Friday, September 23, 2011

Flight Of Honor

I was asked to photograph a Flight Of Honor last week. Since the World War II memorial opened in Washington earlier this year, many cities have been organizing trips for local WWII veterans. Last Saturday's was the last in Charlotte, for now, until new sponsorship can be found.

So why was I out there at 6am to photograph a group of veterans that I've never met? My friends in the WBT Briarhoppers asked me to do it, so I could photograph them playing to the vets. But largely, it was for personal, and sentimental reasons. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. My mom's father (whom I recently wrote about on what would have been my grandparents' 66th wedding anniversary) was a staff sgt., and was on the lines through North Africa, Italy and D-Day. My dad's father was in the Navy for the last year of the war, long enough to be on a ship that was torpedoed and strafed by the enemy, but did not sink.

My dad's father got to visit the Memorial earlier this year, but George (my mom's dad, and someone I was closer to than nearly everyone I've ever known) passed away in 2000, as the plans for the memorial were being drawn up. He had told me that he didn't need to see it, or the D-Day memorial, or the various things that they've built for veterans in the past decades. He didn't need to relive it again. But he still stayed in touch with his friends. His buddies, his fellow survivors. He outlived most of them, but the shared experience never diminished.

So here they were. A couple hundred people whom I never met, yet I knew all of their stories. The look in their eyes when you talked about "that time." The weary look of pride as the years came flooding back. It was there. Like I once saw in George's eyes, and now I sometimes see in my own.

I wore a photo of George pinned to my shirt. I couldn't find a photo of him from those days at 6am that morning, but I did take a photo of him from 1959, standing proudly in front of my grandparents' house. I wanted him to be there, in some physical and emotional form. Would he have gone on these flights? I don't know. If his friends were still around, perhaps. But maybe that is what tied the morning together, for me. What is the human race, but a series of friends, and loved ones that we hold close to ourselves? They may no longer be with us, in the physical sense, but our shared experience never changes. And in that sense, they will always be with us, no matter where we, or they go.

Enjoy your flight, kid. From your old kiddo,

P.S. Yes, I'm a sentimental fool. But my heart would not let me act otherwise.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Douglas Adams interview, 1996

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Douglas Adams
by Daniel Coston
originally published November 1996 issue of Tangents
Additional comments written for the Tangents website, 2010

There is no way to describe Douglas Adams’ sci-fi comedy opus “The Hitchhiker ‘s Guide To The Galaxy,” and accurately capture why it has become one of the popular books of the past 20 years. With characters such as Guide researcher, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android, its one of those books that you just have to read to understand its popularity.

It’s also very hard to describe the author, who now has sold over 15 million books worldwide. Born in Cambridge, England, Adams first introduced “Hitchhiker’s” as a radio series for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1978. He has since adapted the story into five books, a popular TV mini-series and every other form of media imaginable. 

With a second popular book series, “Dirk Gently” now under his belt, Adams has positioned himself at the forefront of the Computer Age with an upcoming CD-ROM and other projects now in the planning stages. 

During his stay in Charlotte last month for the Novello festival, I sat down with Adams to talk about “Hitchhiker’s,” his experiences with Monty Python and “Doctor Who,” and the numerous “Hitchhiker’s” followers who fill the internet. 

Tangents: What were some of your early influences as a writer?

Adams: I’d have to say that Monty Python influenced me a great deal from a comedy standpoint. There were a few science-fiction comic books in England when I was growing up. They were the rather sort of upper-crust comic books that were there, I think, to instill good Empire values into young boys.

I must profess to have a bit of a problem with a lot of today’s science-fiction. I just find it very hard to read. In what many people think of as the “Golden Age” of science-fiction that produced [Arthur C.] Clarke and [Issac] Azimov and those guys, they were all working for voracious editors. You always read them complaining about how much their editors beat them up, but it produced very clear, clean, lean storytelling. If you read science-fiction nowadays, everybody’s been to creative writing classes, and you get page after page, after page of “creative storytelling” without it ever actually going somewhere.

Tangents: One of your first jobs was writing with Graham Chapman during the last season of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Adams: Well, it was something that seemed to me at the time, as a young kid out of University, like this was having the clouds opening. “Wow! I’m working with all the Pythons.” It wasn’t quite as straightforward as that... Graham was a very, very heavy drinker at the time. He wasn’t working with John Cleese anymore, and he was working with a lot of different people, but an awful lot of work really wasn’t being done. So it was a period of mixed output. 

Tangents: In between that getting the radio deal for “Hitchhiker,” you worked as a bodyguard.

Adams: Yes, for an Arab royal family, the Altoni of Gutar. That was strange. It wasn’t what I expected to be doing at that point, but like anything that happens to you in life, it turns out useful in some way or another. I think some of the weirder ideas that carried me through the next couple years after that came from long nights sitting opposite the elevator shaft at the Hilton Hotel, while I was trying to keep my sanity. 

Tangents: The ideas for “Hitchhiker’” came from several different inspirations, didn’t they? 

Adams: Yes. The actual title came to me while I was lying in a field in Innsbrook at night and looking up at the stars. There was a book around called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Europe,” and it occurred to me that somebody should write a “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.” I then promptly forgot about the idea until six years later. I was intrigued by the idea of doing science-fiction as a form of comedy, and it was only while I was at work on the story that became “Hitchhiker” that I suddenly remembered the title.

People always described “hitchhiker” rather carelessly or loosely as being a spoof on science-fiction, and it isn’t at all. Basically, a spoof or parody might give you enough material for a couple of pages, but that’s about it. So it was very much using science-fiction to enable one to parody everything else, but there’s no, or certainly hardly any, attempt to actually parody science-fiction.

Tangents: While you were writing the “Hitchhiker’s” radio series, you were hired to become a writer and story editor on “Doctor Who.” 

Adams: The sequence of events was that while I was waiting for the BBC to make up its mind about doing “Hitchhiker,” I needed some income from somewhere, so I thought, “Well, I’ve got this one script that I’ve written for “Hitchhiker.” What else could I generate with this?” And the obvious place to send it was “Doctor Who.” And the inevitable happened, which is that the commission for the rest of the “Hitchhiker’s” series, AND four episodes of “Doctor Who” came in the same week. So it was pretty hectic. I really had hardly a day off for four years after that, until I finally decided, “That’s it,” made the escape from London and holed up in a hotel in New York for a month, and tried to figure out what to do next.

Tangents: What’s your feeling now about your work with “Doctor Who?”

Adams: Well, “Doctor Who” is great in all sorts of ways. I remain tremendously fond of the actual idea, and it obviously got very well-worm and tired over the years. I think the problem with it was simply that we were doing 26 episodes a year on a very, very small amount of resources, and you’re having to compromise on so many things that you’re no longer getting any satisfaction out of it. It’s merely a collection of missed opportunities. And I feel on “Doctor Who,” there was just too much. Too much expected from too little in the way of resources. So at the end of the day, you feel, “Well, we didn’t even do a good job, I’m afraid.” So it was a little disappointing.

Tangents: The character of Ford Prefect in “Hitchhiker’s” was originally conceived as a sort of anti-Doctor Who, wasn’t he?

Adams: In a kind of way, yeah. One of the keynotes of Ford was that given the choice between saving the world and going to a good party, he’d go to the party. Or even a bad party. (laughs)

Tangents: Whereas Doctor Who would just save the world.

Adams: Yeah, he was that kind of boring guy about saving the world over and over again. That’s why I thought with “Hitchhiker,” “Let’s just get the world out of the way from the word go.” Boy, that was a decision that I came to regret. (groans) Good God.

Tangents: Why is that?

Adams: It was such a problem thereafter. It’s one of those things you do, like a gesture. You make this grand gesture at the beginning, and you give up the earth and you think, “Damn. Now where’s the thing going to be set?” You haven’t got a good reference point thereafter, so I’ve made these ... attempts to bring it back from time to time, but it never quite works. 

Tangents: Do you think the “Hitchhiker’s” story can be taken any further?

Adams: I’d like to, actually. A lot of people have not particularly liked “Mostly Harmless” [1993], including myself. The problem with it was the year in which I wrote that book was just full of terrible problems at home. Professional problems, family problems, a sad death in the family. It was a really, really bloody year, and against the background of that, I had to write a funny book. I know I keep saying that I’ll never do another [“Hitchhiker” book], but I might well d another one at some point because I’d like to leave it all on a slightly more upbeat ending than “Mostly Harmless” was.

Tangents: Did you ever tire of people asking you what you were working on next?

Adams: I got very crazed by it, actually. When I started out, I did something in radio, I did something in television. I did this, I did that. Then I did a book, and then suddenly, the book was a hit, [which] meant that the next thing I did was another book, and the next thing after that was another book. And that wasn’t the kind of life that I really wanted.

So I’ve set up with a bunch of very complementary and bright bunch of people, and we’ve formed a company called the Digital Village. It’s turning out to be enormous fun. I’m working very hard on a CD-ROM, “Starship Titanic.” Now that looks like it’ll go on into other forms of different media, but I don’t want ot do what I did with “Hitchhiker,” which was, “Okay, now I’ve done the radio series. Now I’ll do the book of it, and now I’m gonna write the television series,” and this and that, and virtually became my own word processor. 

Tangents: What’s your feeling about the different Internet groups that follow you?

Adams: It’s kind of weird, actually. Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. Now he would say in the future, everybody will have their own group. There was a point where I used to go into those different newsgroups, but I found that it was an uphill battle because you get a flak from people saying, “Oh, it can’t possibly be you, so butt off out of here.”

But the other thing is ... someone would ask a question, and then I would go on and answer it, and maybe write a full piece. And over the next two or three days, a lot of people would ask, “What did he say?” And then you’d watch as more and more garbled versions of what you’d said would proliferate around, and it got to be such a full-time job just trying to keep it under control. So I thought, “I’ll duck back out of this now,” and wait until I can do my own web site, where I can keep control of things.


This is still one of the better interviews I’ve ever done, and almost completely in spite of myself. I was frightfully young, on the late side of 23, but still in the first few months of knowing how to interact with other people. I had only been doing interviews in April of that year, and while the questions I asked aren’t bad, I can hear the overeager edge of my voice, trying to be funny and “cool” around a guy whose work I had just recently gotten into. On top of which, I had bought a new tape recorder for this interview, which unbeknownest to me was set on Voice Activated. So, I start the interview, and the tape recorder is cutting on and off. It rolled intermittently for the first few minutes while Douglas told me a great story about a similar problem he’d had while recording John Cleese for a BBC pantomime. Eventually, we both picked up the tape recorder, and Douglas figured out what the problem was. Not only did the machinery go heywire during a Douglas Adams interview, but Douglas then fixed it. Even back then, it seemed absolutely brilliant. After the interview was done, mind you....

What it did establish in my favor was that I literally had no airs about myself. I was the innocent fan with some half-decent questions, and Douglas really went out of his way to give some very in-depth answers. I kept running into him the rest of the day, as I had to stay at the library until Douglas’ speaking engagement and signing. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t bugged him as much (at least I feared I did), but it was such a cool day, it was hard to let it go. I also hate that I never got the chance to talk to him again, and tell him how much it had all meant to me.

And how that we get this interview? Tangents was the only one that wanted to interview Douglas in person, while he was in town. All of the papers only wanted pre-show interviews before that week (all of which Douglas was doing at the time via email, or internet chats, which was still in its dodgy infancy), and I wanted to meet him. A few weeks before the interview, the Main Library had temporarily banned our magazine from the building, as someone got scared by our “content.” And then, there I was, representing the media through the Main Library of Charlotte, and we were back in the library. Even then, it struck me as bizarre, and hilarious. 

This gig also became notable for other reasons. It was one of the first events I ever photographed, as our photographer at the time didn’t show up. I took photos from my seat, sitting next to the girl that had dumped me the week before, as we’d had already gotten the tickets weeks ahead of the show. I then took photos at the signing, which were the best pics of him I got that night. I would soon discover the combination of music and photography at Farm Aid the following week, and I was off on another adventure. 

My last question to Douglas was actually this, which we originally cut for space.

Tangents: Would you do another nude scene, like you did in the Hitchhiker’s TV series?

Adams: Dear God, no! They got me horribly drunk to do that!

-Daniel Coston, February 2010  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Robert Pollard interview, 2010

Robert Pollard: Don’t Stop Now
Interview and introduction by Daniel Coston
Originally published by the Big Takeover Magazine, winter 2010 issue

For over twenty years, Robert Pollard has produced an astonishing amount of good music. Sixteen albums with the heralded Guided by Voices, 15 solo albums, and four albums with Boston Spaceships in the last three years alone, on top of a mind-boggling number of EPs and singles with many other projects. This year alone, Pollard will helm the release of five new albums, and is already working on next year’s releases. Pollard has also become known for his collage artwork, which has graced the covers of many of his albums, as well as in galleries across the United States.

For many fans like myself, our love with all things Pollard began with the 1993 to 1996 era of Guided by Voices, which produced six great albums (including 1994’s Bee Thousand, and 1995’s Alien Lanes), and a large collection of EPs that fans still collect. Hearing those records for the first time was like discovering the Who and the Beatles all at once, hitting you with song after infectious song.

Now, the “classic” lineup of GBV- Pollard, guitarist Tobin Sprout, guitarist Mitch Mitchell, bassist Greg Demos and drummer Kevin Fennell- recently reformed for a series of shows that gave fans such as myself to finally see this legendary band in person. Whether you’re there for the sheer spectacle of a Guided by Voices show, or just to hear a great band, it’s the music of Guided by Voices that first led me to them, and has stayed with me to this day. 

I first met Pollard in 1997, first as a huge Guided by Voices fan, and then got to know him better through my photography. (I photographed GbV’s 2002 album Universal Truths And Cycles, and have photos in their best-of.) There’s something about Bob that I’ve always liked, as a person and as a musician. Apart from being really intelligent, Bob has a natural love for whatever he’s into, whether it’s music, record collecting, art or anything else. Pollard still shows me the possibilities of being that prolific in your chosen field of art, and having a huge body of work to call your own when all is said and done.

This interview took place via email, before the GbV reunion shows took place. My thanks to David Newgarden for setting this up, and to my friend and fellow GbV fanatic Donnie Merritt for the additional questions. 

BT: How did this GBV reunion tour come about?

Pollard: It started with an invitation to play the Matador 21st Anniversary three-day event in Vegas. I initially declined, but was later persuaded to decide otherwise. They wanted loosely, the Alien Lanes cast at the time, but by the point that I had decided to do it, I thought it might makes sense to re-form the so-called "Classic Lineup," and embark on the dreaded "U.S. Reunion Tour." I don't dread it now, and in fact am looking forward to getting back together with Toby, Greg, Mitch and Kevin, and kicking out those songs from that era, 15 or 16 years ago.  
There's a lot of energy in that batch of songs, and we need to get our old asses back into some semblance of decent physical and mental condition.

BT: Have you guys gotten together yet to rehearse, talk, drink?

Pollard: We've talked.  I've been drinking once a week with Mitch.  I've been drinking with Greg occasionally.  Everyone is excited.

BT: Do you guys have any plans beyond this tour? Is a new record in the plans?

Pollard: We may do some more shows. Possibly Europe/England next Spring or Summer. We'll not likely do a new album. Possibly a live album of this tour. I don't know. One can never tell.

BT: Many of the shows have already sold out. How does it feel to know that there is still so much interest in GBV?

Pollard: It's nice to be reminded of that level of admiration. I've been listening to and going over the set that we'll be playing. Songs from "Propeller" to "Under the Bushes."  Mostly stuff from "Bee Thousand" and "Alien Lanes". Having distanced myself somewhat from that era, I realize that there was a shitload of really good songs.
BT: Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are rightfully considered classics. Which of your EPs, or which EP are you proudest of, do you think is the best, or think is a classic?
Pollard: I'm most proud of "Clown Prince of the Menthol Trailer." The best is probably "Grand Hour," also the classic, but it could also be "Fast Japanese Spin Cycle," or "Get Outta My Stations."

BT: What songs are you looking forward to performing again?

Pollard: Oh, it's hit after hit. About 40 of them. Just like in the old days. "Shocker [In Gloomtown]", "[I Am A] Scientist", " [Game Of] Pricks", "[Tractor] Rape Chain", "[My Valuable] Hunting Knife"...

BT: Let's talk about your new albums. Describe what's upcoming, and did you plan to put out 5 CDs this year?
Pollard: I've been releasing 5 to 7 albums a year for the last 4 or 5 years.  Ever since we started GBV, Inc..  I just released a solo album, "Moses On A Snail." Boston Spaceships has "Our Cubehouse Still Rocks" coming out in September, and Chris [Slusarenko] and John [Moen] are working on our next project, a double album called "Let It Beard," slated for next Spring.  I'm doing collaborations with Doug Gillard (Lifeguards) and Gary Waelik of Big Dipper (Mars Classroom), scheduled for early 2011, and I have a new solo album finished, which will be out in January called "Space City Kicks". I never plan, I just do.

BT: I'm happy to see that doing a new album with Doug Gillard. Is this something that you've wanted to do for some time?

Pollard: Well, I did a Lifeguards album with Doug about, I don't know, 6 or 7 years ago and Doug approached me to do a record last year. We were originally going to call the project ESP Ohio, but I thought it might be more interesting to call it Lifeguards again. It's entitled "Waving at the Astronauts". It sounds nothing like the first one. It's on a NYC label called Serious Business.

BT: When you start putting together an album, do you say, "I want it to sound like THIS," or do you write the songs, and put the record together from there?

Pollard: I write songs first, usually. Occasionally, I have a preconceived notion as to what I want it to be. Sometimes I even have the cover before I write the songs. There aren't usually formulas. Lately I'm back to starting with song titles first, the way I worked back around "Alien Lanes". 

BT: You seem to have settled into a pretty productive writing and recording schedule. How different is your routine, now that you don't tour on a regular basis?
Pollard: I work every morning on either music or art, and they're pretty much the same thing.  I never force it.  It's like routine exercise. Lotta coffee.

BT: I have to ask. How often DO you write a song? Do you have a preferred quota?

Pollard: I have no quota. I just write when I feel like it, and I brainstorm as many ideas as I can until the point of overload or exhaustion. Then I pick out what I want to flesh out or in some cases, keep it the same.

BT: What's the advantage of having your own record label?

Pollard: You maintain your schedule of 5 or 6 albums a year.  You don't compete with a stable.  Your projects are the stable, and you release them anytime you want.

BT: How's your collage art coming along these days? And do you still have that "We're here and we're high" yearbook cover that I gave you a few years ago? [The cover was my wife’s yearbook, from Centerville, Ohio.]

Pollard: I have an art show in NYC at the end of August. It's called "The Public Hi-Fi Balloon," and along with collages, it will feature an imaginary record store called "The Public Hi-Fi Balloon" with fake 45 and LP sleeves, and a rack of fake magazine covers. It's somewhat of a mind fuck. The conception will be that I have too much time on my hands. Man, I'm sorry, I don't remember the yearbook cover. I wish I had it. It sounds very workable. 

BT: Are you still collecting records? And if so, what have you been collecting lately?

Pollard: I'll look for a record occasionally if I read about it. Ebay or I've been looking for stuff on particular late 70's labels.  "Bomp," or "Stiff".  I recently found about 50 local and regional vanity gospel albums, at a thrift store. The covers are insane. Almost demented. The fonts are cool. Most of them were pressed in the ‘60s and ‘70s at the same plant that did our 80's vanity albums, like "Forever Since Breakfast," and "Devil Between My Toes". The old paper wrap-around covers.  
For me, finding this shit was the last frontier of psychedelia.  I mean, also, where did these people get the money to finance these records?  I'm sure from the collection plate. We went in debt to finance ours. I remember when we pressed "Forever Since Breakfast". The place was in Cincinnati, and it was called QCA. They thought we were a gospel band. Guided By Voices!

BT: You were a huge REM fan in the early days of GBV. What's your favorite song/album? still a fan? Ever meet them?
Pollard: Fave R.E.M. song, "Laughing." Fave R.E.M. album, "Murmur." I have met them. I've hung out with Peter Buck a few times, and he played on one of my records, and I sang on one of his. He's a really cool guy.

BT: Since my wife is an Ohio native, I've come to understand the state better through recent visits. What kind of influence does Ohio, and the area you now live in still have on your writing? 

Pollard: It's inspirational because there's not shit to do.  Nowhere to go. Ohio has spawned a plethora of very interesting bands from 60's bubblegum, to 70's scuzz rock, to 90's lo-fi.  Also, Ohio bands are very competitive. The cities are fairly competitive amongst one another.

BT: What means more to you? The Rock Hall in Cleveland, or Northridge High School sports Hall Of Fame? [Pollard and his brother Jimmy were inducted into the Northridge Hall Of Fame last year.] 

Pollard: Northridge sports, in a very childish, competitive way with my friends from that school.  It could be the same sort of haughtiness with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though. That kind of attitude comes from being verbally kicked around. It's silly.

BT: Finish this sentence. Robert Pollard is......

Pollard: ...a juggernaut and a monolith.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Robert Pollard interview, 1997

Robert Pollard of GBV interview
Originally conducted in summer 1997
Originally published in Musicomet Magazine, September 1999
Interview by Benjamin Robinson and Daniel Coston.

Singer. Bandleader. Writer of a million songs. World-famous beer drinker. Indie icon. Rock God. For fans of Robert Pollard, who has spent the last fifteen years at the helm of Guided by Voices, all of these labels apply to him. With a revolving cast of cohorts, Pollard and his Dayton, Ohio-based band have produced some of the best rock records in the past decade, including "Propeller" (1992), "Bee Thousand" (1994) and "Alien Lanes" (1995), and given rise to a legion of fans that rally behind the slogan, "In Bob We Trust."

With last month’s release of the band’s tenth album, "Do The Collapse," and their show at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill on September 9, we decided to dust off this never-before-seen interview with Pollard, conducted while he was promoting GbV’s 1997 album, "Mag Earwhig." Talking with Pollard is an experience unto itself. Much like his music, you’re never quite sure what’s coming next, but it always promises to be a lot of fun.

Musicomet: So you’re a big media superstar, now.

Pollard: I don’t know what’s next. I’ll be on Politically Incorrect, or Rock N’ Jock. [laughs] I could do that, but I don’t want to do that kind of stuff.

Musicomet: That’d be awful. Hanging out with Dean Cain...

Pollard: ...or Flea. I’ll kick Flea’s ass. [laughs]

Musicomet: Would you beat the Beastie Boys in basketball again, like you did on the Lollapalooza tour?

Pollard: Nah. They also had Billy Corgan, did you know that? It was the Beastie Boys and Billy Corgan. We actually became pretty good friends, because of that. It was really weird, because of our basketball ability, we got respect from that. We’d see them in a place in L. A., like a restaurant, they’d come over. "Hey, hey," you know, because of basketball. I’m not sure if it was because of rock.

Musicomet: Bob Pollard’s got mad game.

Pollard: They were okay. They weren’t bad players, they just underestimated my brother [Jimmy], and they just left him open for a 15-foot shot, and he buried, like, ten in a row.

Musicomet: Is it necessary for you to bring in new people every once in a while?

Pollard: Yeah, it’s always been that way. Some people think the band is like a marriage, and you have to stay together with that all the time, and I disagree. Before we got some attention in ‘93, I used to change the band all the time. I’d change it every week, if I felt like that, if I wanted to.
It’s like the story of the vampire. He’s got to keep himself young with new blood. [laughs] I’ll get me some nineteen, twenty year-old kids in the band next. Like that band Hanson..., or Silverchair.

Musicomet: Do you care that all these crappy bands make all the money?

Pollard: No, I actually have pity, because these kids are thrust into the f--king glamorous aspect of all this s--t, and they’re caught up in the industry, and I’m sure that they’re going to be f--king over with in a couple of years. And they don’t have time to develop their own music. Basically, all they can do is latch on to something that’s happened, like a grunge thing, and they’re going to have time to develop their own music, so it’s a joke.
I think it should be like, what’s the legal age for drinking? You should be that to be able to rock, too. [laughs] I don’t think you should be allowed to have a band before that. You cannot rock before your 21.

Musicomet: Could you play acoustic instruments before that?

Pollard: No, you just listen. You just listen and learn what you want to do. You go to school. You go to Rock College. You go to Rock N’ Roll High School, and then you go to Rock College.
I think that most of them see MTV as the role model. That’s the example. "Hey, we’ve got to be something like that." In the best periods of music, like the late ‘60s and late ‘70s, you could do anything you wanted. You could call your band any weird-ass name you wanted to, and you could do any weird kind of weird music you wanted to, and you could actually get signed to major label like that. Whereas now, you can’t.
Do you think that music sucks? It kind of sucks. I hardly listen to any music. I used to listen to it all day, and be into it. But I think it’s something to do with that we’re part of it, and it’s not as glamorous. Plus, I hate CDs. F--k CDs.

Musicomet: They don’t lend themselves very well to artwork....

Pollard: Yeah. It’s not art. It’s just plastic. And it costs, what, fifteen dollars for a CD? And it doesn’t cost them anything to make them. They send them out as advances for free. That’s how cheap they are.
I don’t think that bands give a s--t about the art part, or the conceptual parts [of the album]. They just think, "Let me get a couple good songs on there, and I’ll let the record company do the rest."

Musicomet: The album, as an art form, is really not like what it was. No one makes an album like you do anymore. It’s always hard for me to make a mix tape of Guided by Voices, because I don’t think about songs from "Alien Lanes"...

Pollard: You think about the album.

Musicomet: "Bee Thousand" is an album, it’s not a collection of songs.

Pollard: Thanks for saying that. That’s what I try to do. That’s way every album is different, and has it’s own personality. I don’t labor over songwriting, or recording, but I do labor over packaging, the sequencing, and the artwork, because that’s the final touches of the piece. I try to put it together so that you can listen to it without taking it off, or skipping through the songs.

Musicomet: What other bands do you respect, that have also been around as long as you?

Pollard: Peter Buck’s a good dude. I don’t like REM’s music too much anymore, but I used to, and I think that they’ve got some longevity. It’s kind of pitiful to see what’s happened to U2. Bob Mould, Sonic Youth. I like Sonic Youth. Those guys are good people. Pavement, Superchunk. Those bands keep going, and seem to be doing alright.
Somebody asked me, "What happens if it’s all over tomorrow? I know that I’ll still be making music, ‘cause we did it for ten years without anyone knowing what the hell was going on with us. It’s not a big scary thing.

Musicomet: Well, you can always forward to the "Where Are They Now?" articles about you.

Pollard: They have a section in the Dayton Daily News called, "Where Are They Now?" They’ve never put me in that. It’s mainly for athletes and s--t, but I was a pretty good athlete here in town. I made All-Greater Dayton in basketball, and I pitched a no-hitter at Wright State. You’d think they would be like, "That’d be an interesting story. Where is he now?" And I’m a rocker now, and they’ve never done that.

Musicomet: You’ve written just an innumerable number of songs. Do you still find new things to inspire you, and to write about?

Pollard: I don’t think about that. I write when I’m inspired, but I’m usually not inspired that often, But when I do become inspired, I just go write. And it usually comes from a list of song titles. I’ll use that as the seeds of inspiration, and I’ll just write the whole list. If there’s fifty song titles, I’ll write the whole list. And them I’ll go back and pick out my favorite ones, and work on them. Or sometimes, they’ll come from things that people say. I’ll listen, and twist phrases around, and start from there.

Musicomet: The thing that’s always amazed me about your lyrics is that for as many songs as you’ve written, you never repeat yourself.

Pollard: That’s what kind of tough, but I don’t think I could do that if I didn’t write the way that I do. Which is kind of like, way too uninspired, and then, it’s almost a form of meditation, or something. I just let myself kick back, and let loose, and let us much flow out as I can, and then use the best stuff. I think because I do that, I come up with a lot of different stuff. If I ... tried to work with a formula, then I think I would come up with a lot of the same stuff, and I think that’s what happens with a lot of bands.

Musicomet: Do you think that a lot of musicians also get too tied up in letting people what the inspiration is, what they’re writing about? ‘Cause I think that you’re lyrics can be interpreted in many different ways.

Pollard: Yeah. That’s the best kind of stuff. Like John Lennon’s, David Bowie’s, Marc Bolan’s. That’s how their lyrics where. These abstract portraits that you can figure out for yourself. They can mean a lot of different things.
There’s a lot of people who like to get too literal, and too personal, and try to reveal their soul to you. "Hey, this is how about my mom," or my girlfriend, or whatever. F--k that. Who cares?

Musicomet: That way, people can also take in their own meanings, to things going on within their own life.

Pollard: Yeah. I kind of work line by line. I’ll write one line, and that may mean something, and then the next line may have nothing to do with that. So I do is string a whole bunch of unrelated lines together, and then a lot of times they form a complete picture. And you can something of it, or you can make something out of one line. That’s fine.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Route 89, poem from 1996

Route 89
Originally published in Tangents Magazine, 1996

The past slowly wilts
like ice sculptures lost
the three o'clock sun,
evaporating stone by stone
as it wraps itself
in vines and fading paint.,
while the younger shapes
build themselves up
with plastic and shine,
hoping to survive
when the twilight calls them home.

Time counts the distance
spent traveled hour to hour,
of what has been
along the journey.
Voices and their faces
fall by the wayside,
submerging and switching
with the others,
leaving only the smoky remains
of what has gone, and only returns
in patches and flashes of rememberance.

The survivors move on,
slowly changing the shades
and the faces with time,
although the path never alters.

Monday, September 5, 2011

There Was A Time, the 1960s NC rock scene book

For the past year and a half, I have been working on a book on the rock scene of North Carolina, with a focus on the Charlotte scene. The initial idea for the book came from Jake Berger, a longtime musician in the Charlotte scene. He first pitched me the idea while I was working on the Double Door Inn book (which is still available on Amazon, or from me), and I finally found the time last year to start working on the book. I am now in the editing stages, but am collecting more info about bands and scenes throughout North Carolina.

If you were in a band in the 1960s in NC, played with any bands in NC during that time, or have some cool photos or stories from that period, please email me at, and I'll write you back immediately. Thanks.

Happy 66th wedding anniversary

When I was four, I lived for some time with my mother's parents, George and Mary King. I was their first grandchild, and I took to them like I have rarely connected to anyone else in my life. I learned a lot from them. Set your own hours, take time for yourself, family does matter, and most importantly, do what you care about. No big fanfare about things, but do what matters to you, and be proud of what you've done. I still look at that time of my life as one of my happiest. I will always be from upstate New York, even if its just in the emotional sense, and they will always be a big part of that.

George and Mary's last anniversary together on this earth was in 1990, the same day that my first TV show premiered on local TV. Years later, I found their wedding photo negatives, and made sure that they were preserved. George and Mary are no longer here, in the physical sense, as are too many of the good people I've known along the way. But it is said that no one is truly gone if we still talk about them, quote from them. Live through their experiences. And I am still proud to do so.

Happy 66th annivsersary, George and Mary, from your old kid,

Left Banke interviews, 2003

Shadows Breaking: Stories Of The Left Banke
From Big Takeover Magazine 2003

Daniel Coston: For over 35 years now, millions of people have heard "Walk Away Renee" without knowing anything about the band that created it. In 1966, four very different teenagers fused classically-influenced songwriting and gorgeous three-part harmonies into a song that was both their first single, and their biggest hit. It was also the opening chapter of a story full of personal (and sometimes legal) entanglements, yet continues to rewrite its own history. And even write some new chapters in the process.

The four people at the core of the Left Banke- Mike Brown (pianist/main songwriter), Steve Martin (lead vocals), Tom Finn (bass/vocals) and George Cameron (drums/vocals)- have all fallen out with each other at one point or another through the years, but something about what the band created- the music, the sound, those voices- has continued to bring them back together. To see if that thing they had is still there, and if it can happen again. Which leads us up to recent events...

Tom Finn (Left Banke bassist/vocalist): Mike and Steve have been working together. Mike has been flying down to Tampa [FL, where Steve lives- ed] for the last few years, where he has been recording piano/vocal demos.

[In summer 2001] Mike, Jimmy McAllister [ex-Beckies] and I laid down some basic tracks at his studio in NJ. When we were done Steve came up from Tampa and put his vocal on them, George, Yvonne Vitale [Brown's wife] and I did backing vocals. In all we recorded about five songs.

George Cameron (Left Banke drummer/vocalist): The songs were good. Steve had already done the lead vocals, so Tom and I added harmonies. They weren't as good as they could have been. When we (Steve, Tom and me) get around a piano at the same time, wonderful things happen. We weren't afforded that time, so though it wasn't bad, it could have been really good. What came of those recordings, only Mike knows.

Rick Brand (Left Banke guitarist): About seven years ago, I called Mike up and told him that some people were asking about the Left Banke, and asked him if he would consider doing something with the band again. Mike emphatically said no, and said that if I ever suggested that again, he wouldn't speak to me for the rest of my life.

Then, about a year-and-a-half ago, some of my old friends from high school brought up the band again, and I thought, "Oh well, all I can do is try." So I called Mike up, and he immediately says, "I'm way ahead of you. I've been talking to Steve about reforming the Left Banke. Do you want to join?" So I said yes.

As soon as I started rehearsing with Mike, I immediately remembered what it was like to work with him. Mike has a very specific idea of what he wants out of something, and he is pretty emphatic about what he doesn't want. "Don't play this, play this." Soon, I found myself playing less and less guitar. Then some other problems arose, and the last time I spoke to Mike was about a year ago.

Coston: Recently, with Martin out of the picture again due to personal issues, Brown and Finn have been collaborating with McAllister and singer Shane Faubert, and while no one is quite sure as to what the final result will be, everyone involved speaks very highly of the new project. Finn even recently got Brown (who rarely speaks in public, and whom turned down a request to be interviewed for this article) to appear on an live radio broadcast on New York radio WFMU (check out the station's archives on their website for thisJANUARY 18TH BROADCAST), another sign that something is happening, even if it is still unclear to those involved in this story's latest chapter.

The roots of these recent events began in 1965. While recording with a band at World United Studios in New York City, Tom Finn meets Michael Lookofsky (soon to be Michael Brown), who is the 16 year-old son of the studio's owner, and a budding pianist and composer, in his own right. Finn soon introduces Brown to his friend George Cameron, who in turn introduces the others to Steve Martin, a friend who has just moved from Madrid, Spain. The four are soon hanging out and singing together at World United. Soon afterwards, another friend of Finn's, Tom Feher (now changed to Fair), also begins to stop by.

Tom Fair: The initial sessions took place in World United studio, owned by Mike Brown's father, Harry Lookofsky and run by brothers Bill and Steve Jerome who were co-producers on a number of other studio projects.

The studio itself was kind of ratty by today's standards, way up in the back of a dingy old building on Broadway and 48th Street in midtown Manhattan. There was an old upright piano on one wall of the studio, and another in a separate office in the same building. That office served as the publishing administration office.

Mike would sit at the piano and command rehearsals with his superior musical knowledge. The rest of us would stand around the piano and sing, trying to achieve his ideal vision of each song he originated.

Sometimes we'd stay up until 3 in the morning or even dawn, working on songs, jamming or just pissing about. Music was the only reason for existence. When that was done, we'd often "crash" on the floor, or the couch in the office, or head back down to Greenwich Village to sleep in a cheap hotel with a group of sympathetic Rolling Stones' groupies or whatnot.

Cameron: All we did was go upstairs to the studio, and play and sing all night long. When things needed to change, we would go next door to this arcade called Fascination, and play this bingo-style ball game. The workers there loved us, we were so odd. I think that those were the best times. The music was still our driving force and we got along. Well, most of the time.

Coston: A friend soon suggests the name the Left Banke, and everyone agrees on it. During one of these sessions, Finn introduces the band to his then-girlfriend Renee Fladen. It is said that Brown was so taken by her, he wrote three of the band's best-known songs- "Walk Away Renee," "Pretty Ballerina" and "She May Call You Up Tonight"- about Fladen.

Tom Fair: Renee was a girl of Swedish parentage with blond, almost white-blond hair. A number of us fell madly in love with her, and she was willing to oblige both Tom Finn and myself, but she spurned Mike Brown, and thus he in his anguish wrote the song of unrequited love that gained him chart action and a fatter bank account than the rest of us.

Tom Finn: Renee was a very bright young girl.

Tom Fair: She eventually married Woody Klamm, the blues-harp player from a group called "The Strangers," moved to Boston and had a baby.

As far as the record being done in parts, I don't know. I do know that originally it was being recorded with drummer Warren David, but the version that was released involved drums by studio musician Al Rogers. There was a big scene in which Mike Brown and Warren ran off to California with Mike's coin collection, and were met at the airport in LA by police tipped off by Mike's dad, Harry.

Harry considered Warren a bad influence on Mike, and I think he was nudged out of the group. That's when George Cameron was put behind the drums for the group, but George didn't play on the hit single releases. Buddy Saltzman played drums on "Pretty Ballerina."

Tom Finn: The session of [Walk Away Renee] was done at World United Studio was our third attempt at recording, As I remember it was a very good feeling session and everyone involved was satisfied.

That's the way things were done back then. It was a singles (45) minded environment, nobody thought anything of it. As a matter of fact it was much better than trying to do a whole album.

Tom Fair: I think the other guys would agree, writing songs with Mike Brown was torturous. He'd get a title or a basic idea of what he wanted to say, a first line or something, and then he'd come up with the melody and overall musical arrangement.

If you were his collaborator, you were expected to somehow discover exactly which words he wanted to say, so basically he was picking your brains, but if you wanted to add your own twist to it, you were in for it. I think he just wanted company at the piano, someone to harass and batter into submission, and could have just as likely written all the lyrics himself.

Once "Walk Away Renee" was a hit, recording moved over to the better equipped Mercury studios. My most vivid recollection is Mike Brown's big oversized shoe tapping time to the music as he recorded the vocal to the only Left Banke track on which we hear his voice, "What Do You Know?"

Tom Finn: We worked on [the harmonies] a lot.

Cameron: Our favorite song to sing back in the day was the Beatles' "You're Gonna Lose That Girl." We sang that song all the time, and everywhere. After that, anytime we got together to sing we would just come up with some amazing harmonies. It really can't be explained. We just loved to sing and we sounded great together, and we did it best when we weren't given parts to sing. Just let us go and stand back.

Coston: With good reviews, and backing from the band's new label, Smash/Mercury, "Renee" eventually reached the Top 5, with their second single, "Pretty Ballerina," climbing the charts soon after. Pressed into service as a touring outfit, the band recruits guitarist Jeff Winfield for a few dates, and an appearance on the TV show "Where The Action Is." (He can also be heard on the band's recording of "Lazy Day.") Winfield is soon dropped, and replaced with Rick Brand, a veteran of the New York City-based Spyders.

Rick Brand: "Pretty Ballerina" was entering the Top 20 when I joined the band. I was a couple years older than everybody else, and was the last to join, so I was always the outsider in the band. I tried to get along, but I was kept at some distance. In many ways, especially because of their ages, the Left Banke was their high school. They grew up together, trusted together, got big together, and fought together. And it's hard to know outside of that circle what that is like.

I had just joined when we recorded "Let Go Of You Girl." Mike liked to work very fast. He played it to me once, and then said, "Let's record." What you hear is my second take. I didn't have time to come up with a big guitar line. And guitar was also a minimal instrument in the band. It wasn't the dominant instrument, and that's how Mike heard it. "Play the G note over and over," he would say.

Coston: Even at this point, the diverse and sometimes polarizing personalities of the band members were already apparent.

Fair: [Brown] had mood swings, would pull rank on the rest of us since his dad owned the studio - you know, hold up the key to the place and inform us that we'd be locked out if he so decided. At other times he could be very generous with money, opportunities and facilities.

Finn: Michael is a mad genius and consequently is hard to work with. Sort of like Brian Wilson but more extreme.

Fair: Steve was the "pretty boy" of the group, of hot-blooded Castillian heritage, thought much of himself and little of others.

Brand: Steve had mood swings, but it always felt good to have him as your friend.

Fair: George was non-committal, kept to himself mostly, kind of secretive, but basically easy to get along with.

Tom was the most outgoing of the group, mediator in arguments, seeker for musical perfection. Tom got along well with other people. Thanks to him I was included in a Left Banke tour as keyboardist, which eventually led to a performing career of my own.

Brand: I really learned to respect Tom. He was the peacemaker of the group, and had an incredible ear for all harmonies.

Coston: With "Pretty Ballerina" reaching the Top 15, and the release of their debut album (Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina), the band continued to tour, although Brown soon opted out of touring, wanting to stay home to write and record.

Tom Finn: We were very, very young and had little or no rehearsal, we also had very poor stage equipment and had to do cover tunes because of a lack of original material.

Rick Brand: The rest of the guys were like, 17, when the band got big, and some of the guys were still learning how to play their instruments when they got sent on the road. Although I will say that Tom and George got to be really good pretty quickly.

George Cameron: Truly I don't think it really sunk in till a little later, when one day we heard "Walk Away Renee" on the car radio. Then I believe we got it, though we didn't really take it all that seriously. What I mean by that is we gave no thought to the business end, and how we were going to present a show. Keep in mind that Steve and I were ardent hard rock types. We liked the Who, the Stones and our stuff was so mellow, and when no outlet for our rock side emerged, shows tended to reflect our frustration. We were bad, and then we were really good.

Tom Finn: Mike was unable to tour he couldn't take the stress. We all decided on Emmett Lake to replace him on the road. During that time we had a better time, but we were thinking more about girls and getting high.

Tom Fair: [Lake] was an excellent musician who came to us through an ad in the paper, but his background was more of a folk/classical and he was very out of place in this scene. With army fatigues and thick beard, he looked more like a member of the Fugs than the Left Banke, who had adopted the Carnaby Street look.

Rick Brand: He looked like Wyoming, or at least what my impression of what someone from Wyoming would look like.

Tom Fair: But Emmett was a competent musician and a gentleman, and did his best to do what was required of him. I don't recall if he was fired, or if he quit - many guys just came and went because they couldn't take the group's internal hassles - but Emmett was only around for a number of months.

Rick Brand: We mostly toured the East Coast, with bands like the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Association, and the Toys. We did two tours with the Beach Boys, a 14-day tour, and a ten-day one. We hung out with the Beach Boys quite a lot. They were all pretty nice. They loved Steve. Dennis [Wilson] got to be really good buddies with Steve.

We would go on first, and then there would be three other bands, and then the Beach Boys. Every show that the Beach Boys did was identical. The girls would really go nuts over us, however. One thing I learned on that tour was if you had a hit song that mentioned a girl's name, that was it. When we would do "Walk Away Renee," girls loved us.

George Cameron: We were so different from most of the groups at that time. Most people thought we were from England.

The Beach Boys just stood back stage and loved it. They wanted to manage us at one point.

Tom Finn: The Beach Boys, and Mamas & Papas tours were a lot better, we used their big arena sound systems and monitor speakers, also because of a shorter time on stage we could play mostly originals.

Rick Brand: Behind the stage curtain, we were the coolest band, and we knew it. We just had an air about ourselves. We all got attention from girls, but they'd really go for Steve. Onstage, Steve looked better than the Beatles.

We would never rehearse. We were spontaneous onstage. Some nights we'd really have a lot of fun, and other nights we'd argue about what song to play next, or anything, and we'd walk off stage. I always that we in some ways presaged the whole punk thing, or some of the ideas of punk. All these bands back then would be trying very hard to be likable to the audience, and we just didn't give a fuck.

Coston: Despite all of the band's accolades and success, tensions within the band were mounting. Wanting to take full control of the band, Brown releases the "Ivy, Ivy"/"And Suddenly" single in April of 1967 under the Left Banke name, despite the fact that no other band members sing or play on it. (Brown's friend and collaborator Bert Sommer sings lead on both songs.) The single gets close to the top 40 charts before the rest of the band takes legal action. Although the four bandmembers will work together six months later on the Desiree single, and the Four Tops' cover of "Walk Away Renee" would reach the Top 15 in early 1968, their own chances of further chart success are irretrievably dashed.

Tom Finn: "Ivy, Ivy" was indeed a messy time.

Tom Fair: You know, now that I think about it, I have no idea why that particular song was chosen, unless it was in spite to the other members of the group, like to say "we don't need your vocals or your songwriting abilities." I don't think the record company had any part in the decision at all - they were just glad to have anything at all to promote during that time.

The song "Ivy, Ivy," is a song which I wrote 100 percent on my own, about a former European model who was at that time a member of the Andy Warhol crowd. It was transformed by Harry Lookofsky into a "Brown/Feher" composition by indicating to me that if Mike's name went on it, it would be released. The great thing about "Ivy, Ivy," although I don't consider it a particularly great song, is that it was orchestrated and produced by the great Bobby Scott, who co-wrote "A Taste of Honey," and "He Ain't Heavy (He's My Brother)."

Tom Finn: Steve, George & I got lawyers to stop the "Ivy Ivy" single. After that "Desiree" was released, however all major radio program directors were afraid to play the single because they were warned not to play "Ivy Ivy" therefore they chose not to play anything.

Rick Brand: "Desiree" rose to 22 in Florida, and then was pulled. It just died.

George Cameron: In our happier days we were just happy to be playing and doing what we loved doing. But then...when the egos and disappointments got between us, it sucked and was stressful. When the music becomes secondary, things change. Steve Tyler [later of Aerosmith fame] saw a lot of that part of us, and has said he saw us flush ourselves down the toilet.

Coston: "Desiree" marked the end of the collaborations between Brown and the rest of the band. Nor would its success have changed anything.

Tom Finn: No, Mike would not have stayed if "Desiree" was a bigger hit.

Coston: During recording of "Desiree," Brand disagreed with Brown on the arrangement of the song, and left the band soon after.

Brand: I love the song "Desiree." If you could have heard the signature line played by a guitar and keyboard, it was amazing. Kind of like the chorus of "Day Tripper." But Mike had this idea in his head for an arrangement with a 17, 21 piece band, and it just didn't sound the same to me. So I stormed out of the session.

During this time, I'd had a falling out with George [Cameron]. He wouldn't talk to me directly. We would be in the same room, and George would say to everybody, "Tell Rick..." And I'd be like, "George, I'm right here."

After Mike left the band, we all got together to talk about songs for the next record, and they told me that they'd decided not to include me in the writing for it. They wouldn't let me in on the writing. So I left. They called me later and asked me to play banjo on the "Bryant Hotel" single, probably because they didn't know another banjo player, and did a few gigs with them near the end, but that was it.

Coston: The first band effort without Brown, the "Dark Is The Bark" single in May of 1968, failed to chart, a fate that would befall all of the band's future singles. With Brown, Brand, and, by this time, Emmett Lake gone, Tom Feher began to take a more active role in the band.

Fair: The trip I recall best is an East coast tour that went to Baltimore and Washington, DC. On this tour, I played piano. I don't recall playing guitar although I may have. What I do recall is Mark Volman of the Turtles rolling around on the floor, clowning for the audience.

Mark Volman, Turtles: I was a big fan of [the Left Banke's] first album. It was a unique album for its time with some ultra-fine songwriting by Michael Brown. The sound of the group was polished but had a great garage sound as well. As the Turtles we even took a stab at a couple songs in our live show.

Coston: This larger role for Feher included writing the bandís next two singles, "Goodbye Holly," and "Bryant Hotel."

Tom Fair: "Goodbye Holly," although primarily an exercise in songwriting and chord progression, was written with an actual girl in mind, a girl from northern New Jersey who died in a fire. I wrote the song in Englewood, NJ on one of three baby grand pianos in a house owned by Joyce Norden, whom Mike Brown married at one point.

Here's something I never told anyone about the song: I actually wrote it with Davy Jones of The Monkees voice in mind, you know, that vocal he does on "Daydream Believer?" And when George was selected to do the vocal, I was secretly disappointed; I actually wanted to sing the vocal myself. However, to be honest, in retrospect, my voice was untrained and a pain to listen to at the time.

George Cameron: We all sang, and Steve never wanted to sing all the songs. I believe it was Tom's idea for me to sing "Goodbye Holly" and I also sang "Bryant Hotel," which I really wanted to do. And yes, Steve did play drums [on "Goodbye Holly"]. This was the way the group was intended to function. We were all good enough to switch around roles and add to the different sounds those changes create.

Tom Feher: "Bryant Hotel" is one of my favorite songs that I wrote in the Left Banke period of my life. It is about an actual hotel on Broadway in NYC, and reviewers have accurately referred to it as "Kinkish," since it was indeed inspired by the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon."

I'm proud of the lyrical imagery: "Fossils lie in the lobby," refers to the seventy and eighty year old men we'd invariably find seated and staring into space in the lobby of the hotel. "Elevator vacation" refers to the fact that more often than not, the elevator wasn't working. You had to see this hotel to believe it!

As producer for these tracks, on which I played guitar, we had Paul Leka. Paul had a decent track record...and he was called in to salvage the second album which had gotten out of hand with numerous squabbles and changes within the group. But truthfully, I didn't think it was a perfect match, and to this day I shudder when I hear the glissando piano on "Bryant Hotel."

Coston: During this time, Tom Finn continued to emerge as a songwriter, writing and singing several songs, and including a young Boston singer, Steven Talarico (later Steven Tyler) on a few of the sessions.

Tom Finn: I sang lead on "There's Gonna be A Storm", and "Nice To See You." Steven Tyler sang backing vocals on "My Friend Today," "Dark Is The Bark," "Give The Man A Hand" and "Nice To See You".

It was hard to write period, it was hard to get Steve & George to do anything they didn't write.

Coston: After the release of the band's second album, The Left Banke Too, in late 1968, the band slowly dissipates, with all of the band members moving on to other projects.

Ton Finn: Well it's hard to say, did they lose interest, I don't think so. We were starving, we had no other means of income, and nowhere to live. We had new managers (Rubott Management), and they kept us on the road milking the hits, and paying our and their rents. They also signed Steven Tyler's band called the Chain Reaction, and had to support them as well as other bands they signed.

George Cameron: By this time I was so disheartened, disenchanted, and in such disbelief with the state of affairs. I mean, all I ever wanted to do was play music and it had turned into such a nightmare I just didn't care, and probably made everyone around me just as miserable.

Coston: During this time, Brown collaborates with Feher for his next project, the self-titled (and only) release from the band Montage.

Tom Fair: The Montage was a local band from New Jersey that Mike Brown decided he would groom into "the next Left Banke." I think [Mike] had gotten the Phil Spector attitude, in which the producer is the recording star and the vocalists are merely minor parts in his creation.

So he got these guys, who were basically a competent cover band, and used them like trained seals to do his bidding. It's only my opinion, but I think that's why the band never really went anywhere - it wasn't really their career that was being forwarded, it was his.

As far as working on songs, we had a kind of a formula down by that time. I knew what to expect from Mike, and he knew what to expect from me. So the writing went fairly fast. We had the one song about Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las, "I Shall Call Her Mary," and the song I consider was the one in which I had the most to say about the lyrics of any Brown/Feher collaboration, "An Audience With Miss Priscilla Gray."

Coston: After the Montage album, remarkably, Brown reunited with Steve Martin for the song "Myrah," which is released as the band's last official single in November of 1969. A year later, Martin, Finn and Cameron reunite with Brown for the songs "Love Songs In The Night" and "Two By Two." The songs were written by Brown, and feature Martin, Finn, and Cameron, but the songs are released as a Steve Martin solo single. The songs get some airplay, but no more is then heard from the band.

Tom Finn: Mike & Dominic Sicilia, who later became Stories' manager, decided it would be best to go with a Steve Martin single on those two songs because they figured the Left Banke name was over. So they just thought Steve Martin would be a fresh start on a new label, Buddah. Don't forget that The Left Banke was contractually obligated to Smash.

Mark Volman, the Turtles: As Flo and Eddie, we did a killer version of "Love Songs in the Night."

Howard Kaylan, the Turtles: "Love Songs in the Night" and "Two by Two" I have recorded myself, and will one day release when I find someone to take a solo project from me seriously.

Fair: Tom Finn and I got involved later in a recording of several of my songs for a film that was never released. On the project, we worked with Rick and Randy Zehringer and Randy Hobbs, all of The McCoys. It was the first time Rick (soon to become "Rick Derringer") had ever recorded on pedal steel; somewhere there may exist a recording of those tracks, but I don't personally have them.

Coston: While Brown went on to work with the Stories and the Beckies during the 70s, the other band members work on other projects, until they reunite in 1978 to record some new songs by Finn.

Tom Finn: [Strangers On A Train] was based upon my songwriting skills in the late 70's. I was going to record solo but our backer thought it would be nice to reorganize The Left Banke to do some of my tunes. Our backer CAM-USA was a music publishing company that had a big hit with a singer named Eric Carmen, "All By Myself" and others, and Eric was a big Left Banke fan.

Coston: Despite the backing, and some promo singles being pressed up, the new album (subsequently titled Strangers On A Train) could not find a home, and is eventually released in 1986 on a small British label.

George Cameron: I actually liked some of Tom's songs. This was a new direction for us, I thought. Good melodies that had a little more punch then our old stuff. I guess I saw it as the next step from our pop days. This was more the kind of music I was into, and I think Steve felt the same way. It had a backbeat. Good guitar riffs. A lot more soulful with a touch of blues. But the partying got the best of Steve and I. Some of those recordings were done with extreme hangovers.

Finn: As far as regret about not having a better release, no record company wanted any part of the Left Banke. At the time, Disco & Punk Rock was in vogue. Also, most of the selections were done in demo form.

Coston: In subsequent years, rumors occasionally surfaced as to a partial Left Banke reunion, usually involving Brown and/or Martin, and then faded away. Although recent events have included a lot of activity, there is no guarantee as to what will happen next, or whether these efforts will ever be heard by you or I. As always, the Left Banke continue to be unpredictable, and a bit mysterious. And a story that may have more than one unwritten chapter still up its sleeve.

Brand: Whatever happens, I really hope that this works out for Mike, and everybody else. To me, Mike as a composer is up there with Brian Wilson, McCartney, and so on. Whoever you want to name, he's there.

Tom Fair: In the days when the Left Banke was formed, the music industry in New York City was wide open to experimentation, and groups sprang up almost spontaneously from the streets and doorways of the city. The Left Banke was such a group. Being involved with the group was a learning experience for me, although there was a lot of stress and pain involved in that process.

Rick Brand: Despite everything I said earlier, if Mike called me up today and asked me to join him, I'd be at his house with my guitar this weekend. And if Steve joins...

Finn: I think The LB is capable of creating some of the most wonderful music ever heard, however any work that would be able to reach the masses would have to be produced by someone that understands the strange dynamics of the groups interactions and be able to treat each member as an important part of the whole and most importantly be able to win the trust and confidence of Michael Brown. That person must also must have balls of steel.

Travels With My Camera: Johnny Cash and the Carter Family

Travels With My Camera
Johnny Cash and the Carter Family
by Daniel Coston
Originally written for Cash photo show in Raleigh, NC 2005
Originally published on Tangents Magazine website, 2010

It’s June 14, 2003, one month after the passing of June Carter. In previous years, June and Johnny Cash had often visited the Carter Family home of Hiltons, VA, hidden deep within the Virginia mountains. June’s cousins, Janette and Joe Carter (children of A.P. and Sara Carter, of the original Carter Family) had built the Carter Family Fold in 1976 as a home for old-time music, and June’s annual return to the Fold (usually based around her June 25th birthday) with Johnny in tow had always been a joyous affair. But now, these shows as seemed as distant a memory as my hope of ever seeing Johnny Cash in person.

I drove to Hiltons on this day for the Fold’s usual Saturday show with no particular reason in mind, other than this feeling that I should go. Yellow ribbons that had been tied in June’s memory sat all along the road to Hiltons, and the sign outside the Fold bore one simple message: Pray For John.

As the show progressed that night, I began to wonder about the Fold’s show the following week. During an intermission, Janette Carter mentioned that next week’s show would be a tribute to June Carter, on what would have been her birthday show. But there seemed to be something that they weren’t saying, a feeling that something special was going to happen. As I was saying goodbye to the Fold’s merch person (whom I later found out to be Flo Wolfe, granddaughter of A.P. and Sara Carter), I knowingly mentioned to her that I was sorry that I had never gotten to see Johnny Cash. Flo smiled, grabbed my arm and said, “Come back next week.” It felt like lightening in a bottle. Something that seemed beyond even my wild imagination was about to happen.

On June 21, 2003, Johnny Cash arrived at the Fold 20 minutes before showtime. Despite his weak legs, he insisted on walking back into the Fold, so son John Carter Cash, and assorted friends and relatives steadied him as he walked, step by anxious step. Despite the Carter’s best efforts to keep the show a secret, word had leaked out and by 7:30pm the venue had sold over 1700 tickets, in a place that can hold usually hold 600 people indoors. The Carter’s folded up the venue’s back walls, and the crowd sat on the mountainside, a sea of people that just seemed to keep going.  

After singing “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Cash began to talk to the audience about June. “There is nothing worse that can happen to you than losing the person you love,” he said. “It’s the big one.” I have never heard anyone else talk with such honesty about loss to one person, let alone 1700. “I want to do this song for June,” he later added. “When I sing this song, I think of her. This is for June.” He paused, and then said in a voice that suggested he was talking to someone just beyond the back row, “I know you’re here tonight, baby.” Myself and the entire crowd exhaled and sobbed at once. As Cash, John Carter, John’s wife Laura Cash, Rosie Nix Adams (June’s daughter by Roger Nix), and the rest of the musicians began to play the Stanley Brothers’ “Angel Band,” I wiped the tears from my eyes, and steadied myself to take another picture, completely lost in the moment….

Johnny Cash had intended to perform at the Fold the following week, but it was said that his health and heart weren’t up to the task. But the family said, “Come back next week.” The following week, July 5, Cash was feeling better, and performed again at the Fold despite a ragged voice that bothered him for much of the show. Even with that, Cash told jokes and took a request for his final number, “Understand Your Man.” 

Cash’s love of performing for audiences was still obvious, and he enjoyed returning to a place that meant so much to him and June. After the show, Cash promised the Carter’s that he would return to the Fold that late September, once his new record was finished….

Johnny Cash died on September 12. I returned to the Fold the following week, which had originally planned to be one of the weekends for Johnny’s return, and photographed the matching “We Love You Johnny and June” that the family had put up in front of their summer home.

Six weeks later, Rosie Nix Adams died of an accidental poisoning of carbon monoxide. I was in Atlanta that weekend, and had this feeling that I needed to check my email. There was a message from my photo agency, with only one line written: “Do you have any photos of Rosie Nix Adams?” I immediately knew why they were asking. 

Joe Carter, a man that shared a love of music and slingshots with Cash, died in March of 2005. I watched his family sing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” at his graveside, as they do for all members of the Cash and Carter family. Janette Carter hung on for another year, and passed away a year later, ending an era in America’s first musical family, and of American music itself. 

“I wish you could have met June Carter,” one of the Carter family members said to me after the July 5th show. “You would’ve gotten on well with her. But you were here for these shows, and that’s okay.” 

Zombies interviews, part one, 2008

Chris White and Hugh Grundy: This Will Be Our Year Again
interview and introduction by Daniel Coston
Originally published in the Big Takeover Magazine, winter 2008

For those of us that got to see the Zombies’ Odessey & Oracle shows this past March, part of the joy of those evenings was seeing Chris White and Hugh Grundy onstage again with the band. While vocalist Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent are the best-known members of that band, it is the combining of their talents with bassist White, and drummer Grundy, that made the Zombies so special both then, and now. 

While Grundy has stayed active in various things through the years, Chris White has continued to write and produce a wide array of music. His latest CD, The Key, is the creation of White Circle, which consists of White, his wife Viv Boucherat, and White’s son Matthew. Forty years after Odessey & Oracle, The Key provides another taste of White’s amazing talents.

For a fan like myself, doing these interviews via email with White and Grundy has been a lot of fun to do. And if what White says is true, another Zombies road trip may be in my future.

BT: How did the recent Odessey & Oracle shows come about?

Chris White: We (The Zombies) had been looking at the possibility of doing Odessey & Oracle live for some time.  I had been impressed by Brian Wilson’s shows of Pet Sounds’ and Smile. We then realized that we were coming up to the 40th anniversary of the album’s release and had an offer to do the three shows at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London.  Now it looks like we will repeat the celebration of O&O in America next Spring.  The concerts will be one-offs as Rod and Colin are still gigging with their touring Zombies band.

Hugh Grundy: Chris and I started talking about the possibilities some three years ago, and then we started talking to Rod [Argent] about it and he said yes, so we tried a small rehearsal at his house and it went really well, and gradually the idea became reality.

BT: You've reunited with the other members of the Zombies (including the late Paul Atkinson) for a couple of one-off appearances, but what was it like to play with everyone else, and play those songs over three nights?

White: It felt like yesterday. When you have all grown up together and had the same exciting experiences, it never goes away. We grew up musically together and that won’t fade.
Grundy: We did do a concert in LA [in 2004] playing just two songs with Paul, who sadly died about two months afterwards, and that was very poignant. But it had to wait 3 years before we did Shepherds Bush Empire  to play O & O in its entirety.

BT: I heard that you rehearsed in everyone's living rooms for these shows, as you did before recording Odessey & Oracle. Is that true?

White: Not quite. We played around the piano in Rod’s studio at first just to see if it was possible. Then we rehearsed once a week for about five sessions at Jim Rodford’s front room (Jim is in Rod and Colin’s touring and recording Zombies band) with Jim and Viv [Boucherat] as the extra harmonies, and then two days in a rehearsal room with Darian Sahanaja and the brass players a few days before the concert.

BT: What did you take away from those shows? (Memories, experiences, and such.)

White: A wonderful feeling of justification about an album that wasn’t successful at all when it was released 40 years ago.  Great warmth from the audience and all those involved. A realization that so many young musicians considered O&O an important album. Performing the album for the first time ever.  Having Paul Weller and Robert Plant come backstage along with others including Tim Rice.  Joy!
Grundy: No two ways about it, the experience was quite extraordinary, leaving me with the most wonderful memories and of course a fantastic DVD of the show.

BT: Looking back, would you ever have expected to celebrating Odessey & Oracle some 40 years on?

White: When we finished recording it, we felt it was the culmination of everything we wanted to do.  Rod and I felt very pleased with our first production – for us it worked.  Then nobody wanted it. It has only become popular in the last 15 years so at the time we thought it was a commercial failure and that reality was one of the main reasons we split up. 

Grundy: No, I would never have expected the Zombies and O&O to play such a part in my life.

BT: Chris, Let's talk about your new White Circle CD. I've really enjoyed listening to it. How did that record come about?

White: With ‘The Key’, we wanted to create a hypnotic wall of texture with a choir of Slavic massed voices coupled with gospel voices with guest soloists and modern rhythms plus strong songs.  After completing three tracks, we researched its commercial viability by playing the tracks to music-based people and found that practically all found it incredibly visual and haunting. 
Although trying not to be obvious about it, the basic underlying ‘story’ is a girl waking in the morning at that moment just before all her dreams fall out of her head.  In our story, all the dreams that the Girl has had whilst asleep come back to her in that drowsy half-sleep state.  Her real-life experiences, previous life experiences, memories, fantasies and other deeper universal truths become mixed together in her conscious mind on waking.  These images quickly fade as she faces the new day, though she is left with an overall spiritual feeling of hope.

BT: Tell me how you both got involved in music.

White: Always been excited about music; classical, jazz and rock together.  I had several small groups (including a skiffle group) while I was at school.  My father played double bass as an amateur and several relations were musicians.

Grundy: As I grew up I had always enjoyed music, especially as rock and roll was in its infancy.

BT: How did you come to join the Zombies?

White: I was at Art school doing fine art and still playing music when I was asked by an old school friend (Terry Arnold who was managing The Zombies at the time) if I wanted join this new young group.  I went along to one of their Sunday rehearsals and we clicked. Colin went to my old school and the other three were from another school in St. Albans.
Grundy: It was at school I joined the school corps band as drummer, and Rod seemed to think I had a good sense of rhythm.

BT: Tell me about the early days of the band, and the events leading up to winning the talent contest.

Grundy: We would play all the local gigs in and around St. Albans and built a good local following.

White: We used to play small local gigs and slowly built up a following.  We had fun working with primitive equipment putting any money we got in to amps, etc.. That went on for about two or three years.  Then I finished my degree and the some of the others were thinking about going to university.  A competition was announced and we thought it would be fun to enter before we all had to split up.  
Winning the Hert’s Beat Competition was one of our greatest experiences.  The offers came after that and we took good advice from one of my professional uncles, and signed the best deal we could with Ken Jones and Joe Roncoroni.  I put off for a year my teaching degree and the others put off University as well. Then ‘She’s Not There’ went to number 1 in America.  End of story!

BT: Chris, when did you start writing songs for the Zombies?

White: Although I had been writing songs before the Zombies, they were only the triumph of optimism over experience.  But when we had our first recording session coming up, Rod wrote ‘She’s Not There’ and I wrote the B side which was ‘You Make Me Feel Good’.  Both songs were (I can say it now) pretty good for first time efforts. After that, we really only wanted to record our own stuff.  There were a few songs recorded which were from our live work but original was better.

BT: How important was the partnership that you had with Rod Argent?

White: Vital.  As we started together, that’s how we went on.  It was new territory but we believed we could do it! When it came to trying out new stuff we would all work on the songs round a piano in Rod’s parents house, trying out harmonies, changing chords and bass lines, etc..  We would only work on stuff that we all liked.  
Rod was very good at hearing the whole arrangement in his head which was something that I learned from him. Sometimes Rod would hear a song I was working on from the next room and he would rush in with an idea or a comment which was very useful. We nearly always agreed on the direction when producing as well. Let’s face it, you can’t spend all that time working together if you fundamentally disagree.

BT: Tell me about playing America in 1964. 

White: The first and only gig we did in America in December ’64 was Murray The K’s Christmas special in New York.  It was like our magic land.  We played 8 shows a day over the Christmas holidays.  The sounds, people and atmosphere were so different to our English experience.  And we met and played with so many of our musical heroes. In ’65 we did two tours.  First with The Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars, and then with the Searchers. 
Grundy: Our first trip to the US was to New York where we played the Brooklyn Fox, for several nights over Christmas. An amazing experience. Next we did a tour all over America traveling one night, then hotel for the other. Absolutely exhausting, but being young, we didn't mind. Of course it was at a time when not many people went to America.

BT: There's a wonderful clip of the Zombies miming She's Not There on the Hulabaloo US TV show in 1965, and girls are just screaming their heads off. What was it like to be the focus of that kind of attention?

White: What fun. The screaming was something we had already seen when the Beatles performed, so in a way it was expected.  But being chased by over-enthusiastic fans holding scissors wasn’t so much fun.
Grundy: I think for a young man it was really incredible, like it was not happening to us.

BT: What did you view your role in the band, both onstage and off?

White: We all worked together.  It was a team and there were no special roles, except that Rod was definitely the leader. I was just the bass player and other songwriter.
Grundy: Obviously, I was the drummer and together with Chris we were the foundation the backbone of the Zombies. Offstage I did a bit of driving, other than that, just one of the band.

BT: After the release of Tell Her No, the following singles weren't able to chart, despite all being top quality. Why? And how tough was that on the band? Particularly since the singles market was so important at the time.

White: Innocently, we expected our first single to chart.  After that we grew up and realized how difficult the game was.  We increasingly grew dissatisfied with the production of our records as we were not allowed to be at the mixing.  Ken did a great job to start with but he then seemed to make the recordings a little too ‘whispy’ for our liking.  We were harder and stronger musically than that.  We then did our own production but were still working with ken and Joe.
Grundy: I think there was a creeping feeling of sadness and despair that we couldn’t repeat previous successes. that led to the eventual break up of the band.

BT: I just saw the 1965 film Bunny Lake Is Missing on US TV. What are your memories of recording, and performing in the movie?

White: Weird. Otto Preminger was a hard director. They hired the Top Of The Pops TV studio to film us in (with all the usual TV crew in as well) and we spent several days filming.  When we saw the film at the Premier we just appeared on a TV screen in a pub behind a scene involving Laurence Olivier and Keir Dullea.  For that we got equal billing with the main stars!  
Then Otto wanted us to do a promotional film which involved someone adapting the lyrics to Colin’s song which turned from ‘Just Out Of Reach’ to ‘Come On Time’.  The gimmick was that nobody was supposed to come in to the Cinema after the film started!
Grundy: Like a bit of madness, really. It was eye opening to see the film world at work, but great fun to do.

BT: Chris, several of your Zombies have been covered by other artists.  What was is it like to have “I Love You” become a hit for another band in the US in 1968?
White: The previously mentioned song ‘You Make Me Feel Good’ was recorded by an American harmony group, but I can’t remember who. One of my favourites was ‘Leave Me Be’ by Sonny & Cher that was a B side on one of their singles. It was a ‘Spector’ type recording and I loved it.  I always thought ‘I Love You’ was a possible single but at the time ‘Whenever You’re Ready’ was a better choice for the A side – ‘I Love You’ was the B side.  The People did a fine job and I didn’t find out about until much later.  In fact, Colin and Rod’s version that they do with the touring Zombies is nearer to that version than the original Zombies’ recording!  It is very interesting to hear other recordings of your songs – hearing a different slant to it.
BT: You mentioned the Zombies’ current touring lineup, which is led by Colin and Rod. How do you feel about all of that?
White: Rod and Colin touring as The Zombies?  Well, it kind of fell in to being. They started out as 'Rod Argent & Colin  Blunstone',  because Rod didn't want to be The Zombies. Now they are officially (and on their contracts) Rod Argent & Colin Blunstone OF The Zombies, but no promoter is putting that on the posters and advertising.

Apart from being slightly confusing for some punters, I have no problem with them going out as The Zombies touring band, as long as we (the originals) get to do the few important anniversary Odessey & Oracle gigs in America.  The touring band are great musicians and they worked with us on stage performing O&O at Shepherds Bush Empire.  

Don't forget we all go back to our schooldays together.  That's a long time.

BT: In retrospect, how much did the Philippines experiences hasten the end of performing, and eventually the end of the band?
White: Not at all. In fact it strengthened our resolve to do our own recordings.  It was quite an experience though. It’s not often that you get threatened with death by the promoter if you play for someone else!

BT: Did the chance to record Odessey & Oracle through CBS come as a surprise?

White: No. Our Decca contract ended and Jo and Ken came up with the CBS UK deal.  An album for £1,000 – no advances – they didn’t exist in those days.

BT: Did you approach the writing of the Odessey & Oracle songs any differently than how you had written before?

White: I don’t think so. Though for the first time we controlled the whole  palette of arrangements and sounds in the studio.  We just wrote and used the songs as we went along.  There was nothing left unused. A tight budget is a fine critical judge. If something didn’t work, it was on to the next song.  Also, the songs were written as we went along. We didn’t have all the songs ready before we started, as far as I can recall.  Because it was 4 track recording in Abbey Road, we had to be tight and well rehearsed.

BT: What are your memories of recording Odessey & Oracle?

White: Great being in Abbey Road.  Lots of rehearsals before recording.  Three songs (usually) in three hour shifts.  Excitement and hard work.  We had to work fast within our £1.000 budget.  We were very happy listening back to the mixes – on acetates in those days.  It was all recorded on 4 track machines, the same as The Beatles, and we were lucky to have Geoff Emmerick as one of our engineers.

Grundy: I remember Abbey Road and what a pleasure it was to record there.

BT: While Odessey & Oracle has touches of the year it was recorded in, in other ways it feels timeless. Was that something you were striving for, and were you even aware of that at the time?

White: Ken Jones once told us at the start of our career that ‘If you can record something that’s commercial and classy, then you’re made’.  Well, O&O was classy we think but commerciality came 25 years later.  We just recorded songs that we wrote and all agreed on.
Grundy: I don't think we were aware it would become timeless, but wonderful that it has and so many new people have been introduced to our music.

BT: Chris, I got married in October, and our first dance was to "This Will Be Our Year." How did that song come about, and what does that song mean to you?

White:  Hope and optimism are two things I always strived for.  Two of my biggest songs are ‘This Will Be Our Year’ and ‘Hold Your Head Up’.  It is a long way back but I was probably infatuated with somebody at the time and felt good about the future. I still do feel good about the future.

BT: What did you do after the Zombies breakup?

White: Rod and I wanted to continue in music so we put together and financed Rod’s group Argent.  We continued writing and recording.  I produced several albums for different people including Michael Fennelly and the early demos for Dire Straits. There were also two albums with Matthew Fisher (Procol Harem) and, of course, Colin’s first three albums.  I have always been a writer and I don’t think my life would be as good if I stopped.  It is the creating that is important.  Besides, I can’t do anything else.

Grundy: I did many things. I was with CBS records in the A&R department for quite a few years. I drive for the RAF (Royal Air Force) now.

BT: After the success of Time Of The Season, was there ever a point when you wished that the Zombies hadn't broken up? 
White: A little, after we toured America with Argent’s first tour.  Rod and I lost as much money on that tour with ‘Argent’ as the fake Zombies were making in a night!  Argent took all our enthusiasm, so we didn’t really feel that we could reform The Zombies.  It might, just might have been fun though.  Rod and I had worked so hard in putting Argent together and encouraging others to join that it would have been difficult to concentrate on both the Zombies and Argent.
Grundy: I personally wished we hadn’t broken up if we had "stuck it out," I think better times were ahead.

Several of my friends in the music business knew Paul Atkinson, and all have had wonderful things to say about him. What would you like people to know about him?

White: Paul was always a straight talker and a lovely person.  A hard worker with no side to him. What he did in his later career in A&R was phenomenal.  The love that was given to him at his benefit show at the House Of Blues in LA was almost touchable.  He insisted that he play on stage with us, even though he was very ill.

Grundy: Paul was a lovely man, and our friend. We miss him very much.

BT: There are now people who have been listening to music that you've been a part of for over 40 years, and those who are just now discovering Odessey & Oracle. What would you like to say to them?

White: Music is an international language. Almost a currency. Spread pleasure and be inspired to create things for yourself.  Listen to the best. As Ray Charles said ‘there are only two types of music, good and bad’.  And don’t confine yourself to one type of music – find pleasure in all types. Enjoy.