The Chiffons formed in The Bronx, New York in 1960 with school friends Judy Craig, Patricia Bennett and Barbara Lee – Sylvia Petersen (lead singer on Nobody Knows What’s Going On In My Mind But Me) joined two years later. You can hear in this song that they were some of the strongest harmony singers of all the Girl Groups.
Famously turned down by Capitol records President Voyle Gilmore when self-appointed manager and songwriter Ronald Mack approached him with He’s So Fine, he suggested the song was too simple. After consistent refusals from other labels to sign the group, eventually Laurie Records enthusiastically agreed to release the single. He’s So Fine went to No.1 in 1963 (No.16 in the UK) selling over a million copies in the US alone. Unfortunately Ronald Mack died soon after the release but Goffin/King’s One Fine Day, their third single went to No.5. (No.29 in the UK). Other minor hits followed but it wasn’t until 1966 that another Goffin/King song, Sweet Talkin’ Guy would return them to the US Top 10. (No. 31 in the UK but N0.4 as a 1972 rerelease).
The band also released two singles in 1963 as The Four Pennies on Laurie Records subsidiary, Rust with Sylvia Peterson on lead vocals but the huge success of their first single as The Chiffons had them abandon that direction. Although Judy Craig was the original lead singer, Peterson sang more lead vocals as the band progressed.
Those that remember The Chiffons will know them best for three songs – One Fine Day, Sweet Talkin’ Guy And He’s So Fine. Most people would be familiar with the law suit filed against George Harrison for plagiarising He’s so Fine? (See below)
But the song featured here Nobody Knows What’s Going On In My Mind But Me may be less familiar. Released in 1965 and featuring in the 1966 Music film Disk-O-Tek holiday with a myriad of Pop stars of the day (see trailer below) it reached No.49 in the US charts. What’s interesting is that it’s almost early psychedelica with it’s dark moodiness and talk of the mind! Great harmonies, reverbs galore and crazy harp, dark baritone sax and bizarre arrangement it seems unlikely from a Girl Group of the day.
The band made four albums between 1963 and 1970 but as usual even with a No.1 hit their debut album could only manage No.97 in the US charts. Eventually all members took on day jobs, retired, left, came back and now only Judy Craig remains keeping the band going as the only original member with her daughter and niece. Barbara Lee died of a heart attack in 1992.
And on the issue of My Sweet Lord Versus – He’s So Fine – this from wikipedia:
“On February 10, 1971, Bright Tunes Music Corporation filed suit alleging that the current George Harrison hit “My Sweet Lord” was a plagiarism of “He’s So Fine”. The case did not go to trial until February 1976 when the judge ruled on the liability portion of the suit in favor of Bright Tunes, determining that Harrison was guilty of “subconscious” plagiarism. The suit to determine damages was scheduled for November 1976 but delayed until February 1981, by which time Allen Klein, Harrison’s onetime manager who had been his legal adviser in the first phase of the suit, had become the plaintiff by virtue of purchasing Bright Tunes. The final decision was that Harrison himself would purchase Bright Tunes from Klein for $587,000—the amount Klein had paid for the corporation—and although litigation continued for at least ten more years that decision was upheld”.
On Sweet Talkin’ Girls: The Best Of The Chiffons, the collection begins with He’s So Fine and ends with My Sweet Lord as The Chiffons allegedly attempted to cash in on the publicity by recording the song they were suing Harrison for. In the end as Harrison’s ex-manager Allen Klein bought the company that was suing him, it could only end one way, Harrison bought the company from Allen Klein effectively suing himself – welcome to the music business.