Mentors: Quincy Jones Part 2
This post is a bit of a saga & a lesson for young writers...
I've turned down at least 3 offers of song publishing deals. I should have signed with Carol Ware (who was wonderful) at Columbia after writing for EWF on "I AM' but I wanted to get a hit first. This later experience below frightened me off…
In 1982, after he had used my song "Heavenbound" for Rufus, Quincy called me up. He was producing a new record for Donna Summer, & remembered that I had a classical background in college. He wanted to combine something from the past with new elements (ala "Could It Be Magic" by Barry Manilow), & tasked me with finding something appropriate. He also asked if I would try to co-write with Donna- which I did.
We set up studio time to get together. I brought a number of classical pieces to a studio where I met Donna. She was very nice, but when I played some material she stopped me & said "let's just jam." it went nowhere... she would sing high "now I'm singing like a soprano... then low "now I'm singing like a man." When I apologized to Quincy on the phone that night, he replied "I'm sick of this. No one has come up with anything good working with her. Do this yourself, & bring it to me."
"I've turned down at least 3 offers of song publishing deals."
First, I came up with a different approach. Instead of using a classical melody, I decided to use an excerpt of the Bach C Minor Prelude as the chordal bottom of the piece. I then called Richard Page (whose voice & work I loved) to help add a melody. I wanted the title to reflect love down through the ages, & we came up with "The Mystery of Love". John Lang greatly helped on the lyrics.
The demo was recorded at Warner publishing studio by Chris Walsh. The band was: Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Neil Stubenhaus on bass, Icarus Johnson on guitar, I played piano, & Richard sang (Please note that the demo below seemed to be time-stretched faster). We were all happy with the results… Quincy called me the day after he received it, also very happy ... he said "You did It! The song is on the album."
"When I apologized to Quincy on the phone that night, he replied "I'm sick of this. No one has come up with anything good working with her. Do this yourself, & bring it to me."
Within a day, I got a call from the head of Warner Publishing praising me & wanting me to meet about a publishing deal. I called Richard with the good news, but he said "are you sure? I don’t trust them. My manager played the demo for the head of publishing & it was stopped after 30 secs; he was told this would never work." I assured him Q was down with it.
I took the meeting anyway... I was told what a great future I had with them until I related what Richard's manager was told about the song.They said Quincy (probably fed up with average material) asked only for an African based song from them. In all, they had presented almost 1000 songs to him for the album - with little success.
My advice to young writers is: if you can get dedicated, honest, & knowledgeable publishers to back you- do it. Just make sure they really believe in your work & get out if not.
Mystery of Love (Demo)
Mystery of Love by Donna Summer
Quincy Delight Jones Jr. is an American record producer, songwriter, composer, arranger, and film and television producer. His career spans 70 years, with 80 Grammy Award nominations, 28 Grammys, and a Grammy Legend Award in 1992.
Donna Adrian Gaines, known professionally as Donna Summer, was an American singer and songwriter. She gained prominence during the disco era of the 1970s and became known as the "Queen of Disco", while her music gained a global following.
Pages was an American pop rock band active during the late 1970s and the early 1980s. The band consisted of Richard Page and Steve George on vocals and keyboards supported by various studio musicians, some of whom from time to time were considered part of the band.