Friday, 25 November 2011

Please Mister Postman, look and see (Oh yeah) If there's a letter in your bag for me

Triple Hit: The Early Girls

“Please Mr. Postman” by  The Marvellettes (1961)
“One Fine Day” by The Chiffons (1963)
“Da Doo Ron Ron” by The Crystals (1963)

Sometimes you like a song and you don’t know why, or you don’t remember. There is a melody, and a feeling that you are reaching back to find. It feels good to search for that feeling. You don’t remember where you heard it first but your mind has made a fantastic connection somewhere.

I have covered ‘girl groups’ before but today I give you a sampling of some of my favourite songs. They are all songs that are allowed to sound dated. They have earned that right because they stood the test of time and still work.

A lot of songs of the ‘early girls’ have been covered over and over. Betty Everett’s, “You’re No Good”, Doris Troy’s “Just One Look” (later done by Linda Ronstadt), The Shirelles “Dedicated to the One I Love” (later done by the Mamas & the Papas), to name a few

Groups like the Murmaids, the Exciters, the Paris Sisters, the McGuire Sisters, Ruby & the Romantics, and individual singers like Little Peggy March (I Will Follow Him), Shelly Fabres (Johnny Angel), and even ‘cross-overs’ like Etta James (At Last), formed the base for a very strong female genre that is all but lost.  We see glimpses every now and then over the next few decades but not like the period from about 1958 to 1965.  
Not all of it was good – there is always the commercial motive for the industry to jump on a success and that always results in posers and pretenders with their schlocky junk. It however was good to see coloured artists like Etta James, Sarah Vaughn, and Laverne Baker successfully cross the racial barrier. This was somewhat opened up my male rock acts of late fifties like Elvis and Little Richard, and by D.J.s like Alan Freed, willing to play ‘the devils music’. It was common practice for white acts to cover successful R&B songs. A good example I can think of here is Laverne Bakers excellent “Tweedle Dee”, covered by Georgina Gibbs.Gibbs not really in the same league as Baker.

The Marvellettes were of course a Berry Gordy Motown act.  The Marvelletes were high school friends in Detroit who got  a break with Motown – or was it the other way around? Motown had its first big hit with “Shop Around” in 1959 and was on the rise in 1961 when the then-named “Marvels” had been asked in an audition to come back with an original song. They showed up with “Please Mr. Postman” which was released in the Fall of 1961. 

While tin pan alley song writer Ellie Greenwich worked with the Exciters, her friend Carole King worked with The Chiffons. They found success with Geffen-King songs. In New York they were pounding out the assembly line songs. The industry would soon change, but in this day and age, they thought they were on the brink of the formula for the perfect pop songs.

“He’s So Fine” spent five weeks at number one in 1963. Then the follow up “One Fine Day” went to number five. The song was meant for Little Eva, who instead ended up recording “Locomotion”.

The Crystals were a group from Brooklyn and signed by  Phil Spector, the notorious creator of the ‘Wall of Sound”. Apparently Spector had jerked them around pretty good and they were very leery of him. They had concerns about getting paid properly and dubbing over their voices in recordings with that of “The Blossons” another girl group of the era. After a tough few years they recorded Greenwich’s “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Then He Kissed Me” in 1963. This is actually the first time we hear the voices of the real Crystals. Of course Spector lost interest in them as his project with the “Ronettes” and his interest in Ronnie would become a very strange tale of an obsessively dangerous man. Maybe the Crystals were lucky.

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