Follow by Email

Friday, April 27, 2012

Eddie Schwartz: A special guy who took his shot

Eddie Schwartz, back in the 80's
 "There never seems to be a straight line between to points in the music business."

-Eddie Schwartz

I would venture to say that most of you who read this blog will have no idea of nor have ever heard of Eddie Schwartz. Even as a Canadian, he is not well known by anybody. I know of him because he had a few popular songs in Canada in the early 1980's.

"A Special Girl" was his one big solo hit as an artist in Canada and "All Our Tomorrows" was a big hit in the States,  reaching #28 in the Billboard Hot 100 and much higher in Canada. But is was as a songwriter  and later a producer that he would gain fame. Although, not many know of his success despite knowing of his work.

This blog is about how he got there, and almost didn't get there and the struggles and luck that played into it.

Eddie Schwartz was born on December 22, 1949 in Toronto, Ontario, and graduated from Toronto's York University in 1977 as a Music and English major. 

"I was getting nowhere like many songwriters..I couldn't get arrested really. I sent tapes out and nobody returned my phone calls. Nobody listened to my tapes."

He began his musical career soon after playing guitar for Charity Brown's backing band and signed with Infinity Records for a solo contract in 1979.

"I came up with a plan to get into a band that had a record deal. I reasoned that if I could get into a band with a record deal, the woman who headed that band (Charity Brown) would hear some of my songs and like them and would want to record some of them. And the plan basically worked out. I was in the band for a couple of years, she liked my material and she started singing it on stage. A&M records came to the gigs because she was signed to them and they offered me a deal."

 His self-titled debut album, Schwartz, followed in 1980, with A&M Records, as Infinity had gone bankrupt by then, and spawned his first Canadian hit, "Does a Fool Ever Learn"
 In spite of getting an offer from A&M, Eddie signed with ATV, which didn't really have the facilities that a writer like Eddie wished. It was a bad deal that he signed because his lawyer was crooked.

"I had recorded a demo of 4 songs that I thought basically got me my publishing deal with ATV...the fourth song was a song called "Hit me with your best shot". I assumed that was the song that got me the deal."

As it turns out, the people in L.A. at ATV hated that song and said they thought it was a piece of junk. They thought it was a complete waste of time and didn't want to record it.

 "So, I was devastated because I thought that was the best thing I'd ever done. I went for about two months just begging them to let me record that song. They just would not hear of it."

He wrote the song on an acoustic guitar in a farm house 45 minutes north of Toronto that he was living in at the time.
Because he got the gig playing electric guitar with Charity Brown, he began to play that song on the electric and changed the song into the type of song that it ended up becoming.

 "I had the title, which came out of therapy. I was in therapy at the time, because I needed it. One of the things we did in therapy was punch pillows.  And I came out of therapy one day and I just had this idea for "Hit me with your best shot" and I made it into this music.
But I had no other lyrics."

  "I started coming up with ideas for it, little bits and pieces of the song were kind of circling around in my head for quite a few months. But I really didn't go any farther than that, I didn't really have any concrete ideas."

One night while recording with Charity Brown for one of her albums, he got some time booked for himself. 

 "So I was playing in a band, and I didn't really have any songs finished, but I booked a recording session for after one of our gigs one night. The session actually started at 3 a.m. and was scheduled to go to about 6 or 7 in the morning. And I had nothing written. So on the way to the gig that night – that would have been about 9 o'clock - driving along the highway in Toronto, it sort of seemed like the sky opened up and the entire song just came to me, musically and the chorus. I didn't have the verse lyrics yet. And I madly drove to the gig we were playing at, and I picked up the guitar and I figured out what the chords I was hearing in my head were, and jotted it all down and sort of just made a mental note of everything."

 "We were in the recording studio, but I had no lyrics. I told the engineer to roll the tape 3 times, and whatever I sing the third time, that's the lyric, mix it and we'll go home...on the third pass I sang basically the lyric that became the record that Pat Benatar sang"

 The lyrics of the song basically came from the personal experiences that Schwartz had with various women over the years up to that point.

"Tough Cookie is really a composite character in the song of some of the women in my life at the time. Most are used to the song from the female perspective, but it was written from the male perspective."

""Well you're a real tough cookie with a long history of breaking little hearts like the one in me"

 Back in Hollywood, the song got recorded because the producers went across the street to a bar for 3 hours after the 3 songs they wanted recorded were done and there was still time left to record "Hit me with your best shot"  while they were away..against their wishes.
 Harry Shannon, the producer, returned and told the engineer to erase the master. Eddie was devastated. He was ready to go back to Toronto, defeated, then got a phone call from the engineer just before he was leaving telling him that the engineer had made a cassette tape for him and to keep it, but not tell anyone where he got it. He told him "just keep it, and you'll know when it is the right time to play it for somebody".

 At just about the same time, a young artist named Pat Benatar had been struggling to make it. In 1979, after getting her big break and a debut album out, she struck fame on her third single from that album,  called Heartbreaker.
She had signed with a record company called Chrysalis, the same company that had taken notice of Eddie Schwartz.
Six months later, ATV hired a new promoter at Chrysalis named Marv Goodman who heard Eddie's tape and said he really liked his stuff. Goodman asked him "have you got anything else you want to send me?"
Goodman heard Hit Me, and while he was listening to it, Pat Benatar, who was in a meeting in the next room over to discuss material for her second album heard the song through the wall.
Goodman kept playing the song louder and louder in his office while Benatar was having a meeting. They were playing other songs for her to record and she said "wait a minute, what is that (Hit Me, which she heard through the wall)?"

 "you have to hang in there..most of the people I know who have done well were the ones who just hung in there and didn't give up..they didn't walk away and that is no different for the Beatles or many. Those were guys who were just about ready to throw in the towel from what I know. They had really been through the ringer. They had been out there for many years. Nobody cared. Nobody listened."

 Pat Benatar recorded that song on her second album and it went on to be her signature song.

"Once the machine got into gear, once she cut it and everybody was on board, it couldn't have happened without all the support of people in the industry from that point forward. But just getting it to that point was quite a struggle."

 If you listen to his version, you can see why they didn't like it. It didn't have the punch that Pat's version did and was not really that good. The tempo and the energy was wrong, because Eddie Schwartz is not a rocker. He may have recorded it with the electric, but he was still basically folk and more mellow sounding. And frankly, he is an ordinary singer and Pat Benatar is not. His phrasing is very poor. He is a much better writer than performer.

" I sort of think the song is laden with sexual innuendo, but I think at the core of the song, it's a song about self-confidence. It's a song saying, "no matter what you throw at me, I can handle it. I can play in your league." I think that's always been my feeling about it."

 "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" sold one million copies, achieving a gold certification by the RIAA.

 "I mean, before that, I was struggling, you know, hand-top-mouth kind of musician. That certainly changed. I had credibility and people came to me. Before that, you can't get people to return your phone calls or open the doors. So once you have a song like that, a lot of the people whose name I mentioned, I got phone calls from them. So that was certainly a nice turn of events."

 Schwartz went on to record two more albums for ATV,
 No Refuge, came out in 1981, and did well in Canada, as well as the U.S., placing in the Billboard 200 and spawning a U.S. and Canadian hit single, "All Our Tomorrows," (#28 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100). A follow-up track from this album, "Over the Line" also crept into the Hot 100, peaking at #91.

 Schwartz's third and last album for a major record label, Public Life, came out two years later and featured another Canadian hit with "Strike." Also included on this album was the original recording of his composition, "Special Girl," which was a minor hit for him and became a bigger hit for the band, America.

 Although his earliest hit as a songwriter for other artists was  "Hit Me with Your Best Shot", Schwartz didn't focus significantly on producing and songwriting until the late 1980s. Since then he has produced artists of various genres including


 Many of his songs have been recorded by famous artists including:
 "I Stand In Wonder"

"Does a Fool Ever Learn"

He has won multiple BMI, Juno, and SOCAN awards. In 1995 he released an album, Tour de Schwartz, only in Canada, to generally good reviews.

His advice to songwriters:

"look inward but then find something else that means something to other people too."

"the more insecure you are I think in some ways that is an advantage."

"struggle to break new ground and to really connect with the deepest part of yourself"

Most of the quotes I took for this blog came from an interview that you can listen to in its entirety if you wish.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this. Eddie Schwartz is an amazing songwriter and a really interesting success story - whose success is still going on as a Nashville mainstay (if that isn't an oxymoron in showbiz). It's true that mostly Canadians over 40 or music buffs would know his name (I did because I loved his version of Special Girl back in the day and also I love Paul Carrack, someone else who had hits with Schwartz's songs). But in the music biz, this gentleman is a household name - and an inspiration to Canadian artists.


About Me

Daily profile about a specific artist,their life, their work and their impact