Tom Dawes, 1944-2007
Got back into town today to sad news; Tom Dawes, bass player and singer from the Cyrkle, has died at age 63 due to complications from heart surgery.
Most music fans naturally know the Cyrkle from their huge 1966 hit "Red Rubber Ball," written by Paul Simon along with Bruce Woodley of the Seekers. In my opinion, it's one of their worst songs, with its strained metaphors and bad modulation in the last verse. I prefer their follow-up hit, "Turn-Down Day," featuring a sitar riff, breezy harmonies, and goofy pub piano.
The Cyrkle did at least 20 top-flight mid-60s pop songs over the course of two albums, a rare and interesting soft-core porno film soundtrack LP (The Minx), and several more singles. Dawes, guitarist Don Danneman, and drummer Marty Fried played together from their college days in the early 60s through 1967, when Dawes left to become a jingle writer. You may know some of his work: he wrote "Plop-plop fizz-fizz" for Alka Seltzer, "Coke Is It," and "We're American Airlines, doing what we do best."
Dannemann and Fried hung around to make a couple of final Cyrkle tracks before finally splitting the band in mid '68. Dannemann went into jingles as well (he wrote the first 7Up "Uncola" pitch), while Fried eventually ended up a lawyer.
The group's two Columbia albums, Red Rubber Ball and Neon, are recommended for fans of mid-60s pop. They were never a hard rock band, but had some aggressive songs along with their harmonic, melodic, rhythmically interesting work. John Simon was a fine producer and helped arrange their songs to be their best. Keyboardist Michael Losekamp joined the group for Neon and contributed a classy vocal to the excellent "The Visit (She Was Here)."
But in tribute to Tom Dawes, I'm going to post a song he sang and wrote, the leadoff track of Neon. A cool fusion of girl-group rhythm, Beatles songcraft, innovative 1967 production, and Four Seasons/Beach Boys harmony, "Don't Cry, No Fears, No Tears Coming Your Way" is about as good as mid-60s pop gets.
I offer my condolences to the friends and family of Tom Dawes. I always hoped for a Cyrkle reunion, but at least the records are still out there. Rest in peace, sir.