There are several early childhood memories I have concerning music. I started playing drums around 5 or 7 years old, and have gotten to play with some great musicians throughout the years. Some early records I can remember are The Oak Ridge Boys, The Bay City Rollers, Andy Gibb, and even The Village People. I remember seeing the cover of Kiss’s “Alive II” at my older cousin’s house, and my uncle had his own record store for a while, where I remember seeing some of the posters and album covers throughout the store.
One artist I remember listening to in my grade school and junior high years was Barry Manilow. My parents had 2 of his 45’s in the house, “The Old Songs/”Don’t Fall in Love with Me,” and his “Memory”/”Heart of Steel” singles. I would listen to them many times over, and even though I was into the Pop Hits of the time, I still enjoyed these two records.
Flash forward to my first year of college, and I somehow stumbled onto his music again. I’m not sure how or why, but I just had to see him in concert. In 1994, I was convinced I had to see him live. I stood outside of the local National Record Mart store and waited in line to get my tickets. I had my cash with me, and I remember that the price was expensive for me, including the service charges (at the time it was $40.75 a ticket, not sure what the charge was). My mother just happened to have some extra money, and I’d never forget that she helped me cover the rest of the cost. After seeing him live at the show, I was hooked even more on his music.
The first Manilow CD I ever purchased was his 1989 “Barry Manilow” album, the first cassette I bought when I joined Columbia House Record Club in college was his red covered Greatest Hits. I have seen him in concert a total of 6 times, more than any other artist. He was also the only artist I paid over $100 to see (the tickets with the service charge combined sent it over that number).
Even though I listen to different types of music, from The Beach Boys and Kiss, my friends still wonder why I like Manilow so much. Besides the small history I just gave, his music shows not just sappy love songs, but themes such as mistakes, missed and failed friendships, to fighting for your dreams when no one else believes in you, or everyone wants to hold you down.When I felt like nothing went right in college, to feeling there were no friends around, he was the one artist I could listen that kept me going. He was also the only artist that my parents, my uncle, and my grandmother seemed all to like-it was a common thread. My father took me and my Uncle to see Barry in 2004 with a company he worked with and we saw his concert at The Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, in the lodge seats. I have seen Manilow in Pittsburgh, PA, 4 times, Cleveland, Ohio, once, and in Youngstown Ohio with the Youngstown Symphony.
One of my best concert experiences ever happened in Pittsburgh the first time I saw Manilow when I took my friend to see Barry in concert days after he broke up with a girl named Amy. Thinking he would like to get out of the house and see someone (not the best artist for a breakup looking back), Manilow was going into a Broadway song he recorded called “Once in Love with Amy.” We were back 12 rows back from the stage and he yells “NOOOO!” Barry laughed and said something like “I guess someone knew Amy.”
There are many big hits that Manilow has recorded by I’d like to list a few of his maybe not well known songs that I like, and the album you can find them on. Maybe you’ll like some of these underrated ones.
1.”Lay Me Down” (1975 “Trying to Get the Feeling Again” Album). This song was written by Larry Weiss, who also wrote “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Bend Me, Shape Me,” and the theme to the TV Show “Who’s The Boss.” I first heard this song when Trisha Yearwood sang it on CMT’s 2000 Special “Manilow Country” and the lyrics blew me away. The song is about a man who’s reading the goodbye letter to himself and fighting to get over the girl when he runs into her on the street with a new person. The song was also recorded by Anne Murray and Glen Campbell. But Manilow has the touch one this one. Very Sad song.
2. “The Old Songs” (1981 “If I Should Fall in Love Again” Album) As I mentioned earlier, this song was one of my first experiences to Manilow’s music. The song dealing with trying to get a relationship going and if nothing works, he’ll try the old records to help him out. This song shares the power of music in people’s lives, and has so many memories for me. It hit #15 on the Pop Charts, but it is not well talked about when Manilow’s music comes up.
3.”Read Em And Weep” (1983 “Greatest Hits Vol. 2” Album). This song was originally written and recorded by Meatloaf for his 1981 “Dead Ringer” album, but was not a hit until Barry took it over. Written by Jim Steinman, the song takes a love song and ads a literary and acting aspect to it. I just recently discovered the Meatloaf version last year, and although it is good, it seems to lack the emotion that Manilow adds to it. This was also Barry’s last Top 40 Hit on the Pop Charts, hitting number #18.
4. “Why Don’t You See The Show Again” (1976 “This One’s For You” Album) Even though he didn’t write the lyrics, he did write the music, and has to be autobiographical about a man that is surrounded by people when he plays his music onstage, but once the show is over, what’s next? This song is a favorite because usually when played, it’s just Manilow and his piano. Frank Sinatra recorded this song later on. I discovered this one during his “Music and Passion: Live From Las Vegas DVD.” This song any musician can relate to.
5. “The Best Seat in the House” (1990 “Live on Broadway” and 2012 “Live in London” Albums). Much like “See the Show Again,” the song combines the musician on stage with love for a person. This song can not only be interpreted for a lover, but even a friendship. Being a drummer, I was able to look around the crowd or people while playing in the audience and maybe see friends out there that I had great memories with that I can sit and reminisce. This is just a great song with symbolism in it.
Some other Honorable Mentioned songs- “”Sweet Heaven “ (1985 “Manilow,” “2 Nights Live,”), “You Ought to be Home With Me” (1976 “This One’s For You”).
Maybe you haven’t heard these songs before, or maybe you had the albums and forgot about them, but give these songs another chance. You may find a new appreciation to them. With that, I wanted to add a final video, which is one of my favorites, found on his “Live on Broadway.