GOLDMINE: Your new double CD Ron Dante's Funhouse! is a fun collection of songs and has my favorite album cover of the year.
RON DANTE: Thank you. We got Dan Parent, the artist and writer for Archie comics to do the cover.
GM: Let’s start with The Cuff Links. In the fall of 1969, I just started at a new school for 6th grade and my classmate Eddie invited everyone to his birthday party. Being a new kid, I was thrilled to be included. I knew Eddie loved your song “Tracy,” so I bought the album for his party and gift wrapped it. At the party, he unwrapped the present, told everyone how much he loved that song, but the album remained sealed for the entire time we were there, so I never heard some of the other songs like the flip side of “When Julie Comes Around,” which is “Sally Ann,” until years later. I should have visited him again to hear the album. I am pleased that you included the original recordings of “Tracy,” right after “Sugar, Sugar” at the beginning of the CD, followed by “Sally Ann.”
RD: Tracy was a very fun album to make. Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss, the songwriters and producers, were very talented guys. They knew how to put a hook together in a song. Lee Pockriss really knew how to arrange music. A lot of the flip sides, like “Sally Ann,” were really good songs, no matter what group I was working with and some of the flip sides became big hits in other countries. The musicians on The Cuff Links and The Archies records were among the best in New York City. With The Archies, we had Hugh McCracken and Dave Spinoza on guitars. When Paul and Linda McCartney came to town to record their Ram album, Paul booked those two musicians.
The Cuff Links
Flip side: Sally Ann (You’re Such a Pretty Baby)
A side: When Julie Comes Around
Top 100 debut: December 13, 1969
Peak position: No. 41
GM: Wow. Talk about flip sides, “Too Many People,” the flip side of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” from Ram, received significant FM rock airplay, while the A side became a No. 1 Top 40 single, his first after The Beatles. Speaking about flip sides of No. 1 songs, I am also pleased that you included “Melody Hill,” the flip side of “Sugar, Sugar,” on the new collection, too, which we discussed in our 2017 interview and have played on our radio shows. Another Archies song I really enjoy on the new CD is “This Is Love,” reminding me a of a family favorite, Lou Christie’s “I’m Gonna Make You Mine.”
RD: That is from The Archies’ This Is Love album from 1971, the same year as Ram, and it was produced by me and Ritchie Adams, who co-wrote the title tune, which had a lot more chords than “Sugar, Sugar,” which has three chords in it and “This is Love” has something like ten. Ritchie and I had a lot of fun choosing the background singers. A lot of jingle singers worked on The Archies’ records. I even got to co-write a few songs on the This is Love album. It was recorded at the same studio and had many of the same musicians that Jeff Barry used on the other Archies’ records. I would say it was a little more complicated musically than the previous albums and that was Ritchie’s contribution. He was a very high level musician and songwriter. He was a good guy.
GM: Was “Let Me Bring You Up” a solo single? It sounds like an Andy Kim song.
RD: You guessed right. Andy Kim wrote that one. Don Kirshner made a promise to me that if The Archies were a hit, then he would make a huge push for me on RCA as a solo artist later on. He made good on that promise. Jeff Barry produced the album and RCA did do a huge push with teaser ads for three weeks before the major ad was printed in Billboard, Cashbox and Record World. The small ad had my photo and asked, “Do you know this guy? He sang ‘Sugar, Sugar’ and ‘Tracy’ and commercials, too.” RCA spared no expense to promote my album. It was a little more grown up and I think people wanted me to be more like The Archies and The Cuff Links, in a group setting. I was trying to break away from the bubblegum image and get a little hipper, but the bubblegum sound is what people loved in my voice, I guess. Which ultimately was fine with me.
GM: Then let’s go to The Chan Clan. I missed The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan Saturday morning cartoon series in the fall of 1972, while I was working at my father’s restaurant on Saturdays, to earn money to buy records. I like all three Chan Clan songs on your CD. It was hard to pick just one to highlight. I enjoy the melody on “Number One Son” and the piano on “Happy.” What is funny is that you hear sound effects in these songs, coconuts like Flintstones’ feet.
RD: The recordings were meant for the cartoon. It was a wonderful children’s cartoon series. It was a joy to get the assignment from Don Kirshner. He asked me, “Why don’t you write, sing and produce the whole thing for the season?” He put me together with the lyricist Howard Greenfield, who became my good friend. We wrote ten songs together for the series. Of course, Howie wrote thirty big hits with Neil Sedaka, so I was working with a really good professional hit maker. I loved working with Howie. He went on to win a Grammy as the lyricist of “Love Will Keep Us Together” by The Captain & Tennille. I wish they put out a cast album for The Chan Clan. Jimmy Wisner did all the arrangements. It was another round of fun animation music.
GM: Speaking of animation, it was such a thrill when The Little Mermaid debuted in the theater in 1992. Prior to that, the Disney films didn’t have the same quality as the classics. The Little Mermaid began a string of new classics with color, a great story, and wonderful music. My wife Donna and I took our daughter Brianna to it and then bought the soundtrack. I certainly enjoy your version of “Kiss the Girl” on the new CD.
RD: Oh, thank you. That was part of a project that I started a few years ago which would have been called Dante’s Disney. I recorded a few songs and then decided that I would wait for a while but for this compilation I thought that I should include it, since we are leaning on animation. I love singing it and it is a wonderful song.
GM: You even have Spider-Man represented on the compilation.
RD: I had done an album called Beyond the Grave, which was kind of like a radio show, where they acted out the whole original Spider-Man story and they inserted a few songs in the show. There were actors and sound effects. They called the group The Web Spinners and I got to sing as Spider-Man. I thought, how cool is this that I could actually be The Archies, The Chan Clan and Spider-Man. I included a couple of songs from that collectible album because I thought people might have never heard these songs before.
GM: The second disc is filled with rare Archies recordings. I think “Anyone Can Be Anything” has a wonderful message for the kids.
RD: I put many of my favorite Archies songs on there. Neil Goldberg wrote the songs with Jeff Barry. I included the Dance of the Week series too, as the fans of the show would get a kick out of that. Those were quick music dances that Jeff Barry wrote for the series and they have some unbelievable hooks in them, like on “The Veronica Walk.” I am sure Jeff had a lot of fun composing those.
GM: The compilation includes some cover songs too, like “Rock Me Gently” with Andy Kim, but the one that really jumps out at me, and is very fitting for you, is “Happy Together” with a bit of an edge and it makes me think of The Happy Together Tour concert finale, with you now singing with Mark Volman as The Turtles.
RD: Thank you. I had a lot of fun doing that song. It is such a classic and if you record a classic, you have to spin it just a little bit differently. That is why I gave it a little more rock edge with the electric guitars and increased tempo. It doesn’t hurt the song but does give it a unique spin. What a kick it has been being on The Happy Together Tour with those performers and singing a couple of my hits and singing four or five Turtles songs too. This is my tip of the hat to the tour.
GM: Here in Daytona Beach, the show was postponed a couple of times this year until moving to 2021, so Donna and I look forward to seeing you next June. I also have a Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides interview with Chuck Negron completed which will be published early next year to help promote the tour.
RD: Chuck inspires the whole tour. All the acts are backstage watching him chanting, “Go, Chuck, Go!” The tour is all booked and locked in. I have the dates on my website. We are scheduled to do fifty shows so far. It is going to be a great show with the acts on the lineup happy that the tour has been rebooked because everybody was expecting to have a great summer in 2020. I hope this year’s absence will create even more of a demand for The Happy Together Tour when things are safer and won’t risk the health of the audience and the performers.
GM: Speaking of health, $1 for each CD sold will go to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
RD: Yes. That has always been and will always be my favorite charity. They do an enormous job for children. They are kind of under the radar and not the first group that people think to donate to. I am a huge fan of their work with children and their families. I am glad that we can make that donation each year. Thank you for another Goldmine interview with you. I appreciate the attention with this new double CD release. Let’s get out in 2021 and enjoy live music again!