whom it may concern:
I was 12 years old and playing professionally at high school hops
for the WMCA Good Guys. JACK SPECTOR,
in particular, loved me, partly because I knew every song, but mostly
because I would work for 20 dollars a day.
I met TONY ORLANDO, who was a very
young "used to be", having cooled off after two big hits,
"Halfway to Paradise"
and "Bless You".
Seven years later songwriter BO GENTRY
and I found him looking rather portly, and working behind a desk
at April Blackwood Publishing. We talked him into singing a hit
called "Make Believe", a
shameless FOUR SEASONS knockoff. I
sang the high voice and Tony sang baritone.
that hit, we were at WES FARRELL's
office when TONY WINE was just completing
a new song, "Candida". We
loved that song so much we immediately recorded it with Tony, who
promptly took the tape to the TOKENS.
They stole our idea and created this group they called DAWN. We
were so upset, we scrapped our great recordings with him until I
uncovered the absolute gem, "In the Name
is the first time it has been on record.
"Make Believe", the first
WIND (TONY ORLANDO) single was ready
to be released, we needed a B-side. Our Buddah releases were known
for their ridiculous B-sides, like A-side played backwards in order
for the business dudes to copyright something with themselves as
writers, even though they couldn't write songs. (One of the record
company heads actually had a 3-year old daughter who had "written"
more songs than COLE PORTER).
dusted off a backing track from a "Yummy Yummy", "Chewy
Chewy", "Sugar Sugar", "Money Money" wannabe
song that was called something like "Bingo Bingo" and
improvised a haphazard harmonica and melodica overdub for the B-side.
After "Make Believe" was a Top 20
hit in the United States, we sent it to England. There, the
very exited and supportive BBC national radio station was happy
to showcase the latest hit by our bubblegum dynasty. It was an instant
success. I got a call from BO GENTRY,
who said, "- I've got a wedding present for you, you wrote
the #1 record in Great Britain." "What song?" I asked.
"Groovin' with Mr. Bloe"
was the answer. I didn´t remember a song with that title.
turns out the Beeb (BBC) had unwittingly played the wrong side of
the single and the throw away B-side became a worldwide hit, one
of the biggest instrumentals of all-time, one of my greatest songwriting
efforts, and, although in the U.S it only reached top 50 in Billboard,
it was used as DICK CLARK's "American
Bandstand" theme for many years.
1968, our little bubblegum group was so hot, we could get any label
to put out our singles. I began to produce them myself, and sell
them to labels at a big profit. One Friday, I booked a session for
the following Monday, without even a clue of what I might record.
So Saturday I am on the beach with my guitar, knowing I needed something
great, and feeling like an idiot for putting this kind of pressure
on myself. All of a sudden, like a flash from the muses, this amazing
song "Lord" comes into my
head about a western desperado who got shot trying to steal gold,
and begs the Lord to let him live to see his girl one more time
before he dies.
Monday I recorded it, and got STEVE TRACY,
a fabulous lead singer of a New Jersey band, to sing it. Now this
material had nothing to do with what his band was about, but that's
how we did it. We sculpted a record and made any artist fit into
our concoction of the day. When BO GENTRY
wandered into the studio during the mix, he said, -"This
guy sounds like we have to call him SPENCER BAREFOOT."
So, for the purposes of our recordings, STEVE
TRACY became SPENCER BAREFOOT.
session was done with appearances by LOUIS
ST. LOUIS, who later became famous as the composer of "Grease",
and MECO of "Star
Wars" fame, who did the horns and strings. Every record
company began fighting for it.
paid me a fortune for it. But unfortunately, by the time the record
was ready to come out, the 21-year old head of MGM Records was on
to bigger and better things (politics and the lieutenant governorship
people tried to make a hit with this song, including PETER
ANDERS (we got MIKE STOLLER
to write string arrangements for that version), BILL
MEDLEY and others, but for one reason or another, the song
never came out until now. "Lord" has to be one of the
best songs by someone with a track record never to be released.
I was 16, I was kind of a hot shot. I was hired to produce some
early solo efforts of BILL MEDLEY,
right after he left the RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS.
I am in this California studio when in walks the legend, DARLENE
LOVE ("He's a Rebel", "Zip a Dee Do Da",
"Today I Met the Boy I'm Gonna Marry"). She was known
around my Brill Building crowd as the best voice around. She sounded
either 16 or 60, black and white at the same time, and she was so
she sang background with me (I was the flat voice) on the BILL
MEDLEY sessions, I was so taken with her that I recorded
her and the BLOSSOMS (stars of the
monster TV show "Shindig"). The song was never properly
released, but it did get chosen for some kind of minority rights
campaign. DAVID GATES of BREAD
appeared on the record and a lot of the other PHIL
SPECTOR graduates, including Darlene's sister, EDNA
WRIGHT, from HONEY CONE ("Want
the recording of "Make a Change"
was delivered, the folks at the record company thought it
was a disgraceful, bubblegum way to record DARLENE
fact, all the best producers on the planet had failed with Darlene
(after PHIL SPECTOR) by trying to make "soul" records
with her. LARRY UTTAL, head of the
label at the time and a friend of mine, finally gave me the rights
to have the song come out if I ever got a label to do it. Nearly
30 years later, I am able to do it on my own label, and I sure love
the way it sounds. I hear it as a pure rock and roll record.
got a message from Darlene 15 years later while I was on tour in
South Africa. I called her back from Venezuela, and it blew her
blew my mind to hear that she had fallen on hard times and was cleaning
houses to survive.
moved her to New York and paid all her expenses for 10 years or
so, got her a record deal, hired an acting coach for her to help
her get the job as DANNY GLOVER's wife
in the Lethal Weapon movie series, handled her two ridiculous Broadway
situations (Carrie and Leader of the Pack), hooked her up with JIMMIE
IOVINE for the Special Olympics platinum Christmas record,
and I held her hand during MIAMI STEVE's
Sun City sessions with BONO, SPRINGSTEEN,
and a hundred other heavies. I spent a fortune and I never charged
her back or commissioned her record earnings.
she wrote her book, she slagged me off. That helped me learn a lot
about human nature: mainly, no good deed goes unpunished.
was created because I loved MUHAMMAD ALI.
In 1968, they took away his heavyweight title and I was frustrated
and incensed. I wrote a song about the situation, and designated
the royalties to his defense fund. I took the records around to
R & B stations across the country stored on top of a car, and
remember buying pick hits of the week for $200. I suppose that was
the birth of Blackheart Records. My godmother, with the help of
the fight doctor, FERDIE PACHECO, actually
got the record to ALI on the night
he fought JOE FRAZIER.
didn't get very far, although JERRY WEXLER
came within a whisker of putting it out on mighty Atlantic Records.
It all fell apart when Ali lost the fight.
nights, I was left on my own to be fought over by strange Greenwich
Village flaming hipsters, while preparing the music in the midst
of psychedelic insanity. This recording became a melding of my pop,
rock and roll world with the pop art genius of Warhol and his partner
PAUL MORRISEY. When I tried to talk
about the "art" I was creating they told me: "It's
not the art we care about, it's the money".
and I were living with SISSY SPACEK,
a struggling young country pop singer, and legend BOBBY
BLOOM ("Montego Bay"). Bobby sang lead and Sissy
sang the bridge. The backing track was played by my band, the
TRADEWINDS (who were also playing the music and vocals for
the OHIO EXPRESS ["Yummy Yummy",
"Chewy Chewy"] 1910 FRUITGUM COMPANY
["Simon Says", "1-2-3 Red Light"], MUSIC
EXPLOSION ["Little Bit of Soul"], TOMMY
JAMES AND THE SHONDELS, JAY AND THE AMERICANS, DEREK ["Cinnamon"],
and a host of others).
horns were supervised by MECO, who
later had big instrumental hits like "Star Wars", and
the strings were played by the IRVING SPICE
STRINGS, who played strings on almost every New York hit,
such as those by the FOUR SEASONS, SIMON AND
was one of the greatest gatherings of past, present and future hit
makers I have ever seen, and yet the record never came out because
the label went out of business before the release. ANDY
WARHOL designed an album cover for Lonesome Cowboys. It was
a cropped denim pants with a zipper that actually went up and down,
and these "Lonesome Cowboys" sure liked a zipper they
it became apparent the record was never going to come out he gave
the idea to the ROLLING STONES who
used it for Sticky Fingers.
was 1969 and I was living in a duplex on 15th Street with singer-writer
BOBBY BLOOM ("Montego Bay").
One night we got this idea to put together a bunch of us tin pan
alley cats in a late-model stand-up singing group called MOOSE
AND THE PELICANS.
AND THE PELICANS
was a five-part harmony a cappella group with the permutations of
Bobby, PAUL NAUMANN (guitar player
and singer for TRADEWINDS), TERRY MARZANO,
wife of our bass player NORMAN MARZANO,
SISSY SPACEK and me.
spent endless hours practicing our vocal harmonies in subways and
under the pedestrian tunnel on West 72nd Street. We worked up some
very excellent vintage macho dance steps reminiscent of the doo-wop
groups of the late '50s.
is nothing so exhilarating as hearing natural echo enhance a five-part
a cappella group. "We Rockin'"
actually got to #105 in Record World.
But by then Bobby was off to his new career working with JEFF
BARRY, which yielded him a Top 10 with "Montego Bay".
I have always thought we would have all been bigger if we stayed
with the vocal group.
Crockett", the B-side is off-the-wall, but I love it. It is
the bubblegum thing broke up, mainly because we all wanted to be
doing something a little cooler than nursery rhymes, I was working
and singing with PETER ANDERS, who
had written major RONETTES' songs,
an ELVIS single and also sung lead
on many hits. We moved to California and hooked up with the Los
Angeles studio crowd that were playing with JAMES
TAYLOR, CAROLE KING, JACKSON BROWN, etc. These LA dudes found
us to be a refreshing insanity. We recorded "Sudden
Death" with RUSS KUNKEL
and LEE SKLAR playing drums and bass.
This gorgeous number never came out because we were all too high
to follow through, including the guys who owned the record company.
I limped home to New York and started playing in a spinoff of my
ANDERS, LAGUNA, GINSBERG project (sans
Anders) called the NIGHTHAWKS. One
of the guys had been a member of a band called BUFFALONGO
and I became enamored with one of their songs, "Dancin'
In the Moonlight". Eventually songwriter, producer RITCHIE
CORDELL and I were asked to produce a singer for RCA named
PETER WEINSTOCK. We got the idea to
have him sing "Dancin' In the Moonlight". It was an inspired
session. We saw God.
luck would have it, the great idea was heard by some of the more
important players in the corporation, and RCA
ended up chasing a version of the same song by a band called KING
HARVEST. If we never recorded that song, the KING HARVEST
record would never have gotten their attention. Once again, "we
1972, when bubblegum was virtually over, I had played or sung on
more than 50 Billboard top 40 hits. Along with the Buddah and TOMMY
JAMES records, there were recordings by BARBARA
STREISAND, JOHNNY MATHIS, PAUL ANKA, and a particularly interesting
project playing some piano on the soundtrack of Hells Angels 1969.
all of this I had remained clueless as to how information got into
the press. For one thing, no one in the mainstream press ever wanted
to write about my bubblegum stuff anyway. But still, I never understood
why the music trade magazines always had blurbs and articles listing
people in the indie labels who represented me exclusively, when
I was signed to no one.
1972, I was surviving by playing with TOMMY
JAMES AND THE SHONDELS on the road when we landed our last
recording deal on the San Francisco area label, Fantasy Records.
They were insane enough to believe we could fill the void left when
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL stopped
making records for them. They got the idea when a very influential
rock columnist named JOEL SELVIN wrote
an incredible review in the San Francisco Chronicle.
we began recording, Joel became my first friend in the press. I
began to learn how things worked. Unbeknownst to me, Joel was doing
his own research and decided he had found "the man behind the
man". This was actually not the case, since Tommy was a brilliant
musical talent, though he was a little out of touch with the Bay
Area community that was trying hard to adopt us.
remarks I made about my lead singer were finding their way into
Joel's column, and while my notoriety was increasing, I was severely
alienating my band and the manager. Before I understood how to clarify
what conversations were on or off the record, Joel had put some
of my stupid remarks in the newspaper.
the meantime, the whole East Bay was tuning in to our little Brill
Building clique, and before long, we had been manipulated into sending
the SHONDELS home and replacing them
on the tracks with Beserkley's first band, EARTH
the time Joel brought me my first project, Kinks Sides, by LITTLE
ROGER AND THE GOOSEBUMPS, he had bolstered my confidence,
but isolated me from the group I came there with.
those sessions, I got a call from New York saying I could stay in
California because I was no longer a Shondel. I was devastated,
but Joel was laughing at all of this and assured me it was a good
thing. I sure didn´t see it that way.
he did turn out to be right. Two EARTH QUAKE
LP's, one GREG KIHN, and a JONATHAN
RICHMAN album later, Joel and Little Roger came up with the
concept to record "Stairway to Heaven" and the "Gillian
Island" TV theme in a convoluted and comical way.
who could play every note of the Led Zep classic, did the backing
track in THE WHO's London Ramport studio,
and Little Roger (Clark) did the lead in San Francisco.
this record came out it was all over West Coast radio, and was on
its way to becoming a huge novelty hit.
empire came crashing down on this project like Desert Storm. There
were lawyers from LOUIS NIZER, private
eyes, and just plain bullies. My chance at a hit dissolved in a
whirl of injunctions and professional bring-downers.
one of my best friends, BILL CURBISHLEY,
legendary manager of THE WHO, is now
working with ROBERT PLANT and
JIMMY PAGE. After all this time, Bill played the parody for
Robert and he laughed.
Records was the first punk/new wave label. It predated Stiff and
Sire. They prided themselves on their antiestablishment attitude.
MATTHEW KING KAUFMAN was the leader
of this commando unit. I was lucky enough to become their outside
ringer at the time my stint with TOMMY JAMES
was reaching an end.
day, Matthew decided to set up all his bands at once in the massive
San Francisco CBS studio where the likes of SANTANA,
JANIS JOPLIN and others had made history. This mess of hard
rock rebels included EARTH QUAKE, THE GREG
KIHN BAND, THE RUBINOOS, and JONATHAN
the great CBS mixer ("Time Has Come Today", "I Love
Rock and Roll", "I Want Candy") was trying to make
some kind of technical sense out of 15 guitar amps, four bass amps,
several sets of drums and my keyboards.
shows up and demands "a more organic, metaphysical approach"
and has all the baffles and sound separation devices removed to
allow the bands to feel more like they were playing in the garage
where they practiced. Glen was sick, and to tell you truth, I was
feeling pretty weird about this sonic insanity. But, in the end,
the sound bounced down to two tracks and it sounded really quite
amazing. "Let Her Dance", lead vocal by EARTH QUAKE's
GARY PHILLIPS, is such a hit, but it
never did get to be released as a single.
bubblegum died, I couldn't get anybody in the American record business
to notice me. After slightly reviving myself in England with the
help of BILL CURBISHLEY and THE
WHO, I came home, and by the middle seventies disco and heavy
metal were what was happening and I was not known for doing that
kind of music. RITCHIE CORDELL and
I came up with an amazing song idea written by AUGUST
DARNELL of KID CREOLE AND THE COCONUTS.
We went all over town begging anyone to listen to our idea, but
even guys who had made millions from our work only a few years back
treated us like the plague.
odyssey of the selling of "Dario, Can You Get Me Into Studio
54" is chronicled in the song "The Big B-Side". The
voices of the record company people were really them.
going everywhere we could think of, the only guy who would give
us the time of day was a longtime hitmaker named
EDDIE O' (O' LOUGHLIN), who at the time ran Midsong Records
with BOB RENO. They were disco pioneers
and their label was immensely successful. They broke acts like SILVER
CONVENTION and JOHN TRAVOLTA,
the singer. (Eddie later became a rap and hip-hop pioneer, the first
one to believe that women could rap and made about one hundred million
dolllars with acts like SALT 'N' PEPA
on his own label, Next Plateau Records).
loved the song and gave us a budget to record it, "disco style".
He arranged for us to have the very finest disco musicians, including
drummer ALLAN SCHWARTZBERG, who basically
had invented disco drumming and was on every important New York
disco record at that time. I remember Eddie coming into the studio
to announce that "120 beats a minute" was the right speed
for the trendy dances of the moment. They used a metronome (click
track) to set up the track and we were blown away with culture shock.
the end, we were able to incorporate our techniques and style with
the disco guys, and there was a great melding of musical cultures.
It culminated when our friend, songwriter extraordinaire ELLIE
GREENWICH, came to visit us at Media Sound on 57th Street
during the sessions. While we were recording, Ellie (who had written
such awesome hits as "Be My Baby", "Hanky Panky",
"Da Doo Ron Ron", and about a million others) began to
sing this vocal ad lib that was so great we made her sing on the
record. The "wo-awo-a's" and "Gotta Go's" after
the breakdown is Ellie. That was a real melting pot of a session.
my production of "I Love Rock and Roll"
put me back in the "Little Leagues" (as per PETE
TOWNSHEND), my ability was revalidated for a while. RCA Records
was dying for me to produce BOW WOW WOW and
I was trying to get out of it by asking for a ridiculous fee. They
said yes. At the insistence of JOAN JETT
and my other think tank members Karol Kamin, Steve Leeds and Meryl
Laguna, I booked Criteria Studio in Florida to record and then I
went up to mix at the equally legendary studio Power Station. (The
echoes in those two studios were amongst the best in the world).
was quite a character. He hated what I did with his band. Only it
turned out I did their biggest hits ("I Want Candy", "Baby
Oh No", etc.) and now the liner notes on the BOW WOW WOW compilation
claim that Malcom conceived those records without me.
was a visionary British music business guy who was
THE WHO's first manager, producer, and songwriter when they
were called the HIGH NUMBERS. It was
his idea to use the Mod thing as an identity builder.
ended up selling the rights to THE WHO
for 500 pounds and, the way things turned out, the deal didn't do
very much for his psychological well being.
the point when Peter was really in bad shape, PETE
TOWNSHEND felt the need to help him, and basically left it
to THE WHO's manager, BILL CURBISHLEY,
to figure out a way to give Meaden a new lease on his career.
was fixated on a brilliant and charismatic singer, poet, songwriter
named STEVE GIBBONS, and his band,
which included TREVOR BURTON of THE
MOVIE. One day I was on the road with TOMMY
JAMES, and I get this call from Meaden asking for super star
producer songwriters LEIBER and STOLLER's
number, and then for VINNIE PONCIA's
(RINGO, NILSSON, MELISSA MANCHESTER) number. Obviously
he didn't connect, because the third call was to inquire if I could
come over and deliver an album with THE STEVE
GIBBONS BAND in three weeks, to be ready for the upcoming
WHO stadium tour, which THE STEVE GIBBONS BAND was to open.
was great and canceled the upcoming gigs to allow me the opportunity
to work for the legendary WHO organization.
got a USA chart record from that fist album and so they asked me
to do the follow-up at a studio on the grounds of PETE
TOWNSHEND's estate on the Thames River at Goring-on-Thames.
was quite an experience for a bubblegum guy, being around a band
of that caliber. But Gibbons didn't have enough commercial stuff
for singles. In a panic, I came up with this obscure CHUCK
BERRY song, "Tulane".
BBC played the record off the American version and it reacted great.
The record went Top 10 and it was such a relief to me to come through
for the greatest Rock and Roll band in the world.
had built a studio called Ramport with the budget from Quadrophenia.
Thereafter, they seemed to start every album in this fabulous studio.
Then they would grow bored of the place they owned, and end up elsewhere.
1978 and 1979, I was their biggest client. Eventually the management
told me I could use all the "downtime" to create singles
a' la my '60s records. We could make some hits and share the money.DION
is one of my very favorite artists. I recorded "Donna, the
Prima Donna", which he had written, in kind of a punk, glam
doo-wop style. On this record, the bass vocal was sung by the guy
from SHOW ADDYWADDY, a legendary British
was also recorded during these sessions. I
wrote it in 1979 standing over the cradle of my newborn baby girl,
1986, I was working with JOAN JETT
on Light Of Day, her movie with MICHAEL J.
FOX, and we were hanging out with the BEACH
BOYS. In fact, we were very close to CARL
WILSON. I wanted him to overdub a guitar part like he played
in "Sloop John B". All the BEACH BOYS were in New York
for a show when I called up Carl to come over to the Record Plant
Studios for the overdub. We knew if we asked all of them to come,
none of them would, since one of the things that happens with long-lasting
music groups is that everyone eventually hates each other.
was into singing some Beach Boy harmonies as well as playing guitar.
So I gathered Joan, DARLENE LOVE, and
myself, only to find out by a weird coincidence that Darlene had
sung on their greatest hits, including some done in BRIAN
WILSON's empty pool. Anyhow, when word got out that Carl
was hanging out in a West Side studio with JOAN
JETT, BRUCE JOHNSTON took a subway over in his hot pants
(actually a daring move), and the four of them sounded so good I
nearly came in my pants.
their tour manager called because some of the other guys were feeling
left out. I heard this voice behind me say "Hey, do I have
to take a number to get on this record?" I turned around to
see none other than MIKE LOVE. He showed
us how to add a Beach Boy bass voice. One by one, each and every
Beach Boy showed up and we created this beautifully eclectic vocal
adventure (a later version of the song became the title song of
JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS first
CBS [Sony] album, and a Billboard chart entry as well).
1997, there was a movie coming out called Tank
Girl and the director wanted JOAN JETT
to sing a version of COLE PORTER's
"Let's Do It" with the lead singer of BAD
RELIGION, GREG GRIFFIN.
brought his guitar player, BRIAN BAKER,
who had played in MINOR THREAT with
our friend IAN MacKAYE of FUGAZI.
We brought the Blackhearts.
were some weird vibes between the Blackhearts and Greg, but he and
I were magic together. We came up with this arrangement that sounded
like a smash.
we parted company, Greg and I were planning our hit together. Soon
after, the movie company asked us to do a video. Now BAD
RELIGION had an album out at the time, and someone, either
from the label, management, band or some combination of them all,
decided that they didn't need our hit and refused to participate
in the video.
movie folks couldn't understand why Greg did the record if he didn't
want it to be successful and they were furious. They wanted Greg's
fabulous vocal removed.
Records got PAUL WESTERBERG, a close
friend of Joan's and mine, to sing it instead. Then Paul didn't
want to promote it, either. I think Paul got a little worried when
the president of his label thought the song was a new one, and suggested
it wasn't one of his better efforts.
fact that this COLE PORTER standard
has been recorded over thousands times, by everyone from
BING CROSBY to BILLIE HOLLIDAY,
should give you an idea of what acts have to deal with in the corporate
record company environment.
this album has been a bitch, since the program is so eclectic and
some of the recordings have been stored in somewhat perishable formats.
We had to go all over the world to gather the masters.
a great engineer (BRIAN SETZER, TWISTED SISTER,
JOAN JETT) who I have worked with for many years, was instrumental
in dealing with the diverse technical problems that this project
presented. And leave it to Joel Selvin (now a big shot bookwriter
and entertainment editor of the San Francisco Chronicle) to come
up with copies of my old records which nobody else in the world
you enjoy it. I did.