New Music for Old People: My Musical Foundations, Part Seven - Songwriting

Early Krazy Kooper Kovers

By , Columnist

The author, 1960. Only a 16-year-old would pose with his Fender Stratocaster unfurled in a 25 cent photo booth.

I was signed to a music publisher as a songwriter when I was 16. This publisher had a writing team of two lyricists who were looking to lock with a music composer. He put us together sometime around 1961 and we began churning out songs like the factory we inherently became. Irwin Levine and Bob Brass were New Jerseyites and about four years older than I was. They had a few hits already ("A Thing of the Past" by The Shirelles, "Little Lonely One" by The Jarmels, etc.). Our biggest hits as a trio were "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and "I Must Be Seeing Things" by Gene Pitney, who recorded four of our other songs as well. Bob Brass dropped out first around 1965 and Irwin and I soldiered on writing until I joined The Blues Project (who incidentally recorded a Brass-Kooper-Levine goodie called “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire”). Included here this week are ten covers from the early days and two others from the '80s and '90s. I didn’t include the first ten because I’m proud of them, but rather for their bizarreness and dated quality. Nonetheless I truly hope you will enjoy them on SOME level. Up till now, very few people knew I co-wrote a Pat Boone single, much less have actually heard it!

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Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

TMR0118 by Lisa on Grooveshark

1. "It's Rainin' Outside" — Pat Lundy (1:59)

This will be part one of the Weather Channel trilogy. I guess, in retrospect, young songwriters write about the weather quite often. This first song was heavily influenced by “Heat Wave” musically, and was written as a follow-up to that hit. More often than not, other people recorded the songs we wrote for hit artists. I think Pat’s vocal is A+ and the studio band is rockin’! As I recall I played piano on this. Its inclusion here will cause it to be heard by more people than were ever imagined listening to it circa 1963.

2. "Rainy Days Were Made for Lonely People" — Pat Boone (2:49)

Second in the Weather trilogy is a sappy pop song by The King of Pop of the '50s — Pat Boone. To me, the hero is the arranger who made this a bit better than it actually was. I think this was out about 1964 - long after Boone’s radio reign began to subside. We wrote it about 1962.

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3. "Stormy" — The Four Evers (1:44)

This final trilogy tune was written for The Four Seasons and luckily Charles Calello, the arranger on all the Four Seasons hits, heard it and cut it with a sound-alike group. I was a fan of this group and already had two of their singles at home. Calello did a masterful job but, alas, to no avail. However it was a crucial event in my life because it introduced the two of us and we made many records together once I became a producer. And so thankfully ends the Weather Channel trilogy subject matter.

4. "Tell Me Like It Is" — Lulu (2:27)

I believe she was still with her backup band The Luvvers when this was cut. I’ve always loved her vocal on this and am probably less embarassed by it than she is nowadays.

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5. "Penn Station" — Henrietta & The Hairdooz (1:59)

If you think their name is funny, they were originally called Baby Jane & The Rockabyes. Bert Berns produced a semi-hit with them — a Phil Spector-like version of Patti Page’s hit “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.” I think this was thankfully a B-side but again the studio band is great, especially the drummer. This was released in 1963.

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6. "Let Me Go Down" — Betty Wright (2:57)

This is from a decade later than the previous five early '60s trinkets you’ve heard so far. The folks at TK Studios in Florida liked the unassisted songs I wrote in the early '70s and they recorded four or five of them. I played piano and organ on this and it was quite a thrill to work with Betty, who I worshipped because of her single “Clean-Up Woman.” This was an album track at the time. Too bad Ms. Winehouse has left the building so soon. She might have taken a shine to this.

7. "Night Time Girl" — Modern Folk Quartet (2:17)

We wrote this for The Byrds but of course they turned it down and The Modern Folk Quartet cut it. This song came about based on a new guitar tuning someone showed me. I wrote about eight songs with that tuning, including "Sad Sad Sunshine," which also got covered by a west coast group The Hard Times, which ironically contained Lee Keifer, who later engineered The Tubes' debut album and Cry Tough by Nils Lofgren, both of which I produced. Small musical world, eh?

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8. "There Is No Greater Sin" — The Boys Next Door (2:19)

I was very good friends with The Tokens and they discovered and produced this band. This is serious first generation folk-rock, maybe a little Dylan-influenced. This was pre-"Like a Rolling Stone," maybe late 1964. Irwin and I co-wrote this. It laid around about a year until Dylan sprang on the charts and The Tokens took the boys to the studio next door.

9. "You Can't Lose Something That You Never Had" — Bruce Scott (2:00)

This was my first Bacharach-influenced song and it has many Burt-like tricks in it. This version is one of my favorite covers — it’s a great arrangement, well-produced and a nice sounding vocal. I will always love this although it is about as obscure as possible.

10. "The Street Song" aka "New York's My Home" — The Kitchen Cinq (2:17)

In early ‘65 I wrote this strange song with many different parts in it. My publisher liked it so much he recorded me singing it with a studio full of musicians led by the great musician/arranger Artie Butler. The publisher, Aaron Schroeder, put it out on one of his labels and nobody paid much attention to it. Then a west coast group on Lee Hazelwood’s label covered it and did a pretty good job. The original is on my album Rare and Well Done. Both versions are pretty rare. I think this one was more well done than mine. Mine was comparatively RAW, rawther than well done.

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BONUS TRAX:

11. "Lost Control" — Mickey Thomas (5:00)

This is from a jam album I did in 1982 called Championship Wrestling. I had other vocalists sing on the album because at that time I was getting bad vocal criticism quite often and was getting bored with it. I hoped this would quell that, but NOBODY heard this album when it came out and it's generally considered my least-selling solo album. It was a collaboration between uber-producer Bill Szymczyk (pronounced sim’-zick), Steely Dan/Doobies guitarist Jeff Baxter and myself. It was my only solo album I didn’t produce. It was sort of like a soul, R&B version of Super Session. I wrote the song when I lived in Atlanta in 1972 and it was a true story. I wrote the entire lyric on a plane between the two coasts. Mickey, who worked with Bill on “Fooled Around and Fell In Love,” was the perfect vocalist for this song. It was also covered by Leo Sayer (!) on his Here album in the '80s as well. With Joe Vitale on drums, George ‘Chocolate’ Perry on bass, Paul Harris on piano, Jeff Baxter on guitar and yours truly on organ, I feel it was played to perfection — a big fave of mine that I haven’t heard in a long time. Thanks to Simzick for making it all come together back then over me.

12. "Nuthin' I Wouldn't Do" — Joe Bonamassa (3:42)

This is one of the most recent covers I’ve had, from the year 2000. It was Joe’s debut album as a solo artist produced by Tom Dowd, who brought the song to the proceedings. Joe was only 22 when they cut this but you wouldn’t know it from his singing or playing. I love the outro guitar solo and I just wish one could understand the words better. However, what better bravado guitar flexing for this week’s closer? I’ll take my time but there are many more obscure covers of my songs to reveal in the future.

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