soul Singles chart, KC & The Sunshine Band were knocked off their Christmas top-spot by a group who had already had a few hits on the chart, including a No.1. The year saw a good mixture of bands, soloists, vocal groups and instrumentalists all make their way to the top of the chart. The chart-toppers were dominated by American acts – but a British band and a trio of French disco experimentalists broke through. Unusually, all the weeks at No.1 by all of the acts were consecutive. There were 22 records in all. Spin ’em: CAR WASH | Rose Royce | MCA 7 wks As a precursor to my personal insight on this particular single, please see the 2nd blog – 1976 Soul Number Ones. It gives you the initial lowdown on this essential disco cut. Suffice to say, this was the first No.1 soul single of ’77 and what a scorcher! Topping the charts for an impressive 7 weeks, it was the title-track to a comedy film starring Richard Pryor. Producer Norman Whitfield created the soundtrack which strongly featured the group. With its distinctive opening handclaps, the song (sung with soulful energy by lead vocalist Gwen Dickey) captured the imagination of everyone – topping the US pop charts along the way and reaching the Top 10 in the UK. This was the group’s second UK Soul Singles No.1 hit. DON’T LEAVE ME THIS WAY | Continue reading

1995 – UK Reggae Number Ones

As recorded in the very first blog, back in 1976 there were 19 records that topped the chart during the initial year of the UK Reggae 20. For the first few years of the reggae charts, most of the singles averaged one or two weeks at the top, with only a select few having a longer run. This meant that there were sometimes as many as 24 records hitting the top-spot (1979). By the mid-80s, the trend had reversed and fewer records were reaching No.1 but for much longer periods. In 1995 only ten records reached the top! The tunes are a mixture of lovers rock, bashment, ragga and roots. These are the hits – mostly, massive hits! As always, an asterisk signifies non-consecutive weeks at the top spot. PERFECT LADY | Peter Hunningale | Fashion 2 wks Peter Hunningale first topped the reggae charts in 1989 on his combination tune with Tippa Irie called Ragamuffin Girl. Dubbed Mr. Honey Vibes, his sweet singing style has firmly established him as one of the kingpin UK lovers rock vocalists. Perfect Lady is a slice of lovers rock perfection. I love the intro – the bleeps from Diana Ross & The Supremes’ Reflections is overlapped by Prince Jazzbo intoning “Sound to keep you movin’” before the ridim drops (Pretty Looks) and the song begins. This tune remains a true party classic. Most definitely one for the ravers. BABY PLEASE | Peter Hunningale | Saxon 1 wk From one ravers classic to another, Continue reading

SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER – Soul Singles of 1963

The History section of Celebrate Good Times is a real celebration of the very best soul and reggae albums and singles released between 1950 and 1975 and offers some historical perspective on what came after. In previous blogs we have looked at the Top 100 soul singles of 1962, the Top 100 soul albums of 1974 and the Top 100 reggae singles of 1975. This week’s blog presents itself as another flashback – this time to the jukebox delights of 1963. After extensive research eliminating the not-so-good tunes, the also-rans and the duff tracks, the following list contains what I consider to be the very best r&b tunes of that year. Comprising a broad mixture of vocal groups, instrumental acts, male and female soloists, duos and jazz artists, the selection is a carefully considered pick of the cream of the crop. As before, the records listed all received a UK release. There were well over a couple of hundred 45s released in the UK that year – primarily on the Stateside and London labels which licensed the majority of American pop and soul records in the UK at the time. This has made these labels highly collectable today. Selling at approximately 6/-8d (six shillings and eightpence in old sterling, the equivalent of 33 ½  pence today) you could get three singles for a £1 note (20 shillings). Therefore, you could reasonably expect to have bought the entire Top 100 for just over £33. For a bit of interest, I researched Continue reading

DREAD MOOD – Reggae Singles of 1975

Celebrate Good Times not only microscopically inspects the chart positions of thousands of reggae and soul albums and singles over a period of 24 years, it also retrospectively salutes the great soul and reggae music from bygone eras – from the 50s right through to the mid 70s. For me, 1975 was a very special year for a variety of reasons. 1) My baby sister was born ; 2) I left school (YAY!) ; 3) I went nuts about reggae music. These three things were pivotal events in my life. Reggae music pretty much took over my very being that year – it was like a drug and I was seriously hooked. I read everything I could about it in magazines, newspapers, fanzines. I spent all my spare time in reggae record shops. I bought as much as I could afford. I picked up mainly UK releases but also started to buy pre-release Jamaican imports. I avidly listened to Capital Radio’s TV On Reggae radio show every Saturday night. Tommy Vance even read a request out for me! Even through ’76 and ’77 I was still tracking down tunes I’d heard and wanted in ’75. I created my very first Wants List. Trust me, it was extensive! Of course, I wasn’t to realise at the time how fortunate I was to get switched on to reggae music when it was coming into its golden era. As for the kind of reggae music that appealed to me at the time – Continue reading

The Top 25 Reggae Singles of 1977

Part of the focus of Celebrate Good Times will be on supplying an overview of each year in a section dedicated entirely to Annual Analysis. This has various strands including a chronological yearly retrospective on subjects including trends, music styles, innovations, outstanding gigs, news stories and obituaries. In addition, there will also be a listing of Top 25s of the year in relation to reggae and soul albums and singles. Using a specially devised inverted points system, these listings of the Top 25 records of the year will provide a snapshot of the most successful records of the year – which are not always the No.1 tunes. Any records which overlap two years are listed in the year with most weeks on the chart – or, if that is equal, the year of its highest chart position. There were 189 new entries on to the reggae singles chart during 1977 – using the unique points system, here are the Top 25 of the year. Highest chart positions are in brackets. 1. Man In Me | Matumbi | Matumbi Music Corp. (1) 838 points In 1976 this British reggae band had attained tremendous success with their chart-topping proto-lovers rock single ‘After Tonight’. This follow-up was issued on their own label at the tail end of ’76 and entered the UK Reggae 20 on January 1st at No.10. It was a Bob Dylan song originally recorded by him and included on his 1970 album ‘New Morning’ – but had been covered by Continue reading

PARTY LIGHTS – Soul Singles of 1962

Apart from closely analysing 24 years worth of reggae and soul charts, my book Celebrate Good Times has an extensive historical section which looks back at the 50s, 60s and early 70s. Part of the historical archive includes listings of some of the best reggae and soul albums and singles of bygone eras that have been released in the United Kingdom. The book also includes information such as the original American and Jamaican labels these records appeared on, in addition to their original UK catalogue numbers. Because of limited space, that info. is not included here. The first History extract features what I consider to be the very best 100 soul records of 1962. Of course, they were branded ‘rhythm & blues’ back then but for the sake of continuity, I’m sticking with the ‘soul’ moniker. Incidentally, all inclusions in the History sections are indicative of the original year of release in their country of origin. That is to say, the records listed below may not have been officially released in the UK during 1962 but were certainly released in the US during that year. The Top 25 speaks for itself – these are the best of the best! – the remaining 75 are listed in no particular order. The picks focus on a great cross-section of rhythm and blues hits (and some brilliant flops!) from 1962. In America, dance-craze numbers continued to excite the young and some of the old. The Twist had been around a couple of years Continue reading

1976 – UK Soul Number Ones

The first UK Soul Singles chart was published in the launch issue of Black Echoes on January 30th 1976. It was the first of the only weekly soul charts published in the UK at the time. Black Music published a soul singles chart monthly whilst Blues & Soul published a fortnightly chart. Not surprisingly, the Motown label dominated the chart during its first year – notching up 17 hits, including two No.1 smashes. In 1976, 204 titles entered the chart of which 126 reached the Top 10. 146 separate acts made the charts on 62 different record labels – including two US imports. There were 83 groups which made the chart – the most successful of which were War and The Stylistics who both had four hits that year. Of the 44 male acts which made the chart, Barry White was the only one to have four hits, the most of all the male artists. Only 18 female singers reached the chart in 1976 – Diana Ross reigning supreme with four hits for Motown. The following is a breakdown of just 20 records that reached the coveted No.1 slot. Love Machine | The Miracles | Tamla Motown 1 wk In 1975, prior to this record’s release in November, the only single released by The Miracles that year was a UK-only issue cover of an old Brotherhood Of Man hit called ‘Where Are You Going To My Love’. It failed to make the pop charts and only die-hard soul fans seemed Continue reading