21 December 2009

Habanera Rock Divas (Part One)

Darlene Love

South Of Spanish Harlem
Habanera Rock Divas

by Don Charles Hampton

The Habanera Rock sound was essential to Girl Group records in the 1960s. What would the fondly-remembered hits of The Shirelles, The Chiffons, The Crystals, The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las and The Angels be without their flamenco handclappings, their gypsy tambourines, their Tex Mex guitar riffs, their pasodoble strings, and their exotic, hesitating drum beats? The answer is: not much! Five decades ago, south-of-the-border embellishments helped give women's Rock 'n' Roll its own unique sabor: A colorful style, form and identity. More important, those Latin flavorings made female vocalists highly commercial. Large numbers of them rode the habanera rhythm up the music sales charts: The Jaynetts with "Sally, Go 'Round The Roses"; Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans with "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"; Ruby and The Romantics with "Our Day Will Come"; Sarah Vaughn with "Broken-Hearted Melody"; Eydie Gormé with "Blame It On The Bossa Nova"; The Essex with "Easier Said Than Done"; The Exciters with "Tell Him"; Claudine Clark with "Party Lights"; Skeeter Davis with "I Can't Stay Mad At You"; Dee Dee Sharp with "Do The Bird"; Lesley Gore with a string of Latin-tinged singles; and so many others. For a while, when America listened to women's voices raised in song, it preferred those women dressed in the musical equivalent of Spanish lace.

Previous installments of this series (with the exception of our Lesley Gore profile, "Queen Of The Rock 'n' Roll Tango") have focused on Habanera Rock recordings waxed by men. Now, it's Girls' Night Out: We turn our attention to women rockers, and not just from the '60s. We'll also showcase legendary ladies from the 1970s and '80s who paid homage to the Girl Group sound. So here they come: twenty-eight of the finest femme acts Rock, Pop, Soul and Country music have to offer. Con orgullo, presentamos las divas del Rock a la Habanera. Let's take another trip south of Spanish Harlem!

"Ooo-Wee, Baby"
(Jeff Barry)
from the M-G-M/UA film The Idolmaker
Darlene Love
Darlene Love was the Queen of Phil Spector's Philles lobel, the most successful female artist on his roster; although the label said "The Crystals", it's really her voice you heard on the chart-topping 1962 smash "He's A Rebel." When director Taylor Hackford contracted Phil to produce soundtrack music for The Idolmaker, his 1980 movie biography of Rock impresario Bob Marcucci, he made it known that he wanted Darlene to sing the theme song. He got Darlene, and also got a great theme, written by Jeff Barry. What he didn't get was Phil Spector, who backed out of the project. The Mad Genius was barely missed. Jeff Barry's production of "Ooo-Wee, Baby" had all the nostalgic Wall of Sound ambiance Hackford wanted.
Produced by Jeff Barry


"Your Hurtin' Kind Of Love"
(Mike Hawker, Ivor Raymonde)
Dusty Springfield
Released as the follow-up to La Springfield's 1964 British smash "Losing You", "Your Hurtin' Kind Of Love" was only available as an album track in North America. Dusty hated the song; it never became a regular part of her stage repertoire. To be sure, Ivor Raymonde's melody isn't much to write home about, but Mike Hawker's angst-ridden lyrics more than make up for what it lacks: Even though you broke my heart/I can make a brand new start/I'm so glad to see you go!/You will cause me no more pain/I will never cry again! With a somber tango rhythm hanging over it like a black thundercloud, Dusty's vocal reading seesaws between utter misery and barely-controlled rage. If this is what she sounded like when she didn't like her material, then she should've gone against personal taste much more often!
Arranged and Conducted by Ivor Raymonde
Produced by Dusty Springfield and Johnny Franz


"They Don't Know"
(Kirsty Macoll)
Tracey Ullman
For a few years in the early 1980s, British comedienne Tracey Ullman basked in the Pop singer limelight. This delightful throwback to the Girl Group era hails from that time; it scored a major international hit. Later in the decade, "You Don't Know" would reappear as the theme song of Ullman's critically-acclaimed TV show.
A Loose End Production
by Peter Collins


"Just Keep On Lovin' Me!"
(Michel Deborah, George Goehring, Joseph Martins)
Halos
The Angels, whose fans rightly regard them as the quintessential '60s Girl Group, have assumed numerous guises over the years; the group's members have worked under such names as The Starlets, The Beach Nuts, and Jessica James and The Outlaws. In 1965, when lead singer Peggy Santiglia was on extended hiatus, Babs and Jiggs Allbut cut four wonderful singles as The Halos; the jazzy lead voice of Toni Mason was featured. "Just Keep On Lovin' Me!" was the most Latinesque of the quartet. LeRoy Glover's bold pasodoble arrangment is nothing less than exquisite.
Arranged and Conducted by LeRoy Glover
Produced by Pierre Maheu


"Move Over, Darling"
(Hal Kanter, Joe Lubin, Terry Melcher)
from the Columbia picture
Doris Day
The late Terry Melcher, producer for Paul Revere and The Raiders and other West Coast acts, was the son of screen legend and songstress extraordinaire Doris Day. Briefly in the early '60s, he supervised his mother's Columbia recordings. He wanted to give her a musical makeover, updating her sound with a sharp Girl Group edge; but label executives resisted the change. They gave his New Wave Doris Day tracks a thumbs-down, and Terry watched helplessly as his Mom dropped off the American singles charts, never to return. He did manage to get a handful of his Spectorish productions released, though, and "Move Over, Darling" is the gem of the bunch. Doris lays on a sexy vocal, Jack Nitzsche provides the sparkling Rock-a-Tango arrangement, and backing vocals are handled by Darlene Love and The Blossoms. While their efforts were lost on stateside audiences, Doris' British fans bought the 45 mix in huge numbers; twice it cracked the UK Top Ten, once in 1964, and again when reissued twenty-five years later.
Arranged and Conducted by Jack Nitzsche
Produced by Terry Melcher


Doris Day

"Lady Of The Night"
(Pete Bellotte, Giorgio Moroder)
Donna Summer
Before "Love To Love You, Baby" and the advent of the Disco craze, Donna Summer logged a trio of hit singles in Europe: "The Hostage", "Virgin Mary" and this excellent 1974 release. Musically, "Lady Of The Night" evokes the Latin-tinged productions of Leiber and Stoller and Phil Spector. Lyrically, it anticipates the prostitution theme of "Bad Girls" by five years. Later in the '70s, the Queen of Disco would cut a thinly-disguised remake of The Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me" under the title "Love's Unkind".
A Say Yes Production
Arranged by Giorgio Moroder
Produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte


Donna Summer

"Chico's Girl"
(Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil)
Girls
Recorded (but never released) by The Crystals as a possible follow-up to their hit single "Uptown", "Chico's Girl" was a funereal, slow pasodoble in its original incarnation. The Girls, an East Los Angeles Rock band composed of four sisters, substituted anger and attitude for The Crystals' melancholy and maudlin. Diane, Rosie, Margaret and Sylvia Sandoval refitted this obscure Mann/Weil composition with a faster tempo and snarling guitars. Despite much airplay and TV exposure, no hit resulted, but a cult classic was born. Drummer Margaret sings the bratty lead vocal.
Produced by Steve Douglas

"House Of Gold"
(Mark Barkan, Terry Phillips)
Dee Dee Warwick
Dionne Warwick's best kept secret was her little sister Delia, a gifted Gospel singer in the Aretha Franklin vein. Better known by her nickname, Dee Dee, she sang background for her superstar sibling and managed to score a few hits of her own. In 1965, producer Jerry Ross tracked Dee Dee Warwick on a suggestive Latin-flavored dance number called "House Of Gold"; she sang the part of a Mexican madam who lures men into her pleasure palace using florid doubles-entendres. This hot tamale of a tune surfaced on her third Mercury Records 45. Unfortunately, it was hidden on the B-side of that single and garnered little attention; but then again, maybe that's just as well. Can you imagine what Dee Dee's Gospel music colleagues would've said if they'd ever heard her singing "House Of Gold" on the radio? ¡Hey, señor! ¡Ándale, ándale! Lord have mercy! Ellie Greenwich led poor Dee Dee down the road to sin by singing the demo she learned the song from.
Arranged and Conducted by Jimmy "Wiz" Wisner
Produced by Jerry Ross


Dee Dee Warwick

"Goin' Back"
(Gerry Goffin, Carole King)
Goldie
Dusty Springfield rode this power ballad into the UK Top Ten back in the summer of 1966, but few people got to hear the original version by Goldie Zelkowitz. She forgot half the words, and Gerry Goffin was outraged; rumor has it that he demanded her single be withdrawn from sale. It might as well have been withdrawn, for all the airplay it got. Botched lyrics aside, the record's assets far outweigh its flaws; the melody is gorgeous, the tango rhythm is hypnotic, Goldie's performance is soulful, and producer Andrew Oldham's Spectorish embellishments give the track a surreal aura. It would've been criminal for a track so special to remain shut away from the public forever; England's Castle Music reissued it in the year 2000, and Mr. Goffin seems to have voiced no objections this time. Goldie Zelkowitz later changed her name to Genya Ravan, and sang lead for the Hard Rock band Ten Wheel Drive.
Arranged and Conducted by Arthur Greenslade
Produced by Andrew Loog Oldham


"I'm Nobody's Baby Now"
(Jeff Barry)
Reparata & The Delrons
Artistically, 1966 was a banner year for Jeff Barry. He wrote Ike & Tina Turner's "River-Deep, Mountain-High", introduced the public to Neil Diamond, and produced The Monkees megahit "I'm A Believer". This heart-wrenching bolero, famous among Girl Group aficionados as the best song The Shangri-Las never recorded, would rate high on a list of artistic achievements for any year. A better vehicle for the Spector sound simply doesn't exist; Reparata O'Leary has called "Nobody's Baby" her favorite of all the songs she recorded with her group. Listen to it, and you won't wonder why.
A World United Production
Arranged by Johnny Abbott
Conducted by Hash Brown
Produced by Bill and Steve Jerome


"Kiss Me, Sailor"
(Eddie Rambeau, Bud Rehak)
Diane Renay
If the lyrics of this castanet-laden dance rocker come across like a Gay man's sailor boy fantasy, don't blame Diane Renay. She just sang the song. Don't blame songwriters Ed Rambeau and Bud Rehak, either; they just wanted to write a nautically-themed follow-up to "Navy Blue," Diane's first hit. That leaves producer Bob Crewe as the culprit, but he swears he's not responsible either!
A Bob Crewe Production
Arranged by Charlie Calello
Produced and Directed by Bob Crewe


"Paradise"
(Perry Botkin, Jr, Gil Garfield, Harry Nilsson, Phil Spector)
Bette Midler
There are better known versions of this tropical reverie on wax, cut by The Shangri-Las and The Ronettes. The latter, produced by co-writer Phil Spector, is naturally considered definitive. Yet once you've heard the Divine Miss M tackle the tune, you may judge differently. Sexy delivery notwithstanding, Ronnie Spector didn't do much with the lyric. Bette Midler's incendiary vocal transforms "Paradise" into an erupting volcano of emotion, going head-to-head with Artie Butler's Wagnerian arrangement in a knock-down, drag-out fight to win your attention. The fight ends in a draw, and an artistic triumph for both. Sixties backing vocal mainstays Ellie Greenwich and Mikey Harris bring up the rear.
Arranged and Conducted by Artie Butler
Produced by Brooks Arthur


Bette Midler

"I Adore Him"
(Jan Berry, Art Kornfeld)
Angels
This sassy tango flamenco, co-written by Jan Berry of Jan and Dean, was The Angels' follow-up to "My Boyfriend's Back." Bet you never heard a flamenco guitar played quite like the one featured here: it's very Duane Eddy-influenced. Lead singer Peggy Santiglia tosses her mantilla and flutters her Spanish fan while teasing you with a vocal that's half-sexy, half-tongue-in-cheek.
A Feldman-Goldstein-Gottehrer Production
Arranged and Conducted by Alan Lorber
Produced by Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer


"Any Way That You Want Me"
(Al Gorgoni, Chip Taylor)
Evie Sands
Sixties cult favorite Evie Sands was dogged by hard luck; commercial success always lay just out of her reach. "Any Way That You Want Me", a torrid 1969 ballad about a woman's infatuation with a Gay man, brought her closest to grabbing the brass ring. Note the habanera during the instrumental break, shamelessly swiped from The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'". Other classic Habanera rockers Evie waxed under the crackerjack production team of Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni include "I Can't Let Go" (covered by The Hollies), "Take Me For A Little While" (cut by numerous acts including LaBelle and Vanilla Fudge) and "Angel Of The Morning", a star-making vehicle for Merilee Rush.
A Taylor-Gorgoni Production
Arranged by Al Gorgoni
Produced by Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni


"Habanera Rock Divas" concludes with Part Two.

20 December 2009

Habanera Rock Divas (Part Two)

Darlene Love

South Of Spanish Harlem
Habanera Rock Divas

by Don Charles Hampton

"If You Were A Man"
(Jerry Riopell)
Clydie King
Unofficially, Phil Spector had several protégés, among them Nino Tempo, Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche. However, the only official protégé Phil ever had was Jerry Riopelle. Under his supervision, Jerry produced a promotional single for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1965 ("Things Are Changing", sung by Darlene Love and The Blossoms). He also helmed productions independent of the Mad Genius, and the best was this shimmering Rock-a-Merengue track released on Imperial Records. The featured artist is Clydie King, a former member of the Ike & Tina Turner revue and one of Phil's regular session singers.
Arranged and Conducted by Nick De Caro
Produced by Jerry Riopell


"When The Love Light Starts Shining"
(Lamont Dozier, Brian & Eddie Holland)
Diana Ross + Supremes
Motown jumped on the Habanera Rock bandwagon early on with a string of Cuban-influenced hits by the likes of Marvin Gaye ("Stubborn Kinda Fella"), Smokey Robinson and The Miracles ("Mickey's Monkey"), The Contours ("Do You Love Me?"), and Mary Wells ("The One Who Really Loves You"). The label's top act, Diana Ross and The Supremes, stirred the salsa, too: Listen to the cha-cha beats rocking Diana's first star turn, "Let Me Go The Right Way". Also, notice how strongly the march-time rhythms on Supremes singles circa 1964 hint at the boogaloo. Latin seasonings could always be found in the group's music, but over time the flavor grew more subtle. However, there's nothing subtle about the bold pasodoble sound of "Ask Any Girl" (the flipside of "Baby Love"), or the pronounced rhumba pattern that drives 1963's "When The Love Light Starts Shining." Dusty Springfield cut a great cover version of this red-hot Holland-Dozier-Holland song.
A Holland-Dozier-Holland Production
Produced by Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland


"Say Goodbye To Hollywood"
(Billy Joel)
Ronnie Spector with The E Street Band
Producers who worked with Ronnie Spector after her divorce from Phil must've found it a mixed blessing: They got from her the remarkable voice they heard on "Be My Baby", but little in the way of raw emotion. Phil Spector was the only producer who could consistently light a fire under Ronnie's vocals. Her delivery on "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" lacks passion, and that's true for most of the other recordings she made in the 1970s. Both Bette Midler and "Hollywood" composer Billy Joel cut livelier readings, but Ronnie's original is still definitive. Miami Steve Van Zandt's production shines like a buffed diamond, the tune boasts vivid imagery worthy of a Martin Scorcese movie, Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band boots it big time, and then, well, then there's that remarkable Ronnie Spector voice. Even at less than its best, you just can't top it!
Produced by Sugar Miami Steve

Ronnie Spector

"It Comes And Goes"
(Neil Diamond)
Priscilla Mitchell
They cut Habanera Rock records down in Nashville, too, and sometimes the featured singers were top Country stars like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison and Marty Robbins. Priscilla Mitchell, wife of swamp rocker Jerry Reed, ventured South of Spanish Harlem in 1965, the same year she scored a #1 Country duet with Grand Ole Opry regular Roy Drusky ("Yes, Mr. Peters"). She took with her one of Neil Diamond's best early compositions. Its original title was probably "He Comes And Goes", but that would've been a tad too suggestive for a proper Southern lady like Mrs. Reed to sing. Some copies of the single were credited to "Sadina", which was the name of Jerry and Priscilla's baby daughter.
Arranged and Conducted by Ray Stevens
Produced by Jerry Kennedy


"Please Don't Wake Me"
(Russ Titelman, Cynthia Weil)
Cinderellas
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were too busy writing hits like "Uptown", "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" to concentrate much on producing. However, when they did supervise a recording session, they delivered the goods! The stunning "Magic Town", waxed by The Vogues in 1966, is one of a handful of chart records they co-produced. This thunderous habanera pasodoble from the summer of 1964 might've charted, too, had deejays not preferred its more sedate flipside, "Baby, Baby (I Still Love You)". At the end of the day, both sides stiffed; maybe Dimension Records should've sold them under the group's real name: The Cookies! After all, Dorothy Jones, Earl-Jean McCrea and Margaret Ross had already scored bestsellers with "Chains" and "Don't Say Nothin' Bad About My Baby." Ross, a hugely underrated Girl Group vocalist, sings lead on "Please Don't Wake Me".
Produced by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Russ Titelman

"Did You Ever Love A Guy?"
(Steve Duboff)
The Emeralds
The lead voice on this superb ballad sounds suspiciously like that of Gracia Nitzsche, wife of phenomenal composer, arranger and producer Jack Nitzsche. However, the Nitzsches were based on the West Coast, and "Did You Ever Love A Guy?" was engineered by Brooks Arthur at New York City's Mirasound Studios. Still, the Habanera Rock arrangement, which isn't credited on the label, has all the earmarks of a Jack Nitzsche chart. Did the couple travel East in 1964? Or was this one of those bi-coastal tracking sessions, with parts recorded in two different cities? It's a mystery that will probably never be solved, but there's nothing mysterious about the high quality of this disc. It's got everything necessary to qualify as an instant Girl Group classic: Castanets, a flamboyant string section, bleating femme vocals, lyrics dripping with angst, a densely layered sound mix, and of course, that thrilling Rock-a-Tango rhythm.
A DuLev Production
by Neil Levenson and Steve Duboff


"To Sir, With Love"
(Don Black, Mark London)
from the Columbia picture

Lulu
Never mind the chart-topping single! Here's the extended Rock-a-Tango version of the 1967 movie theme, which is found only on the Fontana soundtrack album. It's the only version of Lulu's signature song that you ever want to hear.
A Mickie Most Production

Lulu

"All Over Again"
(Paul Hampton)
Jill Jackson
Jill Jackson was one half of the Pop duo Paul and Paula. When her partner Ray Hildebrand retired from performing, she struck out on her own. Signed to Frank Sinatra's Reprise label, Jill cut a series of exquisite singles penned by Brill Building composers: Bert Berns' "Here Comes The Night", Goffin and King's "Love You For A While" and this beautiful bossa nova ballad from the pen of one-time Burt Bacharach collaborator Paul Hampton. If she'd had the foresight to track a Spanish vocal, "All Over Again" might well taken South America by storm.
Arranged and Conducted by Bill Justis
Produced by Jimmy Bowen


"We Live For Love"
(Neil Giraldo)
Pat Benatar
This record calls to mind Blondie's 1980 hit "Atomic" in that it sounds like a soundtrack outtake from a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. It's the most Girl Group-oriented item to be found in Pat Benatar's early repertoire; Pete Coleman's bristling Wall of Sound production would have done Phil Spector proud.
Produced by Peter Coleman

"I Got A Man"
(Sandy Linzer, Denny Randell)
Crystals featuring La La Brooks
Undoubtedly, La La Brooks' greatest contribution to Habanera Rock was her stunning performance on 1963's "Then He Kissed Me". That legendary Phil Spector production epitomizes the Habanera Rock/Girl Group genre, and its majestic sound was endlessly imitated. The Crystals never surpassed it, but some of the tracks they cut for producer Paul Tannen do rival their work with Phil. This boogaloo-based Blues rocker is one example; our Miss Brooks cuts loose with the kind of gritty, greasy vocal reading Phil would never have allowed. To much lesser effect, "I Got A Man" was concurrently waxed by The Toys.
A Paul Tannen Production
Arranged and Conducted by Charlie Calello

Produced by Paul Tannen


La La Brooks

"When Love Goes Wrong"
(Bodie Chandler, Barry DeVorzon)
Dean Cannon
Miss Dean Cannon belonged to a group of singing sisters, who undoubtedly provide backing vocals on this tasty disc. Judging by her performance here, Deanie didn't possess an exceptional voice, but the young lady did know how to sell a lyric. "When Love Goes Wrong" has Drifters sensibility stamped all over it; you couldn't be blamed for thinking it was an outtake from one of their 1960 sessions. All that's missing is a lead vocal from Ben E. King, although the song would've needed modulating down a few keys to fit his vocal range.
Arranged by Perry Botkin, Jr
Produced by Barry DeVorzon


"Daddy, You Just Gotta Let Him In!"
(Joey Brooks, Wally Gold)
Satisfactions
No question about it: Gracia Nitzsche is definitely the lead voice heard on this track, and her husband Jack served as both arranger and producer. Here the Nitzsches snatch the iconic flamenco riff from "Then He Kissed Me" and paste it onto a song guaranteed to scare every father of a teenage girl. After spinning a backstory that calls to mind the plot of Rebel Without A Cause, Gracia wails: He needs a place to hide away/And Daddy, you just gotta let him in/One of Hell's Angels/Will be knocking at your door tonight! A lyric like that may sound tame today, but it was controversial enough to make a radio programmer soil his underpants in 1966. Unfortunately for The Satisfactions, there was only room on the airwaves for one juvenile delinquent Girl Group, and that group was The Shangri-Las.
A York-Pala Production
Arranged and Produced by Jack Nitzsche


"Someday"
(Roberta Day)
Roberta Day
Some artists didn't need to visit Manhattan's Brill Building in order to find top-notch Habanera Rock songs; they could write their own. Roberta Silvanoff was one such singer/songwriter, and though her career never took off, her sublime, self-composed 1964 single compares favorably to classic Crystals and Ronettes sides. Captured on wax by Gerry Granahan, Jay and The Americans' regular producer, "Someday" really sparkles during its swirling, pasodoble-influenced instrumental breaks.

Arranged and Conducted by Alan Lorber
Produced by Gerry Granahan


"Spanish Eddie"
(Chuck Cochran, Dave Palmer)
Laura Branigan
With her operatic contralto and penchant for highly dramatic vocal performances, the late, great Laura Branigan was born to sing Habanera Rock. "Spanish Eddie", a very European dance record which evokes the excitement of a bullfight, was her most spectacular gift to the genre. The song's Top Forty chart placing in July of 1985 proved that Rock's Latin tinge was still commercially viable two decades after its heyday.
Arranged by Harold Faltermeyer
Produced by Harold Faltermeyer and Jack White


Laura Branigan

As we've discussed before, plenty of male artists mined the Latin groove. Seminal rockers like Johnny Otis ("Willie and The Hand Jive") The Champs ("Tequila") and Ritchie Valens ("La Bamba") pioneered Habanera Rock, and The Drifters "There Goes My Baby" officially kicked off the trend with 1959's "There Goes My Baby". Before long, Doo-Wop groups, lounge singers and teen idols galore had jumped on the bandwagon. The habanera was sampled by male vocalists as diverse as Andy Williams, Chuck Jackson and Roy Orbison, proving as commercially viable for them as it was for Sarah Vaughn, Claudine Clark or Lesley Gore. When Gene Pitney sang the Tex Mex tango "Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa" and Roy Orbison rocked the cha-cha-cha with "Pretty Woman", it was fantastic; but even singers as immensely talented as they were couldn't hold a candle to Darlene Love wailing her heart out on "He's A Rebel". There's something about a female voice that complements the Latin tinge in ways that male voices don't.

It's no secret that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame suffers from a shameful dearth of female membership. Too many of the nominating voters think women rockers should be female versions of Elvis or The Beatles. To be sure, there were ladies who fit that description during Rock's formative years, but such a narrow criterion is historically indefensible. In the 1950s and early '60s, Rock 'n' Roll women were more likely to wear prom dresses than leather jackets! They had their own special look and sound that was just as valid as the male rocker image. Rock historians need to stop listening for bluesy guitar licks in women's records, and start listening for castanets instead. Then maybe they'll finally open RRHOF membership to long-deserving candidates like Lesley Gore, Connie Francis, Petula Clark, Skeeter Davis, Jody Miller, Dionne Warwick and the overlooked ladies discussed in this essay.


Dedicated to the memory of Laura Branigan.

On behalf of the staff of the Pop Culture Cantina (Don Heriberto de Garbanzo, Samson and Delilah Papagallo, The Zoot Suit Muchachas, Cha Cha Cochinada and The Cochinada Brothers, Santitos Pocho and Cuarteto Cantina, Big Buffy Chingas and Mariachi Lowrider, Trio Trotacalles and Henrietta la del Barrio), I would like to wish everyone Feliz Navidad and un ano nuevo fabuloso.

15 December 2009

Jeff Barry (Part One)

Jeff Barry

Why Jeff Barry Belongs
in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame

. . . and Why Ellie Greenwich Does, Too
by Don Charles Hampton


First, a little guitar
And then some bass
Now, here come the drums
Add a little organ

©Copyright 1969 Kirshner/CBS Music Publishing (BMI)

That's the recipe for "Rock And Roll Music", taken from a 1969 Archies album. But wait, there's more! Add a pinch of Folk music, a dash of the Blues, and a smidgen of Country 'n' Western. Fold in some 1950s Doo-Wop harmonies, and some handclapping and tambourine shaking for an old-fashioned Gospel feeling. Flavor the mix with a bit of Latin America and the Caribbean. Most important of all, keep the arrangement simple, and make it easy to dance to. Serve this dish steaming hot to the best record promotion people you can find. This is the recipe for a Jeff Barry Pop production. It's a sound that you'll find in hits by The Monkees, The Archies and the early hits of Neil Diamond, a sound that was an essential ingredient of American Pop and Rock music during the 1960s.

Jeff Barry is best known as a songwriter, along with his former wife and collaborator, Ellie Greenwich. Who hasn't heard "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and The Shondells? "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" by Manfred Mann? The Dixie Cups' "Chapel Of Love" (now the unofficial anthem of the marriage equality movement)? The Shangri-Las' "Leader Of The Pack" (inspiration for a Broadway and West End musical several years back)? And who can forget the string of hits written by Barry and Greenwich and produced by Phil Spector during the early 1960s? The Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me"? The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and "Baby, I Love You"? Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)", popularized on "The David Letterman Show" and now a yuletide staple? Fast-forward into the 1970s for more samples of Jeff Barry's hitmaking magic: The Staple Singers' "Heavy Makes You Happy." Bobby Bloom's "Montego Bay". Olivia Newton-John's first #1 smash, "I Honestly Love You". And let's not overlook the biggest hit of 1969, The Archies' "Sugar, Sugar".

But Jeff Barry is also a producer, a fact that isn't as well-known. Why this is so is puzzling. Record production isn't just something Barry did on the side in addition to writing songs; a good number of the hits he wrote were also produced by him. In fact, Barry was one of the recording industry's top producers, and was recognized as such by Billboard Magazine in its Year End issue of 1970. He ranks alongside men like Phil Spector, Bob Crewe, Felton Jarvis, Norman Whitfield and Quincy Jones. Try these statistics on for size: Jeff Barry produced four #1 Pop records, three of which he also wrote ("Chapel Of Love", "Leader Of The Pack" and "Sugar, Sugar"). Twelve of his productions were Top Ten best-sellers and 21 of them hit Billboard's Top Twenty. Barry has seen 33 of his productions reach the national Top Forty. Between the years 1963 and 1973, he produced over 60 chart singles. This is hardly the record of a songwriter who occasionally dabbles in production. Here's the story of "Jukebox" Jeff Barry and the hit sound he created.

It's Called Rock 'n' Roll

He was born Joel Adelberg on April 3, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York. The Adelberg family relocated to a New Jersey suburb a few years after baby Joe's birth. "I'd get out of school, run home, hide under the bed and wait for the future to get here," Barry told interviewer Joe Smith a few years back, recalling his teens in a typically wry manner. "But I wrote songs. Did so since I was a kid. My mother has a song I wrote when I was seven. It's about my favorite things . . . girls and horses!" Little Joe's songwriting was inspired by the Country 'n' Western tunes he grew up hearing on the radio during the 1940s and '50s. He also got a hefty dose of Rhythm 'n' Blues, an exciting new sound which emanated on a regular basis from the houses of neighboring Black families. At the same time Country music and R & B were fusing with Latin music to create Rock 'n Roll, they were separately firing the imagination of a boy who would become one of America's greatest Rock tunesmiths.

Upon graduating from Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School in 1955 (whose other alumni include Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond), Joel Adelberg served a hitch with the United States Army; tantalizingly, he was stationed at Fort Knox for much of that time. Following his discharge, he enrolled in New York's City College with an engineering degree in mind. However, by now the young man was hooked on Doo-Wop groups like Dion and The Belmonts, and he was harboring Rock star ambitions. While still a college student, he made his initial forays into the East Coast record business. Somewhere along the way, he dropped his birth name in favor of something with a more cosmopolitan sound. With a new first name swiped from '50s matinee idol Jeff Chandler, and a new last name borrowed from a family friend, "Jeff Barry" was born.

In his seminal book Girl Groups: The Story Of A Sound, the late author Alan Betrock described an occasion when Barry auditioned for a record company in the hope of landing a contract. According to Betrock, he was turned down, but the label liked the song he was singing, one of his own compositions called "Tell Laura I Love Her" and bought it from him. There's a bit of truth to this account, but it omits more of the story than it tells. Late in 1958, Jeff Barry met Arnold Shaw, who would later become an important Rock and Pop historian. At the time, he was president of the EB Marks publishing firm and a seasoned record industry veteran with important contacts. Barry reasoned that if he sang for Arnold Shaw and Shaw liked what he heard, one of those contacts might lead to a recording deal.


Arnold Shaw

ARNOLD SHAW

Decades later, he recounted that fateful meeting to Joe Smith: "I sat down for Arnold Shaw and played a few songs. All in (the keys of) G and C. I only knew two chords! I couldn't play anybody else's songs, so I wrote my own. He said, 'you sing OK, but what are these songs you're playing me? Got any more in G and C?' I played him all kinds of songs, all in G and C. He said, 'you mean you don't know any other chords?' I said, 'No, I don't know what I'm doing!' Then he said, 'Do you want to be a songwriter?'" On the spot, Shaw offered him a staff writer's job at EB Marks with a $75-a-week salary. Having recently gotten married to a girl named Lenore Rosenblatt, Barry was thinking of having a baby; the thought of future financial obligations made the decision easy for him. The young newlywed leapt at the chance for steady income, quit CCNY just a few credits shy of his undergrad degree, and became a full-time music writer.

He also became a part-time demo singer, waxing publisher's demonstration discs of his own songs and others penned by the likes of Ben Raleigh, Beverly Ross and Larry Kusik. This experience led to fulfillment of his momentarily deferred dream: A recording contract. In early 1959, RCA Victor signed him and released the first of three singles, a catchy boogie woogie track called "It's Called Rock And Roll". It's now regarded as a minor Rockabilly classic, and was reissued some years back as the title track of a British roots Rock compilation. The follow-up was "The Face From Outer Space", a goofy Dickie Goodman-inspired disc that quickly became a favorite of novelty collectors. Then Barry tried his chops on a Broadway show tune: "All You Need Is A Quarter" from Jule Styne's current smash Do-Re-Mi. None of these singles clicked on the charts, but his always energetic, very teenage-sounding vocals generated sufficient interest to keep him bouncing from label to label for years. Usually, he recorded as Jeff Barry, but he also cut tracks under assumed names like Timothy Hay, Billy Mitchell and Stevie Temple, Jr. Meanwhile, his songwriting career was heating up.

While Jeff Barry's singles were up-tempo affairs, his first compositions to make an impact in the marketplace were mournful ballads. The earliest to appear was "Paper Crown", a collaboration with Beverly Ross that appeared on the flipside of The Crests' Top Fifty chart entry "A Year Ago Tonight" in December of 1959. Shortly after that record's release, Arnold Shaw heard Barry writing a soulful ballad called "Teenage Sonata". "That would be great for Sam Cooke," he cried, and hurried the flustered composer into a taxi bound for the offices of Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore.

Veteran A & R men Hugo and Luigi had just been assigned to produce Sam Cooke. They'd already met Barry, and in fact had been instrumental in his signing to RCA Victor. Shaw thought it was a good bet that they'd be receptive to his material, and he was right. They liked the ballad, and after hearing Barry demo it live on the piano, so did their artist. Sam Cooke chose it for his debut RCA single. Much to his delight, Jeff Barry found himself hanging out with Cooke's entourage, and he was overjoyed when "Teenage Sonata" broke for a hit, rising to #50 on the Pop charts and scoring at #22 on Billboard's R & B list.

Sam Cooke

Having his first songwriting success with a singer the calibre of Sam Cooke was heady stuff, but it was small potatoes compared to what happened next. Barry had been collaborating with Ben Raleigh, and by late 1959, they'd come up with "Tell Laura I Love Her", the soon-to-be classic death-and-heartbreak ballad. In the summer of 1960, Ray Peterson took the song to #7 Pop. The song was covered in England by Ricky Valance for Columbia/EMI Records, and by August it stood at #1 on the British charts. There was a fad at the time for "answer songs" to current best-sellers, so Barry and Raleigh penned alternate lyrics for "Tell Laura" that were suitable for a girl to sing. Their extra work paid off: near the end of the year, Marilyn Michaels registered at #110 Pop with "Tell Tommy I Miss Him". Three hits off the same song! Jeff Barry was on top of the world; after a false start, the 21-year-old had landed smack in the middle of the record business, and he'd hit the ground running.

By 1962, he had two more smashes to his credit. The Playmates' 1961 recording of "Tell Me What She Said" flopped in the United States, as did Helen Shapiro's cover version, "Tell Me What He Said". However, back in Shapiro's native England, the up-tempo torch song shot to #2 on the charts. Barry's second American Top Ten winner was another excellent rocker, "Chip, Chip", released as a single by Gene McDaniels in the Spring of '62. That Fall, "Jukebox" Jeff provided Linda Scott with one of her last chart records, a Country-styled weeper titled "I Left My Heart In The Balcony"; it was a solid regional hit, topping out at #74.

Jeff Barry songs were placed with other established singers of the day, including Janie Grant ("Unhappy Birthday"), Della Reese ("Blow Out The Sun"), Frank Gari ("You'd Better Keep Running"), Johnny Cymbal ("The Water Was Red", a minor hit) and R & B legend Ruth Brown, whose recording of his ballad "Anyone But You" was an early Phil Spector production. During this period, some of his best compositions were cut by Tony Passalacqua, former lead singer of the Doo-Wop group The Fascinators. Released under the names Tony Richards and Tony Mitchell, they include the undiscovered Rockabilly classic "Shout My Name"; "A Million Drums"; the early Reggae tracks "Write Me A Letter" and "Candle In The Wind"; and "Caravan Of Lonely Men" b/w "Wind-Up Toy". Jeff Barry believes that the latter record, issued on the Carlton label in 1962, was his first credited production.

He saved some choice rockers for himself, too; Barry cut the singles "Shake, Shake, Sherry" (later covered by The Edsels), "Never Take It Away" and the hilarious "Please, Mr. Scientist" for Epic Records between May 1961 and February 1962. In a tongue-in-cheek reference to his height (he's over six feet tall), they were issued under the fake group name The Redwoods! By now, he'd left EB Marks for a better-paying staff job at Ed Burton's Trinity (soon to be re-christened TM) Music, and Artie Resnick had become his regular writing partner.


Ronettes

The Phil Spector Era

In November of 1959, at a family Thanksgiving dinner, Jeff Barry had met Eleanor Louise "Ellie" Greenwich, a cousin by marriage. His own marriage had begun to falter, but he probably never suspected that Greenwich would become his second wife. She was also destined to be his most celebrated songwriting partner. Like him, she was a would-be recording artist who'd cut her first single ("Cha-Cha-Charming") for RCA Victor in the late '50s; and like him, she wrote songs. Barry was instantly attracted to this effervescent, opinionated blonde. He found that she shared many of his ideas about what elements went into a good Rock 'n' Roll record, and they spent hours on end discussing music. Greenwich was a more proficient piano player than Barry, and when he confessed to her that he only knew two chords, she began giving him lessons. Romance blossomed as they sat practicing the scales. Before long, Barry was using her regularly to sing demos of his songs, and urging her to become a professional songwriter like himself.

In 1961, Barry and Greenwich cut a novelty single together, "Red Corvette", under the name Ellie Gee and The Jets. The pair also sang background on "Palm Of Your Hand" b/w "Don't Play That Dance!", a 1962 single for Herald/Ember artist Chuck Wright that Barry produced. That same year, Greenwich waxed a Jeff Barry tune for RCA Victor ("Big Honky Baby") using the pseudonym Kellie Douglas. However, it would be some time yet before the couple joined forces to write songs. For her own satisfaction, Greenwich wanted to enter the music business independently. Barry continued to collaborate with Artie Resnick but also wrote tunes with Al Kasha, Derek Pretlow, Wayne Rooks and others. Ellie Greenwich was eventually recruited by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to pen songs their publishing firm, Trio Music. By the summer of '62, she was well on her way, teaming up with lyricist Tony Powers to pen material for various acts including Jay and The Americans ("This Is It"), Mike Clifford ("One Boy Too Late"), The Shirelles ("I Didn't Mean To Hurt You") and Marv Johnson ("Keep Tellin' Yourself").


Ellie in Color

ELLIE GREENWICH

But on October 28, 1962, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich became husband and wife. Subsequently, they decided to make their personal union a professional one as well. Barry and Greenwich were fated to be a consistently successful writing and production unit, on a par with teams like Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, and Lamont Dozier with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. The new combination was properly launched the week of April 27, 1963, when "Da Doo Ron Ron" by The Crystals debuted on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. This Top Five smash was the first of nine charting singles that Barry and Greenwich would write over the next 16 months for the artists on Phil Spector's Philles label. These songs, along with those they would pen the following year for Red-Bird Records, established them as the premier songwriting team working in the early '60s teenybopper Pop genre. Of course, this period is now widely referred to as the Girl Group era.

Phil Spector

PHIL SPECTOR

That same week in 1963, another single written by Barry and Greenwich hit the airwaves. Credited to The Raindrops, "What A Guy" broke the R & B Top Thirty and eventually peaked at #41 Pop. The Raindrops were, in fact, a revamped version of Ellie Gee and The Jets featuring Greenwich as lead singer and Barry accompanying her on overdubbed background vocals. But far more important than this group's composition were the credits that were emblazoned across the bottom of its debut single. They read: An Ellie and Jeff Barry Production. Barry's first hit as both writer and producer was followed by four more Raindrops chart records. These included a Top Twenty Pick, "The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget" (played decades later under risqué opening credits for the cult film Beefcake) and "That Boy John", which featured the original version of "Hanky Panky" on its flipside.

The sound of The Raindrops' recordings is brash, noisy and primitive. A booming drum beat (more often than not played by Jeff) is the dominant feature. Some of the tracks are so basic, they're little more than glorified demos. "What A Guy" actually is a demo. These early productions are a far cry from the more polished Neil Diamond, Monkees and Archies hits Barry would be responsible for later in the decade; yet already, some elements are in place that will become standard. For example, Jeff and Ellie's Doo-Wop-influenced vocal arrangements. Also, handclappings as an integral part of the rhythm section. Perhaps more than anything else, handclappings are the definitive trademark of a Jeff Barry production. It should be noted that his production work would never completely lose the primitive quality of these early efforts. There would always be a Rock 'n' Roll "edge" present. While there's usually some overdubbing, it's done subtly; most Jeff Barry records sound as if they were cut live in the studio, in a single take. The wind-tunnel orchestrations and dense sound mixes of Phil Spector's recordings never characterized Barry's style.


The Raindrops

Turn over The Raindrops' album, issued in late 1963 on the Jubilee label, and in the back cover credits, you'll find the names of several men whose presence at a Jeff Barry-produced recording session in the '60s was almost a given. Artie Butler, keyboard player and arranger, worked with Barry and Greenwich both together and separately well into the 1970s. Gutiarist, arranger and producer Al Gorgoni, bass player Russ Saunders and drummer Gary Chester (the East Coast counterpart of West Coast skinsmeister Hal Blaine) all went on to play at sessions for Neil Diamond, The Monkees and The Archies. Sound engineer Brooks Arthur, working out of Mirasound Studios in Manhattan, quickly became as important to a Jeff Barry record date as Larry Levine was to one of Phil Spector's marathon sessions at Hollywood's Gold Star Studios. (A few years later, Barry and Arthur acquired joint ownership of another New York recording facility, Century Sound.) While not credited on The Raindrops album, it's known that a young man named Bobby Bloom was assisting Brooks Arthur in the sound booth around this time. Bloom would later step from behind the console to become an in-demand session musician and recording artist; he took part in a number of Archies recording dates and was one of Barry's main songwriting partners in the early 1970s.

Publishing credit on The Raindrops' singles was split between TM Music and Trio Music. With Barry and Greenwich now married and working exclusively with each other, this arrangement obviously couldn't continue indefinitely. Leiber and Stoller would certainly have known about Jeff Barry hits like "Chip Chip" and "Tell Laura I Love Her". They also knew him as a demo singer for their frequent collaborators Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman; they'd even produced a Pomus/Shuman penned single for him in early 1962 ("We Got Love Money Can't Buy"). They got busy luring him into their stable of writers, and by mid-1964, Barry had joined his wife at Trio. A few years ago, he elaborated on his reasons for switching publishers a second time: "Bobby Darin was in the process of buying (TM Music). Bobby brought me out to Los Angeles, wined me and dined me, gave me the corner office, the whole thing. I met Tony Curtis and Hugh Hefner. It was fabulous! (Trio Music owners) Leiber and Stoller gave me one room with one speaker, and half the money. The difference is, at TM (I was) the most knowledgeable guy. I could play you a napkin and make it sound like a hit! But I needed people around me that I couldn't knock out that easily. Which is why . . . I went with Leiber and Stoller."

Thus, "Jukebox" Jeff became a protégé of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, whose production successes included million-sellers by The Coasters, The Drifters and Elvis Presley. Many years later, Leiber would recall their work together in a BBC radio interview with journalist Charlotte Grieg. "God knows how many hours of studio time and tape Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich burned up before they learned how to make records," he said. "But we were teaching them. They were our students." In October of 1963, Leiber and Stoller chose a Barry/Greenwich tune, "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" (made famous a year later in a cover version by Manfred Mann) for one of their recording acts, The Exciters. Indications are that Barry and Greenwich produced as well as wrote this Exciters single, which peaked at #97 on the Pop chart. If Ellie Greenwich's lead vocals were substituted for those of Brenda Reid, "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" could easily be a Raindrops record. However, Leiber and Stoller were serious about maintaining the teacher-student relationship; they claimed label credit, just as they would when Barry and Greenwich began producing The Dixie Cups later on.

"Jeff Barry" continues with Part Two.

14 December 2009

Jeff Barry (Part Two)

Jeff Barry

Why Jeff Barry Belongs
in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame

. . . and Why Ellie Greenwich Does, Too

by Don Charles Hampton

Shangri-Las

The Leiber-Stoller Era

Around this same time, Leiber and Stoller were operating two fledgling labels, Tiger and Daisy Records. Barry and Greenwich contributed material to the labels' artists, and produced at least two Tiger/Daisy singles, "Big Bad World" by Cathy Saint and "I Won't Be Me Anymore" for teen idol Vic Donna. Then in early 1964, Lieber and Stoller joined forces with Rock 'n' Roll record mogul George Goldner to form Blue Cat Records and its sister label, Red-Bird. It was only natural that they should bring in their protégés, Jeff and Ellie, to write and produce for this new venture. In fact, they did more than that; they allowed the couple to become stockholders in the new company. Red-Bird ultimately proved to be the more successful of the two labels, due in large part to the talents of Barry and Greenwich. The pace was set when Red-Bird Records first release, The Dixie Cups' "Chapel Of Love" ensconced itself atop Billboard's Hot 100 list.

Leiber_and_Stoller

MIKE STOLLER and JERRY LEIBER

Of course, 1964 was the breakthrough year of the British Invasion, when The Beatles and other English Rock bands began knocking aside established American acts like so many tenpins in a bowling alley. The Brits had nothing on Barry and Greenwich, though; their uncredited production of "Chapel Of Love" muscled The Beatles' "Love Me Do" out of the #1 slot. In fact, 1964 was a banner year for the team. Between May and December, they produced 10 Red-Bird releases by The Dixie Cups, The Jellybeans, The Butterflys and The Shangri-Las, and every one landed on the national charts. Six of these made the Top Forty. Two were chart-toppers.

Five months after The Dixie Cups' ode to nuptial bliss made the vaunted climb, lightning struck twice when Rock's first Punk girl group, The Shangri-Las, roared out of the box with their controversial classic "Leader Of The Pack". In addition to their Red-Bird hits, Barry and Greenwich charted two Raindrops singles in 1964 (three, if you count "Let's Go Together", which "bubbled under" the national list at #109), and scored an international best-seller with "Don't Ever Leave Me", a vigorous dance rocker they wrote and produced for Connie Francis (it made #42 Pop stateside). By now, people in the music business were really beginning to take notice of "Jukebox" Jeff. As a producer as well as a writer, he was clearly a force to contend with.

The Red-Bird/Blue Cat catalog is a treasure trove when it comes to the production work of Barry and Greenwich. There is much more of interest to the '60s Pop music collector than just familiar hits like The Dixie Cups' "People Say", The Shangri-Las' "Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)" and The Jellybeans' "I Wanna Love Him So Bad." Under Leiber and Stoller's supervision, Barry sharpened his production skills considerably; the records he created at Red-Bird convey a wide variety of musical influences. There's the fusion of New Orleans Rhythm 'n' Blues with New York Pop on The Dixie Cups' "You Should Have Seen The Way He Looked At Me"; the steady-rocking West Indian rhythms of The Jellybeans' "Baby, Be Mine"; the Motown-inspired grooves of Sidney Barnes' "I Hurt On The Other Side" and The Bouquets' "Welcome To My Heart"; the funky bump-and-grind of The Ad-Libs' "He Ain't No Angel"; and the stunning choral majesty of The Butterflys' "I Wonder" (an often-recorded but seldom heard tune from the Barry/Greenwich/Spector songbook).

The mini-epic "Train From Kansas City", hidden on the flipside of The Shangri-Las' seventh Red-Bird single, is arguably Barry's finest production from this period. Mary Weiss's impassioned lead singing is embellished by a gyrating rhythm track and dramatic steam engine whistles. If you think those authentic sounds were pulled from a sound effects disc, guess again! They were created vocally by "Jukebox" Jeff standing inside a studio echo chamber (as were the seagull noises heard on "Remember"). The song itself, concerning a young bride's rendez-vous with a former lover, is possibly the best Barry ever wrote with Greenwich. Many of their Red-Bird productions were done in collaboration with a third producer, usually Steve Venet, Joe Jones or George "Shadow" Morton. Leiber and Stoller would team their star protégés with newcomers who didn't have as much experience in the studio. Unfortunately, this could result in the new guy getting sole production credit on the record labels; it happened with Shadow Morton on "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" and several other Shangri-Las singles.

Jeff, Ellie, Shadow

SHADOW MORTON
with ELLIE GREENWICH and JEFF BARRY


Some of the best Barry/Greenwich records on Blue Cat were cut with Sammy Hawkins, a Clyde McPhatter-styled Soul singer that George Goldner had brought to the company. Hawkins' first Blue Cat release was "Hold On, Baby", a steamy, Gospel-flavored number. It cracked the R & B Top Ten in the summer of 1965. The flipside, a tough Barry-Greenwich tune propelled by Bluesy piano chords, was called "Bad As They Come"; it anticipated the heavy Blues influences that surfaced later in Barry's work with The Archies ("Truck Driver") and Neil Diamond ("Someday, Baby"). The follow-up single was a more Pop-oriented number, "I Know It's All Right". This record is literally built around the sterling harmonies of Hawkins and Greenwich; in truth, it's a duet. One-hundred-percent street corner Soul, guaranteed to please '50s vocal group enthusiasts! A playful reworking of Leiber and Stoller's 1958 Drifters hit "Drip Drop" titled "It Hurt So Bad" made for another interesting Sammy Hawkins flip.

The third Sammy Hawkins single was slated to be "I'll Still Love You", a soulful handclapper that could easily have been a Tamla/Motown release. For some reason, Hawkins couldn't connect with the tune, so Barry cut it instead. A marked change of pace from his earlier Rockabilly sides, it's easily his best solo release of the '60s. Ellie Greenwich also waxed a solo single in '65; her entry was "You Don't Know," a dramatic, Adult-Contemporary ballad of unrequited love. Today, copies of it sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay, but at the time, it made zero commercial impact; neither did her husband's excellent platter, so the couple headed back to the studio with a new artist: Andrew Joachim, an ambitious young singer/songwriter from Canada. They recorded him as Andy Kim on a tune he co-wrote with them, "(I Hear You Say) I Love You, Baby". While there was no follow-up Andy Kim release, Barry liked the sound of Kim's singing voice and was determined to write with him again at some point. He couldn't have known at the time (or could he?) that within three years, Kim would succeed Ellie Greenwich as his songwriting partner.

Andy Kim

ANDY KIM

The Barry/Greenwich express had slowed to a crawl by the middle of 1965. The team scored half as many charted productions as they had the previous year, and only two of these, "Iko Iko" by The Dixie Cups and The Shangri-Las' "Give Us Your Blessings" (originally a hit for Ray Peterson) made the Top Forty. The Girl Group trend, which had been the main vehicle for their work, was passing. The ongoing British Invasion had finally begun to take its toll. To complicate matters, the couple's marriage was on the rocks. Professional tension had spilled over into their personal lives, not an uncommon problem for married business partners; but an even bigger crisis was looming. A casual flirtation between Jeff Barry and Nancy Cal Cagno, the night manager of Mirasound Studios, had escalated into something more serious. In engineer Brooks Arthur's words, Cal Cagno "came between" Barry and Greenwich, hastening their estrangement. Before 1965 was out, Barry would ask his second wife for a divorce.

After their marital separation, Barry and Greenwich's professional relations understandably cooled as well. "We tried to write together after we split up, but it was awful", Greenwich recalled several years ago. "We couldn't . . . with divorce papers sitting right next to us." Reportedly, Phil Spector was responsible for salvaging the team. At his request, they reunited in early 1966 for the writing sessions that yielded Ike and Tina Turner's "River-Deep, Mountain-High" and The Ronettes' "I Can Hear Music" (the final Philles chart single, which Jeff Barry produced). After this project ended, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich re-evaluated their creative partnership and realized it was still viable. They subsequently made the difficult decision to continue working together. However, their prospects were not as rosy as before. With more and more recording artists starting to write their own material, and new sounds being introduced onto the music scene, the changes in Rock 'n' Roll were coming fast and furious. Would the team be able to keep pace? Was there still a place for them on the charts?

Neil Diamond

The Gang At Bang

The answer to these questions came on 21 May, 1966, when a single called "Solitary Man" appeared on Billboard's Hot 100. The artist was Neil Diamond, and his name was destined to be a familiar one to record buyers for years to come. When Ellie Greenwich first encountered Diamond, he was just another down-on-his-luck songwriter; but both she and Barry thought there was something distinctly commercial about the brooding, introspective songs he wrote. They partnered with him in a new publishing company, Tallyrand Music, and then started shopping for a record deal.

First stop was Red-Bird Records, but much to their surprise, Leiber and Stoller showed little interest in Diamond. In fact, the two men were on the verge of selling their shares in the now-floundering label; on their advice, Barry and Greenwich would soon follow suit. Undeterred, Jeff Barry paid a visit to Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler, and successfully sold him on Neil Diamond's talent. Wexler decided to place the handsome singer on Bang Records, a new Atlantic subsidiary run by writer/producer Bert Berns. Bang's Atlantic affiliation proved short-lived, as did Neil Diamond's time as a Bang artist, but both lasted long enough to launch his stellar recording career. At Bang, Barry and Greenwich began working with him in earnest, polishing their rough Diamond into a star. "Solitary Man" was the first of nine consecutive chart singles they would produce for him in 1966 and 1967.

With "Cherry, Cherry", Neil Diamond's second Bang single, the classic "Jukebox" Jeff sound was born. This record set the standard for Barry's late-60s productions. All the elements were there: The aggressive acoustic guitars, the crisp handclappings, the keyboard hooks, the south-of-the-border twist in Artie Butler's musical arrangement, and the Gospel-tinged, call-and-response backing vocals. This style of production stayed with Neil Diamond even after his association with Jeff Barry ended; you can hear echoes of "Cherry, Cherry" in his later hits for the Uni label like "Two-Bit Manchild",. "Walk On Water" and "Crunchy Granola Suite". By now, Barry/Greenwich session regulars Artie Butler, Al Gorgoni, Russ Saunders and Gary Chester had been augmented by guitarists Hugh McCracken and Don Thomas, bass player Louie Mauro, pianist Stan Free, drummer Herbie Lovelle and percussionist Tommy Cerone from Neil Diamond's band. With Diamond himself contributing acoustic guitar licks, these men formed one wicked rhythm section.

Diamond was a Folk and Country-based songwriter, so the uncluttered backing tracks Barry and Greenwich created for him fit his tunes like a glove. Horns were used as coloring, and were never brassy. On "Kentucky Woman", the horn section is barely discernible. Strings (always a rarity for Jeff Barry productions) were used sparingly, usually to enhance a ballad like "Red, Red Wine" or "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon". Rather than falling back on a routine approach to production, Barry and Greenwich crafted each record to best showcase the singer and the song. Less was more. Barry has called "Solitary Man" his favorite Neil Diamond production, and his reason illustrates his basic musical philosophy. "It's a good example of not over-producing", he said, "(of) letting the song come through."

There's reason to believe that Barry's work with Diamond had a personal aspect to it. Prior to their association, Barry had been producing records mainly for groups of teenage girls with whom he had little in common. With Neil Diamond, he had an artist who was roughly the same age, and from a background similar to his own (both men are Brooklyn natives, as well as graduates of the same high school). Barry obviously identified more directly with Diamond, and some people believe this was reflected in the records they made together. Session horn player Artie Kaplan is one such person. Kaplan contracted the musicians for several early Neil Diamond sessions, and he observed firsthand the interaction between Barry and Diamond in the studio. "The inflections, the mannerisms, the phrasing in (Diamond's) records was really Jeff," Kaplan claims in the Neil Diamond biography Solitary Star. "If the name (on the singles) wasn't Neil Diamond, it might have been Jeff Barry". It's interesting to listen to records like "Shilo" and "Kentucky Woman" in this context and speculate on what might've been had Barry's own recording career not faltered.

Jeff, Ellie, Neil, Bert

JEFF BARRY with NEIL DIAMOND,
ELLIE GREENWICH and BERT BERNS


One thing is known for sure: His work with Neil Diamond led directly to the next phase of his career, which was his association with "bubblegum" Rock groups during the late 1960s. The conduit to those groups was music publisher Don Kirshner, and Diamond was responsible for getting Barry and Kirshner together. As president of Screen Gems Television's music division, Kirshner was supervising music for a new NBC comedy series. "The Monkees" began as small screen spoof of Rock 'n' Roll bands, but the concept quickly escalated into a serious recording enterprise. "Last Train To Clarksville", the first single by the fictional band, had zoomed up the charts, and a national hysteria was building around the four actor/musicians who portrayed the group. Kirshner's ear for commercial songs was legendary in music business circles; during the late '50s and early '60s, he'd overseen the recordings of Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann, Tony Orlando, Little Eva and The Cookies. He loved the sound of "Cherry, Cherry" and Neil Diamond's other Bang hits, so he contacted the singer and solicited material for The Monkees. In the deal that ensued, Jeff Barry was tagged to produce any Diamond songs that the group would record.

When Barry and his session men entered RCA Victor's New York studios in October of 1966 to cut the tracks for "I'm A Believer", he'd never had a surer bet in his life. The Monkees may have been make-believe rockers, but nevertheless, they were the hottest up-and-coming act on the American music scene. Their second single already had advance orders in excess of one million, so it was guaranteed to be a Top Ten hit at the very least. Yet nothing could've prepared "Jukebox" Jeff for the monster "I'm A Believer" became upon its release the following month. The United States was only one of 16 countries where it topped the charts. Time hasn't diminished this record's appeal, either. "I'm A Believer" is one of the top 50 best-sellers of all-time. Its runaway success enhanced Barry's reputation as a producer tenfold, to say nothing for what it did for Neil Diamond's reputation as a songwriter (and for his bank account).

From the moment you hear its lively keyboard intro, it's clear that "I'm A Believer" could never have been anything but a major hit. Although Micky Dolenz's lead vocal was recorded separately from the instrumental track, the vocals and musical backing fit together as smoothly as cogs in a well-oiled machine. Barry's trademark handclappings and tambourine clashes make an ideal complement to the church revival meeting imagery in Diamond's lyrics. Dolenz is so caught up in the arrangement that he bursts out with a spontaneous cry of "I love it!" halfway through the song. Barry wisely kept this ad-lib on the final master. It enhances the record's good-time spirit. Monkees Davy Jones and Peter Tork are equally exuberant on background vocals, chanting the refrain with great fervor.

Davy Jones took the lead on the follow-up single, "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You". Barry energized this noticeably inferior Neil Diamond composition with forceful, prominent handclappings; this record's infectious rhythm simply cannot be escaped. While not as successful as "I'm A Believer" (alas, it peaked at a disappointing #2), "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" was still tremendously popular upon its release in March of 1967, and it remains a favorite of Monkees fans. Davy Jones came into his own as a lead singer on this single. Other producers had pigeonholed him as a light Pop balladeer, but under "Jukebox" Jeff's direction, he proved that he could equal Micky Dolenz at belting out Rock 'n' Roll numbers.

Jones sang lead on most of the other Barry-produced tracks of this period, some of which appeared on the group's More Of The Monkees album ("Look Out! Here Comes Tomorrow", "Hold On, Girl", "The Day We Fall In Love", "Your Auntie Grizelda") and some of which have only recently become available ("Love To Love", "I Don't Think You Know Me"). As it turned out, Barry cut more than just Neil Diamond tunes for Don Kirshner. After "I'm A Believer" exploded, Kirshner had him in the studio recording songs by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, Joey Levine and Artie Resnick, The Tokens and Jack Keller. Even three of Barry's own compositions, "Mustang", "Ninety-Nine Pounds" and "She Hangs Out", made it into The Monkees' repertoire.

More Of The Monkees

Barry's solo productions were everything a Barry/Greenwich production were, save one distinct difference: They were gutsier, had more of a Blues feel. Guitars were edgier, and the beat rocked harder. It was a totally masculine sound. Why Greenwich wasn't involved in The Monkees' recording sessions isn't clear, but this was hardly the only instance of Barry working without her in 1966 and '67. He was writing and producing singles for Gayle Haness, another Bang artist. In late '66, he and Bert Berns co-wrote and co-produced a McCoys chart entry, "I Got To Go Back (Watch That Little Girl Dance), and in May of '67, they teamed up again to produce the Top Thirty R & B hit "Am I Groovin' You" for Freddie Scott (Scott was signed to Bang's sister label Shout Records). The Drifters also benefited from the Berns and Barry magic: "I'll Take You Where The Music's Playing" (#51 Pop in 1965) and the fabulous Rock-a-Reggae floor-shaker "Aretha", a Northern Soul club smash in England. The finest of Jeff Barry's collaborations with Bert Berns is undoubtedly "Soul Motion", an incendiary 1967 Shout single released by The Exciters. In 1970, he'd help Berns' widow Ilene launch a new Bang Records artist named Paul Davis.

In addition to his work for Bang/Shout and Don Kirshner, Barry was producing sessions for Jay and The Americans and others, and he'd begun writing with Marty Sanders, Hank Shifter and Andy Kim. The sight of the tall, cowboy-hatted producer striding into a record date sans his bubbly blonde partner was becoming more and more common. He seemed determined to carve out a solo identity for himself and his work. His window of opportunity with The Monkees abruptly slammed shut in March of 1967 when the group had Don Kirshner dismissed as its music supervisor and subsequently chose Chip Douglas from The Turtles as its regular producer. Had these events not transpired, "Jukebox" Jeff would surely have claimed the latter job, but regardless, an important contact had been made.

Nineteen-sixty-seven was a pivotal year in Jeff Barry's career, and in his life. On January 23, he wed Nancy Cal Cagno. By mid-year, Leiber and Stoller's Trio Music had sold his publishing contract to Unart (United Artists) Music. This move allowed him to establish a tie with the West Coast movie industry and presaged the direction his career would take in the next decade. Around the same time, Barry decided to go to work for himself. He started up his own label, Steed Records, and cut a distribution deal with Randy Wood's Hollywood-based Dot Records. The Steed logo was a black stallion rearing up on its haunches, a reflection of Barry's equestrian interests. Andy Kim would be Steed's star recording act.

Finally, Bert Berns' death and Neil Diamond's defection from Bang Records, both occurring in December of 1967, precipitated the end of the Barry/Greenwich era. By now, Barry was commuting frequently to Los Angeles on business, and Greenwich opted not to duplicate his increasingly bi-coastal lifestyle. A 1968 Parrot Records single by The Down Five ("I'm Takin' It Home") is the last documented Barry/Greenwich co-production, but an October 1967 Atco single "Friday Kind Of Monday" b/w "Right Back Where I Started From" by The Meantime (a new incarnation of The Raindrops) is considered the team's official final outing. Yet, between singing numerous demo sessions, backing vocal dates and TV commercials, and running her own production company with new partner Mike Rashkow, Ellie Greenwich would find time to contribute harmony vocals to a number of Steed Records releases. For some people, the story ends here, but quite the contrary: some of "Jukebox" Jeff's biggest hits were yet to come. Nineteen-sixty-eight marked the beginning of an extremely busy four-year period for him. His work with another "bubblegum" band, The Archies, would account for much of that time.

"Jeff Barry" continues with Part Three.