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’.