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Serendipity

I can't speak of the influence of the 60's without telling this incredible story.  I enjoyed most of the artists from the British Invasion and one of my vivid memories from my childhood involved a very popular group at the time - Herman's Hermits.  I didn't own any Herman's Hermits records myself, but I had a buddy named Joey who had the whole collection.  He brought all the LP's over one day and we took my record player out into the backyard, got a long extension cord and spent the afternoon singing along to hit after hit (they had quite a few).  When it came time for my friend to head home, he generously offered to leave the records with me until the next day.  I figured we would listen again when he returned so I left them in the yard for the evening.  Big mistake!  The next afternoon, we discovered that all the albums had melted in the sun.  They were warped beyond repair.  I asked my mom if she could iron them but that didn't seem to be an option.  Joey, wherever you are, know that the records may be gone but the music lives on.  That, however, is not the end of the story...

Fast forward to around 1992.  I was traveling with my wife from NY, taking our newborn son to meet his grandparents on the West Coast, and, while waiting in the American Airlines Admirals Club in Chicago for our connecting flight, I heard a familiar voice engaged in a phone conversation, coming from just around the corner.  Without seeing who was speaking, I said to my wife, "That is Peter Noone, lead singer of Herman's Hermits."  He does have a distinctive voice.  When he got off the phone, I confirmed my suspicion and introduced myself.  He was most gracious.  More about Peter Noone in a bit...

Now comes my experience at musical fantasy camp.  I was living in Southern California in the late 90's and had a good friend who was a traveling salesman and would visit us from time to time.  During one such visit around 1998, I played some of my new material for him and he asked if I could give him a tape so he could listen to me in his car while circumnavigating the country.  It was cassette tapes in those days and I had one tape of my songs that I had compiled using a Fostex 4-track recorder.  The sound quality was pretty bad, the performance and production even worse, and I truly hated listening to myself so I gladly gave him the tape.  Around six months later, I received a call, seemingly out of the blue, from a British record producer in Hollywood named Calvin Hayes.  Apparently he had met my friend at a party and gotten hold of the tape.  I thought it was a bogus call but when he explained who he was, it certainly piqued my interest.

Calvin, a professionally educated and gifted musician in his own right, had been a band member and the producer of a group called Johnny Hates Jazz which had the number one song of 1989 (Shattered Dreams - Calvin is on keyboards in the video).  He was also the son of renowned music producer, Mickie Most, who produced, among many others, The Yardbirds, The Animals, Lulu, Donovan, and Herman's Hermits.  Just the thought of speaking with this guy seemed like a dream come true.  I met him at his Hollywood studio where he asked me to sit down at a Fender Rhodes electric piano and play for him everything I had ever written.  There were gold records on the walls and I was playing my songs to a true professional.  It was intimidating.  He was painfully blunt in his assessments of each piece though I do recall him saying that one of the compositions was "ready to record."  It was Head of the Harbor which I did finally record years later for my first album in 2016.  Ultimately, we decided to take one of my songs and rewrite it together, which we did and then things got quite surreal. 

The song (I'll Never Believe You Again), which eventually made it onto my first album some 17 years later, ended up sounding like something out of the British Invasion, which I suppose was what what Calvin was aiming for.  After all, he told me how he used to sit in the corner at Abbey Road Studios while his dad was working.  The Beatles were recording in the next room.  Pretty wild!  So, when it came time for Calvin to bring in some session musicians to play on our song, things got really interesting.  I call these the "Never Believe Sessions," not only because of the name of the song, but because it's hard for me to believe that the whole experience really happened.  First, Calvin recruited Phil Chen, the legendary bass player known for his work with Rod Stewart, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Marley, Jackson Browne and many others.  Next, he brought in Chris Spedding to play lead guitar.  Also a legend, Chis had played with Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Art Garfunkel and Paul McCartney, among many others.  Now, these two pros were going to play on my song and, musically, I had no business being in the same room with them.  As you can imagine, I was in heaven.  After I finished working on the lead vocal, I decided I wanted a backing vocalist to give the song more of a band-like feel.  Calvin immediately suggested that we bring in Peter Noone.  I thought he was kidding.  He wasn't.  He called Peter on the spot and Peter said he would do it, but he wanted to meet me first.  So, we took a ride up the coast and met him for lunch.  A week or two later, Peter came to Hollywood and recorded the backing vocal track for my song.  You might recognize his voice in the chorus and in the outro.  I find it both ironic and serendipitous that I sang along to his records when I was a youngster only to have him sing on one of mine 35 years later.