Girl Group Chronicles: Book Reviews

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Girl Groups: Fabulous Females That Rocked The World (2001)

by John Clemente

Rating: 9.5/10

John Clemente's book on girl groups from the 50s to the 80s is a fan's dream come true. Sixty girl groups, from well known hit-makers such as the Supremes and the Ronettes, to cult favourites like the Socialites and the Teardrops, to groups like the Go-Gos who are heavily influenced by the sound are profiled in this exhaustive attempt to write the definitive book on the genre's artists by using their own words. While other books have talked about the groups, John has actually managed to talk with (most) of them about their time in the spotlight or lack thereof. Many comments are quite revealing and definitely fill in the blanks other music historians have wrestled with for decades. Of course, like any book of this nature, there are bound to be questions of what was to be covered, and who would be included. Although Clemente's foreword gives his rationale for covering the groups he did, some abscences are notable. Lesley Gore, Diane Renay, Mary Wells, the Murmaids, and all the Brit Girls are sorely missed. And calling some of the more obscure groups influential may be extending a little more credit then is due. But arguments about who is in and who is out should not over-shadow the in-depth profiles and discographies in this collection, not to mention the wonderful, and sometimes obscure or personal photos included. While the writing is sometimes choppy and uneven, the over-all package compensates for any small glitches. This book has been a long time coming, and nicely compliments Alan Betrock's general history, Girl Groups: The Story Of A Sound, which is now out of print. Surely this will be considered a classic. (Will Stos)


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My Boyfriend's Back:The Story of the Girl Groups (1995)

by Anna Hunt Graves

Rating: 7.5/10

While not exactly a book, and not quite a set of extended liner notes, this publication was included with a 1995 girl group compilation of the same name released by The Life, Times, and Music Series. First, it must be said that despite my 7.5/10 rating, this book is an excellent starting point for casual fans of the girl group sound, or new converts looking for a place to begin their collection. The CD collects some of the biggest girl group hits of the 1950s and 1960s. With the exception of Phil Spector's Philles productions, and the Cameo-Parkway catalogue, which are both nearly, if not, impossible to lease, this compilation gives the listener a perfect sampling of the highlights of the girl group sound. Hunt Graves has put together a nicely written overview of the girl group era, in a somewhat abridged version of the Betrock girl group bible, The Story Of A Sound. But, at 72 pages, it mostly gives a brief mention to every group featured, and swiftly and simply runs through the era's peak years. But, what the book(let) lacks in size, it surely makes up in high quality photos and layout. Unless you're new to the scene, it's nothing you haven't heard before, but a cute little bonus to a superb CD. (Will Stos)


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The Billboard Book of American Singing Groups (1992)

by Jay Warner

Rating: 9/10

While this publication is not strictly a girl group affair, it is well worth the effort to track it down. Jay Warner, himself a former member of a band called the Carolons who recorded a couple of songs during 1964, lovingly delves into the harmonic history of 1940s-1990s singing groups in this reference book. Almost a volume of an encyclopedia of rock 'n' roll, Warner captures the quest of these groups to make it to the tops of the charts. Some made it, others missed it, but it seems most group members had a fub time making music regardless of the end result. All the major girl groups are covered in some depth, and some surprises, including the Royalettes, and the Bonnie Sisters, are thrown in for good measure. Warner also gives the early "sister" groups and later female vocal harmony groups extensive coverage in his profiles. Smooth, well crafted writing, makes this book a joy to read, and a valuable source of information on the girl groups and their contemporaries. But there are some drawbacks. Unlike Clemente's recent book dealing solely with girlgroups, Warner didn't have the time to concentrate on getting interview sources for a large number of the groups, and second-hand information and memories from some writers and producers only tell half the story. Nonetheless, a great resource and a thoroughly enjoyable read. (Will Stos)

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