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Alan O'Day: About
Alan O'Day (born 3 October 1940) is an American singer-songwriter, born in Hollywood, California. O'Day recorded "Undercover Angel" which hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1977.
Alan O'Day's father was a newspaper photographer and a music lover. "He used to give me back rubs," recalled O'Day, "with syncopated hand-put drum figures." His mother was a newspaper writer, schoolteacher, and music lover as well.
O'Day's first musical memory is of creating tunes on a xylophone at the age of six. By the fifth grade, his favorite artist was Spike Jones, and he was serenading his class on the ukulele. At Coachella Valley Union High, he started his first rock'n'roll band, with heavy influences from Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Fats Domino.
It was at this point that he began to write his own songs. "When I was in high school, to be a songwriter was tantamount to being a bum, at least as far as the prospects were concerned. I had never even given it much thought. I just did it for fun. I wrote songs when I was in high school as a way of getting acceptance from my peer group."
He spent most of the 1960s on the road with a four-piece band. He scored some films, and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, but still felt his career was going nowhere.
"When I was twenty-eight years old, I was completely miserable," he said. "I couldn't see what my future would be. I'd been playing in bars and clubs with various groups for years, waiting for that break that would catapult me to stardom. I had a few near misses, but they always fell short."
Then, in 1971, he signed with Warner Brothers Music, and wrote "The Drum," which became a hit single for Bobby Sherman. In 1974, three more of his songs did well: "Train of Thought," recorded by Cher; "Rock'n'Roll Heaven," cut by the Righteous Brothers; and "Angie Baby," sung by Helen Reddy. "Angie Baby" hit #1 in December of 1974 and became Reddy's biggest selling record. "Well-known artists, good production, distribution, air play; it was the first time that these things just clicked in, one right after another. I said to myself, 'My God, that's what it feels like when everything goes right.'"
In 1977, Warner Brothers Music decided to form a special label for their composers who also performed. "Songs which otherwise would have been channeled to major recording artists," said president Ed Silvers, "we will now be able to exploit on Pacific Records, via the original songwriters." The first artist signed was Alan O'Day, and the first release was "Undercover Angel."
O'Day described that tune as a "nocturnal novelette." It was put out, without fanfare, in February 1977. Four months later, it was the number one song in the country, and certified gold to boot. "It's wonderful when you find out what feels right," said O'Day, "and then it also feels right to other people. That's a songwriter's dream." "Undercover Angel" zoomed to the top of the charts in July 1977, selling about two million copies.
A follow-up single, "Skinny Girls", became a #1 song in Australia in 1980. In 1981, he co-wrote "Your Eyes" with singer-songwriter Tatsuro Yamashita, which became a hit in Japan.
O'Day left Warner Brothers in 1982 to write and self-publish. In 1983 he was invited to Tokyo to co-write six more songs with Yamashita for his album "Big Wave". The collaboration yielded a Gold Disc Award in Japan.
In 1983 he met singer-songwriter Janis Liebhart, which whom he co-wrote a children's song for a new animated TV show, Jim Henson's Muppet Babies. The collaboration continued, and within eight years they had written almost 100 songs for this Emmy Award-winning Saturday morning program, which has been syndicated worldwide.
O'Day and Liebhart continued co-writing for kid-focused projects, including National Geographic's "Really Wild Animals", an acclaimed series of videos which they helped produce and on which they also sang. They also worked on some children's products for Alaska Video.