Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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MERRILL, Alan

(b Allan Sachs, 19 February 1951, NYC) Guitarist, singer, songwriter, bandleader; son of jazz singer Helen Merrill and her first husband, alto saxist and clarinettist Aaron Sachs. He began playing in Greenwich Village, went to Japan in his late teens, changed his name in 1968 and became a superstar there, the highest rated foreigner in the entertainment business. He joined pop band The Lead and led it, had his own TV segment, acted in a soap opera and did a lot of modeling, his career managed by the powerful Watanabe agency. He got tired of playing teen-pop idol, left Watanabe and formed the harder-edged glam-rock band Vodka Collins 1972 with drummer Hiroshi Oguchi (ex-The Tempters). Vodka Collins album Tokyo-New York yielded three hit singles and has been continuously in print. After a dispute with the band's manager, Merrill went to the UK and formed The Arrow in 1974. He wrote and the group recorded ‘I Love Rock N Roll' in '75, produced by Mickie Most; Joan Jett covered it in 1982 and had a USA No. 1 for eight weeks with it; it has become a pop anthem, covered in 2002 by Britney Spears.

The Arrow had its own weekly TV show, but was swept away by punk rock in 1977. Merrill formed Runner with three Brits: Steve Gould (Rare Bird) on guitar, Mick Feat on (Van Morrison) on bass and Dave Dowle (Whitesnake) on drums; the intention was to take on the USA and their album on Island charted there, but the band broke up in 1980. Merrill wrote songs, toured and recorded with Rick Derringer 1980-83, including a live concert video which featured guests including Ted Nugent and Edgar Winter. Merrill released a solo album on Polydor '85, got good reviews but not big sales. He worked with Meat Loaf for the rest of the '80s and has kept up successful songwriting, lead singing, holiday projects and TV work ever since, including two CDs with the Jon Tiven Group. Vodka Collins re-formed '95-8 for tours of Japan and three albums. Merrill's songs have been covered by Lou Rawls (‘When The Night Comes'), Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and many others as well as those named above. A new solo album with 20 songs called Cupid Deranged came out in 2002, a good showcase of his songwriting.