Sha la la la la

Baby It's You - Shirelles single

Baby. It’s. You.

Baby. It’s You.

Baby it’s. You.

Baby It’s You – however you want to punctuate this line this is a song of the purest of pure romantic love songs Pure romance. Pure reasonable obsession.

Much of pop music is about ‘you’, the otherwise lesser referred second-person of the made up fiction world. And what passions this ‘you’ inspires. What passions you inspire? Am I talking about you? Do I know you?!

This is the seductiveness of the second-person. Its crafty craft. Actually some obscure person in some obscure place is the actual subject of all the directed passion and angst but if you are in the similar throes of love then that love song about ‘you’ is about you, and your love. Oh yes it is. Oh no it’s not. Well it is kind of isn’t it? What with the universality of romance and love and relationships and all that? What a head-fuck! But all aboard this crazy train together we go.

The object of your love, hate, love and hate, gaze, affection, infection. Infected with first love. First requited love. First requited serious love.

As serious as love.

Shirelles album Baby It's YouBaby It’s You is one of many sultry Burt Bacharach musical muses. And it has lyrics by David, but not Hal. Rather a Mack David, along with Luther Dixon. Wikipedia gives the full details here.

Is it the sparse lines that make Baby It’s You? The simmering, shimmering performance by the Shirelles and lead Shirelle in particular? Some marriage of them both? Perhaps it was her song waiting to be written. Her being Shirley Owens. Or perhaps it is Bacharach’s Brandy Bacchanalian back-beat?

Or some cocktail of all those heady ingredients?…

The Beatles covered ‘Baby It’s You’ on their debut album, ‘Please, Please Me’, so this Shirelles’ song is not perhaps the most famous version.  Not even the second most famous version as a Californian group called Smith had a Top Ten hit with it in 1969 and perhaps more significantly it then featuring in the 2007 Quentin Tarantino film Death Proof.

Anyway. Be that as it may. It is my favourite version. And in pop music that is all that actually matters isn’t it? As said it is all about you. That is me, not you! My opinion and has someone else said the world can shut its mouth…

Anna Calvi - Suzanne & ISince its release over a half a century ago it has had many covers… Best in my view is by Anna Calvi from her ‘Suzanne and I’ album but another notable, notable at least by the artist involved than what they bring to the song, version is by the Carpenters with a surprisingly lacklustre treatment.

Many of the other versions are too dutiful and not worth the listing nevermind the listening. I have a problem with the cover version in principle. If a song is special why try to make it standard?…I suppose it becomes standard by the vanity of subsequent performers thinking they can bring something new to a song, though others that do, do not even try that, content just to do it verbatim, a superior karaoke version at best.

The actual year of this song’s birth was 1961. Does it matter? It is older than me and most of you reading this I am sure, and so? Songs are time-capsules. This song is not over-fifty but teenage and forever teenage. Well songs are time-capsules until some performer comes along and attempts a chicken-in-the-basket version of them but let’s not hark on that again!

The lead Shirelle

The lead Shirelle

And with Baby It’s You, it is the Shirelles rendering that transforms the song, unmatched and unmatchable. As noted, Her Song. Their performance of those words and music, words and music which are but slender, not much to go on, a fancy yet made so much of by them and Shirley Owens in particular.

If you have some familiarity with the Shirelles likely it is because of the glorious ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ though again you may know that from a version by its co- writer Carole King (with her writing partner and later husband Gerry Goffin, then later still, ex-husband) ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’

But it is Baby It’s You that we are concerned with, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ is a post for another day. Perhaps you will write it?!

Here comes the song.

Sha la la la la, sha la la la la, sha la la la la.

And believe me this is the correct number of La’s as I have counted and recorded them very studiously. If you see a different la count on another website including those devoted to song-lyrics (and flogging you the ring-tones that go with them) then they are just lazy and or plain wrong! What I am not going to attempt though is the tempo of those la’s. I mean you can just listen to it after all! Or if you can read music try this.

From Online Sheet Music Dot Com

From Online Sheet Music Dot Com

Sha la la la la

at quicker tempo this time and with male backing singers.

Then enters Shirley Owens.  She sings about You and to you. She talks to us. And herself. Rather she sings to all of us, including herself. We think. Or I think! For the second-person we can but be certainly uncertain.

It’s not the way you smile that touches my heart. Sha la la la la.

I’ve seen this rendered as ‘It’s not the way you smile that touched my heart’ but that tense is confused – it would need to be ‘It’s not the way you smiled that touched my heart’ – and she clearly sings ‘smile’ but to these ears it does indeed sound as if she is singing ‘touched’, perhaps ‘touch’  which also reads odd so I am filling in the gap as ‘touches’ and perhaps it just trails off in her mouth, she thinks it but does not vocalise it…and this idea has the Karen Carpenter seal of approval with her clear if sha la la la la-less take on that line too.

It’s not the way you kiss that tares me apart

Yet more songs about dissolving and resolving in love. No sha la la la la this time rather…

Woah-oh-woh. Many many nights roll by

I sit alone at home and cry, over you.

What can I do?

I can’t help myself.

Well this is what we tell ourselves anyway. Even if we are not helpless we want to believe that we are. And revel in this bitter-sweet surrender.

Cos baby it’s you.

Sha la la la la. Baby it’s you. Sha la la la la.

Next verse.

Sha la la la la. You should hear what they say about you. Cheat, cheat. Sha la  la la la.

They say, they say, you’ve never, never never been true. Cheat, cheat.

Much better than singing it damn straight as ‘They say you’ve never been true’.

Woah-oh. Doesn’t matter what they say, I know I’m gonna love you any old way. What can I do, when it’s true.

I don’t want nobody, nobody, cause baby it’s you.

Sha la la la la. Baby it’s you. Sha la la la la.

Then an odd musical interlude of squeaky slightly shrill organ, yet an oddly fitting offset too.

Interlude over.

Woah-oh-oh, many, many nights roll by.

I sit alone at home and cry over you. What can I do? I can’t help myself.

Cos baby it’s you. Sha la la la la. Baby it’s you. Sha la la la la.

By the by they had another song simply called ‘Sha la la’ though the la count after sha’s in that song was not a faithful four as here but all over the shop! And of a much faster tempo. I just thought you should know!

Don’t leave me alone. Sha la la la la.

Come on home. Sha la la la la la.

(Fades to whisper)

Baby it’s you. Sha la la la la.

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2 thoughts on “Sha la la la la

  1. Sam, very interesting to me because I remember a song when I was teen and I watched it on Countdown here in Australia & basically it was a male lead singing whatever whatever and then when the chorus arrived, his BIG BUSTY female accompaniment burst out BABY IT’S YOUUUUUUUUUU… BABY IT’S YOUUUUUUUU etc, & then she’d quiet down & he’d sing and she’d “bust” out again.

    Do you know who they were? I so can’t remember! i can’t remember the words or ANYthing but the chorus and the blonde whose only job was to scream ‘BABY IT’S YOUUUUUUU’ every chorus. I’d love it if you could lead me to a youtube clip. Sorry to challenge you, but I so remember it, as a teen, you know…

    Anyway, but a good write-up again. Interesting comment about the vanity of performers thinking they can bring something new to it, but I agree, if it’s special, why make it common.

    Love your stuff, Sam! :)

    • Well that is certainly an intriguing performance you are describing!

      ‘Baby It’s You’ is quite a commonplace line though. There are many different songs that just share the title. There was a Canadian group called ‘Promises’ who had a singer belting out those words whilst the lead male singer sang the verses, though would not like to comment on her bustiness! It is a different song though to this Bacharach one.

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