Today In Pop Music History (11-03-2015)


view.jpgThe saxophone solo by the late Steve Douglas? Awesome. My favorite all-time sax solo. Bar none.
The beat? Absolutely infectious. You close your eyes while listening to the record’s intro…and you swear you’re envisioning a guy strutting his way down a sidewalk or street with an attitude like nobody else.
After all, he’s a rebel….

On this day in 1962 (11/3/62), “He’s A Rebel” by the Crystals roared to #1 on the pop chart. The song could’ve been recorded by the Shirelles, but they turned it down because of its anti-establishment attitude. The Crystals, though, would instead introduce us to the Phil Spector Wall Of Sound that would be turned into the first true rock and roll Christmas LP a little over a year later. Admittedly, Elvis Presley had his 1957 Christmas LP, but about half of it was religious songs. Spector’s holiday album was ALL rock and roll except for “Silent Night.” 
“A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector” would get lost in the music world shuffle because of its release date, November 22, 1963. That was the day JFK was assassinated. Thus, America was hardly in the mood to hear the first true Christmas rock and roll album. The album would fall by the wayside throughout most of the 1960’s but small radio stations kept playing it. So much so, that the album made it onto one holiday LP chart in 1972…and the demand for its re-release increased. And that’s what happened around the mid-1970’s. Nowadays, almost every cut from that Phil Spector holiday album gets played on USA radio stations at Christmas time.
view.jpgMeanwhile, “He’s A Rebel” to this day owns an air of mystique over exactly who really sang the song. Legend has it that it wasn’t the Crystals. Instead, Darlene Love supposedly sang vocals and was backed by the Blossoms. The Crystals? Oh, they were somewhere else and not immediately available. Spector supposedly rush-recorded the song because he wanted to beat another singer to the punch. The other singer supposedly putting out the song as a single? Vicki Carr, later of 1967’s “It Must Be Him” fame. Dee Dee Kinniebrew of the Crystals, in an interview I did with her around 1988, vehemently denied the story of Love and the Blossoms recording the song. Dee Dee insisted “He’s A Rebel” was recorded by the Crystals.
For sure, there’s a bit of trivia attached to “He’s A Rebel.” Gene Pitney wrote the song and guess what? He was already on the charts with his solo hit, “Only Love Can Break A Heart,” which would peak at #2…and be kept out of #1…by…”He’s A Rebel.” Gene Pitney thus became the first and probably only solo performer to have one of his hits kept out of #1…by a song he wrote for somebody else.
Pitney’s ballad hit, in case you’ve forgotten, sounded like this…




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