LIKE MANY independent record producers around the world, Caltrick Simone is working his way towards what he hopes is "the perfect hit single." What makes his route unusual is that it often involves a transfer to the Red Line at Metro Center.

Next week he'll be taking around to radio stations a single he produced in a series of intensive sessions over the last six months. "Fight for Your Love" and the B-side rocker "(I'm Your) Ally," both by Jonathan Kuper-Smith, a 25-year-old singer from Alexandria, sound as slick and compelling as anything you'll hear this afternoon on WAVA. The record was produced in New York. But both Simone and Kuper-Smith live here, though neither is widely known.

This could change.

Simone, 35, is a native of the area who happened into some hit-music-producing training and the consequential top-40 connections in New York a decade ago, and made the nontraditional (and sometimes controversial) decision to put his music-biz perspective and skills to work right here in River City.

"Washington has an amazingly rich source of undeveloped, raw musical talent," says Simone, whose rail-thin, jeans-and-turtleneck build, thinning, shoulder-length hair and narrow wire-frame glasses give him more of a beatnik air than beat-box authority.

For many reasons (Washington's historically half-hearted support of live original music clubs, for one), local bands and artists looking for commercial success have few role models, Simone says. "There's no discipline, per se. It's just raw free expression -- which is good because it produces a lot of creative thinking. But it also means it's very difficult to relate that to what's going on in the real music industry, in the outside world."

As a way of finding those bands and individuals with the potential to lift the Washington curse -- e.g., if you really want to break out you gotta get broken in somewhere else, a` la Emmylou Harris, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack, etc., etc. -- Simone persuaded DC-101 three years ago to sponsor an annual home-tape contest.

The idea of the tape search was to introduce young, hopeful (and notoriously naive) local pop and rock bands to the older, wiser (and yes, notoriously cruel) ways of a big-city hit factory. Thus in 1984 the winners were offered free time at the Power Station in New York. In 1985 it was the Warehouse in Philadelphia. For the past two years it's been Unique Recording, right there among the mean streets of Times Square.

Meanwhile, Simone roams the clean streets of Our Nation's Capital, the pockets of his yellow windbreaker stuffed with cassette tapes and MacIntosh data disks; or rides the Metro (he doesn't own a car), fully headphoned and oblivious, to a meeting with one of his musical "development clients."

"I'm dedicated to the success of artists in the area on a career basis, not just on the basis of a particular record," Simone says.

At his house in Mt. Pleasant is a makeshift, perpetually messy and alarmingly state-of-the-art MIDI studio which he shares with housemate David Ylvisaker, a composer and arranger and musical director of Mr. Henry's mainstay Julia & Co.

When Simone is not ordering vegetarian takeout or plumbing the MIDI microchips for a sloppier snare drum, he is most likely producing or mixing or recording a song . . . somewhere. Often this is in New York, at Unique. Sometimes it's in Switzerland, where he also knows some folks who trust him to make good music at their studio (and thus pay his way there).

Though he does most of his pre-production and rehearsals (and some touch-ups for things recorded elsewhere) here in Washington, Simone will say: "I'd rather go to New York and record in a place where people are making records all day. If you had a song, you'd want it to be produced by people who have been making records and engineering them and marketing them. None of that exists here. I mean, as good a studio as an Omega or Bias might be, there {in New York} people are making records all the time."

Simone started making records when he was 20, a basement-band keyboardist and computer whiz who added backup vocals and a sprightly arrangement to a folk tune written and sung by a 16-year-old Springfield girl in 1972. Someone at Track Recorders told him he should make it into a single; he thought they meant do it himself (what they meant was sell it to a major label), so he did. He brought the demo to WASH, where Bob Duckman liked it and started playing it.

The singer moved that week with her family to London, and the record died. A year later Simone got a hit radio station interested in a single by Springfield singer David Coggeshall, whose "You Are the Salt of the Earth" impressed then-WPGC music director Harv Moore enough for him to start playing it in heavy rotation a week later. And Simone had just been looking for his opinion, for gosh sakes.

"This was in the middle of the oil crisis," says Simone. "I couldn't get the records pressed anywhere. The record stores were calling WPGC to find out where they could get this song . . ." It also died.

Simone split the next few years between recording projects, including early work with such '70s local club-circuit vets as D.C. Star and Baltimore folksinger Karen Goldberg; and extended stints in New York learning the recording and producing ropes from the principals of Media Sound (later the Power Station). Simone also spent about a year in Colorado, performing in clubs "just to have had the experience." In recent years, between the contest and recording projects in New York and Europe, he's been working with Kuper-Smith and local singer Sanford Markley.

Besides Farecards and Amtrak's Washington-New York corridor, Simone is big on two things. One of them is songwriting: "Principally I'm looking for intelligent songwriting. People who are intelligent enough to be able to listen to what's going on and say, 'Hey, I wanna do that, I want part of that big chunk that's out there, I want to be a star, a hit songwriter.' Those are the people who I can work with most productively."

The other is the artist "development." Aside from smart songcrafting and the usual massive performing talent, this seems to involve mostly patience.

"The Emmylou Harrises and Marvin Gayes I mentioned earlier -- they all had something they had to learn that they couldn't get from here," says Simone. "Well, you can get it from here but you gotta stay with the program for a long enough time."