Andrew Gold was practically bound by genetics to become a successful musician. After all, he was the son of Oscar-winning composer Ernest Gold and the most sought-after ghost singer in Hollywood, Marni Nixon*.
After a couple of aborted attempts at launching a career as a recording artist, Gold worked himself up a full-time career as a musician, arranger, songwriter and producer. He was recruited by Linda Ronstadt for the recording of her 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel and quickly became her de facto bandleader and musical lieutenant. Some of the songs on Heart Like a Wheel, including her hit cover of Dee Dee Warwick’s You’re No Good, were more or less played entirely by Gold: guitars, keyboards, drums, everything.
His work with Ronstadt brought him to the attention of LA’s singer-songwriter kingpin David Geffen, who signed him to his label Asylum (Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill, the Eagles, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon, etc.). In the US, he hit big with his single Lonely Boy, from his second album, and Thank You for Being a Friend**, from his third. But in the UK, he had a third, even bigger, hit.
Gold recorded Never Let Her Slip Away for his third album, All This and Heaven Too, the cover of which saw Gold in a white suit and top hat, with a cane, doing a dance move. You might assume from that picture that Gold was a Warren Zevon-style smartarse, unlikely to write a straight ballad without some sort of angle or ironic distance.
The great thing about Never Let Her Slip Away is that, despite how cleverly it’s written (and it’s very cleverly written; there are some ninja-level chord changes in there), Gold seems to have written and sung the song from a place of total sincerity. There’s no side at all. Part of the way that Gold projects that sincerity is the sparseness of the arrangement. It’s simply him at his keyboard with a crude-sounding percussion loop. OK, maybe in an ideal world he’d not have included the proto-1980s smooth-jazz saxophone (or got a different player), but it doesn’t spoil the song at all for me; the player, Ernie Watts, wouldn’t win any prizes for taste and subtlety here, but like Gold, he doesn’t sound fake or insincere. When recording a song like Never Let Her Slip Away, that’s crucial. To write and perform a song like this, you have to mean it.
Gold was always popular within the music industry, with fellow artists and producers appreciative of the breadth of his talent. That goodwill can be seen in the range of artists who he worked with; he would go on to have a secondary career as a hitmaker in the 1980s as half of the duo Wax with 10CC’s Graham Gouldman, while uncredited on Never Let Her Slip Away as a backing singer is none other than Freddie Mercury.
*Nixon was the uncredited singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Deborah Kerr in The King and I and Natalie Wood in West Side Story.
**Yep, the one that would become the theme to The Golden Girls.