Sunday, November 9, 2014

Arbors -- "I Can't Quit Her/For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" (1968)

She had a woman's touch
A young girl's eyes
And in a second flat
I was hypnotized

The last two 2 or 3 lines posts have featured the Arbors' cover of "The Letter," which was released on a 1968 album titled: The Arbors Featuring "I Can’t Quit Her/The Letter."

Today we're featuring a track from that album that combines Al Kooper's "I Can't Quit Her" – which originally was released on the first Blood Sweat & Tears album – and a Simon and Garfunkel song, "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her," from the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album.

(Apologies to all you Simon and Garfunkel fans, but if there was a one-to-ten scale for song/album title tweeness, "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme would both score an eleven.)

Joe Scott arranged the songs on that Arbors album.  In the previous 2 or 3 lines, we spoke with Joe about his astonishing arrangement of "The Letter."  Click here if you missed it.

Here's part two of our interview with the Joe Scott.

2 or 3 lines: Joe, how did you get your start in music?

Joe Scott:  I started at nine, taking piano lessons.  There was no doubt that that was what I was going to do, even at the age of nine.  I had tremendous support from my parents – particularly my father, although he didn’t play an instrument.  My parents were immigrants from Sicily. 

2 or 3 lines:  Where did you grow up?

Joe Scott:  I grew up in Newark, New Jersey, which was really a great place to grow up.  I went to the Newark Arts High School.  

Newark Arts High School
[NOTE: Newark Arts High School, which opened in 1931, was the first public high school in the United States for visual and performing arts.  Its graduates include singers Sarah Vaughn, Connie Francis, and Melba Moore, jazz composer and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover.]

Joe Scott:  At that time there were really only three public schools that focused on the arts – the one in New York that was made famous in Fame, and one in California, and Newark Arts High School.  Pretty much the most talented people were there, and I was just surrounded by talent. The high school was so advanced – they were doing operas and had a symphony orchestra.  There were so many guys who played jazz and we had so many jazz groups and guys who were writing arrangements, and when I got into high school, I knew that I wanted to be an arranger – that was when I made up my mind. 

2 or 3 lines:  What kind of music classes did you take there? 

Joe:  Obviously, if you played piano, you couldn’t be in the band or the orchestra, so all of us who played keyboard instruments learned another instrument.  I played clarinet for two years and then trombone for two years, and then we took music theory and learned sight-singing – we had all of that.  It was an incredible education.  One of my classmates was Melba Moore – there were all kinds of gifted people there – it was amazing.  I was just one of many.  I wasn’t more gifted than anybody else. 

2 or 3 lines:  What did you do after high school?

Joe Scott:  When I graduated, I wanted to go to Manhattan School of Music

Manhattan School of Music
[NOTE: The Manhattan School of Music, which was founded in 1917, offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in jazz and classical performance and composition.  It currently has about 900 students from over 40 countries.]

Joe Scott:  My father had died, and there really was no money, so I had to work.  I was playing in a band, and then after a year, I entered Manhattan School of Music as a theory/composition major and I went through all the way to my master’s.  

2 or 3 lines:  Tell me about the jazz scene in New York City in those days

Joe Scott:  The late fifties and the sixties were really the heyday of jazz – Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Art Blakely, Cannonball Adderly.  We had a wonderful [radio] station in Newark that played jazz every night.  I started playing nightclubs when I was in high school.  After high school, when I was working my way through the Manhattan School of Music, I worked four or five nights a week in a nightclub with a band – there were a million nightclubs where you could work and you could make great money. 

Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson (1959)
2 or 3 lines:  Were you a fan of rock or pop music in those days?  

Joe:  I don't like fifties music.  Elvis Presley did nothing for me.  I loved what we now think of as classic rock – the Beatles, Motown, all of it.  I love great songs.

2 or 3 lines:  How did you make the move from playing jazz in nightclubs to becoming a composer and arranger?

Joe Scott:  I knew that to break into the scene in NY was going to be very difficult – very competitive.  In 1965 I made a connection with a guy who was a studio player in New York City and he was trying to produce records.  He cut a deal with Chappell Music, which was a very prominent music publisher.  At that time music publishers were important.  They aren’t now, because everybody publishes their own music, but we were still at that time where you went to a publisher with your songs so that the publisher could get it to the artist, and they were still using contract arrangers as opposed to self-contained groups.  There was still a lot of arranging to be done.  So he said to me, “I think you’ve got some talent as a songwriter, so we’ll put you under contract with Chappell.”  And he said, “In the meantime, what you can do is to get your experience writing and arranging for a recording studio, which is a different animal from writing for a live band.”  So he explained to me that every time they sent a new song out to an artist who might want to record it, they would cut a demo of the song.  He told me I could do the arrangements for those demos – I didn't get paid for that work, you understand.  

2 or 3 lines:  So a publisher would get some studio musicians to record a new song that the publisher was hoping a big singer would want to record, and if the record sold a lot of copies, the publishing company would get a share?

Joe Scott:  That’s right.  I was there every day, and I would write songs and I would meet people and I just kept doing demos and kept getting a lot of experience.  So I’m plugging away there, and one of the producers – a young guy who was something of a scatterbrain – walked in one day, when I was sitting there with the guy who got me the job for Chappell Music.  He tells my friend, “I’m stuck.  I’m doing this R&B record, and we’ve got the rhythm down but I need sweetening with horns.”  So my friend says, “Here’s Joe,” and the producer says,  “You want to do this?  We’ve got to have it done by tomorrow morning.”  And not only did I have to write the arrangements, I had to copy the parts out by hand.  But I said I could do it, and he says, “Here’s the deal. I’ll give you $50, but my name goes on for the arranging credit – not yours.”  I said that was no problem.  

2 or 3 lines:  Because you just wanted to get your foot in the door with this producer, show him you could get the job done – you didn’t care as much about the arranging credit?

The Brill Building – then and now
Joe Scott:  Exactly.  It was late in the afternoon and everyone who worked in the Brill Building – which is where we were – was closing up, and there was no piano I could use. So the producer brought a tape recorder up with a tape of what they had already recorded with the rhythm section.  We were in a hallway in the Brill Building and I took some diet pills so I could stay awake.  The guy sang the licks that he wanted and I picked up on it – I knew what he was looking for.  I think there were eight horns, so I had to write eight parts.   I listened to the rhythm section recording and wrote the eight horn parts.  I was able to write the arrangements without the use of a piano.  I had that skill because of the training at the Manhattan School of Music – that was the way they taught you to orchestrate.  So anyway, that all worked out, and so I got my $50 and he got the credit, and that was the end of that.  It was not a hit that I know of, but it was for Scepter Records, which was Dionne Warwick and the Shirelles and the Isley Brothers and a bunch of others. 

2 or 3 lines: In 1968, the Arbors released an album titled The Arbors Featuring "I Can’t Quit Her/The Letter."  As you can tell from the title, it featured covers of Al Kooper’s “I Can’t Quit Her” (which was on the first Blood Sweat & Tears album), and the Box Tops' #1 single, "The Letter."  It also included a couple of originals and covers of the Doors’ “Touch Me,” and Bob Dylan and Beatles songs.  You did the arrangements for all those?

Joe:  All those.  As you can hear, there are different instrumental combinations on those tracks – some have horns, some have strings, some have whatever.

2 or 3 lines: What were the Arbors like to work with?

Joe Scott:  They were amazing to work with. Not only were they the nicest guys in the world, but they were so gifted – great musicians.  I mean, that was a once in a lifetime to work with them.

The Arbors
2 or 3 lines: After this album they did one more single, then they started to do TV commercials and didn’t really do any more records. 

Joe Scott:  I think it was simply because the follow-up single to “The Letter” was not successful.

2 or 3 lines:  Joe, you stopped arranging in 1971.  What happened?  Why did you leave the record business?

Joe Scott:  I was really at the peak of my profession in 1969 and 1970 -- I was keeping very busy, and making a lot of money.  That was important to me because my dad had died when I was young, and we were in poverty during much of my childhood.  I loved music but I began to get disillusioned with the music business.  I was getting tired of what I had been doing, plus music was changing – groups started doing everything themselves, and that was a trend that was going to result in a lot of arrangers like me being eliminated from the picture.

2 or 3 lines:  So what did you do?

Joe Scott:  I entered Seton Hall University's law school in 1972.  I thought I wanted to do entertainment law, but that would have meant working in Manhattan, which I didn't want to do.  So I became a business lawyer – did commercial real estate law, that sort of thing.  

2 or 3 lines:  Joe, I'm a lawyer, too.  But I've often fantasized about having a career in music instead.  I can't imagine giving up a successful music career to go into the practice of law.  I think there are a lot more lawyers who would be musicians if they could than musicians dying to become lawyers.  Did you ever regret your decision to give up music?

Joe Scott:  After about ten years, I really started to miss music.  In the mid-1980s, I started to sneak out of the office and play in local jazz clubs.  By 1986, I was married and had a young daughter, and we bought a condo in Florida so we could spend winter vacations there.  A few years later, I went to the managing partner of my law firm and asked if I could take two or three months off so my wife and I could live in our condo and decide if we wanted to move to Florida permanently.  I think my partner knew that I planned to try to get back into music in Florida, and he gave me his blessing.

2 or 3 lines:  So you've been in Florida since then?

Joe Scott:  That's right.  We moved to the Palm Beach area and never looked back.  I teach some courses at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, and I usually play jazz piano three or four nights a week – I'm so lucky at my age to still be getting paid for playing the piano.

2 or 3 lines:  I'm sure that the people who come to hear you perform are glad you made the decision you did to leave the legal profession and put your musical talent to use again.

Joe Scott:  I never thought that much of myself as a musician because right from Newark Arts High School to the peak of my professional career, I was surrounded by such great talent.  It wasn't until I gave music up for the practice of law that I realized how special music is and really appreciated the talent I had.

Joe Scott today
My thanks to Joe Scott for agreeing to be interviewed.  He was very generous with his time, and couldn't have been nicer.

Joe's arrangement of "I Can't Quit Her/For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" isn't quite as mind-blowing as his arrangement of "The Letter," but it is very, very good.

Medleys of two or more songs were relatively common in live performances by singers in the sixties, but recorded medleys were relatively rare.  The most successful medley from that era is probably the Lettermen's masterpiece, "Goin' Out Of My Head/Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You."

In Scott's arrangement, each of the first two verses of "I Can't Quit Her" is followed by the last two lines of "For Emily" – "Oh, I love you, girl/Oh, I love you" – which function like a chorus.

The Blood Sweat & Tears version of "I Can't Quit Her" closes with an extended instrumental coda, and Scott does something similar in his arrangement: the Arbors repeat the "For Emily" lines over strings, guitar, and bass for almost a full minute before finally fading out.  

I've always loved the BS&T "I Can't Quit Her."  It may be the best track on one of the greatest albums of the sixties, Child Is Father to the Man.  

Al Kooper
Al Kooper's arrangement is rougher around the edges, propelled by great piano playing and a fabulous horn section.  Joe Scott's version substitutes strings for horns and incorporates the four-part harmony the Arbors were known for.  The lushness of the strings and vocals is leavened by the great studio bass and guitar players Scott brought in to play on the album, who are given free rein – by the end of the song, they are tearin' it up big time.

There's one thing I would change about the Arbors' cover.  Check out the lines from the song quoted at the top of this page.  Instead of "hypnotized," Al Kooper originally wrote "proselytized," which I think was a much better choice.

Whoever changed that word in the Arbors' version probably figured that most of the audience wouldn't know what "proselytized" meant, and that person was probably correct.

Here's "I Can't Quit Her/For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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