On June 28, we lost Gary DeCarlo, known by the stage name Garrett Scott as the lead vocalist for Steam. We remember him with the flip side of the number one hit single “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”
By Warren Kurtz
Steam Featuring Garrett Scott
Flip side: It’s the Magic In You Girl
A side: Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye
Top 100 debut: October 18, 1969
Peak position: 1
When Gary DeCarlo was in New York City trying to break into the music business as a singer in 1969, he was happy to run into his old Connecticut band mates Paul Leka and Dale Frashuer. Paul Leka had co-written “Green Tambourine,” which reached number one the prior year for the Lemon Pipers.
Mercury records, who also had the Fontana subsidiary, expressed interest in Gary DeCarlo, who took the stage name Garrett Scott. One night, while trying to come up with a flip side for his Mercury A side “Sweet Laura Lee,” Gary DeCarlo, Paul Leka, and Dale Frashuer remembered an unfinished song they wrote in 1961 called “Kiss Him Goodbye.” They worked on the song all night, and had placeholders for lyrics with “na na” and “hey hey” in some of the key parts, and pretty much finished the song other than the final lyrics. Surprisingly, the people at the label really loved it as is and wanted to release it as an A side on Fontana, which they did, and it went all the way to number one.
“It’s the Magic in You Girl” by the same writers and musicians as “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” ended up serving as its flip side. The backdrop started similar to the Classics IV’s “Spooky,” with a soulful hint of the Intruders hit “Cowboys to Girls.” The keyboards, bass, drums and echoing harmonies led into the vocal chorus, “It’s the magic in you girl, that makes me feel this way.”
In January of 1970, the second single from the self-titled Steam album was released. “I’ve Gotta Make You Love Me” was written again by the same trio, with soulful verses reminiscent of the Parliaments’ “I Wanna Testify.” It reached number 46 nationally.
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” was covered twice in the ‘80s, first in 1983 by Britain’s female trio Bananarama and in 1987 by Canada’s male acapella quartet the Nylons, which reached number 12 in the U.S. This Gary DeCarlo composition has also gone on to be a sports stadium anthem sung by the fans of the winning teams.
In 2012, on the finale of the PBS special Rock, Soul, & Pop, Gary DeCarlo ended the fund-raising special for public television with “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” and sounded as clear and powerful in that concert performance as fans have heard on record for decades. In 2014, he recorded an edgier version of the classic for his album, “Long Time Comin’.”
In late April of this year, author Tony Renzoni conducted the final interview with Gary DeCarlo. In his new book, “Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll,” we learn that he recorded a pair of Neil Sedaka compositions in 1969 to be considered for singles, “Sugar,” not to be confused with “Sugar, Sugar” from that year, and “Workin’ on a Groovy Thing.” Gary DeCarlo revealed in the interview, “The 5th Dimension found out about the recording and put their version out one week earlier.” Garly DeCarlo’s version, sung in a Neil Sedaka vocal range, can be heard on the 2016 album “Now and Then” by Gary DeCarlo and Steam.
Read more on Gary DeCarlo and Steam in the new September 2017 issue of Goldmine.
To learn more about Tony Renzoni’s “Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll” book, containing the full Gary De Carlo interview, go to: http://www.goldminemag.com/giveaway
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”