My Biggest Mistake: Geoff Morrow
Sunday 10 April 1994
By 1969 I had teamed up with fellow songwriters Chris Arnold and David Martin and we had been extremely fortunate in having Elvis Presley record a couple of our songs. We also had the pleasure of meeting him in a Nashville recording studio. We all got on very well, and he asked us to write something else for him.
So we went back home and wrote one called Let's Be Friends. The next time I went to New York, I got a call from our US publisher on the morning I was to leave. He said Elvis loved the song and was going to include it in his next film. Meanwhile, would I like to go to Memphis to hear him record it?
I was terribly excited and phoned home to tell my children that I wouldn't be back for a couple of days. Unfortunately, when I spoke to my son, who was seven, he was so jubilant at the fact that he was expecting me home in time for tea that I didn't have the heart to tell him. And it was to be my daughter's fifth birthday the following day.
By the time I put the phone down I had decided not to go to Memphis after all, and called the publisher to let him know.
He told me to take down a phone number - then said it was the number of his psychiatrist and that I should call and try to get him to see me as soon as possible.
I think it was at this point I realised I had blown it. I was trying desperately to feel like a great Daddy, but somehow I couldn't. Meanwhile, when I got home, the kids kind of said hello then went off to play in the garden.
A few weeks later, the publisher rang to say that Let's Be Friends was going to be the title track of the next album. Then he told me that the reason that Elvis had asked to see me was because he wanted us to write the entire film score.
I offered to leave for Memphis immediately, but he told me not to bother. Elvis didn't exactly have to wait around for the next time Geoff Morrow decided to visit the States - and to be honest I don't think he would have had much trouble finding other songwriters.
I have to confess that I regret that bad decision even more today than I did 20 years ago. When I think of the total royalties for the movie rights, the mechanical rights and the performance rights that we missed out on, I could cry. And it's not just the money; who knows where else it might have led?
To this day, I never actually had the nerve to tell my partners the truth, so they will probably find out for the first time via this column - and I should be getting some phone calls from them very soon.
The main lesson is that, if you are lucky, you may get three big opportunities in a lifetime. Sometimes it is two; sometimes only one. The trick is to recognise that opportunity and take advantage of it.
The second lesson is that there has to be a balance between heart and brain. If you haven't got that balance, you can make big mistakes.
Clearly, I should have realised that if I had said to my children, 'Hey kids, I'm not coming back for a couple of days, but boy am I going to buy you a huge present', that would have been just as good as far as they were concerned (and probably better).'
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