A Brief History of "It's My Party"
A sad song with a happy tune...
It was in 1962 that 16-year-old Lesley Gore went for her voice lesson. But this time around she and her piano player decided to visit a local studio in New York to cut some demos. Through an agent her demo made it to the desk of Irving Green the president of Mercury Records. Green was impressed by what he heard and signed the 16-year-old Gore. Green teamed Gore with up-and-coming producer Quincy Jones. Jones had just finished recording his jazz albums Big Band Bossa Nova and Quincy Jones Plays Hip Hits. He also just wrapped up recording projects with Nana Mouskouri, Sarah Vaughan, and Dinah Washington and went right into working with Count Basie, Billy Eckstine, and the Teen Queen of the U.S.A. Lesley Gore.
In February of 1963, Quincy Jones and the soon to be 17-year-old Gore sat in the den of her parent's home listening to more than 200 demos and came upon "It's My Party." It was the only song from the pile of demos both Gore and Jones agreed upon.
On Saturday, March 30, 1963, Gore and Jones occupied Bell Sound Studios in Manhattan, New York City and recorded "It's My Party."
That evening after recording the song Jones ran into Phil Spector at a Charles Aznavour concert at Carnegie Hall. Spector told Jones that he was planning on recording a great new song called "It's My Party" with The Crystals."
Jones skipped out on the concert and instead went back to the studio and had 100 test/promo copies pressed which were quickly mailed out to the Top 100 radio stations across the United States. Within a matter of days Lesley Gore's rendition of the song was being played on the radio. Jones had the single rush released and within four weeks the song was a #1 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart for two weeks. The song was also a #1 hit in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In the UK it reached #9 and was in the Top 3 in Brazil.
FYI: 20 years later it's 1983 and Quincy Jones is now producing the recording of Michael Jackson's mega-selling album "Thriller."
Bryan Ferry (1973)
Ten years later the suave Roxy Music front man Bryan Ferry released his debut solo album which included a gender-bending tongue in cheek recording of "It's My Party." The album is composed of covers including Bob Dylan's "A Rain's Gonna Fall," Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby," Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," The Beatles' "You Won't See Me," and other great songs. "It's My Party" was one of his favorites - Ferry included the song in many of his live performances.
Ferry's kept the original lyrics turning the song into an LGBTQ anthem as Ferry sings, "Why was he holding her hand / When he's supposed to be mine?" It's ironic that Ferry is singing these lyrics as he was a known lady's man and had a different girlfriend with the release of each Roxy Music album. Lending to the track's authenticity Ferry used a female vocal quartet called The Angelettes (Sue Hampson, Pat Fitzgerald, Jan Heywood, and Julie Abbott) on backing vocals.
Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin
In 1981 the synth-pop/new wave duo Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin took ownership of "It's My Party" and made it their own with a completely unique reinterpretation.
This cover managed to be quite brave with a sinister foreboding intro which sounded positively nightmarish. The song eventually works its way into familiar territory with a 1960s upbeat pop rhythm.
Dave Stewart's all-synth arrangement, sonic/harmonic invention coupled with Barbara Gaskin's optimistically fresh, unmistakeably English vocal style make this track an 80's pop landmark.
Now before we go on Dave Stewart (aka Dave A. Stewart) is not the same Dave Stewart that plays the trombone and has worked with Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Joni Mitchell and others. Oh? Not the Dave Stewart of which you were thinking? Okay, he's also not that Dave Stewart who made all those great hits with Annie Lennox as the duo Eurythmics.
Stewart and Gaskin's rendition of the song was a monster hit around the world. Some argue it was overall a bigger hit than Lesley Gore's version. However, Stewart and Gaskin only reached #72 in the US which takes away some legitimacy in calling it the bigger hit of the two. But if you look at the rest of the world Stewart and Gaskin far and away had the much bigger hit with the song. The song was #1 for four weeks in the UK as well as #1 in Ireland and New Zealand. Other chart positions are #3 in Austria, Germany, and South Africa, #4 Australia, #6 Switzerland and Canada, #17 Belgium, #20, and as mentioned earlier #72 in the US.
The music video that accompanied the song had quite a bit of panache featuring Kendo sequences (a Japanese martial art using swords). Half the guests at this cosmopolitan party are mannequins with which the humanoid guests are mingling. But the best part of the video is when Johnny and Judy enter the scene. They make their entrance as if they are walking the red carpet. But wait??? Johnny, Judy's new toy, looks oddly familiar! Aha, was I just blinded by science with this revelation? Yes, Johnny is played by Thomas Dolby who had a huge hit with "She Blinded Me with Science" in 1982/1983. He also wrote the popular song "New Toy" (1980) for Lene Lovich while he was in her band. FYI, in 1983 Stewart and Gaskin covered Thomas Dolby's song "Leipzig"
Well, there's still one last question. Who is playing the part of Judy in the video? Answer: Silly, don't you recognize her? That's the world-famous Barbara Gaskin wearing a blonde wig.
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