Various Artists – The Hits of 1961 (review)

Various Artists – American Music Library: The Hits of 1961 (Fantastic Voyage) review

An interesting look at songs that were hits in America, but did not chart in the UK

The British reissue label Fantastic Voyage continues it’s look into songs that were big hits in the US, but for some reason did not enjoy success in England.  American Music Library: The Hits of 1961 contains 42 US Top Ten hits that were duds in the UK, plus many other, lesser charting songs.

The list may surprise you.  How about Smokey & the Miracles breakout hit “Shop Around”? Not a hit in the UK.  Neither was the stone-cold doo wop classic, “There’s a Moon Out Tonight” by the Capris, or the lush “Spanish Harlem” by Ben E. King.  Several songs by the Shirelles, including “Dedicated to the One I Love” and “Mama Said” were shockingly not big in England.  “Raindrops” by Dee Clark lacks the echo of the hit single and sounds like an alternate version.  “Tossin’ and Turnin” by Bobby Lewis is the truncated single version.

Other surprises that were not hits in the UK include “Bristol Stomp” from the Dovells and Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya.”  And, not sure where they got the version of “Every Beat of My Heart” from the Pips, but it’s the best I’ve ever heard that song sound.  The Beatles would later cover “Please Mr. Postman,” but it was not a big hit in the UK from the Marvelettes.

Besides Top Ten Pop Hits, they’ve also included several key #1 hits on the Country charts, like Faron Young’s “Hello Walls,” and Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.”

The set is rounded out by songs that cracked the US Hot 100 but were ignored in the UK.  There are some very interesting songs in this category – including artists you know, but songs you may not – like “Havin’ Fun” by Dion, “What a Price” by Fats Domino, and “Lonely Man” by Elvis Presley.

With a whopping 90 tracks in all, The Hits of 1961 paints a great picture of what popular music sounded like in the early days of rock n’ roll.  —Tony Peters