Tag Archive: 1960s


Lesley Gore, a personal reflection from a simple fan

Part Time Pop Star

Lesley Gore (1946-2015)

Like so many kids who were raised on oldies radio, I couldn’t tell you how long I’ve known the music of Lesley Gore. To say “all my life”, while it’s almost certainly an exaggeration, is about as accurate as I can be. My earliest memory of Lesley Gore does not even involve the lady herself, but a performance of “It’s My Party” on this episode of the sadly neglected monument of 1980s children’s television, Kids Incorporated. But even that memory would never have registered had the song not already been a part of my life. I have no recollection of the first time I heard “It’s My Party”, though I can say with as much certainty as one can with early childhood pop culture memories that I knew every word of that song before I could even identify any music actually written during my lifetime. For me, Lesley Gore was never some obscure chronological colloquialism of my parents’ generation. She was a fact—a universal constant—like the speed of light or The Beatles.

No doubt you know her work. A dynamic performer with songwriting chops of her own, her biggest hits have been a part of the musical vernacular for half a century. In the coming days, much will be said about Lesley Gore, her influence over the world of music, and in the world at large. Many will rhapsodize about her proto-feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me”. Some will lament the label-induced pigeon-holing of Lesley Gore (a lifelong lesbian) as a lovesick, boy crazy teeny bopper. And justifiably so.

But I am not here to justify Lesley Gore. As a straight male born more than two decades after her first hit, Lesley Gore never did anything for me socially. Yes, I do get goosebumps when I listen to “You Don’t Own Me”, not for any altruistic reason, but because it is a brilliant performance of a great song. Growing up in a pre-internet world where everyone I knew was obsessed with Hanson and Smashing Pumpkins, a familiarity with pop star two generations out of fashion (and a girl singer at that!) resulted in a social life that was anything but sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. At that age, there is no justification for timelessness. These days, there is no need for one.

A few years ago, I sat in an all night diner with Chicago math metal power trio The Cell Phones after a show in Columbus. As it was October, the conversation inevitably turned to their plans for a Halloween gig: a Lesley Gore cover set they had titled Gore. Of course she occupies a great deal of shelf space in my record collection, but I have never known anyone else for whom that was true. So I asked. “We’re huge fans” they said.

Lesley Gore died of lung cancer on Monday, February 16, 2015. She was 68.

Advertisements

Loveless Unbeliever

Score: 99

I find it ironic that Loveless Unbeliever, the debut LP from The School, begins “An apology for today, an apology for a lifetime”, because I feel I owe them an apology. I recently discovered that, in my first posts about them (over a year ago, now), I called The School “twee”. I was young and new to this business, but now that I know better, it is only fair that I admit my mistake.

There’s more to The School than twee, of course. They’ve carved out a niche in that sliver of sixties throwback between Camera Obscura and The Pipettes—and what a home they’ve made there! For my money, no one embodies the golden age of pop music better than the kids from Cardiff. Loveless Unbeliever is replete with all the memorable hooks, striking melodies, and tasteful orchestrations, and Liz Hunt’s vocals are nothing short of intoxicating—I still get chills every time I listen to “I don’t believe in love” (also featuring former drummer Rob, now of Voluntary Butler Scheme).

The long-awaited LP includes most of The School’s hard-to-find early material (it’s missing Christmasy songs, including my favorite “Kiss you in the snow”, and “And Suddenly”, a Left Banke cover). And it’s a good thing the old releases have been included, because amongst them are some of the band’s best songs, such as: “Let it slip” which is essentially a perfect pop song, and “I don’t believe in love”, with a melody as sweeping as the lyrics are heartbreaking. And, lest you get the impression that this is an album built on the strength of recycled material, the seven new songs are every bit as memorable as the old stuff. The first single, “Is he really coming home”, picks up right where the Let It Slip EP left off, whilst “Can’t understand” and “Hoping and praying”are two of the most unabashedly fun tracks on the album.

Loveless Unbeliever has been a long time coming. The School were signed to Elefant Records in 2007. In the meantime, there have been some lineup changes and a quite a fuss over their early EP and singles—no doubt all contributing factors to the long wait for this album. Then again, maybe that’s just how long it takes when you set out produce an “album…full of pop hits”. Regardless, there is no filler on Loveless Unbeliever, only 37 minutes perfect indie pop that will spend weeks at a time in your stereo (personally, I’ve just reached the one month mark). Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another three years for The School’s next LP, but, if it’s even half as good as this one, it will have been well worth the wait.

[For more, read our interview with The School]

%d bloggers like this: