Music News

Happy Birthday, Alan Parsons!

Although he built his later success on the foundation of the Alan Parsons Project, Alan Parsons had a rewarding professional career well before he turned his attention to the ambitious ensemble that would later bear his name. In 1967, at the age of 18, he was hired as an assistant engineer at London's famed Abbey Road Studios, where he earned his first production credit for the Beatles Abbey Road album. Throughout the remainder of the '60s and early '70s he would lend his talents to some of the most renowned albums of the era, including Let It Be, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, a pair of Paul McCartney's early efforts, several records by the Hollies, Al Stewart's hit "Year of the Cat" and various projects by the bands Pilot, Cockney Rebel and Ambrosia. 

Still Parsons, who turns 63 today, might have remained just another anonymous studio geek -- albeit one with a Grammy nod, thanks to his work on Dark Side of the Moon -- had it not been for his collaboration with songwriter and keyboard player Eric Woolfson.

At first, Woolfson assumed the role of Parsons' manager, but once

Parsons was ready to step out from behind the boards, the two men began

collaborating on a series of sophisticated albums that were created

around themes that were both cinematic and conceptual. Utilizing

Parson's knack for infusing lush arrangements and rich instrumental

embellishment, they recruited a revolving cast of vocalists and

musicians to flesh out their grandiose narratives. Their first

initiative under the Alan Parsons Project banner, Tales of Mystery and Imagination,

was based on a theme Woolfson had conceived based on the writings of

Edgar Allan Poe. The album hit the Top 40 on Billboard's album charts

and paved the way for the further successes achieved by I Robot, Pyramid and Eve.

Ironically, for an outfit that crafted albums as an art form, Parsons

and Woolfson's most consistent success was found on the singles charts,

thanks to songs like "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You," "Games People

Play," Damned If I Do, "Time," "Eye in the Sky" and "Don't Answer Me."

Consequently, the Alan Parsons Project became radio staples and a

genuine representation of progressive art rock in the mid to late '70s.

It's also worth noting that for an outfit that eschewed star billing -- most of their early songs were sung by different guest vocalists -- they achieved a rarified cultural connection that found them name checked by several different sources. In the Mike Myers film, The Spy Who Shagged Me, the clueless Dr. Evil unwittingly appropriates the band's name for his new weapon of mass destruction, much to the amusement of Scott, his skeptical son. 


Then there was this equally absurd exchange in an episode of The Simpsons

Bart: Dad, please. You're embarrassing us. 
Homer: No I'm not. I'm teaching you about rock music. Now Grand Funk Railroad paved the way for Jefferson Airplane, which cleared the way for Jefferson Starship. The stage was now set for the Alan Parsons Project, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft. 
Bart: Dad, no one cares about any of your stupid dinosaur bands. You have the worst, lamest taste ever. 

Fortunately, when the California band Grandaddy decided to pay tribute to Parsons, they attempted to do so with a bit more reverence. Hence, in the spirit of the holidays, we present "Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" from the compilation album It's a Cool, Cool Christmas (sung to the tune of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland"): 

"Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? 
In the studio, the lights are glistening 
A beautiful sight
We're happy tonight
Alan Parsons in a winter wonderland 

Gone away, is the blue bird 
Here to stay, is the new bird
He records a love song
The production's right on
Alan Parsons in a winter wonderland

In the meadow we can build a snowman 
And pretend that he is Alan Parsons 
He'll say "Have you listened to my new band?"
And we'll say "No, but we really like that one song that goes 'Time... keeps flowing like a river'" 

In the meadow we can build a snowman
And pretend that he is Alan Parsons 
He'll say "Have you listened to my new band? 
I can put you on the list for the show in Carson (City)" 

Later on, we'll retire
As we dream, by the fire
Of the Eye In The Sky
That was with us tonight
Alan Parsons in a winter wonderland

Although my favorite songs 
Have notes that are wrong 
Alan Parsons in a winter wonderland

And there's digital snow
On the frozen pianos
Alan Parsons in a winter wonderland

And electronic bands 
With frostbitten hands
Alan Parsons in a winter wonderland

At the end of the day
His albums we'll play
Alan Parsons in a winter wonderland" 

Hopefully Parsons is pleased...

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Lee Zimmerman