The Who, McCartney Blazed a Trail for David Courtney
David Courtney put another feather in his cap in October when he became the first British songwriter to receive the prestigious Tsarskoselskaya Art Award in Russia.
The award, given to Courtney for his composing and production work on Russian artist Marina Kapuro’s 2016 album Matinee, may be as unknown to many Americans, however, as Courtney’s brilliant work. Angel Air, a wonderful, progressive label in England, is doing its best to change that, releasing four albums of Courtney’s own music and production work.
Angel Air remastered and released on CD, for the first time, Courtney’s excellent 1975 album First Day and added seven bonus tracks. The album was recorded with a 100-piece orchestra at London’s Abbey Road Studios. Angel Air also released a double album, Anthology, which has 37 songs Courtney wrote or produced, including 11 performed by Roger Daltrey.
Yes, aging fans of Daltrey and the Who may remember Courtney’s name. He wrote “Giving It All Away” with Leo Sayer and either wrote or co-wrote with Sayer every other song on Daltrey’s highly acclaimed first solo album.
Courtney considers “Giving It All Away,” the hit single on the album, the greatest song he ever wrote.
“Roger’s performance of the song was outstanding,” Courtney tells me. “He captured the pathos of the melody and the lyric. The lyrics of the song echo greatly in my life.
“This album was Roger’s debut solo album and vastly different form his work with the Who.
The album has received fantastic accolades over the years, which I am extremely proud of, including a wonderful endorsement from film director Alan Parker. He said the album is one of the greatest, probably most underappreciated albums ever. Who could ask for more than that?”
Besides Daltrey, other performers on Courtney’s Anthology album include Sayer, David Gilmour, Paul McCartney, Roger Chapman, Maggie Bell, and Adam Faith. Sayer is the musician with whom Courtney will be forever linked. He says Sayer’s debut album, Silverbird, makes him as proud as the Daltrey album.
“This was Leo’s debut album and our debut as composers,” Courtney says. “The album was truly original, Leo’s vocals were remarkable, and the album has great spirit and ambience.”
Courtney also thinks highly of Here, another album he produced for Sayer and for which he co-wrote three of the songs.
“The musicianship on the album was second to none,” he says. “It included Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Al Kooper, Steve Lukather, and Michael Boddicker.”
There were other big names also on that album: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Bill Payne, Bobbye Hall, and Fred Tackett.
Courtney says the best live concerts he attended during his long musical career were the Who “in their heyday” and Pink Floyd on the Dark Side of the Moon tour.
“Without a doubt, the Who were the most exciting band on the planet and the epitome of rock and roll,” he says. “With Pink Floyd, it was escapism. They transported me to another level and were awe-inspiring.”
Courtney says, though, that seeing Paul McCartney live most influenced him as a musician.
“As an ardent Beatles fan, it would have to be Paul McCartney,” he says. “The man is a genius and will go down in history as the greatest contemporary songwriter of his time. I grew up with Beatles, and they set the trail for me in everything they produced.”
Courtney has done his share of trail-setting, working as a producer with Sayer, Daltrey, Adam Faith, Gene Pitney, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. Yet, he prefers being most known as a songwriter.
“I would like to be noted as a great tunesmith,” he says. “Melody is my forte. A great melody can be inspiring and raise the hair on the back of your head.”