Make It Together

For people of a certain age, the names of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé call up a kind of showbiz that doesn’t exist anymore, an era of TV variety and Las Vegas showrooms, tuxedos and evening gowns and big-band arrangements, and of easy-listening radio. That they were enormous stars of the 60s and 70s, there’s no doubt—and they remained a popular act for years after, until Eydie retired from performing in 2009. But here’s the thing about Steve and Eydie: you’re probably not able to name one song most clearly associated with them. To find their songs, we have to go to the record books.

Lawrence hit the Billboard singles charts under his own name 21 times between 1957 and 1964. In January 1963, he had a #1 hit, “Go Away Little Girl,” and he reached the Top 10 on four other occasions, all between 1957 and 1961. Eydie charted under her own name 16 times between 1956 and 1969. Her biggest chart hit was “Blame It on the Bossa Nova”—a trifle in the grand scheme of things, albeit a trifle written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil—which made the Top 10 early in 1963 at the height of the bossa nova craze. (“Go Away Little Girl” and “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” spent a couple of weeks together in the Top 20 late in February.) Together, Steve and Eydie hit the Billboard singles chart three times, twice in 1963 but not again until 1972, when “We Can Make It Together” was billed to Steve and Eydie featuring the Osmonds, despite sounding like a Partridge Family outtake.

As you might expect, Steve and Eydie made a big impression on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart. “Go Away Little Girl” topped it for six weeks in December 1962 and January 1963. Oddly, “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” failed to make what was then known as the Middle-Road Singles chart; Eydie’s biggest easy-listening hit under her own name was “If He Walked Into My Life” from the musical Mame in 1966. It’s a big, traditional Broadway pop song, and her performance is magnificent—she just flat sings the hell out of it.

Steve and Eydie would hit the easy-listening chart 10 times together, including the 1979 hit “Hallelujah,” on which they were billed as Parker and Penny. Although “Hallelujah” had won the Eurovision Song Contest, Steve and Eydie figured that radio stations would shy away from it if they were billed under their real names. Lawrence told a reporter in 1989, “It reached #46 before some disc jockey in Chicago blew our cover.”

Eydie had more success on the album chart than Steve did, charting a dozen albums to his six. Chart guru Joel Whitburn ranks each performer’s debut album as their most successful, Gorme’s self-titled 1957 album and Here’s Steve Lawrence from 1958. Steve and Eydie charted three albums as a duo in the late 60s, none getting above #136. Nevertheless, it’s for one of their albums that they might be best remembered.

Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé released That Holiday Feeling! in time for Christmas 1964. The album’s most famous songs will be on the radio for a 50th Christmas later this year, “That Holiday Feeling” and “Happy Holiday.” They hit that December sweet spot, when we want to hear something warm and familiar and traditional, something that takes us back to Christmas as children, when the tree glowed brighter, the snow piled deeper, and the season seemed more magical than it does now. For traditional pop singers of the 20th century, that’s the main route to immortality in the 21st.

Eydie Gormé died this past weekend, as you almost certainly know.  Tomorrow would have been her 85th birthday.

7 responses

  1. Hate to admit it, but all I know about Steve and Eydie are their impersonations by Mike Myers and Victoria Jackson on the SNL “Sinatra Forum” skit:
    http://snltranscripts.jt.org/90/90ksinatra.phtml

    “You can open for me at the Meadowlands, or you can headline at the Tick Tock Inn.”

  2. Steve and Eydie were always an easy target for the oh-so-hip crowd from the 70s onward. But although their chart action may have been slim, they’re certainly representative of many of their peers trying to maintain some kind of popularity in a musical world that wouldn’t play nice…”Hallelujah” is certainly evidence of that. But there was a nice output from the duo before and after their ‘hit’ years for Columbia.

    While the pair did their share of ‘cover’ albums, some of the arrangements elevated these records beyond those of some of their contemporaries. The RCA years (late 60s/early 70s) are still good to visit, and Gorme’s MGM output is nice as well. Both of their solo records for the ill-fated Applause label feature a mix of covers and lesser know movie songs along with originals that I still play. And I always liked the AA nominated song from the film “Whiffs” called “Now That We’re In Love”…an obscure single for Steve Lawrence…still have never found a copy of that one…

    This doesn’t even include the pre-Columbia years…Steve recording for King, Coral, and others…charting records there…Eydie too with “You Need Hands” and others prior to “Bossa Nova.”

    This is as good as I can do without going to Billboard books and the CDs and records, but the duo does have merit. Thank goodness that Johnny Carson kept them in the public eye beyond their hit years.

    By the way, like many of the Duets on those albums of marginal do-overs with Sinatra (ug)…all I can say is…eh! Steve and Eydie fared better than most, but that’s not saying much.

    I did snag a copy of their Christmas album on cd on their own label, which includes an RCA holiday cut and more that augments their original Columbia disc. And that’s always nice to drag out when the cold weather returns.

  3. I think Steve Lawrence is best known to my generation due to the classic John Hughes’ 1980s movie, “Pretty in Pink.” The character Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) asks Andy (Molly Ringwald) for her opinion on an album, while visiting the record shop where she works. The album is Steve Lawrence. Andy tells him it is “Hot, white hot”. He later says that he didn’t like the album, to which Andy challenges him “Too hip?”

  4. I’ve had “I Want To Stay Here” and “I Can’t Stop Talking About You” in heavy rotation all week. The former always summons memories of the family’s three-week northern Minnesota resort stay. Steve & Eydie, the Christies’ “Green, Green” and Twins games on KBUN from nearby Bemidji, sunshine, water… life was grand that August. “I Want To Stay Here” became a perpetual stumper at our college radio Name That Tune parties, since the exact title never did appear in the lyrics. Current reissues have re-titled it “I Just Want To Stay Here And Love You.”

    For someone who could belt them out with the best, why was it that Eydie hit such woefully flat notes while she blamed it on the bossa nova? It amazes me that Columbia didn’t re-cut that one.

    Anyone already familiar with Steve & Eydie at AC radio saw through the Parker & Penny ruse almost immediately (and hadn’t “D+M” already tried trotting down that same path?) But aside from disinterested programmers, record buyers had a tough time finding the single, When I called the St. Cloud record outlets for sales figures on the title, every response was the same: “Who?” followed by a “don’t have it.” Not surprising, since they weren’t in the habit of stocking 45s listed only on the AC chart. That “Hallelujah” amounted to a one-off single for the label seems to indicate that it was primarily a means of testing the waters, a “calling in the favors” or both. There didn’t seem to be a lot of label support behind it.

  5. Parker and Penny were played at the automated MOR station I worked for. I didn’t know it was Steve and Eydie until years later.

    Steve’s “Pretty Blue Eyes” is a great song. Also a gas seeing him in the steam room with the Blues Brothers.

  6. This was really an enjoyable read. Been following your blog for years now. Square, I suppose, but I like seeing them on vintage tv shows. They were survivors and good for them! Thanks again for a fine post. I always walk away having learned something, Good stuff!

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