by Kevin Burton
Songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich were married in 1962. The next year they wrote “Chapel Of Love,” perhaps the most famous pop song about a wedding.
In 1964 The Dixie Cups took Chapel of Love to number one on the Hot 100, where the song enjoyed a three-week honeymoon.
“This being a song about a wedding, there had to be some bells, especially for the line ‘Bells will ring, the sun will shine,’” wrote Songfacts.
“Producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller hadn’t planned for this but they got lucky,” Songfacts said. “A set of chimes was left in the studio from a previous session.”
“Stoller tried to play them but he wasn’t very good at it. They got another lucky break when Artie Butler who played percussion came by. He competently struck the chimes, which come in at the second chorus and remain relatively subtle.”
Talk about lucky, how about Butler? He’s just walking around the building saying hello and next thing you know he has a backup musician’s credit on a song for the ages.
“I knew it was going to be a hit because of the way they said ‘married,’” co-writer Greenwich said on an A&E documentary. “I heard that ‘ma-a-a-ried’ and I said ‘that’s it, it’ll be a top record.’”
So it was, but in 1965, Barry and Greenwich, the team that created the song heard at thousands of weddings, divorced after just three years. The song had much more life than the marriage.
It’s anniversary week for me and my beautiful bride Jeannette and it’s a big one: ten years together as of this Thursday.
It’s also Tuesday, which most weeks on Page 7 means music. So naturally today we’re talking songs with a wedding or marriage theme.
Probably my favorite song about weddings, “Wedding Bell Blues” by the 5th Dimension, has a sadder musical story but a happier real-life ending.
Wedding Bell Blues was written by Laura Nyro, but made famous by the 5th Dimension. It is the lament of a woman whose man won’t take that final step. Like Chapel Of Love, it spent three weeks at number one.
“The song was exceptionally fitting for the group, as members Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. were engaged at the time, but had not set a wedding date,” according to Songfacts. This played well on television appearances, as Marilyn would sing to Bill and Davis would put on that look guys get when they’re being hassled about getting married.”
“McCoo and Davis did get married later in 1969, and remained together.”
Billy Joel wrote “You’re My Home” as a valentine to his first wife Elizabeth, because he couldn’t afford chocolates or flowers at the time, according to Songfacts. I have always wondered whether one lyric in this song is a rejection of the institution of marriage.
Joel sings, “If I travel all my life and I never get to stop and settle down. Long as I have you by my side there’s a roof above and good walls all around.”
The more natural rhyme for life would be wife, as in, long as I have you for my wife.
I wonder if Joel, or maybe the record company, was trying to sell records to everybody, not just the marrying kind.
I haven’t found any interviews where Joel talks about this. I did find out that Helen Reddy covered “You’re My Home” and that Joel hated her version and mentioned it one night on stage.
As I often tell my blind friends when they talk too much or too loudly, sound travels dude. Joel’s words fell on the wrong ears.
“Turns out her husband or her manager was in the audience, and they were talkin’ about suing me,” Joel told Songfacts. “Then Helen got in touch and said she was never recording one of my songs again, and I was like, ‘D’you promise?’”
One marriage-affirming song I like a lot is “Bus Stop” by the Hollies. That’s the story of a romance that blossoms through a series of meetings on a bench under the rainy English skies under a man’s umbrella.
“All the people stared as if we were both quite insane. Someday my name and hers are going to be the same,” sings lead singer Allan Clarke.
If I’m following the song correctly, the woman never has sense enough to bring an umbrella. It’s a clue the man misses on his happy stroll to the altar. You wonder if this has implications down the line for the pair.
Sometimes it’s best not to peel apart these rock songs.