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Leaders of the Pack: Ace Celebrates Legendary Songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry

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The union of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry was a brief one.  Married in 1962, the same year that they began a songwriting partnership, they were divorced in 1965.  Their professional partnership only continued for a short time thereafter.  Yet to this day, the team of Greenwich and Barry is spoken of in the same breath as two other successful Brill Building husband-and-wife teams, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (married 1961, still going strong!) and Gerry Goffin and Carole King (married 1959, divorced 1968).  Why?  Their songs remain some of the most perfect expressions of youth ever written, and most of them are just plain fun.  By the numbers, Greenwich and Barry saw 17 of their songs make the pop charts in 1964 alone, with a total of five chart-toppers in their career.  A total of 25 of their songs went gold or platinum.  Ace Records has just celebrated the Greenwich and Barry catalogue with a second volume of classic songs from the duo.  Following 2008’s Do-Wah-Diddy: Words and Music by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry comes the new release Da Doo Ron Ron: More from the Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook.  This comprehensive 24-track anthology includes many of the team’s hit songs in their original renditions as well as a choice sampling of true rarities and underrated covers.

Both natives of Brooklyn, New York, Greenwich (1940-2009) and Barry (1938-) met at a family get-together.  Actually distant relatives by marriage, both youngsters played piano and wrote songs.  Unlike many of their Brill Building contemporaries, both Greenwich and Barry were equally adept at composing and lyric-writing, so they would frequently share those duties on their compositions.  They consummated their partnership personally and professionally in 1962 although both initially continued to work with other songwriting partners.  Greenwich wrote two of producer Phil Spector’s Top 40 hits with Tony Powers:  Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ “Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts?” and Darlene Love’s “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry.”  For his part, Jeff Barry wrote “Tell Laura I Love Her” with Ben Raleigh, and saw the “death disc” climb all the way to No. 1 in 1960 on both sides of the Atlantic.  Ray Peterson scored the hit in the United States, and Ricky Valance in the United Kingdom!  Barry’s self-penned “Teenage Sonata” was also a No. 22 U.S. R&B success in the hands of Sam Cooke.  But when they joined forces, Greenwich and Barry soon proved unstoppable.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller united them professionally in 1962, providing cubicles in the Trio Music offices at the Brill Building.  Ellie and Jeff’s collaboration with Leiber and Stoller would lead them to the duo’s Red Bird Records, but first they scored more smash hits with Phil Spector.  Four 1963 classics from the Spector/Greenwich/Barry team all appear on Ace’s new anthology, and all are immortal examples of how the team defined the sound of then-current pop music: The Ronettes’ “Baby I Love You,” Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans’ “Not Too Young to Get Married,” Darlene Love’s “Wait ‘til My Bobby Gets Home” and The Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron.”  That same year, Spector attempted a song called “Chapel of Love,” co-written with Greenwich and Barry, on both Darlene Love and the Ronettes.  He wasn’t happy with either version, though, and so both recordings sat on the shelf.  The song caught the ear of Leiber and Stoller.  The former hated it and the latter liked it, but the third principal of the new Red Bird label, George Goldner, smelled a hit.  And his nose didn’t lie!  When “Chapel of Love” was released in April 1964 by New Orleans girl group The Dixie Cups, it knocked the Beatles out of the top spot on the U.S. pop charts.  It was Red Bird’s first single and the company’s first hit, but it wouldn’t be its last penned by Greenwich and Barry.  The team was largely responsible for 15 hits out of Red Bird’s first 20 releases!

What will you find on this ace anthology from Ace?  Just hit the jump!

In addition to The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love,” Da Doo Ron Ron includes Greenwich/Barry/Spector songs in non-Philles recordings: Sonny and Cher’s 1965 “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love,” The Butterflys’ “I Wonder,” and The Exciters’ “All Grown Up.”  Other Red Bird hits featured here are The Shangri-Las’ “The Train from Kansas City” and The Jelly Beans’ “I Wanna Love Him So Bad.”  Outside of the Philles and Red Bird families, Greenwich and Barry wrote numerous other successes heard here such as Lesley Gore’s ebullient 1964 “Look of Love” and The Four Pennies’ “When The Boy’s Happy (The Girl’s Happy Too).”  Greenwich and Barry even provided Ray Peterson with another tragic “death disc” which appears here, the deliciously morbid “Give Us Your Blessing.”  (“Leader of the Pack,” after all, had solidified Greenwich and Barry as specialists in such material!)

Early in 1966, Greenwich and Barry discovered a young singer/songwriter by the name of Neil Diamond, and brought him to Bert Berns’ Bang Records label.  Ellie and Jeff produced Diamond’s earliest hits even though their marriage had already fallen apart.  When Barry was engaged by producer Don Kirshner to write and produce for The Monkees, he brought Diamond to Kirshner’s attention, and “I’m a Believer” was just one of the results!  In addition to Diamond’s songs, The Monkees recorded more than a dozen of Jeff Barry’s songs, but only one co-written with Greenwich.  That rockin’ track, “She Hangs Out,” has a “doo ron ron”-referencing vocal riff, and is a welcome inclusion on this set!  Berns and Barry co-wrote and co-produced The McCoys’ infectious “I Got to Go Back (And Watch That Little Girl Dance),” later covered by Otis Redding but heard here in its terrific original version.

Greenwich later recorded two solo albums, Ellie Greenwich Composes, Writes and Sings (1968) and Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung (1973), and in 1985, co-wrote and starred in a Broadway musical version of her life, Leader of the Pack.  She also found time to continue working as an in-demand session singer and can be heard on Cyndi Lauper’s smash hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”  Barry found later success with The Archies (“Sugar, Sugar,” co-written with Andy Kim), Kim himself (a revival of “Baby, I Love You”) and Olivia Newton-John (“I Honestly Love You,” co-written with Peter Allen).

Each track here, most penned by the duo but some from Greenwich or Barry with another partner, is a perfect time capsule of this unforgettable era of pop music.  Mick Patrick provides copious track-by-track liner notes, and the booklet is lavishly illustrated.  Da Doo Ron Ron: More from the Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook is in stores now from Ace Records!

Various Artists, Da Doo Ron Ron: More from the Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry Songbook (Ace CDCHD 1340, 2012)

  1. Baby, I Love You – The Ronettes (Philles 118, 1963)
  2. The Train from Kansas City – The Shangri-Las (Red Bird 10-1036, 1965)
  3. Look of Love – Lesley Gore (Mercury LP SR 60943, 1964)
  4. She Hangs Out – The Monkees (Colgems LP CDS 104, 1967)
  5. Not Too Young to Get Married – Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans (Philles 113, 1963)
  6. I Wanna Love Him So Bad – The Jelly Beans (Red Bird 10-003, 1964)
  7. Don’t Ever Leave Me – Connie Francis (MGM 13287, 1964)
  8. Sweet Laurie, Fair Laurie – The Tokens (rec. 1962, issued RCA CD 07863 66474 2, 1994)
  9. Chapel of Love – The Dixie Cups (Red Bird 10-001, 1964)
  10. Wait Til’ My Bobby Gets Home – Darlene Love (Philles 114, 1963)
  11. Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love – Sonny & Cher (Atco LP 33-177, 1965)
  12. I Know It’s All Right – Sam Hawkins (Blue Cat 121, 1965)
  13. Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)  – The Crystals (Philles 112, 1963)
  14. I Wonder – The Butterflys (Red Bird 10-016, 1964)
  15. That Boy John – The Raindrops (Jubilee 5466, 1963)
  16. When The Boy’s Happy (The Girl’s Happy, Too) – The Four Pennies (Rust 5070, 1963)
  17. Give Us Your Blessing – Ray Peterson (Dunes 2025, 1963)
  18. This is It – Jay & The Americans (United Artists 479, 1962)
  19. Every Boy and Every Girl – The Chiffons (BT Puppy LP 1011, 1970)
  20. All Grown Up – The Exciters (rec. 1964 – issued Capitol LP EG 26-0573-1, 1985)
  21. That’s All I Ever Want From You, Baby – Manfred Mann with Paul Jones (HMV EP 7EG 8962, 1966)
  22. I Got To Go Back (And Watch That Little Girl Dance) – The McCoys (Bang 538, 1966)
  23. I’ll Still Love You – Jeff Barry (Red Bird 10=026, 1965)
  24. Goodnight, Goodnight (What’s So Good About It) – Ellie Greenwich (United Artists 50151, 1967)

Written by Joe Marchese

May 24, 2012 at 09:49

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