LOU ADLER-A MUSICAL HISTORY.
LOU ADLER-A MUSICAL HISTORY.
Songwriter, producers, manager, director and impresario. That describes Lou Adler. During a long and illustrious career, that started back in 1958, Lou Adler has written over 150 songs and has 300 production credits to his name. Lou Adler has worked with some of the biggest names in music. Among them are Sam Cooke, Carole King, The Everly Brothers, Scott McKenzie, Jan and Dean and The Mamas and The Papas. Tracks from each of these artists feature on Lou Adler-A Musical History which was recently released by Ace Records.
Lou Adler-A Musical History features twenty-five tracks. They were released between 1958 and 1974 on labels like Keen, Capitol, Dore, Madison, Liberty, Warner Bros, plus Ode Records and Dunhill Records, the record companies Lou cofounded. These tracks are just a few of the songs that Lou either penned or produced during his career, which began in 1958.
Although Lou Adler was born in Chicago, his parents moved to Los Angeles when he was just eighteen months old. Growing up on Boyle Heights, in East Los Angeles, Lou was weaned on a diet of R&B jazz. Lou was also interested in pop music. His musical education came from local radio stations and the jazz concerts he went to. During his period, Lou was a music fan first and foremost. He’d no interest in making a career out of music. Then in 1957, Lou met another future legend of music, Herb Albert.
By 1957, Lou had already had a few jobs. This included managing a clothes shop and selling insurance. He even sold a policy to Herb Albert. Their respective girlfriends were friends. Through their girlfriends, Lou and Herb became friends.
Herb had been playing trumpet since he was eight. He was steeped in music. This meant the pair were well matched.
With Herb and Lou spending time together, they decided to try and write some songs together. Having written a few songs, they went looking for a publisher. Lou and Herb did the rounds of publishers and record companies. Major labels were off limits. Trying to get your foot in the door of the three majors, Columbia, Capitol and RCA was impossible. So up-and-coming songwriters took their songs to independent labels. That’s what Lou and Herb did.
They took their demos to A&R, where Bumps Blackwell promptly hired Lou and Herb as A&R men. This was the next part of their musical education. Bumps took the pair under his wing, giving them a crash course in how the music business worked. Part of this was analysing songs. They wrote their findings down and Bumps critiqued and marked it. This was invaluable. Having graduated from Bumps’ informal school of music, Lou and Herb made their songwriting debut.
It was May 1958 when Lou and Herb made their songwriting debut. They penned The Salamas Brothers’ Circle Rock, Froggy Landers and The Cough Drops’ River Rock and The Raiders Yoo Hoo. Another track they wrote was for a musical legend, Sam Cooke which features on Lou Adler-A Musical History, which I’ll pick the highlights of.
All Of My Life is one of two tracks from Sam Cooke on Lou Adler-A Musical History. It was the B-Side to Stealing Kisses, which released on Keen in 1958. Lou and Herb penned All Of My Life. Sam Cooke’s other contribution is a true classic, Wonderful World. Released as a single on Keen in 1969, it featured on their album The Wonderful World Of Sam Cooke. This was Sam’s final album for Keen, before he signed to RCA Victor.
There aren’t many artists who enjoy the longevity that Johnny “Guitar” Watson has. His career began in the early fifties and soon, Johnny established a reputation as one of the best guitarists of his generation. By 1958, Johnny released Baby Talk on Keen. It was written and produced by Lou and Herb. A blistering slice of R&B, it’s no surprise that Johnny went on to enjoy the commercial success and longevity he did.
Surf music is one of the most underrated musical genres. Two of the giants of surf music are Jan and Dean, who enjoyed a string of successful singles. These singles epitomised the surf era. This included 1960s Baby Talk which was released on Dore and gave Jan and Dean a top ten single. It was produced by Lou and Herb. Three years later, Lou and Herb penned Honolulu Lulu with Jan Berry. Released on Dore, it featured on Jan and Dean’s 1963 album Surf City And Other Swingin’ Cities. For newcomers to surf music and Jan and Dean, these two tracks should whet your appetite.
Between 1960 and 1961, The Untouchables released a quintet of singles. Four were released on Madison. This included their 1960 Goodnight Sweetheart, a beautiful fusion of doo wop and R&B. Produced by Lou and Herb, it’s the finest moment of The Untouchables’ career.
Given the recent death of Phil Everly, it’s quite poignant that The Everly Brothers’ Crying In The Rain features on Lou Adler-A Musical History. Their country tinged brand of rock ’n’ roll proved successful during the late fifties and sixties. They enjoyed three number one singles in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts. Crying In The Rain reached number six in the US Billboard 100. It was written by Howard Greenfield and Carole King and prodded by Lou and Herb. The result was a timeless classic which is a poignant reminder of The Everly Brothers.
For many people, The Mamas and The Papas provided the soundtrack to the mid-sixties. Their fusion of folk, rock and psychedelia proved hugely popular and epitomises a time and a place. Their debut single was Go Where You Wanna Go, which failed to chart. Written by John Phillips and produced by Lou Adler, it was released on Dunhill Records, the label Lou cofounded in 1964. Go Where You Wanna Go featured on the 1966 album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, which reached number one in the US Billboard 200. If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears also featured California Dreamin,’which reached number four in the US Billboard 100. California Dreamin’ is a timeless, classic track, one that people never tire of hearing.
Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair) is another track that epitomises the sixties and the hippy era. Just like so many other tracks on Lou Adler-A Musical History, it’s worthy of being described as a classic. Written by John Phillips who produced the track with Lou, it sold over seven million copies. Since then, this psychedelic pop anthem has been referred to as “the unofficial anthem of the counterculture of the 1960s.”
The Blossoms spent much of their career singing backing vocals. They were a favourite of producer Phil Spector. However, there was more to The Blossoms than singing backing vocals. They enjoyed some chart success during the sixties. By 1967, The Blossoms were signed to Ode Records and released Wonderful as a single. It was produced by Lou Adler. So was the B-Side Stoney End, which was a cover of a Laura Nyro track. Both these tracks show what The Blossoms were capable. They’re also a reminder that given their inconsiderable talent, The Blossoms should’ve enjoyed much more commercial success.
Peggy Lipton is described as an “actress, former model and occasional pop singer.” Wear Your Love Like Heaven which was released on Ode 1968, is Peggy’s finest moment. It also features on her 1968 eponymous album. Produced by Lou Adler, her tender, seductive vocal and lush strings combine beautifully. The result is a quite beautiful hidden gem.
Oh No Not My Baby is a track that’s been covered by a number of artists. One of them was Merry Clayton. Produced by Lou Adler, it reached number seventy in the US Billboard 100 and number thirty in the US R&B charts in 1973. Merry’s other contribution to Lou Adler-A Musical History is a cover of the Jagger and Richard’s penned Gimme Shelter. It was produced by Lou and reached number seventy-three in the US Billboard 100. A fusion of soul, gospel and rock this was the title-track to Merry’s 1970. She breathes new life, soul and sass into the familiar lyrics.
Carole King released a true classic album in February 1971, Tapestry, which reached number one in 1971. Eventually, Tapestry sold twenty-five million copies and won five Grammy Awards. Tapestry featured It’s Too Late. Written by Carole and Toni Stern, and produced by Lou, it was released as a single on Ode Records. It reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and winning a Grammy for song of the year in 1972. Carole’s other contribution on Lou Adler-A Musical History is the wistful ballad, It’s Going To Take Some Time, from her million selling album Music, which was released on Ode in December 1971. It’s Going To Take Some Time is another track from the pen of Carole and Toni Stern, which reached number twelve in the US Billboard 100. 1971 proved to be the most successful year in Carole’s career. No wonder, with Music like It’s Too Late and It’s Going To Take Some Time.
My final choice from Lou Adler-A Musical History is Spirit’s I Got A Line On You. Released as a single in 1968 on Ode Records, I Got A Line On You featured on Spirit’s eponymous debut album. Written by Randy California and produced by Lou Adler, I Got A Line On You showcased Spirit’s fusion of psychedelic rock and jazz reaching number twenty-five in the US Billboard 100. Spirit reached number thirty-one in the US Billboard 200 and launched their career.
While I’ve only mentioned eighteen of the tracks on Lou Adler-A Musical History, I could just as easily have mentioned any one of the twenty-five tracks. That’s testament to Lou Adler. The music he wrote and produced was of the highest quality.
Whether Lou was working with some of the biggest names in music, or a newcomer, he was determined that to help an artist fill their potential. Time and time again, he does that here. Whether it’s giants of music like Sam Cooke, Carole King, The Everly Brothers, Scott McKenzie, Jan and Dean and The Mamas and The Papas, or newcomers like Spirit or The Untouchables Lou brings out the best in them. Many of the songs he wrote and produced became timeless classics. This includes songs he recorded for his own record companies.
Lou cofounded Dunhill Records in 1964 and sold the company three years later in 1967, to ABC for three million Dollars. Then in 1967, Lou began again with Ode Records. He had the Midas touch. One of his most successful signings was Carole King. 1971 was her Magnus Opus, when she released the twenty-five million selling Tapestry and Music, which was certified platinum. So not only was Lou steeped in music, but was a shrewd businessman. Where other faltered, Lou Adler thrived. That’s why he enjoyed such a long and successful career.
Lou Adler has written over 150 songs and has 300 production credits to his name. Since 1958, Lou Adler has worked with some of the biggest names in music. The twenty-five tracks on Lou Adler-A Musical History, are just the tip of the iceberg. To do Lou Adler’s career justice, Ace Records, who recently released Lou Adler-A Musical History, would’ve to release a box set. However, who knows what the future holds? Maybe that will include a followup to Lou Adler-A Musical History, which pays tribute to Lou Adler, an accidental music mogul.
LOU ADLER-A MUSICAL HISTORY.