Friday, May 7, 2010

Ode to a Mixed Tape – Wonder Women of the ‘60s

Text © Robert Barry Francos
Images from the Internet

This tape was made somewhere in the early ‘80s, between interviewing Ronnie Spector for her Siren LP, and the Bottom Line versions (saw them both, though not the bloated Broadway version) of Ellie Greenwich’s Leader of the Pack [LoTP] show.

I haven’t described much of what is on the tape, because this music speaks for itself. As always, I have tried to find the original release of the song as it appears on the tape, and if that’s not possible, a live version. The quality of the videos varies.


The Shangri-Las - Leader of the Pack
As much as I adore some of the other singers on this tape, no one could match the sheer bad-girl sexiness of the Shangri-Las (from Queens, NY!). The Weiss sisters’ vocals could evoke like no one else. Covering an Ellie Greenwich tune doubles it.

The Chiffons - He’s So Fine
Great Carol King and Gerry Goffin tune performed with tight harmonies. The Chiffons were from the Bronx!

The Shirelles - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
This was considered quite the risqué song at the time, but these Jerseyites pulled it off tentatively enough to get past the moral code, but tenderly enough to be tempting. Another King / Goffin classic.

Leslie Gore - It’s My Party
Much better than the follow-up, “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” 16 year old teen idol Gore (nee Goldstein, from NYC and then NJ) powers through this tune that has become iconic as both a song and a commonly used turn. I had the privilege to see Leslie perform a couple of years ago (thank you Ingrid!) and she still has that killer voice. “You Don’t Own Me” and “Maybe I Know” are still my favorite Gore songs, but I didn’t own them when I made the tape.

The Angels - My Boyfriend’s Back
Growing up I thought they were African-American, but found out on an “oldies” show on TV (Solid Gold?) that I was mistaken about these Jersey women.

Little Eva - The Locomotion
Little Eva (Boyd), born in North Carolina and then moved to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, was famously Carol King’s babysitter, who was projected into the limelight. There are a lot of fun covers of this tune (including one by Christopher Milk which is wonderfully twisted), and some that are just awful (Kylie Minogue, for example). There is even a tribute song called “Little Eva” by the Locomotions.

Fontella Bass - Rescue Me
This song always make me happy. Why Fontella didn’t go further I don’t know, as she was as good if not better singer than many during the whole Motown period. Oh, and she also co-wrote this song. It’s a knock-you-outta-your-socks R&B classic. The only decent version I could find was a live recording, which is still powerful.

Merrilee Rush - Angel in the Morning
As with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” it’s about the awkwardness of the day after, but this time it’s the woman’s choice for a one-night stand. Again, groundbreaking for the time. Merrilee’s version is the definitive one for me, though it seems more people know the bloodless Juice Newton or ABBA covers.

The Shirelles - Dedicated To the One I Love
Many more people seem to be aware of the Mamas and the Papas’ version, which is sweet and all, but this is the one that I think of first.

The Dixie Cups - People Say
The Dixie Cups are more known for “Chapel of Love,” but I think this song is better written, harmonized, and structured. Both were written by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry.

Millie Small - My Boy Lollipop
This exceedingly early (first?) ska hit was first noticed by me because of the strange accent that I had never heard before (“You set the world on fayah / You are my one dee-zai-yah”), but I fell in love with the song quite quickly. And once I heard the B-side of the single, “Sweet William,” that became a fave as well. The British ‘80s ska group Bad Manners did an interesting cover of it.

Mary Wells - My Guy
Mary Wells (d. 1992) was the first superstar of Motown, and this Smokey Robinson (who also wrote “My Girl”) tune is a good example why.

Betty Everett - The Shoop-Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)
Like “Rescue Me,” this is a raver with great background harmonies; the changing melody lines hook the listener in. Everett (d. 2001) just grabs you with her opening exclamation, “Does he love me / I wanna know!” This song has been covered numerous times, again, without the same fire (Cher’s arguably being the most well known of them).

The Shirelles - Soldier Boy
This song is probably closest to the sometimes bland balanced-harmonies singles that came after doo-wop and before the Beatles. It doesn’t really have any outstanding moments, but it’s still an enjoyable song.

Claudine Clark - Party Lights
Actually, I became aware of this reggae-infused song though Walter Lure’s amusing version. But once I heard this original, well that was it for me. Yes, I can still enjoy Walter’s, but Claudine’s has a bite, and is also sadly comical as Clark complains to her mom about not being let her go to the party next door (“They’re doin’ the twist, the fish, the mash potato too / I’m here looking at you”).

The Chiffons - One Fine Day
While this is an up-beat song, written by King / Goffin, it’s a bit demeaning as the protagonist is waiting for her straying boyfriend to realize she’s the one. It can be seen as sort of the female call-and-response to Lou Christie’s “Lightenin’ Strikes.” But it is so upbeat and joyous, I’m willing to look past that.

Evie Sands - Take Me For a Little While
This is another song I first heard though a different artist, in this case Dave Edmunds. Evie’s is a bit more gritty, though it is similarly passive as “One Fine Day.” Sands is another artist that should have had more hits. The live video shows her sincerity (and note Darlene Love in a blonde wig doing back-up!), as she sings through her thick Brooklyn accent (and killer dimples).

The Jelly Beans - I Wanna Love Him So Bad
Another wonderful Greenwich / Barry classic, song by this one-hit wonder Jersey City group.


Ellie Greenwich - You Don’t Know
Before years of smoking ravaged her voice, the Brooklyn songwriter who defined the early ‘60s vocalized some of her own material, including this freakin’ gem. Man, this is a beautiful tune from beginning to end. Glad I got to tell Ellie I loved her to her face while I had the chance (d. 2009). Sorry about the Disney visuals on the video, but this was all I found.

The Shangri-Las - Remember (Walking in the Sand)
A classic whiner, and the first Shangri-Las number I remember as a kid. Later on in life I would come to realize just how rightfully important the Las were (and as an influence, still are).

The Dixie Cups - Chapel of Love
I have to say over the years, perhaps from the overuse of the tune, I’ve grown a tad tired of it. That being said, the Cups use some very sharp contrasting harmonies, especially later in this Greenwich / Barry song.

The Shirelles - Foolish Little Girl
My favorite Shirelles song. Their call and response is still fresh.

Great Big Kiss - Shangri-Las
Is there any sexier moment in the history of ‘60s rock’n’roll than the response to “Well, how does he dance?” “Close…very, very close.” From beginning to end, this song is killer.
Embedding not allowed on the full version, so here the link:
This is an excellent live cut, but the last chorus is cut out, probably by local television standards and practices.

The Shirelles - Boys
Sad to say, I was aware of the Ringo version first. This is much more the speed I like, though.

The Crystals - And Then He Kissed Me
This is the start of the Darlene Love section of the tape. And rightfully so. She recorded under so many different names, thanks to Phil Spector, but she is an undeniable power. I am very happy to say that I got to see her perform in both of the Leader of the Pack shows at the Bottom Line, and she was as exciting as ever.

The Ronettes - Be My Baby
At the time, Ronnie Spector was someone that everyone of every background wanted to be with (and for me it was not just because she grabbed my crotch as we had our photos taken together). She has a voice that is instantly recognizable. She was robbed of her career by the same Phil Spector who diffused Love’s. The video below is the original version, and a live version follows. Digression: my friend Bernie Kugel had “Happy Brithday” sung to him by her this year.

Bob B. Sox and the Blue Jeans - Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts
Once again, Darlene Love shines on a Greenwich / Barry tune.

Darlene Love - Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry
One of the few songs she sang under her own name, and one of many that were just beautiful. Another Greenwich / Barry bonanza.

The Ronettes - (The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up
I don’t ever remember hearing this song on the radio, but it was on a compilation that I heard in the ‘80s and realized how much fun it was.

The Crystals - Da Do Ron Ron
I repeat: Once again, Darlene Love shines on a Greenwich / Barry tune. This one has been covered a few times, most famously by Shaun Cassidy, but no one has touched this.

The Blossoms - He’s a Rebel
This time Darlene Love covers a Gene Pitney tune. It’s considered one of her signature songs. Usually it is credited to the Crystals, but it is actually Love singing with a different back-up group.

Bob B. Sox and the Blue Jeans - Not Too Young to Get Married
Far among my favorite Darlene Love vocals. After a short prelude, she just kicks this number into a foot-stompin’ rave-up that does not let up. It also shows some of her range.

The Ronettes - Walkin’ in the Rain
This is one of Ronnie Spector’s three songs that are untouched by any others (all of which appear on this tape), original or covers. For some reason, I find oldies stations tend to play the Jay and the Americans version more often, but that’s just ridiculous (and I say that with no disrespect to Jay Black’s own amazing vocals).

The Crystals - He’s Sure the Boy I Love
And yet another rave-up proclaiming love for the “boy” who is not exactly a success in life (a prequel to the Crystals’ “Uptown”?).

Darlene Love - Wait ‘Till My Bobby Gets Home
Another rave up where Darlene is permitted to use her own name. This one is reflective of “My Boyfriend’s Back.”.

The Ronettes - Baby I Love You
To me, this song is Ronnie Spector. It’s also Phil Spector’s production at its finest.


No comments:

Post a Comment