From beat belles to big ballads, here’s producer Shel Talmy’s small but perfectly formed coterie of mid-60s Brit-girls.
Shel Talmy was the American producer known for shepherding acts such as the Who, Kinks and Easybeats to the top of the British charts in the mid-1960s. Despite his intrinsic association with the muscular, guitar-driven rave of the beat and mod scenes, Talmy had catholic tastes and gravitated equally to the nuances of orchestrated pop in that era, which necessarily applied to the female acts he worked with. Talmy’s hand was behind several much-cherished “beat chick” recordings, such as ‘A Ladies Man’ – heard here in an alternate take – and the work of pioneering all-women combo Goldie & the Gingerbreads (shortly to have a long-awaited anthology of their own on Ace).
Women entertainers arrived at the Soho doorstep of Talmy’s Orbit-Universal Productions entity in much the same way as the legions of male groups and singers at that time, following the time-honoured Denmark Street path. Often signed for management as well as recording, certain amongst them were released upon his own short-lived Planet Records imprint.
As an experienced engineer, Talmy understood sound, and recognised that the most efficient way to run the studio was to hire the best musicians and arrangers, such as David Whitaker and Keith Mansfield. Predictably, even if his work with female singers in that era was not particularly prolific, the batting average remained extremely high.
“Shel’s Girls” gathers the best moments from Talmy’s female disc-making of the mid-60s, adding several unheard gems from our recent extended forays into his remarkable archive, for a true smorgasbord of Brit-girl delights. Artists such as schoolgirl trio the Orchids, big-voiced Belfast teen Perpetual Langley or dusky Bond girl Dani Sheridan will likely be familiar to aficionados. They are joined by the more obscure but no less worthy sounds of Liz Shelley, Van Lenton and Dusty/Gingerbreads acolyte Stevie Holly.
We also hear from Irish showband stars Margo & the Marvettes, South Coast boy-girl outfit the Plain & Fancy, and the anonymous young women who chant the classic-in-the-making ‘Grave Digger’. The Motown-grooving ‘A Shoulder To Cry On’ from former Family Dogg member Christine Holmes dates from 1969; at the other end of the decade, Debbie Sharron’s teen weepie ‘Cruel Way To Be’ is a rare Hollywood production from 1962, just before Talmy departed for the UK.
The package comes with detailed notes and some eye-popping visuals from Talmy’s own archive, all helping to celebrate these fascinating and little-heralded Shel’s belles.