This month, Ready steady girls! contributor Jens Keller has taken over the reins for our Pick of the pops. He’s fresh from helping out on the great new Funky Fräuleins 2 compilation (read our review or check out the CD or LP out on Amazon). Here, he’s selected a completely different set of top tracks. Read all about his choices below – and vote for your favourite or comment using the forms at the foot of the page.
Dimmi chi è
This record comes from Italy’s small, obscure Saint Martin Records, which existed between 1965 and 1973 and has less than 100 releases to its name. The Giulia Shell single seems to be a one-off – I couldn’t find any reference to her having made another one. Somewhat surprising, because she sounds like a trained singer. The A-side, Metronome time, is decent a cover version of the McCoys/Madeline Bell song Beat the clock, but I prefer the dramatic B-side, Dimmi chi è. The sleeve is also quite endearing – nothing screams 1968 like being clad in canary yellow from head to toe.
Nicole Josy and her husband Hugo have burned themselves into the collective European memory through their appearance at Eurovision in 1973, when they represented Belgium in some hilariously hideous purple pantsuits. Long before that shameful moment, Nicole had released a string of solo singles from the mid-1960s onwards, in Dutch, French (such as La vie c’est toi) and German. Hey toi comes from an ultra-rare German single on the Supertone label and is quite a leap from her otherwise slightly tedious oeuvre. It's garage-y with an edgy beat. There is also a French version that, sadly, I’ve never managed to track down.
Go back to daddy
This fantastically perky cover of Go back to daddy (originally a hit for Pat Wayne and the Beachcombers) comes courtesy of Swedish doll Doris Svensson. During the 1960s, Doris became a household name in her native country by fronting several local beat bands such as The Strangers and The Plums. On this particular track from 1969 she’s accompanied by a combo called The Dandys. A year later Doris would team up with Scottish songwriter Francis Cowan to make a soulful album that is widely regarded as her masterpiece, the highly sought-after Did you give the world some love today baby. Its success has now somewhat overshadowed her earlier pop records. This is perhaps a bit unfair, because Go back to daddy or You made a fool of me last night are among the finest examples of Scandinavian girl pop.
Le restaurant chinois
This 45 was sold to me with the note that Jany L is a former member of (French vocal group) Les Parisiennes. I could never find evidence that would either confirm or refute this, so I just mention it here without endorsement. Le restaurant chinois comes from the tiny French label Germinal, which only made a handful of records around 1969. At first I had hoped this label might be somehow connected to legendary yé-yé producer Germinal Tenas (Clothilde), but it seems the name is just a coincidence. The song is a quirky yé-yé bon bon of the finest sort. Jany delivers some Brigitte Bardot-style vocals over a pseudo-oriental arrangement, while the lyrics deal with the intricacy of eating with chopsticks. “Bamboo shoots are a struggle, but Peking Duck needs real exercise.” Jany L made one more single, Herald Tribune, on another label before fading back into obscurity.
Me and my mini skirt
Since the very beginning of time teenagers have rebelled against the cruel oppression that comes in form of “You Are Not Going Out Like That!” But in this brazen mini drama from 1966 singer Karen Young is having none of it. “My ma don’t trust the fellas,” she trills. “I think that she’s just jealous.” Ha! The Karen Young in question is not the American disco singer who had a hit with Hot shot, but a British girl from Sheffield, who later had a UK hit in 1969 with the tearjerker Nobody’s child. Me and my mini skirt was released on a French Fontana EP which is hilariously credited to Karen Young et Les Knee Caps. The song is composed and produced by songwriting team Phil Coulter and Bill Martin, who would strike gold the following year with Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a string and many other hits. Curiously, another equally obscure version of this song came out the same year by an act called Minnie and the Kneebones. It’s mini-mania!
Ich rühr’ ein Hexensüppchen an
Even though I’m German, there’s nothing I can tell you about the mysterious Karin Elling. It looks like she made only this one single in 1968 and disappeared from the recording scene altogether. (Karin, if you read this, call me, OK?) The sardonic Hexensüppchen is a cover version of the novelty hit Witches brew by notorious singing madam Janie Jones. And while the Germans translated foreign hits on an everyday basis, very few managed actually to improve on the original like this one does. The guitar motif of the Janie Jones version has been replaced by an unbelievably catchy electric organ that will stay with you for days once it’s in your head. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.