1964 proved to be an important year in the history of music. In January 1964, America finally “got” The Beatles. Coast to coast, Beatlemania swept the states. This kick-started the British invasion. Suddenly, American artists no longer monopolized the American charts. Instead, British artists stole the limelight from their American counterparts. Considering America invented rock ‘n’ roll, this was somewhat ironic. Despite the impending British invasion, American artists were releasing an eclectic selection of music. This music was still popular in Britain.

Over the Atlantic, many British music fans still preferred American music. That was the case when it came to soul, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. They’d been introduced to American music by labels like London American Recordings. Through London American, British music lovers heard the music being released by Chess, Atlantic, Sun, Dot, Imperial and Speciality. 1964, was a particularly good year for London American. 

London American released singles by Jerry Lee Lewis, The Drifters, Solomon Bourke, Ben E. King, Del Shannon, Rufus Thomas, The Ronettes and Otis Redding. All these artists feature on the latest installment of The London American Label Year By Year 1964, which was released by Ace Records on 27th May 2013. In total, twenty-eight singles from 1964 feature on The London American Label Year By Year 1964, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Getting The London American Label Year By Year 1964 off to an explosive start is Jerry Lee Lewis’ Lewis Boogie. This sees The Killer at his very best, with a track that was originally released in America in 1958. Since then, a lot had happened to Jerry. Due to this controversy, Jerry hadn’t toured the UK. By 1964, it was time for Jerry to make a comeback in the UK. He released an album entitled Breathless, with Lewis Boogie the single that accompanied it. Despite its undoubtable quality, Lewis Boogie failed to chart, but remains a reminder of Jerry Lee Lewis at his very best.

Formed in 1953, The Drifters celebrate their sixtieth anniversary this year. 1964 was a good year for The Drifters. In the US, they released two stonewall classics, Under The Boardwalk and Saturday Night At The Movies. Before that, they released One Way Love. It reached number thirty-six in the UK. This was one of the first tracks that featured Johnny Moore’s lead vocal. He’d returned after the death of Rudy Lewis. Despite a seven year absence from The Drifters lineup, it was as if Johnny had never been away. His vocal was just as soulful, impassioned and needy, as another chapter in The Drifters’ story unfolded.

Philly-born Solomon Bourke is just one of many great soul singers born in the city of brotherly love. He’s widely regarded as the greatest practitioner of deep soul, including by none other than Dave Godin. After just a few bars of Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye), penned by Bert Berns and Wes Farlell, you realize just how talented Solomon is. Accompanied by The Sweet Inspirations, Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye) features a heartbroken, soul-baring vocal from Solomon.

Ever since Del Shannon released his debut single Runaway, he’d been huge star on both sides of the Atlantic. He was also an astute businessman. Not content with writing his own songs, including 1964s That’s The Way Love Is in 1964, Del had decided to form his own record label, Berlee. That’s The Way Love Is was the second single he’d released on Berlee. It was the last single he’d release in the UK on London American. Penned by Del, his vocal is needy and rueful, tinged with regret and pathos, on this fitting farewell to London American. 

Jimmie Rodgers had signed to Dot in 1962, and since then, had released three singles and the 1963 album Honeycomb and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. However, in 1964, Dot’s ten-year deal with London American was about to expire. One of Dot’s final releases was meant to be Jimmy’s 1964 single The World I Used To Know. Sadly, the deal had expired before the single was released. What music lovers missed was an understated, wistful and poignant song, that’s a reminder of what music once sounded like.

After leaving The Drifters, Ben E. King embarked on a solo career. Having released the seminal Stand By Me in 1961, that set the bar high for future singles. Although Ben never surpassed Stand By Me, he was a consistent artist. In 1964, Ben released That’s When It Hurts in the US, it stalled at number sixty-three. However, it was the B-side, Around The Corner many people preferred. So, London American decided to release Around The Corner as a single. Despite Around The Corner being a better track, it failed to chart and was a disappointing way for Ben to end his career at London American.

Having started their carer as The Darling Sisters and then Ronnie and The Relatives, it was case of third case lucky when they change their name to The Ronettes. Teaming up with Phil Spector, hits like Baby I Love You and Be My Baby followed in 1963. 1964 would see The Ronnettes release two further singles for London American. The first was Do I Love You, which at stalled number thirty-five in the UK. Arranged by Jack Nitzsche, it showcased producer Phil Spector’s inimitable and innovative sound, where elements of pop, soul and doo wop are seamlessly fused. 

When Otis Redding released Come To Me, which he cowrote with Phil Walden, he was just twenty-three and a relative unknown in the UK. You wouldn’t realize this from his performance on Come To Me. He delivers a needy vocal, one that’s heartfelt and laden with emotive. Sadly, Come To Me stalled at number sixty-nine in the UK. A year later, Otis became a household name, when he released I’ve Been Loving You To Long and Respect. Then in 1967, Otis Redding life was tragically cut short, when the plane he was traveling in crashed. That’s what makes Otis performance on Come To Me so moving and poignant.

My final choice from The London American Label Year By Year 1964 is Louis Armstrong and His Friends’ Hello Dolly. This was the title-track from Louis’ 1964 album. It’s a real anomaly, sounding as if it belongs in another era. Despite that, it has a real feel-good sound. This resulted in the track reaching number one in the US and number four in the UK.

The London American Label Year By Year 1964 is a fascinating musical document. It demonstrates the sheer variety of music being released in 1964. Featuring everything from soul, R&B, jazz, country, rock ‘n’ roll and pop, eclectic is the best way to describe The London American Label Year By Year 1964. Compiled by Peter Gibbon and Tony Rounce, they should be congratulated for the way they’ve approached this compilation. Rather than choose the most successful singles released by London American during 1964, they’ve chosen an eclectic selection of tracks, both hits and misses. 

While sixteen of the tracks on The London American Label Year By Year 1964 charted, that doesn’t mean that the other twelve that didn’t are bad tracks. Far from it. Jerry Lee Lewis’ Lewis Boogie, Ben E. King’s Around The Corner and Jerry Wallace’s Even The Bad Times Are Good are a trio of glittering gems unearthed by Peter and Tony. Often, these hidden gems surpass their more successful musical cousins. That’s what makes compilations like The London American Label Year By Year 1964 such an enthralling and magical musical journey. Like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates: “you never know what you’re gonna get.” That’s half the fun. All of a sudden, you come across a track that you’ve never heard before. Suddenly, you’re day’s gotten a lot better. Maybe you’ll find a hidden gem that makes your day a whole let better, on The London American Label Year By Year 1964? Standout Tracks: The Drifters One Way Love, Del Shannon That’s The Way Love Is, The Ronnettes Do I Love You and Otis Redding Come To Me.


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