Various Artists 

The American Roots of the British Invasion

The original American sounds that washed ashore in England and thereby launched the British Invasion were often launched as obscure B-sides and album tracks. The Brits didn't just listen to American music, they studied it. Long before Lennon and McCartney had written an album's worth of compositions, they showed off their roots with covers of nonhits by Larry Williams ("Slow Down"), the Shirelles ("Boys"), and the Donays ("Devil in His Heart").

To many listeners, hits like the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout" are better known as Beatles songs. Similarly, many Americans were introduced to one of their own most popular country artists, Buck Owens, via Ringo Starr's treatment of "Act Naturally." The British hits often took popular ownership of American-born songs, and while the reincarnated doo-wop, blues, rockabilly, and girl-group pop lit up the charts, the originals catalogued in The American Roots of the British Invasion are the scene's true foundation.

Barbie Gaye's R&B "My Boy Lollipop" and Chan Romero's rockin' "Hippy Hippy Shake" were revived from late-'50s obscurity by one-hit wonders Millie Small and the Swinging Blue Jeans, respectively. Peter and Gordon mined Del Shannon's catalogue for the fully-arranged, hit-ready album track, "I Go to Pieces," and Manfred Mann turned Gene Pitney's fey flute-and-trumpet "Pretty Flamingo" into rock 'n' roll gold. Particularly illuminating is Dr. Feelgood and the Interns' rare 1962 original of "Mr. Moonlight," which finally explains John Lennon's fascination with the song.

Though this twenty-track collection barely scratches the surface (the Beatles alone recorded several dozen such covers), it's still a knockout -- a broad, ear-opening primer that begs for additional volumes.


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