09 March 2008

Not even in Oz: Trini Lopez - Up To Now (1967)

Trini Lopez - Up To Now
(Bobby Susser - Marty Cooper - Terry Sue Pinter)
Single on Reprise #0574

I could take or leave most of Trini Lopez's hits. They were mainly pepped up versions of familiar songs, often showcased with nightclub audience noise: If I Had A Hammer, America, Lemon Tree, I'm Comin' Home Cindy... Okay, I could take the songs, but I could leave the party-time sound effects.

Then came Up To Now. This was a straight-ahead pop production with no hand clapping shenanigans. Up To Now didn't need any vicarious excitement: it screamed out excitement right from the opening bars, through a rhythmic drum, trumpet and strings arrangement. [Listen]

It's the type of song you can imagine the Northern Soul fans taking up. But (oddly, I've always thought) nobody much took it up at all. It's one of those first-rate songs that, in spite of everything, has ended up as an obscurity.

Up To Now had the same arranger and producer as the hits, Don Costa (1925-1983). Costa started out as a guitarist and continued to record in his own name (Never On Sunday, 1960, #19 USA), but he was renowned mainly as an arranger, producer and conductor, notably for Paul Anka, Sammy Davis Jr, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Frank Sinatra and, yes, Trini Lopez.

Space Age Pop sums up Costa this way: He liked very dense arrangements - Billy Byers [pianist] called him "the Puccini of pop," saying that his arrangements were "seething with melody." That sounds to me like the Don Costa of Up To Now.

As to the writers, Marty Cooper was Tico of high school vocal group Tico & The Triumphs (see their history at DestinationDoowop.com). They put out some singles 1961-62 that were produced by the yet-to-be-famous Paul Simon with his friend Bobby Susser.

After Paul Simon moved on to other projects, Marty Cooper and Bobby Susser teamed up to write and produce: one of their compositions, Kiss Me Now, was released on Phil Spector's Phi-Dan label by Florence De Vore (1965) and was on Diana Ross's self-titled album in 1976 . In 1972 Bobby Susser and Lou Stallman's group Think had a #23 USA hit with their controversial anti-drug composition, Once You Understand.

This is the same Bobby Susser who is nowadays a successful writer and performer of children's songs: he has a website at BobbySusser.com, but his Wikipedia entry gives more information and a good overview of his varied career.
⭐Update on co-writer Terry Sue Pinter: she was married to Marty Cooper. See my follow-up post.

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