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1-2-3

by

Len Barry



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Len Barry (credited by his real name: Leonard Borisoff) wrote this with the Philadelphia songwriting/production team of John Madara and David White, who also wrote the hits "You Don't Own Me" and "At The Hop." In an interview with Forgotten Hits, Madara explained: "In 1965, with '1-2-3' being the #1 record in the country, we were sued by Motown during the period when Berry Gordy was suing anyone whose records sounded like a Motown record. We were sued, saying that '1-2-3' was taken from a B-Side of a Supremes record called 'Ask Any Girl.' The only similarity between the two songs are the first three notes where the Supremes sang 'Ask Any Girl' and Lenny sang '1-2-3.' After that, there were no similarities, but their lawsuit said that our goal was to copy the Motown sound. Well, needless to say, Motown kept us in court, tying up all of our writers' royalties, production royalties and publishing royalties, and threatened to sue us on the follow-up to '1-2-3,' which was 'Like A Baby.' So after battling with them for two years and having a ton of legal bills, we made a settlement with Motown, giving them 15% of the writers' and publishers' share.
We never heard 'Ask Any Girl.' The only influence for making '1-2-3' was to make a ballad with a beat. And the sound of '1-2-3' was definitely the sound of the era. Listen to 'The In-Crowd' - that's not the Motown Sound, that's the sound of the era - and '1-2-3' definitely had a beat! Motown was suing a lot of people at the time."
Barry was a member of the successful vocal group The Dovells before starting a solo career. In the liner notes to his Greatest Hits CD, Barry wrote: "It was the second take. We did it live in the booth. There were no overdubs, no punches. It was great! It had never sounded like that - ever! I said to myself, 'The Man upstairs is hearing me.' If you listen to '1, 2, 3', I have sung better, but I have never communicated with the public like that, ever. Because on that song, the vocal is total desperation. I was saying to the public, 'Look, I'm 22, let's get serious because I don't know what I'm gonna do if you don't buy this record.' That desperation was in the performance."
Madara explained to Forgotten Hits: "We were set to have a writing session at the office for Lenny's recording session, and I walked in with the melody and a title of '1, 2, and 3.' Lenny said, 'Let's make it 1-2-3.' So we sat and wrote the song."
Len Barry
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Comments (8):

This was my favorite 1965 hit by Len Barry. I remember that Len was with the great Philly group The Dovells that had lots of big hits for the Cameo-Parkway Records label before he went solo. My oldest brother was really into The Dovells back then. "1-2-3" was a great hit for Barry & it brings back good memories for me. It's a shame that he & his label had to put up with the legal idiocy of Barry Gordy just because the song sounded like a Motown production. I've always thought Gordy was a real jerk beginning with the rotten treatment he gave most of the stars at Motown who made his money for him. Anyway, I read that Len Barry had class in dealing with that clown, even though Gordy tried to soue over "1-2-3." Now, this song is a part of rock & roll history.
- Rotunda, Tulsa, OK
Man, I loved Len Barry's performances solo and with The Dovells. His first big hit, "1-2-3" went Number One on the charts in my home area & me and my brother played the 45 single until the grooves wore out! I loved The Dovells' hits with Barry on lead vocals, such as their big hits like "The Bristol Stomp," "Hully Gully Baby," "Bristol Twistin' Annie," "You Can't Sit Down," and "Do The New Continental." I loved one of their fun-time hits, "Betty In Bermuda" that didn't quite get so high on the charts, but got lots of radio airplay & was on a lot of juke boxes in our local clubs and taverns. On the oldies radio, I still love it that they play "You Can't Sit Down" even yet! That was when American rock & pop were so so so special to me & my friends in high school. Rock on!
- Elmer H, westville, OK
An all-time favorite of mine and classic of the pre-Vietnam social message era. Music was hitting its stride then, mid-60's, then shifted gears to 'protest' music. Too bad because had the music been allowed to develop a lot of great American music was bound to emerge.
- Sal, greasefalls, ID
It is a catchy tune I remember hearing when I was 8 years old. It is also presented in the opening of "Mr. Holland's Opus" and fades out much too soon.
- Timothy, Worcester, MA
I find this facinating because Holland-Dozier-Holland also wrote many of the hits from the Invictus/HotWax group, but they could not reveal their real names for fear of a lawsuit from Motown. These hits include "Give Me Just A Little More Time" by Chairman Of The Board (everyone thought that they were the Four Tops), Band Of Gold by Freda Payne and "Want Ads" by Honey Cone.
I also believe that Holland-Dozier-Holland along with Sylvia Moy won a lawsuit against Curtis Mayfield because of the striking similarity between "Can't Satisfy" and "This Old Heart Of Mine (is weak for you)". -Claude, Somerset NJ
- Claude Chaney, Somerset, NJ
Len Barry was indeed the lead singer for the Dovells, who were from a small town called Bristol (a little west of Philly). The Dovells, with Barry singing lead, had hits with "The Bristol Stomp" and "Bristol Twistin' Annie."
- Joe, Pittsburgh, PA
His absolute best performance is singing "Betty In Bermudas" with the Dovells in the late summer of 1963. Did not top the sacred charts but who gives a hoot !!!
- Steve, Salt Lake City, UT
Nice tune, brings me back to my childhood. Len Barry was also the lead singer for the "The Dovells".-Dennis-Syracuse, NY.
- Dennis, Syracuse, NY
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