08 November 2009

He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss

So I watched Rihanna's interview this past Friday. Wow. She certainly went into detail and didn't seem to hold back. It was definitely a compelling interview. I admit that I started laughing when she watched for the first time Chris Brown's apology video that he had posted to YouTube and when Diane Sawyer asked for her assessment, Rihanna said it looked like he was reading from a teleprompter.

In other words, the apology did not seem to come from his heart, he was just reading some words (and he may not even be the one wrote those words). I'm glad I wasn't the only who thought so but, of course, it's a criticism that means much, much more coming from her since she'd been with him for so long.

Anyway, this situation reminds me of one of the most crazy-ass songs I've ever heard.

The first time I heard it was on Hole’s edition of MTV Unplugged. Courtney Love mentioned that the tune was written by Carole King and then began to wail,” He hit me and it felt like a kiss…” I remember thinking, ”Huh? Carole King wrote this? ‘I Feel the Earth Move’ Carole King? What the hell?!”

King and her co-writer, her then-husband Gerry Goffin, were inspired by their babysitter, Little Eva of “The Locomotion” fame. Relating how her boyfriend had been smacking her around, Eva claimed,” That must mean he really loves me.”

Guess who else was involved with this little sonic gem?

Phil Spector! (Yeah, I know. The perfect person, right?) He produced the song for the girl group The Crystals in 1962 on his Manhattan-based independent label Philles Records. Instead of infusing “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” with any kind of irony or sarcasm, Spector chose to arrange the background chorus to sound like a choir of angels, as though showering the abusive relationship with heavenly hosannas as opposed to condemning it. According to Mark Ribowsky’s book He’s A Rebel, Spector’s label partner, producer and publisher Lester Sills, declared it a “terrible f***ing song” while years after writing it, Goffin admitted that “He Hit Me” was “a little radical for those times.”

So was “He Hit Me” a hit?


Due to complaints and protest letters in some of the major markets, Spector and Sills pulled the single (the B-side was another Goffin/King tune called “No One Ever Tells You”) before the song could crack the Billboard Top 100 and could bring more negative publicity to Philles Records.

This is the original tune here. It's been covered by not only Hole, but also The Motels and the alt-rock group Grizzly Bear.

I don't have a clip of the song but I did find the lyrics for "No One Ever Tells You" as well as the words to another song that Goffin and King wrote around the same time as "He Hit Me" called, disturbingly enough, "Please Hurt Me."

You can visit the National Domestic Violence website by clicking here. For more immediate assistance you can call the 24-hour hotline: 1 800 799 SAFE(7233) TTY 1 800 787 3224.

PS It turns out that National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was in October. But the lives of famous women such as Rihanna and Tina Turner (whose birthday is coming on 26 November) and of course not-so-famous women show that this is a year-long problem. Years ago, when he was with the Beatles, even John Lennon made a comment on it. In the song "Getting Better" he wrote,"I used to be cruel to my woman, I'd beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved." He reportedly admitted years later in an interview that he was referring to an early part of his relationship with Yoko Ono before he straightened himself out.

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