Advertisement for Cognac Gautier Frères by Leonetto Capiello, 1907
To the extent that they ever really existed, I feel bad for the Crystals. They signed with Phil Spector shortly after they formed as a group in 1961, and he is equally responsible for their modest success as well as their ultimate consignment to ignominy. He wrote their big hits "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me", and his unmistakable sound brought those songs to life. But he also let other artists record under their name (Darlene Love, the Blossoms, and even himself on the infamous "Dance the Screw") and ended up abandoning them altogether to promote his new project, the Ronettes. But their singles were enough to secure them some soft of legacy - their music has received recent attention because of a renewed interest in the controversial themes of their "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)".
One of my favorite Crystals songs, "All Grown Up", is a bit of a mystery. Written by Spector (with Barry/Greenwich) and sung by the actual Crystals, it was the group's last real single and only reached #98 on the pop charts. Fairly clean-sounding for a Spector production, the song featured honky-tonk piano and a nice brass section. However, the version of the song I love comes from the Phil Spector box set, and I can't find much information about its origins. It is a bit longer than the original, and it features a much harsher sound. A noisy surf guitar is central in the non-single version's arrangement, and the Crystals' sprightly vocals struggle to rise above. This sound fits the song nicely, though. The Crystals sing about a seventeen-year-old who stands on the precipice of adulthood, but her focus is on some dubious aspects of being a grown-up. She talks about having her hair piled high, filling the dance floor on Saturday nights, and kissing guys with impunity. "No more ponytails!"
"All Grown Up" by the Crystals