Billy Walker

ARTICLE ABOUT Bad Company FROM SOUNDS, November 9, 1974

Sorry about the delay of this post. Work and private commitments have taken up too much of my time lately, but I hope things will be in regular order soon. So here`s one with Paul Rodgers at the time when Bad Company ruled the world. Hope you like it!

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Bad Company: work`s a four letter word

Billy Walker talks to Paul Rodgers, a few short weeks before the band`s second British tour and finds his old acquaintance more full of get up and go than he`s been for a long, long time.

It`s fitting that Paul Rodgers, PR to his friends, should be so called. Why? Because Bad Company couldn`t ask for a better public relations man than Rodgers, a guy that sells his band and its wares with every sentence he utters.
Things are of course very bouyant for Bad Co. at the moment what with all the fuss that`s been made of them both here and in the States and Rodgers reflects this with a new found ease and confidence.
Paul`s always been a lively if somewhat meandering interviewee (or is it my deadly dull questions?), slowly but surely warming to the task. His answers grow more thoughtful and expansive as time wears on and on this occasion this new found assurance keeps the rugged Rodgers` features regularly creased with smiles and croaking laughs.
Little quips like: “Yeah, but I`d better not say `ad I in case somebody else pinches it”, when dutifully asked the working title for Bad Company`s new album that`s nearing completion. Canny dudes these Northerners.
But Paul is ready to divulge that the album is in fact well under way and that, God willing, will be through by the weekend. There`ll be eight or nine tracks on this one and final details should be available when the final mixes and a few overdubs are completed.
“Si`s got a couple of tracks on this one which have turned out really nice.” Rodgers reports, but what about the deeper aspects of it, same writing team, a move forward hopefully?
“It`s pretty much as it was before, Mick and I write a few and we have our own… I think its er, I hate to say it, but I think it`s a natural development. (First knowing smile of the day.) Well, the American tour`s done us a lot of good because a couple of the numbers we`ve got on it we`ve been doing on stage so they`re nicely broken in, y`know.
“I think it`s, it`s fantastic,” Paul adds with a wild guffaw.

He does seriously feel though that this album comes a little closer to the band`s real potential and is eager to confirm that the creative juices are flowing at the oddest times. Songs were coming together from nothing in the studios and Rodgers feels that Bad Company is still only in its initial stages of development.
Some critics, myself included, felt that while their debut album was good it tended to play it safe a bit, would it be difficult to fight against the same tendency? “We probably will do what we were doing before because we know it`s right but not completely, not to the extent of doing exactly what we`ve already done.
“We didn`t fall into anything like that in the States because we were still supporting so there wasn`t really a chance to rest on our laurels and there`s also too much happening in the band to wanna do that. There`s too much we want to do, there`s not the time to sit around thinking `that`s it`, we`re too involved with the progress of the thing, the way it`s rolling on.”
The band used Jimmy Horowitz to do the strings for one of Simon Kirke`s numbers on the album, but wasn`t this a slight departure from what Bad Co. fans might expect? “Yeah, yeah I don`t think we`re attempting to do what people expect from us exactly.
“I think to a certain extent it`s what you`d expect and to a certain extent it moves away from that sharply, especially the strings, I think they`re going to surprise a few people actually.”
The driving enthusiasm that Rodgers shows nowadays is underlined by the number of times `work` comes into the conversation. There`s no looking for time off, no wanting wuick two month breaks in the Bahamas, it`s all work, talk, thought and expression. So the American tour seemed like a fruitful avenue to explore.
“Well, it was a very hard tour because we were working all the time, but it was good for us, we needed to do that to get to know each other and the playing improved from gig to gig, got more and more exciting. It`s the best tour I`ve ever done.
“It`s hard to know what to attribute it to, I think the music`s straightforward and simple and there`s not a lotta bands doing that, but I do think we have a certain kind of chemistry, you know the spirit of the band and it comes over to the audience.”

Rodgers is quick to admit that he has learnt a lot musically from fellow Bad Company Boz and Mick Ralphs, saying:
“I don`t know that much about music myself, I just guess most of the time.” and continues this blaze of modesty by saying that they knew that they had to go out for this tour of the States without any headlining dates in order to get the ball rolling. But US audiences do vary.
“The thing I like is that the general attitude to music in the States is looser, more tolerant to what you do, but basically I think it`s down to the fact that they`re bigger, the audiences are that much bigger therefore you have to do that much more to get it over.” Change your act maybe?
“You adjust to it yeah, you don`t compare, don`t say `we do this in Britain so we`ll do…`but we just lose a slow number, put in a fast one or whatever`s necessary. I think you have to be a little more raucous over there, you don`t have to be anything but to get it over you have to be a bit… say, louder, bit more forceful.
“I think American audiences like to be slightly dominated and some groups really wipe `em out, but I don`t mean that, I mean to involve them at the same time.
Tour No. 2 for Britain comes in a few weeks and there won`t be any drastic changes in the material Bad Co. offer the fans, it`ll be a combination of stuff from the old album and some fresh toons too. The likelihood of a longer set than we saw last time is on the cards too, with the new material and this closer working relationship nothing, if Rodgers` mood is read correctly, will halt Bad Co`s progress.
Still on the subject of work, Paul feels certain that the prospects of any solo venture are fast retreating, if not already disappeared since the band`s take off, “it`s all going into this band, I just don`t think it`s necessary”, he says and with the future plans including tours of Europe and Australia/Japan in the offing, looks like he could be right.
One of the main factors to the continual disharmony and final split of Paul`s former band Free was that the egos involved tended to stifle talents and encourage side-taking in the various warring factions. He`s obviously a lot happier now. Are there less ego problems within the ranks of Bad Company?

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“I think we`ve all gained a lot of experience in the past four or five years and all of that`s going into the band now. When you have four people together you always have, slight ego problems because that`s a lot of the drive of a musician anyway. But there`s no problems that way.”
But Rodgers can understand `one man` band set-ups for all the hassles of the past:
“I can see that working but not in a band that I`m in because I never know exactly what I want anyway. I think to do that, you have to know what you want note for note and be prepared to enforce that, but I don`t think you get a real group feel that way.
“You all have to be part of the music, feel that you`ve contributed an equal part to it and that`s the way you get a really good band feel. When I write a song it`s really basic, the only thing I have together is the tune and the words and perhaps the beat, what everyone actually plays is down to the individual themselves, there`s no sense of `you gotta do it this way`.”
So Paul needs the strength of a band behind him, a kick up the arse? “I need to have a lot of balls and drive behind me to get me going because I`m a bit of a miserable sod really”, a slight smile showing the ever present broken front tooth, “and I get that a lot, especially from Mick who`s really dynamite on guitar, he`s developing all the time.”
And the compliments flow on, Bad Company and its existence filling Rodgers` every thought like how it feels to have `finally` made it – “being there for me means being in the band making music that is satisfying, the fact that it is also successful is a boost, so that is great. It`s a confident feeling within the band as well and I really like it.”
Does he think of success in terms of pound notes? No, no. Obviously it`s nice to earn money for what you do but that isn`t the motive behind what we`re doing at all. We don`t weigh it up in terms of X amount of dollars, we just make the album and do the best we can.”

But what of Rodgers himself, has he managed to retain his creative spark over the turbulent years of Free and into Bad Company, is the drive still very much alive within him?
“Well, I`ve always been like that for as long as I can remember. I`ve always wanted to make it and I`ve always wanted to take a look at things, try and understand them and try and put them into a song, I haven`t really thought about trying to maintain it, I just do it.
“I go around thinking about things and they pop out of my head in the form of a song. I`m quite an intense person anyway, I do too much thinking actually, I have to work things out all the time because I`m a little bit thick,” time for another foxy, bearded grin, “If I feel something quite strongly I like to put it into music.
“Yes, I suppose it is an escape, the realities are a bit of a drag I find. It`s nice if you take an audience out of itself while you`re on stage, they can forget the oil crisis or whatever… and you can yourself.”
With Bad Company obviously looking to join their stable companions Led Zeppelin in the elite rock and roll ratings the likelihood of higher ticket prices, through rising prices, cost of transportation etc, could Paul see a time when the fans will have to shell out around £5-7 (£57.50 – 80.50 in 2018 – Blog Ed.) to get into a gig?
`I think when you get that big you`re into different realms, it`s a different level to the one I think on. I`m not that conscious of how much people have paid to see the band I don`t go out and think `they`ve paid a couple of quid to see us` because I would do my best whether they`d paid three bob or three quid.
“When you get to the point of charging 6 or 7 quid I don`t know what to say about that, it`s really big business as far as I`m concerned. I suppose some people have the attitude. `If you can get that much, go get it`, I don`t exactly think it`s very moral.”
Onto the ever present question of glitter and as, by their own admission, the band`s first debut album was a put down of the glittery side of the biz, Paul`s general feeling that the more basic, soulful forms of music are fast returning, the days of the funky bands could be returning, not necessarily at the expense of other forms of music but as well as.
“I find that most stuff in the charts for me doesn`t have any bottom to it, it just misses me, it doesn`t get me off. I think there`s a lack of groups around like Joe Cocker, Cream and Jimi Hendrix – it was creative but it was also commercial, but at the same time very soulful. There`s a slight lack of soulful feeling at the moment.

“I think there`s both ends (glitter and the `Tubular Bells` brigade) but there`s no middle, no substantial, solid music… very little anyway.” But perhaps glitter and the showmanship angles were a natural reaction after the straight, `go out and play-nothing else matters` approach?
“Well, that`s the other end of the extreme, I don`t think you should purposely go out looking like you`re skint, like shitty jeans… although I like shitty jeans, I feel more relaxed – but on stage I think the audience like to think you`ve made an effort and if I go and see a group I want them to look good as well as sound good.”
Not surprisingly the theme of work returns to its ever important position, it`s so natural for Paul to be thinking about it now that it seems a shame to curtail the flow. Honouring both sides of the Atlantic`s expectations seems a daunting task, but not if you`re in BC.
“We will do a lotta work because we want to. I love Britain, we all love Britain that`s why we did our first tour here and Britain gave us a lot of confidence. Whether or not we made it bigger in the States doesn`t matter too much, without the confidence we got here we wouldn`t have gone to the States in a conquering mood, so it works both ways.
“Coming back to Britain from America we feel ready to really play here again, the two balance each other out. It`s important to make it in our own country, not from a financial point of view, it`s just a nice feeling, like your home town sort of thing.
`At the moment how it works is we have a steady output, like a working capacity, we have lots of energy and just keep moving all the time and doing things. We would hate to have any kind of layoff at the moment because we go from one thing to another album, British tour, American tour, album, British tour – it just rolls, we`re not getting bogged down by working too much.”
But how about the delicate balance of over kill or under kill, isn`t it a real danger for the band? “You need a bit of both, you can over expose yourself and you can do the opposite too, just slip from the public`s eye and people forget you or you get less exciting. It`s just a matter of timing, we just keep a steady output of work, which is what we love to do and try and keep people happy.”
Finally Rodgers freely admits to living from day to day, taking things as they come and not looking beyond the bounds of his current, almost idyllic situation with the band. Things, he feels, start to go wrong when those thoughts start to rumble a bit but doesn`t he ever wonder what his next band will be like?
“I have done up to this point, yeah, this is the band that I`ve been wondering about…

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ken Boothe, Van Morrison, Pete Brown, Roger Glover, Pink Floyd, David Puttnam, Mott The Hoople, George Harrison, Phil Spector, Thin Lizzy, Janis Ian, Elton John.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Paul Kossoff FROM SOUNDS, November 17, 1973

These articles with interviews done with people that died long before their time takes on even more importance today. These articles, some videos and the music is what remains. There will be no more of either. I hope you appreciate this one, and that you, like me, feel what an absolute tragedy it is that Kossoff and all those other people that did go to soon, never got the chance to share their talents with us for a longer time.

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Koss – birth of a new concept

feature by Billy Walker

First out of the Free ruck is that diminutive demon of electric guitar Paul Kossoff with a new album, “Back Street Crawler”, and an overwhelming urge to get himself back on stage and playing to the people. But, as is always the case, finding the right set of musicians to work with is causing a little more problematical than the release of any album.

“Crawler” is a step towards the concept that Koss has been working on for some time now, but by no means expresses his ideas fully. It`s not an entirely “new” album either, in as much as some of the tracks have been around for about a year and therefore can`t possibly be the total expression of the concept:
“It`s like a set of things picked out from various time periods and put together,” Koss mused relaxing in a swivel chair in SOUNDS` office. “But I think it`s a bit like a skeleton, it`s touching on things to come. People seem to like it, which makes me feel really good.”
The once closely shorn Kossoff mane was back to full, flowing regence and that almost evil twinkle flashes through his eyes as before, Koss is looking better than he has for a long time and if “Crawler” is a success and the band manages to come together without too many hassles it could mean that we`ll hear him back at his best before long.
Nine years spent studying classical guitar has held Koss in good stead from many aspects but his first exposure to anything outside those confines came when he visited a club that had Mayall`s Bluesbreakers topping the bill:
“I`d stopped playing classical guitar for a while and wasn`t doing anything but then I saw Clapton.
“I couldn`t understand that sound, it was very new to me as it was to everyone else, and that`s what started me off playing again. But being a bit lazy I never sat down and copied note for note anything anyone ever did.”

But Koss has never denied the indelible impression Clapton`s playing had upon him and also that of Hendrix. In fact Hendrix more than anyone played a big part in Paul`s life, both musically and emotionally: “I went through a really weird stage, drugs and shit, and Hendrix was so in my mind all of the time and I played nothing but his records.
“I felt that I understood him and what he was doing so totally. Some of his things were very, very wild and wound up and people thought it was just freak-outs and a big noise, whereas I found out there was a meaning and idea and concept behind what he was doing.
“His songs were very emotional, very wide open and spacey, and at the same time being vulnerable and without protection he would die, and he did.” But had any of Jimi`s style or feel rubbed off on Koss? “Yeah, the depth maybe of human emotion and feelings that can be expressed in one form or another.
“It inspired me as well as took away any pre-ego about whether I was a good guitarist in what I did and made me want to better myself.” But apart from being emotionally effected by Hendrix guitar playing Koss was also forming his own forms and expressions at this time.
“The concept I have is one of an arc of sound, to try and pull out of people emotions and out of myself, aggressive, tender, soft. All the emotions are very human, they`re there and a lot of the time they`re very inhibited, especially with an audience and a lot of times in the playing, depending on the state of the player, his state of mind.
“But there`s nothing I want more than to be on the road with a good package to put over these thoughts, to get a good reaction…”

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“Time Away” from the new album in part expresses this new idea that Koss is concerned with and loves to work, in the studio or out of it, with musicians that fit tightly. “Something like that (“Time Away”) just came together, I just visited John Martyn at a session and we did it. The way I was playing on that track is the way I like to express myself, I think it`s a good example, it`s a very bluesy track and just drifts.
“I very much like the movement of musicians when there is an understanding – jam is a very overused word. When you get something that is being played off the cuff, maybe something very fast, really it`s moving in slow waves of communication, rising and falling, getting into different moods, I like that very much. I also like gigging songwriting – the actual vocal expression of it, the way to present it.”
But the opposite can also be true, working with people that Koss can`t relate to can be a real disaster. “I love to record with the right people, I hate to record with the wrong people, it`s a nightmare I have to go out and leave it. But my best playing I suppose has been on things that have been very loose, but I love to play on stage, it`s really what I want to do above all.”
And with Koss ready again to express himself on stage the question once again comes back to forming a band, and the chance of having to compare these musicians with those in Free. And what of the pressures of keeping a working unit together on the road?
“I`m older and wiser and I`ve learnt a lot about people, music and other musicians. Whereas when I was with Free I knew nothing about other musicians and the way they worked. As far as finding a singer, to me there`s no one that can sing like Paul Rodgers, and I`m so used to playing with him and around him and interchanging and all that.
“Obviously I`d have to get used to a new singer but I can`t think of anyone that is emotionally of such depth and technically good. I think there are people with great voices that I would love to play with but it would be a whole new thing for me which I realise and understand, willing to accept that they do not have that depth of thought behind the intonation.”

EMOTIONS

And that`s exactly what “Back Street Crawler” has in great depth – feeling. It runs through a great assortment of emotions and Kossoff`s playing varies from the quite tightness of “Crawler” to the more loose and floating dreaminess of “Time Away”, changes in style and emotions but who does Koss really admire, in the guitar field that`s working today?
Nobody except Townshend, I love Townshend from about every angle, his playing and the great variety of mood he gets. I admire his togetherness to hold a band like the Who together, which I think he does, his performance overall, visually and musically, at the same time being perfect.”
I`ve said it many times before, and after hearing “Back Street Crawler” I see no reason to change my mind, that Koss had, and still has, the magic and musicianship to be a really outstanding British guitarist. You can`t compare one musician with another like branded beers but Koss hasn`t really been given the benefit of a good listen to by the general public.
Sure, Free fans and a few on the perifery know about him and what he can do on top form but they also remember the off nights. But lurking within Koss` tiny frame is a great flood of emotionally charged music that when the full concept is realised Paul could be mentioned in the same breath as Clapton, Page and Beck, and of course he is by some of us already.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Nils Lofgren, John Lennon, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Lane, Alice Cooper, Carlos Santana, Average White Band, Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin, Magna Carta.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Slade FROM SOUNDS, November 25, 1972

A nice album review from one of the most popular rock bands ever coming from the UK. Enjoy!

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Album review:

Slade: “Slayed?”
(Polydor 2383 163).

By Billy Walker

You can`t help but luv dear ol` Slade for just being themselves, no frills, just down to earth rock and rollers in it for the birds, booze, money and love of it all. They make good music, despite those who feel they`re just a good show and nothing else, and “Slayed?” has everything you`d expect; very few surprises but music that`ll get you up and jumpin` if you`re within a four to seventy four year old age group. “How Do You Ride” gets the boys off and kicking with a great Stones feel to the opening which rolls along within the number, Jimmy Lea gets some barrell house piano going in “The Whole World`s Goin` Crazee”, which is another great rock and roller, and the most obvious thing about the album is proof that Dave Hill`s a far better guitarist than you`d imagine and that Lea, along with Noddy Holder, writes some surprising lyrics. “Look At Last Nite”, “I Won`t Let It `Appen Agen” show this aspect of the band, but it`s numbers like Janis Joplin`s “Move Over”, played with complete confidence and understanding, and “Gudbuy T`Jane” that show what Slade`s about, their toughness and drive with “Jane” keeping up the very high standard of single releases they`ve set. “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” is included and “Gudbuy Gudbuy” flashes in like something from the Beatles` “Magical Mystery Tour” and then settles into a more Sladish theme, although Nod`s vocals here sound remarkably like John Lennon. No messin` from the boys here, a real nice rocker from Nod, Dave, Jimmy and Don. Long liv Slade.

Slade

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Frankie Miller, Wishbone Ash, Steve Took, Edgar Broughton, Rod Stewart, Don McLean, Harry Chapin, Hookfoot, Lou Reizner, Allman Brothers, The organisers of the Isle of Wight Festival, Roy Harper, Gladys Knight, Tight Like That, Gentle Giant.

This issue is sold!

ARTICLE ABOUT Led Zeppelin FROM SOUNDS, November 20, 1971

A quick one that I just needed to share with you. The review of Led Zeppelin`s legendary “4” album or the “Four Symbols” album as it is also called. Did the reviewer like it? Read and find out.

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Led Zeppelin`s best of both worlds

Led Zeppelin (Atlantic 240 1012).

By Billy Walker

Side one of this, Zeppelin`s fourth album, contains perhaps the band`s best recorded material to date. For me it smashes everything Zeppelin have done before into the ground, it`s more innovative and driving than “Black Mountain Side”, “Whole Lotta Love”, “Heart Breaker” or “Gallows Pole”. The last album was a very positive move away from what we`d come to expect from the band, but this one gives you the best of both worlds – the excitement of the rock and rolling Zeppelin, and the beauty of the acoustical side which they are more and more into.
“Old Style Zep” is represented by the opening track “Black Dog”, Bonham crashing and exploding around his drum kit, while Page and Paul Jones lay down the added drive which prods and pushes Plant into those lung-splitting screeches. To cap it all they`ve included some thrusting breaks between his vocals which typified a lot of their earlier work. “Rock And Roll” continues the pace but “The Battle Of Evermore” completely breaks the spell. Sandy Denny joins Robert in a really fine song, the band play around it delicately. Plant comes out of it very well, using much more control and poise than most people would give him credit for.
But just when you begin to feel that the best must have gone, they move into “Stairway To Heaven”, the best track on the album, which opens slowly – building in speed verse by verse. The lyrics and musicianship are really beautiful and it`s Bonham that really starts to move it into an up-tempo tune, kicking it along until the final verse, when Jimmy Page takes an electric guitar solo, showing the verve and flair we know he possesses but it`s Plant`s powering, bludgeoning vocals that finally see the track out.
Side two, whilst not up to the same standard, contains “Going To California” (a slowish acoustic tune with Plant doing country vocals) and “When The Levee Breaks” and two other tracks, but despite “Levee`s” punch and commanding strength there`s a strong urge to quickly get back to the first side again.

Led zep

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ray Charles, Marc Bolan, Bell & Arc, Ornette Coleman, Rory Gallagher, The Who, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Mr. Fox, Mountain.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Felix Pappalardi (Mountain) FROM SOUNDS, November 20, 1971

This interview can be difficult to read because of the lack of punctuation. But it is still an important article that I wanted to share because of Mr. Pappalardi`s early demise. Killed by his wife, Gail, in 1983, with a derringer he had given her as a gift a few months previously.
In later years, Pappalardi became known for his non-musical proclivities, which included the usual chemical experiments as well as an open marriage with Collins. Her jealousy of one particular mistress reportedly led to the argument that ended in his death, although Collins maintained that she’d shot Pappalardi accidentally while taking a firearms training session. The fact that it happened at 6:00AM didn’t dissuade jurors from handing in a surprising verdict, convicting her of criminally negligent homicide rather than murder.
Pappalardi was an American music producer, songwriter, vocalist, and bassist. He is best known to the public as the bassist and vocalist of the band Mountain, but he also produced several well-known artists, among them were Cream.
An important figure in the early rock music history, this article deserves to be found on the internet.
Have a good read.

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In the talk-in

Along with guitarist Leslie West, Felix founded Mountain back in 1969. Best known for his work with Cream, bass player / producer / arranger Pappalardi has been involved with Tim Hardin, Tom Paxton, John Sebastian, Youngbloods, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Rush and many more artists, but is now totally committed to Mountain and its welfare. He lives, with his wife Gail Collins, on the island of Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts, which was once the centre of America`s whaling industry. The island and it`s traditions play a great part in his life and inspired the band`s last album “Nantucket Sleighride”. Mountain`s new album, released this week, is titled “Flower Of Evil”.

Interview: Billy Walker Picture: Spud Murphy

When did you first start producing?

In `63/4, I started as a studio musician arranging for people like Richie Havens, Ian and Sylvia, Tim Hardin – I spent a lot of time with Tim – Sebastian, Cass Elliott. Then in the fall of 1966 Jessie Colin Young asked me if I would produce the Youngbloods and I said sure. The very first thing we did was “Get Together” which three years later was a top five single. I finished that album and then I went to Atlantic and sort of became Armet Ertegun`s protege, he “found me” you know? We were doing projects and then he put me in the studio with Cream.

How did you initially get into session work?

I went down to the Village and began playing with all those cats down there. Paul Rothchild was a producer at the time for Elektra and was drawing from down there. John Sebastian and I became virtually a studio team and began doing that kind of work until he evolved finally and got his own band and then I was with Ian and Sylvia for a while.
Actually the thing that got me into production was that I would do an arrangement like “Morning Morning” for Richie Havens or something for Buffy Sainte Marie and when I`d be writing the arrangement I`d be hearing one thing in my head, a certain lushness, and when I`d hear the final mix it wouldn`t be there.

Mountain and Cream apart what has been your most satisfying production job?

I was pleased with the Youngbloods project as far as it went and I was pleased with my association with Tim Hardin because Hardin was very important to us all. I played bass on “If I Were A Carpenter” but Tim and I go back a couple of years before that, he was innovative and very, very influential and very important to me.

At what point did you meet up with Leslie West?

`67 right after I finished “Disraeli Gears”. I did two sides with a band called the Vagrants which Leslie was in and dug him. Our association grew throughout this time until Cream was finished and after. I did the “Goodbye” album which was Cream but it was also Cream and myself, and George Harrison in one case on “Badge”, and I got the job done somehow that`s what happened. I figured if I hadn`t have shoved for “Goodbye” to happen it never would have happened, those three studio tracks would never exist.
The live album that came out after that although it says “produced by Felix Pappalardi” I didn`t have anything to do with that. I did sanction the release of those tapes, I wasn`t in the position to sanction or not sanction them. At that time Cream was over and it was up to Stigwood.

I don`t want to dwell on Cream, but…

I don`t mind man, it`s a real part of what I`ve done and I`m naturally proud of it. From the American Press I have always been resented from my association with Cream. They`re stupid to start with, they`re as dumb as anybody could be, they don`t have the education to cope with a lot of the music that is going down they`re just dumb. They believe that music started and ended in the Delta and you and I know that`s not the story, but you can`t tell them that.
They feel that I meddled with Cream, they wanted an advanced Mayall`s Blues Breakers but I didn`t give a flying f–k what they wanted. I had a band in the studio and Jack Bruce was extremely important to that band, in fact if not the driving force musically in that band and as a producer I had to cope with what was happening there and not what I thought Rolling Stone magazine wanted. And it`s that level of education that I`m talking about that I believe exists here (in Britain) but does not exist there and never will.

How much a part do you feel you played on Cream`s final sound and direction?

Production, and the way I produce, that`s only a part of what I do. I arrange and the whole shot like “Eric play here, don`t play there” you know what I mean? He probably wouldn`t like to hear me say that but that`s where it`s at, that`s where it was at, that`s what I did and Jack and I a lot of times would work on the arrangement. For instance there was “Pressed Rat And Worthog”, Ginger`s thing, and Jack and worked on that and worked on it, and worked it into the amazing thing I thought it wound up being, the sort of thing that came out of it, like a huge orchestral sound.
That, I think, was basically resented in the States but it`s not by the people somehow it`s by these dudes that have got nothing else to do with their time but sit around and criticise, particularly Rolling Stone which I see as a local San Francisco newspaper. They give five pages on a band you`ve never heard of that`s rehearsing in their own county but Mountain comes over to Britain and does what it does and you don`t hear a word about it, they don`t like the idea.

At the time of Cream Felix Pappalardi was just a producer and the guy who played the cowbells, did you ever feel the need to get out of that and form your own band?

I knew it was inevitable, I knew it was coming. Gail and I knew it was coming for sure. I don`t like doing anything unless I feel I`m good and prepared for it. At the time I wasn`t ready to have my own band.

Do you feel that Cream`s break up speeded it along a little though?

Oh yes. I could have spent a lot more time producing Cream. I felt a certain responsibility towards them, I don`t know why. Yes, I do know why, they were a phenomenal band.

It`s been said that Mountain, and other bands including Grand Funk, were formed specifically to fill the enormous void left by Cream, how do you feel about these statements?

Well, there was a huge void left in my life. I was a substantial part of them and it was a band I wanted, I had to move on, playing with other people is all influence, it`s a constant cyclical so who knows what I brought from Cream to Mountain or what I brought to Mountain of me that I used in Cream and taken to its logical conclusion I don`t think there`s anybody who can sort all that out. But for my own self I don`t care, I`m interested primarily in improvisation, I`m interested in players as opposed to just people who play the same notes all the time.
Improvisors, players, are constantly working off, you start working off of a clichè, however else are you going to start? Every lick has been played one way or another so you start off in a time, working off a clichè until you get so far out on that limb that you work yourself into playing something you`ve never heard before which is innovation, which is new, which is the pressure and the beauty of improvisation which is really what Mountain is all about we`re a playing band. But different than Cream was a playing band because this is a band that is definitely under leadership. When Leslie`s taking a solo this band is taking care of business, behind Leslie. There`s nobody playing and saying “look at me I can play that lick better”. It`s “get behind Leslie” because he`s got to feel it.
With Cream, Eric would get into a feel and then perhaps the others would come in, he couldn`t get into a groove long enough. I think that was probably one of the huge problems, Eric was the lead horn, there was no other way to think about it, yet there was this fantastic bass player capable of lead, if it had been organised to the point where Eric would be taking care of business behind Jack, and then Jack and Ginger behind Eric, it might have worked.
On the other hand that was the result of it not being that way was part of the excitement also of Cream, this phenomenal counterpoint, constant, rhythmic and melodic. That`s all to say that Mountain is basically an improvisational unit, a playing band as much as a jazz band is a jazz band.

When you produced Leslie`s solo album “Leslie West, Mountain” did you know then that he was a musician you had to play with?

Not at the time, Mountain didn`t come together until `69, it was just after I had done Leslie`s album and then come to London to do Jack`s “Songs For A Tailor”. When I got back I decided to go on the road just to get Leslie started and then as I got out there in order to put a show together that I figured was right I began to sing, got sucked into that, fired the drummer that I originally hired to just go out and get Leslie going and then we got Corky, Steve Knight was already with the band but I knew he was right. He wasn`t a keyboard player he was a trombone player, tuba player, bass player but I needed a musician to play keyboard, I didn`t need a triple-flash on the organ. Now he`s developed, put his musicianship into the keyboard.
It was Gail`s idea that Corky joined us, we did ten days` rehearsing then September we did the Boston Tea Party and as far as I`m concerned that was the beginning of Mountain, that was when I made the commitment to them to stay with this band. Soon after we did “Climbing”, Mountain`s first album, and then a year later “Nantucket Sleighride” and up to “Flowers Of Evil” our latest album.

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Steve Knight`s organ playing, while an important part of Mountain`s sound, isn`t as prominent as many organists, will there be a time when he will be more to the front?

For instance, on “Roll Over Beethoven” his playing is fierce. His treatment of the keyboard in “Nantucket Sleighride” itself, “Animal Trainer And The Toad” and things like that is so broad and his musicianship so good that it can evolve any time, he really can. I trust it will, given time.

Did your writing partnership with Gail start before Mountain or was it brought about by the need for material for the band?

The best was to give you an example to answer that is on “Nantucket Sleighride”, “Travellin` In The Dark” was actually written in 1965 and first recorded in 1967. I thought it was right for “Nantucket Sleighride” so we did it. Gail and I had actually started writing in 1964 together, so we`ve been working on it for a long time now.

Gail also did the covers of Mountain`s three albums, were they specially designed for each album?

The actual oil painting on “Nantucket Sleighride” was also done in 1966, the original is, in fact, backwards of that shown on the album. She does all the designs and the major portion of the photography and the main portion of the visual presentation and has always done so.

In your songwriting does Gail provide the lyrics and you supply the music?

Most of the time that`s the way it is. She`s written some gorgeous melodies and I`d like to do a whole set of orchestrations for an album of them. For instance “Travellin` In The Dark” is mostly my lyric, and “Crossroader”, but without Gail I could never get it, the most important thing is being a songwriting team. Me and my old lady fight but never about that, that`s always straight ahead.

Leslie`s and Gail`s and your style are very evident in the band`s sound, his very raw and abrasive and yours more melodic, are Corky and Steve moving into writing very much, will it alter Mountain`s style?

Corky is in the process of arriving at a style. On the new album I knew what I wanted from it, I wanted a certain thing and style and knowing that I wanted what I wanted so definitely out of what was to become “Flowers Of Evil” that had it been something that Leslie didn`t dig the shit would have hit the fan. But it happened that what I was striving for, the only thing that I would accept, was something that knocked everybody out, and I think every album will be that kind of turning point for the band and if it isn`t I think it`s a waste of studio time.
It should be that important a task, it should be that much of a shake-up. “Nantucket” is different from “Climbing” and the next is going to be different from all of those and that`s what I mean by innovative so that even now when people say Mountain sound like something anybody that`s got half a brain is gonna say “either you haven`t listened to the band or you`re a fool.”

The album “Nantucket Sleighride” plainly shows your great interest in the history of whaling, were the majority of the songs written with this interest in mind?

“Travellin` In The Dark” for instance, when I`m out in Nantucket sometimes and the fog rolls in I think to myself that those dudes leaving their wives and families for three years to go around the Cape and not seeing anybody for that time, it`s a long and frightening break and all those references are there. “Nantucket Sleighride” is by no means over for me that was just the beginning of it for me, Nantucket`s my home and if I die, I`ll die there.

Mountain once played the Fillmore six times in a week, how does this sort of pressure tell on the band`s stamina?

A show now can go two hours, there was a time when Leslie would get physically sick after 55 minutes but now he`s used to it. Last Friday we did Milwaukee that went 1 hour 55 minutes. Sure we were tired and there wasn`t much happening after the show but we felt good. It`s hard, like being on an athletic team, I can`t stay up the night before and f–k around, I can`t do it because I know if I do I know I`m not going to be able to drive the band.
If Corky stays up all night with some broad and then lays back on stage and I`ve got to honk him, but if I`m not on top of him he`d run me into the ground, he`s a strong cat and only twenty-three years old. So I`ve got to take my black pill and go to sleep.

The sound you manage to achieve on bass is particularly powerful, how do you get this level of power?

I think my wattage is dangerous, I`ve got so much of it and the bass is souped up. The amps were originally experimental Hendrix amps that he originally used but I don`t know how I ended up getting them. Our guys have done some work on them and I`ve got a very powerful instrument, the pick-up itself is very powerful and my basic sound is always wide open on the amp. My amp`s always on 10, bass is completely off and treble is always full, conture`s completely full. All the dynamics are being done from my bass, so I`m playing what I`d guess you`d call completely distorted all the time, but it`s distorted with tone.

There were rumours in Britain recently that Mountain had split, was there any truth of a break or were the band resting?

There wasn`t a rumour in the States but we heard about the rumour here that I had split to write and produce. As long as I can get the people that are booking the band and “managing” the band to understand that we cannot keep on going the way we are going now under any circumstances there`s going to be a choice, either it`s going to be done my way or I`m going to quit. It`s as simple as that, I`m not going to play this game any more of three-days-a-week working in the States, so if it`s not done my way there will be no more Mountain, however I can promise you there will be a Mountain because it`s going to be done my way.

If a split did come about could you see yourself playing with anyone but Leslie?

No, Leslie`s my man, it would be a joke. It`s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and we both know that. The problem is the people who are booking and managing the band, the philosophy has got to change. When the band goes out now, and it`s getting nearly three years old, it`s time to cut that crap out of two three-week periods off a year and the rest of it on the road. Three days out on the road and four days off to recuperate so you can get yourself together for the next three days it`s just got to stop.
In other words whenever the band goes out on the road it`s got to be an occasion, I`m sick of going to cities three times a year where somebody reads an ad and says “Mountain`s in town again, well I don`t think we`ll go this time because they`ll be back in three months.” We get a fantastic audience but we`re killing ourselves. It will change, it`s just a matter of me having enough time to formulate how it`s going to be and socking it to everybody.
The Who are very bright when it comes to this sort of thing. When you have something like a Who or a Mountain you don`t put their asses out on the road like they were a bunch of whores.

On “Flowers Of Evil” the title track has a very positive story line, could you expand on it?

What that`s commenting on is the boys in America that go to Vietnam to fight that bullshit thing over there and they get hooked on smack (heroin). They`re okay for fifty dollars over there, Private First Class pay, they can stay nice and mellow for a week. They come back after their tour of duty is over and it costs them a thousand dollars for the first nine days, so what`s been happening in America is these guys are home and are spending all the money they`ve saved so they go right back to the recruiting centres and sign up for another three years and put in for Saigon so they can get back and get high.
Nixon and the Government are aware of the problem but still they`re closing Methodon centres and here are these kids that are coming back with a Jones (habit) and a half. Anyway that`s the thing that`s probably going to save Mountain because all of us have a Mountain Jones, we`re all hung up on Mountain. Leslie would be a miserable dude without Mountain and so would I.

“Nantucket Sleighride” was dedicated to Owen Coffin, could you tell me a little more about the legend that surrounds him?

The Coffin family first of all was one of the great Nantucket families one of the original owners of the island and one of the great whaling families. Owen was seventeen when he went on his fateful first and last voyage on the Essex. The two biggest disasters in Nantucket`s whaling history were the Globe and the Essex, the Globe was a mutiny and the Essex was stoved by a whale. George Pollard was the captain of the Essex and he was only twenty-eight and was Coffin`s uncle.
They were into a school of whales and the longboats were out with the harpooners doing their number, then all of a sudden, about a hundred yards off the stern of the ship, a whale was noticed heading for the mother ship (the Essex) picking up speed and then stove in the front of the boat. It came underneath the ship and wallowed off to the side, knocked semi-conscious, the captain realised he was losing his ship and began making preparations for an emergency.
They were a long way from landable land (owing to cannibals) and as they were preparing to leave the ship the whale stove in the other side, they salvaged what they could and this was in August and it was February before the last survivors were picked up. In one of the longboats there were five men and they had to resort to cannibalism finally, to sacrifice one man so that the others might live and Owen Coffin drew the short straw. He was in the longboat with his uncle George Pollard who refused to partake of him but the others did and survived.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ray Charles, Marc Bolan, Bell & Arc, Ornette Coleman, Rory Gallagher, The Who, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Mr. Fox.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

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