Tag Archives: Darlene Love

15 Best Girl Group Songs

On Monday night along with Tom Waits, Alice Cooper and Dr. John, Darlene Love (finally!) got inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Her most famous song is the Holiday Classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, but Love added her vocal talents to other groups of the time as well including The Crystals, The Blossoms, and Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans.

So in honor of her induction, I present my list of the 15 Best Girl Group songs.

1.) The Ronettes – “Be My Baby”

Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” at its best.  The drum intro is probably responsible for a lot of drummers’ careers.

2.) The Shirelles – “A Thing of the Past”

The original female group.

3.) The Crystals – “Da Doo Ron Ron”

According to Darlene Love, she originally sang lead vocals for this track with her own band The Blossoms, only to have Phil Spector erase them and rerecord the lead with The Crystals’ Dolores “Lala” Brooks instead.  Love still ended up singing background vocals.

4.) The Dixie Cups – “I’m Gonna Get You Yet”

Slightly sinister (?) B-side of “Gee, The Moon Is Shining Bright”

5.) Martha & The Vandellas – “Dancing in the Street”

Forget the craptacular Bowie & Jagger version.  Brilliant song about how something as dancing in fire hydrants can be a rallying cry.  Co-written by Marvin Gaye.

6.) The Shangri-La’s:  “Give Him a Great Big Kiss”

The obvious choice would be “Leader of the Pack”, but I prefer this one.

7.) The Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go?”

Best use of Footstomps ever in a song, which actually consisted of one person, a teenager named Mike Valvano, to create illusion that it was a group of footstomps.

8.) Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – “Heatwave”

Listen for Martha Reeves belting out “Yeah, yeah!” at the 2 minute mark.  Killer stuff.

9.) Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans – “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da”

Disney, who?  With Darlene Love taking over, this is the definitive version of the song.

10.) The Ronettes – “The Best Part of Breaking Up”

11.) The Marvelettes – “Please Mr. Postman”

Probably the first song that I ever recognized as an “oldie”, so as such I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

12.) The Crystals – “He’s A Rebel

13.) Chantals – “Maybe”

14.) Shirelles – “Stop the Music”

15.) The Crystals -“Then He Kissed Me”

I always thought that the narrator was pretty forward in this song telling her potential beau that she loves him.  Luckily it all worked out.

 

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Christmas/Holiday Theme Week – A Christmas Gift For You

Over a string-laden instrumental version of  “Silent Night”, Spector proclaims his vision of “something new and different for Christmas”.  In light of Spector’s murder charge, his statements come off as a bit creepy.  However, in November 1963 when A Chirstmas Gift For You was released, Spector wasn’t joking.  The album was so far ahead of its time in every way.  Christmas songs never sounded so sexy, and alive, thanks to powerful performances by The Ronettes, Darlene Love and the Crystals.  Elvis and Frank Sinatra may have recorded Christmas albums but those version were for sitting by the fire –  songs you could go to sleep to.  Spector’s versions went meant to be heard in bars and enjoyed by those who wander home with a random girl for Christmas-  just watch the Christmas scenes in “Goodfellas” for proof.

Unfortunately, Spector’s vision of Christmas as released at the wrong time. In November 1963, not many people were thinking about sexy girls singing about Santa Claus, and reindeer.   The album became a flop upon its initial release, and while it’s usually listed on a critic’s list of “the best holiday albums”, you’re more likely to find a Josh Grobin Christmas album or Mariah Carey one in the average person’s holiday collection.  U2 may have given a rebirth to the album’s sole original “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” in the late 80’s.   I certainly enjoy U2’s version (and it’s the version I was familiar with first).  But U2’s version traded in the power of the original for schmaltz.

With a few exceptions, most holiday songs or records have been slightly cheesy.  But Spector’s album was anything but.  Even the silly “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is given a slightly naughty reading.  If the joke of the song is that Santa Claus is really daddy, Ronnie Spector makes it seem as if mommy is really cheating on daddy with Saint Nic.  Of course it could be this is the only version of the song I’m familiar with, and up until a week ago, I assumed in the song’s context, Santa Claus was real.

After years of listening to Spector’s album, his version of the songs have become definitive for me.  I usually can’t stand “Frosty the Snowman” (it didn’t help I cried as a kid when he melted into water at the end of the holiday special), but Ronnie Spector’s commanding voice and Hal Blaine’s pounding drums might just bring any pile of snow to life.  Usually, the narrator in “White Christmas” seems to long for his or her childhood – caught up in the past longing for something that may or may not come.  Darlene Love may also dream of the same “White Christmas” as Irving Berlin intended, but dammit she wants it this year.

With A Christmas Gift For You, Spector proved that Christmas music didn’t have to be for kids and their grandparents with fond memories of their childhoods.  It could be exciting, fun, and even sexy.  Almost 50 years after its initial release, A Christmas Gift For You remains the essential holiday pop album, because it dared to be a rock and roll/pop first instead of a Christmas album sung by rock artists.

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Women Singers: “Be My Baby” – The Ronettes

So I realized that the  majority of my posts (okay pretty much all of them) have been guy-centric and perhaps as a bit sexist in my selections.  So I plan to remedy that situation with this week’s list.  (And this won’t be a half-assed week either, just in case anyone tries to call me out on that.)

To kick things off, I’m going to start with what I think might the ultimate pop-song.  And if you don’t believe me – a certain Mr. Brian Wilson lists “Be My Baby” as his all-time favorite song.

“Be My Baby” begins with perhaps the most famous drum intro in popular music.  It sounds standard now, but the sound of the song itself was quite revolutionary at the time.  “Be My Baby” is Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound at its epitome.  Session man Hal Blaine’s thunder-clap drums  reinforce Ronnie Spector’s declaration that “we’ll make them turn their heads everywhere we go.”

Ronnie Spector doesn’t have the same control and force in her voice that Darlene Love (another Spector-girl) had.  Yet she commands “Be My Baby”.  Her voice is sexy and yearning.  Spector might be begging for the listener to be her baby, but by the second verse you want to be her baby.  “Since the day I saw you, I have been waiting for you,” She coos.  And for a moment it seems innocent, but Spector nails the thin between romance and sex in the song  And there’s no denying the “oooh-oooh” at the end of the song.  I’ve always loved the violin break in the middle of the song.  It seems to add tension in the song – and it just thickens Spector’s Wall of Sound Production.

Be My Baby

John Lennon’s “interesting” cover of “Be My Baby”

The Ronettes performing “Be My Baby”:  (Sound quality is kind of iffy):

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