The Cautionary Tale of Pete and George and The Music Biz Weasel
:: Chopper – Eddie ::
This is a story about a rock & roll band. Chopper. I actually knew
these guys back in the fabled '70s. I'm actually in a band right now
with the lead singer. So it's kind of a personal story, but I'll try
not to drool on my keyboard.
I met Peter Bunch when I was about 18. Pete was a friend of a guy I
was in a band with, and he was quite a bit older than us (I guess he
was about 25 at the time). Pete had a songwriting partner named George
Lulejian. They had been trying to get a record deal for a few years by
then and had made some connections with influential industry types. My
friend Steve and I started hanging out and going to their shows doing
roadie and sound mixing duties.
Pete and George started a band called Avril and they hooked up with a
manager named Bob Davis. He had been an executive at MCA Records and
supposedly signed Olivia Newton John before being fired for being an
overbearing coke freak (in other words, a perfect rock band manager!).
One of Bob's other clients was a guy named Johnny Cougar, and we got
to go see him play at the Whiskey once. He sucked big time, but the
band he opened for, The Jam, rocked!
Anyways, Avril rented a small theatre in West LA for a week and did
showcases for record labels. This was really fun because they had
catering, and the theatre was also being used by Al Franken and some
other Saturday Night Live writers to test material during the summer,
so I got to hang out with Chevy Chase one day. Avril cut some demos
with a producer named Michael Chapman who was soon to hit it big with
Blondie and The Knack, but none of this went anywhere and Avril broke
One of the music biz big wigs who came to the showcases was legendary
music biz big wig, Jeff Barry. Pete and George were putting another
band together when Mr. Barry contacted them and expressed interest. I
wasn't familiar with the name Jeff Barry at the time, but it was
explained to me that he wrote Chapel of Love and Sugar Sugar by The
Archies. I wondered if the guy responsible for that kind of stuff
would be a good fit with Pete and George, but they were so desperate
by then they would've done whatever it took to become rich and famous.
George told me recently about the time Jeff Barry sat him and Pete
down and told them his plan. The band's name would be Chopper, and
they would build this special drum set that looked like a badass
motorcycle, get it? George just sat there with his jaw dropping and at
one point he looked over at Pete who seemed to be agreeing with
everything Jeff Barry was saying. George saw his little pop group
being remodeled into some kind of arena rock joke, and knew it was
all over at that moment.
They got signed to an independent label called Ariola America (home of
the Sons of Champlin), and commenced recording the album with Jeff
Barry at the helm. It was bad enough that they were forced to present
themselves as bikers, which was ludicrous, but now in the studio Jeff
Barry was suggesting they change their songs around too. Ultimately,
he got them to change a word or two here and there and took a
co-writing credit on every song on the album, thereby guaranteeing he
make some money on royalties.
Pete and George's best song was called "Every Little Thing". Jeff
Barry felt it had promise, but then re-wrote the lyrics entirely and
re-titled it "Eddie". It was about a young man who felt like he didn't
fit in, but then one fine day he met a girl and suddenly realized he
did fit in after all. Isn't that nice? Pete and George hated this
idea, but of course they went along with it anyway.
So the album came out and I knew as soon as I saw it and heard it that
it was destined for the cut-out bin. Another nice thing JB did was to
change George's last name to Legion (to make it easier for the throngs
of teenage girls to pronounce his name). That's George standing in the
field with his shirt open and Pete with the plaid shirt (pre-grunge!).
Pete and George pretty much gave up on their aspirations for rock
stardom after that, though they've both stayed active in music ever
since. Pete became a lawyer, got married and moved to the Pacific
Northwest. These days I play drums in a cover band with George on
rhythm guitar and vocals. We play parties and corporate gigs and we
don't play any Chopper songs, but George still writes and we do play
his new originals. I recently saw a magazine interview with Jeff Barry
so I saved it to show to George, but he was like, "no way" and didn't
even want to look at his picture. I guess I didn't realize just how
much George felt like he was screwed over by Jeff Barry. He said he
got really depressed after the whole Chopper fiasco and didn't want
anything to do with the music business ever again. After seeing what
happened to Pete and George, I didn't either.