This is the twenty-fifth in a series of examinations of music legends and whether they are true or false.
Click here to view an archive of the previous music urban legends.
MUSIC LEGEND: Barry Manilow wrote “Mandy” about his dog.
A very popular urban legend is that Barry Manilow wrote the song “Mandy” about his dog.
It is so popular that it even made it into the film Can’t Hardly Wait as a plot point (the male lead is into a girl named Amanda, and he thinks of “Mandy” a lot, but various characters keep telling him that it is about a dog).
Well, first off, the story is false in the sense that Barry Manilow did not write “Mandy.”
Secondly, the song was not even originally CALLED “Mandy.”
Thirdly, it appears to be false ANYways.
The song that became “Mandy” originally appeared on the charts under the name “Brandy” written by Scott English, with music by Richard Kerr.
English had penned the American Breed hit “Bend Me Shape Me” in the late 1960s…
His song “Brandy” was a mild hit in the United States in 1971, but was a Top 20 hit in England the same year.
A couple of years later, legendary hit-maker Clive Davis recommended to Manilow that he should record the song.
By this time, however, Looking Glass had has a monster hit in 1972 with their song ALSO titled “Brandy” (specifically “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”)…
So it was decided that they should change the name, and “Mandy” was the choice, and it worked, as it was a massive hit for Manilow – his first (of three) Billboard #1 song!
But what about the whole “the song is about a dog” story?
Well, before I even get into the genesis of that story, do note that the song’s lyrics include in the chorus:
Well you came and you gave without taking
but I sent you away, oh Mandy
well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
I need you today, oh Mandy
I think the bolded part is a pretty good sign that the song is not written about a dog.
In any event, as it turned out, the whole story can be traced back to an “interview” English gave when the original song (“Brandy”) was a hit in England in 1971.
According to English:
People often ask me if “Brandy” was written about a dog. It was NOT, but I know how that story began. During the year I had my 8 minutes of fame with my own rendition of “Brandy” (in the UK), I was awakened at 7 AM by a reporter. He wanted to know WHO brandy was. I would have said anything to get rid of him, so I spat out the first thing that came to mind. It was about a dog like Lassie and I had her sent away. Now you go away!, I said, and then hung up the phone on him! i guess I’ll have to live with that story.
Yep, the song will definitely be forever “dogged” by those rumors (I couldn’t help it!).
Thanks to Scott English for clearing things up (and thanks to Wesley Hyatt’s The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits for the English quote!).
MUSIC LEGEND: Giorgio Moroder wrote “Danger Zone” and “Take My Breath Away” with his former mechanic.
Italian-born singer/songwriter Giorgio Moroder is one of the most successful dance music writers of all-time.
After moving to Germany in the late 60s when he was in his late 20s, Moroder began a career as a singer.
It was his meeting with British aspiring songwriter Pete Bellotte, though, that really changed Moroder’s career forever.
The pair formed a production team and were at the forefront of the disco scene in the mid-1970s.
The two men teamed up with singer Donna Summer, and the three of them dominated the music charts with a ton of disco hits by Summer.
In the late 70s, Moroder began to get involved in doing music for films.
His very first film score, 1978′s Midnight Express, won him an Academy Award for Best Film Score!
He won his second Oscar for the hit song off of the soundtrack to Flashdance, “Flashdance (What a Feeling)”
Moroder contributed a few songs to the soundtrack to the film Top Gun…
One song was recorded by Kenny Loggins, called “Danger Zone”…
the other song, recorded by Berlin, won Moroder a THIRD Oscar, his second for Best Song.
It was called “Take My Breath Away”
Both songs were co-written by lyricist Tom Whitlock.
Amazingly enough, Whitlock first began working with Moroder when he was the mechanic for Moroder’s Ferrari sports car!
While this is true, I find the way this story is told to be more than a bit misleading.
Here’s a typical telling of the tale…
After learning that his Ferrari mechanic, Tom Whitlock, had an interest in song-writing, the pair collaborated on the Top Gun album, together, writing Danger Zone and Take My Breath Away
That’s usually how the story is told, that Morodor’s mechanic, Whitlock, was an aspiring songwriter, so Moroder decided to give him a break and the two wrote “Danger Zone” and “Take My Breath Away.”
Well, it’s BASICALLY true, except the timeline is waaaay off.
Before he ever met Morodor, Whitlock was involved in music. He released an album as a member of a band called No Slack. However, his music career was not going aywhere by the time he met Moroder. And yes, Moroder definitely DID give him his big break.
However, the break Moroder gave him came years before the songs for Top Gun were written.
In 1984, Whitlock was an assistant engineer on the new soundtrack Moroder did for the classic silent film Metropolis.
Earlier in 1986, when Moroder produced an album for Berlin (this connection is what led to Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn getting the shot to sing “Take My Breath Away”), Whitlock was an engineer.
So Whitlock already was working with Moroder for awhile before Moroder began working with him writing songs.
Either way, it’s still impressive to see him go from working as the Ferrari mechanic for a guy to writing Academy Award-winning songs with him!
MUSIC LEGEND: Old Crow Medicine Show co-wrote a song with Bob Dylan, working nearly thirty years apart!
STATUS: True Enough for a True
In 2004, the band Old Crow Medicine Show released their first album (self-titled)…
The album was a commercial and critical success.
The most popular song off of the album was a tune called “Wagon Wheel.”
Confusion soon set in, though, when people began talking about the song being a cover of a Bob Dylan song.
Dylan never had a song called “Wagon Wheel,” and never recorded any song that sounded like this one.
Heck, the song did not even appear on the Basemant Tapes (in 1967, Dylan and the Band recorded over a hundred demo songs, the “best” of which appeared on 1975′s album The Basement Tapes)…
So what was the deal?
Well, as it turns out, the song was not a cover, per se, but rather an example of Ketch Secor (the main songwriter for the group) finishing an unfinished Dylan song – nearly thirty years after the fact!
Bob Dylan appeared in the 1973 film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid…
He also wrote the soundtrack for the film…
The soundtrack has Dylan’s last Top 20 hit, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”…
While working on the soundtrack, Dylan tooled around with a song that has become known as “Rock Me Mama” among Dylan fans. Dylan never really got past the chorus, and the only recording of the song is a tape of Dylan messing around with the tune.
Basically repeating the chorus over and over again,
So rock me mama like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama anyway you feel
Hey mama rock me
Rock me mama like the wind and the rain
Rock me mama like a south-bound train
Hey mama rock me
He never officially recorded the song, but it became a popular song for fans of bootlegs of Dylan music.
Secor helpfully explains what happened next…
It’d be my pleasure to dispel the myth and rumor about the song Wagon Wheel, or “Rock Me Mama” as Bob Dylan himself called the song when he recorded it down in Mexico in 1972 for the soundtrack of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. This song was not released, and it was not finished either, this is a demo of a practice session of him, Rob Stoner, and a couple of gals doing the chorus over and over again while the bass player learns the bass line. That’s what I heard on a German bootleg about nine years ago in high school. And I wrote the lyrics to the song because I loved the chorus so much and I sung it in my head for maybe a year straight, and then just penned what I penned, which is something of an autobiographical story about just wanting to get outta town, gettin outta school, and just wanting to go play music. It’s sort of autobiographical like that. But yeah, it’s sort of a Bob Dylan co-write with about 25 years inbetween.
The song first appeared on Old Crow Medicine Show demo tapes around 2001.
On the album, “Wagon Wheel” is credited as Dylan/Secor.
Thanks to Ketch Secor for the information, and thanks to SongMeanings.net for the quote!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com
Tags: "Bend Me Shape Me", "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)", "Brandy", "Danger Zone", "Flashdance (What a Feeling)", "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "Mandy", "Rock Me Mama", "Take My Breath Away", "Wagon Wheel", Academy Awards, American Breed, Barry Manilow, Best Film Score, Best Song, Bob Dylan, Can't Hardly Wait, Donna Summer, Flashdance, Giorgio Moroder, Kenny Loggins, Looking Glass, Midnight Express, Old Crow Medicine Show, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Pete Bellotte, Richard Kerr, Scott English, The Band, The Basement Tapes, Tom Whitlock, Top Gun