MANNY FREISER has written, produced and recorded music from 1964 to the present. His 60's group, The Grodes/Tongues of Truth, logged many Top 10 singles in Tucson, Arizona. One of those songs, Let's Talk About Girls, is now considered a 'cult classic' and forerunner of 80's punk -- it has been covered by several other groups. In the 70's, as a member of vocal duo, Fire & Rain, Manny along with ex-wife Patti McCarron recorded for Mercury, 20th Century, MGM and Barnaby Records, enjoying a Hot 100 single with a remake of the Barbara Lewis classic, Hello Stranger. In the 80's, under the pseudonym Ian Messenger, Manny recorded two albums for Quincy Jones' Qwest Records (distributed by Warner Brothers). The Qwest single, Livin' in the Night, aired on MTV and hit the college charts. A second single, Wait So Long, garnered significant pop airplay and strong radio requests on the East Coast). Also during the 80's, Manny was a marketing executive with A&M and Qwest Records. Manny's music can be heard on such reissues as Rhino Records' great Nuggets compilation -- and even on late night TV (Conan O'Brien). Manny continues to write and record new material -- and has just completed an 18-song CD, entitled Way Back Home. (Manny is also an attorney AND veterinary hospital owner [Chatsworth Veterinary Center -- www.CHATVET.com].) He's also married to super veterinarian, Dr. Suzi Milder, and has a 12-year old daughter, Sara, who is still young enough to think "daddy music" is cool. Also see: http://cdbaby.com/cd/mannyfreiser AND http://www.airplaydirect.com/music/bands/2415 --------------------------- But that was the 'short' version. Let's go back and start at the beginning. Of course, this whole music thing started simply as my way of trying to get girls. I saw them swoon when Elvis laid on his back and strummed guitar. More importantly, I saw them swoon when Ricky Nelson sang in his dreamy monotone. I say "more importantly" because Elvis' talent was clearly out of my reach. On the other hand, if Ricky could do it, so could I. That was in the late 50's and early 60's. I had moved to Tucson in '58 as a 14-year old high school freshman. I became friends with a group of guys, including a kid named John, who owned a beautiful Gibson hollow-body electric guitar -- and he showed me how to strum 4 chords: G, Em, C and D. That was all I needed. Three friends and I (John, Gary and David, wrote our first song one evening, although David was more interested in watching Perry Mason: If I Had 3 Wishes (..and they could all come true, I'd use all of those wishes, every one for you.) We traveled Indian Ridge, our suburban Tucson neighborhood that very night, knocking on the doors of girls we knew, and singing our song. They appeared to be favorably impressed. I basically spent the next couple of years strumming those 4 chords in various combinations -- especially when I could get a girl to listen. I would bring my guitar on dates (unsolicited), go park, pull out -- my guitar -- and burst into song (it really worked, by the way). But the best place to play and sing was the echoey bathroom in my college dorm (only attempted in the boys' dorm). They'll never match that sound in a recording studio. It was also around that time that I started to write my own songs -- mostly because it was easier than learning other peoples' songs. I admit I dreamed of fame. Okay, I'd still accept it today. I wanted it not so much for the money, but for that little bit of immortality which I supposed a hit record would bring me: all I wanted was someone to get excited -- get goose bumps -- or tears in their eyes -- when one of my songs came on the radio -- but it was apparently not to be – at least not on a large scale -- in this lifetime. ----- About 70 of my recordings made over the last forty years are presented here. My take on the collection is that it varies in both writing and recording quality. And since I made these recordings, I admit that I love them like a parent loves his kids. The songs certainly don't seem to fit comfortably into any one genre – unless ‘Manny Freiser’ is a genre -- but that's my life story: neither I nor my music fit comfortably into any one category. Sure seems like a lot of my songs are sad. More than three quarters of them are about love, sex and romance -- so you get a pretty good idea of my personality/neuroses profile. The tracks are pretty much in reverse chronological order – starting with the most recent, although my memory is unclear about dates in some instances; some cuts are out of time sequence for organizational reasons. I will try here to kind of tie the music into what was going on at the time in my life and the world at large – so you get a picture of where the songs were coming from. I should point out that this forty-year musical odyssey is naturally divided into two approximately twenty-year segments: from ’64 to ’86, I was trying to ‘make it’ – you know, get signed to a label, release a hit, tour -- 'make it.' Since that time, I’ve essentially made music for myself, not even really playing it for, or trying to please, anyone else. The stories about working in the business side of the business are also key to the music: first, because it was that work which paid for my terminally unprofitable creative endeavors; second, it was the business end of it which eventually led to my eventual enlightenment -- resulting in total disenchantment with the entire music business process. World event highlights are provided courtesy of a tome entitled, The Chronicle of the 20th Century. Maybe that way it will make some kind of sense -- be placed in some kind of perspective. Maybe as we go along, we'll find out together what happened and why it all happened -- or didn't happen -- the way that it did. Maybe there's some unifying thread... ***** 1964: It had been less than 6 months since President Kennedy was assassinated. On January 14, 1964, Jackie Kennedy was on national TV thanking the nation for expressing sympathy. On February 12, a group from England, called the Beatles, climbed off a plane at Kennedy Airport to take this country by storm. ***** While I had written a few songs prior to the Beatles hitting in February, 1964, they really struck a chord (so to speak). I wrote several songs in the Spring of '64, spurred on by my new relationship with Jeri, who would become my first wife, and the audience I had found: the girls who lived in her dorm. I'd sing for them in one of the echoey rooms in the dorm -- my own songs plus current hits of the time like Ferry Cross The Mersey, World Without Love, etc. At that time, I started recording demos at Copper State Recording Studio. It was really the only game in town in those days, just barely a demo quality studio owned by a guy named Foster Cayce. Foster's family money had been used to start an enterprise in which he cheerfully admitted to having no prior experience. During that time, another Catalina High alumnus, Linda Ronstadt (I was class of '62, she was class of '64 -- we double dated when she had a crush on my friend, Gary), was also recording demos there. ***** In July '64, the Supremes broke onto the national scene with Where Did Our Love Go. Peter Sellers starred in The Pink Panther that year, and LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act. Gracie Allen died on August 28, and the Rolling Stones first appeared on Ed Sullivan on October 26. ***** I was sitting in the lobby at Copper State one afternoon in late summer after some recording. A brash guy with a thick New York accent came out of the studio. Foster introduced him to me. "This is Jerry Kasenetz." Kasenetz talked like a big producer -- and hey, he wanted to hear my demos. He got really animated after hearing them. I found out later he was always animated. He wanted to take me to L.A. to record; he was gonna make me a star. But Kasenetz wanted me to keep on writing and see if I could come up with something even better than what he’d already heard. He was constantly reminding me that he was going to spend $2,000 recording me in L.A., but if I kept practicing and writing, he assured me, "Tottie, you're gonna be a stah!" He particularly liked a song I had just written, I Won’t Be There. So I took Thanksgiving Holiday from classes at the University, and we went to L.A. to record it and another song. Mike Friedman, a friend of ours from U. of A., came along to play drums. He would later produce and play drums on the Grodes Cry A Little Longer/She's Got What It Takes – oh, and produce Todd Rundgren's hit record, Hello It's Me. He would also later become Albert Grossman’s business partner in managing Bob Dylan and, ironically, in 1980 become Clive Davis's Executive Assistant at Arista at the same time that I was Gil Friesen's Executive Assistant at A&M Records. We had our choice of two well-respected session guitarists at the rate of $50 for the whole day. We chose Gary Paxton (famous as a member of Skip & Flip ["Cherry Pie"] and the Hollywood Argyles ["Alley Oop"]) over another session guitarist named Glen Campbell. We rehearsed at Paxton's spooky Addams Family-style house just off Hollywood Boulevard. He recorded the rehearsal. I guess he wanted to listen to it later to create or rehearse his parts. I recall that he put each of us in a separate room in the house for good sound separation. It was really weird, playing with the others in separate rooms, connected only by earhpones. The night of the session, I met some people who would eventually become important contacts for me. Before recording, we went to dinner with a friend of Friedman's, Mike Borchetta, a glib but likable RCA executive. He acted real important. We later found out that he wasn't a even record executive as we had supposed. Oh, he worked for RCA alright – in the appliance division. The ability to lie, exaggerate and hype is rewarded in the record biz. ‘Borchy,’ later became a major country music executive in Nashville. He introduced us to a friend of his, a DJ named Kasey Kasem, who was sitting at a nearby table at the little Italian restaurant. Chuck Britts, well-known for his work with the Beachboys, engineered. Mike Friedman also got another friend to drop by the studio and hang out for a while: Joe Saraceno, a record producer famous for his work with instrumental groups like the Ventures (Walk Don't Run -- and later, Hawaii Five-O), the Routers (Let's Go!) and the Marketts (Outer Limits) as well as the vocal group the Sunshine Company (Back On The Streets Again and Happy). We recorded all evening and into the early hours of the next morning. I had trouble with the vocals, but finally got it, doubling them for effect. At one point in the process, we took a break, and when the guys came back they said, "your stuff sure is alot better than what's being recorded in the next studio -- Jerry Lewis's son is recording some stupid song about a diamond ring." This Diamond Ring, by Gary Lewis & The Playboys later topped the national charts. I Won't Be There never even got signed to a label or released. The plan had been to call me and this "studio group" (not an actual performing group, but one created in the studio solely to record) Randy Buckingham and the Palace Guards. Kasenetz thought this English-sounding name appropriate because he thought I had a British sound. Of course, British was the rage, and this was gonna be a smash -- especially since Kasenetz had poured his own $2,000 into it, as he reminded me yet again. Borchetta "took the master around," and phoned us several times us about "great interest" in it: it was "just about to happen" several times. This would become a distinct theme in my career: over the next 20 years, it seemed that the big break was almost always "just about to happen." Mention of the project eventually faded. ***** 1965: the Byrds recorded 8 Miles high. A young boxer by the name of Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title on May 25. On June 3, Ed White strolled in outer space outside the Gemini 4 space capsule; NASA was planning its longest space flight ever -- 4 days. Folk purists were complaining because Bob Dylan was starting to use electric instruments. ***** I was a junior in college at the University during the '64-'65 school year, but my heart was in rock & roll: I felt destined to 'make it.' Over the few months ending '64 and moving into early '65, Kasenetz kept chanting his mantra, that I was gonna be a big star -- and that he was gonna recoup that damn $2,000 investment. His roommate, Jerry Bruckheimer (now the most successful movie producer of all time) – or as we called him, ‘Brucky’ was a really mellow, quiet guy, in stark contrast to Kaz’s flamboyant style. He’d would call me desperately and say, "Manny, you gotta do something about Kasenetz. He's waking me up in the middle of the night and asking me, 'Brucky, is Manny gonna make it?'' He's driving me nuts!" Then Kasenetz suddenly left the University and went back to Great Neck, Long Island. He wrote constantly (I counted his longest letter at 58 pages), still vowing to make me a star, "keep practicing and God bless you, Tottie!" He kept saying that the key to my success was to find or start a band. He ordered Brucky to look for groups for me. It was Brucky who introduced me to The Hustlers in early '65. He took me to one of their rehearsals at keyboardist Rick Lust's house. That first meeting and jam session were less than momentous: they thought I sucked, and I felt the same about them. However, they wanted to get into the studio, and needed someone who wrote, while I needed a band to record and perform live -- so we figured we'd live with each other for a while. We played a few jobs as The Hustlers. I sang such songs as Money and Twist & Shout through an old public address (p.a.) mike plugged into a guitar amp. And we recorded two demos: very tentative efforts at melding our diverse musical styles and interests -- not to mention our questionable musical abilities at the time. Sometime that Spring, I was in L.A. visiting Jeri. Rick Lust, the keyboard player, and I were drunk and in some motel room arguing about group names. I mumbled the name, The Grodes, the Hustlers became The Grodes, and an era of sorts was born. Uh Huh Girl was recorded by The Grodes at Dwayne Eddy's Audio Recorders in Phoenix Arizona in Spring, 1965. I produced. And yes, those are my unforgettable 12-string licks. I was really buzzed when it was completed -- it sounded to me like it had the hit sound of that time. I hated the flip -- it was my fault that this version of I Won't Be There (not presented here) was so unbelievably fast; during the recording, I kept saying over and over again, "speed it up -- it's not fast enough." Some punk fans have said they love it at this speed. Oh, well. Anyway, I had the acetate of Uh Huh Girl by my side as I drove directly from the Phoenix studio to L.A. over that May night. I think that might have been the night I first heard Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone coming through the static-filled air waves over the desert -- I could barely make it out, but it still blew me away. As soon as I got to the Coast, I played Uh Huh Girl for Mike Borchetta, and he loved it. He suggested that we form a record company to release it: the company would be owned by me, him and an actor friend of his, Cass Martin -- we decided to call it Tri-M Records. We each kicked in $100 toward pressing up some singles because he said it would cost a total of $300; I later found out that my $100 paid the entire cost of the pressing! That was my buddy, Borchy. KTKT, Tucson's rock station, added the record. I'll never forget the first time I heard a record I'd made on the radio. We were loading equipment into the cars after some dinky fraternity job, late one October night. On my car radio, the DJ said, "here's a new one, called Uh Huh Girl, from the Grodes.." It was magical. I was hooked. Uh Huh Girl has always been one of my personal favorites. I loved the 12-string Byrds sound, and it fairly popped out of those tinny car radios. It was our first chart record, going to number 32 on KTKT's Top 40. Ah, the feeling of hearing the record blaring out of the car radio while driving down Speedway Boulevard on those autumn nights. Hey, man that's our record! We were having fun! We weren't very good, but there was a real team spirit and cameraderie brought about by going through this rough and tumble musical experience together. We could see the possibilities. Unfortunately, as the band would get better, there was natural competition for leadership of the group. After all, with emerging local success, there’d be something worth fighting over. This would eventually splinter us into contentious factions and finally break up the group. It foretold my overall experience in the music business: I started out with nothing but a great attitude, alot of enthusiasm and belief. I wound up in the end having done some pretty interesting stuff, but having lost in the long struggle the great innocence, enthusiasm and optimism -- the feeling of magic -- with which I started out. I could have enjoyed all of I accomplished over the years much more if I was still that person. But you can’t go back. After the nascent success of Uh Huh Girl, Audio in Phoenix was suddenly not good enough for us. We had to get to L.A. to record in a real Hollywood studio. Cry A Little Longer was recorded by The Grodes at Emperor Studios in Los Angeles in late '65 or early '66. I can't recall who found or suggested Emperor Studios, but I know we were impressed that we were going to L.A., and were going to record in Emperor Hudson's studio. Hell, we were impressed at the chance to meet the Emperor himself. Bob Hudson was the biggest rock DJ in L.A., on KFWB-AM -- then the cool rock station. Our great anticipation turned to disappointment when we arrived at Emperor Studio, only to find a tiny, broken down mess of a joint on Vermont Street, closer to downtown than to Hollywood. Hudson was using Shure p.a. mikes for vocals!! We were angry -- but we were there, so we recorded. I hated the sound of the records we recorded in this studio (yes, we would later record two more sides there, including Let’s Talk About Girls, after vowing never to set foot in the place again). In retrospect, Cry A Little Longer came out kind of cool. Can you hear Mike drop his drumsticks at the very end of the track? ***** In May of '66, the Beachboys topped the national charts with Sloop John B; James Brown hit in July, '66 with It's A Man's Man's World, Reagan got elected Governor of California, LBJ visited the boys in 'Nam, and Twiggy made mini skirts the rage. ***** The Grodes traveled the 120 miles of desert highway to Phoenix in early '66 to record Love Is A Sad Song at Audio. Dan Gates, a KTKT DJ, who would produce the rest of the Grodes' tracks -- and would become a mentor of sorts -- came along to produce. What I remember most about this recording session is that Dan overrode my repeated requests to put more reverb on the record. The sound was just way too dry and dinky sounding without it. You could hear every mistake in the background vocals, the drumming -- and in everything else -- Love Is A Bad Song! Maybe that's why I'vr always gone a little overboard on reverb/echo -- to mask imperfections. But when Love Is A Sad Song was released as a single on Rally Records in spring of '66, it became our biggest hit, going to #5 on the KTKT Top 40, and staying up there for several weeks. And I mean a legitimate top 5, without our usual ploy of having friends and family buy and request the record. Years later, I visited Tucson and heard it played as a classic oldie. That spring we were fully booked on the fraternity and sorority circuit at the U of A. I can't tell you how many times we performed Gloria, Louie Louie, 96 Tears (we called it 69 Tears -- cool, huh?), etc. at wild, drunken orgies. Best of all were the Spring Formals. They were exactly the opposite of what the name implies. Spring Formals were usually held at isolated ranches on the outskirts of town. The students dressed in loincloths. Secluded rooms were lined with mattresses. Booze was brought in by the truckload. Guys duked it out as they slid around in several inches of booze on the floor; they danced and made out with their dates. They dragged their dates around by the hair. It was just an all-American good time. The dance rage in the Southwest then was the Gator. Usually when performing Gloria, we'd yell, "everybody hit it for the Gator," and all of these drunken sots would throw themselves down on the ground and hump each other. I'd often be struck in the teeth by my mike as their flailing legs kicked my mike stand. ----- I was on some desert road with a date, on the way to play a Spring Formal, the old Chevy loaded down with band equipment when Love Is A Sad Song first came on the radio. She thought I was a star. That spring and summer we were stars in Tucson. Love Is A Sad Song made us practically a household word. We were literally mobbed for autographs as we opened for Gary Lewis and The Playboys at Sunset Rollerama Skating Rink (we had thought the crowd was there to see them perform This Diamond Ring!). Ironically, the owner never hired us again because, due to the mob scene, we started 40 minutes late. ----- Dan convinced us to go back to Emperor Recording Studio in late '66 to record Let’s Talk About Girls. Rick Mellinger had replaced John White on drums. Rick aka Cable Von Marr, was a Keith Moon-styled crazy man, leaping all over the place, spewing drumsticks. We caravaned over there, one of the cars breaking down in the process. We got lost coming into L.A. because I said "follow me, I know L.A." We booked ourselves into the Riviera Motel on Sunset, where we spent the rest of the evening putting quarters in the vibrating beds, ordering pizza and engaging in pillow fights that resulted in Cable being locked outside in his underwear on a balcony over Sunset. ---- This time, Dan basically sat off to the side while wild man John Fisher, a maniacal promotion man for Atlantic Records who had produced Terry Stafford's Suspicion, and Emperor Hudson -- both large, loud, apoplectic men -- went at it. Hudson was engineering'. Although Dan was supposedly producing, Fisher was actually producing, like it or not. Dan was like a mute, overshadowed by the stronger personalities in the room. They could not agree on the proper amount of reverb to be applied to the finished mix of Let's Talk About Girls. They were arguing loudly: Fisher in favor of more reverb, Hudson against it. Suddenly, Hudson grabbed the master tape, yanked it off the machine, proclaimed, "If you want more reverb, take your damn tape someplace else!” With that, he threw the master tape across the room. It clanged against the wall, then rolled aimlessly around the room for a minute before sliding behind a tape deck. We all sat there in shock and disbelief as an entire day's work -- these two masters -- were being destroyed. But the tapes were okay. The moment passed, Hudson put the tape back on the deck, and we proceeded without the additional reverb -- and without them speaking to each other. When we got back to Tucson, Dan called and said, "Listen to the station tonight at 6 p.m. I'm going to premier your new tape." "But we don't even have any records pressed," I protested. But of course, Dan usually played our tapes before we pressed any records. Then we'd rush to get the usual 500 or so pressed up while he maintained the record on radio requests alone for the first few days (we always alerted friends and family to call in). Keeping in mind that we had built name recognition with four singles as the Grodes, you'll understand why we almost passed out when Dan announced on the radio, "And now a brand new single, Let’s Talk About Girls, by a great group from France -- FRANCE?!!! -- named The Tongues of Truth!" We vowed to kill him. How could he do that -- just change our name without even asking?! He thought we lacked a sense of humor about it. This single was the one and only release by The Tongues (as people started calling us). Let's Talk About Girls, released on John Fisher’s Current label, only went to #37 on the KTKT Top 40, and soon sunk -- or so I thought at the time -- out of sight. I didn't much like the song -- I hated the record -- and the name -- what can I say! Of course, now the name seems really cool. ***** On January 15, 1967, the first Superbowl was played in L.A. (Bart Starr and the Packers beat the Chiefs 35 to 10). On January 27, 1967, three astronauts (Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee) were killed when a flash fire swept their space capsule on the ground. Elvis married Priscilla in Vegas on May 1, the Beatles released Seargent Pepper in June, "joining the drug culture," and the Monterey Pop Festival happened in July, '67, featuring established acts like the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and Mamas & Papas along with newcomers Janis Joplin and Jimmie Hendrix. In December '67, Dustin Hoffman starred in The Graduate. ***** I'd always loved Solitary Man, and It's True What They Say About Love was our tribute to that sound. It was recorded at Audio sometime in early to mid ’67. Lust could play trombone, and he had a friend, Bob Brezeal, who also played -- and this song cried out for a horn arrangement. The track was sped up some in mastering to tighten it and give it more energy, so my vocal sounds a bit high. It was released in late ’67 on the Impression label, somehow also associated with John Fisher. It may have climbed to the twenties or high teens on the KTKT Top 40. ----- In the summer of ’67, we stayed at Jeri’s house during an L.A. visit to audition at Gazzari’s on La Cienega. Give Me Some Time was written, with CR’s help, in Jeri’s pool during that visit. We recorded it at Audio in fall '67 --- Dan Gates producing, the Grodes getting arranging credit. Pete Peterson, a soft-spoken, skinny stoner, had replaced Cable Von Mar on drums. The rhythm tracks were laid down early in the morning after being up all night. We had finished a job in Tucson, and caravaned to Phoenix. We all crowded into a couple of motel rooms for a couple hours of sleep before the early morning session. Nobody slept much, and the mood at the early morning session was sleepy and grumpy. Over the next six months, we returned to Audio several times to work mostly on background vocals. Everybody sang on this one: every member of The Grodes, Jeri -- and several others -- added background voices to the choruses. Petey Peterson got to do the heavy breaths on the record. The record was also sped up in mastering to give it more energy, so my voice sounds higher than it really is. It was released on Splitsound Records, owned by Dan. It topped out at #10 on the KTKT Top 40 in late '67 or early '68. ***** In January of '68, Nixon became President. The Beatles, "bored with Western fame and fortune," sought "absolute bliss consciousness" with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Martin Luther King was killed in April; Bobby Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador in L.A. in early June. ***** The band was really starting to disintegrate by the spring of ‘68. Lead guitarist, Dale Smith aka Packy Pecker, hated me. Even bassist Rick Cota Robles aka CR, who was usually pretty good-natured and tended to be the mediator between me and Smith, was giving me a bad time. They were challenging what they saw as my unfair control of the band. In the early days, they never cared about any of that stuff. There were no ‘leaders’ or ‘followers’ – just ‘us.’ Now that we saw the band might be going somewhere, everybody wanted to hold the steering wheel. There were endless arguments about every piece of band business: what songs to play, what songs to record, what jobs to take -- even about who would sing lead on which song. It became bitter. Smith saw the band as consisting of two factions -- and he called the bad one "Freiser's people.". Patti would soon unknowingly enter this war zone and become one of "Freiser's people." Keith Craig had, by this time, replaced Rick Lust. Rick had moved on to join the Air Force. He’s now a senior American Airlines jumbo jet captain. Keith Craig was kind of a laid back guy, known as the Grinch because of his look. He was an excellent keyboard player who owned a Farfisa, and played Light My Fire exactly like the Doors. Dan came to me one day and told me he had seen a young girl singer who was amazing. She was singing at the time for a band of very young brothers whose construction worker father had spent about $10,000 to buy musical equipment that the kids couldn't even play. She'd be easy to steal away. We ought to listen to her, he recommended. I dismissed his suggestion out of hand -- "we don't need a girl singer; that's not our sound." Dan persisted, and one day a 16-year old Patti McCarron and her father came my place to audition. When she started singing, it was all over! She joined the Grodes and became our featured singer. Her first job with us was at a battle of the bands which included the biggest bands in Tucson: Dearly Beloved, The Grodes, Lewallen Brothers. We hadn't had time to work out a full set with Patti -- and in fact we wanted to do just a couple of songs to see the crowd reaction. Just before we went on, she told me she was nervous. When she got up on stage, she was anything but nervous. When we unveiled our secret weapon singing Stop In The Name of Love and To Sir With Love, it changed our band -- and the Tucson music scene -- for good. Patti Grode, as local DJ's called her, became the darling of Tucson with the release of Sand. One DJ on KIKX, Dino Day, totally smitten with her, started an Ode to Patti Grode contest. He always said on the air that he wanted to meet and interview her, so we brought her to the station against her will -- and just a little drunk -- late one night after a job. Dino gushed -- Patti owned Tucson. ----- In spring of ’68, I had written two prophetic songs: On To L.A. and Chandelier (my friend, Paul Malanga, co-wrote Chandelier). When I played them to the person who inspired them. Patti said "you're so good. You should do music. We should go to L.A." We started daydreaming constantly about going to L.A. ----- In early summer, 1968, the band changed its name to Spring Fever. It felt necessary because the band with Patti in it was really a different group. We recorded Sand at Copper State. I was surprised we got such a good sound out the newly improved studio. It was eerie how much the lyrics of Sand reflected what Patti and I were experiencing at the time. Sand came out, went Top 10, and yet it all seemed way beside the point. On top of all the personal politics, a major difference in philosophy brought the Grodes to an end: Patti and I had decided that all of Tucson's potential had been tapped: L.A. was the next step. The rest of the band thought we had big heads. Smith observed"Tucson's just not good enough for you, is it," Our fighting intensified during a weekend on which we backed up Boyce & Hart on Friday night in Phoenix, and on Saturday night in Tucson. (Boyce & Hart had the hit I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight, but more importantly, were the writers of the Monkeys' Last Train To Clarksville). Phoenix was 110 degrees that summer night. I remember the audience, mostly hippy types, sitting cross-legged on the grass outside in the stadium, staring at us expressionless as we played our hopelessly unpsychedelic, melodic pop rock. Back at the motel later, the brat kids in one of the bands on the bill were trying to pick up Patti. She was drinking, and starting to show the signs of it. One guy said "let's go swimming," holding her hand as they ran toward the pool. As they got to the edge, she stopped suddenly and pushed him in. She took a cigarette offered to her by another kid and put it out on his chest. Smith and Cota Robles eyed her disapprovingly. The final straw was broken when Patti came running into the room where our just-delivered takeout orders of Mexican food were sitting on the bed and, not seeing them, jumped chest-first into the refried beans. "That's it," concluded Smith. He and CR grabbed Patti by the feet and head, and carried her off to her room. I shouted at them, "you’re not her parents. Let her go -- let her do what she wants. Didn't you ever get drunk?!" With Patti out cold and safely in bed until the next morning, the rest of us sat out by the swimming pool arguing bitterly about her. Of course, we were divided into two factions: permissive versus parental. But it was about far more than that: it was about all of the animosity for each other that had built up over the last three years. At one point, Dan (usually a tough, stoic guy) broke down, "you guys are my friends, and after all the long way we've come together, how can you do this? You're tearing the band apart." As the sun started to rise in the desert sky, the argument continued unabated. I finally got up wearily from the table, "I'm going back to Tucson now. This is going nowhere, and I won't be able to sleep anyway." I couldn't believe we had to be on stage in Tucson in a few hours. I drove back to Tucson with Johnny, the equipment boy, snoring loudly beside me, upside down in the passenger seat: head hanging off the seat, legs draped over the back of it. The band members could barely face each other the next night on stage. We performed without speaking to each other. It felt like five separate entities on stage, going through the motions. I quit the band a couple of days before a big job. It was ugly. Threats were exchanged. I was just glad to be out of there. But I was jealous because they replaced me with a singer named Val Valentino, who had always liked Patti -- and had kind of hung around her. She had quit the band too, but had one last job to play with them. Val would be singing the songs I had sung with her. That issue was quickly forgotten when I received the bulletin that the band had been attacked on stage, and Smith had fallen off the stage injuring his back. The crazy religious zealot father of the young boys with whom Patti had sung had always vowed revenge because we "stole" Patti from his sons' band. He and one of his fat little sons had been showing up at jobs, stalking the band -- just standing there staring at us. Now they had struck! ----- After leaving the band, Patti and I traveled to the coast together to audition for record companies. In those days it was possible to set up live auditions, and Dan had magnanimously made the calls for us. We auditioned for some heavyweights during the next couple of days: Brian Stone and Charlie Green (producers of Sonny & Cher, etc.) said, "we love her, but we'll take you too." Tommy Lipuma (noted jazz producer), then at A&M Records, didn't respond at all when we sang for him. He was only interested in Patti, and didn't want to hurt my feelings. Joe Saraceno at Liberty let us sing only a couple of lines as he puffed on his everpresent cigar. "Stop," he ordered. He picked up his phone and dialed, "Al (Bennett, President of Liberty) -- listen to this." Then he turned to us, aiming the phone in our direction, and simply said, "sing." As instructed, we sang the song into the phone. Joe smiled when he heard the reaction on the other end, then hung up and said "love it -- gonna sign you." But when we returned to Tucson, Lipuma called Patti to make Patti an offer. When Joe got wind of it, a bidding war started between Liberty and A&M over Patti. I was unceremoniously dropped from consideration. In what now seems like a clear mistake, Patti chose Liberty: flambuoyant Joe was more the star at the time, and seemed able to deliver commercial stardom to Patti. Looking back from here, it is obvious that Joe was interested only in hit singles, while A&M was a company which developed artists' long-term careers. Patti signed with Liberty for a $5,000 advance. It seemed huge at the time. I was really hurt, of course, at being left out. Joe tossed me a bone: he got me to a 4-song writer's deal with UNART Publishing. Back in Tucson, Patti and I sang in a lounge as a duet for a couple of very uncomfortable weeks at the Executive Inn on the west side of town. We were backed by a jazz trio. It was a bizarre experience: after singing in a loud rock band for several years, imagine sitting in front of an acoustic trio of old guys playing jazz standards. I had to take a tranquilizer in order to work up the courage go on stage. The Grodes were so loud that sometimes I would forget the lyrics and just scream incoherent syllables -- it didn't matter -- no one could hear the words anyway. But here, our vocals were naked to the world! And these songs included oldies from the 40's. Patti was at home with it -- she seemed at home in any musical setting, with almost any musical genre -- but I felt like a flounder on a sidewalk. In the spirit of reconciliation, the guys from the band came to see us perform. They had to be shocked. ***** The U.S. landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. I remember Patti and I watching in the darkness on my tiny black & white TV in my studio apartment in North Hollywood. The Concorde first flew on March 2, 1969. In April, the Smothers Brothers show was killed by CBS as too controversial. The first 747 rolled off a production line that year. Star Trek was canceled after three seasons, and the big moves that year were Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And Woodstock happened that summer. ***** Onto L.A. was recorded by Manny Fryzer -– yes, that spelling was my idea -- in '69, Bob Morrison producing. I met Bob through his writing for Patti on Liberty Records. He would be the best man at our wedding. He was an unlikely creative type. He had a degree in nuclear engineering! He worked at writing from nine to five every day like clockwork – very unusual behavior for a creative person. Bob liked my music, and decided to produce me. We rehearsed thoroughly. Bob decided not to use Patti on backgrounds. I never knew if that was because he thought her voice would stand out too much (his stated reason), or whether he wanted to make sure that this would be my moment. Anyway, Bob, me and a girl whose name I can't recall did the backgrounds. I can't recall the names of any of the musicians or the studio in which we recorded. I loved the way the track turned out. Alan Bernard at Barnaby Records liked the tracks, and signed me to Andy Williams’ Barnaby Records. Then he left. About two years later ('71), when Ken Mansfield was President, On To L.A. was finally released -- almost as an afterthought. I watched at home as Dick Clark put it on the Rate-A-Record portion of his Bandstand show. "It sounds dated," commented one of the kids. "It is dated! It took them two years to release it for godsake!" I yelled helplessly at the TV screen. ***** The Beatles split up April 10, 1970, when Paul left. On May 18, four students were shot to death at Kent State. Hendrix and Joplin died of drug-related causes less than a month apart, September 18 and October 4, respectively. MASH and Patton were big movies that year. In 1971, hot pants appeared. Sinatra retired. Jim Morrison died in Paris on July 3 of a drug overdose. In August, George Harrison led the Concert for Bangla Desh. Disney World in Orlando opened, and in November Led Zep was recording their second LP, containing Stairway To Heaven. ***** It was 1971. As happened periodically, I had run out of potential record business contacts for our music -- I mean, nothing was going on. In total desperation, I simply went through the Yellow Pages under "music publishers." Among others, as I randomly dialed through the phonebook list, I saw a listing for Dana Music. The voice that answered was very familiar: "Joe, is that you -- it sure has been a while!" Joe was interested in recording us. We made a series of demos, and he shopped them around. They wound up on the desl of Denny Rosencrantz, head of Mercury's west coast office. Joe and Denny made an album deal. We got a budget of $12,000, small even for then -- and we later found out that Joe used $4,000 of it to slit between him and Denny. ***** On June 17, 1972, five burglars were caught in the Watergate office complex. On September 3, Bobby Fischer became world chess champ. Five days later, 11 Israeli's were massacred at the Munich Olympics. Nixon was re0-elected by a landslide in November. The Godfather and Woody Allen's Play It Again Sam were big movies. Don McLean's American Pie and Neil Young's Heart of Gold were hits. Johnnie Nash sang I Can see Clearly Now. ***** With the Mercury signing, we became Fire & Rain. Patti told a syndicated radio interviewer that we were called Fire & Rain because she had a fiery voice and I sang like a drip -- it was a funny, off-handed comment, but Mercury picked up on it and used it in our subsequent publicity releases. With the $8,000 that remained after Joe and Denny's deal, we made this album. Actually, it was less than $8,000, because Joe rushed us through the vocals. He'd tell us that our rough first or second take was "great, babe -- go home!" As we left the studio, we would see Joe's other acts coming in to do demos on our paid-for studio time. We did get to keep part of the publishing, however -- and Sweet Home Music was born. In this collection, I’ve included Chandelier and Hello Stranger from the resulting Mercury album. It was recorded primarily at Hollywood Sound on Selma in Hollywood. Joe produced; Ben Benay arranged and played guitar. Tom Perry engineered. And we managed to gather some pretty impressively talented musicians – even with our small budget. In fact, it’s smarter to hire the best (most expensive) musicians,because they could produce a superior result more quickly. Players included Max Bennett on bass, Ron Tutt (Elvis' drummer) on drums, Jimmy Gordon on drums, Larry Carlton, Dean Parks on guitars, Michael Omartian (later a successful record producer: Theme From Rockford Files, etc.) on keyboards. It was customary to salt an album with remakes of classics, like Need Somebody To Love, Take Me For A Little While and Hello Stranger, especially where the record company didn't have that much confidence in the original material. We picked three of our favorites -- and one of them hit the national charts! The first single from our eponymously named album, one of my songs, Alright Tonight, did nothing. We kept getting reports that Hello Stranger was getting some easy listening radio play as an album cut, and that there was some interest in it as a possible single. We didn't take much notice. As far as we were concerned, it was simply too easy listening to represent us at pop radio as a single. Mercury released Hello Stranger as a single against our wishes. It became a legitimate hit at easy listening radio. Since the easy listening audience base skewed to older demographics, single sales were not as critical as telephone requests. Hello Stranger was getting strong, top-5 requests in many areas of the country, including L.A. (on key station, K100-FM). Mercury then tried to cross it over to Top-40 radio. The building process literally took two or three months. Mercury got it added to whole chains of smaller stations around the country like the influential Hamilton Report chain of over 100 reporting stations. You can imagine the excitement the week we learned that the record would go on all of the Hamilton stations. We started picking up major markets, mostly in the southeast: Miami, Nashville. The single precariously "bubbled under the Hot 100" on Billboard's charts in spring '73: #106 one week, #105 the next, and so on. We got a call from a radio station in Knoxville, Tennessee. They had added the record, and wanted to fly us down there to perform at a charity concert -- at the Knoxville Coliseum. We were treated like royalty, performing for 20,000+ screaming fans at the Coliseum The next day, local DJ's were playing the heck out of the record, saying "you must have loved them, because we're getting alot of requests for Hello Stranger by Fire & Rain -- it's gonna be #1 for sure!" We could taste it. Then we returned to L.A., where we were nobodies again. It was at just about this time that Hello Stranger broke into the Billboard Hot 100! There were big moves in the southeast in particular. The single went to #6 in Nashville, #1 in Knoxville, Top 10 somewhere in Florida. But there just weren't enough of those local success stories to sustain national momentum. The record hovered tantalizingly at #100 for three weeks in a row, just short of the promised land. We held our collective breath and crossed our fingers -- we tried prayer. Then it heartbreakingly sank beneath the waves. It was devastating when they told us it was over. How could it be over? It had been building one week before! We were just beginning to see it happen... Although it had sold 70,000+ copies, Hello Stranger had basically been a "turntable hit" at Top 40 radio -- one that got played alot, but didn't break. It thus became Billboard Magazine's lowest-ranked Hot 100 single of 1973, ranking #573 out of 573 singles that made the Hot 100. I think Take Me For A Little While was then released as a single -- it did nothing, and the project ended. One of the best memories associated with the making of this album was the opportunity to have the album photos done by the hottest rock photographer of the time, Englishman Norman Seeff. We became friends, and he also later shot publicity photos for my Ian Messenger Livin' In The Night project on Qwest. His well-known photos included Carly Simon's infamous poster over the Sunset Strip of her on all fours clad only in black lingerie. Besides being vastly talented, Norman was simply the nicest, most down to earth person. He invited Patti and me to his mansion in Laurel Canyon. He got us pleasantly buzzed on grass and wine. Then, as our album played in the background for inspiration, he had one member of his staff fan us (wind effect), another spray mist on us (rain effect), then laughed and joked warmly as he scampered about the room setting up lights and snapping pictures. It was a laid back blast. ----- Maybe the most unpleasant experience associated with that album was Fire & Rain's "club tour." As Hello Stranger was building, Denny Rosencrantz called us in to tell us that he was having Irving Azoff at ABC Booking set up a tour of small, exclusive showcase clubs (clubs like the Roxy in L.A., the Paradise in Boston, etc.). We were quite excited. Those kinds of live appearances were the key to building an album project. Time passed. We kept hearing from Denny, "it's getting firmed up." The week before we were to leave, having been assured, "it's being finalized," Patti even quit her day job. The problem was that, as late as two days before we were to leave, we had not yet received our itinerary! I went to ABC Booking. I was kept waiting in the lobby for several hours. Finally, Irv ushered me in, "what can I do for you?" he asked matter-of-factly. "Oh, I just want to get an itinerary for the tour," I said. "What tour?" he asked, looking genuinely puzzled. "There is no tour." When I recovered enough to call Denny, and tell him what Irv had said, his response was outrage, "I'll break his arm!" So we wound up unemployed and tourless. Denny and Irv most likely remain good friends to this day. Irving Azoff became one of the most powerful people in the business with his Front Line Management (Eagles, etc.), then later as Chairman of MCA Records. ***** The U.S. agreed to stop the Vietnamese War on January 27, 1973. All In The Family debuted in January. The Way We Were, Last Tango In Paris, The Sting and The Exorcist were big that year. Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly was huge, as was Tie A Yellow Ribbon and Stevie Wonder's You Are The Sunshine of My Life. Patti Hearst was kidnapped by the SLA on February 23, 1974. Hank Aaron hit record-setting #715 out of the park on April 8. Nixon resigned August 8, and the tongue-in-cheek Phantom of The Paradise came out in December. Clapton's I Shot The Sheriff, Streisand's The Way We Were, and John Denver's Sunshine On My Shoulder were big hits. ***** We started playing a lot of clubs during the ’74-’76 after the Mercury album sank. We played the legendary Blah Blah Café in North Hollywood, opening for the likes of Peter Allen and Al Jareau. We worked two insanely hot summers on the roof of a fish shanty at Magic Mountain. We worked several months at a Hungry Tiger in Westwood, etc. Patti thrived on performing live. Audiences loved her. I, on the other hand, didn’t share the same type of relationship with audiences. Some liked me – some hated me. Many thought that I was monopolizing the emcee duties: “Why don’t you shut up and let her talk?!” Problem was, ‘she’ didn’t want to do the patter. A favorite memory is of the Mother's Day evening at the Hungry Tiger, when the club was empty except for a table of our friends and an elderly lady who had been brought there for dinner by her son and daughter-in-law. The elderly lady's party sat way in the back of the room. Patti, Dale and I spent most of our time on stage just conversing (on mike) with our friends at the front table, doing an occasional song. Near the end of the evening, as the tiny little old lady and her party passed by the stage on their way out, I turned, smiled and wished her a happy Mother's Day. She turned to me and growled slowly and forcefully, "what would it take to get you to shut up?" I laughed and responded, "Oh, I don't know. Make me an offer." At that point, the old lady started to come at me, her arms flailing wildly. "Mom!" exclaimed her son, trying to control her. He and his wife wrestled her out of the room. It was also at the Hungry Tiger that we met Dale Hubersberger aka Dilbert Pickle. He was singing along out in the audience – a beautiful high harmony that we instantly knew wasn’t emanating from us. In the inimitable Pickle style, when we complimented him, he advised us he would join the group starting the next day – and so he did. Love Is Ours was recorded in about ’74 as a demo at Golden West. I thought this demo presented some of Dale's finest effort on guitar -- a real smooth, ethereal instrumental track which has always been one of my faves. To me, subsequent attempts at this song didn't match up to this one -- even on the Living Together LP. Dilbert arranged it and played all of the lead parts -- thanks, Dilbert! ***** On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell to the commies. Patty Hearst was found and arrested on September 18. Mohammed Ali beat Joe Frazier in The Thrilla in Manilla on October 1. Born To Run, by Bruce Springsteen hit the Top 40 on October 11. December saw release of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, with Jack Nicholson. Audiences screamed at Jaws. The Bee Gees were Jive Talkin', The Doobie Brothers had the hit Black Water. Earth Wind & Fire (definitely not to be confused with Fire & Rain) scored with Shining Star. ***** By ’76, we had been without a record deal for a couple of years. Joe helped us select some songs to demo for his buddy, Russ Regan, President of 20th Century Records. What happened when we took the tape to Russ's office remains emblazoned in my memory as one of my peak moments in the record business. As the song Living Together ended, Russ -- a big, friendly outgoing guy -- leaped up from behind his desk, arms waving above his head, very excited, and shouted, "I've got it! It's Living Together! It's young, it's sexy, it's perfect! This is going to be a smash! We'll get the best arranger, the best musicians. You've got any budget you want! You're going to be big stars! Back down on Sunset afterward, Patti and I stared at each other. It didn't seem real. It was finally going to happen. We were floating. We immediately went home to start writing the definitive Living Together album. As it happened, Artie Butler, the legendary arranger (Neil Diamond, Neal Sedaka, etc.)assigned to our project, envisioned a rather ‘easy listening’ sound – lush strings, for example. Russ envisioned every song being a duet with talking overdubs. In retrospect, the whole concept became too tame – not rock & roll enough. There was one song of ours, Make Love To Me, that we told them we wanted to record in a more powerful disco style. It was a natural, and disco was really starting to happen. But Russ and Joe didn't like the idea: in their collective opinion, disco treatment would cheapen the song. Ironically, after the album's release, it was decided that Make Love To Me should have been recorded disco in the first place – and that we should convert the easy listening track from the album into a disco mix. Now we were behind the eight ball, trying to convert an easy listening track into a disco track -- where it shoulda been in the first place. We overdubbed tracks at Cherokee Studio. (When we arrived for our 10 a.m. session, Stephen Stills was coming out after an all-night session. The studio was littered with empty booze bottles.) Sam Clayton, percussionist for Little Feat, added great congas. Patti re-did her vocal. We hired two black girls to do backgrounds and moan -- yes, moan -- through the track. Patti's moaning had been deemed deficient. I can't recall where the re-mix was done -- maybe at Cherokee. Then we mastered at Zaentz, and finally again at Artisan. It was released as a 12" disco single. This single made the lower reaches of the national disco chart. At the Griffith Observatory premier party for Alan Parson's first album, they put the new Fire & Rain disco version of Make Love To Me on the turntable. No one danced. It was either slightly faster or slower than the ideal disco beat (the exact number of beats per minute was critical to the success of a disco record). Well, if it had been recorded disco in the first place, maybe... Aah, never mind. Soon after we recorded a couple of follow-up tracks for Russ, he was gone from 20th. We were let go. We were quite dispirited about all of it, and kind of mutually came to the conclusion that we needed a ‘musical divorce.’ We were both sick of the "enforced duet" concept, where everything had to have a dual lead. I was sick of everybody loving Patti and hating me. She was sick of me being sick of that. It just wasn't working. Patti went to work with Scream, the house band at Magic Mountain Amusement Park. I stayed home and brooded for a while. After the death of the 20th project, and our musical divorce, we started what I now see as a long period of searching for direction -- musically and otherwise. I had done alot of work at Golden West over recent years, so Jake, the owner, and Brian, the engineer, were open to the idea of giving me studio time to do a project in return for a piece of the publishing if it got signed to a record company. Singing This Song For You, Rock & Roll Man and Is That A Reason were among the tracks recorded during the ensuing sessions at Golden West Studio, probably in '77 or '78. I wrote, I produced, I arranged. I did everything but get them signed to a label. I hired the best studio players, including Mike Baird on drums, Neil Diamond's keyboard player, Tom Something-or-other, Ben and Jay Graydon on guitars. I also talked Brian into teaching me to use the 24-track machine. Then I locked everyone out of the studio, turned the lights down, and took the time I needed to feel comfortable doing vocal performances. As a result, my vocals on these tracks seem to me better and more relaxed. Yes, I know there's alot of reverb -- but I like reverb! Is That A Reason was a song that I wrote in its entirety in about 20 minutes without pencil, paper or musical instrument: I was floating in the pool at my North Hollywood apartment when it simply came to me. I just went inside and wrote it down. ***** In 1979, My Sharona by the Knack and What A Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers were big hits. John Wayne died that year, the Waltons appeared on TV, Lee Marvin got sued for something called "palimony," and the big movies were The Alien, Kramer v. Kramer and Apocalypse Now. On March 31, 1979, Three Mile Island became the "worst nuclear accident in United States history." Is it coincidental that I went to work for A&M Records as Executive Assistant to the President, Gil Friesen, at just around this time? But more about that coming up… ***** During my A&M Records years, I did get a chance to work with a lot of stars – Police, Supertramp, Styx, Frampton, The Carpenters, and more. And I learned alot. For example, I had always thought that if you wrote a good song, and recorded it well, that people at record companies would care, and you would have a hit record. What was I smokin'? At A&M I was once and for all disabused of the naive notion that the music or the artist mean much of anything to these people. I was at my first executive marketing meeting: the senior execs sat around the huge oblong conference table. When the A&R guy put the needle down on a good new LP by a female singer, all the execs kept talking amongst themselves. They never listened to it – and later dismissed it as ‘just another chick singer.’ And keep in mind that the company’s investment in signing and recording her was already substantial. Her LP would eventually be released, but its fate had been decided in that flash of a moment. To this day, that singer probably agonizes over why that LP wasn't a hit: were the songs too -- something? Was the mix wrong? No -- it was just record guys being record guys. I would certainly no longer take rejection by a record company personally. ***** On January 29, 1980, Jimmy Durante said "good night, Mrs. Calabash wherever you are" for the last time, as he walked out of the spotlight forever. Hitchcock died on April 9. On December 8, Mark David Chapman ended John Lennon's life in front of the Dakota, on Central Park West. That year, he had released Starting Over. The Rose was also a hit record that year. Raging Bull was a big movie. ***** It was during my tenure at A&M that the Chocolate Watchband’s cover of Let’s Talk About Girls was brought to my attention by a co-worker who was also a rare records aficionado. He asked, “Are you the Manny Freiser?” I asked, “Why, do I owe you money?” He laughed – and explained that my song was a cult underground fave thought of as a forerunner of ‘80’s punk. I was speechless. New wave and punk were starting to happen during late '79 and early '80. We put together a little group to play clubs: Patti sang lead and I produced. We did my songs -- and we wanted it to rock. Patti's brother, Jim, played lead. He and his friends rounded out the group. And thus Syren sounded! Syren played the final incarnation of The Bla Bla Cafe, at the corner of Whitsett and Ventura -- now a Conroy's Flower Shop. Patti wore spandex pants. A friend from A&M, Barry Korkin, came to see them perform. When he saw the normally quiet Patti dressed in spandex and screaming her rock & roll lungs out, he declared "man, you've got a problem -- she's a schizo!" ***** Reagan was sworn in on January 20, 1981. The first flight of the space shuttle Columbia took place on April 14. Bob Marley died May 11. Charles and Diana wed on July 29; Natalie Wood drowned on November 29. Personal computers were just starting to invade home and office. AIDS was identified as a "new plague." On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Chariots of Fire were big movies that year. Al Jarreau sang Breaking Away, Kim Carnes sang Betty Davis Eyes. ***** I call Cry Just A Little a “master demo." It was recorded at A&M Recording Studio A, the late Jimmy Cassell engineering. Some members of Syren participated (Gary Wood and brother Jim played guitars), but the artist was Patti, solo. The date on the tape box is October 18, 1981. I produced. The recording is a remake of the Beau Brummels classic 60's hit. Patti and I felt so strongly about Cry Just A Little that we made 100 test pressings and sent them out to everyone we could think of. We wrote only a phone number on the label. Anyone who knows the record business will understand the utter futility and even stupidity of trying to get something started in this manner. But one day not long after we mailed the test pressings, Patti was washing dishes when the telephone rang. "Hi -- this is Bob Hamilton." Well, Bob Hamilton was only the biggest radio programmer in the country at the time. He picked the music for hundreds of major stations around the country, and authored his weekly Hamilton Report (mentioned earlier in connection with the Fire & Rain LP). Patti tried to catch her breath. Hamilton said, "I'm calling to tell you that you have a smash on your hands!" Apparently he thought the single he had received was a teaser copy of a new release from a major label. When Patti told him who we were -- or weren't -- he politely said he'd try to connect us with a label. We never heard back from him. So much for that smash hit. It was never even signed to a label or released. That's the way the entire music career was going. ***** John Belushi died of a drug overdose on March 5, 1982. (The way my music career was going, I must include these historical references to the deaths of others just to show that I was doing better than somebody -- at least I was alive.) ET was a big movie in '82. Terms of Endearment was a hit in '83. Irene Cara had Flashdance in '83; Michael Jackson Beat It, and the Police sang Every Breath You Take. (Patti was still working at A&M after I left. She brought home an acetate of the Every Breath single before it was released. It blew me away. I knew that one would be a smash). ***** Turn It Around, another ‘master demo,’ was recorded at A&M Studio, probably after I left A&M in late '82. Deeply troubled by conditions in the world, I had composed this epic, then recorded it, donating all proceeds to world hunger -- well, that would have been a better story. Actually, I can't remember much about the circumstances of this recording: who engineered, who played. I couldn't find the master. It was probably lost somewhere in the bowels of A&M, then donated to Good Will for the tape stock. All I had left was a cassette copy. ***** In March, 85, Prince hit with the movie/record Purple Rain. Whitney Houston sang Saving All My Love For You. ***** Livin’ In The Night was recorded in ’84. But when it was released in July ’85, it couldn’t have been more timely in my life. I was truly livin' in the night in 1985. On New Year's Day ‘85, my back left me. Several vertebrae collapsed spontaneously. I lost several inches in height, wound up in the hospital, and was in pain. On March 1, 1985, Patti left. I hadn't seen it coming at all – it hit me like a speeding freight train, almost killing me. ----- I was working for Harold Childs and Quincy Jones at the time as Director of Marketing and Administration at Qwest Records. Patti was gone, my health was lousy, our days at Qwest were numbered from the start (details to follow) -- I was hurtin' big time. Harold's weird sense of humor -- or was it just harassment -- helped pull me through. He'd come into my office during meetings and interject, "Oh, Manny -- Patti wants you to bring some milk home tonight." Everyone in the room would suck their breath in. He'd come to me at the end of the day, throw down a few hundred bucks and say, "son, here's a few quid. Go get yourself a woman. You look pitiful." And so on. ----- A bit of background: we were on our way out from the day we came in at Qwest. Mo Ostin, Chairman of Warner Brothers Records, had approved a 5-year expansion budget which I prepared when we started in January, 1985. But even before the staff was in place, Warners' Business Affairs and Legal V.P.'s advised me that we would be getting only a fraction of the promised money. Q was in North Carolina the whole time filming The Color Purple. He'd call to cheerlead: "Hey Sticks (he had a
MANNY FREISER: Bio
Hmm, I thought. "I have four songs at home," I piped up. "_____ you!" shouted Harold before I could finish the sentence. He soon reconsidered (for reasons I can’t go into here). Let’s just say that the record would come out – but there would be no one working it – and no expectations of any success.
First of all, I was just excited to have the project see the light of day at all -- even though the signing and release had absolutely nothing to do with anybody liking the music.
And that's how I became Ian Messenger, and released the four-song EP, Livin’ In The Night, on
Qwest/Warner Bros. I’d recorded it with Paul McKenna engineering at A&M. No one at Warners could know it was me due to potential conflict of interest: if they knew it was my record, they'd either give it too much or too little attention.
The Warners publicity people called me to ask if I could coordinate an interview with Ian for them. I had to discourage them. I told them Ian was a recluse who lived in northern England. "But we can send someone form our London office." We actually had a meeting at Qwest to determine what to do to get Warners off the track. "Tell 'em Ian was hit by a train and can't remember a thing," offered Harold.
Surprise, surprise: Livin' In The Night, the single, went right onto the college charts. The video was great and immediately went on MTV. Not being able to sleep much in those days, I'd be watching MTV all night.
Of course, as promised and expected, Warners -- and Qwest -- did absolutely zip to promote the project, and it eventually slipped away. I was happy enough that it came out, and that it did something even though they never paid any attention to it. In my mind, Ian had had a decent debut effort.
Some time passed after Ian's EP came and went. One day I went into Harold's office, closed the door and sat down. He scowled at me, "what do you want?" "Chief, I think it's time that Quest re-signed Ian -- this time for a complete album." "Are you crazy? Get the _____ out of here..." But he soon relented – uh – for reasons I can’t get into here.
I spent the next several weeks writing the songs, and rehearsing them with Robert Alpert. Robert was a terrific keyboard player who almost immediately envisioned arrangements for the songs. I had met him when Patti sang with the band, Scream, at Magic Mountain.
The Hands Across The Night album was recorded in fall '86 at Weddington Recorders in North Hollywood. I produced along with Robert Alpert. Francis, the engineer, was also great fun -- so it was a pleasant atmosphere. It only got strange when Patti was to come in to participate in background vocals -- and my new girlfriend was there. They both said they wanted to meet, but somehow they always just missed each other -- sometimes literally by seconds.
I was still hurting over Patti, and the album is really all about that. Between the cathartic effect of my new relationship and this album, I was eventually "cured." But at the time, it was rough. Wait So Long, Hands Across The Night and Ride Out The Storm are the tracks from that LP presented here. Patti was there when I recorded the lead vocal to Wait So Long, and she cried.
The album was released on Qwest in ’86. Harold and I met with Warners' execs to play them some new Qwest releases. We threw in Ian's newly-finished LP toward the end. One of the Warners' people said, "hey, I like this one. You ought to have more projects like this." The others nodded their agreement. As they exited the office, Harold closed the door and I smiled. Before I could say anything, Harold glared at me, "you s.o.b. You think you're some kind of recording artist. You're not. You're nothing. You're lucky to even have a job. Your ego has taken over. I’ll bury this project if it's the last thing I do!"
Harold loved and hated me. I was his employee and his best -- probably only -- friend. But his ego and insecurity were monumental. The slightest possibility that I might get even a little attention or spotlight made him furious. He was true to his promise to try to kill the project, although in truth his simply doing nothing (in concert with Warners' doing nothing) probably would have been enough to predetermine its fate.
The first single was Ride Out The Storm. Again, Dougie did the video -- this time a rough 8 mm black & white, colored over with some new wave colors. The video got some MTV play, but MTV's skyrocketing popularity had caused its playlist to grow tighter even in the few months since Livin' In The Night. The single was straight pop, so college radio wasn't appropriate (as it had been on Livin' In The Night). Pop radio was impossible to penetrate. It didn't matter anyway -- none of it was ever even attempted by Warners.
From the start, I totally believed in Wait So Long. It is one of my favorites of all the stuff I’ve done. I didn't push for it to be the first single, because traditional wisdom has it that you don't lead with a ballad. I managed to get it released as the second single. About two months into the project, I got an unprecedented phone call at home from Mary London, Program Director of the largest rock station in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"I want you to know that, not only is your label not behind you, but they literally told me not to play your record -- but to play Prince, Madonna or others instead. But this song, Wait So Long, has haunted me for a month -- so I'm going to add it to my station and recommend to my friends at other stations that they add it too." This was major news -- even the Warners guys were gossiping about it in the halls. About 35 to 40 smaller stations in the east and southeast added the record after Mary London added it. There was a glimmer of hope.
I went to Harold. "Harold, now's the time. I've really never asked you for anything on these releases -- but now we've got a shot..." "Get the ____ out of my office -- I wouldn't help you..." "But chief, seriously, this can be great for both of us." "I am serious -- get out," he repeated with a dark scowl.
I was destroyed. This was the end of the road for me. I hired my own independent promotion people. I knew they couldn't accomplish anything without record company support, but I knew that I had no choice but to make the effort -- take this last chance. Soon thereafter, I was let go from the foundering Qwest (Harold exited shortly after me). The project was lost. My years in the record business were over.
Well, I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the dream. On my own financially, I recorded Goodbye California Girl, The Rain and You & Only You at Weddington in North Hollywood. Francis Buckley engineered. The date on the tape box is January 8, 1987. Steve Trytten, an estate planning attorney/keyboard whiz, recommended by Francis, played all of the keyboard parts and pretty much arranged these tracks.
By now, I had accepted Patti’s leaving, but I felt a deep sadness about what surely seemed to be the end of an era in my life -- maybe, in a way, I was just finally growing up.
It felt as though I was saying good-bye forever to the girl of my dreams: the young, playful, openly sexy girl -- the kind of girl that Patti and the others before her had been (or that I imagined them to be); and hello to a less optimistic adult reality. Good-bye California Girl was a really important song for me, expressing those feelings. When I hear it, I can almost feel the sun setting.
The Rain deals with the increasingly distant and mysterious (even more so in retrospect) Patti. So much had probably been going on behind those eyes that I never even noticed --let alone understood -- the whole time we were together. Everything I was learning now about relationships made me realize that I had probably always misunderstood Patti's apparent mellowness and flexibility: she was probably just keeping it all inside. What had I been thinking? Good-bye, California Girl...
When my girlfriend at the time decided to move out in August, '88, I helped her interview potential roommates. We met her roommate-to-be -– and my future wife -- Suzi, for dinner at -- Le Cafe (everything important in my life seemed to happen at Le Cafe -- too bad it closed in '95). Suzi and I hit it off immediately, and talked throughout dinner. Almost from the beginning, we became good friends -- really, just friends. I was interested, but she didn't seem like a romantic possibility. But it felt warm and nice just to have a friend. It was a very satisfying couple of months.
On January 17, 1991, Bush attacked Hussein, starting the Gulf War.
The troops were still in the gulf in Spring of '91, inspiring me to write America Come Home. My buddy, Scott, made low-cost studio time available at Paramount where he was working at the time. It was a relaxed series of sessions because of the low cost and working with Scott, who was like family. I believe he overdubbed the drum track in addition to engineering.
Suzi was annoyed because, by the time this song had been recorded, mixed and remixed -- i.e., the money spent -- the troops were back, and the song was outdated. This was Suzi's introduction to the normal pattern of my recording career.
Most of the songs in 90’s were written directly to or inspired by Suzi. We decided to get married at home in La Crescenta on the first day of the new decade: January 1, 1990. I wrote The Wedding Song to sing to her during the ceremony as part of my vows.
Suzi appreciated my music in a way which inspired me to start writing and singing from a fresh perspective (maybe the songs seem the same, but my perspective was new): I let go of that nagging concern that had lived in the back of my mind as to whether others would approve of the songs, or whether they might fit a particular radio format, etc. I was once again simply writing what I liked – about whatever interested me.
Suzi always encouraged me to write and record. For the last decade and a half, I had been with someone who was in the same business. Suzi was the opposite: a music fan who accepted what I did -- not uncritically, but without the baggage of years of accumulated wisdom about the quality of my work and the nature of the business. In short, she has never once said, "I like the chorus, but you've got to re-work the verses," – well, maybe a couple of times -- or "I like it, but it'll never get played on alternative rock stations."
Suddenly, I was a performer again -- this time for one very important person, my "audient." I had a little amp and mike set up in a corner of our house so that I could serenade her on command.
In her most cynical mood, my former girlfriend had always predicted that my eventual fate would be to wind up a lounge singer. Well, in a sense it had happened -- and I loved it!
And Suzi literally commissioned me to write songs. The Wedding Song, and Hero (written for her best old canine friend, Strider, who had died) were written at her request.
So the ‘90’s were quite introspective for me in terms of my writing – and I’d also say it was my ‘troubador’ stage. Recordings and performances at home were all just me and the guitar.
In the’00’s, I got ‘fancier’ with the help of Mike Melnick over ay Paramount Recorders, fleshing out some of the drmos with added real drums and lead guitar from Mike’s friend, Gary Myrick (Sierra Canyon Spirit!) as well as some great stuff from The Pickle (The One Love).
My epiphany didn’t strike, though, until ’04. Mike had been urging me to record digitally – and I had been resisting. I thought it would be too expensive and complicated. He finally convinced me to try it. A couple of the tracks were recorded digitally before we used ProTools to record the Grodes’ reunion recording of Let’s Talk About Girls ’04 and Shake Me (Don’t Break Me) in 10/04. Right after that, I went out and bought ProTools for my house, and my musical life changed forever. For one thing, I rarely came out of my office/studio for the next six months, as I wrote, engineered and performed the tracks for the Way Back Home CD. After 40 years of having my music filtered through the ears of engineers, producers, etc., I now had the power to do it all myself. It might turn out great – or awful – but it was now closer to what I was hearing and picturing in my head. And so much for long hours of rehearsal in preparation for the most efficient use of expensive studio time. Now I could work in my studio any time of day or night – any time an idea struck – or a track needed fine tuning. ProTools was an unbelievably liberating and inspiring. I had been writing maybe one or two songs per year – but with ProTools, I wrote and recorded some twenty songs within less than a year!
So, what did you think of all this? Hope you enjoyed at least some of it. Maybe you'll give me as good a review as the one I received from a publisher many years ago. Usually, I'd get a form letter telling me that they wouldn't be using my songs, but they're great -- good luck in your future endeavors, etc. This paricular time, the publisher sent me back the cassette, and all it had attached to it was a crumpled shred of paper. On it were scribbled the words: "Nice -- but not amazing."
Of course, I prefer Suzi's review: she said, "after listening to this compilation, I really believe that if fate had twisted just a little differently, you would have become a huge star -- one of those stars that lasts forever." Forgive me the indulgence, but I like to think that might have been true. Oh well, maybe I'll pull a Van Gogh after all. At any rate, thank you so much, my love, for believing it.
Regardless of any fantasy of immortality, I got a tremendous amount out of going through this exercise. Even though none of these songs was ever a hit, and probably never will be, they seem to have more intrinsic value as integral parts of the chain of my life story. Harold would insist that none of this "means shit if you can't take it to the bank," but he's wrong. I lived it, and I can tell you that it has been worth it -- that it has some value.
It has helped give me a better understanding of who I am and where I've been. The patterns become clearer. The thoughts and feelings are placed in context. So you see, it's not simply looking backward: it has predictive value for the future. This process helps in preparation for the next stage, whatever and wherever that may be.
My relationship with The Grodes is an example. If nothing else, I’ve come to appreciate the special friendship that we share. Over the years, we loved each other, then hated each other – we’ve been through ‘the war’ -- together. Now we’re all great friends, and we eagerly look forward to our reunions.
I've also come to the conclusion that I should study my lyrics more carefully. They've often been prophetic (that's not "pathetic"): it is ironic how often I was writing songs about feelings and events which had yet to occur.
I have wished that I could hear all of this as the person I was back then -- in the beginning -- without the baggage. During the process of writing all of these songs and making all of these recordings over the last forty years, I mostly obsessed and nit-picked: gotta change the verse; gotta change the chorus; need more echo; need less bass; gotta worry who likes it; gotta get it signed; gotta get it on the charts, ad nauseam. It seems I worried more about what was important to others than how I felt about my music.
But sitting back and listening to all of it now -- from here -- all of that garbage recedes. I hear the tracks with more affection and acceptance, less second-guessing than I did before. Maybe it's comparable to becoming less self-critical, and accepting yourself as you are -- flaws and all.
Just for a moment in time, I can almost experience again the feelings and the times which inspired the songs. And I don't care how corny it sounds, but the resulting emotions often bring a big smile to my face and, occasionally, a tear to my eye.
Finally, I've realized that, at least to some extent, I have control over my own destiny: "they" can keep me from "making it" in the biz -- but they can't take these tracks away from me -- and they can't keep me from creating more. Bottom line: "they can't get to me!"
And now -- on to the next stage!