In 1978, with disco taking hold, many artists outside of the sound were limited on chances to break through to the mainstream audiences. One of the UK's biggest hit in that era was Dean Friedman with the songs "Lucky Stars" and "Ariel". Although his popularity at the time didn't last, he has had a sudden resurgence ever since then.
Dean grew up in Paramus, New Jersey, and had used guitar and piano as his main instruments. Apart from some high school gigs, Dean's first real band was "Marcia and the Self-Portraits" in 1971, at the age of 16. This lasted for a year, his first gig with them being at the Volunteer Ambulance Corp Dance. The band had mainly done covers and a few originals when playing locally around New York and his home state of New Jersey. They were playing steadily, but Dean had other ventures he wanted to pursue. After a year, he went solo, writing his own material and gigging alone.
Occasionally now gigging at coffee houses in Greenwich Village at night, by day he was paying his bills driving cabs. Through a friend he had been introduced to Alan Pepper & Stanley Snadowsky, who became his first managers. They also owned the Bottom Line nightclub in New York. This place was a popular hangout, and after they saw Dean, he gave them his demos, with a repertoire of 20 songs, in 1976.
By March '77, he played an evening at the Bottom Line to showcase his music and was promptly signed by Lifesongs Records who were based out of NYC. Lifesongs was owned by Terry Cashman and Tommy West , who had heard his demo through Dean's managers.
Terry Cashman said, "We signed him because he had great talent and good managers and because Rob Stevens, a young producer who worked for us, thought he could make a great album with Dean. We were partial to singer-songwriters, so Dean fit right in. We thought he was a very good writer besides being a good singer. He was a little different in that he wasn't as folky as other acts we gravitated to."
Within a year, he had released his first album, entitled, "Dean Friedman", and a few singles. Dean's first single release in the US was "Ariel", though in England it was "Woman Of Mine". For "Ariel", Dean went and did a 13-city tour of the US in promotion, which helped him to gain notoriety on the radio and broke the song. Billy Ward played drums on that tour, as a friend had recommended him to Dean. Billy commented on touring, "Dean's first album had just come out, and 'Ariel' was a hit on the radio." Dean got his first TV spot on the Merv Griffin show to plug "Ariel". The song "Ariel" was about a girl Dean had a crush on, though it was based on an amalgamation of girls he had crushes on whilst growing up.
The album consisted of some greatly crafted guitar tunes with a difference and lyrics to match. Notably, it had a folk feel to it and was not overproduced.
It wasn't until Dean's second album "Well, Well, Said The Rocking Chair" did he have a huge hit in Great Britain. The album took a few months to write and record. As Billy Ward said, "We rehearsed in Upstate New York with our band for a week or so. Then we went to Montreal, Canada, and recorded it at Le Studio. It was actually in Morin Heights, Canada. I think the band worked on the album for two weeks, but it might've been only one."
The album was way more upbeat, and some tracks had a tinge of disco, but all very infectious. Once again Dean's great vocals held your captivity as did the catchiness of the record.
The single off the album, entitled, "Lucky Stars", was a duet (female vocals were by Denise Marsa) in style of a couple having differences in a relationship. Sounds a weird concept, but it came across great in every one's normal daily life, yet showing that things can be worked out.
Dean said, "Lifesongs thought the 2nd album sucked, and they couldn't believe it when it became a hit." Even better was the insert sleeve - a photo of Dean's apartment - a regular look of a typical bachelor pad!
"Lucky stars" catapulted him into the Top 10 in Britain, and this set him up for his first tour in Britain. Dean had never been to Britain before this and only found out that the song had gone into the Top 10 via Telex. Terry Cashman of Lifesongs Records said, "The reason Dean was successful in England had a lot to do with the fact that he'd toured there. He did television also, and the Brits took a liking to him". Although Dean had said he hadn't toured as much as he had wanted to, due to management and record company issues, back at the time.
His tours mainly consisted of USA and UK - in promotion of his releases. The line-up for the second album was mainly the band that Dean took on tour with him, Mark Rivera, Billy Ward, Johnny Mann, Don Sarlin.
His follow-up single to "Lucky Stars" was "Lydia", a hit in England but not as big as the previous one. At this point, communication with management company went awry as did his record contract. Dean didn't agree with some of the record company's decisions, and then began the legal battle. Dean said, "Lifesongs Records sued me for $1.5 million, I was forced into bankruptcy."
Following this, Dean signed with Epic within a year of being free of his old contract. Dick Leahy who had run GTO Records (the UK label that was responsible for the success of Lifesongs releases) was at Epic and signed him. Sadly, after a short spell, he subsequently left Epic, with Dean left behind with no advocate.
His first single for EMI was "MacDonald's Girl", but it was banned by the BBC for using a company name in a song. Needless to say, airplay was non-existent. At the time, he had rough songs for a third album but nothing set in stone, but when called upon, he worked on his third album. Once again, Billy Ward, along with Don Sarlin, David Frank, Johnny Mann and Dave Glenn, played on the album. The album was recorded at Eastern Artist Recording Studio in East Orange, New Jersey. The third album, entitled, "Rumpled Romeo", did not get the push Dean had hoped it would from a big company. With no promotion or direction, it flopped, and the follow-up single, "First Date", went nowhere. Dean wanted to tour, but Epic refused to pay for the tour and band expenses.
Epic dropped him, and other efforts to get a record deal did not come through. A year later, however, an indie deal for the single, "Land Of The Lakes" - Peach River Music - came through in '85. Sadly, the same week it was released the company folded. With this event and the ever-changing musical world, as well as the desire to work, Dean turned to writing TV scores and various other projects. He also became more involved in technology and started some of his own companies.
The only other releases to come after this were "Summer Holiday" on RCA/BMG - in 1988 - but it was so late it missed the appropriate season! Then came another indie release in late '95, entitled, "One Day", which was a duet with his daughter Hannah who was 9 at the time. This was about the Gulf War and a child's reaction to the pictures on TV, written back in the early '90s.
It wasn't until 1998 that Dean released his next album, entitled, "Songs For Grown-Ups". He said, "I never stopped writing and was determined that eventually I'd get a chance to record all that material." It took around 4 months to complete it, and by this time his website was getting requests.
Since then, he has recorded another CD called "Treehouse Journals" and done numerous tours of Great Britain, but he also plays locally. Not to mention there was a good resurgence with internet presence and people putting him in the "where are they now" category. His profile in the UK the last few years has been higher than in a long time. So what next does he want to try his hand at in music? "I'd like to do a straight jazz album pretty soon. One of these days, I swear I'm gonna finally write a Broadway musical!"
For me, listening to "Songs For Grown-Ups", Dean's comeback CD, has always seemed like something that many listeners would be at least somewhat trepidatious about. Why?
So many artists forget their sound and follow the trend, and totally miss the mark. So when someone has been away, you wonder, has their voice changed, or their perspective moved, the thing that had made you like them, is that still there? I can rest assured, Dean's double CD, "Songs For Grown-Ups" is as pure Dean Friedman as it gets. Wistful songs, truthful lyrics and Dean's voice make you remember why you'd bought those albums. The purpose he sings about hasn't changed too much, the sound is still what you imagine coming from him. You then wonder why you never bought it earlier! Not to mention lyrics and the story behind the songs included.
You can buy his CDs online at his website www.deanfriedman.com - his early classic albums or his new onnes. He's also touring the UK this Autumn to promote the "Treehouse Journals".
|YEAR||A SIDE||B SIDE||Cat #|
|1978||Woman of mine||Humour me||Lifesong LS401|
|Sep-78||Lucky Stars||Company||Lifesong LS402|
|Nov-78||Lydia||S & M||Lifesong LS403|
|Feb-79||Ariel||Funny Papers||Lifesong LS404|
|Mar-79||Rocking Chair||Shopping Bag Ladies||Lifesong LS405|
|Feb-82||McDonalds Girl||I will never leave you||Epic 2127|
|Mar-82||Hey Larry||I will never leave you||Epic 2274|
|Jun-82||First Date||McDonalds Girl||Epic 2544|
|Dec-84||The Lakelands||Duo||Peech River BBPR10|
|Jun-85||Didnít Mean to make you cry||The Lakelands||Hi Rise HR1|
|Aug-88||Summer holiday||Didnt mean to make you cry||RCA -BMG- AA111624†|
|Jun-95||One Day† *||Jennifer's Baby||Real Life|
|* Credited as Hannah and Dean Friedman|
|1977||Dean Friedman||Company, Ariel, Solitaire;||LifesngLS6008|
|Woman of Mine, Humor Me|
|The Letter; I May Be Young;|
|†Funny Papers; Love is Not Enough|
|Song for My Mother|
|1978||Well Well said the Rocking Chair||Rocking Chair, I've Had Enough||LifesngLSLP6019|
|Lucky Stars; Shopping Bag Ladies;|
|†Don't You Ever Dare; The Deli Song.|
|†Lydia; S&M; Let Your Hair Down|
|19981||Rumpled Romeo||First Date; McDonald's Girl; Hey Larry||EPC 85670. EPIC|
|Are You Ready Yet, I Will never leave you|
|Love is Real; Buy My Baby a Car;|
|Special Effects; I Depend on You|
|Marginal Middle Class;|
|1998||Songs For Grown Ups||DISC 1||Eagle EDGCD022|
|Sandy; Hob-Nobbin'; Saturday Fathers|
|Little Black Cloud; Jennifer's Baby;|
|Don't Mourn, Don't Cry,Wishing on a Satellite|
|It's Only Make Believe; Dodo|
|Where Have All the Angels Flown?;|
|The Dolphins Were Dancing,Sometimes I Forget|
|God of Abraham; It's a Wonderful Life;|
|Typical Town; She's a Working Mom|
|Put You in My Pocket; No One Knows|
|Don't Marry That Boy; Under a Canopy|
|Multimedia Man; New Lang Syne|
|Maybe in a Million Years; Ayamba Yayahu|
|Hey, Hey, Hillary; How Does This Story End?;|
|Hale Bob She Bop; All Grown Now|
|2002||TreeHouse Journals||The Wind Blows, Babe,No School Today,||ReallifeRLRCD005|
|Welcome to the World, Summer Days,You and Me|
|The Saddest Girl in the Whole Wide World,|
|Who Was The One?, One Autumn Afternoon,|
|Amelia , Happy Ever After, Picture Postcard Life|
|Like A Swan, George Washington Slept Here.|
For more information, contact Jason Humphries
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