Monday, June 19, 2017

A Song A Day: Earl-Jean, "Randy"

JUNE 19, 2017



RELEASED 1964 ON 7” 45

At age 19, Earl-Jean McCrea joined a new version of The Cookies, a popular East Coast “girl group,” in 1961. Several years before, her older sister had been a founding member of the outfit, which eventually morphed into Ray Charles’ Raelettes.

Over the next couple of years, the reconstituted (reheated?) Cookies enjoyed two big hits—“Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby)” and “Chains”—and also sang backup on chart numbers by Carole King, Little Eva, and Neil Sedaka.

From 1962 through 1964, the trio released five singles, with nearly all of the songs on both sides written and produced by King and her husband, Gerry Goffin. The two songwriters also owned the label, Dimension, which issued the Cookies’ 45s.

As was the custom for many 1960s girl groups, including the Orlons and the Jaynetts, the Cookies also recorded songs that were issued under different group names.

Earl-Jean, or “Jeanie,” sang lead on most Cookies records. Her clear voice somehow seemed both shy and sassy at the same time. Married, with a child, and in a popular singing group, her life must have seemed pretty good to those around her.

But late in 1963, Earl-Jean became pregnant—with Gerry Goffin’s child.

In spite of this heartbreaking situation, Goffin and King remained married, and the two continued working with the Cookies. In fact, Earl-Jean even released a solo single, in early 1964, “I’m Into Something Good,” that the two wrote and produced.

Yet another catchy concoction, it was a hit, reaching #38 on the Billboard chart. Soon after, however, Herman’s Hermits, perhaps the least weighty of the big “British Invasion” groups, took their own version to #14.

It was a sign of the times. Earl-Jean’s final single emerged in October, by which time the New York girl groups had been eclipsed in popularity by the British groups who’d learned so much from them.

Despite being a major hit in Utah, of all places, “Randy” barely scraped the lower ranges of the Cashbox chart, reaching #147 on October 17. It didn’t even trouble the Billboard survey.

This was really a shame, as “Randy,” yet another great King-Goffin composition, deserved to chart much higher.

It would have been enough for the song to have a pretty melody, a sweet arrangement featuring hand claps, pleasant backing vocals, and a typically fine lead vocal. But “Randy” also featured an outstanding “bridge” section. No other pop songwriters of the time, not even Lennon and McCartney, would have taken a song in the key of D and added a middle section that started in A flat and eventually, effortlessly, resolved back to the verse key. It’s simply genius songwriting.

While “Randy” wasn’t a hit, it’s still there for us to hear. It’s remarkable for a number of reasons, one of them being the fact that Carole King was able to continue to write songs, with her husband, for a woman that he’d gotten pregnant.

Soon after, Earl-Jean left the music business, apparently without regret, and dedicated herself to her family.

No comments:

Post a Comment