SWEET THINGS FROM THE ELLIE GREENWICH AND JEFF BARRY SONGBOOK.
SWEET THINGS FROM THE ELLIE GREENWICH AND JEFF BARRY SONGBOOK.
Ever since it was built in 1931, The Brill Building was synonymous with the music industry. Its eleven floors housed music industry offices and recording studios. The Brill Building was also home to some of the greatest songwriting teams in musical history.
Especially during the fifties and sixties. Back then, everyone from Bacharach and David, Lieber and Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Gerry Goffin and Carole King called the Brill Building Home. They made their name at The Brill Building. So did Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry.
Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry first met in 1959, at a Thanksgiving Dinner. It was hosted by Ellie’s maternal cousin, who just happened to be married to Jeff’s cousin. Straight away, Ellie and Jeff realised they had something in common…music.
By 1959, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry were aspiring singers. They were also songwriters. However, Ellie and Jeff had enjoyed different degrees of success.
Jeff had already written a number one single in Britain and America, Tell Laura I Love Her. He and Ben Raleigh cowrote the teen-tragedy ballad. It was recorded by Ray Peterson in America, and Ricky Valance in Britain. Both versions reached number one. For the twenty-one year old songwriter, it would the first of many hits. Especially with Ellie Greenwich.
Ellie Greenwich was only nineteen when she met Jeff Barry. However, she had packed a lot of living into the previous two years. In 1957, she enrolled at Queens College, where she studied music. Later that year, Ellie wrote and released her debut single, Silly Isn’t It on RCA Records. However, Silly Isn’t It didn’t make the charts. Neither did the followup.
In 1958, Ellie released her sophomore single, Cha-Cha Charming. This caused controversy at Queens College. One of lecturers belittled Ellie’s for daring to release a pop single. Ellie wasn’t going to stand for that. So she transferred to Hofstra University. Ironically, Cha-Cha Charming wasn’t a commercial success. A year later, and Ellie decided to put her singing career on hold.
That’s when Ellie met Jeff. After that Thanksgiving Dinner, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry formed what would prove to one of the Brill Building’s most successful songwriting partnerships. So much so, that it’s taken Ace Records three compilations to celebrate the Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry songwriting partnership. The latest volume is Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook, which was recently released on Ace Records.
Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook features twenty-four tracks. It features tracks from Darlene Love, The Exciters, The Crystals, Dusty Springfield, Lesley Gore, The Shangri-Las, The Butterflys, The Ronettes, The Strangeloves, Wilson Pickett, Freddie Scott and Paley Brothers. Given the quality of music on Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook isn’t going to be easy.
Opening Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook is Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans’ Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts? Ellie, Tony Powers and Phil Spector cowrote Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts? It was arranged by Jack Nitzsche and produced by Phil Spector. Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts? was released on Phil Spector’s Philles Records, in March 1963, giving Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans a top forty hit. No wonder. Darlene Love’s lead vocal and harmonies play an important role. So, does Phil Spector’s innovative production style. He combines elements of doo wop, pop and soul to create a slick, poppy track that’s full of hooks.
By April 1963, Darlene Love had already featured on singles by the Crystals, Duane Eddy and on Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans’ top forty single Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts? However, still, Darlene hadn’t released her debut single. Her time came in April 1963. (Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry was chosen as Darlene’s debut sing. This was another Ellie Greenwich, Tony Powers and Phil Spector composition. It was arranged by Jack Nitzsche and produced by Phil Spector. On its release on London American Recordings, it gave Darlene a minor hit single. For Darlene, this soulful single was the start of a long and successful solo career.
The Crystals’ Then He Kissed Me typifies not just the early sixties girl group sound, but Phil Spector’s production style. However, Phil was more than a producer. He was the owner of a record label and a successful songwriter. He cowrote Then He Kissed Me with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. Jack Nitzsche was drafted in to arrange Then He Kissed Me. It featured La La Brooks’ debut as lead vocalist. She played her part in a genre classic. On its release in March 1963, Then He Kissed Me reached number six in the US Billboard 100. Since then, Then He Kissed Me is remembered as one of The Crystals’ finest moments, and one of Phil Spector’s best productions.
Although the Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry partnership began as songwriters, it was inevitable that they would become producers. Other songwriting teams were doing so. However, by September 1964, Ellie and Jeff had formed their own group, The Raindrops. They released six singles and an album. The Raindrops’s final single was One More Tear, which reached number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 100. Tucked away on the B-Side was the hidden gem, Another Boy Like Mine. It was far too good to be a B-Side, and is a welcome addition to Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook.
The Shangri-Las feature twice on Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook. Their contributions are Leader Of The Pack and its B-Side, Heaven Only Knows. Leader Of The Pack was a teen-tragedy ballad Jeff and Ellie cowrote with Shadow Morton. It was produced by Shadow and Jeff. On its release, Leader Of The Pack reached number one in late 1964. Heaven Only Knows, the flip-side, was penned by Jeff and Ellie, and produced by Shadow Morton. It’s a vastly underrated track.For too long its lived in Leader Of The Pack’s shadow. That’s not surprising. Leader Of The Pack is a girl group classic, and a song that forever, will be synonymous with The Shangri-Las.
In early 1965, Lesley Gore was recording her album My Town, My Guy and Me. Ellie and Jeff penned What’s A Girl Supposed To Do with Lesley Gore in mind. Once the song was written, Lesley and her friends recorded a demo. The demo was submitted to Claus Ogerman, Lesley’s arranger. He and Lesley like the track. So it was included on My Town, My Guy and Me, which was produced by Quincy Jones. When the time came to record What’s A Girl Supposed To Do, Ellie and her friends were asked to add backing vocals. They play their part in making What’s A Girl Supposed To Do one of My Town, My Guy and Me’s highlights.
It’s fitting that there’s tracks from Ellie and Jeff on Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook. Ellie Contributes her 1965 single You Don’t Know. She cowrote the single with Jeff and Shadow Morton. Jeff and Shadow produced the single. They worked hard on the single. Eventually, it was completed. Great things were forecast for You Don’t Know. Sadly, it failed commercially. That was the case with Jeff’s single Our Love Can Be Saved. This was another Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry composition. It was produced by Jeff and released in 1965. Just like Ellie’s single, Our Love Can Be Saved failed commercially. After this, Jeff concentrated on his songwriting career.
After enjoying a successful songwriting partnership, a disagreement over Chapel Of Love lead to Ellie and Jeff not working with Phil Spector for a while. In 1966, they decided to put aside their differences. However, by then, Phil Spector was enjoying the same success. Girl groups were no longer fashionable. Despite this, one of the first songs Ellie, Jeff and Phil wrote, was recorded by The Ronettes. I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine was produced by Phil. The song but never released. Ellie Grenwich didn’t like the recording. So, it wasn’t released until 1976, when the song was released by Phil Spector on a compilation. Although not a Ronettes’ classic, it’s well worth including on Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich Songbook.
Freddie Scott’s Am I Grooving You was penned by Jeff and Bert Berns, who produced the track. It was released on the Shout label in 1967. Am I Grooving You is quite different from much of the music on Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook. It has a slow, smouldering, funky groove. The addition of gospel tinged harmonies are just the finishing touch to this irresistible fusion of soul, funk and gospel.
Mention Sugar Sugar, and most people think of The Archies, not Wilson Pickett. Sugar Sugar, which was penned by Jeff and Andy Kim, gave The Archies a hit worldwide in 1969. A year later, in 1970, Wilson Pickett covered Sugar Sugar. His cover was produced by Tom Dowd and released on Atlantic. Wilson Pickett delivers a gravelly, vampish, R&B version of Sugar Sugar, and in doing so, transforms the song.
Following the breakdown of Ellie and Jeff’s marriage, they decided to divorce. While Jeff’s career was on the up, Ellie’s career stalled. She signed to United Artists in 1966. Apart from a minor hit with I Want You To Be My Baby in 1967, it wasn’t the most successful period of Ellie’s career. So, she formed another songwriting and production partnership with Mike Rashkow. By 1970, Ellie was signed to Bell, a subsidiary of Atlantic. She was was all set to release What Good Is I Love You as a single. That was until Jerry Wexler of Atlantic heard the song.
Jerry Wexler felt What Good Is I Love You was perfect for Dusty Springfield. So, Ellie and Mike produced Dusty Springfield’s cover of their composition, What Good Is I Love You. On its release in January 1971, the single failed commercially. Given its undoubted quality, What Good Is I Love You could’ve rejuvenated Dusty’s career. However, by then Dusty’s career was on the slide. Chart success would continue to elude her, and never again would Dusty reach her earlier heights.
That’s the story of Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook. Or should I say, it’s part of the story. I’ve only mentioned fourteen of the twenty-four tracks on Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook. Choosing just a few of the highlights wasn’t easy. Not when the twenty-four tracks were penned by two of the most talented songwriters in musical history.
Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, just like Bacharach and David, Lieber and Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Gerry Goffin and Carole King are graduates of the Brill Building. That’s where they made their name. Over the next few years, they became one of the most successful and prolific songwriting partnerships of the sixties.
Not only did Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry write together, but they wrote with other songwriting partners. This included Phil Spector and Shadow Morton. These partnerships proved fruitful, and resulted in a string of hit singles. Other times, it would be just Ellie or Jeff that worked with other songwriting partners. It seemed that Ellie and Jeff were able to write with a variety of songwriting partners. Not every member of a great songwriting partnership is able to do this.
Often, once a songwriting partnership splits up, the hits dry up. Luckily, that wasn’t the case with Ellie and Jeff. They weren’t just songwriting partners. By 1962, they were married. Sadly, the marriage didn’t. This affected their songwriting partnership. It soon followed in the footsteps of their marriage.
Following their divorce, Jeff continued to enjoy a successful career. For Ellie, success was more sporadic. She returned to her career as a singer. After her singing career stalled, Ellie formed a songwriting and production partnership with Mike Rashko. Their partnership enjoyed a degree of a success. However, it was Jeff that enjoyed the more successful career following their divorce. Ironically, together, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry enjoyed more success, than they did apart.
Who knows what heights Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry might have enjoyed if they had stayed together? They certainly were one of the most successful and prolific songwriting partnerships in American musical history. That’s why it has taken Ace Records three volumes to celebrate the career of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry.
Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook follows in the footsteps of Do Wah Diddy: Words and Music By Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry and Da Doo Ron Ron: More From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook. While Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook is the third volume in the series, will it be the last? Maybe not. Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry were one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the sixties. So it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s a followup to Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook, which is a reminder of one of American music’s most successful songwriting partnerships.
SWEET THINGS FROM THE ELLIE GREENWICH AND JEFF BARRY SONGBOOK.
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- Tagged: Ace Records, Darlene Love, Dusty Springfield, Ellie Greenwich, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Freddie Scott, Jeff Barry, Lesley Gore, Sweet Things From The Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook, The Butterflys, The Crystals, The Exciters, The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las, The Strangeloves, Wilson Pickett