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A Brief History of "It's My Party"

by Rick Henry 2 months ago in song reviews / 80s music / 70s music / 60s music · updated 2 months ago
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A sad song with a happy tune...

Lesley Gore

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.

Thank you for visiting!!!

song reviews80s music70s music60s music

About the author

Rick Henry

Writing is a distraction for me. It takes me to places unknown that fulfill my need for intellectual stimulus, emotional release, and a soothing of the breaks and bruises of the day.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/vocalplusassist

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Comments (20)

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  • Martha Ballabout 4 hours ago

    Great article from a great series! Too often we take new songs at face value and don't explore all the threads that lead to them.

  • Keila Aartilaabout a month ago

    And now I have this song stuck my head .... 🎶

  • Heather Hublerabout a month ago

    Great article! I'll be singing this song for the rest of day ;)

  • test2 months ago

    Nice article, worth reading

  • Strange Sue2 months ago

    This is also great

  • Paul Levinson2 months ago

    Great, very informative article -- thank you! (I especially liked Quincy Jones scooping Phil Spector.)

  • Joe Young2 months ago

    Very interesting. I don't recall having heard the Bryan Ferry version, but here goes.

  • Linda Rivenbark2 months ago

    I heard that version of the song for the first time in 1965 when was looking through my brother's 78 records to play at my 16th birthday party. I liked the song as Leslie Gore sang it then, and I think I like it even more now because it brings back memories of what seems like another lifetime. Your article is very informative and I also enjoyed reading it. Hearted. CONGRATULATIONS on the Top Story!!!

  • And congratulations on your top story

  • Hussrwn Eldenxiy2 months ago

    Well written

  • Mi Lui Vori2 months ago

    Good writing

  • Doc Sherwood2 months ago

    Superb work! One of my favourite songs, though I didn't care so much for the sequel 'Judy's Turn to Cry' (happy endings that revolve around violence to a hapless victim aren't my thing!). Fell in love with Lesley anyway, before even knowing 'It's my Party' was her song, when I saw her guest-starring and singing on Batman. The caped crusader calls her a "Titian-haired temptress," I believe! Then decades later when I saw Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn contorting herself to the strains of 'You Don't Know Me' on the first Suicide Squad movie, I applauded and laughed and sobbed. It felt like full circle.

  • Brenton F2 months ago

    Your musical history is second to none - this should a radio show or a video.

  • Matras Dohrmann2 months ago

    🌹🌹🌹

  • Roca Ford2 months ago

    🤞🤞🤞

  • Carol Townend2 months ago

    I love this! I have always loved this song, and I still sing it out loud. I love all versions and I really enjoyed reading your story!

  • Babar2 months ago

    Good

  • Misty Rae2 months ago

    I remember the song from my mother's old records. Excellent story.

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Awesome!!! Definitely remember 1963 It's My Party!!! Loving it!!! Congrats on top story too💖💕

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