As Ace’s long established “Golden Age Of American Rock ‘n’ Roll” series draws to its close, its CD companion “Golden Age Of American Popular Music” moves onto its second volume. Here are 28 hits from a slightly broader timespan, and with a slightly softer focus, than its rockin’ sibling.
There’s a persistent misconception that the arrival of Elvis coincided with the departure of Tin Pan Alley Pop from airwaves and charts. A perusal of any volume of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles will put paid to that notion. Although 1950s and 60s American teenagers had more money than ever before, it was still parents who held the whip hand where buying was concerned – the soundtrack-heavy album chart of the early 60s demonstrates just how much that amounted to. Parents also bought lots of singles, and these 28 tracks offer an accurate summation of where their money went in the pre-Fab Four years.
All over the world, mainstream Pop survived the arrival and departure of every new trend, from rock‘n’roll to Merseybeat to psychedelia. For example, Ronnie Dove’s 1964 revival of Wanda Jackson’s ‘Right Or Wrong’ was peaking at #14 in the US Hot 100 when another of our featured artists, Bobby Vinton, was topping that same chart with ‘Mr Lonely’- having ousted Lorne “Bonanza” Greene’s tale of how he saved the life of western outlaw, Ringo. So much for that British Invasion, eh?
For UK listeners, the contents of this CD will bring reminders of a time when the only nationwide access to pop was via the BBC’s Light Programme, and the few hours a week that the Beeb devoted to records. Prior to the arrival of a more melodic strand of rock’n’roll in the late 50s, you were certainly more likely to hear the Kirby Stone Four or Jimmie Rodgers on “steam” radio than that uncouth upstart Little Richard. Thus it is that this CD will evoke the same warm, fuzzy memory that a TV show like Heartbeat does. Even if these tracks were not the actual soundtrack to someone’s youth, they sound like they ought to be. And indeed, many of our inclusions did almost as well in the UK as the US. One, Brian Hyland’s gorgeous ‘Ginny Come Lately’, actually bested its American peak of #21 by 14 places.
In typical Ace fashion this second helping from the “Golden Age of American Popular Music” intermingles familiar and forgotten. For the collector, there are first time stereos and pristine monos, taken from first-generation mastertapes, of tracks that have remained unreissued for decades. For those who just want to wallow in unashamed nostalgia, there are big hits, small hits and perhaps even one or two that should never have been hits, to capture the imagination and to transport them back in time. Roll on Volume 3!
By Tony Rounce