Tom Clay

Band members                             Related acts

- Tom Clay (aka Tom Clayque) (RIP 1995) -- spoken word



- none known





Genre: bizarre

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  What the World Needs Now

Company: Mowest

Catalog: MS 103-L

Year: 1972

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1187

Price: $10.00

Cost: $1.00


I remember hearing the late Tom Clay's well intentioned but sappy single from when I was a child and I'll even admit to owning a copy of the 45, however I didn't know that there was a parent album until I stumbled across a copy at a yard sale.     


Starting in the mid-1950s Clay was a well known Detroit area DJ.  He worked at a number of local radio stations including WJBK-AM, WWWW-FM, WQTE-AM and WTAK-AM.  He also managed to get tangled in a late 1950s payola scandal that saw him forced to take a job at a Canadian radio station.  His tenure in Canada came to an end in the mid-1960s when he became entangled in a Beatles related promotional scheme.  Having charged fans a dollar to become Beatles Boosters, Clay supposedly collected close to $100,000 from the scheme and was ultimately forced to resign.


The early 1970s found Clay living in Southern California where he scored a temporary job DJing at Los Angeles station KGBS.  While working at the station he cobbled together a medley of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's 'What the World Needs Now' and Dick Holler's 'Abraham, Martin and John'.  Adding snippets of speeches from John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Clay began playing the medley on his show.  Having just relocated Motown to Los Angeles, old friend Berry Gordy Jr. heard the track and offered Clay a chance to release it as a single.  Released by Motown's newly formed Mowest subsidiary the single 'What the World Needs Now/Abraham, Martin and John' b/w 'The Victors' (Mowest catalog number MW5002F) quickly went top-10, leading Mowest to rush Clay into the studio to record a supporting album.  


For most companies the fact that Clay couldn't really sing or write would have been a passing concern, but for Mowest it apparently didn't matter.  Self-produced, 1971's "What the World Needs Now" showcased an over-the-top and occasionally inept mixture of social and political commentary.  Among the oddest offerings was a four minute reading of the names of American and foreign war dead ('The Victors') and most of the second side which found Clay actually trying to sing (I use the term loosely) as he threw out meaningless thoughts on the meaning of love and relationships ('MacArthur Park', 'This Guy's In Love with You' and Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now').  A camp classic to say the least.  In short order Clay's recording career disappeared.


Clay spent the rest of his life bouncing around jobs, eventually finding a degree of stability doing commercial voiceovers.  Only 66, he died from stomach and lung cancer in November 1995.


'What the World Needs Now" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) What the World Needs Now/Abraham, Martin and John   (Hal David - Burt Bacharach / Dick Holler) - 6:19

There's a good chance you've heard this tune somewhere along the way ...  And while it isn't exactly a classic slice of rock and roll, you have to give Clay some credit for tapping into the prevailing sense of sadness that wracked the country in the early-'70s.  Released as a single, it provide Clay with his 15 minutes of fame, selling millions of copies.

- 1971's 'What the World Needs Now' b/w 'The Victors' (Mowest catalog number W5002F)

2.) Whatever Happened To Love   (A. Butler - Tom Clay) - 3:13  rating: *** stars

Musically 'Whatever Happened To Love' didn't vary from Clay's formula - namely Clay providing a mildly touching (or simply nauseating) narrative over a mildly commercial melody that could have been selling Dr. Pepper for all it mattered.  There was just something about his AM radio voice that is cringe-inducing.  I won't even guess why Mowest tapped it as a single:

- 1971's 'Whatever Happened To Love' b/w 'Baby I Need Your Loving' (Mowest catalog number MW 5007F)

3.) What's Going On   (A. Cleveland - Marvin Gaye - R. Benson) - 3:07

4.) For Years?  (adapted by Tom Clay) - 1:58

5.) The Victors   (Tom Clay) - 4:35   rating: *** stars

Clearly intended to tap the same nerve as the hit, 'The Victors' was essentially a roll call of dead combatants and non-combatants spanning a slew of wars.   Give Clay credit for including military and civilians, friends, and foes alike.   


(side 2)
1.) MacArthur Park   (Jimmy Webb) - 1:32

2.) This Guy's In Love with You  (Hal David - Burt Bacharach) - 4:13  rating: * stars

And when you thought it couldn't get worse ...  Clay managed to take a bad song and make it even worse by actually trying to sing.  Sure there was plenty of breathless spoken word material, but he actually tired to sing.   Not good.

3.) Baby I Need Your Loving   (Eddie Holland - Lamont Dozier - Brian Holland) - 2:30  rating: * stars

Well, Clay's spoken word adaptation of this Motown classic came off sounding like he was selling used cars.  And yeah, once again he actually tried to sing on the chorus.

4.) Both Sides Now   (Joni Mitchell) - 3:50

5.) Bridge Over Troubled Water   (Paul Simon) - 2:30  no stars

I'm surprised Simon didn't sue Clay for this horrible attempt at a cover ...   His  gasping, overly emoted spoken word rendition was ...  well horrible doesn't even begin to describe how bad this one was.