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The Popdose Interview: The Paley Brothers

If you’re a fan of catchy pop tunes and you aren’t familiar with the Paley Brothers, prepare yourself: you’re about to get an education. Andy and Jonathan Paley released their lone album – a self-titled effort – on Sire Records in 1978, just on the heels of the punk rock explosion, featuring a cover photo of brothers looking like they were born to be teen idols, but their music, while certainly not as raw or rough-and-tumble as their labelmates the Ramones, also wasn’t just your typical disposable pop fare. But despite the best efforts of label head Seymour Stein and even with fans like Brian Wilson and Phil Spector in their corner, the Paley Brothers never managed to take off in a big way. Heck, they didn’t even get a chance to suffer through a sophomore slump! Andy and Jonathan soon began working independently of each other, with Andy gaining considerable press for his production work a few years later, and although they’re still tight, they’ve never managed to release another album…until now. Sort of.

The Paley Brothers: The Complete Recordings, now out on Real Gone Music, may not have the most accurate of names – you’ll read more about that later – but it definitely provides a far fuller picture of the brothers’ career than their earlier album, offering up alternate takes or mixes of all 10 songs from that record, along with an additional 16 tracks, many of which have never seen release before. Both Andy and Jonathan were kind enough to hop on the phone for an interview with Popdose about this new collection, but as you’ll see, the conversation took a lot of twists and turns before all was said and done, including detours into discussing Dick Tracy, the Shangri-Las, Ren and Stimpy, Cowboy Jack Clement, and Annoying Orange. First of all, though, your humble interviewer felt obliged to admit to how he first came to discover the Paley Brothers in the first place.

Popdose: I just wanted to start off by saying that, believe it or not, the first time I was introduced to the music of the Paley Brothers was via the Greenberry Woods covering “Too Good to be True.”

Andy Paley: Oh, my gosh! Wow!

Jonathan Paley: I didn’t know they covered that!

Yeah, it was on the soundtrack to Naked in New York.

AP: Oh! I produced that, didn’t I?

I think so, yeah.

AP: I’d almost forgotten that! [Laughs.] They were really good, but…what happened to them? I know that Ira (Katz) started another band…

Right, and the Huseman brothers (Matt and Brandt) started one as well: Splitsville.

AP: Splitsville, that’s right! Well, I really liked those guys, the Greenberry Woods. I produced two albums for them, I think.

You did, indeed. Okay, so now that you know how I came to discover the Paley Brothers, I’m curious as to how the two of you first made the decision to start playing music together.

AP: I think it was just natural, because, you know, Jonathan was really into music and I was really into music, and we were always around each other. So it just seemed to happen naturally, really. Or…do you mean, like, deciding to go out and do it professionally?

Right. What made you decide to go out and try to do it for a living?

AP: I think, uh, it seemed like a really good idea at the time. [Laughs.] I’m sorry, I haven’t got a great answer. Jonathan, have you got a good one?

JP: Yeah, well, I mean, it was after we drove cross-country together and back in 1973. We kind of just sang together the whole time while we were driving, and when we got back, I was playing in a couple of bands in New York, and Andy was playing in bands up in Boston. And then we just started doing some demos together. We started recording together – stuff that Andy had written and stuff that we’d written together – and then we started saying, “Well, hey, maybe we ought to really pursue this!” So we started doing some gigs up around Boston and started circulating the demos that we had done. That was in the mid-1970s. About ’74, ’75.

AP: Yeah, I just realized as Jonathan was saying it that the recording was what really changed everything. It’s, like, you can sing in the car and sing in your house and sing at a gig or whatever, but if you go and make a tape somewhere, then you listen to it and go, “Wow, this is pretty good! Maybe we could sell this!” I think that’s what happened.

Andy, you’d been working with Jonathan Richman, and you’d both delved into a variety of musical styles. How did you guys land on your particular pop sound?

AP: You know, my background is really listening to just AM radio in upstate New York, so I was way more into that than I was… I mean, I played with Jonathan Richman ‘cause he was a friend of mine, but, really, I was a pop guy to begin with, so that’s really what made me want to make the kind of music we made. The records I heard when I was a kid, the records that blew my mind when I was a really young guy up in upstate New York, that absolutely convinced me to want to do this. And I’ve never stopped doing it. I’m still into this kind of music! [Laughs.]

JP: Yeah, when we were kids up there in upstate New York, AM radio was…well, it was sort of different than radio now. It wasn’t just one single type of music that you’d hear on a station. They covered everything. Everything that was popular. Plus, we had two big sisters who had record collections, and we were listening to their records, and our parents had records. I remember watching Ozzie and Harriet on TV and seeing Ricky Nelson, and I was, like, “Man, I want to do that!” [Laughs.] “That’s what I want to do!” But there was no specific type of music, at least for me, anyway, that was in. There was really a wide, wide range of different types of music that I was exposed to and that I liked listening to. And then when we started doing it together, because we were brothers singing together, we’d listen to a lot of the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, and other people who were brothers and were singing together. That was part of it, for sure. But that’s the only part of it, I’d say.

How did you first end up on Seymour Stein’s radar? The liner notes mention that several record execs listened to your music, but it doesn’t clarify how they came to be listening.

AP: Well, we just sent our tapes around. Back in those days, you’d send a cassette, so we sent a cassette to Clive Davis, we sent a cassette to RCA Records, we sent one to Atlantic… We sent our tapes to everybody! And Sire Records, at the time, was not a big deal. You know what I mean? It wasn’t like approaching RCA or approaching Atlantic or Elektra or somebody like that. Going to Sire was like…you kind of thought, “Well, let’s see what happens. Let’s see if anybody cares about us.” And we got a little bit of buzz from some of these other guys, too, but we met with Seymour after he personally called us, and then he saw the band and he made an offer. And, you know, we really talked to him, because we wanted to make sure that we didn’t mess up, but he really got what we were up to. He really understood what we were doing. And he’s a big song person. Songs are more important to him than anything. So we reacted well to that, y’know, ‘cause for some people it’s more about who’s singing or the way it sounds. I think with Seymour it’s all about the songs, like what structure they have and how they stick in his head. He likes really catchy songs.

For anyone judging the Paley Brothers by the picture on your self-titled album…I mean, you’ve definitely got somewhat of a teenybopper look, and yet you were playing CBGBs. That had to be kind of a weird line to walk.

JP: Well, it’s funny, because it wasn’t really a conscious thing at the time. If you went to CBGBs in 1975 or 1976, there weren’t people running around with baby diaper pins in their nose, and there weren’t people with spiked hair and ripped clothes and all that. I mean, that all happened later. This was just kind of how we looked, and if you were down there then, you’d see… I mean, like, for instance, the Dead Boys, they came from Cleveland to New York, and they all had hair down to their shoulders! [Laughs.] It wasn’t until after this whole English thing happened that everybody started spiking their hair and sticking safety pins in their cheeks and ripping up their clothes and everything. The Ramones, they all had long hair.

And we weren’t really part of that, anyway. I’d been playing in bands in that kind of scene for awhile, but it was before it was really dubbed “punk.” It was before it all kind of hit, which I guess was in late ’76, early ’77. So the look that we had…I mean, it wasn’t really calculated to be anything. It wasn’t in my mind, anyway. Now, after the album came out, we went out on the road with Shaun Cassidy, and I think that we kind of got tagged with the teenybopper label after that to a certain degree. But I think if you listen to the record, it’s not all bubblegum. It’s not a specific genre. I think that label got stuck on us because of the cover of the album and the fact that we were out on the road with Shaun Cassidy one summer. But I think the music’s more than that. Wouldn’t you say, Andy?

AP: Yeah. And I’m glad that, with this collection that just came out, the album cover is a shot of us live. Well, it’s actually two photographs that they stuck together, but I was really happy that they did that. For one thing, this is not a reissue of our first album. Basically, Jonathan and I got together, and…Seymour Stein found just a whole bunch of mixes and stuff that we hadn’t forgotten about, he gave us everything, and we listened to, say, three mixes of the same song and we’d choose the one we wanted. But they’re not the same as the album. I mean, they’re very, very close, but they’re a little bit different, and they’re little things that made Jonathan and I happy. In general, our rule about the whole thing was that if it made us happy, if we liked it, then we were gonna go with it. We didn’t care, because we figure all this time’s gone by, it’s been thirty-something years, so you know what? I think we deserve to have whatever mixes we want on this collection. [Laughs.] So that’s what we did.

But, anyway, as far as the image goes, I was very happy that we had a different photo on the cover. And, actually, in the booklet, there’s some very cool photos, too. So it kind of shows the reality of the situation, which is that we were a band. We sounded good live. There’s a couple of live tracks on there, there are pictures that reflect that, the cover reflects that. There are also pictures of us with our band backstage at Madison Square Garden, there’s things like us in the studio with Phil Spector, us with Brian Wilson or Jonathan Richman… It kind of shows that we’re all over the place, but we’re always having a good time, we’re always making music. And that’s what we did. It was a very short career, but we did a lot of stuff. We did a lot of stuff in that little few years, however long that was. We actually packed a lot into it.

Speaking of Brian Wilson, you obviously recorded your album at Brother Studios, and then later Brian sang on your song “Boomerang,” but when did you guys actually first cross paths with him?

AP and JP: [Simultaneously.] Um…

Okay, who wants to go first?

AP: [Laughs.] Jonathan, you can start. Jonathan can tell you about the first time we met him.

JP: Okay, so this whole relationship with Brian is just a series of unbelievable…I guess you’d call ‘em coincidences, but they’re not just coincidences. When we drove out to California in 1973, one of the things we wanted to do out here was meet Brian Wilson.

AP: We knew Carl (Wilson), and we knew the Beach Boys, but we didn’t know Brian.

JP: Yeah, we knew the sidemen, and we used to go see ‘em all the time, but it was summertime, so, of course, they were out on the road. They weren’t in L.A., they were, y’know, probably out in Omaha and Minnesota, touring like they always do. I had to be back in New York by a certain date, because I was registering for college, so we were giving ourselves three days to get back to New York from L.A. And the day before we were going to leave, I guess it was… [Hesitates.] Was it Carl that called?

AP: It was Ricky (Fataar) and Carl. They invited us to go to Brian’s house, which was a big thrill.

JP: Yeah, finally they said, “Hey, we’re back in L.A.!” And I said, “Oh, man, we really want to meet Brian! Will you take us?” [Laughs.] So he came and picked us up. I think it was Carl’s Rolls Royce. Somebody’s Rolls Royce, anyway.

AP: Yeah, and they took us to Brian’s house. It’s the house on Bellagio Road where he used to live, and, uh, he was actually at that time living in the pool house. He was living by himself in the pool house, and Carl and Ricky…I don’t know if you know who Ricky is…

Oh, yes. From the Rutles, among other things.

JP: That’s right!

AP: Yeah, he was the George of the Rutles, plus he’s Bonnie Raitt’s drummer now.

JP: And he drummed for the Beach Boys for a long time.

AP: Yeah. So they took us over there, and we got to meet Brian, which was huge. He was so nice. It was a big thrill for us.

JP: And then what happened was, three years later… [Starts to laugh.] This is so bizarre, I can’t even believe it, but…the day of the release of the first Paley Brothers single, “Ecstasy,” I went up to the offices of Sire, which were on 74th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus or something like that, and I picked up a box of records. And I was walking down through Central Park, I walked all the way down to 59th Street, and I ran into a guy who was sitting on a bench who I went to high school with and hadn’t seen for a few years, so I gave him a record. As I was walking out onto 59th Street, I hear, “Hey, Jonathan! Jonathan!” It’s Andy! So Andy comes running down the sidewalk onto 59th Street, and I’m, like, “Hey, man, I’ve got a box of our records!” And he goes, “Oh, my God, it’s Brian Wilson!” And he points at this horse-drawn carriage.

AP: You know how you can rent a carriage and ride around Central Park driven by horse?

JP: Sitting in the horse-drawn carriage was Brian Wilson with Marilyn Wilson.

AP: His first wife, Marilyn.

JP: So we go running up to him, and I’m, like, waving this record at him, and he’s…he kind of recoiled. I think he thought it was, like, an assassination attempt or something. [Laughs.] Marilyn reached out and grabbed the record out of my hand, and they went trotting off in this horse-drawn carriage.

AP: I mean, that’s pretty weird, if you think about it.

JP: I’m, like, “Oh, my God, that is so bizarre!” [Laughs.] The day of the release of our first record, I just happened to run into this guy from high school, so Andy just happened to catch up with me, and, at that moment, Brian and Marilyn Wilson are in a horse-drawn carriage. Totally bizarre. Okay, so then…

Let’s see, what was it, about eight years later? Six, seven, eight years later, I was in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean on a boat. [Laughs.] Which is a whole other long story. But I would go to these weird little post offices in the middle of nowhere, where people could send me stuff via general delivery, and I got this letter…from my mother, actually…saying, “Andy’s working with Brian Wilson.” And I was, like, “What?!?”

AP: And that happened, actually, because I was in the studio in London with…some band. I was producing an album for Sire, and Seymour called me and said, “Brian Wilson’s here at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…” Seymour’s the president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  “…and I’m gonna talk to him, and I’m thinking of making a solo record. Would you work with him?” I said, “Seymour, I would fly home right now if you told me that was going to happen.” [Laughs.] So he made a proposal to Brian, and it worked out, so I ended up working on this solo record. In fact, I ended up moving from Boston to L.A. to work with Brian…but that’s a whole other story.

JP: And then I came back to the United States from my various travels, and I worked with Andy when he was working with Brian, so I got to do a lot of sessions with him, which was just an absolutely incredible experience. So then… [Starts to laugh.]

My daughter, who is 19 years old, was kind of wanting to get into show business as an actress and comedienne and writer. She was working on a lot of student films and non-union productions. I spent some time in that business when I first came back to L.A., but I haven’t been in it for about 10 years. But I said, “Look, let’s see if we can find somebody to help you get your union card, so you can start working on some union stuff and don’t have to do all this non-union stuff.” So I emailed a bunch of people I used to know who’re in the business, and I got one response from this guy who was a really great friend of mine back then, and he said, “Yeah, sure, I’ll help her out. Oh, by the way, are you able to stand in on this movie for the next month and a half?” And I said, “Yeah, sure, what the heck.” He said, “You’re gonna love this,” but he wouldn’t tell me what it was. Well, I took the job, and it turned out that it was the Brian Wilson biography (Love & Mercy)! So I ended up standing in for the actors who were playing young Brian and older Brian, and I saw Brian again. He was at the wrap party, and he played there.

AP: Also, Violet – Jonathan’s daughter – she got a line! But we don’t know if it’s in the movie.

JP: Yeah, she got a line in the movie.

AP: If it’s in there, she gets her card, right?

JP: No, she still gets her card, because she worked three days.

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AP: So, anyway, we’ve had a long history with Brian, and our paths have crossed all over the place. I still talk to Brian every once in awhile.

JP: By the way, even before we drove out to California… Andy, when you were a kid, you saw the Beach Boys play in Troy, didn’t you?

AP: I saw them in Schenectady, New York, at the RPI Field House. And that was with Brian. Brian was on the road. That was one of the first shows I ever saw, the Beach Boys. So I’ve been a fan for that long.

JP: Yeah, it’s a long latticework of coincidences and associations between us and Brian.

How did you come to work with Phil Spector on “Baby, Let’s Stick Together”?

JP: Well, that was…I think that came about because of Seymour, right?

AP: Yeah, he heard our record, and he called me at about three o’clock in the morning. One night in Boston, the phone rang, and he said it was Phil Spector, and I thought it was a friend of mine, Lenny Kaye, who used to do an imitation of Phil Spector. [Laughs.] But it actually was Phil Spector! So we ended up coming out here (to Los Angeles) literally a few days after that phone call, and we made one song with him at Gold Star Recording Studio, which is where he made a lot of his hits, using many of the musicians who are now called the Wrecking Crew…although back then they were not called the Wrecking Crew. I don’t know who first called them that or when that started, but everyone knows who they are now. In any case, a lot of them are gone now, and the studio’s gone, so the recording we did is historical for that reason alone.

In regards to the new compilation, for the people who already know the original album, can you recommend any particular tracks that make you say, “Oh, you have got to hear this one”?

AP: I have favorites, and Jonathan has favorites, so whose do you want first?

Well, since you spoke up, let’s hear yours first.

AP: Okay, I love the first song on the album. It’s called “Here Comes My Baby,” and I love it. Jonathan and I wrote that, and I think the recording came out really, really great. I like the beat, and I like the way it makes you feel. It’s just a really good record. And then I’ll choose one more: I really like “Sapphire Eyes,” which is a ballad. There’s two ballads. Out of 26 songs, there’s only two slow songs, but I really like “Sapphire Eyes.” It’s really pretty.

JP: Well, I have to say that my favorite on the record is “Meet the Invisible Man.” I love the song, I love the recording. We thought about maybe shortening it, because it’s almost six minutes long, but I’m really glad we didn’t. I love it the way it is. And I really am so happy that we got to use the good mixes  of stuff (from The Paley Brothers). [Laughs.] I’ve been waiting 35 years! Especially “Too Good to be True” and “Stick with Me Baby.” Oh, and I also really, really like “Boomerang,” which was probably going to be…well, I mean, the way I think about it, back then that probably would’ve been the first single from our second album if we’d done a second album. I love “Boomerang.” But, I mean, I’m just happy that all this stuff came out. It’s hard for me to pick. But I’d say “Meet the Invisible Man,” out of all of them, is my favorite right now. But it could change next week.

AP: Hey, Will, did you listen to it?

Absolutely!

AP: What do you like?

Y’know, I’ve gotta go with “Boomerang.” That’s the specific reason why I asked that question about working with Brian, in fact.

AP: [Laughs.] Yeah, Brian loves that song, too.

I saw that nice quote from him in the liner notes. (“Great songs! Cool records! The Paley Brothers sound is where it’s at!”)

AP: Yeah! I love it!

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Just in general, though, it’s nice to finally hear more than just that one album. I’ve got the digital release of The Paley Brothers, and I love it, but I’d always known that there was more to the story than just that record, so it’s nice to get a more fleshed-out look at the band’s history.

AP: Yeah, Jonathan’s said…and I think I said something about it, too…that these mixes, we prefer them so much better. I wish people would just throw the other record away. [Laughs.] I really like this record.

JP: Yeah, and I’m hoping… [Hesitates.] We have more stuff. There’s more.

AP: Yeah, even though it’s called The Complete Paley Brothers… [Starts to laugh.]

JP: There’s more than enough for a Volume Two at some point, hopefully. There’s definitely more stuff. It was hard to pare it down. We couldn’t put everything on one release. It would’ve been too many discs. So we had to choose.

AP: We had to whittle it down from, like, 50 songs to 26 songs.

JP: So, yeah, there are a lot more, so who knows? Maybe they’ll see the light. I hope so! Right now, though, it’s just great to get so much response from this one. I’m just really glad, because, seriously, for decades I’ve just been wanting to do it right, y’know? To have the record come out the way that we wanted it.

AP: Hey, Will, do you know those cover songs on the collection?

I knew some of ‘em, but not all of ‘em.

AP: Did you know “Sweet Little Sheila”?

I knew the title, but I didn’t really know the song.

AP: Well, actually, that’s not really the title. It’s just “Sheila.” It was a big hit record by Tommy Roe.

Yeah, I knew it was by Tommy Roe, but I know him mostly for “Dizzy” and “Sweet Pea.”

AP: We also did a Buddy Holly song called “Down the Line.”

JP: And we did the Browns’ “I Heard the Bluebirds Sing.”

AP: We did do the Browns. By the way, that Buddy Holly song is a very, very early Buddy Holly song.

Yeah, that’s one of the ones that I was completely unfamiliar with.

AP: No, it wasn’t a hit. He performed it with a guy named Bob Montgomery, and they used to have a duo before Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They were called Buddy and Bob. You can get that record somewhere, Buddy and Bob. But, anyway, we put our record out, and then Bob Montgomery called! And at that time, I was obsessed with Buddy Holly, so getting this phone call kind of blew my mind. But he said, “You guys did a really good job, and I’m glad you recorded it.” It was very cool. Also, we recorded another cover song, “Felicia.” So we did all sorts of music on the record.

 “Felicia” is one of the tracks that was recorded live at Madison Square Garden, right?

AP: Yeah. That and “Sheila,” by Tommy Roe. Both of those are from the same show. And you can tell from our voices that we were very, very excited at that time. [Laughs.]

That begs a quick question: what kind of fanbase did you have at the time? The CD booklet spotlights some of the coverage that you were getting in 16 Magazine, but was there a crowd that was appreciating you for the material you were doing and not just because they thought you were cute boys?

JP: [Laughs.] Yes!

AP: Definitely! Even some of our fan mail, even if it was from young fans, they’d actually get into the music. Plus, we had older fans, too. I mean, if we were on stage with Patti Smith at the Bottom Line, or we were playing a club in Boston, the people there were at least 18 years old. They had to be to be in the bars. And they were digging the music, you know? They weren’t there because we had blonde hair or something like that. [Laughs.] But even the teenyboppers… I don’t think you should dismiss them, because they really liked the music. I mean, you could tell. We met those fans, and we also got letters from them, and it was really gratifying for somebody who’s 12 or 13 years old to say, “When I hear ‘Too Good to be True,’ it made me feel better, because my boyfriend was mean to me.” You know, you read a letter like that… Or, like, “‘Too Good to be True’ really cheered me up, because it showed me that you can have a broken heart, too.” Something like that. You know, they listened to it and it touched their lives. It makes you feel really good.

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I should say that I wasn’t trying to dismiss the teenyboppers.

AP: Oh, no, I know you weren’t!

It actually reminds me of Hanson. I saw them not long after “MMMbop broke,” when they had this huge teenybopper audience, and less than a decade later, they were out there doing Radiohead covers, and their fans ate it up. I like it when bands kind of help educate their fans with their cover choices.

AP: Absolutely.

Popdose: All right, before we wrap up, I wanted to ask you each a quick question about your respective solo work. Jonathan, can you talk a bit about working with Nervous Eaters?

JP: Yeah! I played with them for a couple of years, and…it was a lot of fun. We toured a lot. And we did two albums. The first one, the Elektra album, was…I’m not that happy with it. But we did the second record on Ace of Hearts, which I really think is representative of the band, and it is, to me, the quintessential Nervous Eaters record. I’m still in touch with Steve (Cataldo). You know, we email each other every once in awhile. He’s still playing out. In fact, I think they’re playing out next weekend somewhere on the south shore of Massachusetts. So he’s still out there playing!

And Andy, I could ask you about a ton of stuff, but I’ll narrow it down to just asking you about the experience of working on the Dick Tracy soundtrack, given the diversity of the artists and having to mesh their sound with what was, in most cases, a pretty different musical style for them.

AP: Yeah, it was a pretty challenging thing, because Warren Beatty wanted the music to sound like anything that was done before 1939. 1939 was the cutoff date. Warren Beatty’s actually a really musical guy – he plays piano pretty well – and he would drop by the studio and just kind of check out what was going on. After I got over the fact that it was kind of a daunting assignment and it was a little bit intimidating, I got into work mode with my brother and some other writers I know, and we started writing songs that would make sense. For somebody like Brenda Lee, if she was going to sing a song, what could we do? She’s got a great voice, so what would be appropriate? So we wrote a song called “You’re in the Doghouse Now,” which was kind of a jazz song. But the truth is, if you write a good verse and a good bridge, you can do it in any style, y’know? I mean, I could take “You’re in the Doghouse Now,” and if I wanted to, I could arrange it like a Tommy James record.

JP: Yeah, and look at the Madonna one.

AP: “Now I’m Following You.” Yeah, she took it off into kind of a funk thing in her version of it. So, yeah, I think was really just writing songs that were catchy. The great thing to me, actually… One of my favorite things about Dick Tracy was that, because of that record, I ended up getting to work with Jerry Lee Lewis…and after that record, I made a whole album with Jerry Lee Lewis!

Warren Beatty asked me if I had anything that sounded like a Bob Wills record or some old western swing record, and I said, “I have one in my head, but I always thought Jerry Lee Lewis should do it. I’ve sent it to Jerry Lee Lewis a number of times, and I’ve never heard anything back.” And Warren Beatty…this is the brilliance, the great thing about being a movie star in Hollywood: he just said, “Oh, I’ll get to him.” So Warren Beatty made a couple of phone calls, and the next thing I know, I’m in Memphis at Sun Studios with Jerry Lee Lewis, recording “It Was the Whiskey Talking (Not Me).” [Laughs.] That’s the power of Hollywood stardom! And then everyone loved the record, and…I don’t remember how much longer after that it was, but we started making a Jerry Lee Lewis album. So that’s how one thing leads to another in the music business…or you hope it does, anyway!

Oh, actually, you know, I do have one more thing that I wanted to ask you, Andy, mostly just because it’s one of those things on Wikipedia that leaves you wondering. I know you did some sessions with the Shangri-Las in the ‘70s…

AP: Yeah!

I know the material wasn’t released at the time, but has any of it surfaced since then?

AP: No. I don’t remember what year it was, but it was whatever summer the “Summer of Sam” was. ’77, I think? I was in New York and Long Island then, that’s why I remember it so clearly about the Son of Sam thing. But I was with the Shangri-Las in the basement of Sire for a whole bunch of days, and we did a lot of rehearsing and we did some recording. I haven’t heard it since the time we did it, so I don’t even know what’s there. But they were really great. One of them’s gone now – Margie (Ganser) – but Mary and Liz (Weiss) are still around, and I know Mary made an album a couple of years ago with the Reigning Sound. They’re good, the Reining Sound. The organ player’s a friend of mine.

Yeah, people ask me about the time I spent with the Shangri-Las. I remember we cut “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” a beautiful version of that, and they were great singers. Margie, the one who’s died, she was one of the identical twins. There were originally four Shangri-Las, and the other was her sister (Mary Ann, who died in 1970). And then Margie died six or seven years ago. She was so funny and just a great person, so that was sad. But…that was a very long answer to your question, but, no, none of it’s out. [Laughs.] I don’t know, Seymour probably has that in his storage space, too.

Have you and Jonathan ever thought about doing any more recording together?

AP: Sure!

JP: We’ve definitely continued to record together. Andy does a lot of soundtrack work and television work, and he’ll call me up and say, “Hey, Jonathan, come on in and sing on this or play guitar on this.”

AP: Do you know Annoying Orange?

Oh, yes. I have an 8-year-old. I’m well aware of Annoying Orange.

AP: I’m all over Annoying Orange. [Laughs] Alice Cooper did one of my songs the other day, Brett Michaels did one…who else? “Weird Al” Yankovic did one. Annoying Orange is good, and then there’s Spongebob, too, of course. So, yeah, Jonathan comes in and works on that stuff. But more actual Paley Brothers stuff? I mean, who knows, man? Anything could happen.

Are you still working on The Thrilling Adventure Hour?

AP: Yes! We’re gonna make a movie next month, and that thing’s huge! We’re also playing the Bell House in Brooklyn for two sold-out shows. So that’s going really, really strong.

Nice. I’ve been following it ever since John DiMaggio introduced me to it.

AP: I just saw him last night! I saw him last night because we have a friend who had a birthday part. One of the other actors on Thrilling Adventure Show: James Urbaniak. Where do you know John from?

Mostly just from interviewing him. But we’re Facebook friends, so we’ve traded a few messages and comments on there. He’s become very aware of my daughter because she’s such a huge Futurama fan.

AP: He’s amazing. And, of course, he’s great friends with Billy West. I don’t know if you knew that Billy sang on our record, too.

I did not!

AP: Yeah, you’ve got to look at the liner notes with a microscope, but you’ll see Billy’s name in there. I met my wife, Heather, because of Billy! Billy was trying to pick up her cousin at a bar. [Laughs.] Billy and I are really old friends. Like, from when we were 18. I actually introduced Billy to John Kricfalusi…so I introduced Ren to Stimpy! But, yeah, he was trying to pick up my wife’s cousin, and that’s how I met her. Billy was striking out, and I was getting Heather’s phone number. That really is true! And that was a Thrilling Adventure Show where Billy was playing the part of Buddy Holly. So all of this stuff wraps up together, right? You should interview Billy.

I have interviewed Billy! I’m a big ol’ geek when it comes to voice actors, so I’ve interviewed John, Billy, Tom Kenny…

AP: Tom Kenny’s like my best friend. I work with Tom all the time!

Yeah, I interviewed Tom for Popdose several years ago, but I also write for the Onion AV Club and do a lot of interviews for the Random Roles feature…

AP: Oh, man, that’s great!

So I talked to both Tom and John, and…someone else interviewed Billy for that, but I talked to him a couple of times for another site, Bullz-Eye.

AP: Did you get the Spongebob Christmas album?

I did not.

AP: Oh, you’ve gotta get it! ‘Cause Tom Kenny and I worked really hard on that. And the other one is the Best Day Ever album. You’ve gotta get both! [Laughs.] Please! In fact, let me give you my phone number…

JP: [Starts laughing.]

AP: It’s funny that you said something about the Onion A.V. Club. Last night at this birthday party, one of the actors was talking about it. It wasn’t DiMaggio, and it wasn’t Urbaniak. I’m trying to remember who it was. It was another guy there, and my wife was saying, “Yeah, this is really great, you’ve gotta get hip to this!”

Well, I know Urbaniak’s aware of it, because we interviewed him just a few months ago.

AP: Well, look, I really want you to listen to this stuff…and when you do, I want you to call me! Plus, the Thrilling Adventure thing is really fun, and we’re doing this movie, so there’s all kinds of stuff happening. We’ve got Nathan Fillion in it. There’s all kinds of big shots in it! [Laughs.] By the way, I don’t know if you knew, but I also do the music for Dana Gould’s podcast, too.

I didn’t! But I love Dana Gould. I’ve always dug his stand-up, but when I first saw that he was also writing for The Simpsons, I was, like, “My God, this is the best of both worlds!”

AP: Yeah, he’s incredible. Well, look, it’s been really great talking to you!

Same here! Oh, and – last thing, I promise – I just wanted to say that, Jonathan, I’m going to include an embed of your daughter’s cover of “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” at the end of the piece.

JP: Oh, great! I’m actually really proud of that record. It’s my daughter and her friend Anya. I took them to see the Jonas Brothers, and they said, “We want to start a rock band!” [Laughs.] Do you have the 45?

No, I’ve just seen the video on YouTube.

JP: What’s your address? I’ll send you one.

[Laughs.] This is the best interview ever! Oh, by the way, the reason I wanted to close with talking about it is because it really does bring the whole thing full circle, since it ties in with Earle Mankey, who produced The Paley Brothers.

JP: Yeah, I did it at Earle’s studio out in Thousand Oaks. And the song itself… You know, I actually just got a documentary about Cowboy Jack Clement, it’s got a weird title with Shakespeare in it (Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan), and, of course, he wrote the song, even though everybody associates it with Johnny Cash. He just passed away earlier this year. I think I’m going to watch the documentary tonight…but, man, I’m glad you liked the song! Thanks…and great talking to you!




  • Eric

    Congratulations on being the first to interview these guys. It’s a good feel.