19th Sep, 2018

MUSIC MATTERS: by Pete Chambers BEM: Selling Coventry music to the world

Editorial Correspondent 6th Jan, 2018 Updated: 22nd Jan, 2018

Selling Coventry music to the World

As we move even closer to 2021, it’s worth a look back to see how Coventry and Warwickshire music has been exported abroad, especially to the world’s toughest market, America.

King, The Specials, The Primitives have all performed well in Japan, The Sorrows were on a par to The Beatles in Italy. Lieutenant Pigeon’s most successful territory was Australia where they scored four top ten hits.

Even Coventry band Peppermint Circus managed to chart with ‘One Thing Leads To Another’ in Germany, yet remained obscure in their native UK.

What about those who have hit the coveted of all charts, the US Billboard 100?

Frank Ifield had four number ones in the UK, with ‘I Remember You’ being his best loved number one hit. Two months down the line he saw the song hit number five in America.

The US record label Vee-Jay took on Frank Ifield because of his success in the UK. The deal was if they had Frank they would also have to take on a new beat band EMI were promoting called The Beatles. Frank and the Beatles were famously cobbled together on one LP entitled ‘Jolly What’, original copies now fetch a big price.

Former Sorrows front man Don Fardon saw his UK hit the John D. Loudermilk song ‘Indian Reservation’, make number twenty in America in September 1968.

Rugby’s Pinkertons Colours had enjoyed chart hit with ‘Mirror, Mirror’ in 1966. Searching for a new beginning, the band re-invented themselves as The Flying Machine. They release the plaintive ditty ‘Smile A Little Smile For Me’. It never showed on the hit parade at home, but reached number five in the USA.

Also from Rugby were Jigsaw. They too had success chart-wise over the other side of the Atlantic with their global hit ‘Sky High’.

The song, originally written for the film Man From Hong Kong, blew open the charts from country to country, Number one in Australia and Japan, number nine in the UK and number three in the good old US of A. It sold in excess of three million worldwide.

They followed it up and achieved a second American hit with the number 30 hit ‘Love Fire’. making them our most successful musical export in the USA to date.

Another double hitter was to be Coventry born Billie Myers. Her break came when producer Peter Harris happened to spot her dancing in a London club, and she signed to Universal Records, recording her debut album Growing Pains in Miami, Florida in 1997.

The first single from the album was to be the haunting ‘Kiss The Rain’. Based on one of Billie’s poems, it was to transport her to the upper reaches of the American Charts to number 15 In 1998 she also hit there with ‘Tell Me’.

2-Tone sadly didn’t fair too well over the pond, although the Specials first LP squeezed itself into 98 in the US album charts. The Specials single ‘Ratrace’ attained 89 in the Billboard Club Play charts, but not the main singles chart.

The only former Specials member to chart mainstream in the US way Horace Panter who did it with the Beat offshoot band General Public. They cracked the US charts at number 27 in 1984 with song ‘Tenderness’. Though Terry Hall did co-write the Go-Go’s hit ‘Our Lips Our Sealed’.

Beware of the Boys or Mundian To Bach Ke, was a global phenomenon for Panjabi MC. A number 2 in Germany, and 22 in The States number 8 in the UK, number ones in Greece and Italy. It was of course much more than a hit record, PMC had globally mainstreamed Bhangra, a massive achievement not just for him but for Bhangra music in general, and British-Asians and of course Coventry in particular! Roll on 2021.

The Top 8 of local artist with success In America

1. Sky High-Jigsaw

2. Smile A Little Smile For Me-The Flying Machine

3. I Remember You-Frank Ifield

4. Kiss The Rain-Billie Myers

5. Indian Reservation-Don Fardon

6. Mundian To Bach Ke-Panjabi MC

7. Tell Me-Billie Myers

8. Love And Fire-Jigsaw

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