The Crystals were another early sixties girl group that were involved with, produced by and released by Phil Spector’s Philles label. The Crystals have a complex and fascinating history; essentially they had four hits with three different lead singers and one of their hits wasn’t even recorded by them, incredibly it became a US No.1 in their name.
It all started in 1961, Barbara Alston, Mary Thomas, Dee Dee Kenniebrew, Myrna Giraud and Patsy Wright formed The Crystals with Barbara Alton as the lead singer. They signed to Philles records and hit No.20 in the US charts with There’s No Other (Like My Baby). In 1962 they had another hit with Uptown reaching No.13 but their third single He’s Sure The Boy I Love released in the same year failed to chart. Myrna Giraud then left the group replaced by LaLa Brooks.
Spector had used another girl group The Blossoms with Fanita James, Jean King and featuring Darlene Love on lead vocals to do backing vocal sessions with The Crystals. Gene Pitney’s song He’s A Rebel was supposed to be a Crystals single but they were away on tour so Spector brought The Blossoms in to record it. At this point Spector decided to release the single under The Crystals name as they were the label’s biggest group and perhaps because their previous single had missed the chart altogether but also because another artist Vikki Carr was about to release it and Spector needed to get it out fast. (Note: Popular girl group, The Shirelles turned down He’s A Rebel because it was too anti-establishment for their image).
He’s A Rebel went to No.1 on the US chart in November 1962 causing complications for both groups, The Crystals had to add the song to their set and Barbara Alston had difficulty singing the song. The Blossoms remained uncredited. Yes Phil Spector was at it again. He then released the next Crystals single, He’s Sure The Boy I Love and it went to No.11 in the chart and the group that recorded it was – The Blossoms.
The shenanigans continued and in 1963 Spector released Let’s Dance The Screw, a single never meant to chart as part of a contractual obligation and the severing of his ties with Philles co-label owner Lester Sills. It’s unclear whether The Blossoms or The Crystals were on the track.
At this point Mary Thomas quit and Barbara Alston decided to let LaLa Brooks take over as lead singer of the band. With their third lead singer, The Crystals found themselves storming into the Top Ten with one of the most remembered songs of the Sixties, Da Da Doo Ron Ron reaching No.3 in the US and No.1o in the UK. In the same year Then He Kissed Me was released reaching No.6 in the US and in early 1964 finding its way to No.2 in the UK. The band had achieved all these hits under the umbrella of The Crystals with three successive female lead singers, and were all produced by Phil Spector.
But by now The Ronettes had become Spector’s priority band and royalty disputes and the painful issues with The Blossoms and no doubt Spector’s madness led to internal tension until Wright and Alston left the group. The band made three more unsuccessful singles (one UK only released by London records) and two with Philles before signing to United Artists for two more songs that failed to return them to the top of the charts and they broke up in 1967. Four years later they were back together- but that’s another story.
The Crystals only really made one album Twist Uptown, as their second album, He’s A Rebel was trying to cash in on the success of the title song. He’s A Rebel and He’s Sure the Boy I Love replaced two songs from the Twist Uptown album and He Hit Me was added. The album reached No. 131 on the US chart showing that the girl groups like The Ronettes and The Crystals were primarily singles bands in the eyes (and ears) of the public.
The song written by Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich mixed innuendo and innocence with bombastic bliss. A ground breaking producer with a vision was on the loose and he would write himself into legend.
Note: The Video has lovely yellow Spanish subtitles but the video quality is the best of the choices on You Tube. The video has only three Crystals in it – which three? LaLa Brooks as lead singer, Barbara Alston and Patsy Wright? The Photo above adding DeeDee Kenniebrew?