7

One Step Closer to a Dream

It was actually quite an exciting day today.

So, I’ve sung with my friend Hanna’s band twice now, and I’m performing with them for a third time on Saturday. I made a few song suggestions a few weeks ago,` and to my luck, she decided to include one of them in the set list, so for the first time ever, I will get a chance to publicly perform one of the best songs of all time, “Be My Baby.”

I showed her Leslie Grace’s bachata version, and she enjoyed it so much that she chose to adapt it for the band, and at tonight’s rehearsal, we sang it for the first time. The arrangement is a little different than what I initially thought it might sound like, but at least I know the words by heart. We’re also singing it in Spanish, so I have to learn that, but I have six whole days. We practiced my other songs, but spent the bulk of two hours (one just us, one with the whole band) working on getting “Be My Baby” down.

Read more about “Be My Baby” here, at this Classic Song post from awhile back.

I’m pretty darn excited.

Also exciting is another 6-continent day, so the customary hellos to: North America (USA and Canada), South America (Brazil), Europe (UK, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, and Croatia), Africa (South Africa), Asia (Philippines, India, and Cambodia), and Oceania (Australia and Tonga)!

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14

Classic Song Sunday is now Classic Song Saturday: “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

I realized that I couldn’t let October escape me without posting one of my favorite classic songs, the Goffin/King masterpiece “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

It was made famous by The Shirelles, who, in 1961, used it to become the first girl group to reach #1 on the Billboard Charts in the USA. Here is their beautiful performance of said song, in a rare clip from the 1960s. Check out the hairstyles and the big smiles!

This song is a classic because the lyrics are genderless, timeless, and unforgettable. It can be sped up or slowed down, like Carole King did on her legendary album Tapestry. Plain and simple, very few songs can beat it.

Check out Leslie Grace‘s bachata remix:

And this slightly up-tempo version by Linda Ronstadt:

And, as a bonus, a music video I appeared in as a backup dancer, with my ballroom friends Jameson and Emily. What do you think? See if you can find me, I’m the first guy on Olivia’s right when she enters, dancing with Emily (short-ish girl with long brown hair).

 

1

Classic Song Sunday: “Be My Baby”

Boom. Ba Boom. TSS.

Boom. Ba Boom. TSS.

Anyone who knows pop music can instantly identify this song just by the opening percussion. Whether you’re a fan of the Ronettes from way back, or have seen Dirty Dancing, you’ve heard “Be My Baby.” 

Written by Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich, and Jeff Barry in 1963 and released by the Ronettes in 1964, “Be My Baby” has been called “one of the best tracks of all time” by everyone from Brian Wilson to Time magazine. The tough, punchy percussion, combined with Ronnie’s sultry vocals, awesome lyrics and a catchy chorus, make this song a timeless hit. The only thing that could have made it better was the song’s backup vocalists; for some reason, Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley, the actual Ronettes, were left out, and apparently Cher and Darlene Love are among the voices on the track going “be my, be my baby.”

Hear the actual Ronettes sing it here:

There are a few covers out there, but the only one that I think is notable is Leslie Grace‘s Spanish-infused bachata remix.

And as a bonus, here’s Ronnie performing it in 2015.

72 years old.

And still utterly fabulous.

Be my baby, Ronnie Spector.

13

Masterpiece YouTube: “Tell Him,” The Exciters

Time for a cleanse, and what better way to get my thoughts back on track than with a Masterpiece YouTube. Only this one is a little bit different; it’s actually so bad that it’s a masterpiece. It’s like a masterpiece of banality.

That’s So Jacob Presents

Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 18: “Tell Him,” The Exciters, 1963.

Ever since I finished reading the book Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound by Alan Betrock, I’ve been playing “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “Be My Baby” in my head. But one of the most forgotten gems of the 1960s girl group scene is none other than “Tell Him,” by The Exciters, featuring lead singer Brenda Reid.

On the surface, this is probably one of the most banal, boring, and unfortunate music videos of all time, set to the tune of one of the best songs of all time. Seriously, there is so much more they could have done. As in, literally, anything. This entire video can be summed up in one sentence: some people went to the zoo and sang to the animals. But since this is Masterpiece YouTube, let’s break it down. Keep in mind that this “music video” was made way before the advent of Final Cut Pro or iMovie or even the Internet.

We open on a bear. Aww, yay, a nature video! Wait…not so fast. The camera then zooms out to show the Exciters singing to said bear, wearing fancy red dresses and suits, looking terribly out of place for a day trip to the zoo. Then we go back to the bear, who listens for about a half second before walking away, because he is a bear and cannot understand the concepts of love or music or the English language. The camera goes back to the singers, and then to the bear, who appears to clap along, but then at 0:36 is all, “…Did you not get the memo yet? I’m a bear. A BEAR. I still do not understand what you are doing with your hands and your mouths. Forget it, crazy humans. Bye.”

Bear walks away.

Brenda and her crew head over to the lions’ den, and you can actually see the lion in the background running out of the shot, as if to say, “no way I’m going to be in this dumb video, bye.” Then the camera zooms in on him. (LION: “What did I just tell you people?”) Then he has a change of heart and goes back into the frame, following Brenda, as we cut to some swans, who are more interested in some food in the water than the talented lady singing near them.

Then comes the weird part. I’m talking, super weird, like Three Men and a Baby weird. The camera zooms in on Brenda, but there is someone in a white dress, who may or may not be a ghostly spectre just standing there. Stock still, quiet, and probably unaware that he/she is being filmed. Seriously, you couldn’t have chosen another angle or edited the person out? What was the budget, $7.50 and some Fruit Roll-Ups?

Swans? Still eating.

And now, the really weird part, and the kind of dizzying one. The Exciters have now gotten on one of those turntable thingies you find on playgrounds, and finish the song while in a slow revolve, with Brenda’s eyes following the camera when she comes back around to it.

So, there you have it. Weirdest one-hit wonder music video ever. Kind of a shame, too, because the Exciters were really good, especially Brenda. Speaking of Brenda, when I first saw this video on YouTube awhile back, someone commented saying something like “wow, this is really good, whatever happened to the lead singer?” and someone named “breid1976” or something responded “thanks for the compliment…that was me, my name is Brenda Reid, I’m a mother and grandmother now, and I’m still singing…glad you enjoyed it…” That version of the video has been taken down, and the comment along with it (I looked, and could not find it). No word on whether that YouTube user actually was Brenda Reid or not, but it’s quite possible; as far as I know, she is still alive and well at age 70. It also seems like something she’d do; I imagine her as being this sweet old lady who has a garden and goes to church every Sunday and also happens to have been one of the best forgotten voices of the 1960s. She is on Facebook, and I friended her; seeing that her wall posts are a lot of praise from random fans, I’m hoping that she’ll accept my request and we can become pals, like I’ve done with Julie Brown and Mink Stole, both of whom I’ve written to and gotten responses from.

And now, to bed, for some light-ish reading.

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube was brought to you by Thin Mints. Thin Mints: it doesn’t matter how many calories there are per serving; go ahead and eat the entire box yourself, because you deserve it. Find yourself a Girl Scout and buy some Thin Mints today!

11

Hey-La, Hey-La, The Girls are Back

Put another notch in my book belt, because Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound by Alan Betrock is officially in the books, as of today.

I don’t know if it really counts as having read a real books, since it’s less than 200 pages and includes pictures on almost every page, but it’s a great journey through the nostalgia of the girl group sound. The book goes through the major groups, like the Ronettes, the Shirelles, and the Supremes, but also some lesser known ones like the Exciters, the Shangri-Las, the Dixie Cups, and the Angels. There’s also a corresponding documentary you can watch on YouTube that gives you the full story (well, most of it), including interviews with some of the people of the era, including the late great Ellie Greenwich, the supremest of the Supremes Mary Wilson, the lovely Darlene Love, and the rebel queen of rock-and-roll, Ronnie Spector herself. Nostalgia everywhere you turn.

“But Jacob,” you might say, “you weren’t alive in the 60s and 70s, when Ronnie Spector was teasing her hair and Murray the K was on the air.”

I beg to differ.

Even though I was born in the 1980s and grew up in the 90s and 00s, I didn’t embrace the music of the times until high school. Some of my most cherished memories are from car rides to school, to the mall, or to the doctor, singing along with Aretha or Diana on the radio. I grew up listening to the Supremes, the Shirelles, and Martha and the Vandellas. Most kids like to sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” or at least a catchy, pervasive pop earworm – from my generation, it was songs like “One of Us,” “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and “Ironic.” The first song I knew all the words to, however, was “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and I would sing it at every opportunity. In the Napster era (RIP), the first song I ever downloaded was “Respect,” by Aretha Franklin, which is kind of ironic.

Even if you didn’t grow up in the 1960s, there’s no denying that these songs are arguably the best music America has ever offered the world. The lyrics are fun, if a little dark at times, but always break the ice. Plus, their wide vocal range makes them great karaoke choices, or for a cappella groups. Everything about them is timeless, and if you were to repackage them by a popular artist of today, they’d be just as popular.

With that said, here are my top five favorite girl group songs, some of which might have future entries decided to them:

5. The Dixie Cups, “Iko Iko”

4. The Chantels, “Maybe”

3. The Angels, “My Boyfriend’s Back”

2. The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”

1. The Shirelles, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

And if you don’t want to watch the documentary I linked above, here are the two most important moments.


This entry is dedicated to one of the all-time greatest teen queens, who unfortunately passed away earlier today at the age of 68. She brought us “It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and her own version of “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

Ladies and gentlemen, a moment of silence…

LESLEY GORE (1946-2015)