Friday, October 14, 2016

Episode 274: Tom Kelly

Episode 274: Tom Kelly
Pat and Kyle are joined by songwriter Tom Kelly to discuss his career penning chart topping hit songs for artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Heart and Madonna.
From October 13, 2016

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat and Kyle welcome us to the show. Today's special guest has made a name for himself putting pen to paper and writing some of the biggest songs in pop music history. He's in the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with his writing partner Billy Sternberg: It's Tom Kelly! Together Tom and Billy have written five #1 singles in the 1980s, along with a host of other big songs. Tom got his start when he moved to Los Angeles in 1974 and teamed up with Dan Fogelberg as part of his backing band.
00:05:00 Tom formed his own band called Fools Gold, which put out a few albums but never went anywhere. Those were the first songs he ever published. Tom speaks fondly of Fogelberg; a sweet, talented guy who died too soon. After Fools Gold, Tom turned to session work. One of the albums he worked on was Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon. Pat plays a song co-wrote with Gary Richrath called "Follow My Heart". Tom mainly writes the music, while Billy mainly writes the lyrics.
00:10:00 The duo met in 1981 through a mutual colleague, producer Keith Olsen; Tom and Billy both worked separately on the Pat Benatar album Precious Time. Although they came from different backgrounds, Tom was taken by Billy's gift of words. They decided to team up and write some songs together. Billy prefers to write the words first, rather than having to fit words for the music.
00:15:00 The first song they wrote together was "Just One Kiss" by Rick Springfield off his album Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet. That's Tom himself on backup vocals. Tom met Rick while singing backup on "Jessie's Girl." Pat asks if Billy would ever tell Tom what type of song he wrote his lyrics for. Tom says no, Billy would just hand him lyrics and Tom would take them in the direction he saw fit. Pat remarks how incredible it is that a perfect pairing like Tom and Billy were able to find each other.
00:20:00 Tom notes how Billy grounded him and brought him back to his roots after spending years hanging out with some sophisticated musicians like Bill Champlain and Bobby Kimball. Pat then plays Tom's song "Fire and Ice" by Pat Benatar, off the album that brought him and Billy together Precious Time. Tom co-wrote it with Pat's rhythm guitarist Scott Sheets. Billy wrote the title track on the album. Then in 1984, Tom and Billy wrote the biggest song of their careers, "Like a Virgin" by Madonna off the album Like a Virgin.
00:25:00 Originally Tom wrote it musically as a ballad, but after getting it frustrated, he doodled a little on the synthesizer and voila, there's "Like a Virgin." Pat plays it. It's a song that is impossible to shake away from the name Madonna, even if she hates it. Two million singles sold. Pat asks what Tom thinks about "Like a Surgeon" by Weird Al Yankovic off the album Dare to Be Stupid. "It's the ultimate compliment," he answers.
00:30:00 Tom wrote another Pat Benatar song called "Sex as a Weapon" off the album Seven the Hard Way. In 1986, Tom and Billy wrote another huge title track, "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper off her album True Colors. Tom originally didn't like Cyndi's version of the song when he first heard it, but he obviously liked it a lot more when it jumped up the charts to #1, just as "Like a Virgin" did.
00:35:00 "True Colors" recently got the cover job from Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick for their Trolls movie. Tom does not have authority to say which projects he can give the song to, but he does still get the mailbox money. The next song Pat highlights was co-written with Susanna Hoffs and sung by Belinda Carlisle on her debut solo album Belinda. The song is called "I Need a Disguise". A Bangle writing a song for a Go-Go. "I haven't heard that one in many moons," says Tom. On the other side of the spectrum is a song Tom wrote for Alice Cooper. Off the album Constrictor, it's "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)".
00:40:00 The best thing out of Tom and Alice's collaboration? Playing golf together. Alice is a total sweetheart. Pat marvels at writing "True Colors" for Cyndi Lauper and "He's Back" as the theme for Friday the 13th Part VI in the same career. Tom one-ups that: Singing backup for Amy Grant in the afternoon and then singing backup for Motley Crue at night. One of the more obscure parts of Tom's career that Pat brings up is a short-lived TV series called Dreams about a rock band, starring John Stamos and Jami Gertz. Tom and Billy wrote much of the music. One of those songs was covered by Cheap Trick on their much-maligned album The Doctor. The song is "Kiss Me Red".
00:45:00 Another big big big song in Tom and Billy's portfolio is by Heart. Off the album Bad Animals, it's the huge single "Alone". Their third #1 single, lasting three weeks at the top. Tom sings backup vocals. He wrote it early in his partnership with Billy. Pat wonders who the conduit is to get these big songs to the artists. It was because of Tom's work as a session man that he knew all of the producers in town. So when he and Billy wrote their songs, they would just a demo and hand it to a producer.
00:50:00 Ron Nevison, the man who produced Bad Animals, worked with Tom on Survivor's When Seconds Count, so that's how Tom and Billy got "Alone" on the album. Heart still sings the song live, as it was their biggest hit. Another obscure point in Tom's career was co-writing a song for Roger Daltrey called "Lover's Storm" off the album Can't Wait to See the Movie. Tom co-wrote it with an old friend named Gary Usher, who sadly passed away in his early fifties.
00:55:00 Tom and Billy wrote a song called "The River Cried", which kicked up a bit of a hoopla because a bunch of artists like Air Supply and Cyndi Lauper wanted to sing it. Pat plays the woman the song did go to, Patty Smyth, off her album Never Enough. Pat then jumps to another lady that Tom and Billy wrote for, Whitney Houston. The song is "So Emotional" off the album Whitney.
01:00:00 The inspiration for that song was Prince, so Tom wrote it as a fast-paced Prince song. Then Tom heard Whitney sing it and he was bummed that it was slower than he imagined. But it became his fourth #1 hit, so Tom was once again proven wrong. In 1988, Tom and Billy teamed up once more with Susanna Hoffs to write songs for The Bangles. Off the album Everything, Pat plays "In Your Room". Susanna was a few years younger than Tom and Billy, but they always gelled over their shared taste of music. Pat plays another song off that album, the huge single "Eternal Flame". Their FIFTH #1 single in FIVE YEARS.
01:05:00 Pat now has three versions of the same song: "I Drove All Night". First up, Cyndi Lauper off the album A Night to Remember. Second, a version by John Waite off his album Live & Rare Tracks. Finally, the late great Roy Orbison off the album King of Hearts. Tom and Billy wrote it as a tribute to Roy, not thinking he would end up singing it.
01:10:00 Tom and Billy recorded a demo with Roy first, but nothing came of it. Then they brought it to Cyndi Lauper because they were working with her on A Night to Remember. She clamored for the song, so Tom and Billy let her have it. Then after Roy died, Tom brought the demo to Jeff Lynne and they used the vocals to build the album version of the song around it. Tom is very proud of it because Roy is a childhood hero of his. Pat plays another song from A Night to Remember called "Unconditional Love". A fun fact from Tom: Susanna Hoffs heard "Unconditional Love" and wanted a song like that, so that's where "Eternal Flame" was born. Speaking of Susanna, Pat plays a song from her solo album When You're a Boy that the trio co-wrote called "My Side of the Bed".
01:15:00 1990 sees Tom and Billy go down under when they write "I Touch Myself" by Australian rockers Divinyls off their self-titled album. #4 in the US, but #1 in Australia, as well as Divinyls' most iconic song. It was a fun song for Tom and Billy to write with lead singer Christina Amphlett (RIP) and guitarist Mark McEntee. Going back to Cheap Trick territory, Pat plays a song from Robin Zander's self-titled solo album called "Secret".
01:20:00 Pat notes how the majority of songs Tom and Billy wrote were performed by women. Tom replies that most of the top 80s male singers and bands wrote their own songs. Also, Billy's lyrics lean more towards the feminine point of view; big emotions that male singers might not be comfortable singing about. Pat moves on to Tom and Billy's relationship with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. Off the album Last of the Independents, he plays "Night in My Veins". Funny enough, while Billy writes more feminine lyrics, Chrissie has a more masculine edge to her, so they would compliment each other.
01:25:00 Chrissie doesn't seem to Pat like the kind of artist who would want to write with pop song writers like Tom and Billy. The two had their own guy that would bring songs to artists. Then they hooked up with another guy who brought some of their songs to Chrissie. She liked them, so Chrissie came to Tom's house in L.A. She was very funny, very creative, and they got along swimmingly right away. When Tom and Billy got inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Chrissie flew all the way from England to perform "I'll Stand by You" at the induction ceremony.
01:30:00 Tom and Billy are all over Last of the Independents. Pat plays another song called "977". Tom plays bass on the song. Finally, let's hear the big one, "I'll Stand by You". That's Tom on piano on that one. Incredibly, it did not hit #1. But it's been heard on so many places and gotten so much recognition that people probably think it went to #1. Tom is incredibly proud of the song and its longevity.
01:35:00 The next Pretender album Viva el Amor! also features some Tom and Billy works. Pat plays "From the Heart Down". Tom still gets goosebumps from the song, even though he wrote it to begin with. Pat plays one more Pretenders song, this time from the album Loose Screw. The song is called "Nothing Breaks Like a Heart".
01:40:00 Thanks to Tom for coming on and providing such a great backstory to all these classic songs. He has undoubtedly, along with Billy, stamped his name into the annals of pop music history with permanent ink. Right now Tom is taking it easy, just happily living life with his family. With his canon, he has certainly earned it. Pat takes us out with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick performing "True Colors" from the Trolls Soundtrack.
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:05:00 Follow My Heart Hi Infidelity REO Speedwagon Pat
00:15:00 Just One Kiss Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet Rick Springfield Pat
00:20:00 Fire and Ice Precious Time Pat Benatar Pat
00:25:00 Like a Virgin Like a Virgin Madonna Pat
00:25:00 Like a Surgeon Dare to Be Stupid Weird Al Yankovic Pat
00:30:00 Sex as a Weapon Seven the Hard Way Pat Benatar Pat
00:30:00 True Colors True Colors Cyndi Lauper Pat
00:35:00 I Need a Disguise Belinda Belinda Carlisle Pat
00:35:00 He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask) Constrictor Alice Cooper Pat
00:40:00 Kiss Me Red The Doctor Cheap Trick Pat
00:45:00 Alone Bad Animals Heart Pat
00:50:00 Lover’s Storm Can’t Wait to See the Movie Roger Daltrey Pat
00:55:00 The River Cried Never Enough Patty Smyth Pat
00:55:00 So Emotional Whitney Whitney Houston Pat
01:00:00 In Your Room Everything Paul Simon Pat
01:00:00 Eternal Flame Everything The Bangles Pat
01:05:00 I Drove All Night A Night to Remember Cyndi Lauper Pat
01:05:00 I Drove All Night Live & Rare Tracks John Waite Pat
01:05:00 I Drove All Night King of Hearts Roy Orbison Pat
01:10:00 Unconditional Love A Night to Remember Cyndi Lauper Pat
01:10:00 My Side of the Bed When You’re a Boy Susanna Hoffs Pat
01:15:00 I Touch Myself Divinyls Divinyls Pat
01:15:00 Secret Robin Zander Robin Zander Pat
01:20:00 Night in My Veins Last of the Independents Pretenders Pat
01:30:00 977 Last of the Independents Pretenders Pat
01:30:00 I’ll Stand by You Last of the Independents Pretenders Pat
01:35:00 From the Heart Down Viva el Amor! Pretenders Pat
01:35:00 Nothing Breaks Like a Heart Loose Screw Pretenders Pat
01:40:00 True Colors Trolls Soundtrack Justin Timberlake & Anna Kendrick Pat

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