Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Interview:-- Walter Egan (Singer/Songwriter)

"We shared our hopes,
our dreams, 
and our goals...
and the fundamental roll."
~ Walter Egan ~

The ecstasy and agony of summer break.
First hellos and last goodbyes.
Worries are small and possibilities are endless.
It's when we realize, maybe for the first time, that time is fleeting and completely out of our hands.
Yes, summers are great. I mean, it's summer after all.  But one never forgets that "special" summer. The one you earmarked for permanent memory burn.  The one you protect.

When discussing "lost gem" albums, Walter Egan's 1978 offering "Not Shy" certainly falls under that category.  With a distinctive California rock sound, Egan delivers hook after glorious hook of "roll-down-the-windows" summer fun. But he does so while gently reminding us just how confusing and frustrating it all can be.  He's made plenty of good music, both before and since, and his last album "Myth America" (2014) is an especially welcome treat.  Walter Egan is a man for all seasons, no doubt...but "Not Shy" will always be June through September.


Casey Chambers:  Your 1978 album "Not Shy" is a pop-rock joy and the closing track..."Hot Summer Nights" is just one of the standout gems.  What do you remember about that song?

Walter Egan:  Well, that's a very interesting story.  The producers for my first album..."Fundamental Roll"...were Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. That would have been 1977.  And I was quite taken by Stevie and all her talents.  We'd be hanging out during those recording sessions and as it evolved, Stevie had this song that Fleetwood Mac didn't want to record.  So, kind of to score points with her, although I really liked the song, too...I told her, 'I'll do it.'  So, I began performing it on my tour.  We were on the road for quite a few months that year.  And it was a good song. It was a big finisher. "Sisters Of The Moon" was the name of the song.

Anyway, so flash forward to the recording of "Not Shy."  When it came time to record what was gonna be the big climax...just as it had been in my live set...the climax of the album was going to be, "Sisters Of The Moon."  Well, Lindsey was the sole producer of my second album at this point...along with myself and Richard Dashut.  And he said, 'I don't think you should record that. Why don't you go home and write a song?' (laughs)  And I was like, 'this is supposed to be the big climax, Lindsey!'  But I took the challenge and went home.  It was in August of 1977.  I was living in Beverly Flat, which at that time was still a funky kinda canyon in the west part of L.A.

And I started reflecting on how the summertime was a time for music. Especially in high school. My formative years.  When we had all that time to spend on music and that's all we did all summer.  I started writing a song about being in bands and sort of reminiscing about the camaraderie of being in a band together.  It was a very personal song.  And it only had three chords...a D minor, a B flat, and an A.  It had this riff and I just kind of got into it.  The next morning, we recorded it.  It wasn't even a whole day old.  And it went on to be the most covered song I'd ever written.

"Hot Summer Nights" - Walter Egan / "Not Shy" (1978)

There were versions in French, Swedish, German, and Japanese.  I did a cover version with new lyrics in the surf band...The Malibooz.  The hit version was by the group...Night...which was Richard Perry's first release on his Planet Records.  They had a Top 20 song with it in 1979.  My version of it was the follow-up to "Magnet And Steel," so you would think that it would've had a great shot.  But by the time Columbia released it, it had sort of passed its prime.  It should have come out right at the end of the summer just as "Magnet..." was peaking.  But it didn't come out until November.  And it just got caught up in the wintertime.  And then it came to life again in 2009 when Eminem used it as part of his comeback single, "We Made You."

Casey Chambers:  How about that!

Walter Egan:  (laughs) So the moral of the story is when Lindsey Buckingham says to go write a song...Go write a song.

Casey Chambers:  That's a great story.  And yeah, I heard your version first, so that's it for my ears.  But how did the band, Night come to record that song anyway?

Walter Egan:  There was a guy who was working in the A&R department at Columbia at the time.  His name's right on the tip of my brain and I can't remember it.  But he, I believe, presented it to Richard Perry.  And here's another weird coincidence.  I had never met Richard Perry during all that time.  I had moved back to New York in the early '90s and got in a band with Richard's brother, Fred.  And we had a band called the Brooklyn Cowboys and we've done some really excellent CDs.  So I got to finally meet him way back in...I guess it was '96 when I got to meet Richard at his house.

Casey Chambers:  That's cool.  After all that time.

Walter Egan:  Yeah, and I kidded him about the modulation that he inserted in the solo.  I thought it was a bit excessive (laughs) and I told him so.  It was fun.  Good times.

Casey Chambers:  Your signature song, "Magnet And Steel" is a beautiful piece of work.

Walter Egan:  Thank you.

Casey Chambers:  Did you know from the beginning you wanted the song to have a kind of doo-wop flavor?

Walter Egan:  Yes.  As a matter of fact, it's very good that you point that out, because that was the seed for that song.  The Stroll was the beat.  That 6/8 kind of thing.  Very '50s feel to the beat.  And I actually have a recording on a cassette that I've transferred of me working out the song and singing many verses that never made the final cut.

But I hadn't gotten the chorus quite right yet.  I believe the lyrics were...'don't turn away now' instead of 'with you I'm not shy.'  I think it was even called "Don't Turn Away Now."  And it was just not a very special lyric.  I hadn't really finished it.

"Fundamental Roll" - Walter Egan (1977)

We had been doing recording sessions for "Fundamental Roll"...a song on there called "Tunnel O' Love."  And Stevie was singing her wailing, banshee, background vocals.  This was at Sound City.  The now famous Sound City.  And that was the night I just went...'oh my God, how am I so lucky?'  Ya know, all the superlatives you could think of about someone falling for Stevie.  In my young youth, at the time, it was just another girl who was very talented. I didn't even know who they were when it was presented to me to have them produce my record.

They were very much a cult item at that point.  But Fleetwood Mac was just starting to break.  So, it was just very amazingly fortunate timing.  They wanted to keep their Buckingham Nicks identity outside of Fleetwood Mac and have this project.  So, Stevie was doing vocals.  I mean if you listen to "Fundamental Roll," it's very much like a Buckingham Nicks/Walter Egan album.  Stevie and Lindsey are just all over it.

Casey Chambers:  No doubt. Good stuff for the lobes.

Walter Egan:  You should check it out again.  It's really amazing.  I hadn't listened to it in a long time and I just kind of revived a couple of those songs from that album.  But I started listening to it and I was like...'Wow!'  It's pretty amazing to think how she's such an icon now and how, at the time, she was just the girl singer in the band. (laughs)  So anyway, I totally fell for her.  On the drive home from Sound City in Van Nuys...I had to drive out to Inland Empire California...around Claremont, which is where I was living.  And as I got on the 101 freeway...and this was about 4:00 a.m. in the morning...there was a Continental with a diamond window.  What they used to call a pimpmobile.

Very tricked out with the lights underneath it and the fringes and all that.  And the license plate on it was NOT SHY.  It said...NOT SHY.  And for whatever reason, that just hit me.  There it was.  It was sitting right in front of me and I just took it.  And by the time I was home in Claremont, I had basically come up with this 'magnet' metaphor.  So, it was this whole weird amazing feedback loop of me falling for Stevie, writing this song about Stevie, and having Stevie perform on it. (laughs)  It just had this kind of amazing magic to it, I guess.  I was lucky enough to sort of date Stevie for about a month in 1976.  And so, ya know, it was quite an adventure for the young lad.

"Magnet And Steel" - Walter Egan / "Not Shy" (1978)

Casey Chambers:  You landed on Boardwalk!  Awesome share.  When you were in the studio recording it, how did you work out the vocal arrangements?

Walter Egan:  The backgrounds on "Magnet And Steel" sort of came to life as we were running the song down in the studio. I don't remember specifically, it just fell together naturally.  It was Lindsey, Stevie, and Annie McLoone singing those parts.  And I think part of it was, I was still very shy about my vocals.  And I suggested that the first line of the chorus...'with you, I'm not shy' the background singers singing it, so I could come in stronger on that second part.

Casey Chambers:  Were you surprised the label chose to push that song out first?

Walter Egan:  That came about kind of late in the process, I think.  It was the oddball song in the mix definitely.  It had part of the "Myth of Sisyphus" on it.  Ya know, the guy pushing the rock up the hill...but never quite getting it up the hill.  Part of that myth fell on me when I became famous for this kind of crooning MOR song.  It's an honest, rock kind of ballad, but it sort of got coupled into that smooth yacht rock stuff.  And yet I was always more of a rocker. I was playing hard edgy songs with good melodies and clever lyrics, I thought.

Casey Chambers:  Oh absolutely.  Still, "Magnet..." is just a great song and it seems to keep gaining fresh legs popping up in movies.

Walter Egan:  It does. It does.  It was in "Boogie Nights" and "Deuce Bigelow."  And "This Is 40" and "Overnight Delivery." That was an interesting one.

Casey Chambers:  It must be a great feeling to watch a movie and have one of your songs sneak into the story.

Walter Egan:  It is very much a surreal event.  Depending on if I'm alone or with somebody.  It's my own little movie.  It's like when I go to the grocery store and it comes on and people are walking around singing along with it.  I just think it's so funny.  I sort of remove myself from the moment.  It's really kind of fun.  I've also been an answer in a number of crossword puzzles, which is even more mystifying to me.  (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  That's very cool.  9 Across: "Not Shy" songwriter. 4 letters. (laughs)  I'd like to jump to another one of your albums..."Wild Exhibitions." (1983)

Walter Egan:  Okay!

Casey Chambers:  One of the gems from that album is "Fool Moon Fire"...and you made a rather entertaining music video to go along with it.

"Wild Exhibitions" - Walter Egan (1983)

Walter Egan:  Thank you. (laughs) "Fool Moon Fire." My last charted single.

Casey Chambers:  Could you talk about that one a little bit?

Walter Egan:  It was filmed around the Silver Lake area in L.A.  There was a theater there we were able to rent.  Some people think I modeled it on "Thriller" but my video came out eight or nine months before the "Thriller" video did.  I don't know that he got the idea from me...but I certainly had the idea.

Casey Chambers:  I didn't know that.  But, yeah, the similarities are definitely there.

Walter Egan:  Well, yeah.  We could have a sour grapes conversation some night and I could tell you about all the things I think have been stolen or borrowed from me.  I mean, there's a lot of stuff like that in this business.  And it's hard.  Hard to draw the line between...'was that taken or was it homage?'  But that song..."Fool Moon Fire" was about me as a night person coming to grips with...kind of a metaphoric werewolf in my soul and thinking other people might have that as well.  And so that was the meaning of the word, 'lycanthropy' in one of the verses...that's the official term for werewolfism.  I think it might be the first song with that word in it to crack the Top 40.  But not the last, because Shakira apparently used it in her "She Wolf" song. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Maybe so, but you still get credit on first dibs, right? (laughs)

Walter Egan:  Exactly!  And we took it literally when it came time to do the video.  Most of the ideas were mine as to how to stage the music in it.  So it was a lot of fun to do.  It was all done on a very small budget.  Most of it was filmed from 4:00 in the afternoon to 6:00 the next morning.  So the whole thing was done in that time frame.

I was on Backstreet Records which was Tom Petty's label.  And that was with MCA which was even though they didn't go through the time lapse of me turning into a werewolf on camera, we were able to use some of the old monster movie footage.  But that was actually me with all the werewolf hair on my face. (laughs) And every hair had been glued on.

It was tedious for that to happen.  And the guy that did the makeup...his friend came in.  And his friend happened to be one of the actors from the old TV show "Leave It To Beaver." (laughs)  Richard Correll.  And that was a very surrealist moment for me, cause I'm a huge fan of the show.

Anyway, we did the shoot.  And as the sun was coming up the next morning, they had to take all the hair off my face to do the transition me being picked up.  And I'm thinking that maybe we should have done that in the beginning because the alcohol solvent that they used to get it off with was just painful. The look on my face at the end of that video when my girlfriend picks me up in the face was just...I was just totally burned out at that point.  I was like, 'good can we get it over with?'

"Fool Moon Fire" - Walter Egan / "Wild Exhibitions" (1983)

Casey Chambers:  A fool moon "face" fire! (laughs)

Walter Egan:  It's funny watching that video now...there's a lot of silly things I remember from it.  But yeah, it was cool.    And that song was doing really well.  It was climbing the charts with a bullet.  Got into the Top 40.  And then all of a sudden, it lost its bullet.  And that coincided with...well...during the run of that record, the presidency of MCA was up for grabs.

The guy who had been president and who was my booster at Tom Petty's Backstreet...his name was Danny Bramson and he wanted to be president at the same time a guy named Irving Azoff wanted to be president.  And Irving has a way of always winning in his own very creepy way.  And so he wound up taking over.  But it was a pretty bitter struggle to see who would be president.  A lot of name calling and stuff.  And so when Danny lost, he was out the door.  I was Danny's project.  And Irving didn't want to have anything to do with anything that Danny had anything to do with.  So, he pulled the plug on "Fool Moon Fire."  And it pissed me off.  Y'know, it's a great record.  It had David Lindley playing electric violin on it.  I think Nicky Hopkins might have even been playing piano on that song.  So it was a really cool record.  And that's the sad story of the music business.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, well to quote another good song on that's..."Such A Shame."  And I mean that sincerely.

Walter Egan:  Very good. Very good. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Here's a fact a few rock fans may not be aware of...Gram Parsons recorded one of your songs.

Walter Egan:  "Hearts On Fire."  That was kind of my calling card when I went to L.A.  That was my success.  I was able to go 'here's what I've done'.  I had written that after spending the day with a guy named Ray Benson, who was the guitar player for Asleep At The Wheel.  I've always kinda had one toe in country rock anyway.  I was very intrigued by Gram Parsons and then I got to meet him.  When he and Emmy sang together for the first was in my kitchen!  So I got to know him.  In a good way.  'Cause he had a very demonic possession thing where he could turn into this really obnoxious person when he would get drunk or really stoned.  And I got to see that part of him later on, too, but that was after he had recorded "Hearts On Fire."  And yeah, I mean that was a big thrill for me. Because it was a breakthrough.  And it was somebody who many ways, really idolized.

"Hearts On Fire" - Gram Parsons / "Grievous Angel" (1974)

Casey Chambers:  Very cool.  Are you still rockin' the stage?

Walter Egan:  I'm still doing it as much as I can.  I've got a really good band.  I'm going out next week to play a concert in Berkeley, California...which is at The Art House on Saturday the 18th.  On the 25th, I'm playing in Miss Pamela Des Barres' backyard in L.A. doing a house concert there for the third year in a row.

Casey Chambers:  Oh man, I bet that'll be insane.  Spill the wine!

Walter Egan:  It's gonna be fun.  And then we're going to play a Malibooz show opening for The Yardbirds on July 21 at the Canyon Club out there. So, even though I live outside of Nashville, I try to get to California as much as possible.  I'm still writing songs. I'm still recording. So yeah, yeah, I'm still alive.  It's my new phrase this year..."I'm still alive."

Casey Chambers:  So fans can expect a new album soon?

Walter Egan:  Indeed.  The last time I did the Berkeley concert, which was two or three years ago, I wound up getting an album out of it.  My last album was called "Myth America" (2014) which I think is kind of a funny title.

"Myth America" - Walter Egan (2014)

Casey Chambers:  Love it.  The title is fun to say and open to interpretation, too.  I've been spinning "Stop Bein' You" off  "Myth..." for a few days now.  I'll put a link to it.  Good stuff.  Walter, this has been a real treat.  I'd like to thank you for all the good music and for taking the time to do this.

Walter Egan:  Yeah, well I appreciate your interest. You have a good evening.

Walter Egan Official Website
Walter Egan Facebook

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Interview:-- Michael Jan Friedman (Author and ST:TNG Comic Book Writer)

"Where would
you recommend
I take this?"
~ Michael Jan Friedman ~

With nearly 60 books notched on his pencil, many appearing on the New York Times bestseller list, it's safe to say, author Michael Jan Friedman knows his way around the alphabet. Add to the list some television and radio work and you've got yourself a pretty fine box of candy.  Call it good and wake me in the morning.

But, for this reader, being handed the heavy baton to carry forward new Star Trek ideas as the writer for the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic book series is the feather.  If there is anything more cool-breeze than being linked to the iconic Star Trek a medium that is cool unto itself...the list is short.  Like many fantasy and sci-fi ideas, Michael dreams them in aurora and remembers them in words.  As Pete Townsend once said, "Nothing is everything."


Casey Chambers:  Michael, you were the writer for the popular "Star Trek: The Next Generation" comic book series. (1989-1996)  How did you land that gig?

Michael Jan Friedman:  Well, I had first started writing novels for the Pocket Books Star Trek program.  I guess I had maybe written three of them and was invited to their Christmas Party...which was basically a couple of pizza pies and sitting around a conference room. (laughs)  And I met a guy named Bob Greenberger who was the Star Trek editor at DC Comics.  And we kind of hit it off.

At the time, DC was only publishing an original series comic.  But Bob said pretty soon the license was going to be renewed and was going to include the new show..."The Next Gen."  And he said at that time, we'll talk.  When DC got "The Next Generation" license, Bob offered me the gig.

It ran 80 issues.  And I did like...77 or 78 of them.  To tell you the truth, I really thought of it as my property. (laughs)  I was always a little annoyed whenever Bob said, 'Yeah, we're gonna give someone else a month here and there.'  But it was a great opportunity.  I loved doing it.  It was a lot of fun.  It was like writing a second "Star Trek" TV show.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, they read like episodes, too.  When you're writing a monthly comic like that, how do you determine how many issues a story is going to be?

Michael Jan Friedman:  Well, it's kind of an instinctive thing.  There's no science to it.  I'm sure there were stories that I wrote in three issues that I could have written in two or even one if my life depended on it.  But they just felt like two issues or three issues or four.  I think four issues was the longest arc I did.  But, ya write the outline for the story and kind of break it down and see where the high points are and take it from there.  It's not a science.  It's more of an art.

ST:TNG (issue #1)

Casey Chambers:  What was the hardest part about working on this comic?

Michael Jan Friedman:  Well, the hardest part about writing "The Next Generation" comic was the approval process.  You were always trying to second guess the writers on the TV show.  Ya know...'let me try to come up with a story that they're not going to come up with.'

But a large percentage of the time, I would come up with something thinking, 'well they're never going to do this.'  And of course, I'd get a response back from Paramount saying, 'We can't tell you why we're not approving this storyline...but we're not.'  Of course, I understood whenever they said meant that they had the same story development.  Which is very common.  If you're proceeding from the same premises, it's hardly unusual for writers to come up with the same story possibilities.  So, that was the hardest part about working on that comic.

The easiest part was working with the artists.  The letterers and the colorers.  It was always a great feeling to write a script and then see it rendered.  I think every comic writer has a little bit of an artist in them.  And to see how the artist interpreted the script and rendered it was always really exciting.

Casey Chambers:  It sounds like Paramount approval could be a big matzah ball.  So when the first issues hit the stands...what happened?

Michael Jan Friedman:  Well, one thing I learned really quickly was that Paramount didn't want me to include any original characters.  They wanted it very much about the television cast.  Which was not at all the case with the DC comic Peter David and others worked on before "The Next Generation" comic came out.

So I was, at first, proceeding from the idea I had to put in secondary characters who could then die or leave or get pregnant.  But that wasn't the case.  They (Paramount) wanted it to be very much about the TV characters.  So I learned that very quickly.  In terms of the response to it, it was wonderful.  I mean, the sales were great.  Fans loved it.  I got lots of great comments.  So, it was a wonderful start.

Casey Chambers:  One of the stand-out stories in this series is when you have Q changing everyone onboard the Enterprise into Klingons. (issues #33-35)

ST:TNG (issue #33)

Michael Jan Friedman:  Yeah, Q was a really interesting character.  But I liked him more for what he could do...than for who he was.  You could have a lot of fun with that.  And so one thing he could do was turn everybody into Klingons. (laughs)

When you're writing a comic as opposed to writing a book, you want to be visual.  You want to think in terms of...what in this story are they going to put on the cover that's gonna help sell this book?  What are we gonna show in the inside in each panel?  Where am I gonna get the action from?  'Cause there has to be action.  Even in a cerebral story, which "Star Trek" tends to be, you need more than just talking heads.  You need action.  And where is that gonna come from?  So Klingons running wild on the Enterprise was a great visual idea.  I knew the artists would salivate when they read that script.

Casey Chambers:  I know it's been 20 years since the series wrapped...but do you remember having a favorite story?

Michael Jan Friedman:  My favorite one...probably "The Worst Of Both Worlds" which were issues #47-50.  It's when the crew posits in an alternate timeline...where the Borg have been successful in taking over the Federation.  Looking back, I would say that was my favorite arc.

Casey Chambers:  Thanks for sharing that.  Now you had mentioned Peter David earlier.  The two of you collaborated on a great mini-series called "The Modala Imperative."

"The Modala Imperative"

Michael Jan Friedman:  Yeah, Peter and I are good friends and we've actually collaborated on a number of projects.  And very often with Bob Greenberger.  It has always been very comfortable collaborating with those guys.  Writing is such a solitary life.  It's not as efficient to work with other people, but it is more pleasant.  And it's necessary, in a lot of cases (laughs) to get you out from behind your desk and talking.

In the case of "Modala...", Bob engineered that.  They gave us an opportunity to mix the generations.  To an extent.  Not to a great extent, but to an extent.  He knew that would be a big sales boost, so he went for it and got Peter and me to write the two 4-issue parts for it.

Peter had been writing the original series at that point and I was on "Next Gen."  But for "The Modala Imperative"...we switched.  He actually got the better assignment, because he was able to bring...who was it...Spock and McCoy, I believe...into the "Next Generation."  McCoy had already been established.  Spock was going to be eventually.  It was a great series to work on.  The art was terrific.  Adam Hughes did the covers.  It was great.

Casey Chambers:  Can you remember buying your first comic?

A "House of Secrets" comic 
(circa 1961)

Michael Jan Friedman:  It was a "House of Secrets" comic from around 1961.  I don't know that I spent my own money on that comic, but I do know I picked it off the newsstand.  I believe I went to the store with my father.  My parents, unlike some parents, remembered fondly their days of reading comics and they actually encouraged me to read them because they knew...reading comics was reading.

I've since found it on the internet.  And it's interesting.  The cover didn't look exactly the way I remembered it, but all the elements were there.  And it was great.  It was science-fiction and I love science-fiction.  Shortly after that, I bought some DC comics.  And then, when Marvel came out, I bought "Fantastic Four" (#1).

And I had the infinitely hideous financial sense to trade it for "Secret Origins" (#1)...which I liked a lot better!  But in any case, you can tell I was starting to read comic books in the very early '60s.

"Secret Origins" (#1)

Casey Chambers:  It was a great era for comics.

Michael Jan Friedman:  Yeah, Marvel was just starting.  And with my little kid sensibilities, I liked DC a lot better.  It was clean.  It was brighter.  It wasn't as gritty.  Ya know, Marvel seemed to me to be...I don't know...kind of too real.  Too gritty.  Too violent, maybe?  It took a couple years for me to really understand Marvel and embrace it.

Casey Chambers:  Switching gears, in '95 you also wrote an episode of the "Star Trek: Voyager" TV series. ("Resistance" - S:2/E:12)  Tell us about that.

Michael Jan Friedman:  Well, Kevin Ryan was my script writing partner.  We had pitched to "The Next Gen..." a few times.  And "Deep Space Nine"...we had pitched to Ron Moore one time.  So we were in pitching mode.  And almost invariably, we would give them six pitches and four or five of them would already be in development.  It showed that we were thinking along the right lines.  But they were listening to a thousand pitches a year, so it wasn't surprising.

You had to be very, very lucky.  And the pitch we hit paydirt with was...(Captain) Janeway plays a Dolsanaya to a Kazon...Don Quixote.  So all these "high content" pitches, which are the best kind you can come up with, are from somewhere.  And this one was from "Don Quixote."  And that's the one they bought.

When they went into production, of course, they made some changes to it.  They actually changed the Kazon to a sort of a "race of the week" kind of thing.  A Nazi-esque ruled planet with the Don Quixote character being a former revolutionary.  And he thinks Janeway is his daughter.  So, he's a deluded but noble person just as Don Quixote was.  Janeway is very much grounded in reality and rejects his delusions just as Dolsanaya did.  Eventually, she sees his nobility and willingness to sacrifice himself and in the end embraces his illusion.

Just to show you how precarious the pitching process is...we had pitched (the story) to Jeri Taylor, who was one of the executive producers.  And she said, 'Gee, you know, I really like this idea.  I'm gonna take it to the rest of the staff.'  And the next morning, she calls us back and she said, 'Hey, you know what?  We're gonna buy it.'  Which, as you can imagine, was a euphoric moment for us.  Then she says, 'But you'll be interested to know that we had substantially the same pitch this morning.  And had you guys pitched this afternoon instead of yesterday...we would have been forced to buy that other pitch.'

Casey Chambers:  Luck and timing, no doubt.

Michael Jan Friedman:  Yeah.  You have to be not only good and on point, but very, very lucky.

Casey Chambers:  That's a great story.  Do you remember watching it for the first time?

Michael Jan Friedman:  I do. I do. I was sitting in my den with a bunch of friends and neighbors and it was very cool. (laughs) It was very cool.  Although I'll tell you cool as that was, I don't think it was as cool as when I sold my first book.  Because the jump from being a print writer to a TV writer was substantial.  It was huge.  But not as big as the jump from being no writer at all to being a guy who is publishing a novel.  In my professional career, that was the most euphoric moment for me.  That was back in the mid-'80s when I sold my first book which was a fantasy novel called, "The Hammer And The Horn."  There's a story behind that too if you want to hear it.

Casey Chambers:  Absolutely.

Michael Jan Friedman:  I was writing a humor column when I went to the University Of Pennsylvania and one of my friends there...his family had a literary agency in New York.
And he said to me, 'Mike, I love your stuff.  When you come to write a book...and I know you're gonna bring it to me.  Because, by then, I'll be working for my father and my grandfather.'  I said, 'Sure. Great.'

So, when I wrote, "The Hammer And The Horn", I brought it to him.  He took a few days to read it and said, 'Mike, this could be the next great science-fiction classic.  Or, this could be a pile of horseshit.  I don't know.  I don't read this stuff.  You need somebody who reads science-fiction and fantasy.'  And he turned me on to another literary agency.

I called them and I said, 'I'm a new writer.  I have this book. This guy sent me over to you.'  They said, 'Well...thanks, but we're not taking any new writers right now.'  And, in my bravado, loathe to take no for an answer, I told them, 'Don't you want the next Stephen King?'  And they said, 'Actually, we're very happy with the current Stephen King.'  This was really Stephen King's agent, unbeknownst to me. (laughs)

But then I thought to ask them a question which I'm very happy these days that I asked.  'Where would you recommend I take this?'  And they sent me to an agency that eventually did end up representing me.

The woman there, Karen Hoss, was very good and saw exactly what I had to do to whip my manuscript into shape. She took it to Warner who was launching a new science-fiction and fantasy imprint named Quaestar.  And the editor, Kathy Malley, bought the book almost instantly.  And the next thing I knew, I was a published writer.

Casey Chambers:  Asking that one question might've changed everything.  Now you can afford to go back and buy that Fantastic Four you traded! (laughs)

Michael Jan Friedman:  Yeah. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Since The College Crowd Digs Me is primarily a music site, I'd like to ask about the kind of music you enjoy and what readers should check out or revisit.

Michael Jan Friedman:  Well, ya know, I'm a folk and folk rock kind of aficionado.  And it's probably not very cutting edge, but I love Peter Paul and Mary and their predecessors. Bob Dylan.  Simon and Garfunkel.  One thing that recently caught my attention is a cover of "The Sound Of Silence" by Disturbed.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, it's a surprising take.

Michael Jan Friedman:  Yeah, you wouldn't expect them to cover "The Sound Of Silence" and it's unbelievable.  It's haunting.  And the video is tremendous.  They really put a different spin to it. I don't know about the album, but I would recommend that song.  And I think everybody should listen to some folk and some folk-rock regardless of what else they like.

And I actually had the occasion to meet Art Garfunkel.  Guess it was a year and a half ago.  He was recovering from larynx surgery, I think it was, and trying to get his chops back.  Well, Pete Fornatale...he was a very popular DJ around here on Long Island...was turning 70. And since Simon & Garfunkel were turning 70, he stationed an event at our library.  It was a Simon & Garfunkel retrospective.  There was a power point presentation.  And it was tremendous. And he said, 'Since you've been such a great audience, I have somebody who wants to come out and say hello.'  And he surprised us by introducing...Art Garfunkel.

Casey Chambers:  That would've been great!

Michael Jan Friedman:  Yeah, and he sang a few songs.  And he wasn't perfect because he was recovering from the surgery.  But he was Art Garfunkel.  I mean, when he was was just magic.  It was one of the high points of my life.

"April Come She Will" - Simon & Garfunkel

And he told a story that night about when he and Paul Simon were starting out.  How they were just two kids from Forest Hills and they were trying to make it.  And I guess they had cut "The Sound Of Silence" and it didn't do that well.  And so they went on tour in Europe for the summer and somebody called them and said they'd like to remix it and put in some more instrumental stuff.  And they said, 'Sure...what do we got to lose?'

And when they came home, they were sitting in Paul's car in Forest Hills and heard their song which had been remixed.   And the DJ screams, 'It's number one!' And Paul turns to Art and says, 'Boy, number one in the charts.  I wonder what those Simon & Garfunkel guys are doing right now?' (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Little do they know...

Michael Jan Friedman:  Just sitting in the car listening to the radio.  So yep, that's my taste in music.

Casey Chambers:  Michael, thank you very much for taking time out to share a few stories today.  I really appreciate it.

Michael Jan Friedman:  It's my pleasure.  It was great talking to you.

"I'm Reading A Book" - Julian Smith

Official Michael Jan Friedman Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
Follow me on FACEBOOK

Monday, May 2, 2016

Ten Underrated John Prine Gems

As familiar as a Cracker Barrel rocking chair. As satisfying as an extra-long back scratcher. That would be John Prine.  And for nearly 50 years, John has been trying to connect the dot-to-dots of life in song. And he reminds us, with a gentle hand, that feelings are never cheap. Lives are never simple. And a smile goes a long, long way.

He's as rare as honesty.  An American treasure, for sure.   He's the "Ferris Bueller" of singer-songwriters.  And though John would be the last one to admit it...he's a righteous dude.

This list could easily be filled with another ten songs. And another.  And yet, another still.
But for today...


"You'll be waitin' on a phone call
at the wrong end of a broom."
"Crazy As A Loon" / "Fair & Square" (2005)

"One red rose in the Bible
pressed between the Holy alphabet."
"One Red Rose" / "Storm Windows" (1980)

"But youth is a costume
And the beauty within lies unfurled."
"The Oldest Baby In The World" / "Aimless Love" (1984)

"You come home late and you come home early.
You come on big when you're feeling small.
You come home straight and you come home curly.
Sometimes you don't come home at all."
"Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" / "German Afternoons" (1986)

"Ain't it funny how an old broken bottle
looks just like a diamond ring?"
"Far From Me" / "John Prine" (1971)

"Things shut down at midnight
at least around here they do.
Cause we all reside down the block
inside at....23 Skidoo."
"Jesus the Missing Years" / "The Missing Years" (1991)  

"Your daddy never, meant to hurt you ever.
He just don't live here, but you've got his eyes."
"Unwed Fathers" /"Aimless Love" (1984)

"Ahh baby, we gotta go now."
"Lake Marie" / "Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings" (1995)

"Shoot the moon
right between the eyes, I'm screaming
take me back to sunny country side."
"Clocks and Spoons" / "Diamonds in the Rough" (1972)

"Mind all your manners
Be quiet as a mouse
Some day you'll own a home
that's as big as a house."
"It's a Big Old Goofy World" / "The Missing Years" (1991)

"I felt about as welcome
as a Wal-Mart Superstore."
"Taking a Walk" / "Fair & Square" (2005)

The TCCDM John Prine Interview

I suggest you go out and buy all the John Prine records you can find.

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
Follow me on FACEBOOK

Friday, April 1, 2016

Interview:-- Roger Boyd (Head East)

"Save my life...
I'm going down
for the last time."
~ Head East ~

We've all seen those five-star lists. Critically-acclaimed album this and blah-blah-blah album that.  And I get it.  I appreciate the opinions.  They're fun to read.

But sometimes you just have to judge an album on a different scale.  Like how much you actually play it.  And how much you enjoy it. just have to let your own ears be the judge. So when Roger Boyd's keyboards explode from out of my speakers to kick it in gear...I feel better.  My car drives better. I get better gas mileage.  Pretty simple, really.

Roger Boyd

Casey Chambers:  "Never Been Any Reason" is the opening track from Head East's debut..."Flat As A Pancake." (1975) And your keyboard really strikes the match for the rest of the album. How did you get your keyboards to sound the way they did?

Roger Boyd:  The synthesizer part came from the kind of oscillators that were in my instrument which, by the way, you can't buy anymore.  I helped get the Moog franchise for a big music dealer up in Champaign, Illinois. The instruments were so new, they didn't even have a franchise and I got one of the first 50 ever made when the minimoogs came out.

And they sound like that because the oscillators drift.  And it was only those old oscillators that did that.  They changed that synthesizer not too long after because of the drifting problem...but now they sound different.  So it was the unique instrument itself doing that.

We had a specially designed Hammond and my keyboard tech had it pushing two big Leslies with crown amps and all kinds of speakers and stuff.  The Minimoog sound is really unique and anytime I play a show, people come out...road crew guys and sound guys...and they'll want to take a look at that synthesizer.  I mean, it's one of a kind.

"Never Been Any Reason" - Head East / "Flat As A Pancake" (1975)

Casey Chambers:  Oh man. It's absolute signature. Did you guys know you had captured lightning going in?

Roger Boyd:  We knew the song was pretty magical 'cause we'd been playing it at the clubs quite a bit and saw how people were reacting to it.  But FM radio wasn't huge yet.  AM radio was still the bigger market at the time, so we actually thought "Love Me Tonight" would maybe be the biggest hit off the album.  In fact, one of the executives at A&M Records wanted us to let the Bay City Rollers do "Love Me Tonight."

Casey Chambers:  Oh, I didn't know that.

Roger Boyd:  Yeah, and we declined because if they would have done it, then we couldn't record it.  And we didn't want to do that.  Although really in retrospect, there may have been some upsides to letting them go ahead and do it.  They were really hot at the time. And it might have brought more recognition to our band...the kind of songs we were writing.  Who knows?

Casey Chambers:  Outta the gate, you'd have to weigh the pros and cons.  But you guys wisely hung on to it and the song became a radio staple on stations everywhere.  Just a fantastic song!

Roger Boyd:  Yeah, I mean, "Love Me Tonight" has done really well for us.  But I think they (BC Rollers) would have probably taken the song into the top five.  I mean, who knows?

"Love Me Tonight" - Head East / "Flat As A Pancake" (1975)

Casey Chambers:  Maybe.  But it would've gotten there without any balls. (laughs)  Your debut album..."Flat As A Pancake" (1975)...was initially released on an independent label, right?

Roger Boyd:  Yeah, at the time everybody told us that we just couldn't do our own album and be successful.  And the more people told us that...the more we believed that we did have a good album and that it could be successful.  And it would be a big story.  So that's what we did.

It was our own label. (Pyramid Records) We put up the money for the album.  Recorded it.  Had it mastered and pressed.  And we were selling it out of the back of our car.  And actually, it started becoming a hit for us in St. Louis and Kansas City while it was still on our label.

Most bands at the time were trying to do records and not spend very much money.  We spent a bunch of money on ours.  So ours really could compete with the stuff that was coming out of Los Angeles, New York and Nashville.  Rather than doing a demo kind of album, we did an 'album' album.  An actual album like you would do in a big studio.  And we obviously had a lot of success.  It made our career.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, well how did A&M come into the picture for you guys?

Roger Boyd:  Well, a couple of things.  We had the album.  And we went to Contemporary Productions which was the big concert promoter in St. Louis to see if they were interested in managing the band, which they were.  And they put us on some shows.

The A&M rep in the St. Louis area...his name was Ross Gentile...loved the band.  He passed away a year and a half or two years ago.  And we were playing in front of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils who were also on A&M and he came up to me backstage and said, 'You're gonna be on A&M Records.'  And I go, 'who is this guy and where do I sign?'

But the other thing was, Commerical Music...which was an independent distributor in St. Louis...was the first music distributor to sell Herb Alpert albums.  They helped get A&M Records started.  And the guy who owned Commercial Music called up Herb Alpert  and said I want you to sign these guys.

Casey Chambers:  And then it just took off from there.

Roger Boyd:  It took off from there.  That's correct.

Casey Chambers:  The original album design changed when A&M took the reigns.  What was up with that?

Roger Boyd:  Well, it kind of missed the point of the title.  The original cover...we had an art student in Champaign do it..cause we were from Champaign, Illinois.  Us...REO (Speedwagon)...Dan Fogelberg.  I mean, Champaign had a great music scene.

And our album had a pancake floating in the sky.  Like when everyone thought the world was flat.  Syrup was dripping off the side.  And the patty of butter was the assembly hall in Champaign, Illinois, which is where the University of Illinois basketball team played.  So everybody got it.

We were coming back from Chicago one morning after playing in the clubs...we played 'til about four in the morning.  And we were driving through the cornfields of Danville in Central Illinois and our drummer Steve Huston goes, 'My gosh, it's as flat as a pancake around here.'  We go, 'Ahhh, that'd be a great title for an album.' (laughs)  So, the title of the album had to do with the fact that we were from Champaign, Illinois and it was flat.  When A&M changed it to eating all those pancakes and everything...well, that...was...different.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, they just didn't get it. (laughs)

Roger Boyd:  I mean, they said, 'this is what we're gonna do.'  And ya just go, 'okay.'  Personally, I would have rather kept the similar meaning behind the album myself.  But that's alright.

Casey Chambers:  I have yet to come across one of those original album covers.  But they look awesome.

Roger Boyd:  We used to have people throw pancakes at us at shows from time to time. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Well, either one makes me want to go on a food-run to IHOP. (laughs)

Roger Boyd:  That it does! (laughs)  And it was really weird trying to shoot the picture for the back of the album.  We were so hot in St. Louis then, that we couldn't find anybody to let us shoot it.  And about 30 places turned us down.  Finally, the Rite-Way Diner in Olivette (Missouri)....they finally agreed to let us do it.  And there were people all over the place outside in the parking lot while we were trying to shoot.  It was pretty crazy.

Casey Chambers:  Is that diner still around?  Cause if it is, I've got to add it to my rock-n-roll bucketlist.

Roger Boyd:  It is still there.  People go to it.  It's still got pictures on the wall. A jukebox. Oh yeah, it's still there.

Casey Chambers:  Excellent. Another killer song from your debut is the party-pleasing..."Jefftown Creek."  It's a deep-cut little diamond that has you kicking things off with some tasty keyboard splash.

Roger Boyd:  That was Steve Huston's song and he wanted me to provide an intro.  It's just about a little campground down here in Southern Illinois.  It was kind of an adlib.  A freeform thing that I put on the beginning of it.  I tried to make it sound like people coming out to be happy.  "Jefftown Creek" was kind of about the first time we went down and stoned.

And that song, to this day, is still one of our most requested songs.  People love it.  The song has some great parts to it.  I'm glad that you enjoy the keyboard intro.  Again, that keyboard can put out some really heavy, overdrive sound.

Casey Chambers:  "Jefftown Creek" is also a joy to hear live.  In fact, Head East has long had a reputation for being a great live band.

Roger Boyd:  Yeah, we've always been considered one of the better live bands on the road.  And to me, I think we sound better when we just set up (in the studio) like we're playing live and record.  We just capture more energy and more of that excitement Head East is all about, when we record that way.

"Jefftown Creek" - Head East / "Flat As A Pancake" (1975)

Casey Chambers:  What led up to you guys recording the album in the first place?

Roger Boyd:  Well, about 60% of the songs that were on "Flat As A Pancake," we had already been playing in the college clubs for about a year.

But let me back up a little bit.  On August 6 of '69, we played our first show ever.  And that was with Steve (Huston/drums), John (Schlitt/vocals), myself, my brother Larry (Boyd/bass) and another guitar player.  And we got real hot.  We broke overnight.  The hottest thing in town.  By January 1, we were starting to do original songs...but we hit a wall 'cause John and Steve wanted to finish college.  And the rest of us didn't.  We wanted to keep going.

When they left the band, for the next three years, I had a couple of different line-ups that had a female vocalist and a male vocalist.  Really good bands.  In fact, one of the gals did two stints on "The Tonight Show" and she was doing really well in Los Angeles, but then she was tragically killed. But we were doing all kinds of different stuff.  From Tull to Jefferson Airplane.  The Stones.  We were a great cover band.

So, it wasn't until the summer of '73 that John, Steve, myself, and Larry all got back together.  We started committing ourselves to getting songs together with the express purpose of recording an album.  And for the next year, we started trying out all the songs. "Jefftown Creek," "Never Been Any Reason," "Love Me Tonight," etc.

In 1974, we were ready to record.  Dan Birney came in to play bass, because Larry left.  He had a job and was married and didn't think he could risk the money at the time.  Oh, and Mike Somerville (guitar) had joined us in '73, as well.  We rehearsed around the clock for about two...two and a half weeks.  I mean, eight, ten, twelve hours a day.

So, when we finally walked into the studio to make our first album, we already had everything worked out.  We had the harmonies worked out.  We had all the parts worked out.  We recorded the album in less than a week.

Casey Chambers:  That's really working the clock.  And it paid off.  The album's an absolute highway necessity.

Roger Boyd:  Well, spending months and months and months working on an album, I just don't think that works as well for Head East. It didn't work quite as well on some of our later albums.

Casey Chambers:  Where did you guys record "Flat As A Pancake" anyway?

Roger Boyd:  It was recorded at Golden Voice Studios in South Pekin, Illinois. Yeah, it's not there any longer.  It burned down a long time ago.

Casey Chambers:  Crap, not what I was hoping to hear.  It's the old "some stupid with a flare gun" all over again.  Before I let you go, I want  to say...I've also played the wax out of your..."Head East Live!" album.  One of the great, and underrated, double-live albums, for sure.

Roger Boyd:  Thank you.

Casey Chambers:  Roger, thank you very much for taking the time to hang out and sharing some cool classic rock stories.  Can't wait to see you guys out on the road again.

Roger Boyd:  Oh absolutely!  It's always a treat to talk to you Casey, and anytime we have more time, give me a jingle.  And yeah, we will be touring this summer as we do every summer and hopefully, we'll see a lot of fans out there.

"Never Been Any Reason" - Head East / "LIVE!" (1979)

Official Head East Website

Head East Facebook

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Interview:-- Martin Briley (Singer/Songwriter)

"I won't cry 
for the wasted years,
'cause you ain't worth
the salt in my tears."
~ Martin Briley ~

Martin Briley is one of those wonderfully creative musical cats who may not necessarily be a household name (except maybe for those in the 80s who had their hearts busted up) and yet you know him just the same.

This successful singer-songwriter-musician has performed, recorded and/or written spirals of songs for a host of diverse artists.  From Ian Hunter to Gregg Allman.  Pat Benatar to Barry Manilow.  Mick Jones to Charlie Pride. And dozens in-between.

Martin has also provided music for television and movies.  And, of course, he has recorded his own albums...including the pop-rock, critical rave-up..."One Night With A Stranger." Well worth seeking out.

A one-trick pony, he's not.  He thinks quick on his feet. Leads, when needed. Improvises, when necessary.  Adapts, when imperative.  Martin Briley is a survivor.  And we're all the better for it.


Martin Briley

Casey Chambers:  Martin, I want to just jump around, if you don't mind.  My introduction to your music came from hearing your signature rock-burn, "The Salt In My Tears" from the album..."One Night With A Stranger."  What a great song.

Martin Briley:  Thank you.

Casey Chambers:  Were you expecting that particular song to be the one the label was going to push?

Martin Briley:  Like most writers and artists, my favorite song is the one I'm working on at the time.  So while I was writing it, I thought it was pretty good. (laughs)

But a lot of other songs were being presented to the label as well.  They'd gravitate to one song and then another one, and then another one.  And then they'd say...'well, most of the wives of the A & R department liked this one.' (laughs) But eventually that (song) seemed to be the one and so we put it out.

To be honest, I was a little...I didn't think it really represented who I was.  It made me sound a lot more rock and roll than I think I was.  Yeah, I mean it's basically a three or four chord song with a riff that everybody's used, so it didn't really stick out to me at the time.  And y'know, that's the thing.  Is it a hit or is it not a hit?  Well...if a song is not necessarily destined to be a hit record, it can still be a hit record once you get the machine of a huge label behind it.  And you hear a song over and over again, you start to like it.  So, I think they probably could've started out with another song and had the same result.  But there it is.  It's that.

Casey Chambers:  You had already established yourself as a songwriter for other artists. Watching a song you recorded take off like it did must have felt pretty satisfying.

Martin Briley:  Yeah. I went through most of my career always expecting a 90% failure rate (laughs) which, to be honest, isn't that unrealistic.  In fact, I kind of approached my record deal the same way.

Believe it or not, I didn't really want to be a recording artist like that, because I had just come off the road for two years with Ian Hunter.  Standing behind him and watching with amazement how he would manage to throw so much into a performance.  I'd sort of think...'wow, I'm glad I don't have that job!'  So, I was very happy being a sideman for awhile.  It was a very low pressure job.

By the time the tours had ended with Ian and also with Ellen Foley, I had been touring with both of them for about two years.  And also making albums with them in the breaks.  When I saw it was starting to slow down, I knew I was gonna need to do something else.

I had only managed to write about two songs while I was touring and I took them to the only publisher I knew at the time...which was Ian's publisher, Chrysalis.  And they described my two songs as five minute long, suicidal dirges.  They asked if I could write something happier and three and half minutes long.  So considering I was completely broke, I said, 'yes, of course I can do that.'

I wrote something called, "I'm Just Using You."  It was immediately covered by Karla DeVito which impressed Chrysalis publishing, who hadn't actually signed me yet.  They were just testing me.  They kept asking me to write for this and write for that and I kept winning.  So they offered me a really miserable deal which, naturally, I snapped up.

Then they said, 'y'know that miserable stuff you first brought could probably be an artist with that.'  They found me a manager who started fronting my stuff around to all the labels.  I'm just assuming nothing will come of it, but then I got a deal.  And we put the first album together.

"Fear Of The Unknown" (1981)

Casey Chambers:  You're talking about "Fear Of The Unknown." (1981)

Martin Briley:  Yeah, I'd put most of my previous five years into that first album.  And here's the weird thing.  That album was getting amazing critical reviews...but the label completely ignored it.  I think they just wanted to see if I was serious or not.

Casey Chambers:  Thanks for nothing, right?

Martin Briley:  Yeah, so then they picked me up for another year, which I didn't want them to do.  I'd gotten the attention of a couple of other really good labels, but I wasn't signed because Polygram picked up my option again.  I headed into the second album feeling like I really didn't have any music left. (laughs)

That's when I squeezed out "The Salt In My Tears" and a few other songs.  Even then, I'm thinking it's over.  'Cause I knew what the odds were.  The stars have to be completely aligned for a hit to happen.  It's got to be the perfect song at the perfect time and everybody involved has to be on board.  And the records have to get delivered to the stores.  There's a million things that could go wrong.  And I was pretty much counting on that. (laughs)

So when "The Salt In My Tears" started climbing the charts, I started to freak.  It was coming in right on the heels of MTV.  Which meant that within hours almost everybody knew my face.  Suddenly, I couldn't go outside anymore. It was so fast, I was almost praying it would slow down and go away...then maybe I could get used to this thing.  Anyway, that's kind of how I felt when it was climbing the charts.

"The Salt In My Tears" / "One Night With A Stranger" (1983)

Casey Chambers:  Where did you make the video?

Martin Briley:  That was done in London.  A couple of my videos were done in London.  You normally go where you get the most bang for your pocket.  So we did that one in England.  And back then, that was a pretty low budget.  I think it was like $30,000.  It was a one day shoot.  A pretty long day.  To be honest, I was kind of disappointed.  I thought it was a bit too Benny Hill...but it was extremely popular.

The other thing is, I had some kind of food poisoning at the time.  I was really, really fainty and kept sitting back on the couch.  Eventually the director said, 'Stay on the couch. We'll make you look nonchalant.'  And I guess I did.  Whenever I've gone on YouTube to look at some of the comments, they're always exactly the same.  There'll be some guy saying, 'Yeah, my girlfriend just dumped me and I played your song and I thought yeah, fuck you bitch.'  And so that seems to be my purpose.  To make lots of guys feel better about it.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, the song speaks to the "middle finger" in all of us.  It's great! (laughs)
You've been tapped for plenty of session work over the years. Picking just one, I'd like to ask you about playing on Julian Lennon's first album, "Valotte" (1984).  Was that a good experience for you?

Martin Briley:  It was kind of fun, but it came out of kind of a dreadful experience.  I was recording my third album with Phil Ramone.  And it was not a good match.  He was at a point in his career when he was desperately grabbing any work he could get.  And he had to grab three projects at once.  He grabbed me, Julian Lennon, and a movie.  A breakdance movie called "Body Rock."

It was all being done in the Hit Factory Studio in New York.  And Phil was just basically going from room to room...up and down the elevator.  Not really doing a very good job of anything. (laughs)  There it was.  So, I think the idea of getting me to play on Julian's record and vice versa was to kind of placate the both of us...for him being missing in action most of the time.  Although Julian didn't play much very well, so he didn't end up being able to return the favor.  But yeah, still it was fun.  I remember doing that session.

Casey Chambers:  Which songs did you play on?

Martin Briley:  I was on the hit single..."Too Late For Goodbyes."  And I forget the other.  It was one word.  I think it might have been the title track.

Casey Chambers:  Jumping to another one of your classic gems is the killer..."Put Your Hands On The Screen."  The song has a delicious bit of late Genesis mind-vibe.  And the video is just bonus.

Martin Briley:  Yeah, well I'd recently discovered televangelism while I was touring with Ian Hunter through '79 and '80.  We'd find ourselves sitting in dumpy hotels in all kinds of obscure places all over the country.

And very often we'd be getting this guy, Ernest Angley, on the TV.  I don't know whether he's still around or if he's dead or went to hell (laughs), but he literally used to say, 'If you're a cripple or a drug addict, put your hands on the screen and feel the power of the Lord.'  All this kind of stuff.  I thought...this is like a joke.  I mean, this is something people would say as a joke.  But this guy is actually taking it seriously.

And the thing is, to me anyway, rock music in the '80s...there's not a whole lot of subjects you could write songs about.  I mean, essentially pop music is all about romance and you can step out of it sometimes...but not often.  And I thought televangelism was a subject that would actually work.  So I used Ernest Angley's words...'Put your hands on the screen'.  And again, I thought the video was just a little bit Benny Hill. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Well, Benny or no Benny, the song has major burns.

Martin Briley:  A funny story about that video is we were trying to get the most out of our budget, so we decided to shoot it at The Osmonds video complex in Orem just outside Salt Lake City.  And because the script required an audience...a televangelist TV show audience...we had to use a lot of extras.  And guess what?  They were all Mormons!  Mothers nursing babies everywhere.  Those Mormons like to do it, there's no doubt about that. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  I'm with ya. (laughs)

Martin Briley:  The director of the video was Don Letts.  I don't know if you remember, but he was in a band called Big Audio Dynamite.  It also had Mick Jones from The Clash.   And Don is this black Rastafarian guy and it was kind of funny watching him try to give directions in Utah.  I don't think many of them had ever seen a black man before, let alone a guy with dreadlocks. (laughs)  So, it was kind of a funny experience.  I thought it might be really weird, but in fact, most of the Mormons felt just as creeped about televangelists as anybody else.  So there were no complaints.

In fact, if you're familiar with the video, there's a scene in it where the evangelist is saying something and a guy in the audience is holding a trident...a devil's trident.  You may not remember that scene, but the guy who held the trident is actually on my Facebook now.  He messaged me and said, 'yeah, I'm the guy who held the trident.' (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Good story!  And now all those mothers holding babies are grandmothers holding babies...holding tridents.  And it's all your fault! (laughs)

You co-wrote the song "Raising Heaven (In Hell Tonight)" which found its way onto one of my favorite "guilty-pleasure" films..."Road House."

Martin Briley:  One of the old fashioned reasons for being with publishers...I'm not sure if they still exist...was to help you make more money by connecting you with people who wanted to record your songs, etc.  And movies are a good example.  And around that time, in the late '80s, getting onto soundtracks was a big thing.

The only thing about doing that never really know whether the movie's going to be a dog or not.  You just know there's gonna be a movie and you want to get one of your songs in it.  Which was what we did.  We didn't exactly jump up and down that we'd gotten a song in a Patrick Swayze movie, but it has turned out to be quite venerable.  I think it still turns up on every royalty statement.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, it seems like you can find "Road House" (1989) on cable or streaming almost every week, so "Raising Heaven (In Hell Tonight)" has gotten a pretty good ride.  You wrote that song with Willie Nile, right?

Martin Briley:  Yeah.  I think I've written about six or seven songs with Willie Nile over the years.  I can't remember whether we were in Los Angeles or New York, but I think we wrote the song with that movie in mind...although I'm not really sure.  The briefing we got for the movie was pretty loose.  It wasn't like we wrote about this thing or about that.  But we were in the right place at the right time and we wrote that song.

Casey Chambers:  So, what have you been up to lately?

Martin Briley:  Well, I've been amusing myself for the past nine months writing for the TV show..."American Pickers."  It's been a hugely popular show all over the world and it's now in its seventh season.  Anyway, I started writing music cues for the show.  Each episode has about...I don't know...hundreds and that's what I've been doing lately.

Casey Chambers:  That's an interesting gig...providing music spark throughout a TV show.  That's really cool.

Martin Briley:  Yeah, the show airs on the History Channel.  The premise is about two guys that get in a truck and just drive around the countryside all over America looking in people's barns.  Looking to find special old and odd things.  I wouldn't call them antiques exactly, but it's kind of like the "Antique Roadshow."

Casey Chambers:  I've never caught the show, but I do know it has quite a devoted following.  And now I have a reason to prop my feet up and ride along.  Are you still writing songs?

Martin Briley:  I do, but unfortunately, the way it works now is the fight to get on records is still just as hard...but there's no reward.  In the '80s, if you wrote a song yourself and it sold a million copies, you would make $45,000.  Which is like an average middle class income.  Right now, a million streams will make you $35.

Casey Chambers:  That's it?

Martin Briley:  That's it.  And they're forcing artists to work for nothing or walk away.  It's kind of ironic, because I also teach a little bit at local colleges about professional songwriting.  What I really want to tell them is don't be a songwriter, because there's no money in this anymore.  Right now, 94 cents of that sales dollar goes to the label. The other six cents is divided among the artists, the writers, the producers, and the publishers.  But anyway, that's the state of the business, and it's not good.  That's why I've been writing TV cues for the past year and I think I've made more money that way.

Casey Chambers:  I'm glad you brought up the subject about unfair treatment of artists by the "music monkey machine." Many have told me that it's a slippery road nearly impossible to walk and it's killing the art.  So that was a great reminder.  "Fair reward for services rendered."  Martin, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us today. I appreciate it.

Martin Briley:  My pleasure.  It's been nice talking with you.

Martin Briley Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers