I’ll state the obvious: British pop is rarely if ever cut from whole cloth. The template at a given time is generally American; the attitude and voice tailored to local sensibilities. The question of accent is central to UK pop’s hybrid identity – how British can a singer sound and still convince? (By “convince” I mean “sell”). The various answers are the raw data for an index of British pop self-confidence, or self-sufficiency. Or to be more specific: the first few years of the sixties sees British pop throw forth a gaggle of stars whose hit records can be heard as experiments in fitting local accents to the international pop sound. Eventually the formula fizzes up, overflows its island test tube and the Capital S Sixties can get going. For now though, here’s Adam Faith, with music arranged by John Barry.
Faith had been working as a TV sound-effect man; Barry was a year away from his first film soundtrack, on the up as a bandleader and arranger. The two took Johnny Worth’s pert little song and turned in one minute and forty seconds of smart, cutting-edge pop: highly produced, entirely affected and very, very British. Barry’s contribution was the pizzicato strings, which jerk the song towards a whole new level of perkiness. Faith brought along an outrageous singing accent, half plum half cockney, summed up in his lip-smacking “bey-beh”. Both these hooks rapidly turned into schticks. In 2004 it sounds terribly awkward and not a little camp: in 1959 it must have seemed marvellously modernist, a tiny window onto the new decade.