July 08, 1996 12:00 PM

Various Artists

Before British moptops dominated the singles charts in the mid-’60s AM radio teemed with the “girl-group sound.” The term, for the uninitiated, refers to the hook-heavy, mini-melodramas waxed by bouffanted lasses who sang about their boyfriends—some mere passing fancies, others having passed violently on—and others trials of adolescence. Often dismissed as fluff, the girls get their due in this delightful 50-track, double-CD set.

Growin’ includes such classic hits as the Shangri-Las’ death-o-rama, “Leader of the Pack,” and the Angels sassy “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Better yet are the surprise rarities, such as Ginny Arnell’s bittersweet “I Wish I Knew What Dress to Wear,” the Honeybees’ breezy “One Wonderful Night” and Connie Francis’s “My Best Friend Barbara,” about a man-stealing gal pal. Best of all is the Whyte Boots’ bizarre “Nightmare,” wherein an overwrought miss accidentally kills her boy-snatching rival. “I didn’t want to fight!” she cries hysterically. “Help me, somebody!” There we have girl-group dramatics at their most sublime. (Mercury/Chronicles)

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