Classic Song Sunday: He’s A Rebel

It’s the last Sunday in October, so I figure I’d end it on a bang with the spunky “He’s A Rebel” for Classic Song Sunday. 

The twinkly piano notes at the beginning belie the hard notes and the gritty message the song relates. The roughness of the songs content directly echoes the roughness of the song’s history. It was written by Gene Pitney and produced by Phil Spector (you already know it’s bound to be a lulu right there). Originally recorded by The Blossoms, it was credited to The Crystals because…Phil Spector…something about the Crystals being on an East Coast tour at the time, while the Blossoms were in LA and ready to go. You can only imagine how shocked the Crystals were when hearing about their newest hit, which they didn’t even know existed. The song was added to the Crystals’ repertoire, but Barbara Alston couldn’t hit the notes, which led to a rearrangement of talent within the group and Alston’s relegation to background singer. And in a documentary, Darlene Love (singer of the no-no-no’s) gives a creepy history as to why those no’s are in there: it was because she was so frustrated with Spector and didn’t know what he wanted from her, and other pieces of drama. Have a listen.

Here’s a remake by British group Alisha’s Attic for the 1997 movie Bean. Not the most inspired, but has a little bit more of an ambient 80s-90s sound, not terrible but nothing like the original.

What I like the most about this song as that it’s so…unexpected. It just veers off into weird directions, and the phrasing shifts, the harmonies go in and out of each other, and it highlights the individual singers as well as the collective.

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