The Supremes were the first girl group to reach number one in the charts with their album ‘The Supremes A’Go-Go’. But they weren’t the only incredible rock’n’roll girl group who ruled the 60s. Here’s 20 more, including The Murmaids whose B-side track ‘Blue Dress’ makes them well worth digging out.
The Ikettes – Peaches ‘n’ Cream’ When they weren’t singing behind Ike and Tina Tuner, The Ikettes released their own singles. Despite a shifting line-up – there’ve been over 45 different Ikettes – this rowdy cut became a hit. Unlike their more ladylike contemporaries, The Ikettes mixed rock’n’roll rawness and Tina’s brawling blues style into their act.
The Gypsies – ‘Jerk It’ Later morphing into The Flirtations, whose Northern Soul shaker ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ you’ll have heard on a certain fried chicken ad, The Gypsies’ rough and ready ‘Jerk It’ is a tasty nugget of brassed-off brilliance. Its frenetic pace and suggestive lyrics – or is that just us? – make for a hectic holler-along number.
The Marvelettes – ‘The Day You Take One, You Have To Take The Other’ Before The Supremes, The Ronettes and Matha And The Vandellas came The Marvelettes, the first R&B girl group to set the charts of fire. Their 1961 single ‘Please Mr Postman’ took up residency at the top of the US charts for months, but they shine even brighter on this track.
The Dynells – ‘Call On Me’ The Dynells are one of many girl groups left out of music’s history books. Frontwoman Brenda McGregor went on to join The Vonettes before tragically dying at just 25, but little else is known about the group aside from their corking songs. ‘Call On Me’ is a mind-blowing Northern Soul number that’s utterly beautiful.
The Shaggs – ‘My Pal Foot Foot’ New England’s Shaggs were so preposterous, fascinating and tuneless, that they were hailed by the great and the good of grunge from Kurt Coban to Sonic Youth. Sadly, their crude, untutored riffing was laughed out of the recording studio, but if you dig for it there’s something fantastic in their anti-pop stylings and nonsensical lyrics.
Reparata And The Delrons – ‘I’m Nobody’s Baby Now’ Formed in the early 1960s when they were still at Catholic school in Brooklyn, the trio released their crowning glory, ‘I’m Nobody’s Baby Now’, in 1966. A soring weepie that’s as big as their precariously backcombed bouffants, it was penned by Jeff Barry, who also wrote the Ronettes classic ‘Be My Baby’.
The Cookies – ‘Chains’ Formed in the ’50s, The Cookies went through a number of line-ups before releasing the sly, shufflin’ ‘Chains’ in 1962. A version can be found on The Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’, but, in the nicest possible way, The Cookies’ take, with its parping brass and hip-shaking handclap, pisses all over their bland rendering.
The Blossoms – ‘Lover Boy’ California crooners The Blossoms spent most of their time as backing singers to other acts but they still found the time to release a few tracks of their very own. One of their standout sessions was the gleeful ‘Lover Boy’, an innocent, strident strut of a song full of big band flourishes and some seriously thrilling background trilling.
The Orlons – ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’ Beginning life as Audrey And The Tennettes, the Philadelphia band became The Orlons after they picked up a male member in 1960. Their finest moment is this gorgeous version of ‘Mama Didn’t Lie’, a 129-second slow-burning, melancholy triumph, it boasts a luscious chorus and some of the finest close harmonies of the era.
Gigi And The Charmaines – ‘I Don’t Want To Lose Him’ Headed up by Gigi Griffin with backing vocals from Irene Vinegar and Dee Watkins, this group never hit the big time, but the hit parade’s loss is today’s cult record collectors’ gain. Just as sassy as The Supremes and The Marvelettes, the honeyed vocals of ‘I Don’t Want To Lose Him’ mingle with boogie-woogie piano.
The Exciters – ‘Blowing Up My Mind’ Another girl group with a male member, The Exciters’ version of ‘Tell Him’ has since been covered by the tykes from Glee. ‘Blowing Up My Mind’, however, remains unsullied by popular culture. Kicking off with groovy Hammond organ, Reid hollers; “Dynamite and nitro-glycerine, is like a firecracker compared to you“.
The Orchids – ‘Love Hit Me’ A uniquely British take on the glossy American girl group sound and look, The Orchids were three gawky, uniform-clad schoolgirls from Coventry. Notoriously dismissed by all of The Beatles apart from Paul McCartney on the BBC’s iconic music panel show Juke Box Jury, ‘Love Hit Me’ is nonetheless an endearing take on the Motown sound.
Martha And The Vandellas – ‘Third Finger Left Hand’ Motowns’ most durable girl group – the frankly hardcore Martha Reeves is still up and touring today – smashed it with mega-hits ‘Dancing In The Street’ and ‘Nowhere To Run’, but the lesser known ‘Third Finger Left Hand’, a cynicism-free ode to marriage, proves that innocent pop can be just as thrilling as its raunchier counterpart.
Kelli And The Kittens – ‘What Mama Don’t Know’ Kelli was actually Diane Patton, who also drummed in jazz-boopers The Carnations. Patton stepped into the limelight for ‘What Mama Don’t Know’, but the single failed to make a dent on the national consciousness either at home or elsewhere. Even so, Patton and her dreamy doo-wap backing singers make this taut little number a proper treat.
Ronnie Spector – ‘Say Goodbye To Hollywood’ The inspiration for Amy Winehouse’s hair and eyeliner ideas, the fabulous Ronnie Spector is the undisputed First Lady of girl groups. Married to Wall Of Sound weirdo Phil Spector, her squeaky but soulful voice was packed with personality. Ronnie covered this 1967 Billy Joel track in ’77 with sax from the late, great Clarence Clemons.
The Tammys – ‘Egyptian Shumba’ One of the strangest and most flawless girl group tracks ever laid to tape ‘Egyptian Shumba’ is the closet the genre ever got to ripping-up-the-rulebook punk panache: kicking off with perky “shimmy-shimmys“, the sweet-sounding singers start shrieking, yelping and grunting like nut-jobs.
The Supremes – ‘Stoned Love’ Recorded just after Diana Ross left The Supremes to pursue a solo career, 1970’s ‘Stoned Love’ marks the transition from the ’60s to the ’70s, replacing lyrics about the boy next door with coded calls for an end to the Vietnam War and love between brothers and sisters, plus a cheeky weed reference in the title.
Daughters Of Eve – ‘Help Me Boy’ Chicago group Daughters Of Eve actually played their own instruments instead of drafting in session players – a rarity at the time. ‘Help Me Boy’ is the kind of haunted, evocative time-warp golf that Quentin Tarantino would dry-hump halfway into soundtrack notoriety given half the chance.
The Chantels – ‘Swamp Water’ Perhaps the first R&B girl group, formed in the early 1950s, The Chantels were discovered by doo-wop bigshots The Valentines. Released in 1963, after their brief burst of fame, ‘Swamp Water’ lights up with a muggy Mississippi shuffle, despite the band being from The Bronx. A slightly frenetic string section makes the ladies’ languid vocals even more decadent.