Animation + Rock = Fun: The Danny Hutton Interview

Animation + Rock = Fun: The Danny Hutton Interview


by Chris Davidson

Pal to big Brian Wilson, L.A. scenester of long-standing (and, oh yeah, one-third of Three Dog Night!), Danny Hutton will live forever in the collective bubblegum consciousness for one additional and amazing reason: he worked for the grandpappy of cartoon rock labels—Hanna Barbera Records.  For a year beginning in 1965, Hutton acted as the label’s resident hip youngster and recorded three of the company’s best forays into the pure pop 45 market.  He also lent vocals and studio know-how to the maddest cartoon rock album of all—Monster Shindig, a bizarre horror-rock conglomeration credited to “Super-Snooper and Blabber Mouse, the Gruesomes of the Flintstones, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and the Wolf Man.”  (What, no Morocco Mole?)

HBR hit with the Five Americans’ “I See the Light” during Hutton’s tenure with the label and went on to release a hefty amount of garage, light psych and pop over the next couple of years, including “Blue Theme” by the Hogs (AKA the Chocolate Watchband).  While the majority of singles appear to have been one-off national distribution deals with bands experiencing regional chart noise, HBR long-players took the animated TV characters as a starting point and crafted dozens of mind-splitting vinyl adventures and hot session-man rock-and-roll.

Danny Hutton arrived at the start of HBR’s pop barnstorming.

Chris Davidson: How’d you get started with Hanna Barbera Records?  Was that your first experience with a record label?
Danny Hutton: I was working in the warehouse for Disney/Buena Vista Records.  I was basically a grunt during the day at work, but at night I hung around in the L.A. musician spots, like IHOP across from Hollywood High and Liberty Records, where I used to see Sonny & Cher, Jan & Dean, and those people.  I had put out a couple of records already.  My first was as the Chartermen on Invicta Records.  It was called “Winken, Blinken and Nod.”  This was done through Kim Fowley, who I was introduced to by Pat and Lolly Vegas.  Kim actually lived up in my attic for awhile.  I also had a single out on ALMO Records called “Home in Pasadena.”  That was released as Daring Dan Hutton.  Then I cut “Farmer’s Daughter” on Mercury as Basil Swift and the Seagrams.  One day, a guy named Larry Goldberg contacted me.  He was trying to get something happening at HBR.  He was sort of an A&R guy, a hustler, not a musician.  But he brought me into the deal as proof of his street credentials.  I was a young musician, so HBR gave me a half-hour tryout.  In that time, I wrote two songs, so they gave me a job!

CD: Did you cut the songs you wrote for the audition?

DH: Yes.  The first song was called “Nothing at All.”  I did all the vocal and instrumental parts on the record, and it was released as the Bats [HBR 445].  It was all me!  The other song was “Big Bright Eyes,” which we recorded as the B-side.  We did the whole session at Western Studios in six hours.  I wrote “Big Bright Eyes” in the studio in ten minutes.

CD: That was one of the best singles on HBR.  “Big Bright Eyes” was later a local hit for you in L.A.

DH: The version that later came out [HBR 453] under my name was the same version as the Bats, but with a different backing track.  We took the original, which was more acoustic and made it more pop.

CD: What about “Roses and Rainbows,” your other L.A. hit before “Big Bright Eyes?”  Wasn’t that the song they used for your appearance on The Flintstones?

DH: “Roses and Rainbows” was a big hit in town.  I think it was helped along when Billboard featured it on a flexi disk in one of their issues.  I really had no intention of performing live at the time.  I considered myself a studio guy.  But the label put the single out under my name [HBR447], set me up with a manager and started promoting me as a solo act.  One day they asked if I wanted to be in The Flintstones, and right after that they showed me the finished product.  I didn’t do anything.  They just used the released version of “Roses and Rainbows” in the show.  Funny story about The Flintstones.  When I met my wife, Laurie, she told me she’d seen the episode I was in and fell in love with me on TV.  She fell in love with me from the cartoon!

CD: Now, that’s a woman!  Can you tell me about the flip to “Roses and Rainbows?”

DH: “Monster Shindig” was on the back.

CD: It’s a wild song and also the title track of a great HBR album [HLP2020].  Did you do the other songs on that record—“Super Snooper” and “The Monster Jerk?”

DH: That was me.  I don’t remember the session too much, but I know I worked on that record.  I contributed a lot to the albums being made at the time.

CD: What else do you recall about your time with the label?  Did you run into any of the other acts?

DH: I was there from the very beginning, when they were just moving in the furniture.  It was about a year all together.  I always felt like it was more of an experiment than anything else, a cartoon company trying out the record business.  The Guilloteens were being worked in L.A. [three singles on the label], but I never met the Five Americans.  They never had a presence in L.A.  It was a great time while it lasted, though, and definitely helped me get a leg up in the business.


Selected Discography of Hanna Barbera Records

SINGLE         GROUP                     TITLE

HBR 445         The Bats                     Nothing At All / Big Bright Eyes

HBR 446         The Guilloteens            I Don’t Believe (Call On Me) / Hey You

HBR 447         Danny Hutton   Roses and Rainbows / Monster Shindig

HBR 451         The Guilloteens            For My Own / Don’t Let The Rain Get You Down

HBR 453         Danny Hutton   Big Bright Eyes/ Monster Shindig Part 2

HBR 454         Five Americans            I See the Light / The Outcast

HBR 462         Art Grayson                 Be Ever Mine / When I Get Home

HBR 468         Five Americans            EVOL Not Love / Don’t Blame Me

HBR 472         Dale & Grace               I’d Rather Be Free / Let Them Talk

HBR 473         Charles Christy            In The Arms Of A Girl

HBR 476         Scat Man Crothers        Golly Zonk! (It’s Scat Man) / What’s A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?"

HBR 477         The Dimensions (Five) She’s Boss / Penny

HBR 482         The Tidal Waves          Farmer John / She Left Me Alone

HBR 483         Five Americans            Good Times / The Losing Game

HBR 485         Riot Squad                  I Take It We’re Through

HBR 486         The Guilloteens            I Sit And Cry / Crying All Over My Time

HBR 488         Ron Gray                    Hold Back The Sunrise

HBR 489         Ronnie & Robyn          Cradle Of Love / Dreamin’

HBR 492         13th Floor Elevators     You’re Gonna Miss Me / Tried To Hide

HBR 494         Dynatones                   The Fife Piper / I Always Will

HBR 495         Scotty McKay   Waikiki Beach / I’m Gonna Love You

HBR 500         Positively Thirteen O’Clock     

Psychotic Reaction / 13 O’ Clock Theme

HBR 501         The Tidal Waves          Big Boy Pete / I Don’t Need Love

HBR 506         Dewayne & the Beldettas Hurtin’

HBR 507         W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band

Hippy Elevator Operator /Don’t Lose The Girl

HBR 508         The New Breed            Want Ad Reader / One More For The Good Guys

HBR 509         The Four Gents            Soul Sister / I’ve Been Trying

HBR 511         The Hogs                    Blue Theme / Loose Lip Sync Ship

HBR 513         Sunny Lane                 Tell It Like It Was / Trollin’

HBR 514         The Unrelated Segments

Story Of My Life / It’s Unfair

HBR 515         The Tidal Waves          Action (Speaks Louder Than Words) / Hot Stuff

HBR 516         The Timestoppers         I Need Love / Fickle Frog

HBR ? The Countdowns          Hold Back The Sunrise / The Shake


ALBUM          GROUP                                           TITLE


HLP 2020        Super-Snooper & Blabber                    Mouse Monster Shindig

HLP 2021        Flintstones                                        Goldilocks

HLP 2023        Yogi Bear & Boo Boo             Red Riding Hood & Jack and the Beanstalk

HLP 2024        Magilla Gorilla                                 Alice in Wonderland

HLP 2025        Pixie & Dixie                                    Cinderella

HLP 2026        Snagglepuss                                      Tells The Story Of The Wizard Of Oz

HLP 2027        Wilma Flintstone                               Tells The Story Of Bambi

HLP 2028        Doggie Daddy                         Pinocchio

HLP 2029        Touche Turtle & Dum Dum                 The Reluctant Dragon

HLP 2030        Johnny Quest                                     20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

HLP 2031        Top Cat                                            Robin Hood

HLP 2037        Jetsons                                             First Family on the Moon

HLP 2041        Atom Ant                                        Muscle Magic

HLP 2043        Squiddly Diddly                                Surfin’ Surfari

HLP 8503        Five Americans                                  I See The Light

HLP 8504        Renaissance Society                            Baroque ‘N Stones

HLP?              Gene Kelly                                        Jack and the Beanstalk TV Soundtrack

HLP ?             Hillbilly Bears                        Hillbilly Shindig

HLP ?             Winsome Witch                                 It’s Magic

HLP ?             Flintstones & Jose Jiminez                  The Time Machine

HLP ?             Yogi Bear                                         Mad Mad Dr No No

HLP ?             The Flintstones                                 S.A.S.F.A.T.P.O.G.O.B.S.O.A.L.T.

HLP ?             Precious Pupp                         Hot Rod Granny

HLP ?             Secret Squirrel & Morocco Mole           Super Spy

HLP ?             Fred & Barney                        Mary Poppins

HLP ?             Super-Snooper & Blabber Mouse          James Bomb

HLP ?             Jetsons                                             First Family on the Moon

HLP ?             Sinbad Jr.                                         Treasure Island

HLP ?             Pebbles & Bamm Bamm                     Good Ship Lollipop

Chewing the Bubblegum with Joey Levine

interview by Keith Bearden from WFMU’s LCD issue #22

If you’ve listened to the radio or watched TV semi-regularly over the past 30 years, you’ve surely heard the work of Joey Levine. He was one of the main songwriters behind the Bubblegum Rock movement of the late 60’s, and his nasally, teen-sounding voice was perfect for rockin’ hits by The Ohio Express (“Chewy, Chewy,” “Yummy, Yummy”) and The Katsentz-Katz Super Circus (“Quick Joey Small”). Fans of the Nuggets LP will know him as the leader of The Third Rail (“Run, Run, Run”), a more “adult” version of the studio musician “bands” that Joey staffed under Buddha Records producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. And who over the age of 30 doesn’t remember being delighted/horrified by Reunion’s “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)?” Or getting the munchies listening to the immortal “Trust The Gorton’s Fisher-man” jingle for Gorton’s Breaded Fish Sticks? Once again, the work of the busy Levine.

While the Bubblegum Rock movement has been critically lambasted for 30 years, its importance is undeniable. At a time in the 60’s when Merseybeat and garage bands had broken up or turned hippie, pre-fab studio groups like The Monkees, The Archies, The 1910 Fruitgum Company (“Simon Says”) and The Ohio Express created many beautifully crafted songs, carrying the torch of pure, simple pop/rock into the 70’s, where it was picked up by bands like The Raspberries, The Shoes and The Rubinoos, or in the UK got dressed up by The Sweet and other glam rockers. Later, punk bands like Funhouse, Slaughter & The Dogs and Joan Jett all paid a debt to their three-chord Bubblegum forebearers by covering some of Levine’s handiwork.

Getting involved in commercial jingles in the 70’s, native New Yorker Levine still works in the field, and currently heads up three music companies, Crushing Music, Crushing Underground and Levine & Company.
Medium Image

LCD: What’s your background as a musician?

LEVINE: My dad Elli Levine was a band leader in the Army and a jazz pianist under the name Elden Lewis, and my mother Marion Kingsley was a singer who had her own radio show in NYC when she was 16 years old. My uncle Alan Stanton was a record producer at Columbia and A&M. I took piano and guitar, and did the whole teenage band kind of things. My first band was Joey Vine & The Grapes, I was in The Pastels, playing country clubs and synagogues and sweet 16 parties…

LCD: How did you get involved with the whole NYC Bubblegum rock scene?

LEVINE: I had been working in music publishing for a couple years over at TM Music, writing songs after school, where I met a songwriter named Artie Resnick, who had written ‘Under The Boardwalk.’ We really collaborated well, and were getting success off of some demos we were cutting. Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz had heard a song I wrote called ‘Try It’ that The Standells had a kinda mini-hit underground thing that people were digging on, and then they recorded it with The Ohio Express after ‘Beg Borrow & Steal.’ They called me and said, ‘We’ve been hearing your demos and this and that and we think you can write some of this teenybopper music,’ and then Artie & I wrote ‘Yummy Yummy.’

LCD: How old were you when this was all happening

LEVINE: Just about 17.

LCD: Wow. How was it working for Katsentz/Katz? Was it a hit factory or did you have a lot of creative freedom?

LEVINE: Well, it was a factory in that there were a couple of different bands that we used-a lot of times it would be the same band-and we had a day to record and a day to do overdubs and mix. Also, when Jeff and Jerry thought a song was a hit and it didn’t fly, they’d have other bands record it again, slightly different. They’d have The Ohio Express do it, then The Shadows of Knight, then The Fruitgum Company, on and on. So you’d work all week, and in-between you’d write more songs.

LCD: Were the Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Company real bands? Did they tour?

LEVINE: They were all real bands, but I sang on a lot of their records. Neil Bogart [Buddha Records President and the man who later gave the world KISS & Donna Summer] heard my demo of ‘Yummy Yummy’ and said ‘Have this guy sing on the records.’

LCD: That’s why on the Ohio Express albums you have the hits with you singing and then the other tracks sound like bad Procol Harum rip-offs.

LEVINE: Yeah. When the bands would tour I’d stay in New York and these guys would schlep out around the country singing my songs, though they didn’t sound like me.

LCD: What are your memories of those days?

LEVINE: It was great. I had Top 10 records, my voice was all over the radio, but nobody knew who I was unless I wanted them to. The best kind of fame. It got me into a lot more parties at school, for sure.

LCD: Studio songwriters produced some of the best pop songs of the 60’s. Name some songs you and Artie Resnick wrote from back then.

LEVINE: Oh, God, so many. Besides all The Ohio Express stuff, we wrote some stuff for The 1910 Fruitgum Company, me and Bobbie Blum and Bo Gentry and Richie Cordell. ‘Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’,’ Tommy James stuff like ‘Mony Mony,’ ‘Montego Bay,’ lots of stuff. You lost track you worked so much, and a lot of times we co-wrote and never gave each other credit. I also wrote stuff for Gene Pitney with Doc Pomus.

LCD: A lot of people interpret songs like “Yummy Yummy” and “Chewy Chewy” as being slyly sexual. Was that your intent?

LEVINE: Absolutely. We were told to write these innocent songs, keep it young and poppy, but we were all in our late teens so we wanted to slide some double entendres past ’em if we could. Eating was our big thing.

LCD: The Ramones have mentioned numerous times that they started out wanting to sound like The Ohio Express. How does it feel to be a godfather of Punk?

LEVINE: [Buddha Records publicist/New York Dolls manager] Marty Thau was producing some punk bands back in the 70’s, and he said ‘You should produce this stuff-all these guys mention your records.’ To tell you the truth, even though in the 60s we were all in our own funky state, meeting these bands-I just couldn’t deal. It was too weird for me.

LCD: Why do you think critics trash the whole bubblegum scene?

LEVINE: Well, the music’s a little contrite. It was just played for fun, and it was a period of time that was very serious. People were looking for big, heavy themes-drugs, war, revolution – and it looked very thin under those criteria. Bubblegum to me was making fun of all that. Basically it was like, ‘We get the serious issues – so why not smile and dance and goof around?’

LCD: Tell me about Third Rail.

LEVINE: The Third Rail I did before I was in The Ohio Express. I was 16 or 17. It was me, Artie and Kris Resnick, some of the earliest songs we wrote that we recorded together just as songwriters. Very political, more all over the map musically. Teddy Cooper over at Epic heard the stuff we were recording and said, ‘Let’s do an album.’ It just got re-released on CD in Britain.

LCD: The internet says you co-wrote stuff with Jim Carroll. Huh?

LEVINE: That’s my friend Jim Carroll. Not the Basketball Diaries junkie poet guy.

LCD: OK. (sigh) Tell me about “Life is a Rock but the Radio Rolled Me”?

LEVINE: That song is imitated a lot I think, by people like REM, with ‘The End of The World’ and Billy Joel with ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire.’ Not directly, but a lot of songs are based on people’s memory of our song. Some guy called me and said [affects dunderhead accent]’I think that’s the first rap record!’ And I said, ‘I don’t know about that.’ And he said, ‘Well, before that you had country rap, and story raps, but just rhythmic rhyming of words flowing together, that was the first!’ So I said, ‘Look, I’m the father of bubblegum-don’t make me the father of rap. Somebody will put me on a hit list.’

LCD: You work exclusively in commercials now. Do you miss writing songs about love as opposed to tampons or fish sticks?

LEVINE: I have never written a song about tampons.


LEVINE: The jingle thing is just cleaner, more honest. You write the song, you record it, people hear it, less politics, less rip-offs, the pay is good. No muss, no fuss. I still wrote songs. I write songs for my wife or my kids, but now it’s all fun. No headaches and ulcers wondering about having a hit or not.

LCD: What are some of your commercial songwriting credits?

LEVINE: ‘Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut’ for Peter Paul/Mounds, (singing) ‘Oh, What A Feeling to Drive-TOY-OTA!,’ ‘Can’t Beat The Feeling’ for Coca-Cola, ‘The Softer Side of Sears,’ Diet Coke, ‘Just For The Taste of It’…

LCD: God. People will carry those jingles with them to their graves. With your pop songs and TV, how does it feel to be so deep in the public consciousness?

LEVINE: Ah, I feel good about it. I feel lucky to be able to do what I do for so long.

LCD: Tell me something people might not guess about Joey Levine?

LEVINE: I always thought of myself as a soul singer.

Richard Gotterher and the Art of the Instant Record

Richard Gotterher and the Art of the Instant Record
by Keith Bearden

Almost everyone can name a watershed musical moment in their life.  I’ve heard stories from friends of first becoming sexually aroused listening to Aerosmith’s "Walk This Way," or deciding to drop out of school after hearing the first Stooges record.  The moment that redefined my life and musical tastes was catching the first set of "New Wave" records to come out of New York City in 1977.  They had the exuberance, beat, and sing-along melodies of stuff I had loved on the oldies station, but with an anger, world-weariness and sick humor totally appropriate in the styleless, decadent and lazy years following the ’60s "revolution." It made me fully acknowledge what I had always suspected: I was not "normal," I was not "mellow" and I was not "cool."  I did not fit in and now I had music for and by other people who didn’t fit in either.  It was at this point that music became a therapist, a friend, and a community by proxy in the remaining decade until I was able to bust out of my stunted suburban existence.  

As I studied and memorized the jackets of my favorite vinyl companions over the next few years, I noticed a familiar name popping up in the production credits: Richard Gotterher.  Soon, anything with his name on the back became an automatic purchase, grooves unheard.  Like Phil Spector, anything with Gotterher’s touch mandated at least one listen.

Like many involved with the new wave movement, Gotterher’s roots lie in studio pop bands of the ’60s.  He, along with producing/writing partners Bob Feldman and Jerry Goldstein, created the ruse that was the Strangeloves, posing as three independently wealthy Australian sheep farmers who moonlighted as musicians.  They hoodwinked enough American teens with their phony story, "Aboriginal" drums and cheap Beatle wigs in 1965 to send "I Want Candy" to number 11 on the national charts.  If only for that one song, the Strangeloves are worthy of discussion.  "I Want Candy" is a revelation; a Bo Diddley jungle beat, jazzy guitar line, and massed, aharmonious male vocals sounding like a fraternity bash at its drunken pinnacle—all bathed in enough reverb to make it sound like the first live simulcast from the moon.  

Bow Wow Wow’s 1983 version may be more familiar, but the Strangeloves’ original is the one that gets under your skin.  Two more Top 40 hits followed —"Cara-Lin," later covered by the Fleshtones, and "Night Time," redone by Iggy Pop, the Nomads and even Joe Jackson (as the theme to a Miller beer commercial!).  Like the Shadows of Knight, the Strangeloves pre-dated the term “Bubblegum Rock,” and their heavier sound and seemingly more authentic garage band persona have saved them from being lumped in (and berated) with other studio pop bands of the era.  Of course, the history of rock ‘n’ roll is a history of "fake" studio bands, and many hit songs of numerous "real" groups (Byrds, Beach Boys,) were played partially by for-hire session men (but that is for a whole ‘nother book).

Many persons involved in the 1960s NYC studio pop hit factory later worked with the explosion of ’70s pop/rock talent that fell under the tag of "New Wave."  Buddah Records publicist Marty Thau managed or produced the New York Dolls, the Real Kids, Suicide and the Fleshtones, to name a few.  Tommy James/ Crazy Elephant/ 1910 Fruitgum Company songwriter and musician Ritchie Cordell channeled Joan Jett’s talents into the stuff of ’80s Top 40 success.  But it was Gotterher’s "Instant Records"—his ’70s production company: he recorded LPs in an average of four weeks as opposed to the months or even years common during the era—that clarified the link between new wave and its ’50s/’60s influences like no other.  He helped Blondie sound less like a Soho loft garage band and more like the mutant Girl Group they wanted to be.  His work with Robert Gordon and Link Wray proved to post-Woodstock hipsters that “oldies” could be as valid as the Ramones.  Marshall Crenshaw’s classic debut LP, Pearl Harbor’s woefully underrated solo work, The Go-Go’s’ Beauty and the Beat—all superb pop music that will forever define an era, a genre and the artists that made them.  All the product of Gotterher’s pop sensibilities.  

Still producing records occasionally, Richard Gotterher is currently the CEO of The Orchard ( a web-based independent music distributor.  We met over tea at a noisy cafe near his offices in New York City’s Chinatown.

Keith Bearden: Tell me about your start in the music biz.

Richard Gotterher: I started when I was in high school in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.  I was a classically trained piano player, and then I discovered the blues.  Listening to Alan Freed, I learned about rhythm and blues and black music.  So I started writing songs, at first copying Jerry Lee Lewis.  At the time it was Elvis and Jerry Lee, and being a piano player, I naturally gravitated to Jerry Lee.  So I wrote a song, when I was 16-years-old, called ‘I’m On Fire,’ which he eventually recorded in the ’60s just before his transition to country music.  One of his last real rock recordings.

I was playing with my own band, and I got some songs published.  One day I ran into two guys outside the office of one of the music publishing houses, Bob Feldman and Jerry Goldstein.  We hit it off and started writing songs together.  Then we started making demos, which were primitive one-track recordings.  And then we said to ourselves, “If we can write and produce demos, we can write and produce records.”

We had basically a string of hits from 1963 to 1966.  First, “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels, which went number one.  We worked on the girl groups for years, and wrote for Freddy Cannon, Dion, Bobby Vee.  Lots of people.  I have a drawer full of almost one hundred 45s that we either wrote or produced, or both.

After ’66, we split up, and then I formed Sire Records with Seymour Stein.  We licensed a lot of European music, had some hits.  We had Climax Blues Band, Renaissance, “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.  I left Sire in the mid-’70s, when the punk thing started happening, when I discovered Blondie, Richard Hell, Robert Gordon, and made a lot of records with those people.

How did the Strangeloves happen?

We had been producing the Angels, and there was a point where they went on strike.  And we had this track for them, this remake of an old Patti Page or Jo Stafford song called “A Little Love (That’s All I Want From You).”  It was done in what was ska for the time; they called it bluebeat.  We changed it and called it “Love Love.”  The girl group thing was sort of fading, and the Beatles were coming in a big way, and the whole British Invasion, so we decided to sing on the track and call ourselves the Strangeloves.  In the middle, Bob recited the lyrics, pretending to be British.  We sold the record to Swan, put on these Beatle wigs and posed with these African drums in a photo, and put out this goofy press release that we were Australian.  With all the British groups around, we figured Australia would be novel.

We get a call from a DJ in Virginia Beach, VA, and he says, “This record is getting a great response down here, if you come down and perform, we can drive it up to number one.”  We said, “Okay.”  We get there, and we went to the airport, got in a small plane that drove down the runway, faking that we had just flew in from Australia.  There was a huge sign saying, “Virginia Beach welcomes Australia’s Strangeloves.”  There were all these screaming kids, holding teddy bears, and throwing jelly beans, cause that’s what they did back then.  When we went to perform, we only had this one song, and we knew we couldn’t just do that.  So we did “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley.  And the response was unbelievable!!

So we come back to New York and record it at Atlantic Studios.  Ahmet says he really likes it, but that we should take it to his new label Bang.  We took it to Bert Berns [co-writer of “Twist and Shout,” among many other hits], and he says, “This is great, but Bo Diddley was Bo Diddley, why don’t we re-work it using the same beat?” And the four of us wrote, “I Want Candy.”

There was this wonderful guitar player at the time named Everett Barksdale, who came up with the riff and he was playing off the melody to “Anna,” the hit by Silvano Merano.  We had become pretty knowledgeable about producing at this point.  We kept ping-ponging in the studio —we recorded the drums twice, along with me banging on African drums, and Jerry, Bob and myself were overdubbed singing together four times.  That’s why this record has this overwhelming sound to it.  After we mixed it and mastered it, we added more EQ and reverb, so it has a very processed feel, but at the same time has a real raw vibe to it.  This process occurred over a period of weeks.

We used a lot of tricks, but I was always careful to keep things spontaneous.  The wonderful thing about recording with them was there were moments that you captured, and you tried to go back and get it again and you couldn’t.  When we did “Hang On Sloopy” [Gotterher produced the McCoy’s massive hit], we tried it again —we did the same beat and sound again and it never came together.  It could’ve been something as obtuse as the temperature of the studio or the weight on the drums.  With the digital technology of today there is none of that variable.

Why did the Strangeloves only have one album?

Albums were not the thing back then.  Until the Beatles came along, nobody really bought albums, they bought singles.  Our one LP had three hits on it, but it didn’t make a difference.  Moving on to the ’70s, if you had a hit song you had to have an album because people bought albums.  The market had changed.  That’s one of the reasons radio was more open back in the ’60s to play new and indie records.  People didn’t play album tracks.  They wanted hit 45s.  They were hungry for ’em, and the damn things only lasted two minutes! That’s a lot of demand for product!

When you toured, did people catch on that you were three guys from Brooklyn and the Bronx?

No, never.  We had our fake Australian accents, and that was enough.

Do you have a philosophy as a producer?

I learned from listening to records by Leiber-Stoller and Phil Spector.  The song has to always be your center, your focal point.  If you create an environment that enhances the song, that’s the job of the producer.  You have to listen to the song first.  I came from being a songwriter.  What I like to think I bring to a recording is a clarity of thought.

A lot of bands make really stinky records when they stop working with you.  Holly & the Italians made an amazing debut with you, and their second LP is unlistenable.  Nobody likes the Go-Go’s’ third record.  Marshall Crenshaw’s career never recovered from Steve Lillywhite doing Field Day.  How much involvement do you have with young, untried bands?  What changes did you make when you worked with Blondie for example?

They didn’t need a lot of changes, really, just structural channeling.  What I like to try to do with a band is work with their deficits, as well as their assets.  To me, it didn’t matter if you didn’t play that well —I found a way of getting it out of you.  A lot of producers would say, “You have to do this perfectly —if you can’t do it, I’ll find someone else who can.”  I always figured, “Hey, Clem Burke isn’t the greatest drummer in the world, but something he’s doing is unique, and fits in with the uniqueness of the band.  And it’s my job to bring that to listeners.”  There were things about Blondie that were amazing from the beginning —their sense of humor, their attitude.  I wasn’t as concerned with their ability to execute everything.  What I wanted to do was capture the feeling and enthusiasm of what they were about, and just focus it in a way that was palatable to mass audiences.  Because they were considered weird back then.  There was nothing remotely like it on radio.  I wanted to bring out the qualities they had.  Professionalism is not as important to me as it was to radio programmers of the time, perhaps.

Those first two records were not very popular in the US, but they were incredibly popular overseas.  Then of course Mike Chapman worked with them and focused more on the discipline part of producing them, and they exploded with “Heart of Glass.”

Blondie sounded like Blondie when they were with you.  Chapman’s hand was a lot heavier than yours was.  That’s the difference between you and producers like Phil Spector and Giorgio Moroder —you don’t mold bands in your image.  The records you produce don’t all sound alike.  They have a pop aesthetic, but–

There is a thread that goes through it.  I’m more interested in the emotion of the song.  The sound should be appropriate for emotion of the song.

What were your challenges working with the Go-Go’s? They were part of the L.A. punk scene and sounded pretty ragged.  How much teaching did you have to do?

A lot.  The Go-Go’s at their first rehearsal just said, “Just tell us what you want us to do.  We want to be successful.”  The funny part about that record was when it came out, [IRS Records president] Miles Copeland called me up, and he was just livid!  “You ruined my group!  I gave you this great punk band and listen to this bubblegum shit!”  He was talking about “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which I thought was just amazing.  The band themselves weren’t there for the mix, and when they heard it, they didn’t talk to me for a good six months.  They cried.  They thought it didn’t sound like them.  It wasn’t grungy and disorganized.  To me, it captured their identity perfectly.  Then they came to love it and we did a second album.

Your sixties work was mostly session musicians.  Did you have any studio groups during the new wave era?

No.  We brought in a different drummer for Holly & the Italians, and we occasionally had someone do sax, or Paul Schaffer doing keyboards.

Joey Levine from the Ohio Express was asked to produce some new wave records, but found the whole scene “too freaky.”  Did you have any hesitations about it?

No.  I went down to CBGBs early on.  Marty Thau was really into the change that was going on, and he took me.  I signed Robert Gordon, Richard Hell, Blondie, all to production contracts and got them with record labels.  No one else would have them at the time.

One of the great things about new wave was that it was a real New York scene.

Yes!  New York was the only thing going.  New York started it and England and the rest of the U.S. followed.  Unless you count rap, it was the last big New York thing.  We started that, too.

Did you see a lot of parallels between your sixties music and the new wave bands you were producing?

Most definitely.  The people who were really doing it in the early days of punk, completely bypassed the early ’70s.  They were really into ’50s rockabilly, girl groups and of course the British invasion.  To them, rock ‘n’ roll stopped in 1969 and began again in 1976.

There is an argument that bands who aren’t really bands—that are studio musicians, or created by producers, managers or records companies—are inherently invalid because they are “manufactured.”  How do you feel about that?

Well, that’s certainly invalid if you’re talking about pop music.  That idea eliminates a huge portion of what’s happening, yesterday and today.  The purpose of making a record is so people will enjoy it, it gives them pleasure and a unique experience.  I mean that’s it.  It doesn’t matter for me.  I don’t listen to today’s studio groups like the Backstreet Boys and the like.  It just seems contrived.  It has a factory-produced feel.  I consider the stuff we did in the sixties to be much freeer and more organic.

Jeff Barry’s Bubblegum Blues

Jeff Barry’s Bubblegum Blues
interview by Don Charles

“Some songs, like ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ people hear and they get sad. I think I’d rather have them get happy! That’s really where I was coming from.” That’s how songwriter/producer extraordinaire Jeff Barry sums up his musical philosophy, a philosophy that moved millions of dollars’ worth of vinyl around the world during the 1960s. Jeff Barry was the crown king of bubble gum rock producers (only Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz’ A & R staff came close to challenging his dominance of the genre).

Jeff Barry: I was born in Brooklyn. When I was about seven, my parents got divorced, and I moved in with my mom and sister in Plainfield, New Jersey. I lived there until I was eleven, and then we moved back to Brooklyn. For some reason, I was hearing a lot of country music. As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved horses, and probably without realizing it, I liked listening to country and western music because that went along with horses!

Don Charles: My research indicates that your family name was Adelberg . . .

Jeff Barry: Yes, that

Kasenetz-Katz and Their Super-Duper Rock & Roll Kavalcade

Kasenetz-Katz and Their Super-Duper Rock & Roll Kavalcade
by James Porter

Of all the revered record producers with a hitmaking streak and an identifiable sound, the Kasenetz-Katz duo has to be among the most underrated. Garage freaks worship at the altar of Ed Cobb (Standells, Chocolate Watchband), Ken Nelson (Buck Owens, Wanda Jackson) is a big name with the retro-country set, the outer-space sonatas of Joe Meek (Blue Men, Tornadoes) have a strong cult, and Phil Spector is probably the only non-performing producer who has his own section in record stores. But even though Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz produced their share of radio-active hits in ’68-’69, most rock historians regard them as a footnote. In The New Book Of Rock Lists by Dave Marsh and James Bernard, producers as diverse as Lee

Interview with Toni Wine

Interview with Toni Wine
by Bill Pitzonka

Bill Pitzonka: How did you get involved with the Archies?
Toni Wine: Donnie had asked for me. Donnie [Kirshner] and Jeff [Barry] asked for me to be Betty and Veronica.
BP: How did you link up with Don Kirshner originally?
TW: I was signed as a writer at the age of 14 to Screen Gems by Donnie Kirshner when it was Aldon Music. I was the youngest BMI writer ever signed. And so I