Showing posts with label Lesley Gore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lesley Gore. Show all posts

03 May 2008

Lesley Gore (Part One)

Classic Lesley

Queen Of The Rock 'n' Roll Tango!
How Lesley Gore, Quincy Jones and Klaus Ogermann
Created Habanera Rock Royalty
by Donny Jacobs
The tree of Rock'n'Roll has three roots: Country and Western, Rhythm and Blues, and Latin music. That third root is often forgotten about. Judging by the deracinated product churned out by most of today's Rock groups, it's all but disappeared from the genre. Turn on a Rock radio station in 2008, and you can go hours without hearing anything remotely Latin! In the 1950s and '60s, though, rockers routinely served up their product with a side of salsa picante.

What historian John Storm Roberts calls The Latin Tinge reverberates strongly through any number of seminal Rock records. You can hear it in Johnny Otis's "Willie And The Hand Jive", The Diamonds' "Little Darlin'", The Jarmels' "Little Bit Of Soap", The Impalas' "I Ran All The Way Home", Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog", "Big Hunk O'Love", "His Latest Flame" and others far too numerous to mention. The rhythm foundation for most of these sides was the Cuban habanera, which Latin and Jazz musicians recognize as the Tango Beat. Imported via México City around 1870, North Americans first heard it in a hypnotic tune called "La Paloma". By the early 1910s, it was throbbing beneath the melodies of Dixieland favorites like WC Handy's "St. Louis Blues." A North-American tango craze lasting into the 1920s spread its influence even farther. Once the habanera had lodged itself inside American Pop music consciousness, it made a permanent home there; the rhythm persevered through the Big Band era and took part in the musical miscegenation that spawned Rock'n'Roll.

Baby Habanera Rock was probably born in the Gulf Coast region where Black, White and Mexican musicians have interacted for well over a century. However, she appears to have been incubated in the New York studios of Atlantic Records. That's where producers Ahmet Ertegun, Jesse Stone and Jerry Wexler got into the habit of Latinizing backing tracks for Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Clyde McPhatter's Drifters and other acts from their '50s roster. A few years later, mambo loving A & R men like Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, George Goldner, Bob Crewe, Al Nevins and Bert Berns kicked off a bonafide Latin Rock craze. Their exotic beat concerto productions for such artists as the post-McPhatter Drifters, Ben E. King, Neil Sedaka, Ral Donner, Jay and The Americans, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and Solomon Burke were wildly popular. These hits not only fused Argentinean tango with Rock, but also variations of Cuban bolero, rhumba and cha-cha-chá, Brazilian baião, bossa nova and samba, Spanish flamenco and Dominican merengue. By 1965, boogaloo rhythms from Spanish Harlem had found their way into the mix.

Judging by the evidence of best-sellers like La Vern Baker's "Tweedle Dee" (1955), The Bobbettes' "Mr. Lee" (1957) and Sarah Vaughn's "Broken-Hearted Melody"(1959), female artists picked up on the salsa kick early on. Even so, men dominated the trend until 1960, when Girl Groups started crashing the charts. The sound seemed tailormade for femme ensembles, and their producers (Phil Spector in particular) exploited it mercilessly on such platters as "He's A Rebel", "Be My Baby", "Then He Kissed Me", "I Adore Him", "I Have A Boyfriend" and "Sally, Go 'Round The Roses". If the habanera stylings of the early '60s triggered a musical battle of the sexes, then one side was handicapped; when it came to racking up hits with Rock'n'Roll tangos, it seemed to take a group of Shirelles or Crystals or Ronettes to do what a Bobby Rydell or Gene Pitney or Tony Orlando could do solo.

Women soloists like Doris Troy ("Just One Look") or Jan Bradley ("Mama Didn't Lie") did occasionally break through with one-off Latinized chart records, but there was only one female solo act who repeatedly met male hitmakers mano a mano on Habanera Rock turf. That act came in the form of a petite, seventeen-year-old, strawberry blonde Jersey girl who sported an adorable flip hairdo. This girl became the American counterpart of Libertad Lamarque, Latin America's Queen of Tango. Lesley Gore was Queen of Rock 'n' Roll Tango, and the proof can be found in the records she made.

Discovered by Louis Armstrong's longtime manager Joe Glaser, Lesley was personally signed to Mercury Records by the label's president, Irving Green. In short order, she was paired with an up-and-coming arranger/producer named Quincy Jones. That's right, the mastermind behind Michael Jackson's Thriller album cut his A & R teeth on '60s Girlpop! Mutual love of Jazz singers forged a bond between the Black bandleader and the Russian Jewish teenager; they developed a lifelong mentor/protegée relationship. She took to calling him "Q", as his Jazz musician friends did, and he christened her "Li'l Bits". The pet name conveyed his affection for her, but affectionate regard didn't stop Jones from driving her hard in the recording studio. She'd later comment that " if Quincy didn’t see the veins popping in my neck(when I sang), he wouldn’t be happy!”

Jones discovered that his new protegée sounded best with an edge in her singing voice, and he endeavored to bring out that edge as often as possible. Those annoyed, double-tracked vocal readings gave Lesley Gore hits like "She's A Fool", "I Don't Wanna Be A Loser", "Hey! Now" and the superb "You Don't Know Me" an extra kick in the pants that helped them scale the charts. Also helpful were the trendy, tango-tinged arrangements of Klaus Ogermann, a veteran of Drifters and Ben E. King record dates; the German-born conductor numbered among the top Habanera Rock arrangers working in New York City. (By the time he began arranging for Quincy Jones, Ogermann had Anglicized the spelling of his name to "Claus Ogerman", but the original spelling is used in this essay.) Lesley had little trouble adapting to his tricky Latin time signatures, having grown up in a house filled with Latin Jazz records. Her parents were mambo maniacs!

Today, Lesley Gore is counted among the handful of women stars who contributed significantly to Rock'n'Roll during its infancy. At the peak of her career from the early to mid-1960s, she was arguably the most visible female performer on the Rock scene. She won numerous Best Female Vocalist awards and teen popularity polls. By popular demand, she appeared on stage, on TV and in the movies. Her very first hit, "It's My Party", scored a Grammy Nomination for Best Rock'n'Roll Record, and her later musical achievements were honored by Cashbox and Record World magazines. In recent years, she's been designated one of Rock's Legendary Ladies. Yet the legendary Latin orientation of her music has never been acknowledged by Rock historians. It's time to take a fresh look at what they've overlooked.

30 March 1963
Bell Sound Studios, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Eddie Smith
5584 Hello, Young Lover (Paul Anka)
5585 Something Wonderful (Oscar Hammerstein II-Richard Rodgers)
5586 It's My Party (Wally Gold-John Gluck, Jr.-Herb Weiner)
5587 Danny (Paul Anka)

The very first Rock'n'Roll tango Lesley Gore is listed as having sung is also one of her finest. "Hello, Young Lover" is Paul Anka's sassy rebuke to a teenage Romeo; Klaus Ogermann loads it with sneering brass accents and stumbling drum beats. The hesistating tempo would be tough for most novice recording artists, but Lesley handles it like a pro. As for the lyrics, she seems to relish their aggressive tone and rattles them off like machine gun bullets.

As good as "Young Lover" is, the centerpiece of this maiden recording session is, naturally, the song everyone's hopes are riding on: "It's My Party". Lesley's controlled hysterics sell this tale of a débutante betrayed by her boyfriend at her own coming-out party; of the four selections recorded at this date, this one shouts "teen angst 1963" the loudest. Young America will respond to the cry by launching the single mix on a rocket ride to the top of the charts. First, though, Quincy Jones must have the disc rush-released in order to beat an impending cover version by The Crystals. "It's My Party" isn't Lesley's best rock-a-tango performance, but it will become her most famous one.

Also recorded at this session is a rather lightweight Anka ditty called "Danny" (destined for the flipside "It's My Party") and a rather tentative take on "Something Wonderful", a love theme from Rodgers and Hammerstein's smash hit 1951 musical The King And I. Both songs will feature on Lesley's third Mercury album.

14 May 1963
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
5693 The Party's Over (Betty Comden-Adolph Green-Jule Styne)
5694 Judy's Turn To Cry (Edna Lewis-Beverly Ross)
5695 Just Let Me Cry (Mark Barkan-Ben Raleigh)
5696 Misty (Johnny Burke-Erroll Garner)

Seldom can an artist score a follow-up hit with an answer song to her previous single. When she does, she risks getting stereotyped as a novelty act, with subsequent singles being met with diminished interest from the public. Lesley Gore avoided this career pitfall only because millions of teenage girls longed to hear her take revenge on Judy, the boyfriend-stealing rival of "It's My Party." That doesn't change the fact that "Judy's Turn To Cry" was, and is, a highly derivative record.

Had the sequel strategy not panned out, Mercury had an ace in the hole ready to exploit on the single's flipside: Ben Raleigh and Mark Barkan's "Just Let Me Cry". La Milonguita (that's Ms. Gore to you) will mine the catalog of this team consistently during the first year of her recording career; for her trouble, she'll be rewarded with a trio of best-selling 45s. Raleigh/Barkan songs, all demo'd for Lesley by Girl Group empress Ellie Greenwich, will also feature on her flipsides and albums.

"Just Let Me Cry" is her first foray into their song treasury, and a winning one; with a glossy blend of Pop orchestration, Blues-tinged vocals and jerky Latin rhythms, it's the quintessential Rock'n'Roll tango. All it would've needed was a pronoun change to fit snugly into the repertoire of The Drifters or Ben E. King. If you don't quite know what the Tango Beat is, you can hear it clapped out starkly on the bridge of this song. This tasty number won't chart, but its high quality will nevertheless warrant inclusion on Lesley's 1965 Golden Hits collection. For now, it holds forth as a cut on her debut album.

With crying firmly established as her main theme, Gore, Jones and Ogermann conceive a thematic LP called I'll Cry If I Want To. Accordingly, tearjerkers like "The Party's Over" and "Misty" are shortlisted for the track line-up. Lesley responds warmly to the jazzy flavor of this material; Jazz is the music she feels the most affinity for, and Klaus Ogermann's sophisticated arrangements immerse her in her favorite idiom.

18 May 1963
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
5697 Cry Me A River (Arthur Hamilton)
5698 I Would (Kurt Felz-Edna Lewis-Werner Scharfenberger)
5699 No More Tears Left To Cry (Mark Barkan-Sandy Baron)
5700 Cry And You Cry Alone (Hilda Earnhart)

With a song penned by one-half of her most favored songwriting team, Lesley Gore waxes her first great tango performance. The dramatic "No More Tears Left To Cry" pits the Teen Tango Queen's wailing double-tracked voice against solemn military band-style drum rolls, harpsichord trills and the delicate triangle percussion that will become a Klaus Ogermann trademark. Once you've heard this cut, you know that this singer has found her stylistic niche.

The other standout from this session is an infectious bossa nova reading of Julie London's 1955 hit "Cry Me A River". Lesley's version is just as sexy as London's, but in a different way; where the flame-haired actress's voice smouldered, La Milonguita's dulcet tones float flirtatiously around the melody like a sliver of diaphanous fabric. This Grade A make-out song will be one of the highlights of her début album.

Her cool and detached take on "Cry And You Cry Alone" is pleasant, but memorable only for the touch of vocal melisma she layers over a stylish organ coda. The climate changes from frosty to humid when she vocalizes to "I Would", a German song that lyricist Edna Lewis translates as an Arabian nights musical fantasy. Herr Ogermann consolidates the desert motif with keening Middle Eastern cymbals, evocative sitar accents and a gently loping tempo suitable for camel trains. Session notes don't reveal whether or not Lesley donned harem slippers before singing this number, but it certainly would've been appropriate!

23 May 1963
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
5701 I Understand (Kim Gannon-Mabel Wayne)
5702 Cry (Churchill Kohlmann)
5703 Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows

(Marvin Hamlisch-Howard Liebling)
5704 What Kind Of Fool Am I? (Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley)

At this session, the remainder of material for I'll Cry If I Want To is captured. The standout track is Klaus Ogermann's slow tango interpretation of "I Understand," a Sweet Swing number originally waxed by Jimmy Dorsey's Orchestra in 1941. The background music is unobstrusive, but the subtle blend of slip-note piano, Jazz guitar, triangle and castanets still leaves a strong impression on the listener. For her part, L'il Bits imbues Kim Gannon's lyric with as much sex appeal as a seventeen-year-old high school coed could possibly muster. It's a marvelously sensual performance, and very much geared toward an adult audience.

A completely different mood is achieved on "Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows", a joyous meditation on new love that's unmistakably youth-oriented. Ogermann sets the song to a breakneck conga rhythm that's so fast, you wonder when Lesley had time to breathe! This giddy number contrasts too much with the forthcoming album's cocktail lounge ambiance, and it's definitely not in sync with the melancholy theme; for those reasons, "Sunshine" is held back from immediate release. However, a little over two years from now, it will score the first major chart hit for future Chorus Line composer Marvin Hamlisch.

10 July 1963
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
29116 If That's The Way You Want It (Edna Lewis-Gloria Shayne)
29117 She's A Fool (Mark Barkan-Ben Raleigh)
29118 I'll Make It Up To You (Edna Lewis-Gloria Shayne)
29119 The Old Crowd (Gerry Goffin-Carole King)
29120 I Struck A Match (Artie Resnick-Bobby Scott)
29121 Consolation Prize (Edna Lewis-Gloria Shayne)

"She's A Fool", the breakout hit from this session, is so hot, it immediately lights a fire under Mercury Records' promotion staff. Their eagerness to sell this rumbling rock-a-merengue track to radio results in an unmixed master being pressed on vinyl. A recall of several thousand copies will ensue, but nothing can stop this juggernaut of a Raleigh/Barkan song from taking its rightful place in Billboard's Top Five.

Goffin and King's "Old Crowd", which will appear the following year in a bouncy version by The Cookies, claims the flipside and is notable in retrospect for its rocksteady rhythm. It's actually a variation of the habanera with emphasis placed on the last three beats. Klaus Ogermann probably didn't have Caribbean music in mind when he wrote the arrangement, but these kinds of records (other examples include Lou Christie's "The Gypsy Cried" and "Two Faces Have I") likely formed part of the North American music mix that penetrated Jamaica during the early '60s. Some musicologists believe they had a direct influence on the development of Reggae; if so, then the Tango Beat facilitated Bob Marley's rise to international fame.

That reliable Cuban lick rocks the other four selections waxed at this date, and of those, "I Struck A Match", "If That's The Way You Want It" and "Consolation Prize" are all strong single candidates. "Prize" is an especially formidable tango rocker, and a unique one, too; where most Girlpop of this era made girls the victims of male duplicity, this tune turns the tables. It presents its female protagonist as a brazen manipulator of men. Lesley felt that Edna Lewis's lyrics portrayed girls in an unflattering light, and may have insisted that her recording of "Consolation Prize" not be released. What a shame, if she did! Her distaste for the song's premise notwithstanding, she plays the "b*tch" with palpable zeal; her voice sounds deliciously mocking on the chorus. Not only would this song have broken for a hit, it also would've obliterated the sweet débutante image she had at the time and re-cast her as the Bette Davis of Teen Pop!

21 September 1963
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
29360 Run, Bobby, Run (Mark Barkan-Ben Raleigh)
29361 Young And Foolish (Albert Hague-Arnold Horwitt)
29362 Fools Rush In (Rube Bloom-Johnny Mercer)
29363 My Foolish Heart (Victor Young-Ned Washington)
break in naster numbers
That's The Way The Ball Bounces

(Marvin Hamlisch-Howard Liebling)
29372 After He Takes Me Home (Edna Lewis-Gloria Shayne)
29373 You Don't Own Me (Johnny Madara-David White)
29374 Time To Go (Mark Barkan-Ben Raleigh)
29375 You Name It, He's Got It! (Norman Blagman-Edna Lewis)

The Jazz bent of Lesley's debut album was unique; for the remainder of the 1960s, her voyages into the world of long-playing records will be decidedly youth-oriented. This is especially true of Lesley Gore Sings Of Mixed-Up Hearts, her second LP. It features 95% new material, culled from some of the hottest songwriting teams of the day: Goffin and King, Shayne and Lewis, Madara and White, and of course, Raleigh and Barkan. This productive album date yields a bumper crop of gorgeously-produced sides.

Jones and Ogermann charter a Latin-American cruise for La Milonguita that takes her to the lands of cha-cha-chá(""Fools Rush In"), pasodoble("Time To Go") and bossa nova (the sublime "That's The Way The Ball Bounces") before landing her back in tango territory(the exciting "Run, Bobby, Run"). Everything recorded today is suitable for inclusion on the new LP, but Mercury's A & R executives evidently hear one cha-cha too many in the proposed track line-up. Edna Lewis's swaggering "You Name It, He's Got It!" will be saved for the next album, while her wistful "After He Takes Me Home" will remain unissued for the next 31 years.

One song they didn't dare consign to obscurity was the session's sole waltz-time number, "You Don't Own Me." Legend has it that its composers, Johnny Madara and David White, briefly became Lesley Gore stalkers! Convinced that she was the best artist to record their latest collaboration, they resolved to play it for her by any means necessary. The pair eventually cornered Lesley at Grossinger's Hotel, and reportedly had to chase her into a poolside cabaña before she'd consent to listen to their tune.

Little did they know how ready the Teen Tango Queen was for what they had to offer. She saw in "You Don't Own Me" a vehicle for distancing herself from superficial fare like "It's My Party"; its strident message was anything but disposable. Explaining her decision to record it decades later, she'd be given to understatement: "This was a song that allowed me a little bit more freedom, vocally", she said. The vocal she cut was about freedom, all right! The freedom of a young woman to control her own image and behavior. La Milonguita's voice bears down on the lyric like a flaming missile: Don't tell me what to do!/Don't tell me what to say!/And please, when I go out with you/Don't put me on display! Her bravura performance encapsulates the anger of every girl who's ever been objectified, patronized and/or bossed around by her boyfriend.

When this revolutionary track was paired on a single with Raleigh and Barkan's "Run, Bobby, Run", everyone involved knew they had a chart-topping record. "You Don't Own Me" actually fell one position short of #1 on Billboard's Hot 100, but for all intents and purposes, it did hit the top spot. It also became her signature tune in concert, and in subsequent years, the song would be recognized as an early feminist anthem. Its inclusion on Mixed-Up Hearts didn't translate into particularly brisk album sales, but it did contribute toward making that platter the best Lesley Gore album Mercury Records would ever release.

(Here's an interesting side note about "Young And Foolish", another great song off that album: Albert Hague, its co-writer, will become an actor and star in the 1980s TV series "Fame". That series, of course, was inspired by the successful movie of the same title, which lists Lesley's cousin Christopher as screenwriter, her brother Michael as music director, and Lesley herself as lyricist for two of the film's production numbers.)

"Queen Of The Rock 'n' Roll Tango" continues with Part Two.

02 May 2008

Lesley Gore (Part Two)

Lesley Gore 1963

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

8 January 1964
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
Tu T'En Vas/Time To Go

(Mark Barkan-René Nencioli-Ben Raleigh-Jacques Révaux)
Je Ne Sais Plus/You Don't Own Me

(Johnny Madara-René Nencioli-Jacques Révaux-David White)
Je N'Ose Pas!/Run, Bobby, Run

(Mark Barkan-Gérard Melet-Ben Raleigh)
Si Ton Coeur Le Desire/If That's The Way You Want It

(Raffles Bernet-Edna Lewis-Gloria Shayne)

In 1962, the year before Lesley Gore signed with Mercury Records, the company was purchased by the Dutch Philips label. This trans-national corporation immediately began the process of morphing into PolyGram Records, and in 1998, it would be swallowed up by the worldwide behemoth known as Universal Music. What this evolving business relationship means to Lesley Gore in 1964 is a chance to re-cut some of her material in French and German for overseas release. Actually, her French versions of "You Don't Own Me" and "Run, Bobby, Run" will also be issued in the United States on a unique (and highly collectable) French language novelty single. All four of these sides, which feature new vocals laid over the original backing tracks, will be released in France on extended play disc.

Lesley Gore in French

12 February 1964
Polydor Studios, Hamburg

Lesley Gore
Produced by Bert Kaempfert
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Peter Klemy
Goodbye, Tony/You Don't Own Me

(Guenther Loose-Johnny Madara-David White)
30984 Musikant/Time To Go
(Mark Barkan-Guenther Heigel-Ben Raleigh)

These overdubbed sides will be pressed up as Lesley's first German-language single. Klaus Ogermann has no doubt coached her in the fine points of Teutonic pronunciation! Vocals for both "Goodbye, Tony" and "Musikant" were cut in Hamburg, Germany, under lounge music icon Bert Kaempfert's supervision; the Teen Tango Queen was appearing in Europe around this time, and evidently had a recording session scheduled there for convenience.

4 March 1964
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
31161 That's The Way Boys Are (Mark Barkan-Ben Raleigh)
31162 Boys (Paul Anka)
31163 No Foolin', I'm Coolin' (Lesley Gore-Sydney Shaw)
321164 Don't Deny It! (Klaus Ogermann-Ben Raleigh)

The title track of Lesley's third Mercury album (properly titled Boys, Boys, Boys) is her most ambitious tango rocker to date. It's a fabulous, kaleidoscopic production with backing vocals, rhythm and melody all swirling into each other. La Milonguita presides over the maelstrom and sounds royally pissed off singing Paul Anka's stinging indictment of teenage boys' trifling ways!

Diva-style drama is also on display when the tempo slows for Raleigh and Ogermann's excellent "Don't Deny It!", a song that inexplicably fails to get a contemporary release. First heard in 1994 on a Bear Family box set compilation, its authorship is revealed here for the first time. Lesley's vocal conveys a compelling mix of melancholy and outrage on a tango performance worthy of the great milonguera, Libertad Lamarque.

However, this session is most noted for its inclusion of the singer's first self-penned recording. "No Foolin', I'm Coolin" has everything a Lesley Gore song should have: Melodrama aplenty, a brisk habanera rhythm, and a thoroughly annoyed, PMS-laced vocal. Here she proves herself capable of supplying her own repertoire with top notch material, and this is just the first example.

"No Foolin'" is strong enough to have been a single, and it might've been one, too, had Ben Raleigh and Mark Barkan not submitted "That's The Way Boys Are" for this date. Once Lesley had slipped a cocksure vocal over this toe-tapping rock-a-merengue, and Quincy Jones had underscored it with a robust male chorus, the commercial potential was obvious. That potential was fully realized when the single version bought her a fifth trip to Billboard's Top Twenty list during the Spring of '64.

28 March 1964
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
31207 I Don't Wanna Be A Loser (Mark Barkan-Ben Raleigh)
31208 It's Gotta Be You (Mark Barkan-Klaus Ogermann)
31209 Leave Me Alone! (Lesley Gore)
31210 Don't Call Me, I'll Call You (Johnny Madara-David White)

The bold habanera-pasodoble "It's Gotta Be You" is the standout of this session. It's the finest tango Lesley will ever wax, but this Barkan/Ogermann jewel will be assigned to the flipside of the brooding Rock ballad "I Don't Wanna Be A Loser". Though not without its merits, the latter song will chart lower and have a shorter chart life than any other Lesley Gore single to break Top Forty; in retrospect, it's clear that the sides should've been reversed.

The remaining masters from this date will fill out her Boys, Boys, Boys album. Madara and White's "Don't Call Me, I'll Call You" is the first of three forgettable follow-ups to "You Don't Own Me", none of which will rate release on 45. This one does distinguish itself with a provocative lyric, though: Why should I/Date just one guy/When I could date a few? Daring stuff for 1964. "Leave Me Alone!" is the Teen Tango Queen's second recorded composition, a rather paranoid response in song to the pressures of Pop stardom. It's hardly the equal of "No Foolin', I'm Coolin'", but La Milonguita's outraged vocal, bolstered by ballistic handclappings and punchy horns makes for one of her most driving tangos.

17 June 1964
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
So Sind Die Boys Alle/That's The Way Boys Are

(Mark Barkan-Hans Bradtke-Ben Raleigh)
Nur Dü Ganz Allein/It's Gotta Be You

(Mark Barkan-Jean Nicholas-Klaus Ogermann)

Quincy Jones tracks vocals for a follow-up German language single. Only the new version of "It's Gotta Be You" will actually be released in Germany.

early July 1964
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
32416 Look Of Love (Jeff Barry-Ellie Greenwich)
32417 Wonder Boy (Sid Wyche-Jim Steward, Jr.)
32418 Secret Love (Sammy Fain-Paul Francis Webster)
32419 Maybe I Know (Jeff Barry-Ellie Greenwich)

"I had been cutting demos of other people's songs for Lesley," songwriter Ellie Greenwich recalled in Alan Betrock's 1982 book Girl Groups: The Story Of A Sound. "When Lesley heard them, she asked who it was, and she liked them a lot . . . I was hired to do background (singing) on her recordings. Then we got friendly, and I wondered why I hadn't written anything for her."

Greenwich took the initiative and sat down at her piano to pound out a pair of instant classics for L'il Bits to cut at this session. Then-husband Jeff Barry later added some finishing touches to the songs. As she did on most Lesley Gore studio dates, Miss Ellie led her backing vocal group Les Girls on "Look Of Love" and "Maybe I Know". Fans who are only familiar with the jangling, Spectorized single version of the former song will find the slower, swinging album version a revelation; this is, in fact, the original recording. In the interest of bagging another Top Forty platter for Lesley before the end of 1964, Quincy Jones will speed up the master and add the Wall of Sound elements to his 45 RPM mix.

"Maybe I Know" needed no such embellishment to be chart-ready. Its aggravated-sounding lyric and boogaloo-style handclappings on the bridge packed more than enough teen appeal to crash radio station playlists. On its flipside lay a most deadly rock-a-tango from the pen of Brill Building vet Sid Wyche; the explosive push-me-pull-you rhythm of "Wonder Boy" inspires one of Lesley's most exasperated vocal readings ever, and it's a delight to hear. A few months from now, Lesley will film an early music video called a Scopitone, and choose this dynamic number to sing on camera.

Lesley Gore Scopitone

An exceptionally strong record date is capped off by her exuberant reading of Doris Day's "Secret Love", first heard in the 1953 Columbia picture Calamity Jane. Bolstered by Klaus Ogermann's stylish cha-cha arrangement and rousing background work from Les Girls, the Teen Tango Queen's giddy vocal gives Day's winsome ballad a whole new dimension. It's hard to believe "Secret Love" would remain unissued for almost three decades. This session might easily have yielded three hit singles instead of two, had Mercury executives been paying close enough attention.

mid-July 1964
A & R Recording, New York City
Lesley Gore

A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by Phil Ramone
Live And Learn

(Billy Carl-Johnny Madara-David White)
Sometimes I Wish I Were A Boy

(Steve Donroy-John Gluck, Jr.)
32576 Hey! Now (Sonny Gordon)
32577 I Died Inside (Lesley Gore)
32578 Movin' Away (Len Praverman)
32579 unreleased
32580 It's Just About That Time (Van McCoy)
Little Girl, Go Home

(Mann Curtis-Jeff Davis-Frank Hervé)
32582 Say Goodbye (Larry Marks)
32583 You've Come Back (Van McCoy)
32584 unreleased
32585 unreleased

This marathon session is the longest Lesley will ever log for the Mercury label. It produces nine releasable sides (all destined for her fourth album, Girl Talk) and three aborted numbers. The single that emerged from this date, "Hey! Now" is often described as a left turn into R & B-flavored Rock; sample the rhythm track, though, and you'll taste the unmistakable flavor of salsa mixed in with the Soul. "Hey! Now" is a funky cha-cha-chá. So, minus the funk, is its flipside, "Sometimes I Wish I Were A Boy".

L'il Bits loathed the latter number with a passion! She was offended by the lyrical premise, and wary of the song's pronounced novelty bent; however, Quincy Jones was amused by the subversive nature of this John Gluck, Jr. composition (the loaded lyrics carry more than a suggestion of homoeroticism) and he urged her to cut it. She did so under protest, her voice dripping with audible contempt! Obviously, "Q" wasn't the only person who dug gender-bender Pop, because "Sometimes" did almost as well on the charts as "Hey! Now". Neither song was very well-received, though, so Lesley's next single, "Look Of Love" would be a standard issue Habanera Rock record with no left turns incorporated.

Madara and White's "Live And Learn" has no left turns, either, but it might sound less lackluster if it did have them. This surprisingly flaccid recording pales in comparison to the heavily Spectorized remake the team will later wax with actress Joey Heatherton. Fortunately, "I Died Inside" comes across with a bit more fire. La Milonguita scores her third recorded composition with this pasodoble-styled tango rocker that turns on an abandonment theme; near the song's climax, she playfully drops the first names of producers Jeff Barry and Phil Spector into a list of past suitors.

The colorful cha-cha bounce of Len Praverman's "Movin' Away" could've translated into the hit "Hey! Now" wasn't; too bad Mercury Records didn't hear the potential. The label also ignored the strong commercial appeal of "You've Come Back", a superb tango ballad contributed by future Disco King Van McCoy. The melody wraps itself around Lesley like a warm fur stole, and she purrs inside it like a contented kitten; she and Quincy Jones surely must've high-fived each other after hearing the playback. "You've Come Back" is, without a doubt, the sexiest torch song in her catalog, a make-out tune par excellence, and what a great concert closer it would've made!

Lesley also shines on "It's Just About That Time", McCoy's sophisticated bossa nova re-write of Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Hearing her work on these gems makes you wish she'd cut an entire album of his tunes; ballads like "The Sweetest Feeling"(a hit for Jackie Wilson), "Abra Ka Dabra" (waxed by The Shirelles) and "When You're Young And In Love" (recorded by Ruby and The Romantics) would've fit her voice like a velvet glove. Two better-than-average Rock'n'Roll waltzes, "Say Goodbye" and the French import "Little Girl, Go Home", round out a grueling day of tracking that probably left the Teen Tango Queen with strained vocal chords.

late July 1964
Polydor Studios, Paris

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Klaus Ogermann
Engineered by JP Dupuy
Je Sais Qu'Un Jour/Maybe I Know

(Jeff Barry-Ellie Greenwich-André Salvet)
break in master numbers
C'Est Trop Tard/Live And Learn

(Johnny Madara-David White-Carl Vendôme)
32575 unreleased
32576 Eh! Non/Hey! Now

(Sonny Gordon-Johnny Reich)
break in master numbers
32583 Te Voilà/You've Come Back

(Van McCoy-Mya Simille)

On summer vacation, L'il Bits meets up with "Q" in the City of Light and waxes her second French EP. It includes a Gallic version of "You've Come Back."

late September 1964
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Quincy Jones Production
Arranged and Conducted by Werner Scharfenberger
*Arranged and Conducted by Johannes Fehring
Engineered by Phil Ramone
03 Hab Ich Das Verdient

(Fini Busch-Werner Scharfenberger)
04 Der Erste Tanz

(Fini Busch-Werner Scharfenberger)
05 Little Little Liebling (Charly Niessen)*
06 Sieben Girls

(Kurtz Feltz-Werner Scharfenberger)

This quartet of sides represents Mercury Records' most serious attempt at launching Lesley on a German Pop career. "Little Little Liebling" will be coupled with the previously recorded "Nur Dü Ganz Allein" on a single, while "Sieben Girls" b/w "Hab Ich Das Verdient" will be the follow-up. "Der Erste Tanz" won't see the light of day for 28 years.

While some of the rhythm patterns do sound vaguely Latin, polka sensibility permeates all four tracks. Neither 45 will sell enough copies to justify future endeavors of this type; besides, it's doubtful that the Teen Tango Queen enjoys singing such juvenile-sounding melodies. The background music was recorded in Münich between the 10th and 14th of September; Polydor's A & R chief Gerhard Mendelson supervised the sessions, which were probably held at DG Studios.

early December 1964
A & R Recording, New York City

Lesley Gore
A Shelby Singleton Production
Arranged and Conducted by Ray Stevens
Engineered by Phil Ramone
33707 Teen Years (Ray Stevens)
33708 I Just Don't Know If I Can (Lesley Gore-Carole Bayer Sager)
I Can't Get Him Out Of My Mind

(Tommy Boyce-Bobby Hart-Wes Farrell)
33710 When We Get There (Paul Anka-Bobby Gosh)
Sweet As Sugar

(Alexander Distel-Jack Fishman-Maurice Tézé)
33712 Wasn't Loving You Enough? (Paul Kaufman)
33713 Sixteen Candles (Luther Dixon-Allison Khent)
33714 I'm In Love Today (Michael Gore)
33715 Heart Of Town (Bobby Bloom-John Linde)

Quincy Jones has assumed the vice-presidency of Mercury Records, which leaves him less time to work in A & R. Accordingly, Shelby Singleton, Jr., the label's official A & R director, has begun scheduling Lesley Gore sessions. Lesley never establishes good working relations with the future producer of Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA", and that may explain why this first studio date with him is aborted.

Over the course of the next thirty years, masters for all nine songs captured at this session will be lost. The only one that obtains contemporary release is "I Just Don't Know If I Can", an angst-drenched rock-a-tango created by Lesley and her new friend, up-and-coming Screen Gems Music lyricist Carole Bayer Sager. (A prolific singer/songwriter, Carole will later count both Marvin Hamlisch and Burt Bacharach among her ex-husbands, and launch her own successful singing career.) While working on Lesley's 1966 album Lesley Gore Sings All About Love in October and November of '65, Singleton and arranger Alan Lorber will bathe the track in Spectorish orchestral overdubs and slap it on the back of her Top Fifty-charting remake of "Young Love".

"Queen Of The Rock 'n' Roll Tango" concludes with Part Three.

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)
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.