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Crossing the Pond: “London American Label 1963” Spotlights Spector and More

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It’s 1963. Imagine a label that counted Roy Orbison, Darlene Love, James Brown, The Drifters and Jerry Lee Lewis all among its artists. While such an array of talent never convened under one roof in America, it was a very different story in the United Kingdom. The U.K.’s  Decca Record Company indeed brought all of those artists, and more, under the umbrella of its London American label. London American delivered the best in American pop, R&B and rock and roll to British audiences. Ace is another British label bringing the best of American music to its listeners, so it seems fitting that the label is in the midst of an ambitious series celebrating the London American legacy. The London American Label Year by Year: 1963 is the fifth volume in the series, which isn’t being released chronologically. It’s available in the United Kingdom and expected to hit stores on our shores any day now.

The London label first appeared in America in 1934 representing British Decca’s operations in America. Back in Britain, the London logo made its debut in 1949 releasing material from its American counterpart, but also from early U.S. independent labels. It was in 1954 that a new prefix (HL) and numbering system (8001) was introduced, and it’s this series that is the focus of the Ace compilations. Some American hit records appeared on EMI’s Columbia, Parlophone and HMV labels, but the cream of the crop was usually on London.

Dedicated readers of The Second Disc know that 1963 may have been the year of Phil Spector. In England, however, it wasn’t the Philles label that boasted Darlene Love, The Crystals and The Ronettes, but rather, the London American label. While controlled by ABKCO, Philles recordings had long been unavailable for various artists compilations.  Since the acquisition of the license to the catalogue by Sony Music Entertainment, the vaults have been opened to labels like Ace. (One wonders if the label is considering an updated Darlene Love anthology; Ace’s So Much Love was a fantastic overview of Love’s career, but couldn’t include any of her most famous sides. Now, inclusion of the Spector-produced tracks would likely be possible.)

Ace producer Mick Patrick drops an interesting tidbit about this volume: “The inclusion of Darlene Love’s ‘A Fine Fine Boy’ here marks the first time the original 45 version has been legally available on CD. (All other digital issues contain a re-edit that is the result of irreparable damage to the original master.)” In addition to that track, Year by Year: 1963 also includes The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Of those songs, all but “Zip” were co-written by Spector with Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry. The famed Greenwich and Barry team appears elsewhere on Ace’s new volume, with Ray Peterson’s “death disc” “Give Us Your Blessing” and the Raindrops’ “What a Guy.” (Ellie and Jeff actually were The Raindrops!)

Who else appears on this volume? Hit the jump for more, plus the complete track listing with discography!

The London American Label Year by Year 1963 offers up an eclectic roster. There are girl group-style treats from The Sherrys, Ruby and the Romantics, Little Eva, Marcie Blane and Shirley Ellis, plus R&B from James Brown and Booker T. & The MG’s, pop heartbreak from Roy Orbison, smooth soul from The Drifters, and even a jazz instrumental from Steve Allen, the Grammy Award-winning “Gravy Waltz.” The young Bruce Johnston appears with his “Combo” on “Pajama Party.”

Ace’s The London American Label: Year by Year series isn’t a complete overview; such a task would be almost impossible. In 1960 alone(!), London American released 236 singles from the catalogues of Atlantic, Cadence, Chess, Dot, Hi, Imperial, Kapp, Liberty, Monument, Scepter, Sun and many more. Ace has taken great pains, however, to make this series worthwhile. All tracks are presented in the original mono single mixes (many of which have never appeared on CD) and each 28-track program contains at least 20 songs new to the Ace label. When an artist had more than one hit in a year, the compilers have opted to include a less well-known but equally stellar one. To top things off, producers Peter Gibbon and Tony Rounce have gained access to the British Decca tape library, and have sourced the great majority of the tracks on each volume from the original U.K. London masters.

The London American Label Year by Year: 1963 can be ordered here from Amazon U.S. It is in stock at Amazon U.K. here.

Various Artists, The London American Label Year by Year: 1963 (Ace CDCHD 1302, 2011)

  1. Then He Kissed Me – The Crystals (HLU 9773)
  2. See See Rider – La Vern Baker (HLK 9649)
  3. Little Town Flirt – Del Shannon (HLX 9653)
  4. What a Guy – The Raindrops (HL 9718)
  5. Prisoner of Love – James Brown & The Famous Flames (HL 9730)
  6. Give Us Your Blessing – Ray Peterson (HLX 9746)
  7. What Does a Girl Do – Marcie Blane (HLU 9673)
  8. Walk Right In – The Moments (HLN 9656)
  9. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah – Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans (HLU 9646)
  10. The Cinnamon Cinder – Pastel Six (HLU 9651)
  11. The Click Song – Miriam Makeba (HL 9747)
  12. Baby I Do Love You – The Galens (HLH 9804)
  13. In Dreams – Roy Orbison (HLU 9676)
  14. Pajama Party – The Bruce Johnston Combo (HL 9780)
  15. Slop Time – The Sherrys (HL 9686)
  16. Sugar Shack – Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs (HLD 9789)
  17. Let’s Turkey Trot – Little Eva (HLU 9687)
  18. Lonesome 7-7203 – Hankshaw Hawkins (HL-9737)
  19. I’ll Take You Home – The Drifters (HLK 9785)
  20. Wonderful Summer – Robin Ward (HLD 9821)
  21. The Nitty Gritty – Shirley Ellis (HLR 9824)
  22. Be My Baby – The Ronettes (HLU 9793)
  23. My Babe – The Righteous Brothers (HL 9814)
  24. Gravy Waltz – Steve Allen (HLD 9723)
  25. Teenage Letter – Jerry Lee Lewis (Four More from Jerry Lee, EP RES 1378)
  26. Young Wings Can Fly (Higher Than You Know) – Ruby and The Romantics (HLR 9801)
  27. Chinese Checkers – Booker T. & The MG’s (HLK 9784)
  28. A Fine Fine Boy – Darlene Love (HLU 9815)

All catalogue numbers pertain to singles released on the London American label in 1963.

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