One of the greatest things about filmmaking is the opportunities that present themselves during the production. One of those opportunities came this past weekend when I had the honor of meeting singer/songwriter Alan O’Day. Now I know that name isn’t going to ring a bell with younger generations, but for those who remember the days of radio in the 70’s, there was one particular song that played on the radio so often, it was hard to pinpoint the exact time I first heard it.
The song is “Undercover Angel”, a fun ditty that went to number one on the charts in 1977 and stayed there for weeks. The song was such a success that it became iconic. So much so that filmmakers like J.J. Abrams used the song in his film Super 8 which takes place in the “Have a Nice Day” smiley-face 70’s decade. The artist is Alan O’Day; a well-known songwriter who, before his first and only U.S. number one single as an artist, had another one of his songs “Angie Baby” hit the top of the charts for singer, Helen Reddy.
In the fall of 2011, I had just finished the script for my next film “You Don’t Say!” which was about to go into pre-production. I was looking for a singer/songwriter to write the main theme song using the title of the film. What I was hoping for was to get someone the public knew and hopefully come up with a song that could have commercial appeal. After connecting with several artists, including Dennis DeYoung, Paul Carrack, and members from the group Asia, I had the pleasure of pitching the idea for the song to Alan.
Right from the start, Alan and I hit it off. Honing in on the creative similarities in filmmaking and songwriting, we began collaborating on the song which was to become “You Don’t Say.” Being that the film is a comedy, we both agreed that the song should have a catchy melody and retro sound, as many of the songs do today. What was interesting is the fact that Alan was one of the pioneers of that very sound.
After several drafts and demos, the song was finished, much to both of our satisfaction. What followed next was the opportunity I was talking about. My wife and I were planning a “get-away” trip to Nashville, TN. I soon found out that Alan, who has a home in Brentwood, near Nashville, was performing at a house concert only a week later than the week we had planned. We changed our travel dates and worked it out so we could film an interview with Alan about his career and the making of the song “You Don’t Say” the day before the concert. We would then film Alan doing the song “live” and later cut the footage into a music video with clips from the film. What I experienced on this trip was more than I expected.
There is a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the French archeologist, Beloche says to Indiana Jones (and I’m paraphrasing) “Indiana, you and I are just passing through history. This… (referring to the lost ark of the covenant)…this IS history.” While interviewing Alan, I felt the same way. Alan O’Day’s body of work is a part of pop music history. Not only did he have two of his songs reach the top of the charts, the list of recording artist that have recorded his songs is beyond impressive. Allow me to name the ones I am aware of; the Righteous Brothers, Cher, Captain and Tennille, Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones, Anne Murray, Steppenwolf, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Gene Pitney, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughn, Bobby Sherman, The Lettermen, The Fifth Dimension, and Three Dog Night. In the 80’s, Alan co-wrote over 100 songs for the Saturday Morning animated TV show Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, which won an Emmy Award.
At the concert the next evening, Alan began with “You Don’t Say” to which the audience responded with a burst of enthusiastic applause. And as the night progressed, it was obvious to me that Alan was still at the top of his game as he performed his greatest songs including an updated version of “Rock n Roll Heaven” in which he graciously included Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson to the existing list of artists in the lyrics who have passed. His dead- serious version of “Angie Baby” sent a chill down my spine as the lyrics told the story of a “touched” lonely woman who may very well have killed her very first lover and got away with it. The highlight was “Undercover Angel”, of course. Complete with the audience joining in on “Say Whatttt?” and clapping along with the chorus. What a great time it was.
So the next thing is to start editing the music video and premiere it to the world (well, anyone who wants to hear it, that is). So, keep your eyes right here and on the film web site at www.youdontsaythemovie.com for the official debut. The song will also be heard in the opening credits sequence of the film.
What a great opportunity and honor it has been to have met Alan O’Day. And what a pleasure it is knowing that “You Don’t Say” will now be included as one of Alan O’Day’s great catalog and was written for my film. I’m honored to have a part in that little piece of music history, for sure.
More to come!