British Bubblegum: the Works of Tony Macaulay, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway
While most folks associate bubblegum music with American pop of the late ‘60s, quite a few of the genre’s most charming songs actually came from England. And, like their U.S. counterparts, many of these songs were recorded by bands that never existed. Part of the fun of being a bubblegum fan, in fact, is discovering how the same people appeared on so many different records. British singer Tony Burrows, for instance, sang on hits by four different fake bands in one year (Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” the Brotherhood of Man ‘s “United We Stand” and the Pipkins’ “Gimme Dat Ding”). Burrows’ dubious accomplishment has won him a fan following, but many of the men who worked with him are also beginning to achieve cult status.
The records of Tony Macaulay, the writer/producer of Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” and Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, the team responsible for White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin,” stand out particularly, evoking the high-gloss ersatz quality of British bubblegum at its finest. Sounding at once completely unique and yet exactly like everyone else, contemporary yet commonplace, producers like Macaulay and Cook/Greenaway filled a badly-needed niche for radio programmers tired of the likes of Sinatra and Mantovani, yet not ready for Hendrix and Joplin.
Unlike most American bubblegum, the British variant owed less to garage rock than to more traditional show-biz products. “Manufactured” artists under the tight control of their record labels were the norm. Government controlled British radio didn’t even open up to rock until 1967, and this was only in response to the insurgence of "pirate" stations broadcasting from ships in international waters. And even then, they preferred softer-edged, poppier sounds to the guitar groups spawned in the wake of the Beatles, still considered by some to be a fluke of little lasting consequence.
Tony Macaulay of Pye Records was one of the first wave of producers to benefit from the rise of BBC’s rock station, Radio One. Macaulay (born Anthony Instone) worked as a song plugger for Essex Publishing in the early ‘60s. By mid-decade, he had moved to Pye Records as a staff producer, where he was teamed with the Foundations. Unenthusiastic about the project, Macaulay and arranger John MacLeod presented the group with an unused song they had written two years earlier.
“Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” became Macaulay’s first hit, reaching the number one position in the U.K. and selling over 3 million copies worldwide. It took months to reach the charts, however, taking off in the fall of 1967 only after Radio One added the record to its playlists. The Foundations enjoyed a string of hits with Macaulay at the helm, including the proto-bubblegum “Build Me Up Buttercup” (co-written with Michael D’Abo). All of them owed an obvious debt to The Motown Sound, particularly that of the Four Tops. Ironically, in an interview from the period, Macaulay claimed, “We have managed to find a groove for the Foundations which is, we like to think, unique, and will continue to be developed and copied by other bands for a long time in the future.” Unfortunately for the Foundations, the band was forced to copy their sound all by themselves when Macaulay left Pye Records in 1969. They struggled along for a couple more years before they disbanded.
During his tenure at Pye, Macaulay also worked with Long John Baldry. A pivotal figure in the ‘60s British blues scene, by 1967 Baldry apparently hungered for mainstream acceptance. Macaulay and MacLeod concocted a series of recordings for him very much in the Tom Jones mold. “Let the Heartaches Begin” was Macaulay’s second U.K. \chart topper. Among their other notable records, the team also produced “Mexico (Underneath the Sun In)”, which was chosen as the official theme of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
In addition to his duties at Pye as a staff producer, Macaulay also wrote for Herman's Hermits (“I Can Take or Leave Your Lovin’”) and Jefferson (“Baby Take Me In Your Arms”) with John MacLeod. He also began to collaborate with Geoff Stephens (the guiding light behind the New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral” in 1965). Together, they wrote Scott Walker’s “Lights of Cincinnati” and the Hollies’ “Sorry Suzanne”.
In early 1968, Macaulay began working with Pinkerton’s (Assorted) Colours. He produced two singles for them, the Macaulay/MacLeod original “There's Nobody I'd Sooner Love” and a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman,” but neither record did much business. The following year, the group, renamed The Flying Machine, released Macaulay and Stephens’ “Smile a Little Smile For Me.” Though it initially flopped in Britain, the single took off in the U.S. The LP that followed was a rush-job that relied heavily on studio musicians, helping fuel the impression that the Flying Machine didn't actually exist. Adding to the confusion, a long-defunct band also named Flying Machine (featuring a young James Taylor) seized the opportunity to release some of their early recordings.
In the meantime, Macaulay left Pye for Bell Records. When the Flying Machine refused to follow him (choosing instead to honor their existing Pye contract), their collaboration ended and Macaulay found other artists to bestow his gifts upon. One of these was Tony Burrows, a singer who'd been working with another up-and-coming production team, Cook and Greenaway.
Burrows first worked with Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook in the Kestrels, a singing group that mostly provided vocal backgrounds for other artists in the recording studio. Though they never managed to score a hit of their own, they opened many tours with the Beatles, and hold the distinction of having taught the Fab Four how to bow in unison. Cook and Greenaway struck up a songwriting partnership, and soon afterward they scored their first hit with “You've Got Your Troubles” for the Fortunes. After the Kestrels disbanded, the two Rogers scored a hit of their own, a George Martin produced cover of the Beatles’ “Michelle,” under the names David and Jonathan.
The Cook/Greenaway songwriting partnership continued with Gary Lewis & the Playboys’ “Green Grass” and “I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman” by Whistlin' Jack Smith. “Batman” was actually recorded by the Mike Sammes Singers, but Decca Records decided to release it under a pseudonym. After the record charted, a singer was quickly hired to portray Jack. Cook and Greenaway also wrote material for Roger Cook's group, Blue Mink (“Melting Pot”), and supplied Coca-Cola with the famous “It’s the Real Thing” jingle.
Meanwhile, Tony Burrows had joined John Carter and Ken Lewis’ Ivy League, later following them when they quit that group to form a studio project called the Flower Pot Men. They scored one hit, “Let’s Go to San Francisco,” then disbanded shortly afterward. Their record label, Decca, wanted to release a handful of unreleased Flower Pot Men tracks under the name White Plains, so they hired Cook and Greenaway to prepare an album. Burrows signed on to supply lead vocals, and soon the group hit in 1970 with the Cook/Greenaway composition “My Baby Loves Lovin’.”
Burrows then teamed up with Tony Macaulay on the ultimate British bubblegum record, and perhaps the defining song of a generation, “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)”. Macaulay and Barry Mason (who’d written “Delilah” for Tom Jones) wrote “Rosemary” in just under an hour, but Macaulay was certain it would be a hit. So apparently was Burrows, who petitioned to have it released as a solo single under his own name. Macaulay instead concocted a fake group, Edison Lighthouse, hiring different musicians to act as the touring band.
Burrows agreed to do the television promotions, however, and soon he found himself appearing on the BBC’s Top of The Pops as not one but three of his four fake groups on the same night. After the show’s producers discovered what was going on, they asked that Burrows not appear on the program again. This informal blacklist helped stall his solo career. He released two dynamite Macaulay penned/produced discs shortly thereafter, “Melanie Makes Me Smile” and “Every Little Move She Makes,” but neither record met with much success. Burrows eventually went back to his studio work, reaching the Top 10 only once more, on 1974’s “Beach Baby” by yet another fake band, John Carter’s First Class.
Meanwhile, Macaulay supplied material for Pickettywitch, a group put together by John MacLeod to support singer Polly Brown. They had a Top 10 hit with Macaulay and MacLeod’s “That Same Old Feeling,” a tune that more than a half dozen groups had released unsuccessfully, including the Foundations, the Flying Machine and the Fortunes. They released several charting follow-ups, including Macaulay and MacLeod’s “Sad Old Kinda Movie,” before Polly Brown left the group for a solo career.
Macaulay also returned to his Motown style in 1970, with Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon’s “Blame it on the Pony Express” (a Top 10 record in England, though Bobby Sherman got the hit in the U.S.), and “Something Old, Something New” by the Fantasticks in 1971. Both songs were collaborations with Cook and Greenaway, as was 1971’s hit for the Fortunes, “Here Comes that Rainy Day Feeling Again,” and the Hollies’ “Gasoline Alley Bred.”
But much of Macaulay’s attention in the early ‘70s was diverted by a legal dispute with his publishers that dragged on in the courts for years. He finally won his case on appeal in 1974, in a landmark decision which encouraged other artists (Elton John among them) to challenge the terms of their contracts. By the time of his court victory, Macaulay had begun to write for musical theater. He collaborated with playwright Ken Hill on Is Your Doctor Really Necessary? in 1973 and on Gentlemen Prefer Anything the following year.
While Macaulay took his lumps in court, Cook and Greenaway meanwhile, reached their zenith. They were named Songwriters of the Year for both 1970 and 1971 by the British Songwriters Guild. Their hits from the period included “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” for the Hollies and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for the New Seekers (originally another jingle for Coca-Cola). In 1972, Roger Cook released the first of a series of solo albums, with songs like “Eating Peaches in the Sun” and “I’ll Bet Jesus was a Lonely Man” and began to steer a course completely unrelated to his pop work with Greenaway.
By mid-decade in fact, the partnership was all but over. One of their last hits together was Carol Douglas’ “Doctor's Orders,” which was originally written for the British singer Sunny. They sold their publishing company, Cookaway Music, and Roger Cook moved to Nashville. He began to contribute songs to country artists like Crystal Gayle (“Talking in Your Sleep”) and Don Williams (“I Believe in You,” “Love is On a Roll”). In 1997, Cook was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Greenaway continued working with pop artists like David Dundas (“Jeans On”) and Our Kids (“You Just Might See Me Cry”). He collaborated with Tony Macaulay on a series of hits with the Drifters (“You’re More Than a Number in My Little Red Book,” “Down on the Beach Tonight,” “Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies”) and wrote “It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye” for Crystal Gayle. But increasingly, he became more involved in administration, serving as president of Britain's Performing Rights Society. In 1995, he was named Senior Vice President, International, of ASCAP.
For Macaulay, the mid-’70s found him writing for middle-of-the-road artists like Elvis (“If I Get Home on Christmas Day,” “Love Me, Love the Life I Lead”), Tom Jones (“Letter to Lucille”), Andy Williams (“Home Lovin' Man”) and the Fifth Dimension (“Last Night I Couldn't Get to Sleep at All”). In 1976, he wrote and produced his best-known MOR hit, David Soul’s “Don’t Give Up On Us,” which reached #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. Two follow-up singles written and produced by Macaulay, “Silver Lady” and “Going In With Both Eyes Open,” also topped the U.K. charts.
Also in 1976, Macaulay and Greenaway collaborated with Adam West on something called “The Story of Batman”. But by the late 70s, the hits were becoming few and far between. The Marmalade scored one with Macaulay’s “Falling Apart at the Seams,” as did Duane Eddy with “Play Me Like you Play Your Guitar.” In 1977, Macaulay produced an album for Saturday morning television stars the Hudson Brothers. Though it garnered no hits, it did represent a passing of the torch of sorts, as Mark Hudson went on to work with the sticky sweet midwestern combo, Hanson.
Macaulay wound up the decade writing and producing tracks for Gladys Knight & the Pips, and his ballad “Can’t We Just Sit Down and Talk it Over” appeared on an album by Donna Summer, but by the end of the ‘70s, he had all but abandoned popular music for theater and film composition. He scored only one pop hit during the entire decade, “Alibis” by Sergio Mendes. His major musical project of the ‘80s was the theatrical production Windy City, which played over 300 performances in 1982.
Nowadays, Macaulay no longer makes his living as a songwriter, but the music world hasn’t forgotten him. In 1995, singer Alison Krauss took a version of “Baby, Now That I've Found You” to the top of the country charts, and “Build Me Up Buttercup” was featured prominently in the hit film There’s Something About Mary. His productions are readily available through reissue labels like Rhino (their Have a Nice Day series), Varèse Sarabande (the essential Bubblegum Classics CDs, one of which is entirely devoted to Tony Burrows), and Britain’s Castle Music’s Sequel imprint (a two-CD set of Pinkertons/ Flying Machine).
As the ‘60s and ‘70 recede further and further from view, interest in the kind of pop music produced by Macaulay and Cook/Greenaway continues to grow. What was once dismissed as purely disposable hackwork takes on a greater luster with the continuing passage of time, finally emerging as indisputable pop classics. Songs like “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” and “Smile A Little Smile For Me,” aside from their obvious kitsch appeal, can bring back memories and feelings that the more accepted “classic hits” are powerless to evoke. Like all great bubblegum, these records need not merely be rescued from the ash can of obscurity, they deserve room on the top shelf with the greatest hits of all time.
Thanks to: Sonia Bovio, Ian Gilchrist, Steve Hammonds, Bruce Kimmel, Cary Mansfield, Bill Pitzonka, Gordon Pogoda, Al Cunniff, Tom Troccoli, Gregg Turkington