"The funniest, truest
book I have read
about the music business."

           - James Patterson

The Waiting is Over: Julian Lennon

Posted in pop music by Susan Hamilton on January 1, 2014 7 Comments

Maybe it had something to do with our being able to sit back and relax as John McCurry cut up and took over the scene at NYC’s China Club, but from the beginning, Julian and I shared an unspoken empathy. Jules always seemed perfectly comfortable in his own skin, yet was also somewhat reserved—quite different from many of the flamboyant China Club habitués with their coteries of models and desperate need to be noticed.

Julian Lennon with John McCurry

“Jules & John”

He and Christian Slater (another relatively quiet one) were tight during that time: this was in the late ‘80s…

I remember Julian once came back from a trip to visit his mother, Cynthia, on the Isle of Skye, and out of the blue presented me with a bottle of her signature perfume and a couple of cool-looking rocks he’d picked up from the beach. I was truly touched.

Our friendship continued even as I moved to Southern California. McCurry, his girlfriend Kirsten, and engineer Rick Kerr followed me there. They moved back to NYC after about a year (there was just not enough work for them).  But during that first year, John, Jules and I often hung out at my house in Malibu, talking until dawn. I once asked Julian what he was doing with his life, and he answered, “I’m waiting.” I understood (and it wasn’t just about his inheritance that was being held up by Yoko); it went deeper than that. McCurry and I even wrote a song for him titled, “I Was Just Waiting for You” (recorded on an album I produced for the German artist Dan Lucas, now touring as a guitar player and singer for the group Helter Skelter).

We did kick up our heels on the L.A. scene occasionally: at restaurants like Tommy Tang’s or Dan Tana’s—and at the L.A. China Club. There was one memorable night at the Club with the late great Sam Kinison and his girlfriend Malika. She wore a skintight flowered sheath dress and a Carmen Miranda hat (complete with a choice selection of fruits). The China ClubShe dodged through the crowd with tray after tray of “Sex on the Beach” shots held high overhead with one hand while Sam screamed one-liners and ad-libs until he had us gasping for breath, laughing so hard…

Jules, John and I have rekindled our friendship after the release of “Hit Woman.” They both have been incredibly supportive — even helped with its promotion. (Julian gave me the blurb, “A Great Read. From a Great Friend. Old Days in NYC…”)

One more thing about Jules. He continues to be an amazing talent as a singer/songwriter. His voice has a sweet and wistful quality, reminiscent of both John and Paul — and the harmonies in his songs More…

John McCurry: When Accordion Players Go Bad!

Posted in Advertising, Music, pop music, production by Susan Hamilton on December 26, 2013 No Comments yet

“Hey.  Could you get me a cup of coffee?  Cream and sugar, please.” With a wink and a grin, those were the first words spoken to me by John McCurry.

I was producing a spot for J Walter Thompson’s Burger King account in my in-house studio, “Ground Control.”  Chris Palmaro was the arranger; he was working up a fantastic version of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.” Sammy Merendino was programming the drum tracks; Kevin Halpin was engineering, and John was there to overdub guitars.

John McCurry

John McCurry

I remember smiling and just saying, “I’ll see what I can do.” But Chris freaked. He grabbed John by the arm, pulled him into the waiting area and hissed, “Hey man, that’s the boss lady you just asked to bring you a cup of coffee. Are you fuckin’ nuts?!”

And John became one of my closest friends in the frenetic New York scene of the ‘80s. We worked together, wrote songs together, played hard and raised hell. And we always had each other’s back. Half Irish and half Sicilian with the charm and temper of both, John was at least as funny as many of the leading stand-up comics. His one-liners were priceless. (Robin Williams once told him he had the goods to make it in the biz).

One session, I was struggling unsuccessfully to come with a sound effect for the beauty shot of the product. The two bitchy young women from the ad agency had been whiny and irritating. John finally said, “How about this one?” as he put his index finger into one cheek and pulled it out with a loud “pop!” We were working on a tampon commercial…

Then there was the time at a small Southern airport. We were out on the tarmac when John lit up a cigarette, which caused the airport worker to scream at him. As he stamped out the butt, John ventured, “So I guess a crack pipe is out of the question…?”

Would you believe McCurry started in music as a young accordion virtuoso? I’ve seen pictures — pretty nerdy (but so cute)! Eventually, the wild side took over. He got himself into a heap of trouble and ended up in the hoosegow. John’s good friend, Joe Pezzullo, presented him with an acoustic guitar to take inside with him. So he settled down, taught himself to play— and the rest is pop music history.

McCurry cut quite a figure on both the concert stage and in the studio. He was the lead guitarist More…

An Irving Berlin Christmas look…

Posted in Christmas, dogs, New England, pop music by Susan Hamilton on December 24, 2013 No Comments yet

Christmas is at last here in New Hampshire.  Our little town of Wolfeboro maintains a definite Irving Berlin Christmas look to it.  Unfortunately, last week’s fluffy white snow has now turned into limb-breaking sheets of ice on our driveway, steps and deck. Even the dogs with their FOUR legs are having a hard time staying upright: splaying and skating all over the place (they don’t seem to mind).

An Irving Berlin Christmas look with the house all lit up in the snow

…we light up the place…

Most years we light up the place like this, although there was the one year when we returned from a Thanksgiving trip to the other coast to find the gutters so cemented with ice More…