The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

25 April 2004

There doesn't seem to be anyone around

Ritchie Cordell, pop producer and songwriter extraordinaire, died 13 April, a victim of cancer of the pancreas.

Cordell, born Richard Joel Rosenblatt in New York City in 1943, paid dues with the Kasenetz/Katz machine — he produced a couple of 1910 Fruitgum Co. singles, and cowrote their wonderfully-insensitive "Indian Giver" — and hit his stride working with Tommy James and the Shondells, for whom he cowrote and produced "I Think We're Along Now" and "Mirage" (the latter being "I Think We're Alone Now" played backwards!), following up with "Mony Mony". His influence extended into the 80s: he produced the first solo sessions by ex-Runaways guitarist Joan Jett, which yielded up the monster hit "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" and a cover of James' "Crimson and Clover". In 1987, two Cordell songs traded places at the top of the charts: Tiffany's remake of "I Think We're Alone Now", and a live Billy Idol version of "Mony Mony". In 2003, he was one of the first recipients of the Bubblegum Achievement Awards.

A superstar Ritchie Cordell wasn't, really, but you almost certainly know some of his work, and in pop music, it's hard to find higher accolades than that.

(Via Joan Jett)

Posted at 1:04 PM to Tongue and Groove

I met Richie Cordell at his apartment in 1996. I can't remember why I came over--I think I just knew someone who knew him and asked if I could meet him.

He was gracious and answered my questions about Graham Gouldman and other past collaborators. I do remember having the feeling that I shouldn't grill him too much--like pretty much every Buddah guy I've met except maybe Joey Levine, he seemed to look at his bubblegum years as more business than pleasure. It seemed that it would be futile to try to convince him that there was a real art to what he did--he was more proud of the fact that he sold millions of records. Which is completely understandable from a songwriter's point of view, though frustrating to a superfan.

He was interested in hearing new artists, so I played him what was then my favorite new song, "Everyday After" by a local (Hoboken) band called the Playtrains. He liked (didn't love) it, but I was unable to get the band, a bunch of GenX hipsters, to follow up with him.

Cordell was very proud of his low-numbered copy of the Beatles' White Album, which I think was number 18 or something like that. He had gotten it from someone who worked at the pressing plant. It was very beat up, but the number was still readable.

He kindly autographed the one record of his that I'd brought: a European pressing of "Susan's Tuba," a single he'd written with Graham Gouldman in 1968 which was released by Freddie & The Dreamers. (In France and elsewhere in Europe, Gouldman's own demo of the song was released by mistake, under the Dreamers' name.)

I'm sorry he's gone, but I'm glad he got some extra recognition from pop fans (in the form of the Bubblegum Awards) before he died.

Posted by: Dawn Eden at 9:51 PM on 25 April 2004