Found Performance: “Lightnin’ Strikes” by Lou Christie

When I started paying attention to radio in spring 1966, “Lightnin’ Strikes” by Lou Christie had begun to slip down the Top 40 Chart, but it was still getting tons of airplay. Christie was a former choirboy from Pittsburgh with no formal musical training. His star first lit up when, as a  teenager, he recorded “The Gypsy Cried,” “Two Faces Have I” and “Outside the Gates of Heaven.”

However, “Lightnin’ Strikes” would become his monster. He wrote it with Twyla Herbert and the record first gained hitbound steam in Canada, making it to No. 1 in January 1966. In the USA it rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February ’66. His followup record, also released in 1966, was “Rhapsody in the Rain” which didn’t get as much airplay as perhaps it deserved due to the sexy and suggestive lyrics aimed at teens. After that, his career cooled as far as having more big hits, although he currently tours as a nostalgia act.

In all of Christie’s hits, there’s that distinctive falsetto voice. I have to no avail searched  for a mid-sixties TV performance, or similar video, of Christie singing “Lightnin’ Strikes.” But eight years (May 1974) after it had been No. 1, Christie  performed on “The Midnight Special.” At the time, he was still a young man, so it is not like we are watching an old guy sing his original hit from 50 years ago. In the video I put together here, the audio from the original hit single has been synced with the video of the live stage performance.

Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with QZVX.COM in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions. View other articles by Steven Smith
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11 thoughts on “Found Performance: “Lightnin’ Strikes” by Lou Christie

  1. Good stuff! These Lou Christie hits were a few of the very first records I bought. Lightning, Rhapsody and also a copy of Marcie Blaine’s Bobby’s Girl, which had been released years earlier (’62) . The Four Seasons were also a personal fave at the time.

  2. I liked those songs too….Frankie Valli with the 4 Seasons, Lou Christie. Then there were The Castaways with Liar Liar. We liked the falsettos from the guy singers…a possible exception being Tiny Tim. But as a jock you didn’t get very far with a voice like that.

  3. As a radio station PD/MD in 1966 I must admit when I first auditioned Lou Christie and “Lightnin’ Strikes” I thought, “Oh, this is the guy who did “Runaway” & “Hats Off to Larry”. But then remembered that was Del Shannon… another great hitmaker who used the falsetto to great advantage. Del had a #1 with “Runaway” in ’61 and a #5 with “Larry” the same year. In ’62 “Little Town Flirt” went to #12…all employing a little of his signature falsetto. The other thing they had in common were stage names. Del’s birth name was Charles Weedon Westover…and Lou’s real name was Luigi Alfredo Giovanni Sacco. Can’t figure why they didn’t go with their given names!

  4. Jay….I had not thought of Del as a falsetto guy…but you are right…he was among the first. I liked his stuff. Were they all US guys…cannot think of any falsetto guys as part of the British invasion. Speaking of Britain, there are several documentary videos about Shirley Bassey on YouTube. The one I watched was good.

  5. Steve ~ The only British act (part of the original British Invasion) I can think of that employed falsetto would be The Bee Gees. Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb all had great falsetto voices. Technically they started their musical career in Australia, but they’re definitely British as they were born on Britain’s Isle of Man. Their 1st hit was in ’67 with “New York Mining Disaster 1941”.
    One great American falsetto voice that we’ve neglected … first appeared in 1963 with Brian Wilson, as part of the Beach Boys, and “Surfin USA”.

  6. Jay….I forgot all about Brian Wilson in that capacity. How bout Jan and Dean, I think some of their stuff went pretty high. I always thought of the Bee Gees as being from Australia, but what you say is correct.

  7. Although not part of the original British Invasion, three bands with falsetto singers came along in the ‘third wave’ (psychedelic era) of British bands: Cream’s Jack Bruce – examples of his falsetto: “Strange Brew” “I Feel Free” & also Pink Floyd – examples of which are on “Piper At The Gates of Dawn” “Saucerful of Secrets” “Ummagumma” & “Atom Heart Mother”LP & Tho Who “Pictures of Lilly” “Boris The Spider”

  8. If the truth be known … all this great falsetto stuff in pop music started with Rhythm & Blues artists such as Jimmy Jones with “Handyman” and “Good Timin'” in 1959~ Clyde McPhatter with “Lover’s Question” and “Lovey Dovey” in ’58 … and how about Sam Cooke and “You Send Me” ’57? How can we forget Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (all the way back to 1961) with “Shop Around”?! Smokey’s got to be one of the best falsetto guys of all time! Let’s hear it for those terrific R&B guys!

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