Girl group The Gypsies migrated from the USA to England in 1967 to escape the “just another Supremes tag”, changed their name to The Flirtations and got most things right: a stream of fine singles, ample airplay, primetime TV appearances, and hits in mainland Europe.
The one thing they couldn’t manage was a UK chart hit – but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The closest they got was with Nothing But a Heartache in 1968.
From 1968 to 1972, the girls were signed to Deram under the supervision of ace writers/producers Bickerton and Waddington and their lone Deram album – Sounds Like The Flirtations (1970) – was filled with perfectly crafted pop-soul numbers.
The formula rarely varied – after an ear-catching intro, the rhythm section and piano would lay down a hard, stomping beat, strings would soar, and out front, Earnestine Pearce sang with forceful femininity while sister Shirley and Viola Billups harmonised sweetly behind and around her.
Almost every one of their numbers was ridiculously catchy, from the beat ballad Can’t Stop Loving You, to the Motown-flavoured End Of The Line to the gentle hip-wiggler Stay.
Throughout the 1970s the girls released material on a number of labels including Little Darling (I Need You), Take Me In Your Arms (& Love Me), Hold On To Me Babe, Love A Little Longer, Why Didn’t I Think of That?, Dirty Work, Mr Universe and One Night of Love.
A second album, Love Makes the World Go Round, was released in 1976.
The Flirtations recorded some Hi-NRG tracks in the 1980s and the group was rediscovered on the Northern Soul circuit, and Nothing But A Heartache was used in an advertising campaign for KFC in the UK.
In 2009, The Flirtations released their first single in 20 years, Roulette.