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Monday, May 23, 2011


Hope you enjoy the latest installment in our interview series - Phil Margo of the legendary Tokens was nice enough to answer our questions.

Kyler:Phil, how did you (and your brother) become ½ of the classic lineup of the Tokens?

PHIL:Well, it’s mainly because I was in a boy’s chorus in high school and I learned how beautiful singing was, it was in my junior year and I was kind of unspectacular. We did our first concert and our teacher asked if some of us would want to entertain at the annual spring sock hop, so I volunteered Mitch and me and we sang “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, accapella. People applauded and girls introduced themselves and that was the beginning. I found that I had a talent for music and I pursued it. I learned how to play the piano, and had a band in the summer of 59. We worked in the Catskill Mountains. When I came back, our drummer (his father won the lottery won the lottery two months in a row) went to college, and I had to find a new drummer. The new drummer knew Henry Medress. And he introduced Henry to us and we started working and writing together. We did kind of a rock and roll version of Chopsticks and nothing happened. We continued to write because Hank saw something in us. And we wrote “Tonight I Fell In Love” and some other songs and we got Jay (who was in Darrell and the Oxfords with Hank) to sing lead and that’s how it all began. Mitch was actually 9-10 years old when we first sang and then when we got together (in the Tokens) I was 17 and Mitch was 12.

Kyler:What kind of music were The Tokens into offstage?

PHIL:Jay had a very eclectic view of music. he was into country and folk. Mitch and I liked 40s music. I liked some classical stuff and of course what was current. Our favorite was stuff like Ray Charles and good harmony groups.

Kyler:How did you come to be signed by Warwick Records?

PHIL:We went with Warwick because they frankly were the only label that would take the record! We made “Tonight I Fell In Love” and nobody jumped up and down and then finally Warwick agreed to put it out. Then they changed their mind. Morty (Craft, head of Warwick at the time) didn’t want to put it out because he didn’t like the name we picked for ourselves, which was “Those Guys”. He didn’t want ‘Those Guys’, and he wasn’t gonna put the record out. So we came to him, and he said “ok, we’ll use the name ‘The Tokens’, because one of his labels was the label that Neil Sedaka & The Tokens were on. So, we took the name ‘The Tokens’. It was an afterthought. We didn’t really like the name but we took it because we wanted to do anything to get a record out!

Kyler:After “Tonight I Fell In Love”, you moved from Warwick to RCA. What was the reason behind the move?

PHIL:We moved to RCA from Warwick because Morty said our record wasn’t earning any money, when it was in the Top 15. He said, “what can RCA do for you that I can’t”? And we all said in unison, without rehearsal, “Pay us!”

Kyler:Can you tell me about some great doo wop songs that graced the first RCA Tokens single – “Dry Your Eyes” and “When I Go To Sleep At Night”?

PHIL:Dry Your Eyes and When I Go were songs that we had written and nothing much to say except that I don’t think the records weren’t what we wanted. Once you turn things over to an arranger and orchestra you’re at their mercy. We weren’t in charge, so we weren’t the producers, so we had to do what was in front of us. Later on, “He’s So Fine”, when we recorded the Chiffons, we had run through the budget at Capitol Records so we had to play the instruments and do the arrangements ourselves. I think that’s what made the record successful because it had that spontaneous feel about it.

Kyler:Of course your biggest hit on RCA was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”….how influential were The Tokens to the arrangement of the original folk standard?

PHIL:We kinda gave them the demo – we did a demo in 1960 of Wimoweh without the lyric. I just found it recently within the last couple of years (the original demo). We pretty much laid down the feel of it, the bongo drums etc. The lyric was a thing that was added later and we didn’t get that until the day of the session. We were supposed to sing the lyric to the melody line of the chant (“Wimoweh”), but it got boring, after a while repeating the same thing over and over again, so we went over to the piano and adjusted the melody. We actually wrote a new melody to go with the lyrics. We unfortunately never got credited or paid for that and it was even admitted to by the people that kind of stole it from us.

Kyler:Some of my favorite Tokens songs from the early Sixties are little known gems which have very little information to be found on the web – namely, “Right Or Wrong”, “Somewhere There’s A Girl”, and “Dear Judy” – can you provide any details?

PHIL:“Right or Wrong” was written by Neil Sedaka, that was on our original session. “Somewhere There’s A Girl”, Neil Sedaka also wrote. We wrote “Dear Judy”. We were trying to do a record like “Little Darlin’”, so we did “Dear Judy”.

Kyler:What was the major impetus behind the creation of BT Puppy Records?

PHIL:We started BT Puppy because we were leaving RCA and we wanted our own label, like a little RCA. BT stands for Bright Tunes (our publishing company), and Puppy, as a reference to RCA’s dog.

Kyler:Many, if not all, of the Tokens original songs were followed by the credits “Margo/Margo/Medress/Siegel”. Did each of you actually write parts of every song or was it more like a Lennon/McCartney situation?

PHIL:Margo/Margo/Medress/Siegel were the credits. Mitch and I wrote most of the songs, in fact Mitch even more than me. Jay and Hank didn’t really write that much. Jay’s edition was to make little changes in the melody once a song was written. Basically the songs were written by Mitchell and I. Although Hank, with us, did write Tonight I Fell In Love and I’ll Always Love You.

Kyler:How did The Tokens acquire “He’s In Town”? Were you good friends with Goffin, King and the other writers from the Brill Building?

PHIL:We were friends with Carole and Gerry because once we produced “He’s So Fine” for the Chiffons, they came to us with the demo for “One Fine Day” (sung by Little Eva on the demo), and I said we would want to do that (with the Chiffons). She sent it over and we used the backing track, with Carole on piano, and added to it to make the master. So we were friends with Carole and she called us up and said “I have a great song for you guys”.We were friendly with Mann and Weil, Barry and Greenwich, Artie Resnick, all of those people from the Brill Building.

(above: Carole King and Gerry Goffin, writers of "He's In Town")

Kyler:Who came up with the Puppy design for BT Puppy? Was it meant to be a knock on RCA Victor’s dog?

PHIL:It wasn’t a knock on RCA, it was an homage to them – that was where we had our biggest hit record so the last thing we wanted to do was knock them!

Kyler:“I Hear Trumpets Blow” has a set of wonderful lyrics. What was the inspiration behind that tune?

PHIL:I Hear Trumpets Blow is an interesting story. It continues now – we always loved it. Mitch wrote it as a homage to our family. It would have been a big record if New York would have played it. The only area we couldn’t get it played was New York City so the record wasn’t as big as it could have been. Noah (Phil’s son) and I wrote a play which is being considered for Broadway called “Oh My Goddess”, and one of the songs we put in it is “I Hear Trumpets Blow”. Hopefully it will have another life – we’ll see!

Kyler:Many of the Tokens songs have intricate background parts – for example, “Breezy” and “Greatest Moments In A Girl’s Life”. Did you guys arrange those parts yourselves?

PHIL:We did all the background parts ourselves. The only one we didn’t do was “He’s In Town”, which Carole King did.

Kyler:You produced many great records and artists – do you have a favorite?

PHIL:Out of all of them, there were only three that I knew would be hits – Knock Three Times (Tony Orlando and Dawn), I Got Rhythm (Happenings) and One Fine Day (Chiffons). I guess I don’t really have a favorite My favorite Tokens record is “Tonight I Fell In Love”. There was something wonderful about the innocence of the background parts. If you notice, the background parts are a descending triad instead of the obvious part. And the record turned out the way we all heard it, so that was kind of exciting.

Kyler:Finally, I bet out readers would like to know what Phil Margo and Tokens are up to these days.

PHIL:We tour all over the country and we travel. We do television and we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”!

Thanks to Phil for the interview! You can check the Tokens official website out HERE

Also, be sure to check out the Rare Rockin Records shop (just click here). You can find many great compact discs to order, and information about two upcoming ones - Billy Meshel (Songwriter's Series) on RRR and Paul Petersen (Hits & Rarities) on Teensville.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

NEW RELEASES!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey folks!

I am glad to tell you about not one, but TWO new releases from the RRR family. Get ready!

The first is a deluxe disc featuring tracks written and co-written by the legendary Billy Meshel. Don't worry - there are some big, Big, BIG names on this CD such as Lenny Welch, Dion & The Belmonts, and Del Shannon. Check out the track lineup:

1. Del Shannon – Don’t Gild the Lily, Lily (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Big Top 3075 (1961)
2. Babs Tino – Dr. Jekyll Or Mr. Hyde (Billy Meshel & Phil Barr) Kapp 561 ( 1963)
3. Billy Mitchell – (Let’s) Stop A Little While (Billy Meshel) Warwick 501 (1959)
4. Lenny Welch – My Fool Of A Heart (Billy Meshel & Teddy Randazzo) Kapp 648 (1965)
5. The Fortune Cookies – It Should Have Been Me (Billy Meshel & Phil Barr) Smash 1991 ( 1965)
6. Eddie Martin – Keep Away From Julie (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Mercury 71909 (1961)
7. Don & Juan – What I Really Meant To Say ( Billy Meshel & Bill Ramal) Big Top 3121 (1962)
8. Donna Lewis – Call Him Back ( Billy Meshel & Phil Barr) Decca 31554 (1964)
9. Billy Meshel – Paradise Found ( Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Time 1036 (1961)
10. The Royalettes – Don’t You Cry (Billy Meshel, Teddy Randazzo & Bobby Weinstein) MGM 13283 (1964)
11. Chuck Foote – I Stopped Asking (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) 20th Fox 302 (1962)
12. Roberta Wynn – Dream Boy Jubilee 5405 (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Jubilee 5405 (1962)
13. Gary Criss – Sweet, Warm and Soft ( Billy Meshel, Don Covay & John Berry) Diamond 145 (1962)
14. The Crampton Sisters – My Guy Is Boss (Billy Meshel & Phil Barr) DCP 1107 (1964)
15. Billy Stewart – This Is A Fine Time (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) United Artists 340 (1961)
16. Ginny Arnell – B-i-l-l-? Why (Billy Meshel) MGM 13362 (1965)
17. Roger Douglass – But Suddenly ( Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Mercury 71860 (1961)
18. Marcy Jo – Take A Word ( Billy Meshel) Robbee 117 (1961)
19. Mark Richards – She Can Make Me Cry ( Billy Meshel & Doug Morris) ABC Paramount 10654 (1965)
20. Jennie Smith – It’s Murder For Roberta (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Canadian American 135 (1962)
21. Chuck Foote – I’d Do It All Over Again ( Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) 20th Fox 302 (1962)
22. Marie Applebee – Dear Mrs Applebee (Billy Meshel & Phil Barr) Jubilee 5570 (1966)
23. The Carousels – Symptons of Love (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) ABC Paramount 10233 (1961)
24. Rita Pavone – Right Now (Billy Meshel, Teddy Randazzo & Phil Barr) RCA 47-8612 (1964)
25. Mickey Denton – Now You Can’t Give Them Away (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Big Top 3078 (1962)
26. Dale Brooks – What is There To Tell (Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Twirl 2028 ( 1966)
27. Billy Mitchum – Living On A Cloud (Billy Meshel) Imperial 5616 (1961)
28. The Fortune Cookies – A Girl In Love (Billy Meshel & Phil Barr) Smash 1991 (1965)
29. Jerry Keller – Be Careful How You Drive Young Joey ( Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) Capitol 4630 (1962)
30. Kansas City Twisters – What A Wacky Weekend ( Billy Meshel & Arthur Altman) APT 25062 (1962)
31. Dion & The Belmonts – Movin’ Man (Billy Meshel & Phil Barr) ABC Paramount 10896 (1967)
32. Del Shannon – I Can’t Believe My Ears (Billy Meshel & Phil Barr) Amy 947 ( 1966)

This disc is the closest of the two to release - so you can pre-order now HERE.

Just as exciting is a new Teensville release by teen idol Paul Petersen. It's entitled "HITS & RARITIES". Just like the title says, all the hits are here, plus many rare tracks and new stereo mixes added in to make a great compilation. There is no pre-order option yet, but we will let you know when there is! For now, take a look at the track listing:

(Wally Gold-Roy Alfred)
Colpix 620
(Gerry Goffin-Carole King)
Colpix 622
3. LOLLIPOPS & ROSES (A) stereo
(Tony Velona)
Colpix 649
4. MY DAD (A) stereo
(Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil)
Colpix 663
5. AMY (A)
(Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil)
Colpix 676
(Sid Wayne-Sherman Edwards)
Colpix 697
(Fred Tobias-Lee Pockriss)
Colpix 707
(Fred Tobias-Lee Pockriss)
Colpix 720
(Brian Wilson-Roger Christian)
Colpix 720
(Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil)
Colpix 730
(Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil)
Colpix 730
(Deane Hawley-Jerry Riopelle)
Colpix 763
13. HAPPY (A)
(Nick DeCaro)
Colpix 763
14. THE RING (D)
(Billy Page)
Colpix 785
(Tommy Roe)
Colpix 785
(Wayne P. Walker)
Colpix 663
(Doc Pomus-Alan Jeffreys)
Colpix 622
(Barry Mann-Mike Anthony)
Colpix 697
19. I WANNA BE FREE (TV) (A) (unreleased)
(Stu Phillips-Tommy Boyce)
20. ROSIE (from Bye Bye Birdie) (A)
(Charles Strouse-Lee Adams)
Colpix LP 454
21. ONE GIRL (from Bye Bye Birdie) (A) stereo
(Charles Strouse-Lee Adams)
Colpix LP 454
22. KIDS (FOLKS) (from Bye Bye Birdie) (A)
(Charles Strouse-Lee Adams)
Colpix LP 454
23. VERY UNLIKELY (A) stereo
(Gary Geld-Peter Udell)
Colpix 620
(Sherman Edwards-Sid Wayne)
Colpix 631
25. DON'T LET IT HAPPEN TO US (F) stereo
(Frank Wilson)
Motown 1108
(Frank Wilson)
Motown 1108
(R. Dean Taylor)
Motown 1129
Motown 1109
29. TWO LITTLE BOYS (H) (unreleased)
(Theodore Morse-Edward Madden)
30. QUARANTINE (A) (unreleased) stereo
(Fred Anisfield)
31. QUARANTINE (TV insert) (A) (unreleased) stereo

The official page for this CD can be found HERE

As always, we'd love to hear you comments. Just post them below - they WILL be read!

Until next time, rock on!