'80s - Boy Meets Girl (2010)
'A New Dream: The Boy Meets Girl Story'
Boy Meets Girl is a duo consisting of keyboardist and vocalist George Merrill and singer Shannon Rubicam. Perhaps best known for their hit song, 'Waiting For A Star To Fall To Fall' (1988), the duo have also written a number of songs for other artists.
Most famous are their two number one hits written for Whitney Houston, 'How Will I Know' and 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).' Indeed, they also wrote the songs 'Don't Tell Me We Have Nothing' and 'Haunting Me' for Deniece Williams and the song 'I Know You By Heart,' performed by Bette Midler on the Beaches soundtrack.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with both George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam about life back in the '80s, their personal relationship through the years, all the damn songs they kept giving to Whitney Houston, and, of course ... penguins!
Taking it from the top, and your first self-titled album peaked at #76 on the album charts. Subsequently, it took three more years before the follow-up, Reel Life. What was the thinking during those three years with
regard where the first album went wrong, and what to do for the follow-up? Shannon: "I don’t think we were assuming we did anything wrong with regard to the first album, except that the record company had a limited amount of promo money to put towards radio, which when push came to shove was used to promote the single for another recording act instead of a second Boy Meets Girl single. Naturally, we were very disappointed. Sometimes you lose out in the decision making process, especially where budgets are involved. Such are the vagaries."
"As far as what to do next, we chose to move to RCA/BMG in order to work with the late and wonderful Paul Atkinson in A&R, who did real hands on mentoring of our Reel Life CD, encouraging us, as needed, to go back to the drawing board and keep writing until we were ready. Paul then introduced us to the also late and amazing producer Arif Mardin. The masterful Arif was key in helping us polish WFASTF until it was hit worthy."
Indeed, the follow-up album featured the single, 'Waiting for a Star to Fall, and brought with it mainstream success (in your own right) virtually overnight. Peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song reached #9 in the UK. Reflecting back to those days back in 1988, how did things change for you around that time? George: "Shannon and I had spent a year apart, then chose to be together again; and during that time the Reel Life album themes started becoming clear. From “Stormy Love” to “Is Anybody Out There In Love”, we were sorting ourselves out and writing our way through. So on an intimate level, and in the most public way, we had set in motion CHANGE!! How exciting, on every level; to celebrate a new relationship and an album reflecting it all was electric."
It's been said that the song, 'Waiting for a Star to Fall' was inspired by an actual star that both you guys saw at a Whitney Houston concert at the Greek Theatre! Is this a true story - and if so, what made you both see this star, all the way up above, when Whitney was on stage performing her heart out for you at the time?! Shannon: "True story. Kismet. Sometimes the universe whispers in your ear, and you respond regardless of what is happening around you."
George: "One of the great nights: warm and clear, everybody was excited to see this young vibrant star, and just as she’s singing our song “How Will I Know”...I swear, right above the stage in the night sky. Shannon dives for her notebook..."
So, you actually then submitted the song to Houston, but it was rejected! Belinda Carlisle then recorded the song for her 1987 album, Heaven On Earth, but she ultimately disliked the song, leaving it off the final album
pressing. My God, what was so wrong with the song that everyone was treating it like the plague, all of a sudden? George: "Funny, I’d forgotten the history...fools, all of them! But when it’s right, it’s right and everyone knows it... I suppose “Waiting” was waiting for us."
You must have felt very vindicated when your version of the song became a worldwide hit and took you on TV from country to country. Shannon: "What we really felt was fortunate! A song being good does not necessarily mean it’s right for just anyone. Each artist has a unique delivery that resonates with the soul of a song. For example, I could not have sung WFASTF and made it a hit even though I co-wrote it. George’s voice was the magic element on that one."
Come 1990 and your third album New Dream was scheduled for release, but RCA Records shelved it during some label reorganization! Finally seeing the light of day in 2004 via your own website, how angry were you back then, that the label you trusted had pulled the rug from out beneath you? George: "It did seem like a colossal waste, and I know we were upset. We were proud of New Dream, and thought we had some gems to share, so it was a surprise that the record company didn’t agree. If you gave me a do-over, I wouldn’t have left RCA over it, instead I’d have written the song they couldn’t deny, simple as that."
(Shannon agrees with the wisdom of hindsight!)
You divorced each other in the early 2000's, but have continued your musical collaboration ever since. How easy was that a thing to do in those early days of the divorce - and what were some of the speed bumps you
had to overcome? Shannon: "Oh, speed bumps galore, not easy at all in the early days. But when it appeared things could spin out of control, we signed a pact with each other - a peace treaty if you will - agreeing to handle ourselves with grace, and to treat one another with respect. It’s amazing what such a commitment can see you through, especially when you consider the desire for ongoing co-parenting and the fundamental value of friendship. Still, divorce temporarily leaves you feeling as if your world has torn apart, so there were times when we needed to repair to our separate corners for a while and get centered in our changed individual landscapes. Perhaps not surprisingly, music was the lifeline that helped us move to brighter days."
In latter years, many bands have fought for the rights to sample 'Waiting for a Star to Fall.' To your knowledge, have any done it illegally, and if so, can you do anything about it these days? George: "All the mash-ups and mixes that made it to charts and downloads around the world are known to us (so far!). Lively mixes from Mylo, Cabin Crew, and Sunset Strippers and others all did very well, and have ended up on all sorts of compilation CDs."
Having spoken about Whitney already, I don't think many people know this, but you guys actually wrote both 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)' and 'How Will I Know' for her! Not only that, you have
written hit songs for Deniece Williams, Bette Midler, and many others over the years. With regard the Whitney tracks, that she then made mega chart hits, why didn't you guys keep them and sing them yourselves? Shannon: "First of all, HWIK was written at the suggestion of our publishing company at the time, as a submission for a Janet Jackson album. She turned it down because she was working on the brilliant concept album called Control, and our song would definitely not have fit in. The song then went to Clive Davis for Whitney, and ended up on her first album. Later, Clive solicited a song for the second Whitney album, so we wrote IWDWS. Truly, if Clive wants a song from you, he can have it! He’s a confirmed hitmaker. The same is true of Whitney… who in their right mind would turn down a chance to have her sing one of their songs? In those days Whitney pretty much blew the socks off all her musical selections, emphasis on selections. Clive was very attentive to choosing material he deemed best for her career trajectory."
"Secondly, there is no guarantee that had George and I recorded either or both Whitney songs, they would have gone on to be hits for us. It’s that kismet, timing, resonance thing again, and we have certainly never lamented giving them to her. Things happen as they do, and there is so much to smile about in this particular regard."
And, with that last question in mind, labeled all these years later as a 'One-Hit Wonder,' does that sit well with you - especially knowing that had you have sung those Whitney songs yourself, you might well have escaped that musical term completely? George: "I’ve always considered myself a songwriter first, entertainer second. And it shows!! I adore writing songs; the ideas fly and off we go on another song journey. I haven’t developed as much as an entertainer; it’s fun to sit in, or jam, and I’ve been doing that more often lately. But entertaining is also an art, and artists who embrace performing and love it are going to have more success."
"And I agree with Shannon- Whitney and Bette Midler and Deniece Williams took our songs and made them greater than they were, because they are superstars!"
OK, taking a look at the cover for Reel Life (the one where you, Shannon are nestled into the shoulder of George), it sooooooooo resembles the Beauty and the Beast photos from the TV series! I mean, with your
Linda Hamilton hair, and George's Ron Perlman flowing locks, was it all intentional, perhaps?! Shannon: "This tickles my funny bone!! Not premeditated… in fact we were enough unaware of various resemblances that one time when we were promoting in NYC, random people kept approaching George for his autograph without indicating who they thought he was, but we weren’t sure why and were embarrassed to ask (it sounded rude somehow to say “who do think I am?”). So after a quick whispered conference between us, he alternately signed his name as Sting, The Beast, and Kenny Loggins just to cover all possible bases… never once did he sign his own name!! We had a mighty laugh over that in private."
"As for Linda Hamilton, she kicked ass in The Terminator, so any resemblance to her would have flattered me."
Fun Five - OK, it's now time to fire off some quick questions - to allow those that think they know Boy Meets Girl to perhaps think again!
a) Have you ever, or even just recently entertained the thought that you might remarry each other?! Shannon: "No. Life rolls on, opening out into new vistas."
George: "...and new marriages!! No, I enjoy our relationship together now. And I see more and more people sorting out a way to be friends after divorce, finding ways to allow the good parts to still be a part of life."
b) Is there one of your songs that you look back on and would today change the title to, or a line/lyric from it - and if so, which one, and why?! Shannon: "Hmmmm, there’s an obscure song we wrote long ago called The Choice, and I wish we’d rather titled it 'Boys of Summer,' and changed all the lyrics and music to the same, and then had Don Henley sing it ~ heh heh! (Nice job Don. I love that song.)"
George: "I think 'New Dream' was too clipped; I would change it to ‘(I wanna surrender to) a new dream’ Silly, but I would."
c) Do you have a recurring nightmare or dream - and if so, how does it usually end? Shannon: "My days of recurring dreams seem to have passed for now. When I was small I used to have a frequent nightmare about a map of Europe, and I was a little tiny spec down on the map looking up, when a huge iron weight in the sky would begin to press down, darkening everything. Bad things were about to happen. Just before it flattened me I would wake up in a sweat of fear. Can’t explain it. Maybe I slept on the lower bunk."
George: "I’m not aware of a recurring dream, can’t help you there."
d) What is your sweetest, guiltiest pleasure (food wise!) late at night? Shannon: "Glad you clarified that! A glass of raw whole milk with Green & Black’s organic dark cocoa powder. It just takes a while to stir, and the powder jumps out all over the counter, but it’s worth it."
George: "GladCorn. This stuff is just wicked good. Hand to mouth, I can’t help myself. Well, sure... Barcelona Bar, Vosages."
e) If you could meet any deceased celebrity, who would it be - and what would be the first question you would ask them? Shannon: "Deceased? It’s so hard to remember who’s deceased and who isn’t. Years of tribute reels from the Oscars scroll through my mind where I’m continually saying “he died? she died?”, but it boggles my brain to answer this. Google. I could try that. The thing is, I think it’s best not to meet or talk to people you admire because they might break the spell with reality. It would settle the mystery, though, to ask Amelia Earhart where she crashed ~ but then she didn’t know where she was, did she? And yet… she has a different perspective now so perhaps she could say."
George: "Ouch, Shannon, but I’m with you. Well, maybe Babe Ruth could once and for all shed light on the ‘steroids in baseball’ controversy, or Walt Disney- why Seven dwarfs? Or to Beethoven: you weren’t REAL-LY deaf, were you??"
Where did the name Boy Meets Girl originate - and tell us more about the new band name change to BoyMeetsGirl Music! George: "Well, we loved the phrase ‘when boy meets girl’ as in movie scripts- boy marries girl, etc. and thought it fitting in many ways: we’re obviously writers of songs about relationship... oh- and we were boy and girl, and remain to this day: boy and girl."
"Had to change the name though, pal...enter the internet age, and www.boymeetsgirl leads you to depravity and sin, so we thought it best to make it clear: we tagged on ‘music’ to the name. So far so good!"
Can we expect a new Boy Meets Girl album soon? And, if so, and as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, have you a working title for it, perhaps? Shannon: "I hope so, although it won’t be soon by most people’s standards. You may have noticed that time lags by decades in the BoyMeetGirl Music world. I am moving up the coast though, nearer to where George lives, in part so that we can actually get in the same room to write and record. I’m very happy about that, and you should email now and then to check in so you’re lined up for the exclusive, to which you’re more than welcome!"
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today...and why? George: "'Our Lips Are Sealed,' awesome song by the Go-Go’s. It is unique and bright, and has cool melodies... or 'Broken Wings' by Mr. Mister, except lower it a minor third- that guy Richard Page can seriously sing."
Shannon: "Ooh, have to jump in here too… 'Ruby Tuesday,' perfect for gorgeous harmonies and whatever instrumentation you care to imagine."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins (the flightless bird, not the hockey team or the chocolate bar!) ... do you? Shannon: "Well, I was certainly awestruck by that movie about the astounding odyssey of a year in the life of a rookery of penguins. For a long time I avoided seeing it fearing cutesyness - was second to last on the planet to see it in fact - but then it touched me to the core. You just never know about wondrous life. ‘Tis mind blowing."
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
So, if you would like to win a SIGNED Boy Meets Girl CD, direct from the band themselves, and you think you know all there is to know about the couple, just answer this easy question: 'Waiting For a Star to Fall' was also featured in which hit movie from 1990?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful SIGNED Boy Meets Girl CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before September 1st with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: SIGNED BOY MEETS GIRL CDs to: firstname.lastname@example.org