Summary: What does it take to maintain a career in music? We track down members of bands that flirted with stardom and find out what their lives are like now. How did it feel to get that first big break? What was fame like at its peak? What was the transition back into normal life like? And what have you been doing since?
As is our tradition, in the wake of the shocking death of Tom Petty we bring back our resident Dr. Death - Steve Spears of the Stuck in the 80s podcast to make sense of it all.
In the 80s bassist Matthew Seligman was a part of some of the best alternative music coming out of England. Within the span of just a few months he managed to join the Soft Boys near the end of their run and Thompson Twins near the beginning of theirs. And shortly thereafter he forged longstanding partnerships with Robyn Hitchcock and especially Thomas Dolby, contributing to the excellent music they were producing during that decade. While this was happening, his expertise served additional artists ranging from Morrissey and Peter Murphy to the Waterboys and Transvision Vamp. He even performed with Bowie at Live Aid. As the 90s wore on, Matthew decided to turn his attention to the law and he is now a barrister in London. We discuss some of his biggest collaborations, some of the personalities involved, and his decision to leave music.
Anyone over the age of 40 probably grew up watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood where we learned valuable life lesson's, visited the Land of Make Believe, and interacted with his cast of characters like Mr. McFeely, Lady Aberlin, Chef Brockett and, of course, Joe "Handyman" Negri. What you may not know is that Joe is a highly-respected jazz guitarist in the mold of Django Reinhardt and at 91 years old, continues to perform and collaborate with jazz luminaries like Michael Feinstein. We didn't have much time, but I wanted to get to know him better and learn about what life was like in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, his musical career, and his time in education. http://joenegri.com/
Prior to being the drummer of the legendary Surf Punks, Dennis Dragon earned his bona fides co-producing a little song his brother Daryl was working on with his wife, Toni. Well, that tune became "Love Will Keep Us Together" and Daryl and Toni became the Captain and Tennille. The success from that song propelled him to a long career in production and audio-engineering, but along the way he befriended Drew Steel and the two started the Surf Punks almost as a lark. Their 1980 debut album My Beach became an underground benchmark for teenage boys everywhere. Sadly, we learned the morning this episode is being released, that Dennis passed away on Sept 25th, two months after this interview took place. You'll hear that he was as lively and nutty as ever with no signs of poor health. As of today, the cause of death has not been released. We are glad we did our small part in honoring him before he left us. http://www.dennisdragon.com https://www.facebook.com/Surf-Punks-The-Band-115696401918109/
Nelson basically owned 1990 and '91. But, despite having four top 40 hits and selling five million copies of their debut album After The Rain, the Nelson twins, Matthew and Gunnar, couldn't get a follow up released for five years and by then tastes had changed and the moment had passed. Still, the brothers have carried on entertaining crowds playing their own music, doing Christmas concerts, and even performances showcasing their famous dad Rick's material. They've never gone away, show business is in their blood after all. Today, After the Rain will be re-released on vinyl, making those songs rife for rediscovery. Matthew discusses how their careers were affected by grunge, how the image overwhelmed their talent at times, and what the plans are for the near future. He's a total pro! http://www.matthewandgunnarnelson.com/
Everyone remembers Kiki Dee for her #1 duet with Elton John, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" from 1976. But, did you know she is approaching 55 years in the music business? After starting out as a teenager with singers like Dusty Springfield, she "rocketed" to stardom when she was signed to Elton's Rocket Records in the early 70s (after a stint at Motown) and eventually topped the charts. Though there have been ups and downs, she's stayed at it all these years. For the last several years she's been collaborating with musician Carmelo Luggeri on a string of soulful albums that incorporate more global textures. She's a sweet lady that doesn't do a lot of interviews, so we're especially lucky to have her! http://www.kikiandcarmelo.com/kiki-dee/
After bursting out in the early 80s with one of the greatest debuts in modern rock history, and, thus, rock critics falling all over him as the next big thing, Marshall Crenshaw has settled into a career as a sort of highly respected cult artist. He may not be the household name his fans think he deserves to be, but he's forged a steady career playing by his own rules and gaining mounds of street cred in the process. Here we talk about the decision to work with producer Steve Lilywhite on his second album Field Day (which has just been remastered and reissued on vinyl), the tensions between him and Warner Bros., the movies he's worked on like La Bamba and Walk Hard, and some of his collaborators (Gin Blossoms, Was (Not Was), Smithereens). It is not a stretch to say that Crenshaw is one of the greatest songwriters of the modern era and a true national treasure. http://marshallcrenshaw.com/
The Sighs were an excellent power pop/rock band in the early 90s with a ton of promise. They released a stellar debut album, What Goes On, in 1992 that was produced by the great Ed Stasium and were starting to get some traction, but ultimately fell victim to almost every pitfall on the "shoulda been" checklist - label was sold, no marketing, poor distribution, internal label politics, etc. Frontman Robert LaRoche has continued to soldier on undaunted, despite it never being easy. Today, he's primarily a sideman for singer Patricia Vonne and does some solo stuff on the side, as well as other odd jobs when necessary. But, these are good days for him and Sighs fans as they just released their 3rd album last week, Wait On Another Day, which deserves to be heard. Robert gives great interview - self-aware, funny stories and talented. Also, we talk to one of our listeners in Houston who presents an idea on how to provide some relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey. https://open.spotify.com/user/129134325/playlist/7cZZiwboEVMB1ObhaPb5vM http://www.thesighsmusic.com/ http://robertlarochemusic.com/
Jon was honored to host this panel at the Rock n Pod Expo with four amazing songwriters. Former guests Walter Egan (ep 23) and Robert White Johnson (ep 27), joined future guests Gunnar Nelson and Anthony Corder of Tora Tora each providing a unique glimpse into their individual processes, the stories behind some of their biggest hits, and the influential and big-name collaborators they've worked with over the years. I wish the sound quality was better, but it's still a fascinating historical document of four talented artists.
The story on Oleta Adams is that she was discovered playing piano in a Kansas City hotel bar by the guys from Tears For Fears, who then brought her in to sing on their 1989 album The Seeds of Love, thus launching her stellar solo career. As you'll find from our conversation, it wasn't exactly that simple. Oleta had been toiling away for over a decade on the hotel entertainment circuit before Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith followed through on the promises many before them had made and broken. She did break big duetting on their hit "Woman in Chains" before nailing her own solo hit "Get Here" in 1991. Since then Oleta has had a steady solo career, but despite her success she's never ventured far from her roots. At the end of the day, success has really just given her the freedom to be herself. She also put out a new album this year called Third Set which harkens back to her roots. She still sounds amazing! http://oletaadams.com/
Now that the smoke has cleared and most people were fine with what I said, I'll go ahead and put this out even though most of you have heard it by this point. This is the original version, maybe slightly more unfiltered than what came out in the revised version. My only regret is that I forgot to mention a couple of our beautiful fans I got to meet there. Love you guys. I corrected it in the second version, but let's let this original recording be the one that remains.
Russ Ballard is one of the most successful songwriters of the rock era. Artists from Ace Frehley to America have scored with tunes written by the man. Russ has also shepherded a successful solo career which, oddly, never took off quite as strongly as the success others were having recording those same songs. We talk about why that might be as well as his days in Argent and earlier, what makes a good pop song, and we get insight into some of the people he's worked with after over 50 years in the business! He also has some genius career advice for Roger Daltrey. You'll be blown away by how many hits he's responsible for and how diverse his style is! https://www.facebook.com/RussBallardMusicOfficial/
These days, Gary Corbett may be best known for his time in Cinderella and as the touring keyboard player with Kiss. What everyone may not know is that he actually comes from a pop background. He started out in the new wave band Tom Dickie and the Desires, but his first brush with success was when Cyndi Lauper recorded a little song he co-wrote called "She Bop". That tune went on to be a huge hit and his career has been building ever since. This led to working with artists like Debbie Gibson and the great Lou Gramm and even some of the Marleys! He's seen a lot and had a wide-ranging career and he was kind enough to let us talk to him live at the Rock n Pod Expo.
John Parr was one of the most promising artists of the 80s. He broke out in 1984 with the decent-sized hit "Naughty Naughty" (#23), but then he hit the jackpot when his theme for the movie St. Elmo's Fire, "Man In Motion", topped the charts in 1985. This should have launched him into the stratosphere with other heavyweights like Bryan Adams and Eddie Money, but it didn't. Once again, label politics stifled what should have been a big career. John did carry on for a few more years, recording several more movie themes along the way (Running Man, Three Men and a Baby, American Anthem, Quicksilver), but wasn't given the support he deserved. Ultimately, he's had the last laugh though, as "Man In Motion" has never gone away and he's very active on the 80s tour circuit. He's a wonderful man who's been though a lot and come out the other end victorious. Plus, you'll remember how much fun his music is. Enjoy! http://www.johnparr.net/
We go in a slightly different direction with this week's guest, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Senior Pop Editor at Allmusic! "Tom" has been with the publication since the beginning making him one of the most frequently read music critics in the world. We break this conversation into three parts - 1) how does Allmusic work, 2) the current state of music criticism, and 3) our personal bests and worsts. We also play a handful of his favorite songs. It's a fascinating look at a writer whose name is to music criticism what Leonard Maltin or Roger Ebert are to movies. You'll want to have a notebook handy for this one!