Oh, Wednesday morning, you gave me no warning. Instead, you just showed up and offered me the wussiest music imaginable. So I suppose I’ll do my duty and present you all with yet another one of our Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!
Alan O’Day – Undercover Angel (download)
May Emasculysus, the God of all things Mellow, bless and keep those who recommended “Undercover Angel” for Mellow Gold.
Alan O’Day had minor success when he first joined the music business in the early ’60s. As part of a rock ‘n roll trio named Alan, Bob and Denny, he performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965. (Doesn’t have the same ring as “Peter, Paul and Mary,” does it?) He had also released an album with Dunhill Records and performed for troops in the Far East in the late ’60s. By 1969, however, he was burned out as a performer, and opted to concentrate solely on songwriting, like many of our Mellow artists. When he signed with Warner Brothers Publishing in 1971, he had his first hit, handing “The Drum” to Bobby Sherman.
Other songwriting hits followed, such as “Rock And Roll Heaven,” performed by The Righteous Brothers, and most notably, “Angie Baby,” which became Helen Reddy’s biggest-selling single, and her third #1 hit. In 1976, O’Day signed with the Pacific Records label. Pacific Records was a small boutique label set up by some of the WB publishers to allow their songwriters to record and release their own music, instead of giving it to the larger artists.
Read that above sentence again. Ahhh, the ’70s. So innocent.
Pacific Records, which distributed under Atlantic, released “Undercover Angel.” It was their first release from their first artist, and they didn’t really expect it to go anywhere. To everyone’s surprise, on July 9, 1977, “Undercover Angel” hit #1 on the Billboard charts. Nobody knew what to do. O’Day didn’t even have an album prepared. He went out on the road and publicized the hell out of the song, and “Undercover Angel” wound up selling two million copies.
Without knowing anything about the song, you might think this is a tale of suspense – one of a beautiful woman going undercover to solve a mystery. But this is Mellow Gold, people, and such deep plot points are against the rules (unless you’re Rupert Holmes).
No, “Undercover Angel” is a song that O’Day describes as a “nocturnal novelette.” In the song, a beautiful, wondrous vision (most likely in the form of a girl with big hooters) appears to him while he’s lying in bed. He describes the experience in the chorus:
Undercover angel, midnight fantasy
I never had a dream that made sweet love to me, oooh
Methinks Alan O’Day skipped puberty.
Anyhoo, the apparition convinces O’Day that maybe he should stop masturbating and find a real woman. Okay, that’s not exactly what’s said in the song, but that’s what I’m taking from it. Read between the lines, people.
As for the other lyrics in the song, they’re fantastically Mellow. Witness the phrase “Wonder is your night light/Magic is your dream.” That’s all I’m gonna say. They don’t write ’em like that anymore. There’s probably a good reason, but I digress.
In terms of music, I’ve been listening to this song for a few weeks now, and I smile every time I hear it. Not in the “oh god, this is so pathetic” kind of way, but in that “I can’t believe a song this goofy did as well as it did” way. It’s got a bunch of great things going for it, though: strong, keyboard-based instrumentation (some of it actually sounds – dare I say it – Stevie Wonder-esque?), a bit of funky guitar, and some awesome female backing vocals. No sax solo, but you had better believe there’s a Mellow Gold key change.
The shining moment of “Undercover Angel,” however, is the pre-chorus.
I said “what?”
She said “oooohweee”
“I said ‘All riiiight!'”
She said “love me, love me, love me!”
If this doesn’t seem impressive, it’s because you haven’t listened to the song yet. In fact, I’m so in love with this pre-chorus that I’ll even excerpt it here for those of you bastards who will download but take three weeks to listen to it (Michael, I’m looking in your general direction):
Alan O’Day channels John Travolta, film at eleven.
I’m not joking: I erupt in giggles every single time I hear this pre-chorus. Even better is the final pre-chorus. Listen for the heavy-breathing “undercover, ah, undercover!” in the left speaker, and if you listen closely, you’ll even hear a hint of the key change (I’m such a tease):
I’m giggling right now. It’s dangerously close to a cackle. Is there anything Mellower than the “all riiiiight,” I ask you? Especially when you consider that it’s being sung to a woman that doesn’t even exist?
O’Day had some international hits after “Undercover Angel,” specifically a song entitled “Skinny Girls” which was an Australian #1, and “Your Eyes” which was a chart-topper in Japan. You probably didn’t hear much of his music in the U.S. after his big song…that is, unless you were a kid in the mid-’80s: O’Day and songwriter Janis Liebhart wrote over 100 songs for “Muppet Babies.” In 2001, “Undercover Angel” was used in the movie version of Charlie’s Angels.
I’ve read a number of interviews with Alan O’Day over the past couple of weeks, and I’ll say this: he seems like a genuinely intelligent, nice man. He doesn’t seem deluded about his place in music history like
Benny some other artists we know, and he seems genuinely content. Okay, so he looks like the substitute teacher that Walter Egan actually is, but whatever.
So yeah, consider me an Alan O’Day fan. In fact, I figured I really didn’t have anything to snark about in this Mellow Gold entry…until I saw the following on his website:
NEW!!! To hear or purchase my CD “UNDERCOVER ANGEL 2001”, CLICK HERE
Oh no, I thought. Alan O’Day did not just go all Mardones on me. Please tell me he didn’t do what I think he did.
I’m not saying another word. Click on the above link and listen to a snippet of “Undercover Angel 2001.” Count how many things are wrong with this remake. We could make a list.
My first thought was “oh my god, this is the most horrible thing I’ve heard since Mellowmas.” But then I listened a couple more times, and…nope, still horrible.
But on the fourth listen, I took all the things I now know about Alan O’Day (anybody wonder how I’m still married?), and began to smile. The man has his tongue planted firmly in cheek, and is clearly having fun – not taking it seriously like
Benny some other artists we know. Plus, if you read around his site, you’ll find out two interesting things: 1) he really loved his mother (and I’m a mama’s boy, so I can appreciate this), and 2) he set up a scholarship fund in her name, with all proceeds from “Undercover Angel 2001” going to the scholarship. (Okay, the first 500 copies, but let’s just say I’m not convinced 500 have been sold of a CD with a song entitled “WWW Dot Lonely.”) The scholarship gives money to underprivileged graduates of his high school who wish to pursue teaching. So maybe it’s the Mellow talking, but I’m having a hard time finding anything really sarcastic to say – I just find everything about Alan O’Day silly, in a good way.
However, that doesn’t mean you are all exempt from snark in the comments. So enjoy “Undercover Angel” (and don’t enjoy “Undercover Angel 2001”), and I look forward, as always, to reading your thoughts. And we’ll see you next week for yet another edition (dear god, will it ever end?) of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!
(PS: Á‚¿Hola baby, que paso?)