From the very beginning of my recording career I insisted on pretending that I was a girl group. I often sang all the background parts as well as the leads, just for the fun of it, as I did on â€œBoogie Woogie Bugle Boyâ€.
Itâ€™s The Girls! (2014)
Available in the U.S November 4, UK November 10
On my first album, The Divine Miss M I covered the Dixie Cups â€œChapel Of Loveâ€, although I didn’t sing those harmonies myself. I thought it was the silliest, most charming song, and when I pictured myself sashaying down the aisle with my singing bridesmaids in tow, I always fell out. The Dixie Cups were out of New Orleans, and their seminal hit â€œIko Ikoâ€ is still played everywhere all the time. Jolly, good-natured, except for the part where the singer threatens to set the listener on fire, it is infectious as only nursery rhymes can be. The girls learned it from one of their grandmothers, and it is irresistible.
On that same album, we recorded â€œThe Leader Of The Packâ€, which also lent itself to ridiculous staging, which of course, I loved, although Iâ€™ll never forget the time my choreographer took a pair of scissors to my black leather jacket because she didnâ€™t think it was authentic enough. People, what I have endured for my art.
Still, the Shangri-Las, even though I sent them up, were the real thing, and had a major effect on the pop music of the day. The 2-minute movie they were selling had a beginning, middle and a tragic ending, of course. Like every other teen, when I heard it, I sobbed.
On my third, ill-fated record, Songs For The New Depression I sang all the parts on â€œOld Cape Codâ€, â€œSamedi et Vendrediâ€ (Welcome to my Nightmare) and a song given me (or maybe I stole it) by Garland Jeffries called â€œNo Jesteringâ€, that came from Jamaica, I think.
More recently, on Bette I covered some of the great male groups, the Manhattansâ€™ â€œShining Starâ€ and the tempsâ€™ â€œJust My Imaginationâ€. Every couple has their song, and Martinâ€™s and mine is â€œHave You Seen Herâ€, which always reduces us to tears, and I am not joking….next year, â€œOoh, Childâ€, or maybe something by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes…
But honestly, there are so many great songs to sing, and I always count myself lucky to find one. This year, I recorded one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, called â€œTalk To Me of Mendocinoâ€ originally written and sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. The first time I heard it…well, you can imagine.
So thatâ€™s a little history on my background with backgrounds and girl groups. Like they say in 20 Feet From Stardom, people usually sing along with the backgrounds, not the lead. One always suspects they are having way more fun. Soâ€¦.ooohhhâ€¦…waaaahhhhhh!!!!