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Strategy shift: RCA to release commercial CD of Clay Aiken's "Invisible" single


By Wade Paulsen, 11/15/2003 

RCA should have listened to us in the first place. When you have an artist who only gets respect at the cash register, make use of it.

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Although American Idol runner-up Clay AIken's "Invisible" was released as a promotional-only CD single back in September, sold for phenomenal amounts of money on eBay, and played a key role in Clay's album Measure of a Man spending two weeks at #1, it never entered the Billboard Top 100 Singles charts until this week -- and then only at #57. Considering that Clay's first single, "This Is The Night" b/w "Bridge Over Troubled Water", debuted at #1, Billboard seems to think (or hope?) that there has been a huge drop in Clay's popularity -- even though his album has already sold over a million copies.

How to disprove this theory? Well, one way might be to offer the CD single for sale to consumers, perhaps (as with the first single) paired with a non-CD version of a classic song. And that's what RCA has chosen to do.

On December 9, RCA will release a commercial version of "Invisible", backed with Clay's recording of Neil Sedaka's 1974 comeback hit (with 10cc) "Solitaire." The single is available for pre-order from Amazon.com now and has actually spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week in Amazon's top 3 before drifting back to the mid-30s today. Better a late release than no release, we guess.

Per standard Idol practice, the release date will be shared with two other Idols: Ruben Studdard, whose debut CD has been delayed until then, and Canadian Idol winner Ryan Malcolm, whose CD Home will be released in Canada that day (but apparently not in the U.S.). It will be interesting to see how all three fare in the midst of the Christmas shopping blitz.

We admit to being among the first Americans to own a copy of the original version of Solitaire. which was released only in the U.K. in 1972 on an RCA album also entitled Solitaire. It didn't make a U.S. appearance until two years later, on the MCA/Rocket (Elton John's label) album Sedaka's Back.

"Solitaire" also ties in to a story of hubris that all performing artists should keep in mind. Unfortunately, it's a long story, but we're going to tell it anyway.

When Sedaka went to Strrawberry Studios in the U.K. in 1972, he had fallen from being one of the outstanding performing and songwriting stars in the U.S., as he was through the late 1950s and early 1960s ("Breaking Up Is Hard To Do", "Calendar Girl"), to a "where-are-they-now?" level of obscurity. He managed to get a U.K. recording contract through his songwriting publisher, Don Kirshner, who had an "imprint" deal with RCA Records -- but the first album under that contract, Emergence, flopped totally. Sedaka was down to his last chance.

In an effort to revitalize his career, Sedaka had written all of the songs for Solitaire with a new partner, Phil Cody. Strawberry Studios, a relatively young studio which was better known for bubblegum-pop, had its own backing band, and Sedaka didn't have a band, so that's where he ended up.

Among the songs were "Solitaire," of course, and "That's When The Music Takes Me." Sedaka played keyboards and did lead vocals; the backing group on all tracks was the unnamed house band: Graham Gouldman (bass/guitar/vocals), Lol Creme (guitar/vocals), Kevin Godley (drums/vocals) and Eric Stewart (guitar/vocals), who also engineered and mixed the album.

RCA dawdled on releasing Solitaire because of the flop of Emergence, but MGM, which had heard the tapes, signed Sedaka to a new U.K. contract. In 1973, Sedaka and the house band, which now called itself 10cc, were back in the studio recording a follow-up, entitled The Tra-La Days Are Over, which featured a great song written by Sedaka and his former partner Howard Greenfield named "Love Will Keep Us Together" (later a huge U.S. hit for The Captain and Tennille). However, the album, which was credited to "Neil Sedaka with 10cc," still had no U.S. release.

During 1974, 10cc became major stars on both sides of the Atlantic, and interest in their material with Sedaka was rekindled. The two albums were among the top imports sold in the U.S., and Elton John offered to sign Sedaka and license the music from the two disks for U.S. release. Sedaka agreed.

The U.S. reissue, Sedaka's Back, became a huge success, and several of the songs (including the ones mentioned earlier plus "Laughter in the Rain") became major U.S. hits. However, Sedaka harbored a huge chip on his shoulder about the fact that his "second chance" was, at least in part, due to his link to 10cc. He began criticizing them over and over again, claiming that they'd stolen from him and hogged credit for his achievements, as well as blasting their music. In return, 10cc simply refused to speak about Sedaka.

As 10cc continued to become bigger stars ("I'm Not In Love", "Art for Arts' Sake", "I'm Mandy, Fly Me", "The Things We Do For Love", "Good Morning Judge") and Sedaka started sliding back into obscurity, his management decided that he could use the publicity generated by healing the rift with 10cc. Therefore, 10cc was invited to appear at one of Sedaka's concerts in England, where he could thank them for their role in his resurgence and bury the hatchet publicly. 10cc agreed to appear ... but Sedaka couldn't keep to the program. Instead, he began repeatedly blasting them from the stage during the concert, finally leading the members of 10cc to get up and walk out before the "reconciliation." The event generated lots of publicity, albeit not the kind Sedaka's management wanted -- and marked the unofficial end of Sedaka's comeback.

Whenever we hear "Solitaire," with its lyrics about a "lonely man," we think of Sedaka and his unwillingness to share even the tiniest morsel of credit once he had made it back to the top. No wonder he felt lonely.

We think this story needs to be kept in mind by everyone who's on top -- never think you got there all by yourself. Mariah Carey, for one, should have known it. We hope that none of the American Idol cast finds themselves in this position, although we have our suspicions about Simon Cowell....

Clay, however, doesn't seem to need this advice right now. It's hard to get a big head when you're always fighting to get respect despite your success. In the latest incident, according to the NY Daily News, the group PETA teams up with the foul Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to attack Clay in an ad stating "Get Neutered - It Didn't Hurt Clay Aiken." Since PETA, like Paris Hilton sex-tape lawyer Martin Singer, regularly does outrageous things to get free attention (such as running ads saying that sharks kill humans in revenge for fishing), we wonder whether PETA isn't actually a parody group out to destroy the hard-core animal-rights movement. Perhaps the acronym "PETA" secretly stands for "People Eating Tasty Animals."












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