Mister D: I have always loved the lyrics and music to the song, “Paradise” and there were several things I really wanted to find. It was written by Harry Nillson, who is probably my all-time favorite vocalist, but he never released it on one of his albums. But I think it was the Ronettes and The Supremes (without Diana Ross) that had minor hits with it,
Well, last year, I found the song “Paradise” was on this giant anthology of Nillsons, but only as a demo, so I was ecstatic, I knew it would plaintive, but it turned out to be haunting, as well. All it is is Nillson on piano with him singing both the lead vocal and background vocals.
Bette’s first version of the song, which she always described as a Harry Nilsson song, stayed very close to the sound that the Ronettes and Supremes were pushing at that time…the Phil Spector “Wall Of Sound” approach. It was on the Broken Blossom album. released as a single, and I’m pretty sure it was stiff for Miss M in that I don’t think it charted. But it was perfect in every way. I thought she had outdone the originals by miles.
But then in 1979, I headed to New York to see her on stage in Divine Madness. Lo and behold, the second song she sang was “Paradise” and it started out just gorgeous, much more plaintive and haunting as Harry’s, but BAM…all of a sudden Bette Midler switches it all up and turns it into the frantic, propulsive New Wave arrangement. I was so ecstatic, because she had surprised me, and I remember jumping up with the biggest grin on my face, She and the Harlettes were all jumping up and down and waving their hands around. It was a beautiful chaotic mess, which means I loved it, and it may be the song I have played at my celebration of dying. This clip is actually from the Broadway version of Divine Madness and it seems like it was filmed from right where I was sitting. But here you can experience it how I saw this new, incredible arrangement. Here’s the video for this:
But for years I had wondered who came up with that arrangement, but after awhile I just forgot about it. Well, about 2 years ago I started wondering about it again, but this time I knew Bette and many in her circle. I asked Marc Shaiman, Bruce Vilanch, Jill to ask Bette, and Ula Hedwig who was one of the Harlettes that sang it. But nobody could remember. So I’d go back and look at the video and think. And then I remembered I had asked someone more than 2 years ago.
This man, I met at a benefit in Nashville, where two handfuls of singer-songwriters were going to perform. I was there with my whole family because my brother was going to be the only one with a full band. I found out while we were driving there that this man I knew because of Bette was going to be performing there, too. My brother knew him but had no idea about his connection to Bette. Long story short, we met, I think he already knew me because of my website, but he was very friendly and open, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. He’s a musician, writer, composer, arranger, and producer, the whole enchilada. He’s worked with Bette Midler, Stevie Nicks, Chicago, Rick Springfield, John Waite, and others you’ve heard of. He’s worked in many capacities He even wrote big hits for some, like Missing You by John Waite, Talk To Me by Stevie Nicks. What Kind of Man Would I Be? for Chicago. Not bad. He also put out a couple of critically acclaimed albums in the ’80s, but they weren’t hits. He put out a fabulous album in 2010 which I thought sounded just as good as anything Don Henley and the Eagle’s put out. In fact, it was one of my favorite albums of that year. He’s working on a new album now, and the reason I hadn’t heard from him in so long is that he got married and now has a brand new baby. His name is Chas Sandford.
He played with Bette Midler during her Divine Madness stint on Broadway and was in the movie version as well. He also escorted her to Woody Allen’s New Year’s Eve Party in 1979 and the 1980 Golden Globe Awards when she was nominated for The Rose. They dated briefly but are still in touch and remain friends. Every once in a while he’ll tell me to write Bette that he wants to talk to her about writing songs. I don’t know why he doesn’t have the number. But it makes no nevermind. Anyway, the other day was his birthday and I sent him a Happy Birthday note through Messenger. I also saw my old message asking him if he knew who came up with the new wave arrangement of Paradise.
Well, the other day, I received a message from him thanking me for the birthday wish and he apologized about not answering my old message. He said I just now saw it, but as you can tell I’ve been busy, LOL Then he said that he came up with the arrangement. He said he was really into Elvis Costello who was the epitome of New Wave at that time, and he said he must’ve just heard it in his head. He was dating Bette, and, at least at that time, she wanted to keep up with trends, so I’m guessing she loved it and then got Toni Basil in on the dance routine. So I am so excited i found out all I wanted to know.
And here is the perfected version of Paradise in the movie, Divine Madness:
Biography For Chas Sandford,
By Roy Trakin
“We lived the good times/Now we feel the pain/Wonder if those days/Will ever come again… The past is the past/What’s done is done/Time to let go/Time to move on.” “It’s Changing”
The saying goes that most artists have an entire lifetime to make their first album, and six months to come up with the second. For veteran artist/songwriter/producer/ engineer/ guitarist Chas Sandford, it took over two decades for his sophomore album, Wag More, Bark Less, the long-awaited follow up to his debut Parallax View, which came out on Elektra/Asylum.
That album included songs that were soon covered by John Waite, Sammy Hagar, Rick Springfield and Sheila B. Devotion. When three of the songs he was writing for a planned second album turned into a #1 hit for Waite (“Missing You”) and Top 5 singles for both Stevie Nicks (“Talk to Me”) and Chicago (“What Kind of Man Would I Be”), Sandford found himself one of the most in-demand producer/songwriters in the business, his songs recorded by a list that includes Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Melanie, Roger Daltrey, Millie Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Alison Krauss and David Wilcox, often producing as well in his own Secret Sound studio. He has also produced a wide range of artists, including Chicago, Stevie Nicks, Roger Daltrey, Rod Stewart, Berlin, Gene Loves Jezebel, House of Schock and Don Johnson, whose cast of guest musicians included Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt , Ron Wood and Dickey Betts.
Now living in Franklin, TN, outside Nashville (Ula Hedwig just moved here, and I think Linda Hart still lives here, and Bette has some type of office here…so this is the place to be lol), the Atlanta-born Sandford has enlisted an all-star line-up of the city’s best musicians for the album, anchored by bassist Davis Santos and drummer Nick Buda , with cameos by friends and colleagues including Chicago’s Bill Champlin and James Matchack, Survivor’s Jim Peterik, recording artist/slide guitarist Lee Roy Parnell and singer/songwriter Nicole Witt on background vocals.
“It was just too frustrating to think of being one of 10,000 guys trying to get a cover on a Rascal Flatts album,” he says about his decision to record his own music. “Everything is so upside-down in the business anyway—as hard as it’s ever been—so I might as well do something I really wanted to do, and see what happens. My best successes have always come when I’m doing my own thing.”
Wag More, Bark Less is “about being happier, rather than in conflict all the time,” explains Sandford, who wrote the songs over the past two years after his divorce and a follow up romance went awry. “Let Love Back in This House” has a folk-rock jangle that evokes the likes of the Eagles, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Fleetwood Mac, in its tale of longing and sorrow amid ghostly memories. “”My friends keep saying just move on/But I think of you in every song.”
“I originally wrote that with Little Big Town and/or Fleetwood Mac in mind,” says Sandford. “But when nobody pulled the trigger that’s when I decided to do it myself.”
It was the beginning of an outpouring of material that eventually became a cathartic album that helped Sandford get the past few years off his chest. “The Best of Times,” “Someday Susan,” “I Believed,” “Broken” and “My Favorite Regret” look back with a combination of disappointment, disbelief and a desire to move on. Sandford proves he can rock out pretty damn good also with the “Witchy Woman”-meets-Led Zeppelin “Waiting for the Sun,” the tongue-in-cheek rock of “Love Can Really Mess You Up” (“One day I wanna marry you/Next day I wanna bury you/What the hell am I gonna do?) and the soaring, Springsteen-esque socio-political “It’s Changing” bring the album’s sentiments full circle, from feeling sorry for oneself to getting out and doing something about it. On the other hand, the affecting “Let Love Back in This House,” “Whenever I See You Smile” and the soaring set-piece “Because of You” (written with Tyrone Noonan from the Australian band George) all show that Sandford’s optimism hasn’t been snuffed completely.
About the events leading up to the album Sandford says, “There were a great many emotions swirling around. So, the record’s pretty personal. As we all know, the more real, the better. There are a lot of raw nerve endings hanging out. The songs flowed out pretty easy.”
Wag More, Bark Less is the culmination of a career that began when Sandford ran off to Los Angeles at 15 years old. When the self-declared teenage guitar slinger, case in hand, met Ike Turner, resplendent in leopard skin bathrobe and shades, in an Inglewood alley in back of his own studio, the legendary musician invited him to a recording session with Ike & Tina and Delaney & Bonnie later that night, and Chas never looked back. He opened for The Eagles on the European leg of their Hotel California tour, then played in a band he put together with future A&R exec Tony Berg who played themselves in Robert Altman’s A Perfect Couple, including a live show at the Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Philharmonic. Among his other cherished memories are two months on Broadway (and on film) backing Bette Midler in Divine Madness and being handpicked by the late, great James Brown to play with him at a charity show at the Arena (now-named The James Brown Arena) in Augusta, GA. His personal studio, Secret Sound, which has had incarnations in L.A., Kauai, Nashville and now Franklin, TN, has become a go-to destination for a wide range of recording artists, including Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Madonna, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Celine Dion, Joe Cocker, Aaron Neville, Def Leppard, Kiss, Keith Urban, Amy Grant, Wynonna, Levon Helm, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain and Tim McGraw, among many others.
“I’ve always wanted to be a artist, but I was on a roll as a producer and writer, so I went with it,” says Sandford.
Since moving to Music City from L.A. several years ago, Sandford has been active in songwriter festivals like Tin Pan South, and many of the musicians on the album are people he’s been playing with for quite some time.
“After awhile in L.A., there seemed to be a lack of ideas, which got kind of boring,” he says. “I wanted to find people who could throw something back at me and up my game a little bit. There are so many talented people in this town, people I greatly respect and I am blessed to call many of them my friends.”
“Once we make it through/We’ll never be the same” “It’s Changing”
“It’s Changing” is about both the personal and the macro, a point in time for each of us, where we must seize the moment and make it happen for ourselves.
For Sandford, Wag More, Bark Less, serves as a personal renewal, taking his past experiences, and moving on to the next level, with a flow and feel, from beginning to end, that makes it sound like albums did in the classic rock era.
“The world seems to be in real upheaval right now,” says Chas. “This feels right. Everyone’s looking for material with more depth. They’re tired of the way things are going. It’s a perfect time for me to be doing this.”
Chas Sandford’s Bark still has plenty of bite.
Be on the lookout for Chas’s new album probably out this year. After that, he is producing his wife’s album that I’m going to guess will be out next year. I’m going to post a link to his last CD which is great.