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Inside Tracks #5: The Motors "Forget About You" + Covers by Leif Garrett & Claudja Barry, All 1978
From "pubby" power poppers to a disco diva to a teen popper with a recent admission, few songs have undergone such radical arrangement shuffles within the course of one year!
All songwriters hope their songs are covered; the more, the merrier! Some end up loving other artists’ interpretations of their songs, while there have to be some covers that are so hideous, they make the songwriter wretch with disgust…all the way to the bank with their publisher’s checks.
The Motors’ Andy McMaster (bass, keys, and one of three vocalists), who wrote “Forget About You,” must’ve gotten a composer’s version of the bends (the decompression sickness divers get when they return too quickly to the ocean surface) sometime late in 1978!
It must be a great feeling to know your song is so organically malleable that it can be twisted and bent into genres as disparate as new wave and disco…and beyond!
We discovered that recently in “Inside Tracks” #3, with Ned Doheny’s “Get it Up For Love” (and, its 4 featured mid-’70s covers, each more different than the one before) accessible by clicking this sentence.
Andy’s UK band’s second album that contained “Forget About You,” Approved by The Motors, was released worldwide by Virgin Records in May 1978, and was produced by Garvey, McMaster, and Peter Ker.
From the same album, their “Airport” was the lead-off track in FR&B’s recent “Audio Autopsy Power Pop Playlist Goes Airborne,” accessible here:
Shot on a soundstage, and meant to look like a live performance, you actually have the original studio audio here (with its crystalline, guitar-roar production and great harmonies), but you also get to see the lads “perform”!
I’ve always wanted to be a songwriter; if I was, I’d wish I could write a song like this. A perfect pop song (brought in like all perfect pop songs, in under 3 minutes!), it’s astonishingly circular, in that it never slows down, there’s never a bridge, or a break for a solo, and like a Möbius strip, if it existed in 3D, you could loop it around itself, and it would start again immediately upon ending, and do it all seamlessly:
Now, the key will be to see if our cover arrangements add things like bridges, modulations, instrument solo(s), or any other production value that cuts the strip! Any guesses? Odds?
Curiously, Garrett’s cover of “Forget About You” was never released as a single by Scotti Bros./Atlantic/WEA Records. It was the third track on his sophomore album, Feel the Need, and was released September 2, 1978, nearly four months following The Motors’ original recording, and two months before Leif’s 17th birthday!
And, unlike The Motors’ album, Feel the Need included a 12x12 perforated sheet of nine exclusive and detachable color photos of the Leif-meister.
Leif Live…”and, For 101-FM, This is Brad Kyle, Reporting From the Astrohall.”
Sometime in the spring of 1978, Garrett performed at the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. His concert was actually in the shadow of the Astrodome, in the sprawling venue used for conventions and boat shows, the Astrohall.
I was asked by my employer at the time, KLOL-FM radio (where I was a 23-year-old fill-in “progressive rock” DJ and a Sunday call-in show producer), to “cover” Leif’s show from backstage, and do a phone-in…sort of a report from the field.
Reports from previous tour stops were filled with news of young female fans fainting in large numbers, and the station wanted my live report from the “battlefield.”
Sure enough, a dozen or more cots were lined up behind a bank of arena bleachers, with a small army of nurses and medical-types swarming around them as new wilting lasses were being brought in at an alarming rate. At the prescribed time, I used a backstage pay phone to call in my account of the concert carnage, yelling to be heard over Leif’s “I Was Made for Dancing.”
It’s just as you’d think it’d be (when the needle hits the vinyl), and just as Shaun Cassidy’s albums were: Slickly-produced with screaming strings from an orchestra whose members were likely wondering what the heck they were doing there!
Produced by Michael Lloyd for Mike Curb Productions (just as Shaun’s albums were), and arranged by John D’Andrea, who performed the same function for the younger of the two Cassidy teen idols, even their engineer, Humberto Gatica, punched in for this gig. Props, though, to Lloyd and D’Andrea, for the creative use of unexpected electric guitar, with strumming throughout, plus a couple of neck scrapes.
None of this, of course, was going to attract the AC/DC crowd, but Leif’s fans could feel, at least a little bit, like they were listening to rawk’n’roll, man! But, make no mistake, Lloyd and D’Andrea made it expressly for the dance floor, even if that floor was plush-carpeted in a pink bedroom.
So, snide comments aside, you have exactly what an album by Leif should be, circa 1978, anyway: Disposable, sure, but immediately delicious ear candy that wears decidedly thin after about 2 1/2 listens, but expertly produced and pressed into plastic.
We could have a teen idol cage match, I suppose, and debate the better voice of the two, Shaun or Leif, but with the Auto-Tune invention still 2 decades away, Leif’s voice, bless him, is about as thin and limited as a 1960s runway model who side-stepped high school.
In fact, it’s likely we’re not even hearing Garrett’s voice at all, if we can believe the January 10, 2020 Houston Press: “There’s some songs…it’s not me at all,” Leif revealed to the publication while hawking a new book. “I can tell it’s not me. It’s one thing to layer your vocals – even Mick Jagger does that! But, having someone else in there, it made me feel…I just wanted it to be honest,” Garrett concluded.
“Lloyd and D’Andrea brought in this background singer [Jim Haas, who passed away in 2018], and his voice was very prominent,” Leif told FoxNews.com in 2020. “At times, it felt like we were making his record instead of mine. That’s just fraud. It’s a misrepresentation. It didn’t sit well with me then, and it doesn’t sit well with me now.
“Hearing this background singer dominate those sessions, I just felt like this wasn’t my record at all, even though I was singing, too.”
And, while Leif noted that the presence of Haas (his personal “voice-sweetener,” as he was dubbed by the production team) decreased on each of his first three records, it wasn’t until his fourth that the microphone was all his own. Feel the Need was Leif’s second album.
Garrett can only guess as to whose microphone was turned up more in the studio at any given time; it’s even possible, on some tracks, his mic was off completely.
While Leif’s turn on the “Forget About You” Ferris wheel was certainly danceable, Claudja Barry’s was nothing short of hardcore, capital “D” get-down Disco! But, the Jamaican native is no Gloria Gaynor or Donna Summer when it comes to dynamic dance floor belters! Her voice is relatively weak, and lacks presence and a defining personality.
Amid the requisite swirling strings and ever-present background singers, though, she shows some creative phrasing chops, letting her vocals lag just a hair behind the beat early on, then teasing the tempo toward the end, as she wraps the “Baby baby” lyrics in and around the beat.
Claudja’s biggest hit came a year later, with her song, “Boogie Woogie Dancin’ Shoes” (recorded in late 1978, with “Forget About You” as the B-side, released as a single in early ‘79) peaked at #56 on the US Billboard singles chart. Also in 1979, she won a Juno Award (Canada’s Grammys) for being the Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year.
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