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The TC Story

 

 

 

It was my first record, 1978. "Have A Little Faith In The Kid," an Intercord Record run by Günter Henne of Toledo, out of the legendary Meisel Verlag building at Wittelbacher Strasse 18. (And I cringed when I saw "The New Rock Singer" up in the corner. As the photographer Jim Rakete said, "Are you trying to kill the guy before he even gets started?")

 

It was done up in the legendary Hansa II Studio on Köthener Strasse in Kreuzberg, with Tom Müller at the sound controls (with Peter Burgon assisting), Ralf Nowy wrote the charts. These were some of the finest session musicians available in Berlin at the time.

 

And you'll notice that the vinyl album carries the rubric, "Printed in Western Germany."

 

Those were the days.

Back cover, discs, lyrics, etc., see  here.

 

Music here.

 

 

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Tom Cunningham ‎– Comin' Back For More. It was time for my second LP.  It was 1979, I was 27 years old, and Gunter Henne was ready to put another one out on Toledo / Intercord as a follow-up to Have A Little Faith In The Kid.

 

But we had our problems. Gunter like the country-flavored songs; he flipped out over the original "Somewhere Down the Road." But I like the hard rock opuses like "Television Western" and "Andrea."  Both found their way onto the LP. 

 

Peter of Intercord Records in Stuttgart paired me up with an all Scottish band who played in the hinterlands of Stuttgart with the hits of the day - Helen Cowan, vocals, James Angus Barr, keyboards, Bobby Colquhoun, bass, Jimi Seller, guitar, and Colin Jameson, drums.They liked my material, and immediately decided to join up as the new Tom Cunningham Band. We went on tour in Germany, did some photos with Jim Rakete, and had a couple of memorable nights in Berlin at the Kant Kino and a one-week gig at the Quasimodo.  With this record and band I became established as a rock singer in Berlin.

 

Back cover, discs, lyrics, etc., see here.

 

Music here.

 

 

Blitz – The Game. Toledo / Intercord,1980. Somehow during the making of "Comin’ Back for More" I got to know the legendary Audio Tonstudio in Berlin-Lichterfelde, with its incomparable Meister of Ton (= Tonmeister), Udo Arndt. We finished up the overdubs and mixing on "Comin’ Back," and were soon involved in various other projects, for which I spent most days of the week down in the studio. With the inimitable Manfred Hübler as arranger, we used the top session players from Germany on the tracks for Blitz (Curt Cress drums , Christian keys, Dave bass, Mats guitars). I sang lead vocals and added some tasty guitar licks.  But Blitz was strictly a studio band, no live gigs to speak of.

 

 

 

"The Game" was a production from the early '70s that was done in Hansa Studios II (Berlin), the great Hall by the Wall (Berliner) with the legendary Neve console. It was my first meeting as well with Tonmeister Peter Wagner and Concertmeister Cess von Schaik. I remember that Georgio Maroder made an offer for the single, which was turned down (for some reason). So I took the 4-inch tape down to Audio Tonstudio with "The Game" on it. Udo remixed it, and it gave the name of the album.

 

 

 Back cover, discs, lyrics, etc., see here.

 

Music here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1983: Tom Cunningham and the Broadcasters - Germany... (Deutsche Grammophon / Talent)

 

The Scottish band went back to playing the hotspots of West Germany, but I managed to keep the Scottish keyboarder, Jimmy Barr, in Berlin, where he played in my band. Around this time Bob Williams also made an appearance, and we wrote many great songs, including the typical 80's-styled numbers, "Falling in Love With A Machine" and "French Postcards," as well as the chilling, stereotypical cold war ballad "Germany." Soon we had formed a band, The Broadcasters, and were entertaining a lively and enthusiastic group on Sunday afternoons on the edge of Kreuzberg in Schöneberg, under the "cover" name, The Flesh Dogs.

 

 

But then Bob Williams gave up on Berlin and went back to teach in college in the states, and Jim Barr was too sick to continue (he later died that year). Matthias Härtl came with an offer from Recordland Studio, and I added Chris Lewis, keyboards, and Billy Taylor, guitars, to the lineup. (The drummer, Bruce Hammond, went on to produce the German hit "Geil," and Billy Taylor had adopted the stage name for his real name of Uwe Schneider, former lead guitarist of German teenybopper band, The Teens. Funny how it is with names!)

 

 

Back cover, discs, lyrics, etc., see here.

 

Music here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1991 was part of a major upheaval for Germany. Suddenly the Berlin wall fell, and the old sector of West Berlin was no more. From 1985 onwards I got more involved in producing other entertainers' albums; Romy Haag, Rick DeLisle, Queen Yahna, and countless others from the DDR: City, Karat, Keimzeit, etc.. But, walking down the street late at night, an epiphany told me to produce his own songs, rather than work on other people's stuff.

 

 

 

In the meantime Matthias Härtl was working for Hansa Studios. He and I produced Lost in Thailand for the TGR label (whose boss, an Englander, was transplanted in Berlin: Tim Green. Phil Bailey, mnager from London, and Jorg Renker of the Hansa at Wittelsbacher also contributed).

 

 

 

Many illustrious sidemen were chosen for this album, but the core constituency were Gustl Lütjens (guitar), Uwe Schneider (bass), Carsten Zeth (drums), Chris Lewis (keyboards), and Ralf Vornberger and Andy Sedlmaier (background vocals). The legendary "Dinner with my Ex" made its debut on this record, with Martin Illich and Markus Küpper on contrabass and saxophone respectively (it turned a few heads in Nashville about five years later). A heady time full of change.

 

 

 

Back cover, discs, lyrics, etc., see here.

 

 

 

Music here.

 

 

 

 

What if? came out in 1996, about a year before the family and myself actually moved from Berlin to Nashville. It was the first of my solo albums that I produced myself. It was made with the assistance of Mickey Duwe, and released on the Navigator/Edel record label. The studios used shows how transatlantic I was in in tracking the songs; not only the good old Cunningham West Studio in Berlin, and the Hansa Studio II ("by the Wall," also in Berlin), but the Marcus Studio in London (thanks to Phil Bailey), the Farmland Studios in Quadenschönfeld, Germany, and, with the fix of recording in a place that would became a lifelong obsession of mine, Nashville, Tennessee.

 

 

It was my first recording in a professional studio in Nashville. I was "blown away" by the expertise and the friendliness of the top-flight musicians who contributed to the Sanctuary Studio sound (with the help of engineer Jim Demain and coproducer Anthony Little). The backing vocalists, Donna McElroy and Vicki Hampton, took the rock number "Gambled on your Love, Babe" to a new level of accomplishment. It served to inspire the book, "The Rock Star’s Song," where it became the mantra of the fictitious Tobias Stern, released much later in 2016.

 

 

 

What a time it was…!

 

 

Back cover, discs, etc., see here.

Music here.

 

 

 

 


 

...a little time, 

1999. I had been in Nashville for two years by then. The amount of gifted musicians, ardent music biz types, and clear-eyed music-writers was beyond compare. I will never forget the many talented sessions that put me in my stead. Just to name a few who were involved in "…a little time" sessions includes (recorded by Paul Gannon at Big Ears Studio) Larry Cheney (guitar), Joe Bidewell (Wurlitzer), Dave Jacques (bass), and Steve Emahiser (drums). (Larry, who played on the seminal sanctuary sessions on What If?, made it up all the way from Texas to be at the sessions). It was the very first release on Galaxy City Music (9900101).

 

 

But the best thing about it is the quality of the songs.  "Who’s Countin’,"" I Do My Best Work in my Sleep," "Daddies Shoes," "The Present" - the quality of songs improved immeasurably. The two years that I spent in Nashville, in the crux of the place where the Songwriter is King, was unmistakably major. Ah, Nashville. What a cool and great city…!

 

Back cover, discs, etc., see here.

 

Music here.

 

 

 

Denn Du bist da. It was 2000, and I and family had moved back to Berlin. It was time for our daughter to commence kindergarten, and, though I was torn by the glorious and promise of the music city of Nashville, the excellence of the JFK School in Berlin-Teltenau took precedence.

 

But I had a plan. Quite a plan, in fact. Since I was going back to Germany and would take the new album with me, the music would be written by me (per usual), and I would track the entire album with the "ausgezeichnete" Nashville musicians. But the text would be in: Deutsch.

 

I had become good friends with Kathy Ipu, who helped me with the text and came proudly from Deutsche Schlager.  (For the songs that I cowrote with Kathy, I first did the entire text in English ["Susie," for example, was originally called "A Couple of Broken Guitar Strings."])

 

But that wasn't all, in fact. The head of the record company had told me in passing that if the sales of the single was high enough, the single and (resultantly) the album would break into the charts. He told me that, if in one week the single charted high enough, yes indeed, that would do the trick. ("One week!" I said to myself.) He told me it would have to be in a couple of different places in order to allay the "SoundScan-Leute’s" suspicions, but yes. He also told me that it was highly unlikely to try that, and, of course, it was highly illegal.

 

And I, (of course), went for it (illegal? Schmillegal, I say!). In two or three cities we sold almost 6000 singles.

 

So; did it show up on the charts?

 

Not at all. But still. A lot of German fans bought it in the States, and, looking back, there is much on the album to be proud of. One of the songs, a Birger Heymann-penned "Happy Birthday" was even featured on German TV. Das ist das Leben!

 

 

Back cover, discs, etc., see here.

Music here.

 

 

 

A Beautiful Lie, on DuneFish /Edel Contraire overseen by Christian Hentschel.

Not only were the pieces recorded in different studios, in Cunningham West Berlin and in the Trackshack Nashville, but often the same titles were recorded and overdubbed in two different places, (7500 kilometers away from each other).

 

That's why McKinley Black and Pam Bethke have added their superb vocal harmonies to "A Beautiful Lie" at Cunningham West Studio in Berlin. The track was originally recorded in Nashville, with Bobby King (bass), Bob Britt (electric guitar), Will Barrow (keyboards), and Chuck Tilley (drums).

 

It was also the first time an "echte" music video of me was directed, this by Florian Bohl from London (you can watch it here). McKinley and Pam "played their part." It was a time when my start-up, Songwriters In the Round, enjoyed ever-increasing success in the Rickenbacker's club in Berlin, and soon spread to Munich, Hamburg, Templin, and then further points West and East. The famous promo photo (here) was taken with me on acoustic guitar, with the five lights lamp prepared for my three guest singers (plus the infamous fifth chair).

 

Things were going up and up and up. And nobody foresaw that the stroke was lurking just around the corner, coming July 2005…

 

 

Back cover, discs, lyrics, etc., see here.

 

Music here.

 

 

 

 


 

It happened in July 2005; I had a massive stroke. As I laid on the floor (I didn't have the strength go for the bed), I thought to myself, "This is it. Everything else will be different from now on."

 

I later wrote my reminiscences of it for a live show in the Berlin Tertanium (find it here). I do remember on Sunday, when the Hausmeister Ulli Schroeder called out my name as he came through the rooms, I couldn't answer. I said, "Here," but no sound came out.

 

I ended up in the Klinik Berlin in Kladow, where everything was indeed different. I stayed there for about six months, first lying flat on my back, then slowly getting around in a wheelchair. The biggest shock came musically. My wife brought my good old Martin acoustic guitar over, so I could work on the tunes that I had already started. But my right hand, the hand that I strum and pick with, wouldn't corroborate. It just remained lame. No amount of exercise or training would bring it back.

 

And my memory, even the most intimate kind, was corrupted as well. The doctor in charge asked I the name of my older brother. That was easy; Bill. But the younger one? What was his name! I couldn't remember, and this shook me to the bone.

 

And all the technical stuff was at first useless as well. When my laptop was opened, I couldn't even remember how to turn it on.  Hey  - how do you make it go? Auweia. I had a long road in front of me.

 

But Chris Lewis helped out. Chris Lewis, who had been nearly in tears when he came to clinic Berlin to see me. He played the piano for the 10 songs that made up this private pressing, Tom is Back (five originals, five covers; a private pressing). It was just me and piano on the recordings… (and I must mention that Ron Randolph was invaluable in helping me get back my voice). I sold a couple of them at the Tertanium.

 

One thing was for sure. I wasn't about to give up the main thing, the music.

 

Back cover, discs, etc., see here.

 

Music here.

 

 

 

Although five years had passed since my stroke, I refuse to let my injuries slow me down. I started playing live again with Chris Lewis, piano, Helmut Bruger (also piano), and the Smashtones, Christiane Flores and Ralf Leeman on guitars. Particularly with the Smashtones, I once again experienced a good session of writing: "Getting In," "I'm On Fire," and "She Walks On Water," among others. From the last 2005 days before the stroke, were the tunes "Love Shine,"  "I Wanna Here About It" and "Wouldn't It Be Cool" (all co-writes, in the fine Nashville tradition), then as yet unrecorded.

 

But where could I make it happen, make the recording? Only one place was possible. I called up my dear friend Bobby King in Nashville, and he soon had a fine studio within the Berryhill region with hand-picked musicians and singers all assembled to produce the Me Again album (Galaxy City 1200101) in the Studio 526, with engineer Jesse Poe.

 

And what a session it was. All the players were excellent, with overdubs on vocals Kim Parent, Etta Britt, and Vickie Carrico, and meister horn-man Jim Hoke on sax (with Steve Herrman on trumpet). The Nashville musicians were friendly, quick, and eager to please. As I wrote in the liner notes, is it was as if I died and gone to heaven, the making of it was so beautiful.

 

It was mixed and released in Berlin, with "Love Shine" produced by Ramesh B Weeratung († 2017).

 

Back cover, discs, etc., see here.

 

Music here.

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Among other things in my home studio ("Cunningham West" to the world), I have a recording system of three ADATs. They give me a digital sound of 24 tracks (nowadays all-digital recording is done on hard disks). Going through my accumulated multitudes of tapes, I discovered literally hundreds of full band productions that have not yet made it onto commercially released records.

 

 

This began a series of My Berlin Years volume I and II, (Galaxy City Music 1500101, 2015), where I would come to feature some once unknown tunes now brought into the bright light of day. The writing of songs ranges from 1990 until 2015; that was for the newest composition, "Over and Over Again," done with the estimable Ralf Vornberger in Cunningham West Studios. The musicians were also various; from Jim Hoke and the fabulous Nashville horns and harmonica, to the crack Berliners Ralf Weber (drums), Chris Lewis (Hammond organ and violin), and Matze Schramm (bass), to the Nashville cracks of Bobby King (bass) and Bob Britt (lead guitar), among many others (Jim Studer contributed an excellent orchestral arrangement to "Sane," as did André Kuntze’ basic arrangement on "Frank Sinatra-Mode."). We were reeling in the years…

 

Back cover, discs, etc., see here

 

Music here.

 

 

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There was no stopping me. My old tapes furnished another complete album of forgotten songs, My Berlin Years volume 2, Galaxy City Music 1800101.The year was 2018.

 

 

Who could forget "Bad Love, or "Send Me a Fax," or "Father & Child," in the original acoustic version? Again, the songs range in the writing from 1986 to 2000. Kim Parent with her beautiful voice does a guest vocal on "The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars" (I offered it for Germany to Helene Fischer. Still haven't heard back!). With the magic of sampling I managed to put her voice together with that of Gundula Ulrich for a "Vamp" version of "The Summer the Sun."

 

 

There is also quite a range of studios here. The mixes and acoustic tracks were done at Cunningham West Berlin, as were the acoustic tracks of "Father & Child" and the MIDI tracks of "Bad Love" (with great vocals by Jackie Virgil). Hansa 4 was used for a band recording of "Real Love," and the far-out Farmland Studio, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, is there with an "echt" Solid State Logic desk out in the wilds of the ex-DDR. Nashville is also represented by the Track Shack facility on "Paint It Blue," with the usual crack crew of Bobby King, Bob Britt, and Tony Paoletta, among others.

 

 

I also got quite involved in the making of lyric videos for these numbers. You can see them at the Videos tab on this website here.

 

 

Back cover, discs, etc., see here.

 

Music here.

 

 

 

 

 

Expatriate Blues.

 

This is planned for release in summer 2019. These are strictly acoustic numbers (that is, with acoustic guitar, no bass or drums) that have accumulated since the early days of 1970s (Mohammed Tahmasebi is represented with the number "The Unlived Life Inside," made in London 1973). There are some great unreleased songs as well, including "Expatriate Blues," made in the early 90s.

 

It will be featured here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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© by Jürgen Pittack, ARTCO Werbedesign, mit Kitty Ch. Eißmann, Berlin

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