Review: Ku-Pow! British Instrumental Guitar Music Of The Sixties

KU-POW
CD. El Records

When you think of the 1960s, you might think of The Beatles, The Stones and other ‘British Invasion’ bands, psychedelic, blue rock and the beginnings of metal and prog. But for me, the real soundtrack of the decade is encapsulated in this 33 track CD. Literally – watch any documentary about Britain in the first half of the decade that isn’t focused on youth culture and you’ll probably find tracks from this album playing as the backdrop to new cars, ideal home show exhibitions and anything else representing the post-war dream – a dream that took considerably longer to arrive in Britain than America. Even today, when listening to tracks like the fantastic Telstar, you can’t help but imagine that this is the music of NOW and the music of the future – the soundtrack to a brave new world of unlimited leisure, flying cars and holidays on the moon.

We never got any of that, of course, but the music remains. These recordings, many made by the legendary Joe Meek feel caught in a bubble – not mainstream pop then, not mainstream pop now. Instead, they are remarkable time capsules, made for easy listening, dancefloor twisting and the soundtracking of lives. Music that, even at the time, crossed over the generational gap – absent of offensively shouty vocals and produced so smoothly that it was impossible to offend, it was as likely to appeal to mum and dad as it was the kids. Slip on a disc by The Fentones at your party, and everyone is happy. The fast paced numbers like The Mexican are great for dancing, slower, twangy tunes like Just for Jerry perfect for canoodling in the corner. And hell, this stuff is great for strippers and go-go dancers. Just slip into a gold bikini and shake it to The Ted Taylor Four playing Fried Onions. Do it now!

The British guitar instrumental was pioneered by The Shadows, and their huge success almost certainly spawned most of the acts featured on this album. But don’t think that means this is second division, copycat stuff. Far from it. I mean, really – did the Shadows come up with anything as iconic as The Tornados’ Telstar? I don’t think so. I mean, Apache is great… but Telstar is beyond great.

Judd Proctor’s It’s Bluesy has an infectious mix of blues, pop and sleaze that suggests it should’ve been on the soundtrack to some crazy Euro spy movie; The Ted Taylor Four’s M1 captures the speed and excitement of the new motorway system; there’s the groovy exotica of Sounds Inc’s Taboo and the moody self-titled track by The Phantoms… and Tony Hatch’s theme tune to sci-fi TV series Out of This World.

Most exciting, perhaps, is the inclusion of three tracks by The Eagles – no, not that band – from the soundtrack of excellent youth movie Some People. With the film’s recent appearance on DVD, this is timely indeed.

There’s nothing bad on this album, and plenty that is astonishing. For fans of 1960s pop and groovy listening, it’s a must.

DAVID FLINT

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