ALAN MERRILL -Alan "Aleecat" Merrill has had one of the most unusual careers in rock 'n roll music. Starting out in garage bands of New York City, playing at the "Cafe Wha?" in Greenwich Village, his music life has since careened recklessly through odd chamaeleon-like changes. He was a ground breaking foreign rock star in Japan's domestic market, recording with the band The Lead on RCA Victor records, who had the hit single "Aoi Bara." When the band broke up in 1969, Merrill went solo and was the first male signing to Atlantic records Japan, recording the album "Alone In Tokyo," which yielded the top 10 hit single "Namida" for the teenager. The album was entirely in Japanese. He also recorded an album titled "Merrill 1" for Denon-Columbia records, entirely of his own compositions. One song on the album, "Movies, was covered by popluar artist Tiny Tim in 1972 on Scepter records.
Alan Merrill was the only foreigner living in Japan who made a big impact on the local market in the late 1960s and early '70s, hosting a weekly TV series (Young 720), doing sessions on bass guitar, guitar and piano for artists like Garo, Miki Curtis, Monsieur Kamayatsu, working with an instrumental studio band Godzilla & Yellow Gypsy, and having hit singles as a solo artist and with his band Vodka Collins. He also did major product endorsements as a model and principal in commercial TV and print ads for Nissan cars, Jun clothing, GT Jeans and many more.
Alan Merrill moved to the UK in the mid 1970s and had chart hit single records there as lead singer of The Arrows rock group, hosting a successful weekly TV series for two full fourteen week seasons in 1976-'77. A book was written about the band by Bill Harry, editor of "Merseybeat", published by Everest books. The Arrows recordings were produced by Mickie Most and released on RAK-EMI records.
After The Arrows broke up, he was a founding member of a British band called Runner, on Island records. An all star band, Runner featured Steve Gould of Rare Bird, Mick Feat of the Van Morrison band, and Dave Dowle of the original Whitesnake lineup with Alan as the four founding members of the group.
When Runner ran its course and the band dissolved, Aleecat moved to the USA in the 1980s and played guitar as a touring journeyman with two chart acts in that country. These were Meat Loaf and Derringer, bands he also recorded with. He did a critically acclaimed solo album in 1985 and in 1988-89 acted in a featured role in an HBO TV series Encyclopedia Brown.
In the 1990s he went back and forth between Tokyo and New York, recording albums and touring with both the re-united Vodka Collins (three successful albums in 1996,'97, and '98), and also working in the studio with a relentlessly ambitious producer in New York recording two obscure but critically well received blues based albums. Alan Merrill was lead singer and frontman of both these projects.
I can't think of another artist who has had three separate successful careers with chart hit acts, on three separate continents, who is not acknowledged by the mainstream American rock music press. In Japan with the hit bands both The Lead and Vodka Collins, not to mention solo hits. In the UK and Europe he made the charts with The Arrows, and also the band Runner. In the USA he was with the chart making bands Derringer, and Meat Loaf.
Alan Merrill is widely recognized as a pioneer and an innovator in Japan, but his country of origin (the USA) has turned its back on his career. He's sung top 30 chart hits in Japan, Britain, and Europe. As if that wasn't enough, the press even have ignored that he wrote (and was the singer of) the first 1975 version of the rock classic "I love rock 'n roll!" I think this has been called the "Walker Brothers syndrome" The Walkers were a band of the 1960s, who had massive success in Japan, the UK and Europe, but no notice in the USA. The photo sections of this website speak more eloquently to make my point than any words I can muster, so I'll keep this biography brief. Every picture tells a story, so it's been said.
It's a unique situation.
Born Allan P. Sachs, his Japanese management changed his professional show biz name to Alan Merrill in 1968. It was thought that the name Allan Sachs, when said by a Japanese, would sound like "Alien Sex", not exactly the sort of name for grooming a foreign teen idol of a different race to the local market. So it was then "Alan Merrill" for many years to follow.
In a conversation with underground actor Nick Zedd at a New York City party for photographer Mick Rock in 1998, Zedd suggested that Merrill change his name to a more interesting one. The outspoken Zedd suggested, in a friendly thoughtful way, that Alan Merrill was not a very "rock 'n roll" name. Since Alan Merrill's nickname has always been Aleecat to his friends and family, Zedd suggested he introduce his nickname as an alternate stage name. This nickname actually started to appear on album credits around the new millenium.
Although Alan is most often though of as the lead singer of The Arrows and songwriter of "I Love Rock N Roll" in the mid 1970s, he has had quite a few interesting projects prior to and after that band, and written some fantastic songs during his career.
An Alan Merrill composition intially intended for his band Runner's second album is a song called "When The Night Comes." The song was recorded as a demo by Merrill and Runner drummer Dave Dowle in London in 1978. When Runner broke up without releasing a second album, singer Catherine Howe picked up the song recorded and released it (on Arista records) in 1980. Then the song appeared on Lou Rawls' 1983 Epic Records release as the title track, When The Night Comes. the album had great reviews, earned Rawls two Beach Music Awards and produced the successful singles "When The Night Comes," and "Wind Beneath My Wings." Both Alan Merrill and singer Lou Rawls were especially honored when Lt. Col. Guion Bluford, the first black astronaut, chose to take this album into space with him. The first music played outside of earth's orbit.
The song "When The Night Comes" later appeared on Alan Merrill's solo albums "Cupid Deranged" (2002) and "Aleecat" (2004) in different versions.
In fact in the year 2004 when Alan Merrill recorded the solo album titled "Aleecat," (released October 2004, on MEC Records) he also had a Vodka Collins re-issue titled "Boys In The Band," out August 2004 on Polystar records, featuring all Alan Merrill compositions and lead vocals. Merrill will be visiting Japan to promote the album this October. As if that weren't enough, EMI have issued a best of The Arrows set this past December '04 titled "A's B's and Rarities," with a complete set of Arrows recordings featuring Alan Merrill as lead singer.
In 2005, EMI reissued the Vodka Collins "Tokyo-New York" album. It went on sale April 20th. Recorded in 1972, this Merrill cult classic is a favorite with fans of glam rock and seventies music.
In 2006 Alan Merrill re-issued his eponymous album "Merrill 1" recorded in 1969-70, and released originally on Columbia Records in Japan in 1971. The re-release includes some bonus tracks not on the original album. Also an Alan Merrill collection titled "At The Candy Shop" is now released and available in November 2006, including some of his better known songs as well as some new previously unreleased recordings.
In the year 2007 Alan Merrill has released two maxi singles. One titled "I Love Rock N Roll," and the other "Rive Gauche," a tribute to the hit singles of the 60s band The Left Banke. He has also been doing live solo acoustic shows and band backed shows, in venues of all sizes.
2008 brought three new Alan Merrill solo releases, CDs "The Aleecat, Live In Japan", and "Alien In Tokyo." Also the EP maxi single, "Hard Road."
In January of 2010 Alan Merrill released the album "The Face Of 69"- The Collections, Volume 1, featuring new material and new and unique remixes of some previously released songs.
A follow up to "The Face Of 69 - Volume 1" was released a sequel, titled "Numbers - Volume 2", out in February of 2011. A 3rd edition (Volume 3) titled "Snakes and Ladders" was released in January 2012. The last in the series was out as "Songer Singwriter" (volume 4) in January 2013 and these collections will be available as a 4 CD box set or sold individually in the near future.
As a songwriter Alan Merrill has had his original material covered by such artists as Britney Spears, Lou Rawls, Joan Jett, Tiny Tim, Freddie Scott, Rick Derringer, Felix Cavaliere, Catherine Howe, Runner, L.A. Guns, The Arrows, Skull, Miki Curtis, Monsieur Kamayatsu, Vodka Collins, The Grand, Reverend Run, Mari Kaneko, Phoenix, Dragon Ash, Dan Penn, Five, Troy Turner, Ramon Bugatti, Spooner Oldham, Tensaw, Elephant Gun, Melanie C., and more.
Like a cat, Alan "Aleecat" Merrill seems to have 9 lives, and continues to land on his feet. He's one of a kind.
I hope you enjoy this site, and the career of this most interesting artist.
- This page was checked and updated Feb. 4th, 2017