A neat reversal of her cover shot for first album ‘The Magic of Jackie Trent’, 1965
So often, recently, my posts are prompted by the death of another 60s figure. So it is with Jackie Trent who died last Saturday 21st March at the age of 74.
I’ve long admired Jackie’s wonderful Where Are You Now (My Love), so 1965 in its Bacharach inflected cool. This was just one of many songs Jackie co-wrote with Tony Hatch – the couple were married 1967-2002. Indeed ‘Hatch-Trent’ became a formidable songwriting partnership from 1964, most famously creating a string of stellar international hits for Petula Clark.
2 CD set Jackie Trent: Where Are You Now – The Pye Anthology [Sequel, 2000, NEECD 396] reviews Jackie’s 1963-75 career on Pye across fifty tracks including many of her solo UK hits and adding some album cuts along the way. The running order is broadly chronological. Paul Howes provides workmanlike notes in the usual glossy fold-out format and the sound quality sounds fine to me (in fact superior to Sequel’s 1999 Petula Clark Pye Anthology which suffers from background hiss on some tracks).
The singles not included are How Soon (from the Richard Boone Show) and Somewhere In the World (both 1964), That’s You and Bye, Bye My Love (both 1967) and I’ll Be Near You (1970) in addition to Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch co-releases of which there were eight on Pye spanning 1967-75, one on Astor and a further three on Columbia. The rousing 7.10 to Suburbia was B-side to Jackie’s Hollywood in 1968 and a Warner Bros A-side in that year. The song had appeared on her first album, The Magic of Jackie Trent some three years earlier but is not included here.
Jackie and Petula
It’s interesting to speculate whether Jackie’s flop singles (of which there were unfortunately many) could have been hits in the hands of Petula Clark – or conversely, if Jackie had kept the likes of Don’t Sleep in the Subway and The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener for herself, might they have given her hits?
For a direct comparison of a song covered by both singers, I listened to Petula’s and Jackie’s versions of There Goes My Love, There Goes My Life (included here) and, to my ears, both are equally fine. Jackie’s arrangement perhaps has the edge as it aims at atmosphere rather than sheer impact with responsive passages between brass and strings and unusual pattering rhythms. For what it’s worth, Petula’s comes in at some thirteen seconds less. Jackie’s lyrics (entirely re-written from the original French lyric) could hardly be more fulsome if they tried – ‘Guilty of complete devotion, Sentenced to a life of longing, Prisoner of my own emotion, Wanting you but not belonging…’
Jackie on Pye
So onto this release… I’m going to comment on the most noteworthy tracks, starting with CD1 this week and continuing with CD 2 next.
We kick off in 1963 with Melancholy Me which is anything but – a jittery, skittery piece of pure pop quite unlike anything else here and not a little unlike Helen Shapiro.
If You Love Me (Really Love Me) has an arresting Spectoresque arrangement – huge drums, horns, guitars and clackety castanets doing overtime – which suits Jackie’s big, big, voice down to the ground. If you love this style, you’ll really, really love this song. What a fantastic echo on that final piano chord.
Don’t Stand in My Way introduces the signature Hatch style though, as this is still 1964, it comes with plucked strings and a crisp pick guitar instrumental along with Jackie’s imploring ‘love me, love me.’
The standout track remains Where Are You Now (My Love), a deserved Number One, albeit for one week only. It’s just so beautifully put together and there’s a restraint underpinning the emotion which serves the song perfectly.
It’s All in the Way You Look at Life is one of the strongest tracks here and could almost be a Hatch-Trent composition though it was penned by Aaron Schroeder (who wrote Elvis’s ‘It’s Now or Never’ amongst many others). Surprising indeed that this wasn’t a hit. Everything here just works.
The duo penned Faces, one of the most interesting tracks and one which has grown on me. With a theatrical quality and sometimes tentative melody, Trent’s exploratory lyrics take the song into new territory. ‘Faces’ was aptly dubbed ‘abstract’ in the sleeve notes to The Magic of Jackie Trent and it is certainly very 60s in its impressionistic, window-on-a-rainy-day reflectiveness.
Coming up roses…Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch, 1965
The A-side Love Is Me, Love Is You razzle-dazzles with its bold brassiness and comes with a swinging singalong chorus. This sounds like a sure fire hit but its impact was diluted because of competition from rival versions on singles by Connie Francis and Truly Smith.
This Time represents Hatch-Trent at their most melodic whilst If You Ever Leave Me is the kind of epic ballad which Scott Walker could have made his own before probably disowning it forever a few months later- ‘ if you ever leave me, I’ll die’.
Either Way I Lose, a 1967 single, is an early Van McCoy song but just don’t go listening to Nina Simone’s peerless version after you’ve heard Jackie’s. Gladys Knight’s comes in second whilst Robie Porter’s might have been a movie theme.
1967 single, Humming Bird, was an unusual choice as it was penned by young up-and-coming Cat Stevens. Jackie’s version is augmented with an unusual xylophone-prominent arrangement. The melodic B-side, I’ll Be With You has an appealing, reassuring uplift at the chorus.
So by the end of CD1, Where Are You Now (My Love) still reigns supreme but the tightly written and performed It’s All in the Way You Look at Life impressed me. In fact, I find I enjoy Jackie Trent when that powerful voice is reined in by a song which doesn’t try too hard to hit stratospheric emotional highs. Or perhaps the likes of If You Love Me (Really Love Me) and There Goes My Love (There Goes My Life) are just a little too overblown for my tastes. Her lyrics never let the side down but I’d like to hear Jackie push the ‘romantic love’ envelope a little more, as on Faces.
I hope you’ll join me next week for Disc 2 and a full track listing.