With her bleached blond hair, sunglasses and PVC cap, 16-year-old Val McKenna embodied mid-60s youth. As a singer-songwriter, she enjoyed a long career in the music business.
She signed to Southern Music in early 1965 at the age of just 16 and released her first single, the organ-heavy Baby do it, on the Piccadilly label in April that year. The song had been written by John Carter and Ken Lewis, two thirds of the group the Ivy League, and has become something of a Mod favourite.
The follow up, Mixed up, shook up girl, issued in July 1965, was a cover of US girl group Patty and the Emblems’ sole hit. The B-side, Now that you’ve made up your mind, displayed her talent as a songwriter and has also become popular among Mods.
She continued to write both for herself and others, providing Leave my baby alone for Scandinavian singer Britt, for instance.
Perhaps surprisingly, Val issued another cover for her third single, this time of Ike and Tina Turner’s I can’t believe what you say. Her highly credible version was released in the autumn of 1965, with another of her own compositions, Don’t hesitate, on the reverse.
The following year when John Carter went on to form the Ministry of Sound, he asked Val to provide vocals on a number of the new group’s recordings, including 1966’s You’ve gotta tell me and 1967’s (Your mama said) Roll on.
In early 1968, Southern Music formed Spark Records, and Val moved to the new label. There, she would issue her atmospheric composition House for sale, and a year later another of her own compositions, It’s all in my imagination.
Her 1970 single Love feeling went on to become a favourite on Britain’s northern soul dance scene.
She moved into session singing in the 1970s and 1980s.
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