The Dixie-Cups

Chapel of Love

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Song Review by

A million-selling number one hit, "Chapel of Love" put the Dixie Cups on the map. A girl group from New Orleans consisting of Joan Marie Johnson and her cousins, sisters Barbara Ann Hawkins and Rosa Lee Hawkins, the Dixie Cups were discovered by producer Joe Jones -- a singer who had a hit of his own, "You Talk Too Much" -- who brought them to New York to work with some writers from the famous Brill Building. There they got to take a stab at the song, written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and the legendary producer/writer Phil Spector. Spector had already produced versions by two of his girl groups, the Crystals and the Ronettes, as well as another of his artists, Darlene Love, but he was not quite satisfied with the results, refusing to release any of the recordings. The Dixie Cups started rehearsing the song and Barry and Greenwich brought the group to audition for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's Red Bird Records. Though apparently as disenchanted with the final results as Spector was about his recordings, the label heads decided to release the song as a single in 1964, and the rest is history. Spector quickly followed up with the version by the Ronettes on his own Philles label.

The Ronettes' recording is a raw recordning and Spector's reluctance is understandable. Though it features many hallmarks of the producer's productions -- heavy percussion, layered vocals, deep reverb -- the wall of sound does not feel nearly as complete and radio-ready as Spector's other "teenage symphonies from God." This recording is a plodding, pitchy mess, albeit a soulful one. Yet the song is clearly a diamond in the rough and the demo quality of the recording gives it a fascinating archaeological feeling: the early fossil of a tune that evolved into a polished piece of pop history embedded in the public's collective consciousness.

The version that everyone knows is the 1964 hit from the Dixie Cups. It is a much slicker, lighter recording than the murkier Spector production. The jaunty sing-song melody, unencumbered by the heavy wall of sound, skips with all of the innocent giddiness that the narrator feels when she sings the famous lines "Spring is here, the sky is blue/Woah, birds will sing, as if they knew/Today's the day we'll say 'I do'/And we'll never be lonely any more/Because we're going to the chapel and we're gonna get married/Gee I really love you and we're gonna get married/Going to the chapel of love." The guilelessness of the lyric, the melody, and the straight performance of the Dixie Cups -- in harmony on the chorus and unison on the verses -- lends a wistful hint of melancholy to certain lines, like "We'll love until the end of time/And we'll never be lonely anymore," as if we think we know better. The lines should not be heartbreaking, and yet....

Not everyone finds such beauty in the song. Many have been quite annoyed by the sing-songy, cloying, childish quality. In fact, the hipster Leiber has said that it was a "record (he) hated with a passion." Greenwich -- as sure as any song she wrote before or after that "Chapel of Love" was a hit -- was particularly persistent in getting the song recorded. Barry was her writing partner and -- as with the famous teams of Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann -- her husband as well. It was Leiber & Stoller who took the pair into the Brill Building stable where they became a very successful source of material for Spector, with such offerings as "Da Do Run Run" and "Be My Baby." Greenwich went on to sing backing vocals on many and varied recordings, as well as writing and producing for television and advertising. Barry, meanwhile, became a staff producer of Neil Diamond, the Monkees, and others.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1964
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:43
Oldies But Goodies, Vol. 11 1974
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:47
History of Rock: The 60's, Pt. 1 - WCBS FM 101 1982
Various Artists
Collectables 2:46
Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound 1983
Various Artists
Motown 0:00
Cruisin' 1964 1986
Various Artists
Increase Records 4:07
No Image 1987
Various Artists
Rhino
Full Metal Jacket [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 1988
Original Soundtrack
Warner Bros. 2:48
Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1964 1989
Various Artists
Rhino 2:50
Oldies But Goodies: 21 #1 Hits 1990
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:45
The Best of the Girl Groups, Vol. 1 1990
Various Artists
Rhino 2:50
The Red Bird Story [Charly 4-CD] 1991
Various Artists
Charly Records
Rockin' & Rollin' Wedding Songs, Vol. 1 1992
Various Artists
Rhino 2:50
The Fabulous 60's 1993
Various Artists
Dominion / K-Tel Distribution
Dick Clark's 21 All-Time Hits, Vol. 2 1994
Various Artists
Original Sound Entertainment 2:45
Leaders of the Pack: The Very Best of '60s Girl Groups [Alex] 1994
Various Artists
Polygram 2:44
No Image 1994
Various Artists
MGM
Rock Around the Oldies, Vol. 1 [Universal] 1994
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:51
Rock Around the Oldies, Vol. 1 [Universal Special Products] 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:51
Best of Best Classic, Vol. 1 1995
Various Artists
Black Tiger 2:49
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Excelsior Recordings
No. 1 Hits of the 60's: Rock & Roll 1996
Various Artists
Richmond
Tossin' & Turnin' 1996
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:50
Original Rock & Roll Classics 1996
Various Artists
Sun Record Company 2:49
The Ad Libs & Friends 1996 Collectables 2:51
Four by Four, Vol. 3 1996
Various Artists
Stardust Records 2:49
I Love Rock & Roll: Hits of the '60s, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Priority Records 2:46
Wedding Album [Double Gold] 1997
Various Artists
Double Gold 2:44
20th Century Rocks, Vol. 6: '60s Rock N Roll - Tossin' and Turnin' 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:54
Remember the 60's [Intercontinental] 1997
Various Artists
Intercontinental Records 2:46
Party Dance Mix [Riviere] 1997
Various Artists
Riviere International Records 1:35
The New Orleans Hit Story 1997
Various Artists
Charly Records 2:43
Whole Lotta Rock: 1964-1965 1997
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 2:55
Rock 'N Roll Relix: 1960-1969 1997
Various Artists
Eclipse Music Group 2:54
No Image 1997
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
The Ultimate History of Rock 'N' Roll Collection 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:50
60's Flashback [Double Play] 1998
Various Artists
Double Play Records 2:51
Greatest Hits of the 60's: 1964 1998
Various Artists
CMM Music 2:52
Very Best of Red Bird & Blue Cat Records 1998
Various Artists
Taragon Records 2:52
Great Voice of Soul [Rivie're Int'l] 1998
Various Artists
Riviere International Records
The Great Voice of Soul [Cleopatra] 1998
Various Artists
Cleopatra 2:44
The Ultimate History of Rock & Roll Collection, Vol. 5: Girl Group Sound 1998
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:54
No Image 1998
Various Artists
Priority Records
The Very Best of the Dixie Cups: Chapel of Love 1999 Collectables 2:50
Mods Vs. Rockers 1999
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:43
Soundtrack Jams, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Delta Distribution 2:49
Soundtracks of Love: Hooked on a Feeling 1999
Various Artists
Unison 2:46
The Great Soul Classics 1999
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:44
Love in the 60's [Madacy] 1999
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:46
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Collectables
No Image 1999
Various Artists
King 2:13
Kubrick Collection 2000
Various Artists
WEA International 2:48
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vols. 1-2 2000
Various Artists
Collectables 2:47
The Girl's Sound: Fifty Hits 1957-1966 2000
Various Artists
Double Gold / Doubles (UK) 2:46
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Diamond Recordings
Soundtrack Jams 2000
Various Artists
Delta Distribution 2:49
No Image 2000
Various Artists
GNP / Crescendo 2:49
Sun Records Pop Legends 2000
Various Artists
Edeltone 2:51
60's Love Songs [Madacy] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 2:46
Girls, Girls, Girls [WMO] 2000
Various Artists
BCD / Wonderful Music 2:46
No Image 2000
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:49
Girl Group Greats 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 2:48
Mega Soul 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 2:42
Girl Group Sound: 25 All Time Greatest Hits From Red Bird Records 2001
Various Artists
Varese 2:48
No Image 2001
Various Artists
GNP / Crescendo 2:49
The Songmaker's Collection: Music from the Brill Building 2001
Various Artists
Q Records 2:47
20th Century Rocks: '60s Rock 'n Roll - Tossin' and Turnin' 2001
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:53
A Decade in Sound 2001
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:43
Soul Love, Vol. 1 [Dressed to Kill] 2001
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:44
Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, Vol. 1: The Greatest Songs from Early Rock 'n' Roll 2001
Various Artists
Rhino 2:49
Shagadelic Hits of the 60's 2001
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill
Red Bird Story [3 CD] 2001
Various Artists
Snapper / Charly 2:49
Absolutely the Best of the Sixties 2002
Various Artists
Fuel 2000 2:45
The Complete Red Bird Recordings 2002 Varèse Sarabande / Varese 2:48
Soul: Angel of the Morning 2002 Past & Present Records 2:43
Great Ladies of Rock & Roll: The '60s - WCBS 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 2:50
Then: Totally Oldies, Vol. 4 2002
Various Artists
Varèse Sarabande / Varese 2:48
Women & Songs: 60s Girl Groups 2002
Various Artists
WEA International 2:49
The Sixties - A Decade to Remember: Girls Only 2002
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:54
History of Rock Box 2003
Various Artists
Collectables 2:46
1964: The Soundtrack 2003
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 2:50
Rock and Roll Generation, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Compendia Music Group / Intersound 2:47
Rock On 1964 2004
Various Artists
Madacy 2:38
I Love Rock & Roll, Vol. 15 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:50
Rock & Roll: The First 50 Years - The Mid-'60s 2004
Various Artists
Varèse Vintage / Varese 2:50
Leaders of the Pack: The Very Best of the 60's Girls [Universal] 2004
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 2:50
The 60's Pop Classics [Legacy] 2005
Various Artists
Legacy 2:53
#1 Hits of the 60's [K-Tel] 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:53
Ultimate 60's Collection [Fuel 2000] 2005
Various Artists
Fuel 2000 2:45
Rock 'n' Roll Love Songs [Solid Gold] 2005
Various Artists
Solid Gold Records 2:46
Nothing But Number 1's of the USA 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:52
Just One Look 2006
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:52
Teen Idols: A Trip Down Memory Lane 2006
Various Artists
Compendia Music Group 4:11
The Greatest Groovy 60's Hits of All Time 2006
Various Artists
Rhino 2:48
Original Divas [Madacy] 2007
Various Artists
Madacy 2:49
Sweet Soul Music: 1964 2008
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:46
Rock Around the Clock [Union Square] 2008
Various Artists
Union Square Music 2:43
Love Songs: Remember - Teenage Love Songs 2012
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing 2:53
The Greatest Ever Rock 'N' Roll 2014
Various Artists
Bellevue / Wienerworld 2:55
300 Hits: Saturday Night Party
Various Artists
Bellevue Publishing / Wienerworld 2:53
Hit Parade [Mercury]
Various Artists
Hits of the 60s [Delta]
Various Artists
Delta Music Group 2:44
My Boyfriend's Back: The '60s Girl Groups
Various Artists
Somerset / Somerset Entertainment 2:47
No Image
Various Artists
Warwick
Party Dance Mix, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Euro Trend 1:35
Soul of New Orleans
Various Artists
Charly Records
No Image
Various Artists
Audio Fidelity
The Dixie Cups Meet the Shangri-Las Charly Records
Time Life Presents: Greatest Love Songs of the 60's [5 Discs]
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 2:49