[From the original liner notes of "Romance Is On the Rise"]
Geneviève Waite is a former actress, singer and model born 13 February 1948 in Cape Town, South Africa. She started out in her native Country and worked in Britain before coming to the U.S. in the early '70s.
As an actress she is best remembered for her starring role in "Joanna", a 1968 movie by Michael Sarne about a fanciful country girl that goes to London to follow a fashion design course and becomes the lover of the black owner of a night club... A true snapshot of the late '60s Swinging London! Sadly enough, Geneviève was declared persona non grata in South Africa after making this film because of her love scenes with black actor Calvin Lockhart.
On 31 January 1972 she married singer-songwriter John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas. During the '70s the couple spent most of their marriage strung out on drugs and went through several detoxifications before finally divorcing in 1985 after giving birth to two children...
In 1973 the couple moved to New York City and Phillips started building a quirky album of breathy, neo-hipster torch songs around Geneviève's unusual voice, a sort of Betty Boop meets Marilyn Monroe mixture.
When the album was completed, Warner Brothers showed interest in distributing it but balked at Phillips's insistence that it be released on his own label, Paramour Records. Meanwhile, the couple also worked on an ill-fated musical entitled "Man On the Moon"; due to her commitment to that show, Geneviève's had to pass on the opportunity to star opposite David Bowie in "The Man Who Fell To Earth"...
With four songs co-wrote by Geneviève herself, and showcasing a cover-picture by Richard Avedon, "Romance Is On the Rise" was finally released in July 1974. The original vinyl has been out of print for ages... In 2004 the album was re-released on CD with four extra tracks, just to become a rarity whose price on the second-hand market is increasing by the minute.
Here's the whole story of "Romance Is On the Rise" as reported by Jeffrey Greenberga in the booklet that comes with the CD version of the album. It includes a long excerpt from Johh Phillips' autobiography, "Papa John", published in 1986 by Doubleday & Company:
«In 1978, British disc jockey Paul Gambaccini published a book, "Rock Critics' Choice, The Top 200 Albums", listing a ranking of the 200 "greatest rock albums of all time". The list was based on a 1977 survey of approximately 50 rock critics, reviewers and disc jockeys. Appearing at Number 98 on the list was "Romance Is On the Rise" by Geneviève Waite, which had been released a few years earlier, in 1974.
Reading the list now, the name Geneviève Waite sticks out like a sore thumb, situated as it is amidst the names of the artists you'd expect to find on such a list: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, The Who and so on. "Romance Is On the Rise" is today probably one of the least known and least heard titles on the list, having become a true cult classic and rare collectors' item.
American movie poster for "Joanna", 1968
Geneviève Waite was born in South Africa in 1948. She grew up in Cape Town, and studied science and psychology at Johannesburg University. After making one film in South Africa, she moved to London and took some modeling jobs.
In London, she auditioned for screenwriter and director Michael Sarne, who cast her in the title role of his 1968 film, "Joanna". The film was banned in South Africa because Geneviève took a black lover in the film, but the controversy turned it into a major London hit.
Geneviève became interested in the lead role of Sarne's next film, "Myra Breckinridge", but the part ultimately went to Raquel Welch. However, through Sarne's friendship with John Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas (whom Sarne hired to write some musical numbers for "Myra Breckinridge"), John and Geneviève were introduced in 1969, and began what turned out to be a long and tumultuous relationship. John paid tribute to Geneviève in his song "Lady Genevieve" from the final LP by The Mamas and The Papas, "People Like Us", released in 1971.
Geneviève and John were married in 1972 at a Chinese restaurant in downtown L.A., with their guests including Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Michelle Phillips, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, and California Lieutenant Governor Jerry Brown.
John and Geneviève had two children together, a son, Tamerlane, and a daughter, the actress/model/singer-songwriter, Bijou Lilly. Geneviève and John moved from Los Angeles to New York around the end of 1973 and began work on her solo LP.
Geneviève Waite on Vogue, November 1970, original picture by Richard Avedon
The following excerpt from John Phillips' 1986 autobiography, "Papa John", provides his first-hand account of the making of "Romance Is On the Rise":
«Once in New York, our luck seemed to improve with the change of scenery and fresh contacts. We met an aggressive young businessman named Dan Broder at a party. He had just closed a lucrative deal, had some capital, and was looking to invest in a record industry venture. I mentioned to him my interest in going into the studio with Gen and recording a solo LP with her.
Through Broder, who seemed to be about thirty at the time, we met with a commercial lawyer named Bob Tucker and he helped set up a deal in which Broder would finance the LP for my own label, Paramour Records. Gen was thrilled.
We moved around the Upper East Side, living briefly in a townhouse owned by the dancer Edward Villella on East 68th Street, then in an apartment owned by the actor Richard Benjamin in the 70's. By spring, we settled into the unusually narrow Stanford White townhouse on East 77th that was owned by a member of the Rockefeller family at the time. We worked nonstop on the sessions.
Geneviève Waite on Vogue, December 1970, original picture by Richard Avedon
Broder soon learned it didn't take much to kiss $100,000 goodbye in the record business. At $175 or so per hour at Mediasound, it was costing $400 or $500 just for Gen and me to settle a fight over vocal or instrumental arrangements. Relations with Broder rapidly deteriorated as he saw the budget soar. On some sessions we had twenty-five musicians for a string orchestra fill.
We plodded on and finished the tracks. I was happy to get back into the studio, where I often spent the night toying around with sounds and mixes. We got a great sound from the band Elephant's Memory. Elephant's Memory was John Lennon's backing group on his 1972 LP "Sometime In New York City", but Phillips is wrong that Elephant's Memory is the band on Geneviève's album. However, Ken Asher, Rick Marotta and David Spinozza, who do contribute to Geneviève's album, perform on John Lennon's 1973 album "Mind Games", as part of the Plastic U.F.Ono Band.]
The songs showcased Gen's unique vocal sound - a breathy, delicate whisper that recalled Marilyn Monroe. I wanted to have the album distributed by a major label and for a while Mo Ostin, the president of Warner Bros., sounded interested. But Warners wouldn't let me release it on a Paramour specialty label.
Gen begged and pleaded with me, but I wouldn't give in and the label took a pass. I had pulled a power play and lost. Gen was crushed that I was so stubborn and had turned my demand for my own label into the deal-breaker with a major label.
Geneviève Waite and John Phillips
We had to make the rounds until we ended up settling for a distribution deal with the old bandleader Enoch Light and his little known Project 3 Records. This didn't exactly knock us out. Here we had music geared to the booming mid-seventies market of urban hipsters - the dressy, upscale, campy, gay, bi-, and straight lounge lizards of the disco revolution - and the man responsible for tapping that market was last heard on "I Want To Be Happy Cha Cha" in 1958 and the follow-up a year later, "With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming", which carried Enoch Light and the Light Brigade to number ninety-nine on the pop charts.
But we spared no expense to put together a classy album and drew, it seemed, enough publicity to make it succeed. We made the scene on the party circuit all around town. Our names were always popping up in the gossip columns. Laura [John's daughter, actress and singer Laura Mackenzie Phillips, from his first marriage] came into town after wrapping her next film, "Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins", in Arizona and ended up with her picture as an up-and-comer in one of the very first issues of People.
Michelle [John's second wife, actress and singer Michelle Phillips] spent some time in New York with us and we all went out together. We worked on the demos in the studio and discussed doing her solo album. We fell in with the Warhol crowd at his Factory in Union Square, and people like Peter Beard, Paul Morrissey, Mick, Bianca, and Dick Cavett were crossing our path as we did Manhattan by night after the sessions.
In May, Michelle, Gen and I showed up as a trio at one of those "everybody's somebody" screening parties for Andy Warhol's "Frankenstein" at an Upper East Side cinema. Morrissey directed the film. The guest list mixed names like Kennedy, Lawford, Buckley, Yasmin Khan, Holly Woodlawn, Elliott Gould, Diane and Egon von Furstenberg, Andy Warhol and Monique Van Vooren, who starred in the 3-D horror spoof.
Geneviève Waite and John Phillips
There were four hundred people on hand and the New York Times reporter covering the event managed to spot us and ask me facetiously how I dared bring both a current and an ex- wife. "How do I dare not bring both of my wifes", I told her. A picture of me with my two dates made its way into People as well. It felt good to be back in the public eye and to be busy on a couple of new projects.
Gen and I also worked out a cabaret act and performed it many times over several months at Reno Sweeney's in the Village. We even went out and did it in the Hamptons one summer weekend and stayed at Lenny's place [Friend and business partner Len Holzer, the title character of the CD bonus track, "Mr. Blue"].
Lenny saw past the slick veneer, the witty repartee, and the clever tunes and felt we were faking it. He knew I dreaded feeling so exposed out there onstage. Audiences ate the show up, but close friends who had known me in the sixties couldn't help but see that the spark was gone.
Geneviève Waite and John Phillips
Like the album, we did the cabaret act to attract attention to Gen's unique and theatrical vocal style and improve our chances with backers. The gags were fast-paced and sardonic, in a mid-seventies Burns and Allen vein. "This is my wife and I love her", I'd say. "Yes," Gen would reply with her eyes bugging satirically, "I eat right, I keep fit, and I shoot Geritol every day." We did some of the album tunes and created others for the act.
One night director Nicolas Roeg came down to hear the show and afterward he told me he wanted to test Gen for a female lead in "The Man Who Fell To Earth", a movie he was about to shoot in London with David Bowie. I told him that Gen would be tied up with the Broadway show for months and unavailable. He didn't want to hear that, so we ended up in a shoving match and knocked over some tables and glasses. He left and got Candy Clark for the part. [John ended up creating the soundtrack for "The Man Who Fell To Earth", which includes "Love Is Coming Back".]
The cover of the "Romance Is On the Rise" album showed Gen from behind, bending over and looking back in silk shorts and shirt and glass shoes. It was shot by Richard Avedon, who had been our neighbor when we first came to New York and lived in Richard Benjamin's apartment. Gen and Paula Prentiss had become friends during "Move". Avedon's place was adjacent and he was good enough to shoot the cover for no fee.
Geneviève Waite on stage, unknown date and location
We spared no expense to make the artwork. The shot we used perfectly conveyed Gen's desire for a forties glamour-queen pinup look. Marsia Trinder designed the outfit for $700. Gen's glass shoes cost $400. The hearts in the picture cost $300. Newsweek and other major publications ran the sexy shot when the album came out in July.
There was enough PR and industry buzz, we hoped, for a sleeper hit. We got Gen's other friend from "Move", Elliott Gould, to be the ‘host' of a $5,000 bash at Le Club, at which we performed some of the album cuts.
The album barely sold ten thousand copies. It was so poorly distributed that record stores were calling us to find out where they could buy it. Harvey Goldberg, the album's young and talented engineer, personally delivered copies to DJs who were playing cuts at gay and straight discos. Broder at one point explored getting a 1-800 number to help sell it through a late-night TV ad campaign. The decision to walk away from Warners and go with a small distributor proved to be catastrophic. It killed any chances Gen's LP had of making it.
If we had scaled the records from rooftops in half a dozen major cities, we'd have had more effective distribution. Despite the first-class art, the support of all our friends, despite the publicity, class packaging, and some generous reviews in the music press, Romance immediately joined the Wolf King album in the $4 cult-record bins of America. [...referring to John's first solo album, "The Wolf King of LA".]»
Geneviève Waite, Michelle Phillips and John Phillips at Mama Cass Elliot funeral, July 31st 1974
"Romance Is On the Rise" shows off clearly the formidable producing, arranging and songwriting skills of John Phillips, best known for his work with The Mamas and The Papas.
The songs and bonus tracks on the album originate from a variety of sources, including a shelved solo album John cut for Columbia Records in 1972 with the Jazz Passengers, and an off-Broadway musical John and Geneviève created set in outer space, originally titled "Space" (it was renamed "Man On the Moon" before its opening when Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey, the avant-garde director of the Warhol films "Flesh", "Trash" and "Heat", took over production from Len Holzer; more information about this project are available here).
Holzer is the subject of the bonus track, "Mr. Blue". He was a real estate tycoon who produced the film "Gimme Shelter" with The Rolling Stones. John met Holzer through Geneviève and the Warhol crowd when Holzer was married to Baby Jane Holzer, one of Andy Warhol's main stars at the time. An alternate version of "Mr. Blue" can be heard on John's solo album "Pay Pack & Follow", produced by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, with Keith on guitar, Ron Wood on bass and Mick and Keith and Michelle and Mackenzie Phillips on backing vocals. (John Phillips, as a solo act, was the first signing to Rolling Stones Records in 1976, but what was supposed to have been the follow-up to his first solo album "Wolf King of LA" was shelved and not released until 2001).
The obvious infiuence of the Warhol crowd on John and Geneviève in 1974 surfaces again in the bonus track, "Femme Fatale", Geneviève's take on the Velvet Underground classic. The bonus tracks "Pink Gin and Lime" and "Saying Goodbye" were also penned by John, and these are the first recordings of the songs ever released.»
Geneviève Waite and John Phillips with their kids Tamerlane and Bijou in the early 80s
"Romance Is On the Rise" contains the following tracks:
01. Love Is Coming Back (2:27)
02. Transient Friends (2:47)
03. Times of Love (2:26)
04. Trashy Rumors (2:09)
05. Slumming On Park Avenue (2:32)
06. Biting My Nails (2:45)
07. Danny (3:04)
08. White Cadillac (2:58)
09. American Man On the Moon (2:27)
10. Girls (4:12)
Four additional tracks were included as a bonus on the 2004 CD reissue:
11. Mr. Blue (3:25)
12. Pink Gin and Lime (3:18)
13. Femme Fatale (3:22)
14. Saying Goodbye (4:19)
All tracks were remastered in June 2013 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files. Both formats include complete printable artwork as PDF files. Please have a look at the comments for the download links.
Here's the credits list of "Romance Is On the Rise":
Produced by John Phillips.
All songs composed by John Phillips, except "Slumming On Park Avenue" composed by Irving Berlin and "Femme Fatale" composed by Lou Reed.
Lyrics for "Love Is Coming Back", "Biting My Nails", "White Cadillac" and "Danny" by John Phillips with Geneviève Waite.
Lead Guitar: David Spinozza, courtesy of A&M Records; John Tropea
Acoustic Guitar: John Phillips courtesy of Columbia Records; "Dr." Eric Hord
Bass: Russell George; Andy Muson
Piano: Ken Asher
Drums: Rick Marotta
Orchestral Arrangements: John Phillips, David Spinozza and Ken Asher
Recording Engineer: Harvey Goldberg
Assistant Engineers: Bob Clearmountain, Alec Head and Godfrey Diamond
Mixing: John Phillips and Harvey Goldberg
Recording Location: Media Sound, New York
Mastering: Al Brown, A&R Recording, Inc., New York
Organization: Wendy Stark and Michael Mclean
Analog to digital transfer s from original source masters: Steve Rosenthal and Matt Boynton, The Blue Room, New York
Bonus tracks mixing from original multitrack tapes: Steve Rosenthal, assisted by Matt Boynton, The Magic Shop, New York
Mastering: Matt Boynton
Photographed by: Richard Avedon
Designed by: Ruth Ansel
Tinted by: Bob Bishop
Makeup and Hair Styled by: Ara Gallant
Fashions by: Marsia Trinder
Special thanks to Dan Broder.
The following clips offer a preview of the remastered album; here's some of my favourite tracks: "Times of Love", "White Cadillac", "American Man On the Moon" and "Mr. Blue", enjoy!
More information about Geneviève Waite and John Phillips is available here:
If you have any other useful information about Geneviève Waite and "Romance Is On the Rise" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, just get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!