The origins of MC Squared
After I left Bakersfield, California in 1962 I Moved to LA, changed my name to Randy Sterling, ‘cause nobody could pronounce Cierley, and seriously dived into the Hollywood music scene. Through One of the Mize Brothers, Buddy, I found myself in the studio after being there only about two months.
I still had some contacts from when our high school band, “Rick Lee and The Barons,”backed ”The Paradons” on ”Diamonds And Pearls” in 1959 and, with that and a career taking performance on 12 string guitar at The Troubador night club one night in 1964, things just kind of took off for me from there.
I soon became one of the ”A” list studio rhythm guitar players for about three years. An opportunity opened up in 1965 and I moved to San Francisco to play, tour, write, and record with The Trident Corporation (Management and production company) under the direction of Frank Werber while learning recording engineering, record production, and the WHOLE music business in general.
I arranged ”You Were On My Mind” for The We Five, recorded, produced, and wrote for The Kingston Trio, Sons Of Champlin, The Mystery Trend, and Blackburn and Snow. I also contributed to some memorable sessions with Sly Stone. Became friends with Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, even Moby Grape! I had an altogether fantastic two and a half years. But by that time the ”City By The Bay” was becoming just a bit too bizarre, even for me, so I decided to get back to Hollywood.
Upon returning to L. A. I hooked up with three old folk music friends, Mike Crowley, Mike Clough, and Linda Carey, who wanted to do something different. We found this drummer, Jim Keltner, working in a music shop in Pasadena just down the street from the old “Ice House” coffeehouse and knew we really had a group.
We were signed by Warner Bros. under the name MC Squared and proceeded to try to make an album of all our own material. The only problem was that the producer who was assigned to us didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. He never came to one rehearsal and when we went into the studio he tried to make us sound like every other group he was producing.
Since I had met and become friends with Mo Ostin, who was now President of Reprise Records, while working with the Kingston Trio I decided that we had nothing to lose and went to see him one day. I sat in his office and told him that even though we liked our producer, he didn’t understand what we were trying to do.
So I asked if he would give me a chance to produce a demo so he could see what we were all about. To my delight and surprise Mo said, “OK, but if I don’t hear what your talking about, our guy produces or your deal is off.”
We were given three hours in some little side street studio and the next day took what we had done back to him. He sat…listened…turned to me and said, “Randy, pick the studio you want and gimmie an album.” Well, we made one hell of an album.
We found out later that in a little hidden vocal booth our sessions were being watched by Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, David Crosby, and a host of others who surprised the hell out of us one night when they came out and complimented us on the work we were doing.
The only problem with the recording was that Reprise’s producer was so pissed off that we had made him look bad, he managed to get our product lost in the shuffle. (Aural Illusions has re-released the MC Squared album on CD from the stereo master tapes.
The unreleased MC Squared album is a superlative collection of expertly produced Los Angeles laid back psychedelia with outstanding arrangements and unbelievable vocal harmonies. Anyone who enjoys listening to music by the likes of Sagittarius, The Ballroom, Sandy Salisbury and Curt Boettcher are urged to buy a copy from Randy. I can’t recommend this self financed release enough.
Q1. What kind of reaction did you get from Reprise?
As you will hear, we were so far ahead of our time that it’s no wonder Reprise nor anybody else had any idea as to how to market/promote the product. The real pisser is that we were at work on another album when Reprise (read as: Lenny Waronker pulled the rug out from under us.
I think what really did the deed was that our single ”Everybody’s Talkin’” was starting to get play and really good numbers starting in the east and was spreading when the movie Midnight Cowboy came out and Harry Nillson’s version with the help of mass promotion from RCA and Paramount just killed our better but unheralded release.
Now here’s a little known and slightly weird fact: As you might know I was a studio musician during the time MC Squared was in existence and as such, just after we had recorded our arrangement, I was called by Harry to come and put a banjo part on a song … I got to the session and to my dismay the song I was to put the banjo on was … Everybody’s Talkin’. So, in effect, I was also just a little responsible for cutting our own throats!
Q2. Can you remember the name of studio you used to record the music? And the month/year?
We recorded the album at TTG Studios during late1968. We even had Jimi Hendrix (who was recording upstairs) stop in and say hello. Pretty cool!
”TTG” stood for ”two talented guys.” The studio was first established in 1965 at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Hollywood, their studio became popular with the up and coming rock musicians of that time, including The Monkees, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Burdon and Alice Cooper.
Q3. I decided to do some googling and found that MC Squared were on the soundtrack of a 1969 film called ’The First Time’ featuring a song titled ’Sweet Love In The Beginning’.
Can you remember much about this song? Was it a left over from the Reprise album sessions?
I only wish you could have heard what that song really sounded like. Kenyon Hopkins got all the credit when all he did was give us the basics of what he wanted and we wrote, arranged, and recorded the song.
What you hear in the movie was a pale edited version of what we actually came up with. Of course Paramount owned the rights to it as per Kenyon’s contract so we were screwed and unable to get our hands on it.
Originally posted ’Flower Bomb Songs’ March 2011
I used to do commercial recordings with Michael Crowley in Denver a few years after MC Squared packed it in. Michael himself could sing like a bird, but this was one talented group. I occasionally correspond with Linda C. Dillard nowadays, and sadly Michael Crowley has since passed on.
Thank you very much for posting this info and especially these songs. Along with the YouTube videos of ”I Know You” and ”Everybody’s Talkin’” from Playboy after Dark, – it’s almost like MC2 is still here with us.
A great group of singers, songwriters and musicians – whose potential was never realized but won’t be forgotten. RIP Michael, and all the best to the rest of the band. You ”Came in Peace” – and peace back at ya’
The two tracks recorded for the soundtrack of The First Time were issued on 45 credited to Kenyon Hopkins on the UA label. ’First Time’ / ‘Love In The Beginning’ UA 50511. (G Newell)