30 April 2008

Lesley Gore (Part Three)

Lesley Gore Today

Queen Of The Rock 'n' Roll Tango!
How Lesley Gore, Quincy Jones and Klaus Ogermann
Created Habanera Rock Royalty
by Donny Jacobs

13 February 1965
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
34998 That's The Boy (Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil)
34999 All Of My Life (Helen Miller-Tony Powers)
35000 What's A Girl Supposed To Do?
(Jeff Barry-Ellie Greenwich)
35001 Before And After (Van McCoy)
35002
I Cannot Hope For Anyone

(Enrico Ciacci-Lesley Gore-Giovanni Mecca)
35003 I Don't Care (Johnny Madara-David White)
35004 You Didn't Look 'Round (Nola York-Glen Stuart)

Products of this session will be distributed between Lesley's first Golden Hits compilation and her fifth Mercury album, My Town, My Guy And Me. Highlights include "What's A Girl Supposed To Do?" a stately Barry/Greenwich number originally written for and recorded by The Shangri-Las; "Before And After", another Grade-A ballad from the catalog of Van McCoy, later waxed by Chad and Jeremy; and "You Didn't Look 'Round", a throwback to the "It's My Party" era that may have been slated for single release.

Regrettably, this will be the last session for which Klaus Ogermann serves as Lesley's music director; he'll go on to work with artists the calibre of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Frank Sinatra, and consolidate his already distinguished reputation in the Jazz world. His parting gift to Li'l Bits is a dazzling Wall of Sound arrangement for a new Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil song called "That's The Boy". Superbly orchestrated, with angelic vocal counterpoint from Ellie Greenwich and Les Girls, this langorous cha-cha-chá builds to a surging climax not unlike another Mann/Weil composition from this time period, Gene Pitney's "Looking Through The Eyes Of Love".

Clearly inspired, La Milonguita pours heart and soul into her performance, but sadly, her efforts are wasted. Mercury Records won't ever release "That's The Boy", a decision the singer must certainly have found incomprehensible(to say nothing of how it must've irritated Barry and Cynthia). There won't be a Mann/Weil composition on a Lesley Gore record until 1967's "It's A Happening World", which, ironically, will be among the sides slated for her unreleased Magic Colors album.

For now, the Teen Tango Queen has to content herself with the release of "All Of My Life", one of the best Pop/Rock vehicles the habanera ever had. It boasts an addictive melody married to a swinging pendulum of a rhythm track; Klaus Ogermann's trademark triangle percussion and spicy timbale fills on the break make the track even more irresistible. Lesley rightly considers "All Of My Life" one of her most sophisticated performances on vinyl, but when the 45 mix appears in the Spring of '65, a British Invasion-obsessed public greets it with a collective yawn.

If deejays had undertaken to flip the single over, they'd have found a track powerful enough to be heard over the Merseybeat din. "I Cannot Hope For Anyone", an Italian ballad that Lesley provided English lyrics for, is a bristling Rock'n'Roll waltz with something of the Spanish pasodoble about it. Giovanni Mecca and Enrico Ciacci's music inspires her to pen a supremely tragic lost love monologue; those torrid words, combined with Herr Ogermann's snarling brass arrangement, unleash her inner grand diva!

As La Milonguita faces the reality of her lover's desertion, there's not a trace of victimhood to be found. With tears buring her cheeks and the setting sun casting gloom all around her, her heart overflows with bitterness! He will never come back, she cries. I mean nothing to him/there is no one to hold me, kiss me, love me/And so I shall be/All by myself for eternity! In retrospect, Lesley probably finds these lyrics a bit overdone, but their over-the-top melodrama is tempered by the controlled rage of her delivery.

Had she allowed the slightest bit of self-pity to creep into her vocal, "I Cannot Hope For Anyone" might've sounded comical. However, the undertone of steely anger she brings to the song changes its meaning, transforming it from an anguished lament into a statement of fortitude. This number would have been perfect for Dusty Springfield, whose affinity for Italian ballads was well known; however, Dusty will choose to record another Gore original ten years hence: "Love Me By Name".

27 March 1965
RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood

Lesley Gore
A York-Pala Production
Arranged, Conducted and Produced by
Jack Nitzsche
Engineered by Dave Hassinger
35170 Baby, That's Me (Jackie DeShannon-Jack Nitzsche)
35171 No Matter What You Do (Mike Post-Dick St. John)
35172 Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows - new version
(Marvin Hamlisch-Howard Liebling)
35173 What Am I Gonna Do With You?
(Gerry Goffin-Russ Titelman)
35174 It's All In The Game (Carl Sigman-Charles Dawes)
35175 Love, Look Away
(Oscar Hammerstein II-Richard Rodgers)
35176 Let It Be Me
(Gilbert Bécaud-Mann Curtis-Pierre Delanoé)
35177 When Sunny Gets Blue (Marvin Fisher-Jack Segal)

Now that Quincy Jones has left Mercury Records for a career writing film scores in Hollywood, Philles Records arranger Jack Nitzsche gets a crack at producing the Teen Tango Queen. La Milonguita takes time out from personal appearances on the West Coast for this productive session, which likely features Gracia Nitzsche (Jack's wife at the time) and her studio group The Satisfactions on backing vocals.

Nitzsche has recently been collaborating with the great Jackie DeShannon, and that association brings a stunner of a habanera ballad into the Gore repertoire: "Baby, That's Me". Under the supervision of his York-Pala associates Charles Green and Brian Stone, a Folk/Rock trio called The Cake will also cut a version of this jewel, but Lesley's record is the keeper; her voice reverberates with the pain of unrequited love as she mourns over a shimmering backdrop of chimes, harpsichord, strings, and tick-tock castanet percussion.

Sorrow gives way to sassiness when she takes a bite out of "No Matter What You Do", a greasy rock-a-tango penned by Mike Post, future composer of TV themes for "LA Law", "Hill Street Blues" and "Magnum, PI". Bristling with fuzz guitars and machine gun tambourine accents, this discothèque-ready number funks even harder than "Hey! Now."

At the urging of one of its promotion men, Mercury's A & R department has decided to market "Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows" on 45; for that reason, a new, less frantic version is cut at this session. The Teen Tango Queen is at her belting best on this nod to the Big Band era, but it will be passed over in favor of the original recording(which will also feature in the 1965 teen flick Ski Party).

Predictably, Jack Nitzsche's productions reflect some Phil Spector influence, but the Spector sound is only dominant on Gerry Goffin and Russ Titelman's "What Am I Gonna Do With You?" Aurally, this waxing has much in common with "Just Once In My Life" and other Righteous Brothers tracks the arranger is concurrently working on. Lesley's take is superior to a version released by The Chiffons in December of '64, but she isn't satisfied with it. She'll lay down a definitive vocal track at her next session.

Before that happens, though, she and Nitzsche will tape some jazzy demos of Pop standards. Presumably, the covers of "Love, Look Away" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, The Everly Brothers' hit "Let It Be Me", Johnny Mathis's "When Sunny Gets Blue" and Tommy Edwards' "It's All In The Game" are intended for her next album. They sound awfully rough, though, and no further work will be done on them.

23 July 1965
Radio Recorders, Hollywood

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged by Don Costa
Conducted by Teddy Randazzo
Engineered by Thorne Nogar

36441 What Am I Gonna Do With You? - new version
(Gerry Goffin-Russ Titelman)
36442 A Girl In Love (Lesley Gore)
36443 Just Another Fool (Lou Courtney-Dennis Lambert)
36444 My Town, My Guy And Me
(Lesley Gore-Stan Kahan-Paul Kaufman)
36445 Let Me Dream
(Teddy Randazzo-Lou Stallman-Bobby Weinstein)
36446 The Things We Did Last Summer
(Sammy Cahn-Jule Styne)

Quincy Jones returns to help Lesley complete vocal work on her forthcoming My Town, My Guy And Me LP. Backing tracks were almost certainly recorded at New York City's Bell Sound Studios, and probably under Teddy Randazzo's supervision. The album's title song, penned by Lesley in collaboration with two Brill Building stalwarts, will complete her transition from singer to singer/songwriter when it cracks Billboard's Top Forty listings in three months. Arranger/producer Costa fashions an assembly line of robotic percussion that runs parallel to the habanera rhythm, creating a diabolical hook.

The flipside of "My Town" lacks this clever device, but manages to please just with solid musical craftsmanship. La Milonguita duets with herself on "A Girl In Love", singing the most sensual lyrics she's written to date; the result is a decidedly steamy rock-a-tango, ideal for late-night dancing and listening. The strong Jazz flavor of this recording carries over to the other tracks, especially the waltz-time "Just Another Fool" by R & B dancemeister Lou Courtney and Dennis "One Tin Soldier" Lambert.

Writer/producer extraordinaire Teddy Randazzo, fresh from a hitmaking session with The Royalettes, follows suit with "Let Me Dream", a satiny smooth bossa nova. Li'l Bits also brings smoky nightclub chops to bear on her version of Styne and Cahn's "The Things We Did Last Summer", thus distinguishing it from the 1962 Shelley Fabares version.

The second vocal track she cuts for "What Am I Gonna Do With You" sounds more confident than the first, and it gets the nod for inclusion on her new album; however, the original Jack Nitzsche version will be preferred by most compilation producers.


29 October 1965
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Shelby Singleton Production
Arranged and Conducted by Alan Lorber
Engineered by Phil Ramone
37071 Start The Party Again (Artie Resnick-Kenny Young)
37072 I Can Tell (Artie Kornfeld-Steve Duboff)
37073 I Won't Love You Anymore (Lesley & Michael Gore)
37074 I Just Can't Get Enough Of You
(Josephine Armstead-Nickolas Ashford-Valerie Simpson)

Shelby Singleton, Jr. officially takes over as Lesley's producer. Chemistry between the Nashville music mogul and the New Jersey Pop rocker is no better now than it was at their first session together, but this time New York arranger Alan Lorber is around to break the tension. A consummate musician, Lorber creates sumptuous string orchestrations for La Milonguita that will be the most memorable aspect of her 1966 All About Love album. Unfortunately, Singleton's mixes often make her voice sound as if it were buried under cotton bales!

The date kicks off promisingly with finger-snapping, Fox Trot-friendly masters of "I Can Tell" and "Start The Party Again"; future Broadway star Bernadette Peters waxed the original version of the latter tune, but its festive theme is tailormade for a singer whose signature hit is still "It's My Party".

However, things start going downhill with "I Won't Love You Anymore", the first recorded collaboration of budding composer Michael Gore with his superstar older sister. Despite having the benefit of a thrilling tango arrangement, this tune just isn't up to par; that fact will become obvious when it fails miserably as a single. As the date draws to a close, R & B genius Valerie Simpson is forced to listen while Lorber and Singleton proceed to ruin her song "Just Can't Get Enough Of You". They record it at a tempo that's much too fast, making Valerie and her backing vocal group sound breathless. This is one Rock'n'Roll merengue that should have been a boogaloo!

10 November 1965
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Shelby Singleton Production
Arranged and Conducted by Alan Lorber
Engineered by Phil Ramone
37138 To Know Him Is To Love Him (Phil Spector)
37139 Young Love (Ric Cartey-Carole Joyner)
37140 Too Young (Sylvia Dee-Sid Lippman)
37141 Will You Love Me Tomorrow? (Gerry Goffin-Carole King)

Precious little Rock'n'Roll gets recorded at this studio date. While Quincy Jones and Klaus Ogermann certainly cut their share of MOR numbers with Lesley, none ever sounded as sterile as these; the Jazz sensibility they brought to the material is sorely lacking here. Except for his lush but faithful rock-a-tango rendition of Goffin and King's first #1 single, Alan Lorber's arrangements hew a straight Adult-Contemporary path. That path threatens to steer Lesley toward moldy TV variety showcases like "The Lawrence Welk Show", where her frothy recordings of "To Know Him Is To Love Him", "Too Young" and "Young Love" would've gone over big with champagne music lovers.

Fortunately for Rock fans, champagne isn't her preferred drink; after this session is over, L'il Bits will stop competing for Connie Francis's audience and find her way back to Teen Street. Her uncalled-for cover of Sonny James's sugary 1956 Country ballad will emerge as the biggest hit from All About Love, but none the album's singles will break Top Forty.

"Young Love" was surely an odd choice for a hip, Latin Jazz-loving Jersey girl to sing; five will get you ten that it was the producer's idea! Shelby Singleton, Jr. is known for blending urban and Country music in his Pop productions(most of the musicians heard here are Nashville regulars), but that kind of fusion sound is anything but a good fit for a Teen Tango Queen. The same can be said for Singleton himself, something La Milonguita has no doubts about after he refuses to let her record Carole Bayer Sager's "Groovy Kind Of Love." That song, of course, will become a chart-topper for The Mindbenders.

12 November 1965
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Shelby Singleton Production
Arranged and Conducted by Alan Lorber
Engineered by Phil Ramone
37134 Only Last Night (Barry Mason-Les Reed)
37135 With Any Other Girl (Shelly Colburn)
37136 unreleased
37137 I Can Tell - new version
(Artie Kornfeld-Steve Duboff)
37153 We Know We're In Love (Lesley & Michael Gore)
37154 Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, That Boy Of Mine!
(Charles Koppelman-Artie Kornfeld-Don Rubin)
37155 That's What I'll Do (George Motola-Ricki Page)

Of the three Singleton/Lorber-supervised sessions, this final one yields the juiciest fruit. "Only Last Night" and "With Any Other Girl" are both exceptionally fine Rock'n'Roll tangos; Lesley's killer reading of the latter song in particular is just fantastic. "I Can Tell," captured on October 29th, really didn't need improvement, but the new cha-cha arrangement does rock harder.

However, hard-rocking honors go to "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, That Boy Of Mine." Koppelman and Rubin's entry into the Girl Group Sound sweepstakes is concurrently recorded by Lori Burton, and her waxing is the only one known to have appeared on vinyl. Too bad, because Alan Lorber's brighter cadence gives the unreleased Lesley Gore version a superior edge. We hear our Jersey girl at her very hippest, bragging to a boogaloo beat and trading Gospel-style call-and-response vocals with Valerie Simpson's background trio.

Why the Hell did Mercury Records sit on so many great masters? At least the label didn't ditch the Gore siblings' second and best recorded composition, "We Know We're In Love". This track followed "I Won't Love You Anymore" into the charts during the spring of 1966. True, it sold almost as poorly as its predecessor, but this exuberant swinger deserved a chance to be heard and, thankfully, it got one.

The disc might've wanted flipping over, though: On the other side lay "That's What I'll Do", one of Lesley's most engaging Rock'n'Roll waltzes since "You Don't Own Me". However, not even a hit of that stature would've made her want to work with Shelby Singleton, Jr. again. Their collaboration has proven so frustrating for her, she's all but begging for another session with Quincy Jones. Happily, "Q" and Li'l Bits will share a studio once more six months from now.


16-22 April 1966
Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Jack Nitzsche
Engineered by Bruce Botnick
38011 You Sent Me Silver Bells (Vicki Pike-Teddy Randazzo)
38012 Lilacs And Violets (Fred Anisfield-Larry Weiss)
38013 Off And Running (Carole Bayer Sager-Toni Wine)
38014 Happiness Is Just Around The Corner (Van McCoy)
38015 Hold Me Tight (Lesley & Michael Gore)
38016 Cry Like A Baby
(Josephine Armstead-Nickolas Ashford-Valerie Simpson)

Except for a handful of demo sessions, this will be the last record date Quincy Jones supervises for Lesley until 1975, when they re-unite to track her Love Me By Name album for A & M Records. Her original version of Carole Bayer Sager's "Off And Running", soon to be sung in the film To Sir, With Love by The Mindbenders, will be her first chart single to miss Billboard's Hot 100.

It's the least impressive item to be found in a clutch of songs that boasts choice material by Teddy Randazzo, Van McCoy and Ashford and Simpson. Several marvelous tangos are cut, the best of which is "You Sent Me Silver Bells". This tragically beautiful ballad casts Lesley as a betrothed girl learning of her enlisted fiancée's death in Viet Nam. While she grieves, Jack Nitzsche gives Teddy Randazzo's music the full Phil Spector treatment: Solemn tempo, jangling percussion, ethereal strings and rumbling drum fills. With strong promotion, this song could've been a major hit for Lesley, but Mercury executives once again blocked the release of a blockbuster. Over a year later, during sessions for the aborted Magic Colors album, producer Steve Douglas will have the singer dub a new vocal onto the track. When his remix is finally issued on the B-side of her 1969 Gamble and Huff single "Look The Other Way," an indifferent public will consign it to obscurity; a crime, if ever there was one!

Other standouts from this session include "Cry Like A Baby"(not to be confused with the Box Tops hit), a seamless blend of tango with the Blues; "Lilacs And Violets," a maudlin ode to lost love penned by Fred Anisfield, one of Gene Pitney's favored writers; and the lightly swinging boogaloo "Happiness Is Just Around The Corner." If "You've Come Back" didn't prove that Lesley Gore's voice paired with Van McCoy's music and lyrics was a match made in Heaven, this latter tune definitely does. Unfortunately, her sparkling performance of "Happiness", along with her peppy reading of "Hold Me Tight" will languish in Mercury's vaults until 1994. Yet the passage of 28 years won't dull its brilliance one bit.

"Off And Running," "Lilacs And Violets" and "Cry Like A Baby" will all surface on La Milonguita's forthcoming California Nights LP, nestling somewhat uncomfortably alongside Bob Crewe's productions.


The last great Habanera Rock track Lesley Gore cut was a fiery tango flamenco, written and produced by the aforementioned Bob Crewe. The tune’s sizzling background rhythms are complimented by a flamethrower of a lead vocal, Lesley's hottest on record. You’ll only find “The Bubble Broke” on California Nights and her It's My Party CD box set, but like so many other of Mercury Records' overlooked gems, it cried out for release on 45. What’s more, it deserved to be shortlisted for every one of Lesley's future hits compilations, regardless of how it sold. Really, the track is that good! That said, a single mix probably wouldn’t have had much chart impact during the psychedelic Rock-obsessed Summer of Love.

Like most other recording artists who weathered the stormy musical winds of the 1960s, La Milonguita finally turned away from Latinized Pop. The Teen Tango Queen doffed her crown, unflipped her hairdo, and gravitated toward the soft Rock output of ‘70s singer/songwriters. When Motown Records issued her critically-acclaimed 1972 ballad collection Someplace Else Now, she proved herself worthy of mention in the same breath as Billy Joel, James Taylor and Carole King.

Lesley Gore Someplace Else

Yet stylistically, Lesley was too eclectic to be pigeonholed as a soft rocker. Over the past forty years, she’s explored myriad music genres, from Jazz to Funk to showtunes. (If you’d like to know what territory she’s traveling in nowadays, pick up a copy of her brand new album, Ever Since, marketed by the independent Engine Company label.)

Now in her fourth decade as an entertainer, Lesley Gore currently favors stripped-down musical accompaniment that's far removed from her heavily-orchestrated Mercury Records output. Fans dig her new style, but nothing can beat the sound of her voice over a big band with strings and Latin percussion. Fortunately, those of us who love Habanera Rock will always have classics like “It’s My Party”, “Just Let Me Cry”, “She’s A Fool”, “Run, Bobby, Run”, “It’s Gotta Be You”, “That’s The Way Boys Are”, “All Of My Life”, “I Cannot Hope For Anyone”, “My Town, My Guy And Me”, “A Girl In Love”, “I Just Don’t Know If I Can” and "You Sent Me Silver Bells" to treasure.

These stellar recordings remind us of the glory days of Rock when a Jewish Pop singer, a German arranger, and an African-American producer had the power to turn every teenage dance venue into a milonga(tango palace). ¡Bueno, muchachos . . . que viva La Milonguita! Long live Lesley Gore, Queen of the Rock 'n Roll Tango.


Sessionography compiled by Richard Weize, Ed Novitsky, Michel Ruppli and Larry Zwisohn. Additional research by Don Charles Hampton.