Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Glass Bottle and the Dickie Goodman Connection

The "break-in" novelty record legend Dickie Goodman started The Glass Bottle as a marketing ploy for Manhattan public relations firm Benton & Bowles. They had hired Goodman to battle the burgeoning aluminum can and plastic bottle industries, and he'd developed a strategy to form a topical band, write their (non break-in) songs, and possibly make a fortune. He gathered together six young musicians from New Jersey, featuring the Johnny Maestro-esque lead vocals of Gary Criss, who'd released a number of teen idol disks on the Diamond label in the early sixties.

If the public would have responded favorably to Goodman's initial plan, we'd now recognize the Glass Bottle for songs he'd written with titles like "Glass," "Little Bottle Baby," and "Soda Pop Tonite." According to his son Jon, in his 2000 book The King of Novelty, Goodman eventually withdrew his own compositions from the hungry band's repertoire (which was fine by him because he was "still getting paid") and hooked them up with the AVCO Embassy label, for whom three of their recordings made the Hot 100, with "I Ain't Got Time Anymore" cracking the Top 40. Another non-charting single of theirs, "Mama Don't You Wait Up for Me (Wonderwheel)" appeared in the soundtrack for the well-regarded 1970 narcotics film The People Next Door. 

As for Goodman's ongoing commitment to Benton & Bowles, a captioned Billboard photo (above) that misspells Criss's last name refers to the group's "antilitter campaign," which suggests that they might have shifted their PR strategy from recording glass bottle industry-themed songs to merely speaking favorably about the easily recycled product during their appearances. (Aluminum and plastic recycling hadn't yet become so normalized at that point.)

All three of the group's charting records were MOR-suitable songs arranged by Goodman's business partner Bill Ramal, whose background in studio orchestration manifested itself clearly. The tracks also hearkened back to the teen idol ballad tradition Criss knew well and which many a music listener was feeling a nostalgic tolerance for during the troubled early seventies. The Glass Bottle's hit-making career didn't make it past the era, although Criss had some late-seventies traction with a disco album on the Salsoul label before he made his exit from the music business.

Below are the group's three charting singles:

"Love for Living" (1970)
The Glass Bottle

Written by Clare Torry * Produced by Bill Ramal and Dickie Goodman * 45: "Love for Living" / "The First Time" *
LP: The Glass Bottle * Label: AVCO Embassy * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#109; peaked 1970-05-30)

Although the cover of the Glass Bottle's first LP displayed a kid-friendly band, the grooves inside contained a far more parent-friendly sound. This was a marketing page taken from the playbook of other acts like the Walker Brothers and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, who also had lead singers with strong, disciplined voices. If "Love for Living" brings to mind some of the early Bee Gees ballads where Robin Gibb is given free emotive reign, you won't be surprised to learn that the original version of the song was a 1969 B-side for singer-songwriter Clare Torry, which lists the aforementioned Gibb brother as producer. Torry would later record the famous vocal segment for Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" in 1973. The credited songwriter for the flipside's ballad (and also for their "The Girl Who Loved Me When" below) is Dayton Callie. Is this the character actor from Sons of Anarchy and Deadwood?

Side A: "Love for Living"

Side B: "The First Time"

"I Ain't Got Time Anymore" (1971)
The Glass Bottle

Written by Mike Leander and Eddie Seago * Produced by Bill Ramal and Dickie Goodman * 45: "I Ain't Got Time Anymore" / "Things" * LP: I Ain't Got Time Anymore * Label: AVCO Embassy * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#36; peaked 1971-09-25)

As they had done with their previous charting single, the Glass Bottle dipped into the British record bins for their lone Top 40 single. "I Ain't Got Time Anymore" revamped a 1970 UK hit (#21) for Cliff Richard, whose folk-rock delivery transformed itself into dramatic stage fare under the command of Gary Criss's larger vocals. The line where he sings, "used to take an interest in the state of the world, now I only know how much I'm missing that girl" rings with irony in context of the group's environmental origins. The single's B-side version of Bobby Darin's "Things" is, to the present day, available only on the original seven-inch vinyl. Composers Mike Leander and Eddie Seago would form the glam rock publishing company Rock Artistes Music Ltd. a few years after this.

"I Ain't Got Time Anymore"

"The Girl Who Loved Me When" (1971)
The Glass Bottle

Written by Neil Goldberg * Produced by Bill Ramal and Dickie Goodman * 45: "The Girl Who Loved Me When" / "Because She's Mine Again" * LP: I Ain't Got Time Anymore * Label: AVCO Embassy * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#87; peaked 1971-12-11)

"The Girl Who Loved Me When" opened the Glass Bottle's I Ain't Got Time Anymore LP and served as their final single with its familiar quiet-then-loud mood swing approach. Around the time of this single, songwriter Neil Goldberg had also been keeping busy in Jeff Barry's cartoon music realm, contributing actively to the Archie's Funhouse TV show among others. A ballad by Dayton Callie (see "Love for Living" above) appears on the B side.

Side A: "The Girl Who Loved Me When"

Side B: "Because She's Mine Again"

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