The Crystals – Then He Kissed Me (Song Review)

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Along with Ike & Tina Turner, The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers, The Crystals are perhaps the most well-known group to voice Phil Spector’s compositions and arrangements. During their 1961-1964 stay at the famous and suggestively named Phillies Records (after executive Lester Still and Spector himself), the girls went through multiple line-up variations and confusions. The first few singles were fronted by member Barbara Alston: the label-inaugurator There’s No Other (Like My Baby), Uptown and the controversial He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) (penned by Gerry Goffin and Carole King). Riding on the success of these compositions, Spector decided to release two more singles under the Crystals name despite not having anything to do with the actual group. He’s a Rebel and He’s Sure the Boy I Love were entirely performed by Darlene Love and the Blossoms – another Phillies group – despite the Crystals credit.

Due to shyness and stage fright, lead singer Barbara Alston then decided to step back into the harmony role, with the main vocal duties taken on by member Dolores “Lala” Brooks. Many consider what followed to be the definitive Crystals line-up and not without good reason – singles recorded in this period such as 1963’s Da Doo Ron Ron and Then He Kissed Me have remained all-time classics. And the latter, I must admit, is a song I personally never ever tire of. There’s something just so appealing about those lyrics and the way they are sung; the story is not something you haven’t heard before – boy meets girl at dance, walks her home, they fall in love, she introduces him to her parents, he eventually proposes and they get married. But Dolores manages to capture the overwhelming beauty of each of these moments so well with her innocent voice – lyrics such as “Felt so happy I almost cried / And then he kissed me” or “I didn’t know just what to do / So I whispered I love you” get straight to the point and tug right at the listener’s heart.

The arrangement on the other hand is anything but simple – soaring strings, rolling rhythm, insistent percussion, and sax breaks all come together in creating an instrumental that you can always find new details in. Wall-of-goddamn-sound in all its might. In a way, it almost feels like the words represent the heart and the music is a symbol for the brain, both in constant wrestle with each other yet co-dependent on one another for the whole thing to work. Then I Kissed Me is one of those songs that can be digested on multiple levels and that therefore never really gets old. It’s what every pop song should aspire to be.

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Categories: Song Reviews

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18 replies

  1. I was just telling Rich at Kamertunes this week — the Kiss cover of this song was the only Kiss song I was “allowed” to have played at my wedding! I love the original too of course. When I was a kid, I knew it had too be a cover because it didn’t sound like Kiss.

    I later discovered the original and I like the way you describe it. Fantastic song, goddamn wall of sound indeed!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great song. Remember so well the thrill of listening to all the Girl Groups, under the covers with my transistor radio. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t really listened to the lyrics properly before but so much in there as you say. Timeless emotions played out in song – simple and effective. Very nice piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, there you go! I had no idea that those two tracks weren’t The Crystals. Every day is a school day indeed!

    As for Then He Kissed Me, I’m of the opinion that song is pretty much as perfect as songs get. The song itself is wonderfully crafted, beautifully performed and masterfully captured.

    Spector might be an abhorrent and batshit crazy chap, but he knew how to make great records.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great post, Ovidiu. I’ve been a big fan of Phil Spector’s stable of artists since the first time I heard his/their Christmas album in high school more than 30 years ago, but I never delved into the details of each vocal group…so this was a real eye-opener. As you saw in my recent post on Kiss’ “Love Gun” album, their version (“Then She Kissed Me”) was my introduction to the song and the Spector sound when I was 11 years old. It was fun to discover the source material when I was a few years older.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great reminder of the this group. “He’s a Rebel” is a favorite among the list, but “Then He Kissed Me,” is terrific, as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great post, Ovidiu. I loved the Ronettes, and Phil Spector was a genius, albeit crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good song, but my favorite is Da Doo Ron Ron.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A great era of music. I remember hearing it on my zenith transistor radio when I was a little girl!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very interesting to find a lot of you younger folks getting into an amazing era of popular music. Such memorable songs. The songs were so memorable a lot of us could remember all the lyrics and sing them (badly) in the shower. It was truly an art form to create a song that was less than three minutes long, had great lyrics and a memorable tune.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. That song, “He Hit Me (it Felt Like a Kiss) was indeed controversial. I can count on one hand the number of times I ever heard it played. And I think that, thankfully, it has disappeared from even the few stations that still play that era. PS. For anyone interested in this era of music, I just started a series on the great songs of the pre-British Invasion years.

    https://musicenthusiast.net/

    Liked by 1 person

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