NEIL BOGART 2/3/43 – 5/8/82

Neil Bogart, was one of a few heads of a record company I’ve ever known whose own personal taste in Pop music dictated what he would buy, promote and eventually make a hit out of! I was always amazed at the diverse hits he had that reached the top of the charts. “96 Tears”, “Green Tambourine”, “Brand New Key”, “Midnight Train To Georgia”, “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”, “Chewy, Chewy”, “Oh Happy Day”, “Love To Love You Baby”, “Last Dance”, “I Love Rock And Roll”, “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me”, “The Worst That Could Happen” and “I Want To Rock And Roll All Night”, were just a few of them!

I first met Neil Bogart, when he was known as Neil Scott, dancing on Alan Freed’s afternoon show in New York. I always believed that it was his love of dance music combined with knowing a good song, that kept him ahead of his competitors, who were more interested in the bottom line.

The first time I did business with Neil, was in 1967 when he was running Cameo-Parkway records and had Question Mark and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears” at number one. He bought a master Mark Barkan ( “She’s A Fool”, “Pretty Flamingo”) and I made and released it under the name “The Third Rail”. Although it wasn’t a hit, it gave me a chance to hang out in his office, where I could witness the process of how his hits were made.

When Cameo started to implode through bad management and stock manipulation, Irving Green, the owner of Mercury and Smash records, as well as my silent partner in a publishing and administration firm, asked me do him a favor. He wanted me to introduce him to my friend Neil, who was running the label and Bob Reno, who was running the publishing company. He wanted to get them both to come over to Mercury, but Neil and Bob wound up going to Buddah Records instead.

The next time I worked with Neil, was when my partner Kelli Ross and I were running Joey Levine and Artie Resnick’s publishing companies. Their first million seller was “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”, a demo sung by Joey by the Ohio Express in 1968. This was the idea of Jeff Kaznetz and Jerry Katz, who executive produced the dates to have Joey start singing lead on most of their records. They loved Joey’s commercial, young sounding voice with a Rock and Roll edge and those great tracks he and Artie produced, so they released single after single using different names of actual groups they had under contract. When a record became a hit, the real group went on the road to promote it. Neil Bogart, head of Buddah records, encouraged the concept and put out a string of hit singles “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”, “Chewy, Chewy” by the Ohio Express, “Shake ” by the Shadows of Knight”, “Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin”, By Crazy Elephant”, Run , Joey Run” by the Kaznetz-Katz singing orchestral circus, and dozens of other singles for Buddah.

n 1969, Horizon was a group that was signed to Schwaid/Merenstein productions. My pal, Lou Merenstein, asked me if I like to produce the group, which I thought was as good as the Association. I didn’t like any of the songs they had. I told him that I’d keep the group in mind, if I had any ideas. A few weeks later, after hearing that Brian Jones, who I had hung out with on my first trip to the U.K. had drowned in his swimming pool, I put together a medley of Rolling Stone songs and told Lou that I had an idea for a concept record called “Tribute” that started with a chorus of monks slowly singing “Paint it Black” in Latin…while a Cello was playing the guitar riff from “Satisfaction” (which Brian Jones created)…which evolved into an uptempo “Ruby Tuesday”…with a mixed chorale and most of the N.Y. Philharmonic Orchestra!!

He loved the idea and gave me Carte Blanche in the studio, if I could finish it up fast and get it on the market!!!. I taught Horizon the parts that afternoon, that night I dictated the parts for the orchestra to an arranger and we were in the studio the next day…doing final mixes that night.

The next morning I took the master to Lou Merenstein’s office and played it for him. He started screaming, “I don’t believe it…I don’t believe it!!! It’s a masterpiece!!” With tears in his eyes he handed me the award he received from Rolling Stone for having produced the album of the year, Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and said, “You deserve this !!!” (this was the exact moment I became a legend in my own mind.)

Lou called Neil Bogart, who was head of Buddah records , as he was rushing off to the airport. Lou played Neil the record over the phone, and when it was over Lou kept saying, “Hello….Hello…..”, to no one at the end of the line. We just shrugged our shoulders and kept playing “Tribute” over and over. 10 minutes later Buddah’s lawyer was in Lou’s office with a contract and a $10,000 check for the master!!! Neil couldn’t finish the conversation without missing his plane, but he had to have the record !!!

When they rush released it the following week, we were all positive that the record would go to number one! I was even bold enough to echo a statement of my hero, Phil Spector, “If this record isn’t a hit..I’ll NEVER produce again!!!” OK, it wasn’t a didn’t even make the charts…but I did have the decency to wait a few months before I produced again.”

(To Be Continued)

2011 by Artie Wayne