45 RPM (Recollections Per Minute)

Chapter 4

Phil Spector

 

“Morrell! Pack your bags and get to LA! We’re going over to meet Phil Spector and hear some new music.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was sensational news! “Be My Baby,” by the Ronettes was one of my first 45’s and Phil produced it with his famous “wall of sound.”

John Lennon had just released his “Rock ‘n’ Roll” album and Phil had produced some of the tracks. I was hoping to talk to him about the sessions and if there were any songs that weren’t released or some jam sessions that may have taken place. I was getting excited to meet him in person. I was thinking about the “Let It Be” album he produced. I wanted to ask him about those Beatle tapes. Did he listen to everything the Beatles put on tape? My mind was spinning!

Phil signed a deal with WB Records to put music out and I was the NYC promotion man. I knew he’d identify with me and we’d get along great. But sometimes things don’t work out that way.

For example, Sonny Bono was a promo man for Phil, and one time, in December 1964, he took Phil’s newest single, “Walkin’ in the Rain” by the Ronettes, to the hot Top 40 station in Los Angeles. The DJ he played it for was less than enthusiastic and even grimaced. Then he said, “It sounds kinda tired.”

Sonny left the station to call Phil and give him the news. Phil picked up the phone and asked, “Am I making money?” Sonny told him they weren’t going to add it right away.

“It didn’t get on this week,” Sonny said.

There was silence on Phil’s end of the call.

Sonny was a goner.

Phil’s first two songs for the new deal at WB flopped. One was by Cher called “A Woman’s Story,” and the other, “Dance, Dance, Dance,” was by a band called Calhoon.

I didn’t realize Phil just might be in a bad mood when we met him.

My boss at WB took a few members the staff over to meet Phil in the recording studio. We all walked in and Phil was standing there with his bodyguard. Later they told me he had a bodyguard to make sure he didn’t hurt himself!

Rather than being polite and welcoming, Phil went on a rant. He started screaming that we couldn’t get Beatle records played in Liverpool. That none of us were any good. He said the Cher record was a hit that we blew. It was actually a stinker that never charted in the Billboard Hot 100.

After what seemed like forever yelling at us, my boss finally had enough. He took control.

“Hey Phil!” he barked. “Play the new music we came to hear or we’re leaving!”

Phil would have nobody talk down to him so he bellowed, “I’m not done! I wanna know what’s happening with my records. I’m not playing anything ‘til I get some answers!”

Phil was losing it. I was confused. I wanted a do over. I wanted to shake his hand and talk for a while and then play some cool music.

My boss couldn’t take it any longer. He shouted, “Phil! You got 30 seconds to hit the play button or we’re gone.”

Phil look bothered. He stated flailing his arms and refused to hit the play button.

My boss said, “That’s it! Lets go!”

We all got behind my boss and single filed our way out of there.

I never did meet Phil, or shake his hand, but I did get an unexpected letter from him that included a button that had his famous saying, BACK TO MONO. The letter made me laugh. I had no idea why he sent it to me. It was dated March 19, 1975 and it read:

Dear Dave,

I’d like to thank you for all that you’ve done on behalf of Warner/Spector product.

Warmest personal regards,

Phil Spector

I thought maybe one day Phil would come to NY and stop by the office, but that never happened. In fact, nothing ever happened at Warner/Spector.

Something so right just turned out so wrong. Phil never had a hit while with WB.

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“Post Office Box E Kearny, NJ”

New excerpt from the new book HORSE-DOGGIN’ – the morrell archives volume 1, available at amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Doggin-The-Morrell-Archives-Volume/dp/1497594103/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401210343&sr=8-1&keywords=horse-doggin%E2%80%99

 

 

Post Office Box E Kearny, NJ

GOSSIP COLUMN – OKLAHOMA JOURNAL, Tuesday, May, 2 1972

Q. Though the Beatles as a group are no more, I wonder if there are others like me who still groove on them, like to collect stuff about them, and feel deserted since there are no more fan clubs?

A. Yes, there are many Beatlemaniac’s, the leading one being Dave Morrell, who recently held a Beatle freak convention at his home. Collectors and fans came to trade treasures, for Morrell’s amateur inter- est in the subject is unending. He spends all his time corresponding with other Beatle fans, telling them what’s for sale, where the rare shops are, and what’s to be traded. Morrell’s address is Post Office Box E, Kearny, NJ.

 

Now I was getting 50 letters a day. I would call those that were close by and included phone numbers. One of them was from a kid a few miles away in Clifton, NJ. His name was Ron Furmanek.

Ron was fifteen years old and moments away from dropping out of high school. He couldn’t drive so I went to meet him. He told me to meet him at a pizza joint across from the firehouse. First thing he did was point to the jukebox and tell me how he’d leave little notes on the back for the man who would come to change the records each month. Ron would ask the man to save him the rare ‘made only for jukebox’ records. He said it worked and when we got to his home he showed me a few that you could never buy in a store. They were fantastic. One was a mini album of “Beatles Second Album” that I’d never seen.

Ron’s home was normal. A loving mom with a huge smile in the kitchen, dad in the living room, engaging, easy going, and friendly.

Then we got upstairs.

First you had to go through Ron’s big brother’s room to get to his. His brother’s room looked like a record store. The posters on the wall were the kind you would only see in a record shop. You couldn’t buy posters like these. The Faces, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Frank Sinatra covered his walls. Then I began to enter Ron’s room. It was unbelievable. Head to toe, every square inch of the entire room, including the ceiling was covered with Elvis and the Beatles. Even the light switches were covered, from large 6-foot posters to tiny cutouts from old newspapers.

Ron had a huge blow up of the cover of Life magazine from Asia with the Beatles on the cover. The text read “The New Far-Out Beatles” and “Marijuana’s Turned-on Millions.” It was stunning. John was wearing a cape in the photo. Ron also had the American version of Life magazine for that week, but the picture of the Beatles was on the inside. I wondered how on earth he could get something like that all the way from Asia. Then he showed me a Beatles 78 r.p.m. official record from India. It was a beautiful sight but how did he get it? Where do you buy 78’s? And if you could find them, how did one from India show up in America?

He showed me two copies of “Introducing the Beatles” on Vee-Jay Records. They looked the same to me on the cover, but when he turned them over, both records had a few different track listings. I would have never noticed it without it being pointed out.

The highlight of his collection was the ‘Meet the Beatles” motion display. It was large and the Beatles heads would move from side to side. I had never seen it before. He even had a mint unused one in it’s original box in his closet. He also showed me what he considered to be the second greatest promotional piece ever made. It was the HELP! display. It was a motorized box that opens with hands popping out, and then closes. There were Beatle photographs on all four sides and on the top. It was large!

Turns out Ron had been collecting records since he was a very little boy. He kept exceptional care of his records. He’d not only have the picture cover in plastic, but the disc too. These were mint records.

Ron’s collection at that young age was incredible. With every new gem came a story that left me speechless and my jaw dropped. He didn’t even drive, but he was driven to collect the rarest records I have ever seen.

Ron & I began a journey together. We were all over the city scouting places for rare records and any Beatle memorabilia. We started meeting on Saturday mornings on the corner of Fourteenth St. and Broadway and making the rounds through all of Greenwich Village, East Village and West Village to every record store, book store, movie memorabilia store, second hand junk store we could find and there were many of them in those days.

The original Golden Disc on W. Tenth St. was the last stop in the Village on our route and guess what? Ron had a job working there. His hands were on the rarest records and he knew the subject well.

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“YELLOW MATTER CUSTARD” – The Morrell Archives Vol. 1

CHAPTER 3 – from the JUNE 2014 release of “HORSE-DOGGIN'”- The Morrell Archives Vol 1.

 

 

I was at the tail end of the recent Rolling Stone magazine, when I saw an ad in the back that looked interesting. It was a mail order company out of Glendale, CA called Godzilla. They had a Beatle album they were calling “Yellow Matter Custard” and it had songs on it I never heard of. They included “I Got a Woman,” “Glad All Over,” “I Just Don’t Understand,” “Slow Down,” “Don’t Ever Change,” “A Shot of Rhythm & Blues,” “Sure To Fall,” “Nothin’ Shakin’ (But the Leaves on the Tree),” “Lonesome Tears In My Eyes,” “So How Come,” “I’m Gonna’ Sit Right Down and Cry,” “Crying, Waiting, Hoping,” “To Know Her Is To Love Her” and “The Honeymoon Song.”

The only song I knew was “Slow Down” and I wondered how could this album have a dozen songs that I never heard of before? I never read about the Beatles recording these titles. One song title was “Glad All Over,” which I immediately thought was the Beatles singing a Dave Clark Five hit.

I sent the money and the record came with Godzilla’s list of bootleg albums. This was serious reading material for a kid like me. Bootleg albums were hard to find and this place had a huge list that I was interested in.

I busted the album open and ran to the record player. The disc was red vinyl with no song titles. I got it on the turntable and immediately stood back, not knowing what was coming on. I jacked up the volume and began to listen. “I Got a Woman” was the first track and John Lennon started singing. I was convinced it was John, but was it the Beatles? Yes! It was the Beatles. There was no doubt in my mind.

This was too good to be true. I was listening to a brand new Beatle album that I never heard about and it was thrilling. By the time “I Just Don’t Understand” came on, the record changed quality. It was like the music was taped off a radio and someone was playing with the tuning knob. I knew right away this was a copy of something that had been played on the radio, taped, and then made into a disc, but I didn’t care, the track sounded like a hit Beatle song to me.

“Slow Down” came on and was running a little fast, but I got real close to the speaker to hear if this was the original version, an outtake, or a live version with no audience. It wasn’t the exact recording my ears were used to but it was close. John’s screams were there, George’s guitar was close to what I was used to hearing. To me, this was a professional recording, just not finished. It even had a cold ending.

“A Shot of Rhythm & Blues” came on and it made me dance around. My arms were flailing. I turned the volume up as high as I could. I could only imagine how great the master of these songs must sound. This could have been a hit for the Beatles. I was excited. This was a gem. I wondered if this was original material or a cover. I knew the only way to find out was to try to find someone to ask John Lennon and that man was Howard Smith, who often had written about John & Yoko and had them up to his radio show on WPLJ-FM.

I got into action. I looked for a pen, grabbed a sheet of paper and started scribbling. I told Howard the story and was firm about this being a Beatles album. I put a self addressed stamped envelope in there in case he wanted to reply. For the next week I played the “Yellow Matter Custard” album over and over and over. I asked everyone I knew about the songs. No one had a clue. There were no research books on the Beatles back in ‘71.

Meanwhile, out of the blue, the local paper, the Newark Star Ledger, ran a story on John & Yoko in their Sunday section. The date was November 7, 1971. It had a great big picture of the two of them at the top.

One thing stood out in the article. It said: “The Lennons’ have been living in New York now for several months, in a seventeenth floor suite at the St. Regis Hotel. Their room contains a complete 16 mm editing room, a powerful stereo system, Chuck Berry albums everywhere you look, assorted books by authors including Realist editor Paul Krassner and the Reverend Daniel Berrigan, several paintings of skulls, a large rack of clothes, a glowing color TV, two acoustical guitars, a vase with yellow roses, and walls covered with posters, plus a rare copy of a withdrawn Beatles album cover of boys dressed as butchers and holding bloody, decapitated dolls and slabs of meat.”

I was salivating when I read that. To me, the Beatles Butcher cover was a holy grail. A real Beatles album cover that was used and then taken back due to poor taste. To the Beatles and the designer, it was art. I didn’t even see a real Butcher cover until the 70’s.

Thirty days later, on December 7, 1971, a month to the day I read about John having his Butcher cover, I was holding it in my hands.