9. the $7 million B-side

na na hey hey kiss him goodbye part 1


November 1969

The offices on the 4th floor of the Directors' Guild building, below Mercury Studios, were infested with a ragtag collection of miscreants and petty criminals whose only real crimes were stealing lyrics and/or sequences of musical notes from each other, then copyrighting them.

There were small offices and large offices. The occupants of the small offices, when they were not busy getting high, banged away on little spinet pianos, trying to come up with music that would impress the occupants of the large offices, known as A&R men (the occupants, not the offices). Among this squirming mass of obliviants lurked two geniuses: one genius composer-producer, a guy named Paul Leka, and one genius A&R guy, Bob Reno.

Paul had produced a few songs with his old high school friend, Gary DeCarlo, a singer who had changed his name to Garrett Scott. Mercury had picked one of the songs to release as a 45 RPM single record, and asked Paul for a 'B-Side', or throwaway song to act as a sort of makeshift filler, for the other side of the disc.

Paul Leka's genius was his amazing ability to put together a pop song in the studio. His sessions were intense and energetic, yet relaxed and fun. He was only 26, but had already had a big hit record with Green Tambourine in 1968.

This particular evening, Paul swept into the control room with a one-inch 8 track tape from another studio, and told me to make 3 copies of just the drum track. This was weird. I couldn't imagine what he wanted with just the drum track from a song that was already recorded. Gary and Dale Frashuer, another old friend, joined him out in the studio while I got busy making copies.

I found out later that the three of them were trying to flesh out a song they had written in high school. They were adding a newly written section that had no words yet. They sang "na na naa naa" as stand-in words, and were trying to come up with a new lyric. However, time was a-wastin' so they decided "fooey" or words to that effect, and kept the na naas.

When they returned to the control room, I had the copies finished. Paul told me we were doing a B Side, and the budget for the whole production was a generous $85! And we had to complete the song that night!

——more to come——