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Sign of the Times: “Look For A Star” Collects Early Songs of Tony Hatch

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Tony Hatch - Look for a StarEncouraged by his publisher to pen a song for a Norman Wisdom film in pre-production, teenager Tony Hatch wrote “Follow a Star.”  Though the beloved British comedian passed on it, the tune found its way into a B-movie called Circus of Horrors with a new title: “Look for a Star.”  The same week in June 1960, four recordings of the pretty little tune entered the Billboard Hot 100 across the pond.  Dean Hawley reached No. 29, Billy Vaughn made it to No. 19, Garry Miles hit No. 16, and the original by Garry Mills peaked at No. 26.  Two of those recordings, by Mills and Vaughn, feature on the él label’s first-ever anthology of the early recordings of Tony Hatch, future hitmaker for Petula Clark, The Searchers, Scott Walker, Jackie Trent and so many others .

Titled after his first hit record, Look for a Star presents 36 cuts (some impossibly rare) released between 1959 and 1962 including all 22 of the single sides recorded by Hatch for Pye and Top Rank during that period.   Look for a Star has arrived almost simultaneously with Ace’s Colour My World: The Songs of Tony Hatch which spans 1960-1974; as such, it’s an ideal companion and prologue.  You won’t hear “Downtown,” “I Know a Place” or “Sugar and Spice” here.  What you will hear is the composer-arranger developing his own sound from the various strands that were occupying the Brit and American pop scenes.    This is an ideal companion to él’s previous sets chronicling the early, formative songs of Burt Bacharach, a composer to whom Hatch has frequently been compared.

A prime, early influence on Tony Hatch – often writing under the nom de plume Mark Anthony – was the U.S. Brill Building sound.  You’ll hear more than a trace of Goffin and King or Mann and Weil in Julie Grant’s debut single “Somebody Tell Him.”  (Hatch helmed 15 singles for Grant including the supremely melancholy “Lonely without You” which is featured on the Ace compilation.)  He even produced a recording of Barry Mann and Howard Greenfield’s teen-themed “Warpaint,” which Mann had introduced in 1960, for The Brook Brothers.  The arrangement of “Warpaint” improved on the original, with added urgency and a bigger sound; Hatch was already proving adept at adapting youthful rock-and-roll to his widescreen orchestral sensibility.  One of the most enjoyable tracks here is another teen opus, “Tell-Tale,” recorded by Nashville’s Anita Kerr in multi-tracked fashion as the one-girl girl group Anita and th’ So-and-So’s.  Hatch had recorded it himself in the U.K. with The Brook Brothers.

There’s more of an appropriately European flavor on Danny Davis’ buoyant “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day,” and solid pop offerings from Jimmy Justice (“When Love Has Left You”) and Mark Wynter (the square but pretty, slightly country ballad “Please Come Back to Me” which backed Wynter’s Hatch arrangement of the Jimmy Clanton hit “Venus in Blue Jeans”).  Throughout his career, Hatch wrote and/or recorded a number of novelty songs; an early example here is “Summer Snow” for the Scottish, kilt-wearing teen singing star Jackie Dennis.  Then there’s The Mike Sammes Singers’ “Stork Talk,” a bouncy movie theme from 1962.   The future Engelbert Humperdinck, under his real name Gerry Dorsey, is hardly identifiable on “Crazy Bells,” often identified as Hatch’s first pop composition.  (Many of these tracks were arranged by Johnny Douglas or Bob Leaper; in the future, Hatch would orchestrate his own material.)  The most atypical song on Look for a Star is the acoustic folk ballad “Messing About on the River,” a hit single in 1962 for Josh MacRae.

After the jump, we have plenty more on Look for a Star including the complete track listing with order links!

Between 1959 and 1962, first for Top Rank and then for Pye, Hatch recorded singles as “The Tony Hatch Orchestra.”  (Some of these even predate “Look for a Star.”)  He recorded his own instrumental compositions as well as those of others, and many have the air of “light music.”  These recordings allowed Hatch to grow as an arranger and bandleader, and though there’s nothing as distinctive as that which he would later write and orchestrate, there’s some variety in the instrumentation and sound.    Anticipating his own work as an in-demand provider of television themes, Hatch recorded the music of Ben Casey, Perry Mason, The Naked City, The Ghost Squad, and more.  In addition, a fascination with the sound of the American West – or more precisely, Hollywood’s idea of the sound of the American West – comes through on tracks like the vaguely western “Side Saddle,” “Stetson,” and “Devil’s Herd.”  (The latter two songs were Hatch’s own compositions.)  During this fertile period, Hatch recorded everything from cha-chas (“Rhoom Ba-Cha”) to waltzes (the fairly-titled “Rocking Waltz”) and set the stage for his own style to blossom.  An early indicator of the swinging “Downtown” sound comes with 1961’s “What’s All That About?,” the flipside to the Ghost Squad theme.  With more contemporary instrumental flourishes, it wouldn’t have been out of place on one of Hatch’s later “middle of the road” solo albums.

There’s nothing on Look for a Star that’s quite as exuberant as the music that made Tony Hatch famous, but this collection of the embryonic Tony Hatch Sound is an exciting treat for collectors.  All tracks have been released in accordance with current U.K. public domain laws pertaining to recordings circa 1962 and earlier.  The booklet features numerous memorabilia images as well as uncredited liner notes.  Though the notes don’t specifically address the music on this disc, they recap Hatch’s long and impressive career mainly in his own words.  Alas, no discographical annotation for these rarities is included.  (We have filled in that gap below.)

Tony Hatch built on the auspicious success of “Look for a Star” with his songs recorded by stars including Petula Clark, Connie Francis, Frank Sinatra, Chris Montez, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jackie Trent, and too many others to mention.  The enjoyable Look for a Star is the first anthology to allow entrance to the ground floor of the composer-lyricist’s career.

Tony Hatch, Look for a Star: 1959-1962 (él ACMEM270CD, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Look for a Star – Garry Mills
  2. Look for a Star – Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra
  3. Somebody Tell Him – Julie Grant
  4. Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day – Danny Davis
  5. Warpaint – The Brook Brothers
  6. Tell Tale – Anita and th’ So-and-So’s
  7. When Love Has Left You – Jimmy Justice
  8. Please Come Back to Me – Mark Wynter
  9. Top Teen Baby – Garry Mills
  10. Summer Snow – Jackie Dennis
  11. Crazy Bells – Gerry Dorsey
  12. Stork Talk – The Mike Sammes Singers
  13. Messing About on the River – Josh MacRae
  14. Non-stop to Nowhere – Piccadilly Strings
  15. Chick
  16. Side Saddle
  17. Rhoom Ba-Cha
  18. Stetson
  19. Two-Some
  20. Last Summer
  21. Tim Frazer’s Theme
  22. The Girls of Copenhagen
  23. Rocking Waltz
  24. Devil’s Herd
  25. La Paloma
  26. Theme from Rosemary
  27. Ghost Squad
  28. What’s All That About?
  29. Ben Casey
  30. Perry Mason
  31. Theme from The Naked City
  32. In a Party Mood
  33. Out of This World
  34. Cyril’s Tune
  35. Theme from The Dick Powell Show
  36. Sharon

Tracks performed by Tony Hatch/The Tony Hatch Orchestra except as noted.

Track 1 from Top Rank single JAR 336, 1960
Track 2 from Dot (U.S.) single 45-16106, 1960
Track 3 from Pye single 7N 15430, 1962
Track 4 from Pye single 7N 15427, 1962
Track 5 from Pye single 7N 15333, 1962
Track 6 from RCA Victor (U.S.) single 47-8050, 1962
Track 7 from Pye single 7N 15351, 1961
Track 8 from Pye single 7N 15466, 1962
Track 9 from Top Rank single JAR 500, 1960
Track 10 from Top Rank single JAR 129, 1959
Track 11 from Decca single F 11109, 1959
Track 12 from Pye single 7N 15395, 1961
Track 13 from Pye single 7N 15319, 1961
Track 14 from Pye single 7N 35027, 1962
Tracks 15-16 from Top Rank single JAR 107, 1959
Tracks 17-18 from Top Rank single JAR 165, 1959
Tracks 19-20 from Pye single 7N 15316, 1960
Tracks 21-22 from Pye single 7N 25068, 1961
Tracks 23-24 from Pye single 7N 25085, 1961
Tracks 25-26 from Pye single 7N 25109, 1961
Tracks 27-28 from Pye single 7N 15408, 1961
Tracks 29-30 from Pye single 7N 154341, 1962
Tracks 31-32 from Pye single 7N 15440, 1962
Tracks 33-34 from Pye single 7N 15460, 1962
Tracks 35-36 from Pye single 7N 15494, 1962

Written by Joe Marchese

June 12, 2014 at 10:33

Posted in Compilations, News, Reviews, Tony Hatch

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