SHOUT MY NAME!
The JEFF BARRY Story
PART ONE The name Jeff Barry, though not widely recognized outside the music business, is practically synonymous with American pop music in the 1960s. The music and lyrics he's written have sold upwards of 40 million records. He's worked at the right hand of pioneering music industry figures like Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, George Goldner, Don Kirshner and Phil Spector. He is an inductee of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and deservingly so. His songs, which have gone to #1 on the charts seven times in the United States alone, have been recorded by everyone from John Lennon and Elton John to Annie Lennox and Celine Dion. They've been heard in commercials for Duracell batteries, American Express and Burger King, and in some of the biggest movies of the 1980s and '90s, including Four Weddings And A Funeral, GoodFellas, and Forrest Gump. His theme songs have graced popular prime time TV series like The Jeffersons and Family Ties. And both his songs and record productions are all over "golden age" rock 'n' roll radio. You can hardly listen to airwaves anywhere in the world without hearing a record written and/or produced by Jeff Barry several times a day. For younger Americans who've listened to the strains of "Chapel Of Love," "Doo-Wah-Diddy," "Hanky Panky," "Da Doo Ron Ron" "Leader Of The Pack," "I Honestly Love You," and "Sugar, Sugar" all their lives, it must be inconceivable that, as recently as forty years ago, nobody had ever heard these records, or any of Jeff's other work.
Born Joel Adelberg in 1939 to a working-class Jewish family, he grew up in New York and New Jersey, alternately enjoying Tin Pan Alley pop, country music, and the emerging sounds of rhythm and blues. Although he'd written songs since he was a small boy (his first composition was titled "Got A Gun, Got A Saddle, Got A Pony, Too"), he'd never thought of himself as a songwriter. After graduating high school and completing a hitch in the Army, his career goal was to become an engineer. Then he was seduced by the sounds of doo-wop, and decided to be a rock 'n' roll singer instead. A family friend introduced Joel to music publisher Arnold Shaw, who agreed to listen to him sing and evaluate his potential as a recording artist. "I couldn't play other people's songs," he admitted to radio journalist Charlotte Grieg in the 1980s, "(so) I had written some of my own to sing. I only knew two chords, so I sat at the piano and played several songs, all with the same two chords, but different melodies."
Shaw heard the young man's true potential in those rudimentary melodies he played that day in late 1958. Since what he really wanted at that point was to sing, Shaw set him up with an RCA Victor recording contract. However, along the way, he also signed Joel Adelberg to a publishing contact with his firm, EB Marks Music, and encouraged him to keep writing songs. By now, Adelberg had adopted the stage name "Jeff Barry." After his initial RCA release, "It's Called Rock 'N' Roll" failed to generate interest, it was clear that his recording career would take time to develop. However, it didn't take long for his songs to catch fire. By the summer of 1960, he had written a major R&B hit, Sam Cooke's "Teenage Sonata," and co-written a Top Ten pop smash by Ray Peterson called "Tell Laura I Love Her." A cover version in England by local teen idol Ricky Valance gave Jeff his first #1 chart record. The royalty checks for these hits astounded him. He could scarcely believe getting paid, and paid well, to do something he considered a hobby. Arnold Shaw knew that it was just a matter of time before Jeff Barry changed his career path.
In-between record dates for RCA Victor and, later on, Decca, Epic and United Artists Records, Jeff Barry honed his craft, writing a slew of songs and cutting demo discs with titles like "Shout My Name," "Dickie Went And Did It", and " Shake, Shake, Sherry." They were catchy, sometimes frantically up tempo numbers, more often than not with a novelty slant. His own recordings definitely had a novelty flavor, but gems like "It Won't Hurt," "Teen Quartet" and "The Face From Outer Space" unfortunately were not destined to go down in history alongside comedy classics like "Purple People Eater," "Beep Beep" and "The Chipmunk Song." As Jeff Barry was searching for his musical direction, his personal life was heating up. He'd taken up with a vivacious half-Jewish/half-Irish blonde who'd been introduced to him at a Thanksgiving dinner party. Ellie Greenwich was also a songwriter, and an exceptionally good singer, so they spent their dates harmonizing to popular songs, practicing the piano, and talking in-depth about music. After awhile, it seemed only natural for Jeff to pick up Ellie at her parent's home in Levittown, Long Island, and bring her into New York City to help him work on song demos. By 1961, Jeff had jumped ship at EB Marks to go on staff at Trinity Music, an up-and-coming firm operated by Ed Burton and Joe Csida. Every chance he got, Jeff encouraged his girlfriend to become a professional songwriter like himself, and he was keen to set up an interview for her with Burton and Csida. However, Ellie had a strong independent streak. She told him she didn't want to get into the business on her boyfriend's coattails. She went shopping for a publishing deal on her own, and after freelancing for a few months, she landed a job with prestigious Trio Music, operated by legendary R & B producer/songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
The year was 1962. Separately, Jeff and Ellie bagged chart records with their songs. After a lengthy dry spell, Gene McDaniels took Jeff's song "Chip Chip" into the Top Ten in January, and he enjoyed another British smash a month later when Helen Shapiro scored big with a rocker he'd written called "Tell Me What He Said." Ellie Greenwich scored her first hit that July when one of Leiber and Stoller's groups, Jay & The Americans, took her song "This Is It" into Billboard's Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart for five weeks. In October, she began writing songs with Phil Spector, a former Leiber-Stoller protege who'd recently started up his own label, Philles Records. This collaboration would eventually result in a pair of Top Forty hits, "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" and "Why Do Lovers Break Each Other's Hearts." However, throughout1961 and '62, the hits were few and far between. Neither Jeff nor Ellie were making what they thought was a decent steady income. They became so frustrated at one point, songwriting veteran Doc Pomus had to convince them to continue in the music business. Jeff was writing hit-and-miss material with Artie Resnick, and Ellie was doing the same with her partner at the time, Tony Powers. It was only when they decided to get married that they finally hit upon the brilliant idea of writing together. Leiber and Stoller wooed Ellie's new husband to Trio Music, and the stage was set for one of rock 'n' roll's greatest success stories to begin.
1963, the first full year of Jeff and Ellie's marriage and professional partnership, started off slowly, but shifted into overdrive as summer approached. Two events precipitated the upturn. The first was Ellie's introduction of Jeff to Phil Spector (Spector had already produced one of Jeff's songs, "Anyone But You," in 1961, so it's possible that they may have met earlier). A magic songwriting team was born, which soon began generating an assembly line of top-notch material for Spector's girl artists, The Crystals, Darlene Love, and The Ronettes. First out of the box was "Da Doo Ron Ron," a record which standardized the use of "scat" or "nonsense" song titles for pop songs, and provided new Crystals lead singer La La Brooks with one hell of a debut. This juggernaut of a song barreled into the Top Ten and exploded like dynamite on the international scene. Next, Darlene Love applied her gospel training to the jaunty "Not Too Young To Get Married" (issued under the group name Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans), "Wait 'Til My Bobby Gets Home" and "A Fine, Fine Boy", scoring chart singles with all three. Her fourth Barry-Greenwich-Spector song, "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" flopped on release, but ultimately became the most successful of the four. It became a Christmas perennial in the 1980s, and has since become Darlene's signature song.
Then, Spector kayoed the music industry with the swift one-two punch of The Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me" and The Ronettes' "Be My Baby". To be fair, it must be said that La La Brooks' near-operatic delivery on the former, and Ronnie Spector's baby doll cooing on the latter had a lot to do with their success. Yet, the songs proved to have a life beyond these maiden interpretations, as dozens upon dozens of cover versions in subsequent years by the likes of The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Linda Ronstadt, Bette Midler, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas and The Carpenters have demonstrated. "My catalog as a writer has been amazingly active," Barry would later note in a 1977 Record World article. The follow-ups, "Little Boy," "I Wonder," (released only in England), "Baby, I Love You" and "All Grown Up" were less well-received, but still came to be regarded as classics, and garnered their share of covers. These releases transformed the Leiber-Stoller Spanish tinge that Spector's previous records had copied into an up tempo whirlwind of guitar, strings and castanet percussion. This sound, strongly influenced by Spanish flamenco and pasodoble music, became standard for every subsequent record that sought to copy what was becoming known as the "girl group" sound.
Spector's then-wife Annette Merar has stated, "(Phil) never before or after had a year like he had in 1963." The songwriting prowess of Barry and Greenwich had everything to do with that fact. At the same time they were turning the Philles label into a cornucopia of hits, the couple were also scoring on the charts themselves . . . as their own girl group! This second stroke of good fortune came to pass totally by accident. Jeff and Ellie wrote and demoed a song called "What A Guy," which they hoped to place with a currently popular group known as The Sensations. When Leiber and Stoller heard the record, they decided it was too good to give away. Unbeknownst to Jeff and Ellie, they made a deal for the demo to be issued as a finished master on the Jubilee label. Confronted with the reality of becoming recording artists, the newlyweds were told to quickly come up with a group name. Ellie chose "The Raindrops" in honor of her favorite Dee Clark record. No one was more surprised than she when her lead voice began to appear on the radio in heavy rotation a few weeks later! "What A Guy" became a Top Thirty R & B favorite, and the hastily-written follow-up, "The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget" went Top Twenty on the pop charts. Ellie Greenwich suddenly found herself making personal appearances with a group that included her sister, Laura, and session singers Bobby Bosco and Beverly Warren (although he sang bass on the records, Jeff chose to remain in the background as producer). This was to be Ellie's most successful stab at a singing career until her appearances on stage in the musical Leader Of The Pack over twenty years later.
However, sock hops and amusement park dates soon had to be curtailed. Jeff and Ellie were simply too busy as songwriters to accommodate such frivolity. They were now considered a "hot" songwriting team, and there was a growing demand for their songs. In 1963, their compositions were cut by The Crystals, The Ronettes, Darlene Love, The Exciters, The Chiffons, The Majors, The Darlettes, Baby Jane and The Rockabyes, The Summits, and numerous other acts in addition to The Raindrops. Most of these songs charted. "At one point in 1963," Ellie recently told England's Record Collector Magazine, "Jeff and I looked, and we saw that we had seven songs in the Top Twenty. We thought, "Oh . . .my . . . God!" In fact, The Raindrops' sound was considered so commercial, the pai r was also being asked to sing background on recording sessions around New York, and even to sing demos of other writers' songs! Quincy Jones hired Ellie to sing background on nearly all of Lesley Gore's recordings, and she became the preferred demo singer for many of the top Brill Building composers, including Bob Crewe, Mark Barkan, Ben Raleigh, Hank Hunter and Stan Vincent. Leiber and Stoller hired Jeff to sing demos of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman songs that were later recorded by Elvis Presley. Superstar Connie Francis had both Jeff and Ellie harmonizing on the soundtrack to her forthcoming movie Looking For Love. The background vocal and demo dates they participated in during this period are far too numerous to mention. However, the talented couple did manage to set aside enough time for The Raindrops to chart four additional singles, cut an album for Jubilee Records, and lay down early studio versions of their future hits "Hanky Panky" and "Doo-Wah-Diddy."
Jeff Barry achieved his first success as a producer with The Raindrops' releases, but he had already been producing records for at least two years. It was a skill he showed an affinity for quite early on: He had conducted the band (featuring King Curtis on tenor sax), and practically co-produced his very first solo record for RCA Victor in1959! He produced his first sessions for other artists anonymously under the auspices of the Herald and Ember labels. In 196 2, he received his first label production credit for "Caravan Of Lonely Men," recorded by Carlton Records artist Tony Richards. However, production assignments increased substantially after he and Ellie Greenwich came under the tutelage of Leiber and Stoller. Jerry and Mike were arguably the hottest independent production team around in the early 1960s; working with The Drifters, The Coasters, Ben E. King, The Exciters, Jay & The Americans, Mike Clifford, Sammy Turner and many other artists, they had more work than they could handle. They were only too happy to let Jeff and Ellie take on some of the overflow. With label credit usually going to Leiber-Stoller Productions, Jeff and Ellie wrote songs and produced sessions for The Darlettes ("Here She Comes"), Baby Jane and The Rockabyes ("Hickory Dickory Dock"), Ray Peterson ("Give Us Your Blessings") and The Exciters (the original version of "Doo-Wah-Diddy"), scoring chart records with the latter two. In late 1963, Jerry and Mike decided to launch their own record label, Daisy, and reactivate Tiger Records, a dormant label they'd established a year earlier. Jeff and Ellie were tagged to produce material for this new business ventu re. They were heavily involved with Vic Donna's "I Won't Be Me Any More," Moody and The Delta's "Everybody Come Clap Your Hands," and at least two more of the eleven releases these labels marketed between November of 1963 and May of1964. Even before the last Tiger release had hit the streets, Leiber, Stoller and rock 'n' roll label veteran George Goldner had asked Barry and Greenwich to help them launch yet another pair of labels. In the spring of 1964, these five stockholders were busy auditioning new talent for the labels, which were to be called Red-Bird (a vehicle for pop releases) and Blue Cat (for rhythm and blues singles). By now, Phil Spector had decided to collaborate with other writers, and no longer required Jeff and Ellie's services. They hardly missed the work, because there was plenty for them to do as Red-Bird staff producers and unofficial A & R directors. Barbara Hawkins, Rosalie Hawkins and Joanmarie Johnson, originally known as the Mel-Tones, were among several groups brought to Red-Bird Records from New Orleans by artist manager Joe Jones. Jones was also a songwriter and a recording artist in his own right; he had scored a memorable hit for Roulette Records in1960, "You Talk Too Much." At Red-Bird, he would supervise recordings by blues singer/guitarist Alvin Robinson. However, the three Mel-Tones were quickly put under the care of Barry and Greenwich. The couple immediately began rehearsing the girls on a song they'd written the previous year with Phil Spector, "Chapel Of Love." As the first release on Red-Bird Records by the renamed Dixie Cups, the song shot to the top of the charts and almost instantly became a wedding standard. The Dixie Cups' records had an easy-rocking New Orleans groove that was most likely influenced by Wardell Quezergue, arranger and associate of Joe Jones. According to the Dixie Cups themselves, Quezergue wrote basic arrangements for "Chapel Of Love" and the other records the girls cut for Red-Bird, although Mike Stoller was usually credited on the labels. Likewise, Leiber and Stoller were credited as producers of all but the first Dixie Cups release, which was credited to Joe Jones. Make no mistake, though. Jeff and Ellie produced the sessions, and every Dixie Cups record they produced made the charts. There were four Top Forty Dixie Cups hits in all: "Chapel Of Love," "People Say," "You Should Have Seen The Way He Looked At Me" and "Iko Iko." Although it rose no higher than #20, this last song proved to be the most enduring hit after "Chapel Of Love." An old folk melody adapted for R &B consumption by Louisiana musician Jesse Thomas, the success of The Dixie Cups' version transformed the song into a veritable New Orleans anthem; today, every jazz, rock and blues band in the city knows and plays it. Jeff Barry dreamed up a revolutionary percussion-only background for the song after hearing the girls sing it to themselves during a tea break. Manager Joe Jones (who claimed writing credits on "Iko Iko" after its release) took the Misses Hawkins and Johnson to ABC Records in 1965. By then, their hit streak seemed to have cooled in the wake of the British Invasion. Independent producer Steve Venet brought two fondly-remembered girl groups to Red-Bird, The Jellybeans and The Butterflys. Because of Venet's relative inexperience, Leiber and Stoller teamed him with Barry and Greenwich for a pair of releases on both acts. The Jellybeans, led by the rather tentative voice of Elyse Herbert, were unlikely recipients of Jeff and Ellie's largesse, but they proved to have the right stuff to take the couple's new song "I Wanna Love Him So Bad" into the Top Ten shortly after "Chapel Of Love" hit #1. The follow-up, "Baby, Be Mine" did less well, but lay a tuneful foundation for the Caribbean percussion sound that would later appear on "Iko Iko." An unreleased Jellybeans album includes versions of several staples in the Barry-Greenwich catalog, among them "Doo-Wah-Diddy," "Here She Comes," and "Chapel Of Love." The Butterflys, contrary to widespread belief, were not the overdubbed studio voices of Ellie Greenwich, though she did sing background on their singles. Regrettably, the name of their sultry-voiced lead singer remains unknown, as do the names of all other members except Mary Thomas, formerly a member of The Crystals. The Butterflys never managed a Top Forty hit, but their two chart singles, "Good Night, Baby" and "I Wonder" are widely regarded as samples of the finest in girl group songwriting and production. The former, in particular, is frequently culled for inclusion on compilations. The latter is the definitive version of a Barry-Greenwich-Spector song that was also recorded by The Crystals (for release in England) and The Ronettes (for their highly-regarded 1965 album, Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes).
Ellie Greenwich was formerly a schoolmate of an eccentric, streetwise character named George Morton. He suddenly showed up at her office in the Brill Building one day in 1964, claiming that he could write and produce hit records. After he impressed the doubtful lady with a demo, she and Jeff Barry helped him land a staff songwriter/producer job at Red-Bird. Morton's demo played a most unconventional song called "Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)," sung by a between-record-deals girl group composed of two sets of sisters. This group, The Shangri-Las, would do more to revolutionize the image, repertoire and perception of girl groups than any other, before or since their appearance on the scene. Jeff and Ellie helped George Morton (whom they nicknamed "The Shadow" for his habit of appearing and disappearing suddenly) structure his song and recut his demo. The evocative surfside sound and daring lyrics of the song, which dealt with loss of virginity and abandonment, hit the Billboard charts like an atom bomb and lodged in the Top Five. Lead singer Mary Weiss had a tremulous teenage voice that was perfect for putting across such melodramatic material; it sometimes sounded vulnerable, sometimes insolent, and sometimes both simultaneously.
On the group's second time out, Barry, Greenwich and Morton gave her all the melodrama she could handle. "Leader Of The Pack," the greatest rebel-without-a-cause song of all-time, shocked early '60s America with its morbid atmosphere and grinding motorcycle crash sou nd effects. It was banned in various places, but that didn't stop it from topping the charts. It hasn't left pop radio since. Future Shangri-Las singles, the best of which were written by Barry and Greenwich, hewed closely to the same pattern of pathos, controversy and teen angst. "Give Us Your Blessings" told the story of a youthful couple who succumbed to a car crash on their way to be wed (although it seemed tailor-made for The Shangri-Las, the song was had previously been a minor hit for Ray Peterson in 1963). "The Train From Kansas City," perhaps Jeff and Ellie's finest song collaboration, found a recent bride contemplating the possibility of taking a former boyfriend as her extramarital lover. Although "Shadow" Morton soon began to demand (and often get) sole production credit on the singles, Jeff and Ellie co-produced The Shangri-Las' vinyl melodramas with him at least through the end of 1964.
In late 1964/early '65, serious cracks began to appear in Jeff and Ellie's marriage. Writing together was easy, but living together as husband and wife proved increasingly difficult for them. Despite stress in their personal lives, they managed to buckle down at work and create excellent records for numerous Red-Bird and Blue Cat acts. Actor/singer Steve Rossi held forth on their chalypso-styled ballad "Nobody But You" (also recorded by Jimmy Rice and The Tokens). The Ad-Libs rocked out to "He Ain't No Angel" (waxed earlier in a frenetic gospel style by Leola and The Lovejoys on Daisy Records). The Soul Brothers were treated to the extremely catchy "I Got A Dream," and Sidney Barnes was blessed with the Motownish "I Hurt On The Other Side," with its clever Smokey Robinson-inspired lyric and funky Ellie Greenwich background vocals. The couple bagged their biggest R & B success with honey-voiced Sam Haw kins (no relation to The Dixie Cups, by the way) and his fiery rendition of "Hold On, Baby." This gospel-meets-blues handclapper went Top Ten R & B during the summer of '65; surprisingly, it's probably the least well-known of Jeff and Ellie's hit songs. Jeff Barry sometimes supervised sessions by novice producers, most notably Ronald Moseley and Robert Bateman on their Holland-Dozier-Holland-flavored "Welcome To My Heart," waxed by The Bouquets. He and Ellie produced artists outside the Red-Bird stable, too, charting modestly with Connie Francis ("Don't Ever Leave Me") and The Drifters ("I'll Take You Where The Music's Playing"). They even stepped out of the shadows again to take bows as artists in their own right, only separately this time. Ellie's quite promising release took her squarely into Shangri-Las territory. "You Don't Know" was a dramatic ballad with a love triangle theme, which she co-wrote and co-produced with Jeff and Shadow Morton. It didn't make the charts, but quickly became a cult item. Jeff continued to mine the Motown vein with "I'll Still Love You," a peppy finger-popper that would've been ideal for Marvin Gaye. Unbelievably, this superb single also failed to find an audience. Ellie had a follow-up ready for release ("Another Boy Like Mine," a great song which was also cut by The Raindrops and The Dixie Cups), but time was running out. Before they knew it, all of Red-Bird and Blue Cat's best-selling artists had defected to other labels, and Leiber and Stoller had sold their stock shares. The Red-Bird era was history, and soon, their marriage was over, too.
Divorce papers in hand, their professional split was headed off by Phil Spector, who reunited with them in early 1966 to pen material for his latest signing, Ike & Tina Turner. These writing sessions produced the incredible "River-Deep, Mountain-High" and the irresist ible "I Can Hear Music," which Phil allowed Jeff to produce as a Ronettes single. Both singles would fail upon initial release, only to be successfully revived later in the decade by The Supremes with The Four Tops and The Beach Boys, respectively. Ellie Greenwich would continue to co-produce artists with Jeff Barry through the fall of 1967, but with increasing frequency, he began to take on solo projects. The few songs he and Ellie wrote during this period were not collaborations so much as they were totally independent ideas fused together. For all intents and purposes, their stellar songwriting partnership was over. Curiously, a lot of rock music history books leave the impression that Jeff's hitmaking streak ended at this point. That is hardly the case. There is a strong argument to be made that his success in the years following his divorce was greater than ever before. In the onslaught of the British Invasion, folk rock, psychedelia, singer/songwriters and self-contained groups, Jeff Barry moved forcefully to carve out a niche for himself and his music. When the 1960s came to a close, he would find himself not only at the top of the charts, but also at the peak of his skills as a songwriter and producer. As for the catalog of songs he had amassed between 1960 and 1966, it would prove to have a market life far beyond anything he had imagined. As fruitful as Jeff's years working with Arnold Shaw, Leiber and Stoller, Phil Spector and Ellie Greenwich had been, the full harvest of his talent wasn't even close to being realized, and for millions of music lovers, the best was definitely yet to come.
PART TWO In Billboard Magazine's year-end tally for the year 1970, Jeff Barry is listed as the second most successful record producer in the United States, right behind Motown's Norman Whitfield. This will come as a surprise to people who associate Jeff exclusively with Phil Spector and the girl groups of the early 1960s. For too many years, historical revisionists have been playing havoc with Jeff's musical legacy. There's this bizarre notion going around that his glory days ended when he divorced his wife, Ellie Greenwich, and stopped collaborating with her on songs. After 1966, he did have a bit of commercial success, yes . . . but it was mostly with musically vapid bubble gum rock groups like The Monkees and The Archies, and talentless teen idol wannabees like Andy Kim, Bobby Bloom and Robin McNamara. According to this line of thinking, Jeff sold his soul to schlockmeister Don Kirshner, and paid for it dearly when rock critics turned on him and the public finally recognized the lack of artistic merit in his endeavors. The girl group hits he and Ellie Greenwich wrote and/or produced together, like "Leader Of The Pack", "Be My Baby", "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Chapel Of Love" are supposed to represent the peak of his career; nothing else is worth talking about.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Jeff Barry was never a critical darling; from the beginning, his songs were tagged as bubble gum and not taken seriously (take for example talk show host David Susskind's sarcastic put-down of Jeff's song "A Fine, Fine Boy" in 1964). The respect he got came from i nside the record business. Rock critics liking the things Jeff and Ellie did is a fairly recent development; and Jeff most certainly did not fall into a creative black hole following his divorce. The opposite is true. It was mostly the work he did after 1966 that won Jeff the adulation he enjoyed by 1970. He shrewdly took advantage of business opportunities that allowed maximum exposure for his composing and producing skills: Television soundtracks, stage productions, his own record label. He allied himself with energetic young singer/ songwriters, assembled a coterie of crack session musicians, and proceeded to (pardon the expression) kick ass! With irresistible records like "Cherry, Cherry", "Sugar, Sugar", "I'm A Believer", "Baby, I Love You" and "Montego Bay", he created a genre of music called the Bubble Gum Blues, a youth-oriented pop sound with a blues foundation and tropical accents. In fact, Jeff was one of the first producers to marry world music elements with rock 'n' roll (going back as far as 1964 with his uncredited production of The Dixie Cups' "Iko Iko"). His sound attracted both children and adults. Make no mistake, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich did superlative work in the early '60s, but if all you know about Jeff centers around the girl group era, then you only know half the story. Here's a closer look at the artists Jeff Barry produced in the late '60s and early '70s, and the music they made.
Neil Diamond was one of the last artists Jeff teamed with Ellie Greenwich to produce. He has to qualify as Jeff's most successful artist, given the stellar recording and touring career he maintains to this day. It wouldn't have happened without early hits like "Cherry, Cherry", "Kentucky Woman" and "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon." Neil's subsequent production style was heavily influenced by Jeff (just listen to "Walk On Water"), and in turn, Neil's folk rock orientation had a major impact on the soon-to-be producer of The Archies and The Monkees. Artie Kaplan, saxophone player on many of those early Bang Records sides, claims that Neil took his vocal style lock, stock and barrel from Jeff Barry (a theory you can test by listening to any of Jeff's solo singles). Neil's music actually opened the door to Jeff's subsequent work in the bubble gum genre; Jeff took several Neil Diamond songs to Don Kirshner, who placed them with The Monkees and hired Jeff to produce the sessions. The Kirshner-Barry association later made the international smash hit "Sugar, Sugar" possible. Neil exited the Bang label under a legal cloud in December 1967, and subsequently stopped working with Jeff and Ellie. However, "Shilo", "Solitary Man" and other songs he cut under their supervision continued hitting the charts until 1973!
Tony Passalacqua recorded several excellent readings of Jeff's songs during the '60s. Early in his solo career, Tony got into the habit of releasing Jeff Barry songs on both sides of a single. Under the names Tony Richards, Tony Mitchell and finally Tony Pass, the former lead singer of The Fascinators established himself early on as a skilled interpreter of Jeff's material. His string of Barry-penned releases include "Shout My Name", "A Million Drums"/"Candle In The Wind" (the former song later covered by Jimmy Clanton and British singer Tony Sheveton, who scored a hit with it), the reggae-styled "Write Me A Letter", and "Caravan Of Lonely Men"/"Wind-Up Toy", the first Jeff Barry production to be credited on a record label. (Jeff's sassy background vocal work on "Wind-Up Toy" anticipates by a year similar vocal arrangements he and Ellie Greenwich would craft for their Raindrops hits.) Tony made his finest Jeff Barry record in 1966, when Jeff and Ellie Greenwich took him into the studio to lay down a sassy two-sider called "Spring Fever" b/w "True, True Love." A dynamite vocalist, Tony Passalacqua never got the recognition and commercial success he deserved. The closest he came was contributing a guest backing vocal to The Archies' 1970 Top Forty entry "Who's Your Baby?". Of course, that was another Jeff Barry composition and production.
Two Monkees albums are graced by Jeff's Barry's magic touch: Their 1967 sophomore effort More Of The Monkees, and their 1970 swan song, Changes. Jeff's work also appears in a wealth of archival session material that's finally seen the light of day as a result of Rhino Records' extensive Monkees reissue campaign. Among numerous Jeff Barry productions in the Monkees' catalog is "She Hangs Out, " the only known song Jeff and Ellie Greenwich collaborated on with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and "Ride, Ride, Baby," a collaboration with Bert Berns that has yet to be unearthed. Neil Diamond's songs brought Jeff access to this TV super group, and the worldwide success of back-to-back singles he produced for them ("I'm A Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You") promised a long association. Unfortunately, the sometimes abrasive Don Kirshner had hired Jeff, and by February 1967, both The Monkees and the producers of their TV show wanted no more to do with Kirshner or any of his people. For a time, The Monkees' success continued with the group members producing themselves, but by 1969, their star had definitely gone into free fall. Fortunately, Jeff had maintained good relations with principal lead singers Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones, and they allowed him back to supervise what turned out to be the last LP on their custom Colgems label. In the almost three years since their initial collaboration, Jeff's production style had matured, and Changes reflected that; fans who expected bright, peppy bubble gum tunes like "I'm A Believer" were disappointed to find instead a collection of low-key blues rockers like "Oh, My My," "Tell Me, Love" and "You're So Good To Me." The album failed to find its audience. Jeff took a step back in time with the more pop-oriented "Do It In The Name Of Love", a Bobby Bloom-penned single he produced for Mickey and Davy for a one-time appearance on Bell Records. This release went unnoticed, too. Twenty-five years passed before Monkees fans finally began to appreciate the merits of these releases; Changes made the charts upon its reissue in 1986, by which time "Do It In The Name Of Love" was being described by Monkees historians as "'way cool bubble gum".
The Meantime featuring Ellie Greenwich was a 1967 attempt to resurrect and update The Raindrops, the 1963-65 studio group comprised of Jeff and Ellie's multitracked voices. The Meantime's one Atco single ("Friday Kind Of Monday") is so rare, most Jeff and Ellie fans (including me) have never heard it. Although this wouldn't be the last time Jeff and Ellie worked together on a record date (her background harmonies embellish several Andy Kim and Archies releases), it was the last time they shared production credits on a new release. Jeff wanted to move in new directions. Ellie went on to found her own production company in October of 1967, and she cu t numerous sides with The Definitive Rock Chorale (featuring Tony Passalacqua), The Daily News, Other Voices, The Fuzzy Bunnies, The Down Five, The Innovation, Steve Tudanger and comedienne Jean Shepherd between 1967 and 1971. Unfortunately, the only record that charted for her Pineywood Productions was an unappealing psychedelic version of the 1966 Walker Brothers hit "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More." Mercifully, it fizzled out at #115 on Billboard's Bubbling Under charts. Chart performance notwithstanding, Pineywood did cut some outstanding sides for The Hardy Boys cartoon series (check out their Wheels album for the track "Good, Good Lovin'"), and provide Dusty Springfield with a stunning single, "What Good Is I Love You." Ultimately, Ellie found greater success as a recording artist. Her finest post-Jeff Barry single is arguably 1970's "I Don't Wanna Be Left Outside", a dynamite rock ballad recorded for Bell Records. Twice, she reached the verge of stardom, first in 1967 with her Bob Crewe-produced single "I Want You To Be My Baby" and again in 1973, with her self-produced cover of Lesley Gore's "Maybe I Know." Both singles made brief appearances on the charts, and with a sufficient promotional push, Ellie might've duplicated Carole King's solo success. However, her heart wasn't set on chasing the limelight. She ultimately chose to remain behind the scenes, writing ad jingles and singing backup for a host of artists, including Aretha Franklin, Lou Christie, Robert John, Jim Croce, Van Morrison, ELO, Blondie and Cyndi Lauper. However, when she released her 1973 album of classic Barry-Greenwich remakes titled Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung, she took a major step toward identifying standards in the catalog of songs she and Jeff had collaborated on. She went the distance in 1984-5, when she took her Leader Of The Pack music revue from New York's Bottom Line club to a brief but spectacular stint on Broadway. (The show still plays to capacity crowds at community theaters across the country, and is particularly popular with high school drama departments.) Ellie Greenwich has always been, and will likely continue to be the most important female vocalist Jeff has ever worked with. More diligent collectors will want to seek out her recordings of two early Jeff Barry compositions, "Big Honky Baby" (as Kelly Douglas), and "Red Corvette" (as Ellie Gee and The Jets, with Jeff contributing his trademark bass vocal counterpoint).
With the dissolution of his partnership with Ellie imminent, Jeff began seeking out projects he could tackle either on his own or in collaboration with other producers. Teaming up with Bert Berns, he gave The McCoys one of their final chart hits, a dance-ready Latin stomper called "I Got To Go Back (And Watch That Little Girl Dance)". Barry and Berns did likewise for R & B singer Freddie Scott with the wickedly funky "Am I Groovin' You." Other Barry-Berns co-productions from this period include The Exciters' "Soul Motion" and "Aretha," a stomping, Caribbean-tinged Drifters flipside. By himself, Jeff cut Jay and The Americans on a rather misogynist 1967 folk ballad, "You Ain't As Hip As All That, Baby," gifted The Strangeloves with an absolutely delectable bubble gum record called "Honey Do," cut a vocal session with actor Tony Randall, and waxed a trio of frighteningly hard-to-find singles for Gayle Haness, a Hollywood-based session singer he saw promise in. The Haness singles, "Johnny Ander", "We Got A Good Thing Goin'" and "I've Never Gotten Over You" are much coveted by girl group sound enthusiasts, and a rare prize for the serious Jeff Barry collector. The most significant project Jeff undertook during this period was undoubtedly the founding of his own record label. After completing a distribution deal with Hollywood-based Dot Records in April of 1967, he opened a recording studio and set up administrative offices for Steed Records at 15 West 72nd Street in Manhattan.
Neil Diamond had set the stage for male singer/songwriters in the mid-1960s, and Jeff was determined to produce another successful one. He signed Hank Shifter to Steed and had high hopes for Shifter's performance of a song called "Mary On The Beach." Billboard chose it as a Top 60 Spotlight Single in May of 1968, but to Jeff's great disappointment, it stirred no interest at all. Later that same month, the man who would become Steed Record's most successful singer/songwriter got his turn at bat. Andy Kim, a Canadian-born singer/songwriter of Lebanese extraction, journeyed from the Great White North in the early '60s to try his luck on the New York music scene. After casting about for a few years, he hooked up with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich in 1965 for a solitary Red-Bird release, "I Hear You Say (I Love You, Baby)" b/w "Falling In Love." The single flopped, and no one could've predicted that Andy would replace Ellie as Jeff's songwriting partner, but that's what happened. (Ellie couldn't have been too upset about it, because she sang background on most of the hits Jeff produced for Andy on his Steed label.) Beginning in 1968 with "How'd We Ever Get This Way" and ending in 1971 with "I Been Moved", Andy scored eleven times on the Billboard charts; his string of Steed hits, most co-written with Jeff, are aurally innovative, consistently tuneful and commercial to a fault. Two of his lower chart entries, "It's Your Life" and "I Been Moved" are particularly noteworthy for funky rhythm arrangements; another standout is "Tricia, Tell Your Daddy", a song with a unique political message that was later covered by Jay and The Americans. Yet ironically, Andy's biggest records during this period were revivals of Barry-Greenwich-Spector songs originally cut by The Ronettes. His version of "Baby, I Love You", which features Jeff playing nearly all the instruments, is superior to The Ronettes' 1964 single, and is widely considered the definitive reading of the song. Jeff and Andy were an incredibly hot writing team for a few years, penning the million-selling "Sugar, Sugar" and "Jingle Jangle" for The Archies, and also providing chart material for Jon & Robin, The Monkees and Ron Dante. Thanks to Jeff's efforts, Andy became the top-selling male vocalist in his native Canada. After their writing partnership dissolved, Andy came up with a #1 hit on his own, 1974's "Rock Me Gently." He eventually returned to his native country and founded his own successful label, Ice Records.
The Archies were where it all came together for Jeff, in both an artistic and (especially) a commercial sense. Wanna hear rockabilly, blues, hardcore and Latin boogaloo played by a bubble gum band? You can find all that and more on The Archies' four TV soundtrack albums. When Don Kirshner asked him to produce this cartoon studio group (based, as everyone knows, on the long-running Archie comic strip), Jeff was up to his armpits in work running the Steed label. Yet he couldn't resist the chance to make music for kids ("That was the market I wrote for," he says), and made time in his schedule for an initial two-week writing and recording session in July 1968. Little did he suspect that he'd return to provide two more seasons' worth of original material, as well as dozens of unissued sides. The soundtrack music for the first season of The Archie Show featured Joey Levine, Jamie Carr, Toni Wine, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich on backing vocals, with demo king Ron Dante on lead. The following year, the group pared itself down to a trio of Ron, Jeff and Toni. Toni Wine was replaced in January of 1970 by former Columbia recording artist Donna Marie. Ray "Gitarzan" Stevens, Andy Kim, Tony Passalacqua, Joe DiBenedetto, Steve Tudanger and Bobby Bloom all made occasional guest appearances as backing vocalists and/or percussionists; almost everyone Jeff worked with got involved with his Archies recordings at one time or another. He stopped producing the group after Paramount Pictures hired him to work in its music division, but before he was through, he'd given them five charting albums and two Platinum singles, and they'd given him his biggest song copyright: "Sugar, Sugar," a blockbuster which topped the charts not only in the United States, but also in England, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Mexico and The Netherlands. The group's phenomenal success pissed off rock critics royally, but the kids (and adults) who bought the records and tuned in to the daffy Saturday morning sitcom couldn't have cared less. Of course, Don Kirshner was partially responsible for The Archies' good fortune, but give credit where it's due: As Ron Dante so eloquently puts it, "The success of The Archies was Jeff Barry's music."
Jeff tried to launch a number of rock bands on his Steed label: The Rich Kids, Keepers Of The Light (featuring Alzo Fronte), and Playhouse (featuring the aforementioned Messrs. DiBenedetto and Tudanger). Only The Illusion proved strong enough to break into the mainstream. This five-piece ensemble with pronounced leanings toward psychedelia and jazz was originally signed to Bob Crewe's DynoVoice label and produced by Crewe's protege Mitch Ryder. After leaving DynoVoice, they cut a trio of hard rock albums under Jeff's supervision: The Illusion, Together (As A Way Of Life) and If It's So (two of these have been reissued in Europe). The group featured Rich Cerniglia on lead guitar, Chuck Adler on bass, Mike Maniscalco on keyboards, Mike Ricciardella on drums, and gravel-throated lead singer John Vinci, a tall, brooding Black Belt expert who cut an imposing figure on stage. "They weren't the kind of band that you give a song and say 'here, sing this'," Jeff observes. "They really created their own special kind of material." Indeed, their waxings sound like nothing else in the Jeff Barry production catalog, and that's probably why they had trouble sustaining a presence on the pop charts. Only when Jeff did hand them a song, a damn-the-torpedoes blues rocker called "Did You See Her Eyes?" did they manage to crack the national Top Forty. A handful of follow-ups, "How Does It Feel?", "Together" and "Let's Make Each Other Happy" achieved varying degrees of regional airplay and sales. Today, their singles and albums are highly valued by classic rock collectors who appreciate something a little bit off the beaten path.
When Ron Dante prepared to cut his first solo album for the Kirshner label, he had the wisdom to ask Don Kirshner to assign Jeff Barry as his producer. Even though 90% of the material on Ron Dante Brings You Up was penned by Ron himself, Jeff's pop sensibility flows from every groove. The album was given major promotion in Billboard, and Ron made a round of TV and radio appearances in support of it. This is an essential set for Archies fans, because in addition to Ron's flawless singing, it features typically excellent instrumentation by the Archies rhythm section (Hugh McCracken, Dave Appell, Ron Frangipane, Buddy Saltzman, Gary Chester and Chuck Rainey). Highlights include a trio of infectious Latin rock tracks: "Lovin' Lady", "Don't Let Love Pass You By" and "Muddy River Water." Just try to keep your hips and feet still while listening to these numbers! Two Ron Dante solo singles were issued during the summer of 1970 as album teasers: The Barry-Kim sizzler "Let Me Bring You Up", and an atmospheric doo-wop ballad, "C'mon, Girl", penned by Ron and Jamie Carr. Both songs were the equal of any of Ron's work with The Archies, but alas! Commercially neither came close to duplicating the success of "Sugar, Sugar" and "Jingle Jangle."
Few people remember that Don Kirshner tried to follow up his success with The Archies by turning an exhibition basketball team into a cartoon rock group! He actually signed the Harlem Globetrotters to his label as recording artists, and then designated his own star player, Jeff Barry, to produce them. For years, mystery surrounded the recording of the Globetrotters TV soundtrack album. Billboard claims that team captain Meadowlark Lemon went into the studio and sang on the tracks. Jeff Barry has confirmed this. Yet there are a number of different lead singers on the album, and Lemon apparently isn't one of them. In 1993, New York doo-wop historian Bobby Day cleared up some of the mystery. According to him, the real-life Harlem Globetrotters were "augmented" in the studio by a host of '50s R & B veterans, including members of The Coasters, Cadillacs, Drifters and Platters. This comedy-oriented soundtrack (which boasts specially-written material by Neil Sedaka and Howie Greenfield) is especially fun to listen to, not least of all for the chance to identify star vocal turns by Billy Guy, Johnny Moore, Earl "Speedo" Carroll, Sonny Turner and Carl Gardner. In the fall of 1970, Don Kirshner and Hanna-Barbera Studios (which produced the TV series) gave the new, improved Globetrotters a big promotional sendoff at Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to generate decent sales for the album or decent ratings for the cartoon. Even so, the music didn't go completely unnoticed. A Globetrotters single, Neil Sedaka and Howie Greenfield's wistful "Rainy Day Bells" garnered regional sales and quickly became a "beach music" cult item. The soundtrack still sits in secondhand record bins, a treasure waiting to be discovered. Those who do discover it will be treated to killer cuts like "House Party", "Lillian Peabody", "River Queen" and "Cheer Me Up", the latter song penned by Jeff along with members of The Archies.
As stated earlier, during the late '60s and early '70s, Jeff Barry dabbled in theater production. He bankrolled a counterculture sex-and-skin extravaganza appropriately titled The Dirtiest Show In Town, and an aborted Broadway musical called The Freaking-Out Of Stephanie Blake. It was probably through his theater connections that he met Robin (ne Robert) McNamara, a carrot-topped, beer-guzzling songwriter who eventually landed a leading role in the Broadway cast of Hair. Some of Robin's fellow castmembers (including La La Brooks, former lead singer of The Crystals) sang backing vocals on his Steed album Lay A Little Lovin' On Me, which spawned an infectious Top Twenty single of the same title. This album's highly listenable fusion of rock, blues and gospel stylings make it a necessary purchase for anyone who wants to know what the Jeff Barry sound is all about. Despite a talent for penning catchy material, and an androgynous vocal delivery that fell somewhere between Ronnie Spector and Tommy James, Robin was destined to have an extremely short career. He never got near the charts again after his third Steed release, "Got To Believe In Love" expired at the bottom of the Hot 100. However, he and Jeff became running buddies (they moved to Hollywood at the same time), and they continued working together until 1972. That year, Robin and his wife Jo cut a rare cover version of The Dixie Cups' "Chapel Of Love" for the A & M label.
Bobby Bloom had been associated with Jeff on and off since the early 1960s, when he was engineer Brooks Arthur's assistant on Barry-Greenwich sessions for Red-Bird/Blue Cat Records. However, Barry and Bloom don't seem to have come together as artist and producer until 1969, when Bloom was signed to Joey Levine and Artie Resnick's short-lived Earth label. The following year, they came up with the stunning collection of blues-oriented rockers that make up The Bobby Bloom Album. The most notable songs from this excellent set are "Heavy Makes You Happy", a British hit single for Bobby, and later a crossover smash for The Staple Singers; and the immortal "Montego Bay", a calypso-tinged musical travelogue which has enjoyed cover versions by The Bar-Kays and many other acts. Barry and Bloom's songwriting collaborations also resulted in chart singles for The Persuasions ("I Really Got It Bad For You") and The Archies ("Sunshine", which featured Bobby on background vocals and percussion), and Tommy James teamed with Bobby to pen the garage rock classic "Mony Mony." Tragically, Bobby died from a gunshot wound under mysterious circumstances in 1974. A very sensual song stylist who possessed a smoky vocal quality, Bobby Bloom was perhaps the most talented male vocalist Jeff ever worked with. Their non-album collaborations are not to be overlooked: Of particular note is the great 1971 two-sider "We Need Each Other"/"You Touch Me," a heaping helping of Bubble Gum Blues at its finest. Barry himself claims his greatest Bobby Bloom production was his very first: "Sign of The V," a choral ballad with heavy gospel flavorings. The Klowns were the Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey organization's entry into the cartoon rock sweepstakes. There never was a Klowns cartoon, but the Harlequin-clad, six-person vocal ensemble did host its own ABC television special in November of 1970. Their album for RCA Victor provided Jeff with an opportunity to showcase the songwriting abilities of his Steed staff writers, Neil Goldberg, Gil Slavin, Steve and Mike Soles, and Ned Albright. The group's first single, a mellow Latin ballad called "Lady Love", fizzled out all too quickly on the charts. The Klowns would be but an obscure footnote in pop music history, except for the fact that their lead singer was Barry Bostwick, who in a few more years would become rather famous as an actor on Broadway, television and movies, most notably The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the long-running sitcom Spin City.
In 1971, Dusty Springfield traveled from England specifically to cut tracks with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (separately) for her proposed third album on the Atlantic label. Jeff indeed completed work on an album with her, but only four selections were released at the time. Late in 1998, Rhino Records discovered the long lost album master in the Atlantic tape vaults. While no standout hit singles are to be found in the track lineup, the LP is an intriguing marriage of Jeff's pop/blues stylings with Dusty's soulful vocal renditions. In fact, Dusty Sings The Blues would be the ideal title for this collection. Particularly fine are cover versions of Bread's "Make It With You" and Carole King's "You've Got A Friend"; the Ned Albright-penned country-rocker "I'll Be Faithful"; the gospel-steeped "Love Shine" and "I Have Found My Way Through The Darkness"; and the downright bluesy "I Believe In You", written by Jeff and featuring him on prominent background harmony. Unfortunately, Dusty got into a tiff with Atlantic executives just before the album was to be issued, and when she suddenly quit the label, it was pulled from the release schedule. Some of the material did turn up the following year on Dusty's British-only album See All Her Faces. Of two singles originally released from the aborted project in the summer of 1971, the bristling rocker "Haunted" has been singled out by Dusty Springfield fans as a cult favorite. It frequently appears on compilations of the British diva's greatest hits and rarities, and deservedly so.
With their devotion to rock 'n' roll revivalism and inherent sense of fun, the troupe of performers known as Sha-Na-Na and Jeff Barry would seem to be a match made in heaven. They got together to cut one album for Artie Ripp's Kama Sutra label in 1972, and the results do not disappoint. The Night Is Still Young has any number of radio-ready singles on it, though none of them stood a chance of getting heard amidst the soft-rock boom of the early '70s. No matter. Jeff brings out the very best the group has to offer with surefooted revivals of The Five Satins' "In The Still Of The Night," Frankie Ford's "Sea Cruise" and a rousing medley of The Fiestas' "So Fine" married to The Falcons' "You're So Fine." Sha-Na-Na could and probably did take these flawless arrangements straight to the concert stage. Yet it's the original songs that really shine on this collection. The group members' efforts at composing were always quirky at best, but Jeff's production skills make Scott Simon's rockabilly-flavored "Oh! Lonesome Boy", Jocko Marcellino's hard-rocking "It Ain't Love" and Richard Joffe's mellow "Sleeping On A Song" more than presentable. Not surprisingly, the set's most polished tracks come from Jeff's own pen, in collaboration with Andy Kim and Bobby Bloom. "Bounce In Your Buggy" is major league bubble gum, while wickedly funky grooves drive "Bless My Soul", "It's What You Do With What You Got" and "You Can Bet They Do" to home base. Over twenty-five years later, damned if these gems still don't sound like they belong on the pop music charts! This album, which cracked Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart even without the benefit of a hit single, certainly belongs in the collection of any serious Jeff Barry fan.
Although shy about performing in public, Jeff harbored his own rock star aspirations for years.1 Between 1959 and 1973, he cut at least a dozen unsuccessful singles for various labels including Decca, United Artists, Epic, Bell and RCA Victor. In fact, an entire album's worth of material was left to gather dust in RCA's tape library. His early records were wild and woolly rock novelties with titles like "Please, Mr. Scientist", "The Face From Outer Space" (a Dr. Demento Top Ten contender if ever there was one) and "Can You Waddle." A 1995 bootleg German CD collects numerous Jeff Barry song demos from the early '60s, as well as the unreleased RCA album. Highlights include his brilliant comic performances on "The Things A Fella Needs," "It Hurts, Doesn't It?" and "Big Bully Blues." His best pop records were 1965's "I'll Still Love You", a Marvin Gaye-styled raver written and produced with Ellie Greenwich; and 1971's "Sweet Savior," a haunting folk hymn similar in tone and execution to Madonna's 1998 chart entry "Frozen." He issued three other singles during this period, including "Where It's At", the theme song of a United Artists film; "Mr. Music Man," a ballad released under the group name The Mission that was originally cut by Andy Kim; and "Walkin' In The Sun", the title track of an unreleased 1973 album Jeff cut for A & M Records. The flipside of the latter, "Whatcha Wanna Do?" is so gutbucket funky, it could've been written by Leiber and Stoller. "Walkin' In The Sun" was cut by Glen Campbell nearly twenty years later and became a sizable country radio hit. Hopefully, lovers of Jeff's music won't be forever denied the privilege of hearing the other self-composed treasures his second "lost" album contains; they include extended versions of songs that were also recorded by Andy Kim ("Nobody's Ever Goin' Anywhere"), Rosey Grier ("You're The Violin") and Three Dog Night ("When It's Over").
When Jeff moved to Hollywood and went on staff at A & M Records, he recalls that he "wanted to produce an instrumental artist." He couldn't have chosen a better studio subject than multi-instrumentalist Nino Tempo. One-half of the brother-and-sister rock duo Nino Tempo and April Stevens in the '60s, he was also an indispensable member of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound orchestra. Nino wrote arrangements for Spector and filled in on piano, drums, sax or wherever else he was needed. In recent years, he's established himself as a jazz saxophone player. When Jeff Barry worked with him in 1973, he was just beginning that career transition. In the summer of '73, Jeff put Nino and April back on the charts with a percolating cover of The Crusaders' "Put It Where You Want It." During those sessions, Nino and Jeff put their heads together and came up with a lowdown, gritty thumper that couldn't seem to decide whether it wanted to be a blues or a gospel tune. Nino slapped some frantic sax solos on it, and Jeff added his trademark handclappings. They called the record "Sister James", released it as a single, and watched it scoot up both the pop and R & B charts. While it didn't become a major hit, "Sister James" did establish Nino Tempo as an instrumentalist with commercial appeal. Two years later, April Stevens again joined Jeff and her brother in the studio to write and record an Adult-Contemporary best-seller called "You Turn Me On." Nino and Jeff teamed up again when the latter produced the soundtrack music for the M-G-M/United Artists film The Idolmaker in 1979-80.
Among other artists Jeff produced at A & M, aside from the aforementioned Robin and Jo McNamara, were pop rockers King Harvest and guitarist Cheryl Dilcher. He also began working on a project with pianist Peter Allen. It never got off the ground, but it did yield an Allen-Barry ballad, "I Honestly Love You," which was later a smash hit for Olivia Newton-John. In fact, it was a chart hit for Olivia twice in the '70s, and as of this writing, it has cracked the charts yet again in a new recording by her; The Staple Singers cut a version that was also quite popular. Additional royalty income for the Allen-Barry team was generated when Helen Reddy chose their steamy composition "I've Been Wanting You So Long" as the flipside of her million-selling single "Emotion." In 1974, Jeff was assigned to work with The Persuasions, a critically-acclaimed doo-wop ensemble who specialize in acappella singing. When word got out that Jeff planned to record them with instruments, critics drew their daggers, and amazingly, the digs have yet to stop. "(Jeff Barry is) the man to blame for putting instruments behind the famous acappella group . . . " wrote a snide compilation producer in 1994. Well, there's no accounting for tastes, but for the record, Jeff did a marvelous job with them. He gave The Persuasions their highest-charting single to date with "I Really Got It Bad For You," a soulful ballad co-written with (and first recorded by) Bobby Bloom. Then he produced an album for them that has to rank among the group's finest: I Just Want To Sing With My Friends. Striking a careful balance between acappella performances and vocals with musical backing, Jeff showcased the very best Jerry Lawson, Jayotis Washington, Jesse Russell, Tubo Rhoad and Jimmy Hayes had to offer. Their spirited renditions of the gospel chestnuts "Somewhere To Lay My Head" and "Touch The Hem Of His Garment" are particularly strong, and a cover of Leiber and Stoller's "I'm A Hog For You, Baby" improves on the nasty blues edge The Coasters gave the original 1959 version. Artistically speaking, though, nothing surpasses "I Just Want To Sing With My Friends," the rousing theme song Jeff penned especially for the group. With funky guitar licks, silky-smooth orchestrations and a pounding disco beat backing up a wailing band of streetcorner angels, it's unfathomable how a single so great could miss the charts so completely.
Jeff went on to cut an album with Tommy James (it contains "Bobby, Don't Leave Me Alone Tonight", his moving tribute to Bobby Bloom), co-write and produce an album for the arena rock outfit Chopper, and capture actor/singers John Travolta and Lisa Hartman-Black on wax at the beginning of their careers. His best album production during this period is undoubtedly the Idolmaker soundtrack, which features strong Jeff Barry tunes and equally strong performances by Darlene Love, The Sweet Inspirations, Nino Tempo, Jesse Frederick, Peter Gallagher, Colleen Fitzpatrick and Ray Sharkey. However, his production work decreased after he left A & M, and in the '70s and '80s he concentrated on writing TV themes (The Jeffersons, Family Ties) and hit country songs for the likes of Gary Stewart, Lynn Anderson, The Bellamy Brothers, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius. Meanwhile, his early work with Ellie Greenwich was undergoing a major revival; having begun as early as 1964 with Manfred Mann's chart-topping remake of "Doo-Wah-Diddy", it peaked in 1977 with Shaun Cassidy's revamped version of "Da Doo Ron Ron," likewise a chart-topper. The Barry-Greenwich song revivals continued into the 1980s and beyond, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. Suddenly, Jeff found himself christened with the coveted "Brill Building songwriter" designation. He was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in1993, and it's inconceivable that his classic songs won't win him entry into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame at some point in the future. Eighteen BMI awards and extremely heavy airplay of his song catalog on oldies radio ensure that the respect Jeff Barry commands in the industry won't fade anytime soon. Still, his achievements as a producer have yet to be properly recognized, and may never be; historical revisionists just may succeed in erasing that aspect of his legacy. Except for The Monkees' catalog and selected Neil Diamond tracks, most of Jeff's late '60s music is unavailable on CD, and reissue producers don't seem terribly interested in rectifying the situation. That means want lists, record auctions and excursions through used album bins are the only ways to track it down, but it's definitely worth the effort.
Jeff's production work of the late '60s and early '70s has a wonderful raw quality to it. That quality makes records by The Monkees, The Archies and Neil Diamond sound fresh and contemporary now that equally raw "alternative" rock is making waves on the charts. It's high time more collectors and music historians got hip to this distinctive and exceptional body of work; obscure records like "Bounce In Your Buggy" and "Mary On The Beach" merit as much attention as "Sugar, Sugar", "I'm A Believer" and other better-known Barry sides. Also worth owning are hit cover versions of classic Barry and Greenwich songs by the likes of Bette Midler, Wilson Pickett, Jody Miller, Cissy Houston, Dave Edmunds, Queen's Freddie Mercury (recording under the name "Larry Lurex"), and (believe it or not) Twisted Sister! Take it from someone who's been collecting for almost twenty years now: Finding an original copy of a single produced by Jeff Barry, and hearing magic sounds fill the room as it plays on your stereo system is a most rewarding experience. An edited version of Part Two of this manuscript appeared in the Oct/Nov/Dec 1998 issue of The Record Finder. Article researched and written by Don Charles, revised in July 2000. Special Thanks to Jeff and Nancy Barry, JD Doyle, Michael V. Skeen, Theodora Zavin and the staff of The Music Exchange in Kansas City, Missouri.
COMPACT DISCS FEATURING JEFF BARRY SONGS AND PRODUCTIONS Neil Diamond: Classics (Columbia, 1990), The Monkees: Listen To The Band (Rhino, 1991), Phil Spector: Back To Mono (Rhino, 1991), The Best of Darlene Love (Phil Spector, 1992), The Best of The Crystals (Phil Spector, 1992), The Best of The Ronettes (Phil Spector, 1992), More of The Monkees (Rhino, 1994), The Monkees: Changes (Rhino, 1994), The Best of The Shangri-Las (Mercury, 1996), Chapel Of Love: The Very Best Of The Dixie Cups (Collectables, 1998), The Raindrops (Collectables, 1998), The Very Best of Red-Bird/Blue Cat Records (Taragon, 1998). The Archies (RKO, 1999), Archie's Party (RKO, 1999), I Can Hear Music: The Ellie Greenwich Collection (Razor & Tie, 1999), Dusty In Memphis: Deluxe Edition (Rhino, 1999) 1 At long last, Jeff Barry finally did perform in public on May 14, 1999, singing his greatest song hits to a sellout crowd at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara, California. In the spring of 2000, the PBS-TV network filmed CHAPEL OF LOVE, a musical tribute to Jeff and his music that is scheduled to air on affilated stations in the fall. >>> A SPECTROPOP Essay by Don Charles
WHO Were The Archies?
"...The paths of Jeff Barry and Don Kirshner intersected when Barry placed some of Diamond's tunes with Kirshner's new publishing house, Screen Gems Music. At the time, Kirshner was executive producer for The Monkees' wildly popular TV show. He subsequently hired Barry to supervise the group's recording of Neil Diamond's "I'm A Believer," and as a single, it became one the biggest-selling rock platters of all-time...Jeff Barry was always partial to Ron Dante, the third member of our magic triumvirate. He'd previously used Dante as a backing vocalist on Neil Diamond's recording dates...".
The Ellie Greenwich Web Site
"...Brooklyn-born Ellie moved to Levittown at age 11 and was writing songs by 13. At that time she formed her first 'girls group,' The Jivettes, with two high school friends and the trio performed original songs at hospitals, schools and charity benefits throughout Long Island.
When her mother arranged a meeting for Ellie with Cadence Records president Archie Bleyer (of Everly Brothers and Chordettes fame), the young talent was advised "to keep writing, but finish school." ...and Ellie did just that. She attended Hofstra University, was it's Spring Queen and was graduated with top honors, a BA degree in English, and a listing in "Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.'...".
Jeff Barry Works
A complete listing of songs written or co-written by Jeff Barry according to the BMI Repertoire Data Base. >>>presented by Broadcast Music Incorporated
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