The Ran-Dells were a one-shot group out of New Jersey who came up with one memorable song before going on to other careers.
The group consisted of three first cousins: Steven Rappaport, Robert Rappaport and John Spirt. Steven was from Villas, New Jersey and the others were from nearby Cape May, New Jersey. In the early 60's certain things became fashionable, such as space exploration and dance songs. The three cousins were in college when they began discussing writing a song that included these themes. Within minutes they came up with a song they called Martian Hop.
Steven was studying electronic music (or as it is called now, synthesis). In producing the record (at Bell Sound Studios in New York City), he put a very unusual electronic music sound at the beginning of the song in order to draw the attention of any disc jockey who might be inclined to play it. Martian Hop was the first pop record to use "additive synthesis" from sine wave generators.
Steven had worked as a disc jockey under the name Steve Randle -- hence the group's name, the Ran-Dells. In January of 1963 the three students made a master of the song, with Robert on lead vocals in his natural falsetto voice and playing guitar, and the other two singing the doo-wopish ba-ba-um-mum-mum's and playing the other instruments on the record. It cost Steven $330 to produce the master, a rather significant amount at that time. Brill Building songwriter Gerry Goffin was in the studio when the song was recorded. He liked it and brought it to producer Don Kirschner. Kirschner signed the group; the record was released in June of 1963 on Kirschner's Chairman label.
The members of the Ran-Dells were surprised when they heard it on their car radio four weeks later, when it was spun by Cousin Brucie on WABC. The song began to climb the charts. It was a big hit overseas, reaching number one on the charts in France, Israel and West Germany. In the USA it went as high as number sixteen on Billboard. Worldwide the record sold more than 1 million copies.
The Ran-Dells were stars, if only for a brief time. They appeared on American Bandstand on August 22, 1963. They tried a couple of follow-up songs but without much success. Steven Rappaport recalled receiving a check in the amount of $32,000 in the days when a Pontiac Grand Prix sold for $2,200. Having been razzed by his college buddies during the year he made the record, he got the last laugh by taping a copy of the check to the front of the door of his dormitory room at Brandeis University.
Robert Rappaport later became a hotel magnate in Key West, Florida. John Spirt went on to a career as an artist in Philadelphia; he passed away in 2003. And Steven Rappaport practiced law for a number of years and continued working with electronic music, producing CD-ROMs in San Francisco. He suffered a fatal heart attack in Hawaii on July 4, 2007.
Martian Hop was chosen as one of the top songs of the 60's by Doctor Demento, who calls it "neo-doowop." It is a fun novelty song that reflects its era in American pop music.
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