Jack Nitzsche at Spectropop presents

    A Koppelman-Rubin Associates, Prod.

      Arr. & Cond.Jack Nitzsche

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) Part 4 (Part 5)   

Written by Alan Gordon - Garry Bonner
An Expected Bouquet For Bonner (and Gordon)

If you listen to the radio, watch television or go to the movies the chances are most days you'll hear a Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon song. Like it or not (and I think most of us like it!) their compositions have become part of the fabric of our lives. It would not possible to write a feature on Koppelman and Rubin's work with Jack Nitzsche without a mention of their musical contributions. Of the thirty odd tracks Nitzsche arranged and/or produced for Koppelman & Rubin over half of them were written by Bonner & Gordon. Likewise even allowing for the richness of talent that K & R had recruited, B & G were among their biggest hit writers. With Alan in particular there developed a mutual respect and trust in each others talents that was to accompany Koppelman's climb up the corporate ladder. Over two decades after their initial meeting, if K & R were personally involved in a recording then you can bet Alan would be called to write a song or three. I'm delighted that both Alan and Garry have been supportive of and agreed to contribute to this feature.

My Top Ten
(Jack Nitzsche-less hits)
Turtles - Happy Together - White Whale
Garry Bonner - Me About You - Columbia
Righteous Brothers - Melancholy Music Man - MGM
Bobby Darin - Whatever Happened To Happy - Atco
Magicians - An Invitation To Cry - Columbia
Fifth Estate - Coney Island Sally - Jubilee
Jive Five - In My Neighborhood - UA
Garry Bonner - Poet's And Pirates - (unreleased)
Ronnie Spector - Who Can Sleep? - Columbia

Alan recalls his first recorded compositions and meeting with Garry Bonner and Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin.
"In 1964 I was a staff writer at We Three Music. My first songs were cut by Ritchie Adam's, and The Jive 5. Ritchie did the first song I wrote, with Jimmy Curtis, called "I Ain't Gonna Make It Without You" on Congress Records. Ritchie is SPECIAL a beautiful guy. We later wrote "Gotta Get Away" which was the b-side of the Blues Magoos hit "We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet". My Jive 5 song's were "Main Street", "In My Neighborhood" and maybe one more I can`t think of now. ("I Remember When". The three songs, written with Jimmy Woods, are available on "The Complete U.A. Recordings - The Jive Five - I'm a Happy Man" CD.) I always played drums on my demos. One day Mike Appel came by, we met, and he asked me to play drums in his group Tex and the Chex. I wrote a song with Jimmy Wood called "An Invitation To Cry". Tex and the Chex were performing at a Greenwich Village club called the Cinderella. Art Polhemus and Bob Wyld heard the group and took us in to Regent Studio's to record "Invitation..." Art and Bob then got Koppelman and Rubin to sign us. In the middle of recording Mike Appel and Everett Jacob's quit. We needed a lead singer and two new musicians to finish the record. A friend of Art and Bob knew of a great singer, he came and did a great job. His name was Garry Bonner. Another friend recommended Allen 'Jake' Jacob's to play guitar and Jake brought in John Townley. Koppelman and Rubin were scoring big with "Do You Believe In Magic" and Koppelman came up with THE name MAGICIAN's {from magic}.

An assured debut and Koppleman & Rubin wisely choose their most commercial recording but despite the quality of "An Invitation To Cry", a Columbia picture sleeve, radio play and TV appearances the 45 failed to chart. Their three later 45s, good pop/rock/folk songs that reflected the individual talents and tastes of the group also missed out on chart action but there is enough in these recordings to suggest they could have been contenders. These and four previously unreleased recordings are now available on a Sundazed "Best Of" CD. Included is a cool booklet written by Karl Baker that details The Magicians recordings and beginnings. The CD only features two songs written Gordon-Bonner but by the time the group had called it a day, one of the most famous writing teams in pop had already penned their first smash, "Happy Together" for The Turtles. Koppelman and Rubin may have lost a highly promising group but with the now honed song writing skills of Gordon and Bonner they weren't shedding many tears.

Anyone with a love of music from the 60s can not fail but be impressed by the extent of their work, the quality of the songs, (including a very high percentage of chart hits, many regularly played today,) and the stature of so many of the artists who recorded them. A website discography compiled by Patrick Beckers, The Songs of Bonner-Gordon is an attempt to collate all their compositions and is a stimulating peak at Bonner and Gordon's musical legacy. The visual element is supplied by label scans and picture sleeves. The one thing missing is an appreciation of the music and lyrics. The perception, mainly fuelled by singing along to the chorus of songs such as "Happy Together", is of a bright and breezy, summer-happy pop. Many, when the lyrics are listened to carefully, including surprisingly "Happy Together" as well as the more obviously spine-tingling "She Knows" by Bobby Darin, are far from being jolly sing alongs. The songs may have been recorded that way; strong melodies and harmonies but the lyrics often belie, with darker twists and turns the joyus feelings evoked.

Despite their songs being recorded by many artists most were originally written for Koppelman and Rubin's artists but they also wrote for another production team, The Jerome Brothers. Steve and Bill Jerome had been working together since the early 60s and had, as with Koppelman & Rubin, established a roster of talented writers, artists and arrangers. An arrangement had been made between the two production teams, ostensively to free the Jerome's from paperwork, to create a new publishing firm, Goodness & Truth Music. (I assume the name was a little joke ;-) As well as lightning their bookkeeping duties the arrangement seems to have allowed The Jerome's access to Koppelman & Rubin's writing stable. Not an invitation they really needed to accept however they were delighted to produce many Gordon and Bonner compositions. Alan's favourite of the songs that were produced by the Jerome's was The Furnacemen's "Sleeping Out The Storm". Likewise Alan and Garry, who tried wherever possible to attend the recording sessions of their songs, had a ball. Alan has a store of humorous stories regarding the Jerome's crazy sense of fun.

The Magicians had broken-up but besides Garry Bonner's solo work, the pair continued recording under various group names; Elmo & Almo, "When The Good Sun Shines", The Parrots, "They All Got Carried Away" and with Peter Sando on lead, The Barracuda, "The Dance At St. Francis", three highly collectable 45s. Alan is a member of The Spectropop Group and has posted many funny and informative letters. These messages are, as with all the posts, archived and can be found using the sites search boxes. One message, a very humorous tale concerns the Elmo & Almo history. Click Here to read a slight edit of Alan's original message.

For Koppelman & Rubin it must have seemed a good idea to pair their new kids from the New York streets with their latest signing from LA, Jack Nitzsche. The fact that the three got on so well, socially as well as gelling musically, and remained firm friends up until Jack's passing, was a bonus. Alan recalls their early meetings.

I honestly don't remember who set up our first meeting; I assume it was a natural course of events. Garry and I went out to the coast by train; we stopped in Chicago and went to see the people at Chess Records. They had a driver pick us up and take us back to the station later in the day; the driver was the Legendary Willie Dixon!!! We first met with Jack at his small home in the Hollywood Hills, then at an apartment-hotel off Sunset Blvd where he lived after leaving his wife. He played us "Expecting To Fly" by Neil Young, we were blown away by the record. At the time Jack was very much into fencing (!) taking lesson's etc. I recall seeing a fencing helmet. Maybe he was planning to use a sword instead of an accountant to get his proper royalties'!!! Garry and I both recall his secret dream, he wanted to buy an old navy ship and convert it into a floating recording studio and a home on the high seas. We can't recall if he wanted to sail to the Arctic or the South Seas, but he was fearful of the end of the world or the sinking of California or something like that! When he had a beer or two look out! Jack's mood could become very sullen. We are talking about a genius here.

I don't think there can be any doubt that Jack viewed both Alan and Garry as gifted artists. In his BOMP! interview Jack, not known for going overboard in his praise paid tribute to the singing skills of Garry.
" The best. The best white soul singer ever. I did a record with him called "Juliet Jones". That was really good, I think, that one holds up. Garry Bonner, the White Tornado. The best. I did a record with Bobby Hatfield called "I'm Free," which was a really good record, but they never released it 'cause he couldn't sing it. The reason he couldn't sing it was he came in and he wasn't making it on the vocals, so Garry Bonner came up to the microphone and said, "Let me sing it one time for you," and he sang it, Hatfield walked out and said, "Why don't you do it, I can't do that!" What a singer!"

A decade later Jack was to produce Alan Gordon on an LP's worth of vocal recordings but despite his admiration for Garry's voice only one cut of his, produced by Jack, was to sneak out. Highly regarded and recently issued on the Ace CD, "Jack Nitzsche - Hearing Is Believing", "The Heart Of Juliet Jones" features a power-house vocal from Garry. Released in a picture sleeve with a Cashbox advert and high expectations, disappointingly the record failed to chart.

Jack had plans for a 'super-group' to include Garry, Denny Bruce told me the story.
"My last attempt at being a drummer came when Jack came up with a good idea for a band. It was going to be called 'Crow Jane Alley.' Garry Bonner would be the lead singer, Ry Cooder, guitar, Russ Titelman, bass, Jack on keyboards, and me. We had one rehearsal and Ry, who by now was working with Jim Keltner and other good studio drummers, let me know I wasn't cutting it. Jack had told Mo Ostin at Warner's about the band (before the rehearsal) he expressed interest. Anyway, Garry went back to New York, Ry signed a solo deal with Warner's, and Russ started producing Little Feat."

It must have been frustrating for Garry, one half of the successful Gordon-Bonner writing team, his voice praised to the rafters by Jack and others, but yet this had failed to translate into chart success for his vocal recordings. Garry strikes me as foremost a singer who contributed to writing songs whereas Alan comes across as foremost a writer who liked to sing. Garry has this to say on Jack and his later releases.
"Jack was a cool guy...we got on fine, I was in awe of his talent from his previous work, but I was in very little control of my own productions at MGM so I couldn't use his arrangements in that situation, and the final product wasn't really worth releasing( in my opinion). The Calla lp??...is that the one with my mug on the album cover...That's just a bunch of sloppy demos some guy put together and sold to Roulette to make a buck...I had nothing to do with it...After the MGM disaster, I never made another record...couldn't get a deal. Had a few singles on Atlantic...that's about it."

Two 45s were released after "Juliet Jones" on Columbia before an early 70s 45 on Faithful Virtue, another Koppelman-Rubin label. He signed for MGM a little later, a whole albums worth of material was recorded but just the one 45, a version of "Everlasting Love', was released on MGM's subsidiary label, Verve. A good choice of song for Garry's voice but perhaps the release was too soon after Robert Knight had hit the charts with the song in late '67. Three 45s for Atlantic followed. In the 90s he joined Kenny Vance in The Planotones, an oldies styled group with a big reputation in the New York area for their live shows.

Barbra Streisand Superman LPFor these two guys it didn't matter what triumphs or disappointments had gone before or what new strings had been bowed the love of music and the need to perform is etched in their psyche. I asked Garry to mention any of his favourite recordings - alright, I know, as an interviewer I shouldn't give up my day job but - I was pleased with Garry's answer.
"A favorite recording of mine is a new song Alan and I finished recently called "CAN'T GET YOU OUT OF MY MIND." I recorded it in my own studio, so I didn't need a record deal...ha ha, its only a demo, but I love the song...Right now the demo is with the publisher in Nashville, waiting for someone to pick up on it."

Both men share an endearing friendship and respect for one another. Garry again ;
"As far as Alan and I go, we've known each other since we were 20 yrs old, played in the same band for years, and spent many formative years trying to "make it" in the music business together...That'll strengthen your friendship...it did ours."

While Garry was off singing for his supper Alan was shut away in his garret concentrating on his writing career. New partnerships were formed with Carole Bayer Sayer, Peter Galway, Susan Sheridan, Jack Nitzsche and others but for the most part his were solo compositions. He also found time for occasional flurries of activity behind the mike. A solo 45 sneaked out, "Anna No One Can Do" on MGM in '73 and two LPs, (with accompanying 45s) "Alan Gordon and his Extragordonary Band" on RCA in '76 and "Alley And The Soul Sneeker's" on Capitol in '79. He joined his former 'boss', Charles Koppelman as a staff writer at EMI where Barbra Streisand, Michelle Phillips, Ronnie Spector, Helen Reddy and Tammy Wynnette were among the recipients of his songs.

The song he wrote with Jack Nitzsche for Tammy and Freddy Fender is one of the great 'lost country' songs, a beautiful song, arrangement and vocal but tragically only to be heard on dodgy video copies of the film. Alan tells some of the story behind the track;
"Jack and I worked on "No One Knows Better Than You" the title song from the film"When You Coming Back, Red Ryder". Marjoe Gortner wanted me to forego my fee promising that if the tune was a hit he would double it. When I said no, he said "Let me see your circumcision"!!! Jack and I wrote that at his place in Hancock Park with Carrie Snodgrass there with us. At the session Tammy said to Freddy Fender she was petrified to fly on those small planes, he told her to take 5 Quaaludes!!! I told her if she did that she'd kill herself before she got on the plane, those damn pills are horrible. I mentioned to her husband/manager I thought Tammy had a wonderful voice, he replied "She's got a good HONK". That I learned was how the country folk describe the twang in their voices."

Both Jack and Alan worked on Barbra Streisand's "Superman" LP but Charlie Calello arranged Alan's songs. I don't think Alan was too disappointed. "My Heart Belongs To Me" was a top 5 hit and earned him another BMI Award to go with the three previous awards Bonner and Gordon had received for "Happy Together", "She'd Rather Be With Me" and "Celebrate". Alan who still liked to be involved in the sessions when his songs were recorded, loved being with Barbra. Describing her as a joy to work with, he managed to blag a 'Superman' costume for his wife, Annette. The word on the street is Annette looked as good in the t-shirt as Barbra did.

Alan wrote "Let The Music Begin" for Michelle Phillips' "Victim Of Romance" LP and shared the arranging credit with Jack. The LP didn't jump-start the former Mama's And Papa's solo career but the title song, a 'Spector' styled romp, written by Moon Martin did attract a fair bit of action as a 45. The album's reputation has also increased, with first a Japanese CD release and now a new reissue, with bonus tracks, on Universal's mail-order outlet Hip-O Select. For Alan's "Alley And The Soul Sneeker's" album Jack assembled an all-star support cast. With vocalists of the calibre of Carl Hall and Vanetta Fields in 'support' the LP had to sound good and it did. Both of Alan's LP's sadly received far more attention and critical acclaim years after there release than at the time. The UK quarterly soul magazine, "In The Basement" penned a review of Alan's, "Alley and The Soul Sneekers" LP, that is so fulsome in its praise you've got to wonder if Alan's son Christian, penned it! (To read the review click on the picture to the left.)

The story goes that true art comes through pain and suffering; thank goodness this is one book Alan hasn't read. Now a proud grandfather and happily married for the last 38 years, he lives in Arizona, as far away from the glamour and fake glitz of showbiz as possible. More likely to say his first "Good Morning", to a coyote than a human, he appears utterly content. His love and enthusiasm for live is as strong and infectious as it was almost 40 years ago when he penned "Happy Together". The hunger and need for success may have dimmed but the inspiration to write, and not only music but plays now as well remains as strong. It's what he does, why change now?

Alan Gordon (1944-2008) R.I.P.

Alan Gordon was a constant source of help and encouragement with this Koppelman-Rubin piece. Re-reading his contributions and remembering his enthusiasm and excitement I couldn't bring myself to alter this piece into the past tense. Alan had such a joy for life, all those who knew and loved him will be the richer for it.

Christian Gordon has a web site celebrating his father's work.

The Alan Gordon Music Library

And Artie Wayne On The Web has written a tribute to Alan Gordon that has received over 30 responses from family, friends and fans saddened at his passing.

Alan Gordon RIP Rock In Perpetuity


A wonderful music & photo montage of Alan Gordon is at:

Bobby Darin, Petula Clark, Jackie DeShannon and Rick Nelson (Part 3) email Koppelman + Rubin + Nitzsche Discography(Part 5)