Friday, March 28, 2008

No Pain, No Gain

I’ve mentioned before that few of my 45s were double-sided caithiseach hits when I was little. Among the artists I’ve profiled so far, only the Highwaymen single and the Marlin Greene single got equal A/B play in my world. Today’s 45 is a third: I flipped “La Dee Dah (Ha Ha Ha)” by Jerry Jackson and found “You Don’t Wanna Hurt Me” attractive as well.

My modus operandi when I feature both sides of a single on the blog has been to focus on the artist’s history on Wednesday and some other aspect of the 45 on Saturday. I’ve told you what I know about Jerry Jackson, one of the best singers to cross my platter when I was little. And now I get to discuss a couple of his songwriters.

Michael (Mickey) Gentile co-wrote “You Don’t Wanna Hurt Me.” He wrote tunes recorded by Barbara McNair and Marvin Gaye, including “I Wish I Liked You (As Much As I Love You).” He was a frequent collaborator with songwriter Jennie Lee Lambert, who recorded “First Summer of Our Love”/“Hey Mr. Scientist” for the Musicor label in 1961.

Mickey Gentile is credited vaguely with production work for Motown, but short of buying a bunch of CDs just to see the notes, I’m afraid I’m not coming up with much concrete information. There is, however, a Mickey Gentile connection about whom I know a bit more.

Gentile and Lambert co-wrote “Hey Mr. Scientist,” and one singer who covered it was a guy named Jeff Barry. Later, Jeff Barry co-wrote “You Don’t Wanna Hurt Me” with Mickey Gentile.

Now, depending on your depth of musical knowledge, either a billion bells are sounding, or you’re shrugging your shoulders. The rest of this post, and the next two, are for the shoulder-shruggers, but if you think you know Jeff Barry, I can still educate all but one or two of you, and you know who you are.

When I was first playing this Jerry Jackson recording, I couldn’t read the label. I depended on visual memory of each label to know which record I was playing. My parents gave me the name of the artist and the title of the song, and then, from age two on, I pulled the records I wanted to play from the stack almost without error. (I did make two serious mis-associations, but I’ll discuss them in September.)

Three-year-old caithiseach knew the artist and the title of his 45s, but he never asked what the names in parentheses (the songwriters) meant. I figured out their significance as soon as I learned that my uncle’s name was in the parentheses of one 45 I owned, but I left the rest of the little names alone until I could read them myself.

Once I did see that (Barry-Gentile) had written “You Don’t Wanna Hurt Me,” I didn’t connect it with Jeff Barry, who sang next week’s songs. But now, I know this song to be a somewhat early effort from the man who turned out to be the third-most-successful American pop songwriter of the rock era, behind Carole King and Lionel Richie.

Jeff Barry was born April 3, 1938 in Brooklyn. Signed to RCA records in 1958, he had little success as a recording artist for RCA, but he placed some compositions with hitmakers, including “Teenage Sonata” with Sam Cooke (#50, 1960) and “Tell Laura I Love Her” with Ray Peterson (#7, 1960).

While I adored the Jeff Barry songs I’ll feature next week, I also loved a few tunes I didn’t own on 45 but heard on the radio: “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You,” “Leader of the Pack” and “Chapel of Love.” They, along with “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” by the Beatles (yes, I DO know the real title now) and “Downtown” by Petula Clark, made up the soundtrack of my life between birth and kindergarten.

And, apart from “Downtown” and “She Loves You,” they were all written by Jeff Barry. I just didn’t know it.

Now you know it, too, and so I ask you to give this song a listen. There is so much more to say about Jeff as his 70th birthday approaches that his career, like Gaul, must be divided into three parts. See you Wednesday and Saturday with more details of Jeff’s career.

Jerry Jackson, You Don’t Wanna Hurt Me


yah shure said...

Both sides of this record were certainly worthy of becoming hits. Part of the problem may have been the label itself. Kapp had more of a middle-of-the-road image back then, and this just doesn't sound like a record that Kapp could have promoted effectively in 1961. More than three years would pass until Lenny Welch would sign with the label, and even he didn't have much luck in the post-British Invasion onslaught.

RCA would have been a better fit for Jerry.

stackja1945 said...

Jeff Barry's name seemed familiar. Your information and Google shows why.