late 1970, I left my band called Nineteen Eighty Four (1984)
to pursue a solo career. Our producer, Tommy Coe, had
tried for months without success to secure us a record deal.
I thought I needed a change and asked Tommy to produce me
as a solo artist and the other members of the band separately.
Tommy wanted us to stay together so he declined to do it that
way. I had a demo tape of 10 of my songs which wound
up in the hands of Art Brambila, who was working in the advertising
department at Capitol Records at the time. He was very
articulate and a good salesman. He began to shop my
demo and got interest from two major labels. One was
Warner Brothers and the other was Lou Adler's Ode Records,
then distributed by A&M Records. Art and I decided
to go with Ode. Lou Adler was already a legendary producer,
having produced hit records for the Mamas & the Papas,
Carole King, and many others. I had a meeting with Adler
and we seemed to hit it off pretty well, although at the tender
age of twenty one I was pretty green to be dealing with a
man of Lou Adler's experience and stature.
On February 9, 1971, I arrived at A&M Studios in Hollywood,
California to cut the basic tracks for my first solo 45 rpm
single, to be produced by Lou Adler and released on Ode Records.
As fate would have it, in the morning of the same day the
infamous Sylmar earthquake occurred. It was the biggest
and most violent earthquake I'd ever experienced. It
shook my house violently and shook me up in the process.
I wasn't sure the session was going to happen under the circumstances,
but it was decided to go ahead with it. I grabbed my
Les Paul Custom guitar and Fender Super Reverb amplifier and
headed north on the 101 freeway for my 20 minute drive to
Hollywood from Monterey Park, California. When I arrived
at studio A, I was greeted by Lou Adler and his engineer,
Hank Cicalo. Soon to arrive were drummer Hal Blaine,
who was at the time the number one studio drummer in the business,
and bassist Joe Osborne, also a top-notch studio musician.
Hal and Joe had played on many hit records together and separately.
I was impressed when Hal Blaine's cartage company showed up
with his drum set, marked set #3, and proceeded to set it
up for Blaine just the way he likes it. This was the
"big time" and a bit of a shock to my system.
Joe and Hal were very nice to me and showed no airs at all.
The basic tracks were to include only Hal, Joe and me.
I played the songs for them and they wrote out some quick
charts. On this day we cut the basic track to my song
"Lila, Love Me Tonight." It was thrilling
to play with them and I marveled at their sound, timing, and
precision. The next day, February 10th, we all got together
again and cut the basic tracks for two more of my songs, "Dare
I Touch You, Marylou?" and "Tugboat Tommy."
The latter song was written for and about my former producer,
Tommy Coe, who had been a tugboat captain in Florida.
The following day, Thursday, February 11th, I came in alone
to do piano, organ, and guitar overdubs, in addition to rough
vocals on all three tracks.
On Tuesday and Wednesday of the next week, February 16th and
17th, I did the lead vocals on the three tracks. The
next step in the recording process was to add strings, horns,
and background vocals. Lou Adler had hired the
legendary Marty Paich, the father of David Paich of Toto, to
do string and horn arrangements. On Friday, February
19th, I arrived at the studio to hear a large string
section, about 20 strong, overdub their parts on "Lila, Love
Me Tonight" and "Dare I Touch You, Marylou?." It was
quite an experience for me to see and hear top-notch
musicians playing a first-class arrangement to my songs.
It was particularly ironic that one of the twenty or so
musicians in the string section was a music teacher I'd had
a problem with when I was a student at Garfield High School
in East L.A. about four years earlier. At the time, I
was playing guitar in the orchestra pit band for our senior
play. At a rehearsal, while he was talking I whispered
a harmless comedic comment to a musician sitting next to me
in the band. The teacher assumed I'd said something
negative about him and flew off the handle. He
practically dragged me off to the principal's office and I
had the distinct feeling he wanted to do me physical harm.
He was that mad. To make matters worse, I think he
thought I had said a curse word, which I hadn't. So
now a few years later, he's part of a string section playing
on my recording session. He probably recognized me and
my name on the sheet music, but didn't acknowledge me. I didn't acknowledge him
either, but I got a measure of satisfaction from how things
had worked out. Next a horn section was overdubbed,
consisting of saxophones, trombones, and trumpets. They
overdubbed parts to the aforementioned two songs. What
happened next was my first glimpse of what the "big time"
was like. Even though these great musicians were being
paid at least union scale and the Marty Paich arrangements
cost the record company a lot of money, Lou Adler decided
the horn section didn't work for the songs and scrapped them!
The next day background vocals
were added. I was honored to have Merry Clayton, Darlene
Love, and a third female vocalist (who's name I can't recall),
then known as The Blossoms, on my record. Merry Clayton
had sung on "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones
and Darlene Love's voice had graced Phil Spector classics
such as "He's a Rebel" and "Da Do Ron Ron."
At some point, vibes were added to "Lila, Love Me Tonight"
to great effect. The 45 rpm single was released on Ode
Records in the spring of 1971.
Hanging around at A&M studios, where Lou Adler had his
office, offered me an opportunity to meet and be in the presence
of some incredible artists. I met Carole King, Don Everly
of the Everly Brothers, Merry Clayton, and Herb Alpert.
I also saw Joan Baez, Cat Stevens, and Karen Carpenter at
various times in offices or on the lot. At one point
I just missed meeting Joni Mitchell and James Taylor who were
recording in the studio next to the one in which I was working.
Lou Adler casually said to me, "Have you met James yet?
I said I hadn't so he took me to where they were recording.
Unfortunately, they were at lunch. It was a heady time
for a 21 year old from East L.A.