Even in 1964, six years was a long time in pop music. But after emerging with a doo-wop hit in 1958, the Brooklyn vocal group Little Anthony and the Imperials were returning in style. What’s more, they were doing so with the original of a classic ballad that would be covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Luther Vandross.
The song in question was “Goin’ Out Of My Head,” composed for the group by their childhood friend Teddy Randazzo and his writing partner Bobby Weinstein. The atmospheric number was released on the DCP label and elegantly produced by Randazzo and Don Costa. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 on November 7, 1964 at No.75, the highest arrival of the week, and went on to a No.6 peak.
Despite their 2009 entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the group fronted by lead vocalist “Little Anthony” Gourdine can often be underrated. But they recorded several undisputed gems in a long career that first saw success with that doo-wop favorite, “Tears On My Pillow,” a No.2 R&B hit on the End label that also went to No.4 pop.
A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice
The Imperials followed that with some lesser successes, after which Anthony left to pursue solo fortunes. But when he returned in 1964, the group enjoyed a fresh surge of success. Their new record deal coincided with the arrival of first tenor Sammy Strain, who was with them until his 1975 transfer to another group of soul heroes, the O’Jays. Remarkably, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with each of them.
Earlier in 1964, the Imperials had reaped the benefits of another Randazzo-Weinstein composition, the lovely “I’m On The Outside (Looking In),” a No.6 hit in both R&B and pop genres. For all the domestic success of “Goin’ Out Of My Head,” its UK hit potential was never truly realised: the original, like all the Imperials’ hits, missed the bestsellers and it was only ever a minor chart entry there in 1965 for Decca signing Dodie West.
Covers from Florence to Frank
There were other early versions by British singers Cilla Black and Petula Clark, while back in the US the song was interpreted by such artists as Nancy Wilson and Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66. British pop stylists the Zombies took a turn at it as the covers mounted, from Gladys Knight and the Pips to a post-Supremes Florence Ballard. Sinatra released his as a single on Reprise in late 1969, for a No.79 peak on the Hot 100. Dionne Warwick, Gloria Gaynor and the aforementioned Vandross were among the many to visit the tune after that.
Little Anthony and the Imperials continued their superb 1964 with another song that made both the R&B and pop Top 10s, “Hurt So Bad,” later revived by Linda Ronstadt. They only made the UK listings at all with a 1976 reissue of the ten-year-old “Better Use Your Head” and with a later line-up’s 1978 entry “Who’s Gonna Love Me,” but their complete songbook is well worth a visit.
“Goin’ Out Of My Head” is on the Little Anthony and the Imperials album of the same name, which can be bought here.