Episode 35. Excerpts from interviews 1
For about seven years in the 2010s, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing many of the great Rock and Pop musicians I admire for beatleg magazine here in Japan. Published every month independently by Kiyo Yokoseki, we did a total of about 150 in that time and here are four excerpts that give an offstage moment for the musician involved.
Andy Fraser – Free
19th September 2013
Andy was a lovely man who at the time of our conversation knew he was on a ticking clock. Having survived cancer an astonishing twenty-nine times, he was now Hepatitis B positive but a smile never left his face throughout our meeting, he was just delighted to be able to do what he wanted to do. He passed away some eighteen months after this interview.
Q: I can’t let you go through an interview with asking about All Right Now. You and Paul Rogers are credited as writing that; which parts are attributed to whom?
AF: It was written on a very strange night. It was a rainy Tuesday and we were playing a college in England somewhere. We got lost on the way, arrived in a foul mood, there was room for two thousand and there was maybe thirty-four people there all out of their heads on mandrax which was the choice of drug at the time and they were all bumping into each other like rubber people. They took no notice of us and we could usually play for ourselves and sometimes be great but as it happened, we sucked and afterwards in the dressing room, there was a horrible silence like someone was going to get hurt any minute and to break the tension I started singing (sings) ‘All right now… baby come on, tomorrow’s another day, life goes on’ and it broke the silence and everyone started tapping along and harmonizing and that was the start of the song. The guitar chords were me trying to do my Pete Townsend who I always reckoned is king of the chords. The chorus guitar part was actually transposed from piano which is no easy thing but Koss did it fantastic – no one could play the riff like him. Paul Rogers said he scribbled down the lyrics to the verses when he was waiting for us to pick him up to go to another gig so that was basically it. It was a throwaway and we argued against it being released. We said to Chris Blackwell at Island Records ‘You can’t be serious! What about this? What about that?’ but he said ‘No – that one.’ That was about the only argument he won with us and it turns out he was right.
Q: And now it has been played more than two million times on American radio.
AF: The last certificate BMI sent me was four million…
Steve Holley – Ian Hunter Band and in 1980, with Wings
10th February 2015
Some people love to tell you stories about being on the road or meeting famous people but Steve doesn’t, preferring instead to buy you a drink and ask you about your life. He will however talk about his time with the rich and famous when asked which includes 30 years with Ian Hunter and amongst others, Joe Cocker, Elton John and Chuck Berry.
Q: Everyone knows the story of Paul being busted in Japan in 1980 but unknown is the story of what happened to the band. Did you all have a few days her, go home, or what?
SH: First of all. I came in with Denny Laine from London on a direct TWA flight and we had multiple-entry, open ended tickets for anywhere in the world, First-class, valid for one year. I questioned Denny about it and asked ‘Why have we got tickets like this?’ and he said it was his guess that if the Japan dates go well they will add more shows in another country. Apparently, they did that in ’75 or ’76 where they did a tour and then were told to take two weeks’ vacation and then regrouped in Australia or Sweden or wherever. So, he, in effect was telling me that he thought or hoped it would be the start of another world tour which of course made me delighted. However, it has to be said in hindsight and with retrospect, Paul wasn’t the happiest guy on the planet before we left. At the rehearsals, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to take the horns on tour as he did in ’75 and ’76 and he had asked us all individually but I was the new guy so I wasn’t going to say we shouldn’t have a horn section and put four people out of work. It was not my position and I would never ever choose to accept that, plus the fact I liked the guys and I thought that retaining the horn section was a good thing; I enjoyed it on the tour we did for twenty-two dates in the UK but I could tell that Paul wasn’t entirely happy with the way rehearsals went to say the least. Then, we were briefed in London at the MPL offices where it was said ‘We are not suggesting that you do use drugs but if you do, we ask you to make sure your clothes are clean, your fingernails are clean and the linings of you pockets are clean. This is a tour where we are going to be scrutinized for our behavior and we don’t want any mishaps.’ So Denny and I flew in from London ahead of Paul, Linda and Laurence came in from New York and I can’t to this day imagine why this happened. I’ve thought about it and you know as well as I do that there are at least a dozen theories but none of them seem plausible to me. So I can’t tell you what happened but I can tell you happened when it went down. We were all obviously very stressed out by it and the brutal efficiency of Japan as well was shown by the fact that when we rode in from the airport to the hotel, there was a poster every hundred feet (30m) saying ‘Wings – the greatest rock band in the world visits Japan1980!’ They were everywhere on billboards, lampposts, buildings in store windows…it was inestimable how many there were and, in the morning, they were all gone. There was no Beatles music on the radio, the records were out of the stores, it was phenomenal and we were ordered out of the country because of guilty by association.
Steve Ferrone – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and renowned session drummer
24th February 2017
Steve has played on more sessions and with more great musicians than he can remember and we were not ten minutes into the interview when he said ‘I’ve been talking drums all morning, let’s talk about something else’ so grabbing the opportunity, I rattled off a list of some of the sessions he did and said ‘Tell me whatever comes to mind’. After Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, Phil Collins and The Bee Gees anecdotes, I said George Harrison…
SF: I can tell you two. There’s the most expensive drum overdub ever. Have you heard that story?
Q: No. Please…
SF: After we did the tour here (Japan) and it had all been recorded, I’m in New York and I get this phone call from George saying ‘Steve you’ve got to come over. I’m in a lot of trouble here. We’ve erased some drums and we need to replace them.’ So, I said I could go and he sends me a first-class British Airways ticket. I get on the plane, a car meets me at the airport, drives me out to the castle (Friar Park), I get out, have a cup of tea, go up to the studio and start listening to the track. I’m listening…listening…the drums are there…drums are there…all of a sudden, one bass drum beat is missing. I look at George and he says ‘The bass drum beat; we erased the bass drum’. I said ‘George, you could have flown that in from anywhere!’ He said ‘Yeah but you’ve got to play it.’ ‘You’re kidding? You could have done it!’ (laughs) So we set up a bass drum, put a microphone on it and went ‘bum’. Done! It must have cost him at least twenty grand.* Then there was the time I was driving back from The Real World studio after a session, I get to somewhere near Henley and stop to gas up the car and I thought I’d give him a call. I get on the payphone – remember those days? – and say Hey George, I’m not far from you, I thought I’d give you a call and see how you’re doing’ and he asked where I was so I told him I was driving back into London and just stopped to fill up the car near him. He said ‘Listen, Olivia is out of town, there’s just me and Dhani here, we’re having chip butties, come over.’ So I went over and ate chip butties in a castle.
Nathan East - One of the most recorded bass players in music history
17th April 2019
There are very few people in the world that can roll out a CV as long as Nathan’s and be so modest about it. Taking time out from his schedule with Eric Clapton in 2019 (which was Nathan’s 80th visit to Japan) he greeted me with a hug like an old friend and showed me his latest magic trick before we got into a few stories. He and Steve Ferrone are great friends and considered one of the best rhythm sections in music having played together with George Harrison and in Eric Clapton’s Unplugged album.
Q: Steve told me the story of the world’s most expensive overdub.
NE: What’s that?
I tell the story to Nathan that Steve related to me above
NE: (Nathan grins) Oh man…I thought I had the most expensive overdub story, with Julio Iglesias. I recorded a song for Julio then left town to tour with Kenny Loggins. The next day, Julio called to tell me that they changed the kick drum pattern in the second verse and asked if I could come back in and re-record my bass part only in that verse to match the drums. I let him know that I was on tour but had a day off on Thursday. I was in Dallas, TX so he sent a plane to take me to LAX, then a helicopter from the airport to the studio, I replayed the 2nd verse, back on the helicopter, back to to LAX and charter flight back to Dallas. The next morning, a Fed-Ex package showed up at my hotel room – inside was a red box containing a Cartier Panthere 18K gold watch engraved, ‘Dear Nathan, gracias! Love, Julio’. It was literally the kick drum pattern moved by a 16th note in the second verse so instead of going bom bom-bom it was bom bombom. (laughs) God bless Julio!