fter his first number one hit in 1962, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do," singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka had some hungry years. By 1964, his singing career appeared to be over. He took a job as a staff writer for Don Kirshner at Screen Gems and with partner Howard Greenfield turned out a few hits, including "Workin' on a Groovy Thing" for Patti Drew and, later, for the Fifth Dimension; "Puppet Man" for Tom Jones and the Fifth Dimension again' and "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo" for Tony Christie.
Around the same time that his high school girlfriend recorded Tapestry, Neil tried for a comeback with an album titled Emergence, released on the Kirshner label. Despite some critical approval, it failed to gain airplay or sales, and Sedaka and Greenfield decided to call an end to their long songwriting career. They wrote two more songs, including the sentimental "Our Last Song Together."
Through Kirshner, Neil met lyricist Phil Cody and they began writing together. Neil's agent, Dick Fox, suggested a trip to England might revive Sedaka's recording career. With wife Leba, daughter Dara and son Marc, Neil crossed the Atlantic and toured Great Britain, with an important date scheduled at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He won the audience over with his new songs, especially the finale, "Solitaire." The press loved him, too.
British singer/producer Kenny Young recommended producer Robert Appere at Clover Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard. Before leaving London, Phil and Neil wrote a batch of new songs that included "Laughter in the Rain."
An all-star band of session musicians played at the Los Angeles date, including Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel and David Foster. Again, the album only had a British release. Although no American company was interested, a single from the album ("Laughter in the Rain") went to number 15 on the British chart.
Neil and Leba celebrated with a party at their London apartment. The guests included the Carpenters, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, the members of 10cc and two people who lingered until the end of the evening: Elton John and his manager, John Reid. Neil asked if they would like to sign him to their new American label, Rocket Records. Elton and Reid said yes and soon afterward Neil and Leba were visiting E.J. at the Caribou Ranch in Colorado to discuss Neil's first American release on Rocket.
The resulting album was a compilation of songs from the two albums recorded with 10cc and the LP produced by Appere in Los Angeles. The cover photo of Neil looking like he belonged in The Godfather inspired the title: Sedaka's Back.
Neil chose "Laughter in the Rain" for the first single, but before it was released a cover version by Lea Roberts on United Artists started to get airplay. Not willing to let his American comeback slip away, Neil met with executives at MCA Records, distributor for the new Rocket label. They agreed to rush release "Laughter in the Rain" and within days it was a hit, bounding up the chart. During the week of February 1, 1975, it went to number one in the US. It was the beginning of Neil Sedaka's second career.
After the Sedaka/Greenfield collaboration "Love Will Keep Us Together" was a number one smash for the Captain and Tennille in May 1975, Neil's second recording streak continued four months later with "Bad Blood" (featuring Elton on backing vocals), another number one hit. Neil then did a bluesy reworking of his 1962 hit "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do," which was a Top 10 hit. He charted two more songs into the US Top 40 the next year, "Love In The Shadows" (#16) and "Steppin' Out" (#36). Neil continued to collaborate with his old songwriting partner Howard Greenfield and made numerous TV and concert appearances. In 1980, he recorded "Should've Never Let You Go" with daughter Dara, which reached #19 on the pop chart.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
Would you like to see Neil Sedaka inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Sign the petition at www.sedaka.be/neil_sedaka_petition.
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