Rave! Reviews 4: Books and DVDs

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Karen Carpenter! Karen and Olivia in '66
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Bev, Efficient 1960s Secretary! Exclusively on Girl-Groups.com
Bev, Efficient 1960s


Motown Marvels: The Marvelettes
by Marc Taylor
Aloiv Publishing, 2004

Many people think the Supremes are what put Motown on the map. The startling truth is, the Supremes probably never would have happened if it weren't for the Marvelettes. In 1961, "Please Mr. Postman," by the Marvelettes, was the hit that kept Motown Records from sinking.

The girls in the Marvelettes were thrilled and shocked that what started as informal high-school singing had instantly launched them into national fame. But they weren't ready for what was to come next. Motown execs asked them to quit high school. They were put on a grueling tour, riding a bus with no bathrooms stopping in towns that wouldn't let blacks use their bathrooms.

These are among the fascinating revelations in the new book, The Original Marvelettes: Motown's Mystery Girl Group by Marc Taylor (Aloiv Publishing, 2004). The good and the bad are there in a tantalizing dichotomy. This is a book that will please the reader who has a casual interest in girl groups, yet has the depth that a die-hard girl-group fan wants.

Told with primary input from Katherine Anderson Schaffner, "the tall one," the story includes quotes from other group members and other girl-group icons. Not only is the story about the girl-group days, but also the events -- sometimes bittersweet -- that happened to the women after their years of fame. Marc Taylor has been writing about soul music for more than a decade.

For information on how to get this one-of-a-kind book, click here: The Original Marvelettes: Motown's Mystery Girl Group.

Click here for Marvelettes Trivia!

Girl Groups: Fabulous Females That Rocked the World
by John Clemente
Krause Publications, 2000

No matter what you've read about the girl groups, there is always more info to discover, unheard-of songs to hear, and new photos to find. All of these delights, and more, come in abundance in this book.

John Clemente chose a clever structure to make this book a great companion to the first classic girl-group book, Alan Betrock's Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound. Where Betrock's text was a straight narrative history of the genre, this book is a collection of group and singer bios. This gives more depth of information per group, while making it the first book of this type in the girl-group oeuvre.

Articles about girl groups from the first half of the 1960s are here, along with fantastic photos. Note that this book isn't just about the 1960s, as other groups like First Choice and the Go-Gos are included. Purists, you'll just have to overlook that, since the 1960s groups take up 90 percent of the book. The biographical information doesn't end with the era. Where known, what the "girls" are doing today is also included. Even the diehard girl-group fan will see photos he's never seen before.

An added bonus is an exhaustive discography of the groups, along with lists of girl-group members throughout the years. Many of the groups had interchangeable members, and it's nice to know who is who. Also include is a great price list of the most valuable collectible records. Any reader will discover new information each time he opens the book. Besides that, it's a fun, interesting read!

Among the groups featured are the Angels, Blossoms (and Darlene Love), Chantels, Chiffons, Cookies, Crystals, Reparata and the Delrons, Dixie Cups, Exciters, Ikettes, Jelly Beans, Little Eva, Marvelettes, Orlons, Pixies Three, Raindrops, Shangri-Las, Shirelles, Supremes, Toys, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Velvelettes, and many, many of the lesser-known groups and soloists.

John Clemente is a knowledgeable author. Besides being a record collector for 30 years, he has appeared on radio shows talking about the girl groups in the New York area. He is also a vocalist and has performed with vocal groups such as the Echelons, the Cliftonaires and the Infernos. Currently he performs with an a capella group, Remembrance.

In his introduction, Clemente mentions the "blissful dedication" that went into this book. It certainly shows, and readers are the lucky beneficiaries. Available at: Girl Groups: Fabulous Females That Rocked the World

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Bikinis, Black Denim and Bitchen Sounds
by Stephen J. McParland
CMusic Books, 2005

A popular oeuvre of girl-group music is the "beach" sound, found in music by the Honeys, Donna Loren, and many others. It was also a popular theme for a slew of teenage beach movies (many starring Annette) such as Beach Blanket Bingo, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.

A single girl, Kathy Kohner ("Gidget") established the concept of the girl surfer. Many people do not realize that "Gidget" was based on Kathy's life, immortalized in the book written by her father, Frederick, Gidget: The Little Girl with Big Ideas, and later amplified by the 1959 Columbia Pictures release, Gidget, starring Sandra Dee.

Until now, that particular slice of 1960s rock phenomena has not been explored. Bikinis, Black Denim and Bitchen Sounds: A Musical Appreciation of Female Surf, Hot Rod and Related Recordings, a new book by Stephen J. McParland, dives deeply into all facets of this music. Besides female surf music, girls singing about hot rods, drag racing and motorcycles have been included, as well as actresses from the beach party genre of films who recorded songs.

The book includes the exploits of women who worked with record producers, music arrangers, and songwriters of that genre--men such as Brian Wilson, Gary Usher, Bruce Johnston, Terry Melcher, Joe Saraceno, Phil Sloan, Steve Barri and Gary Zekley.

Besides the Honeys, Donna Loren and Annette, this 280-page book has info on Shelly Fabares, the Murmaids, Jean Thomas & the Rag Dolls, Rachel & the Revolvers, the Surf Bunnies, Candy Johnson, Judy Russell, Carol Connors, Jill Gibson, Susan Hart, Little Pattie, and many others.

Loaded with 53 pages of black-and-white photos, seven pages of color photos, and a full index, this book has an inimitable collection of priceless anecdotes and facts about this fascinating era. The extensive index is tremendously helpful, and the A-Z Discography of Female Surf and Hot Music is rich with detail.

To order, go to: Bikinis, Black Denim and Bitchen Sounds.

My Boyfriend's Back: 41 Girl Group and Solo Women Hits of the '50s and '60s
(Piano, Vocal, Guitar)
Hal Leonard Corp., 1996

Many girl-group fans are not just fans, they are musicians themselves: aspiring singers, songwriters, producers, music teachers, and more.

With that in mind, there is a place for this book in the libraries of many girl-group groupies. Granted, this 144-page book is all sheet music, but what a collection! It shows the talent behind the songwriting of the girl-group era.

Even those who can't read music will get a kick out of easily having the lyrics to a big bundle of memorable pop songs. If all you've known of Annette's "Tall Paul" is the opening, "Chalk on the sidewalk (clap, clap, snap, snap), Writin' on the wall (clap, clap, snap, snap)..." you'll have the whole bailiwick at your disposal and can clap snap your way through the whole song.

Who cares if your boyfriend's back? All these great songs are back!

Click here for a list of all the songs included in this book. Available at: My Boyfriend's Back Songbook

Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era
(Penguin Books, 2006)
This incredible book reveals the "bomp and brilliance of the Brill Building era." And what a good job it does at that! With a roughly chronological pattern, it covers the trials and travails of such great songwriting teams as Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and the classic geniuses who started the era of writing for girl groups (although they did more than that), Doc Pomus with Mort Shuman and Jerry Leiber with Mike Stoller.

Here are all the inside stories you'd ever want to know. It's like reading Alan Betrock's classic "Girl Groups: the Story of a Sound" only hearing about it from the other side of the Brill Building-and this book has more detail and nuance.

Even though the book might seem centered on songwriters, it's truly a blend of stories about the talent, writers, producers and others who contributed to this magic oeuvre we all love called 1960s girl-group music.

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Click here for  Reviews 1: CDs of Groups

Reviews 2: CDs of Soloists     Click here

Click here for  Reviews 3: CDs, compilations

Girl Groups, Girl Culture
by Jacqueline Warwick
Routledge Press, 2007

One of the new girl-group books on the scene is this somewhat academic treatment of the connection between girl groups and girl culture of the early 1960s.

This book explains the culture of the time that created the opportunity for a specific genre of music designed for teen girls, as well as the following impact of that musical movement on the same teens. Analyzing the dress, style of songs, and presentation of the groups and singers, it's a thorough look at the whole phenomenon from the standpoint of social science.

While some of the analysis will be too mundane for the average reader, it is of high interest to singers and songwriters who like to analyze songs. Most interesting are the comments about various songs, such as: "'He's So Fine' depicts a gang of girlfriends whispering about a boy who has caught their eye, practically licking their lips as they look him up and down, and the doo lang doo lang refrain conveys a lustful appreciation far beyond the vocabulary of the prim middle-class teens who made the song number one..."

Another is: "Far from worrying about the dangers of sex, the girl in 'Be My Baby' is practically panting for it, and the parents who put the brakes on their daughter's reckless romance with the leader of the pack are nowhere to be found."

Available at: Girl Groups, Girl Culture

Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette
by Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldron
Onyx Books, 2004

While certainly not a new book (the hardcover was released in 1990), this is a girl-group treasure that some fans might have missed. The first half will be of most interest to general girl-group fans, though the second part--focusing on Ronnie's first few years after marrying Phil Spector and no longer being a Ronette--will please the hardcore Ronnie fan.

Not all girl-group stars came to fame because their producers, usually middle-aged men, were trying to seduce them, but this is one case where the producer, Phil Spector, found the voice he wanted, fell in love with the girl, and helped provide the opening to fame.

Not to be missed, however, is the story of the hard work that Ronnie and her sister and cousin put into becoming a group. Before they met Phil Spector, they were doing everything they can to establish their presence and get gigs. The "stage mother" element is interesting, too. Though Ronnie's mother didn't push them into a singing career, she was an essential part of the package--especially when it came time to haggle with Phil Spector over business matters. Available at: Be My Baby

About your reviewer...

Chuck Mallory is a former book reviewer for the Kansas City Star and has been published in several magazines. He lives in Chicago. Don't see your favorite girl-group CD here? Want to hear about a book? Send your review suggestions: Please review...

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