Saturday, 14 March 2015

PLAYLIST: US Soul Flops - UK Hits!

10 great soul records which made little-to-no impression in their homeland, but became big hits here in the UK between 1968 and 1977. Click the play button to listen, and read the sleeve notes below...

1. The Showstoppers – Ain't Nothing But A Houseparty

Beacon BEA 100
US 87, UK 11 

British independent label Beacon got off to a flying start when they licensed this one from Showtime Records of Philadelphia, where it had been a big regional hit. (A US reissue on MGM's Heritage label failed to become a national smash.) Its steady sales over the next few years saw it enter the UK top 50 twice more, and no doubt provided income for Beacon, who failed to have any further hits before closing in 1973.

2. R. Dean Taylor - There's A Ghost In My House

Tamla Motown TMG 896
US n/a, UK 3 

Like The Four Tops having a head-on collision with The Seeds, if you can imagine it. A real slow burner, it failed to chart in the USA, and didn't even get a UK release the first time around in 1966. Widespread play in the Northern Soul clubs prompted the EMI distributed Tamla Motown imprint to put it out in the UK in 1974. Read more on this track's story here.

3. Tami Lynn - I'm Gonna Run Away From You

Mojo 2092 001 (previously Atlantic AT 4071)
US n/a, UK 4 then 35 

Her solo recording discography is a slim one, but her voice has adorned recordings from The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street to Dr. John's Gris Gris. Lynn's debut outing from 1966 eventually found an audience in the UK, peaking at number 4 in 1971. Written and produced by Bert Berns.

4. Isley Brothers – Behind A Painted Smile 

Tamla Motown TMG 693
US n/a, UK 5 

Its American flip-side, All Because I Love You was favoured by the powers that be at Motown, but in the UK EMI had other ideas. Behind A Painted Smile was upgraded to A-status, and was a memorable highlight of the legendary UK compilation, Motown Chartbusters Vol. 3. Perhaps Motown thought the sedate opening and pounding “surprise” ending would make US radio stations nervous?

5. Robert Knight – Love On A Mountain Top

Monument M MNT 1875 (previously Monument MON 1017)
US n/a, UK 10 

Not only did Britain's The Love Affair beat Knight to the punch by covering his Everlasting Love for a British No. 1, they rubbed salt into the wounds by doing likewise with his My Rainbow Valley for the follow-up (UK No. 5). In between Knight's two originals came this one in 1968 - another gem given fresh exposure in the clubs, a re-issue hit number 10 in Britain in 1974, finally giving him the success here he deserved.

6. (Johnny Johnson & The) Bandwagon – Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache

Direction 58-3670
US n/a, UK 4 

Credited simply to Bandwagon when first released, it's hard to believe this never dented the US charts, but this thundering slice of soul stormed its way to UK number 4 in 1968, and was reissued several times over the next decade or so, possibly due to its reliability as a dance floor filler. Johnson relocated to the UK as a result of his British success, and continued to record here until the mid 70's, enjoying further British hits in the process.

7. The Tymes - Ms Grace

RCA 2493
US 81, UK 1 

The Tymes have the rare distinction of having one number 1 hit in the US and UK, with different records released 11 years apart. 1963's American smash So Much In Love only managed no. 21 here, but the infectiously catchy Ms. Grace was a real surprise chart topper early in 1975. It was selling so quickly that RCA had to ship copies over from the US to meet the demand. Its failure in America remains an absolute mystery.

8. Moments - Dolly My Love

All Platinum 6146 306
US n/a, UK 10 

I might just as easily have selected Girls or Jack In The Box for this playlist, since none of the group's UK top ten hits made an impression in their homeland, whilst their major American successes never did much chartwise over here. To be fair, the American record buyers didn't have a chance to judge Dolly's potential as a single, as All Platinum records opted to keep it as an album track. However, their UK distributor Phonogram saw its promise, and were rewarded with a number 10 in 1975. It has an endearingly raw, almost lo-fi quality to it, a distinctive hallmark of much of the label's output of the period.

9. Archie Bell & The Drells - Soul City Walk 

Philadelphia International S PIR 4250
US n/a, UK 13 

It totally missed the US Hot 100, and only managed 43 on the R&B list, but if you were shortlisting the tracks most representative of the Philadelphia International sound, this would surely be a contender. Considerably more loved by the British audience, it made 13 in 1976, and has been a mainstay of soul compilations here ever since.

10. Gladys Knight & The Pips - Baby Don't Change Your Mind

Buddah BDS 458
US 58, UK 4 

After many big hits, this must have been something of a letdown for the group in 1977, particularly with such a strong song and production by Van “The Hustle” McCoy. UK buyers proved more discerning, turning it into a British top 10 hit. It would be their last, at least until a solo Gladys recorded the James Bond theme Licence To Kill twelve years later.

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