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Undercover Angel - Alan O'Day
Alan O'Day's father was a newspaper photographer and a music lover. "He used to give me back rubs," recalled Alan, "with syncopated hand-put drum figures." His mother was a newspaper writer, schoolteacher, and music lover as well.
Alan's first musical memory is of creating tunes on a xylophone at the age of six. By the fifth grade, his favorite artist was Spike Jones, and he was serenading his class on the ukulele. At Coachella Valley Union High, he started first rock'n'roll band, with heavy influences from Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis, and Fats Domino.
It was at this point that Alan began to write his own songs. "When I was in high school, to be a songwriter was tantamount to being a bum,
at least as far as the prospects were concerned. I had never even given it much thought. I just did it for fun. I wrote songs when I was in high school as a way of getting acceptance from my peer group."
Alan spent most of the sixties on the road with a four-piece band. He scored some films, and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, but still felt his career was going nowhere.
"When I was twenty-eight years old, I was completely miserable," he said. "I couldn't see what my future would be. I'd been playing in bars and clubs with various groups for years, waiting for that break that would catapult me to stardom. I had a few near misses, but they always fell short."
Then, in 1971, Alan signed with Warner Brothers Music, and wrote "The Drum," which became a hit single for Bobby Sherman. In 1974, three more of his songs did well: "Train of Thought," recorded by Cher; "Rock'n'Roll Heaven," cut by the Righteous Brothers; and "Angie Baby," sung by Helen Reddy. "Well-known artists, good production, distribution, air play; it was the first time that these things just clicked in, one right after another. I said to myself, 'My God, that's what it feels like when everything goes right.'"
In 1977, Warner Brothers Music decided to form a special label for their composers who also performed. "Songs which otherwise would have been channeled to major recording artists," said president Ed Silvers, Everybody sang along to it. In fact, it was a big hit within the industry before it was even released. Acetates went around to people at different companies, and they rang us up, saying, 'This is amazing. Everybody at our label is singing that song here.' It was a big hit because it was an up, happy, summer song.
"I remember when it entered the Top 30. It was exciting -- God, it was incredible! It was making big jumps, but then it began to slow down. It got to number twenty and made an astonishing jump to thirteen. I thought, ooh, and picked up again, and everyone thought, gee, this could be big. It went thirteen to seven; I thought, oh no, I don't believe it, this could be a number one record, my first! The first time, as much as you want that number one -- it's what you've been dreaming about all your life -- when it happens, you can't really face the fact that you could have a number-one record on your hands. At times I thought it wasn't going up there, but it did."