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Song ID: The Dells – “O-O I Love You” (1967)


The Dells are one of Chicago’s very finest, best known for “Oh What a Night” and “Stay in My Corner,” two late sixties smash hit updates of songs they’d done earlier (1956 and 1965 respectively). These wondrous doo wop revamps showcased the group’s pleading, seamlessly interchanging vocals and featured hip instrumental arrangements noted for their airy guitars and weeping, shimmering strings (the string arrangements in the best of late-sixties and early-seventies soul: another subject worthy of a book). “Stay in My Corner” is the ultimate Dells song in my opinion, in which they milk all they can out of six emotional and indispensible minutes.

“O-O I Love You,” though, another one of their chart hits – albeit a forgotten one – predates those two songs but at once serves as 1) a preview of the highly-charged, emotionally drawn-out direction they were headed and 2) an assurance that they were still able to pack an emotional wallop into three standard pop song minutes when they wanted to. The song kicks off with a corny basso recitation by Chuck Barksdale, making us hair-trigger types think we’ve got the whole song all figured out (“the pen writes and, uh, words are born”). But then lead tenor Johnny Carter takes over and we start to melt. After which we’re completely blown off our seats by the aching, majestic bridge. Then comes a burst of fireworks from lead baritone Marvin Junior, a final recitation by Barksdale, who now sounds completely seductive, and even more dueling fireworks for the glorious finale, courtesy of Junior and Carter. Fade into stunned silence.

The Dells – “O-O I Love You” (1967)

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