When This Old World Starts Getting Me Down (On The Death Of Gerry Goffin)

The sad passing of Gerry Goffin, the great American lyricist, at the age of 75 cannot go without some tribute being paid. In the 1960s, with his wife, Carole King, he created a breathtaking string of enduring songs which had a major influence on the development of modern pop music. He wrote 50 Top 40 hits, songs that came to you when you were a child & have stuck around all your life. As a very young boy I was charmed by the Crickets version of “Don’t Ever Change”, it was a little different from the rest, it was sweeter & it was modern. I will not list all the great songs, you can find them here. If I make the claim that Goffin was writing the soundtrack to our lives then I offer as evidence “Up On The Roof” (The Drifters), “Goin’ Back” (Dusty/The Byrds) & “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Aretha). You know this one but not , perhaps, this demo. It is an absolute beauty which you should keep close for those times you need a little uplift. RIP Gerry Goffin, a very talented man.

Goffin & King were based in New York, part of the production line for hit songs based in 1619 Broadway (the Brill Building) & 1650 Broadway (Aldon Music). Before the British arrived to rescue popular music from teen idol schlock it was the girl group sound which provided the innovation & inspiration that made pop music Pop Art.  Goffin & King did their bit with “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” for the Shirelles & “One Fine Day”, the Chiffons. They also, encouraged by those Myrmidons of Melodrama, the Shangri-Las, helped to push the envelope of the genre. “He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss) was recorded by the Crystals for Phil Spector. It is an ominous, morally ambiguous song which still stirs the listener 50 years after it was written. The Cookies’ “Don’t Say Nothin’ (Bad About My Baby)” has more charm but is still an odd song which takes us off the beaten track.

Any road up, I am looking through the Y-tube (catch it while it’s free !) for some of those great girl groups &, I know, beefing about what is absent rather than grinning about all the good stuff inside my computer when this unexpected gem turns up.

Blooming Nora ! The Chiffons “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On Inside My Mind But Me”…in colour ! 1965, more psychological than psychedelic. The girls were a big deal, “He’ So Fine”, “One Fine Day” & “Sweet Talking Guy” are all part of the girl group pantheon. This track though is a whole different brick in the wall of sound. Stephen Friedland had been a member of New York doo-woppists the Tokens before writing & producing under the unlikely pseudonym Brute Force. There are connections with Goffin & King who wrote a Tokens’ 45, a single solo LP & interest from the lead guitarist of the Beatles. Me, I’ll stick with this sweeping street symphony with its “whoa, whoa, whoa”s, it’s “no, no, no”s & “they say we’re too young but what do they know ?”. Terrific.

Here in the UK the Queen of Sixties Pop, Dusty Springfield, was making such a good job of her covers of Goffin & King songs that by 1965 she was getting the first option on new songs. “Goin’ Back” is  a perfectly structured song, the lyric a wistful reflection on a loss of innocence. Dusty does the right thing by such a fine song. She says here that “Some Of Your Lovin’ ” (1965) is her favourite of the songs she had recorded, it was her first original version of the duo’s. I love Dusty & try to squeeze her stuff into as many of these things as I can. This is here on merit not just my own preference & she sings & looks just great.

OK. I am going to get back on to that list of Gerry Goffin hits. He wrote Taj Mahal’s “Take A Giant Step” & I did not know that.  These songs are part of my musical DNA. “Catch me if you can…”