Tandyn Almer

 Minnesota born songwriter pens a national hit in 1966

Contents:

History

Tandyn Almer

Early Days

Tandyn Douglas Almer was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 30, 1942.  A prodigy as far as piano playing, he attended a music conservatory and took an interest in jazz after hearing John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Ahamad Jamal.

At age seventeen, Tandyn dropped out of high school and moved to Chicago with the goal of becoming a jazz pianist.  In the early 1960’s he moved to Los Angeles and attended Los Angeles City College and gravitated to the folk-rock music scene at The Troubador in West Hollywood.

A National Hit Song

By 1966 he was writing songs and recorded a number of demo songs.  A teenage girl from Tucson, Arizona named Linda Ronstadt sang lead on some of his songs.  One of the demo songs was called “Along Comes Mary” and playing guitar on the demo was Gary “Jules” Alexander, a member of The Association, who thought the song would work well for his band.  The producer for The Association, Curt Boettcher heard the song and recorded his own demo version with a faster tempo and added an intricate vocal arrangement.  Curt also sang lead on the demo.  Some reports state Curt wanted a writer’s credit for the song but that did not happen.

Curt was the producer for the first (and second) album by The Association who were signed to a small independent record company called Valiant Records owned by Barry DeVorzon.  The group recorded the instrumental tracks at GSP Studio owned by Gary S. Paxton who also did the engineering.  The studio was in Gary’s garage.  For the vocal tracks the group went to Columbia Recording Studio.

“Along Comes Mary” was the first hit song for The Association, reaching Number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 16, 1966 and spent 11 weeks on the charts.

Super Fan  –  Leonard Bernstein

The cryptic and complex lyrics of “Along Comes Mary” were like no other song lyrics on the pop charts for that time period.   Renowned composer, conductor and pianist, Leonard Bernstein took notice of the song and featured it on one of his “Young People’s Concert” television shows titled “What is a Mode?”  On the show Bernstein stated:  “Along Comes Mary” in the ancient and honorable Dorian mode – the same mode we just heard in Debussy and in the plain-chant.  Now who’d have thunk it? What is that old Greek mode doing in today’s pop music?  …That’s why Debussy used them so much, and other modern composers like Hindemith and Stravinsky, and almost all the young song writers of today’s exciting pop music scene.  The modes have provided them with a fresh sound, a relief from that old, overused major and minor.  You can see that this Dorian mode is almost like an ordinary minor mode, but not quite.  And that not quite is what makes the big difference, and that difference gives the music a certain ancient, primitive, Oriental feeling…  And that’s why “Along Comes Mary” sounds so primitive and earthy.”

Controversy

Controversy erupted as the song climbed the charts (during an era of generational conflict) and various people suggested that “Mary” in the song was a reference to marijuana.  Other people thought “Mary” to be the Mother Mary from The Bible.  Yet others stated “Mary’ was a prostitute.  One theory is that each verse of the song is about a different “Mary”… and on and on it goes even to this day.  When The Association played a job at Disneyland, they were given marching orders from the Orange County Sherriff Department to not play the song.  There is no information available that came directly from Tandyn regarding the mystery of the song and perhaps that was his ultimate intention.

A Curt Boettcher and Tandyn Almer penned song was included on The Association’s first album called “Message of Our Love” which is a slow tempo ballad in the Four Freshmen style and has a spacey sound effect (electronic oscillator) towards the end that doesn’t quite fit the song.  Partial lyrics:  “Night, what mysteries will it bring.  Who can tell when Spring becomes of age.  One page of letters bound foretells of the sorrow that your kiss dispels and holds our message of love.  Fires at horizons edge, warm the soft breath of this pledge of ours.  Bright stars that linger in their flight. Who will know the plans we share tonight, reflect our message of love.”

Tandyn  –  Writer  –  Arranger  –   Producer 

After his success with The Association, Tandyn worked as a songwriter, arranger, producer, and singer up into the early/mid 1970’s.  Many of the groups he worked with were local studio bands that had one (maybe two) 45’s on small independent labels and then disappeared.  Most of the recordings that Tandyn was involved with fall under the pop/psych genre with baroque pop, folk/pop and jazz riffs tossed into the mix.  Many of these 45’s are next to impossible to find due to the limited pressings and the lack of their commercial success.  A complete list of Tandyn related records may not even be possible to document.  The following is a partial discography.

The Sugarbeats (45 RPM) Polydor 45 56120, 1966

Side A: “Alice Designs” (Tandyn Almer)

A very mysterious 45 by an obscure group on a UK pressing. The song is on the mellow side of the pop-psych genre.

Partial lyrics: “Everything I am belongs to Alice.  I view the fundamental truth inside a palace.  She gives me food for thought, all the gold that can’t be bought… and the energy of life flows from her chalice.  Alice designs her name all over my time.  But she’s not mine.  She belongs to all.”

The Garden Club (45 RPM) A&M 848, April, 1967

Side A: “Little Girl Lost and Found”

(Tandyn Almer and Dan Walsh)

Side B: “I Must Love Her”

Comments: Arranged by Larry Marks and Tandyn Almer.  Produced by Larry Marks.  Ruthann Friedmann (the write of “Windy” by The Association) and Tom Shipley (from the duo Brewer and Shipley) are reported to be playing on this record.

“Little Girl Lost and Found” has circus calliope music and very bizarre (trippy) words.  Partial lyrics:  “Alice in wonderland walking through hallways, followed closely by little tin men.  A man made from rusty old buckets, holding a musket he’s trying to mend.  They are all searching for the whereabouts of the girl with the polka dot eyes… Little girl lost and found, walking the streets in her tattered gown.  Everyone passes the blame around, for the little girl lost and found.”

Peter and the Wolves (45 RPM) on MGM 61169, October, 1967

Side A: “Little Girl Lost and Found”

(Tandyn Almer and Dan Walsh)

Side B: “Is Me”

Comments: This band consisted of five guys, the leader was John Pantry.

EDDIE HODGES (45 RPM) Sunburst 773, 1967

Side A: “Shadows and Reflexions”

(Tandyn Almer and Larry Marks)

Comments:  Produced by Ed Cobb for Green Grass Productions.  Arranged by McElroy, Bennett, and Cobb.  Engineered by R. Podolor and B. Cooper.  Sunburst Records was owned by Bell Records out of New York City.

This may be the most commercial 45 that Tandyn was involved with (other than “Along Comes Mary”).  The song is in the pop/psych genre, is well written and sticks in your head with excellent production, arrangements, and dynamics.  The feel is moody, intense, and haunting.  If you like the songs on the Pebbles compilations you would most likely enjoy this song.  The song was covered by numerous groups. This is the only version using the spelling Reflexions.

The lyrics are a little bit on the dark side… about a broken relationship from long ago that still haunts the singer.  Partial lyrics: “There’s an old vacant apartment, above the shop on the square.  Something keeps bringing me back to, those final moments we shared.  Through the glass the reflections, make a show on the door.  Empty shadows of light on the floor… Shadows and reflections following me around.  Shadows and reflections of the love that brought me down.”

The Lownly Crowde (45 RPM) MGM K13740, June, 1967

Side A: “Shadows and Reflections”

(Tandyn Almer and Larry Marks)

Side B: “Shadows and Reflections” (with no vocals)

Comments:  Produced by Tom Wilson.

The Action (45-RPM) UK Parlophone R-5610, June, 1967

Side A: “Shadows and Reflections”

(Tandyn Almer and Larry Marks)

Comments:  The Action were a four-piece band from England.  This version of the song sounds under-produced which is rather odd considering George Martin (of The Beatles) produced this.

The Purple Gang (45 RPM) MGM K13607, 1968

Side A: “Bring Your Own Self Down”

(Tandyn Almer)

Side B: “One of the Bunch”

Comments: An Ostrich Production.  Engineered by Bones Howe.

“Bring Your Own Self Down” partial lyrics: “If I put you on my list, I would just put you on. You’d erase it all and bring your own self down.”

“One of the Bunch” partial lyrics: “I came here about a year ago, looking for my fortune, trying to make a name.  Never thought things would get so low, looking for my fortune, trying to make a name.  Things just gotta get better, cause they can’t stay the same.  I’ve been trying one more time, gotta make a move, leave the past behind.  I’m waiting for a change and I’m ready to climb.  Gotta move, while there’s still time.  Days are warm but the nights are cold, looking for my fortune.  Trying to make a name, I’m still young, but my dreams are old.”

Paper Fortress (45 RPM) VMC, 1968

Side A: “Butterfly High”

(Tandyn Almer and Eddie Hodges)

Side B: “Sleepy Hollow People”

(Tandyn Almer and Eddie Hodges)

Comments: Both songs were arranged by Tandyn Almer and produced by Tandyn Almer and Eddie Hodges.  This was a studio group whose members were neighbors of Steve Vail, the owner of the record label.

A few lines from “Butterfly High” which is all about… a butterfly: “The day for him is such a splendid trip… You’ll never have to come back down now…”

“Sleepy Hollow People” is a slow, moody song with a surprise fast paced section in the middle with pretty decent overall production and arrangements with background vocals, strings, and keyboards.  Some of the lines: “Sleepy hollow people, living in their sheltered world.  Curtains drawn across the windows, can’t even feel the wind blow.  Sleepy hollow people, hearing only their own words.  Seeing not much past their noses, can’t even smell the roses.”

Sagittarius (LP) “Present Tense” Columbia, 1968

“Musty Dusty” (also known as “Musty Dusty Tattered and Torn”)

(Curt Boettcher and Tandyn Almer)

This song was originally recorded in November, 1966 for a Curt Boettcher produced studio group called The Ballroom.  The album was never released at the time.  The 1966 recording was included on the first album by Sagittarius (“Present Tense”) released in 1968, another studio group, produced by Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher (co-writer with Brian Wilson on numerous hits by The Beach Boys).

Partial lyrics from “Musty Dusty” a song about nostalgia and lost innocence: “Musty, dusty, tattered and torn, all of the toys I played with.  Out of tune my little tin horn.  All of my memories shattered and gone.”

Karen Karsh (45 RPM) ABC Dunhill and (45 RPM) UK – RCA 1740, 1968

Side A: “I Wasn’t Born to Follow”

(Gerry Goffin and Carole King)

Side B: “Musty Dusty”

(Curt Boettcher and Tandyn Almer)

Comments: Produced by Steve Barri and arranged by Jimmie Haskell.  Karen Karsh was a singer in nightclubs in Denver, Colorado during the mid-1960’s. This is her one and only record that she ever released.   Karen was a fan of The Mamas and Papas and her vocal style is somewhat similar to Cass Elliott. The backing music is The Wrecking Crew with Hal Blaine on drums.  “Musty Dusty” was included on the 1967 Sagittarius LP “Present Tense.”  The song was also recorded by The Ballroom in 1966 which was not released at the time.

Partial lyrics from “Musty Dusty” a song about nostalgia and lost innocence: “Musty, dusty, tattered and torn, all of the toys I played with.  Out of tune my little tin horn.  All of my memories shattered and gone.”

Byzantine Empire (45 RPM) Amy 11.046, 1969

Side A: “Shadows and Reflections”

(Tandyn Almer and Larry Marks)

Comments:  Amy Records was owned by Bell Records, New York City.

Pleasure (45 RPM) Tower 506, 1969

Side A: “Poor Old Organ Grinder”

(Tandyn Almer)

Side B: “Don’t Take the Night Away”

(Billy Elder)

Comments: Billy Elder was a former recording artist for Capitol Records and was the engineer and producer for this recording at Hollywood Sound Recorders.  The intended singer (Tommy Flanders) discovered the vocal arrangement was outside of his range so Billy sang the lead.  On a Rhino Records compilation CD this song is credited to Billy Elder and not to Pleasure. Tower Records was a subsidiary of Capitol Records.

The A-side tells the sad story of a former tightrope walker in a circus who is left crippled and blind following an accident when the tightrope breaks.  A few lines: “Poor old organ grinder, Monkey behind, tugging coat sleeves, rattles his cup.  Poor old organ grinder, crippled and blind.  Cranking out another daily grind.”

This is the only song I am aware of where the lyrics include a reference to “mumbley-peg” an old fashioned game that involves throwing a jackknife into the ground.  The game is referred to in Mark Twain’s classic book “Tom Sawyer.”

I would imagine there might be enough songs in the “circus accident” genre for someone to put out a compilation album… but most of these songs are kind of morbid and depressing… so it may not happen.

The Kitchen Cinq (45 RPM) LHI 17015

Side A: “The Street Song”

(Alan Kooper)

Side B: “When the Rainbow Disappears”

(Robert Corso)

Comments:  Produced by Suzie Jane Hokom.  Supervised by Lee Hazelwood.  Side A arranged by Tandyn Almer.  LHI stands for Lee Hazelwood Industries.  Lee Hazelwood (known as The Norwegian Cowboy) had numerous hits with Nancy Sinatra.  The band originated in Amarillo, Texas and relocated to Los Angeles.  Lee Hazelwood was their manager.  The group had five 45’s and one album (“Everything but… The Kitchen Cinq”) released between 1965 and 1968, all on LHI Records.  Yes, that is Al Kooper who wrote the A-side.

Dennis Olivieri (LP) “Come to the Party” VMC, 1970

Comments: This was most likely a vanity project for Dennis and his friends.  Produced by Tandyn Almer.  The music is a blend of folk, pop, and psyche, with jazz influences.  The production is very sparse with most songs just having keyboards, bass guitar and some sort of minimal percussion.  The album cover features trippy artwork.  Dennis passed away in 2006.

Some of the songs on the album with partial lyrics:

“I Cry in the Morning”

“Hey there nowhere man, listen to all the pretty sounds.  Nowhere man, please listen, try to dig what’s going on.”

“Sad Song #1”

“This is my sad song, straight from my heart.  Please let me sing it, before I fall apart.”

“More Friends”

“Come on and lend me your friends and I’ll lend you mine.  We’ll build a pyramid of minds and open up that door so we can find more and more and more, more friends.”

A Solo 45

Tandyn Almer (45 RPM) Warner Brothers, 1969

Side A: “Degeneration Gap”

Comments: This is the only recording made under Tandyn’s name as an artist.  The song is a long diatribe about social issues and the war in Vietnam with Tandyn speaking the lead (not really singing).  At the end of the song they change the “chorus” (with female singers) from “Round up the posse.  We’re headin’ for Degeneration Gap” to “Round up the posse.  We’re headin’ for Regeneration Gap.”  This song was most likely recorded in the wee hours of the morning with all present having over-indulged on whatever.  Inane as the song is it is still an interesting artifact from the 1969 era of music.  It also shows Tandyn’s affection for intricate wordplay.

Partial lyrics: “What is there left when it’s all over, if they find no ever after up above.  They can look back and relate that they practiced fear and hate, but they never took the time to check out love.  Oh love they say, a word that lost its meaning in an avalanche of desperate advice.  Only love will remain after eminent domain, after death and taxes, fire, flood, and ice.”

Hanging Out With Brian Wilson

In 1969, Tandyn became friends with Brian Wilson and worked on a project to rewrite and record new versions of a number of songs by The Beach Boys with Tandyn singing background vocals on the recordings.  A&M Records rejected the project based on Tandyn’s involvement with the songs.  Tandyn had worked as a songwriter for the publishing side of A&M and apparently was involved in some sort of an incident that occurred in the A&M parking lot that resulting in him and A&M parting ways.

Tandyn was a member of Mesna International and some reports state he may have suffered from bipolar disorder.

Tandyn and Brian remained friends and Tandyn contributed lyrics to two songs by The Beach Boys.

“Marcella” was released in June 26, 1972 and was written by Brian Wilson, Tandyn Almer and Jack Rieley and released on Brother – Reprise Records.  The song was included on the album “So Tough” by Carl and the Passions.

“Sail on Sailor” was released in January, 1973 on Brother – Reprise Records and reached Number 79 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The song was written by Brian Wilson, Tandyn Almer, Van Dyke Parks, Ray Kennedy, and Jack Rieley.  The song was on the “Holland” album and was produced by Carl Wilson.   In 1975 the song was re-released and climbed to Number 49 on Billboard and was on the charts for 17 weeks.

Goodbye To Hollywood

In 1977, Tandyn left Los Angeles and moved to a suburb of Potomac, Maryland.  One report is that he was offered a job writing a soundtrack to a movie, although the movie never panned out.  It is reported that Tandyn worked at a number of odd jobs in the 80’s and 90’s, including driving a cab and working in an electronics factory.  He did continue to write songs but only for his own use including songs for an annual satirical-political music review (called “Hexagon”) held in Washington, DC.  In addition, he wrote so called “fake books” which were simplified arrangements of popular songs often used by musicians.

Childhood Trauma

There is minimal information on details of Tandyn’s early childhood days in Minnesota, although writer Dawn Eden obtained some information from Tandyn’s mother through his sister-in-law that paint a sad picture of a fractured family life with Tandyn and his mother having to secretly escape from his father (with help from a relative) who had a drinking issue and was abusive.  Tandyn had to leave behind his beloved pet dog as he and his mother moved into a basement apartment.  This report seems to be authenticated through the pain filled lyrics to “Shadows and Reflections” and “Musty Dusty.”  Dawn also reported that Tandyn was bored with school and there were no classes in that time period for gifted students.

Seclusion

At some point in time, Tandyn began having serious health issues and became reclusive.  Numerous reports of his passing turned out to be incorrect.  One report states Tandyn would read the false accounts of his passing with amusement.

Passing

Tandyn passed away at age 70 on January 18, 2013 from a combination of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  He was living in McLean, Virginia at the time of his passing.

Legacy

Tandyn’s legacy is a brilliant, mysterious, complex, and edgy song called “Along Comes Mary” from 1966 recorded by The Association.  At 50+ years old the song shows no signs of aging.

“Along Comes Mary” partial lyrics: “And when the morning of the warning’s passed, the gassed and flaccid kids are flung across the stars.  The psychodramas and the traumas gone, the songs are left unsung and hung upon the scars… and then along comes Mary.”

 

Update:

The success of “Along Comes Mary” had enormous ripple effects that impacted many people.  The follow-up 45 from the first album was “Cherish” (written by band member Terry Kirkman) which hit Number 1 on Billboard on September 24, 1966.  The two hits from their first album launched the band to national and international fame.  Warner Brothers took notice and purchased the tiny Valiant label for one million dollars (an unheard of price for a small independent label) in order to acquire the contract with The Association.  Their investment would pay off in a big way.  The group would have a total of thirteen chart hits and would sell millions of records.

Curt Boettcher, the producer of the first two albums for The Association became a highly sought after independent producer for the second half of the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s and is now known as one of the architects of “sunshine pop.”  Curt wound up in Los Angeles as a member of the Minnesota folk – pop band The GoldeBriars which was active from February, 1963 through June, 1965, with two albums out on the Epic label.  One of the last jobs for The GoldeBriars was at The Ice House in Pasadena, California, where Curt (from Eau Claire, Wisconsin) met the folk – rock band known as 13 Men, which would soon evolve into The Association.

“Along Comes Mary” has been covered by a number of music groups including:  AA; Baja Marimba Band; George Benson; Bloodhound Gang; Guess Who; Leathercoated Minds; Manhattan Transfer; and Tjader Call.

In 2013, Sundazed Records released an album (vinyl and CD formats) called “And then… along comes Tandyn.”  The album features fifteen demo songs recorded by Tandyn.

 

Written by Tom Campbell

Version 1: February 15, 2017

Version 2: March 1, 2017

Version 3: March 10, 2017

Copyright by Thomas R. Campbell, 2017

Photos

 

 

Recordings

Where are they now

Tandyn passed away at age 70 on January 18, 2013.