“He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, after their live-in babysitter Eva Boyd (19-year-old singer Little Eva) returned from a weekend away with her boyfriend, covered in bruises. The boyfriend seemed to have spent the entire weekend hitting the girl but, when questioned about it, the girl didn’t bat an eyelid. He hit her because he loved her. And, in the song, because she deserved it.
It was a brutal song, as any attempt to justify such violence must be, and Spector’s arrangement only amplified its savagery, framing Barbara Alston’s lone vocal amid a sea of caustic strings and funereal drums, while the backing vocals almost trilled their own belief that the boy had done nothing wrong. In more ironic hands (and a more understanding age), “He Hit Me” might have passed at least as satire. But Spector showed no sign of appreciating that, nor did he feel any need to. No less than the song’s writers, he was not preaching, he was merely documenting.
Unfortunately, very few people agreed with him. While radio play was initially encouraging, the complaints quickly began pouring in and, with the general public itself apparently preparing to rise up in protest against the record, igniting one of those periodic feeding frenzies to which society is so oddly prone, Spector pulled the single, ironically just as it prepared to enter the chart. Controversy can encourage sales, after all, as well as cripple them.