The liner notes to Lesley Gore’s “Girl Talk” LP mourn the influx of “twanging guitars, psychedelic sounds and moaning voices” and hails Lesley for “singing in tune” and “pronouncing the lyrics of a song so they are understandable”. This was October 1964, when America was smack in the midst of Beatlemania. Lesley Gore, like so many American artists navigating the music scene, had to contend with the British Invasion, but she managed to weather the changing climate and remain in the Top 20 from ‘It’s My Party’ in early 1963 through to ‘California Nights’ in ’67.
By the time “Girl Talk” was released in October 1964, Lesley had entered her first year at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York. It was drastically different from Dwight School For Girls. She had to cope with cynical teachers who thought her enrolment was a PR stunt and students who were not too keen to make her acquaintance. “It was not an easy transition. I came there as a star, and I gotta tell you, they treated me like shit. I was a pop singer at a time when it was a whole lot hipper to be a beatnik.” Lesley would sport a more beatnik look on her fifth album, “My Town, My Guy And Me”, but “Girl Talk” already hinted at an artist moving beyond her teenybopper years and eager to expand her musical palette.
Album opener ‘Hey Now’ was risky – far more feisty and rhythmic than Lesley’s usual material. Its follow-up, ‘Maybe I Know’, proved that teenage pop could be smart and gimmick-free. The single also established a relationship between Lesley and songwriter Ellie Greenwich, who penned the song and its fab successor ‘Look Of Love’ with her husband Jeff Barry. Ellie, along with singers Jean Thomas and Mikie Harris, were integral to the making of “Girl Talk”, giving the album its lush tones and girl group feel. The girls spent a day in July 1964 recording eight of the cuts on “Girl Talk” with Quincy Jones and engineer Phil Ramone at the mixing board. Devastating ballad ‘Say Goodbye’ owes much of its magic to their voices echoing Lesley’s pain. Lesley was particularly fond of ‘You’ve Come Back’, a Van McCoy ballad she calls “one of my favourite songs of all time. I remember the first time I heard it on a demo, and I cried like a baby. I said, ‘I really need to do this song.’ That’s how deeply it affected me.” McCoy pops up again on ‘It’s Just About That Time’, delivered with all the feeling of a girl having to tear herself away from her beau to make it home by curfew. ‘Little Girl Go Home’ is another of her cherished “Girl Talk” moments. “When I was over in France, Charles Aznavour, who I idolised, invited me to his house for lunch. I met the writers and I heard ‘Little Girl Go Home’ for the first time. It has some very wonderful memories.
Lesley celebrated 50 years in the music business in March 2013. “Five decades!” she enthuses. Five decades on and Lesley Gore’s impact still reigns strong – in the message of ‘You Don’t Own Me’ and in modern-day artists such as Drake, Icona Pop, Jessie J and Miley Cyrus who keep ‘It’s My Party’ alive and well in the present.
By Sheila Burgel chachacharming.com