The Foundations' vocalist Clem Curtis

Eddy Grant (right) with his parther in The Equals

Georgie Fame

Dusty Springfield (1939 - 1999)

Alan Price


During the 1960s in Britain, there was a burgeoning interest in black music which had begun since the previous decade. The wave of immigrants from the West Indies in the 1950s, had brought with them whole new genres such as ska, blue beat, and calypso. And the inhabitants of England were by then getting all too familiar with the black American forms of jazz, and rhythm & blues, thanks in no small way to the Mods and West Indians who collected the music. While the highly polished US groups on record labels like Motown were making their mark all around the world, the most successful UK based soul acts back then were usually black Americans living in Britain. Two examples were Geno Washington a former soldier in the US Army, and a young female singer from Los Angeles called PP Arnold, who had a major hit record in 1967 with The First Cut is the Deepest. Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, a septet with a lead singer from the West Indies, also made a considerable contribution. The most visible home grown blues influenced artists on the whole, consisted of white musicians and singers like pianists Georgie Fame and Alan Price, who sometimes covered American R&B songs. Dusty Springfield, a singer from the north of England, was among the most internationally famous of the white soul acts of the period. On her American television shows in the 1960s, she would often invite some of the black artists who inspired her to start singing, though this was not always to the delight of the TV networks. But black artists from the USA did not have things easy in England, as often their records would be covered by white performers before they had even been released in the UK.

Although some British groups like the multi ethnic bands The Foundations and The Equals still managed to break through on occasion, by having number 1 hits in 1967 and 1968 respectively, UK soul acts still had a hard time due to the competition from home and abroad, and this also was the case when it came to hearing black music in general on radio, as it virtually didn't exist as far as the few mainstream stations were concerned at the time. On the other hand, pirate radio in England and foreign stations like Radio Luxembourg, were another matter entirely. However even by the early 1970s, the serious soul music fan could still only have their needs satisfied via expensive imported records, nights out at a club or dancehall where local acts would play, or via rare live appearances by the more successful black groups. It is important to realise that black culture and music at that time was not a mainstream phenomena. The music and club scenes were underground, and certainly did not have the exposure they enjoy at present. Fortunately, home grown talent from the likes of Linda Lewis, The Real Thing and their ilk began to emerge during the 1970s. And many of the artists that were foreign born, made a major impact by starting their careers in Britain.

This almost total exclusion, along with a strong desire to emulate their American heroes, in part resulted in the young nightclubbers and soul fans of the 1970s combining their talents in order to create their own version of the music they heard and loved. One which would have a very British flavour.

Blue Mink

Geno Washington

Jimmy James

Linda Lewis

Liverpool 8's finest