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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blowing Up My Mind: The Exciters

The early 80's documentary Girl Groups: Story of a Sound introduced me to The Exciters and many other 1960's girl groups, producers and songwriters. I had a copy of it on beta and would watch it often as a young teen. In the movie, Ronnie Spector talks about being inspired by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1956). Written by the young group themselves, this was their biggest hit, possibly because the singer's voice had not changed yet; Frankie Lymon was just 13 when they recorded the song. Sadly, he never managed to surpass it and and was dead by overdose at 25. He had one of the most distinctive sounding voices in the history of pop music:

In my view, it was Brenda Reid from the Exciters, not The Ronettes, who sounded the most like Frankie Lymon. The Exciters Tell Him (1962) is one of the greatest sounding pop songs of the Girl Groups era (1960-4) and owes a huge debt to Frankie Lymon. Singer Brenda Reid has an absolutely outstanding tone to her voice and the melodic phrasing on this Leiber/Stoller produced song is very similar to Why Do Fools Fall in Love:

It wasn't until I went to England in the early 90's and discovered Northern Soul that I got to hear classic Exciters songs such as Blowing Up My Mind (1969-RCA Victor) and He's Got the Power (1962-United) By the late 90's I managed to find The Exciters: Something To Shout About, an essential CD compilation of the tracks they recorded for Roulette, but it was missing the really great early stuff as well as the later foot-stompers--though it did have some of the later'70's psychedelic soul tracks. Luckily most of this is on on youtube for all to hear:

Trivia: The Exciters were formerly called "The Masterettes"

1 comment:

Tobi Vail said...

Songwriter Ellie Greenwich on working with The Exciters on her song "He's Got the Power", "Brenda had one of the best female voices I've ever heard. As far as I was concerned she could do no wrong--she would only add to the song, make it greater."