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  • Andy Timmons Discusses Sgt. Pepper

    Posted December, 2011

     

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    Once in a great while, one comes across an artist who is not only good but scary good.  One such person is former Danger Danger guitarist, Andy Timmons.  As I shared in my interview with Timmons last year, when I heard the strains of Cry For Youwafting across the Dallas International Guitar Festival, I became an immediate fan . . . for life.

    Since that interview, I’ve become increasingly aware of the level of high respect given to Timmons among his peers.  Some might even go as far as to say that they would just be happy to be able to play his mistakes.  Yeah, he’s that good.

    During that interview, Andy mentioned that he was working on a new CD wherein he covers the entire Sgt. Pepper album instrumentally.  A year later, Andy shot me a note to ask me to meet up with him for coffee and to pick up a copy of his Pepper.  Boy! Is this album ever worth the wait!  You can catch the Boomerocity review of Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepperhere but, suffice it to say, I think you should add this album to your listening library.

    After practically wearing out the CD, I, of course, wanted to chat with Andy about the album.  Between touring in support of the album and his continued work with Mesa Boogie as well as Olivia Newton-John, it was tough to get our schedules in sync.  We were able to carve out some time while he was on tour with Olivia.  In fact, it was during some down time during the tour, while Andy was paying homage to John Lennon at Strawberry Fieldsin New York City’s Central Park.

    Before we got down to talking all things Pepper, I briefly continued discussion on a topic that Andy and I bantered back and forth on via e-mail a few days prior.  The subject matter was the theme song from a kid’s TV show that ruled the airwaves in the Phoenix area for over 30 years: The Wallace and Ladmo Show. The theme song was written and played by the late Mike Condello who was the musical force behind anything musical taking place on that show.  Andy had mentioned in a previous chat that the Wallacetheme song was the second record he ever bought so I started our conversation on that subject.

    Before you roll your eyes and fast-forward to Pepper chat, just hold on to your Walrus.  This has everything to do with the Beatles and segues quite nicely into our discussion about Pepper.

    “That 45rpm record – I still have the original copy of it. It’s just one of those haunting instrumental tunes.  It’s a very sad, pensive kind of melody. I don’t know if it strikes you that way but for me the tune is very melancholy for a kid’s show. It must’ve been recorded in ’67 or ’68, obviously. It sounded very Abbey Road to me before Abbey Roadcame out – the way the harmony sounds – like Paul and George singing together. Mike always did a great job of copying Beatle-type stuff. He had quite a history of that. But, yeah, it was one of my first records. It’s an instrumental tune and I love it so much.”

    And, just in case you folks think that this is purely a Phoenix thing, realize that greats like Alice Cooper and Steven Spielberg were heavily influenced by The Wallace and Ladmo Show and that the show’s reach spanned the globe.  Andy attests to this fact.

    “I was actually in Sydney, Australia, back in about 2000 with Olivia. I was in a really cool collector’s CD shop and I found Wallace and Ladmo’s Greatest Hitsin Australia of all places!  They had the theme song so it was nice to have a clean version of the theme song! It had all of the Mike Condello hits like Ladmo In The Sky With Diamonds!” Andy laughs at the memory of the fun of it all and concludes by saying of the theme, “It will always be one of my favorite recorded pieces of music”.

    It goes to show you that kids are indelibly impacted by music at a very early age and underscores the importance of music education in the lives of our kids.  It’s a sad thing to see funding of music education fall victim to budget cuts in our schools.

    We shifted our chat to Andy’s current tour with Ms. Newton-John and how his Pepperwork factors into it.

    “We’re actually right in the middle of it. We’ve done three shows and have four more. It’s a brief run.  She’s been very gracious and she’s asked me to open her show with some of my Peppertunes.  So I’m out there doing that. That’s pretty cool.  She loves the CD and is very into it and very happy to help promote it.  She’s a sweetheart like that.”

    As I mentioned earlier, Andy told me last year that he had already started working on the album.  I asked him how long it took to put the project together and out the door.

    “The main time spent was just me coming up with the arrangements. I called it kind of a hobby for a couple of years because I wasn’t specifically setting out to make a record initially. We were doing Strawberry Fieldslive and it was going over great. A suggestion from my Italian promoter was, ‘Why don’t you do a whole set of Beatles?’  I really didn’t think that I could pull that off but it kind of got my wheels turning and I started experimenting with other Beatles songs but not necessarily Sgt. Peppersongs.  I think Lucy In The Sky was the next one that started to develop nicely.

    “I thought, ‘How would it be to play the whole record just by myself in my studio just for fun?’ So, I just started working on other arrangements. I thought, ‘What if I did When I’m Sixty-Four or Lovely Rita?’ – like how I had approached the Resolutionrecord in that I wasn’t doing any overdubs. I was using chords and melody together a lot. So that’s how I approached this whole project. I didn’t want to approach it as far as ‘I’m going to do a bunch of overdubs and try to exactly replicate the record’. I wanted to see how much I could incorporate into one performance while really getting across all of the nuances and memorable things about each song.

    “As I went about it, I also decided that I was just going to do it completely from memory. That should tell you how much I’ve heard this

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    music. Obviously, so many people have. It’s very ingrained. But I think it actually helped make it easier for me in that, going back and transcribing the record, per se, would have been a daunting task. Whereas this allowed me to replicate the music as I hear it in my head meaning that, depending how you experience music as you think about it, the important things tend to stick out to me - like whether it’s the vocal or guitar chord or an orchestration from George Martin, or whatever it might be. It’s what helped me thin it out and do what I could in performing it.  It made it fun and extra challenging. I think it’s also a cool story. People like to know as they listen to the record – it makes it more interesting than just somebody who sat at home with 24 tracks or whatever and tried to replicate it exactly. It makes it much more of a personal statement for me as opposed to the other direction.”

    As Andy mentioned earlier, Olivia Newton-John loves Andy’s Pepperproject.  I also knew that other of his guitar playing peers had received copies of the disc – folks like Steve Lukather and Andy’s label prez, the incomparable Steve Vai. I asked Andy what their feedback was.

    “I think one of the most gratifying is Steve Lukather one of my early heroes for many years and we’ve gotten to know each other over time.  He couldn’t be a sweeter, more supportive kind of guy. There’s a handful of guys that I consider when I make a record and I think, ‘Man! I hope they dig this!’ because I respect their ears and I certainly respect their taste in music. My guitar player friends that are definitely Beatles fans , I’m really hoping they’ll connect with what I’ve done because there’s a lot of nuance there that the casual listener may not pick up on but some of the musicians will definitely understand and realize, ‘Alright, this wasn’t an easy feat’ and they can hear the labor of love.

    “Steve – he was so sweet!  I sent him a link to the record before it was released.  He sent me a couple of e-mails over the course of a month, saying, ‘Hey, man, I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet. I’m traveling but I’ll get to it.’  Then, apparently, he listened to it while he had a day off in Osaka (Japan). I probably got six e-mails. He was going off on how much he loved it. He called it maybe his favorite instrumental record of all time.  Heavy praise from my hero!  That was very sweet!”

     

    And what has Steve Vai had to say about it?

    “He was the first guy to hear it – the first guy I sent it to. One of the most gratifying things he said was, ‘How did you get all those chords in tune?’  The guitar, in general, is a very imperfect instrument. You cannot possibly be perfectly in tune – especially when you have distortion. It magnifies all the impurities of the tuning – especially the more complex chords you’re trying to voice with distortion - it exaggerates the tuning imperfections. I spent a lot of time on that. Some songs happened very quickly on the CD and some I had to figure out how I could achieve the tuning, per se, to really make it listenable for me. It’s a blessing and a curse having great ears in that you know exactly what it sounds like in your head and to get it can be extremely frustrating. We went through a lot to get the tuning just right.”

    Bringing his comments back around to what Vai had to say, Timmons said, “He also said that he thought it was a beautiful record and, ‘This is the kind of project everyone talks about doing but never does.’  As I would tell people what I was up to, everybody would have that look like, ‘Really? Is this going to work?’ 

    “I have to admit, over the course of a couple of years – after I had the idea, ‘Wow! Wouldn’t it be cool to actually record this?’ I came in a confident mode where, for a while there I thought, ‘Man, this is really gonna work!’ and then when we did the recording, I thought, ‘Man, I don’t think this is going to work.” It took me quite awhile to get the confidence to really be sure, ‘Okay, I love this. I really think it’s going to work.’  Once I got to that place, it was really exciting!  I thought, ‘Regardless what happens, if a couple of my friends dig the way I’m digging it and the way the band’s digging it, then I’m successful.’ 

    “For Steve Vai and Lukather and other people who have been hearing it along the way – no matter what happens commercially, I’m already way successful with what the goal was – to try to present the music in a loving tribute, so to speak. But obviously, it’s nice that it’s getting out there and it’s selling pretty well. I think there’s potential to broaden my fan base that tends to be other guitarists – which is awesome and I’m so thankful for that – but, you know, largely, I want to appeal to a wider group of people and not just people who play the same instrument. I’m hoping this will translate to connecting with Beatles fans in general.

     

    Photo by Simone Cecchetti

    “Oddly enough, I get e-mails from people now that will start off by saying, ‘You know, I’m not really a Beatles fan but I really like your record!’  I’m like, ‘How could you not be a Beatles fan?’  I was fortunate that I was born in ’63 and I had older brothers that were all big fans so I grew up with every record that came out then. So it’s just ingrained in me. If you don’t grow up in that environment and aren’t exposed to it, you’re not as likely to be as connected.  The youth are obviously connecting when they’re exposed to it. It continues to appeal on such a large scale. 

    “For me, it’s an honor to add anything to the realm of the Beatle world and to have it be so positively accepted by a lot of Beatles websites already.  Beatles Examiner and Steve Marinucci, I’ve subscribed to his Beatles newsletter which has come out every day for 15 years. I sent him a copy. I’ve never met him before but he immediately picked up on it and loved it. I was blown away because I’m sure he gets hammered with Beatle related releases every day. But he really took a liking to it and is helping spread the word.  It’s a very cool time for me.”

    As he finished that particular thought, Andy interrupts himself by saying, “I’m sitting here staring at the Imagine mosaic, by the way, as we’re talking. I don’t know if you ever saw the back of my CD, ear X-tacy, there’s a picture of me sitting in this mosaic which had to be taken in 1993. Here I am, how many years later.”

    With Andy’s extensive network of incredible musician friends, I asked if he’s heard whether or not Paul or Ringo have heard his CD yet.

    “No, I haven’t. But that would be a dream of mine!  I know that (Beatle engineer) Geoff Emerick has it. I haven’t heard back from him. My publicist, Carol Kaye, actually manages Geoff so she gave him a copy a few weeks ago.”

    I caught one of Andy’s performances recently in which he performed several cuts from Pepper, much to the crowd’s delight. I asked Andy what his favorite tune to perform from the disc.

    “Ooh!  Interesting!  I do love all of it. We haven’t performed the whole record yet so it’s hard to say. We’ve done about half of it. Strawberry Fields is still a really strong song to perform live. I really enjoy playing She’s Leaving Home, as well. It’s one of the high points of the record just because it was always the most emotional Beatles song for me. It’s kind of like Paul had really gotten to the same emotional place that Brian Wilson was coming from on Pet Sounds. You hear Brian’s influence on Paul’s bass playing all over the record. But, vocally, that’s one of the influences you hear on that song where Paul gets into that high falsetto stuff. That’s total ‘Brian Wilson’. But he’s mentioned it many times how Pet Soundswas his inspiration, basically, for the Pepper record.

    “But Brian Wilson’s music, for whatever reason, is highly emotional to a lot of people, obviously.  When you think of his ballads - not the surfing tunes - In My Roomand Surfer Girl come from such a delicate, sweet place and, when you know more about his history and his painful childhood, you kind of understand where that stuff is coming from.  That one Beatles song kind of gets to that level.  It’s a very sentimental lyric, obviously. But what Paul did melodically is really strong.

    “Anyway, I took a lot of time trying to get to that same place on the guitar – trying to get it through the guitar in that same way. People seem to really like that, as well.”

    As for what he thinks the crowd favorite is, Timmons said, “Strawberry Fields, I think, for sure. It’s fun when we do things like Little Help From My Friendsand Lucy In The Sky. No matter what country we’re in – anywhere in the world – the crowd is signing as loud as the band is playing. It’s so cool! Everybody knows the music so well! It turns into these wonderful sing-alongs. It’s awesome!”

    For you musicians, guitar techies and gear heads, I asked Timmons about the equipment he used to play on Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper.  You can thank me with tens and twenties.

    “Essentially, its four amps running at once. Again, being just one guitar performance we wanted the tone to be as stellar as possible. It’s essentially four Mesa Boogies. There was one Marshall amp involved on a couple of songs but my Mesa’s were basically beating out my vintage amps. When it comes to recording, it’s not about what logo is on the amp, it’s the best tone wins. It’s gonna last forever, hopefully. It’s gotta be right no matter what. I had two Mesa Boogie Lone Star’s and two Mesa Boogie Stilleto Deuce Stage Two heads all running through four separate Mesa Boogie rectifier 2x12 cabinets with vintage Celestion 30 watt speakers.

    “So one guitar is basically feeding four amps in a variety of ways, split with an A/B box – one side going to the Lone Stars and those being split by a TC Electronic chorus delay. The other side is split by an A/B box and tube driver feeding into two tape echoes feeding into the Stilettos.  That’s the overall sound of the record, essentially.

    “The guitar was my original AT100 Ibanez signature guitar – the prototype from 1994.  On Within You Without You I used a brand new production model AT100 that I set up with the tremolo floating slightly to get those Eastern inflections. I also used a 1968 Telecaster on When I’m Sixty-Four.  I was trying to replicate George Harrison’s Gretsch Tennessean tone like he used on Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby and Honey Don’t, those kinds of songs – his Carl Perkins tone. I have a ’62 Tennessean which is very similar to his guitar but the Tele actually sounded ‘Gretschier’ than the Gretsch. I use that old Tele for that ol’ rockabilly/country tone that I got as a tribute to George. But that’s it –those three guitars but it’s mainly my old AT100 – my old faithful – that’s just the home base for me.”

    One thing about Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper that intrigued me was why he included Strawberry Fieldsat the tail end of the album.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled that he did. I was just curious as to why he did.

    “Well, two reasons. Obviously, that was the arrangement that got us started in the first place. But, actually – and a lot of people do know this – but Strawberry Fields was the first song recorded for Sgt. Pepper. When the Beatles came off of vacation after they stopped touring in August of ’66, John went to Spain to film a movie called How I Won The War – another Richard Lester film. While he was there, he wrote Strawberry Fields. When they reconvened in the studio for what became Sgt. Pepper, that was his offering so they worked on that first in late ’66. Then Paul had Penny Lane as an answer. When I’m Sixty-Fourwas the next one. EMI came to Brian Epstein and said, ‘Hey, we need another single.’ So the label pulls Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane as a single. The Beatles didn’t want to put singles in front of the album. But that really was the first track recorded for Sgt. Pepper.

    Timmons added, “We’re about to release an official video of us playing it in the studio.  We shot about six videos a couple of months ago and they’re just now being edited. Simple – just us in the studio playing the tunes but it’s kind of cool to see.”

    I followed that bit of revelation by asking if he was planning to do like he did when he released Resolution and that was to film a full-blown concert video of the album.

    “Yes! Absolutely!  We’re working on logistics as far as how and when and where we’re going to do it.”

    When I interviewed Andy last year, he mentioned that he was also working on another CD in parallel with Pepper.  I asked him what the latest scoop was on that CD. 

    “The only scoop at this point is that there’s 14 new songs that were recorded essentially at the same time as Pepper. So that’s going to be one of those situations like Resolutionwhere I’m going to scrap everything I recorded guitar-wise and redo it. It will be awhile because I’m so focused now on promoting the Sgt. Pepper record and getting that out there. That’s why the Pepperrecord happened before that did because I cut about half of the tracks live with the band and I thought, ‘Okay, this is closer to being done. Let me finish this and then I’ll work on the other thing and get that to the place to where I’m happy with it. That was quite handy by the time we did the Pepper record. I knew exactly what I wanted arrangement wise because I’d been playing it by myself for a couple of years. The band hadn’t heard the arrangements. They had them thrust upon them over a 2 ½ day marathon of Beatles songs. Fortunately, the performances were good so I ended up keeping about half of what I did live with the band. I’m happy to have gone down that path the way we did.”

    As we were wrapping up our chat, I mentioned that I had heard that he was going to be interviewed by David Lowry on Live From Music City and had heard that he (Andy) was going to phone in from a very interesting location for that interview.

    “My dear friend, Uliana Salerno, has a hair salon in the village in New York City. It just happens to be Jimi Hendrix’s old apartment. That’s where I’m going to do the radio interview from. I decided that I would call in from her place. What a cool place to be able to do it from.”

    Indeed, it is.  You can catch that interview here.  If you weren’t already an Andy Timmons fan, I’m sure that you are now.  You can keep up with all things Andy by visiting his website, www.andytimmons.com.  While you’re there, why don’t you load up on all of his CD’s and DVD’s in addition to ordering Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper? You’re going to love everything he’s recorded.

    If you’re interested in catching his work with Olivia Newton-John, you can find her latest tour dates that he will be working with her on at www.olivianewton-john.com/tour.html. Who knows? You just might be treated to an Andy Timmons performance before her appearance.

     

  • Black Jacket Symphony Performing Abbey Road – 2015

    Black Jacket Symphony Performing Abbey Road – 2015

    February 21, 2015

    Bijou Theater

    Knoxville, Tennessee

    Photo courtesy of JamesPattersonsGallery.com

         

    When I first saw Black Jacket Symphony perform the Led Zeppelin IV album last October, I wrote (here) many glowing superlatives about their amazing talent and delivery of a musically difficult album. 

    Last night, I saw one of the BJS bands (fronted by vocalist/guitarist, J. Willoughby) deliver an equally accurate and crowd pleasing treatment of the Beatles’ historic “Abbey Road” album.

    Like one of those “fade-to-the-past” methods used on TV shows like “Cold Case,” I watched a crowd be taken back to their teens or young adult days as they remembered key events of their past set against this particular soundtrack. 

    From the opening chords of “Come Together” to the closing notes of the crowd pleasing encore, “Hey Jude,” BJS had the capacity crowd and the beautiful and intimate Bijou Theater in downtown Knoxville. A crowd, I might add, that braved slushy streets and cold rain to catch this show and BJS did not disappoint.

    In between those historic, musical bookends were fun and memorable deliveries of the entire Abbey Road song list during the first half of the evening and other hits from the Beatles catalog during the second half of the evening. 

    Most of the vocals were performed by Willoughby with significant contributions by Oak Ridge’s Mark Lanter on drums and lead vocals. Between the two, they wowed the crowds.

    Rounding out the band was Aaron Branson on bass, Allen Barlow on guitar, Andres Berrios on violin, Bob Taylor on keyboards and vocals, Brad Wolfe on guitar, Nathan LeFevre on Cello and Peyton Grant on keyboards and guitar.  Corporately, they delivered a performance that was as tight as it was fun  - and they looked like they were enjoying it as much as the crowds.

    If you want a great night of musical nostalgia, catch a Black Jacket Symphony performance. You won't be disappointed.

  • Common Bond

    commonbondcoverCommon Bond
    Mark Rivera
    Label: Red River Entertainment
    Release Date: February 18, 2014
    Review Date: March 02, 2014

    When one is known as the sax man for an icon like Billy Joel, as the music director for Ringo Starr, or has played with the likes of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Foreigner and countless others, it’s safe to assume that they have a solo album buried away in their soul.

    Such is the case with renowned multi-instrumentalist, Mark Rivera, and what a solo album it is!

    Let me say right up front that this album is some of the greatest, new rock and roll that you’re going to hear this year!

    Yeah, it’s that good, and chock full of musical genius.

    Case in point: The opening cut, Loraine, conjures up audio visions of the Allman Brothers and CSN, yet, it’s got a unique sound that one quickly learns is Rivera’s signature, musical touch.

    Following closely on Loraine’s heels is the good time rocker, Sticky Situation. Loaded with gritty vocals, driving guitar and, of course, some down and dirty sax work, this tune will undoubtedly burn an earworm into your cranium that will last for days.

    While every cut on the CD is noteworthy, Boomerocity would like to call attention to a couple of other tunes in particular. One being Rivera’s brilliant cover of Hendrix’s Spanish Castle Magic. Mark’s vocals are interpretive to the mystical lyrics and the music driving in the back ground is nothing short of amazing. If you think you’ve heard it all when it comes to Hendrix covers, you’re wrong. This tune alone is worth the price of the entire album. Hint: You’ll want to hear the cool intro as well as Rivera’s solo. I’ll leave it at that.

    The closing cut, Rise, is a lonely, brooding tune that is worth a ton of slaps of the repeat button. Mark’s vocal range is bang on. The piano is foundational to the mood of the song while the bluesy guitar licks are beautiful icing on the cake. This song is the perfect end to an amazing album by a brilliant musician.

    Pick up this CD (or download it) immediately. Go ahead and by two or more. You’ll want to give to friends who appreciate great, new music.

    Keep up with the latest with Mark Rivera at www.markrivera.com !

  • Connected

    connectedcoverConnected
    Gary Wright
    Label: Larkio
    Reviewed: June, 2010

    It’s been quite a while since we’ve been able to enjoy anything in the pop genre from Gary Wright. In fact, it’s been over twenty years. With his latest album, Connected, he has reconnected with an incredible collection of incredible, new, vibrant music.

    Gary Wright’s career spans 40 years and through his 70’s hits like Dream Weaver and Love Is Alive, is credited as a pioneer of in the use of synthesizers in pop music. With Wright’s continued mastering of all things “keyboard” along with the latest in recording technology, he delivers a set of tunes that are destined to be remembered by his fans as fondly as his first hits.

    The album is musical message of love, encouragement delivered in a positive and deeply spiritual manner. A great example of this is the first song, Satisfied. In the spirit George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord (but different, musically), Gary sings an anthem of acknowledgement of where he is in his faith. Wright is aided on this tune by Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh. How cool is that?

    Slated as the first single off of Connected, I predict that someone in the gospel or contemporary Christian music community will cover this song sometime in the next couple of years.

    Remember: You heard it here first, folks.

    Equally encouraging and positive is Get Your Hands Up. Also tagged for release as a single, this song will have Gary’s audiences dancing in the aisles when he performs this lively tune. If you’re feeling down or less than positive, this song will change your mood and outlook for the rest of the day. Try it sometime.

    Under Your Spell is one of the most touching and moving love songs that I’ve heard in a very long time. If The Gary Wright sound on this beautiful tune is instantly identifiable with its soothing melody and words of vulnerability and openness. If a song on this album was going to be labeled “Son of Dream Weaver”, this would be it even though it really does have a very different sound.

    Next on the line up is No One Does It Better. No, it’s not a cover of the great Carly Simon hit. Perfectly written and produced with his signature prowess, Wright knocks this one out of the park. This song could have easily been a song that the late Michael Jackson could have proudly recorded and taken to the type of the charts. This song is GREAT!

    Can’t Find No Mercy is another deeply spiritual tune but one that could easily be sung as a love song. When I close my eyes while listening to this song, I can envision this song being performed with an awesome African-American church choir providing vocal support that only they can. This song clearly has heart and soul.

    The next tune, Life’s Not A Battlefield, is a song of hope and peace. If you begin listening to this song while you’re angry at someone, I will bet you a dollar to a donut that by the song’s end, your anger will have greatly subsided.

    Another future single, Gimme Some Time is a great dance tune (if I could only dance!). With former Steely Dan and Doobie Brother guitarist (and current defense technology consultant), Jeff “Skunk” Baxter providing the axe work, this offers up awesome “earworm” material with its musical hooks and positive lyrics.

    The CD’s title cut is placed in the last third of the disc (or, in the middle of the digital download version). In my mind, it’s perfect. If I had a gun held to my head and was ordered to say what I thought would make this song better, they’d just have to shoot me, it’s that good. What I COULD say would be an equally cool delivery of the song would to be to hear it sung as a duet with Peter Gabriel . . . then they could pull the trigger.

    Now, the next song is going to be loved by grandparents the world over. Kirra Layne is Wright’s song of love to his first granddaughter who is the namesake of this song. I am not a grandparent yet but, even so, I found this song taking me to the point of gazing at the miracle of birth and heritage that one experiences when gazing at their first grandchild. This one tugs at the heart strings.

    The CD version of Connected closes with You Make Me Feel Better. This love song/song of faith (you can take it either way), is a perfect end to a perfect CD. Positive, encouraging, loving, the song will leave you feeling refreshed.

    As the old Ronco commercials used to say, “But WAIT! There’s more!”

    If you really want a special treat, you’ll want to download this project either on iTunes or at Gary’s website, www.thedreamweaver.com. Why? Well, you’ll get some great bonus tracks including “Son of Love Is Alive”.

    Huh?

    Yep, that’s Wright – I mean “right”. At either website, Gary’s son, Dorian, offers an awesome version of his dad’s iconic hit, Love Is Alive. I thought the song could not be improved upon but Dorian nails this one. For us old timers that think the original hits are “sacred” and should be left alone may re-think that thought when they hear this classic covered.

    For the rest of the iTunes download, you’ll also To Discover Yourself that was co-written by Wright’s late good friend, George Harrison way back in 1971. Wright recorded this song, just him and a piano, on November 29, 2001, upon hearing of Harrison’s death. This song is worth the purchase of the entire download.

    The bow on the iTunes bonus package is a great song that Wright contributed to the soundtrack of Fire and Ice, a German movie released in 1986. This beautiful song will haunt you long after you’ve listened to it.

    If you decide to download Connected from Gary’s website, you’ll be treated to a different buffet of delectable bonus tracks in addition to the remake of Love Is Alive also offered on the iTunes digital version.

    One such delicacy is the ethereal Never Give Up. The excellently written and produced song colors the deep, meaningful lyrics with beautiful, melodic hues that decompress the heart and soul.

    However, I especially like – make that “love” – Without You. This song will resonate with those who have lost a friend or loved one who they were especially close to through death or separation. Although I neglected to ask Gary about this song during our interview, I suspect that this song is about his dear friend, George Harrison. Regardless of who the song was written about, like all great songs, this is one of those that all of us can make it our own.

    If you loved Gary Wright back in the seventies, you will definitely want to add Connected to your listening library. You can add this great CD to your collection by clicking on one of the images at the top of the page.

  • Gary Wright

    Posted June, 2010

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    As a teenager growing up in Phoenix, I worked at the long gone Sun Maid Grocery in the then agricultural suburb of Peoria. One of my rituals after work was to hop in my car, role down my window, crank up my radio (no, it wasn’t even a stereo at that time – just an AM radio). The music and the wind blowing in my then-long hair as I made my way home down those then-desolate country roads helped me unwind.

    On more than one occasion, after a particularly rough night at work and getting my ritual underway for my commute home, the soothing sounds of Dream Weaver by Gary Wright would crackle out of the radio.  The ethereal melodies of the song would cause me to decompress as I drove through the desert night with the stars smiling down at me as I conjured up big dreams, convinced that anything was possible.

    Another of Mr. Wright’s iconic hits, Love Is Alive, was a favorite of the many dances at Moon Valley High School.  A lot of us kids viewed the song as one of the more danceable songs to be played. Of course, for me, it took a lot of dream weavin’ of my own for me to think that I could dance to anything, let alone Love Is Alive.

    For many of us, great songs like these by great artists like Gary Wright are what make up the soundtrack of youth. Now that our hair is shorter, thinner and grayer (if it exists at all), we hear these tunes or see these icons and a smile effortlessly comes to our faces as memories come flooding to our minds.

    So, it was with great pleasure that I was recently offered the opportunity, by way of Boomerocity friend and rock photographer extraordinaire, Rob Shanahan, to interview Gary Wright.  With his first pop album out in over twenty years coming out on June 8th, 2010, and his second tour with none other than Ringo Starr, it was with giddy excitement that I chatted with Mr. Dream Weaver himself.

    My first group of questions surrounded Gary’s new album, Connected.  Because it had been over two decades since his last mainstream release, I asked him what he waited so long to come out with this disc.

    “It’s because I’ve been involved with doing other kinds of music that I needed to get out of my system – World music, in particular. The last studio pop album I did was called Who I Am, which was released in ’87. I was just starting to get involved with world music at the time through my relationship with George Harrison.

    “Then, I did an album in ’95 which was recorded in Brazil with some great musicians and I also used a couple of African guys. It was kind of an Afro-Brazilian world music album.  I did another album in ’99 which came out called Human Love, with some African guys, too.

    “Then, I spent the last decade doing different stuff like producing.  My son, Justin, put a band together and released his first album. His group is called Intangible, on my own record label and that took up a lot of my time. And then I decided that I wanted to go back into the studio and do a full-fledged album.

    “So, after I did the Ringo tour in 2008, I started writing for the new album and it finished in January of this year. So, I’ve been working on it for a little over two years.”

    I’ll be the first to admit that, among the dummies I am, I am one when it comes to world music.  I’m just not that familiar with it so I asked Wright what the receptivity of his world music projects have been like.

    “You know, that’s kind of like a taste-specific kind of thing.  Some people like it. Some people are alienated by it and don’t understand it. You have to have a taste for it.  Like Peter Gabriel, same deal. He has his company, Real Music, I think that’s the name, any way, he does the same thing.  He produces artists who are really great musicians but are obscure to the mainstream of buying people.”

    Briefly returning to his work while in Brazil, Gary says that the country “has always been involved in music. They live and breathe it down there. I went down there in ’79 and it was an amazing experience. Their people just LOVE music because of their roots – their Afro roots – it’s a combination of different things. But it’s great!  There are some great players there!”

    In the days before the interview, I listened to Connected several times before ever reading the press release that came with my copy.  I do that in order to see if my impressions of a disc align with the expectations of the artist.  I shared with Wright my four impressions that I personally had of the album and asked him if my perceptions were accurate.

    Those four impressions were:

    ·  The vibe of the album is very positive and uplifting theme throughout the entire disc.

    Before I could go to my second impression, blurted out, “That was my goal!  You hit the nail right on the head!”

    Ah!  I love it when I’m right!

    Moving on, I shared the rest of my impressions.  I said that:

    · The disc had a spiritual, almost “gospel” sound to it on some cuts

    ·   When it didn’t come across as “spiritual” then they felt like love songs of a deep, spiritual kind

    ·  I was amazed at the intricate musicianship on the disc supported by equally intricate production/engineering

    Were the rest of my perceptions accurate?

    “I think your take on the album is very perceptive.  I agree with everything you just said.  Number one, I firmly believe that music is an art and, as an art, its chief function is to uplift people. There’s enough negation in the world that we’re constantly reminded of in our daily lives that we don’t need more of that.

    “In India, they say, ‘everyone has a choice: You can either go smell the flowers or you can look down in the sewers.’ It’s each individual’s choice as to what he chooses to do and the more you program your mind to only allow thoughts that are positive and uplifting, and people do all of that, the world will be a better place.

    “That’s why I call the album Connected because we are all connected, really, through our thoughts.  The mass thoughts of everyone influence the karma, so to speak, of the world.  The weather patterns, the calamities that happen, the wars and all of that stuff – it’s all man’s thinking.

    “There is definitely a spiritual level to the album. I try to write the lyrics to my songs that one can either sing them to God or sing them to your wife or your girlfriend. That’s all in the mind of the person who’s listening.  You can do it either way. So that is true, what you just said.

    “The intricacy of the music?  Well, I’ve been doing this now for almost forty years so I’ve learned a lot about production and worked with the greatest people throughout my career and have also cultivated a group of friends – musician friends – who have generously offered talents to play on my album. People like Ringo and Skunk Baxter and Joe Walsh. I’ve always, throughout the years, managed to get these kinds of people to play on my records and it’s always been a joy to work with that kind of musicianship.”

    I shared with Gary the positive nature of Boomerocity, whether it was in the interviews conducted or within the product or concert reviews shared on the site.  The intention is the same: accentuate the positive.

    Mr. Wright is supportive in his response. “I think that’s good.  I think it would be nice if more people were to have that kind of attitude for like, go to this website if you want to hear somebody’s positive reviews on an album – not to, necessarily, need to gloss over the flaws of it. But I’m thinking if the album is not really your cup of tea, then don’t review it.  People will then get a feel for your taste by the albums you review.  Then people will say, ‘Oh! This guy is good because all the stuff he recommended, I like! So, I’m going to go by what he says!’

    “There needs to be more of that in the world because time is such a rare commodity that we have, with the world being so fast. With technology and everything, people don’t have time to look at 8 zillion releases. There’s no way you could walk through all of that. So, we need to have more ‘taste makers’ – people whose tastes you can trust.

    “It’s like going into a wine store, let’s say.  You don’t really know all the wines but you know that the owner has good taste. So, the first time you buy a bottle of wine from him and it’s really good, you go, ‘You know? I really liked that.  What else would you recommend?’ And then he starts recommending many things and you go back again and again because you trust the person. You can apply that to all kinds of art.”

    Returning briefly to the premise of Boomerocity, Gary says, “It’s great for people who leave their work for a few minutes to visit some place that’s positive, you know? It’s like

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    taking a short vacation – it just takes the tension off of your mind.”

    My head sufficiently swollen from the positive feedback from Mr. Wright, I brought the conversation back around to Connected.   Many artists go into a studio with songs that may have been put away years ago and were recently dusted off.  It’s also not unusual for songs to be written while in the process of recording.  I asked Gary what were the oldest and newest songs on the record.

    “Okay.  You’re going to laugh but the oldest song was Satisfied. Satisfied, I wrote with a friend of mine, Bobby Hart. Bobby was in a band called Boyce and Hart. They wrote and produced most of the Monkees’ hits and he wrote Hurt So Bad and Come A Little Bit Closer – a bunch of big hits – a great song writer!

    “The version that Bobby and I wrote, though, was more like a shuffle. It was a different kind of feel. So, when I was in the studio – a lot of times when I write songs, I’ll put up some kind of sound on one of my synthesizers that has a rhythm pattern going through it. And then I’ll put a bass line on and a little bit of little bit of drum and I get a feel for the direction of the song is going to be. I might even sing a little melody over it or whatever.

    “So, when I did Satisfied, I had this great groove and I was thinking, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be great if I could plug in one of my old songs.  I was thinking, thinking and then BANG! - into my mind pops up Satisfied – but done as a swing feel rather than a shuffle, which is different and it worked! It took me a little while to get used to it but when it did, it worked really well. So that was the oldest song . . .  from the early to mid nineties.

    “The newest song – let me think, now, about this – the newest song I wrote probably would be – I want to say either Get Your Hands Up or No One Does It Better.”

    It’s at this point that I confess that I have three favorite songs for one reason and then another favorite song for a completely different reason.  The three are Can’t Find No Mercy, Life’s Not A Battlefield and Connected.  I like them for their sound, feel and message.  You know, the reasons why most any of us like a song.

    However, Kirra Layne struck me in a unique way. I listened to it over and over again, trying to figure out who Gary was singing about.  Finally, I was pretty sure that I figured it out:  The song had all the things I would say if I was a grandfather.  The song HAD to be about his granddaughter, no?

    With a chuckle, Wright gives me yet another reply that causes my already swollen head to swell just a wee bit more. “You’re right!  I was wondering what people would think who Kirra Layne was. Yeah, that’s my first granddaughter. That’s good! I wrote that song when I was in – I go to Italy every year to an island called Sardinia in the Mediterranean. I wrote about half on my album on an acoustic guitar when I went there on various vacations – one in particular. The one when I wrote Kirra Layne, she was about three months old and I missed her so much, you know, being so far away. So, I just picked up my guitar one morning and knocked that song out.

    “The treatment I wanted to give it was not like one with the piano and voice and drums and all that.  I wanted to make it special and one track that always stuck out in my mind that I LOVED by the Beatles was She’s Leaving Home. It had a beautiful cello arrangement and I went in that direction with it with a harp, strings, cello’s and stuff.”

    I was curious if, when Gary writes songs, does he only write them with the thought that only he would be recording and performing them or does he write any with another artist in mind.  The reason I wanted to know is that I thought Satisfied sounded as though it was written for Michael Jackson to sing and Quincy Jones to produce.

    “I can see that. I can hear that for sure, definitely. Usually I don’t write for others - not unless it’s specific thing for a movie where somebody asks me to write a song. I’ve done that in the past where they say, ‘Okay, I need something romantic song and this is the kind of scene’ and then I would write it to that specific kind of thing.

    “But, usually, when I write songs, they’re usually for me.  I find that, when I do it that way, more people are likely to cover it.  My stuff in the past has been covered by artist like Eminem and Joan Osborne and Joe Cocker and Anastacia, Maya – quite a few big artists. And they’ve always taken my original songs.  It’s usually the big hits like Love Is Alive.  No one’s ever done a big version of Dream Weaver.”

    I posited that that particular song would be awfully hard to top – that it really can’t be improved.

    Gary offers a very objective counter to my thought. “Or, at least that version of it unless somebody took the song and gave it an entirely different treatment. That’s never been done.  I mean, it has been. Erin Hamilton did a dance version, which was, actually, quite successful.

    “I had another one of my songs from an album I did call The Wright Place which had that hit on it called I Really Want To Know You. One of the songs on it that I wrote with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil – big, big writers who wrote You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and Under The Boardwalk – the big, classic hits. They wrote one of the songs on that album called Coming Apart. Nothing ever happened to the song and then 25 years later, a DJ named Armand Van Helden, who is quite well known in the techno world, he took the song and just added a drum loop to it, sped it up and it was a HUGE hit throughout the world excluding the United States. It sold something like ten million copies.

    Clearly humbled, Wright concludes this line of thinking by saying, “So, I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had my stuff continually recorded by other artists or be in soundtracks, movies, or whatever.”

    Being the prolific writer, arranger and recording artist who has worked on many excellent recordings with some of the biggest names in the business, how was Connected different than all of the other projects he worked on?

    Gary methodically, and without hesitation, answers the question. “One, I think the caliber of the songs that are on the album, I think they’re all strong as individual units themselves. Two, I think I took advantage of a lot of modern technology in the production and in the sound of things. And, the musicianship of the people that actually played on it – really top caliber.

    “Most of the album I did by myself. Of course, the drums were done by – Ringo played on one track and Will Kennedy, who is a great drummer from the Yellowjackets, played on the rest of the album. But, they weren’t real drums. They weren’t acoustic kits. They were samples because I wanted it to have that electronic feel to it. That’s the direction I went, sonically, with it.”

    With such a great album and a tremendous fan base, surely there’ll be a tour to promote Connected?

     “There will be. I’m in the process of getting that together now. Right now, I’m just jamming to get ready for the Ringo tour. There’s a lot of stuff to learn. The tour is finished on the 7th of August. I’ll want to take some time to just relax for a little bit. But I’m thinking in the fall of doing some work, touring with my own band. I just got back from the east coast. I did five shows on the east coast and they all went down really well. The new material was really well received and we sold out of all the CD’s. That was good to see that from people.”

    Because Mr. Wright had mentioned George Harrison and, earlier in our conversation, India, I was instantly reminded of Donovan’s autobiography and some of the other books I’ve read relative to George Harrison’s spiritual journey.  In those books, I read where “the Quiet One” was instrumental in introducing his band mates and Donovan to Eastern Philosophy.  I asked Gary if George had introduced him to the philosophy, as well.

    “Yeah, I mean, George was my mentor, spiritually, when I first met him.  He was very much into Eastern Philosophy and he gave me a lot of books. I definitely became interested and have been practicing Yoga Meditation now for 35 years.  It’s dramatically changed my life. I try to live my life in a spiritual way, as best I can. That’s what’s great about it.

    “In India they say, ‘Don’t accept the concept of God until you have actually had the experience of that.’ You get the experience through deep meditation. That’s what I’ve been doing for these last 35 years and it’s true.  It works like mathematics if you practice it.  It’s just a different level – it’s a different commitment thing that you have that manifests in all parts of your life.”

    While discussion faith, I mention that I’m reminded of the great quote by Blaise Pascal in which he states something to the effect that we all have a God-shaped void in our being.

    Wright responds enthusiastically.

    “Absolutely! Especially with young kids now, because growing up without a concept of God is so hard with the world as it is now. With all the violence and all the negation, the drugs and all that’s around, kids are lost unless they have a fundamental concept of God or religion.  All the religions I see are all the many different rivers flowing into the same ocean. It’s which one you choose to take.”

    In discussing the “lack of center” in kids today with regards to faith or even music that inspires action like there was when we were kids growing up, I comment that kids today seem aimless.

    “You’re absolutely right. I think a lot of it is that there are not a lot of heroes like there were then - like Crosby, Stills and Nash and Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, and the Beatles, of course – people who had lyrical messages and people who stood behind them.

    “Now you find that the business is dominated by entertainers rather than songwriter/artist.  A lot of the artists don’t even write their own songs. It becomes trivialized. They’re great singers and they’re great dancers but they’re not artists in the true sense of the word in so much that they’re not writing a lot of their own material.  You’ll find some people who are. That makes it more difficult.

    “We live in a world with so much competition for the entertainment dollar with cell phones and video things, there’s very little attention span.  ADD is almost rampant as an epidemic amongst young kids. They’re over stimulated and they don’t concentrate.  They don’t sit down – well, you remember! You used to sit down and listen to an album and turn the lights down and totally get into it.  Now, you play one song and then on to the next thing, on to my widget, blah, blah, blah! It’s just so fast!”

    Are there any artists today who command Gary’s attention?

    “I will turn on, sometimes, some public radio stations. We have one here in L.A. called KCRW and they have some cool, interesting, young artists who are making some very interesting music but you never hear it.  This is very eclectic.

    “So, it’s there but, unfortunately, the way the business has turned into this huge marketing machine based on the American Idol generation, you’re not going to hear a lot of that kind of stuff unless you dig for it and really know how to do it.

    “The good news is that, as kids become more and more aware of the choices out there and start getting into older artists.  I see little kids that have heard Led Zeppelin or the Stones for the first time that think they’re new artists and don’t know the difference.  You don’t know when you hear something on the radio.  They don’t say, ‘This was recorded in 19-whatever’, you know? That’s the good news and I think, ultimately, people are going to use the internet as a giant jukebox and be able to choose the stuff that they want to hear.

    “And, like I mentioned before about the taste-maker aspect, the degree that those websites are around that you trust what they have on their site and the content, I think that’s going to be a real big – that’s the new record company model.”

    Photo by Rob Shanahan

    In responding to my question about what he sees as positive changes in the music business, Gary Wright provides intuitive insight into the machinery.

    “Well, I think one thing is that artist are taking control of their careers and are not being ripped off by major labels like they used to be so much. Now artists are just saying, ‘I’m not going to release anything on a major label. I’m going to do it myself.

    “It’s a bolder step.  You don’t have the machinery of the big labels but the labels can’t offer that anymore like they used to be able to. So, now, every artist’s is a self-contained entity, which is good, in a way, because you’re your own record company. It becomes a lot more work and time consuming because you’ve got to go out and market, promote and do all of that. So, that, I think, is ultimately a good thing because there were a lot of artists who were just so badly mistreated by labels, getting ridiculously low royalties and don’t have anything to say  for the success or fame they had.”

    With our time already having expired by at least twenty minutes, I ask one final question of the iconic, musical genius: Are we going to have to wait another 20 years before we see another album from him?

    With his ever-present, pleasant chuckle he responds, “No. No, I would say it will be more like another 4 or 5 (years) or even less. I do have a project that I want to do and that’s to write a book because I think I have a lot of stories and experiences that I would like to share with my fans. I will do that, probably, next and then I’ll do a new album.”

    Now THAT’S a book I look forward to reading!

    After our chat, I clasped my hands behind my head, leaned back in my chair and digested the incredible conversation I had with Gary Wright.  What an incredible talent with an intriguing story to tell!

    And, as I reflected on what had just transpired, Dream Weaver was playing on iTunes and I closed my eyes as, in my mind’s eye, I was once again driving down dark, country roads in the Arizona night, conjuring up big dreams and remembering once again that anything is possible.

  • John Waite

    Posted May, 2012

    If you’ve been listening to rock and roll since the late seventies, then John Waite is no stranger to you. He was the face and voice of The Babys with whom he enjoyed Top 20 successes with their hits, Isn’t It Time and Every Time I Think of You.

    Since those days, John has gone on to a successfully satisfying solo career that last year launched his tenth studio album (on top of two live and two compilation albums). That tenth album, entitled Rough and Tumble, is enjoying radio and, for the last year and continuing, is being supported by a world-wide tour.  Because that tour is bringing Waite to my area of the world (Dallas, Texas, May 8th, Poor David’s Pub), I had the good fortunate to be able to have a phone interview with Waite arranged for me by the promoter.

    Waite called me from his home in Southern California at what I thought would be awfully early for a rock and roller in his time zone. He quickly let me know otherwise.  “No!  No! No! No!  That’s a myth!  I leap out of bed when the sun comes up!  I do!”

    We cut right to the chase by talking about John’s Rough and Tumble tour.  He said of the tour, “It’s been great! We’ve been on it for a year. We’ve been all over Europe and all over America. For the first half of it we were joined by Matchbox 20’s guitar player, Kyle Cook. We have a number one single on radio with Rough and Tumble and the response in Europe is very pleasing. We played in my home town, which was incredible. It was a whole different ballgame than playing anywhere else.

    “But, it’s been great. We enjoy what we do. We’ve been taking off a couple of weeks here and there and then going back out for a couple of weeks and looking at the summer. The summer is going to be interesting because we might go overseas again like Australia and Japan. We just might tour through America. There’s just so much up in the air right now. It’s hard to say.”

    I have listened to “Rough and Tumble” several times and I have to say with all sincerity – it’s great!  My personal favorites are If You Ever Get Lonely, Skyward and Further the Sky.  I asked John if he had a sense as to which song is the audience’s favorite.

    “I think If You Ever Get Lonely – people have been cutting it. I think it’s coming out on a couple of different records. It’s interesting to see that. Basically, it’s a beautiful song. It’s a little dark but sincere, you know?”

    While sharing with me what the response has been like to the album, Waite said, “Well, like I said, we have a number one single but the music business is absolutely upside down. I don’t know if it’s going to be one of those things where we keep putting records out to give you an excuse to tour. I don’t think since everybody’s downloading music now – and quite a lot of it’s for free – it isn’t substantial. You put a record out – like I said, it went number one on the radio and we sold big numbers. It’s like all the fans have it and then you’re there playing all the hits which you have to do as well.

    “So I don’t know which end of the music business I’m in other than I’m looking forward to playing! It’s a good thing to make a successful record and it’s a great thing to be able to sing with people that play well and make a life as a musician. Apart from that the music business is completely out of its head at the moment.”

    Because Waite lamented the state of the music business, I asked him what he would do to fix it if he were appointed its czar.

    “I love that!  ‘Czar’.  I do!  I like that. Good choice of words!  I like it!  Um, what would I do? Well, I think it’s sort of being done. Twenty years ago people were signed to record contracts and they gave you an advance to make a record. Then you went in and made the record and then they paid you 14 points of the profit. They kept eighty-five percent and they charged you back for everything!  Manufacturing, photography, promotion, dinners, backhanders, bribes, drugs, whatever. They charged you back for everything. It was very unfair.

    “Now, with the internet and iTunes, you can make a record and you can put it up there. If you’re a small band in a small town you can actually achieve a world wide release by doing it yourself. What I do is make a record – and I make it at a pretty high standard because that’s what I do – but I license it to record companies and they distribute it around the world or different territories. But the fact that anybody can go online now and download music, a record of that is kept so iTunes has to pay the artists. It bypasses a lot of the record companies. I don’t think it’s as dishonest of a business as it was because people have more of a voice. Surely that’s what it must be about!

    “Some guy chomping on a cigar, sitting behind a desk, telling you that he doesn’t hear a single doesn’t really work for me. It never did. So, I’m quite happy that I have the freedom I’ve got now. I never needed a big record company to make big records. And you actually get paid now. The record company’s job was not to pay the artists. They would give you the advance and you might as well say, ‘Thanks for the memories’ and then disappear because, apart from the publishing checks and the air play checks, they’re not going to pay you if they can help it. It was just the way the record business was run. It was a ridiculous thing that people could be that dishonest but it’s the truth and it’s how it worked.”

    With over 30 years in the rough and tumble world of the music business and a lot of albums under his belt, I asked John how was working on Rough and Tumble different – as well as the same – as compared to his other recordings.

    “Well, the fact that you can record digital and not cut two inch tape with a razor blade at three in the morning. It’s very primitive to do that. Digital recording has come so far now – just so far! It’s almost impossible to tell the difference whereas fifteen years ago everything that was digital sounded incredibly ‘tinny’ and had less aspects of sound – sonic frequency – in the music. It just didn’t have it. It was a more limited rendition of sound.

    “During the first half of Rough and Tumble, we met in a songwriting room in Nashville with David Thoener – the co-producer and he’s a very, very good engineer/producer – and he helped me and Kyle navigate through working in broom closets and storage rooms and singing live in the room to save money. But we did go into a studio called Treasure Island and knocked out the drums and bass. In and out very quick . . . and that was done in analog, I think.

    “The second half of the record was made in four days. I cut seven tracks in four days in this small studio in Thousand Oaks in California – just hell-for-leather! It was kind of like, ‘I’m just going to finish this thing if it kills me.’ I went into the studio the day before. We wrote Rough and Tumble ­ - the track itself. I pulled in a couple of old songs and rearranged them. Did a Tina Turner song and, hey!  Presto! I almost gave myself a nervous breakdown and wore myself out.

    “But the difference now is if you really want an album quickly and you’re focused, you can do it almost as quickly as you think to the end product. It’s just so fast!  That means to me that you can capture a lot of emotion and live performance without having to deal with, again, two inch tape and a very primitive set-up.

    “When  you look back at what The Babys went through in the studio, trying to capture things on two inch tape and mixing down all the time and transferring performances to virgin tape so that it wouldn’t get worn out by being rolled over a recording head. I mean, it’s gigantic work! While being in the studio, you should be in free-fall. You just feel like doing it. You record it, thank you and good night!

    “And, besides, not to whine on about this, but the analog sound is a precious thing and it’s very much about a certain period. We live in a digital world now and the music of the digital world is cut digitally. And to keep going back – and it’s an anachronistic kind of view of, like, maybe it’s going to sound like yesterday, why? It was great yesterday. It’s been done. You can go and buy those records and it sounds wonderful!  But I feel that the problem might be here is to sound like we’re in the present day and still be authentic! That’s exactly what I’m trying to say with my music. I’m trying to sound authentic in the present day without having to be referred as being from a different period.”

    At the risk of sounding as though I was patronizing him, I offered to John that I strongly believed that the music buying public is hungry for something “present day” that is built on a classic rock foundation much like he’s done with Rough and Tumble.

    “If I could hear that from somebody, then I know that I’ve done it successfully.  I mean, that’s exactly what I was trying to do. I was not trying to become something else to be successful. I’ve seen people do that in their careers. They go off and be ‘disco’ for five minutes. But I wanted to do something that was like Evil is almost like Miss You by the Stones . . . it sounds like somebody’s really out of their mind and he’s sexy because of that. He’s very seventies and very Studio 54.

    “Peace of Mind is like this song that’s based on Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf and he has a monologue in it where I’m talking and telling a story as the song begins. That’s heavy stuff, you know, when you have other bands that are doing the same old stuff from thirty years ago and trying to sound like 30 years ago.

    “My job as a musician – as a writer – is to try and push out into different areas. I think that this album did it. Some of it is very produced like Peace of Mind because that’s what was needed for this song to rock but the track is cut live.  I used all I could in the studio to be clever with that, capture the live sound but keep it like a movie. Rough and Tumble is just a three piece band and a singer and that’s what I really love the most, I suppose.”

    Earlier, Waite had alluded that his hometown crowd was a different kind of experience. I reached back to that comment and I asked him if he found that crowds in different parts of the U.S. or the globe react differently.

    “No, the European audiences are extremely different. The Dutch and the Germans stand there and check you out and you better throw down!  They know every syllable. They know where you’re coming from. They have all the old records. They have the new records. They have records that you didn’t think did too well. They know what you’re doing up there. There’s nowhere to hide.

    “A couple of years ago on stage in London, I was in Camden at the Underworld and I was singing Isn’t It Time and I was thinking, ‘Well, this is all very nice but I’ve got so much more to offer than a song book.’ I mean, it’s beautiful to go out there and do a song that makes the audience erupt. There’s nothing quite like it because you’ve earned it. It’s one of your songs. What do you want to do, not play it?

    But the idea is to do half of the songs that the people expect and the other half – that’s going to be anything I can think of before I go on stage to shake things up. That’s what all the great bands used to do. I remember when I went to go see The Who and the Small Faces and Free and Family at Lancaster University when I was about sixteen. Imagine seeing The Who! Imagine it and being that impressionable and you’re just dabbling in psychedelics and finding your feet as a young man and there’s The Who! And that is enough to blow your hair back and your mind right out of the room. That’s what we all came for.

    “I feel that there has to be a part of a performance where you’re flying by the seat of your pants and if that isn’t in the performance . . .” At that point, Waite interrupted himself and opened the curtains of today’s rock and roll Oz by saying, “Unfortunately, a lot of the bands – the arena rock bands – play along to tapes. They just do it. They do it because they ain’t got what it used to be. They come out with all the keyboards and all the harmonies and sometimes a lot of the lead vocals, it’s just pre-recorded. You stand there and you watch these bands lip-sync. I can’t imagine anything more dishonest or dreadful. They think so little of the audience that they would do that but they do.”

    I mentioned that legendary singer, Mitch Ryder, told me the same thing about German audiences. Waite excitedly commented about Ryder.

    “I saw him play in Michigan last year and he was something else! He was every bit as good as he used to be!  It was like, ‘HELLO!’ It was really a throw down! I was thinking that it was going to be on the edge but it wasn’t.  He was totally in control.”

    I asked John if he knew – from his side of the microphone – which songs from Rough and Tumble the crowds seem to enjoy the most at his shows.

    “As I expected, maybe, Rough and Tumble because it got so much air play and knocked everybody out of the way to get to number one. So, they know it. They know it in Europe and they know it in America.  The one that seems to bring everyone to a grand stop is If You Ever Get Lonely. I think it’s because the song is that good. But from the moment we start to play it the place tends to go quiet. I don’t know if it’s because they’ve heard it before or because it’s that kind of song but those two songs just really seem to kill people”

    After listening to Rough and Tumble a few times, I would argue that tunes like If You Ever Get Lonely, Skyward, and Hanging Tree would be great candidates for the air play on country radio.  I asked Waite about that possibility.

    “I don’t differentiate between whatever is country – or classic country – or rock and roll. There was a time that it was all the same thing. That’s what I like the best. I have a lot of country influence – especially western songs as a kid – country and western but the western end of it. So, yeah, it’s in the consciousness. I worked with Alison Krauss a few years ago and spent a great deal of time in Nashville and got to meet a lot of very serious country people. I sat down and talked to Dolly Parton and hung out with Vince Gill and Larry Sparks and the Del McCoury Band. It’s (country music) very authentic. Rock and roll? You can’t tell anymore.”

    Some artists who have enjoyed a long, successful and distinguished career as John enjoys often feel that there’s something else they still need to accomplish that they haven’t already. When I asked Mr. Waite if there was anything he’s yet to accomplish, his reply revealed a man who is both comfortable in his own skin and has an understandable pride in the work he’s already accomplished.

    “I’m afraid that I’ve done everything that I thought I was going to do. I think I’ve been number one a couple of times in two different entities – when I was in The Babys which was kind of a cutting edge band – certainly the first version. I made a few mistakes. But I’ve basically succeeded. Missing You was number one around the world and was regarded as a piece of art. I didn’t sell out. I still make music. I think I’m pretty happy.”

    John Waite has worked with many talented people, from the likes of Alison Krauss to Ringo Starr.  I asked him who he would like to work with that he hasn’t worked with already.

    “Well, not many.  Maybe some people from bluegrass. I really like bluegrass music and that kind of poetry. That’s the magic of song: it’s all inter-connected. But things happen naturally with me. I don’t go after things like career moves. People come to me and say, ‘Hey, do you want to sing this song with me or do you want to do this session or can I play with you on this gig?’ It all works out. I’m not a business man.”

    On the subject of a follow-up to Rough and Tumble, Waite said, “We usually travel for two and a half or three years after a record. There is talk of doing a live album towards the end of the year with special guests showing up. There’s a location that we’re checking out now. It’s wide open. I’m sure that we’re going to have a very, very busy year playing live and it would be nice to record towards the end because we’ll probably be firing on all cylinders by then.”

    What can fans expect from one of Waite’s shows during this tour - especially here in Dallas at Poor David’s Pub?

    “You have the boundaries of a three piece band. It’s pretty rockin’. We touch on all the songs you might expect. We do try to make things interesting and bring nearly all the new stuff. The people that show up to hear the music seem to know it so it’s pretty loose. We may change direction right in the middle of a set. It’s a pretty good time!”

    John Waite undoubtedly has many, many more years of music left in him to create.  That said, I asked him if he has any thoughts about what he hopes his legacy will be and how he’ll be remembered when he’s no longer on this planet rocking the world stages.

    “Well, I feel that would be ego-trippin’ to start talking about how you want to be remembered. It’s like having a gravestone . . . though I’ll probably have a gravestone. It’s the whole idea of being buried. But I think that if I have moved somebody or made somebody pick up the guitar themselves or become a writer of some sort, I’ve passed it along to somebody and I think that’s important. I think that to inspire somebody else is the highest thing that you can bring to a life.

    “People inspired my life since I was a kid – from country singers to western singers to blues singers to rock n’ roll singers, songwriters, writers of literature, political people, people that made a difference in the world and actually really changed people or elevate people – if only for a brief moment.”

    Then, with obvious and sincere humility, he added, “I’m just, at the end of the day, a singer/songwriter. If I could’ve lifted somebody up with a song during my time here, I think that’s pretty good!”

  • Kinky Friedman Speaks His Mind

    Posted April, 2016

    Kinky Friedman. Maybe some of you have heard of him. I’d describe him as the Will Rogers of our day. He is hands down one of the most entertaining and colorful people I’ve had the privilege of interviewing. Ever.

    Friedman is one of the most gifted writers of any kind (music, literature, or punditry) I’ve ever read or met. Admittedly, a lot of what he has to say my singe the most sensitive of listeners. However, what he does say – and how he says it – is the most logically thought provoking words you’re ever likely to hear.

    Kinky FriedmanPhoto by Brian Kanof

    An accomplished singer, songwriter, and pundit, Kinky recently released his latest CD, The Loneliest Man I’ve Ever Met and I had the honor of chatting with Kinky by phone at his ranch about this album.

    Before we started the official interview, Kinky slid into describing the kind of tour that he was about to embark on shortly after our chat.

    “This is a tour on the Hank Williams level as far as driving is concerned. We’re performing 35 back-to-back shows with no nights off and that’s done deliberately to produce the affect that we’re running on pure adrenaline. It’s the idea that will make the show purer and rawer. We’ll see.”

    Friedman ran as an Independent for the governor’s office in Texas, securing about 12% of the vote. Because of that, I asked him what he makes of the presidential contenders in both parties and what does he make of the news of Boehner having resigned earlier that day.

    “None of it’s terrifically important. I feel that being a musician is such a higher calling than being a politician, anyway, having been both. I think Mark Twain had it right that in America, we have no criminal class except the U.S. Congress. I think he’s correct on that. I think they’re all pretty weak. I think that if musicians ran the place, we’d be in a lot better shape. I know it would, in fact. We wouldn’t get a hell of a lot done in the mornings but we’d work late . . . AND, we’d be honest!”

    I was caught completely off guard by his comments so I asked him how, exactly, that would work out and what would really get accomplished if musicians ran our government.

    “Say that I had won the governor’s race – a race that I won in every place but Texas in 2006 – let’s say I won and I appointed a number of musician friends to run various aspects of the state. I think you’d have decent people and, you know when you talk about occupations? Have you ever been in a room full of lawyers or real estate people or politicians – whatever – doctors, even, you don’t get that kind of decent feeling that you get when you have a group of musicians together.

    “And, they’re problem solvers. They’re creative and, by and large, they’re decent people. The politicians have been corrupt before they even got into politics. They were hall monitors or something in elementary school. They were starting early.

    “I’m telling ya, Randy, it’s a kind of bad person that is drawn to politics and that’s exactly what JFK did not want. He’s one of the guys like you and me that got into it to help the country. It’s a thankless waste of time in a lot of ways because the crowd always picks Barabbas. The crowd shouts, ‘Free Barabbas! Kill Jesus!’ They do it every time.

    “So, that’s where we’re at and it’s been that way ever since. You give them a chance to elect an Obama or a Rick Perry, and they will . . . or a Jerry Brown or an Arnold Schwarzenegger, whoever – that guy will slip right through. But the Nelson Mandela’s and the Lincoln’s and the Churchill’s – that’s usually a fluke when they’re elected. It’s a twist of fate that gets them there.”

    This begged the question as to whether or not Kinky saw a Churchill or Mandela in today’s political circles.

    “Hell, no! Do you? Tell me where he is! No, I don’t. I was talking the other day about being a struggling songwriter and how really a beautiful thing that is to be – although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, maybe. But it is. It’s a wonderful thing to be. And to care enough about stuff like watch a movie twenty years ago and watching Willie Nelson signing autographs in the rain; a long line of people there along side his bus, it’s raining and he’s standing out there in the rain and they’re standing in the rain and he’s staying right with them. That was nice to see – autographs in the rain. All we’re talking about is inspiration!”

    Since we were mixing entertainment and politics, I asked Friedman if he thought that the entertainment industry was in the role of the dance band on the Titanic.

    “That’s an interesting thought. Well, that’s very possible. Speaking of the Titanic, one of my campaign slogans was ‘The professionals gave us the Titanic and the amateurs gave us the ark,’ which is partly true. Yeah, we might be listening to the dance band. Ha! Ha! It’s very possible. But I think we’re probably more resilient than that. I think that life is kind of like a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

    “I don’t know if you the story about Nelson Mandela listening to ‘Ride ‘Em Jewboy’ in his prison cell on Robben Island. There’s nothing as farfetched as that, I would think. I mean, when I first heard that, I really could not believe it. If you had told me that he had listened to Bob Dylan there. That they smuggled in a tape, well, that’s not even a story, okay? But the idea that he did get tapes smuggled in and one of them was my first record, ‘Sold American,’ which he had not ordered specifically. It was just whatever they could give him, you know? And, on that record, the song that he played every night late, late, before he went to bed was ‘Ride ‘Em Jewboy’ and this is from the guy in the next prison cell who was his right hand man who they put right next to Mandela in the next cell. That is amazing. That almost makes it all worthwhile. It’s remarkable.

    “The question was posed to me would I’d rather be a guy making millions playing in stadiums all over the country or would I rather know that a song I’d written was listened to by Nelson Mandela in his prison cell. The guy who asked me that said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you my choice, Kinky. I’d rather be you.’ Of course, I’m older than that guy. I gotta think about my goals as a young man which were to be fat, famous, financially fixed, and a faggot by fifty. Some of them I’ve achieved.”

    It’s hard to believe that it’s been 39 years since his last album, “Lasso From El Paso”. I asked Kinky what so long to come out with a new studio album.

    “Probably because life gets in the way. That pure place, Nashville, of the 60’s and 70’s, I was born a little too late on that one – to hang around Willie and the guys. But it was still a really cool place. Also, politics keeps intruding. It’s an addiction. Recently, Jamey Johnson, the singer, came up to me and suggested that we run on a ticket. I would run for governor of Texas and he would run for Lieutenant Governor and it would be the Kinky Johnson ticket.”

    I refrained from laughing because I didn’t know if he was joking. He obviously was.

    Continuing on . . .

    “Life does get in the way. The animal rescue takes time. I suffer from the curse of being multi-talented. Writing books – more than thirty, now, that I’ve written. That takes time. It’s really been thirty-two years since I recorded and I didn’t see it going anywhere. This record has surprised me because I wasn’t expecting all that much. I don’t know the answer to that. If I saw that people were actually hearing stuff.

    “There’s more buzz on this record than any record I’ve ever done except the very first one. This one sounds better. I attribute that – or I blame. Whatever goes wrong, I blame Brian Molnar – the producer who’s from New Jersey. So, he brings down this New Jersey kid named Joe Cirotti – who decimated my liquor cabinet. The kid – of course, a 47-year-old man could be a kid to me – but this kid did great! He really did some beautiful guitar work which is fortunate because that’s almost the only instrument on the record, it’s that sparse. What is added to it, then, is the harmonica genius of Mickey Raphael – Willie’s harp player. The Little Jewford played keyboards on ‘A Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis’ and ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square’ – two songs with long titles.

    “Jewford is a Jew and he drives a Ford. But other than them – there’s a little bit of stand-up bass put on the record and that’s about it. Even the Willie cut was very sparse. All of it was kind of spontaneous – the Frank Sinatra method. If you don’t get it on one take, we’ll try two and after that, **** ‘em and feed ‘em Fruit Loops, you know? After that, to hell with it.

    “We have a really good cut, actually, that we didn’t put on this, which is Mickey Newberry’s ‘San Francisco Mabel Joy’. That is a killer cut but, you know, enough’s enough. The album borders on the melancholy, perhaps. I think melancholy is very important. It’s a linkage between classical music and really great country music. I mean, anybody wants to be an artist better than others.

    “Step one is to be miserable. Not unhappy or you’re not going to create anything. That’s pretty sure. You look at the guys now and go, ‘Well, how come Bob Dylan or Kristofferson or Willie is not writing at the level that they used to write at? How come we’re not getting ‘Hello Walls’ or ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ or ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ out of those guys?’ I do think it’s an interesting question and I would say that, probably, enough success and fame will distance you from your art. That’s for sure. So you can show up. You still do shows. The shows can be inspiring and great. I don’t mean to take away from these guys because if you want to get inspired, Randy, you and I could go around and see bands all day and we wouldn’t. We’d see a lot of derivative bands with really good musicians, perhaps. So, the guy sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughan. So the guy sounds like Roger Miller. That’s not what we’re looking for, here. I mean, we’re looking for an original.

    “Maybe the gene pool is just dried up of talent. I don’t know. There’s a hell of a lot of good musicians and their hearts are in the right place. They want to be Townes Van Zandt when they grow up. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, for some reason, where Willie says all the dreams go down in Nashville – the kid with a pickup truck and guitars and a suitcase full of song lyrics. That’s where he goes. But, unfortunately, when he gets there, he sees that the guys making records and making all the money and all the success is going to guys their religion is click tracks and songs written by committee of four and five people. It sounds like background music for frat parties. Other than that, it’s fine.

    “I kinda took a page from ‘Red Headed Stranger’. This is real sparse. It’s stripped down to the soul. On many of the cuts - there’s no drums on anything. There’s no bass on anything. Some of it’s out of sync – out of rhythm. That is a deliberate effect.

    “On ‘Bloody Mary Morning,’ we want that to sound like it’s done in a West Texas bar room and that it’s spontaneous. We want that to come off. Now, listening to it, it’s close plus we’ve got a great couple of passages by the jazz cowboy, Willie Nelson, on Trigger (Nelson’s fabled, beat up acoustic guitar). Trigger rides again on this. That song, Willie told me, that Glen Campbell gave Willie twenty-five thousand dollars - back in the old days when it was a hell of a lot of money – so he would publish all of Willie’s songs for that year. The problem was that year Willie only wrote one song and Glen was not happy about that. The song was ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ which did not knock Glen’s **** to his watch pocket but it’s always been right up there with one of my favorite Willie songs AND it’s kind of a leg opener for the record.

    “I had a girlfriend years ago that used to refer to Jagermeister as a great leg opener. Now this (Bloody Mary Morning) is a leg opener. It gets you into the record. It’s pretty good standing alone, actually, ‘cause, I guess, it’s pretty raw. That idea of Willie’s about never taking a night off when you’re out there – that’s very interesting. That’s what we’re trying to do. I’ve done it for as many as sixteen shows in Europe before. It makes you really raw and pure – especially if you’re doing something solo like that. You start hearing ‘Jesus’ and ‘Johnny Appleseed’ and ‘Richard Pryor’ calling you. Hank Williams. It’s like Hank Williams opening for Mozart. It really elevates the experience and you operate on the Hank Williams level because you get out of Dodge every night that way. I’m a kind of guy that likes to – I’m prepared to be a Wal-Mart greeter if my career goes south.”

    When I commented that I would really like to see him as a greeter at Wal-Mart, Kinky didn’t miss a beat in responding.

    “Well, I like people! I think it’s a spiritual thing. I think Wal-Mart greeters are imitations of Jesus. They’re certainly closer to Jesus than politicians are. I mean, politicians say all the right words but all the Wal-Mart greeter says is, ‘How can I help you?’ and usually with a friendly smile.”

    Then, circling back to the CD and supporting tour, Friedman concluded:

    “I’m kinda jazzed about this. It’s hard to get excited when you’re seventy years old and I can’t get my head around the idea that I’m seventy. Of course, I do read at the seventy-two-year-old level. We will see how this all transpires.”

    Then, out of the blue, he adds:

    “I wish that I could still be a struggling songwriter. I think that’s one of the highest callings – being a legitimate, struggling songwriter. I guess they’re there but Nashville has seemed to me to be very a very corporate place now. That’s why the song, ‘Tompall Glaser’ – he epitomizes the way it used to be. You know, Tompall – as well as singing backup for Marty Robbins on ‘El Paso’ with his brothers – did not have to be an outlaw. He didn’t have to fall in with Willie and Waylon ‘cause he was already King of the Hill with the establishment. But he did. That meant opening up his studio at all hours of the night because of crazy people. All kinds of things. I think he burned a lot of bridges with that. He’s kind of an unsung hero in that regards because Willie and Waylon had nothing to lose at that point.”

    We had long since left his aforementioned “leg opener” remark so I had forgotten that Kinky had already answered my unasked question regarding which of the songs would he use as a calling card to people to entice them to want to buy “The Loneliest Man I Ever Met.” I led into the question by acknowledging that he had a few covers on the disc. He interrupted me by saying,

    “We prefer to call them interpretations! Well, I mean, if Tony Bennett records ‘Girl From The North Country’, that would be a cover. With me, I never really had a recording style – not recording in thirty-two years. I think ‘Girl From The North Country’ would be halfway between Bob Dylan and Kinky Friedman. That’s where it is. So, it’s not quite ‘cover’, although, yes, you are correct. Some of them are important or significant like Warren Zevon’s ‘My **** ****ed Up’ or ‘My bleeps bleeped up’. Ha! Ha! A song written by a guy dying of cancer but a bigger song than that because it aptly describes the world today. Really a good description of where we’re at. It’s kind of a visionary song. In a Zen way, the doctor is Jesus Christ.”

    Then, answering my “calling card” question, he adds:

    “I would personally point them to ‘Pickin’ Time’. Johnny Cash’s song that almost nobody appears to know. Are you familiar with that one, Randy? I tell you, I’ve talked to Johnny Cash fans and they’ve never heard it! It is a song – again, it’s kinda like Warren Zevon’s song – those songs are very different. It’s not about a guy looking forward to hauling his cotton into town. It’s more than about pickin’ cotton. We all have a pickin’ time, you know? We damn sure better take advantage of it when pickin’ time comes.

    “Then, again, ‘Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis’ is just a beauty. It’s interesting. That song has a real linkage to country music in that the whole song is a lie. The entire song is a fabrication just like you or I would say our career was not doing well. You ask a songwriter in Nashville, ‘How are things going for you?’ and they’ll say, ‘Great! We’ve got five new songs that they’re gonna record now’ and it’s all bull****. It’s all puttin’ up a front, you know? And we all do that – not as transparently as the hooker in Minneapolis – or a elaborately – but we all do that. Only the last lines of the song are true. ‘I need to borrow money to pay this lawyer. And, Kinky, hey, I’ll be eligible for parole come Valentine’s Day.’ I think it’s Tom Waits’ best song. And ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ is one of Willie’s.

    “As sure as I’m telling you right now, Randy, I go around Texas here, talking to people in their thirties and they’re not sure if they’ve ever heard ‘Bloody Mary Morning.’ They don’t know who wrote it. The people don’t ******* know this.

    “So, yeah, this record is personal. It’s not written to educate anybody. It’s written for a silent witness. That’s who it’s written for – who is either a dead sweetheart or a lost cat – both of which I have in my life. Yeah, and by the way, my animal rights group takes a lot of time.

    “If you’re just into one thing – like Willie is just into the music. Well, three areas: music, drugs, and golf. I find golf stuffifyingly dull and the only two good balls I’ve hit were when I stepped on the garden rake. And, pot, I only smoke it when I’m with Willie. It’s a form of Texas etiquette and I sure smoked it on Bloody Mary Morning because, I tell ya, I can’t believe that he could even hold his guitar on that. I’m tellin’ ya, the song sounded to me like it was an hour and a half long. I started tellin’ him, ‘Willie, this is going on too long.’ It’s under three minutes. It REALLY throws my timing off. But he’s just pickin’ away there. That one was two takes.”

    Kinky then proceeded to tell me the back story about how he got Willie involved on “Bloody Mary Morning.”

    “Well, I did kind of a dirge like version of ‘Bloody Mary Morning’, which I really liked but it’s really slow. It’s real slow. You hear some lyrics that most people haven’t heard because nobody’s listening because he sings it so damn fast. But there’s some really nice lyrics in there.

    “So, anyway, Willie didn’t like that take. He thought it was too slow. I was just doing it without Willie there. I played it for Willie and he didn’t like it. His people said, ‘Willie wants to do something you’ll both be proud of.’ I talked to him and he said, ‘Let’s do something more engaging. More upbeat.’ So, that’s what we did.

    “Again, it was a Frank Sinatra style – not using any particular charts or anything like that. What the record mostly is, I think, is intimate. We brought down a big microphone. It was that easy. Everybody can use a big microphone and sound great. It’s just an old fashion microphone. It was done in a little house here on the ranch. Joe on guitar and Mickey on harp. I couldn’t believe the sound! How good the sound is. On the other hand, it is stripped down to the soul so I don’t know if radio is going to play it. The problem is that it’s a Miley Cyrus world. That’s the problem and how you break through that white noise is the question.

    “So, not only do we shout out, ‘Free Barabbas! Free Jesus!’ but we’re all complicit in burying Mozart in a pauper’s grave. So, I don’t really know what we can do except to strive to be a struggling songwriter. I’m doing it with this tour. This is a privilege to me to be able to be out there and play to people who almost all of them are younger than the songs. In many of these places, I’ll be the oldest guy in the place. A lot of young people could not do thirty-five consecutive shows when you’re driving five hours, six hours, seven hours to the gig and playing. Then, getting out of Dodge afterwards after you meet everybody and all of that.

    “People say really interesting things. Switzerland and Austria were terrific. I’m the new David Hasselhoff there. The thinking man’s David Hasselhoff. The audiences are very young there but they know all the songs. They’ve read the books. You know, forty years after these songs have been written – some cases more than that – that’s remarkable to be able to do this. It’s a privilege to be able to go out and do this.

    “A teenager came up to me after a show on the last tour and he said, ‘Kinky, it’s so nice to see somebody enjoying his life.’ The kid didn’t know that I was in a tailspin of black despair at the time but he thought I was enjoying my life. Maybe I was. A little Jewish lady at the Jewish Community Center in Denver last year – she must’ve been four foot something – she was in her eighties or nineties – she toddled up to me and said, ‘Kinky, it’s so nice to have you on the planet.’ Then there was a guy in Texas that came up to me outside of Houston. This was not so long ago and I ended the show with, ‘They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore.’ He said, ‘Why did your people kill our lord?’ and I said, ‘Because the ************ had it comin’.’

    “That’s been something I’ve been telling on stage. I never thought I would because I thought people are not going to like this. It’s a little too much but the Christians absolutely love it. They’re, like, spitting up on themselves.”

    With so much discussed about Nashville and the state of music today – especially country music, I asked Kinky what he would do to fix the music business (if it was fixable) if he was made Music Czar.

    “I think ***** ****** up. It’s unfixable and I think the problem is a combination of political correctness and cultural A.D.D.

    “Again, I think you could put Hank Williams in with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor – they’d all be homeless people today. They would be homeless people if they were around. Hank would be just like Johnny Cash. He would not be able to get a record deal in Nashville, which is not surprising.

    “I don’t know if there’s been a good, standalone song that’s been written in decades there. If it has, it hasn’t emerged. There’s nothing against Toby Keith or Garth Brooks – I think Garth is the anti-Hank. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with those guys, especially. It’s just that when you’re writing in a corporate whore house with four other guys and you know that Garth is going to put his name on it or whoever wrote a little piece of it – all you can say is that this guy sounds like a young Billy Joe Shaver. You could say that’s a compliment. But, you don’t find anybody – except for geezers – that truly inspire and seem original. I guess that’s what I’m saying.

    “I’m saying you’ve gotta see a geezer! You gotta see Merle Haggard or Kris or Willie or Bob Dylan or Billy Joe Shaver. I guess there’s a few more but we’ve lost a lot of them. Levon Helm used to have that affect on me. I would watch Levon Helm play drums and sing and you’d come away saying, ‘**** that was rock and roll!’ That was a really good form of it.

    “Again, if inspiration is the source, we’re not getting it from the political landscape. I mean, if you look at the continent of Africa, do you see a bunch of Nelson Mandela’s popping up into leadership positions? Hell no! You see a bunch of corrupt, black leaders emulating what the white colonialists did. That’s all you see. Of course, in America, it’s not even worth mentioning. Look at all the candidates. Every damn one of them. We should have term limits for every elected official. I suggest two terms: one in office and one in prison. That would move the ball forward a little bit.

    “As music czar, how to get something by a handful of geezers to inspire people in the field of music. How do we do it? Willie is much more optimistic about Nashville than I am. Willie says that this is where people with there dreams go and I’m telling him that it’s like Haight-Ashbury. It’s over and when it’s over, it’s over. It would be stupid for me and Willie to go out on the sidewalk of the East Village in New York and play right now. Forty or fifty years ago, it would be cool.”

    When I asked if the old Nashville is the new Austin, Friedman said:

    “I call Austin ‘Dallas with guitars.’ It’s become very corporate. They never met a condominium they didn’t like. Randy, I’m serious. They have these meters they go around with – decibel meters – and they check the clubs for how loud the music is. That’s the reason why the people bought the condos in the first place, is the live music scene – excitement around that. Now, they’re shutting them down. Of course, they’re only shutting down the mom and pop places.

    “Anyway, I don’t know what the answer is. I mean, you do have to be miserable and frustrated to write in the first place. Maybe we’ve all changed, Randy? Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe this cultural A.D.D. has set in and we cannot listen to anything beyond not even a whole song. I really don’t know what the answer is except, shoot, the last time that I was in Nashville, they these three stories of bad music playing. It all sounded very similar. It sounded like this frat party music.

    “I’m not saying that country music has to remain heartbreak/lonesome whatever but there is that linkage. I’m tellin’ ya, I do think there’s that linkage between country and classical.

    As our call wrapped up, I asked Kinky Friedman how he wished to be remembered and what he hoped his legacy would be.

    “Well, I don’t know about that. I’ve said that, when I die, I want to be cremated and have my ashes thrown in Rick Perry’s hair. Now, Rick’s gotten out of the race so that one doesn’t really work, anymore, really.

    “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about what I want to remembered as. Any life that you look at too closely is a failure – particularly your own. If you look at people that you think were great men like Churchill and John Lennon, for instance, both were convinced that they were failures, you know, with good reason. I mean, Churchill won the war and they just pulled the rug out from under him. John Lennon was convinced that Paul McCartney was the genius of the Beatles. Paul did write a couple of great songs but John was the genius of the band.

    “I saw Ringo in Austin at a concert that he did there. I had a chance to talk to him. I knew him from the Bob Dylan tour and all of that. He played the voice of Jesus on my song, ‘Men’s Room L.A.’ – which I did not write. It was written by Buck Fowler. Anyway, I asked Ringo who his favorite Beatle was and he said John. I said, ‘Me, too, present company excluded, of course.’

    “But, now, the reason why he was the spiritual heavy weight was he inspired. Without him I doubt that they would’ve been an inspirational band. I mean, he reached people! That’s kinda what we’ve lost. Now we’ve got a president that is the Forrest Gump of all presidents. You would think that at least he could inspire but he can’t. I mean, he just can’t!

    “I don’t know. I guess on my tombstone, how about, ‘I aspire to inspire before I expire.’”

  • Mark Rivera (2012)

    Posted July, 2012

    Mark Rivera.  Perhaps only to the most die-hard music nuts like yours truly will the name immediately be familiar.  However, to any fan of rock and roll, you have definitely been touched by the music this incredible talented artist has been inextricably a part of.

    First and foremost, you would know Rivera’s work as the sax man for Billy Joel since 1982.  Prior to joining the piano man, Rivera worked with a long list of musical dignitaries. In 1975, he worked with John Lennon and Yoko in a tribute to Sir Lew Grade that turned out to be Lennon’s last TV performance.  Mark remembers that, for that gig, “Yoko Ono had us put on skull caps and have a replica of our face to show the duality of American society. So, we did that gig and I did a couple of TV shows with him and he produced a Gary U.S. Bonds record that I played on.”

    Mark went on to work with Sam and Dave as well as with Mutt Lange (“Mutt’s one of my favorite people in this business. I love him!”) and Foreigner on their groundbreaking Foreigner 4 album. In fact, Mutt, Lou Gramm, and Rivera sang all of the backing vocals on Juke Box Hero and Waiting on a Girl like You.

    In 1982, Mark joined Billy Joel’s band and has been with him ever since.  While working with Joel, he has shared the stage with the likes of Elton John during the Face 2 Face tour and, during the historic The Last Play at Shea concert, performed with greats like Don Henley, Steven Tyler, Tony Bennett, Roger Daltrey, John Mellencamp, John Mayer and Sir Paul McCartney.  When not working with Mr. Joel, Mark has worked with other greats like Hall & Oates, Peter Gabriel, and Simon & Garfunkel.

    Oh and there’s his current gig that he’s also held since the mid-nineties as music director for some guy named “Ringo Starr”.  Perhaps you’ve heard of him?  I didn’t think so.

    Mark and I became acquainted by way of our mutual friend, acclaimed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan, whose work Boomerocity features each and every month in our Photo of the Month feature. Rob is Ringo’s official photographer as well as a trusted friend and it’s through this association that Rob and Mark know each other.

    I was pleased to learn that Mark has been working on his first solo album ever and has just made the single available. Naturally, my ears perked up like a Doberman on that bit of news and so I knew that an interview with the sax man was certainly in order.  E-mails were exchanged and a time set as Mark was more than gracious enough to grant my request.

    I called Rivera at his hotel room in New York City in between gigs with Mr. Starr. As he was cleaning up and awaiting the arrival of the lovely Mrs. Rivera, we exchanged small talk about the tour and how it was all going in its early stages – including my question as to why the All-Starr tour wasn’t stopping in Dallas for the second year in a row.

    “Ah, I don’t know what’s up with that. We’re not going anywhere near Texas, in fact. I was hoping Austin, at least!  I know he (Ringo) loves Billy Bob’s and that’s in Fort Worth. I don’t know. I don’t know. But, what are ya gonna do?”

    After discussing the All-Starr tour, we shifted the focus over to Mark’s new single and his plans for supporting its release after the All-Starr tour.

    “Absolutely! What I’m going to be doing is pull some gigs together in the city (New York). I’ve got to put some final touches on my CD. I’ve got to do some vocals yet and couple of other things but nothing big but enough to get my happy butt busy, you know what I mean?”  But as for the complete album being released, Rivera adds, “It looks like it’s going to be more like October or into November, depending upon what the reality is. I’d rather get it right and spend the time to get it right than to push it and find out that I missed whatever part of it I wanted to get right.  I’m going to take my time and get it done.”

    The single that Mark was referring to is the rocker, Turn Me Loose (read the Boomerocity review of it here), and, boy does it rock with lots of great sax work (read the Boomerocity review of it here). I asked Mark to tell me a little bit about the song and how it all came to together.

    “That particular song – Jimmy Bralower is the producer and co-writer. He and I, we’ve been playing together forever. He kind of pushed me to even think of this project as a viable situation and that I should have a CD out. Because I’ve worked with so many people, it’s been difficult for me to actually spend the time to do it. Jimmy Bralower had a track with the guitar player, Jonny Gale and when I heard it, the first thing that I sang was ‘Turn Me Loose’.

    “Anyway, long story short, Jimmy Bralower was the push behind all this. He had a track of guitar and some loops – some percussion loops that he had put together – just a barren track. For some reason, the person he was working with didn’t jump on it. He played it for me down in the basement one night – this is before I even had a thought of really doing a CD. I started singing stuff immediately. In fact, ‘turn me loose’ was the first or second thing out of my mouth and he said, ‘Buddy!’ and he pressed his iPhone and we had a hook. That was the germ of the whole thing.

    “Again, everything took a long time because I was either touring with Billy or doing a bunch of corporate dates. But Jimmy said that we’ve got to up the ante and get into a real studio and get players. I wanted to use my very, very dear friend, Charley Drayton, the drummer. At the time, he was working with Simon and Garfunkel and then he was working in Australia with Cold Chisel and now, currently, he’s with Fiona Apple.  The guy is obviously very busy.

    “So, I kept pushing the date around and, finally, the stars lined up and Charlie was available and my other very dear friend, Steve Conte, the guitar player. He lives in Amsterdam and now he’s touring with Michael Monroe. So, we got in there in the studio and that song was ready to go. We cut eleven tracks, all told, in two days, which is pretty ambitious. But, look, we had the right guys and we had the right studio. We did it at Avatar, which is the old Power Station where I did Sledgehammer (with Peter Gabriel) which had some sentimental value to me – or some vibe to it. Everything else went along well.

    “That vocal in the room – as a scratch vocal – with the band and it ended up being the one on the record. If I remember right, Jimmy was upset with me because my favorite headphones are from another very dear friend of mine, John Grado, makes headphones.  Are you familiar with Grado Headphones?  They’re, like, state-of-the-art!  I love those phones and I had them on but they’re not meant for isolation. So, you have some drum leakage because I had the drums blasting in my ears. But I can’t sing his (Bralower’s) praises enough. Without him, this dream would’ve laid dormant forever. I guess that’s a long answer but that’s what got this thing going. I’m very, very proud of it and very pleased with the response I’ve been getting.”

    In another part of our conversation, Mark indicated that the album has been in the works since August of last year.  However, songs that wound up on the album were written long before then.  Rivera explained, “There’s one song called Hard to Let Go – which Jimmy and I wrote together and Nils Lofgren’s played on that one – that was written, believe it or not – man, this will frighten you – back in 1991.  I’ve always written songs. In fact, I have two more that I’m ready to go back into the studio with. Jimmy always says that, before the actual CD comes out, the last thing you put on is sometimes the best thing you do because you’re not always ready to do it in the beginning. So, I still think some of the best stuff is still there to go!”

    Then, almost as an afterthought, Mark added, “I’m 59 now and it’s pretty crazy to think that this is where I am now. I’ve done a lot of work with a lot of different people but this is my first solo album. This is the one!”

    With Rivera mentioning the fact that he’s worked with so many different people, I mentioned that he should write a book like one of his other sax-playing peers, Bobby Keys, recently did.

    “I have to tell ya, Bobby is in a position because of the people he’s worked with – this is really a compliment – he can say, ‘Hey, man, I can say it just like it was’ because he and Keith (Richards) were born on the same day – the same day, the same year. Pretty incredible. He can tell what it was like because he was in the thick of it all.

    “I really believe that – I don’t know if it’s karma or whatever – I really don’t want to say anything that would put anyone in a bad light. Unfortunately, people want to read about the dirt about who was messing with who and who was doing drugs. Look, there’s no halo over my head. I’m not proud of everything that I’ve done but I will say that I don’t feel the need to cash in on that. SO, if I was to write a book it would be a nice book and nice books don’t sell!  I love talking about things I’ve done and sharing stories but it’s a crazy world out there with all of the reality TV and stuff. People drive by an accident, they can’t help but keep looking. I just say, ‘Keep driving and be grateful that you’re not hurt.’  That’s how I feel.”

    In Mark’s forty year career, he has obviously worked on a ton of albums that had to have prepared him for his work on Common Bond.  I asked the sax man if, still, there were any surprises that he didn’t anticipate while working on the album.

    “Yeah, the amount of work that goes into it – the amount of effort to get things right. That’s why I’m so amazed when I hear or see the level of how prolific the Beatles were – how much they did in such a short span of time. It always blows my mind.  I think what’s really surprising is the result because it’s really a double-edged sword. I mean, I’m shocked, first of all, that anybody cares and then I’m even more shocked when I hear the stuff.

    “I’ve got to keep referring to Jimmy Bralower. He said, ‘When we mix these songs and work on these songs – and they’re like our children – you listen to them and until they’re at the stage that you feel so comfortable – you’re kind of holding your breath that something’s going to go wrong or that you’re going to hear something that you hate. When I finally heard the tracks in their final mix, I was then able to actually breathe! I’m not saying that my pitch is perfect or anything like that but there’s a great vibe, I think, and what’s being done with the song – it far surpasses anything – it exceeds my expectations far and away.”

    Then, drilling down to what really surprised him, Mark added, “The surprising part is that I actually did it! That’s probably the biggest surprise. And, not to sound corny, but the fact that I took the time. I mean, I’m a working guy. I work for my family. I take care of my family. The time that Jimmy allotted for me – he’s running around. He’s got his own record company – Dynotone Records. Hopefully, I’ll put this CD out on that. He’s everything!  So, the fact that he would take the time out – he’s like, ‘Buddy, we’ve got work to do!’  So, by the grace of God – and Jimmy Bralower – I got this thing done!”

    Rivera often lends his more than capable talents to very worthy causes and to help out friends in need.   A personal high point for him took place in January, 2007. Aninha Capaldi, the wife of the late Traffic co-founder, Jim Capaldi, tapped Mark as music director for the Jim Capaldi Tribute Concert at Roundhouse in London.  In that event, he worked with rock royalty such as the late Gary Moore, Steve Winwood, Joe Walsh, Jon Lord, Paul Weller, Bill Wyman, Yusuf Islam, Steve Lange, Ray Cooper, the Storys, Dennis Locorrieree.  Many of those performances were captured on the DVD, Dear Mr. Fantasy Featuring the Music of Jim Capaldi and Traffic: A Celebration for Jim Capaldi.

    These days, Rivera works with such worthy charities as the Red Cross, Cure Autism Now Foundation, The Miami Children’s Hospital and Michael J. Fox’s Foundation For Parkinson’s Research.  The passion that Mark has for his music is brought full-force to help these groups raise money for their causes.  As if that’s not enough, he, along with some of his musician friends, is developing a program designed to educate and motivate young people in inner city school systems to develop their musical talents.

    As we wrapped up our chat, Mark Rivera shared some introspective closing thoughts.

    “The main thing is, just like my having been blessed by playing with bands like Foreigner on Foreigner 4, in particular; the work I did with Peter Gabriel on Sledgehammer and the work I’ve done with Billy, and one of my favorite bands ever which people don’t realize until they hear Start Over, is a band like Traffic. It’s going back to those times and this is a collection of all my records and all the songs that are in my head. Remembering, I guess; not allowing myself to forget that I’ve had an incredible ride so far and to, hopefully, let it continue.”

    The ride continues with the release of Common Bond this fall. Until then, you can see Mark perform in Ringo’s All-Starr Band this summer and who knows what other friends he may be helping in the meantime?

  • Postcards From Paradise

         

    Postcards From Paradise
    Ringo Starr
    Label: UMe
    Release Date: March 31, 2015
    Review Date: April 5, 2015

     

    “Postcards From Paradise” is the 18th studio album by Ringo Starr and is definitely one of his best yet. It’s an 11 song treasure chest of original tunes and was produced by him, as well, in his home recording studio.

    What makes this album additionally special is that it’s the first of his albums to include a song (“Island In The Sun”) that was written and recorded by Ringo and the current configuration of his “All Starr Band” (Todd Rundgren, Steve Lukather, Richard Page, Gregg Rolie, Wally Palmer and Gregg Bissonette.

    Guest artists on the album include: Joe Walsh (Ringo’s brother in law), Peter Frampton, Richard Marx, Dave Steward, Benmont Tench, Ann Marie Simpson, Amy Keys, Nathan East, and Glen Ballard.

    Randomly selected Boomerocity favorites from “Postcards From Paradise” are:

    “Not Looking Back” – Is a nostalgic, introspective, positive tune that is, obviously, a love song to Ringo’s lovely wife of twenty-four years this month, Barbara Bach. 

    “Confirmation” – Such a fun tune, this one is. I found myself slapping the repeat button repeatedly for this little ditty. Try it yourself and see if you don’t start walking with a little bounce in your step.

    “Let Love Lead” – Knowing (and witnessing it first hand) that Ringo walks his “Peace and Love” talk, I suspect that this is a tune that he hopes influences the listener to walk the same talk. To borrow somewhat humorously from the title of his album to releases back, “Y Not?”

    Fans and musicologist alike will want to snag a copy of this great, positive and inspiring album by one of the equally great, positive and inspiring artists of our time.

  • Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles

         

     

     

     

     

    Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles  

    Tennessee Theatre – Knoxville, Tennessee

    March 01, 2016

     

    Let me just say from the git-go that I went to Tuesday nights performance by Rain expecting some sort of lame treatment of Beatles tunes. Of course, I thought that not

         

    Photo by Richard Lovrich

    ever having heard them or anyone’s take on the tribute band.

    Boy, was I ever wrong!

    As their press packet says, “RAIN - A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES is a live multi-media spectacular that takes you on a musical journey through the life and times of the world’s most celebrated band.”

    I’ll add that RAIN just might be the next best thing to seeing the Beatles that one will ever experience. These guys are just downright amazing!

    This amazing tribute band covers the Fab Four’s work and performances from their touchdown in the U.S. through their last work together. Whether as suited, clean cut kids, Sgt. Pepperians, or looking “hippyish,” they did so to audio and visual perfection. 

    The current configuration of RAIN’s homage to the Beatles apparently adds more hits than they did in the past. Whether cranking out “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Let It Be,” “Come Together,” “Hey Jude,” or many of the other iconic hits, the sold out crowd at Knoxville’s historic Tennessee Theatre was on their feet and singing along – even dancing. 

    If you’re a baby boomer, a Beatles fan or just love a great performance, I strongly encourage you to catch RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES. If you do, I can just about guarantee that you’ll want to see them again. I know I do.

    Follow RAIN at: www.raintribute.com.

     

  • Ringo And His All-Starr Band - Greenville, SC 2015

    Ringo And His All-Starr Band

    The Peace Center – Greenville, SC

    February 17, 2015

    Photo by JamesPattersonsGallery.com

         

    Regular Boomerocity readers know that, when we review a show, we focus on the music and what takes place on the stage. That certainly is the case during the recent performance by Ringo Starr and his merry men he calls The All-Starr Band.

    However, what I want to focus on first is something that I witnessed backstage before the show began. 

    My business partner/cousin and I were guests of Ringo’s guitarist, Steve Lukather of Toto.  While visiting with Luke, there were four others there, including a pre-teen young man and his dad.  After greeting everybody, Luke started sharing stories of his younger life – stories that reflected some of the craziness and “youthful behavior” that he probably shouldn’t have done. 

    He turned to the boy and said something to the affect of, “I’m telling you this so that you don’t make the same dumb mistakes I did.” Right after that, Todd Rundgren walks in, looking for his invited guests. He couldn’t find them and was expressing his concern that he had goofed up in some way.

    At that point, Luke pipes up and says, “Do you guys want to meet the boss?”  He and Todd then lead us down the hall to a reception area. Gregg Rolie and Richard Page were hanging out there as we came in. Right after we came in, Ringo Starr walks in. He and Luke’s attention was immediately focused on the young man that was part of our small group. He was kind, gracious and asked him if he wanted to have a picture taken.  His concern and attention was genuine and heart felt. It was peace and love in action and it touched me deeply to watch it take place.

    That, my friends, is what made this show very special. Sure, it was a major item on my bucket list to be able to meet Ringo. However, what made it incredibly cool was to see Ringo actually walk his talk. Not only that, but to see that same message personified in the band members. Each and every one of those men showed themselves to be first class all the way and has made an incredible impression on me that I’ll never forget.

    Oh, and the show?  AMAZING!  

    Ringo delivered his signature hits throughout his show. As in past All-Starr tours, the band – stars in their own right – each performed three of their hits that they’re known for. Lukather did three Toto tunes and joined Gregg Rolie teamed up to perform three Santana hits to perfection (Rolie played for Santana before joining Neal Schon’s then-new group, Journey). Richard Page offered up a couple of Mister Mister hits along with a new composition of his that was phenomenal. Rundgren enthusiatstically delivered three of his crowd pleasing monster hits, too. Gregg Bissonette and Warren Ham (both have played for God and everybody) played in the background with their oh-so-noticeable drum and sax work, respectively. Each of the band members are a real treat to watch perform and worth the price of admission by themselves. Ringo being with them makes it a memorable and historic bargain and all while demonstrating true peace and love towards each other.

    If you have the chance to catch Ringo and His All-Starr Band, do. It will prove to be one of the most enjoyable and memorable shows you will ever have attended.

  • Ringo's All Starr Band 2010

    Posted June, 2010

    This month will witness the latest tour and incarnation (the 11th, to be exact) of Ringo and His All Starr Band. This will be one of those special and rare opportunities to see the “lovable Beatle” performing many of the hits from his impressive solo work as well as from the Beatles’ extensive catalog. Ringo also will be sharing the spotlight with each of All Starr band mates as they sing some of their hits, as well.

    Ringo kicked off his first All Starr band back in the summer of 1989. The band consisted ofClarence Clemons (Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, the Jerry Garcia Band and the Grateful Dead), the late Rick Danko (The Band),Levon Helm (also of The Band),Dr. John, legendary session drummer,Jim Keltner (who worked on many of the greatest classic rock albums ever recorded),Nils Lofgren (Neil Young, E Street Band), the late Billy Preston and the incomparableJoe Walsh.

    Over the next twenty years, other big names such asBurton Cummings, Dave Edmunds,Randy Bachman, the lateJohn Entwistle,Peter Frampton,Todd Rundgren,Billy Squier,Greg Lake andEric Carmen, to name just a few, joined Ringo band of merry men, delighting audiences everywhere. Who wouldn’t want to see Ringo perform not only the great Beatles tunes but his many great songs from his long solo career? I mean, really! Who wouldn’t?

    The eleventh All Starr Band is made up of another impressive group of some of the best artists in rock and roll history. The multi-talentedEdgar Winter returns for his third tour of duty with Ringo as well asGary Wright for his second stint. On their maiden voyage with Ringo areRick Derringer (Hang On Sloopy, Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo),Richard Page (Mr. Mister),Wally Palmar (the Romantics) andGregg Bissonette (Maynard Ferguson, David Lee Roth, Carlos Santana, Toto).

    This tour is, in part, in support of Starr’s 15th solo album entitled Y Not that features ten great new tunes crafted, sung in the signature Ringo Starr style. You can read more on Y Not byclicking here to read the Boomerocity review of the album.

    To find out more about the latest All Starr Band tour, I tracked down Rick Derringer and Gary Wright. I chatted by with Derringer first, as he was in route to a sound check before a show with Pat Travers. Derringer shares that, “ . . .basically, Ringo’s agent has been a big fan and he tried to do it a couple of years ago but, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. This year, they had the slot to fill and I was the perfect guy to do it.”

    After breaking my heart by telling me that Dallas isn’t on the tour’s list of stops, I asked Rick what he thought can people expect from a show from the tour?

    “Well, they get to hear all the songs that Ringo sang with the Beatles and all of his solo hits. And then, everybody in the band is required to have had at least two hits that they’ve sung. So, you get to hear two songs from Gary Wright and two from Edgar Winter; two from Wally and the Romantics and two from the guy who sang lead from Mr. Mister and two from me! It’s a big show.”

    Having watched Derringer perform several times, I can personally tell you that you’re in for a real treat that you’ll not want to miss.

    Duringmy recent interview with Gary Wright, I asked him what it meant to him, from a career fulfillment standpoint, to be part of Ringo’s All-Starr Band not just once but twice.

    “Let me preface it by saying that I was a huge Beatles fan. I saw them when they first appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1962 – whenever that was. I was a huge Beatle fan. I played on all of George Harrison’s solo albums and to have been a close friend of his and I met Ringo through George because he played on George’s first solo album, All Things Must Pass. So, I’ve known Ringo over the years. All of a sudden, out of the blue, to get a call two years ago to join him – well, first of all, I was overjoyed. 

    “He’s a great drummer – a fantastic drummer. He’s got an incredible feel. And, he’s a wonderful, wonderful human being! He’s giving; he’s very kind; he’s funny; he’s just a great person to be around. He treats the musicians really wonderfully. And, it’s a joy! It’s like touring at its best. It can’t hardly get any better than that!”

    In discussing Ringo’s line-up for this tour, each band member is mentioned with accolades by Gary: Edgar Winter as a great keyboardist; Rick Derringer and his phenomenal guitar work, Gary goes on by adding, “ . . . Richard Page from Mr. Mister – he’s got great songs like Kyrie, Eléison and Broken Wing. And Wally Palmer from (The Romantics’) Talking In My Sleep and That’s What I Like About You – they’re all great songs.

    “The thing about the Ringo show is that it’s hit after hit after hit and the audience loves it, which is good. It’s like those old doo-wop shows from the 50’s when there’d be ten artists on the bill and each group would come up and sing one, two or three of their big songs and everyone would people would go crazy. It’s that identity factor that people love to hear their favorite artist.”

    Ringo’s All Starr Tour kicks off June 24th in Niagra Falls, Ontario, and concludes at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on August 7th. Click here to see if the boys are coming to a city near year. If they are within a couple of hours driving distance or a good, quick flight from where you live, I would highly encourage you to take this opportunity to catch Ringo and the boys in concert.

    While you’re at it, why not pick up or download Y Not? If you’re waffling about buying it, again, you can read the Boomerocity review of ithere.

  • Rob Shanahan

    Posted March, 2010

    robshanahanringoShanahan on Drums Behind Ringo Starr - Photo Courtesy of Rob ShanahanWhile working on my interview with Aerosmith drummer, Joey Kramer, I needed some great photos of him to grace the pages of the interview.  As I was checking out various shots on Kramer’s website, I noticed that my favorite ones were shot by photographer, Rob Shanahan.

    I tracked down Shanahan to ask for permission to use his photos.  My search for him led me to a huge array of photographs of many other easily recognizable artists – not only from “my day” but many current celebrities.

    While he was gracious enough to allow me to use some of his great pictures, it reminded me of an idea that I had when I launched Boomerocity.com: Interview some of the better rock photographers who have “shot” some of the icons of our day.  After checking out Shanahan’s online portfolio of artists he’s photographed, I knew that I wanted to interview him.

    I’ve had several conversations with the 42 year-old Shanahan.  The first observation that I had was that, though he takes his craft very seriously, he’s clearly having the time of his life doing what he does.  When he mentions who all he’s had the privilege of photographing, it’s not in the spirit of name dropping but of sharing the excitement and awe just as he surely did when he first started shooting pictures at the age of fifteen.

    Since those early days, Shanahan’s work has appeared on such international publications as Rolling Stone Magazine and has been used for such album covers as Ringo Starr’s latest album, Y Not.

    Early in the conversation, Rob immediately confirmed what I gathered from his photographic portfolio:  Not only is he an incredible photographer, he’s also a professional drummer (and a darn good one, at that), having pounded the skins for 16 years with his band, the Hollywood Stones. He’s been drumming since he was 11 years old. 

    Let me stop right here to plug his band, Hollywood Stones.  The band is probably THE best Rolling Stones tribute band in existence today.  I’m a huge Stones fan and I don’t like my Stones music messed with – even by the Stones.  But these guys are REALLY good.  Seriously.

    Don’t believe me?  Well, then, will you believe accolades from the L.A. Times, NBC News or Showtime! Magazine?  Or, if you think you can’t trust the press to get it right, how about the likes of Dick Clark, Slash, and Eric Burdon?  Yeah, they’re THAT good.

    Their uncanny ability to mimic the Bad Boys of Rock ‘n Roll has taken them, not only all over the U.S., but to the U.K., South America and other parts of the world.  Did I tell you that they’re THAT good?  Well, they are.

    Back to the Stones in a moment.

    It’s obvious that Shanahan’s role as an acclaimed professional drummer has guided him to shoot photographs that reflect not only the perspective of audiences and readers but the perspective of the artists (especially drummers) as well.  His musician’s eye guides him to produce the kinds of shots that his subjects and the readers love and are captivated by. 

    Early in our first conversation, Shanahan had me spellbound with his story of how he met Stones drummer, Charlie Watts.  The story was prompted by my comment of the pictures on his website (www.robshanahan.com) of Watts and that it must have been “a dream come true” for him.  His telling of the story reveals his almost childlike awe of the circles he travels in.

    “Unbelievable!  I should probably tell you how that came about because it’s a really great story.  Do you know Jim Keltner?  Jim Keltner is one of THE drum studio session guys.  He did all of George Harrison’s and John Lennon’s solo records.  He played drums for Lennon on ‘Imagine’ and on so many great songs we’ve all heard a million times on the radio.  He’s just a really terrific guy.

    “I met Jim through the Paiste cymbal company. I’ve become really good friends with Jim photographing him probably a half a dozen times over the years.  Every drum or cymbal ad of Jim within the last seven years, I’ve photographed.  I love working with Jim, I feel that he’s the older brother that I never had.

    “He knows my love of the Stones and I told Jim that I’d love to meet Charlie.  He made the call to Charlie and made it happen.

    “I think the first city that I went to see him was in Las Vegas at the MGM. I go to the ‘Will Call’ and I get my pass and I noticed the initials ‘C.W’ on it.  I realized that it’s Charlie Watts initials, signifying that I was his guest. 

    “I go in and get escorted to the back.  Everyone was really nice.  They knew that Charlie was coming out to meet me.  All of a sudden, Charlie comes in and I was like, ‘Holy crap!’  So, I met Charlie backstage and we had, maybe, five minutes so he asked me, ‘What are you doing the next couple of days?’

    “I’m sure that I had something going on.  I don’t remember but I said, ‘Whatever you want to do!’  He asked, ‘Why don’t you meet me in Little Rock?  I’ll have a lot more time.  I’ve got a lot going on in Vegas with ‘meet and greets’ and such.’ So, I went to Little Rock to meet up with him again.

     “So, when Charlie says, ‘Why don’t you meet me in Little Rock?’, you go!  I went and had a really good time with him there.  He took me backstage and showed me around - hung out in his dressing room.  We talked about old drummers and all the drummers that I had been working with lately – recently, etc., etc.  And then, when they came back into Los Angeles, I had an idea - to get Charlie and Ringo together – again – back together! When was the last time these guys had seen each other? 

    “So, I called Ringo to ask if he would be interested in doing a shoot with Charlie. He said (sliding into a perfect English accent), ‘Oh, that would be lovely!’

    “So, back in LA, the day before the Dodger Stadium show, Jim picked up Charlie at the hotel and came up to Ringo’s.  I was there with Ringo, waiting in the driveway for Charlie. The car pulls up and out comes Charlie.

    “Ringo yells, ‘Charlie!’ and Charlie yells, ‘Ringo!’ and they go running towards each other.  I just grab my camera and just start shooting.  I have this great sequence of them running towards each other with outstretched arms and hugging.  It’s a fantastic sequence.

    “We hung out at Ringo’s house for the afternoon, for like four or five hours.  He has a couple of rooms in the house just devoted to drum kits.  One is with an electronic kit and the other one has an acoustic kit.

    “They went back and forth and played and talked.  I shot pictures of everything and then, at about four o’clock, Ringo looks at his watch and says, ‘Oh!  It’s tea time!’  So the four of us - me, Charlie, Ringo and Jim – are sitting there, poolside, at this little table, having tea and we’re talking about drums, recording, what the Stones are doing now, family, this and that.  I had to pinch myself! 

    “What I did is I put together a book of that day and had it published.  I did just a small run of five copies.  I sent one to London to Charlie.  I gave one to Ringo, one to Jim and I have two copies here.  One that I don’t touch – it’s just tucked away and then one that I show people that sits out in my office.  People freak out and go, ‘Holy crap! Do you realize what you’ve got?’

    “The important thing is the four of us like the book.  I’ve received a call from Ringo, Charlie and Jim, all completely thrilled with the book.  It was a special day and I am thankful I was able to document it.”

    Having been immediately blown away by such an incredible story, I had to ask the obvious question: How did Shanahan break in to the rock photography field?

    “I landed in California in the summer of ’88, fresh out of school in Minnesota.  I went to Minnesota State- Mankato.  Studied Photography and business then moved to California.  I just started taking pictures of whatever I could to make money.

    “It’s a long story but I started shooting sports – I was the big long lens guy on the sidelines of the football field.  I was shooting for the NFL and Major League Baseball. I did that for about ten years. I’m really not that big of a sports fan but I love my Minnesota Vikings! 

     “I enjoyed shooting but my real passion was music.  I just felt that I really needed to start shooting music so I started poking around in the industry.  I figured that I would just go with what I know.  I know drummers and I know drums.

    “Every time I‘d look through a drum magazine, I would think, ‘I should be doing these photographs. Why shouldn’t a drummer be the one to photograph drummers?”

    “So I got busy shooting in the music industry.  The next thing you know, I’m shooting more drummers and more ads, then other musicians– and the phone started ringing. It just kinda goes from there, you know?  You never really set the path – it just kind of happens.”

    My next obvious question:  How did he manage to not only meet, but become the personal photographer and a friend of, Ringo Starr?

    “I met Ringo through Sheila E. I photographed her for a Paiste cymbal ad and she really loved the ad.  Ever since then, she’s called me for all of her stuff. I’ve shot her record covers and her drum and cymbal ads.  Whenever she needs photos, she calls me. 

    “She was out on tour with Ringo in ’06 for the All Starr tour. When they came through L.A., she called and said, ‘Rob, you’ve got to come, take pictures.  I’d love to get some shots live, backstage with Ringo, etc.’ I was so nervous.  I was about to meet Ringo.  I couldn’t believe it!

    “At the time, in the band, were Billy Squier, John Waite, and Richard Marx. So, I’m back in her dressing room and those guys are popping in and out, saying, ‘hi’.  She’d introduce me and I’m, like, ‘Hi, Billy, how’s it going?  I’m a big fan.’ ‘Hi, John, I love The Babys and all that stuff.’  ‘Hey, Richard . . .”

    “The whole time, I’m thinking about Ringo.  Where the heck is Ringo?

    “Finally, he comes in and she (Sheila) goes, ‘Hey, Ringo, this is Rob.’  The first thing he says to me, and this is hilarious, ‘Oh, so you’re Sheila’s photographer.’  That’s all he said to me and he walks out.

    “I’m, like, ‘Okay, that went well.’”  I thought, ‘That’s Ringo!  I was in the same room!’  I freaked out.

    “Anyway, everything went fine.  After the show, I’m hanging out and talking to Eric Singer, the drummer for KISS. I’d never met him before so it was cool sitting and talking to him.  Ringo’s publicist came up to me and introduced herself and said, ‘Hey, Ringo wanted to know if you would be interested in shooting the next couple of shows for him – a band photo and some things for the press.  He wanted me to ask you.’  I’m like, ‘Holy crap! Yeah, of course!’

    “So, that was it.  I drove down to San Diego the next day for the show down there.  I brought lights, brought the back drop and did the band group photos after the sound check and before the show.

    “I remember Elizabeth, Ringo’s publicist, telling me in San Diego, ‘Just do your thing.  Whatever you want to shoot during rehearsals, sound check; if you want to be up on the drum riser – whatever you want to shoot.’

    “I’m up on the drum riser shooting, three feet from Ringo while he’s playing.  I can feel the drums and he’s playing with the camera.  We had a good relationship from the beginning, you know?”

    Shanahan also enjoyed the unique privilege of traveling with Ringo during his trip to his home town Liverpool a couple of years back. While Rob shot around 1,900 photos of the historic shows that took place in England, he also accompanied Ringo and Barbara on their visit to Ringo’s high school and his two childhood homes on Madryn Street and on Admiral Grove.

    While we were chatting about all of that, Rob also mentioned that he was traveling with Ringo the following week to New York City for a PR tour for Ringo’s new record, Y-Not, which Rob also photographed the cover.  While he was in New York City, he also had a shoot with Steely Dan’s drummer, Keith Carlock, as well as shoot Ringo’s various appearances there (The Jimmy Fallon Show, Jon Stewart, TV and print media interviews, and the like).

    I asked Rob the same question that I asked Bob Gruen: Were there any photo gigs that “got away” that you regretted missing.  Again, his answer was revealing in ways that I wasn’t counting on.  He indicated that, while he hasn’t really missed any photo shoots that he regretted, he did miss the chance to do some drum session work for KISS’s Gene Simmons. 

    However, what Rob DID get to do is play drums for Ringo Starr at his Eden Prairie, Minnesota, All-Starr stop during the 2008 tour. He played on the last two songs (All You Need Is Love and Give Peace A Chance) while Ringo was singing up front of the stage.  Shanahan says of the event, “This was near my hometown so there were approximately 50 family and friends in the audience, including my high school band director and his wife.  For all of them to see me play drums on stage with Ringo, Billy Squier, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Colin Hay, Hamish Stuart and Gregg Bissonette was a dream come true!”

    Is this guy living the dream or what?

    One of the more surreal moments of Shanahan’s career was when he got to meet one of his other drummer idols, Mitch Mitchell, of Jim Hendrix Experience fame.

    I pick up the story as Rob tells of catching the Experience show at the Greek Theater.

    “I went to their gig at the Greek Theater last fall.  I met up with Mitch during the sound check and had a photo shoot with him with his brand new DW drum kit that he was so excited about.  It was the day before his birthday and he was getting birthday cards and calls from family.  He was in really great spirits.

    “We were talking about his new drum kit from DW and the photo shoot went great.  Then we had dinner with Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, who was playing guitar on the tour. I’m telling you, that was a trip!  It was really a great experience.

     “The show was fantastic.  Then, three or four days later, I’m driving home from the gym and I hear on the radio, ‘This just in: Mitch Mitchell was found dead in his hotel room.’   I couldn’t believe it!”

    “After the initial shock and disbelief, my first thought was that I may have the last photos of him alive. And it turns out that I do – the last real photo shoot.  He had a show after the L.A. show in Seattle and there were a photographer from the local paper that had a few live shots that went around on the news wire.  But, my shots were the last one-on-one posed shots. I had a few on Getty Images’ website that went world-wide but I didn’t really want to exploit them, you know.  His wife, Dee, called me to see some photos.  I sent her a real beautiful print, and also sent one to Drum Workshop – the company that made his drum kit.  They got Mitch’s kit back after the tour was over, and have it displayed at their showroom up in Oxnard.  It’s really beautiful.  They have it under beautiful lights, on display, along with my picture of him sitting with that very kit. I wish I could tell his daughter how much the birthday card she sent had meant to him. He proudly carried it around and was showing everybody that night I was with him”

    What hasn’t Shanahan done that he wants to do, photography-wise?

    “I’m still dying to do some work with all of the Stones – the whole band.  I would love to be able to be their number one photographer – their go-to guy.  I think that would be fantastic!  Kind of like I do for Ringo.

    “There was a rumor going around the internet a couple of months ago that Charlie Watts was retiring, was quitting the Stones.  He didn’t want to tour any more.  I immediately got on the phone and called five drummers, friends of mine who had worked with the Stones, Curt Biscara (Jagger’s solo records), Charlie Drayton (Keith Richard’s old band, Expensive Wino’s), and I called Jim and I said, ‘Man, if the Stones are going out on tour and they need a drummer, obviously, I would LOVE to do the gig!’ That would really be my all-time goal.

    “Curt has seen my band play and he said, ‘Dude!  You have to do that!  Nobody else can do that but you.  You would have to do it!’ So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  It’s a far out dream but, you know, hey?”

    As our chat progressed, Rob drops another gem into my ear canal.

    “I should tell you about my working with Paul and Ringo together.  It was at the Love - Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas. I was hired by Apple Corps to do photos for the one year anniversary. Paul was there; Ringo, Olivia and Yoko; George Martin; all the Apple people; all the EMI people; all of the record execs.  It was a pretty big thing.

    “So, all I did was follow Ringo and Paul around the whole day. Larry King was there and they taped a show. Just before we were going on to the Larry set I asked them, ‘So, when was the last time you guys danced?’  They looked at each other and started spinning around so I started shooting.  I have this really great photo sequence of the two of them having a dancing moment.”

     “So, fast forward to June of this year when the Beatles’ Rock Band was coming out.  They hired me to do the promo photos for the cover of USAToday.  It was downtown at the USC Galen Event Center.  It was the official press launch for Beatles Rock Band. CNN as there; USAToday, CBS, NBC, etc. – all the biggies.

    “We’re waiting for Paul and he walks in.  He’s the last to arrive. He eventually walks over to where I had a studio set-up and says ‘Hey, Rob, how’s it going?’  I’m thinking, “Wow.  This is Paul McCartney and he just remembered my name!  He’s freaking me out!  He then asks, ‘How ya doin’?  How ya been?  I’m glad you’re on this!’

    “I put him and Ringo in the white background and started shooting.  They started clowning around – their usual selves.  It was fun to shoot those two again.  I realized that, whenever those two get together, I get the call.  It’s a good feeling.  It’s something special.”

    No doubt, this speaks volumes of Rob’s work and his respect for his clients who then become friends.

    Still speaking about that particular photo shoot, Rob continues, “Paul actually wanted to go through and pick out the shots with me.  So, immediately after the photo shoot, while he went off to do interviews, I uploaded the pictures into my laptop.  I quickly edited the shots down to about 40 before he came back to view them.”

    “Paul and I then went through them and picked out 10 shots – it was just me and Paul, working at my computer.  It was a trip, man!  It was funny because he was chewing gum during the photo shoot, which is a big no-no, and you could see it in the corner of his mouth on a few of the shots.  Of the ones we liked, you could see the gum!

    “So, he asked me, ‘So, can you remove the chewy?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, of course!’ So, I retouched out the gum. Did my magic with PhotoShop. The photo ended up on the cover of USAToday.  I couldn’t have been prouder than getting a copy of USAToday and seeing my photo with my photo credit with Paul and Ringo on the cover.  I thought it was going to be on the cover of the music section but it was on the cover of the ‘A’ section, the front page, above the fold – like BIG!”

    With Rob’s legacy in the business, he obviously has a vast collection of photos of a myriad of people playing a wide variety of instruments across all genres of music.  As has already been mentioned, Shanahan has been shooting all the top talent who endorse Drum Workshop drums.  It was during one of the calls with Rob that he mentioned that the company wants to publish a book of his photos of their artist.

    While describing the book project, he says, “Unfortunately, it’s not going to be the definitive collection of all of my drummer photos.  Since it’s a Drum Workshop book, they only want to use the drummers that play their drums, of course.  There won’t be any of my ‘Ringo’ or any of the non-DW drummers, although, some day, I’ll have THAT book out.

    While it’s obvious that Rob’s formal education in photography has served him well, his business studies from his college days has come in handy, too.  In listening to him describe some of the agreements and licensing deals that he has negotiated, it caused my inner business geek to salivate with envy.  The guy is certainly no dummy, that’s for sure.  Case in point, while discussing the cover shots for Ringo’s latest album, Rob shares the following story:

    “I was able to negotiate a licensing deal with Universal Music because they wanted to use the cover art for t-shirts.  So, that was in addition to what Ringo paid me for the album and the design.  Universal came out and said, ‘Hey, we really like the cover.  Ringo wanted us to contact you to find out about licensing the image and the art.’  That was actually a nice bonus surprise that I really wasn’t thinking about.

    “So, as a result, I’m more keenly aware of licensing opportunities and doing stuff like t-shirts and merchandise and limited edition prints and stuff like that.”

    As the old Ronco commercials used to say, “But wait!  There’s more!”  Rob shares this story about the events leading up to the retrospective/gallery show of Ringo’s career in the historic “Studio A” at Capitol records.

    “Ringo, Barbara and I got together at his house, looking through a bunch of photos on my laptop.  We needed to pick some photos to display at the Walk of Fame event at Capitol Records. Ringo was getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and having a party in Studio A. We ended up picking ten, and of those ten, seven were mine and three were from a collection I got from Apple Corps in London. I had all ten of these photos printed 4x5 feet and hung on display for the party.

     “In dealing with Apple, they sent me their FTP site and password and all of that.  I got into the folder and I’m looking at these photos that I realized have never been released!  Old Beatles photographs that, through the years and for whatever reason, have been sitting in their archives.

    “A lot of them have been digitized – probably just scanned and sitting in this folder at Apple.  It was amazing going through these because I’d never seen 80% of them.  It was their own private collection - pretty amazing stuff.

     “I showed them a ‘before and after’ of what I did with one of the photos.  They go, ‘Wow, we really need to have you do that (the restoration).  It would be great to have you restore them for historical purposes.’”

    Later in the conversation he shares this story about the iconic, “Abbey Road” photo and its restoration.

    “I zoomed in really close and started looking around in that photo, which is kind of eerie because I know that the license plate means something to a bunch of people.  Paul’s barefoot.  There’s a guy standing on the right side of the frame, looking at them.  There’s all these little things going on in that photo that, through the years, the total Beatles freaks have claimed to be some iconic meaning.

    “So, I’m diving into that photo in super high res, seeing that picture big on my 30” monitor.  I zoomed in on that thing at 400% or 500%.  I noticed that there was trash on the right side of the frame in the gutter – like wrappers or an empty cup or something. 

    “I realized that I could clean up trash on the curb and I could clean up the photo a little bit. But do I really want to alter the historical significance?  So I decided not to and left that one pretty much alone.  But the other ones – there’s a photo of Ringo playing drums – an old black and white photo that Ringo really liked.  But it was a scan from a black and white print that was made in an old dark room.  You can see a bunch of dust specs and little hairs.”

    The story begged the question:  Was there a particular photo that he saw and restored that had a particular impact on him?

    “Let’s see.  There’s one shot of Ringo sitting on his drum riser, like it might be between takes on a TV set or something.  He’s got the classic black oyster pearl drum kit up on the drum riser.  The drum riser looks like it’s about five feet tall.  Ringo’s sitting on the drum riser – on the high hat side. He’s got a cigarette in his hand, just kind of leaning down, looking at the floor. 

    “It’s a moment that the photographer captured, in the middle of the mayhem and the screaming and the Beatlemania.  This looked like this is one of the only places that Ringo felt truly safe – on his drum riser - his place of Zen. I had a good time studying that photo.  It was good to see my friend, Ringo, enjoy a little peacefulness in the middle of the madness that was his life at that time.”

    How does Ringo compare to the other drummers Rob knows?

    “To compare Ringo to other drummers is really hard for me because, of all the drummers that I’ve met over the years – and I’ve met a lot of them – I don’t think any of them can relate to what Ringo has gone through.  To be a member of the Beatles, the British Invasion and all of that stuff, I don’t think anyone can relate, except, maybe, Charlie Watts.

    “I would say that Charlie is really quite different than Ringo.  Ringo has a real outgoing personality.  Very funny and witty.  He likes talking to people and interacting with people.  What he doesn’t like is people coming up to him and asking for a photo or to sign stuff. 

    “Charlie, on the other hand, is really quiet – in his own little space.  He doesn’t like all the adulation.  He would rather be playing in a jazz band in Harlem somewhere with 50 people in the audience.  He’d be happy with that.”

    It’s clear that Rob knows it photographic subjects from a perspective that I would dare say no other rock photographer does:  From their place on the stage whether it be the microphone, the keyboards, guitar or drum riser.  When you couple that with the profession respect and awe that Shanahan brings to the photo shoot, one understands why he connects with his subjects in a rare and refreshing way. 

    Rob will, no doubt, continue to make his incredible mark in the realm of Rock photography.  You can keep up with his work by visiting www.robshanahan.com.  As hinted at previously, keep your eyes open for books that showcase his incredible work.

  • Steve Lukather (2014)


     Photo by Darek Kawka

    Posted June, 2014

    The sign of a great, vibrant classic rock band is when they continue to draw loyal crowds and crank out albums and DVDs.  One such band is Toto.  Still alive and well, the boys in the band recently released a live CD and concert DVD entitled, “Toto 35th Anniversary Tour: Live In Poland”. With a reported 35 million albums already sold, this double-barreled offering is sure to substantially add to those numbers.

    When word went out that the anniversary set was going to come out, Boomerocity had the opportunity to interview the band’s guitarist and founding member, Steve Lukather. I last interviewed Luke in January of last year. Since that chat, he has toured heavily to support his solo album, “Transition”, toured with Ringo Starr and, of course, was neck deep in Toto’s 35th anniversary tour.

    What does he do with all that spare time?

    Anyway, I caught up with Luke by phone at his California home one recent morning. After chatting about his frenetic schedule over the past sixteen months, I asked him what he’s up to these days.



    “Well, I’m pretty much doing exactly all of that – just more of the same. I begin with Ringo June 1st and I’m back in the studio finishing a new Toto album that will be out in March of next year.  Toto and Michael McDonald are going on the road in August and September.”

    I asked Steve what the response to the set has been so far.

    “It’s number one around the world – number two in the UK. We haven’t charted in the UK in thirty years!  Number one all over Europe and it’s just come out in the U.S. We’re getting the best reviews of our career and there was no hype to it. We’re all, like, shaking heads and going, ‘What the . . .?’ in a very positive way.

    “We’re getting these numbers from our new manager and it’s like all of a sudden out of nowhere – a gift from God! For real! The thing is waling! When you see that we’re knocking Metallica, Bob Dylan and Springsteen off the charts – even that little Justin Beiber – we’re, like, ‘Where did this come from, man?’, because we didn’t do any pre-hype. As a matter of fact, we rather underplayed it. We were just going to see how it goes. 

    “Everybody – Eagle Rock, our DVD company – everybody’s going, ‘You can’t buy this kind of response!”. The reviews are five star reviews – for us, collectively, the most hated band in rock music? We’re kind of all laughing. Henley was right. He told me in 1980, ‘If you hang in there long enough, they’ll change their minds.’ Eagles and Led Zeppelin, they survived – not to compare us to them or anything. I only mean in terms of longevity. We’re looking at almost 40 years”.

    I commented to Luke that I was struck by how tight the band is during their jams on the DVD.  He said, “We wanted to leave some of the jam bits in. We showed the other side of what we really are. Obviously, the hits are in there for obvious reasons but we wanted to show a little bit more of what we’re really all about – at least the 2014 version, anyway, and we were able to do that and to show that we have a large audience around the world. A lot of people in the U.S. think that we died in 1985 because we had a record company who didn’t release our record for ten years. We had management get us out of that deal but, to the fans, it’s almost like we’re starting over again and here we are in our thirty-eighth year since the first album was recorded and now all of a sudden we’re number one around the world. It’s crazy! I’m on my knees, looking up at the sky and going, ‘Thank you, Lord, for this blessing!’ And because we’re not a band who is on that summer circuit as the same eight bands who put themselves together and go on the road, we’re kind of fresh meat, you know?”

    Lukather then adds, “We’re really aiming at the U.S.A. market again. With our new management and our new agents, our new DVD and the band being where it’s at right now, mentally and physically, I think we can do it. Now there’s this real, organic buzz! It couldn’t be better!”

    Of all the places around the globe that Toto could choose to record a concert, I asked Steve what drove the decision to record live in Poland.

    “Well, we were going to do it in France but we had already done it in France. Then we were going to do it in Amsterdam but we’d already done it in Amsterdam. So we said, ‘Let’s do it some place where the crowds are going to be wild but we haven’t recorded there yet’ We felt recording live in Poland was a fresh thing – Eastern European, you know? Also, the venues are friendly from a technical aspect. It all organically fell into place.”

    When I asked Steve how the crowds in Poland are today compared to when Toto first toured there, he replied, “They keep getting bigger!  That’s the thing: now we’re getting second and third generation people and families coming to the shows. Now we sell four tickets instead of one.  We’re a classic rock band. I embrace that title. There’s not that many of us left. I know that’s a broad stroke – a broad term. We are what we are. We’re just in that era, you know what I mean? And we’re a lot more rock than people think we are. I think the DVD shows that side and certainly when you come see us live we show that side.

    “But, we can play ballads. We can play funk. We can play fusion and world music. We can play it. We’re good musicians. People don’t show up to see what outfit I’m wearing. They want to hear good playing.”


    When I asked Luke how is touring, in general, different for him now than in the beginning, he replied with a laugh, “Yeah, man, we travel well. We’re not twenty

    Photo by Darek Kawka

    years old anymore. We spend our money on comfort rather than partying, you know what I mean?  And I’ve been spoiled when I go on the Ringo tours – it’s a whole ‘nother level. Private jets and all that stuff. I love that!”

    Then, coming back down to the relatively normal touring world, Steve adds, “We have nice buses and we have a great bunch of crew members that are our friends. A lot of bands never even speak to their crew. Our crew are our friends. We all hang together. It’s a real family environment. And even though we fight once in a while about BS - like brothers do – over nothing, and then we end up laughing and hugging each other two seconds later. I mean, we’ve been brothers since 1974. We’ve been through everything together. Life. Death. Divorce. Kids. Drugs. Booze. Insanity. Loss of fortune. Gain of fortune. Great career. Bad career. Whatever. Hits and misses. Disease. Disaster. Wonderful. Joyous. We’ve been through everything together and we’ve always been there for each other. I look around and go, ‘These are my bros, man! They know me better than anybody.’”

    Then, becoming humorously more reflective, he adds, “Our personalities are what they are and we accept each other for our personality flaws and we all have them, including me – especially me. I’m the loud mouth mother and it gets me in trouble all the time. I speak my mind. Now I’m an old guy. I’ve got the experience and if you ask my opinion, I’m going to give it whether they like it or not. There it is. I just laid it out for you.”

    Steve Lukather is a touring maniac, always on the road with Toto, Ringo, as well as supporting his own solo work and the like. It’s surprising that he’s not absolutely sick of it.  I asked him how he keeps it all from getting to him.

    “I rest. I rest a lot. And I practice. I have hobbies and stuff I’m interested in reading about. I’m fascinated with antiquity. I love all that alien stuff. I’m like, “Hmmm, what’s out there?’ I just have fun with it all, you know? I like to exercise. Some nights I like to sit out by the pool and chill. I read voraciously and by the time you think about it, you’re off to the gig!”

    Comparing tours of early years, Lukather adds, “It’s not like I’m in the back of a van, drinking beer and eating bologna sandwiches, like a kid. We’re all health freaks now. It’s a whole different ballgame than it was in the seventies.”

    The band has undergone some personnel changes that have been kind of hard to stay on top of so I asked Steve what the band line-up is looking like at the moment.

    With his infectious laugh that I’ve now become familiar with, Lukather gave the current band line up.

    “The line-up for the band at this point is myself, David Paich, Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams. Then we have Keith Carlock who has joined the band on drums. He played with Steely Dan, Clapton, John Mayer and Sting. He’s one of the baddest guys out there. When we asked him to join the band, he was already committed to do this last Steely Dan tour which coincides with our U.S. tour in August and September of this  year. He’s played on the whole album and he’s going to be back with us next year.

    “The bass chair is always just filling in for Mike (Porcaro) even though Mike will never come back because of his ALS illness. It’s not good, Bro. He’s confined to a bed. It’s just not good. He’s taken care of by family and it’s part of the reason why we got back together to do this. So, the bass chair is kind of a roving bass chair. Nathan filled it for years but he had to go back to Foreplay and he’s got his album out and he’s out with Clapton. Schedules just didn’t swing. It’s an honor to have him and we love Nate but David Hungate – our original bass player – is coming back to do the summer. He hasn’t played with us in thirty-four years! There’s more original guys on the stage than there has been in twenty-five years!

    “And, then, we have Shannon Forrest playing drums, who is like the number one Nashville guy who was very close to getting the gig, himself. He’s an old friend, as well.  So, that’s going to work out for the summer. Next year? Keith comes back and we’ll see about everybody else – we’ll see who’s going to be playing bass. That’s pretty much where we’re at right now.”

    I had read where Steve and the band are doing a lot to heighten awareness about ALS because of Mike Porcaro.  I asked if he could share shed some light on their efforts in that area.

    “The sad news is that there’s no happy ending to this for anyone – whoever gets it. I think the awareness is how you get this and how you treat it and maybe slow it down. In time, maybe you don’t want it to slow down, you know? It’s really the worst prison confinement you can know – to be trapped in your own body. That’s really, truthfully, an awful way to go.

    “Mike can still talk but he can’t really move, you know? Can’t move at all! So you see the struggle. The breathing gets harder and, obviously, all the rest that goes with it. You want to find a cure for something like this. Will there ever be a cure? That’s what we’re striving for people to be aware of. So many neurological diseases have hit the world. I’ve asked my doctor and the doctor goes, ‘It’s environmental, man’ which means all the **** we’ve been ingesting and all the chemicals that companies try out on all of us decades ago while we’re having children and our children are getting all this weird stuff. Older people are getting MS, ALS, Lupus – all of these neurological, weird diseases from poisoning ourselves and our kids get it . . . it’s a brutal disease!

    “I didn’t know people with ALS when I was a kid. It’s kinda prevalent (now), you know? Autism. My youngest son is autistic. But, you know what? He’s not that bad. There’s a lot of spectrums. He’s easy on the spectrum but there’s a few ticks, you know?

    “Fortunately, he loves, he laughs and he digs his old man and he’s three years old so he’ll learn out of a lot of this. Some kids never speak and hit their head against the wall. There’s different levels of this. But as I said, neurological diseases . . . these are causes that have affected us as human beings and our families. When it hits home it really opens your eyes a bit.”

    After discussing such a heavy subject, I shifted gears in my questioning by asking Steve some questions submitted by some of your readers.  The first question centered on a guitar Luke is seen playing on the Toto’s new concert DVD, “Toto 35th Anniversary: Live In Poland”. At a glance, the guitar looks like it has caricatures of the famous “Rat Pack” painted on it and one of you readers wanted to know what the story was on it. Before I could even finish my question, Luke started laughing that laugh of his.

    “I’m a Sammy fanatic! There are a handful of us who are really into Sammy. Stan Lynch from The Heartbreakers, myself and a bunch of rock n’ roller guys – we love Sammy! It was a gift from a guy at Music Man Guitars. It’s really one of my guitars with a different paint job on it. They call it “The Sammy”. It’s a one-off. It’s a classic. I laughed so hard and it’s a great guitar! People ask about it all the time. My face is on there. Sterling Ball, the owner of Music Man, his face is on there. He’s the bald guy on it and Sammy’s on it.

    “I got into all that. George Clooney – a friend of mine – when he went and did “Ocean’s Eleven” and all of that – twenty-five years ago we’d drink booze and talk about doing something like that and he actually did it. I knew him before he was famous.”


    Another question from Boomerocity readers asked what the wrist-band he wears onstage represents.

    “Oh, it’s a gift from Ringo!  It says, ‘Peace and Love’.”

    Another reader asked Luke: With the great catalog of Toto music, is there a favorite song or period in time when he felt like, "Yeah. This how I want it to be..."?

    “You know, I think each era – it’s like looking at a scrapbook of your life. I mean, some of the stuff has held up well and some of it is like, ‘Ooo, that lyric is really bad’ or that production is really dated. But all of it warms my heart. It’s like looking at old pictures. ‘Oh, look at that silly outfit I was wearing. What was I thinking?’

    Photo by Darek Kawka

    “I think the music’s good. I think the band played well. I think there was some weirder stuff that we experimented with. But like any band with a long history, there’s always a few interesting ‘WTF’ moments. But, overall, I think I’m pretty proud of the work that we put out.”

    Up and coming artist, Ned Evett, asked, "Through a time rift you bump into yourself at 17, demoing a Strat at Guitar Center. What advice do you give yourself?"

    “Oh! Don’t ever do drugs! Not that I was ever a junkie or anything like that but there was a lot of wasted time and effort during that whole late seventies/early eighties period where everybody thought that they had to bury themselves into a pile of powder to get things done. That was a big lie.

    “Also, it would be, like, ‘Don’t trust your accountant!’ I got burned really bad as a kid. You get new money. They see you coming – a teenager with all this bread and you’re just stupidly spending it. So, I would’ve said, ‘Watch the bread! Stay away from the powder!’ would have been my advice. Stay healthy!

    “In the eighties, everybody got high on blow and did stupid things. As a teenager in the studios you’re going, ‘What’s that? I’m really tired. I need to get some coffee.’ And they said, ‘Go ahead, kid, it’s better than coffee and not addictive’ so I naively bought that for a while . . . we all did! I never got that deep in. Booze was my poison and I stopped many years ago along with smoking and any toxic shit.”

    Bringing the subject even closer to home, Luke said, “My older children, they managed to avoid all the pitfalls of all that, thankfully. And my other kids, the jury’s out. God know what they’re going to have to deal with. There’s really awful stuff out there now. It’s really pretty scary. Because I don’t smoke or drink or take anything at all anymore, I will be able to say to my children, ‘Look, you really don’t need to do that, do you? Look around. It never ends well unless you get out of it.’”

    As our time drew to a close, I asked Steve about the new Toto studio album he mentioned in passing earlier in our chat.

    “That will be out in March, 2015 with a world tour to follow. We’re really excited about the record. It’s really good. We’re really diggin’ it! We’re not trying to be trendy. We’re trying to be the best us that we can be and it’s coming out really good, if I may say so myself. We haven’t made an album in ten years so we wanted to make it a good one.”

    And a good one it will be, no doubt.

  • Steve Lukather Talks About TOTO XIV

    March, 2015

    Photo by Heather Porcaro

         

    If you’re a music aficionado at all, you’ve heard of Toto and are familiar with their mega huge hits like “Africa,” Rosanna,” “99,” “I Won’t Hold You Back,” “I’ll Be Over You,” and many other hits.

    What you may not be aware of are these absolutely amazing statistics:

    •They have recently celebrated their 35th anniversary as a band

    •Have sold over 35 million albums

    •Band members were South Park characters, while Family Guy did an entire episode on the band’s hit “Africa.” 

    •Collectively, the members of the band of made their mark on over 5,000 different albums that total a half billion units in record sales

    •It’s been estimated that 95% of the world’s population has heard a performance by a band member of TOTO

    The band is releasing their first studio album of new material in ten years entitled, “TOTO XIV.”  I recently chatted with founding member, guitarist and vocalist, Steve Lukather (“Luke”), about the album. I contacted him at his hotel room in Birmingham, Alabama, while he was on the road performing with Ringo Starr (yeah, THE Ringo Starr).

    Luke accounts for much of the previously mentioned statistics. He’s contributed to approximately 2,000 albums for artists such as Michael Jackson (including much of the “Thriller” album), Rod Stewart, Miles Davis, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Roger Waters, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Larry Carlton and countless others. 

    Before discussing the new album, I asked Luke what he’s been up to.

    “Well, I’m out with Ringo right now, and I just started. This is, like, day three or something like that. It’s going great! I’ve been working on promoting the album, and I’m kinda managing the band and getting the tour together. It’s like juggling a chainsaw, razorblade, and a toothpick at the same time. But I’m doing ok.”

    When asked about TOTO XIV, he said:

    “I never thought we’d do another record, actually. When we got back together in 2010, it was to help our brother, Mike Porcaro, with some of his medical bills. He’s been tragically hit with ALS, and sadly, he’s really not doing well right now. It’s eight years into it, and it’s a tragic, horrible, insidious, cruel disease. That was hard. 

    “We decided to help him in 2010. We put the band back together with the high school brothers- Joseph Williams, Steve Porcaro, myself, and David Paich. We did a tour, and it was really a lot of fun. It was like the band had been reincarnated, and Joseph came back so strong as a singer. He didn’t go on the road and burn his voice out. He was doing television and film for twenty years as a composer along with a few solo albums here and there. But when he came back to the stage, his voice was incredibly strong, and it just kept getting stronger. We did a couple summer tours to help Mike, and we all have bills to pay so everybody wins. 

    “When we decided to do the 35th anniversary DVD, we found out that one of our ex-managers had signed something saying if we ever do anything, we have to deliver a studio album. At first, we sort of fought that, but our lawyers said ‘Look, you should make the freakin’ record.’ 

    “So we all looked at each other and said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we gotta do a really good one. We can’t just phone it in and make this a fulfillment of an obligation.’ 

    “We figured we owed it to the people who have been supporting us for forty years, so we need to come up with something really good. It’s been ten years since we sat down to write a record, so we dug deep. We decided if we were going to do this, we were going to go for it, really go for it. We wanted to dispel the myth that the album is dead, and old guys can’t write music. We said, ‘f*** that- we’re gonna go for it.’ 

    “We spent ten months in the studio making this record. What you hear is the result of blood, sweat, soul, tears, laughter, pain, screaming, arguing, hugging, and working. To me, I figure it’s the best version of the band to be in 2015. We have a lot of old friends back- Lenny Castro, a percussionist and workaholic. David Hungate is back after 33 years, and he’s going to tour with us. It’s an exciting time for us. The DVD went #1 all over the world, and that was a big surprise. 

    “The world is looking at us differently. We’re the classic rock band that hasn’t done every summer in eight configurations. The band is playing better than they ever have, so we are sort of a surprise wild card at this point. There are a lot of great bands out there making the circuit, but it’s the same eight guys in various configurations. We kinda came out of nowhere last year in the U.S.”

    Then, as a little tease, Luke said, “There’s a big surprise which I can’t tell you about yet- I’d like to, but I can’t. We’re going to be touring with somebody really cool, and

         

    Photo by Heather Porcaro

    it’s not anybody obvious at all. The U.S. tour starts in August/September, but we’re doing two months in Europe. Those gigs are selling out- 10,000 seaters are selling out months in advance without getting the record out yet! The UK is going clean, and it was really a surprise to hear Holland with 10,000 seats gone already. We’re co-headlining Sweden Rock with Def Leppard and a bunch of people. We’re doing a bunch of other gigs and headlining other festivals with 35,000 people, so it’s a very exciting time for us right now when a lot of people had maybe written us off. We’re back strong. Everyone is super healthy and focused, and we’re going to prove everybody wrong about the idea that these old guys have nothing new to give. I don’t believe in that, you know?”

    I was a guest of Luke’s at the band’s Atlanta show last year that included Michael McDonald. I mentioned that the pairing of McDonald with TOTO was a masterful pairing.

    “Well, Michael’s part of our family. We go way back. Michael was in Steely Dan with Jeff when I was still in high school. At one point, Michael was actually considered to be the lead singer of Toto, but he had just joined The Doobie Brothers. I worked on his first solo album, played on ‘I Keep Forgettin’’ and all that stuff. He sang on ‘I’ll Be Over You’, so we’ve always been friends. At that time we had the same manager, so that didn’t work out. But Michael and all of us have stayed dear friends and always will. That was a great, special tour for us, and it opened up a lot of doors that were closed for a long time. 

    “Now we’re doing something even wilder and bigger. The U.S. is starting to catch up, and that’s always been an Achilles heel to us. Now the doors are opening that were closed for so long, because we just had poor management and a poor view of us. Our record company wasn’t behind us. It was an uphill battle which all of the sudden seems to have been broken down after persistence and a lot of years… a lot of not taking no for an answer. Like, ‘F*** you, I don’t believe that this is no!’ Now we’re sitting in the situation to be able to do what we’ve always wanted to do in front of the people of our own country as well as the rest of the world.”

    I asked Luke what made this album different for him as compared with the previous thirteen.

    “First off, it’s been ten years since we’ve made any new music. I’m back with Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams- we haven’t made a record since 1987. And yet, we came to this with a fresh attitude, like ‘We’re going to try to nail this.’ I’m back with my high school friends again, and everybody’s inspired and healthy. It’s a lot of fun, and I think we did something good. Now it’s up to God and the world to see how this all turns out. So far, so good.”

    What surprises on the album can Toto fans expect?

    “Is anything a surprise anymore? We live in this world where people are filming your every move with an iPhone camera. Their opinions are on the internet whether good or bad. 

    “Anyways, we’ve got a couple hundred songs we can grab to play outside of hits with all these records we’ve made. David Hungate’s back. Lenny Castro’s back on the road with us along with Steve, me, Dave, and Joe. We’ve got a killer band to bring on the road, and we’re going to perform this new stuff. We’re going to play a lot of the old stuff we haven’t been able to play. It’s just a really exciting time for us.”

    As for which song from “XIV” he would point to as the “calling card” for the whole album, Luke said:

    “I think my favorite track that we have ever recorded is a song called ‘Great Expectations’ which is written by Dave, Joe, and I. It’s an epic little piece. It’s really what I always imagined the band to sound like. Obviously, the hits have been really good. I can’t deny any of that, and we’ll play them for you- I promise! But this one has a little bit more depth to it. It hearkens back to our love for Seventies prog stuff like Yes and Pink Floyd with an odd twist to it. There’s three lead singers on it- Dave, me, and Joe. Everybody gets to shine on it. It’s a great calling card for where we are in 2015.”

    Is there a story behind the album cover?

    “Heather Porcaro, Steve’s oldest daughter, and her team put the whole art package together. We wanted to bring back the four in a different way. The XIV is interesting, because it’s a Roman numeral. It’s also a multiple of seven which is a reference to Joseph and The Seventh One album. It also has four from the Toto IV album. 

    “We were sitting around throwing ideas out, and Heather and her team came up with this great thing. We thought, ‘Wow, that’s really cool!’ The last thing we wanted to do was put hearts, skulls, angels, typical artwork. It’s so cliché. They came up with something darker and more mature. It’s new, but it’s old. Is this in China? Is this in LA? Where is this photo, this place? We ended up loving what she did with that, and it keeps it in the family as well. I’m really proud of her. We’ve been getting a lot of love on that.

    “She did this little video piece, too. We didn’t want to do a video. We’re not going to do MTV videos- there’s no budget for that. So we asked, ‘Can you put something together for this?’ She was out on the road with us filming stuff, and she just threw that together in an afternoon. She’s a very creative person, and I love keeping stuff in the family. I like to use the people around us. They care, and they’ve grown up with it and been a part of it. It means something to them. It’s not just hiring an art guy and saying, ‘Here, make something for us.’”

    Luke also shared some info about the guitar gear he used in the making of the album.

    “My big guitar is my Music Man, my L3. I do use a couple of the other versions. I use the Bogner amp, but I also use the Kemper Profiling amp which some of the weird, clean sounds came from that.  C.J. Vanston , our co-producer, really had a lot to do with putting this whole thing together. I gotta give him some love. C.J. worked real hard on this. Sometimes he’d just grab my guitar chord and plug it into his box that goes into the computer, and we’d just kinda scroll through to find some weird sound that worked. I kept an open mind and said, ‘I’ll try anything you guys want!’ Sometimes the sound inspired a different idea, a different part. 

    “It was like putting five bulls in a pen with one cow. We’re all very strong personalities, so we needed somebody to referee that. CJ Vanston was that guy. In the end, we all kept an open mind to try new and interesting things, and that’s what came out. I use Yamaha acoustic guitars, which are great.”

    What’s up after the Toto tour?

    “I can’t predict where I’m going to be in two years. I hope I’m still talking to you on the phone, healthy and happy and raving about the great success we have. That’s where I’m focused right now. In a couple years, who knows? Maybe I’ll do a solo record. Maybe I’ll take a vacation. I’ve got little kids I’d like to spend a little time with. This is what I do for a living. I’ve been doing it for forty years of my life. I don’t see anything changing other than just creating new music. 

    “I’m loving being on the Ringo tour. I just did this thing with Larry Carlton, and there will be a DVD out on that. That happened literally two weeks ago. That’s a different side of things, and I might do a couple live gigs with him if we can squeeze it in somewhere. I’m always trying to reinvent the wheel and doing fresh things.”

    Photo by Heather Porcaro

         

    Wrapping up our chat, I asked Luke how he would summarize his life right now.

    “I’ve had an interesting life, man. The dream came true. What can I say? 

    When I was a little kid, I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. And here I stand, in a hotel room working with Ringo. Last year, I did the 50th anniversary Beatles show with Paul and Ringo. I’m standing there right before we go on stage looking at them. They played ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, and there was a certain realization I had. When I was a little kid, if you told me that fifty years later I’d be standing here with these guys… and all these things that have happened in my career… just the records and the success that we’ve had. All the sessions and all the great artists I’ve had the chance to work with. I’ve got four great kids. I’ve had a couple great wives. I’ve met a lot of beautiful girls in my life. I’ve had a million laughs. Partied like a f***ing rock star, but I don’t do that anymore. I’ve had a very interesting life. 

    “There are a few things I’d go back and change. I never wanted to hurt anybody’s feelings. I should have never done any drugs of any kind, but ask anybody who’s been through that, and they’ll tell you the same thing. It was a weird, wacky time we all went through. I would save my money a little differently. But I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’ve lived the dream. I’m very grateful to the people who’ve supported me and the band through the years. I’m sorry for a few things that went wrong, and I lost my way there for a minute. But when you’ve lived the life I have, it’s not uncommon. 

    “I’ve been given a great gift, and I’m very, very grateful for it - probably more so now than I’ve ever been. Thank you for life. It’s like that movie, ‘Defending Your Life’, where you have to sit and watch all the rough spots. I hope God has a great sense of humor.”

    Catch the latest on all things TOTO here and read the Boomerocity review of TOTO XIV here.

  • Todd Rundgren Discusses White Knight, Music, & Ringo

    Posted May 2017

     

    ToddRundgren001 cropSometimes when an artist of any stripe is described, the word “genius” is used. I’d go so far as to say that it is often overused. However, one artist who more than deserves such a label is Todd Rundgren.

    Rundgren is one of those rare artists who require more than one superlative to describe his creative output. Innovative? That’s a given. Prolific? Just look up his discography and the answer will hit you between the eyes. Timeless? Absolutely. All of those certainly work and are quite applicable. I’d also go so far as to describe Todd as being often on the bleeding edge of musical evolution yet has the uncanny ability to create classics that will endure the ages.

    How else would you explain his popularity to sell out his own tour, be asked to join Yes on theirYestival tour and the work with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr band for the past six years?

    His fans loyalty are the stuff of folklore. Affectionately referred to as “Toddies,” their passion for all things Todd could be to those of Deadheads and Trekkies combined.

    prior to a show with Ringo as he fervently looked for some guests who were apparently no-shows. He was desperately attempting to find them so that they could meet the band. In either case, his stardom could’ve garnered disinterest in either story but he and his team displayed incredible graciousness. That’s what makes me a fan.

    Everything Knoxville Logo EditedFrom a statistical standpoint, Rundgren has a musical catalog that has – and will continue to – stand the test of time. SteveI view Rundgren and his team from a slightly different perspective. For one thing, Todd and his management team have tremendous hearts. They didn’t know me from Adam when I contacted them for an unearned favor to cheer up a friend and loyal reader. Without any question, the obliged. I also watched Todd backstage 

    Orchard from the radio station, The Frog, in the upper peninsula of Michigan, tells me that Todd’s biggest selling project was his 1972 double album, “Something/Anything,” which included his huge hits, “I Saw The Light” and “I Saw the Light,” and “Hello It’s Me” (his biggest hit that charted at #5). Other Toddie hits include “We Gotta Get You A Woman,” and his remake of the Beach Boys classic, “Good Vibrations” in 1976 which reached #36.

    It was for the promotion of his current tour to promote his new CD, White Night, that I had the distinct privilege to interview Todd by phone. While making small talk, I had mentioned that I had interviewed his lovely wife, Michele, a few years ago (here) for her work on a voice training app, he piped up and said, “Well, she’s moved on from that. Now she’s a restaurateur. Ha! Ha! She opened up a tiki bar/exotica restaurant out on Kauai where we live. She’s probably there at this moment.”

    With an extensive tour schedule slated for this year – both for his own work as well as with Ringo Starr, I asked if he still enjoyed touring or did he prefer to work in the studio.

    “I enjoy being at home and I enjoy the process of making music. But, that doesn’t necessarily require me at home. But touring actually is, I think, a vital aspect of contemporary artists’ life. For one thing, you’re gonna make most of your money touring. You’ll only make a fraction of that selling records. And, so, if you really want to capitalize on any success that you had, you have to go out on the road, anyway.

    “But, for me, I think, despite the fact, after a while, you get into a routine of sleeping in different beds all the time and eating different kinds of food all the time. And you start to miss the stability of your own house. Still, being on the road is the best way to communicate with the audience. Also, depending on the kind of show that you do, it keeps you fit. When I’m at home, I just kinda sit around most of the time. But when I’m out on the road, I get two hours of exercise a night.”

    ToddRundgren003As for what Toddies can expect from the shows on his solo andYestival tours later this year, Rundgren said: “Well, we’re doing pretty much the same thing on both tours. Although, probably a shorter set when we go out with Yes. Our own show, it is close to two hours. It’s a pretty high level of production, this time. A lot ofvideo. Full band and, also, background singers and stuff, so it’s a really big “shoe”, this time.”

    As was mentioned earlier, Todd has been working with Ringo Starr for approximately six years. I asked him how working with the former Beatle affected him as a songwriter, performer, and producer.

    “Let me see, now. The first time I played with Ringo was actually in the late seventies. We were playing a Jerry Lewis telethon. We put together a little super group just for one gig. Played over on the UNLV campus in kind of a gymnasium or something like that. Jerry would kind of wave to us every once in a while and he would send the limousines full ofshow girls over to hang out with us, Ha! Ha! in our dressing rooms. That was years and years before he (Ringo) started the All-Starrs.

    “He didn’t start the All-Starrs until the late eighties, I guess. I didn’t play with the All-Starrs until the third iteration of it, which was around 1993, I think, or ’92. And, then, I played with him again a couple of years later with a different line-up. And, then, a long time went by and, then, this particular line-up got put together. This is kind of the band that he’s been looking for all these years when he’s been putting together combinations of musicians because this will be the sixth year that the same line-up has actually been playing under the All-Starrs banner.

    “So, by now, it’s not the same sort of, ‘Oh my gosh! I’m playing with Ringo!’ Ha! Ha! Because we’ve become, like – we’re in

     

    our sixth year, now. If we go to a seventh year, we’ll haveoutlasted the Beatles!”

    During an interview a couple of years ago, Toto’s Steve “Luke” Lukather (who is also an All-Starr band member) commented about how cool it was to be able to travel the tour in a private Gulfstream jet. When I mentioned that to Rundgren, he added to the comment.

    “Uh, yeah! Ringo has a way that he does things – that he’s comfortable with. There are some things that are maybe a little strange or something like that when you’re in the band. But one of the things that definitely – one of his behaviors that we definitely appreciate is the fact that he insists on flying in a private aircraft whenever have to go any distance. He doesn’t like traveling in a bus. He doesn’t even like being in a car for that long. If it’s longer than, like, a two orthree-hour drive going somewhere, we’re going to wind up flying. Yeah, an incredibleperk!

    I said, “It kind of spoils you, huh?” and he replied:

    “Yeah, it does! It’s like after you’ve been on the road a month or two months flying in a private plane and the first time you ToddRundgren006go on a commercial jet, you’re kind of, like, pissed off, ha! ha! about all the stuff you have to go through just to get into your crappy seat and eat the crappy food.”

    At the time of our chat, I hadn’t yet received an advance copy of Rundgren’s soon-to-be-released CD, White Knight. I asked him to tell me about it.

    “I imagine what’s going out now is links. I don’t know if they’ve got actual hard copies of anything. The record label, Cleopatra, is very much into kind of the material artifact – the old fashioned productized music. They wanted to have an LP come out the same time as the CD and the electronic release happens. So, essentially, it’s the tail wagging the dog process like it was back in the seventies. Ha! Ha! We have to wait for the LP to get made and, then, everything else can happen. Ha! Ha! That, apparently, has the longest lead time – like, almost three months to get an LP made. There’s a lot of demand for vinyl. A lot of vinyl collectors now and a lot of the old plants went out of business. There’s just more demand than there is manufacturing.”

    And about the album itself?

    “Yeah, an album doesn’t have to necessarily have a singular theme beyond the fact that I’m working with a lot of other musicians. That’s a decision I made when Cleopatra approached me about making a record. I made most of all of my recent records myself out on the island because it’s too hard to call up somebody and have them come on over for a casual session. It requires a different process. But things have come along in recent years in terms of file sharing services and greater bandwidth available to people. It’s become a lot morecommonplace to do these kinds of collaborations where you send files back and forth and you’re not necessarily in the same room.

    “So, I thought I’d take advantage of that. I started calling up people who I wanted to work with. Whenever somebody agreed, I got the process started. They’re actually more potential collaborators thanappear on the final record just because at a certain point you have a deadline. You say, ‘Okay, this is when I have to deliver.’ If somebody doesn’t send in whatever it is – send in their contribution – then, it just doesn’t make it. But, it could possibly come out later. That’s the electronic part. But, as you may guess, by the range of different artists that are on there, the music is, likewise, eclectic. If there’s a musical theme in it at all, I was trying to recapture a little bit of a certain era where funk music and eighties synth-pop overlap. Kind of lush sounds of eighties synthesizers and the funky bass lines of Earth, Wind and Fire and that sort of thing. That’s the area that I’m trying to be rutilant of in a musical sense but the lyrics are any variety of things but certainly more contemporary than that.”

    ToddRundgren007With the music business in a wide bit of disarray, I asked Todd what he would do to fix the industry if he were made Global Music Czar – or did it even need any fixing.

    “Global Music Czar. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Well, people tend to think – and especially the public at large tends to think – that whatever they hear at the Grammy’s, that’s what’s happening in music. And, certainly, that’s what’s happening in the industrial partin music. A lot hasn’t changed. I have to say that, in recent years, most ofpop music has been dominated by female artists. The biggest artists in the world are like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. And their audience is all teenage girls. Ha! Ha! The music industry has been dominated, quite a bit, by whatever the spending habits are of adolescent girls. They’ve made Taylor Swift the most highly paid artist/musician in the world.

    “But there are other things going on that – if you go online and do a little research – you should find out that there are a lot of different ways to approach this; a lot of different levels of success and some of them don’t have anything to do with the traditional record business.

    “I know of an artist – his name is Bones – I know him because I knew him when he was born. Ha! Ha! He’s the son of the guy who does my merchandise – who also does their merchandise. They have never sold music. They have never made a record deal and has never asked for any money for the music that they post online. They make all their money doing concerts and selling merchandise. No records at all. They make minute and a half videos and now there’s probably three hundred of them up there. That’s how they popularize themselves – using the internet exclusively and, at this point, they’re making incredible amounts of money without anything that looks like a record label – without any of those issues. I don’t know what they’re doing about the publishing the songs that they write – if somebody covers one of their songs. I’m sure that there must be some sort of publishing arrangement. But they have no record label. They have no masters. No CDs. No video discs. Nothing of that sort of nature. Only t-shirts. They just sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in t-shirts. Ha! Ha!”

    With Rundgren remaining neck-deep in the music business, I asked him who was commanding his attention, musically, theseToddRundgren010 days.

    “Commanding? Ha! Ha! I happen to be in L.A., now. I’m on my way to rehearsals for my tour but I happen to be in L.A., now, because I am sitting in for a couple of nights with a young band named the Lemon Twigs who are playing Coachella tomorrow night and playing in Pomona tonight. They wanted to have me guest on a song so I will sit in with them in Pomona tonight which will give us an opportunity to work through the song. Then, tomorrow, the Coachella Festival I will sit in on the same song with them. And, then, I will move on to rehearsal for my own thing – thendoing some press and PR for a couple of days.”

    Todd Rundgren is known to be a great collaborator so I asked who would he like to collaborate with in the future.

    “Well, like I say, there’s still an outstanding list of collaborators that we never got anything – we didn’t get anything completed, yet. But things could still happen with some of them. A lot of times people have their own releases and that conflicts, in a way. They want to focus on what they’re doing. So, anything’s possible. But, at this point, I’m on the road. I’m trying to get a show mounted. Things are pretty hectic in that regard. Until we get into some sort of stride or routine with that, I’m going to stay focused on that.”

    When you step off the tour bus of life up at that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?

    “Well, if you don’t leave a legacy until you die, ha! ha!, that’s kinda sad, you know? If people can’t figure out what you’ve done until after you’re dead, that’s kind of – you really don’t want to have to go to that extreme to get remembered. I would rather be remembered while I’m still alive.

    ToddRundgren012“Musical success is something that comes and goes. You’re popular. People forget about you. Maybe you can come back. Maybe you can find an audience to sustain you for the rest of your career – however long that lasts. The thing that I always wanted to do was to become a father. It’s not like a big public thing that I talk about all the time but, for me personally, that’s the most important thing that I did was to become a father. That, I’ll be remembered through the kids that I have, I guess. Ha! Ha! And what they do in life and their kids, as well, because I’m just part of a lineage of fathers and sons, anyway.”

    And, that, my friends, is what makes Todd Rundgren a real man.

    Keep up with all things Todd at www.tri-i.com or here on Facebook. 

  • Volume 1: Through The Lens of Music Photographer Rob Shanahan

    volume1coverVolume 1: Through The Lens of Music Photographer Rob Shanahan
    Author: Rob Shanahan
    Publisher: Abradale
    Reviewed: December, 2011

    If you’ve been a reader of Boomerocity.com for any time at all, you’re already abundantly familiar with the incredible photography of rock photographer, Rob Shanahan. Rob has been a good friend of mine since we met while I was working on my interview with Aerosmith drummer, Joey Kramer. Since that time, I’ve interviewed Rob and have been featuring his work on Boomerocity every month.
    So, I guess you could say that I kind of like the guy.

    Rob shared with me well over a year ago that he was putting a book together, I was stoked and couldn’t wait for the book to be published. My wait – and yours – is finally over and, wow! What an incredible book it is! Entitled Volume 1: Through The Lens of Music Photographer Rob Shanahan, it is THE book to add to your library.

    The forward was written by his good friend, Ringo Starr, who has used Rob exclusively as his photographer since 2006, working closely with him developing his CD and DVD projects and tour merchandise. Prior to meeting Starr, Shanahan was certainly no stranger to photographing music royalty. Since 2003, Rob has been the chief photographer for Yamaha Music Corporation, photographing hundreds of their endorsed artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Sammy Hagar, Elton John, Josh Groban and many, many more. Rob is also the go to photographer for DW Drums as well as for many “A List” artist around the world.

    With such a stellar resume, it will come as no surprise to learn that Volume 1 is chock full of some very rare and historic images that Rob has captured over the years. Photos such as the private and intimate meeting between Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts and Jim Keltner that took place a couple of years ago at Ringo’s house. One of my personal favorites is a shot from the last photo shoot for former drummer for Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell.

    Yep, that was Rob who conducted that shoot.

    In Volume 1, you’ll see shots from Aviril to ZZ Top. From Aguilera to Wright. From Bonamassa to Walsh. From Derringer to Winter. Some of the most spectacular, captivating, riveting photos of your favorite artists are in this book. It’s a book that you will look through over and over and over again. It’s one that is of such a high quality of publication that you can proudly have it sitting out on your coffee table.
    Order now. Order more than one for gifts for the rock music fan or photo bug in your life. It’s a phenomenal book to have in anyone’s library.

    Congratulations to Rob Shanahan for a tremendous book and a stellar career.
    I can’t wait for Volume 2!

  • Y Not

    Y Not
    Ringo Starr
    Label: Hip-O Records
    Reviewed: June, 2010

    Y Not.  It’s the title of Ringo Starr’s 15th solo album and the project is as interesting and intriguing as the title.  As you listen through the album with a discriminating ear, you’ll soon note its autobiographical, philosophical, happy and sad vibe, depending on the song.

    Some of the old friends that work with Starr on this album are Joe Walsh, Ben Harper, Gary Wright, Edgar Winter, Dave Stewart, and Billy Squier, to name a few.  Oh, and some guy named Paul McCartney joins him on a song or two.

    Ever hear of him?  Just asking.

    Y Not opens with a catchy tune called Fill In The Blanks Ringo and Joe Walsh wrote together.  This song has all the makings of an irresistible earworm the unmistakable guitar work of Joe Walsh that drips from every pore of this song.  I’d pay good money to watch Walsh perform this cut with Ringo.  

    Next in the mix is Peace Dream, which was co-written with Gary Wright and Gary Nicholson.  With Sir Paul delivering smooth, steady support on bass, this song is one of those songs that conjures up images of peace and an end to hunger in the world.  If you listen to the lyrics very closely, you’ll recognize some snippets of lyrics to some other songs by certain friends of his.  It’s very artfully and tastefully done.  You’ll love it. Trust me.

    The Other Side Of Liverpool is an autobiographical tune with skillfully written lyrics that melodically tells part of Ringo’s upbringing in his home town.  While Liverpool has great hooks, I especially liked the subtle organ work supplied by Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers).  You’ll like the song just for the insight of Ringo’s early years from his perspective.

    What I consider to be the best song on the project, by far, is Walk With You.  I’ve researched other interviews to see if there’s any indication by Ringo as to what the story behind the song might be but I couldn’t find any.  So, here’s my take on it:  As the words are sung (with the great back-up vocals provided by Paul McCartney), I just get this feeling that the song is about love and future reconciliation between Ringo and someone who has passed away – maybe  John Lennon?  I dunno. That’s what makes music fun and universal: everyone interprets it in ways that are meaningful to the listener. All I know is that, once you’ve listened to this song once, the earworm is in you for days.

    Time has a positive message and was co-written by Dave Stewart (Eurhythmics) who also happened to provide the guitar work.  Whoever is walking the bass on this tune (maybe it’s Bruce Sugar’s keyboard work), delivers is as smoothly as I’ve ever heard bass delivered as is Tench’s tickling of the ivories. The violin towards the end of the song is perfectly delivered by Ann Marie Calhoun.  Right behind Time is the philosophical Everyone Wins which, again, features the signature guitar work of Joe Walsh.

    Mystery of the Night launches with sounds of Steve Dudas’s guitar that conjures up memories of Mott the Hoople. While you’re listening closely to the song, you might pick out Richard Marx in the background vocals. Can’t Do It Wrong is classic Ringo, putting me in mind a little bit of You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful (And You’re Mine). 

    As always, I don’t want to spill all of the beans about this album.  There are other great songs on it that you’re just going to have to buy and listen for yourself.  I will say, though, that Joss Stone gives an incredible performance on the last cut.

    To say that this album is the “feel good album of the year” may sound corny but it’s true.  If you like to fill you mind with positive thoughts, Y Not will help you do exactly that.

    You can order or download Y Not by clicking on the images at the top of the page.

Featured Photo

 

 

george lynch

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is of Dokken's George Lynch! Check out more of Rob's work at RobShanahan.com!

 

 

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