To kick off a series of articles on songwriters, you might expect to see a name like Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney, and I will probably get around to them eventually. But this series is dedicated just as much to the lesser known writers whose little gems are in our memories and our music collections even though we may think of the songs as belonging to the people who sang them.
So how about this guy: Sandy Linzer.
Well, there was a song by a vocal group called Odyssey in 1977 called Native New Yorker, a very singable dance tune back in those disco days, and the songwriting credit was Linzer/Randell. Sandy Linzer was primarily a lyricist, and as such he must take most of the credit for a song that has a bittersweet message hidden within.
This was originally recorded – with a very similar arrangement – by Frankie Valli, but while from a man it is a song of compassion and pity, the subject matter makes it far more effective for a woman, singing about herself and other girls of her age, living in her part of the world. “No one opens the door for a native New Yorker,” she sighs, having introduced herself as “young and pretty New York City girl, 25, 35”.
It’s a brutally frank, quite heartbreaking little tale of a hard-hearted place and accepting your lot in life even when you’re taken for granted and underestimated because you’re standard-issue local rather than some exotic species.
Whether it’s true or not I can’t say, because the only time I visited NYC I went straight to Times Square, bought an acoustic guitar and left again, not pausing to allow any passing girls to pour out their heart to me.
But the function of the pop song is to whisper in our ear, whether in passing, on the radio, or late at night after a few drinks, and this one is a small precious stone in a many jeweled crown.
Sandy Linzer also co-produced the record – he produced a lot of Odyssey’s music, in fact – and the partner attached to his name on the label is Denny Randell, who also teamed up with him on another Odyssey hit, Use It Up And Wear It Out, which made liberal use of that odd musical instrument, the referee’s whistle.
The Frankie Valli connection
Unbeknown to me, Linzer had made his mark a good 10 years earlier with material for the Four Seasons (Let’s Hang On, Working My Way Back To You) and, along with Randell, a minor masterpiece by The Toys, A Lover’s Concerto, based on the melody from a classical piece, Minuet in G Major, which used to be thought of as Johan Sebastian Bach’s work but some now believe to be by the much less famous Christian Petzold.
Too much information? Sorry. Just spend a few minutes alone with some of Linzer’s stuff and if you’re ever challenged by a tall, thin humanoid with a head like an ostrich egg, as to the merits of “tis popp music you laik so march”, play him Native New Yorker.