Saturday morning, I woke up, checked my Facebook and Twitter messages and found out that L.A. songwriter and session legend Andrew Gold had passed away at the age of 59 after suffering a heart attack in Los Angeles.
The casual music listener or TV watcher might know Mr. Gold from a couple of landmark hit singles, staples of 70s AM radio “Lonely Boy”, and “Thank You For Being a Friend”, the latter, rather Beach Boys-esque tune was of course also used as the theme from The Golden Girls sitcom. Gold also supplied the song “Final Frontier” as the theme for the Paul Reiser / Helen Hunt hit sitcom Mad About You.
But ask a pop-savvy musician or deep listening music fan and you’ll discover that Andrew Gold was not only L.A.’s “Mr. Nice Guy” but a key ingredient on many records by others, in addition to being the progeny of two Hollywood music legends.
His mother, Marni Nixon, was the “ghost vocalist” for film actresses Natalie Wood (that’s Nixon voicing Maria’s songs in West Side Story), Deborah Kerr (Anna in The King and I) and she sang all of Audrey Hepburn’s parts in the Rex Harrison hit musical My Fair Lady. Andrew’s dad, Ernest Gold, wrote the score for the landmark film Exodus, for which he won an Oscar. Surely, this explains why the younger Gold is said to have spent many lonely hours happily pouring out his pre-adolescent emotions into his earliest songs at the age of 13. It was a family business. Gold by name, Gold by reputation.
His first band, the L.A. folk rock collective Bryndle, featured fellow noteworthy songwriters Wendy Waldman, Kenny Edwards, and Karla Bonoff. As his legend grew in the Hollywood music community, he was invited to work with Linda Ronstadt in 1973. One of their best collaborations was her breakthrough album, Heart Like a Wheel (1974).
I happen to think that his Abbey Road-like guitar arrangement on “You’re No Good” is as thrilling as any moment in recorded history. I was just saying this to my wife last week in fact!
Gold was also a major factor in other Ronstadt hits like “When Will I Be Loved” and “Heatwave” and he was a core member of her live band throughout the seventies.
And now he’s gone.
In my own childhood, I was touched by Gold’s first solo singles under his own name. I’ll never forget the effect of “Lonely Boy” had on me, a pimply, emotionally wallowing teenager when I first heard it on my AM radio back in Toronto, as I stared out a cold window and wondered if I’d ever have a girlfriend. Never underestimate the suicide-preventative factor in a good tear jerking pop song. It’s no overstatement to say that “Lonely Boy” felt like a beacon in the fog of my adolescent gloom. Thanks Andrew.
“Thank You For Being A Friend” felt like a long lost Carl Wilson song, and by the time I heard it I was starting to leave the AM radio behind, but it still made it into my consciousness. I consider it a blessing that I never watched a single episode of The Golden Girls so the song is still just a great song to me.
What I just learned in reading a few things today, and forgive me UK readers, is that he had a huge hit over there called “Never Let Her Slip Away”, a top #5 hit on TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS. I also learned today that Freddie Mercury helped Gold arrange the vocals on it.
His Golden touch was felt by many others in the business, and again, today I read that Gold played every note of Art Garfunkel‘s cover version of “I Only Have Eyes For You”, in 1977, and is all over Garfunkel’s Breakaway LP. He backed ex-Raspberries singer Eric Carmen on Boats Against the Current, notably playing guitar AND drums on the Carmen hit “She Did It”.
A cursory glance of his credits includes working on solo albums with every Beatle except Harrison, and stints with Brian Wilson, Don Henley, Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time album and on Stephen Bishop‘s hit single,“On and On.”
He worked in country music, wrote hit singles there too, and also toured and recorded with James Taylor, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and – I just read this, and I haven’t had time to verify it – apparently Gold assistant engineered some tracks on Joni Mitchell’s Blue (!!), one of my all-time favourite albums.
He also worked with another of my all-time fave bands, 10cc, and is featured on their Ten Out of 10 album (1981). On the song “We’ve Heard It All Before” it’s clear that Gold, and 10cc’s Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, were parodying the very music industry that they had mastered by then. This video clip is rather silly, but the song is there.
Gold later teamed up with Gouldman in a band they called Wax. That band lasted for half a decade and actually did quite well, mainly outside North America. Here’s “Ball & Chain”, a kind of AOR friendlier version of Tears For Fears (or something).
He briefly reunited with Bryndle in the first half of the ’90s, before making a the novelty album Halloween Howls,
and a 60’s retro solo album called Greetings From Planet Love under the name The Fraternal Order Of The All. Here’s a Dylan / Lennon pastiche from that one, “Mr Plastic Business Man”:
He did a lot, and was a super nice guy too. I friended him on Facebook three years ago and was thrilled to send him the message “Thank you for being a Facebook friend” Ha, ha, ha, I’m sure he got that all the time.
This morning, I was on Facebook and noticed a few of my other friends saying nice things about Mr. Gold.
Brian Curtis (singer/songwriter/musician from underground pop band The Oohs) told me that “far more than the supposed one (or two) hit wonder most would think. Aside from his work under his own name, there’s the Ronstadt connection, the singer-songwriter collective Bryndle, tons of sessions, a handful of collaborations with latter-day 10cc which led to his Wax UK duo with Graham Gouldman. More than the couple of sentences that will likely sum up most remembrances, so do yourself a favor and explore his extensive career.”
My friend Jaimie Vernon, the President of indie label Bullseye Records of Canada, told me “Andrew lived for music. He gave freely of his time and wanted to participate regardless of compensation. There was no ego. Just a love for the projects he was involved in.” Jaimie’s label worked with Gold on a Beatles tribute compilation entitled “It Was 40 Years Ago Today: A Tribute To The Beatles”.
“He sent me 12 Beatles tracks he’d already recorded on his own and told me to pick one,” Vernon told me today. “I used his spot-on rendition of ‘Lady Madonna’. But he also sent along an unfinished dub of “Got To Get You Into My Life”. I had Michael White from Led Zeppelin tribute act The White overdub a lead vocal and mix it. We credited the song as WHITE & GOLD.”
As I was scouring the web looking for shreds of clues about Andrew Gold’s inspirations, I found this on a website called Voices & Visions:
Gold wrote: “My basic, original inspirations, when I was a kid, was The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Motown, Simon And Garfunkle, Bob Dylan, Burt Bacharach (especially the Dionne Warwick hits; The Stones, Stevie Wonder; and Musicals like West Side Story, My Fair Lady etc…Later The Police got to me, Prince…”
There’s a blogger named Bob Lefsetz who I sometimes read. Sometimes I disagree with him, sometimes I’m fascinated with his pompous pronunciations. But often, he writes like a passionate music fan, and I can relate to his writing. Yesterday, Bob wrote about Andrew Gold, and I particularly enjoyed this passage:
“You think people last forever,” Lefsetz wrote. “Or at least longer than you. When they predecease you, die before their time, you just can’t understand it, especially when they were not sick, when there’s no advance warning. They were here yesterday, and…now?”
Then Lefsetz quoted Andrew Gold’s “One Of Them Is Me”.
“Oh look into my eyes
Tell me what you see
One of them is me
And I don’t know who”
Lefsetz closed with s a link to that song, “One Of Them Is Me”:
I’ll close there too.
Thank you Andrew Gold for being a music guy. And since music is my life long friend, thank you for being one of those, too. My hat is off, won’t you stand up and take a bow.