Record of the Day: Little Eva – Llllloco-Motion (1962)

I always love listening to 60s girl groups and singers, this is a known fact around here, but at this time of year, they start to sound even better to me. Maybe it’s because they remind me of the greatest Christmas album ever. Maybe it’s all the harmonies. Either way, I’m always looking for more women to add to my collection, and today I’m putting Little Eva’s 1962 LP Llllloco-Motion on my wishlist. (Why was the single named The Loco-Motion and the album named Llllloco-Motion? Why all the extra Ls? Whose decision was that? I’m gonna blame Jerry Goffin, just because.) Anyway, The Loco-Motion isn’t even the best song on the album. If you ask me, that credit goes to Eva’s first b-side.

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The Cookies sang back-up on the album, and they did a wonderful job of it, of course. Those ladies went on to become the Raelettes, but Little Eva’s story isn’t quite so happy. Eva Narcissus Boyd was a babysitter for Carole King and Jerry Goffin (arguably the greatest songwriting team ever, sorry Lennon–McCartney fans) and when Dee Dee Sharp, who I will write about here someday, turned down The Loco-Motion (one L), they brought Eva into the studio to record the song instead.

The song was a mega hit, but it left Eva stuck in that “dance record” category, and she could never pull herself out of that particular pigeonhole, not that she got much help in the industry. She was supposed to perform as part of a big Dick Clark concert in Dallas in ’63 that could have helped boost her star power, but then some asshole shot JFK in Dallas that same day and the concert was canceled. If you need more depressing Little Eva facts, here’s one: King and Goffin wrote “He Hit Me And It Felt Like a Kiss,” the one girl group song I can’t stand to listen to, about young Eva and her physically abusive boyfriend. Eva didn’t own the rights to that song or any song that she recorded, and when her career bottomed out, she wound up returning to her native North Carolina flat broke, without even her King-Goffin babysitting money to keep her afloat.

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I can’t let this end on such a sad note. So here’s a Little Eva story to make us all smile: When Kylie Minogue re-recorded The Loco-Motion and launched her own career in 1987, Eva told a reporter from The Telegraph that she hated the new version. When you consider that Eva probably didn’t see a penny from that oh-so-80s cover, it seems especially unfair that the song rocketed Minogue into superstardom when it only did the opposite for its original recording artist.

Eva is no longer with us, and if she remains underappreciated, I can’t see why. And I can’t see what it would hurt for anyone to take a minute to think of Little Eva, dragged into the unforgiving music business at the tender age of 19, used, abused, and cast aside … but not by all of us.

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Dacia lives in Austin, Texas, where she writes, drinks & listens to records.

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