Lesley Gore was a typical high school student during the early sixties until she walked into a recording studio with producer Quincy Jones and cut a single called “It’s My Party.” The song would top the American pop charts during March of 1963 and before the year was finished she would produce three more top-five singles, making her a very unique teenager.
Today Lesley Gore is best remembered for her series of singles issued between 1963 and 1967. She had all-American looks and appeal and was a female teen idol in her day, appearing on such programs as The Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, The Tonight Show, Hullabaloo, and Shindig. While her career was never as commercially successful as during the sixties, she has continued to tour regularly and has issued four studio albums since 1972 including 2005’s Ever Since.
The best introduction to her music is It’s My Party: The Mercury Anthology. 52 tracks, contained on two discs, span her career with the Mercury label. It includes all of her singles for the label, including seventeen which reached the charts, plus some B-sides and a few album tracks.
Much of her material was from a much simpler time and reflects as such. “It’s My Party” and the follow up, “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” dealt with teen angst. “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows,” “California Nights,” “Summer and Sandy,” and “My Town, My Guy, and Me” were all catchy pop tunes which were perfect radio fare. “She’s A Fool” was a rare release with bite as it was an early pro-feminist commentary.
Her final material for the label was recorded in 1969 and was an attempt to adapt to a changing music industry. “98.6/Lazy Day” and her last single, “Wedding Bell Blues,” which became a huge hit for the Fifth Dimension, failed to chart and she moved on to other labels and projects.
On a personal note, I saw Lesley Gore in concert sometime during the early eighties on one of those oldies packages. I remember Lou Christie and Rick Nelson were also on the bill. I’m sure that performance thirty years ago is similar to what would be presented by her today.
Lesley Gore may not have issued any material that changed the musical landscape but her songs were well crafted and they still enable the aging baby boom generation to return to that simpler time and remember. Sometimes that is legacy enough.