Thursday, February 4, 2016

Freedy Johnston -- "Neon Repairman" (2015) Review



"I am a 
repairman of 
neon lights."
~ Freedy Johnston ~


One of the unexpected gems from 2015, and one that seems to have passed mostly unnoticed, is singer/songwriter Freedy Johnston's beautiful..."Neon Repairman."  And it's one of his best.

A collection of ten songs filled with out-of-step characters who find themselves traveling on the kind of roads that demand single file.  And they may be broken, but he likes them.  You can hear it in Freedy's voice. And his voice has never sounded better.


Just listen as he sings..."...in the winter night. She remembers longer days..." ("Summer Clothes")  An achingly beautiful story about a woman left to wander the streets with no place to go.  Not really, anyway.

Then there's the terrific..."A Little Bit of Somethin’ Wrong"...about a soldier struggling to adjust.  The deceptive melody disguises darker lyrics.  "...I've got a wife and kid, but I'm supposed to stay away from them."  Freedy's light delivery makes the words cut all the deeper.

The diamond on this disc is the haunting..."Her Hair Is Blowing in the Wind of Another Planet."  Just a wonderful, mysterious song that's open to interpretation.  It's killer.  And your headphones will love it.

"Her Hair Is Blowing..."  -  Freedy Johnston / "Neon Repairman" (2015)


"The First to Leave the World, Is the First to See the World"...is a wistful tale told from the perspective of the first man going into outer-space...and how surreal the experience. It's a sweet song and I liked it.

"Baby, Baby Come Home" is a nice, catchy radio tune that pops right out of the speakers and captures the beautiful timbre in Freedy's voice.  Yeah, just like that!

"Baby, Baby Come Home" - Freedy Johnston / "Neon Repairman" (2015)


Which finally brings me to the awesome title track which opens the record, "Neon Repairman."  It's about a lonely guy who fixes burned-out light-bulbs throughout the city. "The Horseshoe Bar, yes I know it well.  The Coffee Cup Diner and the Palm Motel."  And the song succeeds in its intent...to pay homage to one of Freedy's favorite songs...the Jimmy Webb classic, "Wichita Lineman."  The song sounds both truly original and comfortably familiar at the same time. And it just works.


Freedy Johnston always writes songs that are never cheap...and sings them with a deliciously weary resignation.  After five years, "Neon Repairman" is a much-welcomed return.  A simply solid recording. Haunting, beautiful and a gentle reminder that the good times can sometimes be a fragile bitch.

Freedy Johnston Facebook

"TCCDM" Freedy Johnston Interview

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
Follow Me On FACEBOOK


Monday, December 21, 2015

Interview:--> Steve Forbert (Singer/Songwriter)


"...I'd rather do without prediction."
~ Steve Forbert ~



With 16 albums now under his belt, all sorely under-appreciated, Steve Forbert has taken us from "Alive On Arrival" (1978) to "Compromised." (2015)  So, has he?  Compromised, I mean?

Steve Forbert is a little older, obviously.  Wiser, well probably. He continues to wear his heart on his sleeve, but he keeps his arms a little closer to his vest.  And, I suspect, he's not near as "careless in his way"... not in the way that youth allows.  But he continues to write with a painter's eye.  And he lets us ride shotgun while he discovers his lot.  So...compromised?  I guess so. But fearless?  Hell yeah!

Steve Forbert  Interview - December 2015

"Compromised" - Steve Forbert (2015)

Casey Chambers:  Steve, I'm really excited about the release of your 16th studio album..."Compromised."  It's good to know you're still..."howling out words and banging out chords."

Steve Forbert:  Right. Right. Right.  I'm with you. (laughs)   Yes, this is the 16th album, that is true.  But who's counting?

Casey Chambers:  One of the songs, I especially enjoy from the album is..."You'd See The Things That I See."  And you made a video for that song, as well.

Steve Forbert:  Well, thank you.  In a manner of speaking.  We assembled some photographs.  And some of them, we were the first people to be shown.  There were like two photos discovered from the actual day when John met Paul...and one of them actually shows John Lennon in a parade.

Casey Chambers:  Historic.

Steve Forbert:  Yeah.  It was nice to visit Mendips.  The famous boyhood home of John Lennon.  Yeah, it was terrific.

Casey Chambers:  When were you over there?

Steve Forbert:  To my shock, it was 2010.  It's been five years.  It doesn't seem right, but I think that's right.

Casey Chambers:  How did this particular song come together?  Were you writing it while you were over there?

Steve Forbert:  Yeah, I was working on something else, but this was so impressive that I began to think about what might have gone through John's mind when he got back home and started thinking about it.  'What on earth should I do about this hot new kid I just met?  Should I ask him to join the group?  What's that going to be like?  And it's my group.'  It's just the little thoughts that go through his mind.  Would he feel threatened or would he feel...y'know...obviously what he decided was to forget feeling threatened and go with a winner.

"You'd See The Things That I See" - Steve Forbert / "Compromised" (2015)


Casey Chambers:  Yeah, the what-ifs.  Very cool.  Going back a few years, and this is going back to your 5th album, "Streets Of This Town" (1988) is the song "I Blinked Once."  Do you still play this one in concert?

Steve Forbert:  Yeah, yeah.  I play it occasionally.  I had a good version of it in Belfast about a month ago.  Someone requested it over and over again and I decided to play it.

Casey Chambers:  It's a song that reminds us of how fleeting time can be.  And one you wrote nearly 30 years ago.  Are you ever struck by that fact?

Steve Forbert:  Well, of course as you know, the song ultimately deals with what we call mortality.  So, perhaps it's a little more poignant to me...a little later in life.  But I sing it, if someone wants to hear it.  I take requests in my shows all the time.  It's part of the fun of it.

"I Blinked Once" - Steve Forbert / BBC Late Show (1989)


Casey Chambers:  The show "Fridays" was always considered the step-child of SNL.  But they always pulled in some good musical guests.  And I saw you perform one of my favorites..."Get Well Soon" on an episode.  What do you remember about that?

Steve Forbert:  Well, it was in Los Angeles.  We were on tour.  It was live.  It was during the week John Lennon was shot so everybody's thoughts were on that.  And y'know...it was a little more of a challenge to go on there and sing when you knew that everybody was in sort of a state of shock.  So that's kind of what I remember about it.  But we were set to play and we showed up and did the show.

Casey Chambers:  And it was a good performance.  Even just now learning the backstory, the crowd still appeared to be into it.

Steve Forbert:  Yeah, well maybe they just wanted to be jolted out of it.  We just tried to penetrate the mood and do a good performance.

"Lonely Girl" / "Get Well Soon" - "Fridays" (1980)


Casey Chambers:  That would have been a tough week.  Nicely done.  Jumping back to the new stuff, the title track..."Compromised"...which opens your album sounds like classic Little Stevie.  Really good stuff.  How did this song come together?

Steve Forbert:  The idea for that song was started a couple years ago during one of those times when they...Congress was about to shut down. They were at a stand-still and about to cut the lights out and all that.

But that was all just sort of processed through my filters...and became a song that sounds almost like a regular interpersonal...a love song. But that's what triggered it.

And it came out sounding pretty meat and potatoes for what I do.  So we put it first on the record so it would open up with something that was...y'know...not a curveball in any way.   We're fixing to put up a solo version of it today on my website.

"Compromised" - Steve Forbert / "Compromised" (2015)


Casey Chambers:  You've had your songs featured in movies like "Margot At The Wedding" (2007) and "Knockaround Guys." (2001)

Steve Forbert:  Well, the ones you're talking about, the way they cut those songs in...it's pretty brief.  It's not a life changing experience.  I'm glad they used those songs.  And in Richard Linklater's next movie, "Everybody Wants Some"...I think it's true to say..."Romeo's Tune" is gonna be used again.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah!  Meet me in the middle of the movie line.  Well, "Romeo's Tune" is your signature song.

Steve Forbert:  Yeah, that's my "Year Of The Cat." (laughs).

Casey Chambers:  One of the great things about that song is the catchy piano melody.  Just brilliant.  Did you know from the get go the piano was going to be such an important part to the song?

Steve Forbert:  Oh yeah.  Yeah, that was part of the song when I wrote it.  We had a guy named Bobby Ogdin play it at the session in Nashville.  And he really brought it to life.  He's a well known Nashville recording piano player and he was right at his peak at that time.  He made that...y'know...I showed him the figure and he played it with a wonderful voicing.  Of course, I'm really glad it's standing the test of time.

"Romeo's Tune" - Steve Forbert  / "Jackrabbit Slim" (1979)


Casey Chambers:  Were you surprised when the label wanted to follow it up with "Say Goodbye To Little Jo"...since you had the 'S' word in that song? (laughs)

Steve Forbert:  Well, I was surprised.  And it cost us some time because we had to do an edit and take the 'S' word and just change it to the word...'it'.  And by the time we had done that, I think we had lost some momentum.  It cost us some valuable time, that word.  Yeah, I was a little surprised they wanted to make it the second single.  But yep, that's the way it went.

"Say Goodbye To Little Jo" - Steve Forbert / Capitol Theatre (1979)


Casey Chambers:  Were you leaning towards another song?

Steve Forbert:  I was probably leaning more toward..."The Sweet Love That You Give (Sure Goes A Long Long Way)."

Casey Chambers:  A great song, too.  A runaway train.

Steve Forbert:  Thank you.

Casey Chambers:  Steve, what are a couple of your favorite albums?

Steve Forbert:  Well, I like "Paris 1919" (1973) by John Cale.  And I like "Blind Faith". (1969)

"Paris 1919" - John Cale (1973)

Casey Chambers:  Didn't you have an opportunity to work with John Cale while you were in New York?

Steve Forbert:  I opened some shows for him over a weekend at CBGBs.  And it was really...important to me, since he had made one of my favorite albums.

Casey Chambers:  That's a nice memory-keeper.  I hear you're going to be coming out with a book.  What set the wheels in motion for this project?

Steve Forbert:   Let me see.  Well, somebody was wanting to put out a book of a lot of memorabilia things.  Photographs and backstage passes.  All that kind of stuff.  And I said to that book publisher that I'd like to do a better book than that.  Better than just some sort of a coffee table picture book.  Y'know, I'm not Rod Stewart.  I don't think such a book would really sell many copies.  Let me write a real book.  More of a memoir.  So that's how it happened.  And I found another publisher who's been very patient with it and very helpful.  So it's coming along pretty good.  It'll be out sometime next year.

Casey Chambers:  I'm looking forward to picking it up.

Steve Forbert:  Thank you.

Casey Chambers:  You've probably been asked this a thousand times, so I'll pose it to you a little differently.  Before I let you go, how did you appear in a music video with Captain Lou Albano?

Steve Forbert:  Yeah, you could look at it that way. (laugh)  It was Cyndi Lauper's video.  They don't usually mention Captain Lou, but yeah, I think he played Cyndi Lauper's dad in that thing.

"Girls Just Want To Have Fun" - Cyndi Lauper (w/little Stevie at 3:40)


Cyndi was in a group called Blue Angel.  And y'know...I'm a music fan and I encountered that album and I liked it a lot.  They were playing live around New Jersey and New York City, so I went to see them.  I got to know her and I thought she was a real talent.  At the time, she seemed like kind of a throwback to the '50s to me.  The way she looked and sounded.  So when she went on her own and got a record deal and was making what was called a video...it was early in the game for videos...she knew I was a fan and asked if I would do a cameo in the thing.  And I said, yeah.  So that's it.  I guess that thing's been played half a million times.  I don't know, but it's one of the most played things of all time.

Casey Chambers:  Oh, at least!  And it's fun seeing you pop up in that video.  Steve, I'm gonna let you head on down the Jersey highway.  I want to thank you for taking the time to hangout.  Be safe...and have a Merry Christmas.

Steve Forbert:  Well, you too, Casey and thanks for your interest.  See you later.

"Send In The Clowns" - Steve Forbert / "Compromised" (2015)


Official Steve Forbert Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
Follow Me On FACEBOOK

Monday, December 14, 2015

Interview:--> Carl Giammarese (The Buckinghams)


"...It made us
feel so groovy."
~ The Buckinghams ~



The Buckinghams worked AM radio like butter.  They created great pop songs and captured great pop sounds.  Fans were spinning 45s, drinking colas, and finding paradise by the AM radio dial.

But in the late 60's, radio was starting to change and so were The Buckinghams.  At least they wanted to.  The band was adding more churn to their burn, keeping their garage vibe door open and slipping some light-psych in for good measure.  They definitely had something going on...and their albums were all the better for it.  A little more FM tasty, if you like.

Unfortunately, the band found themselves pigeonholed inside an "AM Only" fence that wouldn't let them escape.  Not radio stations. Not record companies. Not even many of their fans.  This is no pity party, though; the boys were hugely successful.  Still, too bad what we might have missed.  And I mean really...too bad.  There was always room for The Buckinghams on both frequencies.  Seek out their albums and enjoy.

Carl Giammarese Interview - December 2015

(lead guitar, vocals)

Casey Chambers:  I'd like to jump right in and ask about a favorite deep-track of mine, "The Time Of My Life" from The Buckinghams album..."In One Ear And Gone Tomorrow." (1968)  It has a great garagey, light psych vibe and you had a hand in writing that one, right?

"In One Ear And Gone Tomorrow" (1968)

Carl Giammarese:  Oh yeah. Boy, it's been so long.  I haven't really thought about that song for a long time.  Or that album for that matter.  Y'know..."In One Ear And Gone Tomorrow" was the last studio album we did at Columbia Studios in New York.  It was the first recording we did without our producer Jim Guercio.  I think that was 1968, if I remember correctly.

"The Time Of My Life" - The Buckinghams / "In One Ear And Gone Tomorrow" (1968)


I was lead guitar and Marty (Grebb) played guitar also.  He was kind of a multi-talented musician. His first instrument was really sax.  Tenor sax.  And he also was a very prolific keyboard player.  His third instrument was guitar.  We worked up the guitar parts and used various effects.  To be honest, I can't remember what I used then.  I think I was going through an old Amtec amplifier and I can't even remember what the brand of fuzz tone was. (laughs)  We didn't have the array of sounds you can get today, but yeah, it was the days when we'd get together and rehearse as a band and cut basic tracks different ways in the studio. Drums, bass, piano. Or guitar, bass, and piano. There were no rules, but we'd usually start with the nucleus of drums and bass and so forth.

Casey Chambers:  The first song that everybody tasted from The Buckinghams..."Kind Of A Drag" (1967)...went on to become a #1 smash and, among others, is in constant radio rotaish to this day.  At what point did you guys realize that song was going to change your lives?

"Kind Of A Drag" (1967)

Carl Giammarese:  Well, I think it crept up on us.  We had been a cover band playing venues all over Chicago. Everything from The Beatles..."I Call Your Name" to James Brown's..."I'll Go Crazy."

Our manager, Carl Bonafede, was bringing us into Chess Studios doing cover songs to begin with, but we had been looking for an original song to record. This was the old blues studio where some of the legends recorded like Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, and even the Stones recorded there.

Anyway, our manager connected us with a songwriter, Jim Holvay, who had a song that just didn't work for his band.  Carl went over with a tape player and microphone and recorded Jim strumming his unplugged electric guitar and singing "Kind Of A Drag."  He brought it back and we thought it was cool.

At the time, we had been using our parent's basements to rehearse in.  We were in "my" parents' basement when we worked up an arrangement for this song.  Our producer, Dan Belloc, thought it would sound great with some horns.  Now we weren't a horn band, really.  We didn't play live with horns.  But we said, 'Okay. That's cool.'  So he brought in this player who came up with the horn arrangement and we thought it really sounded great.

"Kind Of A Drag" - The Buckinghams / "Kind Of A Drag" (1967)


A couple of months after we recorded the song...USA Records, the label we were with in Chicago...finally released it.  And it just took off overnight.  By the beginning of February of 1967, it was the number one record in the country.

We were just blown away, y'know?  We had seen previous records we recorded...cover tunes...make it on the charts bubbling under the Top 100 in Billboard and Cashbox.  But nothing really hit the charts that much.  And then all of a sudden this song comes out and it kept jumping up the charts 20 points every week and pretty soon it was number one.  We were absolutely blown away.

Anyhow, that launched our career because all of a sudden we were a national group.  Radio did everything back then.  AM radio. And it just took off like wildfire.  Pretty exciting.

Casey Chambers:  So a Chicago station broke the song...

Carl Giammarese:  Back in the day, Chicago stations were very supportive of local bands.  If they liked the record, they would put it in their radio rotation.  Which was big 'cause you'd get so many plays a day.  And with a station like WLS which was the main station here in Chicago, people could hear the song from all over the country.  So that was really big.

I remember one time Paul Shaffer telling me when he used to live in Canada on Thunder Bay...he could pick up WLS at night.  He would listen to it all the way up in Canada.  And that was how he got to know our music.

Casey Chambers:  That's very cool.  What about the little gem B side of "Kind Of A Drag."  Again, it has that wonderful garagey thing happening.  It was a cover of a Zombies tune, right?

Carl Giammarese:  Yeah. "You Make Me Feel So Good."    We were all big fans of The Zombies and Colin Blunstone was one of our favorite singers.  They were making great records and that was a song we were doing in our live show.

And that's me singing on that.  I have to say it was a pretty crude...not a great recording of that song.  I re-recorded it later and made it sound a lot better to my ear, but it is a great tune.  I always joke that that song was as big as "Kind Of A Drag" and it sold as many records.  But only because it was on the other side.  The 'B' side. (laughs)

"You Make Me Feel So Good" - The Buckinghams/"Kind Of A Drag" (1967)


Casey Chambers:  No, no. I like it.  On your underrated third album, "Portraits", The Buckinghams push the needle a little more.  A little heavier. A little psychy.  A really good album.  And the lead-off track..."C'mon Home" is a bit of a lost gem.

Carl Giammarese:  Yeah well, let me tell you, for our "Portraits" album, we decided we were going to do something that was sort of a leap to writing our own songs.   Especially for Marty Grebb.  He was pretty instrumental in writing most of the material on that album.

We all wanted to be more involved in the writing and publishing end of the music and decided to head out to L.A.  We rented a house up in the Hollywood Hills for about three months just writing and rehearsing. When we went into the studio, we were given some leeway as far as playing, creating, and doing certain things.  So, it was a pretty big leap for us to do that.

"Portraits" (1968)

I think the album "Portraits" was a masterpiece of...of a concept album.  And if you listen to some of the horn arrangements, and on that song in particular, it almost sounds like it could of been from the first Chicago album.

The Buckinghams were known for creating that pop-rock horn sound which had a heavy trombone influence to it.  And we introduced our producer Jim Guercio to those guys and he went on to later sign the band Chicago at our insistence.  He took that sound to another level with the horns but you can hear the connection.

And the guitar sounds I got were from a lot of experimenting with different amps, different effects pedals and so forth.  I was using Epiphone guitars.  I was using a Gibson 345 Stereo.  I was using some Fender Strats.  And I still have a few of those guitars around.  But yeah, it was an experiment for us.  It was our "Sgt. Pepper" so to speak.  We were disappointed to tell you the truth, because we thought that maybe the album would lift us out from the lower pop, lighter music to something a little stronger and heavier.

But our audience was not really...they still wanted to hear "Kind Of A Drag" and "Don't You Care."  So it was a hard transition to try to take it to that level.  And the music scene was starting to change by the late '60s.  It seemed like overnight we went from AM to FM within a few month period.  Some of the heavier groups were coming out like Cream...Hendrix...Joplin...Santana...and the music scene was changing pretty quickly.

But yeah, "C'mon Home" was a great song and we still do it live occasionally.

"C'mon Home" - The Buckinghams / "Portraits" (1968)


Casey Chambers:  Not being allowed to grow and rock-off into FM had to be a major drag for you guys.  Screw the pun.  But no denying The Buckinghams were having their "run in the sun" on the AM waves.  And you had the opportunity to do the biggest show on television..."The Ed Sullivan Show."

Carl Giammarese:  Well, of course, Ed Sullivan was the epitome of success.  If you got to perform on Ed Sullivan that was about it, y'know?  There was a certain vibe and feeling knowing that The Beatles had stood on that stage and performed.  I was amazed when we got to be on the same stage.  And I thought the Ed Sullivan Theater was going to be bigger. (laughs) It wasn't near as big as I imagined.  It was something you realized was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  We were all excited and a little bit nervous, but what a great experience to play in front of a live audience on Ed's show.

Casey Chambers:  Which songs did you guys get to play?

Carl Giammarese:  We did "Susan"...and they did that weird video break during the psychedelic part.  So while we're performing on stage, the video broke out of us during the psychedelic break and then came back to us again.  We were one of the first bands to ever do a video.
(Sorry folks, no Ed Sullivan YouTube)

"Susan" - The Buckinghams / "Portraits" (1968)


The second song we performed was "What Is Love."  It was thought of possibly doing it as a single but we wound up having disagreements and fired our manager, Guercio, who had produced it.  We decided to go with another song..."Back In Love Again" which was okay, but it didn't have nearly the success we had previously with the other songs like..."Kind Of A Drag," "Don't You Care," "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)," "Susan," and "Mercy Mercy Mercy."

But performing on Sullivan certainly helped our career a lot because we knew we were getting tremendous national exposure.

Casey Chambers:  The Buckinghams also added another notch to their RnR belt performing on the "out-there" variety show..."The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour."  What was the yin-yang of doing that show?

Carl Giammarese:  Well, on The Smothers Brothers, we were on a sound stage and weren't really playing in front of a studio audience.  It didn't give you that kind of feel.  But at the time, The Smothers Brothers had the hottest show on TV.   Everybody wanted to be on their show and it was exciting for us to be asked to perform on it.

The funny thing about it...the producers of the show thought we were a British group. (laughs)  When we came on the sound stage to do a run through, we looked around and the floor of the stage was decorated with the Union Jack and they had British Flags hanging in the background.  And they just thought we were a British group.  They really didn't know we were from Chicago. (laughs)  I guess it's understandable, because we did have the British Carnaby Street look.  The haircuts. The clothing. The name.  So that's what they were thinking.

"Mercy Mercy Mercy" - The Buckinghams / "Time & Charges" (1967)


Casey Chambers:  Yeah, I've seen the video and wondered about that.

Carl Giammarese:  Yeah, that was actually a mistake that we just left in.  Just did the show like that anyway.  They had already created the set, so we did it.  They didn't realize that we were a just a bunch of Italian kids from Chicago.  They were also serving us fish and chips and all we wanted was some good Italian food. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Did you guys get that a lot back then...fans assuming you were British?

Carl Giammarese:  Occasionally, people would think that.  You didn't have social media.  You didn't have websites. Or all the various outlets for exposure, like you do today.  The biggest form of exposure was getting airplay on AM radio and playing live concerts.  That was about it.  And the occasional TV or variety show.  So people would take it for granted or just assume.  We made all the teen magazines, but they didn't talk about our background as much as they should have.  Who knows?  But for whatever reason, yeah, there were a lot of people who thought that way.

"Don't You Care" - The Buckinghams / "Time & Charges" (1967)


Casey Chambers:  What was it like touring back then when you guys were all over the radio?

Carl Giammarese:  Well, it was pretty intense.  In '67, we were voted "The Most Listened To Band In The Country" (Billboard) and back in those days, the girls were screaming like crazy.  We'd get out on stage and these girls would go absolutely berserk and you could hardly hear a note you were playing.  We didn't have the sound systems you have today.  I mean we didn't even have monitors so you could hear yourself back then.

"Time & Charges" (1967)

I remember seeing The Beatles at Comiskey Park in Chicago the summer of '65 and their sound system was just horrible.  It was...oh, I used to know the name of the system they used...but it was by no means capable of getting above the screams.  I never heard one song that whole concert.

It was that way with us, too.  And the girls could be pretty aggressive.  I remember one time looking over to my left and Nick Fortuna was being dragged off the stage by like...three girls and they tore the sleeve off of his coat.

Casey Chambers:  That's rock-n-roll for ya.

Carl Giammarese:  Yeah, it was like "A Hard Day's Night" for quite awhile.  I remember once being scared to death.  We were in New York City doing a promotion at a record store in Manhattan and these girls went absolutely nuts. We went tearing down the street and had to cut into a store and talk the owner into locking the door while they were pounding on it.  Like I said, it was like "A Hard Day's Night."  It was crazy.

The Buckinghams

Casey Chambers:  It sounds like some crazy great times.  And The Buckinghams are still working stages hard.  And you're gonna be out this way pretty soon, right?

Carl Giammarese:  Yeah, we're going to be in Kansas on New Years Eve at the Kansas Star Casino.  Come on out and join us.  I think it's a fairly early show.  We've got a date there and then we've gotta be in Vegas for a show on New Years Day.

Casey Chambers:  That's gonna be a blast.  Carl, I'd like to thank you again for all the great music and sharing all these wonderful memories.

Carl Giammarese:  You're welcome.  Thank you, Casey and take care.

"Hey Baby..." - The Buckinghams / "Portraits" (1968)


The Buckinghams Official Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
Follow me on FACEBOOK  and  TWITTER  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Five Favorite Vinyl Community YouTube Channels

Five Favorite Vinyl Community YouTube Channels



Vinyl collecting is fun. Whether trying to flip through a couple of tightly packed boxes dropped off at a local Goodwill.  Or digging through a record stash hidden under a garage sale table...almost always with the name Laurie written on each one.  It's all good, 'cause sometimes you get lucky and find a few to take home.  

The only thing that could make this addictive hobby any better...(aside from dropping the shipping charges on all online purchases)...is to meet some friends who share the same passion.  

Well, the Vinyl Community Channel on YouTube has plenty of lovers of the record hunt.  Ordinary people displaying their recent finds and talking a bit about them.  They show the entire album.  Not just the front, but the back cover, as well.  And, if the album is a gatefold, the inside...which is almost never seen unless you're lucky enough to own it.  

If you love albums or are just curious about the vinyl buzz, you will find these videos fascinating and entertaining.  I don't know the exact number of members in the VC, but there are plenty to wet your appetite for the hunt.  Your personal tastes will ultimately have you gravitating to a few who strike the right chords...and you will want to subscribe to their channels.

Here are my Five Favorite VC Subscriptions.

Matt Sands


Matt is "DJ Mellow Yellow" and, along with "The Psych Professor" show their spoils from recent vinyl hunts and online purchases with a pleasing amount of enthusiasm and description.  Count on them displaying the FBI (Front, Back, Inside) of an album. They also do a weekly radio broadcast called "The Psychedelic Experience" worth checking out as well.


The Hogs Ear Report

Ron is The Hogs Ear Report...and it is a wonderful show filled with mostly garage/psych vinyl finds. Both lps and 45s.  Each show is an education on what's out there.  Bands we've heard of...and bands we haven't, but should check out.  Ron's joy sharing his vinyl collection is infectious and a lot of fun. Ditto on displaying the FBI.


Tim Allan

On a vinyl prowl, Tim is just as likely to pick up an album for the kitschy, cool, weird cover factor, as for the music.  And I'm down with that.  Tim has his favorites, but he's open to all genres.  And for this reason, ya just never know what he'll show.  He justifies his likes and dislikes without prejudice.  Ditto on displaying the FBI.  Also check out his weekly vinyl podcast called "The Snap, Crackle & Pop Vinyl Hour."


Earhead Six

Bo (aka Earhead Six) posts videos that are usually short, but never rushed.  He knows a thing or two about records. Owns quite a few grails...but still finds joy in the smaller discoveries.  Ditto on the FBI.  Always worth watching.


GuessImJustASpudBoy

Another VC member I absolutely never miss is Spudboy.  And don't let the middle age paunch and thinning hair fool ya. He's lived and rocked as hard as any of us.  Probably harder.  This Kanadian Kat is a great sharer of interesting minutiae about the music and the vinyl. Totally at-ease before the camera.  Ditto on displaying the FBI.

All these guys are enthusiastic, smart, and fun.  All in just the right doses.  Check'em out...and then check out some others from the VC, as I intend to do.  If you have a favorite or two of your own...let me know.

Happy hunting...and never lean your albums near a space heater.


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers

Follow me on FACEBOOK  &  TWITTER

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Interview:--> Larry Sneegas ("Carnival Of Souls" / Actor - Prod Mgr.)


"I love the dead before they're cold."
~ Alice Cooper ~


The film "Carnival of Souls" doesn't want to take viewers on a non-stop deathtrip...rather it tries to slip a few tabs of Oxy into the beverage for a much...slower...ride.
Quietly creeping on little dead feet.

And in 1962, director Herk Harvey, along with a small cast of part-time dreamers with cash flow resembling an after school special ...somehow pulled it off.

And Larry Sneegas, actor and production manager for the film, played no small part in making sure Herk's vision succeeded.  Bearing a delightful resemblance to "...Vacation's" Cousin Eddie...Larry Sneegas was the "go-to" guy when things needed done.

53 years later, "Carnival Of Souls" is still reveling in cult status...being enjoyed by both critics and film-lovers alike.

Larry Sneegas Interview - October 2015


Casey Chambers:  I've seen "Carnival Of Souls" more times than I can count.  I'm going to touch on a few things, but first I want to ask how you got involved with the film.

Larry Sneegas:  Goodness sakes. (laughs)  Well, I had been working for Centron which did a lot of educational productions.   Films like "Why Study Science?" "How To Become A Better Listener," "Why Be A Doctor?"...that sort of thing.  I was involved in all of those productions in various capacities, because I had started there when I was five.

Herk  Harvey, the director of "Carnival Of Souls", worked at Centron as well.  So, by the time "Carnival Of Souls" came around, we had worked together so long that he just let me help cast the production and find locations.

Most of the film took place in and around Lawrence, Kansas but we did a few scenes in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Herk and John Clifford (scriptwriter) were coming back from a meeting in California and saw the Pavilion there in Salt Lake City.  They thought it was an interesting place and decided to work it into the movie.

"Carnival Of Souls" Trailer (1962)


Casey Chambers:  The opening scene is wonderfully shot.  In fact, the entire film feels so odd, yet strangely ordinary at the same time.  Like the way black and white dreams often are.  How did that opening scene go down?

Larry Sneegas:  Well, I found the girls that were in the opening hot rod scene next to us.  And kind of a strange thing happened.  The day we were going to shoot the bridge scene, the little car didn't show up.  So, I had to hurry and find a phone somewhere and found out the guys driving it down had a flat tire.  And they lived in Lecompton (KS).  I got the tire sized, bought one, drove it out there to'em....and I changed the tire for them just to get the car into that scene.

Meanwhile, people were waiting for their chance to go across the bridge and to watch the whole scene happen.  And we had to have licensed people around to watch the destruction of the railing on the bridge...and then of course, its reassembly. We couldn't leave it that way.  It really was an active bridge. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  And it was your character's car-window parlay with the girls that set the whole story in motion.

Larry Sneegas:  It was all just ad-lib...trying to get the girls to race.  They didn't particularly want to, but as the light changed we both sped off.  We passed them on a one lane bridge, which was not a good idea.

The original premise was that our bumpers hook.  Our back bumper would hook their front bumper...and as we tried to get back on the regular path...it would pull them into the rail and off the bridge.  That was how the accident was supposed to have happened.


Casey Chambers:  It's a big scene and fun to watch.  And the film absolutely has a strange and surreal feel...even before the opening credits.  Just eerie.  But bumper-hook or Kansas pothole...no doubt, the girls lost the drag race.

Larry Sneegas:  Yeah. (laughs)  And another thing about that scene was...we had to have two cars that looked alike.  The one that actually went off of the bridge into the river didn't even have a motor in it.  We didn't want to ruin a car dumping it into the water.  Just the shell of one.  And luckily it sank.  We weren't sure that was gonna happen, 'cause the Kaw River isn't that deep.  My guess is...it might be nine feet deep in the very center during high season.  It was in the spring. And by golly, it did.  It sank. (laughs)

And that was a real good thing too, because theoretically, as the rest of the movie progressed...people were searching for the car the whole time.  Like the river was really deep and the current strong enough to carry it off somewhere.

Casey Chambers:  You also make another appearance later on in the film.

Larry Sneegas:  Yes, in the scene where we run down the steps to go find them and the footsteps run out in the sand and disappear.  I went up to the Creative Dance Studio at The University Of Utah and asked if anybody would like to be in a movie.  And the whole dance team signed release forms to be dancers in the ballroom of the Pavilion.  So, that's how we got the ballroom full of dancers.

Pavilion Ballroom Dance

And the weird thing about it, I had asked the dancers that came out of the ballroom to all dress in black.  And they did.  But then, I couldn't find a black top.  My multicolored sweater looked like a multicolored sweater even in black and white.  Which is really kind of sad, but it worked out okay.

Casey Chambers:  That whole ballroom scene is a creep dance.  Spooky-weird.

Larry Sneegas:  Yeah, well one of the reasons is...I climbed to the top of the Pavilion and we shot through the portal on the top of the roof.  It was a heckuva climb and there wasn't much up there to hold onto.

I held Reza Badiyi (asst. cinematographer) from falling onto the floor of the place.  Did the same thing in a scene where Reza's shooting out the window of an apartment in front of the little white house on 6th street.  In fact, a piece of broken glass came out of the window pane above Reza's head.  It was coming down on him and I put my hand out and stopped it.  It cut my fingers, but it kept him from getting his head cut off.  It didn't make it into the movie, but it was interesting.

Casey Chambers:  Alright!  You're Batman!

Larry Sneegas:  (Laughs) Yeah, it was really strange.  Oh, and Herk Harvey was also the silent face character who kept haunting Mary (Candace Hilligoss).  And every time he appeared, he was encouraging her to come join them...because she was really dead.

Mary (Candace Hilligoss)

In fact, here's an interesting story.  I went to New York to cast the lead for the movie and Sidney Berger (actor) met me there because he was from Long Island.  I thought I had found someone that sounded and looked the part of a relatively young, attractive girl-next-door type.  And we would have cast her, but she didn't want to work on a production outside of New York City.

Then Candace showed up and Sidney thought she was great 'cause she sounded like he sounded...from New York. (laughs)  When we picked her up at the airport, Herk was in the front seat with me...and Sidney was in the back seat with Candace. And the two of them were just going on like they'd been neighbors their whole lives.

Herk almost had me stop the car, turn around and take her back, because he didn't want the lead to sound like she was from New York.  But Candace was able to cover up the accent really well in the film.  I'm not sure what happened to her or where she finished up.  I do know she went back to New York.

Casey Chambers:  So you went to New York to cast?

Larry Sneegas:  Yeah, sure did.  Centron was using a New York production house to develop some film from other projects.  I took a chunk full of their stuff out to be processed and while there...I helped cast the lead in "Carnival Of Souls".

Casey Chambers:  Workin' the pink machine. That's a nice gambit!  Now, you mentioned Sidney Berger earlier.  He was another good actor in the film.  How did he come into the whole thing?

John (Sidney Berger)

Larry Sneegas:  Sidney was one of the first actors at KU to get his doctorate.  This was when Dr. Goff was still in charge of the department.  He was a good actor.  Now here's one of the interesting things about that movie and Sidney.  When he was staring at Mary in the bathroom through the back corner of the door...the eye he was using was his glass eye.  He couldn't even see out of that eye. (laughs)  What a deal!

Casey Chambers:  That's hilarious!  I'll have to go and give the DVD another spin.  Do you remember your first time watching the movie with the public?

Larry Sneegas:  Yes, it was at The Granada Theater in Lawrence (KS) with a full...almost a full house.  It was just a big "thank you" to Lawrence for helping support the movie.  Herk did the whole production for $36,000.  You can't even do credits for $36,000.

One of the reasons he was able to do that...was some of the main people, like the cinematographer Maurice Prather and Reza Badiyi...agreed to work on the production for points that would be paid back as the movie made money.  Herk also put his house up as collateral.  His wife objected to that.  She didn't care much for the picture at all.

Right after the film was released, Herk sold the picture to a man to release it with a Lon Chaney Jr. picture ("The Devil's Messenger") in hopes of it traveling across the south on the drive-in circuit and making some money.  It didn't work.

Early movie poster

The man took the money from the film, sold it to a guy from Europe, and then he took off to Brazil...with the money.  Herk didn't get a dime.  And neither did the investors.  The only time they ever got any of their money back was when the picture came through Europe as a foreign film.  It came back to America and played the midnight circuit in New York, and was a big hit.

In fact, when George Romero made..."Night Of The Living Dead"...reporters asked what inspired him to make the movie.  He said, 'Oh I watched "Carnival Of Souls" one night in New York.'  Everybody asked him, "What's "Carnival Of Souls"? (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  And now "Carnival Of Souls" is praised by critics and film-lovers the world over.

Larry Sneegas:  Yeah, it is.  And there were people that were paid and got some money.  I got paid $250.  I took my money and bought a 1955 Studebaker that I drove for seven years.   (laughs)  So, it was profitable for a lot of people.  But profitability in those days is a lot different than what it is now.

"Like a lost episode from "Twilight Zone," it places
the supernatural right in the middle 
of everyday life and surrounds it 
with ordinary people...and it's possible that it plays
 better today than when it was released."
 ~ Roger Ebert

Casey Chambers:  What was going on in your life before you became involved in making this movie?

Larry Sneegas:  Well, I was real close to graduating from the University of Kansas in Theatre Design.  The major part of the design work was in lighting and I had done stage lighting for the Santa Fe Opera Company for their shows during the summers of '61 and '62.

Now, the summer of 1960, I had started dating my wife while on a USO tour doing "Brigadoon".  Thirty-five shows in seven different countries.  It was part of Eisenhower's People-to-People Program.  And it was the first American musical presented in downtown Seoul, Korea.

And I remember we also did the same thing in Taiwan in front of 1500 national Chinese soldiers.  It was a very strange show.  The general had a microphone...but we didn't.  He was interpreting the performance as we went along.  So right in the middle of a love song like "The Heather On the Hill"...the general would come in with..."Ting ti yi tay ah!".  And he was so much louder than we were. (laughs)  So, it was an interesting experience.

Casey Chambers:  I can see how that would throw you off your game a touch.  And then, after "Carnival Of Souls" was completed and all the hoopla was over, what did you do?

Larry Sneegas:  Well, I went down to Pensacola and got commissioned.  My 'D' in high school algebra didn't carry me through trigonometry to coefficient lift under the wings.  I hadn't gone down there to design aircraft, I went there to fly'em...but my math skills weren't helping me much in ground school.  So after my fourth student pilot disposition board, I joined the fleet in the Pacific.  They made me the assistant oceanographer on a survey ship.

I finished up my surveying in the Philippines.  Went to Hawaii.  Then went down to South America and surveyed the mouth of the Orinoco River leading up to Ventuari River.

Ships kept running aground because they were drudging out the channels for the freighters to follow.  They were dumping it on the south side mouth of the river and the tide was carrying it right back upstream.

It took about two hours to determine where they should dump it, but we were there for two months.  Then I went to Seattle and surveyed outside the Juan de Fuca Straits to help the submarines coming out of their base navigate underwater.

Sub coming up in Juan de Fuca Straits

The interesting thing about all that survey work...is that now, for $4.00, you can buy a chart showing the topography of the entire earth taken with infrared photography from 250 miles out in space.  And it will show all the hiccups and glitches in the earth's surface.  It is so magnificent.

Casey Chambers:  We're living in the future, for sure.  And you still call Kansas your home?

Larry Sneegas

Larry Sneegas:  Yeah, we live in Lenexa, Kansas, sure enough.  I sing with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus and also sang with the Kansas City Chorale for several years.  I had to stop because I was working nights for awhile with American Sensory...and it paid more. (laughs)

I was putting three kids through college and that worked out fine.  Oh, and I also helped produce the theater in the park productions for 18 years at Shawnee Mission Park.  Now I have nine grandchildren.  My three kids are all still in the area and so are my grandkids.

Casey Chambers:  Very cool.  Sounds like a full life well lived.  I really want to thank you for sharing all of these stories and spending the afternoon with me.  It's been a lot of fun and I do appreciate it.

Larry Sneegas:  Oh, you are welcome.  And thank you.

"I Love The Dead"  -  Alice Cooper - "Billion Dollar Babies" (1973)


Good stuff.   And Happy Halloween!

Casey Chambers
Follow me on FACEBOOK  &  TWITTER

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Interview:--> Randy Jackson (Zebra)


"...now we know
just what the journey's for."
~ Zebra ~



If I were to put together a list of just a few of the most underrated bands (to emerge out of the eighties) that I've had the pleasure of cranking through my stereo speakers or melting my headphones...the oft-forgotten Long Island trio...Zebra...would definitely be on it.

Their self-titled debut was one of the fastest selling albums in Atlantic Record's history. And their studio albums, four at the present, have all received high praise.  Yet more often than not, while sitting in a pass-around circle discussing merits of really good bands,...Zebra seems to get low-balled.

Never an easy band to quite pin down.  Zebra was heavy rock, for sure.  Soft metal-prog, perhaps.  Occasional flashes of Zep and glimmers of Rush can be heard, but comparisons are never fair.  Toss your label tags in the bag, they'll only get in your way.  Zebra were smart, fresh, and consistently on their game.  They were a bit of all these gorgeous sounds. And like all of our favorite under-appreciated bands we hold so dear...they deserve better.

Randy Jackson Interview - September 2015 


Casey Chambers:  Zebra's self-titled debut was one of the most under-rated albums of the '80s.  How did you guys hook-up to form the band in the first place?

Randy Jackson:  When I got out of high school, I was working at a bar in New Orleans called The Library.  Felix Hanemann (bass, keyboards) worked at a little clothing store next door.  One of the guys I was working with was in a band with Felix at the time called Shepherd's Bush...and they needed a guitar player.

So I joined Felix's band and we played together for about a year.  And when that band broke up, the manager of The Library said he knew a really good drummer who had just moved to New Orleans from California.  I went down and met Guy Gelso in French Quarter.  We got together.  Started rehearsing a little bit.  Felix joined us a couple months later.  And that's how I met them.

Randy Jackson, Felix Hanemann, Guy Gelso
Zebra

Casey Chambers:  When did you guys decide to make the jump to New York?

Randy Jackson:  We had been playing for two years at that point.  That was 1977.  Actually, it was in late 1976 when we made the move up to New York.  We felt we'd have a better chance at getting exposure to record labels if we moved out of New Orleans.  We could have went to Los Angeles but we knew some people in New York.  Had some connections on Long Island.  Our first gig up here was on New Year's Eve...1976.

Casey Chambers:  You're in New York.  New Year's Eve.  First gig.  That had to have been really exciting.

Randy Jackson:  Yeah...and it was also really, really, cold. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Was it difficult making the transition to The Big Apple?

Randy Jackson:  Y'know, we weren't in Manhattan.  New York City is certainly a completely different place than Long Island.  Long Island was really kind of an easy transition for us.  It was the suburbs.  I didn't find it too much different from what I was used to in New Orleans.  It wasn't that rough.

Casey Chambers:  Tell me about one of the clubs you enjoyed playing in those early days.

Randy Jackson:  On Long Island, we played a place called Hammerheads in Levittown.  It had two stages.  One on each side of the room.  They kinda face each other.  Usually, they would have two bands playing.  We actually opened for a lot of bands in that place.  We opened up for Twisted Sister there.  I remember we played with Leslie West.  So we got exposed to a lot of people very quickly by opening up for all these bands.

Actually, we became great friends with Twisted Sister.  When we eventually got our record deal, we were managed by the same manager and it was like a healthy rivalry here on Long Island with Twisted Sister and Zebra.

I would talk to Jay Jay (French) probably once a week.  He was always wanting to know how we were doing.  How many people we were drawing.  'Cause the scene was really, really good.  Everybody was doing...if you were a musician and you couldn't make money back then in Long Island, you better just hang it up.  Because there was a lot going on.  The scene was just real healthy.

Casey Chambers:  Excellent.  Can you remember the first time hearing Zebra on the radio?

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, it was up here in New York.  It was from a demo that we had made.  It was on a station called WBAB.   Probably like in 1979.  And the radio station had a program director named Bob Buchmann.

He really liked the band and had us give him our demos.  And he started playing some of our songs on a show called "Homegrown" and they just went right into regular rotation.  We didn't even have a record out yet and we were getting played.

"Take Your Fingers From My Hair" - Zebra / "Zebra" (1983)


I remember the first time I heard us.  I was on my way home from a gig.  It was really, really early in the morning.  We used to play 'til 4:00 am sometimes and I was driving back to Long Beach when I heard it.  And y'know, I don't even remember what the song was now.  It might've been, "Take Your Fingers From My Hair".  It could have been that one.  But I do remember hearing us and it was very exciting.

Casey Chambers:  So how did Zebra score its deal with Atlantic Records, anyway?

Randy Jackson:  We had made a demo for Atlantic and they turned us down the first time.  It was the same demo that the radio had been playing.  Our manager at the time tried to get us a deal, but Atlantic thought the stuff was dated. They weren't that thrilled with it.

But then a couple of years later, a guy named Jason Flom from Atlantic was visiting WBAB...and Bob Buchmann told him they should really be checking this band Zebra out.  The station had been getting all these requests for us and five of our songs were the top ten requests at the station.

Jason was brand new with Atlantic and he was pretty impressed.  He took that information back to Doug Morris, the president of Atlantic, along with our tape...and from there we got signed.  The same tape they had heard before.  It was just different people at the label who were hearing it that time.

Casey Chambers:  Different ears. The business plays with loaded dice sometimes, doesn't it?  What were those songs on the demo?  Did they all make your first album?

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, they did.  We had "Who's Behind The Door". "Take Your Fingers From My Hair".   I think "One More Chance" was on it.  "As I Said Before" and "Don't Walk Away".

Casey Chambers:  That's a pretty strong hand.  Now your first two albums...."Zebra" (1983) and "No Tellin' Lies" (1984)...were both produced by the legendary Jack Douglas...who had worked with artists like The Who, vintage Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, John Lennon to name just a few.  How cool was that?


Randy Jackson:  It was exciting.  We needed to get a producer and Jack was at the top of our list.  He had started out as an engineer and played bass when he was younger.  So he had touched on all these things throughout his career and was able to do a lot for us.  And he was a lot of fun to work with.

He had just gone through that whole tragedy with John Lennon getting killed.  He and John had had a great working relationship over many years of recording together.  I'm sure he was still kind of shell shocked.  It was 1981 or '82 when we got our record deal and we finished it up in '83 so...he was just coming out of that.

Casey Chambers:  I bet.  With a good producer there's quite a bit of give and take.  Add a little, take a little.  An extra set of fresh ears will do that.  Did you guys find it difficult to let go?

Randy Jackson:  It was good and he had some good ideas.  I remember particularly...there was an end keyboard part on "When You Get There."  It was something that I wouldn't have been able think of.  You can hear it in the background.  And there was a couple of little arrangement things he wanted like on "The La La Song"...us singing over the riff was kind of his idea.

We had a different version where we played a whole other section.  Jack wanted to take the section out, so the song ends the way it does on the record.  That I didn't agree with.

I think the song would have been nicer if we had left the end part the way we had it.  The song was long anyway, so that didn't really make any difference...and the end part was cool.  People still ask us to play it, even today and we do.

Jack brought some good ideas.  He really got the band tighter...added some little things to the arrangements for the songs.  Shortening up a bit here and there, his editing was just great.  When you're in the middle of it, it just goes so quickly.

Casey Chambers:  One of the standout tracks from your debut is the epic..."Who's Behind The Door?"...a beautiful and powerful song about "the quest".  How did that song come together?

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, I was in Texas at my grandparent's farm, which is right outside of Dallas.  And I had some guitar parts that I had written in open tuning...in open G.  Just a whole bunch of stuff on different cassette tapes.  And I was a big fan of "2001: A Space Odyssey".

The farm was way out in the country and it was quiet.  I didn't have a phone.  There weren't any distractions.  The song had some religious air here and there in the lyrics, as well, and in a roundabout way, that was the biggest influence on the song.  And I think between the open tuning and melody ideas along with the theme from "2001"...I came up with "Who's Behind The Door?".


Casey Chambers:  Music videos were the flavor of the times and Zebra had a number of entertaining clips.  Did you have any favorites?

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, the video thing was just starting when we came on the scene.  I think my favorite one as far as the video goes is "Wait Until The Summer's Gone".  I think it's just because the way it was cut.  The way it looked.  The set design.  It was cool.  It was slick.

"Wait Until The Summer's Gone" - Zebra / "No Tellin' Lies"


The guy that did it...his name was Marty Callner.  He had a lot of experience already working for HBO.  I mean, he had been in the business for awhile.  But this was kind of new to him, too.  He had a lot of great ideas.  So when you watch that video, although we did have quite a bit of influence, that's Marty Callner you're seeing there.  He's got his stamp all over it.  He's a master at what he does.  I really did like that video.

Casey Chambers:  Another good one pulled from "No Tellin' Lies" (1984) for our video-viewing pleasure was "Bears."  Just a killer tune.  That's the one where it shows you guys out in a forest...

Randy Jackson:  Yeah. (laughs)  Again this was Marty Callner and he put it together.  The only problem we had with this one was that the script required that we have a bunch of bear costumes.  And the girl who was in charge of getting the sets ready and all the costumes, didn't do it.  So we didn't have any bear costumes.

He was just shaking his head and said we're shooting in an hour.  How are we gonna do this? (laughs)  In L.A., if you're renting stuff, you gotta reserve it days or weeks before.  So she scrambled in the morning to get some bear costumes and all she could find was one that looked like Dancing Bear from Captain Kangaroo. (laughs)

"Bears" -  Zebra / "No Tellin' Lies"


So we kind of had to rewrite the script from what it was...and I don't even remember what the idea of it was in the beginning.  We just took what we had and rewrote it right there on the spot and shot it.  And it worked.  Our road manager was in the bear costume.  We all had a good time doing it.

Casey Chambers:  Did Zebra ever have the opportunity to perform on television?

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, there was a show called "Rock 'N' Roll Tonight" that we did.  I think it was on NBC.  We went out to Los Angeles and did that.  It was during the first album and we did some songs from that record.  I think..."Who's Behind The Door?",  "Tell Me What You Want", "Take Your Fingers From My Hair", and "One More Chance" were the songs.

Casey Chambers:  So this was a show where you could stretch out and play a set.

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, but it was always with another band.  On the night we did the show, there was...I don't know...I can't say who the other band was.  You'd know who they were if I said it, but it's not coming to me right now.

"Tell Me What You Want" (live) - Zebra on "Rock N Roll Tonight" (1983)


We would play a song and then the show would take a (commercial) break.  They'd come back and they'd have the other band doing a song.  It was in front of a live audience, but they would film it the week of the show.  So they might film it on Wednesday and run it on Friday.


Casey Chambers:  In 1990, Zebra released a killer live album..."Live"...which never fails to shake off the dust on the speakers. But you guys also released another tasty little "live" nugget culled from one of your earlier performances for the "King Biscuit Flower Hour."

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, we did.  The one you're talking about was done here on Long Island at Hofstra University.  The crowd...it was our crowd.  And I think it was during our second album.  It gave us a chance to...well, we knew we wanted to get in there and do as good of a job as we could.

After it was recorded, we went in and had the opportunity to mix it 'cause we recorded it in 24 track.  We had Jack Douglas come in and do the engineering and the mixing on it.  And we got some pretty good stuff out of the sessions we did.  I was happy with the way it came out.

"3.V"  (1986)

Casey Chambers:  Zebra is a great band to see live.  Do you remember the first rock concert you went to?

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, it was 1964.  September 19.  In New Orleans.  It was The Beatles.

Casey Chambers:  No way!  You actually saw them, huh?

Randy Jackson:  Yep.  My parents took my brother and me to see The Beatles.  I was nine, my brother was eight and the Beatles had just come on the scene.  A girl from down the street had brought a Beatles record down to me.  I think it was "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There."...the 45.

My parents had bought us the two Beatles albums that were available at the time.  "Meet The Beatles" (1964) and "The Beatles' Second Album" (1964)  Maybe their third album was out at that point, too, when we actually saw them.

They were coming out with, like, three or four records a year. (laughs)  Four albums a year!  And I thought this was what was normal.  Little did I know this was just completely abnormal for any musical group.  And I didn't really know what I was seeing then...but I loved it.  "Huckleberry Hound" was what we did before that. And then this rock band just took over the whole thing.  It was exciting.  I'll never forget it.
We saw them at a stadium in New Orleans.  It was actually in a high school football stadium right in the middle of City Park.  There was a lot of teenage girls.  They rushed the field and broke through two lines of police to get to the stage.  And that was when The Beatles kind of stopped.  That was the end of it...the end of the show and they left the stage.

The Beatles in New Orleans (1964)


Casey Chambers:  Those black-and-white images of teenage girls crying themselves shitless is insane.

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, it was the real deal.  We were kind of up in the stands on the...stage right.  And there was a family right in front of us and I guess they had brought their 15 or 16 year old daughter.  And she had just lost her mind.  She was trying to get onto the field and her father was holding her back.  Not letting her go.  And she was screaming and crying and I'm just looking at this going...this looks like a lot of fun!

"Zebra IV" (2003)

Casey Chambers:  In 2003, you guys released your last studio album..."Zebra IV."  It's a firestick, and arguably your best.  One of those underrated rock gems that begs rediscovery.  Yet you guys had been away from the studio almost 17 years before striking the matches again.

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, there was a lot of time in-between the third and the fourth record...but we never did stop playing.  We'd always been playing live.  A few of the songs we had already worked into our live set.

And the rest of the songs, the ones that were written more around the time the record was released, are heavier than the ones on our third album.  Songs like "Arabian Nights"  ..."Why"..."Angels Calling."  We had less keyboards and more guitars.  I thought it worked and I'm proud of it.  We play a lot of it in our shows and fans like it.

"Arabian Nights" - Zebra / Zebra IV (2003)


Casey Chambers:  It is a very good album.  And you guys are still slammin' the bam on the road!

Randy Jackson:  Oh yeah!  Zebra will be celebrating the band’s 40th Anniversary at the Patchogue Theater in New York, the day before Thanksgiving.  On December 12th, we'll be at The Sanctuary in Dallas.  Also, on December 13th, we're looking forward to rockin' the Wildley Theatre in St. Louis.  And fans can always check our website for more details.

Casey Chambers:  Those are gonna be some great shows!  I've been to the Wildley Theatre and it's a wonderful venue.  Randy, thanks so much for hanging with me today.

Randy Jackson:  Yeah, no problem at all, Casey.  Thanks a lot.

Zebra's Official Website
Randy Jackson Facebook

"Who's Behind The Door" - Zebra (1983)


Good stuff.

CASEY CHAMBERS
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