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Denise - Randy and the Rainbows

As in the case of Louis, it has been my habit to sing the appropriate song to someone's name as a form of comic greeting - especially if I'm on the phone to them. It is always amazing to me how few people have never heard of what for me is a classic song that features their name. For instance I have never met a Laura under 40 who has heard of the 1960 classic "Tell Laura I Love Her"; few Sarah's have heard Bob Dylan "Sara" from his "Desire " album of 1976, and not many Emily's have heard Pink Floyd (and Syd Barrett's) psychedelic "See Emily Play", let alone the Simon and Garfunkel masterpiece "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her".

There are a whole lot more songs with women's names in the titles than men's. And these are more often eulogies of love to or about the subject than are the songs with men's names as titles. Does this reflect a patriarchal culture, a music industry dominated by male songwriters, performers and producers? Or does it point to the social values of the record buying public?

On a more positive note, women are more likely to have been named after a song, film or book than their male siblings. For example, without exception, most Clairs in their forties were named so because of the Gilbert O'Sullivan song, Laras' parents saw Doctor Zhivago and Rosies' were devotees of Laurie Lee and - notionally at least - cider, perhaps giving us clues to the character of the parents and therefore the children also. Though this latter maybe misleading as children often rebel against their parents' beliefs and, indeed, habits. It makes you wonder, though, what economic, political and psychological profile assumptions are being made about us by whoever is interpreting our Youtube and Spotify playlists.

Maybe this goes to show that the best way to escape your past is to change your name.

For me it's just an icebreaker which usually works, and a source of some fun, although I suspect a former colleague used to get a bit tired of my rendition of

Ba - ba - ba,

Ba - bar - bra Browning

every time she appeared. I'm not making any judgements about her, namewise, although she could be forgiven for any conclusions about me for springing the Beach Boys on her.

Denise is a 1963 Italian American doo-wop rocker that seems modern as much because the song went through a sex change when resurrected as Denis by Blondie in 1978 for their first UK hit. Interestingly, it didn't make the charges in the US where Randy and the Rainbows made the top ten ten fifteen years earlier. The only changes Blondie made were to make "sooby doo" into "dooby doo" and rearrange the lyric lines

"Oh, when we walk, it seems like paradise and when we talk, it always feels so nice"


"Oh when we walk, it always feels so nice and when we talk, it seems like paradise"

making more sense when presented by a punky, intelligent female New Yorker, and repeating the verses in French, something the band likes to do, presumably because it was "chic". Or maybe it helped sales in France.

Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry had her name changed at age 3 months from Angela Trimble when she was adopted. Angie Trimble sounds more conformist, though her birth mother was a concert pianist while her adoption parents were gift shop proprietors, which favours nature over nurture theorists on the surface at least.

"Denise", apart from a great tune, benefits from the urgent footstomper rhythm which makes you think of the racing hearts of the young Long Island innocents as they try to sweet talk her. Randy and the Rainbows were one-hit wonders, and this was it.

I like to think that the original Denise confounded the social norms of sixties America (as trumpeted by the heavily subliminal repetition of traditional family units in the accompanying Youtube video) by having a sex change and sweeping Ms Harry off her feet those 15 years later.

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