Cover Story: (6) Jacques Brel or Flossie Malavialle: Amsterdam. France eclipses Belgium
Cover Story: (8) Bruce Springsteen (as folk singer), Serena Ryder and street racing

Cover Story: (7) how Lesley Gore's party became Barbara Gaskin/Dave Stewart's

It's my site and I'll write what I want to.
You would do too if it happened to be yours.

Almost no fellow-folkie of my acquaintance would reject other forms of music. Most like rock or jazz or classical and, as Bill Taylor asked in Comments the other day, what constitutes a folk song anyway? Please don't mention Louis Armstrong if you reply.

So once again, no apology - this time for comparing versions of a song that has haunted me since I first heard it in 1963 (cue to younger readers to depart) - for my latest Cover Story choice.

We all, or most of us, experienced teenage betrayal. We thought we'd found someone special, were sure we loved them to bits and assumed they felt the same if only because they said so. And then they went off with someone else.

It's My Party is as good an example of the agony of broken young romance as you'll find. The writing credits went to John Gluck, Wally Gold and Herb Weiner though the lyrics had been provided by one Seymour Gottlieb, inspired by his daughter's tearful tantrum on learning her grandparents would be attending her 16th birthday party.

But who does the song best?

The song was released by Lesley Gore, an American singer then aged only 16, after an intriguing Tin Pan Alley battle on whose version should be unleashed on the market (Phil Spector, not then in jail for murder, wanted it to be the Crystals, a girl group I adored back then).

I think he had a point. His "wall of sound" would have fashioned a brighter gem. Gore - some executive suit complained too late that her surname, already a stage name, ought to have been changed to something more appealing - sang it well, but she might have been telling us about spilt ice cream or a scraped car.

For the sheer drama of the storyline - girl holds party, presumably for her birthday, only to witness her Johnny going off with Judy - we must turn to a British couple, Barbara Gaskin (formerly lead singer in Spirogyra, described at Wikipedia as folk-prog when I think they meant progressive folk) and Dave Stewart, though not the Eurorythmics one.

Memory can play tricks. What I remember from 36 years ago is not quite what I hear now. It does feel a little dated. But I still believe Gaskin and Stewart lifted a great pop song of its age, delivered with technical command but without real passion by Gore, to the minor tragedy it was describing.

If Wikipedia can be believed, Gore - who died two years ago aged 68 - later came out as a lesbian, saying she realised her sexual inclinations at 20. Of course, this in itself does not diminish her original single. I just believe Gaskin and Stewart did the story more justice. Oddly enough, the record reached only ninth in the UK charts - it was naturally top in the US - whereas Gaskin/Stewart took the song to the top.

At YouTube, the most-visited of Lesley Gore's versions has received a stunning figure approaching 12 million views. The Gaskin/Stewart cover gets only into six figures and also provokes a lot of debate.

There's endless comment on how Gaskin and Stewart have ruined a 1960s classic. All of us can live with that. But you must explore the disapproval for yourselves. Here is an alternative view that reflects mine:

Paul Fogarty: Great! For me this is easily the best version. She sings it like she really means it - not like she could,nt give a fig one way or the other. It was a frosty night when I first heard it waiting in a shopping mall for my girlfriend to finish work in a hair dressers back in about 19881 and I could hear this being played.

But the choice goes far beyond Gore or the cover I have selected, and it is yours. I still prefer Gaskin and Stewart but would sooner listen nowadays to another of their covers, Levi Stubbs's Tears, an outstanding song written by Billy Bragg.

* The history of the song, and that of Lesley Gore, is fascinating. Follow the links ...
Click on the names to buy albums by Lesley Gore and Barbara Gaskin and Dave Stewart from the Salut! Live Amazon record shelf ...


Bill Taylor

My first thought on hearing the Gaskin/Stewart version was, "They're trying to be too clever." Listening to it again simply confirmed that. But perhaps they might do better covering Johnny's return...

Colin Randall

But they were a lot cleverer that those who produced the original and that, for me, made the difference. Look up the Gaskin Top of the Pops version - someone in comments said she seeme drunk (stoned?) - and who can blame her?

Bill Taylor

Easy to be wise after the event so, given that this came 16 years after Gore's version, I'm reluctant to concede much credit to anyone for building on the original. I mentioned this on another post but take a look at Richard Thompson doing a lot LESS than Britney Spears and turning Oops I Did It Again into a better song
Barbara Gaskin, take note. And yeah, I'd say some sort of downer - maybe Quaalude/Mandrax? - might be making its presence felt. Seldom a good idea on live TV.


To be honest I'm not keen on either version, but if Spector had been able to give it the Leader Of The Pack treatment it could have been an epic.


P.S. I love Richard Thompson's take on the Britney "classic", here's another example of a lighweight pop song being given gravitas with a sensitive interpretation....

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