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Curt Boettcher: recognized a little bit by Mike Nessing

“I’d like to be recognized a little bit i guess, i guess everybody would you know’.
– Curt Boettcher
As the saying goes, “There’s a broken heart for every light on Broadway”. Adapting this for the music business you could say there’s a broken heart for every knob in every recording studio in Hollywood. Looking at the star-crossed career of 1960’s record producer Curt Boettcher, you could conclude that he rates at least two or three knobs and maybe even a couple of faders.

Coming out of Wisconsin with a folk background , Curt fronted a vocal quartet called The GoldeBriars. It was here where his talent for vocal arrangements took shape. They recorded two albums that went largely unnoticed , but once the GoldeBriars run ended, the move towards recording other artists was a natural progression for Curt.

He produced lots of records between 1964 and 1966, but actual breakthrough success came with the release of the debut LP by The Association. The record , along with it’s double A side 45 “Cherish/Along Comes Mary” was a smash, and all signs pointed to a rosy future. The Association however, had other plans. Wanting to take a more active role in the recording process, (sound familiar?) they opted not to use Curt for the follow up record.

Curt had a friend though in Gary Usher, whom he met along with Brian Wilson earlier that year during a recording session. Wilson was reportedly blown away by what he’d heard, and Usher took note of this. Now in a prominent position with Columbia Records, Usher quickly snared up Boettcher’s services.

A super group of sorts was formed with Curt and some of his self-appointed heavy hitters. They included Lee Mallory, Joey Stec, Sandy Salisbury, Michael Fennelly, and others. Collectively, they were called The Millennium. Thanks to Usher’s influence, Boettcher had practically no budget restrictions and set forth producing the most expensive LP in the history of Columbia Records at that time. The album was simply called Begin.

So it goes when a record that expensive is produced, cost saving measures are taken in other areas such as marketing and promotion. Since there was virtually no “push” behind it combined with Curt’s reluctance to tour behind an album that contained several passages that could not be duplicated live, the record fared poorly and vanished from the pop landscape within months.

Curt continued to work despite the failure of what was his magnum opus. Sometimes producing, other times lending his back up vocals to songs. That’s him with Elton John and Kiki Dee on “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”. He also bore the albatross of being the producer of The Beach Boys unfairly maligned disco remake of “Here Comes The Night”. Nothing however, ever approached his early success and the “Begin” album had long since been deleted from the Columbia catalog, just another ‘60’s record that didn’t sell.

There were other projects and solo attempts too numerous to mention here. This is not an attempt to be comprehensive as much as it is an attempt to convince you, the reader to find out more. Suffice to say that success eluded him for the rest of his life. There is a great website dedicated to his work at www.curtboettcher.com . He died at the age of 43 from complications involving a lung infection. There have been rumors that these ailments stemmed from a brief battle with AIDS, but these allegations have never been substantiated.

The  Begin album however did not die. It has gained stature over the years and thanks to reissue company Sundazed , has been made readily available as part of a box set. The album is now widely considered a classic and a template for what would become the Sunshine/soft pop era of the early ‘70’s., as well as having some early elements of what we now refer to as power pop.

There’s lots of stuff on YouTube, as well as a fair representation on ITunes. If you are a fan of the California sound circa early 1970’s, seek out Curt Boettcher. You won’t be disappointed.

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