Wednesday, October 8, 2014

England Dan & John Ford Coley, The #93 Artist of the Seventies*

Dan Seals ("England Dan") and John Ford Colley met while both attended W.W. Samuell High School in Dallas, Texas.  Seals's older brother Jim was half the duo Seals and Crofts; he was nicknamed England Dan because of his love of the English group the Beatles, and because he sometimes adopted an English accent.  Colley's last name was re-spelled "Coley" to make it easier to pronounce.  The pair joined the group Southwest F.O.B. (Freight on Board), which toured Texas in support of such acts as Led Zeppelin.  They scored a minor hit in 1969 with "The Smell Of Incense", #43 on the charts.

While with Southwest F.O.B., Seals & Coley began an acoustic act, Colley and Wayland.  They changed their name to England Dan & John Ford Coley, and signed a recording contract with A&M Records.  The duo moved to Los Angeles and gained attention opening for numerous acts there.  They scored a #1 hit in Japan with the song "Simone", but were dropped from A&M when success was limited worldwide after three albums.

But Dan & Coley kept pursuing their dream, and found the song "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight", written by Parker McGee.  The duo recorded a demo of the song and played it for Bob Greenberg, senior vice president of Atlantic Records.  Greenberg didn't feel the song had potential, but Doug Morris, A& R representative for Big Tree Records, was in the office next door, and came in after the song was finished.  Big Tree was a subsidiary of Atlantic, and Morris had heard the song through the wall.  Morris liked the song, and offered England Dan & John Ford Coley a recording contract.

In 1976, Dan & Coley proceeded to record the album Nights Are Forever, and released the aforementioned "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight" as the lead single.  Contrary to Greenberg's opinion, it was a smash, in fact one of the biggest hits of the year.  The song hit #1 on Adult Contemporary charts in both the U.S. and Canada, and it was a #2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.  Over one million people bought the single.

The follow-up, "Nights Are Forever Without You", landed at #6 on the AC chart and #10 overall.

The album Nights Are Forever went Gold, so the duo released their next album Dowdy Ferry Road the following year.  By this time, Adult stations were beginning to overtake traditional "Top 40 stations", meaning that the Top 40 stations had forgotten what kind of music their listeners liked the most.  And artists like Dan & Coley flourished on the new dominant format.  "It's Sad To Belong" gave the duo their second AC #1, while the traditional Top 40 stations had a peak of #21 for the song. 

"Gone Too Far" was a minor hit at #23 for the group.

In 1978, Dan & Coley released the album Some Things Never Come Easy, which contained their third chart-topper on the AC chart.  "We'll Never Have To Say Goodbye Again" not only spent six weeks at #1 on the more important Adult format, but is one of The Top 20 Adult Songs of the 70's*.

Dan & Coley's 1979 album Dr. Heckle & Mr. Jive landed them another smash, "Love Is The Answer".  It gave the duo their fourth #1 Adult Contemporary hit in five releases, and another Top 10 song overall. The great song is one of The Most Important Songs of the Rock Era*.

England Dan & John Ford Coley had achieved great success in a few years.  Yet that success wasn't as easy as it may seem.  They did not write their own songs, and most of the successful songwriters of Adult music at the time (Neil Diamond, Lionel Richie, Barry Manilow, Elton John, Billy Joel, Christopher Cross) recorded their own compositions.  So increasingly, Dan & Coley found it harder to obtain good songs to record, and they split.

Seals went on to become a successful artist in the Country genre.  Coley appeared on television and in movies, and co-produced for several artists including Eddie Money.

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