Patty Duke – Don’t Just Stand There/Patty

I feel like just like a toy
My head is in a whirl
I should have been a boy but here I am a girl
What good is growing up
If this is all it means
I’m an in-between
A lonely little in-between

Who’s that having such troubled teenage thoughts? Well, it was probably once Bradley Manning. In the case of “Lonely Little In Between,” though, we’re looking at the pioneering angst of Patty Duke. Oh, the young actress wasn’t the first emo artist. You can check out the crooning craziness of The Fleetwoods to discover that the pre-British Invasion rock scene had plenty of dark thoughts behind the AM hits. Patty Duke, however, was a very interesting case as a determinedly disturbed pop star who already had a hit television show.

Patty Duke actually entered America’s living rooms at the same time as The Beatles. She had just won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1962’s The Miracle Worker when the 16-year-old signed up for The Patty Duke Show. That would become a campy classic for Duke’s double role as a swinging American teen and her prim British cousin. The theme song became a fave for its immortal description of the dueling cousins. Cathy liked the minuet, but “Patty loves to rock and roll, a hot dog makes her lose control.”

You wouldn’t get that impression from these reissued albums, though. This is a Patty Duke who’d seem to share Lesley Gore’s disdain for hot dogs. If you know what we mean. The liner notes have adult Duke complaining about outfits that made her look like “an early punker.” The cover of Patty has her looking more like a mannish Patti Smith. The songs sure don’t make it sound like the teen is really into boys. Her early hit “Don’t Just Stand There” is about the loss of sexual heat, while “Say Something Funny” looks at heterosexual love as a public facade.

Those songs – along with “Lonely Little In Between” – were written by the team of Bernice Ross and Lor Crane. They’d go on to form the sunshine pop act The Astral Scene. Patty Duke would go on to her own kind of special spaciness. She’d eventually come out as bipolar. The angst of her ’60s albums would only turn out to be a precursor to her frequent depression.

She’d also end up liking boys – although Duke didn’t do well with relationships. She couldn’t decide whether the father of her son was one of three different men. It wasn’t John Astin, but he briefly married her and gave Sean a last name.

That, however, was all future shock. These two albums combine fabulous ‘60s bafflement, some remakes of hit tunes, and gender reversals of heartbroken songs first recorded by boy pop stars. Even the awkwardly upbeat moments like Duke doing “Uptown” have a real charm. Then there was a try at a folk album and Duke moving on to an album of songs built around her adult role in 1967’s Valley of the Dolls. Those are also newly reissued, but these albums are the real find.

And don’t miss out on Billie. That’s the film that featured “Lonely Little In Between.” This CD adds that and another track from the movie. It’s about a tomboy who’s better at sports than the real boys. Nowadays, Billie would end with a sex change. Back then, however, it just hurt to be fifteen and a lonely little in-between. We’re beginning to understand why people need nostalgia.

Patty Duke
Don’t Just Stand There/Patty
[Real Gone/Capitol]