Three Sundays on the shoreline

For someone who lives fifteen zig-zag miles from the shores of Saco Bay, Maine, I sure don’t visit said shores enough. Now that the true summer season has passed, I’m doing what I can to rectify this situation. 

Here’s’ the final Sunday of summer 2017, a socked-in evening of about 63 degrees:


The first Sunday sunset of the autumn of 2017 resembled a late summer’s day at about 72 degrees (a swim was had moments after this was taken):


And this sunset, moments ago, presided over a far less crowded but no less brilliant 58 degree evening:


I’m on a self-imposed social media break for the month of October, a little tradition of mine. Here’s hoping it’s a month with more moments like these.

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From the archives: Leif Erickson interviews Bob Welch

In March of 2004, I had an opportunity to interview former Fleetwood Mac singer/songwriter Bob Welch, known for his “caretaker” tenure in the band between their pioneering Peter Green era and the hit-machine Buckingham/Nicks era. He then achieved multi-platinum success on his own with his “French Kiss” album of 1977.

This interview originally aired on my old “Beyond and Before” radio show on WHDQ (“Q106”) in Claremont, New Hampshire. At the time, he had recently issued some re-recordings of his old Fleetwood Mac tunes. He was gracious, friendly, and in good humor throughout our conversation. It was great to talk to a guy who I always thought was incredibly underrated. Sadly, Welch would take his own life in June of 2012.

With hindsight (and age/wisdom) I probably would have asked better, deeper questions, but I was still happy how the segment turned out for my show. Enjoy.

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Leif Erickson:          It’s Beyond and Before on Q106, and that familiar drumbeat, that familiar guitar, familiar voice, Bob Welch with Fleetwood Mac and a song called “Hypnotized,” from “Mystery to Me,” one of the great albums from his era in Fleetwood Mac. And joining us right now, hello, is it rolling, Bob? From under the Nashville skyline somewhere, it’s Bob Welch. How are you tonight?

Bob Welch:        How’re you doing, Leif?

LE:          I’m happy you’re on the show with us, and taking some time, hopefully we’re not interrupting dinner or anything.

BW:        No, actually, I was optimizing a hard drive on my computer, isn’t that exciting?

LE:          There are worse ways to spend your time, right?

BW:        Yeah! (laughs)

LE:          Okay, we’re going to talk about all kinds of different things here, first of all, I want to let you know I enjoyed the new project that you have, it’s called “Bob Welch: His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond,” sort of new spins on old favorites. Tell us a little bit about that.

BW:        Well, I had just sort of, as an experiment, started re-recording some of the songs I did with Fleetwood Mac and from my solo albums, just for fun, and they started turning out pretty good, so… and then I got a call from a fella at a record company who was doing another project, a remaster thing from some of my old Capitol stuff, and I mentioned, “oh by the way, I have this stuff, take a listen to some of it,” and I sent a couple of things, I think it was “Sentimental Lady” and “Hypnotized,” and then he said “do you have any more of these? Let’s put it out.” So, I took another few months in the studio… it was something I wanted to do… the sonic quality that you can get today is much, much better than what you could get in the early Seventies…

LE:          Yes, the sound is very crisp on it.

BW:        Yeah, and essentially what I wanted to do was I wanted to re-create the songs, I didn’t want to radically jumble them up, or I didn’t want to do the rap version of “Hypnotized,” or something, I basically wanted to stay faithful to what was originally on the record, except expand it out with the 2000 technology. I never particularly loved how my voice was recorded back in the old days, and so I had the time and the luxury at home to be able to do it, so I got everything the way I wanted it, and I’m pretty happy with it… What really surprised me is that some people like it better than the originals, which is a real compliment.

LE:          Yeah, put it on a good high-fidelity system these days, what a difference.

BW:        Yeah, that is the difference, you know, the old stuff, I mean, the performances were what they were, they were fine, but, it just doesn’t open out and people have so much more high quality sound systems today, you know, all digital and the subwoofers and everything, and when you play one of those old records and you use a subwoofer, all you get is a bunch of noise and, woof, it sounds like you’re sitting on top of a subway station. So I wanted to bring everything up to spec, and actually it’s done so well that I’m probably going to do another volume of that type of thing.

LE:          We’d certainly look forward to it, based on the results of this one. Why don’t we go back to your roots, of course, you ended up in Fleetwood Mac in 1971, but you were in a few bands before that, one called the Seven Souls, I believe out on the West Coast, then you ended up in Paris for a while, just give us a little chronology of right before you ended up in Fleetwood Mac.

BW:        Well yeah, the Seven Souls was a show band, and we almost got signed, they either were going to sign Sly Stone or us, and they picked Sly Stone, that’s the genre it was, you know, exciting, kind of soul stuff… but that disbanded and we went to Europe, it was the late Sixties, a lot of turmoil (in America), you know, the ’68 Chicago convention riots, you know, it was just… Europe was a wonderful way of life, we could play in a club, we had the same gig for three months, we didn’t have to go anywhere, we could get up at two in the afternoon, great! So we took our trio over there (called) Head West, and Head West almost had a deal, again, a lot of “almosts” here, with Stax/Volt records before they went under in Memphis. We were gonna get signed, but then everybody basically gave up on that, they wanted to go back to California, their wives were miserable living in Paris (laughs), they didn’t speak the language. So I kinda wound up sitting on my own in Paris with no money and really no prospects, and I had a friend in England, Judy Wong, who was an ex-girlfriend, who at that time was married to Jethro Tull’s bass player Glenn Cornick, and she called me and said “what are you doing?” I said “nothing, I’m sitting in my underpants, broke,” and she said “why don’t you come over and try out for Fleetwood Mac, they’ve just lost their second guitar player in nine months.” So I said “I’d be glad to if you’d get me a plane ticket,” that’s how broke I was! (laughs)

LE:          Living the life of a starving artist, you could say.

BW:        I was literally a starving artist, I didn’t know what I was gonna do, you know, if I was gonna go back to Los Angeles or what. So, I got on the plane and flew to London, and went out to Hampshire and met everybody in Fleetwood Mac, and then two months later, it turns out I was gonna be in the band. So that solved my problem.

LE:          That’s definitely a good solution to the problem of being a starving artist, ending up in Fleetwood Mac. The band at that time had phenomenal success throughout Europe, and kind of made a little inroads in America, playing clubs and such, what was your first impression of the group when you first came into that meeting, did you sense some turmoil or uncertainty about the future?

BW:        Well yeah, I had been real familiar with Fleetwood Mac because while I was playing in France, “Oh Well,” the Peter Green song was all over the jukeboxes in France, and it was a pretty big hit in Europe, a lot of people don’t realize they were very, very big in England and Europe. So I was real familiar with them, I’d read about them in the magazines and stuff. When I first met up with everybody they had lost their two main guitar players within nine months of each other, Peter Green, the founding guy, and Jeremy Spencer. And they were pretty much drifting. They were in shellshock, I have to say, when I met them, because you know, they lost the leader of the band! So they kind of didn’t know what they wanted to do, it was a little confusing for me because I didn’t have any ambitions to come in and, you know, (be the) hip-swinging, gun-slinging, take-over guitar player. I knew I couldn’t replace Peter Green because he was so unique. And they really wouldn’t tell me what they were looking for, we just sort of rehearsed and played and finally it evolved, they had liked some of the songs I had written, and it turned out I was gonna be in the band. But it was not real cut-and-dry, they were paranoid at that point.

LE:          So you eased on into the situation.

BW:        I eased in, yeah, without being pushy, and just kind of getting to know everybody, and gradually it turned out, “hey do you wanna join up,” and I said “you bet.”

LE:          Now at that time, still based in England at this point, there was really sort of a communal setup. Everybody lived in the same house, ate together, worked together, wrote together, how do you think that influenced your writing around that time?

BW:        Well that was a wonderful experience, especially at the age I was, I was 25, 26, and it was a big house, about 50 miles south of London in Hampshire, which is a real pretty part of England, wooded, rolling hills, it kind of reminds me a little bit of Nashville actually. And we were all living there, the band, the road crew, it was like a three or four story, what you’d have to call a mansion or mini-mansion, and the communal thing was great, you never lost track of each other, there was a rehearsal room downstairs, I think it probably contributed to the feel, maybe not so much the writing strictly in a words sense, but the feel of the music that I wrote, because most of it, of course was written at the house.

LE:          I picture it surrounded by “Bare Trees.”

BW:        Well, it was! Beautiful in the winter, there was an old abandoned tennis court, it had been a religious retreat for some years, but that was all overgrown. It was really kind of weird! It was really cool in the winter, with a full moon out, it was really spooky. In fact that album, “Bare Trees” has John McVie’s photograph of the trees just outside the house.

LE:          We’re going to spin something off of “Bare Trees” as we talk to Bob Welch, formerly of Fleetwood Mac, a solo artist for years, and we’re going to play the original conception of a song that became a hit for you in 1977 called “Sentimental Lady,” this is Beyond and Before on Q106.

LE:          Beyond and Before on Q106, and a couple of Bob Welch compositions from his Fleetwood Mac days, of course Bob Welch joining us on Beyond and Before on this Sunday. “Miles Away,” that one from “Mystery to Me,” we also heard “Sentimental Lady” back there, from “Bare Trees.” “Miles Away,” you name-drop Andy Warhol, Hare Krishnas, what’s that song all about?

BW:        Well, it was me, you know, getting bugged about what I just saw as the mindless decadence, and just directionless, aimless youth, I mean punk rock hadn’t quite started, I don’t know if that movie “Clockwork Orange” by Stanley Kubrick had come out yet, but I was sort of longing for the old days in music, basically, which is kind of ironic because if you look at what’s going on today, I mean, woof! Talk about longing for the old days, it’s gotten really sparse out there. But, you know, Andy Warhol was the guy who said everybody’s going to be famous for fifteen minutes, and you know, I pretty much think what he said thirty years ago has come true now. You know, I don’t want to name any specific names but it’s all infotainment, and y’know, even the news is entertainment, everybody is famous for fifteen minutes.

LE:          I heard a recent quip that they’ve reduced it to ten minutes now.

BW:        Ten! (laughs) Yeah, yeah! Your fifteen minutes has been reduced! So… and “Don Juan goes up in a cloud of smoke,” really what that refers to, I mean, I like people to be able to use their imaginations but I was reading a lot of Carlos Castaneda books, which were popular with my generation back then, it was all about Indian sorcerers, you know, and medicine men, and the key character is Don Juan. So that is just supposed to mean… I guess the whole attitude is that, ahh, it all turns out to be B.S., and everything’s just a hustle… it’s a cynical song.

LE:          I’m going to ask you something about the song “Hypnotized.” You listen to it, of course there’s great guitar work throughout it, I like the vibe of it, but you listen to the drumming, and you would think it was a drum machine, but that is Mick Fleetwood in real time, isn’t it?

BW:        It sure is! The human drum machine! One of the things that was so valuable about drummers like Mick Fleetwood, and there’s many others from our generation, Don Henley was another one, Sly Stone’s drummer Greg Errico was another, Phil Collins, another, was their timing, and in the days before computers or drum machines or anything like that, a drummer’s timing was everything. Now it’s real easy for a kid to go push a button and get an absolutely steady beat, you know, that you can dance to. But Mick was one of the very excellent, and was and is, one of the steadiest timekeepers… and only he, I don’t think anybody’s ever done such a metronomic beat as (on “Hypnotized”). You ask any drummer to try to play that, give ‘em about three minutes and they’ve had it (laughs), they have to go home and take a hot bath, it’s almost impossible. So that’s really him!

LE:          After this album, “Mystery to Me,” you went out on tour, it was a very well-received album here in America, and you sold incrementally more albums each time you got out here, but then the tour ran into some trouble, and, well, I guess we’re kind of lucky Fleetwood Mac is still around today! If you could describe some of the circumstances on how it all fell apart, how you ended up on the disabled list…

BW:        Well, the “Mystery to Me” tour was doing very well, and it was starting to build momentum, and then unfortunately what had been occurring was, Bob Weston, our other guitar player who we got from Long John Baldry’s band, was having an affair with Mick Fleetwood’s wife, or HAD been having one ongoing. Mick found out about it, we all kind of found out about it, and we tried to stay on the road for a couple weeks, but Mick was having difficulty getting up on stage every night with the guy that was having an affair with his wife (laughs), and so we called the manager, who said “if you (halt the tour) I’ll make life miserable for you,” but Mick said “well, I can’t take it,” so the tour broke up, and we all went back to our separate places. And that started the beginning of the nightmare period where we had to sue the manager over who had the rights to use the (band) name, and he put a phony band called Fleetwood Mac on the road. And I have to say, and I think even Mick would probably admit, if that particular version of the band had stayed on the road, we might have achieved the success that they later did with “Rumours.” The momentum was building, and we cut that tour short, we had another four months’ worth of gigs booked, and we just chopped it all off. But that’s fate, you know.

LE:          But you did regroup, we’re going to talk about that after a short break, we’ll also talk about your solo career, and we’ll also talk about your brand new CD, “Bob Welch, His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond” which is in stores now, I’ve seen it around some of the area record shops, so if you’re looking for a new slice of Bob Welch, well, there it is. Bob, thanks for joining us, sit tight and we’re going to come right back, listen to more music, and chat for a bit!

BW:        Okay, Leif, sounds good.

LE:          This is Beyond and Before on Q106, we’ll be right back with Bob Welch.

LE:          Beyond and Before on Q106, and one of my favorites from the “Heroes are Hard to Find” album, “Silver Heels,” and of course joining us right now, Bob Welch, the guy who wrote and sang that song, and, well, if you HAD to pick one, could you sing like Paul McCartney or get funky like Etta James? Tough decision, huh?

BW:        Ah, yeah, back then it was, certainly a tough decision, and I can’t do either, so… (laughs), I couldn’t do either! In the remake I changed Etta James to a more current reference, just to be silly. I changed “Etta James” to “Kurt Cobain,” which is a little bit darker. I think we’re moving into a darker period, you know. The Seventies was very light hearted, at least that’s the way I feel things to be now.

LE:          In “Heroes are Hard to Find,” one of my favorite albums from your period in the group, you were down to a foursome at that point. Basically you lost Bob Weston and then you had the ensuing battle with the band’s manager, and then you moved to Los Angeles so you could be closer to the record company headquarters to re-establish yourself. “Heroes are Hard to Find” really had this cool, kind of airy, mysterious vibe, especially with your songs, and that was also evident in songs like “Hypnotized.” Who were your biggest songwriting influences whether literary or musically or what have you?

BW:        At that point, and especially, even now, all the Motown stuff. Stuff like Eddie Kendricks. If I had my druthers, that’s the music I admire the most, Motown, Marvin Gaye, Eddie Kendricks, Temptations, stuff like that, I really love that stuff, and that’s kind of what I had been playing before Fleetwood Mac. And so I was kind of always aspiring to go there.

LE:          So you had “Heroes are Hard to Find,” it was a success again, it was selling more, I think it was your highest charting album to date in America, and Mick Fleetwood decided to shop around for another guitar player, and you decided to didn’t want to hang out anymore. Why quit Fleetwood Mac when they’re kind of on the upswing?

BW:        Well, don’t think that I haven’t asked myself that question long and hard for many years! But at that point, I was, believe it or not, I felt like I was getting older, time was running out, and I needed to make a move, I wanted to go in a heavier rock direction, and I didn’t feel the other people in Fleetwood Mac wanted to do that. And I really did hem and haw for about a year over whether or not I was going to leave. At one point Mick had said he’d found these people, who turned out to be Stevie (Nicks) and Lindsey (Buckingham), and I said, “well maybe I’ll stay, maybe I won’t leave, maybe we can add some people, we’ll add them and I’ll stay, and (maybe) I can do a solo album,” and I went up and down but I ultimately decided to leave. I found a producing partner who had been working in one of the studios, and we got all jacked up about how (our new band) were gonna be the next Led Zeppelin, so I confirmed it, and Christmas of 1974 was my last show with Fleetwood Mac, and that was it, you know. Mick had already told me about Stevie and Lindsey, and six months later they had a number one record!

LE:          The band that you formed after leaving Fleetwood Mac was called Paris, and you had a few people who had been veterans of other prominent bands, correct?

BW:        Yeah, the original drummer was Thom Mooney from Todd Rundgren’s outfit The Nazz, and Glenn Cornick from Jethro Tull, Jethro Tull’s bass player, it was only a trio. Paris only did two albums, and the second drummer was Hunt Sales, Soupy Sales’ kid, who played with Tin Machine and Iggy Pop…

LE:          Another guy that also played with Todd Rundgren.

BW:        Yeah, he did play with Todd Rundgren too, right. Absolutely right.

LE:          So you did the Paris albums, at what point did you decide “hey, I’m going to put MY name on MY record and have my own hits,” where did the inspiration come from at that point?

BW:        Well, that was an evolution over six or eight months, what happened was we had made the second Paris album, it did all right, we were on the road opening up for groups like Foghat, and then Hunt Sales came down with Bell’s Palsy, from overwork. It’s this virus thing you get and what happens is your whole face and right side of your body gets paralyzed, so he had to come off the road, he couldn’t play drums. And I was just sitting around, and while I was sitting around I started writing all these songs because I basically had nothing to do, and I’m writing, writing, writing, and I took the songs to our A&R guy at Capitol who had been Paris’s A&R guy, John Carter, and he said “man, they’re all hits, let’s go into the studio and cut ‘em.” Well at that point, Paris was inactive, and he said “well, we’ll get a drummer and go in (to the studio),” so we got Alvin Taylor who had been Barry White’s and Elton John’s drummer, and just eventually wound up with these ten tracks and said, “well, I guess it’s a solo album!” I can’t remember whether it was me or Capitol Records that suggested it become a solo album. Paris just sort of dissolved, faded away like the Cheshire Cat…

LE:          So pure happenstance, really.

BW:        Yeah, it really pretty much was.

LE:          Well, let’s play one of my favorite tracks from this album, “French Kiss,” I’d say at least half of these songs were hits, a number of them hitting the Billboard charts, a big successful album, and you had Fleetwood Mac’s current “Rumours” album to compete with at the time, but you did quite well even with that in mind. Let’s listen to one called “Hot Love, Cold World,” we’re talking with Bob Welch on Beyond and Before on Q106.

LE:          We’re talking with Bob Welch on Beyond and Before on Q106, and one of his big hits right there, from the “French Kiss” album, “Hot Love, Cold World,” and Bob’s talking with us from his home in Nashville, Music City.

BW:        Yes!

LE:          What brought you to Nashville?

BW:        Well, really, my wife is from Memphis originally, and we lived in Arizona for a couple of years, we really wanted to get out of Los Angeles, and Arizona was very very nice, but really not much music business there. So we drove through Nashville one day, and I remembered it from being on tour, vaguely, but we both said “hey, this is alright,” plus it was close to Memphis where her parents lived, so we moved here I think in 1992. I love it, it’s very rural, I mean when I go to the store I drive to the store, I go to the Kroger, I guess I can mention the name of the chain because it’s the only one we’ve got…

LE:          We don’t have any Krogers up here (in New Hampshire) so don’t worry.

BW:        Okay (laughs)! But I drive to the store and every day on the way I pass cows, you know, cows come up to the fence on my little five-minute drive, yet we’re twelve minutes from Downtown Nashville, so, I love it. And it’s got four definite seasons even though there wasn’t much of a winter this year, so it’s great. Plus, the good thing about Nashville is that musically, it has a huge musical infrastructure, all the writers, guitar players, guitar repairmen, music shops, all that stuff, record companies, it’s all here.

LE:          Back to “Hot Love, Cold World,” that’s taken from the “French Kiss” album, you had a good run of successful albums around that time, and I’ve gotta ask you, “French Kiss” and “Three Hearts,” you had the whole “Ladies’ Man” thing going on on the front cover, was that your idea? Somebody elses? Own up, here!

BW:        Well, yeah, it was my idea and the way the “French Kiss” cover evolved was, the girl on the cover was the wife of Capitol Records’ promotion guy who I was good friends with, Michael Seibert, who’s no longer in the business, but her name was Ellie Seibert. And she was a model for Niemann Marcus at that time, and we were messing around, taking some pictures, and we got this one picture and it turned out so good, it became the cover. And then when “French Kiss” was a success, then I had the idea “well, let’s continue this, see how long we can do it.”

LE:          You had a whole persona going on there!

BW:        Oh yeah, it would have been fun if I had have… my plan was, you know, if we got real lucky I’d do one girl on “French Kiss,” two girls on “Three Hearts,” then three girls on the next album, four girls, keep it going til we can’t even fit them on the cover!

LE:          Until it becomes “Electric Ladyland” right?

BW:        Exactly! (laughs) Unfortunately we didn’t do that well but at least we got up to two girls. And I just thought it was funny. The two girls on the “Three Hearts” cover, the one girl is Mick’s ex-wife, the other girl’s a friend who was a model named Lindy who was from New Zealand. And they were both good friends of the band. So we were just going to keep it going, you know, and wind up with everybody’s mother and aunt and uncle on there, but, didn’t happen!

LE:          You had a few more solo albums into the early Eighties for Capitol, and a couple for RCA… what have you been up to since? We talked about you moving to Nashville, what have you been involved in over the last couple of decades?

BW:        Well, mostly songwriting, of course, I always do that, I did host the TV show “Hollywood Heartbeat,” and all that stuff, in the mid-80s, then I had a band called Avenue M for a while, which was my attempt to do a hard rock thing, a la Aerosmith, so I did that for a couple of years, then we moved to Nashville, I got heavily back into writing, some of my old stuff has been used in films a lot these days, like “Sentimental Lady” was in “About Schmidt,” and “Future Games” was in “Almost Famous”…

LE:          That was a nice surprise for me!

BW:        Yeah!

LE:          When I saw that movie I was just picking out song after song after song, and then all of a sudden yours popped up and I was like “wow, I like this film!”

BW:        It’s a cool movie! It really is, and I’ve also done quite a bit of writing with some Nashville writers just to see if I could do it, and I got some cuts on Kenny Rogers’ records, and a lot of film-use things, and then this thing came up about doing the re-dos a couple of years ago, and that’s kind of mainly what I’m doing now, and it looks like I’m going to do another volume of re-recordings, since this (current) one has done so well, and so believe it or not I’m going to re-do some Fleetwood Mac material that I was not associated with like, “what if I had stayed in the band and done this song” and stuff like that, so I’m gonna do some real off-the-wall stuff, it’s gonna be fun.

LE:          How’s your relationship with members of the Fleetwood Mac? Of course they’re out there touring behind their new album (“Say You Will”), I know you and the others had some rocky years in the Nineties, but you’ve kind of rebuilt the bridge so to speak, haven’t you?

BW:        Yeah, we’re all back on good terms, I mean, Wendy, my wife, and I went to see them when they played Nashville, whenever it was, six, eight months ago, and I saw and talked to Mick, saw Lindsey, didn’t see Stevie or John, they were off already, but we’re on great terms, and everything’s back fine, which is the way it should be.

LE:          That’s good to hear. We’re going to talk one more time about this new album, you have a lot of great cuts here, again we discussed how you re-recorded them with today’s technology, and at the end you put on one brand new song, tell us about the song “Like Rain.”

BW:        Yeah! Well, I am still writing new material for myself, although in between doing the re-recordings of older things, and I just thought it fit the flow and so did the guy at the record company, we thought, “well, this is a song that could have been on one of the old Fleetwood Mac or solo albums,” it fits, you know, sonically, everything else, subject matter.  It’s a love song, it’s keeping in my “Sentimental Lady” sound of sort of… whatever it is that I do, it fits, you know? So, we decided to put it on there just for the hell of it. A lot of people do like that song, so thanks for mentioning it.

LE:          Yeah, I was listening to it a little while ago and I almost thought you could have squeezed it on “Heroes are Hard to Find.”

BW:        Yeah! It really could be, so, it makes a nice home there, on the (new) album.

LE:          Well, we’ll let the people judge, we’re going to play “Like Rain,” and this is off the new CD, it’s in stores now, it’s “Bob Welch: His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond.” We’ll come back and wrap things up with Bob Welch after this, it’s Beyond and Before on Q106.

LE:          Beyond and Before on Q106, a brand new Bob Welch song from “Bob Welch: His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond,” a lot of Fleetwood Mac songs re-imagined, a lot from his solo career, but that one is brand new, and the song that wraps up the album. It’s called “Like Rain,” and it is available in stores on One Way Records, that’s the label, right?

BW:        Yeah, One Way Records.

LE:          We mentioned a little while ago that you’ve met up with Mick Fleetwood, you’ve caught the band live, are there any aspirations of you getting back on the road yourself, or getting up and jamming with Fleetwood Mac? You know, you go to all the fan sites and they’re all like “oh, if only Jeremy Spencer could get back with them, or Bob Welch, and just have a whole big family reunion,” do you see anything like that happening down the road?

BW:        Something like that will happen eventually. I don’t know under what circumstances or exactly when, because they’re still touring with the four-piece with Stevie and Lindsey, and doing very well, and I must say they’re playing their rear ends off, I mean, they’re just fabulous, you know. I mean, I was really impressed, they were great, especially considering everybody’s over fifty, too (laughs), they really kicked butt, I must say. But yeah, eventually, some type of reunion thing will probably happen, but I don’t know if I’ll ever go out and do… I might go out and do some dates, uhh, the thing is, it really takes a lot to get me out of the house, and get me doing one-nighters, you know. If there was a way, like in the old days if we could play for, like a month, at the same club, that would be perfect, so you didn’t have to go to a new city every night. That’s the part that I really, intensely dislike, the one-night thing.

LE:          It’s all about high turnover now.

BW:        Yeah, you know. But yeah, eventually there definitely will be some sort of Fleetwood Mac thing or other, and I may do a show here and there, I don’t know. Right at the moment I’m concentrating on finishing up some of these… I like what you said, “re-imagining.” Re-imagining my past, rewriting history (laughs).

LE:          Well, I like how it sounds!

BW:        Thank you, I appreciate it.

LE:          Let’s talk about your website, briefly. One thing that I think separates you from a lot of different artists is that your Bob Welch dot com is truly interactive, you actually get on there and answer questions from your fans.

BW:        Yeah, I try to! The one problem I’m having lately is somebody posts something, I try to answer as soon as possible, if you email me on the website, I gotta get a good spam filter, a better spam filter… I just say to anyone that’s listening, if you want to write me, please put something in the subject line that’s not like “Hi, hey,” you know, put something like “Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, Bob Welch, French Kiss,” something identifiable because there’s so much spam, it’s all “hey, hi, hey, ho,” you know?

LE:          Don’t offer to refinance your mortgage or anything.

BW:        You know, among what other things, let’s not talk about what else, you know, like, increase the size of your, uh, little finger…

LE:          (laughs)

BW:        … I mean, my God, but anyway, that’s all I have to say about that, but I do like to keep in touch, if somebody writes me something, and I feel like I can respond to it, I’ll definitely answer it. And it is me, it’s not an employee or somebody.

LE:          It’s not Bob Welch, the pitcher, reliving his 27 win season from 1990 or whatever.

BW:        No, although what a great he was, I met him once, it seemed like he was six feet taller than me!

LE:          A summit of Bob Welches.

BW:        Oh yeah, I mean, what a hell of a guy he was. Nice guy, too.

LE:          Well, you’ve proven to be a pretty nice guy yourself, Bob Welch, not the pitcher, but the musician… many, many years of great music, and it was great that you were able to come on and share some stories with us, and we’ll put out the reminder one more time… the new CD is “Bob Welch: His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond,” it is available in stores, you can order it on most of the internet sites from what I’ve seen, and of course you can always go to Bob Welch Dot Com, and don’t say “hey,” say “Bob Welch,” something or other in the subject line.

BW:        Yeah!

LE:          Thank you very much for joining us, Bob!

BW:        Leif, good to be here, nice talking with you, thanks so much to you.

LE:          And you have a good one. It’s Beyond and Before on Q106.

Daily* Deep Track: Spirit “Like A Rolling Stone”

If you know me well, you know one of the groups I’ve championed for years is Spirit, the eclectic California act that made four classic albums for Ode/Epic in the late 60s, culminating in their masterpiece “The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.” Sadly, Spirit is not one of the groups of the era that’s really translated down through the generations. Their sole Top 40 hit, “I Got A Line On You” has pretty much “demoed out” of classic rock radio playlists (in spite of my own professional efforts). Following “Sardonicus,” a major personnel shakeup occurred, a one-off new lineup recorded an album only to be followed by a complete dissolution, and then one last stint with a major label (Mercury) got the band back together in the mid-to-late 1970s with varying lineups.

Spirit hasn’t existed as a group since the mid 1990s, following the drowning death of guitarist/songwriter Randy California. Since then,  keyboardist John Locke and drummer Ed Cassidy have also passed, leaving only bassist Mark Andes and vocalist/songwriter Jay “Thunder Island” Ferguson as the surviving original members.   In fact, if Spirit is known for anything these days, it’s the band who’d dare drag Jimmy Page and Robert Plant into a courtroom (which they should have done years ago, but that’s a topic for another day.)

After diving head-first into their easily available 1968-1970 recordings, for a long time I never much bothered with anything Spirit recorded after “Sardonicus.” Years ago I did pick up 1972’s “Feedback,” their last Epic album, which sounded like a little like classic Spirit on some tracks, and Spirit after being locked in a room with nothing but Doobie Brothers albums on others. I really ought to give it a few more spins.spirit

One “wilderness years” track that I did get acquainted with was their cover of “Like a Rolling Stone.” The first time I heard it was in the summer of 2004, during the brief time I had a satellite radio receiver in my vehicle. I must have been listening to the late George Taylor Morris on the XM Deep Tracks channel, now that I think of it. I wasn’t aware at the time, but this recording was basically the centerpiece of an album I’ve really grown to appreciate, 1975’s “Spirit of ’76.” This was something of a reunion album for Randy California and Ed Cassidy, who recruited only a bass player named Barry Keane to round out the lineup.

I found a cheap copy of this double LP effort on vinyl last year, and though 70s Spirit has a reputation for being a bit all over the road, there’s a really unique psychedelic vibe to this album that none of the others have. Certainly that sort of sound was long out of fashion by 1975, and the album didn’t create a whole lot of new fans (and didn’t sell all that well). I gave this album a spin for the first time in a while over the weekend, and again today. There’s a lot of washy, phasey guitar, which is perfectly fine to my ears. The Spirit take of “Like A Rolling Stone” stretches the already long song by an extra couple of minutes, and it’s recast as a hazy, dreamy meditation. It seems to go well with warm, slightly muggy mornings, which we’re finally starting to experience here in Maine.

I’ll never tell you “Like A Rolling Stone” is the best recording by Spirit. As much as I like “Spirit of ’76,” it’s almost a different band when stacked up to the works that defined them. It’s still an intriguing listen all the same. And I’ll never tell you Spirit’s “Like A Rolling Stone” is the best Dylan cover, or even one of the 500 greatest Dylan covers, it’s become one of my favorites in recent years (stiffest competition being Kooper/Stills’ “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” and The Byrds’ “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”).

In any case, looking forward to those Led Zeppelin IV reissues that will have to attribute “Stairway” to Page/Plant/California. I like the looks of it.

Daily* Deep Track: Air “How Does It Make You Feel”

Four years ago, I walked into a gym for a first time. I felt out of shape and out of sorts and really felt that getting more fit would help my morale, not to mention help in my desire to run my first-ever 5K. I was making decent progress, ran my first couple of 5Ks, and then the inevitable happened: Winter, and my crazy double-duty work schedule.

Fast forward four years: I’ve run a few 5Ks, even two 10Ks, and in the past two years I’ve run those 10Ks mostly right “out of the box,” with minimal training and maximum willpower. Of course, it showed in the time: a few minutes over an hour each time. I really hope to shatter the one-hour barrier when I run the Beach to Beacon this August. After my poor showing at this past Saturday’s Hard Cider Run 5K in Portland (bad race, good Urban Farm Fermentory cider at the end), I knew it had to be done: I had to get back into a gym groove. Now, I could have been all dramatic, walking into the gym with my race bib and my cheesy “everyone gets a trophy” medal, plunking down my debit card, saying “hit me.” Nah, I gave it a couple of days, decided this is something I definitely want to do, and lo and behold, I’ve become a Planet Fitness lemming.

Today was my first time back in a gym in nearly two years. It was a “get a feel for it” workout, if anything. A little stretching, a little balance work, working with some small-ish weights for a while, and then getting a good half hour on the treadmill (okay, 23 minutes.) It was important to ease into things so that meant the earbuds had to have airsomething to suit that approach: I popped on Air’s 2001 “10000 Hz Legend” album.

It’s widely agreed that Air’s “Moon Safari” is their masterpiece; of all the Air albums I’ve listened to, I’d have to agree. I’d put “10000 Hz Legend” down as a close second. It came out in 2001, a year when, I didn’t find a whole lot of new music that excited me. “10000 Hz Legend” had plenty of those Air trademarks, washes of analog keyboards, vocoders, occasional guest vocalists and languid beats. Where “Moon Safari” truly floated, “10000 Hz Legend” has a slightly darker hue overall, with a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor, as evidenced on “How Does It Make You Feel.”

My mind often drifts back to the summer of 2001 when I hear “How Does It Make You Feel.” I barely lived paycheck to paycheck, and looking back, I enjoyed most every minute of it. It was my second full year in the radio business, I was the afternoon drive guy and music director at Q106 in Claremont, New Hampshire, and I had just launched my deep-cuts show called “Beyond and Before,” which lasted through my entire tenure at the station. I was driving a beat up old Oldsmobile. My sound system consisted of a Discman with a cassette-player adapter.  I didn’t have a mini-beer gut yet. Late that summer I fell in love like I had never done so before (that torrid romance lasted two months and change). I didn’t realize it at the time, but life was pretty good, and outside of figuring out which bill to pay which month, life was pretty footloose and fancy free. “10000 Hz Legend” was my chill-out album of choice that summer.

Would I go back given the chance? Nah. I prefer the sound system in (and reliability of) my new-ish Subaru over the whole Discman getup. I’m a bit wiser to most things. I make better facial hair decisions (usually). I’ve had enough tenure to get four weeks of vacation per annum. And I’d much rather listen to “10000 Hz Legend” on a treadmill in Portland, Maine than in a little leaky-ceiling shoebox apartment in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

SIGIHT (Song I’m Glad I Heard Today): The City, “Why Are You Leaving”

Carole King. The name instantly conjures up a couple of images. First and foremost, we think of the groundbreaking singer-songwriter that created “Tapestry,” one of the best-selling albums of all time. Secondly but no less importantly, we envision half of the Goffin-King songwriting team, one of the most successful writing partnerships in Twentieth Century pop music.

Mention the name Carole King around me, and I certainly associate the two obvious points above, but I very quickly reflect on The City. Oh, you’ve never heard of The City? Don’t feel bad. Few have. But once you’ve experienced The City, you’ll wonder how you missed out on it all these years.

I knew nothing of The City until one random day, poking around the old Borders store in my old haunt of West Lebanon, New Hampshire. You see, in the early 2000s, Borders had a fairly impressive music selection. Enough that I could grab a latte from the café, drink the whole thing, and still be sailing the seas of the CD racks an hour later, trying to narrow down what I was going to buy. One day, I happened to see a reissued album, filed in the “C” section. It had a vintage look, a shot of two men and a woman in front of an old car carcass with typical typography of a late 60s album cover. A closer look and I could clearly see the woman was Carole King.

The City posing in front of their tour bus, hence why they didn't play live
The City posing in front of their tour bus.  The Ode Records group soon broke up due to lack of gigs.

Like many millions who appreciate good music, I was already an owner of “Tapestry.” This was an intriguing find for me. A quick scan of the tracklisting revealed a number of familiar song titles: “Snow Queen,” “Hi-De-Ho,” and “I Wasn’t Born to Follow,” a song I knew very well from The Byrds “Notorious Byrd Brothers.” Purchasing this was a no-brainer, having never heard her own takes on these tunes.

The City was made up of King on piano, vocals and songsmithing, bassist Charles Larkey, future sideman-to-the-stars Danny Kortchmar on guitar, and future tragic figure Jim Gordon on drums. Lou Adler produced the album for his own Ode label. From the jazzy opening swells of “Snow Queen” to the leisurely longing of “Wasn’t Born to Follow,” I was hooked right away. Released in 1968, this was the Seventies Singer-Songwriter album before it was actually a thing. Yet as much as Carole King dominates the album, this is the work of a unified band, as well. Sadly, it never sold, apparently due to an untimely record label distribution switch (and failure to secure rights to said album), and a general reluctance to tour the album.

I gave this album a listen while tidying up the evening’s kitchen mess, and remembered especially how much I love the track “Why Are You Leaving.” The song’s breezy pathos is really quite striking; nothing on “Tapestry” sounds quite like this, even if songs like “It’s Too Late” covered similar emotional ground.

Good music knows no season, but I tend to gravitate toward my favorite singer-songwriters in the fall. I have a feeling this one’s going into rotation on my leaf-peeping adventures in the next month. Yeah, I’ll still bring a Hawkwind album with me. Lemmy likes crisp autumn days, too. Probably.

SIGIHT (Song I’m Glad I Heard Today) The Beach Boys “We Got Love”

I’ve seen Brian Wilson live. Fantastic show. I kind of want to see Mike Love’s Beach Boys just to compare, and I would have had I returned from my recent Seattle trip a day earlier (they just played Portland.) If I had my druthers, though, I’d travel back to 1973 to see them.

When the Beach Boys toured in support of their strong 1973 album “Holland,” they had quite a different look compared to just two years before. Brian, of course, hadn’t been on the road in years and participated minimally in the studio. Dennis Wilson wasn’t drumming thanks to a hand injury. Bruce Johnston had left the band in the midst of the preceding album “Carl and the Passions: So Tough.”

Dennis on the cover, but barely in the grooves of "Beach Boys In Concert"
Dennis on the cover, but barely in the grooves of “Beach Boys In Concert”

All of the above circumstances resulted in one of the more intriguing Beach Boys lineups in the history of the group, thanks to recruits Blondie Chaplin on guitar and vocals, and Ricky Fataar on drums and vocals. Chaplin, of course, was lead vocalist on one of the Boys’ most beloved tracks of the decade, “Sail On, Sailor.” Fataar co-wrote the fine album track “Leaving this Town” (and became a Rutle later in the decade).

“The Beach Boys In Concert” is one of my all-time favorite live albums. The band is tight, the harmonies are spot-on (but not TOO perfect), and the setlist is really strong, with plenty of focus on more recent works to balance out the “oldies but moldies.” In fact, five of the twenty songs are “Holland”-era tracks; four from the released album, and one track that was ultimately left off the LP.

We got Love, because he owns the name
We got Love, because he owns the name

If you’ve never heard “We Got Love,” well, don’t worry, it’s not a really bad Mike Love joke, even if he has a co-writing credit. This was just another fine moment from Chaplin and Fataar, featuring the latter on lead vocals. The song was originally recorded during the “Holland” sessions, but didn’t make the cut. They bring it to the stage on “In Concert” anyway, and the song is performed by the band with the same conviction and verve as long-standing classics like “Darlin’” and “Sloop John B.” This performance is emblematic of where the band was at the time: not resting on their laurels, still naturally evolving into the new decade, a group with a formidable past that still had something fresh to say. “We Got Love” really gives me a feel-good jolt because of what it represents.

Both “Holland” and “Beach Boys In Concert” enjoyed stronger sales than earlier Seventies releases, but this musical direction would soon come to a halt. Chaplin and later Fataar would leave the band, the 1974 cars/girls/surf-era “Endless Summer” compilation sold millions, and the classic Brian-Carl-Dennis-Al-Mike lineup would reunite and bring us the deliberately retro “15 Big Ones.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun album, but it’s decidedly an exercise in nostalgia, albeit with Brian’s hoarse voice popping up frequently.

The classic lineup had to get back together at some point, that much was inevitable. Still, I sometimes imagine what would have happened if Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar had hung around a few more years. We can only wonder…

SIGIHT (Song I’m Glad I Heard Today): Yes “The Revealing Science of God”

The passing earlier this summer of Yes founder Chris Squire has seemingly prompted me to dig into the Yes catalog quite often over the past couple of months. With Yes being my all-time favorite band, it’s not much of a stretch for me to go on week-long Yes binges anyway, but lately those binges have had a bit more profundity.

In particular, I’ve really been reconnecting with two albums in particular: 1973’s “Tales from Topographic Oceans” and 1974’s “Relayer,” which saw Squire, Jon Anderson, Steve Howe and Alan White create epic side-long pieces, with Rick Wakeman providing superlative keyboard work on the former and mid 70s stand-in Patrick Moraz on the latter.

The original vinyl "short version" at 20:27
The original vinyl “short version” at 20:27

Outside of the record-company disaster “Union,” the Yes-meets-Buggles affair “Drama” and the more recent Jon Anderson-less studio albums, “Tales from Topographic Oceans” stands as Yes’ most controversial recording. Very few artists have managed to issue a double album consisting of four twenty-minute tracks and gotten away with it (I suppose Lou Reed “got away with it” to some extent with his “Metal Machine Music,” an, um, far different approach to the sidelong suite).

The controversy not only lies in the piece’s excess even in the context of the bloated Seventies, but “Topographic Oceans” caused some rancor within the group, as well. Written mostly by Anderson and Howe, Wakeman famously spoke out against the album, claiming the admittedly great melodic ideas were padded out far too much to fill each album side. Wakeman has also gone on record to question Anderson’s understanding of the inspiration for the album: quite literally a footnote from Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” that briefly outlines the four shastras (certainly the Joe Strummers and John Lydons of the world took note and reacted musically in ensuing years). That and Wakeman’s burgeoning solo career were enough to prompt him to leave the group for three years following the “Topographic Oceans” tour.

Tales from Topographic Oceans may be my most purchased Yes album over the years. I first gave it a go at age 15-16, and bought it on tape (that and Pink Floyd’s not-on-CD “Relics” were my last legit album purchases on cassette). For a high school kid whose income was mostly derived from mowing lawns and pulling weeds, the cassette was far less expensive than the typical $25-$30 going price for a double album on CD at the time.

Eventually I got smart and joined the recently bankrupt Columbia House, and upgraded my copy to CD. Then, a decade later, the definitive Yes remasters were finally released, and you bet I upgraded there too. So, I’ve purchased this album three times, and more recently I snagged a vintage vinyl copy of it from a friend who had little use for it (thanks, Katrina!). So, four distinct acquisitions. Never mind that my favorite Yes album is “The Yes Album,” but that’s a story for another day.

Of the four selections on the album, the two that seem to escape the worst criticism are the first and last tracks, “The Revealing Science of God—Dance of the Dawn” and “Ritual–Nous Sommes Du Soleil.” (Side two, “The Remembering—High The Memory” features some beautiful passages that take forever to get off the ground, and side three, “The Ancient—Giants Under the Sun” is a tough pill to swallow for all but the most dedicated Yes fans).

I’m quite divided over whether my favorite “Topographic Oceans” track is side one or side four. Both have always seemed far more well thought out than sides two and three. “Ritual,” routinely the track represented on live collections and box sets, develops nicely and climaxes with a weird tribal percussion freak-out before wistfully fading into the sunset. “The Revealing Science of God” contains all the great Yes elements: their trademark vocal harmonies, Howe’s otherworldly guitar lines, Anderson’s cosmic word-painting, Squire’s thunky-but-not-clunky bass, and even some truly sublime Mellotron washes from malcontent Wakeman. As a hardcore Yes fan, I can only imagine the exhilaration of hearing them intro this song at their famed San Luis Obispo concerts of 1996, the first time this lineup of Yes had performed live since 1979, and certainly the first time in over 20 years they had performed this piece live.

The book that indirectly created punk
The book that indirectly created punk

This track (and album) were in heavy rotation for me on my recent Seattle trip. It was enough to quell the anxiety of sitting on the stalled-in-York-toll-Sunday-tourist traffic bus to the airport, and was truly a pleasant listen at 35,000 feet when only clouds were visible below. “The Revealing Science of God” also gets partial credit/blame for my impulse buy of “Autobiography of a Yogi” at a Bainbridge Island bookshop during the trip (that and my gently developing interest in Eastern ways of thought).

Is “The Revealing Science of God” and “Topographic Oceans” the place to start for Yes? Absolutely not. Always start with the Holy Trinity of “The Yes Album,” “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge,” in that order. It may not be their greatest work, but ultimately it’s one of their most satisfying given the true effort the listener must take to let the piece flow into you.

That said, think I’m going to listen to The Dictators’ debut album now.