Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mark Wirtz - Lost Pets 2

Today, 27 September 2011, is the official release date in America for the newest CD by singer/songwriter/producer Mark Wirtz, entitled Lost Pets 2.  All of the baker's dozen tracks were composed or co-composed by the artist, and LP2 is a collection that has "hit" written all over it, from the rocking, rollicking title cut "Lost Pets (Loose Ends)" to the wistful "I Need to Fall In Love" (co-written by Jim David, the son of legendary Brill Building composer Hal David, and "Elusive Butterfly" composer/singer Bob Lind); from the energetic, electric-guitar-laden "Sindee" to the excruciatingly romantic "For Just You."

Mark Wirtz first came to prominence during the 1960s, after he moved from his native Germany to London, became an Englishman, and began working at the fabled Abbey Road Studios (then called EMI Studios) alongside Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick.  By 1966 Wirtz had written, produced and arranged "A Touch of Velvet - A Sting of Brass" which was released under the name Mood Mosaic and subsequently became the signature tune of Radio Caroline's deejay Dave Lee Travis.  In 1967, Keith West recorded "Excerpt From a Teenage Opera (Grocer Jack)," which he co-wrote along with Wirtz and which Wirtz produced and arranged.  These two songs remain among Wirtz's most well known efforts; but they are far from his only efforts.  With the exception of some fifteen years away from the music business while raising his daughter as a single parent during the '80s and '90s, Mark Wirtz has been a working arranger, producer, songwriter and singer ever since he first set foot in EMI Studios (which, as it happens, was on the same day in 1962 when The Beatles were auditioning for George Martin).  During the last several years, Wirtz has realized a long-held dream by adding stand-up comedy work to his list of accomplishments.

In the late 1970s, Mark Wirtz began work on an album, Lost Pets, but the project was abandoned when two of his band-mates, Jeff Poccaro and David Hungate, departed to record and tour with their newly successful group, Toto.  Tracks from the "lost" Lost Pets album were subsequently released on two CDs: Kitschinsync: The Hollywood Years, Vol. 1 - 1971-82 and Dreamer of Glass Beach: The Hollywood Years, Vol. 2 - 1971-82.  A few years later, in 2005, Wirtz released the delightful collection Love Is Eggshaped.  The most recent Wirtz release up to now had been Wirtz and Music, which is a reissue of Maestro Wirtz's albums, Latin A Go-Go and Smooth and EasyLost Pets 2 brings Wirtz full circle, in a sense; for, as Wirtz points out on the CD booklet: "Only by returning to where we lost ourselves can we hope to find ourselves again."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week of 26 September 2011 - Arrivals and Departures

Birthdays for the week of September 26 - October 2:

26 - Craig Chaquico (Jefferson Starship), 1954; Olivia Newton-John, 1948; Bryan Ferry, 1945; Lynn Anderson, 1947
27 - Meatloaf, 1947; Randy Bachman (BTO / Guess Who), 1943
28 - Nick St. Nicholas (Steppenwolf), 1943
29 - Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), 1948; Mike Pinera (Iron Butterfly), 1948; Jerry Lee Lewis, 1935; Tommy Boyce (Boyce & Hart), 1939 (died 1994)
30 - Marilyn McCoo (5th Dimension), 1943; Johnny Mathis, 1935; Cissy Houston, 1933; Frankie Lymon, 1942 (died 1968); Marc Bolan, 1947 (died 1977)
02 Oct - Sting, 1951; Don McLean, 1945

In remembrance of those who left us:

26 Sep 2003 - Robert Palmer
27 Sep 1979 - Jimmy McCulloch (Wings)

Did I forget anybody?  If so, please let me know in the Comments.

Thank you and have a nice week!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week of 19 September 2011 - Arrivals and Departures

Birthdays for the week of September 19 - 25:

19 - Lol Creme (10cc), 1947; Bill Medley (Righteous Brothers), 1940; "Mama" Cass Elliot, 1941 (died 1974); Otis Redding, 1941 (died 1967); Brook Benton, 1931 (died 1988)
21 - Don Felder (The Eagles), 1947
22 - Joan Jett, 1960; Debby Boone, 1956
23 - Bruce Springsteen, 1949; Julio Iglesias, 1943; Ben E. King, 1938; Ron Bushy (Iron Butterfly), 1945; Ray Charles, 1930 (died 2004)
24 - Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers), 1942; Linda McCartney, 1941 (died 1998)
25 - Dee Dee Warwick, 1945 (died 1998)

In remembrance of those who left us:

19 Sep 1973 - Gram Parsons
19 Sep 2009 - Arthur Ferrante
20 Sep 1973 - Jim Croce
25 Sep 1980 - John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

Did I forget anybody?  If so, please let me know in the Comments.

Thank you and have a nice week!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Arrivals and Departures - Week of September 12. 2011

Birthdays for the week of September 12 - 18:

12 - Gerry Beckley (America), 1952; George Jones, 1931; Barry White, 1944 (died 2003)
13 - Peter Cetera, 1944; David Clayton Thomas (Blood Sweat & Tears), 1941; Dave Quincy (Manfred Mann's Earth Band), 1939
14 - John 'Bowzer' Bauman (Sha Na Na), 1947
15 - Lee Dorman (Iron Butterfly), 1945
16 - Bernard Calvert (the Hollies), 1943; B.B. King, 1925; Kenny Jones  (The Who), 1948
17 - LaMonte McLemore (the 5th Dimension), 1940
18 - Kerry Livgren (Kansas), 1949; Frankie Avalon, 1940

In remembrance of those who left us:

12 Sep 2003 - Johnny Cash
15 Sep 2008 - Rick Wright (Pink Floyd)
16 Sep 1977 - Marc Bolan
16 Sep 2009 - Mary Travers (Peter, Paul & Mary)
18 Sep 1970 - Jimi Hendrix

Did I forget anybody?  If so, please let me know in the Comments.

Thank you and have a nice week!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Jerry Leiber, R.I.P.

On August 22, 2011, the voice of Jerry Leiber was stilled forever.  Yet, although Mr. Leiber was a legend in the world of music, it was not his voice for which he was best known, but his words.  Jerry Leiber (on the left in the book cover graphic above) was the lyrics half of the legendary songwriting team Leiber and Stoller.  Even those unfamiliar with either name are surely familiar with their music, with the possible exception of those who have been hiding under a rock for the last sixty years.

Actually, it was sixty-one years ago, to be exact, when the 17-year-old Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller first met.  Within just a few years, the partners already had a couple of hits under their composers' belt, most notably "Kansas City" (aka "K.C. Loving") and "Hound Dog," by Wilbert Harrison and Big Mama Thornton, respectively.  Before the decade was over, the Leiber and Stoller team would pen a number of songs that would go on to become classics, for groups such as The Drifters ("Fools Fall In Love"), The Coasters ("Charlie Brown," "Poison Ivy," "Yakety Yak"), and The Cheers ("Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots").  They also wrote several tunes for Elvis Presley after Presley made their "Hound Dog" one of his earliest hits (Presley's version was based on that of Freddie Bell, who'd changed a few of its lyrics for his own recording of it in 1955; by all accounts, Leiber was not pleased with the revised lyrics).  Among the Leiber/Stoller tunes that became hits for Elvis were "Loving You," "Jailhouse Rock," and "Don't."

During the 1950s and 1960s, it was impossible to turn on the radio without hearing a Leiber/Stoller song.  Yet it didn't end there.  Over the course of their partnership, which lasted from their initial meeting in 1950 until the day Leiber passed away, the duo gave the world an enduring catalog of songs, songs that are still widely broadcast and performed.  As record-label owners and producers, they had their talented hands in many other hits as well, including several by The Dixie Cups ("Chapel of Love;" "Iko Iko") and Jay and The Americans ("She Cried").

Jerry Leiber, along with Mike Stoller, was the recipient of a number of awards and honors during his lifetime, including the duo's induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1985); the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987); the National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement Award (1996); and the NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) Trustees Award (1999).

In 1995, a musical revue, Smokey Joe's Cafe, showcasing the songs of Leiber and Stoller, opened on Broadway, where it ran for more than 2,000 performances.  Smokey Joe's Cafe presented 39 Leiber/Stoller tunes with no dialogue and no unifying theme; the music was enough to make the show a hit.  During its run, there were special appearances by several name artists, including Gladys Knight, Tony Orlando, and Rick Springfield.  Its cast recording earned the team a Grammy Award in 1996.

In 2001, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller appeared in the A&E Network's presentation Hitmakers: The Teens Who Stole Pop Music.  And, in 2009, Leiber and Stoller's autobiography, Hound Dog, written with David Ritz, was published.  The video series (which includes the dedicated episode Words and Music by Leiber & Stoller in addition to the duo's appearance in the 90-minute series opener) and the book give the world an opportunity to get to know these two talented gentlemen through their own words and thoughts and first-hand observations, as do this Rolling Stone interview from 1990 and this Fresh Air audio interview on NPR from 1991.

And that isn't all there is.  According to this writeup on The Guardian (UK), Leiber and Stoller had been in the process of working with writer Michael Bywater on a musical about the life of Oscar Wilde, and eleven brand-new, never-before-heard songs had already been written by the team prior to Leiber's death.  Stoller and Bywater are hoping to premiere the musical in 2012.  Thanks to Stoller's decision to push forward with the project, we may not have heard the last of Mr. Leiber.

Whatever else happens, though, we have an enduring legacy from the pen of Jerry Leiber, whose lyrics so brilliantly merged with Mike Stoller's music that we can hear one of their songs for the first time (if that's at all possible) and feel as though we've always known it.  And who among us hasn't sung along with their great tunes?  Who among us hasn't heard "Yakety Yak" and chimed in with the response "Don't talk back"?  Or theatrically whined, "Why is everybody always picking on me?" in sympathy with "Charlie Brown"?  How many of us don't know what's coming when we hear the opening chords of "On Broadway" or the first few bars of "Ruby Baby" or that familiar riff that starts off "Jailhouse Rock"?  It doesn't matter whether or not we were even born when the songs originated; they're as much a part of our lives as the air we breathe.  And thanks to people like Jerry Leiber, that air is a lot sweeter than it would have been had this man not graced the planet.

Jerry Leiber's voice may not be with us any longer, but his words will live forever.

Recommended Music:

The Leiber & Stoller Story Volume 1: Hard Times - The Los Angeles Years, 1951-1956
The Leiber & Stoller Story Volume 2: On The Horizon, 1956-1962

The Leiber & Stoller Story Volume 3: Shake 'Em Up & Let 'Em Roll, 1962-1969

Related Websites:

Jerry Leiber on Legacy.com
Leiber & Stoller official website
Leiber & Stoller Wikipedia page

Additional Writeups and Obits:

Jerry Leiber, Prolific Writer of 1950s Hits, Dies at 78 (NY Times obit)
Jerry Leiber dies at 78; lyricist in songwriting duo Leiber and Stoller (LA Times obit)
Songwriter Jerry Leiber Dies at 78 (Rolling Stone)
Some Cats Know: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Legacy of Jerry Leiber - Part I and Part II (Pop Culture Cantina)
'Master of songwriting' Jerry Leiber dies (BBC news; features audio of Peter Stoller remembering his father's longtime songwriting partner)
Jerry Leiber appreciation: A songwriter who helped change pop music (Pop & Hiss: The L.A. Times music blog)