Just A Box – The Complete Studio Recordings 1971 – 2006
Leo Sayer in conversation with Fair Hearing on his new retrospective set, making music and everything else…
Silverbird Ltd / Edsel Records / Demon Music Group Ltd
Master singer-songwriter and musician LEO SAYER is on the line from Australia and your scribe gets a chance to ask about many aspects of his career and history. Sayer is friendly, informative and seems to have excellent recall……..
FH: Thanks for coming through I appreciate it. What time is it there?
LS: It’s about six o’clock in the evening. Please excuse my voice, I’ve just come back from a rather full on bluesy weekend. I don’t know if you live in England but we’re about to hold an anti-gas mining benefit show to support that cause
I live in Surrey. So I grew up listening to the Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Pretty Things so we’re both on the same page. One of the things I wanted to ask you, Leo was on the blues side of what you do. Oh and yes, here we currently do have some big protests about it all, especially down in Sussex, the fracking plans and all…..
I know! It’s going on in my home county in Sussex. We’re all linked with you guys in Australia because this has been going on for some time over here. I don’t know it’s just one of those issues. I’ve written a song called ‘No Fracking Way’ and recorded it here. So they are kind of using that to spread the word
I’m kind of thinking that this won’t happen in Witney, Oxfordshire which is the Prime Minister’s constituency!
Probably not. But you know, Pete that the amazing thing about it is there’s a very right-wing radio guy here who’s NOW very much behind the liberals down here who are really the conservatives. He really is their chief tub- thumper and he’s always singing their praises. Now he’s come around because he owns a farm and on his farm they’re already up in arms about the plans. You see, you can own the land that you live on, but the state or the crown owns ten foot down and there on. So basically, they’re very interested in telling everybody that this is a wonderful way to live your life. But the problem is, it happens to anybody, so this guy called Alan Jones has his land and all of a sudden he is turning out to be one of our top spokesmen! It hits everybody so I would think even in Guildford, Whitley Bay, Witney and all of these wonderful places that somebody could live and avoid it, well they can’t in the end. Methane gas can get to you wherever you are. But I think it’s interesting because as a governed people we’re all just standing up now and realising that the environment and the world is being taken away from us. The country where I live now is under threat and I’m amazed that England as well is under threat
The other thing is, I’m old enough to remember everything being sold off by Mrs Thatcher and now my electricity is French, my gas is Spanish and it doesn’t bother them to put prices up in the UK…
It’s privatisation. Like us down here, Australia’s a big country so it’s all locally governed now and Mrs Thatcher started that. She wanted to split it up so that no one would go to Downing Street with their problems, they would put it to local councils. She basically set up a web where you really couldn’t centrally get to Downing Street to complain about anything! It took away a lot of the rights of the councils to protest. English people were not consulted on the way that England changed at that time. The same thing has gone on all over the world
I think in our case here, she wanted to give the City everything they wanted to exploit and ‘mine’, therefore that would fund their party for the foreseeable future because they were calling the shots
Yeah. You look at Lord Brown, who is one of the biggest funders of the Conservative Party (and always has been) he is the head of British Petroleum. British Petroleum is a company that was stolen from the Kuwaitis. It was their oil !
Well it’s good to know that you’ve got concerns beyond music
It IS concerned in music in the end. I mean, why did John Lennon write ‘Imagine’? why did Bob Dylan stand up for the oppressed and why did Bob Marley change the way that we thought about Rastafarians and Jamaicans. So I think it is a musical concern and I think musicians have a voice. If you have the talent to write songs, and I think I do, then…we’ve gotta write songs to help them
I think you’re right. I’ve got a friend, in the Rolling Stones called Chuck Levell. Chuck’s from the South and he spends his time conserving forests when he’s not on the road
That’s right. Danny O’ Keefe my old song writing chum who wrote ‘Magdalene’ for me lives with all the Indian community. At this present moment, protesting against gas drilling that is going into all the Indian land in the US
But the authorities will think ‘A load of Indians. Who’s gonna stop us?’
Exactly. But I do think that musicians have a voice and every now and then we can travel the waters and stand up and say something. I think we’ve got to use that voice, y’know..stand up and be noisy, be counted.. Down here, I seem to have a terrific popularity so if I can use that for something positive and speak up for something that people don’t know much about, then that’s part of the job isn’t it?
I think you’re dead right. Now, let’s get to music please sir
Yes! They said you weren’t just a writer ?.
I’m a musician and writer. I like doing the journalistic side of it because it fans the flames and encourages new bands
Aha ! – It’s all about legacy
You’ve got a tour planned and will you be using your Australian road band for this?
No we’ve been successful in getting some good PR to glue it all together. But it’s been very difficult because a few people ran off at the bit when some of the gigs were announced. ‘He’s touring with his Australian band and also doing the entire album of ‘Silverbird’… Neither of these things are true.
Basically, I have a band in the UK and I’ve had a guy I’ve been working with for many years called Ronnie Johnson
I know Ronnie ! he plays for Van Morrison.
Not any more. He’s my MD now, for this
Good man !
He still helps Van with a few things but he’s been working with me for the last three years. I haven’t had many gigs for him but now I finally have a tour for him ! We’ve put together three newer members with us now because we’ve done some gigs in Ireland. We’ve also toured around with The Osmonds and David Cassidy and others. But finally, it’s our own shows. I’ve been over in the summer and we’ve basically got together three younger players so it’s a nice four piece. I’m very proud of the guys and it’s gonna be stunning. I’m gonna do the whole show so it’s gonna be a show of two halves. It will fit the whole history in
Good. One thing that I tell young bands is ‘Play all the numbers you’ve got with all your heart.’ Because you don’t know which songs individual members of the audience like. When you talk to the audience after a show, they’ve all liked different songs you’ve done within the set
Yeah !!! Always ! I think in a way I’m very blessed because I always try to make different records. I used to be good friends with Bruce Springsteen and we both sat in a café once and worked out we did the same thing. We were trying to (he’s fantastic company to be comparing myself with and I would be so bold) we were aiming for the same thing. We both came out at exactly the same time so his aim was to just put an incredible show together by writing lots of varied songs that would give him a fantastic show to do. He would release those songs on radio but all he was trying to do was build a great show. I was exactly the same. I wrote the first two albums with David Courtney and then the third with Frank Farrell. Every time I wrote a song I was thinking ‘How is this gonna work on stage?’ I was trying to put together a very rich and varied show. Of course, Bruce was doing the same. The result is you end up with this fantastic show because the songs can cover so many different moods, so many different emotions and so many different experiences. People do have favourites. I mean down here, and I don’t hear this much in the UK it is ‘Moonlighting’. For some reason they love a British story! So things like that work. In Germany, all the disco songs go down well. You do have different things that appeal to different audiences. I have many different styles and I used to annoy the record company like mad because they always wanted me to follow on with the next album being exactly the same
People will lay this on musicians but if you talk to Roger McGuinn of The Byrds he regarded albums as editions of a magazine. This one’s more space rock, now we’re more country…
Yeah, chapters of a book..works for me
Your contempories considered, where YOU benefit is you’ve had hits in various decades. The king of that is Cliff Richard actually. But when you think of your contemporaries, Elton John, Rod Stewart it gives this demographic spread…
The key to longevity can be really answered by the popularity of The Beatles and the Stones.Also I mean The Foo Fighters, U2 any of those bands. Still the two biggest bands in the world are the Stones and The Beatles. When you ask why, the only answer is because of the songs. I think if the material is great and it has a wide expanse and it tells a great story then you’re kind of home and dry. The Beatles, it’s the breadth of the material and the breadth of the emotion. The characters of the four guys described in different songs. And really, hearing the albums develop, the Stones’ appeal is the same thing. The material, the songs are so strong. There’s at least ten songs they could finish the act with so which one do you choose? I think Bruce is the other big act and Bruce is there because of that as well. ;Dancing in the Dark’ or ‘Born to Run’ which is the biggest song? Who knows? If you’ve got that wealth of material that’s what you’re aiming for. I’m kind of lucky because ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’, ‘When I Need You’, ‘Thunder In My Heart’, ‘How Much Love?’, ‘One Man Band’, ‘Show Must Go On’ ….they’re all strong…enduring
Lucky or skilful ? How do you pick a set list?
It’s difficult; I have to leave out a lot of stuff ! But we’ve been doing quite long shows down here. I’ve got an Aussie band and we do two-set shows. The last one I did was really my own show. I could do what I liked and there was no curfew. I was on stage for three and a half hours. The song ‘Raining in My Heart’ for instance, me and Ronnie Johnson we do a great guitar and harmonica trade-off which can sometimes last about ten minutes
We saw ABC recently and my mate Matt is American and the guitarist in ABC. What Martin Fry does, if he is doing their own show, ‘Right we go out and do all the hits. We do our favourite album tracks and thread them in. Between five to ten per cent of the time, you guys when the moment is right you guys just jam around. If you suddenly think a sax solo should go in there that’s fine by me
That’s what Dire Straits used to do.,extremely long solos. I think that’s always been the format for the stadium show as it were., for some artists
I had a very similar conversation about picking a set list with Ernie Isley. They’ve made what sixty albums and he said ‘Pete, you’re never gonna play everyone’s favourite. But you can try and pick something from every decade that’s gonna get to that bunch of people.
There are many songs I can’t leave out
But at the same time, there are a few songs where it’s really nice to add in because they’re part of a craft. For me, song-writing is everything. So I can pick something obscure like maybe ‘No Looking Back’ from the last album I did with Richard Perry. Things like that and suddenly they really fit with the song. I had a version of ‘Let It Be’ which we did as a Christmas single in ’75. I think it went into the top twenty. Beside this, there’s a 14-album set I’ve been putting together…
I’ve got the whole listing of what’s on there. I was going to ask you about that in a minute
There are a few obscurities on there as well. I must admit, I’m frustrated because they’re about four or five songs that show the state of the business these days. Nobody can claim them, cleanly. Nobody can clear who owned them so I might get into trouble if released them. I did a song with the Alan Parsons Project and it came out on an album called ‘Freudiana’ and it’s called ‘I Am the Mirror’. I’m sorry, but the stupid idiots at *** ! they….
Has that been tied up since 1990?
Can’t even find it. They can’t find the catalogue number even though I’ve got it anyway. I’ve given it to them but they say ‘Sorry but we haven’t gone through our lists yet.’
I’m sure I heard the demo of that in 1990?
That’s right !. It hit the UK charts. There’s another one as well but it’s too risky for me to put them on the album because somebody could sue me and say ‘No I own it’. But it’s very sad. There’s a movie called ‘All This and World War II’ and I did three songs on there. Classic Beatles songs, and we’re trying to put those on
Didn’t you do ‘I Am the Walrus’?
Yes I did ! But I’m not allowed to release it. Basically, this whole business was built on equity and estate. You’d write songs and the publishers would have them. You’d say ‘I’ve always got something I can fall back on’. Now, nobody knows to seem to know where they are because there’s heaven knows how many people working at a record company as big as Universal
Right. Can I ask you about certain songs? ‘When I Need You’, I’ve heard that selected at weddings. Your version of it. You wrote that with Albert didn’t you?
No, that isn’t my song. It was Albert Hammond and do you remember a girl called Carol-Bayer Sager?
I do indeed…
Now Carol-Bayer Sager also wrote the lyrics to ‘Groovy Kind of Love’ and that was her biggest hit. She was living with Albert Hammond and I think she actually lived with Burt Bacharach at one point as well
You’re dead right on that
She’s a great lyric writer. She and Albert wrote a lot of songs together at a certain time. It’s funny how I found that song because I was actually given it. When I first went to meet Richard Perry ( in the US – PS) in 1976, to discuss us doing an album he really didn’t like my song-writing very much. He wanted me to pick some songs I wanted to sing. So I was pouring through boxes and boxes of demos and this one came in. It’s kind of applicable because I was in America and we hadn’t really started the album. I was really missing my ex-wife at the time who was back in England. I was trying to call her on the Transatlantic phone and it was all crackly. Worse than it is today. Huge delays when you’re speaking and things like that. I could never really tell her the simple thing that I loved her and I missed her. So when this song came it had this great line ‘Miles and miles of empty space between us, a telephone can’t take the place of your smile’ and I said that to her and she just started crying. I thought ‘S***! I’ve gotta record this!’
I had a long chat with Albert at Ronnie Scott’s and he says that at one time he tried to write for other people, realised he wasn’t happy doing it so now just writes for himself
That’s right. But I’ve got a new album next year. There’s a lot of co-songs between me and Albert on it. I wrote a solo album with him. Some of the new songs are gonna make it to my new album.
That’s why I love working with him because we only write for ourselves. Write for our own voices and our own imagination. That’s the way we both work and I love Albert to death because he’s just such an amazingly convicted writer. He writes as good words as he does melodies as well
We cross over that way. I write melodies now as well. Basically, we come out of the writing experience. Also, if you listen our voices are the same. If you listen to a demo, you can’t tell which voice is which voice. You can’t tell who wrote this melody and who wrote that lyric. It’s a nice collaboration
He says to me, ‘If it happens that Willie Nelson loves a song of mine and can do it, he’ll bring Willie Nelson to my song.’ It’s almost like he’s given him a black and white drawing to colour in
Yes !! t’s an endorsement. Precisely ! That’s what happened with me and Roger Daltrey, with ‘Giving It All Away’. When David Courtney and I were writing and we were recording my first album we went to record it at Roger’s home studio because he wanted to try out the studio. Keith Altham my very good friend…
Wasn’t he an NME writer?
Yeah that’s right. Keith is still a good buddy of mine now. He was publisher so he said ‘Look, I’ve got an idea for you about a studio. Roger’s built a studio and he needs a guinea pig to try it out’. So we said ‘We’ll go’. The great thing with Roger’s place was he wasn’t charging us so it worked in the budget. So we went down there and I think he already had the Modus Operandi that he was going to make his own album there. So halfway through us recording he said ‘I love these songs so much. Why don’t you write me some songs?’ So David and I already had some quite advanced writing we’d done already. We’d been very prolific and we’d basically given him what was going to be my second album. So he took the songs on and immediately we stopped recording and Adam Faith the manager and producer had the bright idea of ‘Hey let’s release Roger’s album first!’ When Roger sang those songs originally and I’m standing in the background and hearing it. If you’ve got a guy like him who’s a top rock singer in the world at that time, actually pouring his emotion into my lyrics it was very moving
Of course, and it put wheels under your career because suddenly you’re the guy Roger Daltrey goes to for songs
Exactly, Pete !!!!. So it all worked out fantastically. Roger still speaks highly of me today and I speak highly of him and we’re still mates
Sometimes things work. I think Roger’s very proud of the fact that he gave birth to the career of Leo Sayer
Yeah, people like Robert Palmer and Rod Stewart have a good ear for a song. A lot of people got into Tom Waits because Rod Stewart’ did a version of one or two of his stuff. If you’re an inquisitive listener, damn the day I’m not a fan because I get fascinated by stuff and I wanna know. When I used to hang around with the early blues bands, Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown played an instrumental and I said to him ‘That sounds great!’ and he said ‘Well, it’s a bit of a rip off of Albert Collins. Go and check this guy out.’ I did and…. my God!
That’s right. It all roots to something. You can find echoes. Someone said to me, a very good song-writer, told me ‘It’s an echo of your tastes. Of all the things you love’. I find that all the time. I know what inspires me to write songs it’s often a problem like ‘No Fracking Way’. But often, it comes from being influenced and inspired by the records that you listen to and the music that you choose.
Now Dave Courtney – he’s not the gangster bloke, is he?
No!! he gets that problem. He likes being called David rather than Dave but I call him Dave. But he lives in Brighton. He’s a great writer and musician. Quite a few times in my career, I need help and input and..there’s David writing with me again. He wrote the title track ‘World Radio’ and a few others. I did an album in 1979 called ‘Here’ that David produced. David was a good producer as well. He had the luck of producing an album with Steve Cropper and Memphis area pals, so they came and played on the album as well. So David has been in and out of my career quite a lot…
Now there’s a couple of other names I wanted to run past you and I’m sorry if this is a bit here and there. Alan Tarney… a craftsman?
Yes. I think he’s fantastic. He’s a one man band plays everything. Originally comes from Adelaide but in fact he was born in Hull. He comes from Australia because he and Terry Britton another great man who produced and wrote for Tina Turner they were both in a band together in Adelaide. They were picked up by Olivia-Newton John first and then Cliff Richard. Their band was brought to England and they decided to stay in the UK. Alan’s a wonderful musician. He had a partner in music called Trevor Spencer a great drummer. He’s back in Australia now. The Tarney/Spencer band used to make some amazing records on the A&M label and that’s where I first heard them. A couple of the songs that I’ve sung that Alan’s produced, there’s one called ‘Bye Bye Now My Sweet Love’ which is one on the outtakes. That’s a gorgeous single and that was Tarney/Spencer Band mild hit
That’s early eighties. 1981..
I said ‘Alan, can I sing that song?’ and he said yes. So that was later on down the line after doing the ‘Living In a Fantasy’ album with him. It was tip of the hat to what he was doing already. Great arrangements. The other nice thing, is that Alan and I wrote a big hit for Cliff Richard called ‘Dreaming’ which is one of Cliff’s big hits
The best live album I think is ‘Donny Hathaway Live’. Now !! – you are friends with Willy Weeks!
I wrote a couple of songs for Willy but I don’t know whatever happened to them. He used to come and hang out at my house. I was very, very honoured. The original version of ‘When I Need You’ is Willy playing bass. We recorded that song so many times. We did one version with Booker T and the MGs and we finally went back to another version. Willy’s amazing. All of those guys are amazing- Greg Philinganes, Larry Carlton, Jeff McCullen, David Paich, Dave Hungates
Eric Gale is my absolute hero on guitar. I learnt so much. I didn’t know how to accompany other people until at a very young age I listened to Eric Gale. I listened to him and I thought ‘he’s doing everything he can to make this singer or Grover Washington whoever it was to make them sound good.’ He’s got his ego in his back pocket
Going right back to the present, that’s why I use Ronnie Johnson because he is one of the great band players. There are very few guitarists who can accompany a singer. Mostly they’re fighting them. But Ronnie’s locked into my voice just like he was with Van. That’s the great thing. Although, Van is my absolute hero as a singer, some of my timing is very much like Van and that’s why it works with me and Ronnie. Ronnie will tell you that. There’s a certain way I attack a live performance of a song that has those echoes. He finds it very comfortable territory. I’m honoured when he tells me that
Ok. Talking of echoes, now here’s a couple of things that you can stamp me down on if you like but ‘Long Tall Glasses’ always struck me maybe as Mr Sayer’s nod to Bob Dylan…
Well, yeah probably just for the obscure line out of it and making it like Bob Dylan’s ‘139th blues’ or ‘Dream’ rather than picking a title. Dylan was my first musical hero and I just loved it. I love words and was a poet when I was very young. Dylan is the Shakespeare or Dickens of music for me. ‘Long Tall Glass’ is really all about first playing in America. You’re playing these gigs and all your heroes are better singers than you. You get people coming to the gigs saying ‘Oh you’re an incredible singer!’ and I say ‘No I’m not. I’m not Bobby Bland..come on.’ It kind of got embarrassing so I was kind of saying in a way ‘I can’t dance.’ If you say you can then we will believe you more. So I turned round in song and said ‘Of course I can dance!’ Then they all go ‘Yeah you’re great!’ and suddenly it all goes on. That’s very much America. It’s the belief and the growing of confidence. That’s what that song was about. It was kind of based on the imagery of ‘The Goldrush’. The Charlie Chaplin film where he has to go into the bar and he dances with the girl because he will do anything because he is so hungry. I was hungry to make it in America and I had to instantly strap on some confidence. I had to actually believe what I was involved in. I didn’t think I was the greatest singer, I just thought I had some good songs but I had to believe I was the greatest singer in the world. Then you can perform with that knowledge of being big-headed. They’ll all listen to you if you’re like that. It’s funny isn’t it?
A lot of showbiz is confidence and if you look as though you know what you are doing people won’t question it
That song is all about the transition of that moment when you realise ‘Hey that’s the key!’
With Dylan though, I was writing out a birthday card to an older relative this week and I found myself writing ‘I was so much older than, Im younger than that now!’ From ‘My Back Pages’
( Sighs )t’s a classic line isn’t?
I got a message back saying ‘Maybe you’re right.’ American writers. Here’s something I always wanted to ask you: ‘Drop Back’ that seems the closest to me you get to Brian Wilson. In an approach to a song? Am I being stupid ?
(Emphatically) No I’m honoured by the connection. Later on, in the album ‘Have you ever been In Love?’ I did sing Brian Wilson’s ‘Darling’ because I always loved that song. I love the Beach Boys I always have. I actually got to play with them. In America, we did a whole tour with them, Unfortunately, they were falling apart at the time. I just loved sitting in Brian’s trailer all afternoon and talking to Brian. Sometimes, I’d miss sound check and our sets would be awful but I was just sharing stories with Brian. He became a good friend. Brian and Marion just became good pals. Although Brian was a bit destroyed by all the drugs he’d taken, he was still very compos mentis with me. He was able to tell me how Blaine set up the kits and play on songs like ‘Good Vibrations’. How he got this kind of echo and how he was able to loop this together. I had a little education on how to make records from Brian. Now that I make my own records and produce them I do lean back to those techniques
I’ve always thought with your range of voice, I always wanted to hear you do ‘Disney Girls’
I would love to ! One day I will do an album of covers. I must admit, my total concentration at the minute is I’ve started to only sing songs I write. I’m doing less and less covers. The problem is the whole WORLD is covers now, The Voice, The X Factor and I think we are in danger of losing the song-writer. It’s not a megalomaniac thing, I just think you’ve gotta have your own voice, your own thing to sing and your own message. I’m very much about the message. I’ve come right round to Dylan again and I think that what we say in a song is so important. That’s what I’m trying to concentrate on. Also, I’m as prolific as ever and I’m writing about five songs a week. I can’t stop
To me if someone said ‘What’s this guy Leo Sayer about?’ I probably play them ‘Giving It All Away’ and ‘Endless Flight’ because ‘Endless Flight’ has purity to it
Yeah it’s a beautiful song. It was Andrew Gold who was scared of flying and he gave me the song. I knew Andrew very well. What a sad loss it was when he died a couple of years ago. He gave me the song and I loved it so much and I persuaded Richard to make it the title of the album because I love the idea that you could be flying forever. So it’s a little bit of a play on show business. That’s what I found out from Andrew and he said ‘It’s like you’re trapped and they want you to do all these things.’ It’s got a deeper meaning than just flying. All I wanna do is get out of this loop and live a quiet life. That’s what Andrew was very much about and he was a very serious guy. He didn’t like the limelight. I got to see this quiet shy guy a bit like Lyndsey Buckingham really. He just wanted to be in a studio working on some songs quietly in the background and not having to be on stage. He hated being on the road and the ‘fame’ thing
Chris Rea is exactly the same.
I know Chris
Chris is ..well, nothing showbiz about him. You get to Chris’s sofa, you sit there with an acoustic guitar and he wants to talk about Peter Green !! not himself …
It’s like Mike Oldfield. All he wanted to do was make records with nobody around. I’m very much like Mike these days. I have wonderful bands and I love working with my bands. It’s kind of like I do two jobs. I’m standing in the middle of my studio at the minute with my SSL desk and my special monitors and my incredible plugins and incredible vintage microphones. This is my home. If I could never leave this place I’d be very happy. But unfortunately, we can’t make enough money selling records and not only that we’ve gotta release them ourselves. We’ve gotta become record companies. The only way we can sell records now is to merchandise them on the gigs. Meet and greet people after the show
‘Orchard Road’ is a song I really like. It’s got a touch of Procol Harum and it’s still you. Are you proud of that song?
( Pause ) It’s one of my best songs. I was going through trouble in my marriage at the time and I took up with a young girl and I moved her into the house. It all went pear-shaped when I realised I was doing the wrong thing and I’d moved my wife into a house called ChurchField Road in Acton. So basically, I didn’t really write the song. We were in the studio a few years later with Alan Tarney and he just got this new Fairlight synthesiser and he just started playing this Bach-like piece. He was providing this pattern and the drum machine was going and I just said get me to the microphone. We hand this hand signal thing we did. I’d plot a rising chord and he’d have a way of counting me in whilst playing the keyboard. We started doing this song and making up the lyrics as I went along. There’s no lyric sheet for it. That record is the only time it was ever recorded
Can I ask you about ‘Thunder In My Heart’ because whenever I hear that song I think it’s the sort of thing that would have been a hit for Chairman of the Board
(Laughs ) I was working with the musicians we were working with in L.A. and they were all so soulful. We all loved dance music so it was kind of logical. ‘You make me Feel Like Dancing’ was kind of before ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Thunder In My Heart’ was before the white soul thing really. There was a great feeling of bouncing off the musicians. This one with Tom Snow and we’d be trying to get a groove and knowing what Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour would do on the guitars. What Mike would do on the piano. We knew that Jeff Pocaro would just come up with an amazing groove. We started to write towards the musicians. That’s how the feel came…
It’s that tension and electricity of it and that’s what gave it a new lease of life
It was a live performance. We’d usually get Gene Page the string arranger to come down for the session.
I was gonna ask you about Gene Page because ‘Raining in my Heart’ sounds like Gene Page
No it’s not. I think it was David Campbell who did those fantastic later Joni Mitchell albums. ‘Raining in my Heart’ is a guy in the studio and Lyndsey Buckingham on guitars. First guy doing the faux slide guitar and Lyndsey the picking. It was great working with those two guys. There still pals of mine now.
You made a song some time ago called ‘More Than I Can Say’ and it actually was The Travelling Wilburys before they existed. I don’t know what the timing was for that….
That song comes from 1960. It was written by Gerry Allison and Sonny Curtis
Oh from the Crickets?
Yeah the Crickets and when Buddy Holly died sadly, Coral Records had Bobby Vee and The Crickets. They decided to glue them together because neither of them were having a hit at that moment.
I’ve got that album !
It’s an interesting story because we actually finished the ‘Living in a Fantasy’ album with Alan Tarney and we had it all tied up. We then realised that we had an extra day in the studio. It was like gold dust. We were looking at the TV and we were discussing a few things. We thought we should do a cover song at that time because it would be fun to do. Whether it would make the album, it probably wouldn’t. But we thought it might be useful as a B-side. So, we were looking at it and this song came up ‘More Than I Can Say’ in an advert for Bobby Vee Meets the Crickets album being released. This is in 1980 and we both turn round at the same time ‘I love that song!’, ‘I love that song too man!’ so we just decided to go to a record store. We went to about five record stores before we found one. It was still in the shrink wrap because in those days they used to advertise things before they came out. We managed to persuade this guy to give us the album, he didn’t even have a price for it yet. We took the album back to the studio and learnt it. That was the advert for the lunchtime news that we saw it on and by one o’clock we had it mixed and finished. So we played it to the record company after we played them the album and they said ‘That’s your hit!’ So that was it. It was great for me in America as well because it topped the Country charts. I remember going on a show in Nashville right when it was touching number one and number two in the charts as well. They said ‘We’ve got Leo Sayer!’ and I think he called me Leon Sayers when I walked in. He said ‘I’ve got a guy on the phone who wants to speak to you.’ I picked up the phone and this voice said ‘I love you man! You just bought me a new tractor!’ It was Sonny Curtis and with that record he was able to go to the bank and save his farm
I thought ‘Well that’s what covering songs does’ and what a wonderful thing to hear
Well Tom Petty did that for the late Gene Clark of The Byrds. He did ‘A Whole Lot Better’ and he did it on the album he did with Dave Stewart. He loved Gene. We all love Gene Clark, what a writer! But sadly he spent all his money on booze. Is there a chance you’ll do ‘Moonlighting’ when you tour here ?
Absolutely. Of course.
The acoustic guitar on that is lovely isn’t it?
Yeah I think we play up the vibes on it now. That was a guy called Frank Ricotti who played vibes. But it’s a story and it’s got to be sung. It was all about our van driver Dave who tried to run off with the daughter of the chief of police in Worthing in Montague Street. He went missing in a van. I was in a band called ‘Mustang Stampede’ in Worthing and this guy and the Caroline, the girl he ran off with. They’d just built the M6 motorway so I had to put that in there. Actually, they did get caught before they got to Gretna Green. I bumped into Dave the roadie a few years ago and he said ‘You’ve made my life mate. I’m immortalised by your song’ which is great !
Well I appreciate all this, Leo. We’ve round about covered everything I’ve jotted down. I feel a bit like the CID really. I’m sorry if it was a bit…
No it’s fine!!! Come and see the gigs!
If you DON’T invite me I’ll strangle you. True story: Cat rang me up and said ‘You’re the sort of guy who would know about Leo Sayer’. I said ‘Do I!?? He’s one of the best harmonica players going! I said I’ve played harmonica since 1965 and Leo Sayer is one of the best. If you’ve got five seconds sometime I’d like you to pick a top five harmonica tracks for Blues Matters magazine because I also write for that
Sonny Boy Williamson ‘Help Me’ I love that- because I actually hung around on that tour when they came over. I couldn’t get over how Sonny got such an excellent tone out of the harp. He’d put it the whole thing in his mouth !!
I love Paul Butterfield
Yeah !!! – I tell you what, a lovely man as well. Sweet guy
I still do ‘East/West’..when the right players are in the room
I’m very proud that I got to play with some of those guys. I played with Walter Horton and that was a great experience. I’ve played with Muddy Waters and he introduced me to Junior Wells. I’m very lucky. Funnily enough that’s what I’ve been doing this weekend. There’s an incredible bluesman down here called Kevin Borridge and we’ve been playing together this weekend. That’s why my voice is so destroyed. I won’t do this on the English tour but every now and then you’ve got to go for it
I saw Muddy Waters with Otis Spann here in England
I played with Muddy Waters ! and I’m very proud of that. He came down to a club called Les Cousins. I used to hang around there and he said ‘Does anybody play the harp?’ I said ‘yes sir.’ And I got up and played with him. It must have been 1968 or 1969.it was a great moment for me and we did ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ as I recall….There used to be a guy who was a promotions man for EMI but years ago he played on Culture Club records.
I know the guy you mean…
I used to see him at blues gigs…Surrey…..We were going to be doing The Hawth Theatre in Crawley but it doesn’t look like it’s happening. We might see you in Brighton or in London ?.
I really appreciate it and we’ll get a great piece out of this
I enjoyed talking, it’s interesting to think back// .
I wanted you to tell me things I always wondered about. I’m really grateful for this
I was just filling in the gaps, man. You actually already know a lot of the stuff !,,So no worries we’ll see you when we come over….
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..thanks Cat, Sam, GRS