He’s A Rebel by The Crystals

August 18, 2014

 

Halloween was over and so was the two week run at the top of the charts by Bobby “Boris Pickett’s hit “Monster Mash.” It was replaced by “He’s a Rebel” by The Crystals, but the story was not as simple as that. The group consisted of Dee Kennibrew, Barbara Alston, Patricia Wright, LaLa Brooks, and Mary Thomas, but not one of them sang a note on their biggest hit.

Enter Phil Spector. The Crystals were an important part of his wall of sound and one of the more commercially successful groups signed to his Phillies Label. During 1961 and 1962 they produced the hits “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” and “Uptown.”

Enter Gene Pitney. Today he is best remembered for his Rock And Roll Hall of Fame singing career, but during the early 1960s he composed a number of songs that became big hits for other artists including “Rubber Ball” by Bobby Vee, “Hello Mary Lou” for Ricky Nelson, and the subject of this article, “He’s a Rebel.” The irony was Gene Pitney never had a number one song in the United States. His highest charting single was the number two “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” which was kept from the top position by you guessed it, “He’s a Rebel.”

 Enter Phil Spector. He loved the song and thought it would be perfect for The Crystals. The problem was Vikki Carr was planning to release the song and Spector wanted to issue The Crystals version first. The real problem was he was on the west coast and The Crystals were back east.

Enter The Blossoms. They were a vocal group formed during the late 1950s. They had a number of personnel changes and by 1962 Darlene Love had emerged as the lead singer. Spector hired Love to sing the lead vocal on “He’s a Rebel” and another song, “He’s Sure The Boy I Love,” and two others Blossoms, Fanita James and Gracia Nitzsche, to provide the backing vocals. Needless to say, the original Crystals were not amused. Neither were The Blossoms for that matter, as after years of struggle, their first hit was attributed to another group. On the other hand, Phil Specter was very happy.

If you want a crash course in the girl sound of the pre-Beatles era, then the two and a half minute “He’s a Rebel” is the song to turn too. It was a Spector song that did not have strings. Instead, saxophonist Steve Douglas and pianist Al De Lory provided the memorable sounds. It was Love’s voice, however, that provided the catchy song with its most important element. It was a voice that would ultimately lead to her induction into The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

The actual performers may have been a mystery at the time, but on November 3, 1962 it reached number one on the BILLBOARD Magazine Hot 100, where it remained for two weeks. .


He’s A Rebel 45 by The Crystals

November 6, 2012

Halloween was over and so was the two week run at the top of the charts by Bobby “Boris Pickett’s hit “Monster Mash.” It was replaced by “He’s a Rebel” by The Crystals but the story was not as simple as that. The group consisted of Dee Kennibrew, Barbara Alston, Patricia Wright, LaLa Brooks, and Mary Thomas but not one of them sang a note on their biggest hit.
Enter Phil Spector. The Crystals were an important part of his wall of sound and one of the more commercially successful groups signed to his Phillies Label. During 1961 and 1962 they produced the hits “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” and “Uptown.”

Enter Gene Pitney. Today he is best remembered for his Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame singing career but during the early sixties he composed a number of songs that became big hits for other artists including “Rubber Ball” by Bobby Vee, “Hello Mary Lou” for Ricky Nelson, and the subject of this article, “He’s a Rebel.” The irony was Gene Pitney never had a number one song in the United States. His highest charting single was the number two “Only Love Can Break a Heart” which was kept from the top position by you guessed it, “He’s A Rebel.”

Enter Phil Spector. He loved the song and thought it would be perfect for The Crystals. The problem was Vikki Carr was planning to release the song and Spector wanted to issue The Crystals version first. The real problem was he was on the west coast and The Crystals were back east.

Enter The Blossoms. They were a vocal group formed during the late 1950s. They had a number of personnel changes and by 1962 Darlene Love had emerged as the lead singer. Spector hired Love to sing the lead vocal on “He’s a Rebel” and another song, “He’s Sure The Boy I Love,” and two others Blossoms, Fanita James and Gracia Nitzsche, to provide the backing vocals. Needless to say, the original Crystals were not amused. Neither were The Blossoms for that matter as after years of struggle, their first hit was attributed to another group. On the other hand, Phil Specter was very happy.

If you want a crash course in the girl sound of the pre-Beatles era, then the two and a half minute “He’s a Rebel” is the song to turn too. It was a Spector song that did not have strings. Instead, saxophonist Steve Douglas and pianist Al De Lory provided the memorable sounds. It was Love’s voice, however, that provided the catchy song with its most important element. It was a voice that would ultimately lead to her induction in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame during 2011.

The actual performers may have been a mystery at the time but 50 years ago this week, “He’s a Rebel” ruled the music world.


Then He Kissed Me 45 by The Crystals

June 28, 2012

Phil Spector used two completely different groups as The Crystals and three lead singers, each of whom provided the lead vocal on some of their big hits.

It was Delores “La La” Brooks who was at the lead vocal helm of “Then He Kissed Me.” Released during the summer of 1963, it reached number six on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart in the United States and number two in the U.K. ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE ranked it as one of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

Written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, it was almost like a movie in under three minutes. It was about the kiss to the marriage and is still a tale worth hearing.


Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) 45 by Darlene Love

May 6, 2012

Darlene Love was an important cog in the Phil Spector wall of sound. She recorded under he own name, as The Crystals, and Bobb B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans.

She had big hits in all three incarnations but her greatest performance may have been “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” which did not chart. It was one of the best examples of Phil Spector’s approach as it contained horns, strings, overdubbing, and most importantly her voice.

She and Phil Spector were not on the best of terms when they parted ways but today she is a member of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.


Da Doo Ron Ron 45 by The Crystals

May 4, 2012

Phil Spector created his Wall Of Sound during the 1960s using dozens of msuicians, excellent songwriting, and cutting edge recording techniques. It also helped that he had such artists as The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers, and The Crystals on his roster.

The Crystals were formed during 1961 and in 1962 La La Brooks replaced Merna Girard as the lead singer, which set the stage for one of the memorable songs of the pre-Beatles era. Note: every once in a while Spector used The Blossoms with Darlene Love as the Crystals.

“Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)” with Brooks providing the lead vocal was perfect for AM singles radio as the lyrics were sinple and the melody just stayed with you. While the words were simple, it was really an ode to teen desire.

The song first reached the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart April 27, 1963. Before it was done, it had peaked at number three. It also reached number five in the U.K. Teen idol Shaun Cassidy took it all the way to number one in 1977.

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE named The Crystals version as the 114th Greatest Song Of All Time.


The Sound Of Love: The Very Best Of Darlene Love

March 10, 2011

March 14, 2011 will be an important day in the life of Darlene Love: she will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Love is best remembered for being a part of Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound. She recorded with the Crystals, as a member of Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans, and as a solo artist. It all added up to one of the more impressive catalogues of the early 1960’s pre-Beatles era.

Sony Legacy, in conjunction with Phil Spector Records, has just released a series of re-issue CDs in commemoration of the 50th
anniversary of the founding of Spector’s Phillies Label. Albums by The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love, and a greatest hits compilation album are all being issued.

The Sound Of Love: The Very Best Of Darlene Love is a 17-track compilation containing most of the big hits of her early career, plus a few rare songs for good measure.

Darlene Love began her career as a member of The Blossoms during the late 1950’s. She would stay with the group until 1974. The original Crystals were based in New York City, while Phil Spector was located in California. He hired the West Coast-based Blossoms to fill in on a couple of occasions and they produced, with Darlene Love’s lead vocal, the number one hit “He’s A Rebel,” plus the top 15 single “He’s Sure The Boy I Love.”

She also created a number of memorable solo songs for the label. “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Going To Marry,” “Wait Til’ My Bobby Gets Home,” and “A Fine Fine Boy” all reached the United States singles charts.

Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans was a studio trio put together by Phil Spector. Darlene Love, fellow Blossom Fanita James, plus singer Bobby Sheen produced several excellent single releases together. “Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Heart” and “Not Too Young To Get Married” both made the American charts. The big omission from the album was the group’s biggest hit “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah.”

It is nice to have three songs by The Blossoms included. “No Other Love,” “Lord If You’re A Woman,” and “That’s When The Tears Start” are all difficult to find and are a nice addition to this compilation.

Darlene Love continues to record and perform down to the present day, but it was these songs that brought her the greatest fame. They are a part of the foundation of early rock ‘n’ roll and are essential in the evolution of American music.


Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best Of The Crystals

February 25, 2011

The Sony Music Company has just reissued a number of releases from the Phil Spector catalogue. Albums by Darlene Love, The Ronettes, the famous Phil Spector Christmas album, a best of compilation, and the subject of this review, The Crystals, have all been assembled and remastered from the original tapes.

The Crystals were one of the legendary girl groups in music history despite their short career, 1961-1964, and the different line-ups that recorded under the group name.

The original Crystals were signed to Phil Spector’s Phillies label during 1961 and became a part of his famous Wall Of Sound. Barbara Alston, Mary Thomas, Delores Kenniebrew, Patsy Wright, and Mema Girard formed the group in Brooklyn where they came to the attention of Spector. They quickly produced two top 20 hits, “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” and “Uptown.”

Meanwhile in California, The Blossoms with Darlene Love also came to the attention of Phil Spector. When it became inconvenient to bring The Crystals to California for a recording session, he used The Blossoms to fill in. The result was the number one hit “He’s A Rebel” and “He’s Sure The Boy I’m Gonna Marry” with the lead vocal by Darlene Love. He continued to use The Blossoms as The Crystals as they recorded “Da Doo Ron Ron” with Love’s lead vocal. A contract dispute then arose between Love and Spector.

Meanwhile back in New York, La La Brooks had replaced Girard as a member of the original Crystals. Spector had her re-record the lead vocal for “Da Do Ron Ron” and it became a number three hit single. Everything worked out fine for Darlene Love as she kept performing with The Blossoms and as a solo artist, plus in a couple of weeks will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Meanwhile still in New York, the original Crystals, with another lead vocal by Brook, recorded the classic “Then He Kissed Me.”

Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best Of The Crystals gathers all of the previously mentioned tracks plus such gems as “All Grown Up,” “Little Boy,” ”I Wonder,” and “Please Hurt Me.” There is even a previously unreleased track, “Woman In Love (With You).” They even had the good sense to leave off what is probably the worst track in Spector history, “Let’s Do The Screw.”

Phil Spector produced some of the best music of the early 1960s. His recording techniques were innovative and the sound he produced has withstood the passage of time well. The Crystals were one of his better projects as they produced some of the best music of the pre-Beatles era. While they may have been primarily a singles oriented group, when you assemble their best material onto one disc, the results are excellent. Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best Of The Crystals is an essential early rock ‘n’ roll listening experience.

Article first published as Music Review: The Crystals – Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best Of The Crystals on Blogcritics.