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 “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy“. On my first album,The Divine Miss M I covered the Dixie Cups “Chapel Of Love”, 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 “Iko Iko” 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 “The Leader Of The Pack”, which also lent itself to ridiculous staging, which of course, I loved, although I’ll never forget the time my choreographer took a pair of scissors to my black leather jacket because she didn’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 “Old Cape Cod“, “Samedi et Vendredi” (Welcome to my Nightmare) and a song given me (or maybe I stole it) by Garland Jeffries called “No Jestering”, that came from Jamaica, I think.
More recently, on Bette I covered some of the great male groups, the Manhattans’ “Shining Star” and the temps’ “Just My Imagination”. Every couple has their song, and Martin’s and mine is “Have You Seen Her”, which always reduces us to tears, and I am not joking”¦.next year, “Ooh, Child”, 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 “Talk To Me of Mendocino” originally written and sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. The first time I heard it”¦well, you can imagine.
So that’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. So”¦.ooohhh”¦”¦waaaahhhhhh!!!!