Thursday, February 10, 2022

Love: (Who Wrote) The Book Of Love

The Monotones: (Who Wrote) The Book Of Love

My father loved this song. He grew up in Brooklyn during the heyday of doo-wop, and I remember him singing this song, loudly and as badly, when I was a kid. It’s a great song, and a fun song, and it provides a very simple primer for love: 

Chapter One says to love her
You love her with all your heart
Chapter Two you tell her
You're never, never, never, never, ever gonna part
In Chapter Three remember the meaning of romance
In Chapter Four you break up
But you give her just one more chance. 

As someone who has been in love for decades, I think that it’s pretty good advice, although I’m pretty sure that there are many more chapters in the book that weren’t discussed in the song (and in my case, it was me who was given that extra chance….) 

If Ted Lasso, one of my favorite TV shows from the last couple of years, can have been inspired by a series of NBC soccer promos, then why can’t a doo-wop classic be inspired by a Pepsodent jingle? According to Monotone Charles Patrick, he was in a store looking at sheet music for a different song called "Book Of Love" when the jingle, “You'll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent," came on the radio. He got the idea to combine the title with the melody from the jingle, turning "You'll wonder where the yellow went" into "I wonder, wonder who." Patrick completed the song with his fellow group members, and the rest is music history, with the song hitting No. 5 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 3 on the R&B chart in 1958. That story may be apocryphal. 

One of the most memorable parts of the song is the heavy drum beat at the end of the first line, which was a fortuitous mistake—when the band was recording the song, a kid outside the studio threw a ball that hit a window just as they finished singing the line. They liked the way it sounded, so they decided to put a drum hit in that spot. That story also may be apocryphal. 

The Monotones were formed in 1955 by seven residents of the Baxter Terrace housing development in Newark, New Jersey: Warren Davis, George Malone, Frank Smith, John Ryanes, and Warren Ryanes, in addition to Patrick (Charles' brother James Patrick, the seventh member, left the group before “Book Of Love” was recorded). All of the future Monotones began singing, presumably not in monotone, with the New Hope Baptist Choir, which included Cissy Houston and Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, all of whom were related to the Patrick brothers. 

Unfortunately, after “Book Of Love” the band’s releases were not successful, although as a resident of Tarrytown, and parent of two proud alumni of Sleepy Hollow High School, I was pleased to discover that they recorded a song called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” 

The Monotones disbanded in 1962, although there were reunions to revive “Book Of Love,” and over the years, new members replaced members who had died or retired.  For decades, a version of the Monotones were regulars on the oldies circuit. 

The song also lives on—it was in the soundtrack to American Graffiti and other movies, was performed by Sha Na Na at Woodstock, used as the theme in a version of The Newlywed Game in the late 1980s, was sung in an episode of Who’s The Boss, and has been used in video games.