Monday, November 23, 2009

More Stories Behind The Songs

The other day we ran a short piece (courtesy of Artie Wayne) reflecting back on songwriter Artie Kornfeld's memories surrounding the writing of the Jan and Dean classic hit "Dead Man's Curve" ... which has since sparked quite a bit of dialog on this topic! Here's a recap ... and the latest! (kk)

Kent ...
Long before he became known as the Father Of Woodstock, Artie Kornfeld was a hit songwriter / producer (“The Pied Piper”, “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things”) When I went to Los Angeles for the first time in 1968 there were three places I wanted to see: Malibu Beach, MacArthur Park, and “Dead Man’s Curve”. Now 40 years later, I asked my longtime friend and sometime collaborator to tell me the story behind Jan and Dean’s “Classic Hit”, and how he co -wrote “Dead Man’s Curve”, with Brian Wilson and Jan Berry.
-- Artie Wayne

One day, Brian and I were chilling and trying out this tiny Honda that the company had sent him as a thank you for writing the Hondells “Hey Little Honda.” We were cruisin’ about 3 miles from his ex-wife, Marilyn’s mom’s house. Brian, as he was known to do, was pushing two hundred pounds way over what a 60 cc Honda could handle. I said 'Bry, you should slow down', as in Santa Monica there is a lot of sand on the streets. We went over and both the bike ... and us ... were torn apart. We carried half a Honda each 3 miles, bleeding like crazy, to an open door in an empty house.We noticed a piece of blank paper on the piano and Bry sat down and I pulled up a chair and, I guess because of recent events I wrote down the words, “Dead Man's Curve”. Brian started a two four piano rhythm but I didn’t have any idea for the lyric … except I always envied Jan’s Corvette, sang to Brian’s chords” I was crusin’ in my Sting Ray late one night and an XKE pulled upon the right…” Brian repeated what I wrote down with the melody and I almost finished the lyric in about 30 minutes with me writing the words, some with Brian, as being a New Yorker after I put us on Sunset Blvd.I had no idea what landmarks we would pass to that curve after Doheny where it turns right and heads into Beverly Hills..."
-- Artie Kornfeld


Cool story, Artie ... we ALWAYS love hearing the stories BEHIND the songs!!! Thanks for sharing this with our readers. (kk)

Great story on the origins of "Dead Man's Curve", a 60s classic to be sure. This is what sets Forgotten Hits apart from any of the other oldies fanzines on the web -- or anywhere else for that matter!
Thanks, Dave ... but read the email below and you'll see that our public demands that we be "spot on" every single time ... or we're going to get called on it! This is why we adopted the slogan "The Most Accurate Truth" ... and when we get it wrong, we own up to getting it wrong. (kk)

Artie's story on "Dead Man's Curve" sounds interesting, but I'm not sure it makes sense. The day they were tooling around on the Honda for the success of "Little Honda" is at least 6 months after "Dead Man's Curve" was already a hit! Something doesn't add up right there.

You know, he's right ... "Dead Man's Curve" debuted on The Billboard Charts on March 7, 1964 ... "Little Honda" didn't premier on the chart until September 12th. (In fact, even The Beach Boys' own version of this tune wasn't released until August of that year.) Interesting story? Yes. Completely accurate? Not exactly. (kk)

When we find a discrepancy like this, we always try to go back to the source to clear things up ... and, thanks to our FH Buddy Artie Wayne, we got THIS final word from Artie Kornfeld regarding the possibility of scrambling this timeline (kk):
Kent …
How ya’ doin’?
After I got your e-mail about Dave questioning the timeline in Artie Kornfeld’s story on when he wrote “Dead Man’s Curve”, I got in touch with him.
He e-mailed me three times today in an effort to get the facts right.
Artie Wayne
When Brian wrote and presented the song, it was WAY before the hit and he was given that 60cc bike. The story, except not for knowing exactly when the Honda was received, is Golden. 40 plus years later and 96 chart songs, I can assure you that we were on the Honda and, looking back at it, I assumed as Brian wrote it he was given it. WE WERE ON A HONDA AND DID WIPE OUT. WHY AND WHEN BRY GOT THAT BIKE IS NOT CERTAIN, BUT EVERYTHING ELSE IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.
WHEN JAN AND I REUNITED AFTER HIS PARTIAL RECOVERY AT A COCAINE - ANON MEETING AT CEDARS SINAI IN BEVERLY HILLS, HE APPROACHED ME AND I HAD TEARS IN MY EYES AND SAID "HELLO, JAN." HE LOOKED AT ME PUZZLED AND SAID, “Artie Kornfeld you wrote “Dead Man’s Curve.” I replied, "No, Jan, WE did." He stared puzzled and for months he called four times a week. We met and tried to write but in his freebase smoking mind he just could not connect. It hurt so bad to see an ex best friend like this, as my Daughter had just died in 83.
Artie Kornfeld
I gained even more respect for my old friend when Artie e-mailed me again, and told me he contacted songwriter P.F. Sloan (“Eve of Destruction", “You Baby”, “Secret Agent Man") for further verification of the event.
Artie Wayne

P.F. Sloan, who taught Brian Wilson how to write and record, remembers the Honda story as I wrote it. He thinks BRY wrote the song for a commercial, as he remembers the session just days after we wrote “Dead Man’s Curve”.
Artie Kornfeld
I want to thank Artie Kornfeld for clearing this up … and look forward to hearing more stories behind the “Classics” that he co-wrote, which I’ll pass along to Forgotten Hits.
Artie Wayne
And, it sounds like Artie Kornfeld's got a WHOLE lot more stories to share, too ... his new book, "The Pied Piper Of Woodstock", is chock full of Artie's early memories ... from his earliest days as a hit songwriter ("The Pied Piper", "Dead Man's Curve", "The Rain, The Park And Other Things") on up to the planning and execution of the Woodstock Music Festival, here's a guy who has seen it all ... with a front row seat. We look forward to Artie Kornfeld sharing more of his memories with our Forgotten Hits Readers. (kk)
You can check out Artie's remarkable history here:

HERE COMES ANOTHER CURVE TO THE "DEAD MAN'S CURVE" STORY!!! ---> In the liner notes for the recently released Jan and Dean collection "The Complete Liberty Singles", yet another version of the story is told:
"For the next Jan and Dean disc, Jan reworked a 'Drag City' album cut, 'Dead Man's Curve,' into a California car crash of epic proportions. After an opening fanfare of alarming horns, the Greek tragedy builds on a pounding drum track underpinning Jan's lead which was framed, in turn, by a heavenly high-toned chorus in a breathtaking arrangement crafted by Jan. Roger Christian had lobbied for a less deadly conclusion, but Jan insisted that the song end catastrophically. The fourth credited writer (then Screen gems writer and future Woodstock producer) Artie Kornfeld, had recently collaborated with Jan on 'I Adore Him' by The Angels, and they teamed up again when Artie temporarily moved into Jan and Don's Occidental Blvd. apartment. Don Altfeld recalls how Art, Jan and Roger wrote the song on a restaurant napkin, and then left it on the table, returning later to dig through the trash for it."

For more on the "Little Honda" timeline, here are a few words from Fred Vail, who was promoting The Beach Boys' concerts in 1963 - 1964:
Good evening, Kent,
WOW! What a story. I was not on the 60cc Honda -- but wish I was there when it all came down. You know what really struck me? Artie referred to Brian as "Bri," (or Bry), a name seldom used when referring to 'the maestro.' That's what I still call him and that's also what Marilyn (Rovell Wilson Rutherford) called him in the old days.
We did three concerts at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium in 1963, including the December 21 concert that was recorded for their first #1 album -- and first "Gold" album, "Beach Boys Concert." We did a second concert in May of '64 and the two shows were combined for the Capitol album. I emceed the first Dec 21 concert and it was my introduction that Bri used for the album. I vividly recall 'the boys' including "Little Honda" on either the Dec show or the May show and Bri rode a Honda out on to the stage to the roar and delight of the crowd.
(Note: if you have a copy of the Capitol 'gatefold' "Beach Boys Concert" album (not the Pickwick re-issue, "Wow, Great Concert,") you can check the photos and see if Brian is pictured in one of them riding the Honda. My copy is on a record shelf in my cluttered office with about ten or fifteen boxes in front of it:)
I will forward Artie's story to Dean and try to get his remarks 'for the record.'
As they sang in "Little Honda," ..... hang on tight.:)

DIDJAKNOW?: If Brian Wilson originally wrote "Little Honda" to be used in a television commercial to promote the hot new cycle, it also was the recipient of the exact OPPOSITE effect. When The Beach Boys performed "Little Honda" on The Andy Williams Show in 1966 (with Andy singing along no less ... and The Beach Boys chanting "Andy, Andy" in the background!) they were told to change the lyrics to "Little Cycle" so as NOT to promote what could otherwise be construed as a "free advertisement" for Honda Motorcycles!!! (I finally found this clip on YouTube to share with you today ... DEFINTELY worth a viewing or two!!!)

And, speaking of Brian Wilson, THIS looks interesting:

Winter 2009 edition of ESQ is now available; it features another great article from Craig Slowinski on the Beach Boys TODAY! session outtakes (including "All Dressed Up For School"); a reflective article on the Beach Boys transitional single releases from 1968-1970 by Phil Miglioratti; and fan accounts and images from ESQ's Pet Sounds Safari; news & reviews; more!
David Beard

And, you can order YOUR copy today on the ESQ Website:
Click here: :: Endless Summer Quarterly - The Beach Boys' Fan Magazine ::

And here's ANOTHER Great Story Behind The Song!!!


Yesterday, of course, was the 46th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. And since today's issue seems somewhat Beach Boys-centric, it seems only fair to remind you that last year we told you what The Beach Boys were doing on the night of the Kennedy Assassination ... for the benefit of those who may have missed it, you can find THAT story here:
Click here: Forgotten Hits - The Story Behind The Beach Boys' Classic "The Warmth Of The Sun"

Meanwhile, here's ANOTHER great Kennedy Assassination Weekend story, courtesy of Artie Wayne, who gave us permission to run his entire article on The Forgotten Hits Website ... thanks, Artie!!!

(Here's the "teaser" that first came out ... from Artie's blog)
Kent ...
From Nov. 22, 1963, to Nov. 24, 1963, the weekend of the Kennedy Assassination, I had to record the Joey Powers “Midnight Mary “album. Together with musicians that included Paul Simon, Al Gorgoni, Jeannie Thomas, and Roger McGuinn, we managed to make it through!
Here's the story:
http://artiewayne.wordpress. com/2009/11/21/president- kennedy-and-midnight-mary/
Artie Wayne
http://artiewayne.wordpress. com/about-artie-wayne/

Thanks, Artie ... this makes the PERFECT ending to today's "Stories Behind The Songs" feature!!! (kk)

It was November 22, 1963 and I had been preparing to record the entire “Midnight Mary” album during the four day weekend. I’d been flying to Columbus, Ohio every week to rehearse Joey Powers, who was going for his Masters Degree at Ohio State.
That night, as Al Gorgoni put some finishing touches on the arrangements, Jeannie Thomas polished the background parts for her and Lettie Hamblet. Our usual crew of musicians, augmented with Paul Simon and Roger McGuinn on 12 string guitars, was going over the charts for the first session, due to start in a half-hour.

Joey Powers and I were riding into the city from the airport, listening to a new record by the Beatles, “I Want To Hold Your Hand!” on the radio. Suddenly, the announcer interrupted with a terrible unconfirmed report from Washington. By the time we walked into the studio, we could see the tears in everybody’s eyes and we knew that it was true ... “President Kennedy had been shot!

Joey Powers recalls, “You met me at LaGuardia and had a cab waiting to go to the city. You were very nervous and kept looking away from me. The cab driver was listening to the news on his radio, but I was so preoccupied with studying the music, that I was not paying much attention.

Then you finally said that something had happened to the President. It occurred during my flight so I was completely in the dark. I was in such shock that I didn’t think I could do the album!”

Joey Powers

The mood in the entire nation was somber, and the collective grief in the studio over the next few days was overwhelming, but we had a deadline to meet. Al Gorgoni kept the session moving, while Jeannie Thomas comforted us all.

What a sad day it was. It took the wind out of all of us and it took us a while to get back to working. Even when we did, it was with a very heavy heart. but we finished the tracks over the next three days.

Gorgoni recalls, “I guess concentrating on meeting the deadline was a good way for me to avoid the emotion evoked by such a tragedy. After one of the sessions, I recall a conversation with Roger McGuinn about where Folk music was heading. He predicted the whole Electric Folk Rock thing that blossomed a while later when he formed The Byrds.

"Imagine being in the studio with Roger McGuinn and Paul Simon, who had started to record the “Wednesday Morning 3 AM album”. They were about to help establish a whole new stream of Pop music. Artie certainly could recognize talent. Even through all the sadness, I was happy to be there.”

Amy Records promotion man Freddie DeMann dropped by, but even his usual “Shtick”, couldn’t lighten things up. The CEO of Amy Records, Larry Uttal came by as well, but he couldn’t even make it in to the studio, breaking down in the hall. He said, just before he left, “I don’t know how you guys can do it.”... and, quite honestly, neither do we.


In between the tracking and overdubbing sessions, Joey and I went down to WPIX TV, where Joey taped the Clay Cole Dance show. Clay is an old friend of Joey's, who once worked with him as an NBC page. In between takes, the mood is dark and apprehensive, while we watched all the footage of the assassination as it came into the newsroom unedited.

Clay Cole

As we watched the surreal events unfold, I have images forever etched in my memory, including the entire 8mm Abraham Zapruder home movie clip of the Presidential Procession, in which the President is getting his head shot off! The entire staff keeps watching the tape over and over again, getting more and more depressed. I don’t know how they’re ever going to be able to show this to the public. Finally, we decided to call it a night, and arranged for Joey to come in the next day to finish up his segment with Clay.

It’s hard not to think about this history changing event, and stay positive the next day. As soon as Joey is finished lip synching “Midnight Mary”, and doing an interview with Clay, we all went into the control room. Everyone was crowded around a monitor as we watched the assassination of alleged JFK killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, by Texas night club owner, Jack Ruby!

Stunned by another history altering day, everyone wondered what could happen next? Joey and I rushed back to the studio to finish up his vocals before he had to catch a plane back to Ohio. Exhausted, I fell asleep in the cab on the way back home to the Bronx, while on the radio, Murray the K played “This Boy” by The Beatles.

-- Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne from his forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”

After sending my friend Clay Cole my account of the events of 45 years ago, he e-mailed me back, “Damn, Artie! Thanks for the refresher. I blanked out on that memory …. that JFK nightmare dooms any good memories of that day”