Monday, December 09, 2013


If you like stupid holiday and winter tunes…from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to "Baby It's Cold Outside" to "Let It Snow" to "Feliz Navidad" and "Wonderful Christmastime," you'll be delirious over the Paris Sisters and "The Man with the Mistletoe Mustache." You can bet that at this blog, a concession to season's gratings would have to be a truly annoying little Christmas obscurity.

The Paris Sisters, who did have a Top Ten hit in 1961, don't deserve to be as forgotten as they are. Though they did commit the occasional hideous novelty tune or Andrews Sisters sound-alike atrocity, much of their work is as pleasing as The Shirelles, The Ronettes or most any other girl group more likely to be represented on an Oldies CD collection or PBS fundraiser DVD. As they moved from a harmonious homogenized trio to Priscilla Paris and two back up singers, they specialized in super-sweet tracks of pleasing pop. The route to teen-pleasing perfection took seven years.

Priscilla, and older siblings Albeth and Sherrell, literally followed in the Andrews Sisters footsteps back in 1954. Their aggressive stage mother arranged a backstage meeting when the trio came to town. Patty, Maxene and Laverne actually liked the young girls and gave 'em a break…an on-stage chance to sing along with them on their hit 'Rum and Coca Cola." The Paris Sisters signed with Decca that year and issued "Ooh La La." They turned up on the Imperial label in 1957, still imitating the sassy close-harmony stylings of both the Andrews and the McGuire sisters as well as The Chordettes.

It was when they signed with Gregmark in 1961 that owner Lester Sill and one of his top producers (a fellow by the name of Phil Spector) transformed the trio. If you'll pardon the term, the "zeitgeist" at the time was sugar pop; soft and sweet groups such as The Fleetwoods and the Dixie Cups would be topping the charts, along with easy swinging solo artists such as Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka and Annette Funicello. The Paris Sisters scored a Top Five with "I Love How You Love Me," (music by Barry Mann, lyrics not yet by Cynthia Weil), and also did well in 1962 with the singles "He Knows I Love Him Too Much" and "What Am I to Do," also produced by Spector…who soon got involved with several more girl groups, leaving the Paris Sisters behind. (Phil's 73rd birthday comes up December 26th…get him a cake with a file in it).

As pop underwent radical change in the mid-60's, smart producers were mixing messages into the mush…exemplified by the subversive "Along Comes Mary" from The Association and the overt "Give a Damn" from Spanky and Our Gang. There still seemed hope for the Paris Sisters, now on Reprise, and working with former Spector arranger Jack Nitzsche. Their 1966 album "Sing Everything Under the Sun" remains an unsung classic of the waning girl group era, featuring several original compositions by Priscilla that stand comfortably alongside contributions from Goffin and King (Some of Your Lovin') Bacharach and David ("Long After Tonight is All Over") and Mann and Weil ("See That Boy"). The album had their smart re-working of "It's My Party," transformed from Lesley Gore's squealing angst, to vulnerable, wide-eyed baby doll heartbreak.

Your download below does have "It's My Party," but rather than the obvious early hits, also includes two rarities: both sides of a GNP Crescendo single "Stand Naked Clown," backed with "The Ugliest Girl in Town." The latter was the theme song for a short-lived TV show about a guy who invades the kicky British fashion scene in drag. It pre-dates Lady Gaga by a generation.

Call it Diana Ross syndrome, or just common sense; Priscilla went solo in 1967. The age of the singer-songwriter had arrived, and she had enough original material for the appropriately titled "Priscilla Sings Herself." Writing to what she perceived to be her true vocal talents, there was a marked shift away from breathy intimacy and the world of Claudine Longet or Astrud Gilberto. Instead of fluff and easy listening, there was the moody "Stone is Very Very Cold" and the bombastic "message" tune "He Owns the World," two tracks that seemed to be Priscilla's bid for entering the territory of Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey. Hey…Dusty and Shirley didn't write their own music and lyrics…these hold up, too. But…the album didn't get the attention it deserved.

Her next album switched styles again; the Pat Boone-ish concept album "Priscilla Sings Billy." Yes, they spelled Billie Holiday's name wrong and offered middle-of-the-road interpretations of Lady Day. It didn't thrill purists who loved the original's weary jazz lilt and boozy phrasing, and it had no appeal to pop fans who didn't want to hear Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy." The middle aged white audience had no idea who she was, so would've only bought that kind of album if it was from Rosemary Clooney or Doris Day.

After her 1978 comeback attempt, "Love Is…" Priscilla suffered an accident resulting in partial facial paralysis, sidelining her music career for a number of years. By the 1990s Priscilla was again playing the occasional Parisian club date, and in the spring of 2002 she returned to the U.S. for a proposed Paris Sisters reunion concert. Sadly, nothing quite worked out for her and her sisters, and she died just two years later, on March 5, 2004, from injuries suffered in a fall at her home. She was 59. Last year, an excellent compilation album was released on the Paris Sisters featuring a lot of rarities, and "Under the Sun" has been given a Japanese CD pressing.

Your download file feature five tracks: It's My Party, Stand Naked Clown, Stone is Very Very Cold, The Man with the Mistletoe Mustache, The Ugliest Girl in Town. For those with bandwidth problems, or dodgy wi-fi, there's a one-off separate file for "He Owns the World," which you can own in less than a few minutes.

FIVE FROM PRISCILLA PARIS / PARIS SISTERS: Five Tracks including the rare GNP single

Priscilla Paris He Owns the World

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