Music throwback: 1-2-3 by Len Barry

We battled with them for two years and had a ton of legal bills,

1-2-3Len Barry was born Leonard Borisoff in Philadelphia on 12 June 1942. He was the lead singer of a group called the Dovells in the early 1960s, which had a couple Top 5 hits, before he went out on his own.

1-2-3 was Barry’s biggest solo hit, co-written by John Madara and David White, who helped pen songs such as You Don’t Own Me and At the Hop. It got to #2 on the November 20, 1965 Billboard pop charts, kept out of the #1 slot by I Hear a Symphony by the Supremes.

Speaking of whom, as Madera explains:

“In 1965… we were sued by Motown during the period when Berry Gordy was suing anyone whose records sounded like a Motown record… [he was] 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’…

“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!”

I’ve heard both those songs for decades and still don’t hear the connection, except for those first three notes, used in Till There Was You and countless other songs.

I was a sucker for numbers songs, so I used to replace the subsequent lyrics of 1-2-3 with even MORE numbers, up to 21; it DOES work:

1-2-3 (1-2-3)
Oh, how elementary (4-5-6-7-8-9)
it’s gonna be (10-11-12)
C’mon, let’s fall in love, (13-14-15)
it’s easy (16)
(It’s so easy)(17-18)
Like takin’ candy (19-20)
from a baby (21)

Listen to :

Bristol Stomp– the Dovells (#2 pop for two weeks, #7 soul in 1961)
You Can’t Sit Down – the Dovells (#3 pop, #10 soul in 1963)

Ask Any Girl – the Supremes (B-side of Baby Love in 1964)

1-2-3 – Len Barry (#2 pop, despite Madera’s recollection, #11 soul, in 1965)
Like A Baby – Len Barry (#27 in 1966)

This post is the fault of Dustbury.