Toys For Every Girl And Boy

I’ve never found it difficult to become besotted, and re-besotted comes just as easily, be it one month or fifty years later.

The musicology of this little 1965 masterpiece—its Baroque origin, its since-corrected misattribution to Johann S Bach, its inspired Motown arrangement—is fairly well known, but I offer A Lover’s Concerto here simply as a 2:45 minute respite from despair, cynicism, affectedness, and things masquerading as love that aren’t love at all.

The song has been covered many, many times, but so far I’ve heard no one but Barbara Harris and The Toys do justice to the disarmingly straightforward lyrics. The song is not about sex, and yet, of course, the Supremes’ version is dripping with the stuff. Cilla Black’s recording was strident, bossy, hurtful to the ear… am I allowed to say Germanic? The Divine One, Sarah Vaughan, seemed to miss the point with a swingingly pleasant but overly sophisticated reading. And even Barbara Harris herself, all grown up and professional twenty-odd years later, was a little too streetwise to convince as a wide-eyed romantic.

The lyrics by Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer lie sufficiently well upon the page for me to provide them here, sparing you the bother of picking them up from some execrable karaoke screen. As you can see, they are hardly sassy or brazen.

How gentle is the rain
That falls softly on the meadow
Birds high up on the trees
Serenade the clouds with their melody

Oh! See there beyond the hills
The bright colors of the rainbow
Some magic from above
Made this day for us
Just to fall in love

You hold me in your arms
And say once again you love me
And if your love is true
Everything will be just as wonderful

Now, I belong to you
From this day until forever
Just love me tenderly
And I’ll give to you
Every part of me

Oh! Don’t ever make me cry
Through long lonely nights without love
Be always true to me
Keep this day in your heart eternally…

Occasionally I’m asked if I’m staying busy and not letting the head go soft in my retirement, and just lately I’m inclined to answer that my days are pretty much taken up with the composition of a single sentence which doesn’t run on, and yet deals fully with the notion that the above lyrics, although displaying the writers’ familiarity with the works of the 19th century German Romantic poets whose hydrologically, botanically and ornithologically charged banalities were often set to music in the Lieder of Franz Schubert et al, by earning and parking their nature study merit badge in the first six lines, deftly avoid an effete, faux-innocent obfuscation of what is, after all, a love song to a human being, not to some winged halfwitted critter flitting in the foliage and fouling every brook and pond in sight. But I don’t.

L-R June Montiero, Barbara Parritt, and Barbara Harris
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2 thoughts on “Toys For Every Girl And Boy

  1. So many years ago now, the early 1980s, just as the Dunedin Sound was about to take the world by storm (or at least that part of the world that listened to student radio stations) I conducted an interview with the band that was to become known as “Sneaky Feelings”. Still afire with the after-effects of the 1981 Springbok Tour protests, I taxed the band members with stern socialistic questions about the nature of the message their band was intending to convey. The band’s drummer, Martin Durrant, replied, simply, that: “the music is the message”. Listening to “The Toys”, I finally understand what he meant.

    • In The Spectator, 21 March 1711, Addison wrote of “an establish’d Rule, which is receiv’d as such to this Day, That nothing is capable of being well set to Musick, that is not Nonsense.”

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