He was an American singer-songwriter, best known for writing and singing “Undercover Angel,” which became a million-selling Gold-certified American #1 hit in 1977.
Alan O’Day also wrote songs for several other notable performers, such as 1974’s Helen Reddy #1 hit “Angie Baby” and the Righteous Brothers’ #3 Gold hit “Rock And Roll Heaven“.
In the 1980s he moved from pop music to television, co-writing over 100 songs for the Saturday morning Muppet Babies series, and in the 1990s he wrote and performed music on the National Geographic series Really Wild Animals.
O’Day was born in Hollywood, California, the only child of Earle and Jeannette O’Day, who both worked at the Pasadena Star-News. Earle took newspaper photos and did publicity for the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. Jeannette wrote for the Star News, as well as being a schoolteacher in Thermal, California and other schools in the Coachella Valley.
O’Day stated that he remembered creating melodies on a xylophone at the age of six. By the fifth grade, his favorite artist was Spike Jones, and he was serenading his class on the ukulele.
At Coachella Valley Union High School, after participating in one band called “The Imperials,” he started his own rock’n’roll band, “The Shoves,” with heavy influences from Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Fats Domino. A third band, “The Renés” played Latin and Mexican standards mixed with rock and roll tunes and gave him the opportunity to write his own songs.
In 1961, he found work via a friend from high school, Arch Hall, Jr., whose father, Arch Hall, Sr., was an independent movie producer. The senior Hall wrote and produced films that starred the junior Hall, and O’Day helped out with the sound, in 1962, acting as music editor on the film Eegah and musical director on Wild Guitar, sound recorder on 1963’s The Sadist, and sound mixer on the 1964 What’s Up Front!. The work led to Arch Jr. and O’Day putting together a four-piece band (called “The Archers”) and playing in clubs on the Sunset Strip such as Whiskey A Go Go and Pandora’s Box.
In 1969, he signed with E. H. Morris Music, followed by Warner Brothers Music in 1971, writing “The Drum,” which became a hit single for Bobby Sherman.
In 1974, he wrote “Train of Thought” which was recorded by Cher,
In that same year he wrote “Rock And Roll Heaven,” recorded by the Righteous Brothers
Also in 1974, O’Day wrote “Angie Baby,” which became hit #1 at the end of December 1974 when recorded by Helen Reddy, and one of her biggest selling singles.
In a 2006 article, O’Day said the song took three months to write; originally, it was loosely based on the character in the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna”.
In order to make the character (“Angie“) more interesting, he based her on a neighbor girl he had known who seemed “socially retarded”. O’Day also thought of his own childhood; an only child who was often ill, many of his days were spent in bed with a radio to keep him company. O’Day showed the unfinished song to his therapist, who pointed out that the character’s reactions were not those of a retarded person; O’Day then switched Angie from mentally “slow” to “crazy. “This expanded to her living in a dream world of lovers, inspired by the songs on her radio. When an evil-minded neighbor tries to enter her room to take advantage of the girl, he is instead drawn into her reality, literally shrinking him down into her radio, “never to be found”.
Here is Alan O’Day‘s original version of “Angie Baby“
Here is Helen Reddy‘s version, which became her big hit.
It’s hard to conceive that the writer of three frivolous hits could create a work of sheer beauty that was his first solo album, Appetizers in 1973.
One of the tracks is “Caress Me Pretty Music”
The PR for this album which Warner issued to the media called it “a songwriter’s patchwork quilt — a journey in many directions,” and this time the label is right on with the description.
O’Day covers a variety of styles, though the centerpiece is “Heavy Church,” a magnificent song which Three Dog Night covered on their monster album Naturally.
“Crucifixtion 2000 A.D.” is a religious song of regret, lamenting that 20 decades after we’ve lost the Savior, people haven’t changed one bit, and that He’s needed more than ever.
There’s more than a few touches of religion here: “Good Book” seems to poke fun at it, but the hook is solid as a rock, perhaps redeeming the songwriter from his subtle sacrilege.
It’s an album chock full of hooks and displays the real craftsmanship missing from his hits, strong lyrics, and a variety of melodies.
Though “Heavy Church” stands out as the masterpiece, the rest of Caress Me Pretty Music has lots to offer as well. A real sleeper worth searching the back pages of Goldmine magazine for.
The album was not a major commercial success and he temporarily put his recording career on hiatus.
In 1977, Warner Bros. Records formed a label for their composers who also performed. O’Day was the first artist signed, and the first release was “Undercover Angel.” O’Day described this song as a “nocturnal novelette“. It was arranged by Michael Omartian.
Some of his other credits include “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” by Christopher Cross and “The Next Time I Fall” by Chicago.
Within a few months “Undercover Angel” had become #1 in the country, and has sold approximately two million copies. It was also a hit in Australia, reaching #9 on the Australian Singles Chart.
“Undercover Angel” also landed O’Day in an exclusive club as one of only a handful of writers/performers to pen a #1 hit for themselves and a #1 for another artist.
In 1979, he released his album, Oh Johnny
and this is one of the songs, called “Skinny Girls” reached #11 on the Australian Singles Chart in March 1980.
In 1981, O’Day co-wrote “Your Eyes” with singer-songwriter Tatsuro Yamashita, which became a hit in Japan.
O’Day left Warner Brothers in 1982 to write and self-publish.
In 1983, he was invited to Tokyo to co-write six more songs with Yamashita for his album Big Wave. The collaboration yielded a Gold Disc Award in Japan.
In February of 2013 a new album titled ‘Make Me Believe‘ released by 1st Phase Records featuring Paul Scott was released. ‘Make Me Believe‘ features two new original songs co-written by O’Day. Uh-Uh (What she wants) and an un-official NASCAR national anthem titled ‘NASCAR CRAZY’. O’Day also produced on the album.
In 1983, O’Day met San Francisco’s singer-songwriter Janis Liebhart, with whom he co-wrote a children’s song for a new Saturday morning animated TV show, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies. Within eight years they had written almost 100 songs for the program, which won an Emmy Award, and has since been syndicated internationally.
The collaboration continued after Muppet Babies, as O’Day and Liebhart co-wrote for other kid-focused projects, including National Geographic’s Really Wild Animals, a series of videos which they helped produce and on which they also sang. They also worked on some children’s products for Alaska Video.
O’Day lived in Nashville, to write and perform, and was also a musical and creative consultant.
One of the tracks from this album is “Please Don’t Believe Me“
In 2012 Alan wrote and sang the title tune for the film, “You Don’t Say.”
Interview with Alan O’Day in 2012
In 2012 Alan dropped by Kulak’s Woodshed, where this interview and mini-show were recorded.
O’Day died on May 17, 2013 after battling brain cancer for six months.
- “Angie Baby”, gold record
- “Undercover Angel”, gold record
- “Muppet Babies”, nominated for an Emmy Award
- “Really Wild Animals”, Parent’s Choice Award
- Yamashita collaboration, Gold Disk Award, Japan
- “The Drum”, 1971 (sung by Bobby Sherman), #29 U.S.
- “Train of Thought”, 1974 (sung by Cher) – #27 U.S., #22 in Canada
- “Rock and Roll Heaven”, 1974 (sung by the Righteous Brothers), #3 U.S., produced by Dennis Lambert, Eddie Lambert, and Brian Potter
- “Angie Baby”, 1974 (sung by Helen Reddy), #1 song, produced by Joe Wissert
- “Skinny Girls”, 1980 (produced by Steve Barri), #11 Australia
- “Love Can Go the Distance”, 2000 (co-written and sung by Tatsuro Yamashita), #18 Japan
- “Angel of the Light”, 2008 (co-written and sung by Tatsuro Yamashita), #4 Japan
- 1977: “Undercover Angel” (#1 U.S., #9 Australia, #43 UK)produced by Steve Barri, arranged by Michael Omartian
- 1977: “Just You”
- 1978: “Started Out Dancing, Ended Up Making Love”
- 1979: “Oh Johnny!”
- 1980: “Skinny Girls”
- 1980: “Love At First Sight”
- 1973: Caress Me Pretty Music
- 1977: Appetizers
- 1979: Oh Johnny
- 2001: Undercover Angel 2001 (City Man Music, BMI, Warner/Chappell Music, ASCAP 634479217920)
- 2008: “I Hear Voices”