In an incident familiar to all fans of pop music scandals, a great hue and cry was raised in the press and in the music industry when the late 1980s dance sensation Milli Vanilli was exposed as mere lip-sync artists. Suddenly exposed as illegitimate, the duo that had earned a #1 hit with “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” (1989) was immediately stripped of its Grammy Award for Best New Artist. But fans of pop music hypocrisy know that the music industry’s definitions of “legitimate” and “illegitimate” have always been flexible, and that Milli Vanilli was hardly the first chart-topping act with a scandalous secret. Another such act scored a #1 hit on November 3, 1962, in fact, when their name appeared at the top the Billboard Hot 100 alongside the song “He’s A Rebel”—a record on which the credited artists, the Crystals, had not sung a single note.
Formed in Brooklyn by five high school classmates, the Crystals were a legitimate vocal group who managed to secure a contract with the newly formed Philles record label in 1961. Philles was under the creative control of the soon-to-be-legendary producer Phil Spector, who took the Crystals under his wing and helped them record two top 20 hits in “There’s No Other” (#20, December 1961) and “Uptown” (#13, May 1962). While their third release—the Gerry Goffin-Carole King-penned “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)”—flopped when radio stations rejected it over subject-matter concerns, the next single released under their name would go all the way to #1.
Although few people knew it at the time, however, rightful credit for that record belongs to a group called the Blossoms, whose lead singer, Darlene Love, would earn two minor top 40 hits of her own in 1963 with “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry” and “Wait Til’ My Bobby Gets Home,” but who would receive none of the credit for “He’s A Rebel.” With the Crystals back in New York, Phil Spector chose to record “He’s A Rebel” with the Blossoms in Los Angeles in order to get the record out ahead of a competing version by Vicki Carr. Since the Blossoms and Darlene Love were complete unknowns, the record was credited to the Crystals
The Crystals would go on to “earn” one more major hit with a song recorded by Darlene Love and the Blossoms: “He’s Sure The Boy I Love” (#11, February 1963). They would also earn even bigger hits, however, with songs they actually did record: “Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)” (#3, June 1963) and “Then He Kissed Me” (#6, September 1963)