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By Alec Palao

There was a time not so very long ago when true credibility in pop and rock music came only from success within the American or British marketplace. No matter how accomplished or innovative they might be, foreign acts and their attendant music scenes were frequently viewed with condescension, and anything not sung in English was deemed a novelty. As the development of rock music in other countries during its first two decades comes increasingly into focus, such cultural imperialism has been proved wrong time and again. Even when its native practitioners were aping American or British acts, each country added something of its own indigenous identity. In many cases it was as much the melodic approach that came with the translation of rock and pop, as it might have been simply singing in a foreign language. There were different levels of energy too. The raucous fire-fuelled abandon of Thor’s Hammer or the Antipodean beat groups contrasts with the sophisticated pop class oozed by a French chauntese. In 60s Japan, you got both sides of the coin – sometimes even within the very same record.

The meat and bones of Ace Records’ catalogue, since the company’s inception, has traditionally been American music. But we also have a divergent palate, as witnessed by our Globestyle imprint, which was a pioneer in the world music field, and is still going. Subsequently Ace developed a taste for continental cuisine of the vintage variety, and we were amongst the first UK or US reissue labels to take the subject seriously. Starting with a compilation of Uruguay’s Los Shakers (now sadly deleted), the Big Beat International sub-division set out to champion vintage 60s rock from other continents. We’ve subsequently hopped from Asia to Australasia to the far-flung reaches of the north Atlantic in the search for the wildest and wackiest rock’n’roll the planet had to offer. In more recent years a complementary subsidiary, Ace International, has emerged, focused on the distaff side via two enchanting collections of swinging mademoiselles, with similar of Italian and Australian girls planned for the very near future. Join us now for a rockin’ trip around the globe.

Selected releases

  • Takeshi Terauchi

    Terry, as he is colloquially known, is the lynchpin of eleki, the mid-60s Japanese response to the worldwide instrumental boom. While the influence of frequent overseas visitors such as the Ventures was pervasive, Terauchi was a pioneer in developing his own style of dynamic lead guitar that derived equally from native folk themes. Throughout a lengthy and varied recording career, he refined his technique and the result, as evident in this gathering of the guitarist’s finest moments from the King label, was some of the most distinctive and accomplished fretwork of the era.

  • Masaaki Hirao

    Japan’s own Elvis. In the magpie-like tradition of Japanese culture, his recordings encompass different aspects of western popular music, tailored to local tastes, yet unbridled and impolite compared to the indigenous mainstream. Post-US occupation, country music was huge in 50s Japanand this led to the curious tributary of rokabirii, of which the savvy Hirao was king. 

  • GS I Love You

    Once the eleki craze waned, Japan was subject to an even fiercer teenage music eruption. From 1966 to 1969, hundreds of groups sprouted throughout the country, parlaying unique interpretations of post-Beatles Western pop-rock with the sort of kinetic power the locals naturally added when playing rock’n’roll. 

  • The Spiders

    The first really big GS act – and the most successful – was the Spiders, a talented sextet with the entertainment value of the Monkees and the musical chops of any Western act you might care to mention. Movies, hit records and mob scenes wherever they played kept the Spiders busy at the time, but their recorded legacy displays a remarkable level of accomplishment. 

  • Nippon Girls

    The GS boys got all the screams, but Japan’s pop mags – and the local charts - were just as full of young women, equally galvanised by the country’s late 60s pop boom. Instead of prim, traditionally-themed “cute” material, these beat chicks seized on the energy of Group Sounds, adding their own sultry atmosphere, thanks in part to pronounced soul and bossa nova influences. 

  • C'est Chic!

    It is only in recent times that the prodigious quantity and enviable quality of French female vocalists from the country’s 1960s yé-yé heyday has become common knowledge to club goers and record collectors the world over. This carefully curated package and its sequel “Très Chic” properly celebrate an intoxicating era with choice cuts and some of France’s biggest artists. 

  • Thor's Hammer

    Iceland is familiar territory to the modern music connoisseur thanks to Bjork and Sigur Ros, but the island owes a major debt to its true rock pioneers, Thor’s Hammer. Evolving from a sparsely populated nation only made this tough beat group that much wilder, and their vintage recordings quite literally erupt from the speakers like an Icelandic volcano. 

  • Board Boogie

    This rocking collection is the first-ever overview of the early 1960s instrumental scene in Australia, where the twin strands of Antipodean surf culture and the popularity of the Shadows inspired a dynamic wave of guitar-slinging combos. With a diamond-hard sound, the Aussie take on instrumental rock is as good as any other part of the world – and maybe better.

  • Of Hopes & Dreams & Tombstones

    Driving Mersey rockers, blueswailing R&B and frenetic freakbeat – Australian teens had plenty to scream about with a tremendous homegrown scene back in the day. All tracks here and on sister volume “The Hot Generation” are drawn from the vaults of Festival Records, the territory’s top indie. 

  • Peculiar Hole in the Sky

    Australasia had a natural time lag when it came to overseas influence back in the 1960s, and so psychedelia came late to the region – but the local interpretation of its influence produced a slew of fantastically wobbly, mind-bending discs that are now venerated by aficionados of the psych genre. Showcased here are some of the more notable entries in the Oz pop-psych lexicon.