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luisam

Oh! Carol, Neil Sedaka's Song about an Imaginary Love

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Posted (edited)

 

 

Neil Sedaka was the crown prince of the pop music from late '50s to early '60s, until displaced by the "British Invasion". Songs he wrote and sang topped the hit parade.

After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School, Sedaka and some of his classmates formed a band called the Tokens. The band had minor regional hits before Sedaka launched out on his own in 1957. His first three solo singles failed to become hits, but they demonstrated his ability to perform as a solo singer, so RCA Victor signed him to a recording contract.

His first single for RCA Victor, The Diary, was inspired by Connie Francis, one of Sedaka and Greenfield's most important clients. Howard Greenfield was a longtime collaborator of Sedaka. They were neighbors as kids; Sedaka would play piano in his apartment, and Greenfield's mother urged him to go meet him. Thus, they first worked together when Sedaka was 13 and Greenfield was 16.

While the three were taking a temporary break during their idea-making for a new song, Francis was writing in her diary and Sedaka asked if he could read it. Connie promptly replied with a "no." His single The Diary hit the Top 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 14 in 1958.

However, his next two singles did not fare so well. RCA Victor had lost money on them and was ready to drop Sedaka from their label, but Sedaka's manager, Al Nevins, persuaded the RCA executives to give him one last chance.

Neil Sedaka's career was on the rocks. At Aldon music, producer and longtime friend Don Kirshner gave Sedaka the following advice: "Write a song with the girl's name in the title. Talk in the middle like The Diamonds did in Little Darlin."

Knowing he would not get another chance if he failed again, and desperate for another hit, Sedaka himself bought the three biggest hit singles of the time and listened to them repeatedly, studying the song structure, chord progressions, lyrics and harmonies—and he discovered that the hit songs of the day all shared the same basic musical anatomy. Armed with his newfound arsenal of musical knowledge, he set out to craft his next big hit song and he promptly did exactly that. He wrote Oh! Carol, whose final version was co-written with Howard Greenfield.

 

 

 

The song is noted for Sedaka's spoken recitation. The ladies singing falsetto behind Sedaka's middle spoken bridge are The Kittens, a girl trio group who Al Nevins had hanging around the studio. When Sedaka recorded, everybody thought something was missing. Nevins turned to The Kittens and asked them to fill in.

Oh! Carol delivered Sedaka his first domestic Top 10 hit, reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100 in 1959 and going to top positions in several international charts: Italy, UK, Japan, South America etc.

The point is that there was never any “love affair” between Neil Sedaka and Carole King! Looks Sedaka had dated Carole King once when he was still at high school and she was still called Carol Klein. She was a talented blonde beauty and young Neil Sedaka liked to brag about her being his girlfriend. He even used to say that they stopped dating because her mother wanted her focus on her studies. All this ultimately gave him the idea to use her name in the song.

Carole King was not at all "happy" with this song. When it was released, she was already married to Gerry Goffin. So he wrote the parody "Oh! Neil", as an answer song to “Oh! Carol”;  she composed the music, recorded the song and released it the same year, just to be an unsuccessful single. In any case, this was the only time the melody of the song was used by a popular artist and a future sensation around the same time.

 

 

 

 

Well, if you ask me, I wouldn’t call this neither an “answer song” nor a “parody” but a simple case of plagiarism, ultimately unworthy to the quality of Carole King’s musical production. Some critics qualified it “playful” and even Neil Sedaka used to say that the song was funny but he felt really bad about Carole King's reaction and actually they stopped speaking each other for a long time. Many years later, Neil Sedaka told a story. His adult son had run into Carole on the street and introduced himself. King responded: “Tell your father to stop talking about me in interviews.” Nice.

 

After the release of the single, it was included in the album Neil Sedaka Sings Little Devil and His Other Hits.

 

The B-side song of the original singl, One Way Ticket, also earned Sedaka a #1 ranking in Japan for several months in 1960, where it was affectionately known as "The Choo-Choo Train Song".  Eruption recorded as a successful disco version of One Way Ticket in 1978.

 

Information is rather inconsistent about Carole King’s relationnship with Neil Sedaka and his song, “Oh! Carol”, but the fact is that neither she went to Abraham Lincoln High, nor she was member of the Linc-Tones, the first group that Sedaka hustled together out of high school. And of course, there was nothing sort of a "great love-story" between them. Actually Carole King’s first and greatest love was Gerry Goffin. She divorced him years later because of Goffin's LSD addiction left him mentally unstable.

 

Edited by luisam
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Interesting background story once again luisam. Wish someone had written a song about me......probably they can't find a word to rhyme with Funkyy!!! :D:D:D

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Posted (edited)

 

1 hour ago, funkyy said:

Interesting background story once again luisam. Wish someone had written a song about me......probably they can't find a word to rhyme with Funkyy!!! :D:D:D

 

George Michael has a song dedicated to you: Too Funky

 

 

Edited by luisam
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