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Bonus Track

This Discovery Took 30 Years to Surface

January 06, 2002|KEVIN BRONSON | Times Staff Writer

Story line: Hancock Park piano teacher's 30-year-old songs get bootlegged in Japan, unearthed in America, even sampled on a rap record.

The goods: Margo Guryan's "Take a Picture," re-released in 2000, and "25 Demos," released last fall, both available at www.franklincastle.net.

The heroine: Guryan, a jazz student who turned to pop songwriting after jazz great Dave Frishberg turned her on to the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," had songs recorded by artists such as Mama Cass Elliot, Claudine Longet, Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry, the Lennon Sisters, and Spanky & Our Gang (including the modest hit "Sunday Morning") in the 1960s. "At that time, if you wrote good songs you could get a record deal," she says. "People wanted songwriters; it didn't matter whether you were a singer."

The album: But sing she did, and "Take a Picture," a collection of delicate, sunny songs with bossa nova flavor and cooed vocals, was released in 1968 on Bell Records. "When I heard the album, it was like discovering a secret 'Pet Sounds,'" says Linus of Hollywood, the pop artist whose label, Franklin Castle, handled the "Picture" and "25 Demos" releases. He estimates they have sold at least 8,000 copies worldwide. "It's been quite a coup to take an obscure '60s record and get it into the indie mainstream."

Fast forward: "For years, I didn't listen to the songs, or play the album. Something like that becomes part of your past and you just accept it," says Guryan, who had married her publisher, David Rosner, and moved from New York to Los Angeles. "Then we get a royalty check from Japan. And we find out [copies of 'Take a Picture'] are drawing exorbitant prices on EBay." It led to her album's re-release and the reconstruction of her demo songs for "25 Demos."

Just a sample: One string introduction she penned for Campbell-Gentry even ended up on a song by Mad Rapper. "It's still amazing to me to have something resurface after 30 years," she says. "People say I've been rediscovered. It's not true--I've been discovered."

And now: "I love teaching. It's not something I did out of frustration. I'd like to write songs, but how would I write now? I haven't figured that out yet."

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