British teenage singer Tammy St John missed out on chart success but recorded several gems of the Brit girl genre, notably the much-revered Dark shadows and empty hallways and the northern soul favourite Concerning love.
Tammy St John was born Judith Coster and hailed from Hornchurch in Essex, east of London.
She earned a recording contract with Pye Records at the age of just 14 and released four singles over a two-year period. Each showed a very different side of the young singer as her record company tried to find a winning sound.
Her first 45, Boys, was a decent debut, and featured Hey-hey-hey-hey, a cover of a song originally recorded by Little Richard, on the flip. Issued in August 1964, it was a raucous affair, with a distinctly American flavour, loud guitars and strong backing vocals. It also gained a release in the US, on the small Four Corner of the World label.
The follow up, He’s the one for me, backed by I’m tired just lookin’ at you, for which legendary songwriter and producer Tony Hatch directed the accompaniment, was girl pop at its brattiest.
For her third single, however, she delivered a mature, emotionally charged performance. The dramatic Dark shadows and empty hallways is considered by aficionados of British girl singers of the 1960s as one of the very best of the era. The song had been written by Fangette Willett, who would go on to become a staff writer at Motown. Initially, she wasn’t overly impressed by Tammy’s recording, feeling that the arrangements were too heavy. However, she came to appreciate it and she and Tammy even swapped letters about the song.
The B-side, the gentle but sad I mustn’t cry, is also worthy of note.
When the 45 failed to gain the attention of the record-buying public she served up a slice of psychedelic pop for her final single. Issued in February 1966, the highly danceable Nobody knows what’s goin’ on (in my mind but me) was a cover of a song originally recorded by US girl group The Chiffons. Though it failed upon release, it became a firm favourite on Britain’s northern soul scene a decade later. The B-side, Stay together young lovers, was a version of a Ben Aitken original, which was also covered a year later by American girl group Brenda and the Tabulations.
She had to wait another three years before releasing one final single, the soulful Concerning love, on the Tangerine label. The single is particularly rare and now commands extremely high prices on the second-hand market. (A copy recently sold for £565 on eBay.)
Our pick of the pops
Dark shadows and empty hallways
Nobody knows what's goin' on (in my mind but me)
I'm tired just looking at you
I mustn't cry
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Here come the girls
It's so fine: Pye girls are go!