The first time I heard "Baby I Do Love You," I couldn't believe how annoying it was. I was not alone. Norman Galen, leader of what he probably thought would be a white version of The Platters, was appalled.
Over the men's soothing lullaby singing, and the icky-melange of his female vocalist's sugary emoting…there was a relentless POING POING POING noise. It wasn't there when he and his group recorded it. Where'd it come from? What was it?
The over-dubbed novelty could've become the soundtrack to an aspirin commercial: "Distracted by a pounding headache? Is your peace of mind being ruined??"
Just what that obnoxious noise was, nobody was quite sure. One of the trade publications of the day figured it was an ocarina. It sounded a bit more like somebody beating a hamster with a coat hanger. But, to quote an infamous David Seville line, radio listeners seemed to think, "That's almost good!"
It isn't, but it's certainly a fascinating and horrible experiment, a culture clash between an All-American whitebread girl, a bunch of creepy German crooners, and some kind of psychotic Ed Gein hillbilly wielding a weapon. (You can download now and try to guess what the hell it is...the answer turns up a few paragraphs down).
As originally envisioned, the basic tune had the three Galen guys cooing a Teutonic lullaby in German called "Du Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen." After a while, the baby doll lead vocalist steps forward to solo on the sweet refrain in English: "Baby I DO, DO LOVE YOUUUUU. Baby I want you so. Baby I need you so. Baby I love you so. I just keep missin' your wonderful kissin'"
It seemed like it could be a middle of the road hit. The familiar German tune had already been turned into "You, You, You are the One," a success for Russ Morgan back in 1949.
Twist of fate: The Galens' indie record label decided they loved it but the kids couldn't dance to it. Where was the beat? Apparently having no faith in the song rising to the charts like "Harbor Lights" or some other sappy platter, they brought in "rock" percussion. Or did they?
They found some guy with a musical saw, and had him relentlessly pound it throughout the song. POING POING POING.
It almost worked. Throughout the history of pop-novelty, listeners have been hypnotized into buying grating tunes: "The Hut Sut Song." "Three Little Fishes." "Purple People Eater." "How Much is That Doggie In the Window." "Dang Me." You name it. Some love it, some hate it, enough buy it so it hits the Top 20.
Like a moth putting a few little holes in a sport jacket, "Baby I Do Love You" with its sputtery high-pitched pounding noise fluttered just inside the Top 100.
This sugar-coated cyanide pill, which stuck in a listener's ear causing a brain melt, had some people wondering who were The Galens? What would they do next?
Technically, the band should've been called The Galen, because only one person in the band had that last name. Norman Galen grew up on exotic Catalina Island in California. He had been briefly paralyzed after a bout of polio, finding solace in playing the piano. The prodigy won the attention of the esteemed and pressed Walter Gieseking, who had recorded some impressive versions of Beethoven sonatas back in the 78rpm era. The Geese couldn't keep The Galen interested in classical music forever; the kid went off to pursue big band music and Vegas pop.
Galen formed a swingin' quartet with drummer George Ross, bassist Bob Hubener, and vocalist Charlene Knight, who sounded like a clone of Priscilla Paris. Galen loved her sound; he had arranged music for The Paris Sisters' Vegas act and was smitten by their sugary vocalizing. There was an entire genre of "sweet bands" in the 1940's and Galen was hoping to make money with his own brand of "easy listening." The Galens were managed by Faye Paris, who also directed the fate of her daughters.
Charlene Knight hadn't recorded much before joining The Galens. Her debut was on the Pamela label, an indie outfit from Monrovia, California. The title of her 1961 debut was "If You Pass Me By." I know, that's a straight line.
"Baby I Do Love You" released in 1963 was the first recording by The Galens. It was for the small but lethal Challenge label, and featured an almost equally appalling flip side. It was the coy "Love Bells," which included ""ting ah ling a ling uh" as a refrain. It was the kind of thing Mitch Miller would've foisted on Patti Page.
The Galens managed to issue a 1964 single their way. They chose the old war horse "Stranger in Paradise," mildly goosed into 60's rock sensibilities by a jittery back beat. The flip side was "Chinese Lanterns," another MOR-onic tune. By then The Platters' style was history and frisky rock was dominating the Top 20. They got one last chance to go back and get the teen audience via the 1965 effort "Young Dreams." It was a smack-worthy bit of cuteness, with "I Love You More Than You Know" on the backside.
No longer trying for the teen market, The Galens stopped making singles and became a successful live act for aging tourists at resort hotels. They were well known in Bermuda and in the Bahamas through the mid 60's, and recorded a short-run souvenir album of well-worn classic pop tunes. It's now a "collectors item" that's pretty hard to find. The group disbanded when Charlene Knight settled down to enjoy motherhood.
Norman Galen stayed in the music biz in a variety of ways, running a music store, teaching students, and sometimes staging concerts for fans of "easy listening." He and his partner Dale retired about ten years ago, and are, I assume, like the other three members of the long lost group, very much alive.
Back in 2008, Christine Knight was on the Net leaving messages about her long lost group. One of 'em was: "Looking for original recordings of The Galens, with Charlene Knight (myself) by Challenge Records in the 60's…How might I obtain copies for personal use?" She was wondering what had become of the masters. It's a familiar and usually unanswered question.
Below, the anvil-subtle Demento-esque percussive saw, punctuating "Baby I Do Love You." It's an early example of over-dubbing for the sake of a teen-rock audience. You might recall a much more successful example: "Sound of Silence," rescued from the poor-selling debut album by Simon and Garfunkel and brought to life with a folk-rock beat.
Also below, a few more examples of Miss Knight and The Galens. Fans of The Paris Sisters, and the solo Priscilla Paris, might recall that they could be pretty good with their musical saccharine ("I Love How You Love Me") and even original ("He Owns the World.") So no collection should be without something galling or Galen or going gentle into that good Knight…
IF YOU PASS ME BY Charlene Knight
BABY I DO LOVE YOU THE GALENS
LOVE BELLS THE GALENS
STRANGER IN PARADISE THE GALENS
CHINESE LANTERNS THE GALENS