Wednesday, August 17, 2016
SHG: The Chordettes: "Lollipop"
The Chordettes: “Lollipop”
Entered the chart on: 3/10/58
Peaked on: 3/31/58
Weeks at #2: 2 weeks
Songs at #1: “Tequila” by the Champs and “Catch a Falling Star” by Perry Como
Does it count as “whitewashing” if only half of the original artists were black?
Ronald and Ruby, a duo of a black man and a white woman, were the original performers of “Lollipop.” Ruby was actually the song’s co-writer, Beverly Ross, who at the urging of her mother didn’t use her real name for the recording. They also didn’t do any promotion on TV for the song, which is why it stalled at #20, while the Chordettes’ rendition sailed to #2.
Anyway, if you’d told me Ronald and Ruby were two women, I’d be hard-pressed to negate that claim, as Ronald has a pretty high voice on the original recording. Out of sheer curiosity, I also checked out the cover by the English family group the Mudlarks, and it is an odd duck indeed*, being rather gender-confused, as the two Mudlark brothers give the “I call him” line to their sister to deliver solo.
As for the Chordettes, could there be a more quintessentially “fifties” female vocal group? Possibly the McGuire Sisters, but “Mister Sandman” is used to evoke the era of poodle skirts and malt shops way, way more often with “Sincerely,” and they weren’t whitewashing an R&B act’s hit, so I’m sticking with the Chordettes.
Well, it’s obvious why this version was the big hit. They have the “pop” effect after the refrain! And the wordless guest spot by the nameless bass singer. I tend to be more forgiving of this squeaky-clean vocal harmony pop when delivered by female groups. Does that make me sexist? Reverse sexist? Anyway, I’m enjoying this. Maybe because I’m picturing Jasper from The Simpsons delivering it while wearing a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit and having his teeth fall out when he tries to do the “pop.”
The song is, of course, extremely inane, but I forgive it because it’s fun. I can forgive inanity if it’s fun and not annoying. And if there was effort put into it. It’s obvious that effort was put into every aspect of this, from the songwriting on down to the vocal arrangement and the harmonies, etc. And it shows.
*No idea if he was actually involved, but Joe Meek is very much in evidence on the Mudlarks’ version, at least at the start of the recording, where it sounds like a spaceship landing!