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  • Bebe Buell (2009)

    October, 2009

     

    Bebe Buell. To those of you who know who she is, the name conjures up several images. Highly successful model. The girlfriend and wife of rock stars. For those of you who were only reading the articles, you wouldn’t have noticed that she was Playboy’s November, 1974, Playmate. Best selling author. She’s also the mother of world-renown actress, Liv Tyler. 

    Bebe is also a very successful recording artist and, while she has promised Boomerocity a follow-up interview to discuss her life and views on things of interest to Baby Boomers, it is about her latest project, “Sugar”, that we recently chatted about by phone.

    Bebe is a very warm and engaging person to talk to. You instantly get the feeling that you’re sitting across the table from her, enjoying a great cup of coffee along with the intriguing conversation. I’m not a master linguist but, if I were to play one on TV, I would say that you could easily pick up her Northeastern accent layered on the foundation of her Portsmouth, Virginia, roots. 

    I first asked Ms. Buell why it took so darn long for her to come out with “Sugar” since her last album, 2000’s four song disc, “Free To Rock”.

    “Well, you know, life is just something that happens while you’re busy making other plans. The last record I made was 10 years ago and I wrote my autobiography with Victor Bockris and then 9/11 happened. And it sort of changed the face of everything, even artistically. 

    “For those of us who lived in NY, it was horrifying. So, I returned to Portland, Maine, bought a house up there and thought that’s what I really wanted. But it just started to dawn on me that I was miserable when I wasn’t creating music because, what people don’t seem to realize is that I’ve been making music and fronting bands and involved in this (rock) world for much longer than anything else that some people like to remember me for. 

    “Playboy takes very little time of your life and it’s really only one appearance. Once it’s done, it’s done. My modeling career only lasted a few years and I think that these are natural progressions when you’re a young girl and you’re in NYC - to try a few different things but I think that I was very committed to get into a band and starting to write songs.

    “So, at the age of 26, that was what I finally did. So, I guess you could say that was a late start to some people. I’m not sure. But it’s just who I am, basically. I’ve been doing this a long time. Thirty years. More. More, when you think about all the touring I’ve done in both of my bands, the “B-Sides” and “The Gargoyles”. I wanted to also make autobiographical record. I wanted to make a personal record. I wanted to make a record about people I loved and things that have happened that maybe the right explanations weren’t ever out there. It’s a very personal record. I don’t know if you noticed.

    Not one to ask prying questions, I couldn’t resist the urge to ask Bebe if there was going to be anyone out there who would be worried about what she’s saying in “Sugar”.

    “I hope not. It’s a loving record. ‘Black Angel’ was written about my friend, Joey Ramone. And, in the first song, ‘When We Were Godhead’, I’m sort of am touting all the people that had an impact on my life from that time, like Cameron Crowe, Rodney Bingenheimer, the whole LA scene. You know, going out there from NY. It was the Continental Hyatt House. That was a celebration of 1973. And ‘Grey Girl’ was about my beloved Chihuahua.

    When she mentioned “When We Were Godhead”, I interjected that I honestly thought I was going to hear David Bowie slide in on harmony because the song is very Bowie-esque.

    “That’s an enormous compliment and I appreciate that. I was thrilled because two days ago, somebody handed the record to Cameron Crowe for me. I’m dying for him to hear that song. I mean, his spirit is such a big part of it!” Laughing, she adds, “I wish it had been around when he was looking for songs for ‘Almost Famous’ sound track. Let’s hope that people do appreciate the cinematic aspect of the record. It’s VERY cinematic. I wanted to make something very deep and thoughtful. And I wanted people really to sink their teeth in to it. 

    “I remember when I use to buy albums. I loved albums. People have forgotten about ALBUMS. Everything is about singles now. Even I put out a single. You gotta play the game a little. But there’s this thing about journeys and voyages that you take when you listen to a real album - where you want to listen to the whole record from the first song to the last. That’s what we tried to do with this record. That’s what my producers and I really took into account, was that we wanted it to have a cinematic voyage feeling.

    I was curious if there is any indication as to what her fan base is responding to from the album, to which she observes, “Yeah, the two songs that people are really responding to are ‘Sugar’ and ‘Untouchable’. Not to mention many other ones. I mean, some are really loving the second track, ‘Love Is’. The last track, ‘Fall and Rise’ – it’s very, very interesting. I swear, it’s very inspiring to me because I took big risks, a big chance in doing this. I thought, ‘Okay, maybe nobody will notice this.” I didn’t do it for any other reason but to just do it – for myself and for the people I work with. We all want to do this. And to be getting this kind of response, I’m telling you! I didn’t expect it!”

    Still talking about “Untouchable”, I state, “Well, it obviously has a very personal message to it. I don’t know who it’s about but I thought the hooks on it were great.”

    “Well, it’s not just about one person. You know, there’s a lot of stuff on there. You know, there’s songs directed at several people and at nothing. Some of it is just feelings.

    I comment on the butt-kicking sound of ‘Fall and Rise’ and that it must sound great in concert. 

    Buell responds by expanding on that thought: “Yeah, well, the album live is a whole different experience. Rock is loud. I have three guitar players. And they’re all brilliant. So, there’s a lot going on in a good way. It’s not tepid, light rock show. It’s not supper-club stuff, you know? When I do ‘Untouchable’, which I think is one of the more quieter songs on the album, it still kicks ***. One of the reasons why it kicks live is so many people singing along with me. I get a lot of the “sing-alongers”! I love it! I get a lot of that.”

    So, folks, you heard it here first. If you plan on seeing Bebe Buell in concert, you should not expect The Captain and Tenille as the opening act.

    Buell came back around to the crowd response to “Sugar” and what appears to be their favorite cut off the disc.

    “Well, the one that everyone thinks should be a single is ‘Sugar’. We put out a single in May called, ‘Air Kisses for the Masses’, which is the 10th song on the record. And that was sort of to let everybody know, “Hey, here I am. I’m back. I’m making an album. What do you guys think?” I threw a party. I was like, ‘Hi, guys! I haven’t seen you in a while. I’m having a party at the Hiro Ballroom to celebrate that I’m doing music again.’” 

    “I just sort of thought to myself, ‘Okay, if anybody comes, I’ll keep going and this means that I’m on the right path. If it’s sparsely attended and nobody comes, I’ll just a great time and realize that I’m just doing this for myself and nobody’s ever going to hear it.’ So, it turned out to be neither of those things. It turned out to be beyond the best thing it could’ve been. I mean, seriously. Everybody and they’re grandmother that I’ve known through my whole life was there. I saw people that I haven’t seen in 30 years in that room! And then I saw . . . the young kids – the under-thirty set. It was just really pretty wonderful. Now I’m all hopped up!”

    I asked Bebe the one question that most artists hate to answer when it comes to their new projects: What’s their favorite track on the album? 

    “I have to tell you that I’m in love with all my songs. I’m especially in love with these songs. It’s really hard for me to – I mean, I can listen to all of them. It’s interesting, when you’re so close to a song, so many times you would think you would lose that personal connection that you might have. I will still sometimes cry when I hear ‘Black Angel’ or ‘Grey Girl’. So far several who have heard the new record have commented that they actually cried when they listened to a couple of the songs. So, I thought that’s very interesting that we created something that actually tugged at somebody’s emotions. I feel very proud of that. I’m not saying that I’m proud that I can make people cry. I’m saying that I’m very happy that I’ve been able to touch somebody emotionally. 

    “For people that don’t know that ‘Grey Girl’ is about my dog, like, somebody asked me, ‘Is that about Nico?’ (The late German model, singer/songwriter and actress). I thought, ‘How can anybody get Nico out of this?’ My drummer was going, “You know, you shouldn’t tell anybody what that song’s about. Remember when we all found out that ‘Martha, My Dear’ was about Paul McCartney’s dog?’ I just said, ‘You know? I don’t care. I’m telling people that I wrote it about my dog.’ She was my best friend, this creature – 14 years old when she passed. God! I still miss her every single day of my life and cry over her every day. So, the fact that, when people listen to that song it makes them cry and they don’t even know the dog or me, makes me feel that that’s a song that I’m very proud of. ‘Black Angel’ makes me well up. But the one I think I like doing live, believe it or not, is ‘Love Is’. The real dramatic one. 

    “I guess the thing I’m finding is the kids are telling me, ‘Oh, that sounds like Portishead or like Massive Attack.’ I wasn’t even thinking about either of those people when we wrote that, which is interesting because I love both of those bands – Portishead AND Massive Attack. “

    To hear Bebe describe the disc, she says that it is , “Genre-less, darling! It’s everything. It’s every musical influence me, Jim (Wallerstein, Bebe’s multi-talented musician/husband who happens to be the guitarist for the two man band, Twin Engines) and Bobbie (Rae, the drummer for “Twin Engines”) had ever had that we’ve loved, with a little bit of our own flavor; our own taste that we don’t think anybody else has ever touched on. I mean, I don’t mean to sound narcissistic but I was hoping that I have done something different. I’m hoping that I have identified myself in my own individual form, as a singer and as a writer.” With her infectious laugh, she adds, “I don’t think anyone even sounds like me, god forbid!”

    Having read great reviews about Buell’s performances in the New York area, I asked if she was going to promote “Sugar” with a tour or were the Yankee’s going to hog her all to themselves.

    “I’ve been playing on stage a long time. I actually get physically ill if I don’t, you know, play gigs. It’s the opposite with me. Most people get sick if they play to many gigs. I get physically ill if I don’t play. I start moping around. I get like an old angry dog.

    “We want to do an entire world tour but there’s a whole process. I’m doing something that not many people would tackle at this time of their life. Most people are going, ‘Bebe, just enjoy all the success that you’ve had in your life. Go live on the beach. Why are you working so hard?’ You know, it’s just because I want to make my own personal statement because I set goals for myself which are very unreasonable and. I guess that comes from being a competitive basketball player in high school. I don’t know what it is but I’ve always got to keep going. Plus, I get it from my mother. She calls herself a burr monkey. She’s very active and vibrant and she’s going to be 80 and she looks beautiful. People really enjoy her company – of all ages. I’ve seen from that - that music should be ageless, inspiration, and achievements should be ageless.

    “People shouldn’t just stop doing what they do. And the thing that’s beautiful about this project, to me, is nobody seems to care that I’m not 18 like Britney Spears or – not that Britney’s 18 anymore - but nobody seems to care that I’m not a Jonas Brother. It’s okay. 

    “I’m finding that my audiences are very, very diverse. A lot of young people; a lot of my peers; a lot of Baby Boomers; a lot of kids that come with their parents because they’re curious. They want to see Liv’s mom. So, I get so many different kinds of people. I get the Mohawk next to the grandmother. I get all of these interesting audiences. My gigs have become more like events. The gigs are very colorful and very exciting. 

    “I have to say that the Hiro Ballroom – the show I did in June – which has really, really put fuel on this whole project – it’s the most exciting show that I’ve ever played in my life. It just goes to show you that you never know when the public is going to decide or discover that what you do is something that they like.  It’s a surprise.”

    It doesn’t take long to learn that, though Bebe’s background and foundation is deeply rooted in the Classic Rock genre, she is very in touch with the new music generating excitement with today’s youth.

    “Yeah, I mean, I love the ‘Kings of Leon’. I like ‘Living Things’. I like a lot of new music right now. I don’t shut myself off. I’m not one of those people who sits around and goes, ‘Ah, Woodstock!’. I was too young to go to Woodstock! I just don’t believe in that. I believe you have to sort of flow with the universe. And, if things are the way they are, people are going to walk around with the faces buried in their Blackberry’s and all of that, I mean, you can rebel or you can sort of jump in there, too, and put your own spin on it, you know? I can’t even text! I swear to god! You know, my husband is the texter. I’ll say, ‘Jim! Will you text Liv and tell her this?’” She admits that, “I don’t know what it is about text messaging. I mean, the computer is stressful enough for me. Just going on there and having to check the e-mails, you know, say hello to everybody and then. My PR guy goes, ‘Bebe. You have to go on your Facebook page every day.’ And I go, ‘OKAY!’ Now he’s trying to get me to Twitter. I’m like, ‘Dude, I cannot Twitter. Please!’”

    As we were deeply engaged in our phone fueled coffee klatch, we drifted into the subject of one of mutually favorite bands and their late vocalist. I’m talking about Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin. Reflecting back on “the day”, she said,“I was a HUGE fan of Big Brother. I remember thinking as a young girl that it was really stupid for Janis Joplin to get rid of her band, listening to those corporate ***holes and, you know, start playing with studio musicians. Oh well, what can I tell ya? There was a magic to the Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Janis Joplin thing. There was a real magic there.”

    While still in the vein of talking about the music business, then and now, she offers this view from the vantage point of seeing the business from various vantage points over the years.

    “I tell you, a lot of people complain about the state of the industry right now but I want to say one thing in its defense. At no other time in the history of the music business has an artist been able to put their records out legitimately and manage their affairs and own their songs and create their own universe than ever before. You get to really know how many fans your really have. You find out really quickly. You know, I just go and check my little MySpace page once a day, just to see what’s going on – to look on there just to see that 700 people, 800 people yesterday, several hundred people today have gone to listen to those snippets. I’m like, “god, this is exciting! If all of those people go and download it, that’s the whole point. 

    “People complain, ‘Oh, it’s not like it use to be in the good ol’ days.’ Well, honey, the good ol’ days haven’t been here for a long time. I remember when people didn’t even have answering machines. I remember when you walked down the street, you didn’t have an iPod. You didn’t have a cell phone. You didn’t have a Blackberry. You smelled the air and you thought and you looked up or down or whatever.  You know, it’s funny, Chris Rock said, “If a UFO came over us now, no one would see it anyway!” Nobody looks up anymore!

    Buell continues on, focusing on the lost art of album covers. “You could prop the cover up and stare at it. Now, things are so tiny. You prop up your little CD and you can’t really sit there and go, ‘Oh, I really love this band. I love this artist.’ Remember when you could prop up your Beatles – I don’t know. That part of it is just different.”

    Ms. Buell and I closed out our chat by talking about our beloved dogs (comparing notes and mutually agreeing that they are darn-near human and part of our families) and the promise that we’ll chat again soon. 

    What about?  

    The lady has a lot to say.

    All the songs on “Sugar” (with the exception of “Untouchable” by Johnny Thunder on his “So Alone” album and “Fall and Rise” (originally recorded by The Velvet Mafia on their “Cheap But Not Free” disc) were written by Bebe, her husband, Jim Wallerstein, and Bobbie Rae. You can download Bebe Buell’s “Sugar” at her website, www.bebebuell.org.

    Enjoy!

  • Bebe Buell (2011)

    September, 2011

     

    I have to start this piece off by emphatically saying that Bebe Buell has been a good, supporting friend of Boomerocity. She was among the first ten interviews granted to this site and she has been so generous in voicing her support of our endeavor ever since. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

    I’m not alone in feeling this way. It’s that kind, loving heart that has drawn people into her vortex and her music has been a melodic hook that has kept them captivated. All one has to do is read her interaction with fans on her Facebook page and the incredible, favorable press that she receives – even when she doesn’t have a new CD to promote.

    And, speaking of new CD’s to promote, Bebe has a tremendous new project that lands on September 27th entitled Hard Love. It’s here first album since her highly acclaimed Sugaralbum and promises to not only solidify her already strong fan base but will result in adding more people to it.

    Bebe called me recently to discuss Hard Loveand starts off by bringing me up to date on what has been filling her calendar in recent days.

    “I’m just basking in the afterglow of a year of really, really hard work, making this record, meeting Wendy. I’m coming up on the anniversary of when I met Wendy Dio, which was October 26th, 2010. It’ll be a year and in that year I’ve lost 35 pounds, recorded a new album and getting ready to play live shows again. It’s just amazing. I think it’s a message to anyone who thinks there’s an expiration date on our art.”

    Did she say “35 pounds”? I had to ask how she lost that much weight.

    “Jenny Craig!” And she then breaks out into a song about Jenny that she improvised on the spot. After extolling the virtues of the Ms. Craig’s dietary program coupled with exercise, Bebe concludes the subject by saying, “I think that it was Michele Rundgren (wife of her former beau, Todd) that did that fabulous video of how you incorporate exercise into your everyday, domestic goddess duties. Very funny! I laughed so hard. She really is a funny woman.”

    Ever the rocking artist, Ms. Buell then segues into the realm of music.

    “But, for me, too, being blocked into this creative space and actually having a manager and somebody giving me advice and guidance, it puts a whole different spin on the work. You can actually concentrate on the work. You don’t have to worry about all of the other stuff as much, which is a luxury for me. I’ve been a one-woman army for 35 years.”

    I asked Bebe about how Wendy is doing since the passing of her iconic husband, Ronnie James Dio, on May 16th of last year. Buell is very protective of Wendy’s privacy but was very quick to genuinely and sincerely brag on her new friend and manager.

    “Everybody knows what a brilliant, skillful manager she is. It’s not a secret in the industry. She’s very, very well liked and respected. She knows when to play a heavy hand and she knows when to be sweet. Like any of the great managers, you don’t want to be in the room when she’s ticked off. It’s really wonderful to have somebody like that looking out for me that I can talk to. Niji Entertainment is her and Ronnie’s label and I’m just so honored to be on it. I’ve acquired a new family but it’s a life changing, life affirming family and it’s really wonderful.

    “It’s all come full circle: seeing my dad again for the first time in 2010, finding Wendy in 2010 and then the growth period in 2011 and getting ready to move into 2012 with a brand new, shiny product. I don’t mind being the poster child for ageism and sexism and all that stuff. I really want to represent somebody that has absolutely squished that and kicked it’s butt!”

    With Bebe living on the east coast and Wendy on the west, I had to ask how the two maidens of rock wound up in each other’s orbit.

    “She saw me live and that’s the beauty of this. We didn’t know each other. We weren’t ‘rock chicks’ together. We weren’t rock wives together. We didn’t know each other. I knew of her as a brilliant manager and I think I met her once briefly in the 70’s when Ronnie was in Rainbow – a sort of backstage exchange of two fairy princesses. I think we immediately liked each other, I was thinking she was so beautiful. She looked like an ethereal Maid Marion with the long, gorgeous white hair – that’s really her hair that fairy color – like the girl in Game of Thrones on HBO – that fairy white color!

    “Somebody from the label, Dean Schachtel, had had his eye on me for a couple of years wanting to sign me. He was at Warner Brothers for 18 years and then he moved over to Steve Vai’s label and he wanted to sign me to that label. I respect Steve Vai but I didn’t think that I would fit in on Steve Vai’s label. Where would I fit in here? I don’t think they would know what to do with me, quite frankly.

    “Dean - he and I had been talking on the phone. I had never met him in person. He’s a person that I met through Facebook that had been following my career for awhile and had some leverage and power in the industry - somebody that was respected. 

    “He was at some T. J. Martel event here in New York – uptown. They noticed that some people were gathering their belongings and getting ready to get out of there. Dean asked somebody, ‘Where are you guys going?” ‘Oh, god, we’ve got to get downtown. Bebe Buell’s going onstage at R Bar for Bob Gruen’s birthday party in 15 minutes.’ He’s never seen me live. His interest in me and the band was strictly from out music and from what he’d seen and heard on video and that kind of stuff.

    “To make a long story short, he grabs Wendy, throws her in a car, literally, and they zoom down there. I guess that I was already into my first or second song when they arrived and they sat down at the bar. 

    “If you’ve never been to the R Bar, you don’t realize that the room where the music is, you have to go through another door to get to the show but they have my show blasting through speakers throughout the whole place.

    “Wendy said to Dean, ‘Well, I like whatever I’m hearing here. Whatever music they’re playing, I like that!’ Dean goes, ‘That’s Bebe, Wendy!’ She just thought that I had an unusual, distinct sound is what she told me after meeting me. 

    “She went in and watched me.  I remember seeing Dean from the stage and thinking, ‘That can’t be Dean’ because I only knew him from photographs. ‘He lives in California. What would he be doing here?’ It did turn out to be Dean. He’s 6’7” so he was standing in the middle of the room like a giraffe and I keep seeing that beautiful head of fairy dust hair shining and I kept wondering who it was. The way the lights were hitting me I couldn’t see that it was Wendy and I don’t know if I would have even known at that point. I never met her since we were kids. I had seen pictures of her but I wouldn’t have put that together on stage.

    “I came off stage and Dean came over to me and I said, ‘I thought that was you but I couldn’t be sure’. He turned around and said, ‘I want you to meet Wendy Dio’. The next thing I knew, we were all out to dinner then the next thing I knew, she flew back to New York.”

    With the infectious passion that I’ve come to love about Bebe, she then tells me what sealed the deal with her regarding wanting to work with Ms. Dio.

    “I’ll tell you what sold me – oh, my god! She was in upstate New York and was meant to fly down for a show that I was doing. It was a very important show – a showcase that I was throwing at S.I.R. 

    “There happened to be huge snow storm – one of those storms that scared everybody to death. Of course, her flight was cancelled. Well, Wendy rented a car and drove five hours to be at my showcase! That’s when I knew that she was it. I knew that we had a connection and I knew that we had something. 

    It didn’t take long at all for the two female rock powerhouses to kick it into high gear and get Bebe and Jim working on a new album and honing her image. Buell says that it was, “ . . . pretty immediate. She brought me out to L.A. in February to be a presenter at the Pollstar awards. She also felt that I needed to get some new pictures and a little styling. I mean, she thinks like a real manager. Alan Mercer took these amazing photos. We did the wonderful angel/devil photo (Bebe and Wendy together) and we announced our partnership. 

    “I began Jenny Craig in March. It was not just a joint decision but it was a decision for me. I think that I owe it to my fans when I go on stage to look like a rock star because of the way that I move and the kind of music I play. It’s been an incredible challenge and she (Dio) has made me want to be the best ‘me’. She’s given me a lot of confidence in my talent because I always wondered, ‘Am I too unique or is what I do too ‘underground’’ to ever be something that everybody would get’? She seems to think that the statement I’m making is powerful and it’s time. We’ll see.”

    As we begin to segue to talk about Hard Love, I remarked how it has a different vibe and sound that her previous project, Sugar, has. Buell shared why that was, which lead her to include Black Angel, Timelineand Sugarin the Hard Loveplaylist.

    “Well, Sugar was Pro Tools – it was a ‘machine’ record. It was made because we didn’t have any money. We didn’t have a label and we didn’t have a band. It was just me, Bobbie and Jim in Bobbie’s ex-wife’s home studio. We really had to pool ourselves to get that record made. We jumped around a little. We did the vocals at someone else’s little home studio and then I went up to Boston and mixed at Wooly Mammoth Studios – David Minehan’s studio. We had to call in a lot of favors to get that record made. Jim and Bobbie wrote almost all of the music and we, together, wrote almost all of the lyrics. 

    “Bobbie’s vision about how things sound, he had a very different vision than Jim and I. Jim and I really wanted to play rock.  Bobbie’s the one that hears all of that noise and all that busy stuff in there. That’s why we parted ways because we just don’t see eye to eye musically.

    “I still stand by that record (Sugar). I love it. It was my ‘Enya moment’. I stepped out of the box a little and I made an experimental kind of record and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that in an artist’s career. Sugar did a lot for me in that it let a lot of people know that I was back and that I’m not some punk rock chick. I make a lot of music that’s filled with depth. I had to make the record or I was going to lose my mind. At that point in time, I would have made it with spoons and pots! I mean, I was desperate! I was ready to start singing in the subway. I wanted to do my music so bad that I was about to have a heart attack over it. The stress was enormous. My shrink said to me, ‘You know? God bless you, child! You crossed over. You truly are an artist!’

    “Not only have I gone through this huge transformation but I’ve done it without the aid of any anti-depressants or any of that kind of stuff that women think they need when they get older. You don’t need that crap! You don’t need to put that stuff in your body. You really don’t. I don’t want to sound like a Scientologist right now because I’m not. I know there’s bipolar people and people who really do need medication. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about women that start thinking, ‘Oh, man! I feel a little freaky. Maybe I need to take some Zoloft or maybe I need to take this one or that one’? Lexapro. That’s the one that really seems to be luring women in now. I’m not going there. I’ve been blessed. I don’t even know what a hot flash feels like!

    On Hard Love,Bebe comes blasting out of the chute with Mother of Rock and Roll. I almost expected it to be a look at her reputation as the muse behind some very big, iconic rock tunes but it’s more about her current place in life.

    “I just decided to own it. People are always calling me the mother of Liv Tyler; the girlfriend of this one, the this or that one, the blah blah of this and that. I was thinking of that Keith Richards song where he sings, ‘She’s my little rock and roll . . .’ (from the song T&A) and I was thinking of Liv. I was walking down the street when the lyrics came to me. I started singing, ‘I am the mother of rock and roll’ and then I stopped myself and thought, ‘Is this too narcissistic?’ Then I thought, ‘I can do this!’

    “Then I started thinking that everybody calls me the mother or the lover or the this or the that of everything all the time – and because rock and roll is who I am and my heart and my passion, I decided to take that ‘I am THE mother OF rock and roll’ and what they don’t realize is that I’m saying Liv, too, in that because of Little T&A – my inspiration. There’s a lot of people who inspired me in that song and there’s a little Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, too.

    “I’ve also added a background singer – Louisa Bradshaw. I call her Mysteria. It think having another woman to sing with that completely understands my voice and completely knows how to sing withme has really, really, really given me a whole different kind of freedom to just really express myself and go with the mood.

    “So, yeah, Mother of Rock and Rollis meant to be playful but it’s also meant to be in your face. I’ve decided to own it. Okay, I am a mother and I do mother my friends and I mother the bands that I love. I’m the first one to want to get out the iron and iron the pants and make dinner for everybody.

    “So, there’s that mother in me but there’s also that savage, ravenous rock and roller that could probably out run every single one of them. That’s the part of me that decided, ‘Don’t get even. Don’t get angry. Don’t compete. Just give yourself your own title and go out there and own it. It’s an expression of self invention. I tell people, ‘Forget everything that you think you know about me. Forget it all because the person that you’re going to meet onstage has nothingto do with it. Come with an open mind.’ It’s my statement and it’s very freeing. 

    “Did you watch the Grammy’s? Well, it wasn’t the Grammy’s, it was the Mick Jagger Show because Mick Jagger came out and blew away every single performance of the night. You go, ‘Yes! This is what it’s all about!’ Somebody who gets out there, he’s in great shape. He hasn’t gotten paunchy. He cares. He cares about his fans – looking like Mick Jagger, you know? He just came out there and, oh god, he was devastating how good he was! He ate the show alive!

    Buell and the band offer up three cover songs but the most intriguing to me was their interpretation of the Gang of Four’s I Love A Man In A Uniform? Last year, Bebe reconnected with her father after over thirty years. She wrote briefly about when she had last seen her father, handsomely dressed in his navy uniform. I naturally thought that her choice of the song had something to do with her father.

    “You know, it’s funny, it is by coincidence but it’s just a song that I always wanted to cover. I wanted to cover it in the Gargoyles but the Gargoyles wouldn’t do it. A couple of other times I thought about it and I wanted to cover it. It’s just one of those songs that I felt that I had my own way of delivering it and I thought that I had my own spin on it.

    “That’s one of the things about me: people look to me to see what choice of covers I’m going to have because I pick obscure, fabulous covers – maybe not completely obscure but I take them and make them my own. I felt that this song was appropriate in the climate that we’re living in right now – so many young, beautiful boys going off and getting killed. 

    “When I see the firemen and the cops or even the guy that has to dress up for his job at a restaurant, there’s just something majestic and wonderful about people who aren’t afraid to put on their uniform and go out there and do it, no matter what it is. I just have a connection to that right now.

    “I covered two British bands on this record. The Vibrators Baby Baby and the Gang of Four, A Man in a Uniform. I cut my teeth on the British invasion and I’m still pretty much wrapped up in the whole British thing. I love the English. Right now I’m so madly in love with the Jim Jones Revue. It’s amazing. They are just the real deal. It’s so exciting when a band comes along that’s old enough that you can take them seriously for having their chops but young enough that sound fresh and vibrant. It’s exciting! They use real piano and stuff.

    “A couple of people have said that the sound of this record is the best sound I’ve ever had on a record. It was produced by Stephen DeAcutis (“Stevie D”) and my husband, Jim. A couple of my favorite sounding albums like Damn the Torpedoesby Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Electric– The Cult, that album that Rick Rubin produced. I thought about the production of those records and I thought about, when you listen to those records, you start with song one and you go all the way to the end of the record because every song is listenable; every song has a story and you want to listen to the whole album. I was determined to do that on this record.”

    My personal favorite on this disc is Got It All Wrong and Bebe was kind enough to share the story behind that song.

    “Oh! Well, that’s an interesting one. That’s a song that my husband, Jim, wrote. He wrote that back in the nineties with Frank Ferrer who played drums on 8 of the tracks on the record, who’s now Guns N’ Roses’ drummer. He and Jim used to be in a band called New United Monsters Show and he and Jim wrote that song. And there was this guy named John Robinson who did some lyrics for it. Then I heard the song and I said, ‘Wait a minute! This is an incredible song!’ and I felt that it needed all new lyrics.

    “So, it’s a song that my husband wrote with Frank Ferrer, John Robinson wrote the hook and I wrote the lyrics and the lyrics just poured out of me. The ‘got it all wrong’ hook is John Robinson’s and I just took that – it just spoke to me. 

    “What’s it about? It’s about someone that has lied, done horrible things and has tried to destroy your life but they’re just not winning. It’s almost like a wake-up call. One of the lines in it is, ‘Tell all the people in your head here’s their note of eviction’. People who do the most damage usually create all the drama in their head. It’s not real.

    “But now we have the internet and all these places where people that have issues with celebrities can go in there and they can slaughter you and there’s nobody that can protect you. Because you’re a public person, people can write whatever they want about you. They can write complete bull. Lies. They can fabricate. They can do parodies. This is America! It’s part of it! But those who are a victim of it have the right to say, ‘Nope! That’s not the way it is, babe! Here’s the real story: That a******’s a fruitcake!” Buell says with a laugh of knowing satisfaction.”

    Bebe concludes by saying, “Unfortunately, for me, the fruitcakes – the people that hurt me the worst – it’s usually people that know you who try to seek revenge or are on some sort of vendetta. They’re cowards. They don’t want to come from behind their mask. There’s an actual word that’s been accepted by Webster: frenemy. We’ve got ‘em! I believe that social networking has created that word. We wouldn’t have words like that if it wasn’t for social networking.”

    As for tour plans, the Mother of Rock and Roll says, “I’m opening for the Smithereens on October 8th at The Stone Pony and they’re one of my favorite bands. I’m really excited about that. Then, I’m doing a big unveiling of the new line-up and all the new songs on October 12th at the Hiro Ballroom. The following month I’m going to be opening for a band in the UK – I wish that I could tell you who it is but at this point I’m not allowed to talk about it because it’s going to be a big show and it’s going to be sort of like my unveiling in the UK because I’ve never played London. The fact that I’m going to get to open for this band – it’s a really big coup. I’ll keep you posted.”

    Oh, I just lovesurprises but I do hate waiting for them! But do know that she’ll be hitting the road and just may be appearing in or near your town and Boomerocity will let you know.

  • Global

         

    Global
    Todd Rundgren
    Label: Esoteric Antenna
    Review Date: April 26, 2015

     

    Whenever a Todd Rundgren CD comes out, one knows that they’re about to experience musical genius and brilliance at a Mozartian level. His latest release, “Global, “solidifies those expectations yet again.

    Masterful, intricate, layered melodies and musicianship capture the listener from the opening sounds of “Evrybody” (yes, Todd spelled it that way) to the closing, staticy end of “This Island Earth.” Tight. Electrifying. Hypnotic. Rundgren. 

    Lyrically thought provoking and eyebrow-raising (especially on “Blind”), one is left wondering what depths – and how metaphysical – a conversation with Rundgren might be like if one had the privilege of chatting with him. I met the man backstage at a Ringo concert earlier this year and he seemed everyman enough but, as fans know, the dude is a deep thinker and the lyrics on the songs on this album reflect that.

    If you’re not already a Todd Rundgren fan or have never experienced his music (yeah, right), I would submit “Global” as a great way to be introduced to this great man’s work. If you’re already a fan, then you’re not going to need this review to convince you to purchase this album. In fact, I’d wager that half of you already have and the other half didn’t know he had a new album out until you read this review.

    Glad to be of service.

     

  • Hard Love

    bbuellhardloveHard Love
    By: Bebe Buell
    Label: Niji Entertainment
    Review Date: September, 2011

    Hard Love is the latest studio offering by rock mama, Bebe Buell. I say “rock mama” because she comes roaring out of the gate on this album with her new tune, Mother of Rock and Roll. After years of being called the “mother of Liv (Tyler)”, the mother of fashion, the mother of this and the mother of that, Buell tells Boomerocity that she decided to just own the label, “Mother of Rock and Roll” and own it she does, musically shredding the face of her fans and unsuspecting listeners alike.

    Produced under the steady hand of Stephen “Stevie D” DeAcutis and Buell’s husband and musical sidekick, Jim Wallerstein, Hard Love kicks musical butt. In fact, Jim co-wrote my personal favorite from the disc. Entitled Got It All Wrong, it’s about the fickleness and treachery that is found too often in alleged friendships and rides on some great, straight-forward rock and roll played as it should be.

    Buell fans will notice some tunes on the album which also appeared on her previous album, Sugar. Believe me when I say that you’ll want to own these versions of those tunes. They’re delivered with more rawness and vicious passion that somehow overshadows the previous versions (and that is no small accomplishment!). My personal favorite from that batch of tunes is Buell’s tribute to Joey Ramone, Black Angel, a close friend of Buell’s who is, obviously, still deeply missed.

    Bebe and the band also offer up some great covers, especially the Gang of Four’s I Love A Man In A Uniform. She drives that song like she stole it. I’d love to see Bebe perform this one live as I’m certain it will be quite the crowd pleaser. But, then again, the album’s 11 tunes are sure to be crowd pleasers.

    Keep an eye and ear open for Bebe. She’ll definitely be covered by the global press in the months ahead due to the strength of this album and her future show dates.

    This is going to be fun!

  • Michele Rundgren

    Posted December, 2011

    Michele and Todd Rundgren - Photo Courtesy of Michele Rundgren

    It’s a worn out – but still very relevant – cliché that behind every great man is a great woman.  That saying couldn’t be more true when analyzing some of the greatest names in rock and roll in general and Todd Rundgren in particular.  For, behind the rock icon who has written some of rock’s most iconic tunes and has produced other history-making albums by others, there is his lovely wife, Michele.

    Michele and Todd met in 1984 and, as she tells it, “Fell in love . . . sex, singing, touring, breeding . . . then he moved me to paradise (Kauai) and forced me to raise our progeny. “  No, this isn’t the voice of an embittered woman.  This is the humorous, matter-of-fact run down of a woman who knows who she is, where she has been and a real good idea of where she’s going.

    Michele’s comes shining through as she describes herself a “has been” for she is or “has been”:

    · A trapeze artist

    · A singer, dancer and actor on and off Broadway

    · A member of rock group, The Tubes

    · A backup singer for Todd Rundgren

    · A “Brood Sow” for the same Mr. Rundgren (Rex (Infielder for the Edmonton Capitals), Randy and Keoni call her “Mom”)

    · A frequent guest on “The Late Show With David Letterman” often with the

    · A host of her own PBS radio show, “Chick Rock, Chick Talk” on KKCR in Kauai

    · Is still raising her husband, Mr. Michele Rundgren, four kids and five dogs.

    · Currently, she’s the Director of Human & Creative Resources for DS Vocology, the parent company of a wonderful company, VocalizeU, that offers software and VIP instruction to singers.

    One might think that Michele and Todd would just chill in Hawaii and not worry themselves with cares of life.  As easy as it might be to assume such things, greatness rarely rests and such is the case with both Mr. and Mrs. Rundgren.  When both aren’t cheering their sons on in their endeavors, Todd is still neck deep in his prodigious musical creativity and, as indicated above, Michele is quite the businesswoman, serving on the management team of DS Vocology, a relatively new company that produces a brand spankin’ new software application called VocalizeU which was a big reason why I wanted to speak with her.

    I called Michele at her Southern California office where, despite being inundated with a day’s worth of computer problems, she didn’t let those technical travesties quash what I suspect is her perennial sunny disposition and effervescence.  With a laugh she said, “It’s funny. I guess my karma is up and now, having used computers since the early 80’s, I’m now suddenly paying off my free ride. My tech-problem free life over the last 25 years is now coming back and saying, ‘Oh! We’re going to give it back to you all in one week!’”

    As we settled into the interview, I commented (after running down the list of her past and current accomplishments) how it’s obvious that she stays continuously busy.

    “I guess it’s my parents fault. I was never one to play it safe and easy.  Same with Todd. I think that’s why we’re such a good match is because something always has to be going on. A few times a year we take small chunks of time off to totally relax and try to make each other relax. It’s pretty tough sometimes because we like to live life to its fullest – as packed as we can.

    “The radio show I’ve been away from for two years. Our youngest son, Rebop, got into college at sixteen so I went to San Francisco to go with him for a year.  Then I was offered to be a part of this start-up company – to be a part of DS Vocology – exactly a year ago. I moved to L.A. so now Todd and I date each other! After 26 years, it’s worked out pretty good!”

    I surmised that Todd comes through to see her often because of his work related travels.

    “He always comes to the mainland - L.A. - for at least a day on his way to wherever he has to go. Flying from Hawaii to, say, the East Coast just takes so long, so, yeah, I see him a lot here. I’ve gone home three times in the last year: Once to help do production work on Live From Daryl’s House.  They did Live From Daryl’s House from our house.  That took a lot of pre-production work as well as production work.  Even though they bring their staff and are only there that day, we did a lot of prep work and help at the last second. Everything went wrong that could go wrong.  Charts needed to be printed up right before they start taping. You’re sneaking under cameras and handing them charts and getting the house ready.  I don’t know if you’ve seen it but it was a pretty big event and that’s a pretty big house to get ready.”

    That it is.  Check out the entire episode here at Live From Daryl’s House.

    We move to the subject of VocalizeU and DS Vocology.  I was very intrigued by the product and asked Michele to fill me in on it.

    “One of my dear, dear friends, Dave Stroud, has been a sought after vocal teacher for, gosh, 20-some years.  He came up with a concept to put together a vocal studio in an iPad. It’s really a vocal tool for singers – beginners to professionals.  It can teach somebody how to sing and it can make professional singers sound better. Rather than meeting a voice teacher for anywhere from $100 to $500 an hour, for $40 on your iPad, you’ve got a studio that helps you determine what vocal habits you have, sending you to different workouts to correct the bad habits you have, extend your range and strengthen your voice.  If you decide that you need to work on a song or you want a live voice lesson, there’s a little picture of a telephone in your studio graphics and you tap that and it connects you to a live teacher. We say that it’s a virtual vocal lesson for anyone, anywhere, anytime. It’s pretty cool.

    “We’re hoping to be a virtual college of music so we’re developing a lot of add-ons that are extensions taught by icons.  So, anything you want to learn in the music business, you can learn through VocalizeU.  Our next extensions that connect to our vocal studio are background singing with Denosh Bennett – she sings for all of the famous acts – Colbie Caillat, Drake, Justin Temberlake – a bunch of people.

    “There’s The Art of Management by Justin Timberlake’s label manager (Dre Persons) to teach people how to be a manager. We try to make them really interactive and fun. The art of management is almost like a video game that you can program to really act like a manager where someone’s irate wife calls you on the phone and you have to make some decisions on your phone in the middle of the night in order to pass up to the next level.” Then, with her engaging laugh, she adds, “I’m taking all my experience of what exactly can go wrong on the road and sticking it into that one!”

    Continuing on about the many courses available, Michele adds, “Matt Scannell from Vertical Horizon is doing a singer/songwriter course – beginning, intermediate and advance – and other artists will contribute to that.  Remember Martin Atkins, the drummer for P.I.L.? He’s doing an extension with us that every band can use that helps them become totally self-sufficient since all of the record companies have all disappeared on all the up-and-coming artists. So, this is ‘Band Smart’ How To Make a Living in the Music Business On Your Own.”

    As for the operating platforms that VocalizeU is compatible with, Ms. Rundgren says that, in addition to the iPad, “It will be on Lion OS soon. We even have a version coming out any day now on iPhone. It’s a ‘lite’ version of VocalizeU where you can do your warm-ups and workouts. Hopefully, people will see how cool it is and want to buy the $39.99 VocalizeU.”

    “VocalizeU, it’s amazing. It lets you record songs, import songs, export songs, video, face-to-face voice lessons, it has a journal.  It’s really cool. Sometimes I don’t even know what to say about it. A lot of people look at it and say, ‘Oh my god! This is amazing!’

    “We just did a great deal with Guitar Center. They saw it and said, ‘This is what we’ve been looking for. We have sections for guitar players, keyboard players, drummers and bass players. We don’t have a section for singers and this is it!’

    I asked Michele who would benefit most from the VocalizeU program.

    “You know, we’re trying to own the vertical market of singers.  Singing – that’s the number two hobby in the world.  Golf is first, singers are second. Everyone wants to learn how to sing. Dave developed the tools for his celebrity clientele who are on the road all the time. Adam Lambert, Natasha Bedingfield and all of these people were flying him all over and he just couldn’t continue to go from celebrity to celebrity and service them all. So he came up with VocalizeU for them and then realized it’s not just a tool for people who know how to sing already. It’s a tool for people who want to learn to sing as well. It’s Photoshop® for singers!”

    Even though Michele had earlier touched on future plans for VocalizeU, I asked her what else was on the boards as far as future enhancements and developments are concerned.

    “Well, we have an accredited program for high schoolers and home schoolers - There are over 4 million homeschoolers out there! - that’s going to hit the market probably in Spring. All the music programs are disappearing in schools because of the budget cuts - well, they have been for years. So, we decided to try to cover that market. We’re trying to do a lot of charity work as well, but, if a homeschooler or a high schooler – say there’s one teacher with an iPad that can go around to the schools and give them their music classes – for $40 teachers and parents can buy classes for their kids.

    “It also has a social network.  For instance, a singer in the middle of nowhere in Alabama can actually learn to sing a choir part, then participate online and actually go to some of our events where all the homeschoolers from around the nation are gathering in different areas - he walks in and knows his part and sings his part with all these people and they compete together.

    “So, we’re trying to put music back into everyone’s life.  I’ve made such a great living doing it and it’s filled me up my whole life. I can’t imagine anyone being without it. I want people to have access to tools and knowledge and education no matter where they are.

    “Also, our first four other languages for the program are Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and German. Singing is an international language.  When they sing, ‘guh, guh, guh’ or ‘nay, nay, nay’, those are not English words, those are phonetic sounds that everyone in the world can do as a singer. As long as we translate the educational information part of it, then the ‘doing of it’ is an international sound!  Can you tell I’m excited about it?!  You should see my house in Hawaii. It’s so close to the beach it’s ridiculous but it takes something like this to get me to leave my leisurely lifestyle and jump in!”

    And how about plans to apply the same concept to musicians?

    “Yes!  But our forte and our greatest knowledge base for us right now happens to be in the singers world.  So, yes, we’ll expand quite a bit but we should really tap into every single area for singers that we know how to do before we start working on guitar and bass. Other people are doing the instruments and no one is doing voice as in-depth as we are.”

    I had to ask the obvious question of how singers can secure their own copy of VocalizeU.

    “It’s VocalizeU in the Apple App Store!  Also, very, very soon, you’ll start to see some of our clients selling it on their website because they use it – such as Adam Lambert, Natasha Bedingfield, Jordan Sparks, a lot of the American Idol people that we coach. Almost everyone loves it so we’re letting them take it to their fan base and that’s part of our marketing. Because our celebrity clientele uses it and loves it, they’re willing to say, ‘I’m willing to tell my fans about this’. But, again, the easiest way to buy VocalizeU is at the Apple App Store - $39.99, I think.”

    And what does the Nazz man think about VocalizeU?

    “It’s funny, I’m going to show it to him the night before our launch party. He knows what I’m doing but I haven’t shown it to him because I wanted to do it without him. I want him to be really proud of it. He’s teasing me a lot but he’s going to see it the night before the launch party. There’ll be lots of press there and they’ll ask him about it so I don’t want him to go, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t seen it!’ But, he is really proud of me.  I even asked him after I was here for four months, ‘Is this working okay? We just date each other and live in two different cities?’  He said, ‘Is it okay if I said that I really like it?’  I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s okay!’

    So, shifting my focus from VocalizeU to Michele specifically and find out what else she’s up to since she’s the poster child of multi-tasking and has the personal goal of keeping Todd a kept man.

    “This has been my focus for a year solid.  It’s been 14 hour days 6 or 7 days a week. But I still occasionally have to – when he does some revival thing like Todd/Healing or AWATS or Utopia, I’ll be able to carve out some time and design and make him some costumes and help him with putting a tour together and helping with Live From Daryl’s House.  Those are the only things I’ve had any time to do other than to tune in to my son’s baseball games occasionally.

    “Up until then, I was raising kids and had the radio show. I toured with a comedy act for awhile. I was not too bad at the comedy thing. I never experienced silence. Everybody always laughed but that is the hardest performance I’ve ever done is comedy. It’s scary and I have no stage fright whatsoever. But with comedy you can fail every 30 seconds – even though I never did, I don’t want to do it anymore! Never!”

    That statement surprised me because it’s obvious that comedy comes easy to Michele.

    “It does come easy for me but, when you sing, you just open your soul and express yourself through your voice and it’s very rewarding personally. The audience automatically claps for you. They’re predisposed to clap. They’re predisposed to enjoy that kind.

    “In comedy, the audience is almost predisposed to fold their arms and go, ‘Okay now, prove it to me’. Even though I proved it to them over and over and experienced tons of laughter all the time, it’s just not as rewarding. Instead, it’s a fear of pleasing them every 10 seconds – every 30 seconds – that fear of ‘Are they going to like this? Are they going to like this?’ Where singing, I don’t care! I always have a good time when I sing! I don’t care if they have a good time or not!” And when Michele says all of this, she says it with a genuine, infectious laugh while concluding, “I think it’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done and I’ve had some pretty tough gigs. But, oh man!  It’s a love/hate thing. It really is.

    “Singing is way safer! If I hit a wrong note, I just vibrate my way out of it!”

    Since Michele is married to one of the premier maestros of our time, I was curious what she was listening to on her iPod these days – aside from his work, of course.

    “It’s funny. I listen to our clients’ music when they come because they’re usually asking for a little bit of performance coaching and my partner, Dave, does vocal coaching. But it’s usually what Rebop is listening to. My son is 19 and I always like what I hear. I don’t listen to the radio anymore. I just let him bring music to me and thank God I love the kind of music he’s playing! My oldest boys, Rex and Randy? Ugh! I couldn’t stand their rap!”

    Speaking of music, when Michele learned that I grew up in Phoenix, she immediately opened the door to the next subject I was planning on asking her about anyway: Her stint with the Phoenix based band, The Tubes.   I asked her what there might be about her and the band that fans might not readily know.

    “I was actually a Broadway kid so I worked my whole life to get onto Broadway and audition for Kenny Ortega and was cast in a Broadway show that he was directing. I was also singing on Long Island after hours in little cover rock bands. He (Ortega) found out about that and called me into his office and asked me about it. I thought I was in trouble. I go, “I’ll quit! I’ll quit!’ He said, ‘No, I have a better job for you.’ I was like, ‘No! No! No! Please!’ He said, ‘You have to trust me. I know what I’m doing.’

    “So, he sent me off to hang out with a band called The Tubes who was recording with David Foster at the time. He said, ‘Pack all your bags because you’re going to do this.’ So I went to the studio and was recording with Dave Foster and The Tubes and left for a European tour. It ended up being some of the best years of my life. It was amazing. I loved getting paid tons of money touring the world and having everybody wanting your autograph or a piece of your hair or clothing, being on a tour bus – I loved it!  It was a democracy and everybody could contribute. We all would write in the bus or make costumes or decide to do something or build a set together. It was absolutely amazing!  Todd produced two of The Tubes’ records. That’s how I met Todd. Then, when The Tubes lost their record deal, I just sort of went to work for Todd instead. I found out, ‘Oh! The democracy is over! Sing every note as written!’”

    With Todd Rundgren arguably considered one of the most brilliant and intimidating musical geniuses in rock and roll, I asked Michele what is one of the most misunderstood or least known aspect about her husband.

    “That’s very, very easy. I constantly, constantly have Todd fans come up to me who are amazing. We recognize that Todd fans have put our kids through college and helped us pay the mortgage. Of course, he’s giving them something that they cherish as well. It’s definitely a two way street. We’re very appreciative of them and we have events like, for his 60th birthday we invited fans to camp on our property for a week and have a celebration – and they did! That was really wild!  Toddstock!

    “I think the most misunderstood thing is the fans are constantly telling me how lucky I am. ‘Oh, you’re so lucky! Does he play the guitar for you and sing?’  They think he is the man behind the music and that it’s a performance that he gives to me, too. But it’s not. He really is kind of a hermit and all that kind of creativity stays inside his brain.  His focus is all music. It’s almost like some idiot savant sitting in the corner who really doesn’t communicate with anybody at home unless you literally pull him up and say, ‘Okay, now we get to go talk or walk on the beach.’

    “So, I facilitate that for him. I am the wife and the mom who runs the house and the family so that when he is not thinking about music, he can come into that world. We make it safe for him to also leave us mentally. He’s not really with us mentally very often but that’s not horrible for us. We’re the type of people that we understand that kind of focus.  It takes a while. Each kid is mad at dad at a certain point. It’s like, ‘I can’t believe that he’s not really a father’ then you have to show them, ‘Yes, he is. He’s just not like the TV dads.’  It’s hard to explain.”

    I’ve seen it many times where fans, whether they realize it or not, come crashing into the life of a celebrity without having any thought or consideration about the celeb’s feelings or privacy.  Michele shared her insights into that aspect of their lives.

    “I think that’s why he loves Hawaii so much – especially Kauai.  We have a lot of celebrities who live there and we’re very protective of them. I’d say that everyone is extremely respectful. Nobody walks up to our house like they used to in Sausilito or Woodstock.  Nobody’s knocking on the door. Nobody’s camping in our backyard.   We don’t have to have any guards at our kids Little League games or nursery schools like we used to. So it really is paradise for us. Yeah, he can walk on the beach everyday and nobody knows who he is or, if they do, they’re like, ‘hi’ and that’s it.”

    While Michele Rundgren has seen and accomplished a lot, I asked what she hadn’t accomplished that she wishes to.

    “Boy, I don’t think there’s anything that I haven’t done yet that I wanted to do. The only goal that I’ve never accomplished was my own solo record but I’ve had ten thousand goals that I have reached. I think the only that I think I regret is to not be able to continue my career as a singer. But having made the choice to move Kauai and raise my sons – it was the correct thing to do even though it was painful as an artist. Todd even said, ‘Hey, one of us has to stay home’ because our boys were hard to control and Todd and I were the only ones who could control them. ‘So, one of us has to stay home and I sell more tickets than you do’.  ‘OH! Yep, you’re right!’

    “I’d say that I wish that I could have continued as a performer. So now I’m getting a little bit of joy – I’m getting a lot of joy actually – out of helping up-and-coming performers succeed and have their dreams of having a voice, having a career, having a great show – that’s what I do now and that’s what I really love!”

    I followed up with Michele after the launch party to see how everything went.  She was ecstatic with the turn out and results.

    “It was so successful, Rolling Stone Lounge asked us to do a weekly VocalizeU party. I thanked them but WHEW . . . a party for 1000 guests every week? I have to sleep sometime! We had many celebrities at the party.  Even my husband, Todd, had fun! I think Todd's and my sons favorite part of the party were the VocalizeU girls. Hot, young singers dressed in white VocalizeU onesie’s with just enough rhinestone bras showing to make the demo sparkle. Rex and Randy each got 4 demos. Hmmmm.

    “The voice of VocalizeU and Justin Timberlake's latest artist signed to his Tennman records, "Bren", sang her showcase and brought the house down. What a voice ! Then, Natasha Bedingfield and her brother, Daniel, did an a cappella jam to close out the night. I am so proud of the work I have been a part of for the last year.”

    Why blew my mind is the surprise that she is giving to Boomerocity readers who happen to own iPhones.  “My holiday gift to all of your readers is a FREE lite version of VocalizeU for their iPhones. Just go to the app store and type in VocalizeU lite free. We put it up this morning. I hope the lite version encourages people to buy the full suite of VocalizeU tools that every singer deserves!”

    You heard the lady so what are you waiting for?  Click on the iTunes banner on this page and search for VocalizeU lite free. However, I have a hunch that you’re going to want to have the whole suite of functionality so you may as well go ahead and purchase the whole enchilada.  At $39.99, it’s such a steal. Also, because Michele is such a great lady, she’s given me the link to the great pictures shot at the launch party.  You can check ‘em all out right here. You just might recognize a person or two.

    Oh, and remember: When you make it big as a singer, a) thank Michele and the DS Vocology team and, b) please, please, please, grant me an interview.

  • 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. 

Featured Photo

Jim Keltner.Broken Glass DW

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is is a bit different from past featured photos. 

 

 

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