“Chapel of Love” wasn’t supposed to be a hit for The Dixie Cups. Phil Spector had claimed the Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich composition for The Ronettes, who did record the original as album filler. Indeed, the song’s single-minded declaration of girlish devotion is of a piece with hits like “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You”. The Ronettes record also benefits from Ronnie Spector’s distinctive voice, which makes up for any lyrical slightness (the entire song can be summed up by “Gee, I really love you, and we’re going to get married”) through the power of her delivery.
Barry and Greenwich, sensing the song’s hit potential, shopped “Chapel of Love” around before producing it themselves. (Leiber and Stoller are officially credited, but general agreement is that their contributions were nominal.) They settled on The Dixie Cups, a mostly unknown group from New Orleans. While The Dixie Cups were certainly fine singers, there was no standout in the group a la Ronnie Spector or Darlene Love, whose own version of “Chapel of Love” adds a more confident, adult edge. As a result, their version isn’t quite as compelling as either of the Spector-prodced recordings. Still, the pleasantly catchy melody and The Dixie Cups’ agreeable vocals are enough to carry the day. The lyrics, though narrow in focus, are also direct enough to develop a kind of universality, as demonstrated by the song’s continued ubiquity in films and at wedding receptions. And while The Dixie Cups never became stars on the level of The Ronettes, they did manage a few more hits, including one that better played to their strengths: the much-covered New Orleans anthem “Iko Iko.” 7
Hit #1 on June 6, 1964; total of 3 weeks at #1
110 of 983 #1’s reviewed; 11.19% through the Hot 100