ABC/Lou RoccoForty years ago this week, Barry Manilow scored his first #1 hit, “Mandy,” putting him on a path to success that’s still going strong. While Manilow is known as a songwriter, he didn’t write “Mandy” — he simply took an already-existing record and completely reinvented it, right down to its title.

After the pop singer’s first album failed to produce a massive hit, the head of his record label, Clive Davis, decided that Barry’s second album needed a surefire smash. What he came up with, though, was a song that had already been released in 1972, and barely made a dent in the charts. It was called “Brandy.”

“He heard my second album and said, ‘You need a hit single,'” Manilow recalls Davis telling him at the time. “I said, ‘Well I think I’ve got one: ‘It’s a Miracle.’ He said, ‘No, you need a career-making single.'”

Manilow tells ABC News Radio, “About three weeks later, he sent me a little 45 [rpm] single and he said, ‘I think this would work.’ And it was a song called ‘Brandy’ written by Scott English and Richard Kerr, and…it was kind of a guitar-driven, up-tempo song. He said, ‘This could be a big record for you if you do it right.'”

The song, with English singing lead, had only hit #91 in its initial chart run. So Barry decided to “make it his own”: He completely reinvented “Brandy,” turning it into something he could work with.

“I instinctively changed everything around,” he tells ABC News Radio. “I slowed it down, I changed the chords around, I did it as a beautiful ballad, and I said, ‘You know, there is something here. There’s a lovely story in this lyric and there’s a beautiful melody.’ And I brought Clive into the studio and I said, ‘Listen to this.’ And he went, ‘Oh! Just do that, just do that!'”

There was only one thing left they needed to do: change the song’s title.

“There had been a song called ‘Brandy’ just that year: ‘Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),'” Manilow recalls, referring to the chart-topping 1972 hit for The Looking Glass. “And so Clive and I, we all thought, ‘Candy? Sandy?’ I don’t know how we came up with ‘Mandy.’ And then I had to go back in [to the studio], because I had sung ‘Brandy’ the first time, and the second time I sang ‘Oh, Mandy,’ just playing the piano and singing. And that’s the record!”

The newly titled, revamped “Mandy” became that “career-making single” that Davis wanted, reaching #1 this week in January of 1975. Since then, Manilow’s gone on to have two more #1 singles, plus a string of top 10 hits, and to release 15 top 10 albums, including 2014’s My Dream Duets.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of “Mandy,” the tickets for Manilow’s upcoming tour start at $19.75. His One Last Time! tour starts in Omaha, Nebraska, on February 11.

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