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it’s christmas for thirty six more minutes! hope everyone is having/had a wonderful day. i’m slacking on the postings. it’s a resolution for the new year: post more. i’m also working on a zine (another resolution: work on zine). lots to come.

anyway, i tried to find a live performance of a christmas song (“sleigh ride,” “i saw mommy kissing santa claus,” etc.) that the ronettes recorded for a christmas gift for you from phil spector. no luck. next best thing? “be my baby,” obviously. there are a bunch of live clips, but this one really showcases the best features of ronnie’s voice. doesn’t matter that the outfits are less than flattering or the set is a bit underwhelming, the song and the voices stand on their own. can anyone really argue that this isn’t the best pop song of the last forty-and-a-few years?

"be my baby" is timeless. it captures a group, a producer and his two main songwriters, a genre, a decade, emotions, a dream, life and love. all under three minutes. how many other songs encapsulate as much? not many.

i guess “be my baby” isn’t your typical christmas song, but it radiates such joy (and somberness, desperation) that maybe it could actually be one?

i’m going to eat a bunch of christmas cookies and pass out. you should watch this performance once or seven times (seriously, because you can’t resist) and then follow my lead.

it’s time for a heartbreaker. enter patsy cline’s “she’s got you,” a jazzy atypical country tune penned specifically for cline by singer-songwriter hank cochran. the early 1960s brought sweeping change to the country music genre (“country & western,” back then), and patsy cline was at its forefront, with a rich and ruling voice that easily found success in both the c&w and pop markets. with “i fall to pieces” and “crazy” already hits in their own right, 1962’s “she’s got you” solidified cline’s ability to take a song and stamp it with her signature heartfelt delivery.

"i’ve got your memory / or has it got me." suppose it’s interesting to think how something tangible (or intangible) like a high school class ring or a stack of records can own you, as opposed to you owning them. sure i can physically throw away that receipt from that lunch date i had two years ago with someone that i really liked, but maybe everytime i go to trash it my mind says, wait—no! you should keep that in a shoebox underneath your bed and look at it once every six months when you’re in the mood to clean underneath your bed. i guess that means a little slip of paper owns me?

patsy’s the best.

listening to “heartbeat” is like a religious experience. or maybe it just seems that way because of the song’s hyperactive organ, hand claps, rumbling drums and the roaring voice of gloria jones. if any song was ever meant to shake your soul (and limbs), it’s this one.

written and produced by ed cobb (who also wrote “tainted love” and brenda holloway’s “every little bit hurts,” which i wrote about here), “heartbeat” is pure fire and, like your heart, doesn’t stop pumping until it, well, stops. it’s a song that doesn’t require any deep lyrical evaluations, just a clear mind and your feet stomping. essentially though i think the song (with as much energy as it has injected into it) is about that intense connection you can make with another person on the dance floor.

"with your big eyes / you say more than a thousand words…"                    "with your sweet kiss / you thrill me with a holy kind of bliss…"                    "so come closer…"

lock eyes, start necking each other, wrap yourselves together—you know the rest. also, if “a holy kind of bliss” isn’t the most erotic lyric you’ve heard in a while, maybe it’s time to slip on those dancing shoes and one-two step it.

did i just analyze it? a little? oops. anyway, watch ms. jones tear it up on an episode of shindig in 1965.

"goin’ out of my head," originally recorded by little anthony & the imperials, gets the (short, but sweet) cover treatment on a 1964 episode of shindig by simultaneously the most well-known and unknown girl group of the 60s, the blossoms. fun fact: after the crystals had opted out of recording “he’s a rebel” (fear of flying from new york to los angeles), the blossoms, with darlene wright (eventually darlene love) on lead vocals, were snapped up by phil spector and sent into the studio to sing the track. though the song is credited to the crystals, it’s in fact a blossoms cut. phil spector was such a trickster!!!

anyway, before the blossoms went on to record, like, one of the best songs ever, they were backing up everyone from sam cooke to spector’s greatest treasure, the ronettes. the group’s behind-the-scenes popularity also led them to become shindig's official backup group, miming with cher, tina turner and a slew of others.

though darlene love was the lead singer of the group, fanita james (who discovered darlene years earlier) takes the top on “goin’ out of my head.” i’m totally fascinated with the set design for this blossoms spot: giant pedastals peaking through clouds of smoke, as if the ladies have literally gone out of their heads and burst into the sky. you see those lights, i meaaan stars behind them? and the rumbling, rousing “day and night / night and day and night” tail end of the chorus is that much more convincing thanks to james’s powerful voice intertwined with the angelic sounds of the blossoms in the back. i can only imagine what this outstanding tune reworked by these ladies would sound like at a much more reasonable four minutes, rather than the two-and-a-few we’re teased with here.

i think it’s only appropriate that, with thanksgiving less than a half an hour away, dee dee sharp’s “mashed potato time” play on your computer screen as you (hopefully) anticipate a big, delicious meal with family and friends tomorrow afternoon.

"mashed potato time" was sharp’s first single from her (so hilariously titled) it’s mashed potato time album in 1962 on parkway records. written by harry land and jon sheldon, the song peaked at #1 on billboard’s hot 100 chart in may of 1962. “mashed potato time” took its cue from chubby checker’s “the twist,” which no doubt inspired countless contributions to the dance craze titled tunes popping up on the radio and at the hops during the late 1950s and early 1960s. the immediate success of “mashed potato time” even inspired carole king and gerry goffin to write a song that became even more successful than sharp’s scrumptiously titled tune: 1962’s “the loco-motion.”

it seems like everybody was doing a brand new dance every single week. “mashed potato time” was released in may of 1962 and “the loco-motion” hit the airwaves in june. but doing the loco-motion is sort of boring. you just extend your arms and then push your hips foward as you pull your arms back in. simple, but i’m falling asleep already. the mashed potato is (appropriately) as quirky as the name of the dance itself. it allowed for much more spontaneity and body movement. just watch the go-go girls dance behind dee dee and try it out on the dance floor this weekend (or on the dining room table tomorrow)!

can white girls sing soul music? if it weren’t for evie sands (the singer who has “silver bells in her voice,” according to the late johnny cash) and a handful of others, miss amy winehouse and her pack of throwback soul sisters (duffy, adele) might not be striking up the charts as successfully as they have. even dusty springfield cited sands as a favorite singer, so can anyone really argue with that? naturally she’s much more respected and well-known in europe than in the states.

"take me for a little while," produced by longtime collaborator chip taylor, was her first big label single in 1965 on blue cat records. her subtle, but strong (and even a bit husky) voice infuses the tune with this soft sympathy and desperation, but also aggressiveness all at the same time.

"if you don’t want me forever… take me for a little while… so i can make you want me…"

if we’re not going to be together forever (i can feel the pain deep down in the pit of my stomach, against the walls of my heart), can i at least sleep with you tonight to try and convince you that i’m the best you’re ever gonna get?

she so achingly wants this guy to want want want and love love love her. but he keeps rejecting rejecting rejecting her. maybe if she convinces him to B-E with her for at least one night (of pleasure) he’ll be unable to ignore her advances and desire her just as much as she does him.

we all have this fantasy. most of the time the results (if the fantasy becomes a reality) are pretty devastating, which sands interprets so easily and effortlessly. if i’m going to take a nice long, warm bath in my own misery, at least i’ll be able to flip on evie’s “take me for a little while.” right?

the shirelles broke new musical ground at the very beginning of the 1960s: “will you love me tomorrow,” released in late 1960, was the first number one hit for a girl group, as well as the first number one for songwriting partners carole king and gerry goffin. it’s probably the group’s most recognizble contribution to the early formations of the girl group sound, but the four ladies of the shirelles a had string of successful hits as the decade rolled on, including 1962’s “everybody loves a lover.”

originally a top-twenty hit for doris day in 1958, the robert allen and richard adler-penned tune was recorded by the shirelles five years later, eventually reaching #19 on the billboard pop charts.

the recorded version isn’t anything to flip off your fake bouffant over, but this particular performance of the song in 1964 in the united kingdom is special for a few reasons. first, while choreography would become a major characteristic of the girl group performance and charm, it was obviously much more spontaneous and lax at first. the supremes would perfect the hand-in-hand of the lyrics and choreography, but i love how the shirelles, though sticking to the rudimentary choreography, are relaxed, loose and loving it. it’s one of the more organic girl group performances i’ve seen. in fact, it almost seems like they hopped on stage—unrehearsed, right out the audience—to sing.

second, before image trumped talent and personality in the music industry, the way your body was shaped or how your nose was flat or pointy was less of an issue. (i mean, ringo? hello? i guess he was just the drummer though.) the girls looked different, and different didn’t matter—at least until the girl group genre became a big dollar sign.

in any case, the shirelles had the opportunity to revel in the early successes of the girl group explosion. this performance is a highlight of their time in the international spotlight.

philadelphia-born barbara mason penned this sweet and tender 1965 gem at the age of seventeen years old. maybe what’s more striking than the fact that she wrote it as a teenager is the vocal performance she lays into (what would soon become) the rich sound of “philly soul.”

the title of a track, “yes, i’m ready,” might mean something a bit more obvious nowadays, but mason’s lyrics were pretty muted: she doesn’t know how to hold your hand, or kiss your lips for that matter. but “are you ready?” the deep (and kind of spooky) voice calls out to her. ugh. she’s totally ready! she’s been waiting for so long actually. who needs racy when you have breathtaking naivity? i’m much more interested in the unknown. thankfully barbara mason provides us with a charmingly curious and coy tale of young love.

another girl who first found success by covering another artist’s tune (a pretty popular way of gaining an audience back then, and even now too) is british-born singer billie davis. in 1963 at the age of seventeen, davis cut “tell him,” a song originally recorded by american girl group the exciters and released the previous year to major chart success. davis’ version—possibly even more fast and infectious than the original—was also a top-ten hit, albeit on the british charts.

davis recorded “angel of the morning,” about a one-night stand from the perspective of a woman, written by chip taylor and released on decca in the winter of 1967. though it didn’t do well commercially, some regard her interpretation of the song as the best. (it’s been covered by everyone from dusty springfield to the pretenders.) her deliberately delicate and fragile delivery creates the perfect union between vocals and the vulnerability of the song’s protagonist. i also love how the song is so simplistic before and after the chorus: the sound of one guitar, a few keys from the piano, a strict, military-like drum beat. and as the song reaches its chorus, a bum-rushing of instruments and voices. the back-and-forth of it all sort of sums up the emotions of a one-night stand: a situation riddled with undeniable passion at its beginning (possibly) turns into a complicated, conflicted moment of heartache and confusion in the morning.

i love french pop music. sylvie vartan was one of the first girls in the french pop scene to really gain national and international (even in the states) recognition for her sweet tunes (and looks). she covered “the locomotion” (“le locomotion”), “twist and shout” (“twiste et chante”) and a bunch of other hits by american musicians; her own songs, however, are really the ones worth remembering and listening to.

one of her greatest accomplishments in song is 1964’s “la plus belle pour aller danser” (“the most beautiful to go dancing”). a gorgeous, whispery reverie, it’s the sound of moonlight and magical nights of love and lust. the lyrics are filled with picturesque, falling-in-love moments and the desires of a young girl to out-pretty the other girls on the dancefloor to win the heart of a boy. from the repeticious high hat taps at the beginning, to the sharp, rapturous strings breaking the song halfway through (the point at which, i think, the swooning has reached it’s climax), “la plus belle pour aller danser” is a well-crafted, fluently-layered pop song with sylvie vartan’s breathlessly beautiful vocals at the forefront.

the most striking quality of barbara lewis’s voice is the combination of both fragility and power, and the rich, husky tone it has. 1965’s “make me your baby,” written by helen miller and roger atkins, was the perfect venue for lewis and the big, bluesy sound she projected, especially when the chorus hits. had this song been recorded by any other artist, i’m not sure i’d believe the song’s longing and desire as much as i do with lewis. my favorite lyric: “paradise is waiting for you and me / if you make me your baby.” sure it’s pretty generic, but there’s something really profound in its simplicity—the thought of being with someone in eternal bliss. it’s a pretty common image in many love songs, but the way it’s delivered by lewis makes it that much more special and unique.

kim weston was one of the most underrated (and underdeveloped) talents signed to the motown label in the early 1960s. besides a few pretty mindblowingly terrific singles, the only record she released for the label was a 1966 duet album with marvin gaye called it takes two, also the title of the duo’s (and weston’s) highest-charting song on the billboard charts. after what little motown had to offer her, weston kicked it to mgm, where she recorded a few more records that unfortunately also went unnoticed.

she had it though: charm, charisma, voice—soft, sweet and pretty solid. and the songs she was given really completed the should’ve-been-a-star package—songs from motown masters holland-dozier-holland including 1966’s "helpless," a pop song so perfect it can’t even be described in words, and 1965’s “take me in your arms (rock me a little while).” the song begins with a drum snap, then a tambourine shimmies in along with weston’s delicate, breathy vocals: “take me in your arms / hold me for a little while / hey, baby…” it’s a whisper in his ear before he heads out the door for good. it’s a plea for one last hug, kiss, touch. you can hear it in her voice, the confidence needed to sing a song of desperation. this is why she’s so special.

earlier this month, tina turner kicked off her latest greatest hits world tour at the age of s-i-x-t-y e-i-g-h-t (years young). and the woman isn’t just standing up on the stage propped up by her walker. no, no, no. she’s singing, dancing, screaming, kicking, shouting, flipping her wig back and forth and up and down and around again and again like she did over forty years ago. unlike many performers who sometimes reach their popular (maybe even creative?) peak as early as their twenties, tina’s still got it like no other ever, ever will.

she started her music career with husband ike, who wrote many of the duo’s (and rock ‘n’ roll’s) first tunes, including 1964’s “i can’t believe what you say,” about the heartbreaking antics of a two-faced lover. it’s a frantic, kinetic number with peppy handclaps, a quick-stepping drum beat and a funky, dirty saxophone breakdown halfway through. of course the best part of the song (as is the case with probably all of ike and tina’s catalog) is the pure grit and soul of tina’s voice. here she’s everything a diva should be (long before the term became so blasé): sexy (and she’s completely covered up too, minus a little shin), sassy, vibrant, stage-commanding and vocally incomparable.

the amount of attitude that’s in those “uh-ah-ah“‘s is bursting off the sass-o-meter. it’s almost as if she’s mouthing off to the man in question behind his back to her friends. she’s saying “uh-uh” to hugging and kissing all up on her when on one’s looking; “uh-uh” to empty promises of a marriage; “uh-uh” to necking on other girls while she’s in the room! tina says, hell no. but lots of hell-to-the-yesses to this energetic, fun and free-spirited performance. only a little blip in the tina turner legacy.

commonly (and unfairly) referred to as “dionne’s sister,” dee dee warwick didn’t have an instantly recognizable voice or as much fame and chart success as her sibling; she did, however, possess a deeply mesmerizing and soulful voice, one that sang some of pop’s finest tunes, including the original version of clint ballad jr.’s “you’re no good,” which linda ronstadt recorded over ten years later and took to #1 in 1975.

1965’s “we’re doing fine,” about reassuring those who are skeptical of a relationship’s stability, is an upbeat uplifter sung by the sweet and fresh-faced twenty-year-old warwick on a ‘65 episode of “shivaree.” her entire catalog is pretty solid. check out 1969’s "foolish fool," which was nominated for a grammy, and her cover of ben e. king’s classic "i (who have nothing),"also from 1969.

the dixie cups were possibly the most adorable girl group making the rounds in the mid-1960s. though each girl doesn’t look a day over sweet sixteen, sisters barbara and rosa, along with cousin joan were all in their early twenties in this july 1965 clip from “shivaree.” (in fact, lead girl barbara (standing furthest to the left), who looked the youngest, was the oldest girl of the group.) nonetheless, these girls produced some of the best cuts of the decade, from “chapel of love” to “iko iko,” which the three wrote themselves. blues musician earl king penned “i’m gonna get you yet,” which served as one of the two b-sides to “iko iko” upon its release in ‘65.

"i’m gonna get you yet" is smooth on the ears. the girls sound so diplomatic, asking politely for an invitation, along with some cooperation, to have a conversation! all of this to win back the heart of the boys who slipped away. the performance is even better: simple and cute choreography in sleeveless, sparkling above-the-knees dresses on top of gigantic, cake-shaped platforms; it’s a slice of girl group heaven.