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Thursday, December 29, 2011

"He's a Rebel"

The Crystals - He's a Rebel (1962)

Get ready for trivia.

So in 1962 minor singer-songwriter Gene Pitney had gotten a couple of bigger hits and was on his way up. He had written a song that was about a bad boy, to be sung by a woman. He originally meant for it to go to The Shirelles, but they turned down the song. At the time, the anti establishment message was considered controversial. Instead it went to Vikki Carr (who indecently went on to have a recording career into the 90's mostly in Spanish, including a number 1 Hot Latin Songs chart topper). Legendary producer Phil Spector heard about her going into the studio and decided that he wanted one of his groups to record it first. He immediately chose The Crystals. Unfortunately the girl group was touring the East coast and could not fly back fast enough to record and get their version to air before Carr's. So Spector hired Darlene Love and The Blossoms to sing the track, but gave credit to The Crystals. The Blossoms continued to have a behind the scenes role in many Phil Sector produced tracks and live studio performances through the early 70s. Darlene Love actually had a big Christmas hit in 1963 with Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) that has been covered by Mariah Carey, U2, Jon Bon Jovi, and appeared in GoodFellas and Gremlins. The Crystals had to eventually hire a new lead singer so that they could sing this song, which was to be their biggest hit, live in concerts. Carr's version came out weeks later, but it was too late, hers was a hit, "The Crystals'" was gold.

The song starts with some tom tom heavy drums and a high tinkly piano part. There's some trumpet and sax parts backing up the girls as well. The sax solo during the break is Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Douglas who played sax, clarinet and flute on sides by Dylan, The Beach Boys, many Spector produced tracks and even Sammy Hagar. He also played the sax solo in Love's Christmas song above. I really like the one, and three, four dance beat that gets heavy during the Just because he doesn't do what/Everybody else does portion of the chorus. It's called a habanera rhythm because it is based on the Cuban dance that uses that beat. The aria Habanera in Bizet's Carmen is a perfect example.

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