Monday, June 22, 2015

Stiff Records: I Go To Pieces

Probably the most atypical of Stiff Records’ recording artists was the 16 year-old singing wonder Rachel Sweet. In 1978, Sweet was signed to Stiff-Columbia and may have been the only artist on this version of the Stiff Records label. Her first US single from her 1978 album “Fool Around,” was a cover of the Del Shannon composition, “I Go to Pieces.”

Peter and Gordon had the original hit with the song which peaked at #9 in the US in early 1965. It was the first hit for the duo that hadn’t been written by The Beatles and the third biggest US hit for Peter and Gordon.

Rachel Sweet’s 1979 release didn’t do nearly as well. While if failed to chart in the US, it barely made it into the Australian Top 40 by peaking at #36. While “I Go to Pieces” was Sweet’s debut single on Stiff in the US, it was not the case in the UK. Her remake of Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y” was released first in the UK and made some headway at #35; however, when released as her second Stiff-Columbia single in North America, it too failed to chart.

Sweet’s only US hit proper was a duet with Rex Smith in 1982 after she left Stiff, but was still under contract with Columbia Records. This remake of Robert Knight’s “Everlasting Love” peaked at #32.

While Sweet’s version of “I Go to Pieces” was a fitting introduction to American audience, her talent and the excellent production of this pop single was not enough to put her into the winner’s circle. A number of reasons could be attributed to this. By 1979, musical tastes had changed and pop music was challenged by disco and new wave on the Top 40 front.

Stiff was still an unknown label in the US and because the label was largely regarded as a punk/new wave label this too may have impeded her success. With the co-marketing of Stiff and Columbia, the Columbia promotions department may not have pushed this single to radio as they might have with an artist just signed to Columbia proper.

Finally, some have suggested that, despite her colossal talent, her young age may have been negatively received by radio programmers who were catering to young adult women as the key demographic. We may never know, but enjoy it anyway.

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