Back in the late 90s I was fixed up on a songwriting blind date with Mark McEntee of the Australian band Divinyls. I was already a huge fan of Divinyls — spent many nights in my underwear Risky Business style, holding a hair brush to my lips in front of a mirror, dancing and singing… “I don’t want…anybody else…when I think about you I Touch Myself.” Thank you Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly.
When Mark showed up at my house he was in a bit of a fog. (I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what that fog was.) He was a delicious guitar player though. Major 7ths all the way. I love major 7ths!
The day before my date with Mark I was out with a friend who hurt my feelings and like a songwriter I grabbed a napkin from the table and ran to the restroom to scribble those feelings down. It just so happened that the hurt feelings married very nicely with Mark’s major 7ths and we wrote a song called “Human On The Inside.”
Mark and I spent a couple of days recording a demo. When we left the studio we drove back and forth for hours on Santa Monica Blvd in my little white Miata marveling at how great we thought the song turned out. Which is why it was odd that I didn’t hear a peep from him when he returned to Australia. I was sure the label was going to call and tell me the song would be the first single on Divinyls new album. (Did he go back into that fog?) So I called the label. Label never heard the song. What? So I FedExed them a copy on a DAT tape...which really makes me appreciate how easy it is to share a song via a digital link.
Label loved it — it would be Divinyls first single. I was beside myself. But alas, when the song was released, it semi-charted and quickly faded away.
Which is unfortunate because when a song is a hit it can be recorded over and over again. Not so much with a mid-charter. Which is why it was #Krazy that BMI’s Linda Livingston, who had always been a fan of the song, took it upon herself to play “Human” for rock legend Chrissie Hynde’s agent. While across the pond my publisher Jon Crawley, played it for Chrissie’s manager. While unbeknownst to anyone a UK pal put it in the hands of Chrissie’s interior decorator. I kid you not. You can’t make this stuff up.
I’ll never know which scenario made it come to fruition, but the Pretenders recorded “Human On The Inside.” Chrissie probably threw up her hands and said, “Alright already, I’ll record the damn song!”
The band was performing at Lilith that year and of course Linda and I went. Chrissie announced to the massive crowd that Shelly Peiken wrote her new song. What? I was taking picture after picture - with a real camera, mind you. Linda warned me to save some film for a photo with Chrissie after the show. I assured Linda I had plenty of film. But after the concert in Chrissie’s trailer, when Linda said say cheese, there was a devastating camera malfunction. For although I had plenty of film, I only had one camera battery. And it died.
So today, on a shelf in my office is a framed photo of Chrissie Hynde sitting next to what appears to be me, but actually it’s my head cut and pasted on someone else’s torso. From a distance we look very happy together but it’s not me. Friends have offered to Photoshop the image so it’s seamless. But I’ve always preferred the scrappy version as a reminder that a song and it’s journey have mind of their own.
That’s how this story ended until last night when I went to see Chrissie Hynde at the Hollywood Bowl thanks to my “wifey” Suzan Koc who got us the tickets because she knew I needed closure. We went backstage after the concert and I got to have a word with Chrissie.
I told her how grateful I am to and for her. There was a lot going on backstage. I’m not sure she heard me. But it was important that I say it anyway. There were other things I would have wanted her to know like — to have someone who is perfectly capable of writing her own iconic material, someone you’ve put on a pedestal your whole life, someone who’s blazed the trail for so many other women, make a choice to record your song is a songwriter’s dream.
The icing on the cake is that she told me she recorded it because it sounded more like a Pretenders song than the songs she had been writing.
Of course this would never have happened without my wifey Suzan ... my partner in crime, my sidekick, my friend for life. The Ethel to my Lucy. The Shirley to my Laverne. May every woman be lucky enough to have one.
May the adventures continue.
Oh and yes! I finally got my pic!