OBITUARY : Wes Farrell

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The Independent Online
At a time when the charts are dominated by Beatles re-releases, Beatles sound-alikes, disco acts and prefabricated teen stars like Take That, the death of Wes Farrell, the American songwriter and music entrepreneur, helps us put these trends into perspective.

Farrell was part of the legendary Brill Building school of songwriting, and while working there, he co-wrote the song "Boys", with Luther Dixon. In 1961, it was recorded by the Shirelles and appeared on the B-side of their world-wide hit "Will You Love Me Tomorrow". "Boys" quickly became a staple of the Beatles' repertoire, giving Ringo Starr a rare opportunity to shine vocally. The Fab Four's infectious early sound was heavily influenced by American girl groups of the time (they also adapted the Shirelles' "Baby It's You") and "Boys" was duly included on their first album, Please Please Me, and also features on the recent Anthology I.

"Boys" is only the tip of the iceberg of pop classics with which Farrell was involved over the years. In the early Sixties, he co-wrote "Come a Little Bit Closer" for Jay & The Americans, "Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)" for Solomon Burke, and "My Girl Sloopy", an R&B hit for the Vibrations. In 1965, the McCoys, featuring a very young Rick Derringer, had an American No 1 (and British No 5) with a reworking of this song entitled "Hang On Sloopy". It has been recorded by over 150 artists since.

Farrell had obvious business acumen and quickly realised that the real money was in publishing. In the mid-Sixties, he set up his own company, the Wes Farrell Organisation, and signed upcoming writers such as Chip Taylor ("Wild Thing"), Neil Diamond ("I'm a Believer") and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart ("Last Train To Clarksville").

Having witnessed the Monkees' success at close quarters, Farrell soon began promoting other bubblegum acts like Every Mother's Son, Brooklyn Bridge and the wholesome family groups the Cowsills and, more famously, the Partridge Family. The fictitious and televised Partridges featured Shirley Jones and her real-life stepson David Cassidy, who became a teenage idol in the United States and in Britain with sugary hits such as "I Think I Love You", "How Can I Be Sure" and "Could lt Be Forever". This blueprint for success has since been handed down to scheming managers of potential teen idols the world over, Farrell himself having had a decent second stab at the television-pop crossover with the Australian Rick Springfield.

Over the years, the Wes Farrell Organisation grew into a massive operation, with affiliates around the world, a jingles company and labels like Chelsea Records.

Always a music enthusiast, Farrell tried his hand at producing and was also involved in film scoring. In 1992, he showed he had lost none of his original drive and set up Music Entertainment Group Incorporated, quickly acquiring the Benson Music Group, a Nashville-based company with one of the largest Christian catalogues in the world.

Pierre Perrone

Wes Farrell, songwriter and publisher: born New York 1940; twice married (one son, two daughters); died Fisher Island, Florida 29 February 1996.