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Music of the Heart?

April 9, 2012 | by

When Mad Men featured a kittenish cover of Gillian Hills’s “Zou Bisou Bisou,” it promptly started making waves on iTunes. One hopes their ending with the perennially macabre 1962 Crystals single “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” won't have the same effect, despite the song’s enduring place in both the camp and gender-studies canons. It’s jarring to discover that Natural Woman Carole King was behind the lyrics (apparently inspired by Little Eva’s disclosures about her boyfriend’s domestic violence) and even more so when you think that Phil Spector masterminded the arrangement. Public outcry ultimately forced Spector to pull the record.

Grizzly Bear is only one of the recent bands to cover the song (it was a Hole staple, too), and it makes us wonder if some things, even today, can’t be safely padded with irony.

6 COMMENTS

6 Comments

  1. Elizabeth | April 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    That was so disturbing. Thanks for mentioning it.

  2. SpragueD | April 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Saint Etienne’s 1991 Foxbase Alpha briefly referenced this in the song “She’s the One”. I never knew what it was — just that it made me very sad.

  3. Jane | April 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    What’s the problem? The song isn’t promoting or absolivng domestic violence, its lyrics are simply from the POV of a woman psychologically trapped in this kind of toxic relationship. I wish more pop songs were this provocative and inventive.

  4. Sid | April 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I agree with Jane. King/Geffen (who borrow the title/conceit from CAROUSEL) did what all artists do, find grace in hell. Plus–Ed Droste does not perform the piece as ironic camp. Droste is gay, so when he sings the piece–it’s breathtaking.
    Stein’s reading is simplistic, like from a soph’s gender-studies essay.

  5. Paul | April 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    On the grace in hell aspect – one ought consider the drug/needle implications of the Hole cover and wonder why, it seems, that Johnny Thunders never covered this, what with his obsession with that era and his other obvious hobbies. Indeed, psychologically trapped in a kind of toxic relationship…

  6. Dylan Hicks | April 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Although Gerry Goffin and Carole King probably collaborated on all aspects of the song, I think Goffin was more responsible for the lyrics of “He Hit Me.” Although it’s true what Jane says above, it’s also likely that many of the Crystals’ predominantly young fans would, in 1962, have come up with less sophisticated readings of the song, and taken its narrator’s message and the song’s superficially happy ending not as dramatic irony but as something rather more literal, even condoning. The Crystals weren’t comfortable with the song, and King didn’t revisit it during her later career.

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