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.
Categories: Song Reviews