I grew up on Long Island in the 50s-60s mainly in Oceanside, Merrick
& Great Neck. At the tender age of 7 I was on Pinky
Lee's last NBC show - Pinky talked to me on it and there's a
video of it. My step father, Jack Sobel, was Lenny Bruce's agent -
he's mentioned in Albert Goldman's book LENNY and is seen in the HBO
special-LENNY BRUCE; Swear to tell the Truth.
My mom knew Frank Sinatra for a while and she was at the Crescendo
Club in the early 50s when there was this incident that's mentioned
in Kitty Kelly's book "HIS WAY". She was at a table with
Frank and Judy Garland. Actually, the real story I just learned -in
my mother's own words are "We had been to a birthday party for Sammy
(Davis). Judy and i wanted to see Mel Torme at the Crecendo.
Frank said 'no' but when i said i was going anyway he decided to
come. After the show as we were leaving, Mels press agent yelled out
to frank to ask my name. Frank told him it was none of his biz $etc.
The guy comes over to hit Frank and the guys from the parking lot
were holding Franks arms down stupidly thinking they were helping
him. Frank did not make the first hit. A dreadful night."
In 1957, after discovering the cast album of "WEST SIDE
STORY" I knew this is what I wanted to do.
I went to CAMP
TARIGO in Fleischmans, New York from '58-'63. I first started
wriing songs here and was in many of the musicals-I played Will
Parker in OKLAHOMA; Alfred Doolittle in MY FAIR LADY &, when I
was 12, Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN.
I used to put on shows all the time when I was between the ages of 5
and 12. I had copies of the Perry Como show scripts and later on I
built a theater in my home and produced musicals by lip-synching to
the cast records.
I wrote alot and wrote TWILIGHT ZONE scripts. I sent one once to Rod
Serling in 1961 when I was 11 and he sent back a letter which I still
have. I still think The Twilight Zone was one of the best shows ever
to grace television.
I discovered electronic music and prepared a piano myself without
knowing what I was doing - only to find out later that John
Cage had invented it. I wrote him and have letters as well.
After hearing The Beatles I knew I wanted to be a professional
musician and writer. Basically it was John Lennon who changed me and
I wanted to be like him. I wrote hundreds of songs in the 60s and
performed live at the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village. I formed
bands - "THE LONG ISLAND SOUNDS"
was one of the premier bands of the 60s on Long Island.
In 1966 & '67 I went to an incredible teen-age camp in Jackson,
New Hampshire called HAMPSHIRE LODGE.
I signed withAlbert
Grossman in 1969 (who was manager for Bob
Dylan, THE BAND, Janis
Joplin and many others.) I had a songwriters contract - this was the
ultimate for me.
Would you like to hear some almosts?
Remember Mary Hopkins "Those Were the Days"? - well, I
wrote what was going to be her second hit, a song called
"Steps". The Grossman office sent a fellow to London to
play it for Paul McCartney (who was producing Mary) - now here's
where it gets interesting. After Brian Epstein (the Beatles manager)
dies The BEATLES ware without a manager and who do they seek out -
Albert Grossman - at that time the cunningest manager in the
business. Albert had just signed on The Band and rejected The Beatles
because he didn't want to take on all the headaches. Needless to say,
McCartney rejected "Steps" and instead wrote a song called
"Goodbye" - which sounds dangerously close to "Steps".
I almost had a song on the "PETER, PAUL & MOMMY" album
called "THE BLIND OLD BAT" but the album was just recorded.
I wrote a song for THE BAND but when I learned Robby Robertson
wouldn't do outside material, it was optioned by PROCOL HARUM who
said they would do it live - but not record it. I figured I'd just
start my own band, MIDNIGHT, and record it myself.
I made one of the terrible mistakes in my life a year later when I
bought an album called the "GREAT WHITE WONDER" -the first
bootleg ever. This was unheard Dylan. I happened to have a copy of
the album when I met with Albert's publisher that day. He saw the
album and said,"wait here" and went down to show it to
Albert. Albert wanted me to go to court and testify that I bought
this album. I told him I couldn't do that because I'm a big fan of
Bob's and I hoped he understood that. Needless to say, my
appointments were soon canceled.
I formed a band of my own called MIDNIGHT and we did my own material
(sort of cross between PROCOL HARUM & THE BAND) but just as John
Hammond from Columbia was about to sign us, the lead singer, Mitch
Weissman left to play the role of Paul McCartney in BEATLEMANIA on Broadway.
I bought an ARP 2600 synthesizer and composed electronic music - WBAI
in NYC played it and I had my own show - Mike Bitterman's Musical Murders.
I joined the musician's union as one of the first synthesizer
players. I played on Barry Manilow's first album and as a programmer
for Janis Ian. I also worked for Alan Klein - when he acquired APPLE
RECORDS & THE BEATLES as a rehearsal pianist for his new acts.
I moved to Woodstock in 1973 and formed MIDNIGHT MODULATION
- a recording studio where I recorded the WOODSTOCK
MOODS & MOMENTS album in my living room. This album featured
many local Woodstock artists. I pressed 1,000 of these and it's
become a collector's item selling up to $50 in GOLDMINE. I have 100
sealed copies left for sale. $10pp.
In 1976 after seeing the show CHICAGO on Broadway, and catching a
rose that Gwen Verdon threw at me (which I still have) my passion for
Musical Theater returned and in a months time I wrote MANHATTAN - my
first original musical, which was autobiographical.
In 1979 I put together a musical based on past musicals I worked on
and produced it off Broadway in New York - it was called FIVE
AFTER EIGHT and it played for 3 weeks with mixed reviews. The
cast album was recorded by Original Cast Records and is now available
I am a huge collector of RARE TAPES - Broadway, Stephen
Sondheim, ,Classic TV, etc. I published the MUSICAL
THEATER COLLECTORS CLUB newsletter in 1992 specifically dealing
with rare Musical Theater tapes.
In 1983 my family broke up and I was desolate - I had just built my
new studio that year and had met Stephen
Sondheim to speak with him about producing an album of songs of his
to be sung by pop artists. His words to me were, "put your love
into your work."
I did just that by writing about 100 songs about the breakup of my
family and the new life I was now leading. I took the best of the
songs and produced and recorded the album, WHOSE
FANTASY IS THIS? with the help of many local musicians -
including John Sebastian, Ralph Carney (Tom Wait's sax player),
Leslie Ritter & Amy Fradon and many more, I pressed 1,000 LPs -
although this was 1985, LPs were still king and definitely better
quality as I pressed them on virgin vinyl and had them digitally
mastered. 500 of these individually numbered lps are left and I'm
selling them for $10pp each. For those of you with turntables, you
won't be sorry with the quality. The album is very eclectic and I
also have a cassette version for $10pp as well. More important, I'm
issuing volume 2 of FANTASY next year.
These were all written and recorded the same time as the first - I
didn't have room for these and I was scared to release some of them
as I really wear my heart on my sleeve.
In 1987 I needed to escape and my next door neighbor/photographer
Charles Gatewood turned me on to a place where I can get away from my
problems-I give you my true story on ESCAPE
TO ISLA MUJERES
Here is my interview with the Woodstock
In 1983 I was set to produce and album for Stephen Sondheim which
featured current pop singers singing his songs. Here's the story on 'It
Would Have Been Wonderful'