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My Boyfriend’s Back
In 1963, when teenagers at malt shops all over the USA heard the spoken-word recitation over syncopated handclaps and pounding bass drum, they dropped their malts and burgers. It was time to hit the dance floor. "He went away, and you hung around, and bothered me every night. And when I wouldn't go out with you, you said things that weren't very nice." (1) With that first drum fill, the kids were movin’ and groovin.’
The origins of the song, My Boyfriend’s Back by The Angels began on a Friday afternoon. “I was heading into Brooklyn from Manhattan to have dinner with my parents and stopped at a sweet shop across the street from Abraham Lincoln High School. It was being closed down and I wanted to have one last egg creme. (2) In the back where I used hang out while in high school, there was a girl screaming at a guy who looked like Fonzie in a black leather jacket. 'My boyfriend’s back. You’re gonna be in trouble. You’ve been saying stuff about me all over and when he gets back, he’s gonna beat the crap out you,’” reminisced songwriter Bob Feldman in a phone interview.
Feldman continued, “So, I grabbed a napkin as I always carry a pen or pencil and I started writing, ‘My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble. You been saying things about me and when he gets a hold of you, he’s gonna beat the crap out of you.’
I asked the proprietors if I could use their phone and called my writing partners, Jerry Goldstein and Robert Gottehrer, and told them, ‘Do not leave the office tonight.’ After a quick dinner with my parents, I grabbed a cab…I didn’t even take the subway…I heard a #1 record today. And we wrote it that night. A few weeks later, we added the line, ‘If I were you, I’d take a permanent vacation.’”
The Angels were three girls from New Jersey, Barbara Allbut, her sister Phyllis and friend Peggy Santiglia. With the two sisters and Linda Jansen singing in high school as the Starlets, the three would travel to New York to sing background vocals and demos for other artists. They signed with Caprice Records and took the name, the Angels, shortened from Blue Angels, a name they drew from a hat.
Photo courtesy Universal Attractions Inc.
With their first two releases on Caprice, they hit the charts. ‘Til landed at #14 in 1961 and the follow-up, Cry Baby Cry hit #38 the following year. (3) Peggy replaced Linda and the group met Feldman, Goldman and Gottehrer in late 1962. Phyllis was dating Jerry and the group was hired as demo singers. Feldman recalls, “They were selling deposit bottles to pay their rent.”
When Boyfriend was written, Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer just left Roosevelt Music who employed them as staff writers. Bob received a phone call from Tom Catalano, who told Feldman that Columbia Records was starting a new publishing company and he wanted Feldman, Goldstein and Gotteher (now F.G.G. Productions) to work with him. Their salary went from $75 to $200 a week.
When Catalano heard Boyfriend, he wanted the song for the Shirelles. F.G.G. knew what they had and wanted to produce it themselves. After a lengthy conversation, Catalano fired them, locked them out of their office and their contract was dropped. They took a small office in the same building and scraped enough money together for studio time. Working with other acts, they hired Larry Glover, a pianist and arranger to work with them as they booked a studio.
They cut four “A” sides and one “B” side to be used for all four of the acts. Sneaky Sue, the first record was sold to Kapp Records for $1500, the entire cost of the session. The second was sold to Columbia for $1500, the first profit for F.G.G. The third record, My Boyfriend’s Back, was purchased by Smash Records a subsidiary of Mercury Records for the unheard of sum of $10,000. In 1962, this was the largest advance ever for a song.
“There was a gentleman who hung out at Bell Studios whose name was Doug Moody,” recalled Feldman. “He was a vice-president of Smash Records. This little guy with greenish hair walked into office while we were waiting for our copies of the record and said, ‘I heard you boys cut a hit last night. I have it with me. Tell you what, I’ll get you the biggest advance ever paid for a 45 record if you make a deal with me.’ He pressed about fifty acetates. His ex-wife worked for RCA at a pressing plant. He put the records in his car and drove down the East Coast.”
Bob continued, “Charlie Fach, president of Smash Records, was receiving calls from distributors congratulating him on a hit record. He knew nothing about it. Charlie called F.G.G. and when we told him we wanted $10,000, he almost had an epileptic fit. Fach, making the deal laid out his terms. ‘I’ll give you $2500 when it hits the charts, $2500 more blah, blah, blah. We got a check for $10,000.”
“Did you know the song was banned on a lot radio stations?” Feldman mentioned. “It was too suggestive. ‘He went away. You hung around. And you said things about me that weren’t very nice.’ We had to cut the intro for some major radio stations around the country.”
Whatever cuts were made to the final record contributed to its ascent on the Billboard charts. Boyfriend entered the countdown on August 3, 1963. Within four weeks, it landed at #1 where it reigned for three more weeks eventually being replaced by Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet. (3) (4)
The Angels hit the charts two more times in 1963 and once in 1964. The eventual British Invasion left a number of girl groups off the charts and looking for a career change. The Angels hit the supper club circuit through the remainder of the sixties and gradually transitioned to oldies shows.
Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer continued to rock. In 1965, they became The Strangeloves and cast themselves as Miles, Niles and Giles — three brothers with the same mother with different fathers. The story only grew. “We were independently wealthy sheep farmers from Australia who had discovered a new strain of crossbred sheep,” stated Feldman and Gottehrer. (5) Wearing zebra skin costumes onstage complete with black leather pants and gold, heart-shaped belt buckles with their initials carved into them, the faux-Aussies graced the chart four times as their biggest hit, I Want Candy topped the Billboard chart at #11 in the summer of 1965. (6)
The Angels perform My Boyfriend’s Back on The Ed Sullivan Show.
1) Feldman, Bob, Goldstein, Jerry, Gotteher, Richard. My Boyfriend’s Back.
2) According to Bob, an egg creme is "Fox's u-bet chocolate syrup, seltzer (carbonated water) and ice cold milk, all done to the right proportion, stirred with a long spoon gently to bring a foamy head, pure white and about an inch high, so when you drank, it would leave a white mustache!"
3) Whitburn, Joel, Billboard Top Pop Singles 1955-2002, Page 19.
4) Whitburn, Joel, Billboard Hot 100 Charts The Sixties.
5) Feldman, Bob, Gottehrer, Richard, The Music Of Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer. CD liner notes.
6) Whitburn, Joel, Billboard Top Pop Singles 1955-2002, Page 684.
My thanks to Bob Feldman who provided the quotes used in this article during an hour long interview on October 17, 2017.
Photo courtesy of Da Guy of albumartexchange.com