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Remembering Singer/Songwriter Alan O’Day [PHOTOS, VIDEOS]

alan o'day sheet music
Alan O’Day in sheet music! (amazon.com)

With all that is going on in the world, you may have missed news of the recent passing of Alan O’Day. Who…You say?!

alan o'day appetizers
Appetizers, 1977. (amazon.com)

You know his work…O’Day scored a #1 song for himself in 1977…and wrote major hits for many other artists!

As you read this multi-media performer, the old saying “Location! Location! Location!” may come to mind… Oh yeah….and a LOT of talent helps!

O’Day was born on October 3, 1940, in Hollywood, California. Need I say more? Location!

Alan was the only child of Earle and Jeannette O’Day, who both worked at the Pasadena Star-News.  Earle took newspaper photos. Jeannette wrote for the newspaper, along with being a schoolteacher in Thermal California.

O’Day stated that he remembered creating melodies on a xylophone at an early ageBy the fifth grade, his favorite artist was (satirical musician/comic) Spike Jones. Further, he was serenading his class on the (PAUSE) ukulele!

At Coachella Valley Union High School, O’Day initially took part in a band called “The Imperials.” But, soon he had started his own rock band, “The Shoves.” The works of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Little Richard, and Fats Domino were influential in molding “The Shoves’” sound.

His involvement with a third band, “The Renés,” which played Latin and Mexican standards mixed with rock and roll, gave O’Day the opportunity to break away from covering other artists, and write his own songs.

In 1961, he found movie-related work through a high school friend, Arch Hall, Jr. The senior Hall was a movie writer and independent movie producer, and O’Day helped out with the sound! In 1962, O’Day acted as music editor on the film “Eegah,” and musical director on “Wild Guitar.” He was the sound recorder on 1963′s “The Sadist” and sound mixer on “What’s Up Front” the following year.

This work led to Arch Jr. and O’Day putting together a four-piece band called “The Archers.” They played in various clubs on the “Sunset Strip,” including the famous “Whiskey A Go Go.”

By 1965, O’Day was in the band “Alan & Bob & Denny,” a show group which played pop songs and included some comedy. They played nightclubs in Pasadena & Hollywood. And, on November 14, 1965, Alan and the band were on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (as the backup band for singer/actress/comedienne Virginia O’Brien).

1969 found Alan O’Day signing with E.H. Morris Music. In 1971, he signed with Warner Brothers Music.

He would go on to write “The Drum,”

a hit single for teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman (#29/1971).

In 1974, three more of his songs did well:

“Train of Thought,” was recorded by Cher! (#27/1974)

“Rock And Roll Heaven,” one of “Jersey’s Favorite Hits” was recorded by the Righteous Brothers (#3/1974).

The song eulogizes rock icons who have (had at that time) gone on to “Rock And Roll Heaven.”

And, Helen Reddy recorded “Angie Baby” (#1/1974).

“Angie Baby” hit #1 at the end of December 1974 and became one of Reddy’s biggest-selling singles.

In a 2006 article, O’Day shared some new insights, stating that the song took three months to write!  Originally, it was loosely based on the character in the Beatles’ ”Lady Madonna”. Then, in order to make “Angie” more interesting, he based her on a neighbor girl that he had known who seemed “socially retarded” (his words). O’Day also found inspiration in his own childhood: he was an only child who was often ill…many of his days spent in bed with only a radio for company!

O’Day then showed the unfinished song to his therapist, who pointed out that the character’s reactions were not those of a “slow” person. O’Day’s switching Angie to “crazy” then allowed her to live in a dream world of lovers, inspired by the songs on her radio! When an evil-minded neighbor tries to enter her room to take advantage of Angie, he is instead drawn into her reality, literally shrinking down into her radio, “never to be found.”

Yes…#1 songs can be…..CREEPY!

I know what you’re thinking now (OK–one of the things)…a guy who has written HIT songs for others…must want to have a solo career, right?! ABSOLUTELY!

O’Day released his first solo album, “Caress Me Pretty Music” in 1973. The album was not a major commercial success and he put his recording career on hiatus. You’ve already read about 1974…

In 1977, Warner Brothers Records” formed a label for their composers who also performed. O’Day was the first artist signed, and the first release was “Undercover Angel.”

The song, which he described as a “nocturnal novelette,” hit the record store shelves in February 1977. By May, it had debuted in the Top-40. By summer, it had become #1 in the country, and had sold approximately two million copies.

(ABOVE: an appropriate artistic linking of the #1 song and #1 TV show of that summer…song angel and TV “angels”)

On a personal side-note, in the summer of 1977, my family jumped in the “family truckster” and drove coast to coast in about six weeks. Lots of sights…lots of family…lots of RADIO! As a young teen, Alan O’Day’s song spoke to me! I cranked up “Undercover Angel” every time it came on the AM radio, from coast-to-coast! I still/will always have a warm spot in my heart for this unapologetic bubblegum pop song!

alan o'day_45
My original 45…I played it a LOT! (Craig Allen photo)

But…that’s just me…and as Casey Kasem used to say: “On with the countdown…”

“Undercover Angel” made Alan O’Day one of only a handful of writers/performers to pen a #1 hit for themselves and a #1 for another artist (Angie Baby for Helen Reddy)!

A follow-up single, “Started Out Dancing, Ended Up Making Love” stalled at #73,

marking O’Day’s second and last appearance on the U.S charts.

In March 1980, a song called “Skinny Girls” reached #11 in Australia.

In 1981, O’Day co-wrote “Your Eyes,” which became a hit in Japan.

O’Day left Warner Brothers in 1982 to write and self-publish.

In 1983, he won a “Gold Disc Award” in Japan.

In 1983, O’Day met San Francisco-based singer-songwriter Janis Liebhart, with whom he co-wrote a children’s song for a new Saturday morning animated TV show called “Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.”  Within eight years they had written almost 100 songs for the program! They also wrote for and sang on other kids-focused projects for the likes of “National Geographic.”

Last year (2012), Alan O’Day wrote and sang the title tune for the film, “You Don’t Say.”

Earlier this year, O’Day co-wrote two new songs, and produced the album “Make Believe” for the artist Paul Scott. An unofficial NASCAR anthem “NASCAR CRAZY” was the result.

O’Day lived in Nashville.

The prolific songwriter, Alan O’Day died on May 17, 2013 after battling brain cancer for six months.

WOW…What a career!

I wonder…how would Alan O’Day remember himself in an updated version of “Rock And Roll Heaven?”

Alan O’Day…thanks for the music!

 

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