He isn’t a household name like the Eagles or Joe Walsh, but you have probably heard many of the songs that Barry Devorzon played on, wrote, produced, or published. An accomplished musician, Barry has won Grammy and Emmy Awards, an Oscar nomination, and Gold and Platinum records for his music. GTR recently caught up with Devorzon to discuss his involvement with the song “In the City” and his company, MasterWriter software.
[Eric Dahl for GTR Magazine] How were you chosen to be the composer for the film “The Warriors?”
[Barry Devorzon] Larry Gordon is a very successful producer and he also happened to be a good friend. We did a movie with Charles Bronson and Director Walter Hill called “Hard Times” about a down and out fighter in New Orleans. When Larry and Walter got together to do “The Warriors,” a movie about a gang being chased across New York – they thought of me! I think it was my contemporary background in music that attracted them. This was an edgy movie about New York street gangs with a surreal flavor. It was made for Rock and Roll and synthesized sounds. That’s what I presented to them and they agreed and gave me the job. Other motion pictures had used Rock and Roll songs but this was different, the entire score for “The Warriors” was Rock and Roll and synthesizers.
[GTR] It was ahead of it’s time for 1979, wouldn’t you say?
[Barry] I think so, films used Rock and Roll songs, but scores were still more traditional, and this was using Rock to score the entire movie.
[GTR] How did you write lyrics to support the movie?
[Barry] The opening theme and score was instrumental, but I thought writing a song for the end title would be appropriate. At the time, Joe Walsh lived here in Montecito, and he was a good friend of mine. So, I called him and asked, “Hey Joe how would you like to write a song with me for the end title of a movie I’m doing?” He said “Sure.” He came to the house, I got on the piano, and he pulled out his guitar and we started writing what was going to be “In the City.” We went in the studio and recorded it with Joe, and it became the end title for “The Warriors.”
[GTR] Had you and Joe played music together before this recording?
[Barry] No, not really. We were friends, but we hadn’t worked with each other musically until we wrote “In the City.”
[GTR] Did Joe Walsh bring more of a Rock feel to the track with his James Gang history?
[Barry] He certainly did, no one plays the guitar like Joe and it was a great experience writing with him. I had the opportunity to work with a guy I really admire who also happened to be my friend, it was a real pleasure. He also sang the song in the movie.
[GTR] How did “In the City” go from being a Joe Walsh solo song to part of the Eagles repertoire?
[Barry] “The Warriors” movie came out and was a box office hit and the soundtrack album was released and sold well, everything turned out great. Later that year the Eagles were working on a new album to follow their highly successful “Hotel California” album. A follow up album, the world was waiting for. Joe called me and said the Eagles were thinking of recording “In the City” on the album. I was so excited I didn’t know what to say and then I started to worry whether it would happen or not. I said, “Joe, I want you to do me a favor, don’t ever bring this up again until you can walk into my house with that song on the Eagles album”. I know how those things go, they go in with a bunch of songs, and then a lot of songs don’t make the cut. I told him, “If the Eagles record ‘In the City’ and it doesn’t make the album I’ll kill myself, so I’m going to try to not think about it until you walk into my house with ‘In the City’ on that album”. And that is exactly what happened (laughing). One day the bell rang at my gates and it was Joe. He came in and said, “Here you are!” We sat down and I listened to the “Long Run” album before it was released right here in my office.
[GTR] What did that feel like?
[Barry] It was fantastic! The Eagles are legendary and for the most part they write their own songs. There are not many outsiders that get in, only a few, and I happened to be one of them. I get to be part of the legend and I owe it all to Joe. I saw them in L.A., and here in Santa Barbara. They appeared at the Santa Barbara Bowl on a warm beautiful moonlight night and the Eagles were killin’ it. Then Joe, in front of everyone I know in town, including my family says, “This next song I wrote with my good friend Barry Devorzon. I hope you like it”. And then they nailed it! It was a wonderful moment. Whenever I go to Eagles concerts and they play “In the City”, it’s always a thrill.
[GTR] Was the song changed or altered in the Eagles version compared to yours and Joe’s original song?
[Barry] Only a little bit. It was pretty close, but that made a big difference. When I recorded the original version with Joe I felt something was missing in the chorus so I called in some background singers. The Eagles just replaced the background singers with their own vocals and they have a great sound, I couldn’t have asked for more.
[GTR] Are you surprised that “The Warriors” and “In the City” have become cult classics?
[Barry] Yeah, I must say I am. When something you do has lasting quality, it always comes as a pleasant surprise. “The Warriors” is probably the biggest surprise. It was a good little movie, but I didn’t necessarily think it would have a lot of legs. Today, they have Warrior Conferences in Coney Island every year, and thousands of people come for it. It’s become a cult movie and it’s amazing how young kids that weren’t even around when that movie was made know about it and relate to it.
[GTR] Do you feel that a rock song like “In the City” is much different than your instrumental award-winning song “Nadia’s Theme?”
[Barry] Very different, at opposite ends of the spectrum. I think it just points out that a songwriter can have a lot of different sensibilities, I think people try to put you in a box. They say, “He did this, and that’s his style, he can’t do this”. In some cases it’s true, but not in every case. I had an honest feeling for the more pop oriented and beautiful melodies, but I also had the same love and appreciation for Rock and Roll. So, the same guy that wrote, “Bless the Beast and Children” and “Nadia’s Theme” also wrote “Theme from Swat” and “In the City”, I think that says it all.
[GTR] The “Theme from Swat” always brings back memories from that time period.
[Barry] There’s another long-lived song. The series was only on TV for a season and a half, but that theme just seems to go on. Since the original TV series it was used in the movie, video games, and now they are bringing it back in a new S.W.A.T. TV series in November.
[GTR] As the Eagles integrate fill-in members like Vince Gill and Glenn Frey’s son, how do you see “In the City” enduring in 2017?
[Barry] It’s hard to tell. It’s just great being part of their song list. I have so many Platinum records on my wall for that one song, it should be against the law. The Eagles sell a lot of records, and they keep selling them. They are one of the legendary groups of all time.
[GTR] What else has surprised you with the longevity of this one song?
[Barry] It served the movie, and that is what I was paid to do, but in 2006 they did a video game for “The Warriors” and they insisted on using the original music. I was impressed that after 27 years they still thought it was current enough to want it.
[Barry] Well there are two Platinum awards. One is for the “Long Run” album, and then the other one (pause…. gets up from chair) let me count them… hold on. The other one is for the “Hell Freezes Over” album, so all together that is six times platinum, and I’m sure it is way past that now.
[GTR] How did you end up developing MasterWriter?
[Barry] Another songwriter came up to me and said, “Why don’t we work on a great digital rhyming dictionary?” And I said, “Nah, I don’t know…” Then I started thinking about it… what if in addition to rhymes, we could offer more? Basically, it became a tool chest and an invaluable asset for anyone who writes songs. It has everything the writer needs in one easy to use program. It not only gives you perfect rhymes, it gives you close rhymes and phrases that rhyme. It has an audio page to capture your melodies and other helpful dictionaries like Word Families, Phrases, Thesaurus, and we recently added Figures of Speech and Intensifiers. It’s everything you need to write great lyrics and it organizes the songwriter painlessly. It can help you jumpstart the creative process, and it keeps you in the creative mode when you’re writing the song by giving you all the possibilities in an instant. Most importantly, post inspiration, when you look at the song you’ve written and you want to make it better or find a better way to express yourself, there are no better tools to help you do that than MasterWriter. You know the saying, “Great songs aren’t written, they’re rewritten”. Good is everywhere, but good is rarely good enough; you want great if you’re going to make it in this business. The problem is a lot of songwriters settle for good, because there is something about creating a song that makes you feel good, and it should! But sometimes people don’t realize how competitive this business is, and so they settle and are not willing to put in the hard work. That’s why MasterWriter is such a valuable writing tool, it makes the hard work easier.
[GTR] How much does MasterWriter cost? Is it per month or per yearly subscription?
[Barry] We offer it month to month, annual, or two-year licenses. Monthly is $9.95, one-year is $99.95 and two-year is $149.95. But sometimes we have sales (laughs)! So, you can get some nice discounts off those prices. The bottom line is you can have a great collection of songwriting tools if you’re willing to give up an Expresso or a Café Latte once a month.
[GTR] What is the other version that you created for writers?
[Barry] We have a creative writer version for writers, novelists, and screenwriters. It’s also called MasterWriter, but it is a writers version. MasterWriter is a great collection of tools for writers of every kind.
Devorzon hasn’t slowed down and continues to create music, and develop tools such as MasterWriter to help songwriters and creative writers. As the Eagles are gradually touring again it’s a safe bet that “In the City” will be on the set list. If you’re a fan of the movie “The Warriors,” you now know the back story for the great soundtrack and the story behind how Barry and Joe Walsh wrote the signature song that lives on today!