LESLEY GORE-BOYS, BOYS, BOYS.
LESLEY GORE-BOYS, BOYS, BOYS.
In 1963, Lesley Gore was the all-American girl, who was being heralded as the future of music. That wasn’t surprising. When Lesley Gore released her debut single 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 being certified gold, and being nominated for a Grammy Award. Further afield, It’s My Party reached number one in Australia and number nine in the UK. Suddenly, critics and cultural commentators were forecasting a great future for the seventeen year old singer.
For a while, this looked a prescient forecast. Lesley Gore released her debut album I’ll Cry If I Want To in June 1963. It reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 200 charts. Then when Lesley released Judy’s Turn To Cry as her sophomore single, it reached number five in the US Billboard 100 and number ten in the US R&B Charts. This resulted in a second gold disc for Lesley Gore. Critics smiled knowingly. It looked like they were right. Already, Lesley Gore had released two hit singles, two gold discs and a top thirty album. Lesley Gore it seemed could do no wrong.
Ahead of her sophomore album, Lesley Gore released her third single She’s A Fool. It reached number five in the US Billboard 100, but just number twenty-six in the US R&B Charts. However, She’s A Fool made it three consecutive top five singles for Lesley Gore. This augured well for the release of her sophomore album.
Five months after the release of her debut album, Lesley Gore returned with her sophomore album in November 1963. Just like her debut album I’ll Cry If I Want To, Lesley Gore Sings Of Mixed-Up Hearts was produced by Quincy Jones. Despite this, the album stalled at a lowly 125 in the US Billboard 200. Suddenly, Lesley Gore no longer seemed as invincible.
Normal service was resumed when Lesley Gore released You Don’t Own Me as her fourth single. It reached number two in the US Billboard 100, and became her second most successful single. This resulted in Lesley’s third gold disc. Maybe, Lesley Gore Sings Of Mixed-Up Hearts had just been a blip?
For the followup up to You Don’t Own Me, Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows was chosen. It was released as Lesley Gore’s fifth single in early 1964. However, Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100. While this would usually have been regarded as cause for celebration, Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows was Lesley’s first single not to reach the top ten. This time, the jury was out.
Lesley Gore’s career was less than a year old. As she began work on her third album Boys, Boys, Boys, which was recently released by Ace Records it was time to take stock.
Mostly, executives at Mercury Records were mostly happy with Lesley Gore’s progress. She had enjoyed five hit singles, including four consecutive top ten singles. One of these, It’s My Party, had reached number one and was certified gold. On the album front, I’ll Cry If I Want To had sold well. Only the followup album Lesley Gore Sings Of Mixed-Up Hearts had failed commercially. This made Lesley Gore doubly determined that her third album Boys, Boys, Boys would be a commercial success. It was this determination that got Lesley Gore to where she was.
This determination resulted in Lesley Gore meeting Quincy Jones when she was just seventeen. That day, Lesley embarked upon upon a career as a singer. This was no surprise. Lesley Gore had discovered music at an early age, and seemed destined to forge a career as a singer.
Lesley Gore was born in May 1946, into an affluent family who lived in Tenafly, 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 which was released later in 1963. Less than a year later, and Lesley was about to begin work on her third album.
By then, Lesley Gore was a familiar face on American television; while her singles were on heavy rotation on radio playlists. Lesley had also been chosen to tour with The Beatles when they first toured of America. All this was beyond her wildest dreams. So when Lesley began to work on her third album, she had achieved much more than she had ever imagined.
For Lesley Gore’s third album Boys, Boys, Boys a total of twelve songs had been chosen. This included five songs that had been recorded at previous sessions. These songs just happened to fit with Lesley’s boy-themed album. It was meant to endear her to American teenagers. They were meant to be able to relate to the singer that was marketed as the “Pop Princess.” However, America’s “Pop Princess” had been writing her own songs for a several years.
For Boys, Boys, Boys Lesley Gore wrote Leave Me Alone. She also cowrote I’m Coolin’, No Foolin’ with Sid Shaw. However, the majority of the songs came from established songwriters or songwriting teams.
This included Rogers and Hammerstein’s Something Wonderful. Another cover was Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Leibling’s That’s The Way The Ball Bounces. Two of Paul Anka’s songs, Boys and Danny were chosen for Boys, Boys, Boys. However, other songs were written by songwriting teams who had written hits for Lesley Gore.
Previously, Mark Barkan and Ben Raleigh had written Lesley’s third hit single See’s A Fool. They penned That’s The Way Boys Are and I Don’t Wanna Be A Lose for For Boys, Boys, Boys they contributed. Mark also wrote It’s Gotta Be You which he penned with Claus Ogerman. John Madara and David White previously penned Lesley’s most recent hit You Don’t Own Me for Lesley. This time around, they wrote Don’t Call Me. Edna Lewis cowrote Lesley’s third single Judy’s Turn to Cry. She cowrote You Name It with Norman Blagman and I’ll Make It Up To You with Gloria Shayne. Seven of these songs were recorded at Bell Studio with producer Quincy Jones.
Recording the other seven songs for Boys, Boys, Boys didn’t take long. Lesley was used to working quickly, and for her debut album, had recorded four songs in just three hours. Once the vocals were laid down, and the overdubbing complete, Mercury Records announced that Boys, Boys, Boys would be released in the spring of 1964.
In the spring of 1964, the release of Boys, Boys, Boys was fast approaching. After the commercial failure of Lesley Gore Sings Of Mixed-Up Hearts, Mercury Records were pinning their hopes on Boys, Boys, Boys. Going by the reviews of the album, Lesley Gore’s third album should see her return to the upper reaches of the album charts. Boys, Boys, Boys was essentially an album of teen friendly pop. Lesley had attempted to endear herself to American teenagers. Had she limited her audience?
When Lesley released her third album, Boys, Boys, Boys in April 1964, things didn’t improve. They actually got worse. Boys, Boys, Boys only reached number 127 in the US Billboard 200. The only saving grace was the success of the lead single from Boys, Boys, Boys.
That’s The Way Boys Are was chose as the lead single from Boys, Boys, Boys. This proved to be an inspired choice. 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.
There was a reason for this, music was changing. This had been the case since the British Invasion groups arrived on American shores. Groups like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Small Faces and The Who would take America by storm. This was a game changer, and transformed American music. No longer would Lesley Gore enjoy the same commercial success. She wasn’t alone. Other high profile singers, including Bobby Vee and Neil Sedaka were struggling. They were no longer enjoying the same commercial success and critical acclaim. However, the British Invasion was only part of a wider problem in America.
By 1964, America was still reeling from the assassination of President Kennedy in November 22nd 1963. No longer did the same hope permeate American society. Especially since America were still fighting the to war in Vietnam. Two years had gone by, and still there was neither a sign of a victory nor even a solution. With the casualties and death toll mounting, Americans were beginning to have their doubts about the continued involvement in the Vietnam War. Closer to home, the civil rights movement were waging their own war, one that would ultimately prove more successful. Then on December 26th 1963, The Beatles released I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There. This was the start of Beatleman in America. Little did Lesley Gore realise the effect The Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion groups would have. It would impact upon her career.
On Boys, Boys, Boys, America’s “Pop Princess” set about endearing herself to nation’s teenagers. Normally this would’ve worked. That’s if the British Invasion hadn’t arrived on American shore. As a result, Boys, Boys, Boys failed to make the impression that Lesley Gore’s debut did. That’s a great shame, given the quality of music. It just goes to show what a difference a year makes in music.
Even the album opener That’s The Way Boys Are only reached number twelve in the US Billboard 100. It’s a slick slice of pop, with a blasé vocal from Lesley. Her cover of Paul Anka’s Boys features hand claps, harmonies and hooks. It takes on an almost girl group sound. It’s Gotta Be You features a vocal that veers between wistful and needy. Lesley transforms Rogers and Hammerstein’s Something Wonderful, breathing emotion and meaning into the ballad’s lyrics. You Name It might sound like a distant relation of It’s My party, but in Lesley’s hands takes an upbeat and joyous sound. Danny was another cover of a Paul Anka song. It’s a ballad with a heartfelt vocal from Lesley. That closed side one of Boys, Boys, Boys.
I Don’t Wanna Be A Loser was one of the highlights of Boys, Boys, Boys. It’s a ballad full of teenage angst. The quality and angst continued on Lesley’s composition Leave Me Alone and Don’t Call Me. Leave Me Alone mixed pop with the merest hint of jazz. Don’t Call Me came from the pen of John Madara and David White. It continued the teenage angst. The string drenched I’ll Make It Up To You was another ballad. Despite its undoubted quality, it must have suddenly sounded outdated when compared to the music being released by the British Invasion groups. Closing Boys, Boys, Boys was I’m Coolin’, No Foolin’ which Lesley cowrote with Sid Shaw. Hooks haven’t been rationed as Lesley showcases a more contemporary sound on a track that features a much more understated arrangement. This is the polar opposite to I’ll Make It Up To You. Both tracks show different sides to Lesley Gore, as she tried to endear herself to American teenagers.
On Ace Records reissue of Boys, Boys, Boys, there’s thirteen bonus tracks. Among them, are Lesley’s first four singles. This includes It’s My Party, Judy’s Turn To Cry, She’s A Fool and You Don’t Own Me. There’s also B-Sides like Just Let Me Cry, The Old Crowd and Run, Bobby, Run. The other six tracks are from Lesley’s first two albums.
No More Tears featured on Lesley Gore’s 1963 debut album I’ll Cry If I Want To. Hello Young Lover, Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows, I Struck a Match, If That’s the Way You Want It and Time to Go all were taken from Lesley’s 1963 sophomore album Lesley Gore Sings Of Mixed-Up Hearts. Just like the singles and B-Sides, they showcase a talented and versatile singer, in the early years of her career. The period between 1963 and 1964 was also the most successful part Lesley Gore’s career.
By the time Lesley Gore released Boys, Boys, Boys, American teenagers had moved on, and discovered a very different type of music. They had been won over by the British Invasion groups, and Lesley Gore’s third album Boys, Boys, Boys passed most teenagers by. As a result the album reached just 127 in the US Billboard 127. Sadly, things didn’t get any better for Lesley Gore.
Six months after the release of Boys, Boys, Boys, Lesley Gore released her fourth album Girl Talk in October 1964. Girl Talk became Lesley’s least successful album when it 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 British Invasion had derailed Lesley’s career. However, Lesley was still under contract to Mercury Records. So in 1965, she entered the studio again.
When Lesley entered the studio to record My Town, My Guy and Me, little did she know that it would be her final album with producer Quincy Jones. He was the man who “discovered” Lesley in 1963, when he heard her demo. Since then, he had produced each of her albums.
My Town, My Guy and Me was the fifth album Quincy Jones had produced for Lesley Gore. He had guided her career through good times and bad. Sadly, there had been more of the latter, than the former. Things improved slightly with My Town, My Guy and Me.
Lesley’s fifth album My Town, My Guy and Me was released in September 1965. It reached just number 120 in the US Billboard 200. Despite its lowly chart number, My Town, My Guy and Me was a Lesley’s second most successful album. It was also as good as it got.
As a new year dawned, so did a new era. Quincy Jones was replaced as producer by Shelby S. Singleton Jr. This coincided with one of the worst years of Lesley Gore’s career.
1966 was Lesley’s annus horiblis. She was due to release two albums during 1966. The first was Lesley Gore Sings All About Love. When it was released, it failed to chart. For Lesley Gore, this was a first. She was shocked. Mercury her record company were equally concerned.
Despite the failure of Lesley Gore Sings All About Love, Lesley and Shelby S. Singleton Jr. returned to the studio. They began work on Off and Running. Eventually, what should’ve been Lesley’s seventh album was completed. It was scheduled for release in November 1966. However, Mercury had other ideas.
With Off and Running recorded, Lesley was working towards the November 1966 release date. Mercury however, were having cold feet. With every release, Lesley Gore’s sales were shrinking. It was a long time since Lesley was one of the company’s rising stars. Many felt her time was past, and that she was a relic of Mercury’s past. They thought the company should cut their losses on Lesley Gore, and concentrate on rock and psychedelia. That was where the money was to be made. There was a problem though. Lesley Gore was under contract.
Mercury had a get out. Just because Lesley had recorded Off and Running, didn’t mean they had to release the album. So, Off and Running’ release was cancelled. This wasn’t be the first time an album had been shelved; and it wouldn’t be the last. Certainly not for Lesley. However, for Lesley her pride was at stake. She took the cancellation of Off and Running badly.
By 1967, it looked increasingly likely that Lesley’s hit-making days were behind her. Lesley began to consider the future. She still wanted to be a singer, and had recently recorded a new single, California Nights with producer Bob Crewe. However, given her recent track record, it didn’t look like California Nights was going to pay the bills. So, Lesley decided to try acting.
Lesley was offered a guest appearance on Batman on an episode shown on January 19th 1967. In the episode That Darn Catwoman, Lesley was cast as Pussycat, Catwoman’s partner. This was a huge break, as Batman was one of the most popular shows on American television. Even better, Lesley would mime her latest single California Nights which was produced by Shelby S Singleton Jr.
This was a masterstroke, one that would transform Lesley Gore’s career. Within a few weeks, California Nights was climbing the charts. Eventually, it reached number sixteen in the US Billboard 100. Lesley Gore was the comeback Queen. Batman and California Nights had rescued Lesley’s career.
For Lesley Gore, this couldn’t have come at a better time. Her career was at a crossroads. She realised that many at Mercury perceived her music as yesterday’s sound. However, Mercury weren’t ready to call time on her career. Instead,
following the success of California Nights, Mercury began compiling Lesley’s seventh album California Nights.
When California Nights was released in February 1967, and reached number 169 in the US Billboard 200. Normally, this wouldn’t be anything to celebrate. However, after Lesley Gore Sings All About Love failed to chart, and the cancellation of Off and Running, Lesley felt positive about the future.
While California Nights briefly rejuvenated Lesley Gore’s career, that was the end of her career at Mercury. Lesley recorded another album, Magic Colours. It was scheduled for release in November 1969. Then lighting struck twice for Lesley Gore.
Very few artists see one of their albums cancelled. It’s almost unheard of for an artist to have two albums cancelled. Lesley Gore suffered that fate. What was due to be her eighth studio album, Magic Colours, was cancelled. Mercury then cancelled her contract. For Lesley Gore, her career at Mercury came to an inauspicious end.
A mere six year had passed between the release of Lesley Gore’s debut single It’s My Party in 1963. Back then, Lesley Gore was just seventeen. By the time Boys, Boys, Boys was released in April 1964, Lesley Gore was just one month short of her eighteenth birthday. Incredibly, the most successful years of her career were behind. For the rest of the Mercury years, Lesley Gore never reached the same heights. It certainly wasn’t through lack of talent. Far from it. Instead, Lesley Gore had the misfortune to be enjoying the most successful part of her career as the musical landscape changed.
No longer, was Lesley Gore’s brand of pop as popular. Instead, rock and psychedelia dominated the musical landscape. Those that were guiding Lesley’s career didn’t seem to realise that something had to change. It seemed neither the executives at Mercury Records, Lesley’s manager nor producer Quincy Jones realised this. If they had, they would have tried to reinvent Lesley Gore.
After her fifth album My Town, My Guy and Me, Quincy Jones exited stage left. Even his replacement Shelby S. Singleton Jr. couldn’t bring success Lesley Gore’s way. By the time she left Mercury Records in 1967, Lesley Gore commercial success must have seemed a distant memory for the twenty-one year old.
In the post Mercury years, Lesley Gore released just four more albums. Her comeback album Someplace Else Now was released in 1972, on Motown imprint Mowest. By then, Lesley was concentrating on acting, and her musical career had taken a back seat. So when Someplace Else Now failed to chart, Lesley returned to her day job.
Four years later, in 1976, Lesley Gore returned with Love Me By Name. Just like Someplace Else Now, when Love Me By Name was released by A&M, the album failed to chart. It was a similar story with Lesley’s tenth album The Canvas Can Do Miracles. Lesley didn’t return until the new millennia had dawned.
Ever Since was released to critical acclaim in 2005. Sadly, commercial success eluded what proved to be Lesley Gore’s final album.
Ten years later on February 16th 2015, Lesley Gore passed away. The singer, songwriter, actress and activist was just sixty-eight. Right up until a year before her death, Lesley Gore continued to work as a singer, songwriter, actress and activist. Lesley Gore was a regular in films, television and in documentaries. However, it was as a singer and songwriter that Lesley Gore found fame. She enjoyed a career that lasted fifty-one years. During that period, Lesley Gore enjoyed a number one single; had three singles certified gold; was nominated for two Grammy Awards and released eleven albums. This included her third album Boys, Boys, Boys which was recently rereleased by Ace Records with thirteen bonus tracks. The newly reissued of Boys, Boys, Boys is the perfect introduction to the most successful period of Lesley Gore’s musical career.
LESLEY GORE-BOYS, BOYS, BOYS.