Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pitney Meets Medley In A Masquerade?

‘Guardian Angel’ is one of the stand out songs for me from the mid 80s. Credited to the artist Masquerade, it debuted on the Australian charts in October 1984 and spent 27 weeks inside the top 100, peaking at #27 in early ‘85, but for some reason neither the U.K. nor U.S. made it a hit (though I‘ll reveal a small fact at the end of the post about the U.K. version of the song). It came from an album titled ‘The Sound Of Masquerade’. I can recall being captivated by the song as a teenager and wondering who the two male vocalists were that exchanged lyrics throughout this majestic ballad.

I wasn’t that familiar with the careers of either Gene Pitney or Bill Medley at that time, but I knew their voices and I wondered to myself could the two voices on ‘Guardian Angel’ belong to them. Exchanging verses and chorus, one singer had this piercing falsetto which contrasted beautifully to the rich baritone of the other. I mean it wasn’t too far removed from the Righteous Brothers come to think of it. Of course had it been Pitney and Medley singing, surely the Masquerade would have been over swiftly and their true identities revealed to the world. But I never heard anything to the contrary and so for the last twenty plus years every time I listened to the song I kept allowing myself to think "what if"? And then another question posed itself, were there actually two singers on the record or just someone with an extraordinary vocal range? Yeah far fetched I know, but you only have to listen to Billy Joel perform every single voice on ‘The Longest Time’ for an example of how it could be done.

Until the point of researching for this post I really had not a clue about the artist Masquerade, apart from my own baseless hypothesising - which defines my level of expertise on most things. I came across some information on a heavy metal act from the 90s, and a string quartet, both by the same name, but reasoned that neither of these artists were responsible for 'Guardian Angel' (sounding just like a hard-boiled detective aren't I?). On a website called Discogs it gave the real name for (the 80s) Masquerade as being Drafi Deutscher. But who is/was Drafi Deutscher? Another clue came in the form of the co-writer and producer of the record, Chris Evans Ironside. Evans Ironside had a background in classical music, the composing, performing and arranging of. That certainly comes through in the lush production and orchestration of ‘Guardian Angel’. The English born musician found himself working in Germany honing his craft in song writing and arranging. He worked on projects as diverse as film scores to ballet to commercials (about 50 are listed on his website). In between all of this he found time to co-write ‘Guardian Angel’ with Kurt Gebegern (who was actually an alias of Drafi Deutscher - one of several he used throughout his career - many thanks to Jan Stephan webmaster of the official Drafi Deutscher website for that info - check out Jan's insightful comments after the post for more). But you’re still asking yourself who was Drafi Deutscher? Go on, I know you are.

Drafi Deutscher was a German singer, writer and producer who started his music career in earnest in the mid 60’s whilst still a teenager. He broke through in his homeland in 1965 with the song ‘Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht’. He wrote hits for Tina Rainford (‘Silverbird’ - OZ#30 1977), Peggy March (‘Fly Away Pretty Flamingo’) and ‘Belfast’ by Boney M. In between times he worked under various alias and project names such as Mr. Walkie Talkie (‘Be My Boogie Woogie Baby’ - 1978) and in a duo with Oliver Simon calling themselves Mixed Emotions, who scored several European hits during the 80s including ‘You Want Love’.

And now the final piece of the puzzle in revealing this Masquerade. Did Drafi Deutscher perform both vocals on ‘Guardian Angel’? Well no he didn’t, because he sang it as a duet with fellow German singer Nino De Angelo (yes he was German), who at the time of the song’s release was only 20 years old. De Angelo went on to represent Germany in the 1989 Eurovision Song Contest and have a string of European hits. Deutscher handled the falsetto whilst De Angelo the baritone side of the vocals. STOP PRESS! - I've just heard from Jan Stephan, webmaster of the official Drafi Deutscher website He assures me that Drafi Deutscher did in fact provide both voices on "Guardian Angel". As Jan stated "It was not a duet with Nino de Angelo, they both recorded an English version but never together. Drafi wanted the 'masquerade' to be perfect so he sang his vocals as if two singers were performing." My sincere thanks to Jan for this clarification.

Chris Evans Ironside has continued a fine career in music, mostly concentrating these days on film scores (mainly European) and classical compositions, alternating between his own studio in Hamburg and London, but he still involves himself in the pop music genre, producing a 1992 album for ex Smokie singer Chris Norman (who also sang a duet with Nino De Angelo).
Drafi Deutscher continued a stellar career in music that extended to 40 years up until his death in June 2006 at the age of 60.

The song ‘Guardian Angel’ was originally called ‘Jenseits Von Eden’ and spent a massive ten weeks atop the German charts, whilst a version recorded in Italian spent five weeks at #1 in France - bring on the European Union! I kind of had second thoughts about dispelling the whole myth of the Pitney/Medley connection for myself (why spoil the fun) but it’s worth knowing the facts behind such a great song, and I’ll still be as drawn in by its magic as much as ever.

The clip below is a live performance of the song by Nino De Angelo alone, and he does an amazing job covering both vocal roles. So much so that in the U.K. ‘Guardian Angel’ was released in 1984 as a single by Nino De Angelo - it only charted for five weeks and peaked at #57. The song was also in fact released in the U.K. as ‘by Masquerade’ during 1984, but the Masquerade version didn't reveal itself on the charts. One issue behind that may have been confusion with another group active in Britain at that time called Masquerade, who actually scored a couple of minor hits in 1986 with ‘One Nation’ (#54) and ‘(Solution To) The Problem)’ (#65).

Who ever it was credited to and who ever sang it, ‘Guardian Angel’ is simply a brilliant song that has stood the test of time.


Ed said...

Love this song! Always wondered who sung this when I was a kid. It was played lots on the radio here in NZ back in the 80's. Thanks for the memories :)

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

No problem Ed. Thanks for your comment. Keep on enjoying the classic memories :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there! As the webmaster of the official Drafi Deutscher website I can assure you that Drafi DID sing both (!) voices on "Guardian Angel". It was not a duet with Nino de Angelo, they both recorded an English version but never together. Drafi wanted the "masquerade" to be perfect so he sang his vocals as if two singers were performing. In fact, it was Drafi alone. Believe me. Best regards, Jan Stephan

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

Many thanks Jan for your comment and the clarification on who actually sang on 'Guardian Angel'. I've updated that section of my post to include your information. I'll listen to one of my favourite songs with a new found appreciation for the extraordinary vocal talent that was Drafi Deutscher.
Thanks again for taking the time to let myself and my blog readers know about that.
Kind regards,
A. FlockOfSeagulls

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

You are welcome. It is my pleasure to clarify the mysteries Drafi created.

One more thing came to my mind about which I am not sure if you know it.

The song was written by Drafi Deutscher and Chris Evans-Ironside. Yes, Drafi co-wrote the song under the pseudonym "Kurt Gebegern".

Drafi used several pseudonyms during his career such as "Jack Goldbird", "Renate Vaplus" and "Kurt Gebegern" to name just a few.

The only part where he revealed to be involved in the "Masquerade" project was the producer credit naming Drafi and Chris Evans-Ironside as the producers of the album.

It was a little hint that Chris Evans-Ironside worked on the project because they worked together for many years so every project involving Chris and an unknown co-writer/co-producer was reason enough to do some research if it is Drafi that is also involved.

All the best,