November 29, 2006
No, it’s not ex-Congressman Mark Foley about to turn a new Page.. it’s Howdy Doody and “Buffalo” Bob Smith!
I’ve known about the power of television since I was seven years old, and charged other kids five cents to watch “Howdy Doody” at my uncle’s, who had the only set in the neighborhood! I also remember performing in grade school every wednesday at “Show and Tell”, with jokes I learned the previous night from my other uncle, “Uncle Miltie”. In 1956, however, my whole world changed when I saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show! Up until then I wanted to become either a nuclear physicist or a clown…now I wanted to ROCK!
Unfortunately, I was a “Rebel Without Applause”, until I performed Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe”, at a High School talent show. Now the girls started paying attention to me. I don’t know if it was my Ed “Kookie” Byrnes cool way of talking or my red Elvis jacket, but even the neighborhood gangs started to respect me and would give me a head start before they’d chase me home from school! My role models were high school bon vivant, “Dobie Gillis” and “Love That Bob”Cummings, who portayed a photographer/ playboy. I even sucessfully used many of their characters outrageous “pick-up lines” that me got me close to some of the most beautiful girls in the world!
I was in for a big shock though when I got married and realized that real life wasn’t, “I Love Lucy”, and problems weren’t always solved in a half hour. Unfortunately, we wound up in “Divorce Court”…but fortunately for me, I lost the TV in the settlement! For the next 2 years, my creative abilities and productivity increased significantly. I no longer sat in the front of a tv set and watch negative stories on the news, or look at a sitcom, where the laugh track would tell me where to respond! I read, I bowled, I had actual conversations, and then I moved to Hollywood!
I was General Professional Manager at Viva music for two months before I learned how to drive. I guess I had too much time on my hands, and against my better judgement I bought my first color tv set. I was just like a recovering alcoholic, testing ing himself with just one drink…then craving a half dozen more! All I needed was one more game show, one more made for TV movie or one more talk show then, I’d be able to go to bed.
When it became no longer enough to watch TV…I had to Live TV! I started flirting with sitcom stars I’d run into at the Hollywood market, Anne ( “Honey West”) Francis, Denise ( “Room 222″) Nicholas, have dinner with Yvonne ( “Batgirl”) Craig, go dancing with Linda ( “Happy Days”) Purl or just hang out with Sissy ( “Love American Style”) Spacek. In case there would be trouble at some of the wild parties I went to, I made sure to be around TV tough guys like Michael ( “Streets Of San Francisco” ) Douglas, Bill ( “I Spy”) Cosby, Max ( “Beverly Hillbillies”) Baer and David ( “Kung Fu”) Carradine. It was during this time that I also became friendly with a couple of TV comedy writers who “appropriated” some of my real life stories and used them on “The Bobby Sherman Show”…the adventures of a songwriter! Instead of suing, I settled for a few of my songs to be used on the program.
Then I got bored with TV and all the bullshit that goes along with it, even relegated my set to a little used room in the house. That’s when my career started to flourish at Warner Brothers Music, which had recently bought Viva music. I didn’t pay much attention to television for the next ten years.
Then one day in 1982 I was invited to the launch of a new 24 hour cable music network, called MTV…and that’s when I saw the future! I’d been a fan of Scopitone, a european jukebox that played musical film clips, but I knew it could never succeed in the US because of the “stronghold” American jukebox operators had on the market. I looked at “this” MTV, not just as another place to promote music but as having the potential to become the primary means of delivering music to the masses!
In less than 25 years, MTV not only fufilled the prophecy, but actually helped to change the music itself. In the first few years the network played the ubiquitous videos of English artists, Duran Duran, David Bowie and Phil Collins, Austrailian artists Men At Work and whet the appetite of the American public for more of the same! In addition to music, fashion and slang started to travel around the world at a record pace, but it took Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album and a near boycott by CBS Records to break the color barrier at the network! Soon Lionel Ritchie and Billy Ocean were being played as much as Blondie and became regular staples of MTV.
For years , the network thrived on it’s legitimate pop content, then something odd happened. There were fewer and fewer music shows aired in favor of reality shows. After the success of “The Real World” ten years ago, the “Reality” floodgates opened. Today when we watch MTV and it’s sister network VHI, we see endless episodes of “Laguna Beach”, where horny teens fuck with each others heads, and “Punk’ed”, where Ashton Kutcher plays practical jokes that would get him an ass kicking in real life! Then we have “Next”, “Breaking Bonaduce”, ” Road Rules”, “Made”, “The Fabulous life of…”, “Flava’ Flav”, “Best Week Ever”, and “Celebrity Deathmatch”. The most obnoxious, though, is “Sweet Sixteen”, which feature rich little bitches-in-training conning their parents out of expensive sweet sixteen parties and lavish presents. It’s a series that’s an argument for an official sanction of corporal punishment!
As far as the music goes, when you can find it, most of the groups have a sameness about them. if you don’t look at the lower left hand corner of the screen you might mistake Panic at the Disco for the Killers, or All American Rejects. It’s just about impossible to tell what rap video you’re watching, since Kanye West, “Diddy”, Lil’ Jon and “Snoop” Dogg appear in almost all of them, as either a guest or a featured artist!.
It seems like most of the artists today are conciously making music to please corporations and music directors who have narrow taste and program for an audience who prefers not to think too far outside their electronic boxes. I’ve read studies on how too much TV eventually overwhelms the viewer and diminishes productivity. I don’t want to be lulled into complacency, so I’ve decided never to watch MTV again…after I see the finale of “Laguna Beach!”
Copyright 2006 by Artie Wayne
If you want to hear a recording that Terry Mace and I wrote and perform called “You’re in a coma with EMPTY -V” click onto http://artiewayne.com/music/coma.wma
Special thanks to Alan O’Day http://alanoday.com for helping with the re-mix
September 23, 2006
Although Motown had been having hits produced in Hollywood for the Jackson Five and Michael Jackson, the move to the West Coast from Detroit allowed Motown more time and money to develop new artists, like the Commodores, Lionel Ritchie, and Thelma Houston, songwriters like Michael Masser, Patti Dahlstrom, and Clifton Davis. The producers that came into their own during that time, included Freddie Perren, Deke Ritchards, Fonse Mizell, Hal Davis, Jerry Marselleno and Mel Larson. Only a handful of those who had hits back in Detroit were able to make a successful transition. the first was Marvin Gaye, who initially met with resistance from Gordy when he delivered his landmark album, “What’s Going On’?” Berry wanted to continue his persuit of “The Sound Of Young America”, making “crossover” singles that dominated the charts. Marvin, on the other hand, wanted to push the envelope with a socially relevant concept album. My friend, Jobete staff writer Al Cleveland, told me that when he heard Marvin working on a new track in the studio, he stuck his head in the door and asked, “What’s Going On?” This led to their collaboration on a song that defined a generation!
Although I was General Manager and Director of Services for Warner Brothers music, I was up at Motown so often people thought I worked there. I would sit in the outer office flirting with the receptionist, waiting to see what producer or artist would walk in next. I remember meeting writer producer Norman Whifield (“I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, ” Cloud 9″) that way. After briefly, but enthusiastically, discussing his body of work he invited me into his office to listen to a track he was starting to work on. I sat there and listened to a track for twelve minutes that consisted of only of an electric bass and percussion and was a bit confused. I asked him if there was a song that went along with it? He started the track again…and sang, “Papa was a Rolling Stone”
Around the same time I cornered Freddie Perren in an elevator, who was cutting Jermaine Jackson and convinced him to cut a Warner Brothers standard, “I Only Have Eyes For You”. I also got Hal Davis to produce “I Want To Be Happy”, from the Broadway revival of “No, No Nannete” for Michael Jackson, which eventually went to newcomer Lionel Ritchie.
Although I was starting to get cuts…they they were slow to be released. Ed Silvers, President of WB Music, thought I was spending too much time at Motown and doubted I’d ever get any of our new material covered. I couldn’t give up now, so in an accelerated effort I got Hal Davis to cut “Doctor My Eyes”, which Jackson Browne wrote and Michael Jackson took to the top ten in the U.K. As my friendship grew with Jerry Marselino and Mel Larson, who produced a top ten hit with Michael on “Rockin’ Robin”, I suggested that they cut as a follow up, “Little Bitty Pretty One”, which I had no interest in. I knew for certain that I had their attention when it became a hit…but I wanted to wait for the right opportunity to present them with an original song that I really wanted them to cut.
In the meantime, over the next few weeks Norman Whitfield let me hear “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, in it’s various stages of development. There were layers of vocals put on and taken off, sections editited or deleted, countless re-mixes, and finally the last step…the mysterious mastering that set Motown apart from all the rest! That’s when I met Iris Gordy, head of Quality control, who allowed me to watch and listen as she performed her magic!
The Temptations classic was finally released and zoomed up the charts. I remember running into Norman Whitfield in the lobby of Motown, the day the song hit number one on the Billboard charts. He was livid that he had written and produced another smash for Motown…and Berry Gordy hadn’t even called to congratulate him…it was never like this back in Detroit!
Berry’s new aspirations, producing films and his obsession with making Diana Ross a movie star, brought new problems along with new priorities. For the first time in Motown’s history his relationship with everone he had worked with at the label seemed to be on shakey ground! (to be continued)
September 3, 2006
top l-r Ed Silvers, Tony Byrne, Mel Bly… bottom l-r Artie Wayne and Stephen – Craig Aristei
Back in 1972, I moved to Hollywood, became General Professional Manager and Director of Creative Services at Warner Brothers Music. I headed up a group of seven relentless songpluggers, I named “The Warner Raiders”, who would go to any lengths to get one of our companies songs recorded.
There was a kid in the mailroom that had the same fire in his eye as David Geffen had, when he was in a similar position at the William Morris agency. Stephen Craig Aristei would work hard, ask questions of everybody and stay late in the office listening to songs in the vast catalog. Ed Silvers, president of the company, and I welcomed him to our staff meetings where he would make astute casting suggestions and be treated like one of the “Warner Raiders”.
We all knew that he had the potential, but I didn’t have the budget, to hire another “Raider”. One day, Ed called me into his office and told me that we had to get cover records from the show that was just revived on Broadway, “No, No Nanette”. I looked at him like he was crazy … and asked if that meant I should try to get Michael Jackson to cut “Tea For Two”? He glare and said, “You’re the Director of Creative Services … be creative!”
Craig and I listened to the score over and over, and we decided that I should update the song “I Want To Be Happy” and submit it to Motown. I gave my piano voice demo to the late Hal Davis at Motown, who cut the track for Michael Jackson.
A week later, when I went to Mowest studios, found him putting an unknown Lionel Ritchie on the track!! Hal, an imposing bear of a man, saw that I was freaking out over the “switch”, grabbed me and threw me across the recording console, warned me that if I got anyone else to record the song, I would have to answer to him!!
I quietly got up, brushed myself off and went back and locked myself in my office. That night, Craig and I sent out dozens of copies of “I Want To Be Happy” to everyone I could possibly think of!! Nobody Fucks with the Warner Raiders!!
A few days later, I hired a dancer, the actress Teri Garr, to join Tony, Craig (who would carry a boombox, playing “Tea For Two” and “Happy”), a limo and a camera-bearing limo driver, who would capture us promoting “No, No Nanette” in the offices of Mo Ostin, Joe Smith, Jerry Moss, Artie Vallando, Mike Curb and Jimmy Bowen.
On the morning of the promotion, Teri Garr, the dancer, is a no-show, at which point Stephen Craig Aristei jumps in and says, “I can dance!!”. I got down from the window ledge and said, “If you dance today …you’ll be a “Warner Raider” tomorrow!!
Well, Craig became a “Warner Raider”…and “I Want To Be Happy” was cut by Sammy Davis, Jr. and wound up on the b-side of his million selling, “Candy Man”! Over the years Craig has become one of “Unsung Heroes” of our business, and one of the best song men I’ve ever known!
Copyright 2012 by Artie Wayne
To reach Stephen -Craig Aristei https://www.facebook.com/stephencraig.aristei?fref=ts#