Girl Groups No: 9 Darlene Love - Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts / Today I met the Boy I


Merry Christmas!

Back in 1987, I was tasked with putting on the Crystals in the newly opened Rocket Theatre in Islington, a venue that was still trying to establish itself. It was the first gig I had ever done and I knew very little about the Crystals except that they had recorded Da Doo Ron Ron and "And then he kissed me" some 25 years before. In my inexperience I completely failed to adequately market what I now know was an eminently marketable gig. On the night they drew an audience of about 150 in a venue which held over 1000, with a five man pick-up band that included ex-Kink Mick Avery, hardly enough, even with modern synthesisers, to do create to the famed "wall of sound".

The Crystals were two middle aged women and one younger woman of about 20 and they were terrific: they were true pro's and when they sang, they were well rehearsed and such great singers with such great voices the small crowd went absolutely wild as they ran through not only all their own hits, but those of the Ronettes, Bob E Soxx and the Blue Jeans and the Shirelles as well.. Afterwards I went downstairs to the rather shabby dressing room, knocked on the door and was confronted by the two senior singers, who were apologetic about the show. I told them they were wonderful, and had taken the Rocket by storm, said I'd never seen anything as good. They looked at me pityingly, realised that I was in earnest - not just saying it - and one of them said "you're a sweet little darling, it's nice of you to say that" and then leaned forward and kissed me on the cheek. The other then kissed me on the other cheek with a "thanks honey", before they went back to change and then be driven off into the night to their hotel.

The first one was Darlene Love, the second Lala Brooks and the younger one was Lala's niece.

As a result of this concert I began collecting the Phil Spector girl group records, and within a year I realised I had been kissed by one of the greatest female singers of all time.

Back in 1962-5, there were definitely 2 different line-ups of the Crystals, and all-told three different lead singers. But the main ones were Lala Brooks (De Doo Ron Ron Ron, And then he kissed me, Uptown) and Darlene Love (He's a Rebel, He's Sure the Boy I Love). If the Crystals were in New York where they came from, or on tour, and a new song became available, rather than shipping them over to the studio in LA, Spector would record the world's all-time greatest backing group, the Blossoms, featuring Darlene Love. So, unwittingly, I had a unique Crystals line-up on my hands, with both of their greatest lead singers in it.

Darlene Love was also the lead singer of another Spector girl group, Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans, who had a trio of hits circa 1963. Technically it wasn't a girl group as Bob B Soxx was a man and they were two women and him, but the sound and ideology is definitely girl group and Bob B only supplies a kind of base doo wop rhythm section as the girls do all the singing. Check out the wonderful "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts?"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icHDmLnbQJY

On this the "Wrecking Crew" are performing at top notch, with Leon Russell keeping up a kind of up-tempo bar room honky tonk for the whole track as Hal Blaine’s drums power the song along, but still the effortless yet strong soulful vocal runs the show, turning an ordinary song into a treasure.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zQ_xCX6TA4

Similarly the U.S. hit singles released under Darlene Love's own name are essentially girl group records also: the exuberant "Wait till my Bobby Gets Home" and the wonderfully tender "Today I met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry".

….he smiled at me and gee the music started playing

"here comes the bride" when he walked through the door

Simple yet romantic and then….it takes off:

When we kissed I felt a sweet sensation

This time it wasn't just MY IMAGINATION

Before she's just imagined that kissing was thrilling, but this time it really is!

And then the fabulous sax solo (with handclaps and xylophone) and as the song progresses you realise what a great singer she is, with subtle emphasis embroidering every line.

Then:

When we kissed I felt a sweet sensation

This time it wasn't just MY IMAGINA-A-TION.

Two years down the line (say) they're married, it's Christmas and he's away on business. And she's missing him.

Some people say Slade made the best Christmas single of all time, some the Pogues, some even Bing Crosby. But they don't know nothin'! In November 1963 Phil Spector released the album "A Christmas Gift for You" featuring all the artists currently recording on his Phillies label. His idea was to actually record traditional Christmas songs plus some new ones as rock and roll. On this record, he effectively invented the modern pop Christmas song. The world wasn't ready for it and it took the Beatles to buy it and re-release it nearly ten years later to garner it the respect it has always deserved. It feels like Christmas, you nowadays hear it everywhere at Christmas and it never palls and no-one has even got close to bettering it.

And it's only fitting that toward the end of side two, there is quite literally the climax of the record and what was release as a single (and making it without doubt the best Christmas single of all time) Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."

It isn't the last track on the album, because Spector wants you all to calm down otherwise you'll never get to sleep on Christmas Eve (or get to church!) It's the wrecking crew at their finest, it's Spector at his finest, and above all it's Darlene Love at her finest. But most of all it's a Christmas song about love and passion (and how many of those are there when you think about it?). Turn up the volume and let's go!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV8x7H3DD8Y

How many songs have you ever heard where the first note (with church bells) sends shivers up your spine and we've hardly started?

And then you get more shivers when she just sings

"the snow's coming down"

By the time we get to the first

"Baby Please Come Home" you can hardly move for ecstasy, and we've still got miles to go - how on earth will we survive?

By the time the sax solo finishes you know that this is the Wrecking Crew's finest Hour (Be My Baby notwithstanding), this is the real wall of sound, and to top it you've got Darlene Love at her best and it's going to be so good you just don't know how you'll get through it, but you do….

And I remember when you were here

And all the fun we had last year

And then we're there

….(please) ple-ease (please) ple-ease (please) PLEASE (please) PLEASE please PLEASE please PLEASE please

BABY PLEASE COME HOME

BABY PLEASE COME HOME

BABY PLEASE COME HOME

BABY PLEASE COME HOME

Oh yeah yeah yeah…….

And we're left exhausted like half-drowned sailors swept up on the beach by some mighty wave. Climactic or what?

It's typical of the sensuous side of Spector that the love and passion for her man is deliberately portrayed in the music, but that is the nature of true passion isn't it? Where love and lust collide as she thinks longingly of her absent lover?

I certainly feel like that cliché Hollywood cigarette now, even though I've given up.