Thursday, October 20, 2016

SHG: Lesley Gore: "You Don't Own Me"

Lesley Gore: “You Don’t Own Me”
Entered the chart on: 1/11/1964
Peaked on: 2/1/1964
Weeks at #2: 3
Song at #1: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles

I really don’t think you could ask for a more symbolic representation of Pop Music’s Changing of the Guard than just a glance of that top 2. Lesley Gore basically handed the baton to the Beatles, allowing them to lead the charge for the rest of the decade.

Not that Lesley Gore had trouble racking up hits after this. The likes of Connie Francis and Frankie Avalon would never visit the charts again, but Lesley was still a star on the rise.

The “girl group” sound was still big business in early ’64. Lesley was sort of a one-girl reduction of the style, only instead of the Angels’ tales of being in love with the “bad boy,” her early singles were all mini-dramas on teenage romance.

And then there’s this, her fourth single and second biggest hit, the one where she asked producer Quincy Jones (yes, that Quincy Jones!) to provide her with something she could sink her teeth into. And damn if he didn’t come up with the goods!

Much has been made of the lyrics of this song, a powerful statement of female independence. I could point out that two men wrote it but I really don’t want to burst your bubble. Besides, this is really good! It drags you in immediately with the dramatic three-note guitar hook laid over the staccato piano chord pattern.

Really, this is all about Lesley. She really proves she’s no lightweight here, singing-wise. There’s no less than two key changes, and she really goes for the jugular with her vocal in the refrain. And did I mention she was only seventeen when she sang this? Wow!

It’s easy with the benefit of hindsight to say something like this was inevitable from the future hostess of PBS’ LGBT affairs program In the Life but at the time, this must have had jaws on the floor. Who would have guessed that the cute girl next door who sang about who had who’s class ring had hidden depths? Speaking of hidden depths, there’s some Lesley Gore albums that collectors know about that the general public don’t: 1972’s Someplace Else Now (her stab at the nascent “singer-songwriter” genre) and 1976’s Love Me by Name (her reunion with Quincy Jones, a very sophisticated adult pop-soul album).

In the meantime, there’s this, perhaps the shiniest gold nugget in her 60s discography.

Rating: 5

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