When Ellen auditioned for record companies in 1978, she brought along NYC keyboard player Tommy Mandel
(from The Miamis), performing songs live in the record company offices, just like she and Meat Loaf did a year earlier! Tommy ended up playing on her "Nightout" and "Another Breath" albums, plus he was in Ellen's 1979 touring band. Interestingly, he has also written a book, tentatively called "Famous A**holes I Have Known", with a whole chapter devoted to Ellen Foley!
Born in New York City in 1949, Tommy Mandel began studying music at the age of six, in suburban New York. He took ten years of piano lessons, and mutated at the age of sixteen, joining and forming a series of bands performing Dixieland, James Brown, and Beatles-Stones music along the East Coast in the sixties. He studied songwriting with Paul Simon at NYU in 1969-70 in a class which included the Roches and Melissa Manchester. After receiving his degree from Bowdoin College in Maine, where he furthered his studies of Music History, Theory, Electronic Music, and Orchestration, he found work at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., accompanying classes combining Theater, Song and Dance, and composing music and songs for several original theater productions, a position he held for seven years. He also played with The Miamis, performing at the CBGB's.
During this period, while represented by the William Morris Agency and signed to Epic Records (by Stephen Paley,) he wrote two Pop-Operas, "Joe's Opera" and "Sea of Simile" , the former being twice optioned for Broadway production, and staged at both Cafe LaMama (1974), and the Stuart Ostrow Musical Theater Lab at St. Clement's N.Y.C,(1975). They were both directed by John Braswell, R.I.P., but the St. Clements' production was directed by Robert Allan Ackerman. A third show, "The Maurice LaRue Rhythm Revue", was mounted at Sarah Lawrence in 1979. A children's opera, "Animal Stew," was co-written and produced with Bobby Puleo a few years later.
In 1977, Mandel toured the US and Canada with the National Lampoon Travelling Road Show; in 1978 he traveled to West Berlin with the Rock Revue, "Shindig 77" and returned a few months later to form an "international all-star blues band", with musicians from England, Poland, and West Germany. Also in 1978, while preparing to record Ellen Foley's debut album, he met Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. He played on three albums and three tours with them, and began to make the contacts that led to his work on many records over the years. He has also recorded a series of solo albums, most of which are available on iTunes (but not his 1981 solo EP on Songshop Records, pictured above!)
Mandel's touring experience includes stints with Ian Hunter-Mick Ronson (79-81), David Johansen (before he became Buster Pointdexter... in 1980), Sylvain Sylvain (ex New York Dolls), Dire Straits (82-83), Todd Rundgren - Ian Hunter - Mike Shrieve (1980), John Waite (84-85), Little Steven, (86), Bryan Adams (88-98), and Richie Sambora and Friends (98), as well as local (New York City) gigs with Bo Diddley, Lou Christie, Paul Butterfield, Elaine Caswell, and Otis Rush.
TOMMY MANDEL INTERVIEW
by Sven Gusevik (The Outsider fanzine #8, 2001):
Tell me how you met Ellen Foley, Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson?
I was in a band that recorded at Moogy Klingman's studio in NYC (it was Todd Rungren's too for a while..."Secret Sound", and Moogy (a great keyboard player) and I got to be friends. He was double booked one day and asked me to fill in for him, playing piano at the HAIR auditions, uptown. I did, and the casting agent there, Frannie Pillersdorf, liked my playing and I dunno, my sensitivity to the singers, (culled from 7 years of accompanying ingenues at Sarah Lawrence College in classes combining acting, singing and dance). So she told me to call her, there was this singer who she was repping who needed a pianist to go around with to auditions, so that there was no uncertainty when the actual auditions took place what the chord was, how fast it went, and where the pauses were, for example. That singer was Ellen Foley, very attractive, very talented and another Gemini (like me and Ian and Mick too!, but I found that out later). So I played and rehearsed with Foley (as Ian calls her) and then she was putting together a band, and asked me to rehearse with that; so I did. I met Hilly Michaels and G.E. Smith and one day Mick and Ian came down to the rehearsal hall, and because they were gonna produce her first (Cleveland International Records) record. I guess I had ear plugs in, because Hilly was very close (cymbal-wise) to my left ear (both ears, actually), so maybe I played a bit louder than I usually do...mostly rock piano- 8th notes in octaves, etc. Well that impressed Ian or Mick, so free spirits that they were, they said I could play on the record... Martin Briley was there too, on bass...Tommy Morrongiello was rehearsing in another room in the same (Full Tilt) rehearsal studio, and we invited him in one night, to fill in for Billy Cross who had been helping out in the interim, and then Tommy was in the band! But that was after the record was recorded I think. By the end of the recording sessions, (for Foley's Night Out album) Ian and Mick invited me, Martin and Hilly to go on tour with them, to support You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic which was doing very well right then. It was a good record for Ian, that.
What about your book, "Famous A**holes I Have Known". That's a great title!
I don't know how to go about publishing my book; it's 80 pages with 13 pages of pictures. I haven't found a publisher for it yet. I guess I wrote it for two reasons: (1) - to get it off my chest (there's only a few vicious parts, unlike the title implies; in fact Bob Doershuck, the editor of Musician Magazine, said he thought I should change the title because it's misleading.... still trying to think of another catchy one...) Sort of like a do-it-yourself headshrinking. (2) - to make TONS of MONEY! (house payments etc). So if I can't get a big advance for the book, which I probably can't, I might be better off just sharing it with friends, and avoid the Wrath of Adams, although he comes off pretty laundered in the book. (POSTSCRIPT 2010: some chapters now available on www.tommymandel.com