LESLEY GORE-GIRL TALK.
LESLEY GORE-GIRL TALK.
When Lesley Gore released Girl Talk in 1964, her career was at a crossroads. This was despite her being just eighteen. She’d burst onto the scene with It’s My Party in 1963. It reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts. This resulted in It’s My Party certified gold and being nominated for a Grammy Award. A year later, Lesley released Girl Talk, which was recently released by Ace Records. Girl Talk was Lesley’s fourth album. There was a problem though. Music was changing.
The British Invasion was a game-changer for artists like Lesley Gore. The clean-cut sounds of artists like Lesley and groups like the Beach Boys suddenly, seemed a lot less appealing. Groups like the Rolling Stones and to some extent, The Beatles, seemed to have an edge. They were seen as rebels. Especially, with the Rolling Stone. They were the musical equivalent of James Dean. Many people weren’t happy with these changes.
So when they read the sleeve-notes to Girl Talk they must have smiled. The sleeve-notes lamented the “twanging guitars, psychedelic sounds and moaning voices.” At least when Lesley sang, she was “singing in tune” and “pronouncing the lyrics of the song so they were understandable.” Lesley Gore, the all-American girl was some people believed, the future of music.
After all, her debut single sold a million copies. After that, guided by producer Quincy Jones, Lesley Gore released another five hit singles. Four of them reached the top ten in the US Billboard 100. However, with music changing, the commercial success Lesley Gore had enjoyed before Girl Talk could be a thing of the past. Was that the case?
Lesley Gore was just seventeen when Quincy Jones she met producer Quincy Jones. She was born in May 1946, into an affluent family who lived inTenafly, New Jersey. She attended the nearby Dwight School For Girls. By then, Lesley had been introduced to music by her parents. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Tito Puente was the soundtrack to Lesley’s childhood. Then when Lesley’s mother was advised to buy a piano by her interior designer, Lesley was hooked.
So the piano was moved to the den. Lesley and her brother spent much of their time playing the piano. Then, by the time Lesley was in Junior High School, she’d written her first song, Going Steady. Soon, Lesley was spending much of her free time writing and arranging songs. The next step for Lesley was joining her first group.
With one of her school friends, Lesley formed a band. They sang covers of The Shirelles’ singles. By then, Lesley had her own vocal coach. Not long after this, Lesley cut some demos. They were sent to members of Lesley’s family and some family friends. One of the demos found its way Irving Green, who just happened to be the President of Mercury Records.
Irving Green like what he heard. So he gave Quincy Jones a call. Quincy had just been appointed head of A&R at Mercury Records. Quincy, gathered up 350 demos and took them to the home of Lesley Gore. They headed into the den and worked their way through them. The demos were separated into three piles, yes, no and maybe. One of the maybes, was It’s My Party. By the end of their listening session, It’s My Party became their first choice. It became Lesley’s debut single.
Recorded at Bell Sound Studios, on 30th March 1963, It’s My Party was an instant success. Within a week, it was being played on the radio. Soon, it reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts. This resulted in It’s My Party certified gold and being nominated for a Grammy Award. Following the success of It’s My Party, Lesley released her debut album.
Released in June 1963, It’s My Party reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 200 charts. Lesley’s second single was Judy’s Turn To Cry, which reached number five in the US Billboard 100 and number ten in the US R&B Charts. After the success of Judy’s Turn To Cry, Lesley Gore looked like being a huge star.
Five months later, in October 1963, Lesley released her sophomore album Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts. It stalled at number 125 in the US Billboard 200. At least the singles She’s A Fool and You Don’t Own Me reached the top five in the US Billboard 100. Maybe this was just a temporary blip?
It wasn’t I Don’t Know Anymore which was released as a single between Lesley’s second and third album failed to chart. Boys, Boys, Boys’ Lesley’s third album only reached number 127 in the US Billboard 200. Things improved slightly.
The lead single from Boys, Boys, Boys was That’s The Way Boys Are. It reached just number twelve in the US Billboard 100. The next single didn’t fare well. I Don’t Wanna Be a Loser reached just number thirty-seven in the US Billboard 100. Lesley’s career seemed to have stalled.
Taking the blame was the recent British Invasion. Then there was the birth of psychedelia. This derailed the career of many AOR, MOR artists and pop singers. Suddenly, artists who enjoyed successful careers were struggling. Bobby Vee and Neil Sedaka suffered this fate. Would Lesley? That’s what I’ll tell you after I’ve told you about Girl Talk.
For Girl Talk, twelve tracks were chosen. This included the Lesley Gore penned I Died Inside, Sonny Gordon’s Hey Now, Larry Mark’s Say Goodbye and Len Praverman’s Movin’ Away. Van McCoy contributed You’ve Come Back and It’s Just About That Time, while Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich cowrote Look Of Love and Maybe I Know. Billy Carl, John Madara and David White wrote Live and Learn, Steve Donroy and James Glock’s Sometimes I Wish I Was A Boy and Jeffrey Davis and Curtis Mann’s Little Girl Go Home. The other track was James Stweart and Steve Wyche’s Wonder Boy. These twelve tracks became Girl Talk.
Just like Lesley’s three previous albums, Girl Talk was produced by Quincy Jones. By then, Lesley was in her first year at Sarah Lawrence College, in Yonkers. She was having to juggle her career and education. This wasn’t the only change in Lesley’s life. Her music was changing. She wanted to move away from the music she’d made her name with. It was too poppy. Lesley wanted to evolve as a singer. There is a hint of this on Girl Talk, which was released in October 1964.
On the release of Girl Talk in October 1964, it became Lesley Gore’s least successful album. Girl Talk stalled at number 146 in the US Billboard 200. Things improved with the lead single Maybe I Know. It reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 100. Hey Now then reached just number seventy-six in the US Billboard 100. The final single was a cover of The Look Of Love, which reached number twenty-seven in the US Billboard 100. For Lesley Gore, Quincy Jones and Mercury Records, the commercial failure of Girl Talk was a huge disappointment. It seemed the changes in music had derailed Lesley’s career. However, is Girl Talk an album that deserved to fare better?
Fifty years have passed since Lesley Gore released Girl Talk. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it’s an electric album that showcases Lesley’s versatility. Some of the tracks have been influenced by the girl groups of the early sixties. Other tracks see Lesley bring to life the heartache, heartbreak and angst in the lyrics
Opening Girl Talk is Hey Now, is the bluesy, soulful, Hey Now. Live And Learn features a rueful vocal and sees a heartbroken Lesley accompanied by cooing harmonies. The heartbreak continues on Say Goodbye. It’s a ballad full sadness and emotion. Here, Lesley’s wistful vocal is at the heart of this melodic track’s success.
Look of Love draws inspiration from early sixties girl groups. Indeed, there’s a real Phil Spector influence. Lesley’s dreamy, melancholy vocal is accompanied by sweeping harmonies. They give the track its early sixties girl group sound. The same can be said of Maybe I Know, a hook-laden track that epitomises the girl group sound. Sometimes I Wish I Were A Boy is a tale of teenage angst that, which Lesley brings to life. The same can be said of I Died Inside. It’s another tale of teenage angst, this time penned by Lesley, who for her tender years, is an accomplished songwriter.
It’s the ballads which provide some of the highlights of Girl Talk. Tender and needy describes Lesley’s vocal on You’ve Come Back. It’s another ballad, this time penned by Van McCoy. Her vocal is accompanied by a string drenched arrangement, before the arrangement reaches a dramatic crescendo. The result is one of Girl Talk’s highlights. Then there’s Little Girl Go Home, another ballad. Strings sweep adding a sense of melancholia to the lyrics. They come to life as Lesley delivers them. With the cooing harmonies and strings for company the drama builds and Lesley pleads “Little Girl Go Home.”
Wonder Boy immediately puts you in mind of Martha and The Vandellas. Best described as blue-eyed soul, hooks certainly aren’t in short supply. Soulful pop describes Movin’ Away, a tale of teenage romance. The floaty ballad It’s Just About That Time closes Girl Talk. It has a much more mature sound. It’s as if Lesley is about to shed her reputation as a teenage pop star. With a fusion of pop, jazz and AOR it’s a move towards what singers Dionne Warwick were releasing. It’s Just About That Time proved a fitting way to close Girl Talk, because the next time Lesley entered the studio, Quincy Jones wasn’t there.
No. Quincy was replaced by Shelby Singleton, who produced I just Don’t Know If I Can. This was a track that Lesley and Carole Bayer cowrote. It would’ve moved Lesley in another direction. Mercury Records didn’t think this was right for Lesley, so the track was shelved until 1966. Even then, it only was released as a B-Side. By then, Lesley’s career had stalled.
September 1965 saw Lesley release the followup to Girl Talk, 1965 My Town, My Guy and Me. Produced by Quincy Jones, it reached just number 120 in the US Billboard 200. Lesley Gore Sings All About Love was then released in January 1966, but failed to chart. After that California Nights, released in February 1967 was Lesley’s only album to chart. It reached number 167 in the US Billboard 200 chart. Its followup Magic Colors was cancelled. Following the cancellation of Magic Colors, Lesley Gore only released another four albums between 1972 and 2005. None of them charted. However, who knows whether Lesley Gore’s career would’ve been more successful if she’d changed direction in 1966.
Maybe if Lesley had changed direction in 1966, she’d have enjoyed more commercial success than she did? Sadly, we’ll never know. What we do know is that Lesley was a talented singer and songwriter. Sadly, her career was somewhat derailed by the British Invasion. Having burst onto the scene with It’s My Party in 1963, Lesley Gore released Girl Talk in 1964, which was recently rereleased by Ace Records.
Ace Records newly rereleased version of Lesley Gore’s Girl Talk features thirteen bonus tracks. Some of these tracks haven’t been released on CD before. This includes nine tracks from Lesley’s 1965 album My Town, My Girl and Me. That’s another reason why for fans of Lesley Gore, the newly rereleased version of Girl Talk will be a must have. The nine tracks from My Town, My Girl and Me shows how Lesley’s music had evolved since My Girl. On My Girl, Lesley was just about to shed her teen idol image and mature as a singer and songwriter. That’s apparent from Girl Talk, which marked the closing of one chapter in the Lesley Gore story and the beginning of a new chapter.
LESLEY GORE-GIRL TALK.