Almost Famous: Tim Moore, Singer-Songwriter Extraordinaire

almostfamous

I’m writing this while listening to the music of one of my favorite musicians of all time – Tim Moore.

Now I’m guessing that the vast majority of people reading this post have never heard of Tim Moore, and that’s unfortunate. And rather than shortchanging Tim and his accomplishments, I thought I would just include his relatively brief bio from Wikipedia at the end of this post for those who may be interested.

If you read through the bio, you will notice that Tim has known and worked with some big-time names in the music industry: Todd Rundgren, Frank Zappa, Daryl Hall, Keith Richard and the Rolling Stones. He has also had some of his songs recorded by others, such as Art Garfunkel, the Bay City Rollers, Cher, and Richie Havens.

One item not mentioned in the bio is that Tim won the 1974 American Song Festival (an international songwriting contest) Grand Prize Award for the song “Charmer“.

And here are a couple of blurbs about Tim:

“I LOVE Tim Moore. ‘Second Avenue’ — amazing… first two albums have fantastic stuff on em.” ~ Cameron Crowe, Director of Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, Say Anything, and ironically, Almost Famous

“The case for the Tim Moore/Behind the Eyes two-fer cannot be stated strongly enough. Tim Moore’s first two albums represent his best work. Both familiar and groundbreaking (his delivery skills and arrangement choices are spectacular), this is the place to discover a true pop master.” Thom Jurek – All Music Guide

I was in high school when I first heard of Tim, and was lucky to see him perform a few times (including at the legendary Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA). I brought all of his albums with me to college, and was able to introduce his music to my fellow swimmers and dorm-mates.

When I look back on things, I often wonder why he never became a household name; he obviously had the talent and determination.

My guess is that it comes down to the importance of luck/timing, or whatever you want to call it. Being in the right place at the right time or making the right connection at the right time, plays a key role in everyone’s success.

That’s also a key point in Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book “Outliers: The Story of Success“, using Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as examples.

So while Tim may not have had the same commercial success as Billy Joel, Hall & Oates, or Simon & Garfunkel, I believe he was just as talented as these individuals.

So this blog is my chance to share his music with more people; I hope you enjoy it. And while I cannot find a good live version of Tim performing from the 1970s, here are videos my two favorite songs, Second Avenue (later covered by Art Garfunkel) and In the Middle. If you want to listen to more of his songs, here is a link to his music page.

After the videos you will find his Wikipedia bio. Enjoy! And let’s hope he performs again in Philly some day soon…

Second Avenue

In the Middle

from Wikipedia:

Tim Moore is an American singer and songwriter who recorded five albums for David Geffen‘s Asylum record label. A self-taught musician, Moore grew up inPhiladelphia where he went to art school and began to play his self-penned songs at local coffee houses. His rock career began as guitarist-singer with DC & the Senators, a cover band opening Philadelphia arena rock shows. During this early period, he also played drums with blues band Woody’s Truck Stop, the first Philadelphia band to feature Todd Rundgren. Producing more and more songs during this time, he and a friend, Jeff Scott, formed The Muffins, the first group to perform and record Moore originals, many of which Scott wrote lyrics for. The Muffins had minor US success on RCA records with a Kinks influenced single, ‘Subway Traveler,’produced by Cameo-Parkway founder Bernie Lowe. The Muffins peaked in the summer of love, opening for Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground for a week at Philadelphia’s Trauma psychedelic club.

After the Muffins disbanded, Frank Zappa heard Moore’s songs, which he found harmonically advanced for the period, and brought him to New York with the intention of signing him to Bizarre Records. Moore declined the signing when tour scheduling kept Zappa from producing the album himself. Moore returned to Philadelphia and worked as a staff writer and session guitarist on sessions with Thom Bell, Gamble and Huff and other Philly Soul producers. During this time, Moore lived next door to Daryl Hall in downtown Philadelphia where they both pulled salaries as staff writers. Hall and Moore co-wrote material for a band they founded, Gulliver, which released one album on the Elektra Records label.

After the breakup of Gulliver, Moore moved to Woodstock, New York, then the hometown of Bob Dylan, The Band, and Van Morrison, seeking a more personal approach to his music. He struck a deal with ABC-Dunhill records that produced the first Moore single, “A Fool Like You” on which Donald Fagen sang backup. (Moore also sang backup on the first Steely Dan single, “Dallas.”) Moore teamed with producer Nick Jameson to record his first solo album, Tim Moore which was released on Gulf + Western’s Famous Music subsidiary label A Small Record Company. Jameson provided him the Beatles-like studio freedom he had long sought. For the first time, Moore assembled his own tracks as a multi-instrumentalist, layering guitar, keyboard and bass parts over drum tracks by Bernard Purdie and Russ Kunkel. Three singles, “A Fool Like You”, “Second Avenue” and “When You Close Your Eyes”, received much airplay in the US and UK. But as “Second Avenue” was headed up the US charts, the album’s distributor (Paramount) abruptly ceased record operations. Because his single was already climbing the charts, the sudden release from contract spurred a Tim Moore bidding war between Clive Davis and David Geffen. By the time the deal went to Geffen, Art Garfunkel had released a competing version of “Second Avenue” which peaked at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100. This ‘cover battle’ effectively defeated both records’ chances for a hit. Moore’s version of “Second Avenue” made #58 on the Billboard charts.

The following year he released Behind the Eyes, featuring what remains his best-known song in the U.S., “Rock and Roll Love Letter“, a hit for the Bay City Rollers a year later. Moore’s guitar work on “Rock’n’Roll Love Letter” drew the attention of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. The two became friends and Moore spent two weeks guesting on guitar with the Stones and Peter Tosh during their rehearsals at Bearsville Studios.

Although Moore was signed to Los Angeles based Asylum Records, he didn’t record in L.A. until his third album White Shadows. This more highly polished collection teamed Moore with Michael McDonald,David Foster, the Eagles Timothy B. Schmit, drummer Jeff Porcaro, Little Feat‘s Bill Payne, and other L.A. based talent. The band he assembled for the American tour in support of “White Shadows” featuredBrian Wilson‘s bassist, Bob Lizik, Philadelphia drummer Steve Shive, Pittsburgh drummer Bennett Carlise, David Livingston on guitar and a Bob Lizik compadre from Chicago, John Melnick on keyboards. Lizik and drummer Steve Shive were featured players on his next album, High Contrast on Asylum Records, produced by legendary producer/engineer, Ken Scott who previously had produced albums by David Bowie, Supertramp, Dixie Dregs, Stanley Clarke and was the second engineer to Geoff Emerick on the Beatles White Album.

Moore’s albums were highly praised by critics. Other acts continued to mine his new releases for songs, but neither of these achievements brought Moore wider public attention in his homeland. Instead, he found success outside the US while promoting his fifth album, Flash Forward, produced by Blondie engineer, Rob Freeman. In 1986 Moore spent 75 days touring Brazil after his romantic beat-ballad “Yes” fromFlash Forward went to number one and held that position for 10 weeks. “Yes” enjoyed a similar run of success in Portugal in 1988.

Performers who have recorded Moore’s songs include Art Garfunkel (“Second Avenue”), Cher (“Love Enough”), Richie Havens (“That’s the Way I See You”/ “Yes”/ “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”), Bay City Rollers(“Rock’n’Roll Love Letter”), Etta James (“Charmer”), The Records (another version of “Rock’n’Roll Love Letter”), Maxine Nightingale (“I Think I Want to Possess You”), Ian Matthews (“A Fool Like You”), Colin Blunstone (“I Can Almost See The Light”, “When You Close Your Eyes”, “Second Avenue”), Eric Andersen (“A Fool Like You”), Cliff Richard (“Love Enough”), Clifford T. Ward (“I Got Lost Tonight”), Jimmy Witherspoon (“Aviation Man”) and others.

17 thoughts on “Almost Famous: Tim Moore, Singer-Songwriter Extraordinaire

  1. Jim, I found this blog to be very touching as it reminded me of my own musical faves from the 70’s, such a formative decade in my life. Plus, you remind me of my husband, as he prefers his favorites from the 70’s, whereas my tastes are a little more eclectic. I don’t remember ever hearing Tim Moore’s name or music before, but he certainly fits on with that season of music, doesn’t he?

    I also listened to Art Garfunkel’s version of the song, which I found quite lovely.

    Thank you for sharing this. Have as great weekend!

    1. I do sound like your husband, since the vast majority of the songs I listed to are from the 70s. Glad you enjoyed Tim’s music. Thanks for your comments!

  2. Hello, my friend. I’m sorry for my English, but I’m not fluently in English. My name is Fabio and I’m from Brazil.
    But I like to know if you can help me, I’ve been looking for notices about Tim Moore and I couldn’t find anything about him. I’d like to know how he is today. Thanks for your attention. See you!

  3. There seems to be a bit of confusion over “new” Tim Moore songs on the Internet. It turns out that there is an Australian Tim Moore who is now recording and releasing music. Wish there was an easy way to separate these excellent singer/songwriters.

  4. Hi, I came across Moore’s a few days ago and really love his first two albums. I literally play Sister Lilac all day now. The lyrics is so eloquent yet simple and the string arrangement is sublime. God how I wish I could know some background about his early works ! If only Cameron Crowe had written an article about him.

  5. I heard “second Avenue back in the 70’s. GREAT SONG! Later i could not recall the artist. Just recently googled it and found Tim. I now have the song on my phone. Wonderful song and artist.

  6. “Second Avenue” was one of those songs that hit deep when I was an adolescent in the 1970s going through an early break-up. I had the album (or an album that contained the cut–not K-Tel, but some other compilation), but I lost it when I left home and my parents probably got rid of it. For decades I had the lyrics written in a notebook, and the only place I could hear it was in my head. Then. . . there was iTunes.

    Thank you for letting me know that I was not crazy for being the only one in my circles who ever knew this song existed. Sadly, I have so many other song lyrics in that notebook that will only live on in my head because the Internet hasn’t found them yet.

  7. Sitting here listening to A Small Record Company album by Tim Moore, with Behind the Eyes on deck. I am from Philly and really thought Tim Moore would take the world by storm, unfortunately it didn’t happen and most of my friends from that time were listening to more rock and roll, but I did play Tim’s alnums,whenever I had a party.

  8. Sorry it took me over three years to find your post!

    Jim, I think the thing that doomed Second Avenue as a hit record was Gulf and Western’s Famous Music was in the process of spinning off its stable of record labels at the time of its release in 1974. Most of them got swallowed up by ABC (Blue Thumb, Dot and the soon-to-be-dormant Paramount label). But not Tim Moore’s label.

    If you go to Discogs.com you’ll find photos of the 7″ single issued by A Small Record Company (that was the actual name of the label) and distributed by Famous Music. The earliest copies of the LP were also issued by the very same A Small Record Company. Tim Moore may have been the only artist signed to the label. Whatever the case, Asylum picked up both Tim Moore and the label. And the rest is but a footnote in music history. Second Avenue’s failure likely had more to do with a lack of coordinated promotion. The few people I knew who heard the song at the time loved it. But they couldn’t find it to purchase due to the sale of the label.

    1. Hi Doug, thank you for taking the time to provide such useful insight about Second Avenue. It’s amazing that something like lack of promotion could have such dire consequences. Proof once again what a big role luck plays in success.

  9. I remember this song well from 1974. I bought the 45 at the time. I’ve never completely forgotten the song, but I didn’t think of it very often. Then, for some reason, I suddenly got the tune of it in my head tonight. But I couldn’t remember the first verse*, which was driving me nuts. So, off to to the Internet to find the words. That’s how I came across this page. I’ve never heard any of Tim Moore’s other songs, not even the covers (at least, the titles don’t ring a bell), but I was thinking earlier tonight about what a well-crafted pop song Second Avenue is – the words, the melody, the piano playing, and the overall arrangement. So now I want to listen to more of his stuff. Thanks for the article!

    *There’s a good reason for this. I usually listened to the radio in my car, and I would switch from one station to another, trying to find something I liked. So statistically speaking, I was likely to land on a station after a song was already playing. Which is why I didn’t relearn the first verse as well.

    1. glad to hear that you were a fan of Tim’s. He is one of my all-time favorites. His first three albums are wonderful, with songs like Second Avenue, Charmer, Lay Down a Line, and In the Middle coming to mind. You may have heard of Tim’s song Rock and Roll Love Letter, which was made into a hit by the Bay City Roller. I hope you enjoy his other songs!

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