Richard Vaughn founded his Arvee Records (his initials formed the label's name) imprint in Los Angeles in 1959, and thanks in part to loose-limbed productions by H.B. Barnum and Marty Cooper, had hits right out of the box with frat party R&B acts like the Olympics and the Marathons, and although party R&B tracks (often with deliberate novelty appeal) remained the label's bread and butter, Arvee also dabbled in rock & roll, doo wop, and instrumental surf music. This generous 30-track collection leans to the party side of things, and features most of the Olympics' hits ("Big Boy Pete," "(Baby) Hully Gully," "Dance by the Light of the Moon"), the Marathons' increasingly absurd releases ("Peanut Butter," "Chicken Spaceman," and the fascinatingly irritating "Talkin' Trash") and several delightful -- if obscure -- sides like Little Joe Hinton's seasick "Your Kind of Love" (complete with a runaway string section) and the goofy parody ballad "El Pizza" by Dudley. Nothing here rises to the level of art (or even comes remotely close), and the "Big Boy Pete" rhythm (a hair down the evolutionary line from "Louie, Louie" and virtually indistinguishable from it) seems to be applied to every other song, but the sheer lunacy of these tracks make this set a whole lot of fun. You can't take most of these tracks seriously, nor should you. They're about meeting your friends at the roller rink on a Saturday night and waiting for the sock hop to begin. They're about eating pizzas and catching that someone's eye from across the room and asking them to dance. If the song playing is "Chicken Spaceman" or "El Pizza," you can talk about how stupid the lyrics are while you dance. It's a connection. It's a start. Arvee Records instinctively understood all of this, and as a result, West Coast Sock Hop is more fun than a barrel of barefoot party monkeys.
Share this page