Let’s Talk Dusty is honoured and excited to announce that Norma Tanega has kindly agreed to let us sell her “lost” 1971 album “I Don’t Think It Will Hurt If You Smile”.
The album contains beautiful love songs, written and recorded during the time Norma and Dusty lived together. As a bonus track, Norma’s own “No Stranger Am I” is included.
The CD is an exclusive, limited edition on the occasion of the album’s 40th anniversary, and is available only through LTD.
A singer, songwriter, and classically trained multi-instrumentalist, Norma Cecilia Tanega was born on January 30, 1939 in Vallejo, California, near San Francisco. Her father was a bandmaster in the United States Navy and an accomplished musician. Growing up, "it was only natural for me to become a musician as well." After obtaining a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Claremont Graduate School in 1962, "I moved to New York City with all of my worldly possessions, including the guitar that appears on the cover of my two albums." As a musician and an artist, this was the next logical step in her life. "At that time, the center of the art world was New York City."
Before obtaining a record contract, Norma spent one summer sightseeing and hitchhiking around Europe. Her big break came as a result of her job singing at a summer camp in the Catskills Mountains in New York. "One of the other counselors at the camp was teaching at a high school in Brooklyn, New York. Another of the instructors at that high school happened to be a part-time record producer with connections to Bob Crewe, by the name of Herb Bernstein." (Bernstein later arranged and produced the Happenings and Laura Nyro). It was suggested that Norma play Bernstein some of her material. He liked what he heard, and took Norma to Bob Crewe, who also was impressed. He signed Norma, and the result was the album Walkin' My Cat Named Dog, produced by Herb Bernstein, which contained the hit "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog". Norma explains the meaning behind the lyrics: "I had always wanted a dog, but because of my living situation I could only have a cat; I named my cat Dog and wrote a song about my dilemma." Apparently, others could relate, because the song zoomed to #22 on the Billboard charts.
Interestingly, "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog" became a huge hit in England, and Norma was invited to perform it on the TV Show Top Of The Pops, taped in Manchester 1966. Standing in the studio, Norma watched Dusty go through rehearsals. “I’m standing there with my guitar, like a dork, while this woman, I had no idea who she was, stood on some scaffolding and went over and over this song until it was, of course, perfect.” The song was You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, Dusty’s #1 hit at the time. When the lights suddenly were turned down, Norma was confused. “What’s going on?” she asked Dusty, who was sitting with her lighting man Fred Perry. Dusty explained the English tradition of a union tea break for electricians and cameramen and started to talk to Norma about her work. Norma was enthralled: “She was witty and flirty, how could you not love her?” Nevertheless Norma had to go back to America. She and Dusty kept in touch, and finally, Dusty flew over to New York to persuade Norma to live with her.
While in London, Norma became recognized quickly as a songwriter, and through the Springfield connection, Norma wrote songs with Tom Springfield (who incidentally wrote many of the Seeker's hits) and for Dusty herself. These songs can be found on Tom Springfield's Love's Philosophy album on Decca from 1969 and as the B sides of several Dusty Springfield singles on Phillips from 1968 through 1970 (e.g., "I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten"/"No Stranger Am I", "I Will Come To You"/”The Color of
Your Eyes”, ”Am I the Same Girl"/"Earthbound Gypsy"). Additionally, her work appears on former Move singer Carl Wayne's 1972 RCA album titled Carl Wayne.
Norma’s efforts in London resulted in a record contract with RCA. The output was the 1971 album titled I Don't Think It Will Hurt If You Smile. This album was produced by Don Paul. One of the session players was well known British musician Mike Moran, who later worked with such great British rock luminaries as Colin Blunstone, Mick Fleetwood, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover and Chris Rea. Although Norma’s album received excellent reviews, it was not a hit. "Unfortunately, I could not promote the album because I had to move back to the United States for family reasons."
Upon moving back to the states, Norma took up residence in her old college town of Claremont, California, and began teaching music. Along with her other passion for painting, she has continued to create music. Her works are now more aptly called instrumental "experimental music", created by playing various and intricate percussion instruments to produce different moods and sensations.
Let’s Talk Dusty got an exclusive email chat with Norma Tanega.
At 72, she is full of creativity and has several art and music projects going on. “Retirement” is a word that is not in her dictionary.
Hello Norma! What are you doing nowadays?
I am in the process of completing three albums at the moment. One with my band Baboonz, called 8 Songs Ate Brains. One with Steve Rushingwind Ruiz, called Twin Journey, and one with Brian Ransom, tentatively called Clay Cure. I play gigs with Baboonz, I still paint and show my work. And I teach ESL, English as a Second Language, to wonderful adult school students from all parts of the world.
Let’s Talk Dusty is honoured that you let us offer your album “I Don’t Think It Will Hurt If You Smile”. How did the album come about?
The album was produced by my friend Don Paul. He was with the Viscounts, a big group in the 60s. Their hit songs were re-released in 2001.
What did the album mean to you when it was released in 1971, and how do you feel about it today?
I still like the songs and the production by Don. It was really great working with him. He is still my friend and I talk to him as often as I can.
What does the album title “I Don’t Think It Will Hurt If You Smile” mean?
The album title means just what it says and it is more important in 2011 with all the world in turmoil -- the Middle East revolutions -- the economic situation around the world and the terrible events in Japan. I believe in music, art, and love. Doesn't everyone?
What did Dusty think of “I Don’t Think It Will Hurt If You Smile”?
I really can't remember, but she always understood what I was composing and that I was not the great singer she was. I was glad that she recorded about seven of my songs for her "B" sides.
Thank you for talking to Let’s Talk Dusty, Norma Tanega!
Annie J. Randall, Professor Musicology and author of “Dusty – Queen of the Postmods”, says the following about the album:
“It will intrigue and delight not only Dusty Springfield fans but fans of late-60s music in general. Tanega’s musical personality is fully on display here. As a Dusty fan, I hear many references to Norma's relationship with Dusty on this album. It stands to reason that Dusty would be the object of affection in the love songs.”
Annie J. Randall’s insightful liner notes provide a fuller picture of the album and its time.
Norma’s original version of “No Stranger Am I” is included as a bonus track.
The CD has a “vinyl” look for the right retro feeling. It comes in a jewel case with a 4 page booklet. The price is GBP 12 or USD 18 which includes p&p to anywhere in the world.
Listen to "Illusion" from the album here: