The Best Of The Girl Groups, Volume 1, various artists, Rhino Records, 1990
I have, of late, been running back over some rock material that formed my coming of age listening music (on that ubiquitous, and very personal, iPod, oops, battery-driven transistor radio that kept those snooping parents out in the dark, clueless, and just fine, agreed), and that of my generation, the generation of ’68. Naturally one had to pay homage to the blues influences from the likes of Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, and Big Joe Turner. And, of course, the rockabilly influences from Elvis, Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson, and Jerry Lee Lewis on. Additionally, I have spent some time on the male side of the doo wop be-bop Saturday night led by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers on Why Do Fools Fall In Love? (good question, right). I note that I have not done much with the female side of the doo wop night, the great ‘girl’ groups that had their heyday in the late 1950s and early 1960s before the British invasion, among other things, changed our tastes in popular music. I make some amends for that omission here.
One problem with the girl groups for a guy, me, a serious rock guy, me, is that the lyrics for many of the girl group songs, frankly, did not “speak to me.” After all how much empathy can a young ragamuffin of boy brought up on the wrong side of the tracks like this writer have for a girl who breaks up with her boyfriend, a motorcycle guy, a sensitive motorcycle guy, on her parents’ demand because of his lower class upbringing as the lyrics in the Shangri-Las’ Leader of the Pack attest to. Except that she should have stuck with her guy through thick and thin, and maybe, just maybe, he would not have skidded off that rainy road and gone to Harley heaven so young. And, maybe, just maybe, they could be in that little white house with the picket fence hosting the grandkids today.
Try this, the lyrics about some guy, some sensitive, shy, good-looking guy with the wavy hair who all the girls are going crazy over but who the singer is going make her very own in boy and girl love battle in the Cliftons’ He’s So Fine when this writer was nothing but a girl reject, mainly. Or how about this one, the one where the love bugs are going to be married and really get that white house picket fence thing in the Dixie Cups’ Chapel Of Love for a guy who, again, more often than not didn’t even have steady girlfriend. I, kiss-less youth, won’t even get into the part of the anatomy that Betty Everett harps on in It’s In His Kiss. Or, finally, how could I possibly relate to the teen girl angst problem posed in the Shirelles Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Ya, how would I know if it was the real thing, or just a moment’s pleasure, and what that dreaded tomorrow they sing about will bring.
So you get the idea, this stuff could not “speak to me.” Now you understand, right? Ya, but also get this you had better get your do-lang, do-lang, your shoop, shoop, and your best be-bop bopped into that good night voice out and listen to, and sing along with, the lyrics here. This, fellow baby-boomers, was about our teen angst, teen alienation, teen love youth traumas and now, a distant now, this stuff sounds great.