Year of Release: 1966
The post-nineties music scene has been completely flooded with female stars after a long period of women in rock and pop - and certainly women in rock and pop writing their own material - being rather sidelined. That some of the largest selling records of the last fifteen years have been made by Adele, Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and (*sharp intake of breath, wince*) Dido is a sign of the marketplace becoming a lot more even, not through any kind of concerted right-on media campaign, but entirely through consumer choice.
It's easy to forget that back in the sixties there was a similar push and rush of female artists, although back then a hell of a lot more of them failed to get more than one hit, and many more didn't chart at all. For every Sandie Shaw there was an Adrienne Poster, for every Lulu a Bobbie Miller. In fact, I'm going to mention Twinkle's late non-hit "Micky" at this juncture not because it's especially relevant to the record in hand (it isn't at all) but because its failure to chart is one of the sixties era's biggest injustices. It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to.
But moving on to the matter in hand - Sarah Jane's version of the Gouldman-penned "Listen People" is an understated proposition to say the least. In fact, it almost turns understated into a genre of its own. A delicate orchestra brushes strings in the background while Sarah Jane sings so softly it's as if the whole performance is being carried on a summer breeze. Even turning the volume up to ten probably wouldn't trouble the neighbours. It wouldn't be the last time such a style took hold, and nor was it the first - Marianne Faithfull also had similar subtle ways to begin with, and Vashti Bunyan would certainly usually favour the delicate arrangement over the strident. Unlike either of those artists, however, Sarah Jane would neither score immediate success nor achieve eventual acclaim, and this single seems to have been her only outing.
"Listen People" was also issued as a single by Herman's Hermits in the same year, where it managed to pick up a bit more of an audience (though not in the UK, where it never achieved A-side status). I'm afraid I consider it to be the inferior version, though I have no doubt it might have sounded much stronger coming through people's kitchen or factory radios.
As for who Sarah Jane is or was… I'm afraid I have absolutely no information. So if you know her, or indeed you are her, please step forward and make yourself known.