Trade Martin and Al Gorgoni listen to a playback.
After the impromptu interview I had with Songwriter/ Producer/ Artist Trade Martin who was a guitarist on many of Phil Spector’s legendary sessions, I realized there was much more to the story…
Although I’ve known Trade since he was one of most in demand session guitarists in New York, I didn’t work with him very often because he was always booked up! In addition to being an excellent musician, part of why he became so popular among producers in the 60’s and 70’s was the fact that he was constantly singing and playing in Rock and Roll Bands in the tri-state area and he not only knew how the ever changing hits on top 40 radio sounded…he knew how they were constructed.
The first time I worked with Trade, was in 1964, just before I took my first trip to London. I had become bored with the American Music scene and became enamored of what I heard coming out of the UK. I had written a song with Ben Raleigh (”Tell Laura I Love Her”, “Wonderful, Wonderful”) and Danny Jordan (The Detergents) called, “When She Was What She Was”, which was more of a Gerry and the Pacemakers song than a song for Dion.
When I heard Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni’s production of a song Trade wrote for Evie Sands, “Take Me For A Little While”, I was overwhelmed by his songwriting abilities which equaled his musical skills!. When we sat down to plan out my session and I played him my song and he added chords and changes I was only hearing on English hits. The tracks turned out great but I was disappointed in my own vocal. When I came back from England I put my vocal on again, this time with a pronounced English accent and sold the master to Coed records where it was released under the pseudonym Terry Boyd. This was the same label where Trade was signed, that released his classic “That Stranger Used To Be My Girl”.
Although he’s written and scored films, has been nominated for “Clios” for his work in commercials, and received praise for his productions of B.B.King, including the Grammy winning, “Live at San Quentin Album”, his passion for self-expression remains at an all time high as he continues to perform regularly and write and record on a daily basis.
When we reconnected a couple of weeks ago, I became more accutely aware of the part he and his guitar played in the hit making process of some of greatest record producers of our time including Phil Spector, Leiber and Stoller, Bert Berns, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Jerry Ross, Jerry Wexler and Burt Bacharach. I didn’t know Trade played on, “Cherry, Cherry”, By Neil Diamond, “Chapel Of Love” by the Dixie Cups, “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers, as well dozens of others he casually rattled off.
As I scrambled to turn my tape recorder on, I started to ask him questions about what I thought every member of Spectropop might want to know.
AW- The stories about Phil Spector working at Gold Star on Hollywood are legendary, but very little is known about his sessions in New York. How did you first get together with Phil?
TM- I was working at the time with Jeff and Ellie, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Phil Spector’s contractor heard about me and called me up. He said Phil wanted to meet me, so I made an appointment to see him up at Liberty records. You recorded for Liberty didn’t you?
AW- (Laughs) Yeah, briefly. That’s where I met Phil too…he was on the A+R staff.
TM- The contractor told me to bring my guitar to the meeting, so I brought my white fender guitar.
AW- Did you bring an amplifier…or did he have one?
TM- No…no ( laughs) You could hardly hear the sound, but if you listened close enough you could hear it. I didn’t know it at the time, but Phil was a guitar player himself and he studied with Barney Kessel.
AW- Phil played the guitar solo on the Drifters record, “On Broadway”
TM- Right! I caught him playin’ in the studio one day…you know a lot of jazzy stuff. I was a Jazz oriented guitar player myself.
AW- Tell me more about your meeting.
TM- I remember him sitting behind a big desk, and I was on a couch across from him. Our whole meeting wasn’t longer than 6 or 7 minutes. As I pulled out my guitar, he asked what kind of stuff I liked to play? I told him that I played in a night club, and I knew all the solos by Scotty Moore, Carl Perkins…guys like that. At that point he asked, If I knew the intro to “Maybelline” by Chuck Berry? I smiled, and started playing it. He said I’d be hearing from his contractor.
AW- Which you obviously did.
TM- I played on almost every session he did in New York. He found out that I had this D28 Martin Herringbone Dreadnaught acoustic guitar and after he heard it, he always wanted me to play it on his sessions. I specifically remember one session I played it on it, it was at Mirasound with Brooks Arthur engineering. Phil usually used 2 or 3 pianos on his dates. on this one, Carole King was on an upright piano, as I remember, Paul Griffin was on a grand piano and Jerry, Phil’s contractor, was on another.
AW- And what song was this?
TM- “He Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss” by the Crystals
TM- Phil wanted me to play 16th notes all the way through the track, fortunately I play the drums, so I was able keep that rhythm up! I used to sit right in front of Gary Chester who played drums on most of Phil’s dates.
AW- Gary’s one of the most innovative drummers I ever worked with…you could recognize him on every record he played on!
TM- He’s the best…and what a nice guy!
AW- I’ve been to a couple of overdubbing sessions of Phils but never a tracking session. Tell me more…who were the other musicians?
TM- There was Carl Lynch on Electric Guitar, Billy Butler on another electric and percussionist, George Devins.
AW- And on bass?
TM- Bob Bushnell was on electric and Russ Savakus or Dick Romoff was on stand up. Phil always liked to use two basses on his tracks.
AW- I worked with all those guys, but I never knew that they were the foundation of the “Wall of Sound”…Great musicians and incredible positive vibes! I heard that once a track was done, Phil would have the musicians double it…to give it his signature sound.
TM- I’ve heard he did things like that…but never on any session I’ve been on.
AW – Did you notice any unusual recording techniques?
TM- One day I walked into the studio and Phil, who could be a little off the wall, as you know (laughs), was listening to a playback the control room at full volume. Outside of the glass, Brooks had placed two Neuman mikes which he was recording on two of the master tracks, as it was playing back. They were trying to get as much sound through the glass as they could…which would later be mixed in with the basic tracks! It sounded like a “Live” digital delay. He was a very innovative guy! Sometimes he’d try something that didn’t work…but that would never stop him from always trying something new!
AW- And Brooks was there to capture it…encouraging Phil to go farther.
AW- After the basic tracks were done were you called back to do any overdubbing?
TM- No, Phil got everything he wanted from the musicians on the basics and probably only overdubbed strings and horns…maybe some little percussion things like maracas or castanets, at a later time.
AW- Yeah…They all sound so isolated…adding another dimension to his records! Another brick in the “Wall Of Sound” Did you ever do any work with him at Olmstead studios?
TM- The only place I ever worked in with Phil was Mirasound.
AW- And the engineer was always Brooks?
AW- What other of Phil’s hits did you play on?
TM- I remember playing on a lot of Crystals records…but I didn’t play on “Uptown”. Whenever he’d do a session in New York, I was on the date. Most of his biggest hits, like “Be My Baby” with the Ronnettes, were cut in California.
AW- Yes, at Gold Star. Since he was recording on both coasts at the same time, my guess is he chose the place that could best capture the mood of the songs. “He Hit Me And It Felt Like a Kiss” sounds like it needed the edginess of New York musicians.
TM- Not to mention that he could get one of the composers (Carole King) to play piano on the date! I remember there was a lot of controversy when that song came out. Most of the time I didn’t even know what song we were doing…we were handed chord sheets and just concentrated on making the tracks.
AW- That’s wild!
TM – I never even heard the finished record until it had become a hit!
AW- Trade…Thanks for this impromptu interview. I know you’ve got to run off to a session.
TM- My pleasure…anytime!
Copyright 2007 by Artie Wayne http://artiewayne.com
Although I had some more questions I gathered from Spectropop to ask him on various aspects of his career I decided to wait for another time. I just wanted Trade to finish up the story he started telling me about Phil Spector.
Trade is currently putting the finishing touches on a four disc CD that features new material, as well as compilation of his early American Hits and Northern Soul Favorites! As soon as it becomes available, I’ll announce it on Spectropop.
To reach Trade Martin http://trademartinmusic.co
Thanks to Dave Monroe for Evie Sands performing ,”Take Me For A Little While” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZTG-5brNII
Special thanks to Jeff Rubin for reconnecting me with Trade.