Miss Ellie Greenwich
The Jelly Beans
Listen -The Ad-Libs – He Ain’t No Angel – MP3
Listen -The Jelly Beans – Baby Be Mine – MP3
I hope the end of the week finds you well.
The world of pop music took a serious hit this week, with the passing of the great Ellie Greenwich.
If the name is not immediately familiar, the music she helped to make definitely is. Along with her co-writer (and then husband) Jeff Barry, Greenwich wrote some of the best remembered hits of the early-to-mid 60s, especially as applies to the ‘girl group’ era. Among her hits were ‘Da Do Ron Ron’ for the Crystals, ‘Leader of the Pack’ for the Shangri Las, ‘Chapel of Love’ and ‘People Say’ for the Dixie Cups, ‘River Deep Mountain High’, ‘Hanky Panky’, ‘Be My Baby’ for the Ronettes and scores of others.
I only recently finished reading ‘Always Magic In the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era’ by Ken Emerson, an essential book in which Greenwich’s work as songwriter, arranger, and performer play a big part.
Back in the day, when I was a kid, and first obsessively reading record labels, hers was a very familiar name.
The two tunes I bring you today are lesser known, but very cool songs of hers, both coincidentally by NJ groups, the Ad-Libs and the Jelly Beans.
The Ad-Libs (from Newark, NJ) are best known for their amazing 1965 hit ‘The Boy From New York City’ (only the second release on Leiber and Stoller’s Blue Cat label). ‘He Ain’t No Angel’ was their follow up 45. It has a less polished sound than their debut, with a soulful vocal by Mary Ann Thomas. The prominent piano (especially in the first half of the song) and the subdued horns give the record a slightly rougher edge.
Today’s second selection is by the Jelly Beans (from Jersey City, NJ). ‘Baby Be Mine’ was the b-side of their second 45 for Red Bird (from 1964). Though the Jelly Beans were a black group, they sound as if they were cut from the same cloth as white girl groups like the Shangri-Las (without the street tough pose). There was a certain aural homogeneity with the ‘girl group’ sounds on Leiber and Stoller’s labels, i.e. there really were no black girl groups or white girl groups, just girl groups.
I hope you dig the tunes, and take time this weekend raise a glass to the memory of Ellie Greenwich.