He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)
|"He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)"|
|Single by The Crystals|
|B-side||"No One Ever Tells You"|
|Songwriter(s)||Gerry Goffin, Carole King|
|The Crystals singles chronology|
"He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)" is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King for girl group the Crystals under the guidance of Phil Spector in 1962. Goffin and King wrote the song after discovering that their babysitter and singer "Little Eva" Boyd was being regularly beaten by her boyfriend. When they inquired why she tolerated such treatment, Eva replied, with complete sincerity, that her boyfriend's actions were motivated by his love for her.
It was a brutal song, as any attempt to justify such violence must be, and Spector’s arrangement only amplified its savagery, framing Barbara Alston’s lone vocal amid a sea of caustic strings and funereal drums, while the backing vocals almost trilled their own belief that the boy had done nothing wrong. In more ironic hands (and a more understanding age), 'He Hit Me' might have passed at least as satire. But Spector showed no sign of appreciating that, nor did he feel any need to. No less than the song’s writers, he was not preaching, he was merely documenting.— Dave Thompson
Upon its initial release, "He Hit Me" received some airplay, but then there was a widespread protest of the song, with many concluding that the song was an endorsement of spousal abuse. Soon, the song was played only rarely on the radio, as now.
The 1930 Frank Borzage film Liliom contains the line "He hit me and it felt like a kiss" in its final scene. The film was not a success and nothing suggests that Goffin or King had seen it. Liliom, originally a play by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár, was the basis for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical classic, Carousel. While King and Goffin may not have seen Liliom, it is possible that they were familiar with the successful 1956 film version of Carousel, which contains essentially the same line. However, King has stated that Little Eva, their babysitter who inspired the song, had used that exact phrase to them.
Carole King, in that same radio interview, said that she was sorry she had ever had anything to do with the song. She was a survivor of repeated domestic abuse (but not from Goffin, who had been her husband from 1959 to 1969).
In popular culture
- In 1994, Hole released a cover of the song as a b-side to their single "Softer, Softest". In 1995 the band covered the song live for MTV Unplugged.
- In 2005, the English band Spiritualized recorded a song called "She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)".
- The Saint Etienne song "She's the One" quotes the song's title.
- The My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult song "Glamour Is a Rocky Road" quotes the song's title.
- The song was played in its entirety on the September 26, 2007, episode of The Tom Leykis Show titled 'The One They Won't Play'. The subject of the show's hour was in relation to Phil Spector's writing and production of the song, and the fact that he got married in the period between being accused of the murders and the end of his trial.
- The Batman graphic novel Mad Love alludes to this song. When Harley Quinn is asked how it felt to give everything to a man who abused her, she said "it felt like a kiss".
- Amy Winehouse frequently mentioned the song as one of her all-time favourite tracks and biggest influences.
- In 2008, Glasvegas released a Christmas EP titled "A Snowflake Fell and It Felt Like a Kiss," the title track being an homage to The Crystals.
- The Cardigans song "And Then You Kissed Me" rewrites and reinterprets "He Hit Me".
- The Antony and the Johnsons song "Fistful of Love" deals with nearly identical themes of love and abuse, yet in this version the genders of the song's characters are ambiguous.
- Amy Rigby's song "Dancing With Joey Ramone" lists "He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)" as one of the songs they danced to in her dream.
- Mad Men used the song as the closing credit bump on the April 8, 2012, episode titled "Mystery Date."
- The Nation of Ulysses song "The Sound of Jazz to Come" reworks the song's title into "she hit me it felt like a kiss" after riffing on John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."
- Lana Del Rey uses the line "Hit me and it felt like a kiss" in her 2014 song "Ultraviolence" from the album of the same name. Prior to this, she used it in her unreleased song "Beautiful Player."
- The first season finale of Sex Education on Netflix in 2019, plays The Grizzly Bear cover in underscoring the unexpected make out session between bully Adam and the out Eric.
- Nicole Dollanganger released her own version of the song, which was included on her album Ode to Dawn Weiner: Embarrassing Love Songs under the same name. Her version turns the theme into that of a consensual BDSM-type relationship. The original plays in both the beginning and the end of her version.
- Hozier credits the song as being very similar in sentiment to his song, Cherry Wine.
- 1982 – The Motels, All Four One
- 1995 – Courtney Love's band, Hole, played a cover of the song as part of their MTV Unplugged performance. Love introduced the song by saying, "This is a really sick song. It's one of those Spector songs and it was written by Carole King, which… you have to think." At the end of the song, Love commented "Nice feminist anthem."
- 2007 – The Blackeyed Susans, Dedicated to the Ones We Love ("She Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)")
- 2007 – Grizzly Bear, during the headlining tour for their album Yellow House. They also recorded the song during a Daytrotter session in February 2007, to be made available online for download. A studio version of the song was released on the band's Friend EP while a live take was released as the B-side to "While You Wait for the Others" on the Live on KCRW 7".
- 2008 – Ruby and the Rednecks released a cover of the song live at CBGB's.
- 2012 – Kramer, The Brill Building (Tzadik Records) singing this song in a gender-reversed rendition swaying wildly between the heart-felt and the satirical.
- 2013 – Anika, Anika EP
- 2021 – Veronica Swift, This Bitter World (Mack Avenue Records)
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But Gerry wrote that lyric after hearing an African-American woman that we knew… just come right out and say that.
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- "YouTube - Grizzly Bear - He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
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- Matt Silver. "Jazz Album of the Week: New Message, Same Spectacular Veronica Swift on 'This Bitter Earth'". WRTI.org. Retrieved 2021-05-14.