Tuesday, September 22, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."The Notorious Byrd Brothers" - The Byrds (1968)

"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" - The Byrds (1968)

"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" is a very, very good album and way more psych-dusted than I expected.  Apart from the opening track that I've yet to warm up to and "Old John Robertson" which is a good song but sounds jarringly out of step with the rest of the more strange and floaty guitar passages, it is gold.  Mostly though, everything moves along as it should in a wonderful heady hippie bong-tipping flair.

And my gosh, what a delicious flock of Byrds shenanigans that were going on during the recording.  David Crosby was sent packing 3 months before the record dropped.  He was upset about many, many things.  As was the band, with him. (Wiki it.)  Halfway through the sessions, drummer Michael Clarke took off for a little while...to mend his mind, perhaps...and then returned.  He was immediately cut loose after the record was finished.  Even Gene Clark, who had left the band long ago, hooked up with The Byrd’s again...for three weeks anyway...and then ran for the hills.  When The Byrds album finally dropped and the smoke had finally cleared...only Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman were left standing.  The making of this album sounds like a complete impossibility, and yet after all the ducking and jiving...their 5th album, "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" turned out to be very nearly a masterpiece.  At the very least, it is one fantastic spin.

"CBS  CBS  Stereo"
"Can Also Be Played On Mono Equipment" 

Favorites are the mostly David Crosby penned “Draft Morning”...a war protest that drops in on the listener, getting all the i's dotted, but without sounding at all preachy.  It's nice and trippy and has some cool bass dancing underneath.  The song “Wasn't Born To Follow" which was immortalized in the biker film, “Easy Rider” is found here, as well.  The psych gem "Tribal Gathering" ...written by Crosby and Hillman...is the lost treasure with its mix of floaty harmonies, odd time-signature, and edgy fuzz guitars.  Wonderful, but all too short.  

The album was ranked #171 on RS list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" and was rescued at the A-OK Record Swap in Wichita.  I could not find this particular pressing on Discogs.  Any help appreciated. 

"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" (back)

CBS label

Side A Matrix:
o XSM-119703-1D  [etched]  
Side B Matrix:
o XSM119704-1G 1  [stamped]  

"Tribal Gathering" - The Byrds / "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" (1968)

TRACKS:
A1  "Artificial Energy" 2:18
A2  "Goin' Back" 3:26
A3  "Natural Harmony" 2:11
A4  "Draft Morning" 2:42
A5  "Wasn't Born to Follow" 2:04
A6  "Get to You" 2:39
B1  "Change Is Now" 3:21
B2  "Old John Robertson" 1:49
B3  "Tribal Gathering" 2:03 
B4  "Dolphin's Smile" 2:00
B5  "Space Odyssey" 3:52

PERSONNEL:
Roger McGuinn – vocals, lead guitar, Moog
Chris Hillman – vocals, bass, guitar, mandolin
Michael Clarke – drums (A1, A4,  B2,  B3, B4)
David Crosby – vocals, rhythm guitar, bass
Gene Clark – b-vocals (A2, B5...possibly)
ADDITIONAL:
James Burton, Clarence White – guitars
Gary Usher – Moog, percussion, b-vocals
Barry Goldberg – organ
Jim Gordon – drums (B2, B3, B5) 
Hal Blaine – drums (B6, A1
Curt Boettcher – b-vocals
Firesign Theatre – sound effects on "Draft Morning"
others...

Good stuff.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."The Merry-Go-Round" (1967)

"The Merry-Go-Round" (front)

I passed on The Merry-Go-Round on a few occasions simply because I thought the music would be a little too bubbly for my taste.  Too sweet.  But I was way off base.  The Merry-Go-Round made a tasty pop-flavored...folk-rock album that offers up the kind of attention one might expect from Lennon-McCartney.  And yet, The Merry-Go-Round pull off their own vibe.  Emitt Rhodes, who just recently passed, was writing and singing good stuff even as a teenager.  There's nothing jaw-dropping, but the songs do have a maturity that impresses especially for the times.  This, their lone album is not a must-own, but it can still be found cheap and I recommend picking up your own copy.  A bonus is that the record sounds better with every new spin.

Favorites are "You're A Very Lovely Woman" which was a minor hit for the band...and way too good for Top 40.  I love the dark, brooding flavor the song offers and it bears no small resemblance to another song released later that same year by psych legend Love on their "Forever Changes" album.  What does that mean?  Only that music is a funny thing.  This is by no means a psych album, but the unusual track, "Time Will Show the Wiser" is a smart song to fall in love with.  I also really dug the gorgeous "Had To Run Around" with great harmonies and a neat arrangement. Good stuff.

My copy is an unexpected white promo label and looks like it's been played only a handful of times.  On the back cover, there is an "AUDITION RECORD" stamp.  I was lucky to rescue this square from one of my favorite go-to sources out in the wild affectionately known as "Garageman G” and for only one machine-washed Hamilton.

"The Merry-Go-Round" (back)

"AUDITION RECORD" stamp

A&M RECORDS PROMO label

Side A Matrix:
A&M-4163-16 (MR circle) △10865  
Side B Matrix:
A&M-4164-16 (MR circle) △10865-X  

"You're A Very Lovely Woman" - The Merry-Go-Round / "The Merry-Go-Round" (1967)

TRACKS:
A1  "Live" 2:32
A2  "Time Will Show The Wiser" r2:25
A3  "On Your Way Out" 2:29
A4  "Gonna Fight the War" 2:00
A5  "Had To Run Around" 3:34
A6  "We're In Love" 2:22
B1  "You're A Very Lovely Woman" 2:45
B2  "Where Have You Been All of My Life" 2:14
B3  "Early In The Morning" 2:05
B4  "Low Down" 2:57
B5  "Clown's No Good" 2:18
B6  "Gonna Leave You Alone" 2:16

PERSONNEL:
Emitt Rhodes - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Bill Rinehart - guitar, vocals
Rick Dey - guitar
Gary Kato - bass
Joel Larson - drums

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Friday, September 11, 2020

TCCDM Dig and Flip: "The Great Escape" - Paul Brickhill (1950)

"The Great Escape" by Paul Brickhill
(1950)
Softcover, 264 pages

“The Great Escape” is an intensely detailed account of prisoners held in a German POW camp known as Stalag Luft-III.  The camp was made to hold the riskiest of war prisoners.  Author Paul Brickhill, who takes us into this camp, was himself a prisoner.  The guards were constantly on the lookout for any escape tricks.  Scrutinizing every movement they made.  Tunnels were not unheard of, but they were almost always unsuccessful and extremely dangerous.  And, as you can imagine, digging one is a ton of hard work and just one snafu and...pffft!  For the prisoners to have their best chance of pulling this off, the tunnel has to be deeper.  The tunnel has to be longer.  And the tunnel, of course, has to be dug in absolute incognito.  And not just one tunnel this time...but three!  And with prison guards constantly eyeballing them...well...that's a lot of major awesome chutzpah.  Somehow, and this is not a spoiler,  they succeed.  The amazing resourcefulness and incredible fortitude and courage these guys showed was...jaw-dropping.

There is no Steve McQueen...famously motorcycling over and through fences here, but apart from a few liberties, the action movie based on this story follows pretty close.  And make no mistake, this does not have a happy ending.  Only 76 prisoners actually made it through the tunnel,..and nearly all were recaptured.  And a huge number of those escapees were put to death by guards under Hitler's order.  Later, those same guards were arrested as war criminals.  Author Paul Brickhill's retelling of this incredible escape may not be as flashy as the star-studded film, but then again, the truth here cuts much deeper.

"Escape" - Alice Cooper / "Welcome To My Nightmare" (1975)

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Friday, September 4, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."I'm Still In Love With You" - Al Green (1972)

"I'm Still In Love With You" - Al Green (1972)

For whatever reason, I seldom see any Al Green albums in the wild.  Nice copies are just scarce and hard to come by.  For a guy who hit the sacred trifecta in the early 70s...well...those albums be hiding.  But hey, I finally have one now.  "I'm Still In Love With You" was his 5th studio album, but it was the middle child in his powerful trilogy of albums squeezed between "Let's Stay Together" (1972) and "Call Me." (1973)  Each considered one of his masterpieces.

Everybody should know Al Green by now, but for those who haven't the pleasure, Green's vocals are very distinct.  Beautifully unique.  Warm and romantic, and funky when funk is necessary.  And on this album...mercy!  The horns and drums absolutely pop.  And in just the right measure.  Just enough to let you know they are in the house but they have no plans of moving in.

Al Green wrote seven of the nine songs and four of them charted.  The other two songs were covers.  One is the Kris Kristofferson penned "For The Good Times" and is especially nice.  Absolutely kills it.  There is plenty of love and happiness and occasional heartbreak found here and it is all good.  I've yet to stumble upon Al Green's other two monster albums from his sacred trifecta, and many think they are even better.

"I'm Still In Love With You" (back)

All should be familiar with the hits here, but deeper track favorites are "One of These Good Old Days" and "For the Good Times."  Surprisingly, the classic "Love and Happiness" failed to grab me on the first lap.  Even though it ranked 98 on RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, I had to go back for a second and third helping of the album...before I got it.  It was where the song was placed on the album that bothered me.  I think the epic "Love and Happiness" would have been better served as the closing track on side one or side two rather than squeezed into the middle.  I was still trippin' on the catchy pop-soul that was tearing my heart out and I just wasn't ready to answer the other door.

"I'm Still In Love With You" is on the smaller Hi Records label out of Memphis and was distributed by London Records.  My copy was found at a local Wichita record swap for $9 simoleons.  And it was the only Al Green I saw that day.

Hi Records

Hi Records company sleeve

"One Of These Good Old Days" - Al Green - "I'm Still In Love With You" (1972)

TRACKS:
A1  "I'm Still In Love With You" 3:12
A2  "I'm Glad You're Mine" 2:54
A3  "Love And Happiness" 5:00
A4  "What A Wonderful Thing Love Is" 3:37
A5  "Simply Beautiful" 4:08
B1  "Oh, Pretty Woman" 3:22
B2  "For The Good Times" 6:27
B3  "Look What You Done For Me" 3:04
B4  "One Of These Good Old Days" 3:15

PERSONNEL:
Al Green - vocals
Jack Hale - trombone
Wayne Jackson - trumpet
Ed Logan - tenor horn, tenor sax
Andrew Love - tenor horn, tenor sax
Charles Chalmers - b-vocals, horn and string arrangments
James Mitchell - tenor horn, baritone sax, string and horn arrangments
Mabon "Teenie" Hodges - guitar
Leroy Hodges - bass
Charles Hodges - drums, organ, piano
Howard Grimes - drums, rhythm section
Al Jackson Jr. - drums
Ali Muhammed Jackson - drums
Sandra Chalmers - b-vocals
Donna Rhodes - b-vocals
Sandra Rhodes - b-vocals

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Thursday, August 27, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."The Blue Things" (1966)

"The Blue Things" - The Blue Things  (1966)

The album cover reminds me of an early "Twilight Zone" episode where four young strangers dressed in black boots and leather jackets rent a house in a small town and have the whole neighborhood peaking through their curtains.  In 1966, and hailing from the midwestern town of Hays, Kansas, The Blue Things probably got that a lot.  These boys from the plains with their cool and exotic swag and swagger played garage-tinged folk-rock that was out in front.  The band's lone self-titled album has a bit of Beau Brummels going on and little hints of that folkier jangle-jangle the Beatles were working.  But they had their own walk.  The album is a really enjoyable spin that still holds up today.

Favorites are the catchy "High Life" that nudges The Beatles.  The garage "La Do Da Da" is killer stuff and one I imagine they tore up live.  "Doll House" is another hidden gem.  The band also has an excellent take on Dylan's "Girl Of The North Country" as well.  On the back cover is a nice epistle from John D. Loudermilk espousing his joy for The Blue Things.  Original copies are getting harder to find and are starting to take some real cabbage.  But deals are out there.  My copy was an online purchase.  18 "green things" shipped.

"The Blue Things" (back)

RCA Victor label

"High Life" - The Blue Things / "The Blue Things" (1966) 

TRACKS:
A1  "High Life" 2:21
A2  "Girl of the North Country" 2:33
A3  "Doll House" 2:31
A4  "La Do Da Da" 2:48
A5  "Look Homeward Angel" 2:24
A6  "It Ain't No Big Thing, Babe" 2:26
B1  "Ain't That Lovin' (You Baby)" 2:35
B2  "I Can't Have Yesterday" 2:36
B3  "Now's the Time" 2:21
B4  "The Man on the Street" 2:21
B5  "I Must Be Doing Something Wrong" 2:21
B6  "Honor the Hearse" 2:17

PERSONNEL:
Val Stöecklein - guitar, vocals
Mike Chapman - guitar, vocals
Richard Scott - bass, vocals
Richard Larzalere - drums
Bobby Day - drums

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Saturday, August 22, 2020

TCCDM Dig and Flip: "Andre The Giant: Life And Legend" - Box Brown (2014)

"Andre The Giant: Life And Legend"
by Box Brown
First Second (2014)
240 pages

(I stumbled upon a good-sized box filled with a variety of graphic novels at an estate sale. No official count as I've just been pulling from the box when I find time to read one.  Afterward, I post the book and go from there.)

Andre Roussimoff.  He was born with a very painful disease that caused extreme growth in his body.  He was 7'4" and nearly 600 lbs and we came to know him as Andre the Giant.  Author and artist Box Brown presents an interesting overview of Andre's life...starting from his school days until his much too early, but not unexpected, death at 46.  In between, we learn about some of Andre's experiences both inside the professional wrestling ring and out.  As well as being offered a part in the wonderful film, "The Princess Bride" playing (you guessed it) the lovable giant, Fezzik.


Brown only scratches the surface, but that is to be expected with this type of medium.  And yet, he doesn't shy away from showing Andre warts and all.  He does a satisfying job of moving the story along while keeping the reader's interest.  I was initially 'meh' about the artwork, but as I began turning a few pages, I found myself warming to the simpler style of penwork.   Anyone who grew up watching Andre the Giant and WWF will no doubt be familiar with many of the stories found here.  Still, for a "bio" graphic novel, Box Brown delivers up a pretty entertaining read.  I was surprised after reaching the last page, to be left feeling a sadness I was not quite prepared for.  Andre couldn’t hide...and so he didn't.  He became a giant.  Good stuff.

"Giant Behemoth" - Barnstorm / "Barnstorm" (1972)

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."Autosalvage" - Autosalvage (1968)

"Autosalvage" - Autosalvage (1968)

The lone album from Autosalvage is really enjoyable psych-rock.  And an album that's kind of hard to pin down.  Different musical genres show up here.  Garage slips into blues-rock slips into folk-rock with everything dusted in psych.  You would think that an amalgam of musical styles like this would be jarring, but the changes are sneaky and smooth as butter.  And everything works.  There are nice vocals and unique melodies to be found here, too.  Mind-bubble lyrics.  Freaky time changes.  Unusual chord choices.  Noisy, sometimes jangly guitars.  A little fuzz.  A little tape-manipulation.  Unexpected sounds.  There may be a wee smidgen of Byrds or Beatles hiding deep in the shadows, but this is all Autosalvage.  The playing is tight.  Fresh and fearless.  This is a psych album in every way.  Autosalvage ...that little ol' band from New York...recorded a pretty tasty bearclaw.   And one that gets better with every needle drop.

Favorites include "A Hundred Days"...with its groovy aura that has a timeless feel and a song The Jayhawks might have listened to once.  There are two medleys on this album.  I especially like the closing medley "The Great Brain Robbery" / "Glimpses of the Next World's World."   And the nearly 6-minute opening title track with its female introduction is a great way to shake hands with the band.  They used to open for Frank Zappa and when he heard them play this song suggested they change their name from The Northern Lights to Autosalvage.  And so they did.  This is a good psych album that has a few surprises.  I'm glad I finally own it.  This original copy set me back $24 shipped.  Turn it up!

"Autosalvage" (back)

RCA Victor label

RCA sleeve

"A Hundred Days" - Autosalvage / "Autosalvage" (1968)

TRACKS:
A1  "Auto Salvage" 5:37
A2  "Burglar Song" 2:20
A3  "Rampant Generalities" 3:10
A4  "Medley" 6:30
           a) "Our Life as We Lived It"
           b) "Good Morning Blues"
B1  "Ancestral Wants" 3:50
B2  "A Hundred Days" 2:15
B3  "Land of Their Dreams" 3:07
B4  "Parahighway" 2:35
B5  "Medley" 5:15
           a) "The Great Brain Robbery"
           b) "Glimpses of the Next World's World"

PERSONNEL:
Thomas Donaher - vocals, guitar
Skip Boone - bass, piano
Rick Turner - guitar, banjo
Darius Davenport - vocals, drums, keyboards, bass

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Interview -- John Helliwell (Supertramp)



"It was nice.
We celebrated and then 
we had a job to do."
~ John Helliwell ~


In 1973, sax man John Helliwell was invited to join the prog band Supertramp.  Helliwell made his debut on the band's incredible third album, "Crime Of The Century," and has been on every album since.  Make no mistake, Supertramp will always be Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies puppy to pet, but John Helliwell's unmistakeable woodwind savoir-faire always seemed to bring out the best from the two geniuses.

Go have another listen to their iconic album "Breakfast In America." (1979)  If you have a record collection, you probably have it.  It is an almost perfect "needle-drop to label" spin that has gone on to sell over 20 million copies.  John Helliwell's blow shines a bright light everywhere.  And not just with Supertramp.  From Thin Lizzy to Pink Floyd, his presence can be heard.  In recent years, he's been touring with the Super Big Tramp Band...a jazz big band orchestra performing classic Supertramp songs.  And this October, he has a solo album due to drop..."Ever Open Door."   Busy is as busy does.  John Helliwell.  Go get you some.

John Helliwell Interview -- August 2020
John Helliwell

Casey Chambers:  Hitting on the wonderful and incredibly successful album "Breakfast In America," I'd like to begin by asking about "The Logical Song"...one of Supertramp's biggest hits and one of at least four tracks that were making huge radio noise for you guys that year.  When did you first put your saxophone on it?

John Helliwell:  I'm trying to remember if Roger (Hodgson) had written it in '73.  I don't think so.  I think it was about '75 or '76 when I first heard it.  It was '78 when we recorded it.  Whenever we were rehearsing "The Logical Song," it always seemed that the saxophone was the right thing to do at that point in the middle.  And then again at the end.  It just seemed to give it a little bit of excitement.  Sometimes what's needed is a bit of calm and quiet, but in this one, even though the sentiment is a bit of a down...the song being about teachers hammering thoughts into pupil's heads and not allowing them to think for themselves,..it's still kind of an up number.  And that saxophone solo seemed to be appropriate.

Casey Chambers:  Where did you guys record this monster?

John Helliwell:  Well, "Breakfast In America" was recorded at a studio called The Village Recorders in West L.A.  We went into that place in 1978.  We followed Steely Dan who had been in there for a few months recording their album..."Aja." (1978)  And we inherited their engineer, Lenise Bent.  She was the engineer on our album and had worked on "Aja" as well.  And it was good there at those studios.  Very nice people ran it and we had a good time.  And we spent months in there.  Too long, really.  We were very, very finicky about getting the right sound for things.  I believe the engineer and the producer,  and us...the drummer Bob (Siebenberg) of course, and Russel Pope who was sort of the sixth member of the band...we all spent one week just trying to get the drum sounds right for that album.

Bob Siebenberg, Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, 
Kate "Libby" Murtagh, John Helliwell, Dougie Thomson

And this is interesting.  When we came to record "The Logical Song"...our method of recording was to concentrate on the backing track.  If it was a piano and bass number, it would be piano, bass, and drums, basically.  That's what we concentrated on.  And in this instance, to get the best drum sound, they used the main studio for the drums.  They put the piano in one little side room with glass.  And the bass in another side room with glass.  That used up the extent of the studio.  So I just played along with them for atmosphere or whatever.  Just to play along.

It wasn't too important to have the definitive saxophone sound or solo right then...so for me...they put me in the toilet. (laughs)  I was there in the toilet with just headphones.  I couldn't see them and they couldn't see me.  So when I wanted to sit down for a rest...then there I was. (laughs)  Now the thing that happened...in the course of a day, we'd have several versions.  And I think with this one..."The Logical Song"...we probably ended up with about six different versions.  And I played on every one.  At the end of the day, they made tapes for us to take home.  And on the tapes were the piano, bass, and drums.  We didn't use the saxophone as a reference if you know what I mean.  After listening to the backing tracks, we were all in agreement that one was the best.  When they turned it up and listened to which saxophone solo was on it...that became the one we kept.  There must have been some kind of magic.  'Cause all the solos were different.  And that particular solo just happened to be on the best backing track.  So that's the story.

Casey Chambers:  That's crazy stuff. (laughs)  And it is a magical song.  And one that jumps outta my car radio all the time to this day.  And that sax...mercy!

John Helliwell:  Yes, it's stood the test of time.  It certainly has.

"The Logical Song" - Supertramp / Live in Paris (1979)

Casey Chambers:  When "Breakfast In America" blew up large the way that it did, how prepared were you guys for that?

John Helliwell:  Well, it was good.  When the album was released, we started what I think was our biggest tour.  The album came out in March and I think we started touring the States in March.  We were just gigging and doing well.  The crowds were doing well.  And we heard about the album going up the charts.  And I think we all had a good feeling.  We were in Norman, Oklahoma when we learned "Breakfast In America" had reached number one.  It was nice.  We celebrated and then we had a job to do.  We had to get along to our next gig and just keep playing.  But it kept us on our feet if you know what I mean.  It didn't go to our heads.  And that tour...it went really, really well.  It was great.

Casey Chambers:  Who came up with the album design?  I saw somewhere it was voted one of the 50 all-time best covers.

John Helliwell:  What happened...there was a man that worked for A&M Records out of London.  And his name was Mike Doud.  And he helped us with the album cover.  We came up with one or two ideas and he developed them.  And then he came along with this drawing of Manhattan. And a waitress as the Statue of Liberty holding an orange juice glass instead of the flame.  So we thought that was a good idea.  And then we got Mick Haggerty, the photographer, and he created a substitute Manhattan as though you see it from an airplane.

"Breakfast In America" - Supertramp (1979)

He created Manhattan out of breakfast cereal boxes, knives, forks, and cups and we thought that was very clever.  Then he added a window around it as though you're looking out of an airplane.  But then he got a glamorous young blonde waitress and we didn't think that was quite right.  We wanted someone more like one you'd find at your local breakfast place.  A nice lady that looked like your auntie or something.  And they found Kate Murtagh.  She is the one who made it onto the cover.  We actually called her Libby.  That was our nickname for her.  And while on our actual tour in '79, we had Libby come up on stage at a couple of places and serve us orange juice during the performance.  I think the record company used her as well, having her go around promoting the album.  It was a nice little something to do and she liked that.  She survived until about two years ago.  She was living in a care home in Oregon.  In Portland, Oregon.  And I corresponded with her.  She was a really nice...a really nice lady.

Casey Chambers:  Her face was everywhere.  I also remember her doing the Dan Aykroyd movie, "Doctor Detroit." (1983)  And she was also on the back of the album with all you guys hanging out at the diner.

John Helliwell:  Yes, that was taken just down the road from the recording studios...just off of La Brea in Hollywood.  It was a diner called Bert's Mad House.  It doesn't exist anymore.  I think it was knocked down.  But we decided that for "Breakfast In America" we all ought to be eating our American breakfast.  So we all gathered there and we brought along Kate...aka Libby...to serve us. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Pass me the Tabasco! (laughs)  Changing channels, you've also had the opportunity to play some sax on other artist's albums.  Thin Lizzy's..."Bad Reputation" comes to my mind.  What a cool gig.

"Dancing In The Moonlight" - Thin Lizzy / "Bad Reputation" (1977)

John Helliwell:  Oh, yeah!  That came about for two reasons.  The first reason is there's sort of a family connection between us.  Bob Siebenberg, our drummer, grew up in Glendale, California and one of his best friends was...and still is...Scott Gorham.  Now Scott Gorham's sister...Vicki Gorham...she married Bob Siebenberg.  So Scott Gorham became Bob's brother-in-law.  And Scott Gorham eventually joined up with Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy.

Now, the second thing...in 1977, Supertramp was touring...doing some gigs in Toronto, Canada.  And Thin Lizzy happened to be there recording an album.  And I think Bob went down to see Scott and was talking to them and they said, 'Hey, why don't we get John to come down and blow on a couple of numbers?'  Which is what happened.  I took my saxophone and my clarinet and went down there and played.  I played the clarinet on one number, and then I played tenor saxophone on "Dancing In The Moonlight" which subsequently was released as a single.

Casey Chambers:  The sax really adds a fun and slinky vibe to that Lizzy song.

John Helliwell:  Yes, thank you.  Thank you very much.  Yeah, I enjoyed playing on it. They got an interesting sound.  A good sound.  It's kind of different.  It's not double-tracked, but it sounds like there are two saxophones playing together.  That's in my mind, anyway.  I don't know what the effect is called.

Casey Chambers:  And you performed that song with Thin Lizzy on "Top Of The Pops."

John Helliwell:  I did.  Subsequent to their album coming out.  At that time I lived in Southern California.  But just by coincidence, I was back home in England.  And Thin Lizzy called me probably just a day or two before and asked if I wanted to come and do "Top Of The Pops" with them.  So, yeah, I did.  I think that was the only time we did it together.  I never made it on stage with them.  I just wasn't there at the right time.  So it was nice to see them all again and hang out.  It's not like doing a gig, but it was good fun.

"Terminal Frost" - Pink Floyd / "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason" (1987)

Casey Chambers:  Fast forward about 10 years and you were asked to play on a Pink Floyd album.  How cool was that?

John Helliwell:  Yes, that was great.  It was after David Gilmour came to Los Angeles to play on one of our albums..."Brother Where You Bound." (1985)  And I got to know him for a day or two doing that.  And about a week or so later, he called and said, 'You want to come down and play on the album I'm doing?'  He was doing it in Los Angeles somewhere.  So I just went down and had a blow on there. (laughs)  So that's how that happened.

Casey Chambers:  And you played on the killer instrumental track called, "Terminal Frost."

John Helliwell:  Yeah, it was on "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason." (1987)  It's interesting.  On this album, there are three saxophone players.  One is me.  Another is Scott Page.  And another one is Tom Scott.  But on a few numbers, there are no specific credits for who is playing.  So people just have to guess.  If I listen, I can sort of tell.  I'll think to myself...' Oh, that's me.' or 'Oh, that's not me.'  (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Were you and the other two sax players in the studio at the same time?

John Helliwell:  No, I never saw them.  I know them, though.  Well, I don't really know Tom Scott.  But I know Scott Page very well because he played with Supertramp when we were touring.  And he subsequently went out on the road with Pink Floyd in the late '80s and early '90s.

"Breakfast In America" - Supertramp / "Breakfast In America" (1979)

Casey Chambers:  Returning to "Breakfast In America," you take a surprising louie on the title track and contribute some bouncy old school clarinet.  How do you decide which instrument you want to reach for?

John Helliwell:  I usually use a clarinet for something maybe a little bit more ballad-like...'cause it can be so smooth.  But in this instance...it has a different rhythm.  It has sort of an ' oh pa pa' sound.  When we were rehearsing and it came time for a solo,  I said, 'Let's try the clarinet.'  It's quite unusual to have a clarinet in a rock band anyway, but it just fit.  A nice bright, bright sound to go with how the song was going on.

Casey Chambers:  Here's a deeper cut from this album you may not get asked about often.  The epic closing track..."Child Of Vision."  It's a favorite and you and your sax get to carry the song gently away.  And it seems almost appropriate that it's you that brings the album to its conclusion.  What comes to mind when you think of that song today?

John Helliwell:  Well, it was the only time that I used the saxophone to trigger a synthesizer.  That's the sound we get at the end of that number.  There wasn't a solo in the body, but after the piano comes in, the saxophone kind of takes over and it fades out.  And when you hear it, you can hear the saxophone and the synthesized sound together.  It's not something I did very often.  There are specific ones made... electronic wind instruments made...but I never really got on well with them.  I like to play with a reed...with some kind of resistance to how you're blowing.  But it takes the sound you make from the saxophone and triggers the sound in the synthesizer.  It was the only time we did that, but I think in "Child Of Vision" it was successful.

"Child Of Vision" - Supertramp / "Breakfast In America" (1979)

Casey Chambers:  "You're bloody well right!" (laughs)  And I hear "Child Of Vision" on deep track radio from time to time and it's always a welcome listen.   What's an album or two in your own collection that you like to spin?

John Helliwell:  One of my desert island records...ones you'd take with you and you could listen to it again and again and again would be Glenn Gould playing "Bach: The Goldberg Variations" from 1955 or '56.  Glenn Gould was an eccentric genius pianist.  And he was quite young when he made this recording.  It was written 300 years ago and recorded in 1955.  Glenn Gould just playing the piano.  It's just...it's amazing.  And quite famous.  That would be one of my choices.  I'll give you another one.  Something completely different.   Another of my really favorite albums and what I consider to be one of the great rock and roll albums of all time.  It's called, "Edgar Winter's White Trash" performed by Edgar Winter's White Trash.  It's from about 1970.  And it's really great rock and roll mixed with blues and gospel.  And they're a great band.  It's a really dirty record.  I don't mean the lyrics.  I just mean the sound is really, really good.  And completely different from Glenn Gould.

"Give It Everything You Got" - Edgar Winter's White Trash / self-titled (1971)

Casey Chambers:  Excellent.  Two more albums for everyone to check out.  You've been working on some new music yourself.  Tell us a little about that.

John Helliwell:  Yeah, I've been working on two projects.  One of them is called Super Big Tramp Band.  It's me with an 18 piece jazz orchestra playing instrumental versions of Supertramp tunes.  We've done quite a few gigs and we've had some good success playing.  We were lined up to record an album, but then the COVID-19 struck and we had to postpone that for a while.  And my other project is an album I'll be releasing in October of this year called, "Ever Open Door."  It's an album of ballads with me playing tenor saxophone and clarinet with Hammond organ and a string quartet. One of the numbers..."The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men"...is available at the moment.  It's really, really nice.

You know, you go through various processes of making a CD.  There's the recording.  The mixing.  And then finally you have to master it so that it's available in all the various formats.  We recorded and mixed it in England.  And there's a place in Vallelonga, Italy that is famous for its mastering.  One of the very, very best.  So I went there at the end of January for two or three days to get it mastered.  And it was fortunate that I went then because it was just before the whole of Northern Italy shut down because of the virus.

Casey Chambers:  No doubt.  Just in time.  Wasn't "Ever Open Door" the name of a Supertramp song?

John Helliwell:  Yeah, two of the numbers on the album are.  When I was choosing songs for the album, I picked some folk songs, some songs from films...just things that I liked.  And I thought I'd have a listen to the music I made with Supertramp over the last 20, 30 years.  And I chose, "If Everyone Was Listening" by Roger (Hodgson.)  I thought, yeah, that'd be a nice one to do.  And "Ever Open Door" by Rick (Davies.)  And then I thought it would be a nice idea to call the whole album..."Ever Open Door."  It seems to work.

Casey Chambers:  Looking forward to hearing it.  That'll be sweet.  It's really been a pleasure talking with you, Mr. Helliwell.  And what an honor.  Thank you so much.

John Helliwell:  Well, you're welcome.  Yeah, I'm very proud of my association with Supertramp and all the other musicians I've worked with.  It's been good.  Thanks a lot, Casey.

"The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men"  - John Helliwell  (2020)

John Helliwell Official Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."Mothermania The Best Of The Mothers" (1969)

"Mothermania The Best Of The Mothers" - The Mothers Of Invention (1969)

Generally, I pass over "Best Of" or "Greatest Hits" compilation albums.  Sure, I have a few in my collection, but I rarely play them.  Still, there are always a few really good exceptions.  Frank Zappa's "Mothermania The Best Of The Mothers" is a great example of a comp that reaches the sweet spot.  Most of the tracks on here are alternate versions and mixes of songs taken from their first three albums.  Good versions.  All very much hands-on by Frank himself.  Even the infamous "Mother People" is included in all of its uncensored glory.  Verve quickly axed the offensive lyrics from his "We're Only In It For The Money" album.  I guess no one sitting behind their shiny Verve desk cared or were paying attention this time.

Favorite tracks are the familiar "Brown Shoes..." and "Mother People."   The lesser-known favorites are the "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" with its nice guitar freakout and the psychy "Who Are the Brain Police" which has been dusted quite nicely.  "Mothermania" is a gatefold compilation that sounds almost like another one of Frank's studio albums.  It has that kind of feel.  And it's a square that can be had for under $15 and worth every penny.  The fact that Frank Zappa was offering alternate takes and mixes of his songs back in 1969, which is now considered commonplace, if not expected, shows just how forward-thinking he really was.

"Mothermania..." (back)

"Mothermania..." (inside gatefold)

Verve Records

"Hungry Freaks, Daddy" - The Mothers of Invention / "Mothermania" (1969)

TRACKS:
A1  "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" 7:26
A2  "Mother People" 1:41
A3  "Duke of Prunes" 5:09
A4  "Call Any Vegetable" 4:31
A5  "The Idiot Bastard Son" 2:26
B1  "It Can't Happen Here" 3:13
B2  "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here" 3:37
B3  "Who Are the Brain Police" 3:22
B4  "Plastic People" 3:40
B5  "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" 3:27
B6  "America Drinks and Goes Home" 2:43

PERSONNEL:
Frank Zappa - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Ian Underwood - guitar, keyboards, wind
Euclid James Sherwood - guitars, vocals, wind
Roy Estrada - bass, vocals
Don Preston - bass, keyboards
Jimmy Carl Black - drums, percussion
Bunk Gardner - wind
**Art Tripp appears on the album cover, but not on any of the songs.

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Thursday, July 30, 2020

TCCDM Dig and Flip: "They Thirst" - Robert R. McCammon (1981)

"They Thirst" by Robert R. McCammon
(1981)
Paperback, 565 pages

NO SPOILERS:
This isn't your fancy dandy vampire Lestat bloodsuckers.  These vampires are much more grungy and a lot creepier.  They are led by a young vampire king planning to take over the city of L.A. turning the entire population into his own personal vampire suck-buddies.  The vampires adhere to most of the familiar lore of vampirism.  No sunlight, crosses, garlic, and other snafu's.  And with that, the game is on.  There are also plenty of creepy and memorable moments that Robert McCammon scatters throughout his story that are both disturbing and deliciously strange.  The undead wrapped in bedsheets.  The vampire king's human minion, Roach.  McCammon has a way of detailing scenes by catching the light from unexpected angles.

There are a variety of characters thrown into the pot, as well.  Some good.  Some, not so much.  They all add a bit of flavor to the stew.  And yet, with all this seasoning, there was no one I really cared to share an umbrella with.  And this causes a bit of a disconnect in a couple of places that make what should have been super suspenseful, to fall just a little bit flat.  Overall, the story is still very exciting, but..." missed it by that much!"  "They Thirst" is not the scariest vampire novel you'll read from this heavily populated genre, but it does have fast legs that will carry you long into the night.

"If You Want Blood (You Got It)" - AC/DC - "Highway To Hell" (1979)

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Monday, July 27, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."Friar Tuck And His Psychedelic Guitar" (1967)

"Friar Tuck And His Psychedelic Guitar" - Friar Tuck (1967)

Friar Tuck was guitarist Mike Deasy, a longtime member of "The Wrecking Crew" with credits a mile long.  This one-off album was an early cash-in on the psychedelic train that was just beginning to get legs.  Remember, this was still only 1967 so the ground being covered was still mostly a road less traveled.  This is not a great album, but it is entertaining.  A fun, playful pop-psych spin with a few freak-outs thrown in to satisfy the mind-trippers.  And the songs are trippsh, if sometimes silly, but nothing sounds cheap or lacks for effort.  For a cash-in, there is still a piece of psych heart burning in the wax.

Side One is all covers with a tracklist that look like real groaners...but Deasy and singer Curt Boettcher, a very early shaker of the sunshine and psych-pop sounds that were yet to come, give the songs a fresh-take that rewards the listener.  I mean, if you're going to cover a song...at least bring something different to the table, right?!  Friar Tuck and his friends certainly abide by that philosophy.

"Friar Tuck And His Psychedelic Guitar" (back)

On the flipside is all instrumentals with Mike Deasy's guitar dropping in and out from every direction with both freakouts and melody, and though not exactly heavy, he does manage to part the water a time or two.  And the bits of vocals we hear are used almost like instruments and to great effect.  

Favorite tracks are the lightly lysergic cover of "Louis Louis" that builds into a fuzzburn.  The closing tracks "A Bit of Grey Lost" and "Where Did Your Mind Go" punches the Friar psych-ticket in a nutshell.  This "Friar Tuck And His Psychedelic Guitar" square is a mono Mercury promo copy with a bb in the top corner.  "Oh baby, we gotta go now."

Mercury (promo) label

"Louis, Louis" - Friar Tuck / "Friar Tuck And His Psychedelic Guitar" (1967)

TRACKS:
A1  "Sweet Pea" 3:11
A2  "Louis Louis" 4:56
A3  "Work Song" 4:48
A4  "Alley-Oop" 5:09
B1  "All Monked Up" 2:47
B2  "Ode to Mother Tuck" 1:50
B3  "A Record Hi" 2:32
B4  "Fendabenda Ha Ha Ha" 2:30
B5  "A Bit of Grey Lost" 2:37
B6  "Where Did Your Mind Go?" 3:35

PERSONNEL:
Mike Deasy - guitar, arranger, producer
Curt Boettcher - vocals
Ben Benay - guitar
Jim Helms - guitar
Jerry Scheff - bass
Jim Troxel - drums
Mike Henderson - organ
Butch Parker - piano
Toxie French - vibes
Alicia Vigil, Bob Turner, Dottie Holmberg, Dyann King - vocals
Jim Bell, Michele O'Malley, Sandy Salisbury, Sharon Olsen - vocals

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Monday, July 20, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."Believe" - The Third Power (1970)

"Believe" - The Third Power (1970 - Rei 2016)

There must be something in the water.  The Third Power was a heavy trio from the same Michigan rock basket that gave us MC5, Grand Funk. The Frost, The Stooges, and the list goes on.  Their music swam in the acid rock pool but had a unique heavy melodic flavor and touches of psychedelic shade.  Tasty riffs and runs are found throughout.  And the vocals are especially strong.  The Third Power was often compared to Cream or The Hendrix Experience, and you can hear hints of both, but not too much.  The Third Power played with their elbows off the table and their only album..."Believe"...is a solid and unique square on its own. 

Favorites are the powerful opener..."Gettin' Together" and the psych-tinged "Feel So Lonely"...the latter being a real grower.  "Persecution" is probably my favorite track with axeman Drew Abbott and singer/bassist Jem Targal delivering the FedX.  Drew Abbott would later go on to play in Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band for eight albums.  The opening track on side two, "Comin' Home" has Abbott, Targal, and drummer Jim Craig each fighting for rock purchase and is a very close second.

The Third Power...who are included in the holy Acid Archives...had a 2016 RSD release that was pressed on red transparent vinyl and limited to 2,000 copies.  The album came with an obi, an 8-page booklet, and a download card with eleven bonus tracks of singles, outtakes, and two live 1969 recordings taken from the famous Grande Ballroom in Detroit.  Rescued from Spektrum Muzik.

"Believe" - The Third Power (back)

"Believe" - The Third Power (inside gatefold)

Future Days Recordings / Vanguard

8-page booklet

"Persecution" - The Third Power / "Believe" (1970)

TRACKS:
A1  "Gettin' Together" 4:18
A2  "Feel So Lonely" 4:17
A3  "Passed By" 3:43
A4  "Lost in a Daydream" 2:31
A5  "Persecution" 3:24
B1  "Comin' Home" 3:49
B2  "Won't Beg Any More" 4:28
B3  "Crystalline Chandelier" 3:41
B4  "Like Me Love Me" 5:23

PERSONNEL:
Drew Abbott - guitars, vocals
Jem Targal - vocals, bass
Jim Craig - drums, b-vocals
ADDITIONAL:
Sam Charters - organ, piano
C.A.Z. - wind chimes

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Thursday, July 16, 2020

TCCDM Pulls One Out..."Head" - The Monkees (1968)

"Head" - The Monkees (1968)

"Head" was The Monkees 6th album and the soundtrack from their movie of the same name.  An unexpected psychedelic soiree for their non-experienced Teen Beat fans.  The album opens with a collage of sounds and phrases not unlike The Beatles “Revolution #9”...but much, much shorter.  Less angry.  And segues into the floaty psych classic "The Porpoise Song."   By now, the album leaves little doubt that this train you're on ain't going nowhere near Clarksville.  Surprisingly, “Head” only has six songs, but all of them are quite enjoyable.  Peter Tork's light shines especially bright with "Can You Dig It" and "Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" both pushing things forward.  (Peter left the band after this album.)  Only "Daddy's Song" is an eye-roll.  And it isn’t exactly bad...it was written by Harry Nilsson after all...but Davy delivers the goods in that campy vaudeville-style he's so fond of milking.  A well he drew from much too often.  And yet, surrounded by the amalgam of other things, the song doesn't really spoil the party.

The Monkees were on such a roll, I wish there was more music to be found here.  Instead, they chose to include weird noises and snippets from the movie in-between songs.  Thankfully, they are very short, and but for a couple interruptions, do not overstay their welcome.  It's mostly all good fun.  And it's a neat snapshot of the times that were happening.  A couple more songs, a little less silly, and “Head” would be an outstanding spin.  As it is, “Head” is simply a very good one.

"Head" (back)

I seldom see an original copy of “Head” anymore.  When I do, the reflective Mylar cover is usually smudgy and dull.  Or the vinyl has those qualities.  I've never been lucky enough to find the album in the “new arrivals” bin.  Bad timing, I suppose.  Anyway, I found my copy at one of those eclectic homes in Riverside.  The kind of house that has more angles than "The Blacklist."  I was biking around and stumbled upon a yard sale.  I only had $13 in my sad pocket and the hipster couple accepted my pittance.  Sure, The Monkees "Head" has a gimmix cover and all that, but the record is much better than one might expect.

Colgems Records label

"Can You Dig It?" - The Monkees / "Head" (1968)

TRACKS:
A1  "Opening Ceremony" 1:20
A2  "Porpoise Song (Theme From "Head")" 2:56
A3  "Ditty Diego (War Chant)" 1:25
A4  "Circle Sky" 2:31
A5  "Supplicio" 0:48
A6  "Can You Dig It?" 3:23
A7  "Gravy" 0:06
B1  "Superstitious" 0:07
B2  "As We Go Along" 3:51
B3  "Dandruff?" 0:39
B4  "Daddy's Song" 2:30
B5  "Poll" 1:13
B6  "Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?" 2:39
B7  "Swami (Plus Strings)" 5:21

PERSONNEL:
Micky Dolenz - vocals - drums
Davy Jones - vocals - maracas, organ
Mike Nesmith - vocals, guitar, organ, maracas
Peter Tork - vocals, guitar, bass
ADDITIONAL:
Danny Kortchmar – guitar
Leon Russell – keyboard
Ry Cooder – guitar
Neil Young – guitar
Carole King – guitar
Harvey Newmark
Stephen Stills – guitar
...others

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Interview -- Ronny Cox (Actor, Singer-Songwriter)



"We had been 
on the water six or eight hours
a day for four or five,
10 weeks already...
we were ready for those."
~ Ronny Cox ~

     They seldom are the ones chosen to host the big party, but they are part of a select group of actors who seem to always get that early invitation.  The ones who will help keep the party running smoothly.  The ones who always make the party better when they arrive.  Such is the case for longtime actor Ronny Cox who has graced the screen in roughly 150 movies and television shows.  Ronny Cox is one of those actors that make whatever you're watching a little more interesting.  Whether playing a warm understanding father or a coldhearted sumbeach...Ronny Cox brings it with equal measure.  And whenever I see him doing his thing, I put the remote down.  Ronny Cox Go get you some.

Ronny Cox Interview -- July 2020
Ronny Cox

Casey Chambers:  The terrifying backwoods thriller..."Deliverance" (1972) was also your very first film.  What was going on in your life at that time?

Ronny Cox:  Well, Mary and I got married in college. We were high school sweethearts. And by the time we graduated from college, Mary had a Ph.D. in chemistry from Georgetown University and I started my career in theater in Washington, D.C.  When we moved to New York, Mary was working on her postdoc at Sloan Kettering and I was doing some Broadway and off-Broadway still struggling as an actor.  And the people from Warner Bros. had come to New York looking for good unknown actors...and God knows I was unknown. (laughs)  I was actually one of the first actors they saw in New York.  Not because I was at the top of anyone's list, but because I was so far at the bottom.  I was the first person they saw because I came in for a pre-meeting.  They were meeting people at like 10 o'clock on a Monday morning and they asked me to come in at nine just to meet with the casting director.  He gave me a copy of the script, and as it turned out, ya know, I lucked out and got it. (laughs)  It was not only my first film, but it was also my first time in front of a camera.  And most people don't realize this...but it was Ned Beatty's first film too.

Casey Chambers:  Oh, that's cool.  And what a primo way to kick off your career.

Ronny Cox:  Yeah, and Ned and I were cast totally independent of each other.  They didn't know we had already done 20 plays together.  Or that we even knew each other.  We'd been best friends for about eight years.

Casey Chambers:  Small world, big place.

Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox

Ronny Cox:  Yep.  And it was probably the first time in the history of film that they found the two actors below the title before finding...(laughs)...I was the first actor they found.  Then Ned.  And we waited around for another three, four or five weeks while they were deciding on the two guys above the title.  Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds.  It generally works the other way.  The big names first and then they fill in around it.  But Ned and I were the first ones.

Casey Chambers:  Were you at all familiar with James Dickey's novel?

Ronny Cox:  Yeah, I had read the novel.  And it's a brilliant novel.  When we were making "Deliverance" into a film...and you gotta remember, this was 1971...a lot of people, especially down in Georgia where we were shooting, felt it was practically a porno with the homosexual rape in it.  But the film is a brilliant action, psychological thriller.  Generally with films that are made from novels...either you like the novel or you like the film.  But you seldom like them both.  "Deliverance" is one of the few that I liked equally as well.  But they're very different.  I don't know if you've read the novel, but the novel is in the first person.  Everything is seen through Ed's eyes.  The character of Ed.  And there's no way to do the film that way.  So the story works as a film and it works as a novel, too.

"Deliverance" Trailer (1972)

Casey Chambers:  John Boorman, who directed the film, chose to shoot the film chronologically.  How unusual is that?

Ronny Cox:  Totally unusual.  And it's because generally, the mitigating factor is always the bottom line.   And so most films...let's say we're doing a film and there are four scenes that are in your office.  Well, we're going to go in and shoot those four scenes in your office all at once.  Because there's no reason to shoot there, go away, and then come back and relight.  You're just not going to do that.  There are other reasons, as well.  Sometimes you might have a character that's in a scene and then doesn't show up again until much later in another scene.  You're going to try to put all these scenes together.  Or there may be a location that you can only get access to during a specific time.  So, therefore, you're almost always shooting out of sequence.

Now, "Deliverance" is a film that goes from point A to point B, and you're never in the same location twice.  So, therefore, "Deliverance" lent itself to shooting in sequence.  And in many ways, that was really helpful, since we were doing all the canoeing ourselves and all the stunt work.  The film starts in the easy rapids and the rapids get progressively harder and harder as we go along.  By the time we got to the really difficult rapids...we had been on the water six or eight hours a day for four or five, 10 weeks already...we were ready for those.  If we had been shooting out of sequence, who knows what might have happened?  Another hidden asset, if one of us scratched our cheek or tore our shirt or bumped our knee, it didn't have to be covered up with makeup or whatever.  By shooting in sequence like we did in "Deliverance," those things could all be used organically in the film.

Casey Chambers:  Did you guys know what you were getting yourselves into?  That river really looked wicked.

Ronny Cox:  It was.  Like I said, we did all the canoeing ourselves and if you recall, at the end of the film plot-wise, they find the other wooden canoe broken in half.  They didn't have to do that.  We did that for them. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Note to self: Bring lots of duct tape. (laughs)  Had you had any canoe experience prior to that?

Ronny Cox:  None.  None of us had really.  The best canoeist of us all, oddly enough, was Ned...the bumbler. (laughs)  Now Burt was a great athlete, but he was probably technically the worst canoeist, although his mammoth ego wouldn't allow him to fail. (laughs)  He couldn't be bothered with learning all the proper techniques, but his athleticism got him through.

Casey Chambers:  One of the most iconic moments from the film is your "Dueling Banjos" scene.  What do you recall about shooting that part of the movie?

"Dueling Banjos" scene / "Deliverance" (1972)

Ronny Cox:  Well, it was my very first scene ever.  One of the reasons I was cast in the film was because I play the guitar.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a bluegrass picker.  In the book, they play "Wildwood Flower," which is a much more sedate song.  But John Boorman had found "Dueling Banjos" and wanted to use that.  And John Boorman wanted me to play it in the movie.  To actually be the one picking in the movie.  He wasn't interested in making a hit song...which "Dueling Banjos" became.  He loved the idea of this savant kid showing up this totally amateur guitar player.  But see, here's the thing.  Billy Redden...the kid we got to play the role...didn't play the banjo.  That's not even his left hand in the film.  And since he couldn't play, we had to pre-record the song and then do what's called match-playback.  So in other words, they would start the music.  And then, we would match our finger movements to the song.  John Boorman wanted to be able to cut to somebody's fingers playing the right notes.  So, Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell are the two people who played it on the soundtrack.  But Steve Mandell taught me the piece note for note.  So, if you go back and look at the film, any time they cut to me playing, I'm playing the actual note. So, when push comes to shove...did I play it?  Yes.  Is that me on the soundtrack?  No.  Did it cost me about a million dollars?  Yes! (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  What a great scene.  What a great movie.  You were cast as a villain in two of Paul Verhoeven's blockbuster movies..."Robocop" (1987) and "Total Recall." (1990)   At that point in your career, playing a bad guy was a bit of a switch for you, wasn't it?

Ronny Cox:  Totally.  "Robocop" ended up being an iconic film.  And this was proof to me of what a director's vision can bring to a script.  The only reason I wanted to do the film was that it gave me the chance to play a bad guy.  I had spent 15 years playing nothing but boy scout nice guys.  So this gave me the chance to play a villain.  Everything about it.  The humor.  And making us care.  All those things were elements that Paul Verhoeven added to that script.  I mean, the script was fine.  Don't get me wrong.  But what made that film magic was Paul Verhoeven's approach to it.  Paul told me later, one of the reasons he cast me as "Dick Jones" was because he wanted to trade on that residual goodwill that I had built up in my career.  So when my character comes on the screen, the audience gets a feeling of...' Oh, this guy's good.'   Then when he ends up being bad...that makes him seem twice as bad.  I've seen some online polls where Dick Jones was voted the best villain in film in the '80s. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  You made a pretty excellent villain in Verhoeven's "Total Recall" as well.

Home In Time For Corn Flakes scene - "Total Recall" (1990)

Ronny Cox:  Yep. Yep.  We had a good time. We shot that in Mexico City.  We took over the whole of Churubusco Studios in Mexico.  I don't know if you know this, but "Total Recall" had been in development for 14 years because no one could figure out how to make it for the price.  This was 1990...and even then the film cost about hundred million dollars.  It was far and away, the most expensive in the history of film at the time.  The film had actually shot, I think, for a week or two in Australia.  With Ridley Scott directing and Patrick Swayze playing Arnold's (Schwarzenegger) role.  And then they realized they weren't going to be able to make budget and pulled the plug on it.  That's when Verhoeven got involved and moved it to Mexico City.  It was a really different time.

Casey Chambers:  With all the crazy special effects, and there were a bunch of 'em, the Mars decompression scenes were hard to forget.  And your character got the decomp face treatment, too.

Ronny Cox:  That was Rob Bottin who did that.  I'm sure you've heard of people who have photographic memories.  Rob Bottin has photographic memory with his hands.  He can sit with a pencil and paper and draw an absolute photographic likeness of you.  Or take a piece of clay and make an absolute replica of your face and head.  Just with his hands.  And so for that decompression scene, Arnold and I spent one whole day just making as many faces as we could.  Grimacing and contorting our faces in every possible way.  And they took photograph after photograph.  Then Rob took all of them and made masks with all those grimaces.  In addition to that, he put air pockets behind so they could distort our faces even more.  That was how Rob Bottin was able to make the masks that were grotesquely almost like us, but obviously not us.  I tell you the truth...by the end of the day, both mine and Arnold's faces were so sore. (laughs)

Mars Decompression scene - "Total Recall" (1990)

Casey Chambers:  It was fun to watch.  Even with all that going on, I think I still enjoy the scene of you having a 'bad-day tantrum'...and taking it out on the fish aquarium.  No tricks.  No smoke and mirrors.  Just your character being frustrated to all hell. (laughs)

Ronny Cox:  Ya know what's funny? (laughs)  I got more hate mail for kicking over that damned aquarium than you can imagine. (laughs)  And I have to tell you the truth.  We had another tank below and all the fish were caught and unhurt during that time.  But boy, people went on!  If you recall in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" when I played Captain Jellico...my character made them take the fish out of the Ready Room, too. (laughs)  By the way, I'll tell you a story about that.  The reason I took the fish out of the Ready Room in "Star Trek" was a perk to Patrick Stewart.  He had always hated those fish in Captain Picard's ready room.  His point being...' we're doing a series about the dignity of all species in the universe, and we've got captured fish in the ready room. That's terrible.'  And so he kept going to the producers and saying, 'They should be out of there.'  But the producers liked it because they liked being able to shoot through there and the production values.  So as a perk to Patrick, when I came on the ship for the two episodes, they took out the fish.

Casey Chambers:  Oh right.  That was the two-parter called, "Chain Of Command." (S:6 E:10/11 - 1992)  Really, really good episode.

Ronny Cox:  They were the two highest-rated episodes of "Next Generation."  The two highest-rated episodes.  It's funny, I mean, everybody loves to hate Jellico, but he was actually quite good.  And I had a good time playing Jellico.

Captain Jellico - ST:TNG / "Chain Of Command" (1992)

Casey Chambers:  Can we talk about the book you wrote a few years ago?

Ronny Cox:  Well, of all the films I've done, there are more questions about "Deliverance" than any other film I've ever been involved with.  And so, I decided to write "Dueling Banjos: The Deliverance Of Drew" (2012) and offer it as an audiobook too.  You can listen to it in about three hours.  It's just me telling the story of making "Deliverance" and dispelling many of the myths.  And going from an absolute unknown to having the break of a lifetime.  Most people seem to love the book and it is pretty good if I do say so myself.


Casey Chambers:  I'll look for it.  Mr. Cox, thank you for letting me cherrypick from your long list of films.  It has been a real pleasure speaking with you today.  Thank you for all the fine entertainment you've given us and be sure and stay safe out there.

Ronny Cox:  Of course.  You bet.  Thanks.

Ronny Cox Official Website


"Roll Down Your Windows" - Ronny Cox / "Ronny Cox"

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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