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Movie Review: Robert Altman's 'The Company'

Film critic David Edelstein reviews Robert Altman's new film The Company.

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Other segments from the episode on January 23, 2004

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 23, 2004: Interview with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil; Review of the film "The Company."

Transcript

DATE January 23, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil discuss their
careers as a songwriting team and a married couple for 40 years
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Our guests, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, have been a songwriting team, as well
as husband and wife, for about four decades. Their hits include "On
Broadway," "Uptown," "Only In America," "Kicks," "We've Got To Get Out of This
Place" and this song.

(Soundbite of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling")

Unidentified Singer #1: You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your
lips. There's no tenderness like before in your fingertips. You're trying
hard not to show it, but, baby, baby, I know it. You've lost that loving
feeling, whoa, that loving feeling...

BIANCULLI: Terry Gross spoke with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in 2000. Now
the music and career of this songwriting team is being presented in "They
Wrote That?" an off-Broadway review starring the composers themselves. It's
now in previews and opens next month.

When Mann and Weil teamed up in the early '60s, they were both staff writers
for a music publishing company owned by Don Kirshner. They worked in
Manhattan, in an officer near the Brill Building when the area was the new Tin
Pan Alley. That's where they and songwriters like Carole King, Gerry Goffin,
Ellie Greenwich and Neil Sedaka churned out material for the latest singers
and pop groups. Unlike many songwriters of the '60s, Mann and Weil survived
the British invasion. At the end of 1999, Mann and Weil's song "You've Lost
That Loving Feeing" was the most performed song of the century in the BMI
Music Publishing catalog.

(Soundbite of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling")

Unidentified Singer #1: Baby, baby, I'll get down on my knees for you if you
would only love me like you used to do. Yeah. We had a love, a love, a love
you don't find every day. So don't, don't, don't, don't let them fade. Baby,
baby, baby, baby, I beg you please, please, please, please. I need your love.
I need your love. I need your love. I need your love. So bring it on
back. So bring it on back...

TERRY GROSS, host:

Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. BARRY MANN (Songwriter): Well, thank you.

Ms. CYNTHIA WEIL (Songwriter): Thank you.

GROSS: Barry Mann, let me ask you first, what's happening in the melody of
that song? Is there anything that you worked on that is particularly
interesting to describe?

Mr. MANN: Well, I don't know if it would be interesting now, but when we
wrote the song, it was very different for its time. That middle part of the
song, you know, the kind of soulful part, had never been done before. And
also at the time, the record ran long, which nowadays, it's really short. It
ran over three minutes. And so Phil Spector, who produced the record, even
though--I think he put 2:58 on it, even though I think it ran around 3:10 or
so. So that's about the only difference I can talk about now.

GROSS: Oh, so he lied about the length so DJs would play it.

Mr. MANN: Yes. Yes.

GROSS: When you say that part of the melody hadn't ever been done before,
which part are you referring to? Maybe you could hum it for us.

Mr. MANN: You know, where they go, boom, mm, dum, `Baby, baby, I get down on
my knees for you.' For that period, I think it was kind of very different to
come out with something like that in a ballad.

GROSS: Cynthia Weil, what was the part of the lyric that came to you first
that you built everything else around?

Ms. WEIL: You know, Barry started playing that opening melody, and I'm not
sure which one of us--as a matter of fact, I think it was Barry who came up
with the opening line, `You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your
lips.' And it just seemed to flow. And when we hit the chorus, one of us--I
think it was me--sang out, `You've lost that loving feeling,' and we weren't
even thinking of using it as the real title. I mean, in those days, we used
to write a song and kind of just fill it up with any words just so we'd
remember it. And we used to call that a dummy title or a dummy lyric, and
that was our dummy lyric. And then we wrote a verse and a chorus, and we
called Phil, and we played it for him, and he said, `That's not the dummy
lyric. That's the lyric.'

Mr. MANN: Yeah, that's the title, definitely.

Ms. WEIL: Yeah.

GROSS: Now Phil Spector has a co-writing credit on "You've Lost That Loving
Feeling." What did he add?

Mr. MANN: Well, it was his suggestion to come up with that middle part,
which was just a terrific suggestion. And, you know, after we did play the
verses and the choruses, he then joined in and continued to...

Ms. WEIL: We wrote the rest of the song together.

Mr. MANN: ...the rest of the song together. And also, he produced an
incredible record. I mean, it was...

Ms. WEIL: Yeah. Absolutely.

Mr. MANN: ...for its time. Yeah.

GROSS: So were you writing the song on assignment? Were you writing it for
The Righteous Brothers?

Mr. MANN: Yes.

Ms. WEIL: Yeah. We were living in New York at the time, and we had worked a
little bit with Phil, and he wanted us to come out and work with him in LA,
and he played us a record of these two singers out of Orange County, and they
had two local hits. One was called "My Babe" and the other was "Little Latin
Lupe Lu." And he said, `You know, let's think of a way to go with them that's
interesting. I want to record them for my label.' And we were very inspired
by The Four Tops, and "Baby I Need Your Loving" was our favorite song of the
time because it had this really raw passion that we wanted to capture for The
Righteous Brothers. And when we wrote the song, they weren't that crazy about
it.

GROSS: Really?

Mr. MANN: Well, when I sang it--I loved The Everly Brothers at the time and
I sounded like The Everly Brothers. So when I sang it to Bill and Bobby, they
said, `You know, this isn't really very good for The Everly Brothers.' And
another thing that happened is that at the time, you know, the records that
they had been putting out, they both sang together, and this one--Bill Medley
had the lead. So Bobby said, `Well, what am I going to do while he sings?'
And I think Phil Spector said, `Well, you'll be walking to the bank.' So
that...

Ms. WEIL: Phil was quite confident in his abilities.

GROSS: Give us a sense of the process. When you became a songwriting team,
were you assigned which singers you would be writing for back when you were
working for Don Kirshner?

Mr. MANN: It went both ways. We could just sit and write a song or there
were assignments. The Drifters would be up, say, as a group, and everybody at
Alden Music would want to write for The Drifters. But at the same time, there
were songs we just sat down to write. When Cynthia and I wrote the
original--there was an original version of "On Broadway," and I always had the
concept to try to write a Gershwinesque kind of contemporary song, and that's
basically how "On Broadway" was written or the reason for it. Again, there
was no specific artist in mind. So it happened all different ways.

GROSS: OK. Let's stick with "On Broadway" for a minute.

Mr. MANN: Sure.

GROSS: This was a big hit for The Drifters. You had nobody particular in
mind when you wrote it. Did The Drifters have the first recording of it?

Mr. MANN: Yes. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. They didn't.

Ms. WEIL: They had the first recording that was released.

Mr. MANN: Released, yeah.

Ms. WEIL: But actually, Carole and Gerry were recording a group, right?

GROSS: This is Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

Ms. WEIL: Yeah.

Mr. MANN: Yeah, but also, Phil Spector cut our original version of "On
Broadway" with, I think, The Crystals.

Ms. WEIL: Yeah.

Mr. MANN: He never completed it. As a matter of fact, I have it at home. I
should have brought it here. It would have been very interesting to hear
(unintelligible).

GROSS: Now how did that version compare to the one The Drifters did?

Mr. MANN: Melodically, it was very, very close. The opening line, in fact,
instead of, `They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway,' ours is, `They
say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.' Bright--it's very Gershwiny, you
know, kind of more of a bluesy note. And so it was changed. If I remember,
Mike Stoller suggested that we change it. And also, we didn't modulate three
times, and that was a very good suggestion. And then lyrically, there was a
different lyrical perspective. You can talk about it, Cynthia, if you want.

Ms. WEIL: Well, I think we had written it for a girl group, so it was about
a girl coming to New York and dreaming of Broadway and stardom. And it was
much more kind of escape from a small town and, `I'm going to make it.' And
when we met with Jerry and Mike and played this for them, they said, `You
know, we're doing The Drifters so it would need a whole other perspective, and
you can go home and do it yourself or you can write it with us.' And these
guys were our idols, and we thought they were great and it would be a
fantastic opportunity to work with them, so we ended up reworking the song
together.

Mr. MANN: Which was...

Ms. WEIL: And it was really--it was like going to songwriting school,
working with Jerry Leiber for me as a lyricist.

Mr. MANN: 'Cause they have two very different approaches lyrically. Cynthia
is much more organized. She would want to write the first verse, make sure
it's completed, then go to the chorus and...

Ms. WEIL: Yeah, I'd stay on that second line. If I couldn't get it, I'd be
there for months, you know. I wouldn't move.

Mr. MANN: And she...

Ms. WEIL: And Jerry just kind of jumped around and showed me that you can,
you know, go different places and move things around. You don't have to be so
rigid.

Mr. MANN: It was a very exciting experience.

GROSS: Why don't we hear The Drifters' recording of "On Broadway," the song
written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Ms. WEIL and Mr. MANN: (In unison) And Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Ms. WEIL: Right.

(Soundbite of music)

THE DRIFTERS: (Singing) They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. On
Broadway. They say there's always magic in the air. On Broadway. But when
you're walking down that street and you ain't had enough to eat, the glitter
rubs right off and you're nowhere. On Broadway. They say the girls are
something else on Broadway. On Broadway. But looking at them just gives me
the blues. On Broadway. Because how you going to make some time when all you
got is one thin dime? And one thin dime won't even shine your shoes. On
Broadway. Ha! They say that I won't last too long on Broadway. On Broadway.

GROSS: Now, Barry Mann, before we heard this, you mentioned that I think it
was Leiber and Stoller suggested adding the modulations. We just heard one of
those key changes. What does that kind of key change do to the emotional
quality of a song?

Mr. MANN: Well, especially in that song, it really works, because that song
is basically one melody. It's a verse that's repeated three times. So it
would really get very boring to just do the same melody three times in the
same key. So that really uplifted the song.

GROSS: My guests are songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. We'll talk
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guests are Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. They've been married and a
songwriting team since the early '60s.

One of the types of groups that you worked for was the girl groups. You wrote
a few girl group hits, including a couple for The Crystals, "Uptown" and "He's
Sure The Boy I Love." Were there any considerations lyrically writing for the
girl groups? Was it a certain type of lyric, a certain type of song?

Ms. WEIL: You know, there were. Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich really were
the quintessenal girl group writers. They were really into lots of sounds,
and I was never really good at that. I somehow felt that my girls group
lyrics, except for "Walking in the Rain,"(ph) which was really adolescence,
were kind of--I was trying to be adolescent and I didn't know how very well,
and they were just a little sharper. I mean, "Uptown" certainly is not a
girls group song.

Mr. MANN: We just wrote a song.

Ms. WEIL: It's sung by a girls group, but that's the only thing. It was one
of the first sociological songs, and I just don't think that I was really a
good girls group songwriter.

Mr. MANN: I mean, if I could just kind of interject, when I first started
writing with Cynthia, first, she showed me some of her lyrics, and I really
liked them a lot, and what I saw in them was this--they had a show quality to
them. There was a sophistication. And I really thought that that
sophistication, combined with rock 'n' roll, would be very fresh. And I think
Cynthia always has kept that kind of sophistication, unless you really had to
go sideways, which was like "Walking in the Rain." And it was a great
combination.

GROSS: Well, "Uptown" kind of tells a story. What's the story it tells?

Ms. WEIL: Well, it really tells the story of a man who, because of his race,
is regarded one way in the workplace and then another way with his friends and
family and the woman who loves him. That song had a story to it also in that
when we had written it and Phil had recorded it, I think there were a couple
of notes that Phil had changed because the singer couldn't hit them. And we
went nuts. You know, we were so young and insane that those things really
mattered, and one note could drive both of us over the edge. And we begged
him to come in and record it again with another singer that we had found who
happened to be Carole King and Gerry Goffin's baby-sitter named Eva.

GROSS: Oh, Little Eva...

Ms. WEIL: And Little...

Mr. MANN: That's right.

GROSS: ...who did "The Loco-Motion."

Ms. WEIL: Exactly.

Mr. MANN: That's right.

Ms. WEIL: So before Little Eva did "The Loco-Motion," we dragged her into a
studio with Phil, and it was the first time she had ever been on mike, and
Phil was driving her crazy, and she didn't realize that when she was on the
mike, even if we weren't recording, you could hear what she was saying in the
control booth. And so she was ranting about hating Phil during the whole
thing. And he was enjoying it so much, and when she finished, we realized
that Phil had made the better record anyway and he really just was humoring us
to do this. It was very sweet of him to do it.

Mr. MANN: Humoring us and torturing her.

Ms. WEIL: Yes. Exactly. But then Eva, of course, went on to become Little
Eva.

GROSS: Well, let's hear The Crystals' hit version of "Uptown."

(Soundbite of music)

THE CRYSTALS: (Singing) He gets up each morning and he goes downtown, where
everyone's his boy and he's lost in an angry land. He's a little man. But
then he comes uptown each evening to my tenement, uptown where folks don't
have to pay much rent. And when he's there with me, he can see that he's
everything. Then he's tall, he don't crawl. He's a king. Downtown, he's
just one of a million guys. He don't get no breaks and he takes all they got
to give, 'cause he's got to live. But then he comes uptown where he can hold
his head up high; uptown, he knows that I'll be standing by; and when I take
his hand, there's no man who could put him down. The world is sweet, it's at
his feet when he's uptown. Whoa.

GROSS: "Uptown" written by my guests Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Was it
Phil Spector who came up with that real Latin-sounding instrumentation, the
castanets and...

Mr. MANN: Yes.

Ms. WEIL: Yes. Uh-huh. That was Phil.

GROSS: Did you have that in mind at all? Were you surprised when you heard
it?

Mr. MANN: No. We had nothing in mind, really, it just...

Ms. WEIL: You know, this is one of the few songs that we did not have the
demo on--a demonstration record in which you kind of lay out the song for the
producer with musical instruments and everything. We had played the song for
a man named Artie Ripp(ph) who was working at Alden Music as kind of a
song-plugger, and he loved it so much that he learned how to play it on the
piano himself, and he played and sang it for Phil Spector, who then just took
it and recorded it. The next thing we knew, we had a record.

Mr. MANN: Yeah. I think I did a piano-voice demo for him just to have
something to guide him.

Ms. WEIL: But there was no real concept given to Phil. This was all Phil.

GROSS: Now let me ask you about another song that you wrote, "Only In
America," and Jay & The Americans had the hit of this. I understand the
original version was actually written for The Drifters.

Mr. MANN: It was, and it was recorded by The Drifters. But then when they
brought these around to disc jockeys--the black disc jockeys, they wouldn't
play it because they felt that the lyric was a lie. You know, very
interesting, this little quick concept that we almost did, it wasn't really
serious, but we almost wrote it the opposite way, and I would have loved to
have done it, and that ...(unintelligible) was like, instead of, `Only in
America, where they preach the Golden Rule, do they start to march where my
kids try to go to school. Only in America, land of opportunity, do they save
a seat in the back of the bus just for me,' which I thought was really--it was
sort of harsh, but...

Ms. WEIL: That was the way we wanted to go, but this...

GROSS: So you wanted to go like a civil rights protest song.

Ms. WEIL: Exactly. Exactly.

Mr. MANN: Absolutely.

Ms. WEIL: And Jerry Leiber, who is the voice of reason, said...

Mr. MANN: Yes.

Ms. WEIL: ...`You'll never get this played. Don't waste your time. We have
to think positively and we have to write it from another viewpoint.'

Mr. MANN: Yeah. So basically, we wrote it from a really white viewpoint,
which was, you know, valid for, you know, someone who was white. And they
ended ...(unintelligible) by like taking that Drifters track and putting Jay &
The Americans off the track.

GROSS: So the lyric you ended up with is very kind of positive...

Mr. MANN: Yes.

GROSS: ...`Only in America, land of opportunity, can a rich girl like you
fall for a poor boy like me.'

Mr. MANN: Yeah. Yes. Yes.

GROSS: So you say that the Jay & The Americans' version had The Drifters
track...

Mr. MANN: Track.

Ms. WEIL: Well, Leiber and Stoller produced both...

Mr. MANN: Both of them.

Ms. WEIL: ...The Drifters and Jay & The Americans, so after they took The
Drifters' voices off, they put Jay & The Americans on.

GROSS: I see. How did The Drifters feel when the song was taken away from
them because it was felt that a black group really couldn't sing a song about
how great America was and be believable?

Mr. MANN: I don't...

Ms. WEIL: I don't know. We never...

Mr. MANN: No.

Ms. WEIL: ...discussed it with them, but I'm sure that they felt a sense of
hypocrisy singing the song at the time.

BIANCULLI: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil speaking with Terry Gross in 2000.
We'll continue the interview in the second half of the show. Here's the Jay &
The Americans version of "Only in America." I'm David Bianculli and this is
FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

JAY & THE AMERICANS: (Singing) Only in America can a guy from anywhere go to
sleep a pauper and wake up a millionaire. Only in America can a kid without a
cent get a break and maybe grow up to be president. Only in America, land of
opportunity, yeah, would a classy girl like you fall for a poor boy like me.
Only in America can a kid who's washing cars take a giant step and reach right
up and touch the stars. Only in America could a dream like this come true,
could a guy like me start with nothing and end up with you...

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli back with the songwriting
team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. They've been married and writing songs
together since the early '60s. They're now appearing as a team onstage,
performing their own compositions in an off-Broadway revue called "They Wrote
That?" It's in previews and opens next month. Their hits include "You've
Lost that Lovin' Feeling," "On Broadway," "Uptown," "Only In America,"
"Kicks," and "We Gotta Get Out of This Place."

GROSS: As songwriters in the 1960s, you first wrote for, you know, the vocal
groups of the day, like The Drifters, the girl groups, like The Crystals, you
know, heartthrobs, teen idols. And then like The Beatles came along and the
whole British invasion and started--bands started writing their own songs.

Mr. MANN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And certainly like after Dylan, singer/songwriters became really
popular. You were expected to write your own material for the most part,...

Mr. MANN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...yet you managed to have a British invasion hit...

Mr. MANN: Yeah.

GROSS: ...with The Animals, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," which was a
very big hit. How did you end up writing for them?

Mr. MANN: Again, we didn't write for them. We wrote that song specifically
for The Righteous Brothers, and we cut a demo that was tailored for The
Righteous Brothers.

GROSS: Oh.

Mr. MANN: And at that time, we were being represented by Allen Klein, who
represented a producer named Mickey Most. Mickey Most produced The Animals.
And we forgot--I even forgot that we gave Allen the song for Mickey Most. And
I had this demo that I sang on, and it was such a good demo that I was also on
Leiber and Stoller's record label, Red Bird; that the demo was so great that
we were about to put it out as a single for myself. And just that week, we
were supposed to put it out, Don Kirshner called us up and told us that The
Animals had released it and it was number two in England at the time.

GROSS: So you didn't even know.

Mr. MANN: No. Didn't even know.

GROSS: So that killed your record, huh?

Mr. MANN: Absolutely killed my record.

Ms. WEIL: Absolutely.

Mr. MANN: Yeah.

GROSS: Now were you disappointed that your record wasn't going to be released
or really glad because another group had a really big hit with it?

Ms. WEIL: We were crushed.

Mr. MANN: Yeah, especially Cynthia.

Ms. WEIL: I was really upset. The Animals had left out parts of the lyric,
and, you know, they had made a great record for The Animals and done what they
should have done for themselves, but they had, you know, changed lyric, and I
felt, you know, had compromised the song in certain ways.

GROSS: Well, what didn't they do that you had written? How did they change
the...

Ms. WEIL: Well, if you listen to Barry's version on "Soul and Inspiration,"
his album, you will hear the way it was written and you can hear the
difference.

Mr. MANN: In the lyric.

Ms. WEIL: Yeah. I mean, just play one after the other, and it's pretty
striking.

GROSS: Well, why don't we do that? Why don't we hear The Animals' version
followed by the Barry Mann version from the new CD "Soul and Inspiration" and
compare the two?

(Soundbite of The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place")

Mr. ERIC BURDON: In this dirty old part of the city, where the sun refused
to shine, people tell me there ain't no use in tryin'. Now, my girl, you're
so young and pretty. And one thing I know is true, you'll be dead before your
time is due, I know. Watch my daddy in bed a-dyin'. Watched his hair been
turnin' grey. He's been workin' and slavin' his life away. Oh, yes, I know.

THE ANIMALS: Yeah!

Mr. BURDON: He's been workin' so hard.

THE ANIMALS: Yeah!

Mr. BURDON: I've been workin' too, baby, every night and day.

THE ANIMALS: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! We gotta get out of this place, if
it's the last thing we ever do. We gotta get out of this place.

Mr. BURDON: 'Cause, girl, there's a better life for me and you.

(Soundbite of Barry Mann's "We Gotta Get of This Place")

Mr. MANN: In this dirty part of the city, where the sun forgets to shine,
people say they're just ain't no use in trying. They're ain't no use in
trying. Whoa, girl, now you're young and, oh, so pretty. Staying here would
be a crime 'cause you just grow old before your time. Yes, you will. Girl, I
know that you will. Oh...

Mr. MANN and Unidentified Singer #1: I know it. Yeah! Yeah, I know it.
Yeah! I say, yeah.

Unidentified Singer #1: Yeah.

Mr. MANN: Yeah.

Unidentified Singer #1: Yeah.

Mr. MANN: Yeah.

Unidentified Singer #1: Yeah.

Mr. MANN: Yeah.

Mr. MANN and Unidentified Singer #1: I can't take it no more. What are we
waiting for? We've gotta get of this place, if it's the last thing we ever
do. We gotta get out of this place...

Mr. MANN: ...'cause, girl, there's a better life for me and you.

GROSS: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, now that it's been years since The Animals'
hit, and now, Barry Mann, you have this new version on your CD, "Soul and
Inspiration," which one do you prefer now? Still like the original better?

Mr. MANN: You know, it's like apples and oranges really. I like my version
only because it kind of projects the way I had originally written it. And The
Animals' version really has its, you know, charm. I want to say charm...

Ms. WEIL: I cast my vote for the Barry Mann version.

Mr. MANN: Thank you, honey. That's very nice of you. I mean, The
Animals--in truth, The Animals, look, they were like from a coal mining town,
you know...

Ms. WEIL: Yeah.

Mr. MANN: ...so that it really kind of has that kind of quality to it; a
very raw, coal mining rawness to it, that mine doesn't have, you know, but...

Ms. WEIL: Well, yours has raw Brooklyn.

Mr. MANN: Right. That's right. And you know what I'm saying? Yeah.

Ms. WEIL: Your raw from Flatbush.

Mr. MANN: That's right.

GROSS: What are some of the surprising contexts that you have heard this song
performed in?

Mr. MANN: Hmm.

Ms. WEIL: Well, that fact that it became an anthem in Vietnam was...

Mr. MANN: Right.

Ms. WEIL: ...amazing to us, and very moving. And...

Mr. MANN: We're friendly with David Kennerly. Do you know who--the
photographer, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Vietnam photojournalism. And he
told us that it was sung by lots of the GIs over there.

GROSS: My guests are songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. We'll talk
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guests are Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

So after the British invasion and after, you know, Bob Dylan when
singer/songwriters and bands writing their own songs became really popular,
who did you write for that you weren't writing for before? I mean, what kind
of changes did you have to make in your lives as professional songwriters?

Mr. MANN: Yeah. I think the biggest change melodically that happened was
that songs became more guitar-oriented as opposed to keyboard-oriented.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. MANN: And I had to try to think a little bit more guitary, even though
it's very difficult to do. So we did--I would sometimes come up with bass
riffs, or a guitar riff on the piano to begin songs. And an example, a matter
of fact, is "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place"--it's a bass riff that really
starts the song off. And we're--the song "Kicks," that Paul Revere and The
Raiders sang--it's a guitar-oriented record. The same thing with "Hungry."
And "Kicks" also started off with a bass riff. So that was a very big change.

Ms. WEIL: But it seems to me that throughout our careers, to be completely
honest with you, every time something new happened, we were sure this was the
end. And, you know, I mean, the first end was when the British invasion
happened, and we were sure, `This is it. Our careers are over.' I remember
when disco came in, we thought it was all over. There just have been so many
times and so many fads that we thought our songs are not going to be happening
anymore. And yet, somehow we always seemed to either just keep doing what we
were doing and it came into style again, or else adapt just a little bit and
we were able to con--our careers were able to continue through the '70s and
'80s and '90s. It just--but it was not as easy as it looked because there
were plenty of times where we felt that it wasn't going to continue.

GROSS: Why don't we hear one of your hits from the '70s. And this is a Dolly
Parton recording of "Here You Come Again." Did you intend this to be a
country song?

Mr. MANN: No. No. We just wrote a song. A matter of fact, I think that
one, we had B.J. Thomas in mind, who did...

Ms. WEIL: Yeah, we did write it for B.J.

Mr. MANN: For B.J. Thomas, yeah.

GROSS: And how did Dolly Parton end up recording it?

Mr. MANN: I think one of the publishers--a publisher at the time brought it
to Dolly Parton, and she ended up recording it. In fact, I think she
recorded--I had recorded it myself. I was--I had a deal on Arista Records, as
you'll see throughout my career, I've had many record deals. I think...

Ms. WEIL: I think it--I think we once counted 13 labels and...

Mr. MANN: But anyway--and I cut--my version was really very good. It
was--it came out very, very similar to the Dolly Parton record. As a matter
of fact, Dean Parks, who was the guitar player on my record, ended up doing
the arrangement for Dolly. And so it's very, very similar.

GROSS: Well, let's hear her 1977 hit.

(Soundbite of Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again")

Ms. DOLLY PARTON: Here you come again, just when I've begun to get myself
together. You waltz right in the door, just like you've done before, and wrap
my heart 'round your little finger. Here you come again, just when I'm about
to make it work without you. You look into my eyes and lie those pretty lies,
and pretty soon I'm wondering how I came to doubt you. All you've got to do
is smile that smile and there go all my defenses. Just leave it up to you,
and in a little while, you're messing up my mind and filling up my senses.
Here you come again, looking better than a body has a right to and shaking me
up so that all I really know is here you come again, and here I go.

GROSS: That's Dolly Parton singing a song written by my guests Barry Mann and
Cynthia Weil.

Now, Barry Mann, you've tried to make it as a singer, but so far you've been a
huge success as a songwriter, not so huge as a singer.

Ms. WEIL: Exactly.

Mr. MANN: Right.

GROSS: However, very, very early in your career, you did have a big hit...

Mr. MANN: Yes.

GROSS: ..."Who Put The Bomp."

Mr. MANN: That's right.

GROSS: "Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp Shoo Bomp Shoo Bomp)" and that was
co-written with Gerry Goffin.

Mr. MANN: That's right.

GROSS: I guess that was before you and Cynthia Weil hooked up.

Mr. MANN: We were writing at the same time.

Ms. WEIL: Well--yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah. OK.

Mr. MANN: Yeah. At the time. Yeah. Yeah.

GROSS: OK.

Mr. MANN: But I think that song kind of kicked off the whole
sociological--the whole thing.

GROSS: It was...

Mr. MANN: Dylan really got it--was inspired by "Who Put The Bomp." You know
that, I'm sure.

GROSS: Yeah. Well, this is the kind of song that adults would make fun of,
like, `What do these lyrics mean? They don't mean anything. It's just
nonsense rhymes, this rock 'n' roll.'

Mr. MANN: See, that's some--where the adults didn't get it. I was making
fun of it. That song was a spoof on those songs.

GROSS: On songs like "Rama Lama Ding Dong."

Mr. MANN: That's right.

Ms. WEIL: Yeah. It was a satire.

Mr. MANN: Right.

Ms. WEIL: And I think, you know, the kids who bought the record took it
seriously, and the adults just thought it was dumb.

Mr. MANN: Yeah. And it became a hit.

GROSS: And did you think, `Well, now, I'm really going to make it as a
singer?'

Mr. MANN: I would have liked to--you know, it's a very hard song to follow
up on. As a matter of fact, I did follow up with a song called "Teenage Has
Been." And it was, like, again, a spoof on--I think, one of the--at the end
of the record it said, `Who'--I think, five people bought my record, my
mother, my father and my sister and my brother. I mean, it was kind of a
put-on, but, you know, it was the kind of record that--they asked me to cut an
album afterwards on--after I did "Who Put The Bomp," which I didn't want to do
because I knew I could ne--it would never sell and it would only go against
the royalties that were owed to me, and I ended up cutting an album anyway
and, of course, it didn't sell.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear the song that did sell? This is Barry Mann
singing the song he co-wrote with Gerry Goffin, "Who Put The Bomp."

(Soundbite of "Who Put the Bomp")

Mr. MANN: I'd like to thank the guy who wrote the song that made my baby fall
in love with me. Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp? Who put the
ram in the rama lama ding dong? Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
Who put the dip in the dip da dip da dip? Who was that man? I'd like to
shake his hand. He made my baby fall in love with me.

Unidentified Singer #2: Yeah!

Mr. MANN: When my baby heard `Bomp bah bah bomp bah bomp bah bomp bomp,'
every word went right into her heart. And when she heard them singin', `Rama
lama lama lama rama ding dong,' she said we'd never have to part. So who put
the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?

GROSS: That was Barry Mann. And my guests are Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Well, you know, what I found interesting, like, three of the most important
women songwriters of the early rock 'n' roll era, you, Ellie Greenwich, and
Carole King, were all married to their songwriting partners. Do you feel
like...

Ms. WEIL: And we are the only ones who are still married.

GROSS: Yeah. You're the only of those three still married.

Mr. MANN: That's right.

Ms. WEIL: Yes.

GROSS: That's right. But do you think that having a male partner was
helpful--I don't mean artistically, but just in terms of getting the kind of
business respect that you needed, too, because there was a man there, so like
for somebody who might only respect a man in a business relationship, there
was a man to deal with?

Ms. WEIL: You know, I never really thought about it, but I have a feeling
that if Carole and I had written something great together, we would have
gotten a great record.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. MANN: Absolutely.

Ms. WEIL: We just never--when we wrote together, we were never really
serious enough to bear down and do it right. We'd kind of get sidetracked,
but we did get--have a few records together. And I never felt that it stood
in the way at all of getting a recording.

GROSS: So what's the secret to your marriage? Why did your marriage and
songwriting partnership last when the--your two friends, you know, ch--Carole
King and Gerry Goffin, and Ellie Greenwich and...

Mr. MANN: Jeff Barry.

GROSS: Jeff Barry, yeah. Yeah. Right.

Ms. WEIL: Yeah.

Mr. MANN: Right. Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Thank you.

Mr. MANN: That's OK.

GROSS: Why their relationships broke up?

Mr. MANN: Well--you give your...

Ms. WEIL: I have a theory. Well, I mean, I think that it's a certain amount
of tenacity and stubbornness and hanging on through everything. And I also
think that our neuroses happen to mesh in a very good way.

Mr. MANN: That's true. I also think that underneath it, we're really
friends. And also, I really think that our songwriting is something that
holds us together. And probably most marriages--you know, people who are in
the same field probably have a lot of problems because of it, but I think it
helped our marriage a lot. It's so much in common.

GROSS: Back in the early '60s, when you started writing near the Brill
Building, you have--What?--an office in a high-rise building. And you'd come
to work each day and sit down in your office and write tunes.

Mr. MANN: Not always. Sometimes we would be writing at home, too.

GROSS: Yeah?

Mr. MANN: It's very half and half. Yeah.

Ms. WEIL: Yeah.

GROSS: What was your office like? Did it have, like, a typewriter and a
piano in it?

Ms. WEIL: It just had a piano and a bench and a chair.

Mr. MANN: That was it.

Ms. WEIL: And an ashtray.

Mr. MANN: Yeah. And they'd give us stale bread every once in a while.

Ms. WEIL: But, you know, the great thing about coming in to write was that
you heard what everybody else was doing, because the walls were quite thin.
And so we would hear what Goffin and King were pounding out in the cubicle
next to us. And it was always inspirational and it was always--it really kind
of fed your creative hungers. And, you know, now when everybody has their own
home studio, and we're all kind of isolated, you really have to make an effort
to get that input.

GROSS: Wasn't it distracting to hear other people writing?

Mr. MANN: No.

Ms. WEIL: No, not really. You just played louder. That's all.

Mr. MANN: Right.

GROSS: Now did you ever compete with each other about whose song The Drifters
would do like, you know...

Mr. MANN: All the time. It was incredible.

Ms. WEIL: Absolutely.

Mr. MANN: Always very competitive.

Ms. WEIL: Absolutely.

Mr. MANN: And then at the same...

GROSS: And what was the process like? How would you try to get The Drifters
your song instead of letting Carole King get the next one with them?

Ms. WEIL: Well, it--we really didn't have control over that. Our publisher
would have us all writing for, for example, The Drifters. And then he would
go over and pitch all the songs.

Mr. MANN: Yeah. Who...

Ms. WEIL: That was Don Kirshner or somebody who worked for him.

Mr. MANN: Who was a great publisher. He was an incredible salesman.

Ms. WEIL: And so we would just be sitting out waiting to hear the verdict,
you know.

Mr. MANN: It got so powerful in that period. Donny did and the publishing
company that, say The Drifters were--Donny were playing the song and they
would love the song.

Ms. WEIL: And he would say, `You can only have it if my publishing company
gets the B side also.'

Mr. MANN: Yes. Right.

Ms. WEIL: You know, or `Gets the next single,' or...

Mr. MANN: And then some record companies would give in to that because, you
know, they wanted...

Ms. WEIL: They wanted the song so bad.

Mr. MANN: That's right. And they knew that we were writing so prolifically
that they'd always get another good song from us.

BIANCULLI: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil speaking with Terry Gross in 2000.
They've been married and writing songs together for about 40 years. They're
now appearing onstage in "They Wrote That?" performing their own compositions,
songs such as "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," "We Gotta Get Out of This
Place," and "On Broadway." Their stage show is in previews off-Broadway and
opens next month.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Well, Saturday night at 8:00, I know where I'm
gonna go. I'm a-gonna pick my baby up and take her to the picture show.
Everybody in the neighborhood is dressing up to be there too. And we're gonna
have a ball just like we always do. Saturday night at the movies. Who cares
what picture you see when you're hugging with your baby last row in the
balcony? Well, there's Technicolor and CinemaScope...

BIANCULLI: Coming up, a review of the new Robert Altman film "The Company."
This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Robert Altman's "The Company" is a poetically suggestive
dance movie
DAVID BIANCULLI, host:

The director Robert Altman has made many movies with large and
well-choreographed ensembles, from "M*A*S*H" and "Nashville" to his 2001 hit
"Gosford Park." But "The Company" is his first full-scale dance film. It
features the dancers and choreographers of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago,
along with the actress Neve Campbell, who co-produced the movie and plays an
up-and-coming principle dancer. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN reporting:

Robert Altman's "The Company" opened in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas
Day and has been slowly arriving in other cities, a late and happy gift for
lovers of dance, of movies, and of the work of this great American director,
who's at the top of his game at the age of 78. It features some of the most
fluid ballet sequences ever filmed. And the drama around them is so subtle
that this could be a fly-on-the-wall documentary. But there is a theme here.
It's that the life of professional ballet dancers will always be in flux;
that their bodies are destined to fail them eventually; that even their
triumphs are freighted with potential disaster.

Every number in the company is double-edged, at once sublime and scary. I
risk doing the film a disservice by stating that theme so baldly. You could
miss it and still love the movie, love it for the sculpted bodies and the
fleetness of the camera. Altman moves with seeming randomness from the stage
to the rehearsal room, to the offices of the capricious artistic director,
Alberto Antonelli, who's played by Malcolm McDowell in a hilarious homage to
Joffrey Ballet co-founder Gerald Arpino. We watch the Joffrey dancers get
picked or dropped from performances, get praised or lectured by
choreographers. We see them break up and fall in love. We see them standing
in the wings on crutches and in casts, watching the stage.

There's no real star turn. "The Company" is the star. But the project was
initiated by Neve Campbell, who was a dancer before she found fame in TV and
movies. She plays Ry, short for Ryan, a dancer who seems on the threshold of
stardom but who falls in love with someone outside the company, a young chef
played by James Franco. That sounds like a cliched scenario, but Altman and
screenwriter Barbara Turner have sniffed out all the conventionally dramatic
moments, leaving viewers to fill in the blanks. There's a sphere of privacy
here that would be annoying in a different kind of film, but I came to love
the absence of histrionics and Altman's refusal to linger a beat longer than
necessary.

The only non-dancing figure who holds the screen for any time is McDowell's
Antonelli, who calls his dancers babies and, when they have his attention,
prizes them. But that attention is hard won. And he can seem creepy in his
indifference to the risks his performers take. You get a sense of his style
from how he breaks into a rehearsal.

(Soundbite from "The Company")

Mr. MALCOLM McDOWELL (Alberto Antonelli): Hold it, Rick. Hold it a minute.

Unidentified Woman: Is it my fault?

Mr. McDOWELL: OK, what happened? I mean, you're all so pretty. You know how
I hate pretty. Now come on, I mean, lift thighs. Lift up, not so loady. And
when you make those exits, you know, you hit the wall. I want you to move out
and hit the wall. You're not doing that. You look like you've got a load in
our pants. But I love you all. You're great, OK? You're great. Come on.
OK...

EDELSTEIN: He loves his babies, yes, but when they're injured, he moves on
in businesslike fashion, a solipsistic god indeed.

The film itself can seem detached, too. But its emotion is sublimated. The
feeling is in the dance. It's in the astonishing number "Tensile
Involvement," with its ribbons forming geometric shapes amid the dancers'
sculpted limbs, or the intensely erotic pas de deux by Campbell and Domingo
Rubio, to a chamber music version of "My Funny Valentine," which is heard
throughout the movie in renditions by Elvis Costello, Chet Baker and others.
That pas de deux happens at an outdoor benefit with a thunderstorm
approaching. And everything about it, both the sex and the danger, is
thrillingly heightened.

Altman is often thought of as having a loose, scruffy frame, but he proves in
"The Company" that his looseness is deceptive. His camera is always in the
exact right place. And he doesn't chop up the movements like those
Cuisinart musicals "Chicago" and "Moulin Rouge." Altman lets you gaze on
these dancers' silhouettes. He isolates pieces of their bodies only for
emphasis, and then only briefly. He finds the ideal vantage for ogling some
of the world's most beautiful athletes.

Neve Campbell got back in shape after 10 years off point for this movie.
She's not quite as ethereal as some of the other dancers, but she has such
long, shapely limbs and such a gorgeous urchin's face that it doesn't matter.
More important, she shows in "The Company" what she loved about ballet and why
she had to leave it. This might be the most poetically suggestive dance movie
ever made.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is the film critic for the online magazine Slate.

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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