My name is David Prater. You're correct. I'm not given any credit whatsoever for any contributions I made to both songs. There are many reasons why but before I address those, it's important to me for people to realize that I had a very large role in the development of both songs that were later re-recorded by Eric and Michael Loyd.
I produced two versions of "Hungry Eyes". One was for John DeNicola and Debbie "Pantera" Robinson entitled, "A Darker Side of Love". It was recorded in 1984. The other version was for Frankie Previte and John DeNicola. It was recorded in 1985.
The 1st version for John and Debbie not only had a different title but also a completely different melodic signature. The chord structure, however, was virtually identical. "A Darker Side of Love" was to be included in the second installment of songs I was producing for her as a solo artist. The three of us had been in a group named after Debbie's stage persona, "Pantera". We were managed by Tommy Mottola. As "Pantera" the three of us had recorded a significant amount of material. Throughout that time John, Debbie and I had grown to be very close friends.
During the vocal sessions, Debbie had an emotional breakdown and I never saw her again nor did we complete her version vocally. Debbie is a black female and at the time was involved in a top-secret relationship with one of the world's most famous actors who, (legend had it) only dated black women. I always wondered if the story line of her version was an account of her troubled relationship with him.
Towards the end of that endeavor I fell in love with Frankie's previous girlfriend, Patty Maloney. She was a superb singer/songwriter in her own write and was very supportive of my work as well (later her and DeNicola formed a band together). She suggested that I meet Frankie and start writing songs together. After agreeing to give it a try, in early 1985, Frankie and I started recording material in what was to become a very lucrative partnership for him less than three years later.
I introduced Previte to DeNicola around the time Debbie disappeared. A few months later, John was lamenting to me that it sucked not being able to finish the songs we had started with her. He asked what I thought of stripping her voice off the 4-track version and letting Frankie have a go at writing a new vocal. I told him that he was asking for trouble but if it ever came to that, it would be easier to say youâ€™re sorry than to have asked for permission. As luck would have it, thatâ€™s exactly what happened later in 1988.
After John gave Frankie a copy to work with, Frankie booked a date to lay down his new improved vocal. For recording, all I had at the time were 2 Tascam 4-track cassette recorders and Frankie only paid me $100 per song. I would hustle as many songs from him and as many people as I could in hopes of earning enough to make rent. It was grueling.
Frankie tried laying down his new vocal and after a few passes we both liked it, however, Frankie kept getting stuck on the first line. He was getting frustrated and asked me what he should do? I said, "Gimme the mike" and I sang what is now the first line of the song: "I've been meaning to tell you". He said, "Bingo!" and after singing my new lyric said, "let's lay down some BGVs". The song's lyrics were now complete. At the time, Frankie was an all-world class singer and liked the way our voices blended. We came up with a three-part harmony for the choruses and sang various ear-candy for the bridge and verses.
On the final incarnation of the song as it was presented to Eric Carmen, I had played drums and sang BGVs with Frankie. One of my favorite musical collaborators, Douglas Worthington, played rhythm and lead guitar. DeNicola played bass and keyboards.
In 1985 I didn't consider receiving a songwrite's share on a song destined for nowhere to be as important as making rent. Although I should have, I didn't pursue the matter at that time. I wanted to keep the work flow intact. Frankie and I were going and blowing. We wound up writing in the neighborhood of 30-35 songs, however, neither one of us had a clue as to what was soon to pass.
My career began to slowly take off in 1988 and my circle of associates began to change along with it. Patti Maloney and I still saw each other on occasion. One evening we walked in to my home in Montclair, New Jersey and turned on MTV. Something caught my attention and I said, "What's that?" She replied, "It's that song you, Frank and John wrote, remember?" I couldn't believe it and walked back into the bedroom to get a better look. That's when I saw that ridiculous scene of a girl with horrendous looking breast implants miming the sax solo. I thought to myself, "God!!! Whose bright idea was that?"
The 1987 Academy Awards had yet to take place. The movie's single "Time of My Life" had been previously released but made no lasting impression on the marketplace. It disappeared without fanfare. The movie on the other hand was causing Mt. Saint Helen sized eruptions. A short time later I heard they had re-released the song. Then I heard the news that it had been given a nomination for "Song of the Year". In the back of my mind I knew that it would probably win. It gave me horrible remorse to think back to what all had happened. I knew that I would be passed over.
After the awards my phone ended my phone rang off the wall. In all the pre-awards pandemonium, Frankie had been nominated as spokesperson for receiving the Oscar. People were furious that I hadn't been thanked for all I done for Frankie and John just a few months earlier.
Frankie later told me how disgusting everyone made him feel when it came time to draft who would be thanked. According to him, the movie's various producers were literally fighting over when their names were to be mentioned, in what order their names were to be mentioned, how their names were to be mentioned, how many times they would be mentioned and who could be thanked and who couldn't. He said it was disgusting beyond words. DeNicola's mother was dying at a hospital in Boston and he hadn't been given any indication he could say anything about anyone much less her.
Frankie had a notorious manager at the time who had been legendary for having steered Peter Frampton's career into the sewer right after his massive double album, "Frampton Comes Alive!" His name was Dee Anthony. According to Frankie, before the awards Dee said he would sign his 25% percent of Frankie's publishing catalogue minus "Time of My Life" and "Hungry Eyes" back to Frankie if he would thank him when he accepted the award for "Song of the Year". Frankie signed off on it. Dee was thanked during the television broadcast where he said I was to be thanked.
A few months later, John and Frankie found out that Debbie Robinson had filed a lawsuit claiming damages for the theft of her percentage of "Hungry Eyes". She had never been contacted by DeNicola nor made aware that a song she had caused to be written had been recorded without documenting her involvement as a writer. Exactly what I told him might happen did in fact happen. The song's royalties were held in escrow pending settlement of the case. Eventually it was settled out of court for a small amount of money.
At that time I considered filing an additional injunction on the song's royalties for what I had contributed lyrically in the song's composition. I decided not to because at the time I knew it would become a pissing match between who had the best lawyer. At the time, I was still a struggling young record producer and didn't have the resources to go head to head with all parties concerned. Besides, how could I prove that I did what everyone knew I did? It would be all hearsay.
Last week I called Frankie and John to ask them what their feelings were about my original demo being released with all the other "Dirty Dancing" demos. That's when Frankie told me he wasn't releasing mine. My demo was the one that Eric learned the song by in terms of key, tempo, arrangement and rhythmic content. Eric's and my versions are very similar in terms of what was played where and when. Nevertheless, Frankie said he was releasing the one he recorded in 1991 even though it had nothing to do with how Eric came to learn the song. Frankie only recorded it to put on his "Frankie and the Knockouts" retrospective.