DON’T KNOCK UPON MY DOOR Six Dozen Great British ‘B’ Sides
When I first became interested in Pop music, back in the late 50s, my pocket money wouldn’t stretch to records so I had to try and blag what I could from sundry uncles, aunts and cousins. The trouble was, their unwanted oldies were invariably either cracked old Embassy 78s or ancient, pre-R&R crooners/dancebands/novelty items, so my embryonic ‘record collection’ was crap! A few years later, when I started earning money of my own (eleven-and-six a week - my first paper round!), I began to hang around local junk shops, where you could pick up old 45s for a couple of bob each. And this was where my obsession with B-sides began. Back then, I couldn’t afford to waste money on records which didn’t have two good sides... consequently, once I’d begun collecting seriously, I had a rack of ‘special’ 45s whose flips I preferred to their designated top decks. Some of these I’m delighted to share with you on this compilation, which presents a generous six dozen of the finest British Killer B’s issued between 1957 and 1962. As you’ll hear, many of these were wholly wasted as flips; several are long-forgotten goodies which were tacked onto the backs of significant hits, a couple even dented the UK charts under their own steam, while others simply appeared on the flips of obscurities which disappeared without a trace, nowadays mourned by just a handful of sad old vinyl junkies.
The earliest side featured herein is The Vipers Skiffle Group’s take on the traditional ‘Maggie May’, which in April ’57, as the flip of their top tenner ‘Cumberland Gap’, also briefly made the Record Mirror Top 20. Another great early Skiffle B-side was Johnny Duncan’s frantic ‘Rock-A-Billy Baby’, while Terry Wayne’s, Jim Dale’s and Laurie London’s featured flips are all of a similar vintage.
By common consensus, Britain’s finest rocker was the mighty Billy Fury, whose self-penned ‘Don’t Knock Upon My Door’ was arguably thrown away as a lower deck. Cliff Richard, whose biggest-selling UK 45 was the theme song to his hit movie The Young Ones; tucked away on t’other side was the romping ‘We Say Yeah’, which remains a huge fans’ favourite. Cut from much the same cloth were Marty Wilde’s ‘It’s Been Nice’ (the flip of his magnificent ‘Bad Boy’) and Tommy Steele’s ‘Give! Give! Give!’ (which dented the NME Top 30 after its topside, ‘Tallahassee Lassie’, had made the Top 20), whilst artists like Vince Taylor, Johnny Kidd (his ‘I Want That’ is a great lost/forgotten classic), Joe Brown, Lance Fortune (his ‘Action’ would have made a tremendous A-side), Vince Eager, The Vernons Girls and Michael Cox were also, of course, all hugely popular, fellow Oh Boy! and Boy Meets Girls regulars.
Meanwhile, over on the BBC, a new R&R-oriented TV show, Drumbeat, was introducing fresh names and faces under the musical direction of trumpeter/bandleader/arranger John Barry, whose augmented Seven Plus Four’s bizarre, pizzicato string-driven arrangement of Hank Snow’s ‘I’m Movin’ On’ was a real killer B. Drumbeat’s biggest star, by a long shot, was the diminutive Adam Faith (whose ‘Knocking On Wood’ wholly eclipsed its disappointing A-side, ‘Baby Take A Bow’), while other regulars on the show included The Lana Sisters (who famously included a teenage Dusty Springfield), Anthony Newley (his catchily-commercial ‘It’s All Over’ sounds like it ought to have been an A-side), Ricky Valance and former John Barry Seven singer/rhythm guitarist Keith Kelly.
Lonnie Donegan, of course, transcended all TV/Radio shows and genres. By the late 50s he was firmly established as a major star and he’d begun to stretch out musically, his Anglicised version of Ernest Tubb’s ‘Talking Guitar Blues’ (wasted, frankly, on the flip of ‘San Miguel’) being a prime example. Conversely, Emile Ford, who suffered equally from synaesthesia and “his own worst enemy” syndrome, never quite became as big a star as he perhaps should. Perpetually at odds with his record company, Emile wanted ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ issued as an A-side, whereas they insisted on going with ‘Slow Boat To China’ (mind you, Pye were right - it reached No.3!). It took The Shadows a while to get going (they’re represented here by ‘Midnight’, the flip of the ubiquitous ‘F.B.I.’), but once established, they opened the floodgates for a UK Instro scene which was remarkable for its quality, if not always its commercial success. In their wake, groups like The Outlaws, The Krew-Kats, The Fentones, The Ted Taylor Four, The Eagles, Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers, and solo artists like Rhet Stoller and even dear old Bert Weedon, routinely cut great double-sided 45s, whilst worldwide chart-toppers The Tornados even briefly threatened The Shads’ status as the UK’s premier Instro Group.....