Ronald Reagan was in his final year in office and Iran-Contra was dominating the headlines. The Giants won the Superbowl and the Twins took the World Series. Platoon won Best Picture, and Steve Winwood's Higher Love was Record of the Year. And I graduated from the Berklee College of Music and returned home to Philadelphia to to begin what I hoped would be a career as a commercial composer.
I arrived at Baker Sound in June of 1987 and immediately hit it off with then-owner Gary Moskowitz. We decided to launch an original music production division, and MONSTER TRACKS was born. All we needed was a client.
It didn't take long to find one. Producer Peter Tilden of Tilden & Associates was eager to give our new music service a shot. Within weeks of my arrival at Baker, Peter asked me to produce a jingle for Wick's Ski & Sport using the lyric "Feel the Difference at Wick's." I composed the jingle and hand-notated the full score (as was my practice in those early days) before recording the rhythm track on a Mac 512Ke. I played this "demo" for Peter, who approved.
I then called my friend Jeff Kay to cut guitar tracks. I knew Jeff from Berklee; he had also returned to the Philly area and was gigging with Robert Hazard. Next I called in vocalist Gina Catinella, a friend of my (future) wife's who I had seen perform in local clubs. Peter attended the vocal session in Baker's Studio B, and suggested the big vocal scoop on the "W" of "Wick's." He loved the finished jingle, as did his client.
Announcer Jeff Kaye was also appreciative. Kaye (not to be confused with my similarly-named guitarist) was well known for his work with NFL Films, and had been voicing Wick's spots for Peter. I was in the room when he read to the new jingle for the first time, and I'll never forget how generous he was with his praise. He said he enjoyed reading over the track because it had "plenty of posts to hit." Jeff became a big supporter, regularly referring clients to me.
But my favorite memory of this jingle is the first time I heard it on the radio. Some high school friends had stopped by my mother's house to catch up, and we were chatting when the jingle came on. That was the first time I heard something of mine on the air, and it was special to have old friends there to share the moment. The jingle remained in use for several years, and if you were a fan of The Howard Stern Show at that time you certainly would have heard it.
Sadly, the original reel-to-reel master has been lost and the excerpt below (pulled from an early cassette demo reel) is all that remains. The sound quality isn't great--I was working with limited equipment and had a lot to learn about engineering--but I was proud of it then, and will always have a special place in my heart for MONSTER TRACKS' first professional production.
Chuck Butler is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Baker Sound's in-house composer. For more information about Baker's music division, visit our dedicated MONSTER TRACKS website.