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He's A Rebel by The Crystals

Album: He's A RebelReleased: 1962Charted:
1
19
  • This was written by the Connecticut singer/songwriter Gene Pitney, who scored 16 Top-40 hits in the '60s as a solo artist. His biggest solo hits were "Only Love Can Break A Heart" and "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance," which were both written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
  • The Crystals did not sing on this. While at Liberty Records as the company's West Coast A&R head in 1962, producer Phil Spector heard Pitney's demo of the song. Knowing it would be a hit, he promptly resigned and his boss, Snuff Garrett, produced a version by Vikki Carr to be released as her first single. Spector assembled his musicians to do HIS version, but the Crystals were 3000 miles away in New York City; so he recruited The Blossoms - Darlene Love, Fanita James, and Gracia Nitzsche - to sing "He's a Rebel."

    Spector's version of this song, credited to the Crystals but sung by the Blossoms, hit #1. Vikki Carr had to wait three more years before her first chart record in the US ("It Must Be Him").
  • In New York, the influential disc jockey at WINS, Murray the K, figured out that Phil Spector used a different set of Crystals on this song, and broke the story on the air. As La La Brooks tells us, Murray called her to ask about it, and she told him that the actual Crystals had nothing to do with the song.

    The story was far from a scandal, since producers were known to switch out musicians, sometimes having a completely different group front the band. For La La, it was a relief that the story was out, although when The Crystals toured around the world, they never explained that they didn't sing on "He's A Rebel."
  • This song is a big part of Darlene Love's story, which is told in the 2013 movie 20 Feet From Stardom. Although she was the lead singer on this track, she was not credited and remained unknown. She claims she was paid $5,000 for her work, but she expected a solo release from Spector that never materialized.

    When she recorded the song, she was still going by her real name, Darlene Wright. Phil Spector signed her to a contract and renamed her Darlene Love. He recorded her on the song "He's Sure The Boy I Love," but released it as The Crystals, keeping Love anonymous. Under her own name, she had three modest chart hits in 1963 for Spector's Philles label: "Wait Til' My Bobby Gets Home" (#26), "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" (#39), and "A Fine Fine Boy" (#53).

    The most enduring song credited to Darlene Love is "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," which was released on Phil Spector's 1963 Christmas album.
  • Phil Spector used the royalties from this song to buy out his partners, with the stipulation that his ex-partners would share in the profits of the next two Crystals singles.

    Spector used The Blossoms to pose as the Crystals (again) for the #11 hit "He's Sure the Boy I Love"; but the Crystals actually sang on the next single credited to them, entitled "(Let's Do) The Screw" - a five-minute song punctuated with the voice of Phil Spector's lawyer saying "Do the Screw." Only one copy of the 45 was pressed and distributed: to ex-partner Lester Sill. It garnered zero airplay and earned zero royalties. Spector was now sole owner of Philles Records.
  • Crystals founding member Dee Dee Kenniebrew in the Daily Express Saturday Magazine August 25, 2007 said: "The Crystals' first hit in the UK was 'He's A Rebel,' but we didn't sing it. When we rehearsed it we hadn't particularly liked it. Also, we'd already had two hit records in the States, plus an album, yet we still hadn't been paid. Phil Spector probably thought we were giving him too much hassle about money, so he got a studio group to record the song. Unfortunately, our first manager didn't get us a good contract and Spector was able to use the group's name."
  • In a 2008 interview with Record Collector magazine, Darlene Love talked about being the voice of this song. Said Love: "Between 'He's A Rebel' and the Christmas album two years later, The Crystals didn't sing on any of their own records, they just went out on tour to promote them. La La Brooks got to sing lead on the re-recording of 'Da Doo Ron Ron,' but the rest of the vocals were by The Blossoms. Another Crystal, Dee Dee Kenniebrew, got really upset, I remember, but I don't think any of the other girls made much of a fuss. I know it used to irritate Dee Dee when fans would compliment her on how great those records were when she never got to sing on them." (This interview is available at Rock's Backpages)
  • When The Crystals performed this song live, La La Brooks, who sang lead on their hits "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me," did the lead vocals. When we spoke with La La in 2013, she explained that Phil Spector was being strongly encouraged to get another Crystals record out when he relocated to California. As La La tells it, the group's manager Joe Scandore sent a thug to Los Angeles to help encourage Spector. What they didn't count on was the producer using a different group to record the single they were asking for.

    "The next thing you know we're riding in a car, all of us girls going on a gig, and we hear: 'He's a rebel and he'll never never be any good.'," La La said. "We hear 'He's a Rebel,' but we don't think anything of it. At the end, the DJ said, 'The Crystals, 'He's a Rebel.'' We looked at each other like, 'The Crystals? Where did that come from?' So we were confused."

    The Crystals had to learn the song, along with the other Love-sung release "He's Sure the Boy I Love," in time for their next gig. La La did her best to extinguish her Brooklyn accent and match Darlene's voice for the performances.
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Comments: 12

One of the best rock & roll hits of the Sixties. Quite an odd background history with Spector replacing The Crystals with Darlene Love & The Blossoms. Phil was even unscrupulous in shorting-out Darlene Love's career, but she went on to have one anyway. So did The Crystals. Both are held in high regard by other great rock artists. And as for Phil....well, look where he is now! Prison. This hit was penned by the late great Gene Pitney. I was a fan of Gene's from his start. Yep, "He's A Rebel" has quite a glamorous background and is quite a bit of rock & roll history.Rotunda - Tulsa, Ok
The sax player was Steve Douglas.Bill - Bushkill, Pa
Some songs just make everything right. He's a Rebel, as sung by Darlene Love, is, for this guy, one of those songs.Andew - Atlanta, Ga
Why does this play "Loveletters in the Sand" when you press play on the widget? Put the original "He's a Rebel" back please.John P. Tamburro - Maywood, Nj
This describes pretty much every guy I've ever had a crush on... lolMarissa - Akron, Oh
These ladies sure did Gene Pitney proud. May he rest in peaceFarrah - Elon, Nc
Gene Pitney died yesterday(april 5th) and I feel very sad; I love this song and I consider him also a talented singer with a specific voice that made the songs so beautiful. Thank you Gene Pitney, I already miss you.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
Darlene Love does such a GREAT job singing this song.Steve - Fenton, Mo
The Snopes.com urban legends site has an article on the "Screw" recording. The urban legend Snopes was investigating was that "The Screw" was meant to fulfill the letter of Spector's remaining contractual obligations to Sill, but in such a way that would deprive Sill of any royalties from it - hence the title. But the author concluded that this was probably not the case, that "The Screw" amounted to a cruel practical joke by Spector at Sill's expense and nothing more. The article notes that the record wasn't even intended for release at all; indeed, its serial number was soon re-used for a different single. As one might expect, the article also suggests that any copy of "The Screw" still in existence is probably worth a small fortune as a collectible.Joshua - Twin Cities, Mn
Who is the sax player on He's A Rebel?Stan - Red Oak, Tx
You hear the first notes of it and you recognize the song, a very nice "Wall of Sound", Phil Spector perfect like always, he's just great!Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
I Love this song. I never get tired if hearing it. So there none of my faverote bandsRoman Garza - San Clemente, Ca