Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 17

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Oh, Wednesday morning, you gave me no warning. Instead, you just showed up and offered me the wussiest music imaginable. So I suppose I’ll do my duty and present you all with yet another one of our Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

Alan O’Day – Undercover Angel (download)

May Emasculysus, the God of all things Mellow, bless and keep those who recommended “Undercover Angel” for Mellow Gold.

Alan O’Day had minor success when he first joined the music business in the early ’60s. As part of a rock ‘n roll trio named Alan, Bob and Denny, he performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965. (Doesn’t have the same ring as “Peter, Paul and Mary,” does it?) He had also released an album with Dunhill Records and performed for troops in the Far East in the late ’60s. By 1969, however, he was burned out as a performer, and opted to concentrate solely on songwriting, like many of our Mellow artists. When he signed with Warner Brothers Publishing in 1971, he had his first hit, handing “The Drum” to Bobby Sherman.

Other songwriting hits followed, such as “Rock And Roll Heaven,” performed by The Righteous Brothers, and most notably, “Angie Baby,” which became Helen Reddy’s biggest-selling single, and her third #1 hit. In 1976, O’Day signed with the Pacific Records label. Pacific Records was a small boutique label set up by some of the WB publishers to allow their songwriters to record and release their own music, instead of giving it to the larger artists.

Read that above sentence again. Ahhh, the ’70s. So innocent.

Pacific Records, which distributed under Atlantic, released “Undercover Angel.” It was their first release from their first artist, and they didn’t really expect it to go anywhere. To everyone’s surprise, on July 9, 1977, “Undercover Angel” hit #1 on the Billboard charts. Nobody knew what to do. O’Day didn’t even have an album prepared. He went out on the road and publicized the hell out of the song, and “Undercover Angel” wound up selling two million copies.

Without knowing anything about the song, you might think this is a tale of suspense – one of a beautiful woman going undercover to solve a mystery. But this is Mellow Gold, people, and such deep plot points are against the rules (unless you’re Rupert Holmes).

No, “Undercover Angel” is a song that O’Day describes as a “nocturnal novelette.” In the song, a beautiful, wondrous vision (most likely in the form of a girl with big hooters) appears to him while he’s lying in bed. He describes the experience in the chorus:

Undercover angel, midnight fantasy
I never had a dream that made sweet love to me, oooh

Methinks Alan O’Day skipped puberty.

Anyhoo, the apparition convinces O’Day that maybe he should stop masturbating and find a real woman. Okay, that’s not exactly what’s said in the song, but that’s what I’m taking from it. Read between the lines, people.

As for the other lyrics in the song, they’re fantastically Mellow. Witness the phrase “Wonder is your night light/Magic is your dream.” That’s all I’m gonna say. They don’t write ’em like that anymore. There’s probably a good reason, but I digress.

In terms of music, I’ve been listening to this song for a few weeks now, and I smile every time I hear it. Not in the “oh god, this is so pathetic” kind of way, but in that “I can’t believe a song this goofy did as well as it did” way. It’s got a bunch of great things going for it, though: strong, keyboard-based instrumentation (some of it actually sounds – dare I say it – Stevie Wonder-esque?), a bit of funky guitar, and some awesome female backing vocals. No sax solo, but you had better believe there’s a Mellow Gold key change.

The shining moment of “Undercover Angel,” however, is the pre-chorus.

I said “what?”
She said “oooohweee”
“I said ‘All riiiight!'”
She said “love me, love me, love me!”

If this doesn’t seem impressive, it’s because you haven’t listened to the song yet. In fact, I’m so in love with this pre-chorus that I’ll even excerpt it here for those of you bastards who will download but take three weeks to listen to it (Michael, I’m looking in your general direction):

[audio:http://www.wwmmd.net/tunes/inline/undercover1.mp3]

Alan O’Day channels John Travolta, film at eleven.

I’m not joking: I erupt in giggles every single time I hear this pre-chorus. Even better is the final pre-chorus. Listen for the heavy-breathing “undercover, ah, undercover!” in the left speaker, and if you listen closely, you’ll even hear a hint of the key change (I’m such a tease):

[audio:http://www.wwmmd.net/tunes/inline/undercover2.mp3]

I’m giggling right now. It’s dangerously close to a cackle. Is there anything Mellower than the “all riiiiight,” I ask you? Especially when you consider that it’s being sung to a woman that doesn’t even exist?

O’Day had some international hits after “Undercover Angel,” specifically a song entitled “Skinny Girls” which was an Australian #1, and “Your Eyes” which was a chart-topper in Japan. You probably didn’t hear much of his music in the U.S. after his big song…that is, unless you were a kid in the mid-’80s: O’Day and songwriter Janis Liebhart wrote over 100 songs for “Muppet Babies.” In 2001, “Undercover Angel” was used in the movie version of Charlie’s Angels.

I’ve read a number of interviews with Alan O’Day over the past couple of weeks, and I’ll say this: he seems like a genuinely intelligent, nice man. He doesn’t seem deluded about his place in music history like Benny some other artists we know, and he seems genuinely content. Okay, so he looks like the substitute teacher that Walter Egan actually is, but whatever.

So yeah, consider me an Alan O’Day fan. In fact, I figured I really didn’t have anything to snark about in this Mellow Gold entry…until I saw the following on his website:

NEW!!! To hear or purchase my CD “UNDERCOVER ANGEL 2001”, CLICK HERE


Oh no, I thought. Alan O’Day did not just go all Mardones on me. Please tell me he didn’t do what I think he did.

He did.

I’m not saying another word. Click on the above link and listen to a snippet of “Undercover Angel 2001.” Count how many things are wrong with this remake. We could make a list.

My first thought was “oh my god, this is the most horrible thing I’ve heard since Mellowmas.” But then I listened a couple more times, and…nope, still horrible.

But on the fourth listen, I took all the things I now know about Alan O’Day (anybody wonder how I’m still married?), and began to smile. The man has his tongue planted firmly in cheek, and is clearly having fun – not taking it seriously like Benny some other artists we know. Plus, if you read around his site, you’ll find out two interesting things: 1) he really loved his mother (and I’m a mama’s boy, so I can appreciate this), and 2) he set up a scholarship fund in her name, with all proceeds from “Undercover Angel 2001” going to the scholarship. (Okay, the first 500 copies, but let’s just say I’m not convinced 500 have been sold of a CD with a song entitled “WWW Dot Lonely.”) The scholarship gives money to underprivileged graduates of his high school who wish to pursue teaching. So maybe it’s the Mellow talking, but I’m having a hard time finding anything really sarcastic to say – I just find everything about Alan O’Day silly, in a good way.

However, that doesn’t mean you are all exempt from snark in the comments. So enjoy “Undercover Angel” (and don’t enjoy “Undercover Angel 2001”), and I look forward, as always, to reading your thoughts. And we’ll see you next week for yet another edition (dear god, will it ever end?) of Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!

(PS: ┬┐Hola baby, que paso?)

  • As an 11 year old in 1977, songs like this dominated my radio listening experience (WABC radio in NYC, sigh). There really was no other time like it. Think of what 11 year olds have to listen to today on top 40 radio…it’s enough to make one cry.
    I look forward to the day that you tackle songs by David Naughton, Pablo Cruise, Andrew Gold and so many others!

  • "Angie Baby", incidentally, is a seriously weird song, about a crazy girl whose room is invaded by a neighbor boy who’s been peeking through her window, so she sucks him into the radio, and he’s never seen again.

  • Bruce K.

    Isn’t the song about a wet dream, rather than masturbating?  But that’s nitpickin’ innit?
    Up there in the wimp pantheon with, for example, "I Like Dreaming".
    Bruce K.

  • Great twist near the end, Jason, where you almost give up on him. You’re the John Irving of music blogs (eccentric characters, hostile fates (Benny), parent-child relationships, plot twists).
     
    I’m in misery, though. I was once the proud owner of an entire Alan O’Day vinyl LP, "Appetizers". I never listened to it. After reminding myself of the fact in a previous comment on Mellow Gold I’ve been searching for it high and low, for months, almost convinced it’s a treasure that would’ve given me hours of joy (in a silly, but also good way). But it’s lost, it seems. Listen to the single and imagine the stuff he would probably come up with for deep album cuts… so sad I lost it (I know, I know, half.com, Ebay, etc. – but I’m not that sad)

  • woofpop

    Terje,
    I once was owner of that album, too – courtesy of the 88-cent cutout bin at Woolco. Best part of it – an extended version of ‘Undercover Angel’ – the ending goes on for at least another minute. Too bad that version never turns up on any collections.. Can’t remember much about the rest of the record – I recall he did ‘Angie Baby’ and a song called ‘Do Me Wrong But Do Me’ – clever guy..  He kinda looks like Ray Stevens..

  • Pete

    As a kid I regularly raided my sisters’ record collections (my favorite thing to do was sit in front of a portable record player and listen to 45s), ruining many a copy in the process. One record I never got tired of was "Undercover Angel", and to this day I still enjoy its simple pleasures. The instrumentation is very fun, and as you pointed out Jason, how can you not chuckle at that pre-chorus? I’d love to hear the longer album version…. As for the remake, my jaw truly dropped when he started the first verse. Totally unexpected and quite horrifying! At least the guy is having fun….

  • If this doesn’t seem impressive, it’s because you haven’t listened to the song yet.  In fact, I’m so in love with this pre-chorus that I’ll even excerpt it here for those of you bastards who will download but take three weeks to listen to it (Michael, I’m looking in your general direction)

    Yup, I resemble that remark.
     
    Jason’s strategy is brilliant, those clips made me listen to the song right away. It’s HIGH-larious.

  • David

    As befits a song about teenage wet dreams, it kills me that his voice breaks at the 1:30 “Whaaaat” mark.

  • I don’t remember hearing "Undercover Angel" on the radio when I was younger, but I still remember reading about Alan O’Day in Billboard’s Book of #1 Hits back when I was 12 and being impressed that he was a songwriter who’d struck a deal to record his own songs.  Or in this case song, at least at first.

    "Undercover Angel" truly entered my conscience for the first time in 2002, when I received — no surprise here — "Super Hits of the ’70s, Vol. 19" for Christmas.  Bruce K., this volume’s got Kenny Nolan’s "I Like Dreamin’," as well as Andrew Gold’s "Lonely Boy" (perhaps the whiniest non-romance song ever, but I love it anyway) and the not-mellow-at-all "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti.  (But I don’t really think of "Undercover Angel" as being mellow either.)

    I can’t remember if it was Woofpop or Scraps or maybe somebody else entirely who mentioned "Undercover Angel," Starbuck’s "Moonlight Feels Right," and Paul Nicholas’s "Heaven on the 7th Floor" having the smarmiest vocals of the ’70s.  Very true, but that smarmy "all riiiight" doesn’t bother me.  Neither do Paul Nicholas’s vocals since "Heaven on the 7th Floor" is so wonderfully cheesy and bouncy.  These songs take me back to a time (and a backseat) I never even knew.  A ridiculous statement, but I’m sure many of you can sympathize.  Or is it empathize?  Maybe you should do both just to make sure.

  • Stephen

    So glad you took my advice on this one, Jason! At least, I think it was my advice. I was actually introduced to this by an ex-girlfriend after telling her I was addicted to the Barry Williams hosted (co-hosted by some hot woman who seems to be in every commercial) infomercial for the Time-Life ’70s Music Explosion box set. She admitted she had also seen the informercial several times and desperately wanted to hear that "Undercover Angel " song which is very briefly featured in the show. I soon downloaded the song and thus opened a new chapter of my life. Okay not really, but this is a fun, silly song. Also makes me yearn for a time when a man so utterly uncommercial looking could have a #1 hit. Honestly, that guy looks like my 7th grade English teacher with more hair.I’m glad someone brought up "Heaven on the 7th Floor." That’s a tune I randomly discovered after getting bored one day and downloading all the songs named by Steven Wright’s DJ for KBilly Super Sounds of the 70s on the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack. It’s impossible to not feel happy listening to that song — okay, it may be possible to feel very annoyed, but in that case you’re what my aunt would call a "fuddy duddy." "7th Floor" was later ripped off by Dan Hartman (later of "I Can Dream About You" fame) for his song "Instant Replay" which is ALMOST as fun and maybe even poppier than "7th Floor." Highly recommended for some ridiculous bubble gum pop fans.

  • Jeremy

    I couldnt have written my impression of the song any better. Great stuff man!!

  • Alan O’ Day pretty much epitomizes the mellow ethic if not the sound. Dude who isn’t conventionally "cute", as the girls say, makes music to try and win their affection. Yet they do so by putting the *ahem* on the pedestal, to paraphrase "The 40 Year Old Virgin".So you get the limpiest love tracks ever. No wonder Barry White was scorin’ like a bowler, even though he was a mighty big man. He was talking about the luuuuv while other dudes were talking about spring skips along the beach with utmost reverence to the goddess whats=her=name.I guess it’s a good thing O’Day’s doing it with a wink and a nod.DwD

  • That’s an excellent point.  Hadn’t looked at it that way!

  • I like that O’Day wrote for the Muppet Babies. Clearly the guy doesn’t take himself seriously, and I dig that. Heck, I can *almost* picture him performing “Undercover Angel” on the Muppet Show surrounded by Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the rest of them… well, maybe not.

  • Dave: your next mission, should you choose to accept it: a version of "Undercover Angel" as sung by Animal, Fozzie, and Gonzo.

  • "a version of "Undercover Angel" as sung by Animal, Fozzie, and Gonzo" -> Can I try, too? (no, seriously, I don’t want to, really). Btw, I showed your anniversary posting to my wife today. Shouldn’t have, though, now I think she’s really jealous of your wife, complaining I’m not romantic enough… Oh, well, maybe I deserve it spending so much time in front of my computer – poor girl…

  • Oh god, please, don’t either of you try.  I don’t think I could take it.

    Thanks, Terje, regarding the other post.  Tell her I’m only so romantic – tonight, I’ll probably ignore her so I can finish Chart Attack.  :)

  • Don’t listen to him, Terje. I hear that sort of thing a lot, actually.

  • I figured as much – still, I just managed to show Jason’s reply to my wife before your comment came up… So thanks, Jason. :) And congratulations to you both!

  • UN- COV- ANGEL!NIGHT NIGHT FANTASY!!RAGHH RAGGH ARR ARR RAAAGGGHTTHRAGH AGHR Dr. TEETH!!UN- COV- ANGEL!ARR RAAAGH Mr. T!!RARGHLE RARGHLE CHA-CHAAS SEEN ON NBC!!NBC!!  NBC!! Oooohweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

  • Now that was funny.  :)

  • Stephen

    Why is it called Undercover Angel 2001 version? It’s clear that around 1982 O’Day (after hearing Grandmaster Flash’s "The Message" exactly once) tried to make a crossover version for the hip-hop charts and used the "Charlie’s Angels" success as an excuse to rid his archives of this vile "song."

  • I just heard "Heaven On The Seventh Floor."  Hoo boy.  This song, like "Undercover Angel," is both awful and awesome, awesomely awful and awfully awesome.  Definitely a fun, novel, easygoing 70s song, but is it Mellow Gold?

  • I’m not sure the woman in this song "doesn’t exist."  In the third and final verse, Alan says, "Now you know my story, and girl, if it’s right/I wanna take you in my arms and love you tonight."  The way I interpret it, the first two verses were the story he told his prospective love interest, and the third verse is his attempt to close the deal.  Or, to paraphrase, "I had a dream that I had amazing sex with this angel.  After we finished, she told me that I’ll eventually find her real-life counterpart if I keep looking.  Girl, I think it may be you."  The question is (and this applies to almost all Mellow Gold tracks), what kind of self-respecting woman is buying this?  "Oh, so you want to get me into bed, but while we’re doing it, you’re going to be fantasizing about this ‘angel’ who doesn’t actually exist.  Let me get my coat so we can go back to your apartment!"

  • I should have been more specific: my point in the above was that the pre-chorus, not the song in general, was being sung to a woman who didn’t even exist.  I’m with you on the rest of it.  He sounds more creepy than anything else, right?

  • But we can all agree that "heavenly surrender/sweet afterglow" is downright nauseating, right?  (Good lord: I can’t believe I’m still married either, let alone a parent!)

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  • I don’t consider "Heaven on the 7th Floor" to be Mellow Gold.  But I don’t see "Undercover Angel" as Mellow Gold either, although some very good arguments have been made here.  Should Time-Life’s "Classic Soft Rock Collection" be the final word?  Well, no, but I watched the infomercial for it last night — I love seeing clips of the songs (Paul Davis, almost live!) being performed on "American Bandstand" — and so many songs that have been mentioned in the posts and the comments on this site are included in Time-Life’s collection.  I can’t remember if you posted Benny Mardones’s "Into the Night" video a few months ago, Jason, but I saw clips from it on that infomercial.  Profile shots aren’t Benny’s specialty.<br><br>Some of the best parts of the infomercial are when Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply sing a few lines of hits like "All Out of Love" and it’s clear Hitchcock’s pipes aren’t warmed up.  Have some of that soft-rockin’ lemonade that’s on the table in front of you, Russ!  It’s also great when their cohost, Angela Lambert (I think), talks about the featured songs and then the camera cuts to Graham or Russell saying "Thanks, Angela" in a tone that, thanks to choppy editing, has the underlying subtext of "That’s enough, skirt."  It’s also odd how the listener testimonials show a man and a woman sitting very close to each other, with one usually staring dreamily at the other one while he or she talks about soft rock, but when the couple’s names are listed, they have different last names.  Every single time!  Time-Life, you’re trying to tell me none of these couples share the same last name?  None of these forty- and fiftysomethings are married, or are you trying to tell me that all of the women here kept their maiden name?  I watched Time-Life’s "1970s Soul" infomercial several months ago and it was the same deal.  Somebody explain this to me, please.

  • Stephen

    Heaven on the 7th Floor…damn I don’t know what that song is. It’s just like, incredibly catchy ridiculous bubble gum pop catering to both the pop charts and the disco charts. I think the tone and lyrics are similar to Undercover Angel, but the music is definitely in another world altogether.

  • Brett

    Dude, I have to thank you for the info on this song. For some reason about a month and a half ago that pre-chorus popped into my head. Try as I might, i couldn’t manage to sing it well enough for anyone to figure out WHAT song I was singing, let alone WHO sang it. Anyway, I was surfung around looking for something else, and found it entirely by accident. Just wanted to let you know that you rock.

  • Glad to help, Brett.  Stick around and you’ll probably find other songs you’re ashamed to have stuck in your head!

  • Interesting comments.. :D

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  • JP

    Alan O’Day didn’t look like he sounded.

    As a kid I heard “Undercover Angel” on the radio constantly during the summer of ’77, and always pictured some Vinnie Barbarino playa type to be the one singing those lyrics. Then that fall I saw O’Day’s album in a department store and saw some ordinary guy who looked like a substitute teacher, as Jason or somebody said…ah, the pre-MTV days when you’d hear the song before seeing the photo anc you had your own mental image of what these folks actually looked like…

  • Jason – –
    A friend just forwarded this page to me. Thanks for one of the most entertaining “reviews” I’ve ever read of UA, and my perceived persona. And the responses are fascinating, like looking through some time-warped mirror…

    Gotta go, lots more teaching, masturbating & modulating on my schedule. But Jason, you have my respect, as a damn funny writer, and for having the class to not leave my whole mp3 hanging there to be further ripped off. BTW, for those who care, I’ve been negotiating to get my two ’70’s albums, “Appetizers” & “Oh Johnny” released digitally for the first time.

    Thanks again,
    Alan

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