The Number Twos: The Crests – “16 Candles”

14 Jan

The Crests’ “16 Candles” hit #2 on the chart on February 9, 1959.

The song may be most recognizable for having given the name to John Hughes’ seminal Sixteen Candles in 1984 (we’re way farther from the movie now (35 years) than the movie from the song (25 years) which is somewhat depressing).

The Crests were a group that hung around, with a whole lot of minor hits, throughout the late ’50s and early ’60s, a couple of top 20s, and one really big hit, “16 Candles.”

Wikipedia claims The Crests were the first interracial doo-wop group, and while that would be hard to verify, they’re certainly the first successful one, with thee African-American members, one Puerto Rican, and one Italian. One of those African-American members was Luther Vandross’ sister, Patricia, who left before “16 Candles” was recorded. The Italian member was Johnny Maestro who had the lead on “16 Candles” and would go on to have a #3 hit with “Worst That Could Happen” in the late ’60s.

The song seems to be credited as “Sixteen Candles” some places and I have no idea what explains the disagreement.

The “Happy Birthday Baby” introduction is far and away the most well-remembered and memorable part of the song. Maestro’s voice is sweet and mellifluous; carrying relatively mundane lyrics. The song is a paeon to a girl upon her 16th birthday; she is the singer’s “teenage queen,” and the “prettiest, loveliest, girl” he’s ever seen. Really deep stuff. Everything is pretty generic doo-wop, and nothing stands out sans the intro. There are the requisite back up singers, but they don’t really add a lot to this song, as it’s all Maestro’s show. The title is also better than the song.

Rating: 5 – It’s not actively bad, it’s just thoroughly meh, and pretty much unmemorable outside of the “Happy Birthday Baby” which is easily worth a full point. I really would like a song built around the “Happy Birthday Baby” segment. Some producer, get on it.

What was #1? Lloyd Price – “Stagger Lee”

Was #2 better than #1?


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