‘Captain’ of Industry: Daryl Dragon’s Peculiar Course to Pop Stardom

When Daryl “Captain” Dragon and Toni Tennille have been in search of their first label, one suitor’s pitch resonated loudest. A&M Records was based by a fellow musician -- easy-listening maestro Herb Alpert -- and provided one thing nobody else would: they have been keen to let the Captain produce the duo’s first album by himself.

It was a powerful gesture: Short of 1 regional smash, Daryl and Toni didn’t have a monitor file of hitmaking. At the time that single was launched, the thirty-somethings have been a nightclub act. Dragon did have a musical pedigree -- his mother Eloise was a soprano who sung on display screen and radio packages, whereas his father Carmen was a conductor, arranger and composer who shared an Oscar for 1944’s Cover Girl. Prior to signing to A&M, Daryl had spent quite a lot of years as a touring keyboardist and musical director for the Beach Boys throughout their first spell out of the highlight.

Dragon’s time with the Boys coloured his and Tennille’s outstanding half-decade as a prime pop act. It’s the place he obtained his nickname, first off: throughout a efficiency of “Help Me, Rhonda” Mike Love launched him as “Captain Keyboard,” and it caught. It’s additionally the place he obtained hands-on expertise as an arranger -- notably for his good friend Dennis Wilson -- and an schooling in retaining an viewers engaged, night time in and night time out. It was the type of factor Dragon had left faculty (the place he performed string bass and pipe organ after a stint on the U.Okay.’s Royal Academy of Music) for. He was a tinkerer at coronary heart. It didn't matter whether or not he was working with others’ supplies.

Marooned between excursions, Dragon obtained tipped to a job opening for a touring keyboardist for a Broadway-bound present known as Mother Earth. He handed the audition and caught the eye of the musical’s composer, Toni Shearer. Shearer was within the midst of a divorce, and shortly reverted to her given surname as she started a artistic and romantic partnership with Dragon. She joined him for the Beach Boys’ 1972 tour, making her the one lady to carry out within the Boys’ band. Despite the group’s diminished profile, they represented an everyday paycheck - to not point out the scratch Tennille may make doing session work for the likes of Elton John - however Daryl was satisfied that Toni had it, and they also turned an L.A.-based act, playing nightclubs and gay bars for 70 bucks an evening.

At the urging of a pair native FM jocks, the duo pressed a 45 that includes Bruce Johnston’s “Disney Girls”. (Johnston claimed that he almost obtained the duo signed to RCA, however the label determined they have been only a lounge act, previous their prime.) But the flipside -- Toni’s Carole King homage “The Way I Want to Touch You” -- was the actual hit. Dragon performed bass and keyboards, and goosed the association with stuttering synths - not distracting, however nonetheless uncommon for a pop file. He did extra of the identical after the duo returned to the studio, recording a Sedaka reduce A&M was satisfied would make their debut LP a success.

The label was proper: the bouncy “Love Will Keep Us Together” topped the Hot 100 for 4 weeks and gained the Grammy for Record of the Year. Sedaka’s composition was already nice, however it was turbocharged by Dragon’s textural decisions: the buoyant tack piano, bassy clavinet and chirpy synths give the music muscle. The duo's debut LP, named after its breakout hit, set the tone for his or her A&M tenure: Bruce Johnston and Sedaka compositions, a traditional cowl (“God Only Knows” right here) and slightly house for Daryl to get bizarre: “Broddy Bounce” is an instrumental synth exercise with room for a Hal Blaine drum solo.

Follow-up Song of Joy despatched “Lonely Night (Angel Face)”-- one other Sedaka cowl -- into the highest 5 the subsequent yr: Dragon turned the blue-eyed soul of the unique inside-out, pinging between cha-cha-chá and girl-group abandon, tossing in some low-end, Beach Boys-style bop-bops for good measure. Those backing vocals cropped up once more on their hit cowl of Smokey Robinson’s “Shop Around,” together with these synths. But that was nothing in comparison with the file’s third hit.

At the invitation of Gerald and Betty Ford, the Captain and Tennille carried out on the White House for the Bicentennial. Mrs. Ford requested “The Way I Want to Touch You,” and Tennille determined to observe that with a Song of Joy reduce that had gotten over throughout their membership units: a Willis Alan Ramsey music about canoodling rodents. Their efficiency of “Muskrat Love” -- with Queen Elizabeth in attendance, snoozing off some jet lag -- annoyed Henry Kissinger and finally spurred the music’s launch as a single, turning into their fifth prime 5 hit. It turned simply as notorious for Dragon’s skittering synth results -- assumed to be the sounds of muskrat mating -- as its material; years later, it served as a plot point in an episode of Full House, starring actor and longtime Beach Boys collaborator John Stamos.

Around this time, the duo obtained the business’s highest honor: their very own weekly TV variety show. Theoretically, it was a superb artistic match: Dragon obtained to observe in his father’s footsteps by directing an orchestra and producing music for the present. But the tempo was grueling, and in contrast to his spouse -- an entertainer in full -- he hated being on digicam. (Dragon’s ever-present captain’s hat and sun shades gave him the look of a louche yacht rocker, however it was the outfit of a person uncomfortable along with his look. By all accounts, he and Tennille didn't partake within the more durable stuff.) They begged off after one season and a collection of standalone specials.

Their return to music didn’t produce the identical outcomes (even Daryl’s instrumental showcases have been comparatively rote), although they did hit No. 10 with the smoky, synth-pinged “You Never Done It Like That,” maybe their greatest single. It was the final single from 1978’s Dream, their remaining effort for A&M. Tennille and Dragon joked that they left as a result of they by no means obtained a parking house, whereas the Sex Pistols did; in any occasion, they moved to Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records, dwelling of the opposite main musical improvement of the period: disco.

Captain & Tennille weren’t resistant to the groove: the requisite oldies cowl from 1979’s Make Your Move was a Euro-disco tackle the Turtles’ “Happy Together”. But the massive tune was the gradual jam “Do That to Me One More Time,” their second and remaining Hot 100 No. 1. It scraped into the decrease half of the R&B singles chart, incomes them a feature on Soul Train. (“Our subsequent guests are, in our opinion,” pronounced Don Cornelius, “considerably of a royal couple.”) There have been no peculiar synth thrives, sadly; the pair’s time within the highlight was operating out. 1980’s Keeping Our Love Warm offered a sexier image and no hits. But the couple have been busy parlaying their fame: Toni - recent off contributing backing vocals to Pink Floyd’s conceptual blockbuster The Wall - was prepping for a short-lived tv speak present.

And Dragon obtained so as to add to his toy chest: he bought an Linn LM-1 drum machine, a Fairlight synth, and an E-mu Emulator synth with the serial quantity 002. (Stevie Wonder, whose composition “Until You Come Back to Me” the Captain & Tennille lined on Keeping Our Love Warm, copped 001.) He obtained to make use of a number of the new as a session musician for Survivor and Cheryl Ladd, and he produced a collection of solo efforts for Toni. But principally, he and his spouse maintained their pop legacy: overseeing the discharge of their TV work and the reissue of their albums, showing in a Sprint industrial, guesting on an episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. (Dragon was additionally the webmaster of the duo’s webpage.)

In 2007, the label Ninja Tune reissued the demo album BFI, recorded within the late ‘60s by the Dragons: Daryl along with his brothers Doug and Dennis (future founding father of the LA pop-punk act Surf Punks). It’s a glowing combine of soppy rock and psychedelia -- a worthwhile pay attention, however a lifetime away from the crisp, peculiar pop Daryl made with Toni Tennille throughout the interregnum between rock and disco.

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