186. ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”, by The Righteous Brothers

Oh baby, baby… For our next chart-topper, we take a step into the realm of the super-cool. An empty stage… A sole spotlight shining its beam through the dusty air… A mic on a stand… Thick curtains part, and on step two men…

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You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’, by The Righteous Brothers (their 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 4th – 18th February 1965

And then that voice. Sonorous. Rich. Velvety and comforting, but authoritative too. You never close your eyes, Anymore when I kiss, Your li-ips… It’s a voice that is somehow both low and high within the same line – sometimes within the same word. And there’s no tenderness like before, In your fingerti-ips… A voice that goes from velvety soft to a gravelly rasp in seconds (see that Baby! Something beautiful’s dying! line.) Said voice is Bill Medley’s, and it’s unlike anything we’ve heard before in this countdown. Apparently, at the time, it was so deep and treacly that people thought they were listening to the record on the wrong speed. I’d rate it instantly alongside Roy Orbison and Shirley Bassey as the best voice to have topped the charts, up to now. It’s a voice that it’s almost impossible to mimic… Anyone can pretend to be Elvis, or Mick Jagger, and just about get away with it. Not this voice.

The backing music is way off in the background, too – a softly shaken out drum and some ethereal strings. This record, to start with anyway, is all about the voice. Apparently Bobby Hatfield, the other Righteous Brother (they weren’t biological brothers – something I just found out…) was pissed off that they weren’t starting the song by singing together. But you’d have to say the producer got it right on that front. That producer, by the way…? One Phil Spector.

Hatfield soon gets his moment, though. Come the chorus, the two voices ring out: You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin, Now it’s gone, gone, gone, Woah-woah-oh… Then they intertwine for the superb crescendo that leads to the final chorus. You know, the bit that starts with an angelic Baby, baby, I’ll get down on my knees for you… and soars into call-and-response Babys! and Pleases! and I need your loves! It is pop perfection… as trite as that phrase sounds. Time-capsule pop, as I coined it in an earlier post. Two voices that are as good as The Everly Brothers; but that are completely different too.

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In keeping with more recent #1s, ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ is a very sophisticated song. It’s pop for adults. A world away from the teeny-bopping Mersey sound that encapsulated 1963-’64. It’s perhaps the first example of the American response to the British invasion – a record, like The Supremes from a few weeks earlier, which has that US gloss. You just know that the Righteous Brothers had perfectly white teeth…

Some of this is to do with the lyrics. With lines like And now your starting to, Criticise little things that I do… it’s looking at love in a way that Herman’s Hermits, or Billy J. Kramer, or even The Beatles, weren’t. But it’s more to do with Spector’s soaring, crashing, grandiose Wall of Sound production. The strings. The drums. The stereo sound that fills the room. I wrote a post recently on how it was a crime that ‘Be My Baby’ didn’t make #1. But, while that is a peerless pop disc; I hadn’t noticed that this record was coming up. I knew that this was a good song – a classic – but I had forgotten (or perhaps had never realised) just how good it was. Listening to it now… Oh boy. Phil Spector may be many things (most of them awful), but nobody – nobody I say! – knew their way around a pop record like him back in his heyday.

Like most eighties kids, my first exposure to ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ was in, ahem, ‘Top Gun’. Maverick and Goose, all in white, serenading Kelly McGillis… And this is just one of the ways in which this song has grown its own legend. It’s been covered by everyone: Cilla Black, Dionne Warwick, Hall & Oates… It caused Brian Wilson to tell the writers – Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil – that he had been “ready to quit the music business, but this has inspired me to write again”… We are in Rolling Stone Top 10, BMI most-played songs of all time territory here. We won’t meet many bigger songs than this one as we move on. Finally, and perhaps most excitingly of all, mixed in amongst the backing singers on the disc, was an up-and-coming young woman by the name of Cher.

We will hear from The Righteous Brothers again. But not for a long time, and in somewhat specific circumstances. It’s a lifetime away – one of the biggest gaps between #1 singles in history. This was, then, to all intents and purposes, their only chart-topping hit in their ‘lifetime’. Relish it, appreciate it… Just be grateful that it exists…

Catch up with the previous #1 singles here:

Songs That Should Have Been #1… ‘Be My Baby’, by The Ronettes

The Stargazers, Don Cornell, The Johnston Brothers, The Dream Weavers, Jerry Keller…? Nope, me neither. But they’ve all had the honour of topping the UK singles chart.

How well a single performs in the charts can be influenced by various things… promotion, star power, tastes and trends, time of year… pure luck. And that most fickle, unpredictable of  factors: the general public. Do enough of them like your song to make it a smash? Or will they ignore it, and let it fall by the wayside?

I’m taking a short break from the regular countdown to feature five discs that really should have topped the charts. Be it for their long-reaching influence, their enduring popularity or for the simple fact that, had they peaked a week earlier or later, they might have made it. (I’ll only be covering songs released before 1964, as that’s where I’m up to on the usual countdown.)

Last up…? Why, if it isn’t the best pop song of all time!

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Be My Baby, by The Ronettes

Reached #4 in November 1963

Not sure I have to write much more than that… But I’ll try.

Why is it such a classic? Well… There’s the intro, THE crashing, smashing Wall of Sound, the cascading drums, the melodramatic handclaps, the horns, the over-dubbing, the full-on orchestra in the background, the lyrics that range from girlishly submissive (I’ll make you happy, baby…) to flirty ( …just wait and see) in the space of one line…

Phil Spector may be a terrible person; yet against the backdrop of his crimes, and his truly messed-up relationship with Ronette’s lead singer Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Bennett (the only member of the group to actually sing on this song – every voice in the record is hers) ‘Be My Baby’ shines out even more brightly as a slice of pop perfection. Beauty out of something, or someone, awful.

Put simply, this is an amazing song, and it is a crime that it never topped the charts. I’ll end this mini-countdown imagining a parallel universe, where ‘Be My Baby’ sat astride the UK singles chart for a good month or two…

The usual #1s countdown will resume in a couple of days…