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This 60s girl group has captured my soul

I’ve been a fan of the Flirtations for all of eight days. Admittedly I’m a little late to the party, given that they settled in the UK before I was born, but I’m pleased I found them all the same.

Those clever little algorithms at YouTube must take the credit. As I was saying to a friend yesterday, they must have worked out I’d be up for some late 60s/early 70s girl group soul music and lobbed one of their promos my way.

“Yeah,” he said. “It might be those 200 Gladys Knight videos you’ve watched.”

The Flirtations promo in question was this one, in which the trio mime beautifully in the ruins of Tintern Abbey, Wales.

This led swiftly to Nothing but a Heartache, the song they’re best known for and a hit with the troops in Vietnam, if you can believe the YouTube comments.

What sealed the deal, though, was a cover of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ Take Me In Your Arms and Love Me, which left me gasping. Not at the focus on their legs and cleavage at the end, which is rather gratuitous, but for the creative use of Bath Abbey as a backdrop.

The next step in becoming a fan is, of course, the Google search. Through this, and the wonders of Wikipedia, I discovered that the Flirtations have been around since 1962 and hail from South Carolina; that they moved to Britain in 1967; that their line-up has changed a few times; and that the classic trio – sisters Ernestine and Shirley Pearce, with Viola Billups (aka solo artiste Pearly Gates) – reformed for producer Ian Levine and perform on the Northern Soul circuit. Indeed, they’ve done so in recent months, just up the road from where I live.

From what I’ve seen of their early videos, it’s a shame the group didn’t become a household name. The immaculate Nothing but a Heartache has been rattling around my head all week, I love their bell-bottomed walking dances around Tintern Abbey and Viola’s habit of beaming, like she’s on top of the world, makes me smile too.

I mean, you have to love a group that make videos in a sawmill.

Dancing on tree trunks.

When it’s raining.

And appear on Sez Les with the comedian Les Dawson, who’s great, but whose introduction is gibberish.

And wear costumes that look like they’ve been nicked from a Patrick Troughton Doctor Who story.

So yeah, I’m hooked. I may well go and see them one of these days.

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