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Movies, Producers and Songwriters

Movie soundtracks and book tie-ins also began to play a definitive part in the Ace release schedule, starting in 2004 with the Pogues and Joe Strummer featuring on the original soundtrack of Alex Cox’s “Straight to Hell Returns”. Then in 2010 came a double CD to accompany Alan Govenar’s magisterial biography of Lightnin’ Hopkins. As Roger Armstrong suggested: “Read the book, enjoy the record.” Another book tie-in came with “A Rocket In My Pocket: The Soundtrack To The Hipster's Guide To Rockabilly” which accompanied the book by the same name by Max Décharné. Chock-full of classics such as ‘The Train Kept A-Rollin'’ by Johnny Burnette & his Rock'n'Roll Trio and the title track by Jimmy Lloyd, it was a pure delight.

Lightnin Hopkins and Johnny Burnette 45s

It was back to the movies for the 2013 release of “Good Vibrations: A Record Shop, A Label, A Film Soundtrack”, which tied in with the critically-acclaimed film that followed the turbulent life of Irish record collector, DJ, record shop owner, record label founder and dance promoter Terri Hooley from his childhood to the present day. Where else would you get to hear ‘Teenage Kicks’ by the Undertones and ‘Love You’ by Ramases & Seleka on the same album?

2004 also saw the 25th anniversary of two great Dammed LPs, “Machine Gun Etiquette” and the “Black Album” both of which were reissued in expanded editions and remastered like never before.

The following year saw guest DJ Andy Smith given a free hand to compile his selection of Northern Soul tracks, followed by the similarly eclectic compilations “Andy Smith Diggin' In The BGP Vaults” in 2008 and “Andy Smith's Jam Up Twist” in 2011. DJ Gaz Mayall, king of the late-night Soho scene, also saw an expanded reissue of “Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues”, the LP he had first compiled for Ace in 1986.

2005 also saw the 30th anniversary of Ace Records celebrated in splendid style with a massive party at Dingwalls headlined by the reformed Count Bishops, Chiswick’s first band, and The Radiators (From Space). Ace house band Girls On Top opened the proceedings. Four sampler CDs of Ace material were issued covering everything from blues and R&B to garage, beat and punk rock.

The Bishops 45 and Radiators from Space Press Photo

Garage rock also featured in “Uptight Tonight: The Ultimate 60s Garage Collection” issued in August 2005 featuring tracks by the Count Five, the Castaways and the Sonics.

In February 2006, it was the turn of the guy in the corner wearing the cloak and carrying the scythe to take centre stage with “Dead! The Grim Reaper’s Greatest Hits” a crypt-kicking collection of death songs and macabre novelties including ‘I Want My Baby Back’ by Jimmy Cross, ‘Dead Man’s Curve’ by Jan & Dean and ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ by Ray Peterson. A follow-up set in 2008 “Still Dead! The Grim Reaper's Jukebox” included ‘The Ghost Of Mary Meade’ by Little Caesar & the Ark Angels and ‘The Grave’ by Tony Casanova.

More upbeat, in fact so upbeat as to be almost complete nonsense, was “Great Googa Mooga” from 2003, which featured such great slices of alliterative pop, R&B and soul as ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop’ by Little Anthony & the Imperials, ‘Boom Pacha Boom’ by Billy Byrd & his Penguins and the utterly irresistible instrumental ‘Jambo’ by Claude McLin which also came out as an Ace CD single. Inevitably, a follow-up, “Great Googly Moo”, followed in 2010 with “Mope-Itty Mope” by the Boss-Tones and “Bom Bom Lulu” by Gene & Eunice.

Never letting a good pun go by, Harlesden’s horror fans celebrated Halloween in  2005 with “These Ghoulish Things: Horror Hits For Hallowe'en” which brought together the theme from ‘The Munsters’ and ‘The Addams Family’ along with such old favourites as ‘Monster Mash’ by Bobby (Boris) Pickett And The Crypt-Kickers and ‘Feast Of The Mau Mau’ by  Screamin' Jay Hawkins. This was followed by “Mostly Ghostly: More Horror For Halloween” which boasted tracks from the likes of Screaming Lord Sutch and John Zacherle.

Gamma Gooche 45 and John Zacherle LP

Three other compilation CDs spotlighted, in turn, Beatles novelty songs (“Beatlemaniacs!!!”), sci-fi pop (“Greatest Hits From Outer Space”) and, most recently, “Come Spy With Us” with its knockout paperback-like cover and selection of tracks that covered songs and themes from the “televisual and cinematic worlds of espionage”.

September 2007 saw the start of one of Ace’s best-loved series – one that was devoted to the great songwriters and songwriting teams of the golden years of pop and soul. Quite rightly, the first CD was devoted to two of the finest: “Goffin & King: A Gerry Goffin & Carole King Song Collection 1961-1967”. It began, as the series meant to go on, with expert curators Tony Rounce and Mick Patrick fashioning a collection that included classic tracks alongside some spellbinding rarities. Who’d heard Bertell Daché before this came along? Two more Goffin & King compilations followed along with a whole pitcher full of other sets devoted to such Brill building luminaries as Ellie Greenwich & Jeff Barry, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weill, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield as well as such songwriting stars as Randy Newman, Neil Diamond, Lee Hazelwood, Chip Taylor, Van McCoy, Otis Blackwell and even our own Tony Hatch.

Coming to songwriting from a slightly different angle, the “Black America” series highlighted the soul and R&B versions of songs by famous songwriters, starting with “How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan” which featured fascinating and often surprising versions of the great man’s work by such stars as Bobby Womack (‘All Along the Watchtower’), Con-Funk-Shun (‘Mr Tambourine Man’) and Major Harris (‘Like a Rolling Stone’). It was followed by similar compilations devoted to the works of Lennon & McCartney, Bacharach & David, Otis Redding and more recently, Sam Cooke.

Speaking of the aforementioned Bob Dylan, the astute Ace MD Roger “Call Me Sherlock” Armstrong noticed that Mr Zimmerman’s “Theme Time Radio Hour” shows featured a lot of stuff from Ace releases. He got in touch with the show’s producer and asked if it would be OK to mention this on the Ace website. One thing led to another and before you could say ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, the first “Theme Time Radio Hour With Your Host Bob Dylan” was in the racks featuring such varied performers as Otis Rush, The Sons of the Pioneers and Jack Teagarden. Two more collections (“Season 2” and “Season 3”) were to follow providing such delights as ‘Hunting Tigers Out In Indiah (Yah)’ by Hal Swain & His Band and the sublime ‘Shake Sugaree’ by Brenda Evan accompanied by Elizabeth Cotten.

ATCO & Okeh Singles

By 2008 it was time to delve back into Ace’s history once again, back to the lodestone in fact with “Rock On”, and who better to introduce it than label-founder Ted Carroll: “For 25 years Rock On was one of London’s leading collector’s record shops. Renowned worldwide for its in-depth stock of rock’n’roll and other collectable records. In 1975 Ace Records evolved out of Rock On. This CD is a nostalgic overview of some of the music and memories from the Rock On years.” A vastly entertaining selection of tracks included ‘Don't You Just Know It’ by Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns and ‘Slow Death’ by the Flamin' Groovies.

Kent’s long association with Oxford Street’s 100 Club and the 6Ts Rhythm ‘N’ Soul Society was also celebrated in “The 100 Club Anniversary Singles. 6T's 1979-2009” – a collection of the much-prized anniversary singles that were given out to the Northern Soul fans who’d made these nights such a success. “6Ts Rhythm & Soul Society: In The Beginning” mined a similar vein with such seminal cuts as ‘All About My Girl’ by Jimmy McGriff and ‘Two Stupid Feet’ by Chuck Jackson, compiled as always by the “long-haired college kid from Market Harborough”, Ady Croasdell.

Meanwhile, on Ace, the highly successful Songwriter series was joined by a series that looked at the art of record production. Who better to start it than the Svengali of pop, Bert Berns. “Twist And Shout: The Bert Berns Story Volume 1 - 1960-1964” brought together 26 examples of the great man’s work with, as in the Songwriter sets, established classics rubbing shoulders with forgotten gems. Two more significant volumes were to follow. The now incarcerated Phil Spector wasn’t forgotten either, with a CD of his early productions appearing in 2010, preceded by three volumes of (wait for it, another Steele Road pun) of “Phil’s Spectre”, chock-a-block with soundalike Spector tracks. Other producers who featured in this exceptional series included Jack Nitzsche, Shadow Morton, Burt Bacharach and Brian Wilson. Britain’s Martin Hannett wasn’t forgotten, either, with Big Beat’s “Zero: A Martin Hannett Story 1977-1991” seeing U2 make a first appearance in the Ace catalogue in 2006. 

Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche and Brian Wilson

Millwall FC-loving Tony Rounce had also been busy with “You Heard it Here First”, which, in 2008, collected songs that we all knew in the original versions that many of us didn’t. So we were able to enjoy ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ by Diane & Annita, ‘My Boy Lollipop’ by Barbie Gaye and even ‘Rock Around The Clock’ by  Sunny Dae & the Knights. Another volume followed and it also begat a spin-off series of CDs of the original versions of songs cut by such artists as Elvis, the Ramones, Cliff Richard, Dusty Springfield and David Bowie.