Alan Merrill (February 19, 1951 – March 29, 2020) was born Allan Preston Sachs and was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor and model.
In the early 1970s, Alan Merrill was the first Westerner to achieve pop star status in Japan. He was the co-writer of, and lead singer on, the first released version of the song “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, which was recorded by the Arrows in 1975.
Allan Preston Sachs (Alan Merrill) was born in The Bronx, New York City, to two jazz musicians, singer Helen Merrill and saxophone/clarinet player Aaron Sachs.
Merrill was primarily a vocalist and songwriter, but also played the guitar, bass guitar, harmonica, and keyboards.
In 1968, Merrill moved to Japan and started his professional career there with the band The Lead, on RCA Victor Records. The band was a foreign Tokyo-based act and had one hit single, “Akuma ga kureta Aoi Bara” (Blue Rose), but the project soon fell apart when two of the American members of the group were deported.
In 1969 Alan Merrill signed a solo management deal with Watanabe Productions, who contracted him to Atlantic Records, and changed his professional surname from Sachs (pronounced sax) to Merrill because “Merrill” sounded less lascivious and was more commercially viable when spoken by young Japanese pop music fans.
He recorded one album with Atlantic Records, Alone in Tokyo which produced one hit single, “Namida” (Teardrops) and he became the first foreign domestic market pop star in the Japanese Group Sounds.
Alan Merrill moved to London and formed the band Arrows (as lead singer and bass guitarist), in 1974, with drummer Paul Varley and guitarist Jake Hooker.
In March 1974 the Arrows were in the top 10 in the UK charts with the song “Touch Too Much”. They had another hit single with “My Last Night With You” which made the UK top 30 in 1975.
Also in 1974, Alan Merrill played bass guitar on legendary drummer Cozy Powell’s chart hit single “The Man In Black” and the B-side “After Dark” which reached No. 18 on the British charts.
With the Arrows Alan Merrill sang three chart hit records as the band’s lead singer, all produced by Mickie Most, “Touch Too Much” (No. 8 UK charts) “Toughen Up” (No. 51 UK charts) and “My Last Night With You” (No. 25 UK charts).
They made one more single that would be an important one. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (1975), a song that started out as a B-side to the single “Broken Down Heart”. “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” was composed by Alan Merrill and bandmate Jake Hooker.
In 1980 Merrill joined forces with Rick Derringer as a guitarist/vocalist in New York City. They recorded three albums, Good Dirty Fun, Live at The Ritz, and Rick Derringer and Friends.
In 1982, Joan Jett released a cover of the Arrows song, “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” (composed by Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker), which went to number one on the U.S. Billboard charts for seven weeks.
The following year Lou Rawls recorded Alan Merrill’s song “When The Night Comes” as the title track of his 1983 Epic Records album. The Rawls’ version of the song was taken into space by astronaut Guion Bluford, the first music ever taken to and played in outer space.
In 1983, Merrill recorded a solo album for Polydor Records, simply titled Alan Merrill, a collection of self-composed tracks with Steve Winwood, Mick Taylor and Dallas Taylor contributing. It was released in 1985 and received critical acclaim.
In 1986, Merrill joined the Meat Loaf band for the promotional tour of his Blind Before I Stop album, and stayed for several years’, appearing on Meat Loaf’s 1987 Live at Wembley (1987) album for Arista Records.
Alan Merrill released the solo albums Never Pet A Burning Dog (1998), Cupid Deranged (2002), A Merrilly Christmas (2001), Double Shot Rocks (2003) – a tribute to songwriters Otis Blackwell and Arthur Alexander, Aleecat (2004), At The Candy Shop (2006), and Rive Gauche (2007) – a tribute to The Left Banke. The reissue Alien in Tokyo, EP single Hard Road, and an in concert album The Aleecat, Live In Japan were all released in 2008. Albums by Merrill titled The Face Of 69 (2010), Numbers (2011), Snakes and Ladders (2012), Songer Singwriter (2013), Arrows, 40th Anniversary Edition (2014), Demo Graphic (2016) On A Blue Avenue (2017) and Radio Zero (2019) were also released
Alan Merrill died, aged 69, on March 29, 2020, from COVID-19 (coronavirus).
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