Everybody loves girl groups, right? Though I have a soft spot for more modern ones like Banarama, Girls Aloud and even, yes, Tatu, I’m talking classic girl groups. The kind that sing about falling in love with boys — even the bad ones that end up cheating on them and getting them pregnant and not treating them very well in general. In the ’60s, girl groups tackled taboo issues that couldn’t be talked about on TV. The Shirelles‘ "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" dealt not-so-subtly with going all the way; and The Crystals — the best girl group ever — dealt with physical abuse in their infamous "He Hit Me (and it Felt Like a Kiss)." (Both were written by the Brill Building workhorse team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King.)
But there was a lot more to girl groups than the big hits you hear ad naseum on Oldies Radio. For proof, look no further than One Kiss Can Lead to Another – Girl Groups Sounds Lost and Found, an amazing new box set from the good folks at Rhino. What makes it so awesome is that Rhino has eschewed the hits — and most of the hitmakers — of the genre, focusing instead on groups and singles that should have received more attention. Included are rare early singles by singers who would soon be famous (Cher, Dolly Parton, uh, Toni Basil), songs that would be hits for other people ("He Was Really Saying Something," "You’re No Good"), lesser-known singles from big names (The Supremes, The Ronettes) and a whole lot of stuff you probably never knew existed. In fact, chances are most of the 120 tracks on here will be new to you.
My favorites are some of the crazier songs, like The Fabulettes‘ diet solution "Try the Worryin’ Way"; The Starlettes‘ frank and funny "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman"; The Hollywood Jills‘ call-and-response "He Makes Me So Mad"; and some of the attempts at jump-starting a dance craze like The Goodies‘ "Sophisticated Boom Boom" and Marsha Gee‘s "Peanut Duck" (strangely, not about Thai food). There are also some songs that border on garage rock (Luv’d Ones "Up Down Sue" and The What Four‘s "I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy") and a couple lightbulb moments, like Dusty Springfield‘s "I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face" (there are a number of Northern Soul songs on here) which I’d never heard but instantly recognized, as whole chunks of the song formed the basis of Saint Etienne‘s great early single "Nothing Can Stop Us."
My favorite song on the whole thing, though, is The Exciters‘ somewhat manic "He’s Got the Power." The Exciters’ only big hit was "Tell Him" and this song was obviously cut from the same mold — the musical resemblance is immediate — but lead vocalist Brenda Reid’s performance is so unrestrained it catapults the song to greater heights.
Rhino really outdid themselves on the packaging — the set comes in a hatbox, and each of the CD cases are made like compacts (complete with mirrors), and the booklet has the story behind each and every song with lots of cool, rare photos. One Kiss Can Lead to Another – Girl Groups Sounds Lost and Found is very likely to be Sound Bites Box Set of the Year.