cream of the crate cd review #13: compilation – girl groups of the 60’s

cream of the crate cd review #13: compilation – girl groups of the 60’s
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]
 

 This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

"The lyrics are all about boyfriends, the melodies only a few bars long. Why are the 1960s girl groups still so enchanting?" - [Richard Williams : Cultural Writer The Guardian]

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.

This is number thirteen in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD’s in my personal collection.

The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

It’s not a boxed set!  It’s not even a double CD set!

It’s actually released by K-Tel in 1987. K-Tel were known for their budget releases and so are often avoided by collectors.

However, when you look closer at this release well, what a line-up of some of the very best girl groups of the 1960’s.

So, it is a release I enjoy, treasure and feel is worthy to be included in my Cream of the Crate retro-reviews.

Simply titled, Girl Groups of the 60’s, as indicated, it was released by K-Tel in 1987 (ONCD 5012).

cream of the crate cd review #13: compilation – girl groups of the 60’s
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

K-Tel was formed in 1962 by Phillip Kives to sell a myriad of ‘can’t do without’ (usually) kitchen utensils.

The music arm of K-Tel was formed in 1966 and the first release was a Country & Western Compilation. It was meant to be a one-off release, with Kives saying everyone told him it wouldn’t work!

It was fantastically successful and really gave rise to the ‘compilation’ concept, later picked up by all the major labels.

K-Tel remains a memorable brand associated with TV marketing and the music industry.

The company now leverages their significant back catalog in a digital rights and distribution offering that supplies content to large online music retailers such as iTunes, Puretracks and Amazon.com.

One obvious statement is, that not every great girl group from the 1960’s is included. Absent are fabulous artists such as the Ronettes, Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas.

In fact there are as many girl groups missing as there are on the CD, maybe more! In fact it probably is time for a comprehensive boxed set covering this very important element of the music development – Girl Groups of the 1960’s, to be released.

If any reader is aware of a comprehensive release of girl groups from this period I would be pleased to hear from them.

However, with this release we are presented with five wonderfully lasting groups who between them sing 15 memorable tracks.

1
The Crystals
Da Doo Ron Ron (1963)
2 The Chiffons He’s So Fine (1963)
3 The Shangri-Las Leader Of The Pack (1964)
4 The Shirelles Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (1961)
5 The Dixie Cups People Say (1964)
6 The Crystals He’s A Rebel (1962)
7 The Shangri-Las Give Him A Great Big Kiss (1964)
8 The Dixie Cups Chapel Of Love (1964)
9 The Chiffons One Fine Day (1964)
10 The Shangri-Las Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand) (1964)
11 The Crystals Then He Kissed Me (1963)
12 The Chiffons Sweet Talkin’ Guy (1966)
13 The Shirelles Foolish Little Girl (1963)
14 The Shangri-Las I Can Never Go Home Anymore (1965)
15 The Shirelles Soldier Boy (1962)

 

cream of the crate cd review #13: compilation – girl groups of the 60’s
Rear CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Pop Quiz! What was the most important connection between all these girl groups?

AnswerThe Brill Building!

I have provided a link to information on the Brill Building because it was singly, one of the most important elements of the development of the American music sound, in particular the Girl Groups, from the late 1950’s through and into the 1960’s.

It has been claimed that by 1962 the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses.

The building was located at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in the Manhattan borough of New York City, just north of Times Square, and still stands there today.

The Brill Building

It was home to some of the greatest composers and arrangers of that time.

It was a veritable who’s who of the industry including the likes of: Burt Bacharat & Hal David, Gerry Goffin & Carol King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, Neil Sedaka, Leiber & Stoller, Boyce & Hart, Marvin Hamlish, Sonny Bono, and many, many more – including the famous or infamous, Phil Spector!

Many famous musicians also made the building their home such as, Bobby Darin, The Drifters, Connie Francis, Lesley Gore, Gene Pitney, Frankie Valli, Dionne Warwick, The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las and The Shirelles, but to name a few.

If groups of the day weren’t ensconced in the building, the chances were very, very likely that the music they were recording were written by someone in the Brill Building.

And so it is with the five girl groups on this CD.

Oh, there is also a connection between The Shangri-Las and The Dixie Cups, and that was through the fabulous “Girl Group” label – Red Bird Records.

Both groups had massive releases on that label.

It seems to me that a reasonable and proper way to deal with this CD is to look at one track from each group, and then locate a video clip of each group as well.

Starting in order on which they appear we have The Crystals.

Like many groups of the day, membership changed constantly over the years. During the life of the group these girls were up to nine members. However the principal members were:
Barbara Ann Alston
(born December 29, 1943, in Baltimore, MD): lead vocals

Mary Thomas (born 1946, Brooklyn, NY): vocals
Dee Dee Kennibrew (born Dolores Henry, 1945, Brooklyn, NY): vocals
Merna Girard (born 1943, Brooklyn, NY): vocals
Patsy Wright (born Patricia Wright, 1945, Brooklyn, NY): vocals

The three tracks on this album (Da Doo Ron Ron, He’s A Rebel &, Then He Kissed Me) are in fact three fantastic  and very sucessful tracks released by the them.

I have decided to play Da Doo Ron Ron, which in my mind is one of the quintessential “Girl Group” tracks of this period.

Because Merna Girard fell pregnant, she was replaced by Delores “LaLa” Brooks, who did the lead vocals on this track.

cream of the crate cd review #13: compilation – girl groups of the 60’s
Barbara, Mary, Pat, Dee & La La

 

Produced by Phil Spector, it is a classic example of his production technique that became know as “The Wall of Sound“.

Although it only hit #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 of 1963, it was was ranked #114 on Rolling Stones list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Delores “LaLa” Brooks and Phil Spector

 

Like all the tracks I am choosing, it is almost impossible not to sing along with, even if it is just to chant, “Da Doo Ron Ron

I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron
Somebody told me that his name was Bill
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron

Yeah, my heart stood still
Yes, his name was Bill
And when he walked me home
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron

I knew what he was doing when he caught my eye
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron
He looked so quiet but my oh my
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron

Yeah, he caught my eye
Yes, oh my, oh my
And when he walked me home
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron

[Sax solo]

He picked me up at seven and he looked so fine
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron
Someday soon I’m gonna make him mine
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron


Yeah, he looked so fine,
Yes, I’ll make him mine
And when he walked me home
Da doo ron-ron-ron, Da doo ron-ron

[Fade on: Yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah…]
[With: Da-doo-ron-ron from background singers]

Da Doo Ron Ron

 

The Chiffons were a three girl group who had their origins in the ‘Bronx”.

The group was originally a trio of schoolmates comprising singers Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee.

Producers added Sylvia Peterson just prior to recording He’s So Fine.

The group are only given two tracks on the CD being, He’s So Fine and Sweet Talking Guy.

Yet they had four albums, not including compilations, and released a staggering 22 singles in 13 years, fifteen of them in their first 3 years!

I can’t go past He’s So Fine, because it IS so fine and was their first release and, what a release.

Written by Ronald Mack, producer of the TokensThe Lion Sleeps Tonight” fame, and released on the Laurie Records label, He’s So Fine hit No. 1 in the United States, selling over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Later in 1975 the ceiling for a gold record was lowered to 500,000, and one million sales was awarded a platinum disc.

cream of the crate cd review #13: compilation – girl groups of the 60’s
The Chiffons – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Oh, and like all really great hits, it had a fantastic ‘hook’ line when – “doo lang doo lang doo lang” became the newest nonsensical addition to rock and roll vernacular, but it had us all singing along!

Like all the best ‘Girl Group’ hits of the period, the focus was on boys, how to get them, how to please them and, how to keep them!

Not exactly women’s lib stuff!

Yet remember we are talking about a totally different generation with totally different values.

Just check out one verse of He’s So Fine to see what I mean.
He’s so fine
(Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang)
Wish he were mine
(Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang)
That handsome boy over there
(Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang)
The one with the wavy hair
(Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang)
I don’t know how I’m gonna do it
(Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang)
But I’m gonna make him mine
(Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang)
He’s the envy of all the girls
(Do-lang-do-lang-do-lang)
It’s just a matter of time
(Do-lang-do-lang)

He’s So Fine

 

The Shangri-Las.

The story of the formation of The Shangri-Las is reasonably convoluted, as indeed the formation and maintenance of many of these “Girl Groups” of the period were.

In order not to get too diverted from looking at this CD let’s just try and keep it simple.

To look at the formation of the Shangri-Las we need to visit the Andrew Jackson High School in Queens (New York City) and two sets of sisters, Mary & Betty Weiss, and identical twins Margie and MaryAnn Ganser.

Singing around various small venues, initially they had no name, but settled on the name of a local restaurant – and and so The Shangri-Las were born.

As a quartet

 

With the assistance of producer/writer Artie Ripp, they cut a few singles but nothing really took off.

That ‘high powered’ take-off would happen when they started connecting with folk from the Brill Building – Ellie Greenwich and Lieber & Stoller in particular.

At this point the girls left Artie to go under the wing of George “Shadow” Morton, who had some contact with Ellie Greenwich, and who wrote their hit single – Walking In The Sand.

Having recorded Walking In The Sand and with it about to be released on the Red Bird label, it seemed as though the world would be their oyster.

But then it was bought to everyone’s attention that those early recordings meant the girls were still signed with and under contract to an earlier company, Karma Sutra Productions.

And so the ‘paradise’ promised to the Shangri-Las seemed to be slipping away.

At this point, negotiations took place that would see Artie Ripp involved in The Shangri-Las recordings once again, since the girls were still under contract with Kama Sutra Productions where Ripp was a principal.

In the summer of 1964, with Mary, Margie and Maryanne still in high school, and Betty most likely close to graduating at this time, “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)” hit the airwaves, and headed straight up to the top ten of the Billboard charts.

At that time it was nothing short of a miraculous feat!

Let’s not forget, this was 1964 and the British Invasion was like a tsunami, sweeping all in its path.

But, the best was yet to come for the Shangri-Las in the form of the track –  Leader Of The Pack!

Just who wrote this track is still subject to debate even today, and the resulting discussion could fill several paragraphs. However, Morton, Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Ellie’s partner, all claim some credit.

With both Jeff and “Shadow” Morton having bikes, most writers declare they both probably had a hand in it.

One thing is indisputable, with it climaxing with roaring motorcycles and breaking glass its not hard to understand why it raced to #1 in the USA, and was a solid hit in the UK.

All this, and it never looses the formula of girl wants boy, girl gets boy, girl looses boy – a real tear jerker while still suggesting a popular topic of the day, teenage rebellion.

What a masterful piece of writing.

My folks were always putting him down (down, down)
They said he came from the wrong side of town
(whatcha mean when ya say that he came from the wrong side of town?)
They told me he was bad
But I knew he was sad
That’s why I fell for (the leader of the pack)

One day my dad said, “Find someone new”
I had to tell my Jimmy we’re through
(whatcha mean when ya say that ya better go find somebody new?)
He stood there and asked me why
But all I could do was cry
I’m sorry I hurt you (the leader of the pack)

In 1964 Betty left the group, and so they became a trio, yet this didn’t seem to disturb the balance of the group.

As a trio

Betty rejoined the group in mid-1965.

It seems that her first return appearance with The Shangri-las) was listed as a June 1965 “Go Go Show” episode hosted by Cousin Brucie in NYC), where the group appeared as a quartet once again.

This lasted until the start of 1966 when they permanently became a trio again with MaryAnn and Margie laving at different times, with each replacing the other until the demise of the group in 1968.

Leader Of The Pack

 

The Shirelles form the fourth of the five “Girl groups” featured on this CD.

Similar to The Shangri-Las, The Shirelles were still school girls when they formed way back in 1957.

School friends Shirley Owens (later to be known as Shirley Alston-Reeves), Doris Coley (later Doris Kenner-Jackson), Addie “Micki” Harris (later Addie Harris-McPherson and, Beverley Lee were The Shirelles.

One of the notable things about the group that set them apart from most of the other “Girl Groups” of the 1960’s, was that they had a stable line-up!

cream of the crate cd review #13: compilation – girl groups of the 60’s
The Shirelles – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Prior to 1961 they released the unsuccessful single, “I Met Him On A Sunday” backed with, “Dedicated To The One I Love“. 

The single went nowhere and resulted in the girls leaving their label ‘Tiara Records‘ and moving to the new ‘Scepter Records‘ label which was founded by Florence Greenberg, who actually had signed them to Tiara.

As soon as they recorded with Scepter they had a hit with “Tonight’s the Night“, which reached #14 on the US R&B chart.

The thing that seemed to grab the imagination of the audiences and record buying teens, was the tension between the very real schoolgirl naive sound and the overtly sexual nature of the compositions that they sang.

In 1960 they released Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, written by husband-wife songwriting team Gerry Goffin and Carole King (from the Brill Building).

This song going on to become both the first Billboard number-one hit by an African-American girl group and the first Number One Hit by any girl group.

All up they recorded six top 10 hits in the US Charts, which included Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.

Then they had another #1 hit with “Soldier Boy“. By mid 1963 they stopped having tracks chart in the top 50, and by early 1967 they disbanded.

In 1994, The Shirelles were honoured by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation with the Pioneer Award for their contributions to music and In 2004.

Rolling Stone ranked them #76 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Possibly their biggest accolade was when no less a rock and roll expert than John Lennon, proclaimed The Shirelles his favorite group in the early days of Beatlemania.
Tonight you’re mine completely
You give you love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow?……..

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

And so we arrive at the last of the five “Girl Groups” – The Dixie Cups.

Being fifth is certainly not a sign of ranking and the Dixie Cups have two tracks on this CD, being People Say and, Chapel of Love.

Two sisters and a cousin originally formed a singing group called Little Miss and the Muffets while in ‘grade school’ (the Aussie equivalent to primary school).

The trio was made up of Barbara Anne and Rose Lee Hawkins and their cousin Joan Maria Johnson, all living in New Orleans.

By 1963 they were encouraged to take singing up as a career and they became the Meltones.

This wasn’t a fantastic name choice but it was a decided improvement on the original name.

It wasn’t until a chance meeting with Joe Jones, who himself had a hit in 1960 with “You Talk Too Much“, that resulted in him becoming their manager, that their career really took off.

The Meltones

 

He worked intensively with them in New Orleans for just on five months, before, despite the concerns of parents, taking the three girls to New York.

It was there that Brill Building songwriters/producers Leiber & Stoller signed them to their newly formed Red Bird Records.

They became The Dixie Cups just prior to the release of Chapel of Love, which was their first sucessful single and released in 1964.

Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, it became their biggest selling single, reaching #1 on the US charts and staying there for five weeks selling over one million copies.

In the classic style of boy/girl and love lost or found, the song tells of the happiness and excitement the narrator feels on her wedding day.

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married
Gee, I really love you and we’re gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel of love

Spring is here, the sky is blue, whoa oh oh
Birds all sing as if they knew
Today’s the day we’ll say, “I do”
And we’ll never be lonely anymore because we’re

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married
Gee, I really love you and we’re gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel of love

Bells will ring, the sun will shine, whoa oh oh
I’ll be his and he’ll be mine
We’ll love until the end of time
And we’ll never be lonely anymore because we’re

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married
Gee, I really love you and we’re gonna get married
Goin’ to the chapel of love

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Goin’ to the chapel of love
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Goin’ to the chapel of love.

Chapel of Love

Their final release was “Gee, The Moon Us Shinning Bright” in 1965.  Over the period of 1964 to 1965 they released, on the Red Bird label, seven singles which included two versions of the track “Iko Iko“.

Post this, they released 4 singles over 1965/66 for ANC and ABC-Paramount Records.

Whilst no other recordings are known to have taken place, they still perform today.

In April 2007, The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame honoured The Dixie Cups for their contributions to Louisiana music by inducting them into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

This is a CD that if you were browsing through a second-hand shop and saw it, you might well be tempted to just pass on by!

Don’t! At the worse this CD could be adjudged as a ‘sweet’ album.

However it is more than that! It is a snapshot of a period and style of music that barely survived 5 years yet bought together these five ‘Girl Groups” who left an indelible mark on the music scene.

Despite the “saccharine” image to some listeners,  they were a critical element of the music that developed out of the Brill Building while representing some of the best work released on the Red Bird label.

It was representative of a period of innocence, teenage angst in love matters and what can honestly be declared as an “enchanting” period of music.

Should you be interested in adding this CD to your collection you might have to be prepared to do some detective work. I could find no copies on Ebay, but Discogs had several copies for between Au$20.00 and $25.00 including postage.


VIDEOS:

Surprisingly there wasn’t a good selection of live performance videos covering all five groups, so I have tried to find the best available of one of the tracks by each group on the CD, that wasn’t featured in the review.

When it came to The Shirelles the clips were so bad, I ended up including the clip of the track featured in the review.

 

The Crystals – He’s a Rebel

 

The Chiffons – Sweet Talking Guy

 

The Shangri Las – Walking In The Sand

 

The Shirelles – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

 

The Dixie Cups – You Should Have See The Way He Looked At Me