Safe Travels on the Sunrise Highway, Pete

Sad news today. It has been reported online that Pete Anders (Peter Andreoli) has passed away.

I’m guessing that most Cue Castanets readers knows Peter by way of the legendary Anders/Poncia songwriting credits but for those who don’t, Pete Anders was one of the finest singers and songwriters the 60s had to offer.

The body of work Peter has left behind is truly at the pinnacle of perfect pop – along with his lifetime friend and musical partner-in-crime Vini Poncia, there wasn’t a genre Pete couldn’t master, be it doo wop, surf & hot rod music, girl groups, wall of sound, Beatles-esque knock-offs, soul, sunshine pop or bubblegum. Anders/Poncia covered all bases and did so brilliantly.

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Anders & Poncia then and more recently. Pete Anders is pictured to the left in 1969 and to the right in the 2010 Photo.

I’ve been a fan of this dynamic duo’s music since I first heard the killer songs they wrote for the Ronettes and, later on, the two albums they recorded under their Tradewinds and Innocense guises. Those two albums especially are textbook examples of how to write fantastic and charming sunshine pop & bubblegum music. The songs on both albums are inventive, hook-laden and brimming with enthusiasm, all bound together by Peter’s extraordinary lead vocals.

Yet, as with the equally talented Sloan/Barri partnership, the body of work by Anders/Poncia is often overlooked when US 60s pop is discussed in general. Sure, Goffin/King, Mann/Weill and Barry/Greenwich deserve all the praise they get, but dig a little deeper and you’ll be amazed at the sheer quality of the more unknown Anders/Poncia catalog. There’s always something interesting going on in their songs.

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Spector certainly sensed he had stumbled upon a veritable hook machine when Doc Pomus introduced him to Pete Anders & Vini Poncia. According to legend, they hadn’t even written ‘The Best Part of Breaking Up (is when You’re Makin’ Up)’ when they pitched their song idea to him, but the title alone was enough to tell Spector that these guys from Rhode Island knew where it was at. And they didn’t let him down!

To these ears, the songs Anders/Poncia wrote for the Ronettes and Darlene Love during their short stint with Spector are any bit as good as what the more recognized Brill Building couples wrote. Those first seconds of ‘Do I Love You’? Wow… As good as it gets – and it simply must send chills down the spine of every pop music lover. And don’t get me started on ‘He’s a Quiet Guy’ by Darlene Love. What a shame also that the fantastic ‘Hold Me Tight’, credited to the Treasures, was the only thing Pete Anders got to sing on with Spector behind the console.

Then again, Anders & Poncia were perfectly able to churn out top quality productions on their own. A single like the 1967 ‘Sunrise Highway’, which I namecheck in the title to this post, is a sunshine pop masterpiece adorned with a tour-de-force Pete Anders vocal.

There were a lot of questions I would have liked to ask Peter about his interesting career in music. So after starting the blog I reached out for him online through a friend of his, hoping for a Cue Castanets interview. Peter happily agreed to answer my questions but sadly, various projects as well as health problems prevented him from doing so. It’s a shame because it would have been very interesting to hear his side of the story as a supplement to Vini Poncia who luckily has reminisced in a few interviews through the years.

I will conclude this post with a beautiful song from Peter’s obscure 1972 solo album as well as the questions I sent to Peter but that he never got around to answering before he passed away. If anything, the scope of those questions are testament to how varied and interesting a career this great singer and songwriter had in music.

Rest in peace Peter. Thank you for the music!

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Proposed interview questions for Pete Anders

Early years / Videls

You and Vinnie first met each other in doo wop group the Videls out of Providence, Rhode Island in the late 50s. Did the two of you ‘click’ right away as creative partners or was it something that slowly evolved?

‘Mr. Lonely’ appears to be the first ‘Andreoli-Poncia’ written song. Is that so? And in general, how did the two of you work on songs together from then on? Did one of you, say, mainly write the words and the other the melody / chords? Or did it change from song to song?

Even from the early Videls recordings I hear you as a very skilled singer with a distinctive vocal style. Who would you say was your biggest influences when you were starting out as a vocalist?

 

Philles-era songs

How did your writing relationship with Phil Spector come about? Was his interest piqued by one of your song demos (if so, which one?) or were you teamed up with him?

What was it like to work with him and seeing your songs get the Wall of Sound treatment in the studio?

Are there any particular songs from that time you’re especially fond of or have specific anecdotes about?

I absolutely love your vocal on ‘Hold Me Tight’ credited to the Treasures. Whose idea was it to rework, and in my opinion vastly improve, a Beatles song so radically? Did Spector record anything else with you on lead that has remained unreleased?

One of your more obscure songs while with Spector is ‘You’re my Baby’ by Gene Toone & the Blazers. A fun throwback to your street corner doo wop background set to a marching beat. I really love this song. The feel and beat of it reminds me of an unreleased Philles-era track called ‘Pretty Girl’ sung by Spector himself. Were you and Vinnie involved in that song? It has the same type of marching beat and funny lyrics that, among other things, goes: “My name’s Philip and incidentally I ain’t going steady. But you’ve got something that get’s me thinkin’ I may be ready.” There’s a prominent use of harmonica throughout and the chorus goes “You’re so fine. So fine. What’s you number? You’re so fine.” Do you remember this song / production?

‘The Best Part of Breaking Up’ is also fantastic – there’s a story going around that you and Vinnie only had the title / catch phrase for the song [The best part of breaking up is when you’re making up] when you pitched the song for Spector and that he immediately sensed a hit from the title alone, asking you to write it. Is this true?

Darlene Love has mentioned numerous times that ‘He’s a Quiet Guy’ is her favorite Philles-era song. I tend to agree. It’s a fantastic piece of work. Was it written directly for her? Did you participate at the session?

‘Do I Love You’ – that bass riff in the intro is pure genius. Do I detect a bit of a Motown influence in that song?

I’ve heard rumors of an unreleased Ronettes track wittten by you and Vinnie called ‘Someday (Baby)’ Do you remember this one? Did Spector record more songs of yours than what was eventually released?

There’s of course also the Lovelites. You and Vinnie did some fantastic stuff with this group, – ‘When I Get Scared’ on the Phi-Dan label and the not officially released ‘Please be my Boyfriend’ and ‘He’s my Eddie Baby.’ All great productions! What would you say you learned as producers from your association with Phil Spector?

Following up on the Lovelites and ‘Please be my Boyfriend’ – was that song written by you and Vinnie? It has never been disclosed who wrote it as an acetate label and sessions sheets don’t feature writing credits. Also, there’s a version floating around credited to the Crystals. Listen here: The Crystals – Please Be My Boyfriend Many believe that the demo isn’t sung by the Crystals but an unknown group. Do you recognize the voices? This version has puzzled collectors for decades!

 

Tradewinds, Innocense and beyond

You left Spector & Philles Records for Leiber & Stoller’s Red Bird label in 1965. Your first master there was the legendary ‘New York’s a Lonely Town’ under the Tradewinds moniker. A sizeable hit. How did you come up with this great idea for a song? Did you offer it to Spector before releasing it on Red Bird?

Many of the Tradewinds songs have an obvious Beach Boys influence. How did you feel about what Brian Wilson was doing at the time? Did you ever meet him in LA?

On Kama Sutra and later Buddah you recorded fantastic stuff under quite a few names; the Tradewinds, the Innocense, the Good Times etc. But you also released your first solo single, the majestic ‘Sunrise Highway’ backed with ‘Baby Baby.’ Why a solo single at this time?

I’ve heard rumors of an unreleased album borne out of the sessions for the Anders & Poncia ‘So It Goes’ / ‘Virgin to the Night’ single on Kama-Sutra. Any truth to this? If so, why was it scrapped?

Finally, you and Vinnie were involved in so many one-off singles that some were bound to fall through the cracks. A particular favorite of mine is ‘Thinkin’ ‘bout Me’ by the Fairchilds from 1968.

What a stunning song and great production. Should have been a hit! You and Vinnie are listed as producers along with your old Videls buddy, Norman Marzano. What do you remember about this song? Was the Fairchilds an actual group or just you guys recording? I think I hear you sing back-up vocals?

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