They don’t make records like the Whyte Boots’ “Nightmare” anymore. They didn’t make any like it in 1966, either. Straight out of a 1950s juvenile delinquent movie, this Shangri-Las-with-brass-knuckles melodrama tells the story of a catfight gone bad as a gang of misbehaved coeds urges the narrator to “get” her arch rival, who had stolen her Bobby and, to add insult to injury, has been putting her down and “showin’ everybody his ring.”
Get her, get her, push her to the ground
Get her, get her, push her down
So goes the chorus, and the would-be assailant soon acts on the urges, confronting the love stealer (presumably in some park, as leather-jacket-clad onlookers watch)—but only “to scare her a little ... I never meant to hurt her or anything.”
But to the screaming encouragement from her friends—all readily and loudly audible halfway through the song—the jealous lover hits the target, knocking Bobby’s new girl to the ground as witnesses suddenly gasp in dismay. “What happened?” one of them asks, horrified at the sight of a motionless young lass laying on the ground. “What should I do?” the narrator repeats twice. “Run! Run!” her friends say.
I tried running but it was too late
The cop held me, said ‘Girl you’d better wait’
“It’s all my fault she’s dead,” the narrator laments, all the while tearfully begging the cops not to take her into custody as the song fades to the repeated—and regretful—harmony-vocal refrain of “she didn’t want to fight.” All this in under three minutes for what the late, great Greg Shaw called “one of the top five girl-group records of all time” in the summer 1974 issue of the seminal Who Put the Bomp fanzine.
“Nightmare” would make an even better story had the Whyte Boots actually existed. In spite of two brilliantly fraudulent stories in Go magazine—one an apparently fictitious tour diary reprinted in the booklet—to coincide with its release, the single was in fact songstress Lori Burton, who had already written such hits as the Young Rascals’ “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” with her songwriting partner, Pam Sawyer. The two combined to pen everything on Burton’s 1967 Breakout album, which put the Whyte Boots myth to rest by including “Nightmare”—perhaps saving rock ‘n’ roll historians some trouble.
“Nightmare,” however, was only the beginning of Breakout, an album Ken Barnes (also writing in Who Put the Bomp, three issues later, in 1976) dubbed “an inspired conception all the way around.” In addition to being a first-rate songwriter, Burton was also quite versatile, focusing her musical lens on soul, pop, and mainstream girl-group sounds with photogenic results each time.
“Bye, Bye Charlie” and “Let No One Come Between Us” (the flip of the Whyte Boots’ single) are excellent girl-group numbers in the vein of the title track, the former showing Brill Building verve with its insistent percussion and piano lick. Dropping to a lower register in the vein of Baby Washington, Burton sings “Since I Lost Your Lovin’” and “Love Was” with a more bluesy, gospel feel, accentuating the drama on each song’s choruses with an assist from tasteful orchestration. And on “There Is No Way (To Stop Lovin’ You)” and “Gotta Get Over You,” she gets frantic to the point of conceiving Motown vibes without Berry Gordy.
Sawyer, in fact, went on to pen hits such as the Supremes’ “Love Child” and David Ruffin’s magnificent “My Whole World Ended” for the fabled imprint, splitting in 1968 from a partner who had become impatient with record-industry bureaucracy. Burton had more luck assisting her hubbie Roy Cicala (who produced John Lennon) at his Record Plant studios, but reunited with Sawyer by 1995.
So far, there have apparently been no followups to “Nightmare.” Then again, how could one possibly follow it?
// Notes from the Road
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