Guide to British Music of the 1960s

December 2004

Book Review

The Guys Who Wrote 'Em by Sean Egan

The singer or the song? Over the years there have been some amazing songwriters. of course, we all know Lennon & McCartney, Jagger/Richards and Marriott/Lane but there are also professional songwriters. Many of these have produced hit after hit for numerous artists. Sean Egan's book looks at some of music's most prolific and successful songwriters over the years. This includes interviews with many of them about their art.

While only one of the songwriters covered is directly relevant for Making Time, many of the others had a major impact on British music in the 1960s. The opening section covers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. They are best known for their work with Elvis Presley and where would anyone have been without Presley. Graham Gouldman is particularly interesting. During the 1960s, he was a member of the Mockingbirds and was one of the mainstays of 10cc during the 1970s. However, the list of hit records he wrote during the 1960s reads like a top ten: For Your Love, Heart Full of Soul and Evil Hearted You for the Yardbirds, Look Through Any Window and Bus Stop for the Hollies and No Milk Today and East West for Herman's Hermits. There were, of course, lesser-known tracks such as Pamela Pamela for Wayne Fontana. However, despite his excellent writing, the Mockingbirds were never able to break through.

Chip Taylor also has an important place in British music as he wrote Wild Thing which propelled the Troggs to fame. He also wrote Angel of the Morning. This was a hit for PP Arnold, who is American not British as Egan states, but she made her name as part of the Immediate family in the late 1960s and therefore is honorary English (and covered by Making Time.)

The names Holland-Dozier-Holland trip off the tongue and will forever be associated with a string of classic Motown hit singles for the likes of the Supremes and the Four Tops. If ever there was a song writing factory this was it. What's more the standard that was produced was constantly high.

The book covers each of the songwriters or song writing teams in turn. What made them start to write? What are their favourite and least favourite songs? One element that is interesting is that many, but not all, attempted to have careers as artists. Bobby Hart and Tommy Boyce even ended touring with Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones playing Monkees songs. Eddie Holland did the original version of Leaving Here himself.

There is a lot here which fans of the songs and artists will know. However, in view of the fact that many new interviews were conducted for the book, there is a new insight into the songs and song writers. It is rare that the songs are analysed from the perspective of the person who actually wrote them and so there are eye-opening insights.

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