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 (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.