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Sunday, June 01, 2014

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

I have a question for all of you.  Can you remember the worst birthday that you've ever had?  Seriously, just think about it for a second.  Birthdays are supposed to be a happy occasion where you celebrate surviving another year with cake, gifts, balloons, and party hats.  But yet there was this one instance in which you always remember one particular birthday as your worst ever.

Well, for me, that would be my fourteenth birthday back in 1995.  It was bad enough that we were doing a project in school where we learned about the stock market and some evil nasty urchin stole half of the play money that my team had earned during the month long project when my back was turned.  Oh, no...that was just the tip of the iceberg there.

That was the year that exactly two-fifths of my family were hospitalized in another city because they needed surgery done.  Both my mother and my sister needed to have surgery for a medical condition that they both shared.  It was the one thing that my sister probably wished she didn't inherit from Mom. 

Now, here's an interesting fact.  When both my mom and my sister had their operations, they ended up having a distinctive claim to fame.  They were the first mother-daughter to be operated on for the same ailment on the same day just four hours apart.  I suppose when you look at it from that angle, you could say that they wear their scars like badges of honour.

But here's where the tie in to worst birthday ever comes into play.  This surgery was scheduled two days before my fourteenth birthday.  And, this meant that both of them had to stay hospitalized on my actual birthday.  And, I'll tell you one thing.  That sucked.

Though, I imagine that it was more horrible for my mom and sister.  After all, they had to undergo a painful surgery.  And, to be honest with you, I did take it a lot better than I thought.  Still, it was a really stressful time.  My sister's case wasn't as severe, and she made it through just fine...but my mom had lost so much weight that we were all a bit concerned that she would not make it through the surgery.  Thankfully, she proved that she was a lot tougher than any of us knew.  And nearly 20 years later, both Mom and Sis are doing well.

Still, that whole 14th birthday was a huge disaster.  I had half my stock market fund stolen, the kids were making fun of me as usual, and my birthday cake (which my other sister tried write on for me) turned into a chocolate cake after someone had scribbled over it with a green Crayola marker.  The only saving grace?  The cake tasted good!

So, yeah.  That was my absolute worst birthday ever.  But luckily, the aftermath was awesome.  Both family members survived, I went on a class trip to Toronto (where ironically enough, I fell victim to a pickpocket...what was it with fourteen being the age where I was eternally broke?), and life went on.  And hey, all other birthdays were brilliant compared to birthday number fourteen.

But, was one of those days in which if I had an elaborate party for my birthday, I'd still find a reason to cry if I wanted to.  Certainly there was plenty to cry about.  Two-fifths of my family were in the hospital and the kids who were mean to me were proud of the fact that they ruined my birthday not realizing or caring what I was going through at home. 

Hey, it was my birthday.  The birthday from hell.  And, I could cry if I wanted to.  And, you would cry too if that happened to you!

Hmmm...I feel a song coming on.

ARTIST:  Lesley Gore
SONG:  It's My Party
ALBUM:  I'll Cry If I Want To
DATE RELEASED:  April 1963

Ah, now that's the perfect soundtrack song for my fourteenth birthday.  Mind you, the subject matter of the Lesley Gore song differs from what my fourteenth birthday was like...but since this was the #1 song this week fifty-one years ago, I thought it was a nice supplement.

Now, here's something that you might find interesting.  When this song was recorded, Lesley Gore was only sixteen years old.  I suppose that this puts her in the "Sweet 16" club, along with Britney Spears and Debbie Gibson, who were also sixteen when they recorded their first #1 singles (with "Baby One More Time" and "Foolish Beat" respectively).  And, this song depicts what one would consider to be one of the worst things that could ever happen at a "Sweet 16" birthday party.

Losing your main squeeze to someone else.

Well, okay, I suppose there are worse things that could happen at a sixteenth birthday.  Your house could burn down, or someone poisons the cake, or someone shoots a bazooka through the living room, french-frying the birthday girl in the process.  When you look at it like that, the loss of a love to another woman is peanuts!

But, we keep forgetting that this is 1963, and in 1963, finding out that a girl named Judy is now wearing your boyfriend's class ring, making the world realize that they are now going steady and you're yesterday's news?  That's about as cold as you can get for a birthday surprise.

All because he succumbed to that nasty Judy's charms.  That tramp!

Anyway, that's the story of the lyrics of the song.  Now let's talk about how the song came to be.  And believe it or not, Lesley Gore was not the first person to record the single!

It was written in 1962 by the songwriting team of John Gluck, Wally Gold, and Herb Weiner, and the original demo was cut by former Clickettes member Barbara Jean English.  From there, they tried to get English's version of the song to be released as a single, but for whatever reason, record companies at that time just weren't buying it.

Then British chanteuse Helen Shapiro tried to release her own version in February 1963 - just two months before Lesley Gore's version first made an appearance on the Billboard Hot 100.  But it too was turned away.  Despite Shapiro's belief that the song would be a complete knockout on the pop charts, it wasn't released as an advanced cut, paving the way for Lesley Gore to have instant success with her version. 

To add insult to injury, by the time Shapiro's version was released at the end of 1963, many people believed that her version was a cover version even though she had recorded it first!  How humiliating for Shapiro!  Why, you would cry too if it happened to you!

TRIVIA:  This was not only Lesley Gore's first single, but it was also the very first single that famous record producer Quincy Jones produced.  The things you learn when doing research for this blog, huh?

And, here's some more trivia for you.  Phil Spector heard the demo version of the song (as recorded by Barbara Jean English), and he immediately loved it.  He even felt that the song would be a perfect song to give to the Crystals (another up and coming group at that time).  But Quincy Jones - upon hearing word that Spector and the Crystals were plotting the release of their own version of "It's My Party" - worked double time to make sure that Lesley's version would come out first.  He printed off 100 copies of the single and sent them to every disc jockey he knew.  That took place on Saturday, March 30, 1963.  The following Friday, April 5, Lesley Gore first heard her song playing on the radio.  And, when the single was officially released at the end of the month, it only took four weeks to top the Billboard Hot 100! 

Not bad for a sixteen year old girl, huh?  But, too bad for Spector and the Crystals, having Quincy Jones' gamble pay off in a big way as the expense of them.  Why, you would cry too if it happened to you!

Now, since the song was originally released in 1963, several artists have covered the single.  Canadian singer Carroll Baker had a #1 hit in 1977 with her country-infused cover.  Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin's version in 1981 stayed on the top of the UK charts for twice the length that Lesley Gore's original version did.  Amy Winehouse performed her own version of the song in 2010 - also produced by Quincy Jones.  And even the Chipettes had their fun with the single as their 1983 cover appeared on the Chipmunks album "Songs From Our T.V. Show".

But I think that of all the versions of "It's My Party", Lesley Gore's will forever be the one that is permanently cemented into pop history.

However, I'm not quite finished with this blog just yet.  You see, "It's My Party" is a song that ended unhappily, with the subject of the song crying salty tears all over the frosting of her cake as her sweet baboo decides to leave the party with that homewrecking tramp known as Judy.

(Her thoughts...not mine.)

But did you know that the song was just Part 1 of the story?  Part 2 was released as Gore's second single - a sequel to the song "It's My Party".  The song title?  "Judy's Turn To Cry!"

Yeah, I smell the aroma of sweet revenge coming, don't you?

Released in June 1963, the song tells the tale of how the former birthday girl decides to make her beloved Johnny jealous by locking lips with some random boy.  And Johnny ditches Judy, knocks the boy out at the party, and decides that he wants to be with his former squeeze, to which the once betrayed birthday girl says "okay", and the two live happily ever after, leaving poor Judy to cry all alone in her glass of fruit punch - non-spiked, of course.

Actually, come to think of it, that's not how she should have reacted at all.  I mean, he dumped her for Judy because Judy shook some goodies at him and he came a-runnin' leaving our birthday girl in the dust.  At that moment, I would have advised the girl to forget about Johnny and go after someone else who deserved her.  The way she did it, that poor boy was an unnecessary casualty in her war against the she-devil known as Judy, and she ended up with a man who broke her heart in the first place and will likely dump her again if another "Judy" came strolling along. 

But then again, I tell myself that this was 1963.  It was a different time.  If this song were recorded in 2014, the birthday girl would automatically declare that she didn't need a man to make her happy and celebrate her next birthday getting on the dance floor with several single men, while Johnny and Judy would be on the set of the Maury Povich Show with Judy declaring that she is one hundred per cent sure that Johnny is the father of her six children.

Makes you want to cry, doesn't it?

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