The Bobby Hart Interview
After our series spotlighting The Music Of Tommy Boyce And Bobby Hart ran on The Forgotten Hits Blog Page, Bobby Hart agreed to answer a few questions for a Forgotten Hits Interview. We asked our readers if they had any questions for Bobby and, between all of us, this is what we came up with!!! (We were also able to help arrange an interview between Bobby Hart and Mason Ramsey for his Internet Radio Program ... you'll see that referenced in a few of these questions ... as well as quite a few references to our original series. The complete Boyce And Hart Series is now available for viewing on this webpage as well ... we think you'll find it quite interesting ... and quite definitive. You may find this interview much more meaningful if you read the Boyce And Hart Series first.)
FORGOTTEN HITS: Obviously, within the context of a daily musical newsletter, we were only able to delve so deep into any particular topic … our main focus was getting the basic facts out there, keep it short and interesting enough to hold the readers’ attention span, and then feature a couple of great pieces of music that tied into the piece. For example, in Chapters 1, 2 and 3, we pretty much covered the early years of your's and Tommy's careers ... before the real string of success came … certainly it must have seemed “over-simplified” when you read through some of this … can you start by telling us just how things really were for you back then ... when you were just starting out, trying to first forge a career as a solo artist and then, seemingly almost on a whim, how you went about writing your first songs.
BOBBY HART: It all came pretty easy to me, although it was years before I could support myself and my family with music. Finding out by experimentation that I could make some songs and recordings that sounded pretty good was inspiring to me. I had a manager and a record contract within months of hitting town.
FH: If I understand things correctly, initially, you helped Tommy Boyce get one of his first big breaks by introducing him to a friend of yours, Curtis Lee ... and then later he helped you out by putting you in contact with the man who was to become your first manager ... which led to Tommy Sands cutting one of your tunes.
BH: That's almost right ... a high school buddy introduced me to his college mate, Curtis Lee, and asked if I could help him break into the business. When I introduced him to my manager at a recording studio, we both met Tommy Boyce and we all became good friends. Tommy and I began writing together in 1960. Tommy, my first wife, Becky and I were involved in a freeway collision driving home from a Long Beach show where Curtis was discovered by Stan Schulman, signed to Dunes Records and summoned to New York. Once there, it didn’t take Curt long to convince Stan that he needed Tommy to write with. I tell the full story in my book.
FH: And then Tommy and Curtis went off on the road, leaving you behind!
BH: (Laughing) Right! While my two buddies were making it big in Tin Pan Alley, I was left behind in Hollywood, missing my friend and writing partner, stuck working at my day gig at Record Labels, Inc. where I printed the labels for their hits.
FH: What did it feel like when you first heard that Tommy Sands was going to record one of your tunes? How were you notified? In what way did this impact your career? What other doors did this open for you?
BH: Tommy introduced me to my first manager who had had some real success in the business, Lee Silver in 1960. That year he got Tommy Sands to record Dr. Heartache and also produced a record with me, Girl In The Window, which he sold to Era records, changing my name to Bobby Hart. Lee got it on the play lists of the two top forty stations in L.A. and it was a local hit. When it didn’t translate to national success, I think Lee kind of lost interest in me, but these were significant stepping stones for me.
FH: Talk to us a little bit about trying to make it as a solo artist … who were some of your early influences and idols when you were growing up and first getting into music?
BH: At first, Elvis, Gene Vincent and all the rock-a-billy guys. Later, I had records where I sounded like Bobby Vee or Bruce Chanell and then I became more and more R&B influenced, especially after I began playing clubs in 1962.
FH: Once you started to record on your own (and saw just how difficult it was to get a hit record) did you ever have thoughts of just throwing in the towel?
BH: If I had had any idea how competitive the music business is and what a long shot it would be to have success, I might never have pursued this career.
FH: Your first aspirations were to make it as a singer / recording artist ... and follow in the footsteps of some of your early rock and roll idols from the '50's. At some point it must have seemed like that was the long road to success ... when did you begin to feel that you might have a better opportunity for a career in music as a songwriter rather than as a recording artist?
BH: I knew it would be an important edge to be able to create my own intellectual property, but the thrust of my energy was always to be a recording artist.
FH: And, after releasing a couple of records under your real name, Robert Luke Harshman, what was your initial reaction when you saw that your name had been changed to Bobby Hart on the record label?
BH: Strange at first, but I was open to what ever might help my career.
FH: And how did things start to move forward for you from there?BH: As a result of Girl In The Window making the charts of the two top forty stations in Los Angeles, I began doing weekend shows for KFWB and KRLA. I met another singer at one of these hops and the two of us decided to put a band together and try to actually make some money doing what we were already doing every weekend. When the Barry Richards and Bobby Hart twist band was a hit, I quit my day gig and played the L.A. area club scene. On a recommendation from Nino Tempo, I was signed as a writer / artist to Don Costa and in 1963 I was finally able to join Tommy in New York, which, at the time, (thanks to the likes of The Brill Building) was the American songwriting capital.
FH: Obviously, Don Kirshner has had a huge impact on your career … what prompted you to head out to New York in the first place at such an early age … and how does a “young turk” work up the nerve to seek out such a powerful figure in the music business and show him your wares? Did you specifically seek out Kirshner ... was that your original intention and goal?
BH: As you know, Tommy had the first break to go to Tin Pan Alley. The break, which enabled me to get to New York and join Tommy, came when I was signed as a writer and artist, sight unseen, to Don Costa and Teddy Randazzo's company, South Mountain Music, on the recommendation of Nino Tempo. I had been working clubs in L.A. while Boyce was having hits back East. Our work with Kirshner came when we signed with Screen Gems - Columbia Music in 1965 and were sent back out to their newly formed West Coast offices.
FH: Were you aware or familiar with Tommy Boyce's solo recording career or songwriting career prior to meeting him?
BH: When we met in 1959, he hadn’t had much of a writing or recording career.
FH: How did you happen to first start to write together? When did you realize that you guys were really on to something? Once you met Tommy, things started to click … but you both continued to write songs separately for the first several years. Tell us a little bit about that initial meeting … and what your expectations were.
BH: We met through my first manager, Jesse Hodges. I introduced him to Curtis Lee, a college mate of my high school friend, Benny Lindsay, whom I was trying to help get a record deal after I got signed. Curt, Tommy, my first wife, Becky and I all became good friends. Boyce and Lee would come into Hollywood to hang out on the weekends. When Curt went to N.Y., Tommy and I began writing together, but within months, Curtis had gotten Tommy an invitation to join the team at Dunes Records.
FH: Would you describe your songwriting relationship with Tommy Boyce as “creatively competitive”? I know that that little bit of competition between Lennon and McCartney made for a much stronger team … can you say that you and Tommy experienced a similar “rivalry”?
BH: We started out as good friends and that continued as we became writing and then singing partners. The pressures of success put a certain amount of strain on our relationship, but I would never say were rivals. We always wished only the best for one another.
FH: You’ve both acknowledged over the years that many of your songs were inspired by some other song that we (as music fans) were already familiar with … do you think that in some way this helped to make your music a bit more "accessible" and “relatable” to a greater audience?
BH: I would guess that most, if not all, music writers are influenced by other songs. It’s just that we may have been more honest about revealing our inspirations. I read an L.A. Times interview with Bob Dylan where he said (and I paraphrase) that his method of writing was to take an existing song, write a new set of lyrics to it, and then vary the melody.
FH: Were you involved in any way with the auditioning process for The Monkees' television series? I’ve read that, despite Tommy’s claims to the contrary, you were unaware of any such deal for you and Tommy to star as the songwriting leads in the series … or of plans for a “spin-off” series spotlighting your two talents.
BH: These are two separate issues. Tommy and I sat in on some of the actors interviews, and Boyce did try to talk Donnie and Lester Sill into letting us audition, but there never was a chance of that. They needed us in the studio recording the first album while the boys spent twelve hour day on the lot. Three years later, when Boyce & Hart renegotiated our deal with Screen Gems, they gave us our own recording label, B & H Aquarian, and a development deal for our own TV series. Tommy’s quiting the business in January of 1970 prevented the show from going on the air.
FH: Were you contracted to do the music for the television series right from the get-go or were there stumbling blocks in that area, too?
BH: In the book, I tell about being hired by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson to write and produce music for the show, and how after the show was sold, Kirshner (Music Supervison of all Screen Gems shows, as per his contract when he sold them his publishing company and stayed on to run it) rejected Boyce & Hart and hired more established producers, only to reject them, one by one, as their masters came in, finally reinstating Tommy and I as producers for the first LP. As the popularity of the show grew, two things happened: Kirshner was able to attract more top writers and producers; and the Monkees power allowed them to seize control of their own records and have Kirshner booted out.
FH: I recently interviewed Ron Dante who told me that he auditioned for The Monkees ... but lost his role to Davy Jones. I have always been under the impression that Davy’s role was the only one cast in stone prior to the other Monkees being cast … that, in fact, the series was developed around making Davy Jones a star. Can you elaborate on this?
BH: The show wasn’t developed to make Davy a star, but he was the first one cast, having already been signed to Screen Gems' Colgems label. Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson didn’t want to deal with any personal managers, so they bought Davy’s manager, Ward Sylvester, out by making him an Associate Producer.
FH: Without question, you and Tommy were “in the zone” there for a while in the mid-‘60’s … with a group as popular as The Monkees to showcase your tunes … and the incredible “success rate” you guys were experiencing … I have to believe that dozens of other artists wanted to work with you, either hungry for material or the “magic touch” of your production credits. Were you contractually prohibited from such an arrangement?
BH: No, Screen Gems wanted as many people as possible to record our songs, and as you know, some others did. The main constraint was simply time. This was an era when an artist released four LPs a year. We were locked in the studio creating Monkee records and then (when they got the power to produce their own recordings) we were creating Boyce & Hart music, as well as touring and everything that goes along with an artist’s career.
FH: In the article, I point out that The Monkees probably could have had at least another dozen hit singles, based on the amount of airplay their LP tracks were receiving both on radio and the TV Show. Songs like "I Wanna Be Free", which today is considered to be a Monkees (and thereby Boyce and Hart) CLASSIC most CERTAINLY would have been HUGE hits if marketed as singles as they were in many other countries.
BH: Even though radio was playing it in heavy rotation as if it were a single, Colgems / RCA purposely held back I Wanna Be Free, so that the kids would have to buy the album if they wanted to own the song.
FH: Certainly you must have had some mixed emotions performing (with The Candy Store Prophets) on stage with The Monkees at the peak of their popularity. Here it was, you and Tommy (behind the scenes), creating most of this great music … yet they were the ones receiving all the credit … and adoration of their fans. How did this sit with you at the time? How did you come to terms with this arrangement and live with it? (I asked Ron Dante a similar question pertaining to The Archies ... in his case, part of the deal was that he was to remain a completely unknown “ghost artist” if you will … while Don Kirshner sat back and counted all the money!!!)
BH: It was a hoot being on the first Monkee tours. Every bit as crazy as Beatlemania at its peak. Knowing that I was part of the process of helping to sell those records and that I would be reaping royalties from didn’t hurt.
FH: Going back to Don Kirshner for a moment … did you feel it was “The Kiss Of Death” once The Monkees started to wrangle control of the recordings away from Kirshner? Here was a guy who literally put them on the top of the music world … was this a case of The Monkees really believing that this was all their doing???
BH: They knew it wasn’t their doing, but they could see that they were being short-changed, settling for a low end royalty rate, $400 a week for filming and nothing extra for touring. They wanted more power and the success of the show ultimately gave them that power. But, yes, it was the beginning of the end for them.
FH: Shortly after this time, you and Tommy were dismissed as producers. Talk about what that felt like at the time … did you feel betrayed by The Monkees? Were you able to remain friends with them through all these transitions?
BH: We always remained friends. We welcomed the chance to use our new found power to do what we both really wanted to do, which was to become recording artists. Happily, the Monkees continued to come back to us for song material.
FH: It’s no secret now that drugs became a big part of The Monkees' scene during this time period. Despite all the negative press they received about not playing their own instruments (a very common practice back in the day), The Monkees seemed to be very popular with most of the other recording artists of this era … they were always hanging out with “the cool kids” on the music charts!!! And playing host to “rock parties” on a regular basis. Why do you think they were “accepted” as peers by the pop chart contemporaries?
BH: The show was hot and everybody liked it. Who doesn’t enjoy slapstick? Lennon said they should be compared more to the Marx Brothers than the Beatles. And the songs and productions were good. It was only after they became so associated with their teeny-bopper fans that it became un-hip to admit you liked the Monkees. Of course, many of the “serious” musical artist of later decades admitted that their influences were the Monkees, not the Beatles.
FH: As such, this had to have a dramatic impact on the production of the TV show … or loss of production anyway … do you feel that this is part of the reason NBC decided to cancel the series?
BH: If you’re still talking about drugs here, no, I don’t think so.
FH: After two seasons, the series had pretty well run its course ... even musically, there weren't too many more mountains to climb. Some of their contemporary artists had to feel that The Monkees were handed their success on a silver platter without ever having to properly "pay their dues." But at the time, they were without question the hottest thing on the charts. Heck, they even got to party with The Beatles!!! Don’t you find that (in hindsight) quite amazing?!?!? Obviously, over the years, you had the chance to work with a number of big recording artists … who would you like to have worked with (or met) that you never had the opportunity to meet?
BH: Elvis, Sinatra
FH: Speaking of Elvis, I remember buying Elvis' Double Album "From Memphis To Vegas / From Vegas To Memphis" because the songwriting credit on the original LP release was given to Boyce and Hart for the song "Words", which was included on the live portion of the LP. I just couldn't IMAGINE Elvis singing The Monkees' song ... and I just HAD to hear it!!! But it's true ... my copy showed YOU guys as the songwriters of the now classic Bee Gees' song! (Believe it or not, thinking it was THE MONKEES' tune was one of the reasons I bought the LP in the first place!) Of course, later pressings were corrected to reflect this!)
BH: (Laughing!) How on earth did you know this?!?! Tommy and I were in Tower Records on the Sunset Strip when we spotted the latest Elvis LP and were elated to see our song and names listed in the credits. Of course, a half hour later when we plopped it on the turntable, our hearts sunk.
FH: Is there a song or two of yours that you felt would have been perfect for a specific artist but you were unable to get it to them … or they just flat-out rejected it?
BH: At the time, of course there were dozens. Dean Martin, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Raiders...
FH: I can’t not ask you about the whole Jimi Hendrix fiasco … were you part of the tour when that whole scene went down? Again … what were these guys thinking?!?!? Was there any voice of reason during The Monkees' hey-day … or could these guys simply do no wrong for that magical eighteen month period when they were on top?
BH: They did seem to have a “do no wrong” eighteen months. When we saw Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival, Micky said “I want that for our tour”. The producers said “Sure, Micky”. Dolenz was a star, Jimi wasn’t yet. Hendrix said “Sure, Micky”. The fans said, “What are you guys thinking.”
FH: Davy and Micky have since acknowledged some “error in judgment” in taking control of their musical direction … who on the inside was encouraging them that they could really pull this off?
BH: Michael Nesmith, the self-appointed leader almost from the beginning.
FH: As the real musicians in the group, Peter and Mike will probably never concede that the band really wasn’t ready to handle their own production … how do you rate Peter and Mike as musicians and songwriters?
BH: Both good. Michael had already written a hit for Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. Coming out of the Folk scene, Peter’s talents were not so relatable to Pop music.
FH: How were you first approached about the whole Dolenz, Jones, Boyce And Hart thing? Again, where did you think that whole arrangement was headed? (I think the Capitol album was outstanding and can’t believe it wasn’t a hit … it has recently been re-released on CD for the first time and my hope is that new generations will discover some of the great music that is contained on that LP.)
BH: My friend, music publisher and promoter, Christian DeWalden, called me upon his return from Asia in 1975 and told me that he had an offer for the Monkees to play in Thailand. I called Micky, who told me that no one had heard from Peter for some while and that Michael was not interested. When I conveyed this to Christian, he came up with the idea of pairing Tommy and I with the two remaining Monkees. Davy, Micky, Tommy and I had lunch to discuss it and left with the consensus that, if the money was right, we’d all be game. Christian set up a tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Bangkock, Honk Kong and several cities in Japan. While waiting for the Southeast Asian tour, we played, as Micky put it, “every amusement park known to man”, including the first one that you saw at Six Flags Over Mid-America. Al Coury signed us to Capitol, but left to run RSO Records two weeks before the release of our record.
FH: I had high hopes for the Dolenz, Jones, Boyce And Hart reunion ... and still feel that it was a VERY strong album.
BH: Al Coury, the executive who signed Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart to Capitol Records, left the label to head RSO Records, two weeks before the release of “I Remember The Feeling”, so there was no one watching the store when our record came out.
FH: Are you still friendly with any of The Monkees today?
BH: I stay in touch the most with Micky Dolenz. I see David Jones from time to time.
FH: Tell us a little bit about your TV and Movie career … you guys had to be thinking that you had the whole world locked up at the time.
BH: We had a hit Vegas show with Zsa Zsa Gabor, which we were getting ready to take to Europe, our own record company, and our own television series in development when Tommy quit the business.
FH: People on the list are going to want to know … what was it like working with Zsa Zsa Gabor in Las Vegas???
BH: When our manager negotiated our contract to headline the main showroom at the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas on the strength of our forthcoming TV show, they gave us a lot of money but insisted that we hire a name performer who could draw patrons. We looked at their list and our first call was to Zsa Zsa. She was great to work with and became a friend. The Boyce & Hart Show starring Zsa Zsa Gabor in the main showroom of the Flamingo was the last time Boyce & Hart worked together (January 1970) before reuniting briefly for DJBH in 1975.
FH: I think one of your greatest recordings is Goodbye Baby ... … it has a sound to it that perfectly defines the ‘60’s to me … yet it wasn’t as big a hit as some of the others. If I’m not mistaken, this recording also led to you guys being approached about producing The Beach Boys. What can you tell us about this period?
BH: It was a keyboard driven song start that I came up with as opposed to Tommy’s starts, which were mostly guitar driven. Bruce Johnson approached me in the men’s room at a function at our mutual publicists. Unfortunately, we were too busy with our own careers.
FH: Let's talk a little bit about The Days Of Our Lives Theme … how did you come to be asked to write this piece of music? What’s the deal on the royalties today?
BH: Being under contract to a music publishing arm of a movie and TV studio, we were sent out on a lot of TV and movie assignments. Same way we got the Monkees project. The Theme still earns me about $16,000 a year for NBC’s use five days a week, but much more for its use in films and TV shows.
FH: Meanwhile, you guys had written a couple of other TV and movie themes, too, which, although not necessarily hit records, seemed to find their way on to the B-Sides of some of the Boyce and Hart singles.
BH: In those days (and it’s probably still the same) recording artists were paid large fees to record movie theme songs. In return, we were required contractually, to release the song on record, hence the B-side inclusion.
FH: Did you keep tab on Tommy’s careeer once you guys split and went your separate ways? Was this a difficult time for you … was there an adjustment writing with other people after writing successfully with Tommy for so long? Were there hard feelings for a while or was it a pretty amicable split? It sounds like he went through a pretty rough “identity crisis” there for a while.
BH: It was harder not having my buddy to hang out with as much than it was to find a new writing partner. We saw each other from time to time and DJBH was a good excuse to work together again in 1975. After that we stayed in touch when Tommy moved to England and then back to Nashville / Memphis and he would visit when he came out to California. We spoke every few weeks in the years leading up to his passing.
FH: I’m sure that … even after all this time … it’s difficult to talk about Tommy’s death. What is your take on this now, after having some time to evaluate things. Were you two close at the time of his death? In hindsight, were there any indications that he was depressed enough to have done this? And what about his family now? Are you in touch with them and are they financially taken care of through royalties earnings, etc.?
BH: An aneurysm in Tommy’s brain burst on Christmas eve in 1993. After hours of surgery, he struggled for months to recover. His wife, Caroline, gave up her thriving Montesory School to nurse him back to health, but Tommy could never regain his full energy. His doctors had told him it was only a matter of time before he would have another episode and that next time he might not be so lucky. His wish to never be a burden on his family and his dissatisfaction with his decelerated quality of life, I believe, weighed on his mind and prompted his decision to take matters into his own hands. People think that he took his life because he was depressed and it wasn't that so much as the fact that he had had a brain aneurysm burst the year before and he was kind of being nursed back to health but they told him that that was a genetic defect that would definitely happen again and he probably wouldn't be as lucky the next time or one time ... that he maybe could end up a vegetable. So he took it in his own hands not to let that happen.
FH: I also have to ask you for some comments on Austin Roberts ... since he set this whole thing up for me in the first place … and because I’m also doing an interview with him (and asking him for some commentary on you!!!) You guys worked together in the early ‘70’s and created a great hit record … Something's Wrong With Me ... and then, several years later, wrote a beautiful piece of music for the film Tender Mercies that was nominated for an Academy Award. How did the opportunity to compose this piece come up? And how did you two happen to connect as songwriters after all this time?
BH: My next main writing partner after Tommy was Danny Janssen, and he introduced me to Austin, who had been singing for Danny on some Hanna-Barbara cartoon projects. It was Danny’s idea to write and produce some sides with Austin and shop him as an artist. Hence, Something's Wrong With Me on Chelsea Records in 1972. I stayed friends with Austin and we would write when he visited L.A. By 1982, Austin was signed to Screen Gems and they got us the movie assignment.
FH: Please share some thoughts on Austin as an artist … a songwriter … a friend … a human being … I’d like to include those comments in HIS piece.
BH: I’ve been a fan of Austin’s phenomenal voice since I first heard it in the studio in 1972. It has surfaced in a number hits over the years, under a number of pseudonyms. And he’s written a bunch of great songs, “I.O.U.” by Lee Greenwood, being one of my favorites. We had a great time together at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.
FH: What is Bobby Hart up to these days? I heard (through Austin) that there may be a new musical in the works? What can you tell us about your recent musical activities?
BH: Partners Barry Richards and Klay Shroedel and I came up with an original story and wrote 25 songs for a new $40 million musical destination event titled “Uprising, The Musical”. With a book by Ron Friedman and producer, Don Loze attached, we are continuing to develop the project.
FH: And you've also been working on your memoirs ... when is your book scheduled to be published?
BH: I have just completed the proposal for my book, “My Journey To Stardom And Back And 101 Famous People I Met Along The Way" which will be shopped to publishers this fall.
FH: Thanks again, Bobby, for taking the time to do this … I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it … and I hope that you found it in some way stimulating as well. Please keep us posted so we can let your fans know about your latest ventures as the develop!
BH: You are very welcome. Kudos on the newsletter, and a very thoughtful and well written effort.
FH: Lastly … and please understand that I always ask this of the artists that I interview: Is there some piece of music that you’ve written that you feel never got its due? Something that you’re very proud of but, for whatever reason, just never clicked the way you thought it would with the public? Some piece of music that you’d like us to listen to and either re-evaluate or consider as a great piece of music? I know you’ve said on the record that you believe Hurt So Bad was your greatest achievement as a songwriter … but that one was a hit … what about another piece of music that you’re especially proud of that just didn’t make it. That’s the piece of music that I want to feature at the end of this piece … put it out there for the folks to hear.
BH: I rarely look back. I hope to see Uprising produced in my lifetime. Other than that, I feel very fortunate to have been a part of an important era in Pop music. I couldn’t ask for more than I’ve been given.
FH: Do you have many of your original demos in your collection? Speaking of that, do you have much of a personal memorabilia collection from this period? (I’ve heard from so many other artists who were popular during this era that didn’t even keep a scrapbook while all this was going on … they were too busy living “in the moment.” In fact, I’ve heard that many of them are now buying back collectible memories via outlets like eBay in an effort to recapture or document their past!!!)
BH: I do have a few other early demos and quite a bit of print memorabilia.
FH: The story behind the writing of the song "Valleri" as told by Tommy also seems to have been a bit blown out of proportion ... that single chapter has been one of the most circulated pieces we've ever done for Forgotten Hits!
BH: (Laughing) Well, that's a pretty good story, isn't it? You caught him in a big one!!! As you've already figured out, there are a couple of glaring embellishments ... but, believe it or not, most of Tommy’s story is true. Here are two or three more:
#1: I never heard anything about Donnie having a dream. Kirshner was very methodical and was always making notes, lists and “dreaming” up formulas for giving the kids what they want. Having a girl’s name in a song title was just one of his formulas for teen success.
#2: Of course, Donnie would never tried to assemble Screen Gems executives for this first song audition, certainly not Jackie Cooper.
#3: My version is actually more astounding (still plugging the book) in that, from the time we jumped in the car and started writing the song while heading over Mulholland Drive to Kirshner’s rented house in Trousdale Estates, to when Tommy jumped up on Donnie’s coffee table with his guitar and we started playing it for him, not more that twenty minutes had elapsed! Tommy, in the back seat, had come up with a guitar riff and we had the title. That’s it. We sang “Va...al...aeal...er...ee, I love her, Va...al...aeal...er..ee” And then we quickly added, “There’s a little verse that goes in here” and continued, “Va..al...aeal...er...ee”. We sold it. Donnie loved it. The two little two-line verses that we came up with later took less that an additional twenty minutes. Louie Sheldon’s great Flaminco work, as one of your readers pointed out the first time this series ran, added greatly to the song’s appeal. Although he tried to duplicate his guitar work the second time we produced the song, I don’t think he was ever quite able to match the magic of his first spontaneous solos.
FH: We laughed a little bit about Tommy’s book and his “elaborating” on some of the circumstances behind these songs … are there any other “clarifications” that really ought to be made? What were your initial thoughts when you first read the book?
BH: It’s not written in Tommy’s voice, which probably would have been more charming than Melvin Powers ghosting. I haven’t read it in some time to check on specific “colorizations”.
FH: Our article implies that while you were out on the road touring with The Monkees and performing with them on stage every night, Tommy was oblivious to just how big this whole thing had gotten … how is this even possible? Granted, you were seeing the crowd reaction night after night, but you couldn’t turn on the radio at the time without hearing a Monkees song on the air. How did Tommy spend his time when you were out on the road with the band?
BH: Tommy was obviously aware of the airplay and the charts, but until you witness Monkeemania, it's hard to convey its intensity.
FH: In the series, we covered the time that Quentin Tarantino performed I’ll Blow You A Kiss In The Wind on Saturday Night Live … did you happen to see that episode when it first aired? Does it still amaze you sometimes just how far-reaching and long-lasting your musical contributions have been?
BH: I missed that original airing of SNL but I've seen the clip. Yes, I am still amazed and grateful.
FH: Can you go into a little more depth regarding the whole "Let Us Vote" movement? We heard you discuss this a little bit during the Mason Ramsey Interview … what was the extent of your involvement with this effort … and how do you feel it was viewed at the time … and with the benefit of 40 years of hindsight? Do you think you were taken seriously when this voting campaign first began?
BH: In my book, I tell the whole story of how Tommy and I were introduced to the Let Us Vote movement by Joey Bishop, who requested that we write the official campaign song. We were taken quite seriously and came to be their national spokespersons, stumping across the nation, personally lobbying Congress, actually walking the halls of congress, talking to senators and representatives, and promoting the cause at our shows and in endless interviews, and finally prevailing when in 1971, the states promptly ratified the Twenty-sixth amendment to the U. S. Constitution. There was nobody who wasn't for adding hundreds of thousands of new voters.
FH: During the series, I hinted that Micky and Davy should have shared songwriting credit due to all the ad-libbing done in the studio during the recording of Gonna Buy Me A Dog. Had that song always been intended to be a comedy piece? Were you present when the final recording was done? What was your original reaction to the outcome when you heard the completed take for the first time?
BH: "I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog" had already been recorded at least a couple of times before The Monkees (Gama Goochie, The Astronats) so the writers credits were not up for grabs. It was always a novelty-rock song. Since Tommy and I were the producers, we were the ones who encouraged Davy and Micky to ad-lib and controlled the content of the final product.
FH: Wasn’t it weird in some small way to have this song represented as a Mike Nesmith composition in an episode of the television series?
BH: We understood the our songs would sometimes be used out of context when we signed on to write music for a sitcom.
FH: Over the years, you have worked with any number of songwriting collaborators … what are some of the different approaches that you have taken in crafting a song depending on who you happened to be working with?
BH: Since Tommy and I both wrote melody and both wrote lyrics, my biggest adjustment came in learning to collaborate with melody writers ... to fit one syllable to every note while making it sound conversational.
FH: How did this differ from what must have become the “norm” for you while working with Tommy? What was perhaps the most unusual circumstances surrounding the writing of any particular piece of music? It seems that quite a few of your songs were “written to order” … do you find that to be an easier approach, having a particular theme in mind … or was it often more difficult to write that way?
BH: Tommy and I came up at a time when songwriters were expected to "write to order" ... come up with something tailored to the sound of a different artist every week and we enjoyed doing it.
FH: Who are some of the songwriters that you admire … and why? Who would you most like to work with to write a song? And are you still writing music today? (Obviously, we know about the "Uprising" Musical … who were some of the collaborators on that project? Have you written much since?) And, regarding Uprising, can you fill us in a little more as to what it’s about … the gist of the story … and where does it stand as far as getting this out for the public to see? How long have you been working on this and who are some of your “partners” in getting this off the ground?
BH: "Uprising, The Musical, is winding its way through the process of getting produced. My song partners (we also wrote the storyline) are Klay Shroedel and Barry Richards. Our book partner is Ron Friedman. I can't elaborate much at this time.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Bobby is still trying to find a "home" for his latest production ... an on-going theater in Las Vegas devoted to this musical is just ONE of the ideas being discussed ... but this is a very expensive process ... we've heard figures in the $35-$40 Million Dollar Range!!! Until investors are found and a contract is signed, Bobby isn't willing to share many more details ... or ANY of the music ... from his latest project.)
FH: Speaking of musicals, one of the people we heard from who happened to come across our article was Kevin Baldwin, who I understand has been working with you and Caroline Boyce for the past several years regarding putting together a musical featuring the songs of Boyce and Hart. Can you fill us in as to where that stands and what your involvement has been in this project?
BH: I think Kevin's report brings you as up to date as I am on "Sunshine Pop."
(EDITOR'S NOTE: You'll find more details on this project in our Music Of Boyce And Hart piece, elsewhere on this web page.)
FH: Speaking of specific song projects and opportunities, how did the opportunity come up to write the song Over You for the movie Tender Mercies … and how did you happen to take on that task with Austin Roberts?
BH: Austin was a contract writer for Screen Gems Music in the early eighties. We would write when he was out from Nashville and Screen Gems placed the song in "Tender Mercies."
FH: Carrying on from a songwriters perspective, what are some of the songs (and songwriting awards) that you are most proud of? Is there any one particular song that you felt should have been much bigger than it was … something that you really believed in that just didn’t go over to the degree that you thought it would? And, on the other side of the coin, were there other songs that you were surprised to see become as big a hit as they did? Songs you considered more “throw-aways” that the public ended up loving?
BH: I had big hopes for our Dolenz, Jones, Boyce And Hart material, "I Remember The Feeling", "Right Now" and "I Love You And I'm Glad That I Said It". We lost our champion at Capitol Records at just the wrong time. On the other hand, I was surprised at the success of "Come A Little Bit Closer".
FH: A year ago or so, we told our readers about Boyce And Hart being nominated for The Songwriters Hall Of Fame … is there anything that the fans can do to show their support for this worthy honor?
BH: Unfortunately, only a few songwriters are eligible to vote, but thank you so much for your support.
FH: Somebody on the list wanted to know if there really was such a person as Alice Long? (Evidently, they had heard that this song was based on a specific person.) And, if not, then what was the inspiration for that song? Do you remember how that name was selected?
BH: I think Tommy just pulled it out of thin air. I think there was a Champagne Lady on the Lawrence Welk Show named Alice Lon. In later years, he said she was his guitar.
FH: Speaking of Boyce And Hart records … the title I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight had already been used on a hit record by Barry and the Tamerlanes and, let’s face it … it’s not that common of a song title to crop up!!! Was their record the inspiration for your song? (Yours certainly is the stronger record … and the bigger hit … but is this where the idea originally came from?)
BH: The title came out of Tommy’s head, although I’m sure the Barry Devorzon record loomed somewhere in the depths of his subconscious. He had the title for the chorus and “If I had told her that I loved her...”. I came up “...She would have stayed ‘til who knows when. But I guess she didn’t understand it when I said I wanna be your friend.” And we finished the rest together, with Tommy inserting his “Ler’s get ‘um, Bobby” in the studio.
FH: In a similar vein, a couple of years back we featured the song Sunday, The Day Before Monday, a track that was actually released as a SOLO single by Tommy Boyce on A&M Records at the time back in 1966. (This was prior to any of the "official" Boyce And Hart releases.) It is believed, however, that despite only Tommy's name appearing on the label, that you ALSO appear (uncredited) on the record but, since Tommy Boyce had had some prior chart success as a solo artist, A&M decided to release the record as his own "solo" single. Yet the song was written by both Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
BH: Both Tommy and I had myriad solo record deals throughout our respective careers before teaming up for A & M. In the two or three years after we relocated to L. A. and joined Screen Gems, and before we signed with A & M, Tommy recorded for MGM, A & M and at least one other label.
BH: These were not popular themes but background music from some of the soaps Albertine had worked on. One that I get a few cents from now and then is titled "Real Raw".
FH: Wasn’t The Theme from The Days Of Our Lives a rather unusual songwriting assignment? You guys didn’t typically write instrumentals, did you?
BH: We wrote whatever was asked of us, including a few instrumentals. We even scored a movie or two. ("Three's Company" is one I recall.)
FH: Along the same lines, one of our readers (who happens to be a collector of everything released on the Diamond Records Label … in fact, he was the guy who first told us about The Pineapple Heard version of Valleri that we featured earlier in this series) asked me to please ask you about the relationship you may have had with either Phil Kahl or Joe Kolsky of Diamond Records. In his own words:
“Please ask him to either confirm or deny my suspicions that the songwriter Roberta Harris, who shares cowriting credit with Boyce and Hart on BMI’s listing for the song Lazy Elsie Molly, a #40 hit for Chubby Checker in 1964, was actually either Joe Kolsky or Phil Kahl (Kolsky). My buddy, songwriter Artie Wayne, wrote a song for Ronnie Dove called Wish I Didn't Have A Heart and Joe Kolsky took 1/3 of the songwriters’ credit to ensure that Ronnie Dove would record and release it … and he did so under the name Roberta Harris. Oddly, while the record label only shows Artie Wayne's name, BMI lists both!” -- Tom Diehl
Care to comment on any of this???
BH: In 1964, Joe and Phil owned Picturetone Music, located in the 1650 Broadway Building. They had hired a young Wes Farrell to run the office and get records for them. After they published the first Boyce and Hart hit, "Lazy Elsie Molly", and Wes got Chubby Checker to record it, we would stop by the office every Friday and beg for $50 advances to get us by another week. Then they published our first top ten-er, "Come A Little Bit Closer", which we wrote with Wes.
FH: Quite honestly, this was a fairly common practice back in the earlier days of rock and roll to “trade-out” songwriting royalties in order to get your record cut and played … add in the name of the producer or publisher for songwriting credit. Have you fallen victim to some such deals over the years? Most of the artists I’ve talked to have told me they’d make the same deal today in a heartbeat .. because THAT was how you got your records noticed and played back in those days. In fact, I don’t know if you’ve heard much about this new Wages Of Spin Documentary that’s in the works, taking a closer look at the early days of The Philly Scene and the deals made “behind the scenes” with Dick Clark, American Bandstand and some of the Philly record labels way back when. It’s supposed to be quite scandalous from what I hear … (EDITOR'S NOTE: You'll find a blurb on this on our blog page, too, if you scroll down far enough!)
I know that you and Tommy worked quite closely with Dick Clark over the years … and that he was very good to you and helpful in furthering your careers … but these types of rumors have circulated for years … dating all the way back to the “payola” days of the ‘50’s. How would you assess your relationship with Dick Clark … and his overall contributions to the music scene?
BH: I go into a lot more detail about a number of these questions in my forthcoming book.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: TEASE!!! Bobby Hart has also been trying to get a book deal to publish his autobiography, fascinating reading for sure for all of us who grew up on this great music!!!)
FH: Speaking of music documentaries, I’ve heard rumors about a program profiling the music of Boyce and Hart … can you fill us in on any details as to where this project stands? We’ve seen all kinds of biographies on The Monkees … but the truth is they had an enormously talented songwriting machine working behind the scenes … you and Tommy, Carole King, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, David Gates, Neil Sedaka … the list goes on and on. Add in the crackerjack studio musicians like The Wrecking Crew (who also have a new documentary coming out!!!) and it really was a “Can’t Miss” proposition. You must take great pride in having been part of this incredible hit-making machine.
BH: There is interest in a documentary but it's not concrete enough to talk about now.
Kent Kotal / FORGOTTEN HITS
Thanks so much to you, Kent, and forgottenhits.com ... and all of you who have taken the time to check out The Boyce And Hart Series. I appreciate everyone's support in remembering the music.
All the best,
Copyright Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits, 1998 - 2017 ... All rights reserved