1. Runaway: Del Shannon
2. Poetry In Motion: Johnny Tillotson
3. Are You Lonesome Tonight?: Elvis Presley
4. Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: The Shirelles
5. Walk Right Back: The Everly Brothers
6. Blue Moon: The Marcels
7. Are You Sure?: The Allisons
8. Sailor: Petula Clark
9. On The Rebound: Floyd Cramer
10. Wooden Heart: Elvis Presley
11. Hello, Mary Lou: Ricky Nelson
12. Pony Time: Chubby Checker
13. Running Scared: Roy Orbison
14. You're Driving Me Crazy: The Temperance Seven
15. Moody River: Pat Boone
16. Temptation: The Everly Brothers
17. Well I Ask You: Eden Kane
18. Tossin And Turnin : Bobby Lewis
19. Surrender: Elvis Presley
20. You Don t Know: Helen Shapiro
21. Johnny, Remember Me: John Leyton
22. Michael, Row The Boat Ashore: The Highwaymen
23. Take Good Care Of My Baby: Bobby Vee
24. Kon-Tiki: The Shadows
25. Hit The Road, Jack; Ray Charles
26. Runaround Sue: Dion
27. Big Bad John: Jimmy Dean
28. Walkin Back To Happiness: Helen Shapiro
29. His Latest Flame: Elvis Presley
30. Tower Of Strength: Frankie Vaughan
31. The Lion Sleeps Tonight: The Tokens
32. Moon River: Danny Williams
After a hard day’s reviewing – an endless German baroque cantata, say, or a rightfully forgotten English violin sonata, or an excruciatingly boring symphony that was lucky to be performed let alone recorded – it makes a nice change to switch on something that actually gets me up to dance.
And here it is, another in Retrospective’s series of Hits, year by year. We’ve arrived at 1961 and that means Elvis, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers and a whole lot more besides. It means Del Shannon’s Runaway complete with Max Crook manipulating the musitron to the delight of posterity – was there ever a sound more redolent of a time and place than the musitron? Was there ever a better name than Max Crook? After Del comes Johnny Tillotson singing Poetry in Motion, a UK No.1 for three weeks. No wonder, when Boots Randolph is booting away on the sax, and Nashville supremo Floyd Cramer is at the piano stool.
1961 was a very good year for pop pickers. You could choose The Shirelles singing Will You Love Me Tomorrow? – and their influence on Motown is clear. Or you can indulge in doo-wop via The Marcels’ Blue Moon, an evergreen classic, though not the tidiest recording ever committed to disc. A bit garish – no wonder its composer Richard Rogers hated the record – but infectious. There are three Elvis hits here, and his erstwhile pianist Cramer turns up on his own via On the Rebound. Is it possible to resist his slip-sliding style? I think not.
How interesting to note that whilst Ricky Nelson was only 21 when he recorded Hello, Mary Lou over in Blighty Helen Shapiro was still at school when she made Walkin’ Back To Happiness – note also that someone had the good sense to team her with Norrie Paramor and his crisp and excellent orchestra. But there’s something for everyone here and only a curmudgeon could resist Chubby Checker’s boogie twist on Pony Time – the ultimate party record, with a great sax break into the bargain. There’s the retro varsity hot dance band style of The Temperance Seven, and also the cod-opera of Orbison. There’s ‘Eden Kane’ singing Well I Ask You – he was actually Richard Sarstedt, brother of Robin (My Resistance Is Low) Sarstedt and the best known of them, Peter Where Do You Go To My Lovely? Sarstedt. That’s a talented family.
Still not satisfied? Try the panache of The Shadows in Kon-Tiki, or bask in Joe Meek’s extraordinary production on Johnny, Remember Me, sung by John Leyton, an actor who was in The Great Escape. The bass player here was Chas Hodges, of Chas and Dave fame. Or try Runaround Sue, Dion’s doo-wop masterpiece. If that fails – and it won’t – there’s the ultimate back-up via Ray Charles and Hit the Road, Jack. Try to overlook Frankie Vaughan’s Tower of Strength, a song of vindictive hysteria best forgotten – how did it get to No.1 for 4 weeks? The Tokens’s version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight – the one with Wimoweh – is actually rather better than most others you’ll hear, as it’s doo-wopped albeit with a hysterical coloratura soprano vocal. The last number is my favourite song, Moon River, sung by Danny Williams. It’s certainly not my favourite version but it’s good to hear once in a while.
Have some fun, cut a rug and all that. Buy this disc.