Tag Archives: Ben E. King

Throwback Thursday – 1962

Some time in my teen years I feel in love with the girl group sound. My favorite was The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel.” The music and the vocals hooked me. The singer tells of how others don’t approve of the boy she loves as he’s a non-conformist, but he treats her well and that’s all that matters.

The story behind the record is as interesting as the record itself. The song was written by Gene Pitney, who had several hits of his own, including “Town Without Pity” and “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valence.” “He’s a Rebel” was slated to be the debut single for Vikki Carr, but when Spector heard Pitney’s demo he knew he wanted it for one of his acts, The Crystals.

He needed to record it quickly in order to challenge Carr’s version at the stores. The Crystals, however, were on the road in New York and unable to make the recording sessions in Los Angeles. No problem. Spector hired a local group called The Blossoms, led by Darlene Wright, to record the song. Wright was paid $3000 for the session. Spector released the record under the name The Crystals, as his label owned the name. The actual Crystals first learned of their new hit song when they heard it on the radio. It became their first #1 single, meaning The Crystals had to learn this song so they could perform it at their shows. The group’s lead singer, Barbara Alston, could not match Wright’s vocal performance, so fellow Crystal LaLa Brooks moved into the lead vocalist slot. Coincidentally, the week The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” was #1, Gene Pitney was #2 as a singer with “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” a song he didn’t write.

As “He’s a Rebel” was so successful, Spector needed to get a follow-up single out quickly. Again, he turned to The Blossoms to record “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” Wright, however, was angry that her name was not on “He’s a Rebel” and told Spector she would only do this song if she were singed to a recording agreement and was properly credited for her vocals on the track. Spector agreed, changing her name in the agreement to Darlene Love. He released “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” It was credited to The Crystals.

Spector used the money he made from “He’s a Rebel” to buy out his business partners in the Philles Records label. In addition to the financial settlement, Spector had to give his two ex-partners a share of the royalties of the next Philles single release, so Spector got the real Crystals into the studio and recorded “(Let’s Dance) The Screw,” a silly number clearly not intended to be a hit. A copy was sent to one of the ex-partners. No royalties were generated.

Tunes du Jour celebrates Throwback Thursday with twenty great hits from 1962, kicking off with “He’s a Rebel” by “The Crystals.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1961

From 1958 to 1960, Ben E. King was the lead singer of The Drifters, scoring hits with “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment” and “I Count the Tears.” He suggested to the group’s manager, George Treadwell, that they record the spiritual tune “Stand by Me Father,” but Treadwell turned him down. King also asked Treadwell for a greater share of the group’s royalties. Again, Treadwell turned him down. King said goodbye.

King left the group after recording just thirteen songs with them. He soon made the top ten as a solo act with 1961’s “Spanish Harlem.”

Around that time, King was working on a song based on “Stand by Me Father.” He had some lyrics and a melody. He finished the lyrics with his producer, Jerry Leiber. Leiber’s songwriting/production partner, Mike Stoller, added some chords behind the melody, as well as a bass line.

Per Leiber, it’s that last addition that makes Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” a classic. “The lyrics are good, King’s vocal is great. But Mike’s bass line pushed the song into the land of immortality. Believe me – it’s the bass line.”

“Stand By Me” kicks off this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, spotlighting hits from 1961.


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I Don’t Believe You, Bob Dylan. You’re A Liar!

“I didn’t really care what Lieber and Stoller thought of my songs. They didn’t like ‘em, but Doc Pomus did. That was all right that [Lieber and Stoller] didn’t like ‘em, because I never liked their songs either. ‘Yakety yak, don’t talk back.’ ‘Charlie Brown is a clown,’ ‘Baby I’m a hog for you.’ Novelty songs. They weren’t saying anything serious.”
– Bob Dylan, February 2015

“I don’t believe you. You’re a liar!”
– Bob Dylan to an audience member who called him “Judas,” May 1966
– Glenn Schwartz to Bob Dylan regarding his disdain for Lieber and Stoller, April 2015

Perhaps Dylan doesn’t like the comical songs Lieber and Stoller wrote for The Coasters (though I’m skeptical of that as well), but how can he honestly dismiss all their work as novelty songs? Their compositions are part of the Great American Songbook – Rock & Roll Edition. “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand by Me,” “On Broadway,” “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Is That All There Is?” These aren’t humorous songs. Okay, “Is That All There Is?” is pretty funny, though that wasn’t intentional.

I think Bob made that comment as he was miffed about Lieber and Stoller dismissing his work. That they didn’t get Dylan is folly on their part, but the duo’s work has stood the test of time.

Today is the birthday of the late great Jerry Lieber. Today’s playlist consists of twenty classics from the Lieber and Stoller songbook.

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To Friends

Yesterday was my friend Christoph’s 37th birthday. On Friday night a group of his friends and colleagues got together to honor the man. Sid Krofft of H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos and Land of the Lost fame and a client of Christoph emceed an evening of musical performances by Brian and Nikki of Silversun Pickups (Christoph and I worked with Nikki at Rhino Entertainment; he and Nikki became close friends), Chrysta Bell (who worked with David Lynch, another client of Christoph), Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 and Luna (Christoph and I worked on a Luna retrospective release while at Rhino) and Joey Altruda. Sid entertained us with stories of parties he attended with Christoph. Chrysta thanked Christoph for being so instrumental in her career.

After the performances we watched a short film. It opened with a black screen. A recording of Christoph played. He first mentioned the date of the recording, which was a couple of months ago, and then talked about what he wanted at his funeral – music and champagne, a celebration of his life. The remainder of the film consisted of images of Christoph, most of the time with friends, most of the time smiling.

When the film ended, we each took candles and flowers and walked from the Masonic Hall at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where this celebration of Christoph’s life took place, to the cemetery’s South Palms building, where Christoph’s urn is. Brain cancer took him last month.

His absence is deeply felt.

Christoph001Christoph Lonnie Balderrama-Buerger
1976 – 2014

Based on the Stephen King novella The Body, Stand By Me was a 1986 movie about a group of friends. The film took its name from Ben E. King’s 1961 smash hit.

Today is Ben E. King’s 76th birthday. Our playlist includes the best of his solo work and his work with the second incarnation of The Drifters.

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