Who put the Pop in Popmey?


I use the term ‘Pompey Pop’ for its alliteration and its ‘snappy’ feel but ‘Pop’ in this context has always meant popular as of the people (populace/population etc) not just ‘pop’ as in commercial etc.

I had an interesting email from DJ Pete C. Despite the fact that he “wasn’t a great fan” of Cilla Black, he suggested to me that her funeral in Liverpool next week might compare with those of Diana & Thatcher in London or George Best in Belfast. He identifies her as an essentially unique contemporary popular personality, not just a pop singer – comparing her to Tommy Handley and Gracie Fields in days gone by.

It intrigues me because as I’ve said, I don’t ‘get it’. I have no problem with the idea that people liked her, but I keep thinking that if it was 50+ years ago and I had the money to buy a single of “Anyone Who Had a Herat” I’d buy Dionne Warwick’s. On the other hand i’d be unlikely to buy either .

I realised in my reply to Pete that despite doing all this Pompey Pop stuff, I’m not really a ‘pop’ fan – music or mass media. I read some tributes to Cilla last week in which journalists wrote things like “In the 80s everyone’s Saturday evening started with Blind Date” and I just thought, no it didn’t. Maybe it was everyone else?

This led me to reflect on the times in my life when ‘pop’ music did really matter and what kind of ‘pop’ it was. The answer is that around the ages of 11/12/13 a lot of it was what we think of as bland American stuff by people like Bryan Hyland, Bobby Vee, Neil Sedaka or Johnny Tillotson (my first single) and I’m still a sucker for a certain kind of ‘catchy’ melody. Among the ‘Brits’ were Cliff, Mark Wynter and Billy Fury and I still think the best British female singer of the sixties was Helen Shapiro – not necessarily for the songs but her voice.

But shortly after came the Beatles and while I didn’t remain a ‘fan’ for long, it was through them that I first discovered acts like Arthur Alexander, the Cookies, early Tamla groups, the Donays. When I added those names to hit records by the Drifters and Shirelles I was away. Within a few months the Rolling Stones alerted me to Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and the Chess guys and that was it – ‘pop’ was pretty much gone for good. After that there would be an occasional single that hit the charts, either from the soul club scene (eg “Midnight Hour” or “Rescue Me”) or someone like Jimi Hendrix or Traffic. But I never really thought of those hits as ‘pop’.


Author: pompeypop

University lecturer, longtime local musician and recently historian of popular music - especially in and around Portsmouth. My blog is entirely about that topic

20 thoughts on “Who put the Pop in Popmey?

  1. Just reading the BBC web re Cilla Black and I must say that Mr. C is probably right about the funeral. Interesting post Dave and one that evokes a lot of thought. If I get time I will drop a line with my thoughts but meantime much as Helen Shapiro could belt out a song (Lulu as well) I think that Dusty Springfield deserves a mention. Very underrated IMHO. For me a good song is like a good book. It takes you places that you can’t go in person. By singing along with the song perhaps we are wishing that we were able to enact what those words are saying. (Why am I thinking of that old Johnny Paycheck song,,,Take this job and shove it LOL) No matter where and how we start, music evolves into a very personal journey , for some of us more than others maybe but I wonder…How many of us have made life changing decisions based on the words of a popular song? Now there is a question.

  2. Over here Pete, the media and music journalists tend to nominate Dusty Springfield as the UK’s best from the 60s – I like her (much more than say Lulu or Cilla Black) I just think Shapiro has a great natural voice, generally ill-served by mediocre material (apart from a couple of early hits). Of course once you get Stateside, it’s no contest – Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Fontella Bass, all the great ‘girl’ groups and a particular favourite of mine, Kim Weston.

  3. What ever is POPMEY ????
    I may be one of the few……….Waving a flag for Cilla as part of ‘the tribe’ of early 60’s Liverpool scene, and obviously an endearing character for the nation……..And I have to agree with our friend ‘over the pond’ , that Dusty done good…
    However , I do not wnt to sound biased hear , but I did spend 11 years of my lighting life with the ‘sassy’ songstress Elkie Brooks……………At times could give Janis J a good run for the money , and interestingly seems to have gone full circle and has now gone back to the blues…..

  4. Popmey? It’s an anagram mate. Good call for Elkie Brooks although I had a cat once gave Ms Joplin a run for her money!

  5. If we’re discussing the best British songstress of the last 60 years which would include all those mentioned,then it’s no contest –
    It has to be Amy Winehouse by miles !!!!

    • Now you’re talking about a class act !! The unfortunate thing was that I never appreciated how good she was until her untimely demise. I suppose the bizarre appearance was a bit off putting to an old fart like me, but that was just her image , her interpretation of classic “songbook” toons was amazing ! There were lots of famous artistes getting a bit pissed off with the so called pop tunes they were stuck with and started to think they could attempt the classic American Songbook stuff eg Brian Ferry, Rod Stewart, Robbie Williams etc, give them credit, they all made Joe Public aware of great classic songs and we should be thankful for that. But Amy sang them with so much feeling…. I’ll stop there, I’m feeling a moistness around my…..eyes !!

    • Yes, Yes, Yes. They’re screening the new biopic – for one day only – here in Bangkok. A must-see.

  6. Well I was only talking 60s but yep – I agree absolutely. Genius – tragic like Joplin but a hundred times more talented.

  7. Amy Winehouse….Mmmh really have not heard much of her stuff so have no opinion. My vote goes to Annie Lennox (Would I lie to you Dave?) LOL

    • All I’d say Pete is that Tony Bennett rated Amy up there with Ella and Billie as a jazz singer and on top of that she wrote and performed great pop songs
      Annie Lennox’s attempts at Jazz on her recent recording of standards doesn’t even compare!

      • Well as always the blog serves to force me to open my ears and explore music I do not normally listen to. So after a minor binge through You Tube I have to say…Sorry but she does nothing for me. A very scratchy voice that grated on me after a while. Mind you I don’t like Tony Bennet or Ella etc . Just not a style of music (jazz) that I like to listen to thats all. Funny though why does the start of very one of her records sound like adele singing “Skyfall”? Shame though as Amy was indeed a talented lass in her field. Just another case of a light bulb burning bright before it fails. Seems like we get too many of those.
        Meanwhile back to those 60s songbirds…No votes for poor old Bandy (oops “Sandy”) Shaw ? LMAO

  8. Amy Winehouse……………..What a sad loss……………..When she was ‘on form’ she was awesome………….unfortunately these occasions were somewhat limited during the times I worked with her……………………..Although an American by birth,we were gifted with P P Arnold as a songstress during the 60’s ……(from the stables of the wonderful Immediate label) Responsible for the first and probably the best version of ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’

  9. Unfortunately never got to see her live and she ain’t pop. Jo Anne Kelly was the main gal for me.

  10. Saw the ‘Dusty’ Fusion Musical yesterday – a mix of live actors and film/holograms of Miss D.S . on stage.
    Overall, it’s not that good apart from the holograms which had the audience clapping as though they’d just watched her in person. Made me wonder how long before we have Buddy and Elvis performing on stage together or the Beatles reformed and playing at the Palladium.
    Dave, any old film clips of Rosemary in existence?

    • Hah! Some art students once made a silent 16 mm film of us but no idea where it is. More sadly I wish I could find the acetate of our single that was never released. There was one in Pompey years ago but gone now!

  11. Am I alone in detecting some Georgie Fame influences in some of Amy’s songs?

  12. Popmey – the new designer drug from Prague (source: Daily Mail).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s