Before Amy Winehouse, Lesley Gore: "It's My Party"

Amy Winehouse's hit single “It’s My Party" was one of a collection of cover versions of songs on super-producer Quincy Jones’ album “Q Soul Bossa Nostra.” While all the tunes on the album are associated in some way with Jones, “It’s My Party” is special in that it was the producer’s first number one hit. Ironically, it was a squeaky-clean teen, pop singer Lesley Gore, who made the song a hit; Gore's image could not be more different than the hard-living Winehouse.

Lesley Gore was 16, singing with her cousin’s band, when she was discovered by Irving Green, president of Mercury Records. Green turned the teen over to Mercury A&R man Quincy Jones, who brought Gore 200 demo records of different songs. Mick Patrick and Malcolm Baumgart tell Gore's reaction when Jones arrived at the teen's Tenafly, New Jersey home.

"He was carrying these big boxes in and we set them in the den, and he puts on "It's My Party." It's the first time I've ever done this, so I said to him, 'That's not half bad. I like it. Good melody. Let's put it on the ‘maybe’ pile. Then we went through the entire two hundred and it was the only one we liked."

Written in 1962 by John Gluck, Wally Gold and Herb Weiner, the song was recorded a few weeks later on March 30, 1963 in New York with Jones producing.  Gore told Shauna Swartz that she was not optimistic about its chances.

When we left the studio, everyone was pleased, but even the president of the company, a wonderful father-like figure, Irving Green, said “Now, sweetheart, if this never gets released, I don’t want you to be disappointed.” And I said, “It’s okay, this has been a great experience. I enjoyed it and I thank you for that, and it’s okay if you never release it.” I never thought it would see the light of day…

I was 16 years old—what did I know? I went into a studio, that was an amazing experience, the whole band was there. Ellie Greenwich and twelve singers were there—I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. So if it was going to be released, I couldn’t even envision that. That was too far away to even think about.

Quincy Jones did not realize at the time that Phil Spector had heard the same demo of “It’s My Party” that Jones had played in Gore’s living room. Spector thought it was terrific and recorded a slower version with members of the girl group the Blossoms.

When Quincy Jones learned that Spector had produced the track, he was determined not to be beaten to the punch. Within two days, Jones made one hundred copies of the record from a test pressing and sent them to radio programmers in the top markets. The plan worked; “It’s My Party” hit number one in four weeks; Spector’s version was never released.

 

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