Shoes (Reparata song)
UK picture sleeve
|Single by Reparata|
|B-side||A Song for All|
|Label||Polydor and Dart|
|Producer(s)||Steve and Bill Jerome, Lou Guarino for Nami Records|
|Reparata singles chronology|
"Shoes" is a 1975 single by Reparata.
Earlier recordings of the song
The song was first recorded by Felix Harp, a band from Trafford and Level Green, Pennsylvania, with music and lyrics by bandmember Eric Beam. It was released as a single in 1973, renamed "She Didn't Forget Her Shoes (Johnny and Louise)" on Lou Guarino's NAMI label as NAMI 2011, produced by Guarino himself.
In 1974 the German group Love Generation recorded the song, retitled "Johnny and Louise (She Didn't Forget Her Shoes)", and it was released as a single in 1974. They also recorded a German-language version called "Johnny und Louise", released on United Artists as UA 35685. The Love Generation versions of the song wrongly give the songwriting credit to "Harp".
In 1974 Lou Guarino produced the recording by Reparata, using a remix of the original Felix Harp backing track. The co-producers were Steve and Bill Jerome.
The personnel on the recording are
- David Adomites (bass guitar, keyboards)
- Michael Ardisson (drums, percussion)
- Eric Beam (keyboards)
- Billy Hricsina (lead guitar)
- David Lenart (lead guitar, slide guitar, mandolin)
- Mary "Reparata" O'Leary (vocals)
Music and lyrics
"Shoes" is described by one critic as a "bizarre wedding song". The lyrics tell the story of Johnny and Louise's wedding day, and the contributions of various relatives and friends to the wedding. The song is not about shoes, although it does include the line "Mother didn't give her abuse / she didn't forget her shoes". A family wedding is an unusual subject for a pop song, although not unique: the 10,000 Maniacs' song "My Sister Rose" on their In My Tribe album has a similar subject and similar bittersweet mood.
In its musical style, "Shoes" has what one commentator calls "a Middle Eastern feel". The recording uses an eclectic range of instruments including harpsichord, Jew's harp, bouzouki (which is namechecked in the line "Tom brings his band / bouzouki in his hand") and tambourine and adds some vocal shouts and cheers. There is also an electric guitar solo, and some children's backing vocals, which have been wrongly (and perhaps facetiously) credited to Reparata's sixth grade students (she was a schoolteacher). One blogger describes the song as "Boney M meets Dusty Springfield". Another blogger comments that "This is one weird '70s song. It sounds like “Gypsy Wine” meets “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” meets “Bohemian Rhapsody” meets “Hair” meets “Another Brick in the Wall” ... meets some dude playing the harmonica/harpsichord meets a bunch of frogs on helium."
This mixture of styles creates an "absurdly catchy" and unique record, which has been variously described as "discoish" and "Spooky bouzouki" and as sounding like it was written by the maverick US pop and rock group Sparks.
The celebratory lyrics of "Shoes" are undercut by Reparata's understated vocal delivery. She sings in a much lower register than she had used on previous recordings as lead singer of the Reparata and the Delrons, and some listeners have believed they were listening to a male vocal. This ambiguity of the singer's gender adds to the strange mood of the record.
Summarising the sound and mood of "Shoes", one blogger comments that
... despite the surface bonhomie, the music's thrust is slightly threatening and more than slightly unreal, particularly in the middle section when the beat cuts out to let through an ethereal cloud of dishevelled angel choirs ... [While] Reparata's voice strolls as serenely as Carole Bayer Sager's, [it] cannot dispel the feeling that something isn't quite right with the scenario.
Reparata was the stage name of Mary Katherine O'Leary (née Aiese), born in Brooklyn in 1945. She formed The Delrons as a high-school student in 1962. When signed and encouraged to use a more arresting name than Mary or Katherine, she chose her confirmation name of Reparata.
Reparata stopped performing live with the group in 1969 to pursue a teaching career. She continued to record singles while the Delrons performed without her, with bandmate Lorraine Mazzola taking lead vocals. After the group broke up in 1973, there was a legal dispute between Mary O'Leary and Lorraine Mazzola over who was "the real Reparata", which affected distribution and sales of "Shoes" [see below]. Mary O'Leary won the case when Lorraine Mazzola did not show up at the hearing, but in an interesting if disingenuous twist, Mazzola legally changed her given name from Lorraine to Reparata, and therefore has legitimately used the name ever since.
The original Reparata released two more singles after "Shoes". She reformed Reparata and the Delrons in 1978 and they performed regularly until 2000. She is now retired from teaching and from performing, and lives in Queens, New York.
Release, distribution problems
The single was released in the UK for promotional purposes only on 18 October 1974 on Surrey International Records as SIT 5013, with "A Song for All" as the B-side. It was then released on Polydor in 1975 for commercial sale. By May 1975 it was gaining airplay in the US and continued to be popular in June and July. By August it had entered the Hot 100 at #92 . Then just as Shoes was poised to become a bigger hit, two legal problems affected distribution and sales.
First, there was a dispute over the name "Reparata". Mary O'Leary had chosen it as her stage name in 1964, and she had been performing and recording as Reparata ever since. She gave up live shows in 1969, but continued to record occasional singles as Reparata and the Delrons, or as Reparata, including "Shoes". From 1969 to 1973 the Delrons continued doing live shows without her, with bandmate Lorraine Mazzola on lead vocals and calling herself Reparata. By 1975 the live group had disbanded, and Lorraine Mazzola was performing with Barry Manilow in the group Lady Flash, still billed as Reparata. When "Shoes" started gaining attention, radio play and positive reviews in 1975, and Mazzola launched a lawsuit over the name. Mary O'Leary explained in a 2005 radio interview that the record had to be removed from sale during the case: "When the record came out, being done by Reparata, the record was squashed because, quote unquote, Reparata was with Barry Manilow. Believe me, it's a whole big megillah..."
Furthermore, a second legal issue affected sales in the UK when a High Court injunction was brought by Reparata's former record label, Dart Records. Billboard magazine reported the matter at the time:
Dart claims that it has sole UK rights in master tapes of recordings made by Reparata under a 3-year contract signed in 1972. Although it is true the agreement expired in February , the opinion of Dart managing director Clive Stanhope is that the master tapes of "Shoes", and the flipside "A Song For All", must have been made before then, and were therefore covered by the agreement.
Clive Stanhope of Dart Records has explained that
The judge, Mr Justice Oliver, later decided that no-one would benefit from an injunction, so he lifted it. In the end, Polydor and Dart settled out of court.
With the separate legal dispute over the name Reparata now ended, the single could now be formally released. Polydor pressed and distributed two identical versions of "Shoes" in August 1975: one had a Dart label (although in the Polydor format), and the other had a regular Polydor label. Both releases had the same catalogue number, 2066 652, and the same picture sleeve, which used the logos of both labels.
Sales were combined for chart purposes, but "Shoes" had now missed its moment in the US. In the UK, Clive Stanhope reflects that
The [...] result of the injunction was that BBC Radio One ceased playing Shoes and what would almost certainly have been a Top Ten record languished in the lower regions of the Top Fifty for a week before dropping out.
"Shoes" did eventually reach #43 in the UK charts in October 1975. The record had its best chart success in South Africa, where it reached #6 in January 1976. In April 1976, Billboard magazine reported that "Shoes" was "a big hit" in Athens, Greece.
"Shoes" is included on all three of the Reparata and the Delrons "Best of" compilations, despite being a solo single that was recorded some years after the group's other material. Until becoming available again on the compilations in the 2000s, and via music- and video-sharing websites, it had rarely been heard in the media since the mid-1970s.
Consequently, comments about the record on websites and blogs show that it had become something of a cult hit in the decades since its original release, with an unusual sound that had stuck in people's minds for over 30 years, sometimes without them knowing the identity of the song or singer. People from a range of countries comment that although they had not heard the song in many years, they remembered the tune or a specific lyric, and went searching for it online.
Influence on The Smiths
Johnny Marr of The Smiths has been quoted as confirming that both he and singer Morrissey were fans of the record. In a 1989 interview with the NME, Morrissey listed "Shoes" as one of his 14 favourite "Singles to be Cremated With". "Shoes" was the most recent record on Morrissey's list by five years, with all the others dating from between 1959 and 1970. When Morrissey appeared on the Desert Island Discs radio programme twenty years later and chose his eight favourite records, "Shoes" was not included.
In a 2013 interview, Johnny Marr confirmed the specific influence of "Shoes" on the group's 1987 song "A Rush and a Push and This Land is Ours":
It was inspired by ["Shoes"], yeah — the bulk of that tune I kind of remembered from being a kid while it was on the English charts. I liked the electric piano—it stuck in my subconscious. It's funny how these things come out.
In 2011, the Greek group Trifono added their own lyrics to Eric Beam's music, calling the song "I Agapi Zei" ("Love Lives").
- http://www.45cat.com/rec ord/ua35709a
- Video on YouTube
- Video on YouTube
- Spectropop Reviews 2005
- http://www.morrissey-solo.com/article.pl?sid=05/09/05/1613253 Morrissey-solo | Morrissey's "Singles To Be Cremated With" download (list from NME, 1989)
- Yahoo! Groups
- The Blue In The Air: REPARATA: Shoes
- Cha Cha Charming magazine
- Mick Patrick, booklet in 2005 Ace Records Best of compilation
- Chart Stats - Reparata - Shoes
- Interview with Mary O'Leary, Lost and Found, WMBR-FM/88.1, 15 November 2005
- "'Shoes' Is On Firm Footing After Copyright Settlement", Billboard, 15 September 1975
- Email from Clive Stanhope to Andrew Humphrey, 24 May 2013
- Chart Stats - Reparata - Shoes
- South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1969 - 1989 Songs (S)
- Video on YouTube
- Video on YouTube