Insights – Don Perry (Music Supervisor)

Don Perry, the Music Supervisor on Night of the Comet, shared some insights into the Soundtrack for the film on the Night of the Comet Group Page on Facebook. Don graciously posted the following:

Post by Don Perry (26 December 2017)

NOTC: Behind The Music
Tom Perry…Mixer

Normally, when you hire family, it’s called nepotism and the end result suffers. Not so when I hired my brother Tom to mix the songs for “Comet”. I was lucky to get him.

Tom has been involved in music since he and my brother Bill formed a band called “The Invadors” in Sacramento, CA when he was 12 years old. That band backed me on a record that I thought would lead to fame and fortune as a singer/songwriter…but that’s another story.

My first job until I found that fame and fortune was as a mixer at Hollywood Sound Recorders. When I left to go out on my own, I recommended Tom to take my place. I thought he would be a pretty good mixer based on his musical background. Boy, did I underestimate his talent!

Hollywood Sound first became known as a great place for publishers, singers and songwriters to cut “demos” of new songs to pitch to artists and Tom worked with some legendary writers like the Addrisi Brothers (“Never My Love), Kim Carnes (” Bette Davis Eyes”) and other singer/songwriters signed to producer, Jimmy Bowen (Don Henley, Glenn Frey, J.D. Souther etc.). Jimmy became one of the first to discover the sound and the brilliance of the two mixers: Tom and John Guess and the hits started flying out of the studio.

Tom’s first chart records were: “Late For The Sky” by Jackson Browne and “No Way To Treat A Lady” by Helen Reddy. From there it exploded. In 1976, Tom mixed the most successful album in Boz Scagg’s career, “Silk Degrees”. Four hit singles came out of the album which stayed on the charts for 115 weeks and was nominated for 4 Grammys. The single “Lowdown” won the Grammy for best R&B song. He has run out of walls for his gold and platinum albums and singles and has had #1 hits in pop, rock, r&b and country, with artists such as: The Jacksons, Earth,Wind & Fire, Diana Ross, Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson (Say, Say, Say), Deniece Williams, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Lacy J. Dalton, Conway Twitty, Glen Campbell and nearly 100 other hit artists over his years in the business.

All this is to say that my “little” brother was a very busy man. Since I had found my niche in producing music for film and TV, we didn’t have as many opportunities to work together as much as I would have wanted to. Not to mention that film music budgets usually didn’t allow for an engineer who made as much as the guys mixing records. Having said that, Tom was somehow always available for me when I had an important project and sometimes well below his hourly rate. In my career, I was fortunate enough to have five chart records…Tom mixed all five including: The single “Maybe” by Thom Pace, the theme from the TV series “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” and the album of the same name that sold nearly 3 million units worldwide, “Hello Woman” by Doug Kershaw that became the highest chart single in his solo career and two songs from the film, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”. He also mixed the scores for three films for me that have since become cult classics: “Girls”, Wizards” and “Night of the Comet”.

Tom was one of those incredibly talented people who worked on “Comet” at “favor” rates. As I have always said, we had a ridiculously low budget for music on “Comet”… but low budget definitely did not mean low quality. I’m proud of the songs, artists and sound of the songs. Tom was responsible for the sound…and it sounds great! Take a listen to his Grammy winning work on the Boz Scaggs classic “Lowdown”.

Post by Don Perry (20 December 2017)

NOTC: Behind The Music
Don Perry…Music Supervisor…Co-Producer

Night Of The Comet was one of the most challenging projects of my career and it became one of my all time favorites…not just because of the incredibly talented people I worked with and the songs I remain extremely proud of to this day…but because it was truly a catalyst that boosted my career immeasurably. It led to a two year hectic period where I produced over 60 songs and three soundtracks.

For those of you who are not familiar with my work outside of “Comet” here’s a short(?) bio…

Don Perry is a pioneer in the field of independent music supervision(see partial list of film credits at Don Perry…music dept.) For over 25 years Don Perry Music Company was one of the most successful music production and publishing companies in Los Angeles. Before starting the company, Don worked as a recording engineer, record producer and owner of an independent record company. He produced and developed new artists as well as music for commercials for major corporations such as: Toyota, Bob’s Big Boy, Marineland of the Pacific and Union Bay Clothing.

In the 70’s Don began to promote concerts with some of the nations’ best talent, including: Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Jackson Five, The Temptations, The O’Jays, Gladys Knight, Cheech and Chong, Rick Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed, Charlie Rich, Roberta Flack, Blood, Sweat and Tears and more…

Don was one of the first independent music supervisors for film but his concept of delivering a complete music package including: setting and guaranteeing budgets, hiring composer, musicians, studio, clearing all music, negotiating soundtrack agreements, and supervising from the initial spotting for music through the final dub was an entirely new concept. Don Perry Music became a complete “in house” music department for film makers for over 20 years. He has produced the music for nearly 100 films and countless hours of music for TV.
Notable TV series include “The life and Times of Grizzly Adams” (NBC), “Greatest Heroes of the Bible” (NBC), “Mark Twain’s America” (ABC), “Desperado” (Universal/NBC), “Miracles and Other Wonders” (CBS) and the classic anime series “Sailor Moon”. Movies include: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, “Cujo” and cult favorites such as “Wizards”, “Night of the Comet” and “One Dark Night”. Don has worked with major studios: Warners, Universal, Fox, and Disney as well as independents such as: Sunn Classic, Taft, New World, EMI, Carsey-Werner, Q.M, Ron Howard, Zephyr and more.

His production of the theme song for the series “The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams” sold nearly 3 million singles worldwide. Other credits include the soundtrack from “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” which included two chart singles. His production of “Hello Woman” by Doug Kershaw hit the country charts. He also produced approximately 20 albums for children’s artist, Hap Palmer, which won numerous awards from Parent’s Choice and The American Library Association. His “Babysong” LP and tapes sold in excess of 2 million copies.
Don is currently living in Carmel By The Sea and consults on select music projects. His book “Don Perry Produced The Music”, is now available through major book sellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or through publisher, Outskirts Press.

Post by Don Perry (15 December 2017)

NOTC: Behind The Music
Bob Summers…Arranger…Co-producer…Musician..

When I got the assignment to do “Comet”, my first call was to Bob Summers. Bob and I go back a long way:

On my first job as a mixer at Hollywood Sound Recorders, owner Jesse Hodges called me into his office. He played me a “demo” of a new song and explained to me what he wanted the final production to sound like. With that in my head, he sent me out to El Monte to meet with arranger Bob Summers. I soon found out that Bob did more than arrange. In his big industrial looking studio, The Sound House, Bob arranged, produced, played most of the instruments and even sang on the background vocals. The finished “track” that came back for Jesse to overdub his singer on was phenomenal.

Bob grew up in a musical family. His older sister, Iris Colleen Summers, was better known as Mary Ford. Along with guitar and recording legend, Les Paul, the duo became one of the hottest recording acts of the ’50s. Utilizing Paul’s revolutionary recording techniques, the duo sold 6 million records in 1951 alone. All told, they had 16 top ten hits by 1954 and an incredible 28 hits for Capitol records by 1957.

Young Bob learned well from Paul and by the age of 12 set up his own studio and started recording the way Les Paul did…sound on sound, adding bass, drums and piano for a fuller sound. At the age of 16, Bob arranged, produced and recorded his first hit. “Sandy” by Larry Hall, peaked at #15 on the Billboard “Hot 100” charts. It exploded in 1964 when Terry Stafford brought in an Elvis Presley song, “Suspicion” that he wanted to record. With Bob arranging, producing and playing all the instruments, the record skyrocketed up the charts…selling over two million singles and becoming the only record at the time in the top five that was not by “The Beatles”. When I met Bob, he had begun a long and successful relationship with industry legend, Mike Curb. Together they had produced hits for The Osmonds, The Beach Boys, and Hank Williams Jr. among others.

When I went out on my own as a record producer, Bob was always my “go to” guy. A few years later an artist I had recorded seven years earlier, Christopher Cain, called and asked me if I could produce the music for a film he was producing. I immediately said yes. I called Bob and asked him if he wanted to score the film. He said yes and we were off and running. That call, for a ridiculously low budget film, helped me establish my career.

We ended up doing four films for Chris and my concept of becoming an “in-house” music department for independents quickly led to more projects. One of those low budget projects for Sunn Classic Pictures led to the TV series, “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” and a nearly 20-year relationship with that company. To deliver on time and on budget, I needed a reliable “family” of composers, arrangers and musicians that I could always count on to be there for me under pressure. Bob was all of those rolled into one.

From those early days, Bob was with me every step of the way. Together we did (as well as I can recall) 33 Features, 7 TV Series (nearly 200 hours) and over 20 Movies of the Week for TV. In between we worked on 27 albums, countless singles and together had 5 chart records. Needless to say, we developed a producer/artist relationship that clicked from the beginning. We worked together nearly every day, became partners in a recording studio, friends and ultimately family.

We learned over the years that we could trust one another and always had each others’ back. We never had a written contract between us for any project together. I would call Bob, tell him we had a job, and he would show up…big budget or small. He just came to create and he created some of the best music I’ve ever heard in my life.

Bob’s signature is all over the music in “Night of the Comet” and I couldn’t imagine doing it without him.

Chat With Don Perry On Night Of The Comet Facebook Group Page (May 2014)

I was hired by Crawford and Lane to produce the music for the film. When I saw the initial screening they had temporarily scored it with hit songs and wanted to include as many of them as I could license. They had success with this format with their previous picture, Valley Girl. That picture was made for $350,000 and ultimately the music rights cost them another $250,000. To include the songs they wanted in Comet would have cost close to a million dollars.

We quickly went to “plan B” and had to record 19 original songs and the cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Tami. I had a lot of help from friends, and Bob Summers and I produced the equivalent of two albums in very short time.

Having said that, I’m very proud of the quality of the artists and songs and remain disappointed that we couldn’t make a deal with a major record company… the film didn’t initially stay in the theaters long enough to shop a deal. Macola Records released it but there were a few songs we couldn’t include that I would have liked due to contractual problems and the record companies choices. I still think Learn to Love Again could have been a hit with a major release.

While Don didn’t keep a note of the songs that were originally planned for the film, he does recall that,

…each one was a monster hit and of course, the producers had fallen in love with every one of them.

The first and last one I tried to license for them was The Police, Every Breath You Take. This was the song they wanted in the worst way. It was the best selling single of 1983 and the album Synchronicity sold over 8 million copies in the US alone. When the price started at $50,000, I knew we were in trouble. When licensing songs it’s possible to get a favor rate but companies were always smart enough to include a “favored nation” clause, which meant if you paid more to another company for a song they would get the same. As you can see if we paid that much for one song, they would all want that. You can see why we went with original songs. Personally, I relished the creative challenge. It’s more fun to make records than just license them.

I went right from Comet to Girls Just Want To Have Fun (1985) where we did about 15 songs for that picture.