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Surreal, or what?
Tuesday, August 12 2003
OVER the dark of the dance floor, the first thumping chords sail towards us. "Here it comes, here it comes," he says and he moves fractionally towards the bright stage, as if a step closer could make him hear better.
A big, urgent Scouse accent joins the guitar in song: "Well I heard a lovely rumour that Bette Midler had a tumour ..." It’s Friday night, we’re packed into the baking-hot Liquid Room in Edinburgh and for the first time in his life the prince of songwriting schmaltz, Dean Friedman, is listening to a band called Half Man Half Biscuit play the song that takes his name in vain.
Nigel Blackwell, the singer, speeds to the lyrical crux: "… and they reckon that I am, but I hope to God I’m not/ the bastard son of Dean Friedman." In front of us a tall middle-aged man is singing along lustily. Nearer the stage, young, late-flowering punks are pogoing as if there’s no tomorrow. Biscuit - as the cognoscenti apparently call them - are independent and post-punk, a cult band with a huge following. "They’re really melodic," reckons Friedman. "Boy, they sure know their genres," he adds as they rip into a country song.
By now things are getting lively and someone throws a bra at the band. When the singer takes on Bob Wilson, Anchorman Dean yells: "You’ll have to explain some of these cultural reference points …"
It’s too hot, so we head to the courtyard for fresh air. Outside, Friedman remembers how he felt when he first heard The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman in 1987. "My wife was about to have our first child. For a couple of seconds I was real nervous; I was thinking, ‘She’s not gonna understand this one.’" He really thought it was true? "Well, I quickly figured out I’d have had to have sired him at the age of seven, so it wasn’t possible. I relaxed. And it’s a great song. There are so many funny lines … I just feel bad for Bette Midler."
With his curly locks and his vintage moustache, Friedman was a man-sized version of Billy Joel, on the brink of world domination when his country duet Lucky Stars went to No 1 in Britain in 1977. The lyrics offered a humdrum scene of life - a couple arguing about his ex-girlfriend - which appealed to middle England and middle everywhere. That’s exactly why the Biscuits hated it, wasn’t it?
"Let me tell you something," says Friedman. "That guy Nigel was hip to the fact Lisa and I didn’t just do lunch. You can’t interpret a song that way unless you understand what it’s about. And the bottom line is, under all his satire, Nigel is obviously a literate craftsman, who’s probably as middle-class-normal as the rest of us."
As things turn out, he might be right. When we knock on the dressing-room door after the gig, it’s as if a long-lost maiden aunt has come calling on the boys. They shuffle around with big vacant smiles, making smalltalk. "Everyone sang Lucky Stars in my school," recalls Nigel Blackwell, from the depths of a scabby old sofa. "I’ve got the Rocking Chair album, which is worth loads. You see it in rarity catalogues." "I wish I had a clean copy," Friedman says, a little wistfully. There are polite enquiries about what he’s up to, where he’s from (Paramus, New Jersey) and good wishes for his Fringe shows. But Blackwell has Lucky Stars in his head. He sings a line in broad Scouse: "Did you see Lisa," then he says, "when you say, ‘No, I’m not being nice,’ … I like that bit."
It turns out the singer who dueted with Friedman on the song is called Denise Marsa. Blackwell’s wife is called Denise and she shakes Dean’s hand. "I should have introduced you before," mumbles Nigel.
We talk about Friedman’s career. The guys didn’t know he had been dropped by the industry for 17 years from 1981. It was because of his song McDonald’s Girl, banned by the BBC. The Blenders later took it to No 1 in Norway. "We had a Norwegian hit," says Blackwell, reaching out for connections. "Stavanger Töestub."
There’s more chat, before Friedman leaves the band to their rest and recuperation. "I really enjoyed tonight," he says at the door. Blackwell smiles again, and stretches out a hand: "Good luck with all the shows."
Back in the cool air, Friedman breathes out hard. "That was a little surreal," he says into space. "Did Nigel really say he had my album?" He did, he did.Mike Wade - The Scotsman
Scotland on Sunday / Festival Critic's Music Choice.
London Theatre Guide - August, 2003
Dean Friedman - Songs For Grown-Ups - Assembly Rooms
The New York singer-songwriter who gave us silky hits like Lucky Stars and Ariel in the otherwise mad, bad 70s and championed today by our very own Gaby Roslin and Jonathan Ross, Dean Friedman's in town for the first time with an umissable solo show. Dean's never really gone away - he's just been busy producing a string of albums over the years of precision-crafted songs in his own inimitable style.
His first chart smashes aside, every song in this Edinburgh show is a classic in its own right - intimate, epic, satirical or just plain loving, there's a song for everyone. He'll have you wiping away tears of laughter to the cheerful insanity of Sado-Masochism, touch you with a ballad about a loved one's death, and arouse delicious disgust with his homage to self-pleasurement, Nookie In The Mail. Shopping Bag Ladies covers more sober territory - a winsome observation of life on the streets - as does McDonald's Girl, in the sense that this love letter to the burger girl behind the counter got Dean banned by the BBC (putting him up there with the Sex Pistols!).
London Theatre Guide - August, 2003
Dean's Silly Song Sing-Along - Assembly Rooms
A historic show for two reasons - it's Dean's first appearance at the Fringe (he's also doing Songs For Adults at 6.35pm at the same venue) and he's part of the Assembly Rooms' first children's programme. Better known as the man responsible for 70s hits like Lucky Stars, Ariel and Woman Of Mine, Dean is also an accomplished kids entertainer with a raft of infectiously funny songs for every eventuality. Suitable for under-10s, you'll instantly find yourself jigging along to catchy ditties about bees, elder brothers and smelly feet. And, of course, there's the Silly Silly Silly Silly Silly Song which is gloriously, um, silly. Participation is high on the agenda as every song has a hook for everyone to join in, plus there's lots of silly costumes for the younger members to dress up in when they're invited onstage to be Dean's backing group. A must-see for all the family. Nick Awde
one4review - August, 2003
Dean Friedman - Songs for Grownups - Nokia Orange Assembly
one4review Fringe Children's 2003
THE RECORD – Friday, April 16, 2004
By Ed Condran
Hit singer-songwriter just couldn't stay away
The music bug bit Dean Friedman at an early age and The Record was there to chronicle the singer-songwriter's rise. At the age of 9, Friedman showcased his first song, "Summertime," during a sleepover at the Paramus Boys Club in 1964. "I brought my guitar," Friedman recalled in a telephone interview from his home in Peekskill, N.Y. "We were all singing songs late at night, while camping out on the baseball fields. A photographer from The Record took a picture, and it was on the front page of the Living section."Friedman's mother, Rosie Rosett, who lives in Paramus, still has the clipping. "My first brush with the media," Friedman, 48, said with a laugh.
While attending City College in Manhattan, where he earned a bachelor's degree in music, Friedman papered his walls with rejection letters from record labels. Then he attended a lecture in 1974 featuring singer-songwriter David Bromberg. Friedman played some of his songs for him. "He took me very seriously," Friedman said. "It meant a lot to me that he recognized that I was doing good stuff. "Bromberg hooked up Friedman with the management team of Allen Pepper and Stanley Snadowsky, who were also the owners of Manhattan's legendary Bottom Line nightclub, in 1976. Within months, he had secured a deal with Lifesong Records. Friedman released an eponymous album, and in February 1977, the track "Ariel" began getting airplay on WNEW-FM. "The funny thing about that was my label chastised me when the song was played," Friedman said. "They complained that all of my friends were calling up requesting the song. I explained to them that none of my friends were calling up asking for 'Ariel' to be played. It finally dawned on them that it all happened spontaneously. They had no clue that it was about to be a hit.""Ariel" climbed to No. 26 on the national charts.
He exceeded the label's expectations again the following year, when "Lucky Stars" from his second album, "Well Well Said the Rocking Chair," became a hit.After releasing 1982's "Rumpled Romeo," Friedman quit the scene. "It was more about groups at that point than singer-songwriters," he said. With the exception of tours in England, where he was embraced, Friedman entered the realm of virtual reality. In 1989, he scored his first big video game hit, Eat a Bug, which was licensed by Nickelodeon. For the next eight years, Friedman worked on games and wrote books, including "The Complete Guide to Synthesizers, Sequencers, and Drum Machines." He also made instruments for children.But by 1997, he was itching to get back onstage, and he has been performing at least three months a year since. "I love doing this," Friedman said. "I do at least six to eight weeks a year in England, where I'm actually known. But it's fun playing closer to home."
by Zeddy Lawrence - Oct 23, 2003
Join me if you will on a journey back in time. The year is 1977. Britain is in the grip of jubilee fever, at the box office Richard Dreyfuss is enjoying a close encounter of the third kind and down the sweet shop, tuppence buys you two mojos, a blackjack and a fruit salad.
Halcyon days indeed, but all is not so serene in the world of music where punk and disco are vying for public affection. As always though, pop steers a steady course and as father drives to the office in his Triumph Dolomite, Dave Lee Travis introduces a quirky little number called Ariel.
Penned and performed by an aspiring singer/songwriter by the name of Dean Friedman, the infectious ditty about a free spirited, vegetarian wearing a peasant blouse “with nothing underneath.”
“She was a Jewish girl”, he sang, “I fell in love with her.” A year later, Dean was a household name, his now classic Lucky Stars topping the UK charts. A few more hits followed – Lydia and Rocking Chair, to name two – but then, almost as quickly as he appeared, he vanished – the victim of industry politics and a BBC ban on his single McDonald’s Girl. Mentioning trade names was viewed as distinctly unkosher by Beeb bigwigs.
It would be 17 years before Dean stepped into a recording studio again. But despite his enforced absence, his status as a pop icon was guaranteed. The band Half Man Half Biscuit released an EP called The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman while Barenaked Ladies had their first hit with a cover of McDonald’s Girl andwhile celebrities such as Gaby Roslin and David Baddiel publicly outed themselves as fans.
“I think there’s two reasons why I became a cult figure”, reflects the 47-year-old singer. “One is that the kind of stuff I do really strikes home. It’s very personal. The songs are about real life. They’re very truthful and honest, even if they sometimes seem humorous or absurd.
“The other reason is that I was banished from the industry at a point where I was just starting to bloom as a media figure. And that abrupt disappearance left a perceptual gap in people’s minds. But because they cared about the stuff, they kept seeking it out.”
And the advent of the internet meant they had somewhere to find it. Little wonder that Dean swears by the web, and in particular his own site www.deanfriedman.com. “It allowed me to reconnect with my audience. It got me back into the studio and touring again.
“It’s so different from how it used to be when there was always a middle man between me and my fans. Now I can communicate directly with my audience and they can communicate with me. There’s no record company or radio station, or club owner or agent between me and the people listening to my music. And that’s very liberating.”
While the singer may be freed from the shackles of the industry, it seems the songwriter was never one to be constrained by convention. Home spun lyrics about that “Jewish girl” who eats onion rings and pickles aren’t really the stuff of your average chart topper. But the New Jersey-born performer has no qualms about wearing his heritage on his record sleeve. “I guess it comes from my upbringing”, he says. “Although we weren’t orthodox, we had a strong sense of Jewish identity - it’s the way we were raised. I actually spent a few years going to yeshiva so I was exposed to pretty much the gamut of Jewish culture and how people relate to it. That’s always been part of how I identify myself.”
So while they may not have made their mark on the hit parade, songs such as A Million Matzoh Balls, In My Sukkah and Haman Haman, Hey Man! are Friedman favourites . “I do a Chanuka show once a year”, he adds, “and it’s always been something I’ve wanted to bring over to London. So if there are any sponsors there – a synagogue or some other organisation - I would certainly consider trying to figure out how to do it this year.”
Not that you need to wait till Chanuka to see Dean in action. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first hit album - “Well, Well,” Said The Rocking Chair – he’s currently touring the UK and will be on stage in the capital next weekend. According to Dean, coming to Blighty is, “like visiting friendly relatives. Everything’s a little different but there’s a sense of familiarity and they embrace you because you’re related.”
The singer who now lives in New York with his wife, two children and a monkey named Amelia, also applies the family metaphor to his stable of songs. While Ariel and Lucky Stars may have been the most fruitful, he insists: “Songs are like little kids. – each has a different nature and personality, and you love them all.
“I’ve written hundreds and I feel really strongly about all of them. It’s just because of the circumstances of the business and the way the radio and record industry works that people in England only got to hear a half dozen of them. I’ve always known that if they got a chance to hear the others they’d be as likely to embrace them as well.”
Given Dean’s attachment to his songs, one inevitably wonders how he managed to weather the lean years when he was out of the industry loop. Well, for starters, he says, “I kept writing music.” Soundtracks were a speciality, among them five series of the TV show Boon, starring Michael Elphick and Neil Morrissey, and the pairing’s subsequent feature film venture, I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle.
He also became something of a techno-whiz, designing both video games and virtual reality and interactive exhibits for museums. Among his creations is the innovative musical playground at The Eureka children’s museum in Halifax, which is now being reproduced in major theme parks and family entertainment centres across the globe.
As if those achievements aren’t enough, he also has the pleasure of knowing that Lucky Stars has been hailed as one of the greatest romantic duets of all time. Again, Dean defies convention. “What are you crazy? How in the hell can you say what you just said?” is hardly the typical first line of a love song. So why does it still strike a chord a quarter of a century on. Dean says: “I think it was dealing with genuine issues that occur in any relationship. They’re a loving couple but there are these jealousy issues and they end up in a fight. At the end of the day though they make up. And the reason they do that is, as the title suggests, that relationships are based on more than just logic and rational thought.
“It’s like when an engineer looks at a bumble bee, there’s no way it can possibly fly. Yet they’re flying all over. If you think rationally if any two people can live together, it’s insane and that’s really the idea of Lucky Stars. Thank goodness we listen to our hearts and our intuition rather than just our rational minds.”
As for Dean’s fans, well they can thank their lucky stars that the internet’s given their idol a fresh lease of lyrical life.
Dean Friedman is at the Bloomsbury Theatre, Gordon Street, WC1 on Saturday 1 November.
The Maltings Press - Saturday, October 4, 2003
By Michael Mee
Well, Well, look who's here
The Maltings, Berwick on Tweed
It may have been 20 years ago today when Sgt Pepper taught the band to play but 25 years ago American singer-songwriter Dean Friedman released Well, Well Said The Rocking Chair, an album that is still part of the lives of those who bought it. Mention Dean Friedman to today's generation and you may well be asked: 'Didn't he play Robbie in Eastenders?' Wrong Dean children. However those of us with longer memories and better taste will be pitching up to the Maltings In Berwick on Saturday clutching much-loved vinyl. 'Well, Well Said The Rocking Chair' is surely worthy of inclusion on any list of overlooked classics, even today songs like Shopping Bag Ladies and Rocking Chair (It's Gonna Be Alright) are as fresh and alive today as they were then. Sadly, for some unfathomable reason, Friedman himself merits inclusion in a 'Why wasn't he as big as he deserved to be?' program. Forget those 'Scenes from an Italian restaurant' The Deli Song (Corned Beef On Wry) contains infinitely more of the passion and color of the Big Apple. Friedman as a writer is Billy Joel with the blandness removed and an acerbic streak inserted, as a singer he has an unmistakable and unforgettable voice. This 25th anniversary tour is sure to feature Lydia, Ariel and You Can Thank Your Lucky Stars amongst others. Even after all this time fans have many questions that need to be answered. Does Lydia still keep his toothbrush in her apartment? And just how smart did they think they were? The answers may well lie at The Maltings on Saturday October 4.
LIFESTYLE Magazine Taiwan - May 29, 2003
US singer, songwriter has fans around the world
by Dan Bloom
Dean Friedman is a fortysomething American singer and songwriter (and an amazing inventor, too) who first rose to fame in the 1970s. With a huge catalogue of wonderful songs in a very unique storytelling mode, Friedman's work has become popular in the USA and Britain, and the Internet has broadened his fan base to include listeners in Taiwan as well.
Kevin Ho, who runs a small hotel for backpackers in Taoyuan City near the international airport, says he first heard of Friedman when he was studying English in Ohio, more than 20 years ago. Now, with the Internet, he can still tune in to Friedman's lyrics and melodies via the "audio" icon on the singer's website (www.deanfriedman.com).
"I love Dean Friedman," Ho, 45, told LIFESTYLE. "I really like those two songs he does, 'Ariel' and 'The McDonald's Girl'. I once knew a McDonald's girl just like her here in Taiwan. Music is an international language now! I'm turning my children on to Friedman now, too, and I hope he makes it over here sometime for a tour. That would be great!"
Friedman has been written up in the New York Times, the New York Observer and several music and lifestyle magazines in London as well. His music is catchy, full of mesmerizing lyrics and represents the best of American musical storytelling. While his home is in Peekskill, New York, his fan base is now international and getting bigger every day.
In a recent email interview with LIFESTYLE, Friedman talked about his life and music.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: Your father was a TV director and your mother was an actress. How did they influence you as a performer and song writer?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: I probably inherited some technology chops from my dad, but I learned all my music and performing from my mom, who was always going around our house singing songs from Broadway musicals.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: Tell us more about how you composed the song "Ariel", both the lyrics and the melody? Was there a specific Ariel you had in mind?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: Ariel was a sort of composite of all these teenage girls I'd had a crush on since hitting puberty. At first I was concerned that the story it told was too ordinary -- it's just a simple date, after all -- until I played it for some teenage girls in New Jersey who started giggling and accused me of plagiarizing their diaries.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: How did the Late Sixties, Early Seventies influence you in terms of life goals, ambitions, philosophy?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: I grew up as a cynical hippie -- aspiring to a peaceful world, but at the same I was under no illusions about human nature. Most of all, I embraced the Sixties era's acceptance and celebration of alternative lifestyles -- it's hard to be a committed artist in this world unless you're willing to defy social conventions and expectations. I'm always paying that price -- just ask my bank manager -- but ultimately it's worth it.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: Some American artists, writers and actors often get more notice overseas, in the UK, France or Japan, than they do in their own country. Did you ever consider living in Europe or in Asia? Or might you do that someday?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: I spent a year in London, with my family in 1998, and we had a great time, but America's my home and I love living here. I always look forward to traveling, though, and hope to make my way through the rest of Europe, Asia and Australia, eventually. Although I never toured outside of the US and the UK, somehow my music has made its way across the globe. It still amazes me to get e-mail from all over the world -- God bless the internet.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: You've been written up in the New York Times, the New York Observer, and in many newspapers in the UK. What's next? An HBO special? an MTV retrospective? A book?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: I've always felt like a mysterious blip on the radar screen -- mainstream media is vaguely aware of me, but can't quite figure out how I can have so many international fans without being on a major label. One of these days, they'll figure it out and give me the type of mainstream coverage I feel I've earned. Hopefully it'll be in this century.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: You perform now for kids and for adults? What's the difference, for you?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: Kids are a much more honest and discerning audience. They don't read reviews and have no preconceptions about your profile as an artist -- they either like you or they don't, based on how you relate to them and whether or not they like the songs. They're also more willing to sing along and have fun and their enjoyment shows on their faces. A lot of grownups are still too busy trying to look cool in front of their dates. But I try to my best to turn them into kids again.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: Will you be touring in Asia at all in the near future? Tawian or Japan or Hong Kong?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: I'd welcome a chance to tour Asia, so if an adventurous promoter or label is reading this interview online or in your magazine in Taipei, give me a holler.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: Do you consider yourself more of a songwriter, singer, performer or inventor? Which?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: I see myself as a multimedia artist. While I feel most adept as a songwriter, I love performing, as well. And as for my wacky musical instrument inventions and virtual reality game designs, the creative process involved is not all that different from sitting down and writing a song.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: Life is full of ups and downs? What's your favorite quote on this subject?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: This too shall pass.
LIFESETYLE TAIWAN: And what's your own philosophy on this subject, life's ups and downs?
DEAN FRIEDMAN: Whatever my complaints, I always try to remind myself that I'm not living in some refugee camp in a Third World country.
LIFESTYLE TAIWAN: Thank you, Mr. Friedman, for talking with us today.
DEAN FRIEDMAN: My pleasure. Hello Taiwan!
New York Observer - May 22, 2003
The Dean of Peekskill
In 1977, a sultry, green-eyed 21-year-old singer/songwriter named Dean Friedman released a song called "Ariel," an ode to a free-spirited Jewish girl from "way on the other side of the Hudson" who volunteered for WBAI, didn’t eat meat, got high and "wore a peasant blouse with nothing underneath."
"Ariel" was a hit, and though some compared the Paramus-born Mr. Friedman’s elastic vocals to a stoned Kermit the Frog’s, others thought his wry style and urbane wit resembled Bowie’s and Dylan’s. He enjoyed some success in later years, but following a skirmish with his record label—the now-defunct Life Song—Mr. Friedman’s three top-selling albums went out of print, and the whinnying chorus of "Ariel" faded along with the Carter administration.
Mr. Friedman’s career fared somewhat better in England, where his managers were savvier and his moony duet "Lucky Stars" became a Barry Manilow–esque guilty pleasure. But in 1981, the BBC banned his song "McDonald’s Girl" because the government-owned station wouldn’t play songs that insinuated anything commercial. Mr. Friedman’s U.K. label dropped him, and not long after that he filed for personal bankruptcy. Though the Barenaked Ladies later covered "McDonald’s Girl"—there was even a recent dance-remix version—"Whatever happened to …? " became something of a prefix to Dean Friedman’s name.
Now 47, Mr. Friedman lives with his wife and two kids in Peekskill, N.Y., where he runs his Web site, deanfriedman.com. In the site’s chat room, devoted fans banter about his music—"My 4 year old was caught singing a DF song at breakfast yesterday!" wrote Stu from Abu Dhabi on May 18. Then there’s Mr. Friedman’s "Frequently Asked Questions" section. Example: Q. Is the reason Dean didn’t record for 17 years because he’s a reclusive millionaire living off his royalties in the mountains of NY State? A. ROTFL (Rolling on the floor laughing… )
"People imagine that I sold all these records and had all these hits and made millions of dollars and retired," Mr. Friedman said on a recent evening at the DT-UT cafe on Second Avenue. Now gray-haired, with a trimmed beard and a little belly, he smiled wryly. "The reality is that I never got paid for any of the sales of those records. Just business and politics—record companies have been fucking artists since the beginning of time. I’ve made more money as an independent artist selling 10,000 records directly to my audience through my Web site than I did selling a million records as part of the mainstream industry, and I think that’s very revealing. It illustrates how odious the industry is."
Since songwriting didn’t exactly pay the bills, Mr. Friedman has also spent the better part of the last two decades making musical, synthesizer-inspired toys for kids’ museums around the world. They come in fantastical shapes—one looks like a beach ball sprouting breasts—and they have names like "The Booble" and "The Honkblatt." Today, Mr. Friedman’s largest group of American fans is under the age of 10, and his current repertoire of original music includes songs like "That Stove is Hot" and "Please, Don’t Tease the Bees."
"There’s not a big difference between performing for 10,000 people on a stage or sitting on the floor in a kindergarten surrounded by a dozen little kids," Mr. Friedman said. "The essence of the exchange of music is the same."
In England, Mr. Friedman still appears on the occasional sit-com or talk show. To promote his two new albums—as well as to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the British release of his earlier albums, Dean Friedman and ‘Well, Well,’ Said the Rocking Chair—Mr. Friedman has organized a 30-city United Kingdom tour this fall. "I could actually make a living there as a musician," he said. "But we never moved because, up until this year, there was a quarantine for animals." He explained that his wife, Allison, is a zoologist, and the two—along with their tykes, Hannah and Sam—have two cats, a dog and a pet monkey.
But Mr. Friedman seemed content with the attention he’s gotten from his Web site, which gets 10,000 to 20,000 hits a month.
"People find the site and write and say things like, ‘I can’t believe I finally found you—I’ve been looking for your records for 25 years, because my girlfriend took them when she moved out.’ Or ‘Thanks for helping me get through college,’ or ‘through my divorce," Mr. Friedman said. "And I get lots of e-mails from girls named Ariel."
Anna Jane Grossman
Worthing Review - October 31, 2003
DEAN'S TRICK & TREAT
Assembly Halls, Worthing -
October 31st, 2003 (Halloween Night)
This is Dean's "25th Anniversary Tour" and he's playing thirty gigs on a nationwide UK tour to celebrate this milestone. Dean Friedman is one of music's best kept secrets. A singer/songwriter of the highest calibre, he has the ability to make you roar with laughter one minute, and bring you close to tears the next. I first saw Dean Friedman in concert 25 years ago and have managed to see him many times since. I can tell you that he sounds as good today as he did back then.
From the moving opening song "Company" to the closing "Woman Of Mine" he gave a performance that was from the heart and he gave it his all in front of a less than packed Assembly Halls in Worthing on Halloween night. This concert was full of treats, not tricks, for the faithful and loyal fans that came along to see him sing his wonderful, self penned compositions.
The performance was sponsored by a local radio station, Spirit FM, and was being broadcast live that evening. We had a mixture of the humorous like the delightful "S & M" that had the audience singing along with obvious glee, "Well Well Said The Rocking Chair", "McDonalds Girl", "Nookie In The Mail" and a kids song about babysitting that struck a chord with many of the middle aged audience like myself. The highlights for me though were the emotive songs that are Dean's trademark. The plaintive "Shopping Bag Ladies", the powerful "Where Have All The Angels Flown" and of course the hits; "Ariel", "Lydia" and the popular "Lucky Stars" that the whole audience sang as a duet with Dean.
The encore started with possibly the best thing Dean has ever written. "Saturday Fathers" is a powerful song about a boy whose parents are no longer together and is written from the child's point of view. It shows the anguish that goes through his mind when he only sees his father on a Saturday, and it makes you wonder what damage and hurt are experienced to both father and son when parents separate. There is one verse in particular that really hits home;
"Saturday children have no say.
You tear out their guts and they grow up anyway.
And the awful demands you make on our loyalty.
Daddy, it's stuck inside my soul,
How do you make a choice like that and still be whole…"
Powerful stuff huh? It brings a lump to your throat when you hear the whole song. The finale was "Woman Of Mine" which has always been a fans' favourite. The appreciative audience left to meet Dean in the foyer. A really nice, likable sort of guy who you seem to have known your whole life. You feel that if you know Dean, he and his music will be your friends forever. Certainly this New Yorker and his music will be with me for a very long time. A fantastic concert from a very talented musician, I urge you to go see him perform live. If you can't, then try and get a listen to "Songs For Grownups" which is his double CD packed with terrific tunes including the stunningly beautiful "Saturday Fathers".
Merkin Concert Hall
June 12, 1999
I am the most cursed rock critic in the city. It's the one concert that nobody should care about, and I still manage to end up in what constitutes a press section. This means I'm sitting behind a bored young photographer. He's accompanied by a dour dame who looks straight out of Collinswood. She spends the night taking copious notes, because reporters can't actually be part of an experience. She never applauds, either. That would be a conflict of interest.
What are the odds that any local writer besides myself has an interest in Dean Friedman? Maybe the Times is trying to promote him as a Jewish John Updike. The guy has seen stranger luck late in this century, but first he had to suffer through becoming an obscure pop legend.
For me, Friedman's appearance ranks with the chance to see Lee Hazlewood or Emitt Rhode. In a saner context, it's more realistic to acclaim Dean as a heterosexual Peter Allen. There was simply no one like him making albums at the turn of the '70s. He combined wry novelty tunes with Broadway hits for musicals that never existed outside his apartment.
He found his own place as an introspective singer/songwriter. His coffeehouse pose had a sentimental literary bent that held just as much poison as new wave's shorthand. In America, all this translated to two albums and a fluke hit single with "Ariel". You won't find that one on the K-Tel and Rhino compilations. If you're over 40, however, you probably know what follows, "Way on the other side of the Hudson…"
There was one more import-only release and Friedman went the way of Roderick Falconer. He was a lot more successful in Europe, but that was before "McDonald's Girl" got Dean banned from the BBC airwaves. It turns out that songs that sounded like commercials weren't allowed back in 1981. As he later explains from the stage, "I thought it was funny at the time. I didn't know I was going to be dropped from my label."
Everything's turned out okay for him, though. He lives in Peekskill and seems pretty successful as a high-tech toymaker. He's stayed married to the same woman, and people are slowly beginning to remember he existed. A cover of "McDonald's Girl" turned out to be the Barenaked Ladies' first big hit in Canada. The Blenders' a cappela version topped the European charts last year. The Katie Couric of England continually plugs his work on breakfast television. America succumbed when Ben Folds Five paid a passing musical tribute. It's all been enough to prompt an artistic comeback with the two-CD Songs for Grownups. You can buy it if you live in Europe.
Friedman recently entertained a camera crew from Entertainment Tonight, thanks to Bob Goen's being a fan. That's about the speed of your average Friedman supporter; most of the crowd tonight looks fit to host Wheel of Fortune. They're your typical audience paying $25 for a show on the Upper West Side. A few folks are here from the Internet mailing list. At least one saw the small ad in The New York Times. I also have to assume that a lot of people are friends and neighbors who drove in to the city. People are chatting like we're gathering over canapés in the dining room.
The lights go down promptly at 9, and Friedman strolls out in fighting shape. He starts out with electric piano on "Sandy", and then hits the Steinway for "Funny Papers". That was "Ariel"'s B-side, but you don't care. You're not in the audience. I once saw Richard Thompson get about four chords into an acoustic performance. Some wild applause came up, and Thompson stopped and asked them to name the song. No one knew. This audience can name the Friedman tune with one note.J.R. TAYLOR
He's a crowd pleaser, covering both the old and the new songs. Four albums over 22 years probably makes that easy. Still, it's the perfect show for the fans. He talks a lot during the two-hour show, which is okay when you're a pretty funny guy. Everybody's thrilled to be in the presence of Dean Friedman, with the clear exception of my date. It doesn't take long for her to realize this is NPR stuff. I know she won't be long for the room when he follows a song about normal families with one about a married couple adopting a baby. She hasn't looked this bored since I took her to see Jules Shear. Fortunately, she has a party to attend down on the Lower East Side. This stuff isn't for everybody, you know. I stay, hanging around the Peekskillers and having a really lovely time.
The New York Times
Rock-and-Roll Dreams Die Hard on InternetHey! Remember Ariel? The young girl "from deep in the bosom of suburbia, who sang mighty fine 'Tears on my Pillow' and 'Ave Maria' "? If this fictitious character rings a bell, chances are the name Dean Friedman does too.
June 20, 1999
In 1977 Mr. Friedman wrote the rock song "Ariel" about a pretty hippie from Paramus , N.J., and scored big with it; several other hits followed. But the music industry has a way of sending promising careers on surprising trajectories, and Mr. Friedman all but disappeared from the rock scene, at least in America.
His tunes continued to sell well in England, and he kept writing soundtracks for British television. Eventually he moved from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Peekskill; these days he lives here with his wife and two children, and is successful designer of virtual reality games and various whimsical toys for children.
Rock-and-roll dreams die hard however. The same computer technology that propelled Mr. Friedman on a new career has also enabled him to stand poised on the brink of a lifelong desire: a major musical comeback. He has always had a cult following of sorts - he just did not know how many fans were out there. Then a couple of years ago, he created the Dean Friedman Web site, and - wham! Thousands and thousands of fans emerged from throughout the country, telling him he had been a musical beacon in their lives and would he please start writing and singing again.
"I knew they were out there, I just didn't have the means to reach them, or they me," he said recently. " The Internet allows artist and audience to communicate directly and pass over the middlemen - the record companies, the distributors, etc."
This month, he produced his own CD, titled "Songs for Grown-Ups," which he compares with disks by Billy Joel and Paul Simon. He has also booked himself into local venues, the most recent of which was the Merkin Concert Hall near Lincoln Center. There, on a muggy Saturday night, a couple hundred fans paid $25 each to listen as he sang for three hours, presenting a repertory old and new.
They whooped and hollered and sang along with the songs they remembered and grew wistful and silent about the new ones; many of which deal with middle age. Mr. Friedman, 44, has moved from courting braless girls in peasant blouses to writing odes to his and his friends' children, and his fans have moved right along with him.
" His songs are the soundtrack of our personal history," said Tony Palermo, a 40-year-pld chiropractor, who with his 37-year-old wife, Elaine, had come from Bethlehem, Pa., for the concert. "We conducted out courtship to his songs. We have kept listening to them. Now we hear the ones about children, and our eyes tear up." Later, the Palermos stood in a line awaiting Mr. Friedman's autograph; when they reached him, they said, virtually in unison, "We love you."
Like his creation "Ariel," Mr. Friedman, 44, grew up " in the bosom of suburbia"-in fact, in Paramus. "Pop culture embraces urban cool as opposed to middle-class suburban life," he said, but his family was highly creative: his father was an illustrator, animator and television director; his mother an actress. At home, someone was always playing Broadway show tunes on records or the piano.
He got his first guitar when he was 9, and began writing songs. When he was still in his teens, he was sending out demo tapes and majoring in music at City College. By the time he turned 20, he had a manager, and a recording contract. His first hit single, "Ariel," stayed in the top 20 nationally for eight weeks.
Other hits followed-"Lydia," " ' Well, well.' Said the Rocking chair," "McDonald's Girl." But by the 1980's, a few bad business breaks, combined with what Mr. Friedman calls "unscrupulous management" and refusal to compromise certain esthetic principals slowed his rock and pop career, almost derailing it altogether. He turned to composing soundtracks for television, mainly British shows, and a few years ago, he began designing not only virtual reality games but also oversize interactive musical instruments for children's museums.
"My life is fairly normal, as normal as the life of anyone can be who designs Honkblatts, Boobles and Boing-D-Boings," he said, referring to the children's music caking devices. Living on a quiet cul-de-sac here, with his wife, Alison, and his children Hannah, 12 and Sam, 9, he says he is extraordinarily happy.
And yet… there is that need to write songs and sing them, on compact disks and in public. His new two volume CD, "Songs for Grown-Ups," was featured at the Merkin Hall concert. Alternating for about three hours between piano, synthesizer keyboard, acoustic guitar and electric guitar, he sang slow ballads with poignant lyrics, clever catchy upbeat tunes and everything in between.
Audience members, middle-age men and women in hip, casual clothes, listened with intense expressions to songs like "Saturday Fathers," about divorced parents; "Sometimes I Forget," the story of a husband and wife's successes and failures to express feelings, and "Jennifer's Baby," about friends of the Friedmans who adopted a child. "Wake up the neighbors and break out the ale, Jennifer's baby just came in the mail," he sang, in typical Friedman mix of humor and seriousness. "She's pink and she's perfect in every detail, and Jennifer's a mommy now."
After the concert, Mr. Friedman chatted with fans and sold CD's and
T-shirts imprinted with the word "Grown-Up." There is a phrase that he himself ponders often: just because you are grown-up, for example, do you give up on your original goal?
"In England, I'm described as a legendary singer-songwriter," he said. "I'm spoken of in the same breath as Sting and Paul Simon. I've always experienced frustration that, because of problems with management which led to lack of exposure, I'm virtually unknown here in America, other than as a one -hit wonder. But now the internet - well, the fact that after 20 years people care enough to contact me day after day, thousands of people, is very gratifying. And I am selling CD's directly to these fans. I have a sort of cottage industry."
But, he was asked, is that the same as having a record company come to you and ask you to sign a deal? As if afraid to jinx his luck, he paused, and said slowly: "I actually am having conversations with an American label. The president of the label assures me he is a fan and grew up with my records. Whether it leads to a contract, we'll see."
Home Theater Hifi - Online Music Reviews *
"The Very Best Of Dean Friedman" CD - [Music Club; MCCD 036]
Dean Friedman is a master songsmith, and revisiting some of the songs on this album has given me a new respect for his talents. To think that the opener, "Lucky Stars", duetting with singer Denise Marsa, has been included in a poll of the World's 'most hated' songs! Perhaps over-exposure on oldies radio stations has dulled the freshness we all felt for the shy coyness in the make-believe conversation between the two principals. Having listened to this compilation album several times now, I find the song getting more appealing to me, not less.
The backings of the songs are generally quite simple - a piano, basic drum beats; even the string section brought in for some songs is direct and straightforward. This leaves Dean in center-stage so we hear just what he had in mind. Sure, he spreads his vowels a little, but that is more of the nature of an attractive regional accent than anything to spoil the lyric.
If the songs are new to you, be prepared for some unusual progressions in the harmonies, not to mention those jazzy guitar chords - ninths, major sevenths, that sort of thing. I get the impression that Dean has done some serious studying of music - either that or he is a natural genius (maybe both).
By the middle of the album we need to be ready for two of Dean's most beautiful songs ever: "Woman Of Mine" and "Lydia", but then to say the album is growing on me would be an understatement - it's grown.
Dean Friedman - Establishing A Good Connection With His Fans
June 11, 1999
An interest in technology helped steer Dean Friedman away from the music business. Now, that same technological interest has led to his reemergence.
A Paramus native who scored a major hit with his first single, "Ariel", in 1977, Friedman said goodbye to his career as a singer-songwriter after being dropped by CBS Records four years later. Since then, Friedman has made a living through his fascination with state-of-the-art technologies. He's created virtual reality and video games, invented musical instruments for kids, and written books about music synthesizers.
Now, he's taking another shot as a singer-songwriter with "Songs for Grownups," his first album since 1981's "Rumpled Romeo". But, according to Friedman, the new album wouldn't exist if not for the strong reaction he received from fans that discovered his Web site (www.deanfriedman.com). "It used to be that once the record industry discarded you, there would be no way to communicate with your audience," Friedman, 44 said over the phone from his Peekskill, N.Y., home. "The Internet changed that. Once I put my Web site up, I found myself getting e-mail from all over the planet."
Much of the adulation centers on "Ariel," a lighthearted pop ditty about a date with a free-spirited, vegetarian Jewish girl who lived in "the bosom of suburbia" in New Jersey. The song cracked the Top 25 on Billboard's national chart, reaching No. 1 in several markets. It helped pave the way for a three-album stint with CBS that was highlighted by a gold album ("Well, Well, Said the Rocking Chair"). But it wasn't until he began connecting with fans over the Internet that Friedman understood the impact he had made musically.
"A typical e-mail would say how my records helped someone through college or with their marriage," Friedman said. "It's gratifying to know that the songs meant something to a lot of people."
The phenomenon has let to a mini-Friedman revival.
Barenaked Ladies scored a radio hit in their native Canada with a live cover of Friedman's "McDonald's Girl." (The group's singer, Steve Page, provides background vocals on "Songs for Grownups." Ben Folds Five paid direct homage to "Ariel" in their song "Kate."
But perhaps Friedman's most fortunate connection with a fan was an e-mail he received last year from "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Bob Goen. The resulting e-mail conversation led to an "ET" segment on Friedman that aired last weekend.
"The only reason 'Entertainment Tonight' did a piece on me is because Bob Goen sat down at his computer, typed 'Dean Friedman' into the search engine, and found my Web site," Friedman said. "He's a big fan and, because I was able to communicate with him directly, he said he would do a spot on me when my album came out."
Released by Real Life Records, the album is a two-CD, 28-song set. Themes include divorce, adoption, the death of a loved one, and the homeless. Many of the songs come from Friedman's experiences, including his daily suburban existence with his wife and two children.
"The songs don't have themes that are romanticized on Top 40 radio," Friedman said. "They're about issues that you think about beyond your teens."
While Friedman would welcome a return to the musical mainstream, he's content with the new connection he's made with his fans.
"In many ways I'm back to square one," he said. "The thing that's different is the Internet. For the first time in my life, I'm communicating to my audience, and it's a two-way communication."
Dean Friedman Bloomsbury Theatre - Preview
April 5 1995
The first of three nights at the Bloomsbury (and the first London shows in seven years) for American singer/songwriter Friedman. Still best known for hits like 'Lucky Stars', and 'Lydia'.
Friedman is currently enjoying something of a revival following his championing on The Big Breakfast last year (Gaby Roslin is a big fan). Although more successful nowadays composing and producing film and TV soundtracks, and writing about and devising virtual reality software and video games design, he is also finishing off a new album, 'Songs For Grownups'.
Tonight, expect typically intelligent and distinctive songs performed with style and authority.
Rumpled Romeo: Dean Friedman, (Record Co-Op DF 100)
Aug. 4, 1983
It's been three years since pop maestro Dean Friedman has been heard in the U.S., thanks to a lawsuit which tied him up here.
After his "Ariel" hit the charts and went gold in 1979, he and his record company went to court. He went to England, where he had more successes while waiting for the flak to clear over here.
His return, "Rumpled Romeo," is nothing short of an American classic. It's basically a series of songs about a boy and a girl falling in love, but it's far, far above average in content and appeal. It's an instant winner.
The showpiece of the album, in both personal and commercial terms, is "McDonald's Girl," in which our hero falls in love with a girl who works at McDonald's and swoons, "I'd like an order of fries /a quarter-pounder with cheese/I love the light in your eyes/will you go out with me, please?" and then concludes, "I'm in love with the McDonald's girl/she is an angel in a polyester uniform."
The album's "Hey Larry and "Love is Real" and "Marginal Middle Class" and "First Date" are slices of Americana which marks this album for classic status.
Friedman combines the charm of Jim Croce, Jimmy Buffett, Michael Franks and Chris DeBurgh in one crisp, cool package. His music is subtle yet sophisticated, his lyrics generally impressive.
Strongly self-produced, the album is issued on the unknown Record Co-Op label, which is designated to give musicians control of their product.
Rumpled Romeo - Dean Friedman
Not so silly love songs
A Songsmith extraordinaire, Dean Friedman puts together some of the most delicate music to have come out of the seventies.
His romantic nostalgic lyrics captivate… his melodies charm. The album includes single "Hey Larry" which should have done better. There are plenty more singles on Rumpled Romeo and now that he's got quite a strong following epic could really score with "MacDonald's Girl" (track two, side one), especially if Macdonalds were persuaded to weigh up the promotion…just think, a free Dean Friedman single with every quarter pounder.
Seriously though, a very pleasing album with no real surprises but plenty of gentle short stories, with just the occasional hind of parody showing through. A worthwhile investment for lovers, wherever you are.
Rumpled Romeo - Dean Friedman [The Record Co-op]
Performance: Very Good
Recording: Very Good
Dean Friedman had an odd hit few years ago with Ariel, a hilarious song about a male wimp and a true-believer bimbo who blunder into bed. Friedman's is a special talent that, unfortunately, has limited mass market appeal, His lyrics are wry and sentimental at the same time, an, although he uses the instrumentation of pop, there is a neo folkie aura about his vocals.
In this album Friedman celebrates and gently kids love in Suburbia. His program begins with a rather tender description of a nervous girl making ready for her first date with a new boy and wondering about the future. At the end of the album, in Marginal Middle Class and I Will Never Leave You, a male protagonist takes stock of romance and security and opts for both. No rock-and -roll outlaw nonsense here.
If all this sounds cloyingly cutesie-poo, it's not. Friedman has accurate insights and writes some very funny lines. The only drawbacks are the occasionally plodding tempos and sluggish arrangements. "Rumpled Romeo" is a flawed gem, but a gem nonetheless. J.V.
"DEAN FRIEDMAN" - review by Rosiland Russell, Record
Mirror (4 out of 5 stars)
"I loved "Ariel" from the first time I heard it. It reminds
me a lot of a single that came out about three years
ago (can't remember the title or the singer, sorry, it's
very frustrating for me too) which had the same New
York humour. The girl in "Ariel" could be the sister of
the ethnic, mystically intense but carnally normal girl in
the other song - she wanted to make sure the
astrological signs were right before diving into bed.
Anyway, having fallen hopelessly in love with that song,
having the rest of the album became a burning
necessity. Now, does this infatuation bear fruit? Well,
I've found that other tracks contain humour and
perception too, but even more barbed than "Ariel" and
that's more painful. The rest of his humour is more
against himself than it is observation of other people's
peculiarities. Braver of him, I suppose, but less easy to
But having been deceived about his ability to observe
and laugh at other people's pretentions, I've now fallen
in love with his vulnerability. He's a superb painter of
word pictures, a song craftsman and musician.
And I still don't know what his star sign is and I couldn't
give a damn."
"WELL WELL SAID THE ROCKING CHAIR"
Review by Philip Hall, Record Mirror (4 out of 5 stars)
"Oh no, not another singer songwriter. Yep, Dean
Friedman is another one, but he does deserve your
attention. If you've heard and been impressed by his
curiously touching single "Lucky Stars" then you should
like this album, which has everything going for it.
Clever lyrics, excellent melodies and Friedman's
unusual voice which I suppose you'll either love or hate.
"He sounds like a squeaky adolescent as he sings
about his encounters with S&M as well as other similarly
original amorous encounters. Friedman is not into LA
hipness but is a perceptive, somewhat bitter, New Yorker.
"Listen to "The Deli Song (Corned Beef on Wry)" with its
short exchanges of witty dialogue, or the moving "I've
Had Enough"; every song tells a story without ever
sounding contrived. Friedman is a refreshing new talent etc. etc. You've heard it all before but believe me, this time the hype is worth it.!
Treasured Time With Friedman
I shook Dean Friedman's hand. It was a moment I shall treasure. And I'm sure he will dine out for a long time on the story of the night he met me. Because we're mates now. At least, that's how it seemed after just two hours together on Sunday night.
It' a mark of Dean's skill as an artist that he can create a concert atmosphere so warm and friendly that the audience feel as though they have been personally invited to watch him perform in his front room. That's no mean feat when you consider that on Sunday, his front room was the Picture Playhouse- which can hold about 350 people.
It was in many ways the perfect concert. Just Dean with a couple of guitars, a harmonica and an electric organ. His songs are a little like his children.
We have grown up with them and they have matured well. I met many of them 10 years ago and it was lovely to hear them again this week. Lydia was in fabulous form, McDonald's Girl was drop dead gorgeous and the twins Woman of Mine and Shopping Bag Ladies were mischievous and poignant.
There were also a few new members of the family on the show from his latest album Songs for Grownups and they were welcomed warmly. Jennifer's Baby and Typical Town became classics from the opening chords.
Dean told us his music is enjoying something of a revival at the moment and he had been asked to star alongside David Baddis in a sitcom for Sky.
For most people at Sunday's concert, it was obvious that his music has remained as vibrant and fresh as the day it was penned.
This was most evident during the encore when he performed the duet Lucky Stars - with audience singing the female part faultlessly.
We all knew every word. Afterward, Dean said goodbye to everyone as they filed from the hall.
Did I tell you I shook his hand? Magic!
Dean still thank Lucky Stars
In the late 70's American singer Dean Friedman enjoyed his only spell of UK chart success, yet he remains acknowledged by many - including such pop luminaries as Paul Simon - as an important musical influence.
Best known for his number three chart hit Lucky Stars, in which he duetted with a then unnamed lady singer later to be identified as Denise Marsa, the subject of a Where Are They Now item on the popular TV series of the same name - Friedman followed up with the massive selling album "Well, Well, Said the Rocking Chair", and another lesser hit, Lydia. And though he fell gradually out of the chart favour in the 80's, his distinctive, stylish songs have always attracted a big response, so much so that when he visited the UK last year response was so good that his 32 date tour was a sell-out.
Friedman is back with a new CD, Songs for Grownups, and visits the Beverley Picture Playhouse this Sunday, March 18 (8pm).
Week ending 2/26/77
Producer: none listed
Originally reviewed for week ending 2/26/77
Friedman's stock-in-trade is a jaunty New York urban wariness and rueful guardedness against hurts. He writes pop lyrics with maturity and sings in a small, evocative voice about topics like a mother going crazy and the joys of love accompanied by junk food, television and comics. Sleek, wide-colored instrumental textures in the production. Best cuts:
"Solitaire," "Love is Not Enough."
Week ending 6/17/78
Well, Well, Said The Rocking Chair
Producer: Rob Stevens
Lifesong JZ35361. (CBS)
The title cut is like a Lewis Carroll novel set to music while the remainder of the highly intelligent material reads like a bunch of soliloquies, dialog and short stories. The emphasis is unquestionably on the lyrics, as Friedman takes a bold step in attempting to combine a strong literate sense, scenario-oriented, with a melodic musical base. Friedman on piano is backed by a band that takes second stage to the strong accent on lyrics and tale. Best cuts: "Rocking Chair (It's Gonna Be Alright)," "Lucky Stars," "The Deli Song (Corned Beef On Wry)," "Lydia."
Oceanside, Calif. Blade-Tribune
Record Reviews by Bill Missett
Rumpled Romeo; Dean Friedman
It's been three years since pop maestro Dean Friedman has been heard in the U.S., thanks to a lawsuit which tied him up here.
After his "Ariel" hit the charts and went gold in 1979, he and his record company went to court. He went to England, where he had more successes while waiting for the flak to clear over here.
His return, "Rumpled Romeo," is nothing short of an American classic. It's basically a series of songs about a boy and girl falling in love, but it's far, far above average in content and appeal. It's an instant winner.
The showpiece of the album, in both personal and commercial terms, is "McDonald's Girl," in which our hero falls in love with a girl who works at McDonald's, and swoons, "I'd like an order of fries / a quarter-pounder with cheese / I love the light in your eyes / will you go out with me please?" and then concludes, "I'm in love with the McDonald's girl / she is an angel in a polyester uniform."
The album's "Hey Larry" and "Love is Real" and "Marginal Middle Class" and "First Date" are slices of Americana which mark this album for classic status.
Friedman combines the charm of Jim Croce, Jimmy Buffet, Michael Franks, and Chris DeBurgh in one crisp, cool package. His music is subtle yet sophisticated, his lyrics generally impressive.
Strongly self-produced, the album is issued on the unknown Record Co-Op label, which is designed to give musicians control of their product. (The album is available through The Record Co-Op, Box 1806, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10023
23 November 1978
Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Elton John, David Bowie - I've seen most of the big names during my time as a music columnist, and Dean Friedman's Scottish debut at the Pavilion in Glasgow ranks beside the concerts of such greats.
Fantastic! After much deliberation, that's the only word I can use to describe such an experience. And from the terrific response of the audience, I'm sure everyone else at it would agree with me. These were shrewd fans who know something special when they hear it, and I'm sure they are only the vanguard of countless legions of devotees.
Outside new wave, Friedman is the only exciting new arrival on the rock scene in the last couple of years. He's not peddling any new musical fad, fashion of form, just honest-to-goodness pop music at its best.
"I'm gonna find me a cave. I'm gonna shut myself in and not come out again," began "Woman of Mine," the opening number. And in those first two lines the Dean displayed his deft touch for lyrics, sensitive, highly intelligent, sharp, amusing and original all at once.
"I'm gonna go in my room. I'm gonna turn off all the lights and crawl in bed. And like a caterpillar in a cocoon I'm gonna hold my breath and make believe I'm dead."
Undeniably clever, the sensitivity is not so obvious but it is there. Friedman perfectly understands and perfectly conveys rejection, not in a heavy cumbersome song, but just as successfully in a light-hearted song.
Friedman is basically a light-hearted fellow. His boyish eyes, mischievous and scheming, are full of fun. Yet behind them there is this startling awareness and understanding of everyday life.
He manages all this and remains good fun and even inoffensive. "S&M," a tale of sado-masochism set against a jazzy musical backdrop, is treated irreverently yet is still tasteful and innocent.
Every song was dissimilar from those which preceded it. Yet they had in common, as well as charm, a compulsive profusion of offbeat detail. "The Deli Song" is almost a little play, with the players a courting couple and a waitress. Friedman creates a contrast and a tension between the lovey-dovey couple and the waitress, who personifies the setting of noisy, impersonal, American cafe, itself symbolic of American life. There is certainly much more to Friedman's songs than is at first apparent. At Sunday's concert, Friedman turned the problem of being without a waitress and the other half of the couple into a triumph when, in an excellent piece of showmanship, he invited two girls up from the audience and whispered their words in their ears while he jumped up and down in excited expectation.
I felt it was worth looking at one song in special detail, but quite honestly every number was a gem.
Friedman's singing is almost as good as his immaculate writing and magnetic personality. His curiously elastic voice can add a new meaning to a word with the slightest inflexion. Particularly on up-beat songs like "Ariel," he will occasionally strain for a note, almost slurring his vocal.
Inevitably, one of the highlights of the night was when Friedman was joined by Denis Marsa for "Lucky Stars," one of the most imaginative songs of the decade. Friedman's distinctive tones are offset by Marsa's powerful singing of virtual operatic quality. Just how good her voice is was shown in the next song when she sang solo in one of her own compositions. In such a tremendous concert this might well have been a slight lull, but it was not and Marsa effortlessly maintained the impetus Friedman had instigated.
Friedman has a great sense of humour, self-mockery and drama, but he also possesses rare feeling and tenderness. "Lydia," the new single, is less immediate than "Lucky Stars," but ultimately just as memorable. "Solitaire" opens with a tinkling, lonely piano and when a second, unplanned encore was demanded Friedman sang "The Letter," a mellow, nostalgic song, full of imagery.
I really enjoyed this concert, not only for Friedman's super performance but also for the sense of being there at the genesis of a superstar, something I'll be able to boast about in years to come.
Dean Friedman-Songs for Grownups
Dean Friedman is a genius. An original. A musical craftsman of unrivalled expertise. And he's appearing at the Picture Playhouse, Beverley, on Sunday. The audience is in for a rare treat. Anyway, Dean first became famous in the late 1970's and had a string of hit singles including Ariel, Lucky Stars, the brilliant Lydia and the totally awesome McDonald's Girl. Later, he turned his talented hands to composing and producing soundtracks for television shows such as Boon and films such as I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle. Songs for Grownups catapults his career to new heights. It's a 28 track double album of delights which raise the spirits and heighten the senses. Some great tunes, some great ballads, some great record. One of the tacks is called It's a Wonderful Life. Thanks for being alive, Dean.
Issue no. 349 August 30 - September 12, 1983
The Record Co-op
As demographic studies show that America is steadily growing older, rock appears to be leaving the teenager farther and farther behind. Dean Friedman has staked this territory out with a vengeance, however. Friedman's vignettes of romantic attachment and longing rarely reach the stage of candlelight dinners or sophisticated nights on the town. Instead, he's in love with a "McDonald's Girl" ("She is an angel in a polyester uniform"), and he specializes in chronicling the anguish of puppy love in "First Date" and "Are You Ready Yet?" A singer for the swinging single he's definitely not. In fact, there's nothing even approaching real heartbreak or the real mindgames of love in Friedman's verbose, often narrative-style lyrics. Here, everything is so rosy and peachy-keen you either surrender to his sense of wondrous first-love innocence or dismiss him as a sentimental sap. The totally languorous pop nature of his music and his own pubescent vocal quality push me toward the latter; but somehow, the evident sincerity of his words comes through, and I conclude that Friedman is in fact celebrating a nostalgic adolescence we've all shared and have forgotten. When he sings about a girl who's "so extra special," when he proposes that "we'll go searching for the stars," when he pleads, "I depend on you," you remember a time when such feelings were extraordinarily important. Friedman has a sense of humor ("Marginal Middle Class," "I Will Never Leave You") that nicely balances the sometimes awesome sincerity of his dream-world. I'm sure no one ever wrote a song called "Love Is Real" and meant it so much.
Songs For Grownups (Eagle)
So this, at 48, is as good as it gets, a Dean Friedman album to review - his first in yonks, it seems - on one of the gloomiest, darkest weekends of the year. Not alone that, but, being a double album, there are two of them. The thought of this poisoned chalice was leavened slightly by a certain HOT PRESSER telling me how he was going to set up his co-presenter on a national radio station by volunteering him for backing vocals on 'Stars', Friedman's hit from another time.
I digress, though. Much to my surprise, Songs For Grownups is an altogether listenable, sometimes quite beautiful set of 28 songs which run the emotional gamut from pure lust to regret to acute observations of domestic minutiae. A song for instance like 'Saturday Fathers' is totally convincing, the false conviviality of getting your kiss being contrasted with the pain of not being with them for the other six days. 'Don't Marry That Boy' is a word from the wise, hoping as my old friend Martin says that she doesn't make the same mistake once!
Seriously, folks, there is much to enjoy on Dean Friedman's comeback album - good songs absolutely fabulous musicianship - stuff that really impresses. On the debit side, his ability to come up with a cloying lyric has not deserted him, and his overuse of alliteration in several spots pisses me right off, but I'd have to say that listening to this album - yes, I'll listen to it again - wasn't an entirely unpleasant experience. For fans of the genre, though it's worth checking out.
Oliver P. Sweeney
Nov. 11, 1978
Dean Friedman-Well, Well, Said the Rocking Chair
By rights (if there were such a thing in this medium), Friedman should have scored at the start of the year with "Ariel", a rare gem of a record which did well for airplay but made no impression on the chats. Lifesong might now go well to reactivate it in the light of the success of "Lucky Stars", whose popularity is surely as much down to the sensual Denise Marsa as much as Friedman, the two of them squabbling articulately like an elite Travolta and Livvy.
"Lucky Stars" contains many cringe-worthy elements but it still hallmarks Friedman as one of the more enterprising songwriters to have come out of America of late, for the unexpected and quirky is the overwhelming characteristic of an album that's constantly fascinating, if not always fulfilling. He's prey to the most gruesome banalities, seemingly attempting to shock you into overlooking them by an astonishingly brash execution. And his voice, occasionally reminiscent of Elton John (but usually of Kermit on Quaaludes - Ed.), isn't particularly strong and lacks alarmingly in range at times, but that doesn't prevent him bellowing boldly at us from all directions like he thinks he's Elvis, apparently oblivious of the fact that he carries no scope for shade or subtlety.
Yet the inventiveness of his songs count for much. "Rocking Chair" is a surreal exchange of conversation between different parts of the furniture, mixing the bizarre with the philosophical, like an abstract update of the Mad Hatter's Tea-Party. And his rampant sense of humor flourishes magnificently in both "S & M", a delightful jazz orientated glorification of sado-masochism; and "The Deli Song", a brilliantly documented three way conversation in a cafe at four a.m. between a couple on their first date and a voluble waitress.
His scenarios are colourfully and vividly depicted, flavoured farther by the way the arrangements are used to emphasize and highlight lyrics, much in the way 10cc used to do.
He's also capable of creating more familiar emotions: "Shopping Bag Ladies" is genuinely poignant, while "I've Had Enough" and especially "Don't You Ever Dare" are unexpectedly angry and vitriolic. The latter is a father's heart-to-heart with his son, and features by far his most convincing and emotive vocal performance, topped by a superlative Don Sarlin guitar solo.
"Lydia" is almost as moving, a ballad well in the Elton class, neatly capturing the simultaneous joy and despair of and illicit affair. He lets her dominate him, and she lets him keep his toothbrush in her apartment and asks no questions. His vocal limitations are again too obvious, a situation he fails to rescue by driving into falsettos when the going gets tough, but which doesn't detract from the outstanding lyric.
Sure, there are blemishes. The album crawls with them. But there's also not a single anonymous track, and any number of potential hit singles. The guy's an original, and there are precious few in the field of singer-songwriters. Given that his appeal should cut right across the board, and that he can give a good account of himself on stage (he comes over shortly), he'll be enormous. -COLIN IRWIN
September 16, 1978
Things have tumbled into place very neatly for Dean Friedman. Two turntable hits, steadily mounting interest, a small UK tour planned to coincide with what promised to be a first chart single; it all happened exactly right. And by the end of his opening gig at London's Venue last week there was a happy feeling around that it probably couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke.
An artist prepared to face a cinema-sized restaurant where the minimum number of waitresses is trying to serve the maximum number of people and conversation level is strong competition for the PA system deserves respect. Friedman took on a potential chimps tea party and quickly had it transformed into an attentive, highly appreciative, human audience. He did it very simply by being excellent. His talent is genuine, his songs and his way of singing them are attention-grabbing, and he knows all there is to know about live performance.
The band gave Friedman exactly the kind of support - both musically and in stage projection - he needed. Nice work all round from Tom Rosseter on bass, Jim Ryan on guitar, Chris Mercer on sax and Geoff Castle on synthesiser. The material was mostly from the two LPs, among the highlights being Deli Song (Corn Beef On Wry) which saw Friedman pull off a very difficult "audience participation" trick. Lydia proved itself a little gem of a song in live performance and sessions singer/songwriter Denise Marsa was welcomed as she joined him for Lucky Stars. Her solo number was perhaps a mistake - it did not convince many of her abilities as a singer and caused a kind of hiatus in the act which Friedman's own abilities as a singer were luckily able to overcome easily. If the standard at the Venue has been maintained through dates in Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow this artist can go home knowing that a lot of people here realise that a good, new, long-term act is on its way up.
September 16, 1978
Dean Friedman: Well Well Said the Rocking Chair (Lifesong LSLP 6019) Prod: Rob Stevens
Timely second album from this enormously talented young New Yorker, witht he single 'Lucky Stars' in the Top 10 and live and tv dates scheduled for the end of the month. Stylish production and plaintive vocals should ensure him the same success as Billy Joel and Andrew Gold, but his songwriting is sharply original and if he lives up to promise this could well be a strong catalogue seller in ten years' time. May chart this time round: all that is lacking is an obvious follow-up single.
New Musical Express
16 December 1978
Well, well, said the rock writer, it's been a long while since I saw such character...
Singer-songwriters ain't in vogue at the moment, bu here's one guy who could revive the trade single-handedly. Forget the melancholy folkies of the '60s and instead home in on Howard the Duck comix, keenly observed cameos and a lightly rocking five piece group and you've just about got the picture.
A wimp Dean Friedman is not.
On his own or fronting the band, he bounces about with such witty, confident authority that one might suspect a strong strain of American showbiz hokum were it not the Friedman is so clearly genuine.
His obvious love of what he's doing inspires not only the audience to give him a deserved rapturous reception, but also his backing musicians who actually show enthusiasm.
Friedman is an exceptionally talented writer. Coming on like a hip Paul Simon, his repertoire of strong melodies encompasses everything from oddball love songs to astute observation and cynicism, imbued with his appealing strength of character.
"Solitaire" is a gem; a superb blend of the wry humour lacing much of his work ("S&M", "The Deli Song"), and the personal sensitivity which is invariably reassuringly practical ("Love Is Not Enough") or refreshingly positive ("Rocking Chair").
Friedman also has a craftsman's eye for subtleties and seemingly trivial detail which make his creations so vivid. "Ariel", a lovingly assembled montage of New Jerseyana, is the perfect example.
"Shopping Bag Ladies" illustrates another of Friedman's talents, his compassionate but sugarless observation of a clutch of vagrant women who defy the world with their fierce pride. As with many of Friedman's songs, it carries a sting in the tail.
Even his personal and reflective songs ("Lydia", "The Letter") are written for others; heavy on honesty and realism, low on mawkish sentiment and homespun philosophy.
Friedman succeeds where other fail because he takes risks and makes them come off; he's a strong writer, he's got zest, style and humour. It's a thoroughly enjoyable show and if he comes back again soon I wouldn't complain.
And you thought singer-songwriters weren't your sort of music...
19 April 1987
BEEB GIVES FRIEDMAN THE BUN'S RUSH
AMERICAN warbler Dean Friedman has fallen victim to the Beeb's unhappy policy of not playing records with trade names.
"Initially my new single was going to be a song called McDonald's Girl. It's about a guy who falls in love with a girl who works behind the counter," he tells me.
Unfortunately the powers that Beeb decided that we are all so weak-willed that the moment the record comes over the airwaves we'll all rush out in a fit of burgermania and gorge ourselves on Ronald's appalling product.
Ironically, in the song, the hero never actually eats his Big Mac, which leads me to believe that it should be played as a public service announcement.
18 November 1978
Deep fried man on wry: no chips
The Venue, London
For a man of 23 to display so much musical talent, sophisticated lyric writing ability and humour with such apparent ease and charm is rare enough, in my book anyway, to be considered exceptional.
Lots of other people seem to share my fascination with Dean Friedman. His voice is memorably odd, even unattractive with its madly taut high notes. He chews his vowels He looks like a Muppet Show extra.
He opened with the magical 'Shopping Bag Ladies' ably accompanying himself on guitar, then broke into one of his best songs 'Woman Of Mine' with his backing band now in tow... synthesiser, drums, bass, lead/saxophone.
But his best odd-ball lyric style, where both shock and delight register in nearly equal amounts, comes in 'S&M'. Here his knack of sounding street hip (while still appealing to a largely middle of the road audience) adds greatly to his urban animal appeal.
Back on guitar again he delivers 'Company" perfectly then proceeds to turn his engaging gastronomic brief encounter 'The Deli Song' into a dog's breakfast with the help of two girls invited up from the front tables. They don't know the words, so much time was spent watching Friedman whispering the lines into their ears.
Clearly he was getting playful, so what better time to haul out his pet monster 'Lucky Stars', complete with the appealingly shy Denise Marsa. Sadly, the face-to-face intimacy of the recording was quite lost. Then, as if to compensate for not having been mentioned on the album sleeve, Denise sang a song on her own, 'Clear Blue Sky,' which showed her tremulous tones up less than wonderfully. A relief then to let it all hang out in a gutsy rendition of 'Let's Hang On'.
Intimate ballads being his strong point, he returned to his new single 'Lydia' then left the stage leaving the crowd with the pleasant task of hauling him back for his American smash 'Ariel'.
The addition of 'Song For My Mother' was perhaps a mistake as by this time he had proved himself as one of the best American exports in a while. JOHN WISHART
29 Dec 1979
And Now the Face of ‘79
The brightest new talent for 1979? My vote goes to Dean Friedman.
Friedman is the American who had a huge hit with Lucky Star (Lifesong) and then followed it up with Lydia – both love songs taken from his hit Album, Well Well Said the Rocking Chair.
He is the most promising new singer-songwriter around. At 23, he is beginning to be talked about as the new Billy Joel, the new Elton John.
Yet he calls himself “the youngest has-been in the business.”
He said: “I had my first song publishing contract at the age of nine. I just sent some songs off to a publisher and the signed me up.
“A couple of months later they went broke!”
Friedman is thrilled with his success in Britain this year, following his autumn concert tour.
He is an ambitious, friendly New Yorker with the sort of sleepy eyes that are compelling.
He also has a highly distinctive singing voice. Once you hear it, you’ll always recognize it.
He has the ability to soar suddenly into falsetto without sounding peculiar.
But it is his songwriting talent that makes me single him out.
He has an almost unique way of describing a relationship or an emotion in songs. His songs paint pictures and tell stories.
Yet although he can rabbit away for hours and hours about all sorts of topics – particularly music – he gives away nothing about himself.
What he will admit to is that he does fall in love.
“A lot,” he grinned. “And I learned that I have the ability to be in love with more than one person at the same time.”
Friedman lives on his own in New York City, but keeps in close contact with his family.
He is having a short break at home before starting work on his next album. He will also be visiting Britain again next year.
And so he should. Because 1979 is going to be Dean Friedman’s year here – and I look forward to it with pleasure.
Dean Friedman gave the World 'Lucky Stars'. He's still paying for it. Giles Smith meets the creator of the worst-ever pop song.
Forgive, but never forget
Late last year, at his home in Peekskill, rural New York, Dean Friedman, formerly a pop star, now the CEO of a company making virtual reality games, received a fax from a friend in London. It informed him that the presenters of a British morning television show, The Big Breakfast, had started wearing false moustaches - furry tributes to the mournfully droopy number worn by Friedman at the peak of his success (1978). And while the friend didn't want to read too much into a small, televised outbreak of bogus face furniture, it did seem, just possibly, there was a revival of interest underway.
Dean Friedman, talking in a hotel in London this week, admits that he was, at first, "sceptical". If you happen to be the writer of "Lucky Stars", a song which is, by your own admission, "corny", "kinda mushy" and "just too sweet for its own good", you're ready to be ribbed. Sung as a duet with Denise Marsa, "Lucky Stars" musicalised a lovers' bedroom tiff: "Did you see Lisa?" "Yes, I saw Lisa." "Is that why you're angry?" "I wasn't angry", and so forth. The argument blew over, though, after the sax solo ("Do you still love me?" "Yes, I still love you." "You mean, you're not just bein' nice?" "No, I'm not just bein' nice") and, at the triumphant conclusion, Friedman got to sing the immortal couplet: "I may not be all that bright/But I know how to hold you tight". It was bloody awful and a massive chart hit in Britain.
Friedman, through a laugh, recounts that the song was once voted No. 1 in a list of records people were afraid to admit they had bought. This is Dean Friedman’s quandary. He gave the world “Lucky Stars” and the world will neither forgive him, nor let him forget.
Last Christmas, after much thought, he agree to fly to the Big Breakfast studio, burst out of a box, live on air, and surprise Gaby Rosslyn, the presenter whose Friedman fixation had set this whole mullarky rolling.
“They snuck me in the back, really early in the morning when the sun hadn’t come up yet. And they put me inside a box and shut the lid and said, ‘Stay there and we’ll let you know when it’s going to happen.’”
Five minutes passed, minutes in which Friedman says he had time to reflect. “It was one of those contemplative moments, one of the moments where you definitely have pause for thought and consider what it was that lead you to this particular point in your life, where you’re hunkered down inside a cardboard box, at dawn.”
With time, Friedman says he has come to think of this episode “as a sort of media rebirth”. He is laughing when he says this. “She lifted the lid and I stood up and there were lights in my eyes and I was totally blinded on National TV. Gaby Rosslyn was really surprised. Terrified. I think.” They sang together - “Lucky Stars”, naturally.
“My only frustration,” Friedman says, “is that people who only know me by that one song might get a distorted perception of what I write. Because it is a little atypical.” Indeed: there was “Ariel” (“I said, ‘Hi’, she said, ‘Yeah, I guess I am’”): there was “Woman of Mine” (“you picked a mighty fine time to tell me that you’re on your way”); there was “Rocking Chair” (“Well, well, said the rocking chair”, “Wowo said the radio”, “Yes yes said the coffee cup”, etc). “They’re a little different,” he says. “They’re not run-of-the-mill. They might take a little getting used to.”
On the cover of his self-named album in 1977, he sat himself at some sort of café table with a glass of wine and a newspaper and an expression on his face hat suggested it was going to take more than a bottle of red to cheer him up. He could have been Billy Joel. But he released “Lucky Stars” and became Dean Friedman.
“I still feel I suffer a lot of discrimination,” he says. “I have gotten a lot of resistance from the media and from a large portion of the record industry. Still, that’s business. It’s all part and parcel of being a little potato in the media stew.”
In a London bookshop recently, Friedman picked up the Guinness reference book to 1970s pop stars and flicked through – “as you do” – until he found the entry under his own name. And there he read of his “mysterious disappearance” in the 1980s. He says there was in fact nothing very mysterious about it. He made a third album, Rumpled Romeo, and released a single from it, “McDonald’s Girl”, which the BBC banned on the grounds of the gratuitous tradename in the title. “They imagined that people were going to run out in hordes and gorge themselves on McDonald’s Hamburgers,” Friedman says. “If they’d listened to the lyrics, the kid never eats the hamburger. He just buys it so he can talk to the girl.” The single bombed, the album stiffed and, not long after, Friedman found himself thrown off the Columbia roster in an enormous, 40-artist label clearance.
In the aftermath, Friedman wrote a consumer guide to synthesizers and a couple of synthesiser textbooks. He reviewed software for specialist magazines. He did some television and film soundtrack work, including music for the Michael Elphick series, Boon. And he built up the two companies he currently runs – InVideo, the virtual reality game designers who do work for television and theme parks, and Cool Stuff for Kids, who make giant musical instruments for children to climb on, bang and squeeze. Friedman lists these: “The Booble, the Honkblat, the Boing-edy-Boing, the Jingle-Lingle Lillies…” He scaled down the music to a couple of local appearances annually, “for my small, loyal, north-east following who would get angry if I never played”.
And then, in the wake of the Big Breakfast – and again after some self-searching and not a little trauma – Friedman agreed to stage this week’s London concerts. The demand was there. He will play “Ariel” and “The Deli Song” and “Lydia”. And he will play “Lucky Stars”. He realizes that it is not going to go away. “The song revealed me to be someone with the audacity to rhyme ‘dumb’ with ‘glum’. Having done that, I have to accept the consequences.
Home again, in the "bosom of suburbia"
The year was 1977. Out of nowhere came 21-year-old composer and singer Dean Friedman with a hit record.
It was titled "Ariel", and was about a nice, vegetarian, Jewish hippie from Paramus - the same "bosom of suburbia" where Friedman grew up.
"She was like all these New Jersey girls I had crushes on squished together," Friedman said recently over coffee at an outdoor cafe.
Besides stealing his heart, "Ariel" claims a top 20 spot on Billboard's national chart, reaching No. 1 in several areas.
"It struck a chord and was very exciting," Friedman said. "Then as far as the United States was concerned, I disappeared."
America's music industry shut him out for almost 25 years, which he attributes to "business and politics."
"It comes down to access," Friedman said. "If the gatekeepers who control what people are allowed to he don't deem it [the music] fashionable, it won't be heard."
But Friedman, who started writing songs and sending demos to record companies when he was 9, never stopped being a musician and songwriter.
And he does not dwell on the past. Besides, he's scored big elsewhere.
Friedman's songs were hits in Australia, Holland, New Zealand, Norway, and Ireland. And then there's the United Kingdom where he's had a half-dozen gold records.
His 1981 sweet pop song, "McDonald's Girl" was recorded years later - 1992 - by the Canadian group, Barenaked Ladies. It was then recorded by an American group, The Blenders, and its version soared to the top of the charts in Norway.
The waterfall in Paramus Park where Friedman told of meeting Ariel might be gone, but Friedman, 46, is enjoying a revival of his work thanks to technology. Since he started his website two years ago, he's attracted what he calls "a devoted following around the globe."
"With the proliferation of the Internet, every day that goes by more and more people who represent my audience realize that, I'm not only alive and well, but still writing songs and producing records," he said.
On Nov. 17, his fans will get the rare chance to hear Friedman perform at the Bergen Community College in Paramus. It will be the first time he has appeared in concert in New Jersey since he wrote "Ariel."
Friedman is excited to be reunited with American fans. But he has long seen the impact his literary and introspective music has had on other contemporary recording artists.
"The song, 'Kate,' [recorded by Ben Folds Five] is clearly a direct homage to 'Ariel' by reworking verse by verse," Friedman said. "[Ben Folds] admitted he was influenced by it."
Friedman sees his songs as short stories set to music - and they've gotten their share of kudos. Critics have described his songs as, "subtle yet sophisticated," "gentle," "wry and sentimental," and his vocals possessing, "a neo-folkie aura." One critic called them "gentle short stories with just the occasional parody showing through."
"A lot of songs tend to be about the world around me, the lives of my friends and neighbors," Friedman said. "I write things that are universal. People indentify and react in a very personal way with the real stuff of everyday life, the real stuff we care about."
More recent songs reflect a deeper more serious Friedman. "As I matured, had my own family, my own kids, my concerns changed. As a teenager, Ariel was my life concern, " said Friedman who lives in Peekskill, NY, with his wife, Alison (a zoologist at the Bronx Zoo), and their two children, Hannah, 15, and Sam, 11. Cohabitating with them is a menagerie of cats, dogs and a monkey named Amelia.
"Saturday Fathers," for example, is about divorce and its impact on children. "It's one of those songs I get the biggest feedback on from my audience," Friedman said. "It seems to touch people. 'Jennifer's Baby,' about adoption, is the same."
He is proudest of the songs on his latest album, 1998's 'Songs for Grownups'. Released in England, it was his first album since 1981's 'Rumpled Romeo'.
In the song, "One Day," a father is trying to explain to his child the frightening images on television. Friedman wrote it during the Gulf War. "Basically, it's a child's prayer that, sadly, becomes timely every few years," Friedman said. "We were invited to perform it at a studio in Belfast during another campaign in another part of the world."
It took Friedman 16 years to convince a record company to make 'Songs for Grownups' and he'd rather not wait that long again. The computer gave him an option. 'I didn't want to wait another 16 years to make a record so I went to my audience and asked them to finance the next one," he said, referring to the appeal he made to fans last month. 'Within two weeks, I got commitments to fund the record. For the first time in my life, it was possible to cut out the industry, to be totally independent of it."
He plans to release the yet-untitled album in January.
Friedman, who does a 20-city tour every year in England and Ireland, initially turned to technology, to make a day-to-day living. He designs virtual reality games and oversized interactive musical instruments for children's museums and theme parks around the world. Now technology has opened his world in a completely different way.
"I've been able to pursue my career on a daily basis," he said. "I appreciate that, with the advent of the Internet, I finally have access to and direct communication with my audience. This represents a wonderful, new way for artists to pursue their art and careers."
Direct contact with his audience is heartwarming in other ways. When the World Trade Center was attacked, hundreds of fans em-mailed him from around the world, many asking if he was safe. People also e-mail their gratitude. His songs, they tell him, saved their lives, their marriages, their sanity. The feedback moves him.
"It's touching to think that I'm just writing songs but they actually mean something to people," he said. "When you write a song, it's not just a monologue, it's a dialogue. There's an audience. And if it makes them feel a little bit better, that's great."
New Straits Times (Malaysia)
December 22, 1999
by R.S. Murthi
DEAN FRIEDMAN - Songs For Grownups (Real Life Records): Dean Friedman has been treating all kinds of social themes in humorously satiric songs with hummable melodies for so long that he could write a song on the spot if you just gave him any topic dealing with human behaviour.
That's exactly what he did - make up a song with words phoned in by listeners - during a live radio interview.
And as this two-CD 1998 album proves, when you've got him singing about the sometimes weird but often charmingly ordinary things people do, he can be quite hard to resist.
These are mainly autobiographical songs about everyday situations and people - wifely support (Little Black Cloud), a couple's baby-getting story (Jennifer's Baby), the turmoil around the world as shown on TV news (It's Only Make Believe), loss of a loved one (Don't Mourn, Don't Cry), etc - with a pleasant mid-tempo pop flavour.
Friedman may not have a great voice but he uses it well, embellishing choruses with crisp harmonies.
A nice if somewhat overlong set from a true-blue independent singer-songwriter.
Evening News (Edinburgh)
November 16, 1998, Monday
SWAGGER AND STYLE OF AN OLD FAVOURITE
- Gabe Stewart
Dean Friedman, Queen's Hall
He may be looking older and wiser since his heyday 20 years ago with hits like Lucky Stars, Lydia and Woman of Mine, but he still has those same big droopy doe eyes. Dressed in black T-shirt and grey jacket to match his shock of grey wavy hair, Dean Friedman cut a trim figure on the Queen's Hall stage. Once you got used to the nasal yodel-like quality of his voice and the odd grating high note, Friedman's gutsy vocal delivery was superseded only by his technical expertise at both electric and acoustic guitar, grand piano and electric keyboard.
His musical style veered from the raunchy Nookie in the Mail, an hysterical hymn dispelling the myth of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll, to the belting boogie-woogie Ariel in which he proves he had one helluva pair of lungs on him.
It's tempting to assume from his charmingly self-deprecating patter that the naive but world-weary Friedman is as innocent and warm and simple and trusting as his songs.
He shambolically meanders across the stage amiably babbling half-hearted CD sales pitches. For an American, he's refreshingly unmaterialistic. And his deadpan timing could put Jack Dee to shame.
November 13, 1998
ONE of my great heroes from the late 70s was Dean Friedman, a cultured popster, who brought something uncluttered but polished to the scene, with his scintillating Ariel.
His first album, Well Well, Said the Rocking Chair has now gone down as a classic, with a number of chart hits including Lucky Stars, Lydia and Woman of Mine.
The next single, McDonald's Girl saw him in conflict with the BBC and soon he was a victim of a cull of his then label's roster, who got rid of 40 acts in one week!
Despite a period spent writing, during which he penned the theme tune to Boon, he has remained in obscurity, but has now returned with a Very Best of Dean Friedman compilation and a new tour, coming to the city promoting his new double CD Songs for Grown Ups at the Guidlhall, Leicester on November 25.
Nottingham Evening Post
November 12, 1998
Star's lucky TV escape
DEAN Friedman is thanking his lucky stars that he's not behind bars this week, after being caught watching a colour TV without a licence.
Friedman, best known for his 70s hits Lucky Stars, Lydia and Ariel, was watching a video at his rented London home when an inspector from the TV Licensing Authority called.
He was able to pay the full licence fee immediately, avoiding penalties and possible imprisonment.
Friedman will be making his scheduled appearance at Newark Palace Theatre tomorrow night at 8pm.
November 9, 1998
- Mark Sparrow
DEAN who? Dean Friedman. Who could forget that unique nasal twang that brought us classics like Lucky Stars and Well, Well Said The Rocking Chair? Having sunk without trace in the early '80s, Friedman is back with an excellent new album - Songs For Grownups. Vaguely reminiscent of Billy Joel, but with the rhythm of Squeeze and the lyricism of Al Stewart, Friedman is a consummate musician and a songwriter of extraordinary talent. Last night 200 die-hard fans made their way through pouring rain to hear the outpourings of a songsmith's heart. Friedman's show, which is on a five-week tour of the UK, is a one-man affair and therefore slightly lacking in bass and percussion. Also, the Pump Room was not the best venue, its acoustics tending to reverberate the music around the chandeliers. Those minor gripes aside, the evening was an excellent showcase for the new album.
The Dallas Morning News
September 8, 1998
'McDonald's Girl': Order fries, praise her eyes
- Tim Engle
Looking for love in all the wrong places? Maybe you need to spend more time under the Golden Arches.
McDonald's is, after all, home not only to Big Macs and Happy Meals, but also to that living, breathing American icon known as the McDonald's Girl.
Now she has her own song.
"(I Am in Love With the) McDonald's Girl" is a sweet-as-Coke tune with a happy ending, which means it wasn't recorded by, say, Alanis Morissette. It's actually sung by the Blenders, four guys in their late 20s who grew up in Fargo, N.D., and now live in Minneapolis.
Known primarily as an a cappella group, the Blenders have been together eight years and undoubtedly deserve a break today. "McDonald's Girl," released as a single and getting some radio play, could be it.
The song is cute and funny - not unlike, we suspect, a whole lot of McDonald's Girls. In it a fellow makes his way to Mickey D's after softball practice, rehearsing the spiel he'll deliver at the counter: "I'd like an order of fries, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, I love the light in your eyes, will you go out with me please?"
How's that for a pickup line?
"I am in love with a McDonald's girl
"She has a smile of innocence so tender and warm
"I am in love with a McDonald's girl
"She is an angel in a polyester uniform."
That "tender and warm" smile? Just part of the deal at McDonald's, says Alisha Fuller, 18, who works at a McDonald's in the Kansas City area. She's not surprised someone wrote a song about McDonald's Girls.
"We have to be friendly to all customers, so when you come in you see all that joy and happiness," Ms. Fuller says.
And as far as customers hitting on her? It's happened.
One day a truck pulled up to her drive-through window, and the fellow behind the wheel informed her, "Today's your lucky day!"
Next thing Alisha knew, out of a bunch of guys in the back - they looked like construction workers - one popped out, "just cheesin'," and asked for her number.
She gave it to him. Well, actually she gave him a bogus number "because I didn't want to be mean."
You gotta love those McDonald's Girls.
The song itself is older than many Mickey D's employees. It was penned by singer-songwriter Dean Friedman, who hit the U.S. Top 40 with "Ariel" in 1977. It, too, had a fast-food angle: Dairy Queen is where the free-spirited vegetarian Ariel dines on onion rings and a pickle.
Mr. Friedman, now 43, says there's never been a McDonald's Girl in his life.
"Actually I had a crush on the Burger King girl, but it wasn't quite as euphonious," he says by e-mail from London, where he's promoting his new album, Songs for Grownups.
Mr. Friedman's recording of "McDonald's Girl" was released in 1982 and promptly banned by BBC radio in Europe because of its commercialism: "Apparently [the BBC] believed that . . . millions of people were going to go rushing down and gorge themselves on hamburgers," Mr. Friedman says.
As a result of the ban, his record label - CBS at the time - dumped him. He has just now, 16 years later, returned to recording.
In recent years the quirky Canadian pop-folk band Barenaked Ladies has performed the tune at shows, and a Toronto radio station made it a regional hit.
Then this year the Blenders met "McDonald's Girl."
"This song really turned our heads," says Blender Darren Rust, 29. When a Universal Records A&R guy suggested it, "I could totally hear us doing that. It's something that we could have written almost."
The Blenders' version, however, is not quite the same as the original. Mr. Friedman's line, "She's not ashamed to be the only other virgin I know," was replaced with, "I wanna say how I feel if I could just let go." And the McDonald's Girl's age was upped from 15 to 16.
Rust says the group "didn't want to talk about virgins" in the song. Mr. Friedman wasn't happy about the change but went along with it. "Her virginity notwithstanding," Mr. Friedman says, the Blenders did a terrific job.
The company that employs McDonald's Girls agrees.
"The song sounds cute to us, pretty catchy, and clearly it's all in good fun," says Julie Cleary, a spokeswoman for McDonald's Corp. in Oak Brook, Ill.
And how's the song doing?
Hey, it's No. 1 in Norway!
Stateside, however, not so well. In the Kansas City area, for example, the only radio station playing it is KKJO-FM in St. Joseph, Mo. Universal says the tune has gotten some play on big-city stations, but often only on morning shows, because it's perceived as a novelty song.
Neal Angel, music director and DJ at St. Joe's KKJO, says the first request he got for the song was from an actual McDonald's Girl who wanted her fiance to hear it.
"Everybody's been to McDonald's, and everybody may have had a crush on a McDonald's chick at one time," Mr. Angel says. Plus the subject matter makes for "some good fun on the radio."
Typical DJ line: "I love the way she salts my fries!"
The Houston Chronicle
April 23, 1998
Nobody fries him like Big Mac girl
- Ken Hoffman
EVERYBODY has a song that means something special. It's like the songwriter was talking directly to you when he wrote the lyrics. Like he was reading your mind. The words hit you straight in the gut and change your life forever.
That's how I feel about the new single, "I'm In Love With the McDonald's Girl," by the Blenders, a band from Minneapolis.
I received an advance copy of the song last week, and I can't stop playing it. The words are so . . . they're so beautiful. Just listen to the chorus:
"I am in love with the McDonald's girl,
She has a smile of innocence,
So tender and warm.
I am in love with the McDonald's girl,
She is an angel in a polyester uniform."
It's got a good beat, and you can dance to it. I give it a 95. Plus it goes great with a Happy Meal. It's the only song that should be reviewed in the Chronicle's Dining Guide.
The song was written by Dean Friedman, who had a hit called "Ariel" back in the '70s. Friedman released "McDonald's Girl," but the record failed to crack the charts. It was banned in England for being too commercial.
The lyrics are about a guy who's got a crush on the girl in the drive-through. He wants to ask her for a date, but he's too shy. So he rehearses what he'll say.
"I'd like an order of fries,
A Quarter Pounder with cheese,
I love the light in your eyes,
Will you go out with me, please."
The Blenders' version of the song is slightly different from Friedman's original.
"It's obviously a corny song, and we didn't mind that," said singer Darren Rust. "We put a hip groove to it and slowed it down. We made it cool. There's still a lot of humor to the song, and we like that."
The Blenders also changed a couple of words.
"In the original song, the girl is 15 years old. We made her 16. We didn't want people thinking we're sick. Also, there's something traditional about 16. There are many songs about being sweet 16.
"The other line we changed was, the original song said the girl was a virgin. We just took that out completely," Rust said.
Universal Records is hoping "I'm In Love With the McDonald's Girl" clicks as a summer novelty song. So far there's been no reaction from McDonald's Corp.
"I'm hoping they'll think the song is clever and get behind it. It'd be great if they used the song in their commercials. It's really an innocent song," Rust said.
And if "McDonald's Girl" tops the charts, what's next, a musical tribute to the Burger King Whopper? "French Fries in E Minor?"
"We've actually thought about that. And you know something? The thought doesn't scare us one bit. It'd be pretty funny, you know."
HMV Choice Magazine
Dean Friedman – The Treehouse Journals – Real Life RLRCD005
In a musical word-association contest, Dean Friedman will forever be remembered by Ariel or Lucky Stars. But if you define the man solely by those sentimental late-70s singles you’re missing out. There are those who speak of him in the same breath as Billy Joel and Paul Simon – among them Barenaked Ladies, who had a hit with one of his songs. Gaby Roslin is also a major fan. Now having carved out a nice as a high-tech toy maker since his hit singer songwriter days, Friedman’s back….no kidding.
Released on his own Real Life label, The Threehouse Journals is only something like his fifth album in 22 years, but it proves he crafts his songs as carefully as ever, the lyrics likely to touch a nerve or two with all those of his own fortysomething generation. There’s a sophistication about songs like Summer Days and Picture Postcard Life that suggests Friedman’s grown into his music – or is it us who never really looked past the schlocky sentiment of his first hits?
Certainly, if the soft-rock likes of Bread hold a secret place in your heart, you could do worse than climb Friedman’s tree. MDH
The Music Index www.themusicindex.com
- Dave Garrett
The Treehouse Journals - Review
It might not be cool to write about ones dog or sweeping up the leaves in the back yard. Then again, was Dean ever cool?
Written, produced, arranged and recorded at his home recording studios. The latest album to come from Dean Friedman qualifies him as a one-man industry.
With a pedigree stretching back almost twenty-five years most people probably know what to expect from Dean Friedman. A rather quirky, homespun, "Grandma's potted fruit " feel, right? Well it has and its all the better for it. In addition to that it's also sentimental, comfortable and offbeat. I hasten to add however that it never becomes mawkish or sentimental for the sake of it.
Since Dean's arrival on the scene in the late seventies his appeal has largely been directed at the thirty somethings. Now of course his audience has moved along with him and he now finds himself with an even stronger fan base consisting of his original audience who of course like him are now forty to fifty somethings
Dean is unashamedly a forty something writing about the things he knows and loves. It might not be cool to write about ones dog or sweeping up the leaves in the back yard. Then again, was Dean ever cool?
Tracks of note include the stirring and deeply patriotic, particularly in light of the events of September the eleventh, George Washington Slept Here. The fun filled Who Was The One. You and Me Babe, which is obviously more than just your run of the mill, love song and Summer Days, a warm and fond recollection of teenage days gone by which will resonate with a great many of Deans audience I'm sure.
My favourite song of the whole album however is the amusing Picture Postcard life, which is pure Dean Friedman from start to finish and works just as well here in it's recorded form as it does as a live number.
Dean Friedman's latest album finds him in familiar territory, which will be snapped up by his loyal, and it has to be said increasing fan base. In closing as most of Deans fans will agree he is a singer songwriter of note and one who given the chance could well find himself back in the mainstream of the music business bearing in mind the age and buying power of his audience.
Listen and Enjoy
Questions, comments, and suggestions to Dean