Behind the Hits Story

 
It's My Party - Lesley Gore
 

Year: 1963 
Position: #1 
Label: Mercury 

 

SONGWRITER STORIES 
“It’s My Party” will always belong to Lesley Gore. Not many people know, however, that before it was Lesley’s song, it almost became the property of Phil Spector and the Crystals. 


Lesley Gore

One day in March of 1963, Phil Spector went up to Aaron Schroeder’s office. He and Schroeder were friends from the days when Spector was producing Gene Pitney; Schroeder owned Musicor Records, Pitney’s label, and he and Pitney were songwriting partners. Schroeder also owned a music publishing firm whose staff included Wally Gold, co-writer of Elvis’ biggest hit ever, “It’s Now or Never.” Spector knew that Schroeder’s firm was a reliable source of good material and he often visited, looking for songs for the girl groups on his new Philles label. On this particular visit, Phil heard a demo of a song that Wally had written with John Gluck and Herb Weiner, called “It’s My Party.” Wally Gold remembers: “He said, ‘Great, I love it. I’m gonna do it with the Crystals.’ We were really excited, because that would ensure that the record was #l!”

    Phil left with the demo, not knowing that others had already heard it before him. It was a common practice among music publishers to send out demos to many labels and producers, as long as the song hadn’t been written for a specific artist. Once it was accepted by someone, the publisher would put a “freeze” on the song and notify others in the business that it was going to be recorded. This sort of gentlemen’s agreement worked amazingly well. But it had lapses. Like in this case. Unknown to Spector -- and everyone in Schroeder’s office -- someone else had already chosen the song for her first record: singer Lesley Gore. Discovered and produced by Quincy Jones, Lesley recorded the song at the end of March. In February, a month before, Quincy went to Lesley’s home in Tenafly, New Jersey, armed with a stack of demos.

LESLEY GORE: “Quincy and I sat down and we listened to about two or three hundred demonstration records after we’d decided to go in and record, and ‘It’s My Party’ was among the songs we listened to. We both liked it and both decided we’d record it.” Meanwhile, Phil Spector was building a typical “Wall of Sound” production for “It’s My Party.”

WALLY GOLD: “As Phil always did, it took him forever to make a record. If you remember, he just laid sound on sound. It really took a long time for him to finish a single. So he cut the tracks to ‘It’s My Party’ and he’s in the middle of doing it when Aaron gets a call from Quincy Jones, from his office right across the street at 745 Fifth Avenue. Quincy says, ‘Aaron, you’ve got to run over. I just recorded your song.’ Aaron sort of turned a little pale at the time, because he knew Phil was working on it, making a hell of a record, and it was almost done.”
    Schroeder hung up and told Wally, “I’ve gotta kill that record. Phil will really get upset.” Aaron went over to hear it and returned, according to Wally, “looking even sicker than he did when he got the call.” What he’d heard, to his mind, couldn’t compare with what Spector was planning. Lesley was a new artist, and the song had been done in a real “formula” style. Nonetheless, Quincy was determined to release it over Aaron’s protests. In fact, Mercury got wind of Spector’s version, and they rushed Quincy’s out even sooner than they’d originally planned, in test pressings!
    And what scalawag told Mercury about Phil Spector’s version? Phil Spector! Quincy Jones: “I remember we cut the record on a Saturday, and I went by to see Charles Aznavour, who I’d worked with in Paris, that night, and I saw Spector getting out of a car. . . He told me [about the record]. . . so we went and put it out on Monday!”
    Lesley Gore was totally unprepared for how fast everything happened from there. Six days after cutting “It’s My Party,” she heard it on the radio. She thought that making records would be a temporary thing, and was planning to go on to school, but it took only four weeks for her song to become #1 -- and for Lesley to become a full-time singer. Phil Spector and his unfinished masterpiece, meanwhile, were left in the dust. Wally Gold: “I don’t think Phil ever came to the office again.”

 
 

 

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