And sometimes you just feel like a big dumb pop song. This is one of my favorites, written by Brill Building pros Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (have you read Always Something in the Air? you should, it’s terrific), originally done by a group named the Exciters and much-covered since but best in this version by English singer Manfred Mann.
The story is a familiar one: boy meets girl, boy walks girl to his door, boy marries girl. The wildcard is the song the boy first hears the girl singing as she’s walking down the street:
Doo wah diddy
Diddy dum diddy doo
What to make of this? Is the girl a little, you know, simple in the head? Manfred’s rough, Alex-Chilton-ish voice leaves no doubt that he at least considers it a carnal come-on. By the end of the song they are singing the words together because, um, true love doesn’t alter when it alteration finds?
What’s never in doubt is that this is a 2 minute, 24 second blast of joy. As in many British Invasion songs, the singer sounds like he’s having so much fun it’s hard not to relax and enjoy yourself along with him. No stiff upper lip here!
Manfred (or his record company) added the extra “diddy” to the title and also the street poetry of “we knew we was falling in love.” At least one of the songwriters is on record as preferring the more grammatical original version, but she just don’t understand.
Back in Syracuse when I was in graduate school, we used to go hear a woman whose name I remember as Robin Fear perform at a local club, Tip-a-Few or Shiftys. (If Robin Fear wasn’t actually her name I want it to have been.) She dressed all in black and was sort of an oldies Billy Bragg, just her with an electric guitar and an amplifier. She was also, we knew from an interview in the New Times, openly gay. Part of her schtick was to sing songs strongly associated with male artists and never change the gender. She was great, and this song was one of her showstoppers. Every time she came to the “She looked good/she looked fine” lines my friend Rich and I would glance over at each other and nod knowingly. Every single time! It never got old.