While wrapping up my holiday CD, It’s December for release, my son, John Meehan in Florida, mentioned to me that he would like to have a couple of my Platinum Awards to hang on his St Augustine restaurant, Meehan’s Irish Pub, I told him about the Simon and Garfunkel situation and how great it would be if we could get the Three Time Multi-Platinum Award of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence. I had been ranting and raving about it all over the Internet. The next thing I knew, with no warning, I received a package containing the award as a gift from my son. Its real, no fake, and reads:

“RIAA CERTIFIED SALES AWARD – PRESENTED TO DON MEEHAN TO COMMEMORATE THE SALE OF MORE THAN 3,000,000 COPIES OF THE COLUMBIA RECORDS LONG PLAYING ALBUM ‘SOUNDS OF SILENCE.'”

 

SOS CREDITS

When I learned about the Library of Congress adding the recording among twenty-five to the National Recording Registry “for long-term preservation due to its cultural, artistic and historic importance,” I began a campaign at my Blog to get my mixing credits known. My original mixing notes and ranting became a topic on the Internet, attracting many new fans.

I guess I told everyone, ranted here on my Blog in earlier posts about it and a lot of people came over from Steve Hoffman’s music Forum and later from the Japanese  Simon & Garfunkel Web Forum. I even mentioned it to some Sony people, who remained silent on the matter, except to say that Sony was preparing albums of the singers’ old recordings. I expressed that I hoped they would get the credits straight. I could only assume that Sony was probably secretly planning a fifty year anniversary release of the pair for 2015, with the same old, same old scenario.

Since no one contacted me about it, I wondered who finally got to the Columbia Records people to give me credit and get the word to RIAA. I believe my son, John Meehan, must have gotten on the case. He knows how to get things done. He worked as an executive with Ritz Carlton management for 12 years in six locations, and was an executive consultant for a year and a half for the new Fontainebleau before he opened his highly successful Meehan’s Irish Pub, in St. Augustine. Whatever, whoever, makes no difference. Its done. Its over. I got it, but here’s another big thanks to John.

SOS RIAA AWARD

And here it is.

Had I known, I would have had them put the studio engineer, Roy Halee’s name on it also. Yeah, he took all the credit back when, but lets let bygones be bygones. We were kind of close and friends back then and he put some great sounds on a few of my Columbia singles in the studio. I even got in some hot water with my Columbia bosses around that time when I called up the company president’s office to try get them to pay Roy some more money not to leave Columbia. What did I know about Corporate BS? Not much. And I stayed in hot water for years with my boss.

To recap with some background on this credit thing, on July 26, 1965, Columbia Records producer Tom Wilson and I mixed the mono single record version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, that immediately climbed the charts, calling for an album in subsequent months, whereas the all important monaural version was also mixed by Tom and me. It marked the beginning of a career for Simon and Garfunkel that will celebrate fifty years in 2015.

I must stress that the big reason why mono was most important was that records at that time were all broken on AM radio, and it required a lot of skill even with three and four track masters to sound powerful on small speakers. The secret was to make your mix as strong and powerful as the Beatles and Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound,” to compete. Tom Wilson and the other pop producers at Columbia at that time all knew that I, and no one else at Columbia  knew how to do this at that particular time.

Unfortunately, this was only about two years before engineer credits were handed out and I missed out on receiving the coveted and deserving credit “for its cultural, artistic and historic importance.”

Also at that time in 1965, I sang a cover record of The Sound of Silence  for Columbia Special Products, with some of the same musicians that were on the S & G version. When I played it for Paul Simon back then, he remarked, “Wow! It sounds like us.” Since I am prohibited from airing the cover record in any way because of copyright infringement, I will be producing and legally releasing a new cover record of the song on my own Barkroom label. Al Gorgoni, who was on their record as well as mine, can’t play on it because his fingers are bad. I will be searching for a great guitarist to add sounds which overall, will speak “now and then,” or Yesterday and Today, as a fifty year tribute to one of the greatest songs ever written. If you are interested in playing on it, email me an MP3 of your work to roughmixdon@gmail.com. I’ll pick the best one or two.

I just released my extended play holiday CD, It’s December, claiming a new world record for singing and overdubbing my voice 136 times on a single recording. It is at CD Baby and its twenty-seven associate distributors. The title song, It’s December, tells all about December and holidays, including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as well as Christmas. You can hear and play all the songs at here. 

But a most unusual accomplishment on the CD is my singing all the parts of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus; soprano, alto, tenor and bass, with 136 voices, harmonizing with myself. Topping it off, I sang it a cappella and on another cut I added a rock beat to it.

After months of form letter emails, an organization turned the world record down writing: “Given that it is impossible to prove the number of voices and that the number of sales cannot be guaranteed, we unfortunately cannot accept your claim as a new record.”  That statement floored me, plus learning that their “adjudicator’s” presence to witness and to judge me would cost me a few thousand dollars, raised more questions. Apparently, it is all about money. Had I been on a top record label with an estimate of thousands of sales, or paid them the thousands, I am certain I would have received their piece of paper certification. As a New York friend and colleague has stated, “Yeah, that and $2.50 will get you on the subway.”

So I decided to start my own campaign to tell the world. I believe most people would believe the procedure, which I explained in a prior post: Overdubbing with RoughmixDon Meehan – on 26 June, 2013. It explained all about doing it on tape, but is the same for digital recording; Record a bunch of tracks and then balance them and mix them down to two. Any knowledgeable recording engineer would know this simple fact. But a simple way to prove it would be to show the doubter the individual singing tracks on a computer monitor in a program like Pro Tools or Logic ProX, play a few seconds and then compare that with my live voice. This might take every bit of a few minutes tops. But the thousands demanded by the company to send a witness raises serious questions about their credibility.

Another unusual cut is my fifty overdubbed voices on Composer, Arranger, and six time Grammy winner, Ray Moore’s arrangement of Silent Night, with harmonies in fourths. Sounds weird that way, but with the universal interest in the Mars Rover landing and the recent launch of Orion to Mars gave us the idea that there may have been a Silent Night on Mars or somewhere out in space at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/donmeehan1

More of what? Well, it’s a long story. Taking a look back at my old New York days, I was 19, barely out of high school, 1500 miles from home, had played a lot of places for my age, on the road for a time, played in Canada twice, and all the big hotels in New York with different bands. My vocal and drama coaches had drilled it into me to live and breathe the lyrics of a song when singing. And I did. It was 1951 and I had the best steady playing and highest paid band job in New York with the Alan Holmes band in the Hotel Astor Broadway Lounge.

TME SQUARE ASTOR

1951 – Looking north on Broadway is the Astor on the left. Look close at the marquee and you’ll see “Sheraton Astor Hotel – Alan Holmes & orch.”  That’s us!

NY HOTEL ASTOR

1951 – Looking south on Broadway is the Astor on the right. The Broadway Lounge was there on the right where you see the second floor circular windows.  

On New Years Eve we could get a great view out on the crowds from the center window over the marquee, and see the ball drop. In the summers we were the so-called relief band with the big bands like Sammy Kaye and Freddy Martin up in the Astor Roof Ballroom.

I would put so much feeling into a song that some nights, Martin’s boy singer, Merv Griffin, showed a bit of jealousy of my singing. But then I showed a little jealousy when the Hollywood starlets like Polly Bergen and others came to swoon over Merv. On the east side of the ballroom was a beautiful view of the Broadway lights in Times Square, and looking down west from the ballroom was usually a most beautiful view of a row of big passenger ships, docked on the Hudson River. I had never flown in a plane, nor been on a ship, and since those beautiful ships were such a sight to see, I always dreamed of going on one. Maybe someday I might play with a band on a cruise, I thought. Well, I finally did, but many years later, and it turned out to be a highlight in my career.

It was now the ’60s and I had some exciting times, great job at Columbia Records, singing and playing with some great New York bands, singing demos for some great writers, and singing on some great paying commercials. One of the bandleaders I freelanced and played and sang club dates with, Paul Jean, also booked cruises. So, one night I told him about the Astor view of all the ships, and how my biggest dream was to go on one of them. I asked him what would be the possibility of this happening? It just so happened that he was taking a small band on the Queen Mary in three weeks. Would I be interested? Damn straight, I’d get some time off from Columbia. You don’t make much money, but there is free room and board and a chance to see some far off places in the Caribbean.

I didn’t know at the time, and it wasn’t made public, but once on board, word soon got out that the cast and crew including Frank Sinatra starring, were aboard the ship for the filming of the 1966 movie, Assault On A Queen. We had a good band and I did my share of singing the hits and standards. I was singing one of my best songs, More, in the ship’s elegant main lounge one night, and it happened to be a song that Sinatra had recorded on an album a couple or more years prior. I didn’t know it but he was sitting in the back of the lounge and when I had finished, he rose to his feet and applauded. I was dumbstruck. The greatest of singers, Frank Sinatra was standing and applauding for Don Meehan? Wow! Was that something to write home about or what? I went over and thanked him, met briefly and heard him tell me to keep up the good work. What a frigging thrill! I thanked him, shook his hand and I never saw him again. He had been my idol since high school days, and there he was cheering me on. This event did wonders for my confidence over the years. If Sinatra liked what he heard, then I must have had something to offer, I felt. In addition, that song with its meaningful words, became my favorite to this day as you’ll see later in this post.

Arriving back from the Nassau port as the shuttle neared the ship, we had passed right by a barge with the end doors open and down, and set up with movie cameras about a hundred yards away from the ship, obviously preparing to film our departure in an hour or so. I figured that our sailing that night would probably be a major scene in the movie, so I decided I would be in the movie. I went to my cabin and grabbed the bedspread and went to the position under the first lifeboat on the starboard side. I’d be that tiny speck up there under the lifeboat waving the bedspread. When we began to sail, I unfurled the spread and began to wave it high and wide to the cameras.

RMS_Queen_Mary_Long_Beach_January_2011_view

What would you think if you saw the movie and some idiot was waving a bedspread under that first lifeboat

When I saw the movie, they obviously edited it to where the ship was well on the way and to a point where no waving bedspread could be seen. I probably disrupted an expensive one take only scene. And I asked myself through the years, “Why would you pull such a dumb stunt like that?” No answers have emerged, except my usual craziness, and to say, “Yes, I was there.” But the memories of Frank Sinatra applauding me that night would be etched in my mind forever, and Hail to the Queen!

Four years later, unbeknownst to me, that undear first wife had been secretly planning a divorce, and while I was in LA recording the Barbara Streisand movie, On a Clear Day, she had cleaned me out of everything, the savings and checking accounts, safe box, and stocks and bonds that I had lovingly put in both names. Dumb ass I was and in total shock, since I had no clue it was coming. Being totally broke, I was never ever so pissed off in my life as when she handed me a card with her lawyer’s name on it. A bloody divorce ensued that left me with at least my CBS job, a few club dates and a struggle to stay alive.

I met up playing with old friend and bandleader Paul Jean again at that time and I asked him if he might have a cruise that I could go on and get me away from the shit for a few days. The answer was yes, and the timing was perfect. He would be leading a trio on a ten day cruise job on the great ship, the France, and would love to have me there. And I would love it even More.   SS_France_Hong_Kong_74

The beautiful ship, The France

It was a great getaway.  As the greatest luck would have it, the second day out I met Fran, from Philly, and we wound up spending all the time we could together. I would sing some of her favorite songs in the lounge, one of which also happened to be my favorite, More, and of course, I would sing it a couple times every night. The more I sang it, the more I felt the true meaning of the words. We really got to know each other during those few days, as well as our togetherness on as many days as possible after the cruise, and falling in love. About nine months later we said our vows to spend the rest of our lives together, and Fran became the true woman in my life, my hero, my queen, my strength, and my everything. The words of that song, More, could not have had truer meaning then or now.

Two years later we were forced to go for custody of my children, since their mother was hauled in for neglect. There was a huge custody battle, but with Fran at my side, we finally got custody, and learned the ex had paid judges with my hard earned money she took. Imagine the fears, worries and anxiety of a young woman, barely 28 years old, suddenly forced into and having to become the mother of my four neglected kids. But neither I nor my children would have survived without the More than the greatest love of Fran, there by my side all the way.

And once more, a Tribute and Thanks to Paul Jean, for bringing Fran and me together. On July 16, 2013, Fran and I will celebrate our forty-first anniversary. And every word of that song, More, rings loud and true now as it did then. We’ve lived through the good and the bad as the song goes: “waking, sleeping, laughing, weeping.” And as a side note, I can still see Frank Sinatra standing there, applauding and cheering me on after singing those same words. Maybe he was somehow seeing into the future and my growing love for my loving wife, Fran, who is “More than the greatest love the world has known  –  No one else could love you MORE.”

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SWEETHEART!!!!   July 16, 2013 And may we have many many MORE!

Yeah, I guess that’s where I really learned it. Anne owned Stea-Phillips Studio in the old hotel next to Columbia Records at 799 Seventh Avenue. The Victoria. And she had a studio in her home in Jersey. She could overdub anything, anytime she felt like it, in her own places or her favorite others, like Bell Sound with Eddie Smith, Mira Sound with Brooks Arthur, and I guess I could name six or eight others. Anne was also the main singers contractor for groups for everyone, practically, who recorded. She also did one hell of a job composing, arranging and conducting, and was and is a great jazz singer.

There must have been at least a dozen or more singers working with Anne of which I was one. And there must have been all twelve or more of us called in on about the hottest July days of year in 1966 to back up Kate Smith on her Christmas Album It was hotter than hell when they had to turn the AC off when we recorded.

Our main group of four consisted of Anne, Jerry Keller, Trade Martin and me. We could sing anything written at sight. Her Queen Anne’s Lace Album” at HERE is available at CD Baby. We were joined on the album by two additional singers, Jerry Duane and Gene Steck. Several of Anne’s solo albums include the classic Born To Be Blue, and her most recent release, Ballet Time .

Anne had put me through a wringer, having to learn to sight sing anything written on a music sheet in any key. We were just like any good musician with an instrument. And then, with some additional coaching by Anne, I became one of the four of her main group. When she had more than one date booked, she would usually call on me to go and act as the leader according to AFTRA and SAG  rules. Anne was blessed, or rather cursed with perfect, or what is called absolute pitch. This meant that if a part was written in C, and the singer wanted to sing it down a half a step, the band would have to transpose it to the key of B with five sharps. And so would Anne. On the other hand, if they wanted it up a half step it would be in Db with five flats. The rest of us would just blissfully sight read, without a problem as if we were still in the key of C. But not Anne. She had to transpose.

Well, I get this call sometime in 1965 in the evening at the Columbia Studio, from Anne asking, “Can you do an imitation of Del Shannon?” “Sure, what’s up?” I said. During those times I had learned that you never turn down anything when it comes to a singing job. She explained that she was writing an arrangement for the Pepsi Cola “Come Alive“ campaign to sound like Del Shannon’s big hit, Handy Man in ’64. Frankly, I could imitate and sing like most anyone at that time, and I told her that I could do it. So I ran right out and bought the record and spent the rest of the night listening and copying his sound on his words, “I fix broken hearts, I know that I truly can Come-a, come-a , come-a Yeah, yeah, yeah Come-a, come-a, come-a”

So, we go into the studio the next day and Anne had assembled the best players and written a great rock arrangement that would sound identical to Del’s Handy Man. And there I was singing, “Come alive, Come-a come-a alive (from a high A and Bb twice), You’re in the Pepsi generation.” I thought it was for radio but learned later it was only a demo at AFTRA rates, and no radio play. But guess who did the TV commercial. You guessed it. Del Shannon, imitated me imitating him. I believe they may have just used the same music track and had him and the Royaltones overdub it. So he got the big bucks on that one. See it HERE.

Anne was arranger-conductor on some more for Pepsi, including the “Turtles” whom we also imitated, and then, they imitated us imitating them. Hear them HERE. She also did the “Four Tops.”

But the real big one came along later when I got a call from Anne to be at A&R studio the next morning for our own Pepsi commercial. Phil Ramone would be engineering, and a young(er) Jerry Bruckheimer at BBDO Adv. Agency producing. I was working days at Columbia at that time, and would have to call in with a sick day. The fact was that I had already called in because I had a bad case of laryngitis. So it wouldn’t be a lie. How in the hell am I going to do this? I thought. I could barely talk, much less sing, but here was one of my biggest breaks ever in show business. Since I had run out, I’d have to hurry to get some Megazones in the morning and eat them like candy to clear my throat.

My daily routine going to work at Columbia was to park my car in Long Island City and take the subway E train into Manhattan two stops to Fifth Avenue. On that day, even though my throat was a lot better, I would head on over to a certain drugstore on Broadway and buy up a load of “Megazones.” We singers would usually have some of these handy in case of throat problems. I didn’t. So, as the train approached the station, who did I see in the back of the last car but my studio boss? That’s right. We rode the same E Train those two stops every morning. There was no time to wait for another train so I hightailed it to the front end of the car, hoping he didn’t see me on the crowded standing only car. If I hadn’t gotten on and just stood there on the platform, he would have certainly seen me standing there, deepening the puzzle. Since he would usually get on the E train at the stop before mine, I would run into him often and we’d get off the train and walk a block to work together. If he had seen me and confronted me later, my excuse would have been that I was seeing a doctor in Manhattan. However, since we had to dress hip and young and Beatles like on most all of our dates, I don’t know how I would have explained my Beatle boots and my rock and roll outfit, if he had seen me and confronted me later. He didn’t. And I never really knew if he saw me or not.

So I got the Megazones and hurried to the A & R studio where about twenty or twenty-five musicians were setting up. A huge event. I was popping the powerful little lozenges one after another like candy, sucking away, trying to relax and numb my throat as much as possible. I almost fell over when I saw the parts. It was a first. We were to overdub three or four times, “Taste that beats the others cold, Pepsi pours it on…” Throat felt a lot better and I did it. I don’t know how but I did it, thanks to the Megazones. It was flying colors and I sang my ass off with all the others.  You can see and hear it HERE.   Another HERE. And just us and an MP3 HERE.   We did some more with different arrangements and keys later. We weren’t on camera, but we overdubbed and got paid double scale and double residuals with every play, and  residuals poured in for awhile.

And yes, it was played on the Super Bowl, a whole minute. Most unbelievable was hearing the cost of a one minute spot on the Super Bowl show was that year. When our Pepsi Pours It On one minute commercial  aired in 1967, it would have cost them $40,000 twice or $80,000.  See the yearly Super Bowl prices through the years at HERE.  This year, in 2013,  it would have cost them $8 million to run it, twice the $4 million for thirty seconds, almost two hundred times more than ’67 for the one minute.

Soon after that, one day while jaywalking across West 48th Street in New York heading for Manny’s Music Store to buy some strings, I was surprised by the loud honking of a horn coming at me, a big Rolls Royce. It was none other than Anne Phillips enjoying some of her newly earned singing wealth, also heading for Mannys. She deserved it, dammit, as one of the most talented people on the planet.

Well, speaking of Super Bowl  commercials, my son, Don Meehan Jr, a working actor moving ahead in New York, starred in a very funny one about the “Perfect” N.E. Patriots in 2008 with his comedic talents, when the price then was upwards of $5,400,000 for a one minute commercial. See it HERE. He did the Off Broadway show Play Dead  recently with Teller of Penn and, and is opening in another one on July 9, World Premiere of SASQUATCHED! THE MUSICAL Set for NYMF, 7/9 through 14. Yeah, just a block off the old chip. That’s my boy.