It’s alright if you’ve never heard of David Tyson. Like many songwriters and producers, he doesn’t seem to be the sort of person who draws attention to himself. But I was struck by who he was because I was listening to and reviewing one of the albums he produced, “A View From Third Street,” where he also did some amazing keyboard and arrangement work. The album was a fantastic one, and it richly deserved the “Producer Of The Year” Juno award he won in 1991 for it. Interestingly enough, he also won an ARIA for producer of the year for producing the stellar debut album for Tina Arena, “Don’t Ask, in which he was also a co-writer. He was also a producer for two other albums I really like, even if they are really obscure ones, Peter Cetera’s World Falling Down , and Amanda Marshall’s self-titled debut album, which I bought on the strength of its solitary Billboard Hot 100 entry, the gorgeous “Birmingham.”
Strangely enough, “Birmingham” itself sounds like a song that is an answer to another song that Jude Cole released that year in “Jim,” which tells the story of a wife-beating “Christian” who doesn’t know why he does what he does as he threatens suicide and engages in an affair with a son’s teacher. Now, by the time that Jude Cole wrote “Jim,” and included it on his fourth album, he was no longer working openly with David Tyson. But Birmingham was co-written by David Tyson (along with “Dark Horse,” “Last Exit To Eden,” and “Trust Me (This Is Love),” which is perhaps my favorite song on Amanda Marshall’s debut). As we saw earlier when we looked at the small world of Laura Branigan , the pop music world is a very small world for very obvious and predictable reasons. Pop musicians frequently need strong production and co-writing help, and there are a certain number of professional producers and songwriters who have a good reputation about being able to work with artists and give them a strong degree of production for major label debuts that are meant to be successful.
And let us have no doubt about it, David Tyson is a successful producer, even if he stopped producing a lot at the end of the 1990’s. With Christopher Ward, he wrote a lot of memorable songs, including “Black Velvet,” the only hit that Alannah Myles ever had. Indeed, David Tyson has something of a reputation of having been involved with a lot of one-hit wonder acts. He produced and co-write the only Billboard Hot 100 hit that Amanda Marshall ever had in “Birmingham” and produced the only top 20 hit that Jude Cole ever had in “Baby, It’s Tonight” and also produced the only Top 40 hit that Tina Arena ever had in “Chains.” Admittedly, most of those artists should have had more hits. Tina Arena was a fantastic performer and should have had big hits with songs like “Show Me Heaven” and “Sorrento Moon (I Remember),” the latter also co-written by Tyson. Amanda Marshall had a lot of hits in Canada, and Arena in Australia, and Alannah Myles had quite a few hits in Canada as well, though none of the artists that Tyson produced and wrote for had extended successful pop careers in the United States. For all of his skill as a writer and producer, and for all of his ability in working on some fantastic albums, it seems as if only someone like me appreciates a large portion of his body of work as well as that of the artists he worked with on their most successful efforts. Indeed, his pattern of writing and producing for one-hit wonders began with the first artist he produced for, Eddie Schwartz, a rather unknown artist, but one who had exactly one top 40 hit, “All Our Tomorrows,” from 1981’s No Refuge.
Interestingly enough, a large number of the artists that David Tyson worked with have made at least somewhat of a career as songwriters and producers themselves. Perhaps most notably this has been the case for Jude Cole , who after his brief time in the limelight ended up producing and writing songs for a diverse group of artists including Lindsey Pagano, Lifehouse, and Kiefer Sutherland. Dean McTaggart, of The Arrows (another group that Tyson produced), also co-write several songs for Amanda Marshall’s self-titled debut, including “Birmingham” and “Dark Horse.” Tina Arena became a notable songwriter whose songs have been appreciated by country artists as well as contestants in singing competitions. Given that Tyson was able to find pretty consistent production work from 1984 to 2001, and that he was able to do a lot of co-writing work with people he had worked with before and even inspired others to be songwriters as well as producers just as he was, Tyson can be said to have had a successful career. It remains a bit puzzling, though, why he was involved with so many one-hit wonders. He obviously had the skill to keep writing hits, but it was by no means easy to find musicians who were able to have sustained careers in the United States, and so for that reason, Tyson’s career will remain of interest mainly as a look into the obscure world of pop songwriting and production where a small number of people repeatedly find themselves working with each other and new people seeking to promote music that will resonate with the pubic.