GENE SCULATTI Albums Of The 60s (Igloo)

This little hardback book is slightly dishonestly titled: on the spine it’s called “Albums Of The 60s” – and indeed that’s how Amazon refers to it – but in full it’s called “The 100 Best-Selling Albums Of The 60s”, which is a rather different kettle of cherries, and goes some way to explaining why The Velvet Underground don’t darken these pages and The Singing Nun, um, does.

So, Sculatti, who has worked for Rolling Stone and Billboard, has a slightly different perspective on the makeup of the titular decade than might be expected, and to an extent it’s a refreshing one. Ranked in reverse order of US sales, the top ten is owned exclusively by The Beatles (with the eponymous double white heading the list by such an astonishing margin – 7 million ahead of “Led Zeppelin II” and “Abbey Road” – that you have to wonder whether each copy was counted twice; such creative accountancy would also explain why “Blonde On Blonde” rates, not undeservingly of course, as the most purchased Dylan album), The Monkees and Led Zeppelin. Perhaps more interesting, if only for their unfamiliarity, are the cultural phenomena that normally fall outside the remit of books of this type, for example comedy albums (Bob Newhart, Vaughn Meader’s “The First Family”, Bill Cosby), stacks of film soundtracks, Glenn Campbell aplenty and the barely categorisable (the aforementioned Singing Nun, SSgt Barry Sadler). Each album is treated with equal respect, with a colour reproduction of the cover art, a tracklisting and generally controversy-free commentary.

Little more than a stocking-filler in stature, “Albums Of The 60s” does at least provide a barometer of America’s musical preferences during the decade, exposing more than a few surprises that might otherwise be written out of cultural histories.