Vintage Music Video below*
The end of the year always makes me think back on those moments that helped define me. The Daily Planet was, for many years, the biggest “moment” of my life.
Marc was a skinny Polish-American Jew. I was a Euro-American mutt who’d decided he was Irish after playing a leprechaun in the high school musical. Our first rock group was clunky. If the chords to the song went, “Blum, blum, blum,” the bass player would go, “Boom, boom, boom,” and the drummer would go, “bang, bang, bang.” All skate.
The band broke up. But Marc and I started writing songs. Our favorite was a McCartney-esque paean to the day we wrote it, Thursday. There was a stage-dad a few blocks away who was desperate to turn his thirteen-year-old into a rock star. So we sold him our cast-off tunes for date money. But we refused to sell “Thursday Song.”
After a few false starts, we managed to finagle an Italian-American drummer named Joey into auditioning for us. We’d never heard anyone play like him. Forget “bang, bang, bang.” Joey could go, “ska-dinka-dunka-clank-clank-ba-dink-dunk-shiiiik!” He was that good. And then Jeph, a 15 year old half-Native American bassist, who’d played a one-nighter with the James Brown band (which made him a living legend), sat in with us, explaining that as soon as something better came along he’d be outa there. Nothing ever did.
It was the blind date that blossomed into love. We were better together than we were apart. We’d try to do covers, but then someone would say, “So I wrote this song,” and we’d work on that instead. It was a draw-back for school dances, where everyone wanted Top 40 and all we knew was Top Us. But eventually an embryonic fan club began to show up and call out the names of their favorite Daily Planet songs.
The Daily Planet. That was what we called ourselves, because of our international…ish…ness. We were just shades-of-white American teenagers, really. But we looked pretty diverse in our WASPy little SoCal suburb of La Mirada.
We managed to score some off-hours recording time with the Beach Boys’ engineer Chuck Britz (who was married to one of my mom’s childhood buds). We laid down four tracks at United Western Studios, where icons like Elvis and Ray Charles had recorded. Even though our style was folk-rock, everyone picked the poppy “Thursday Song” to be our first hit.
So when Capital Records and the Singer Sewing Machine Company (go figure) announced their Sounds of ’68 campaign, we submitted “Thursday Song.” And then forgot about it. But a month later someone called and said, “Congratulations, you’re the best new band in the western United States!”
We drove to Hollywood and re-recorded “Thursday Song” with Billy Strange, the guitarist who’d done the James Bond theme (“DUM-da-da-da-DUM-dum-da-DUM-da-da-da-DUM-dum-da-DA-da-da-da-DA!”). And got our measurements taken by a wispy clothing designer named Boyd (his theme: “patent leather hippies”). And played at the Daisy Club in Beverly Hills, where our slightly stewed host Tony Bennett announced that we were his new protégés! (We never heard from him again.)
We lip-synched “Thursday Song” on a Tuesday at ABC Studios, for the adoring masses. Well, for our adoring little fan club back in La Mirada, anyway—who would have eventually become adoring masses, if only…
But that’s another story.
*Here’s a video (in black & white for some reason–the show was in color). Be kind.