Three Best Arrangements By Jimmie Haskell
June 26, 2011
By Michael Verity
Arrangers are the behind-the-scenes heroes of pop music, the guys (and girls) who turn sparsely-populated demos into things of beauty, bringing along strings and horns and harmonicas and choirs. Jimmie Haskell was the best of the best. Here are three of the best arrangements he did in the 1960s.
#3: Bobbie Gentry – "Hurry, Tuesday Child" (from Ode to Billie Joe): Haskell had already arranged for Ricky Nelson (without credit), Elvis Presley and Glen Campbell when he put together the arrangements for Bobbie's landmark record. With his brilliant charts, the sexiest singer in country music became a soul singer on par with Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield. This ballad, complete with strings and horn solo, is almost perfect.
#2: Laura Nyro – "You Don't Love Me When I Cry" (from New York Tendaberry): So powerful was Laura Nyro's voice that it was sometimes best to leave her alone. Nyro, with the help of engineer Roy Halee and arranger Haskell, chose just the right places to support her voice and piano with the occasional string here or bass there. Simply brilliant.
#1: Cass Elliott – "It's Getting Better" (from Bubblegum, Lemonade…and Something for Mama): Though her reading of Nyro's "He's A Runner" is a stunner, this piece of sunny Southern California pop shows Haskell's ability to have fun and play the pop side of things, too.
Jose Feliciano Features Jimmie Haskell on His Official Website
For almost as long as Jose Feliciano has been performing in symphonic situations, he has been fortunate to work with one of the finest conductor/arrangers in the industry, Jimmie Haskell. First having been assigned to arrange and conduct for Jose's first network television special for NBC in 1969, Jimmie has continued to write many of Jose's most memorable record arrangements, as well as conduct for many of his symphonic dates around the world.
Jose: "I've worked with some of the greatest conductors and arrangers in the business, and I'm very grateful for that experience, but I have to say Jimmie and I work really well together. He's great. He's also made some music history, too--the arrangements of Bobby Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe", Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters", Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now"--and today, it seems everything from Sheryl Crow to Disney and back again!"
Jimmie: I first met Jose in 1969 to discuss the music for his T.V. special. He said "Jimmie, I know your work" and immediately played the intros to 5 hit records which I had arranged, and he made his guitar feel like the entire orchestra on those records.
It has been my pleasure to work with Jose many times since then, and I particularly enjoy conducting the orchestra for his symphony concerts. Jose always impresses me with his great musical ability, his fantastic guitar playing and singing, and his memory for details.
We have magical moments during our symphony concerts. Although we count off to each other to begin playing together, there are times during some of the classical selections where there are pauses and changes of tempo with no time for us to converse, The orchestra can see my baton at those moments while Jose must psychically feel the next entrance of music, and he always does. He's awesome."
A DAY IN THE LIFE JIMMIE HASKELL
Los Angeles Magazine
August 1985 Issue, Page 26
Interview by Jane E. Lasky
I like the term music scorer. It denotes many things. Essentially, it means that I compose music for films, whether they be for television or the theater. I am also an arranger and a conductor.
Recently I went out to the set of Eye to Eye, a new television pilot for which I was possibly going to compose the score and conduct the orchestra. This particular morning they are shooting at the Formosa Cafe. During a break in the shooting, I talk to the three producers. They all give me their input on what kind of music they would like and ask me to write a main theme.
I go home from that meeting around 3 p.m. While I'm driving I have a pad of music paper with me. I listen awhile to the radio to get a feel for what's hot on the Top 40. Then I'll turn off the radio and start thinking of themes. Each time I come to a stoplight, I jot down a quick theme. Sometimes, if the theme is really hot and complex, I will pull over to the side of the road. If I'm on the freeway, I'll actually pull off to save the idea because I don't want to lose it if someone honks a horn or something. I'm okay in noise; I won't forget music. But the minute I hear a musical tone, it jolts my head, knocking it out for the moment.
By the time I get home, about 40 minutes from Hollywood, I've got portions of two themes written down. I'll grab a quick bite of lunch, and then I'll start trying to write more themes. Since all three producers have slightly different ideas of how the theme should go, I cover myself. I write five themes.
I write away from the piano. I go to the piano only when I want to check something out. I can write faster without ever touching an instrument. I'll listen to the theme in my head and say, "No, I don't want to do that." Then I'll listen to the next bar, and I'II say, "Yeah, that's okay." Then, since I'm an arranger, too, I start adding my arranging ideas to it. When I'm happy with what I've done, I go to sleep. By then it's around midnight.
"There's something magical about writing a melody. One minute I don't hear it, and the next minute I do"
I get up again at 4 a.m. to start to record. Because I'm not a great pianist or singer, I use synthesizers, a drum machine, tape recorders, equalizers and my echo to create the music. I work on the themes for a good number of hours. When I'm satisfied with them, I mix them down from four track to either stereo or mono, depending on what the situation calls for. In this case, I make three cassettes.
I take my little Sony Walkman with me and meet the producers on the set, which this time is an old bus station on North Ivar. I wait for the appropriate moment between takes, and then play a bit of the themes for each producer. They say they think I have something, so they take the cassettes to listen to them in their cars while they are driving home that night.
After the movie is finished, I sit with the producers and director-- in the case of Eye to Eye it's Roger Young--and we decide where the music will start and where it will end in the various scenes. Those are the descriptive points in the film. The music editor then takes that portion of the film and breaks it down for me into minutes, seconds and tenths of a second so that I can, as the composer, choose what I want to catch musically.
From that point on, it is a combination of music and mathematics: My training enables me to fit this music to the scene so that I have a complete musical phrase stating what I want it to state from within the mathematical limits given to me. There's no such thing as "but stretch the scene because I need two more bars to finish my musical statement." The scene is the scene, and I have to make the music fit. That's a musical challenge. Other people have their crossword puzzles; I have my film scoring.
I'm also scoring the film when I conduct the orchestra. Now that is a wonderful moment. The film is actually being presented on the screen. When the orchestra is watching me, I feel like a king. We spend as many hours as it takes to score the film. Usually, we figure five minutes of music can be accomplished per hour. If it is a one-hour dramatic comedy, as is the case for Eye to Eye, then 27 minutes of music are required. That's essentially six hours of scoring.
I've worked with all sorts of recording artists, from Simon and Garfunkel to Ricky Nelson to Laura Nyro. I worked with Billy Joel on Cold Spring Harbor. Billy was an unknown at the time and new in Los Angeles. He says to me, "Jimmie, I want to play the piano that Arthur Rubinstein uses when he comes to town to do a concert. Can you get it?"
I checked around and found that Penney-Owsley [a music store] had that piano, and we got it. That night the representative of Penney-Owsley came down to see how we were doing. When he showed up, he saw a bottle of wine on the piano and said, "Oh, no, we can't have that." But then Billy started playing. Well, when the man heard him play, he said, "I guess we'll leave the piano, wine and all."
There's something magical about writing a melody. One minute I don't hear it, and the next minute I do. I've tried to understand how that happens. Some people would say there is a universal mind. I believe in all of that because there has to be a reason why so many music composers can come up with these amazing ideas. I enjoy getting into all different styles, and I guess I am blessed with the ability to blend. I kind of think of myself as a grand accompanist.