I remember going to summer camp once … it was a week-long affair via the Episcopal church. I’m guessing it was 1965. The last night, there was a dance, and the only two albums, as I recall, were Beatles VI and The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore. The adults played those two records over and over again as the pre-teens danced away. I fell in love with a girl, as usual, and she and I danced all night … I remember doing the Jerk, which didn’t take any skill, a good thing since I didn’t have any. When I think of Lesley Gore, I think of that night. But that’s not the whole story, of course.
Gore was a 16-year-old high school junior when she recorded her first song, “It’s My Party.” It hit #1 on the pop charts; it hit #1 on the R&B charts. The producer on the record had just turned 30 … he was an A&R man for Mercury Records with a reputation as a solid arranger, who was asked to work with Gore after demos of her made it to the label. Together, he and Gore sorted through a couple of hundred songs before deciding on “It’s My Party.” It ended up being his first hit as a producer. His name? Quincy Jones.
While she never again made it to #1, Gore was no one-hit wonder. She had three more records in the Top Ten and several more in the Top Twenty. There was the sequel to her first hit, “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and arguably her best record, “You Don’t Own Me,” which was kept out of the top spot by “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” A classic Quincy Jones arrangement accompanied a strong vocal by Gore, and lyrics which were startlingly feminist for the pop music of the time.
No discussion of Gore is complete without mention of her goofiest hit, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” which did the job with Ramonesian efficiency, barely a minute-and-a-half, second verse, same as the first. (The music in this one is by Marvin Hamlisch.)
I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about the movie from which the above clip originated. Ski Party was one of those beach-party movies so prevalent in the 60s, moved to the slopes to provide a little variety. Many of these films featured pop acts performing their latest hits; Ski Party managed to get someone very special to visit the lodge in one of the more incongruous scenes in movie history:
There was another Lesley Gore tie-in in the above clip. The woman who recognizes JB was played by Yvonne Craig, the voluptuous actress who went on to play Batgirl in the Batman TV series. Someone else showed up for a couple of Batman episodes, although in her case, it was on the wrong side of the law, working for Catwoman:
Gore’s career began to fade when, despite plenty of offers to continue singing and acting, she started college at Sarah Lawrence, which didn’t leave her much time for that other stuff. She’s never really gone away … she picked up an Oscar nomination for her songwriting work on the movie Fame. The song, “Out Here on My Own,” perhaps took on special significance some years later, when Gore came out of the closet.