Gary DeCarlo Part II: The birth of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”

Every interview that I’ve conducted has been a unique and fun experience, and my chat with Gary DeCarlo was no different. It had a rather inauspicious start when I had to e-mail DeCarlo in a mild panic because the interview I had scheduled right before his was running long, and I needed to push my interview with DeCarlo back an hour.  I wasn’t sure what I was expecting as a response. Would he pitch a diva-esque fit? Would he think I was some inept bumpkin who couldn’t show up on time? Nope. Not at all. Not only was he agreeable, but he was very nice about it, completely understanding my predicament.

This interview was more of a conversation with a buddy [It started with DeCarlo laughingly saying, “I’m going to make your job easy, because I love to talk!”] than anything, and we joked and also touched on some rather serious topics, events that you can imagine still plague him to this day, but through it all he was upfront and honest.

About a week after our phone call, I traveled to New York City for a Beatle tribute show and was able to see DeCarlo once again, and it’s easy to pick out entertainers who own the stage. DeCarlo looked like he was born on one. His voice is strong, as his rapport with an audience. If you ever get a chance to see Gary DeCarlo perform, don’t wind up kicking yourself later for missing it.

Part I of the interview can be found at: https://mccartneyfans.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/gary-decarlo-na-na-hey-hey-kiss-him-goodbye-at-the-town-hall-in-nyc-saturday-february-8th/

Image

(Photo by Jennifer Dodge)

 

Me: Getting back to “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” it’s just one of those songs that everybody knows. I imagine that not many folks can say, 45 years later, that they have a song like this out there. That’s got to be a really good thing.

DeCarlo: Absolutely. The fact that it’s still going is amazing. We’ve been in a lot of movies, we’ve had a lot of commercials, and a lot of cover songs that have done pretty well on their own, too. I have something out now. I did a dance version. It’s on iTunes and there’s also a video on youtube and it’s getting a lot of good reviews and people are liking it, so I’m hoping more people become aware of it and it hangs in there (laughing). [The video can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s87FpQvcMEMIt’s called “Kiss Him Goodbye” by Gary DeCarlo and Steam because I trademarked the name “Steam” and I own it now.

Me: I’ve become more cognizant of your name since the [Monkees] Convention, and I’ve seen it attached to some really cool events, like conventions and things like that, the PBS special, etc. I know “Kiss Him Goodbye” is what people know you best for, but what else do you wish people knew you for aside from that one song?

DeCarlo: A lot of articles were posted by the management people I was associated with, and they made it seem like all of my stuff bombed, and a lot of people believed what they read. What I wanted them to realize is that my stuff didn’t get a chance to get the exposure that was needed for people to make the choice of whether the liked it or not. What started the whole thing was I had cut four sides for Mercury Records back in 1969. My first side that was supposed to be my A-side, which I loved and wanted to come out, was “Workin’ On A Groovy Thing” written by Neil Sedaka.  

     The problem was that the 5th Dimension beat me by one week. They put theirs out one week before mine, so they got the exposure and they got the hit. That’s the reason we had to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we were going to do next. The record company wanted me to put out a song called “Sweet Laura Lee” which was written by Larry Weiss who wrote “Rhinestone Cowboy.” I didn’t really want to lead with a ballad, but they said that that’s what they wanted, so…

     We needed a B-side for it, and “Na Na” became the B-side. It didn’t have the chant, though. The chant was born the night in the studio [when we recorded it]. Actually “Na Na” was written a few years before, and it was just called “Kiss Him Goodbye.” It was a blues shuffle. I always liked it, and I said to Dale [Frashuer], “Dale, I want to do ‘Kiss Him Goodbye.’ Tell Paul [Leka] that that’s what I want to do.” When we went to the studio that night, the chant was born, and that was it. We went in around 7 o’clock that night, and by 5 the next morning it was done, just the way you hear it on the radio.

Me: I read that it was a situation where the B-side got played versus the A-side, and a star is born, as they say. I’d also read, and this may not be accurate, that Steam wasn’t a band in existence, but was a name given to the recording.

DeCarlo: Absolutely. The people that you see in the video were just a road act. They were kind of getting the credit for my vocal, and that’s what was one of the things that was hard to take, seeing them getting the attention and doing all of these shows, and them getting the recognition for it. Steam was actually just the three writers, myself, Paul, and Dale. It was done by us in the studio. There’s no guitar on the record, there’s no bass on the record. It’s all piano/organ overdubs over an 8-bar loop drum track from another song that I had called “Sugar” which was another song written by Neil Sedaka. Everything was layered on it. I played percussion on a board and the chant, we were going over the chant in the studio. Paul had it [singing]: “Na na na na…goodbye,” and I threw [singing]” “Hey hey hey”’s  in there, and it worked. It stayed, and that’s the way it is, that’s the way it ended up.

Me: It’s so funny how fluky little things like that, without intention behind them, go on to become major discoveries. It’s a cool story to hear how the song was born.

DeCarlo: The sad thing is, Jennifer, that there was magic in the studio at that time. Then when they wanted to split the record, to this day I still can’t figure out why it couldn’t have stayed on the B-side of “Sweet Laura Lee.” The company wanted, and my management wanted, to split the record, and when I went out, I was doing the “Sweet Laura Lee” thing because my name at the time was Garrett Scott, that’s what I sang under, and I wrote under the name Gary DeCarlo. I said to them, “Why does it have to be split?”  The record company wanted a group, so I said, “Where’s my group?” They said, “Well, you don’t have a group.” I said, “Paul [DeCarlo’s management] was supposed to get me a group from a booking agency in New York City,” which never materialized. I said to Paul, “You told me to stay away from all of my associates who I played with in Birchport and the colleges and all of the stuff that we did. I was stuck. What could I do?

     As far as the whole Steam situation, the magic was gone after that. They wanted me to continue to sing the entire album and have those guys go out and take the credit for it, but I said no, I wouldn’t do it. That drove a wedge between me and Paul. I said, “It’s time for me to get out of here” because it was just not a pleasant experience. The vibes weren’t there anymore.

Me: It’s so unfortunate, too. You see something similar happen with Milli Vanilli decades later, which is what I grew up with, that whole scandal. It’s unfortunate that somebody with the talent isn’t getting credit for what they’re doing. It just seems common sense that you would.

DeCarlo: Yeah. Think about it from a business sense. Wouldn’t you rather want someone out there who can sing it live?  When these guys performed, people used to come up to them and say to them, “How come you don’t sound like the record?” They had to come up with an excuse every night. “I’m sick,” or “I’ve got a cold,” or “I’ve got asthma,” or “There’s a cat in the audience and I have allergies.” (laughing)

Me: (laughing) The more I research this the more I get confused because I run on logic, and this doesn’t make sense.

DeCarlo: That’s what I’m saying. Absolutely not. Think about it. From a business sense, that’s a really bad move, so why in the world would you do something like that? And why would you split the record? We were just talking about The Beatles and they had just had a two-sided hit [“Something” and “Come Together”] at the time, so it’s not something that was unheard of. They said to me, “The B-side will never get heard.” I said, “There’s a lot of people who flip them over.” I used to always flip over the records, and sometimes the B-sides were better than the A-sides! 

Me: Yeah.

DeCarlo: Well, that’s what happened with that. There’s a lot more to it. There’s a book out [Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Mary Rose Scinto] , and there’s another book that’s being written right now that’s going to be a bigger book. It’s already up to about 15 chapters.

Me: Are you writing it?

DeCarlo: No, it’s being written for me by two people in Massachusetts.  It’s going to be more in depth. It’s going to talk more about people that I was associated with at the time and a lot of different things that I had. I had some things out [songs], but I didn’t have a ton of things out, but a few things that I did have out I thought were pretty good, but again, like I said, if you can’t hear them, you can’t buy them. You don’t know they exist. 

Gary DeCarlo is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GaryDecarloSteam?fref=ts

Advertisements

~ by Jennifer Dodge on March 7, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: