Days Like This
I’ve been leaning heavily on my local library system these last few months, using the power of the internet and the massive Mid-Hudson Library catalog to order up CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and, oh yes, books as well, all of which have helped get me through my own work without having to splash out at amazon every time I need an anecdote or a fact checked.
Thanks in particular to the power of the Library System’s online subject search – in this case for ‘Girl Groups’ – I found myself last week with an unusal delight. In the graphic novel Days Like This, writer J. Torres retells the story of the Shirelles, their manager/label head Florence Greenberg, and the co-author of their breakthrough hit, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’, Carole King.
In real life, Greenberg was a bored suburban housewife who started a label, Tiara, signed (and named) the Shirelles after her daughter raved about them at a school talent show in their hometown of Passaic, New Jersey, and after a near-hit single with Decca, moved into an office on Broadway and started the great Scepter Records; the group’s breakthrough number one hit, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow,’ came to the group from Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who had recently signed to the pioneering publishers Aldon Music, named for Al Nevins and Don Kirshner.
In Days Like This, everything is the same but different. The Shirelles become the Tiaras, while a neat twist has the Florence Greenberg character (renamed Anna Solomon) starting her label with settlement money following her divorce from Ben of Aben Music; he lawyers who negotiate the divorce are called Kirschner (sic) Nevins and Goldner, the latter being a reference to the inveterate gambler and rock’n’roll pioneer George Goldner, whose penchant for horse-racing – and his subsequent mob shake-down – is played out by the Ben character; the Brill Building is renamed Harmony Plaza and its diner named Platters; 17-year old mom Carole King becomes 17-year old virgin Karen Prince, and so on. The characters duly fictionalized, a key part of the story becomes a moral battle between the lead Tiaras singer’s conservative father and Mrs Solomon’s commercial instincts; and between Mrs Solomon and her daughter Ruthie, who feels neglected, in the wake of the divorce, for her mom’s sudden devotion to the girl group.
It’s all very touch-feely, to which end artist Scott Chantler delivers clean, simple images with a minimum of busy background work, allowing him to elaborate on the characters’ emotions. As an adult who’d just been writing about this era, I thought Days Like This was positively gorgeous. My 11-year old son initially feigned disinterest and then read the whole thing from cover to cover, twice. It’s that type of book.
Days Like This was published by Oni Press in 2003 and is available online for just $8.95. J. Torres has written nine other books for Oni, most of which fall into a similarly adult teen category, like ‘Love As A Foreign Language’ or ‘The Transfer Student.’ Scott Chantler has both written and drawn the three-part Northwest Passage series of Historical Fiction. The two collaborated again for the graphic novel Scandalous, which would appear to set itself in the Blacklisting days of McCarthyism that preceded the Brill Building era.
Most of Oni’s graphic novels are available online as five-page previews. Go visit the site, and re-find your inner child.