Top Ten: Alternative 60s

Smashing the barrier of cool...
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For many, the 60s remain the de facto period for pop music.

After all, this is the decade which invented the term rock, gave the world Woodstock and spawned the record industry machinery which still grind out new talent on a daily basis.

Yet for those charged with looking after the cultural legacy of the 60s, ‘pop’ remains a dirty word. Launching recently, Absolute 60s promised to re-create the Golden decade just in case – as the saying goes – you were there but couldn’t remember.

However there was one catch: Absolute60s wanted absolutely no Cliff Richard. None. Nada. Nowt. "He made a very significant record in 1958," presenter Pete Mitchell explained. "But he was variety; he was middle-of-the-road. The parents bought Cliff; the kids didn't. We want leather, we want sex and drugs and rock'n'roll." 

But this is missing the point entirely. Self-enforced cultural snobbery is simply sealing yourself off from many of the most dangerous, the most inventive, the most ground-breaking cuts around simply because the artist responsible doesn’t meet the current definition of cool.

Here’s ten tracks from artists you might not expect to hear on Absolute 60s.

1. Billy Fury - What Do You Think You're Doing
A primordial British rocker, Billy Fury – born plain Ronald William Wycherley – was wearing leather jackets and scaring the bejeesus out of the Daily Mail when John Lennon was still strumming the ukelele. In the same fashion as Sir Cliff, the decline of the rock ‘n’ roll boom saw Billy Fury turn to slick, watered down renditions of American ballads. However when he cut loose, the one time teen idol could still raise temperatures across the land. Check out 'What Do You Think You’re Doing’ featuring (an extremely young) Georgie Fame on keys.

Billy Fury - What Do You Think You're Doing



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2. Georgie Fame – Somebody Stole My Thunder
Jettisoning his backing group in favour of easy listening success, Billy Fury did Georgie Fame a favour. Quickly re-grouping as The Blue Flames, the band secured a series of residencies in London which turned them into Mod icons. ‘Yeh Yeh’ soared to number one, but it’s this later slice of out of control Freakbeat fuzz which really rattles the Go Go skirts.

Georgie Fame - Somebody Stole My Thunder



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3.Tom Jones – Chills & Fever
Motoring out of the Welsh valleys with a rough-as-tar-voice and an out of control libido, Tom Jones began life on the R&B scene. ‘Chills & Fever’ is his debut single, with the Welsh wonder managing to out do the Stateside original. Trivia note: according to music lore, guitar duties were handled by future Deep Purple axeman Ritchie Blackmore.

Tom Jones - Chills & Fever



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4. Lulu – Love Loves To Love
Staying with guitar heroes for a second: it’s not secret that Jimmy Page was an in-demand session musician for much of the 60s. The future Led Zeppelin icon learned his trade the hard way, playing on countless mind numbing cuts most of which are better of in history’s dustbin. However this 1967 cut still rocks: Lulu was on the decline by this point, with her ill-starred Eurovision entry just around the country. Yet Jimmy Page throws on the fuzz to encourage the Glasgow gal to belt out a stunning Beatles pastiche.

Lulu - Love Loves To Love



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5. Cilla Black – Yo Yo
Lulu, of course, would later host a light entertainment show which put her in direct competition with Cilla Black. Emerging from Brian Epstein’s stable of pop talent, the Liverpool artist was better known for throwaway pop moments but ‘Yo Yo’ remains hidden. Obviously paying a debt to Motown, the sessions chug along in the background while Cilla Black delivers an effortless vocal on a par with the Detroit label’s own blue eyed talent such as Chris Clark. ‘Yo Yo’ is currently picking up plays on the Northern Soul scene, so Cilla must have done something right...

6. The Tremeloes – Suddenly Winter
Initially Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, the band notched up a number of hits during the Beat boom including an insipid take on ‘I Want Candy’. As the decade progressed the (now shortened) Tremeloes gained enough respect to take charge of their own sessions, resulting in some rather lysergic moments. ‘Suddenly Winter’ is all stoned tempos, backwards guitars and trippy lyrics which hint at a band putting their chemistry set to good use.

The Tremeloes - Suddenly Winter



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7. The Searchers – Umbrella Man
The music industry in the 60s was a cut throat beast. The Searchers started off life notching up smash after smash, sending 45s such as ‘Sugar And Spice’ - every bit as winsome as it sounds – into the Hit Parade. However the hits dried up, with The Searchers left attempting to catch up with the psychedelic boom. About as tripped out as it got for The Searchers, ‘Umbrella Man’ is still pretty tame but the groovy rhythms, effortless harmonies and catchy hand claps deserve a place on this list.

The Searchers - Umbrella Man



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8. The Marmalade – I See The Rain
The Marmalade are one of the 60s most archetypal groups. Teenagers in a provincial town – in this case Glasgow – are lured to London where they were sucked into the industry and immediately given a makeover. Later losing the definitive article, Marmalade would score a number one by virtue of an appalling rendition of The Beatles’ ‘Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’. The first Scottish group to reach the pinnacle of the charts, the band celebrated by wearing kilts on Top Of The Pops. Who would have guessed that early single ‘I See The Rain’ had been named the finest disc of 1967 by none other than Jimi Hendrix?

The Marmalade - I See The Rain



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9. James Last – Soul March
Yep – easy listening titan James Last. A man who perhaps defined the term ‘wallpaper music’, even James Last had his moments. Occasionally given time in the studio to do exactly what he wanted, the German musician responded by recording a number of scorching jazzy cuts. Resurrected by a new generation of crate diggers, the Easy Listening and Library vaults have proved to be a rich source of samples. Dig this track, with ‘Soul March’ finding James Last & Co. doffing their caps towards the funkier end of Stax.

10. Cliff Richard – Ain’t Nothing But A House Party
And so we end where we begin. A live cut from 1968, Cliff Richard is – somewhat bizarrely – chugging his way through one of Northern Soul’s founding tracks. Caught live in concert, the seething soul of the original is restrained by the slick, easy listening arrangement. Bizarre, yet somehow brilliant.

Cliff Richard - Ain't Nothing But A House Party



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