There is nothing new under the sun. Ever since early people beat on a stretched animal skin in order to signal other people, music has evolved in one long, continuous line. It is certainly a tree with many branches, but in the end, everything comes from something that has come before. Even when you hear a sound that seems completely new and innovative, a little research will reveal that it is based on something that has come before.
Anna Magdalena Bach was Johann Sebastian Bach’s second wife. She kept a notebook that compiled the work of late 17th and early 18th century composers. Her husband contributed pieces to the notebook, but it also included pieces by a few other composers including François Couperin, Georg Böhm. The thing is, most of the composers weren’t identified in the notebook and so a piece called “The Minuet in G Major” was for many years assumed to have been written by Bach when it fact it was part of a harpsichord suite written by Christian Petzold, an organist from Dresden, Germany. It took until the 1970s for Petzold to get the credit.
In popular culture, the melody of “Minuet in G Major” was first appropriated by bandleader Freddy Martin in the 1940s. It was his recording of the song the first bore the title “A Lover’s Concerto.” Enter songwriters Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell who gave the tune a set of lyrics and changed the song’s rhythm from 3/4 time to 4/4, and in 1965 found a group to record their composition.
The Toys had already been together for four years by that time. They hailed from Jamaica, Queens and the original lineup included Barbara Harris, Barbara Parritt, and June Montiero. Harris, who had come to New York from North Carolina, formed a quintet while in high school. When two of the members left, the trio that remained was known as the Charlettes. They found some working singing background vocals for other artists and eventually met songwriter/producer Bob Crewe who signed them to his DynoVoice label where they became the Toys.
It was Crewe who introduced them to Linzer and Randell who wound up writing and producing most of the songs that the Toys recorded for DynoVoice. The label released “A Lover’s Concerto” in 1965 and it was a smash it, streaking up the charts to #2 in a year in which the British Invasion was in full flower. For critics like Dave Thompson, the Toys recording of “A Lover’s Concerto” represented “the apogee of the girl group sound.” The record sold two million copies and a follow-up single called “Attack” did quite well also, reaching the Top 20.
Two years later the Toys left DynoVoice and signed with Musicor Records but their only hint of success while there came by way of a cover of Brian Hyland’s “Sealed With a Kiss” that was a minor hit. The Toys broke up in 1968 but Harris continued to perform for many years and released her first solo album, Barbara Now, in 1998.