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September 6, 2019 @ 12:02 am

Episode 32. Mitchell Froom

 

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The opening music in this episode is the exquisite and mesmerizing title track from Mitchell Froom's new full-length album Ether featuring spectral keyboard performances plus several guest vocalists.

 

June 5th, 2019

 Santa Monica 

Top Photo by Paul Zollo

 

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This year also saw the release of Monkeytree , an EP of fiercely adventurous studio wizardry co-created with Froom’s current recording partner and engineer, David Boucher.

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Photo by Paul Zollo

June 5th, 2019  

  

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with mellotrons 

 

 

 

 

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The Latin Playboys - left counter-clockwise (Mitchell Froom, David Hidalgo, Louie Pérez, Tchad Blake)

 

Froom & Rufus Wainwright at United Studios 

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             IMG_8820.jpg                                        Mitchell Froom and Paul Zollo, June 5th

(in Mitchell's Santa Monica studio)

photo by Louise Goffin

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Projects like these tend to do two things,” says Froom, who has demonstrated a streak of sonic audacity throughout his career as member of the Latin Playboys and with his solo albums, The Key of Cool (1984), Dopamine (1998) with Suzanne Vega, David Hidalgo and other featured singers and A Thousand Days (2004), a collection of bittersweet solo-piano reveries.  “One is in simply trying to push myself to come up with something that’s unique unto itself, however good or bad the results may be. The other is in developing some new techniques that I can use in different ways on other people’s music.”

Since the mid-1980s, Froom has produced more than 100 albums, with sales in excess of 50 million units. His c.v. boasts deeply collaborative relationships with some of the most important and influential artists in modern music, and many of them—like Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, Los Lobos and Crowded House —have looked to Froom as a go-to producer and arranger for multi-album runs. Indeed, to list Froom’s production credits is to risk résumé overkill, but so it goes: Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, Rufus Wainwright, Sheryl Crow, Indigo Girls, Suzanne Vega, American Music Club, Ron Sexsmith and on and on. As a session musician or arranger, he’s appeared on albums by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, David Byrne, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Janet Jackson, Laurie Anderson and many others. 

“The idea for Monkeytree was to see how far we could push things around, making the music sound confrontational and fun but compositional at the same time,” says Froom, who used vintage synthesizers under the sway of DJ culture-projects he and Boucher have been hearing. “I’m always interested in trying to push the limits of the recording studio in different ways.”  Other musicians on the EP include guitarist Val McCallum, bassist Davey Faragher and drummer Matt Chamberlain.

Ether, like Monkeytree, was recorded in Froom’s Los Angeles by overdubbing analog synthesizers—Mellotrons, Chamberlins and more—with a focus that bordered on obsession.  The average composition on the album, Froom says, could have 60 tracks, and much of these outsized musical landscapes were completed by recording one note at a time and then expertly manipulating that note, in the process inventing techniques to give the layered synths a more vibrant, tangible presence. “I’d get five seconds of music a day, if I was lucky,” Froom laughs. “Sometimes I’d have to throw it away, which was really depressing.”

The album’s five original instrumentals - “Pipe Dreams,” “Black Night Blues,” “Some Smoke,” “Aquarium” and the title track - are like gorgeously haunting dispatches from the Space Age. “I wanted to mix it up and have it sound sort of futuristic, but in a ’60s way,” Froom says. His melodies harbor the melancholy beauty of Tin Pan Alley gems that never were, and his lush arrangements are orchestral in scope while retaining the idiomatic qualities of keyboard performance. “To me it sounds like this very elaborate theatre organ that somebody is managing to play,” he explains. 

Ether features five beloved singers he’s recorded in recent years. The fast-rising singer-songwriter Pete Molinari offers the wistful “Cold Misty Blue,” with Froom’s synths providing the requisite pedal-steel ache. Classic jazz-pop stylist Kat Edmonson contributes “Forever,” a sweet, fanciful throwback worthy of an MGM musical. High, heartrending drama marks “Etoile de la Mer,” by the singer-songwriter Boris Grebenshikov, a.k.a. BG, an icon of Russian rock music and culture and an artist Froom describes as “one of the most fascinating, charismatic people I’ve ever met.” Italy’s Mirco Mariani and Jacqueline Govaert, formerly of the popular Dutch alt-rock band Krezip, bring in two stunningly melodic ballads, “Come Foglie” and “So This Is It,” respectively.

“This music hopefully has some beauty and emotion in a traditional sense, but because of its synthetic nature it becomes more surreal or internal,” Froom says.  “It’s almost as if there’s a veil of plastic over it.”

 

 

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August 30, 2019 @ 1:00 am

Episode 31. Thee Holy Brothers

Marvin Etzioni and Willie Aron met at Aron’s Records in 1978. Willie was 15 years old and Marvin was a clerk in the record shop. They soon found they shared a love of the same records, starting with The Who "Live At Leeds" and a great friendship began that led to them singing together. By the early ‘80s, Marvin met Ryan Hedgecock and Maria McKee and first mentored them and then recruited Don Heffington to play drums and founded Lone Justice. They signed to Geffen Records, released their debut to rave reviews, won the respect of major rock stars and U2 invited them to open a tour with them.  

At the same time, Willie’s band, the Balancing Act, released an EP (produced by Peter Case) and signed with IRS Records, where recorded and released two albums. The band was critically acclaimed and worked hard touring but they never received the public recognition needed to keep their record company promoting them. The band broke up before the start of the twenty-first century.

 Through the years Marvin and Willie had been collaborating on many projects, but they never considered forming a duo or recording an album with their own unique sound until one day their Rabbi greeted the pair at Temple services. Rabbi Finley jokingly referred to them as the Holy Brothers and they soon realized they were onto something. They prefaced Holy Brothers with “Thee” as a tribute to East L.A. music legends Thee Midnighters.

 

  

Marvin Etzioni and Willie Aron are Thee Holy Brothers. 

 

 

 

Thee Holy Brothers

with Paul Zollo 

March 21, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

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August 25, 2019 @ 7:54 am

Episode 30. Chuck D

Episode 30

Chuck D

 

“Everything in the past has to be processed for the present and the future.”
- Chuck D

June 4, 2019

Ventura, California

 

The Great Song Adventure is proud to present a brand new interview with Chuck D.

Chuck D loved radio and television broadcasting growing up. Born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour, in Roosevelt, Long Island, Chuck D's parents were both political activists. As the leader of Public Enemy, he helped create politically and socially conscious hip hop music in the mid-1980s and Public Enemy's groundbreaking body of work established Chuck D as one of the most intelligent, articulate spokesmen for the black community. The Source ranked him at No. 12 on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Lyricists of All Time.

He began writing rhymes after the New York City blackout of 1977. He went to Adelphi University on Long Island to study graphic design, where he met William Drayton (Flavor Flav). While in school, he put his talents to use making promotional flyers for hip-hop events, and went on to co-host a hip-hop mix show on the campus radio station with two future Public Enemy cohorts, Bill Stephney and Hank Shocklee. He rapped on Shocklee's demo recording, "Public Enemy No. 1," which caught the interest of Rick Rubin at Def Jam. Chuck D thought making an album was beneath what he really wanted to do: he loved radio and wanted to go into broadcasting. Rick Rubin persisted in pursuing him and eventually Chuck D founded Public Enemy, a group designed to support the force of his rhetoric with noisy, nearly avant-garde soundscapes. In 2016, The Prophets of Rage was assembled and still performs with it's line-up today. With B-Real on vocals, Tom Morello on lead guitar, Tim Commerford on bass guitar and backing vocals, DJ Lord on turntables and backing vocals, and Brad Wilk on drums and percussion, Chuck D continues to tour the world with his message. 

In this brand new interview with The Great Song Adventure, Chuck D"s words and stories in this conversation overflow with countless quotable life lessons: “You’re an owner of what you don’t say and you’re a slave to what you do say”,  “talent is something you gotta learn how to manifest into a skill”, “if you change nothing, nothing will change”. 

Chuck D, with his gift of words and voice, is a much-revered fearless leader and mentor who loves to inspire younger people and thrives on collaboration and community. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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April 29, 2019 @ 2:59 pm

Episode 29. Sonny West

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Episode 29

SONNY WEST

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The Great Song Adventure is proud to present this interview with Sonny West, legendary friend of Buddy Holly and co-writer of two classic Buddy Holly hits, "Rave On" and "Oh Boy." He wrote both with Bill Tilghman and Norman Petty, and recorded them first himself for Atlantic in 1958.

Buddy Holly recorded both songs later that same year.  He recorded "Oh Boy" at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico with Petty producing and engineering, as on many Buddy Holly records. Included on the album The "Chirping" Crickets , it was the A-side of a single with "Not Fade Away" as the B-side. It went to  number 10 on the US charts, and number 3 on the UK charts in early 1958.

"Rave On" was recorded in New York City, and produced by Milton DeLugg. The title was  inspired by the 1956 Sun Records recording "Dixie Fried" by Carl Perkins, which uses the refrain "rave on." The B-side was Buddy's song "Take Your Time". "Rave On" is ranked number 154 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

Sonny was born near Lubbock, Texas on the Clovis Highway. At 18, he formed a four-piece band for the purpose of recording his songs; in 1956 he recorded his Rock-ola Ruby b/w Sweet Rockin' Baby at the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico. (This first recording took place in the Lyceum Theater to achieve the desired sound.)

In 1957 Sonny  wrote and made the first recordings of "Oh Boy" and "Rave On" at Petty's studio. These both became classics as recorded by Buddy Holly and The Crickets, to the extent many think Buddy wrote both. 

From 1956 through 1958 Sonny recorded a bounty of his own songs in Clovis, carving out which is still considered the "West Texas Sound".

 

 

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Sonny West

 

This conversation was conducted by Louise Goffin in Lafayette, Louisiana at the annual SOLO Songwriters Workshop, part of the South Louisiana Songwriters Festival. 

 

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Also part of the conversation is Americana songwriter-rocker and Buddy Holly champion, Kevin Magowan. Kevin's the guy responsible for securing Buddy Holly a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011. He arranged to have the star placed on Vine Street in front of Capitol Records, next to the group and solo stars for The Beatles, who learned how to write songs, as did many others, by studying the songs of Buddy Holly. That day was September 7 of that year, Buddy's 75th birthday, and a day now forever heralded, thanks to Kevin, as Buddy Holly Day in Los Angeles.

 

 

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Kevin Magowan, Louise Goffin & Sonny West.  

 

 

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Kevin Magowan

 

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Buddy Holly's Walk of Fame Star;  
1750 Vine Street in Hollywood, in front of Capitol Records.

 

 

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Sonny West, 1960.

 

 

 

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April 15, 2019 @ 1:40 pm

Episode 28. Bob Dylan Part 2

 

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Episode 28

BOB DYLAN
Part II

 

 

 

 

The Great Song Adventure is proud to present this, the second half of our  archival interview with Bob Dylan, conducted by Paul Zollo in May of 1991 for SongTalk, the journal of the National Academy of Songwriters.

 

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The Great Song Adventure is produced & hosted by Louise Goffin & Paul Zollo.

Engineering by Elijah Wells.

Audio enhancement and mastering by Ian Sefchick at Capitol Mastering.

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This  was the first and only interview with Dylan to focus entirely on songwriting. It was the promise of that focus which Dylan appreciated, and one of the main reasons he agreed to do this interview.

 

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Here is Zollo on this conversation with Dylan:

 

Back in the late '70s, Dylan complained in an interview about the bizarre range of topics about which interviewers would ask him.

“Well,” said the interviewer, “what do you think they should ask you about?” 

“I don’t know," he answered. "Maybe music?"

 

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That was always my intention going in, and a sensible one, to talk about songwriting with the man who has  profoundly transformed it over the years. And Dylan - like so many other songwriters' we've spoken to -was happy to talk about this ancient art to which he's devoted his life, and which has been so profoundly shaped by the impact of his own work. 

It was a promise I'd always emphasize in my interview requests, that my goal was to have a serious conversation about songwriting, music, songs and the creative process – nothing else. Nothing about the personal life, or anything unrelated to music. Dylan had read some of the past interviews and liked the approach, especially my two-part interview with Paul Simon.

Being a lifelong and devotional songwriter myself, I came informed and inspired to these interviews, which was usually fun and refreshing for those being interviewed, as it's rare for songwriters to be asked about the mystery and mechanics of music itself, although it is there that their genius lives. And as musicians know - we talk to fellow musicians differently than to civilians. Because music itself is a different language - one which reaches beyond words - and seeing the world through the eyes and heart of a songwriter is a distinct experience, as in being an artist in the music industry.  

 

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Usually I'd let on that 
I was a songwriter  and musician  by discussing a song's key - or chords - which always registers. Because though they rarely discuss it, that is where songwriters live: not only in lyrics and rhymes, but in the many colors of musical keys, major and minor, and those chords  used forever to discover and propel melodies. Dylan is a remarkable craftsman - his care for intricate rhyme schemes, perfect meter, singability has been prominent since the start - and he happily answered questions about keys, chords, rhymes and the rest. 

 

 

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The Dylan SongTalk issue, 1991|
published by the National Academy of Songwriters.
Cover photo by Elliot Landy.

 

 

SongTalk was printed on big newspaper pages, like the original Rolling Stone format, and so afforded ample space – more than any conventional magazine – for long in- depth interviews. By being the journal of the National Academy of Songwriters, our focus on the art, craft and history of songwriting was warranted, and my hope that that great songwriters of our time would say yes to us was confirmed through my ten years in this job. Of course, they didn’t all say yes right away. But after dedicated years of polite pestering on my part, most on my big list eventually agreed.

 

 

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Dylan, of course, was at the toppermost of this list. I hoped he would say yes, of course, but was not even sure our request would even get near him. It did.

 

This interview – like all the archival ones we are sharing – was done for print – to be read, not to be heard. The audio quality on my little cassette machines wasn’t great but has been improved here digitally, thanks to Ian Sefchick at Capitol Mastering and Elijah Wells. 

 

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As Dylan would often pause to reflect on the questions, I could see his mind was stirring and would wait, which is the reason there are several long silences during answers. He was still formulating his response. And anytime Bob Dylan is pausing to reflect and respond, I am in no rush.

 

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Photo by Elliot Landy. 
 

 

It was May 8, 1991, and I’d returned to my Hollywood office after lunch to find a pink phone message tacked to the board with an unlikely haiku: “Mr. Dylan appreciates your magazine. He will be in touch.”

At first I suspected it was a joke. I’d been trying to land an interview with Dylan since 1987, when I was appointed editor of SongTalk. But it was no joke; the call came from the office of Elliot Mintz, who was then Dylan’s press rep.

 

 

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With his son Jesse in Woodstock, 1968. Photo by Elliot Landy.

 

 

On the designated day I was summoned to the Beverly Hills Hotel, the big pink lady where stars have stayed and played since the birth of Hollywood. In a bungalow far in the back, Bob Dylan was in a giddy mood. He sang a few lines from the song “People.” Yes, that “People,” the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill standard from Funny Girl made famous by Barbra Streisand. “People who need people,” he sang a capella in that most famous nasality ever, “are the luckiest people in the world …” Then he paused to ask, with much seriousness: “Do you think people who need people are really the luckiest people in the world?”

 

That he would even know this song, let alone question its premise, says a lot about this man. He thinks deeply about songs, even unlikely ones like this one. Unlike the prevalent perception of him as someone far removed from life as we know it, Dylan pays attention. Searching for some clue as to why he agreed to do this interview with me, he muttered, somewhat in passing, “Man, you and Paul Simon sure talked a lot,” referring to my recent extensive interview with Simon.

 

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The “People” exchange, however, was ultimately omitted from the final interview at the insistence of Mintz, who also demanded the deletion of a few other sections, including one in which Dylan questioned if kids who watched Hendrix burn the flag would do so themselves. Mintz also ended the interview himself by physically turning off both of my tape recorders while Bob was in the middle of discussing his song “Joey,” about the mobster Joey Gallo. I’m still not sure why he was impelled to stop our talk then, but I knew Bob could have kept talking for an hour easy. But it wasn’t to be.

 

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What was to be was Bob having a lot of fun talking about this elusive art form so profoundly impacted by his own hand. His love for songs and songwriters was palpable as was his curiosity. When I told him I loved playing his songs, he asked, “On guitar or on piano?” He wanted to know. Never before or since has he spoken so directly and extensively about songwriting itself, about walking that fine line between unconscious and conscious creation, and ultimately achieving what he defines here himself as “gallantry.”

 

When you listen to this, keep in mind that Bob was smiling.

 

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“I’ve made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot”

From “I and I”

  

Songwriting? What do I know about songwriting?” Dylan asked, and then broke into laughter. He was wearing blue jeans and a white tank-top T-shirt, and drinking coffee out of a glass. “It tastes better out of a glass,” he said grinning. His blonde acoustic guitar was leaning on a couch near where we sat. Bob Dylan’s guitar. His influence is so vast that everything that surrounds takes on enlarged significance: Bob Dylan’s moccasins. Bob Dylan’s coat.

 

 

And the ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place.
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain

from “Visions of Johanna”

 

 

Pete Seeger said, “All songwriters are links in a chain,” yet there are few artists in this evolutionary arc whose influence is as profound as that of Bob Dylan. It’s hard to imagine the art of songwriting as we know it without him. Though he insists in this interview that “somebody else would have done it,” he was the instigator, the one who knew that songs could do more , that they could take on more. He knew that songs could contain a lyrical richness and meaning far beyond the scope of all previous pop songs, and they could possess as much beauty and power as the greatest poetry, and that by being written in rhythm and rhyme and merged with music, they could speak to our souls.

 

 

Starting with the models made by his predecessors, such as the talking blues, Dylan quickly discarded old forms and began to fashion new ones. He broke all the rules of songwriting without abandoning the craft and care that holds songs together. He brought the linguistic beauty of Shakespeare, Byron, and Dylan Thomas, and the expansiveness and beat experimentation of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Ferlinghetti, to the folk poetry of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. And when the world was still in the midst of accepting this new form, he brought music to a new place again, fusing it with the electricity of rock and roll.

 

 

“Basically, he showed that anything goes,” Robbie Robertson said. John Lennon said that it was hearing Dylan that allowed him to make the leap from writing empty pop songs to expressing the actuality of his life and the depths of his own soul. “Help” was a real call for help, he said, and prior to hearing Dylan it didn’t occur to him that songs could contain such direct meaning. When I asked Paul Simon how he made the leap in his writing from fifties rock and roll songs like “Hey Schoolgirl” to writing “Sound Of Silence” he said, “I really can’t imagine it could have been anyone else besides Bob Dylan.”

 

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea,
Circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

 

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ABOVE: Dylan & The Band
BELOW: Dylan & Tom Petty

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There’s an unmistakable elegance in Dylan’s words, an almost biblical beauty that he has sustained in his songs throughout the years. He refers to it as  “gallantry” in this conversation, and pointed to it as the single quality that sets his songs apart from others. Though he’s maybe more famous for the freedom and expansiveness of his lyrics, all of his songs possess this exquisite care and love for the language. As Shakespeare and Byron did in their times, Dylan has taken English, perhaps the world’s plainest language, and instilled it with a timeless, mythic grace.

 

 Ring them bells, sweet Martha, for the poor man’s son
Ring them bells so the world will know that God is one
Oh, the shepherd is asleep
Where the willows weep
And the mountains are filled with lost sheep

From “Ring Them Bells.”

 

As much as he has stretched, expanded and redefined the rules of songwriting, Dylan is a tremendously meticulous craftsman. A brutal critic of his own work, he works and reworks the words of his songs in the studio and even continues to rewrite certain ones even after they’ve been recorded and released. “They’re not written in stone,” he said.

 

With such a wondrous wealth of language at his fingertips, he discards imagery and lines other songwriters would sell their souls to discover. The Bootleg Series, several collections of previously unissued Dylan recordings, offers rare opportunities to view the vast revisions and regrouping his songs go through.

 

“Idiot Wind” is one of his angriest songs (“You don’t hear a song like that every day,” he said), which he recorded on Blood On The Tracks in a way that reflects this anger, emphasizing lines of condemnation like “one day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes, blood on your saddle.”

 

On The Bootleg Series, we get an alternate approach to the song, a quiet, tender reading of the same lines that makes the inherent disquiet of the song even more disturbing, the tenderness of Dylan’s delivery adding a new level of genuine sadness to lines like “people see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act.”

 

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The peak moment of "Idiot Wind" is the penultimate chorus when Dylan addresses America: ‘Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull, from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.” On the Bootleg version, this famous line is still in formation: “Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your jaw, from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras.”

 

“Jokerman,” the opening cut on his great 1983 Infidels album, also went through a similar evolution, as a still unreleased bootleg of the song reveals. Like “Idiot Wind,” the depth and intensity of the lyric is sustained over an extraordinary amount of verses, yet even more scenes were shot that wound up on the cutting room floor, evidence of an artist overflowing with the abundance of creation:

 

It’s a shadowy world
Skies are slippery gray
A woman just gave birth to a prince today
And dressed him in scarlet
He’ll put the priest in his pocket,
Put the blade to the heat
Take the motherless children off the street
And place them at the feet of a harlot

from “Jokerman” on Infidels

 

It’s a shadowy world
Skies are slippery gray
A woman just gave birth to a prince today
And she’s dressed in scarlet
He’ll turn priests into pimps
And make all men bark
Take a woman who could have been Joan of Arc
And turn her into a harlot

from “Jokerman” on Outfidels, a bootleg

 

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Often Dylan lays abstraction aside and writes songs as clear and telling as any of Woody Guthrie’s narrative ballads, finding heroes and antiheroes in our modern times as Woody found in his. Some of these subjects might be thought of as questionable choices for heroic treatment, such as underworld boss Joey Gallo, about whom he wrote the astounding song, “Joey.” It’s a song that is remarkable for its cinematic clarity; Dylan paints a picture of a life and death so explicit and exact that we can see every frame of it, and even experience Gallo’s death as if we were sitting there watching it. And he does it with a rhyme scheme and a meter that makes the immediacy of the imagery even more striking:

 

One day they blew him down
In a clam bar in New York
He could see it coming through the door
As he lifted up his fork.
He pushed the table over to protect his family
Then he staggered out into the streets
Of Little Italy

from “Joey”

 

 

DylanSmiling350_master.jpg?width=768ABOVE: Photo by HENRY DILTZ.  BELOW: Milton Glaser's 1966 poster. 
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“Yes, well, what can you know about anybody?” Dylan asked, and it’s a good question. He’s been a mystery for years, “kind of impenetrable, really,” Paul Simon said, and that mystery is not penetrated by this interview or any interview. Dylan’s answers are often more enigmatic than the questions themselves, and like his songs, they give you a lot to think about while not necessarily, revealing much about the man.

In person, as others have noted, he is Chaplinesque. He possesses one of the world’s most striking faces; while certain stars might seem surprisingly normal and unimpressive in the flesh, Dylan is perhaps even more startling to confront than one might expect. Seeing those eyes , and that nose , it’s clear it could be no one else than he, and to sit at a table with him and face those iconic features is no less impressive than suddenly finding yourself sitting face to face with William Shakespeare. It’s a face we associate with an enormous, amazing body of work, work that has changed the world. But it’s not really the kind of face one expects to encounter in everyday life.

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Though Van Morrison and others have called him the world’s greatest poet, he doesn’t think of himself as a poet. “Poets drown in lakes,” he said to us. Yet he’s written some of the most beautiful poetry the world has known, poetry of love and outrage, of abstraction and clarity, of timelessness and relativity. Though he is faced with the evidence of a catalogue of songs that would contain the whole careers of a dozen fine songwriters, Dylan told us he doesn’t consider himself to be a professional songwriter.

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“For me it’s always been more confessional than professional,” he said in distinctive Dylan cadence. “My  songs aren’t written on a schedule.”

 

Well, how are they written, I asked? This is the question at the heart of this interview, the main one that comes to mind when looking over all the albums, or witnessing the amazing array of moods, masks, styles and forms. How has he done it? It was the first question asked, and though he deflected it at first with his customary humor, it’s a question we returned to a few times.

“Start me off somewhere,” he said smiling, as if he might be left alone to divulge the secrets of his songwriting, and our talk began.

 

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April 8, 2019 @ 12:40 pm

Episode 27. Bob Dylan

 

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Episode 27

BOB DYLAN

 

Image result for bob dylan photo harbor 

 

 

The Great Song Adventure is proud to present this archival interview with Bob Dylan, conducted by Paul Zollo in May of 1991 for SongTalk, the journal of the National Academy of Songwriters. It was the first and only interview with Dylan to focus entirely on songwriting. It was the promise of that focus which Dylan appreciated, and one of the main reasons he agreed to do this interview.

 

 

Image result for rare bob dylan photo strange cool

 

Here is Zollo on this conversation with Dylan:

 

Back in the late '70s, Dylan complained in an interview about the bizarre range of topics about which interviewers would ask him.

“Well,” said the interviewer, “what do you think they should ask you about?” 

“I don’t know," he answered. "Maybe music?".

That was always my intention going in, and a sensible one, to talk about songwriting with the man who has  profoundly transformed it over the years. And Dylan - like so many other songwriters' we've spoken to -was happy to talk about this ancient art to which he's devoted his life, and which has been so profoundly shaped by the impact of his own work. 

It was a promise I'd always emphasize in my interview requests, that my goal was to have a serious conversation about songwriting, music, songs and the creative process – nothing else. Nothing about the personal life, or anything unrelated to music. Dylan had read some of the past interviews and liked the approach, especially my two-part interview with Paul Simon.

Being a lifelong and devotional songwriter myself, I came informed and inspired to these interviews, which was usually fun and refreshing for those being interviewed, as it's rare for songwriters to be asked about the mystery and mechanics of music itself, although it is there that their genius lives. And as musicians know - we talk to fellow musicians differently than to civilians. Because music itself is a different language - one which reaches beyond words - and seeing the world through the eyes and heart of a songwriter is a distinct experience, as in being an artist in the music industry.  

Unsually I'd let on that I was a songwriter  and musician  by discussing a song's key - or chords - which always registers. Because though they rarely discuss it, that is where songwriters live: not only in lyrics and rhymes, but in the many colors of musical keys, major and minor, and those chords  used forever to discover and propel melodies. Dylan is a remarkable craftsman - his care for intricate rhyme schemes, perfect meter, singability has been prominent since the start - and he happily answered questions about keys, chords, rhymes and the rest. 

 

 

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The Dylan SongTalk issue, 1991|
published by the National Academy of Songwriters.
Cover photo by Elliot Landy.

 

 

SongTalk was printed on big newspaper pages, like the original Rolling Stone format, and so afforded ample space – more than any conventional magazine – for long in- depth interviews. By being the journal of the National Academy of Songwriters, our focus on the art, craft and history of songwriting was warranted, and my hope that that great songwriters of our time would say yes to us was confirmed through my ten years in this job. Of course, they didn’t all say yes right away. But after dedicated years of polite pestering on my part, most on my big list eventually agreed.

 

 

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Dylan, of course, was at the toppermost of this list. I hoped he would say yes, of course, but was not even sure our request would even get near him. It did.

 

This interview – like all the archival ones we are sharing – was done for print – to be read, not to be heard. The audio quality on my little cassette machines wasn’t great but has been improved here digitally, thanks to Ian Sefchick at Capitol Mastering and Elijah Wells. 

As Dylan would often pause to reflect on the questions, I could see his mind was stirring and would wait, which is the reason there are several long silences during answers. He was still formulating his response. And anytime Bob Dylan is pausing to reflect and respond, I am in no rush.

 

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Photo by Elliot Landy. 
 

 

It was May 8, 1991, and I’d returned to my Hollywood office after lunch to find a pink phone message tacked to the board with an unlikely haiku: “Mr. Dylan appreciates your magazine. He will be in touch.”

At first I suspected it was a joke. I’d been trying to land an interview with Dylan since 1987, when I was appointed editor of SongTalk. But it was no joke; the call came from the office of Elliot Mintz, who was then Dylan’s press rep.

 

 

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With his son Jesse in Woodstock, 1968. Photo by Elliot Landy.

 

 

On the designated day I was summoned to the Beverly Hills Hotel, the big pink lady where stars have stayed and played since the birth of Hollywood. In a bungalow far in the back, Bob Dylan was in a giddy mood. He sang a few lines from the song “People.” Yes, that “People,” the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill standard from Funny Girl made famous by Barbra Streisand. “People who need people,” he sang a capella in that most famous nasality ever, “are the luckiest people in the world …” Then he paused to ask, with much seriousness: “Do you think people who need people are really the luckiest people in the world?”

 

That he would even know this song, let alone question its premise, says a lot about this man. He thinks deeply about songs, even unlikely ones like this one. Unlike the prevalent perception of him as someone far removed from life as we know it, Dylan pays attention. Searching for some clue as to why he agreed to do this interview with me, he muttered, somewhat in passing, “Man, you and Paul Simon sure talked a lot,” referring to my recent extensive interview with Simon.

 

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The “People” exchange, however, was ultimately omitted from the final interview at the insistence of Mintz, who also demanded the deletion of a few other sections, including one in which Dylan questioned if kids who watched Hendrix burn the flag would do so themselves. Mintz also ended the interview himself by physically turning off both of my tape recorders while Bob was in the middle of discussing his song “Joey,” about the mobster Joey Gallo. I’m still not sure why he was impelled to stop our talk then, but I knew Bob could have kept talking for an hour easy. But it wasn’t to be.

 

 

What was to be was Bob having a lot of fun talking about this elusive art form so profoundly impacted by his own hand. His love for songs and songwriters was palpable as was his curiosity. When I told him I loved playing his songs, he asked, “On guitar or on piano?” He wanted to know. Never before or since has he spoken so directly and extensively about songwriting itself, about walking that fine line between unconscious and conscious creation, and ultimately achieving what he defines here himself as “gallantry.”

 

When you listen to this, keep in mind that Bob was smiling.

 

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“I’ve made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot”

From “I and I”

 

 

Songwriting? What do I know about songwriting?” Dylan asked, and then broke into laughter. He was wearing blue jeans and a white tank-top T-shirt, and drinking coffee out of a glass. “It tastes better out of a glass,” he said grinning. His blonde acoustic guitar was leaning on a couch near where we sat. Bob Dylan’s guitar. His influence is so vast that everything that surrounds takes on enlarged significance: Bob Dylan’s moccasins. Bob Dylan’s coat.

 

 

And the ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place.
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain

from “Visions of Johanna”

 

 

Pete Seeger said, “All songwriters are links in a chain,” yet there are few artists in this evolutionary arc whose influence is as profound as that of Bob Dylan. It’s hard to imagine the art of songwriting as we know it without him. Though he insists in this interview that “somebody else would have done it,” he was the instigator, the one who knew that songs could do more , that they could take on more. He knew that songs could contain a lyrical richness and meaning far beyond the scope of all previous pop songs, and they could possess as much beauty and power as the greatest poetry, and that by being written in rhythm and rhyme and merged with music, they could speak to our souls.

 

 

Starting with the models made by his predecessors, such as the talking blues, Dylan quickly discarded old forms and began to fashion new ones. He broke all the rules of songwriting without abandoning the craft and care that holds songs together. He brought the linguistic beauty of Shakespeare, Byron, and Dylan Thomas, and the expansiveness and beat experimentation of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Ferlinghetti, to the folk poetry of Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. And when the world was still in the midst of accepting this new form, he brought music to a new place again, fusing it with the electricity of rock and roll.

 

 

“Basically, he showed that anything goes,” Robbie Robertson said. John Lennon said that it was hearing Dylan that allowed him to make the leap from writing empty pop songs to expressing the actuality of his life and the depths of his own soul. “Help” was a real call for help, he said, and prior to hearing Dylan it didn’t occur to him that songs could contain such direct meaning. When I asked Paul Simon how he made the leap in his writing from fifties rock and roll songs like “Hey Schoolgirl” to writing “Sound Of Silence” he said, “I really can’t imagine it could have been anyone else besides Bob Dylan.”

 

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea,
Circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

 

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ABOVE: Dylan & The Band
BELOW: Dylan & Tom Petty

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There’s an unmistakable elegance in Dylan’s words, an almost biblical beauty that he has sustained in his songs throughout the years. He refers to it as  “gallantry” in this conversation, and pointed to it as the single quality that sets his songs apart from others. Though he’s maybe more famous for the freedom and expansiveness of his lyrics, all of his songs possess this exquisite care and love for the language. As Shakespeare and Byron did in their times, Dylan has taken English, perhaps the world’s plainest language, and instilled it with a timeless, mythic grace.

 

 Ring them bells, sweet Martha, for the poor man’s son
Ring them bells so the world will know that God is one
Oh, the shepherd is asleep
Where the willows weep
And the mountains are filled with lost sheep

From “Ring Them Bells.”

 

As much as he has stretched, expanded and redefined the rules of songwriting, Dylan is a tremendously meticulous craftsman. A brutal critic of his own work, he works and reworks the words of his songs in the studio and even continues to rewrite certain ones even after they’ve been recorded and released. “They’re not written in stone,” he said.

 

With such a wondrous wealth of language at his fingertips, he discards imagery and lines other songwriters would sell their souls to discover. The Bootleg Series, several collections of previously unissued Dylan recordings, offers rare opportunities to view the vast revisions and regrouping his songs go through.

 

“Idiot Wind” is one of his angriest songs (“You don’t hear a song like that every day,” he said), which he recorded on Blood On The Tracks in a way that reflects this anger, emphasizing lines of condemnation like “one day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes, blood on your saddle.”

 

On The Bootleg Series, we get an alternate approach to the song, a quiet, tender reading of the same lines that makes the inherent disquiet of the song even more disturbing, the tenderness of Dylan’s delivery adding a new level of genuine sadness to lines like “people see me all the time and they just can’t remember how to act.”

 

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The peak moment of "Idiot Wind" is the penultimate chorus when Dylan addresses America: ‘Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull, from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.” On the Bootleg version, this famous line is still in formation: “Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your jaw, from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras.”

 

“Jokerman,” the opening cut on his great 1983 Infidels album, also went through a similar evolution, as a still unreleased bootleg of the song reveals. Like “Idiot Wind,” the depth and intensity of the lyric is sustained over an extraordinary amount of verses, yet even more scenes were shot that wound up on the cutting room floor, evidence of an artist overflowing with the abundance of creation:

 

It’s a shadowy world
Skies are slippery gray
A woman just gave birth to a prince today
And dressed him in scarlet
He’ll put the priest in his pocket,
Put the blade to the heat
Take the motherless children off the street
And place them at the feet of a harlot

from “Jokerman” on Infidels

 

It’s a shadowy world
Skies are slippery gray
A woman just gave birth to a prince today
And she’s dressed in scarlet
He’ll turn priests into pimps
And make all men bark
Take a woman who could have been Joan of Arc
And turn her into a harlot

from “Jokerman” on Outfidels, a bootleg

 

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Often Dylan lays abstraction aside and writes songs as clear and telling as any of Woody Guthrie’s narrative ballads, finding heroes and antiheroes in our modern times as Woody found in his. Some of these subjects might be thought of as questionable choices for heroic treatment, such as underworld boss Joey Gallo, about whom he wrote the astounding song, “Joey.” It’s a song that is remarkable for its cinematic clarity; Dylan paints a picture of a life and death so explicit and exact that we can see every frame of it, and even experience Gallo’s death as if we were sitting there watching it. And he does it with a rhyme scheme and a meter that makes the immediacy of the imagery even more striking:

 

One day they blew him down
In a clam bar in New York
He could see it coming through the door
As he lifted up his fork.
He pushed the table over to protect his family
Then he staggered out into the streets
Of Little Italy

from “Joey”

 

 

DylanSmiling350_master.jpg?width=768ABOVE: Photo by HENRY DILTZ.  BELOW: Milton Glaser's 1966 poster. 
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“Yes, well, what can you know about anybody?” Dylan asked, and it’s a good question. He’s been a mystery for years, “kind of impenetrable, really,” Paul Simon said, and that mystery is not penetrated by this interview or any interview. Dylan’s answers are often more enigmatic than the questions themselves, and like his songs, they give you a lot to think about while not necessarily, revealing much about the man.

In person, as others have noted, he is Chaplinesque. He possesses one of the world’s most striking faces; while certain stars might seem surprisingly normal and unimpressive in the flesh, Dylan is perhaps even more startling to confront than one might expect. Seeing those eyes , and that nose , it’s clear it could be no one else than he, and to sit at a table with him and face those iconic features is no less impressive than suddenly finding yourself sitting face to face with William Shakespeare. It’s a face we associate with an enormous, amazing body of work, work that has changed the world. But it’s not really the kind of face one expects to encounter in everyday life.

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Though Van Morrison and others have called him the world’s greatest poet, he doesn’t think of himself as a poet. “Poets drown in lakes,” he said to us. Yet he’s written some of the most beautiful poetry the world has known, poetry of love and outrage, of abstraction and clarity, of timelessness and relativity. Though he is faced with the evidence of a catalogue of songs that would contain the whole careers of a dozen fine songwriters, Dylan told us he doesn’t consider himself to be a professional songwriter.

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“For me it’s always been more confessional than professional,” he said in distinctive Dylan cadence. “My  songs aren’t written on a schedule.”

 

Well, how are they written, I asked? This is the question at the heart of this interview, the main one that comes to mind when looking over all the albums, or witnessing the amazing array of moods, masks, styles and forms. How has he done it? It was the first question asked, and though he deflected it at first with his customary humor, it’s a question we returned to a few times.

“Start me off somewhere,” he said smiling, as if he might be left alone to divulge the secrets of his songwriting, and our talk began.

 

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March 18, 2019 @ 3:57 pm

Episode 26. Peter Asher

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Episode 26

Peter Asher

 


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IN THE HISTORY OF POPULAR MUSIC, there are certain figures who were  true catalysts, and brought together key people who went on to create classic, timeless music. Mama Cass and Van Dyke Parks were catalysts, as is our guest on this episode, Peter Asher.

But for Peter, as he relates in this episode, for him that catalyst was primarily Kootch,  AKA Danny Kortchmar, our guest on Episode Three. Kootch was instrumental in not only creating much of this music as a guitarist and songwriter, but also by famously bringing together people - such as James Taylor and Peter Asher - who went go to to create great music for decades.

 

 

ep506-own-master-class-james-taylor-11-9Peter & James at the `Sweet Baby James' photo shoot with Henry Diltz,
At a former farm in Burbank where the Oakwood Apartments now stand.
 

 

As James recalled about this momentous Kootch connection: 

"I convinced my parents to get me a plane ticket to London in 1968.  I called my friend Danny Kortchmar - Kootch, as we used to call him and still do - he was a key person in my life in terms of connecting with a lot of people. And he had toured a year with Peter Asher - of Peter & Gordon - during the British invasion.

So I took my demo to see Peter Asher. And as luck would have it, Peter had just signed on as A&R director for Apple, The  Beatles' brand-new label, and it was his job to find people for the label. He heard my demo and arranged an audition with Paul McCartney and George Harrison.

Paul said to Peter, 'This is great. You feel like producing a record?' And Peter said, 'Sure, I'll produce it.'

Peter was a key person. Peter was my manager - and is my dear friend - and we learned how to produce together. And that was my big break. It was a remarkable dream come true. It really was." 

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Peter, James & Kootch

Peter Asher's entire life reads like a remarkable dream come true, as he was present and part of so much of momentous music history. Born in London in 1944, his father Richard Asher, was a doctor, author and occasional pianist, and his mother Margaret was a musician who taught at several conservatories. While at the Guildhall School one of her oboe students was future Beatles producer, George Martin.


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Photo by KEVIN WINTER

 

But Peter - as Beatles fans know well - had a closer connection to the Fab Four than that. Paul McCartney dated Peter's sister Jane Asher, and actually lived in their home - at 57 Wimpole Street in the Marylebone district of central London.

 

Historic people lived on Wimpole, most famously Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who lived at 50 Wimpole until 1846 when she eloped with Robert Browning, leading to the play about their courtship, "The Barretts of Wimpole Street."

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Peter & Jane

Paul lived there - in an upper bedroom next to Peter's - for two years. (Though he toured during some of this time, as Peter tells us). Lennon and McCartney wrote "I Want To Hold Your Hand" here, and it's also here that Paul came up with the melody to "Yesterday" in his bedroom. 

 

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Paul & Jane Asher, 1964.

Peter was a performer from an early age, and worked as an actor on the London stage, and in TV shows and movies. Brilliant from the start, although humble, he was a member of Mensa, but said that was proof not of a high IQ, but his talent at taking tests. 

He met Gordon Waller at school, both of whom loved singing and playing guitar, and they formed the duo Peter & Gordon. Again, their timing seemed providential: they recorded a song McCartney wrote, "World Without Love," which Lennon didn't love and rejected for The Beatles. It became a number one hit around the world just in time for the British Invasion. 

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1964, written by Beatle Paul.

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Peter & Gordon

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Invited by McCartney to become head of A&R for Apple, The Beatles' new label, he signed James Taylor, and produced his first album, called James Taylor, at Trident Studios, where The Beatles were working on The White Album.  McCartney played bass on the single, "Carolina On My Mind." 

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Peter & Paul at Apple with Co-workers, Working.

 
 

When Apple began to collapse - which Peter attributed to the divisions between The Beatles, and Lennon's choice of Allan Klein as their new manager, who he called "a crook" - he and James moved to Los Angeles. There Peter got him a new record deal, and produced his next albums, including the landmark Sweet Baby James, which features "Fire and Rain." 

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Photo by HENRY DILTZ.

 

He speaks of all of this and more in our conversation, as well as much else from his remarkable history - such as discovering and producing Linda Ronstadt, managing her, James, Warren Zevon and others - while continuing to make his own music as a producer and songwriter on his own - with Clyde Jeremy as Peter & Clyde, and with his old pal Albert Lee. 

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Peter & Linda Ronstadt

Peter & Louise at the Hyde Park concert in London by Carole King, for which Louise opened and also played with her mom.

 
 
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Peter at the Pacific
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March 11, 2019 @ 5:19 pm

Episode 25. Carole King Part 5

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Episode 25

Carole King

Part Five

 

 The Great Song Adventure is happy and proud to present this, the final installation of our five-part series of episodes with Carole King. 

 

 

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 photo by Jim McCrary

 
On the morning after the first interview conducted by Louise and Paul, Carole - who is Louise's mom - told her daughter she had more to say. So they sat down again, and Carole shared much more, extending into our fourth episode, and this final one. 

It's a remarkable conversation, in which mother and daughter, both serious songwriters, discuss the art and business of songwriting as it has shifted in modern times. And much more. 

 


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 Credit: Buzz Photo/ RexFeatures

 

 

"Allow yourself to open," she tells songwriters about how best to allow songs to come through. "Don't judge what is coming out," she says. "Just keep going... " Always she stresses the value of writing songs not only for the outcome, but for the joy of the process. After writing a song, she says, despite whether you think it's great or not, it's important to appreciate the journey.

"You just had the doing," she said. "and the doing is what it's about." 

 

 

 

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Carole in 1947 with her parents Eugenia and Sidney Klein.

 

 

She also discusses the great difference of being a songwriter in her day, and existing - as does Louise - in this new digital world where record companies no longer do all the work for the artist and where recording artists and songwriters do it all for themselves, managing their own content and social media. "You have the answer more than I do," she says to Louise. 

 


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clockwise - Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Louise Goffin & Sherry Kondor

 

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2016 Hyde Park Concert, Carole with Louise & Kootch

photo by Elissa Kline Photography 

 

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This bumper collection of numbers penned by revered New Yorkers Gerry Goffin and his wife Carole King includes familiar hits (the Shirelles’ "What A Sweet Thing That Was," Bobby Vee’s "Sharing You," the Cookies’ "Will Power," the Drifters’ "When My Little Girl Is Smiling," overlooked gems (the Hondells’ "Show Me Girl," the Hearts & Flowers’ "Road To Nowhere," Walter Jackson’s "Anything Can Happen") and some new-to-CD rarities (‘You Turn Me On, Boy" by the Honey Bees, the Orlons’ "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby," the Clovers’ "The Sheik" and Theola Kilgore’s "It’s Gonna Be Alright"). By 1968 Carole and Gerry had moved from the East Coast and were living apart in Los Angeles, where Carole formed the group The City. "Snow Queen" (heard here in a rare version by the Tokens) and "That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho)" (here by Dusty Springfield, one of the Goffins’ biggest champions), were among the six Goffin and King songs on “Now That Everything’s Been Said,” The City’s album. After their divorce, Carole and Gerry did resume writing together, although much less prolifically than before. (Mick Patrick)

 

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 photo by Paul Zollo 

 

 

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James Taylor and Carole King, 1971, by Barrie Wentzell. 

 

 

 

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February 25, 2019 @ 3:04 pm

Episode 24. Carole King. Part 4


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 Episode 24

Carole King

Part Four

 

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Carole King is talking about the joy inherent in the act of songwriting, and how crucial it is for songwriters to embrace now only the outcome of writing a song, but the process itself. "The doing of it," she said, "must be the reward."   

The Great Song Adventure is very happy to bring you this, part 4 of our 5-part series of episodes with Carole King. 

The previous three episodes, all of which are available here also, were conducted by Paul and Louise in a remarkably charged, extensive and intimate conversation that went on for several hours.

 

But on the next day, Carole - who was in town to spend holidays with Louise and her family - told her daughter that she loved the interview we did, but that she had more to say. 

Louise, never missing an opportunity, set up her mikes again, and mother and daughter had another great conversation, which makes up this episode and our final one.  

 

 

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 Photo by Elissa Kline.

 

Given that she's among the most beloved and successful songwriters of all time, it's surprising, and also heartwarming, to hear how truly humble Carole King is. In our previous episodes she deflected much of the credit for her success to Gerry Goffin's great lyrics as well as Lou Adler's production and the greatness of other vocalists who recorded her songs, such as Aretha Franklin and James Taylor.

 

That genuine humility comes across even more in this episode, and was her impetus for doing this. She wanted to talk more about the impact of the great musicians with whom she worked on her music, such as Danny Kortchmar, James Taylor, Waddy Wachtel and Charles Larkey. She speaks about her great love of playing with a band, and especially one made of players like these guys. Her great musicianship allowed her to become one more than the artist. She became one of the cats -  a serious musician who could jam with the best and create brilliant tracks in the studio. 

 

 

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 Carole and Louise, November 2018. Photo by Paul Zollo.

 

Carole even expressed surprise that bassist Charles Larkey, to whom she was also married for five years, would match her left hand on the piano for his bass parts Yet as songwriters know, the bass parts she plays on her songs is perfectly constructed, and needed no improvement. (As Louise's follow-up questions reflects.) 

She mentioned that  Waddy Wachtel wrote songs with Warren Zevon, but couldn't remember which. For the record, Waddy - who also produced many of Warren's most famous records - co-wrote Zevon's biggest hit ever, "Werewolves of London" (with Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass) = as well as "Nighttime at the Switching Yard," "Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead," "Model Citizen," and "Angel Dressed In Black. 

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For decades, being a songwriter in America was rarely considered as serious or substantial a pursuit, especially when compared to other arts, such as being a composer, poet, painter, or writer. Often great lyrical songwriters, such as Dylan and Leonard Cohen, are lauded with a sideways compliment which reflects this bias. As in "He is more than a great songwriter; he is a poet." As if being a poet is a much more lofty role than that of the lowly popular songwriter. 

Yet in reality, songs which become beloved hits and standards, as have so many written and performed by Carole King. they reach many millions of people. We don't listen to these songs once, as we read a book or a view a movie. We listen to them over and over, often through the decades of our lives, and they take on a real place in our hearts and our minds, connecting us viscerally to our own pasts, as well as inspiring us to keep going. 

Maybe because songs are such a short form, and because great songwriters songs so seamless and perfectly conceived that they seem easy to create, the accomplishment of writing a song has been undervalued. Even songs so beloved that they become timeless standards, impacting our culture and resounding across generations, as have many songs by Carole King and previous guests such as Mike Stoller, Tom Petty, Chrissie Hynde and others. 

 

Somehow writing "Stand By Me," "Free Falling," "Message of Love," or "You've Got A Friend" seemed like a fluke to many, closer to winning the lottery than painting "Guernica" or writing  Moby Dick. 

 

Evidence of this bias abounded, most overtly in the music schools of colleges throughout America that offered degrees in composition but never songwriting. The implication being that songwriters would be best to aim higher - towards being a composer - to master composition and all it entails - allowing one to still jot off a pop song in their spare time. 

 

 

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Fortunately, this attitude has shifted considerably over the past many years, when it became impossible to ignore both the cultural impact and artistry of songwriting, as well as its potential as a viable career. Chris Sampson at USC somehow made this transition even at this venerable and traditional music school, now offering songwriting as a major. (And those students fortunate enough to be part of this receive an exceptional and rich education in the art, craft and history of songwriting.) Berklee in Boston also offered majors in songwriting, and soon countless colleges followed suit. 

Now even the government has officially embraced this righteous elevation of the songwriter to higher esteem. Starting in 2007, the Library of Congress began awarding the annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The first was given to Paul Simon, and in years since has been awarded to other songwriting icons such as Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Smoket Robinson and Bacharach & David. In its eleven years only one woman received this award: Carole King. 

 

 

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Carole and President Obama at Gershwin Awards


Still, eleven years? Seems too long to wait. Given how the award is defined, few songwriters better exemplify it:

The Gershwin Award, it is written, "celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding....The recipient-is recognized for entertaining and informing audiences, for drawing upon the acknowledged foundations of popular song, and for inspiring new generations of performers on their own professional journeys." 

 

The Great Song Adventureis happy to present this, the fourth part of our five-part series of episodes with Carole King. 

 

 

Paul Zollo, Carole King, Louise Goffin
Paul Zollo with Carole & Louise

 

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Stay tuned for the next part of this Adventure: Parts  5 of our interview with Carole King. 

 

 

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February 18, 2019 @ 1:32 pm

Episode 23. Carole King, Part 3.

Episode 23

Carole King

Part Three

 

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 Photo by Elissa Kline.

 

 

 

The Great Song Adventure is happy to present this, the third part of our five-part series of episodes with Carole King. 

  

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 Photo by Elissa Kline.

 

Conducted in her daughter Louise's home right before Thanksgiving, 2018, Carole King opened up about all aspects of her life and work more than she ever has before. There is much here on working with her husband and Louise's dad Gerry Goffin, and both the greatness and challenges inherent in their partnership. And much more. 

The first episode premiered on the eve of February 9th, Carole's 77th birthday, a perfect time to present this expansive and intimate conversation, and to celebrate one of the great lives in songwriting. 

 

 

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 With James Taylor. Photo by Elissa Kline.

 

In this episode, she also expounds on a subject started in Episode 1, which began with Carole playing the beautiful chord progression and singing the melody of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Hello Young Lovers," from The King & I, which leads into an intimate discussion of how she creates music, and her love of beautiful complex chords with rich melody. One of the great melodists of our time, she speaks about what makes a melody sturdy and lasting. And she delves into the mechanics of music, and even confirms the presence of the "Carole King chord" as it's known (also called here "C over K,"  a IV chord with a V in the bass.)  When you hear it, you recognize that sound. It's simple, soulful and sophisticated all at the same time, which is the essence of her musical signature.  

 

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As much of the world knows, even before her two-sided hit “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move” went to number one in 1971, Carole King had already written eight other number one records with Gerry. Together they wrote a rich bounty of hit records (though both confirm they wrote a lot of lesser songs before reaching the great ones) - songs which are now modern standards, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" "Up On The Roof," "Locomotion," "Don't Bring Me Down" and so many others. 

 

She was one of the first to walk that bridge from being a hit songwriter for other artists to being a singer-songwriter herself, and making one of the most essential and beloved albums of that era, Tapestry, produced by Lou Adler. And her songs continued to be defining records for others, most notably "You've Got A Friend" by James Taylor, and "Natural Woman," written with Gerry to a title by Jerry Wexler, recorded by the Queen of Soul, of course, Aretha Franklin.     

 

 

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Louise and Aretha at the Kennedy Center Honors

 Photo by Sophie Kondor.

 

 

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 Carole and Louise, November 2018. Photo by Paul Zollo.

 

It was Carole's idea to do the show. "Knowing of her reticence to do any performances or interviews," Louise said, "I didn’t ask her to be involved. But she  especially enjoyed the interview with Chrissie Hynde. She said she liked it because it was a real conversation, not just a series of questions, like most interviews."

 

 

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Sherry & Louise Goffin in Laurel Canyon, from the Carole King Family Archives.

 

"So when she was in Los Angeles to visit me and my kids, Carole took the time to do an interview with Paul and me. But first she went to the piano and started sounding out a standard by Rodgers & Hammerstein - “Hello Young Lovers,” from The King and I. Though she didn’t know it, I recorded the song."

 

 

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 Little Eva with little Louise, Brooklyn, 1963.

 

 

 

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Stay tuned for the next part of this Adventure: Parts 4 and 5 of our interview with Carole King. 

 

 

Paul Zollo, Carole King, Louise Goffin
Paul Zollo with Carole & Louise

 

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