Progsheet - A Few Words With...Andrew Gold

A Few Words With...Andrew Gold

By John A. Wilcox

Singer / composer / musician Andrew Gold died in June of 2011. Like most folks, I first heard the name through the songs Lonely Boy and Thank You For Being A Friend. Later on, I'd discovered he had played on my favorite Linda Ronstadt material. In the 1980s, Gold teamed with 10cc's Graham Goldman and the formed Wax. I blissed out on their hook-driven pop rock, and that project remains near and dear to me to this day.
Andrew Gold & I had been trading emails for a while. He was warm, witty, funny, and an incredibly positive guy. By early 2011, I'd suggested doing an interview via email and Gold loved the idea. We worked in groups of 4 or 5 questions at a time. We were about 2/3 of the way in when I stopped hearing back. I was shocked and saddened to hear of his death. I decided to sit on the interview until the time felt right. It was incomplete, but what was there was delightful. Time passed. One day I spoke to Graham Gouldman and he told me he felt it'd be nice to share Andrew Gold's thoughts with the world. He was right. So, here it is. Gold's last words to me were "That's all for now!" I dedicate this to Andrew and his family with much love...

PS: What was your reaction on hearing that your song The Final Frontier would be the first music heard on Mars?

AG: Well, first of all it was really about my voice being the first human voice on Mars, technically anyway, and not my song. The song was written by Paul Reiser and Don Was. Being called The Final Frontier, instead of Mad About You, it seemed appropriate to play it while starting up the first "Rover" on Mars. At first, of course, I was thrilled, being our planet's emissary, so to speak, on Mars. But after I mentioned it a few times in interviews, I got a call from a guy at JPL, who pleasantly cleared up the real facts which were that the song just was playing on JPL'S sound system when they sent the signal for Rover to "wake up" and perform it's tasks. So, actually, my voice wasn't really transmitted to Mars, at least not so anyone would hear it, unless it bled through the radio signal....But the story I tell on stage makes it sound a tad more exciting, and therefore is really sort of an Urban Myth. Besides, if they had really sent my voice there, surely we would have heard requests for more!!! lol

PS: What was the first musical instrument you ever bought?

AG: Well, hmmm. I got a nylon string guitar from my Granddad when I was like 7...a very hard to play instrument because the neck was a bit warped and the strings were about 3 feet from the fret board, lol, but yet I still wowed 'em in the school bus aisles. I used to tape new Beatle songs, and would learn them before school the next day. I gained a lot of girl popularity that way. However my first official girl friend, by the name of Jan Edwards once saw me cuddling with some other girl, guitar in tow.. She marched up and grabbed my guitar and hit me over the head with it! Ow!....Sproing went the strings as my head popped through the top. It was even funny to me and every one else. However I think the first real instrument I bought was a tambourine.

PS: What was your very first paying gig?

AG: I think it was in Mammoth. A place called Rafters. I recall we got $200 a night, plus a place to sleep.So rustic, plus every one got nine sheets to the included! I was 20-21. Once a girl came up right to me looked up and just grabbed parts. I was laughing so hard. later she came up and asked if she could take me home? I said, sure, and turned to pay for my drinks and suddenly heard this huge crash behind me. It was her, passed out cold. She was pretty but also pretty nuts! Oh well.

PS: How did you land the gig playing with Linda Ronstadt?

AG: I was in this same band as the last story. . We played a benefit for George McGovern and the next day she called me up. (Kenny had been in her "Stone Ponies" band). She asked me if she could hire me for lead guitar. The money was good, and our band wasn't getting anywhere. By the point Linda was asking me if I'd join if she gave me body, I joined right away! (ahem, she was persistent) I decided, OK, OK, If I must, lol. I was especially thrilled when, at the first day of rehearsal, a roadie asked to carry my amp on the rehearsal hall stage and set up my guitar. I knew I was in the big time!

PS: What was the first song you wrote that changed how others perceived you?

AG: Lonely Boy. Because it was top 5 for a long time, and I was on all the TV shows, and was chased by girls etc. It was fantastic - and at the same time I would say, You're No Good, which I didn't write but played everything on except bass, and the whole Linda Ronstadt success....that changed my life first, and was unbelievably great during the seventies. Ah, those days....They were great.

PS: I'd like to ask you about a few songs you did with Graham Gouldman as Wax. Let's start with Marie Claire.

AG: This is one of my favorite songs we've done. The beneficent majesty and almost cosmically gorgeous melody and harmony, together with the 12 string ala Byrds, is really satisfying while making you want to hear it more.....It drills right through my brain, anyway. Actually, we started with the verse, just some chords Graham had....I added some somewhat dissonant chords to it, and the suddenly I came up with the chorus, almost entirely fleshed out....sometimes it happens...true inspiration. I thought it would be interesting to make it about this girl, who we surmise is on the run from the law, and the safest place for her to hide is with this guy, (the singer) who has fancied he for years, alas to no avail....but suddenly she's gonna stay with him and he's going, hmmmmmm, I can be her saving angel and after while she'll fall in love with me...or something like that....Don't know if this is all clear in the lyrics after all is said and done...But, there's such a yearning in the song. My three favorite bits in the song are the melody and harmony, especially on the word Claire, where Graham goes down to the 1, and I stay on the 5....(of that chord anyway)....Also I love the semi Beach Boys melodic Carl Wilson-like We'll be together now and the next few chord changes....Also I like it when it goes back to the verse chords...kinda sneakily too. There's another spot, I think over the last bit with the chords of the verse just vamping. Right before that starts, you can hear me yell GO!, why I said it, I can't

PS: How about Don't Play That Song?

AG: This is a song I wrote almost on my own...One thing I liked about it, is that we did the strings at Abbey Road, studio 2....The Beatles main studio....Veri cool. Lotsa ghosts. If the walls could talk, indeed. It lost a little something when we did it, with a drummer etc. The original demo was a bit cooler. We tried to get George Harrison to do the solo...but, he was not available, so I did it sorta like him. I thought in hindsight, it was too old fashioned to be a single. I wanted to put out Anchors Aweigh, which I thought was much more interesting. We even did a video for that song.

PS: Bridge To Your Heart.

AG: Graham and I used to get together for a couple of weeks to write, and usually came up with about 4 songs each time he came to visit. We were getting nowhere with one song, and he went to visit someone in Canada. Right before he was back I came up with the basic music and the chorus, including lyrics, and when he arrived we just finished off the lyrics and voila: Our biggest hit as a duo. I find the best songs are the ones I write fast. I suppose it's because the only reason songs take a long time is you can't think of the right way to go...and you try and try,,,,,I find usually those songs just aren't as good as the fast ones, and feel long and belabored...Not that we don't do them...we do most of the songs we write, but some have go into Magnetic Heaven, ie: get erased...which is where I got the name for that album Magnetic Heaven. Anyway, I love this song, and was very satisfied to see it climb into the top 5 everywhere but the damn USA!!!! What the heck!? Grrrr.

PS: Ball And Chain.

AG: Our heaviest song on record...I like the Led Zeppelin rip off dum da da dee dum gtr thing. I like the intro and the end is Graham just wailing on the guitar, while our engineer twiddled some knobs for some sound he was getting...It was a great time at RAK studios...with Phil Thornally...who was also in the video...the great looking young man holding onto a fence looking pissed off...great. My only rap on record I believe. And that's me on a distorted synth trading leads with Graham's guitar......In those days, I mainly played keyboards and did all the programming, so Graham did the guitar work on most of the songs.

PS: Finally, Bug In The Machine.

AG: We were trying to sorta copy Prince.....but I don't know if it's evident...On stage we all use to jump when we said bug! or there was a bip!...very cute....We found this weird dipthonic sound on my Emulator 2, which was the perfect bug. Funny lyrics on this one. Actually I found this on various restaurant collection CD's or tapes. Heard it in 2 LA restaurants. We shoulda released this as a single!
Generally, for all these songs, when we worked on them at first, I'd set up a drum groove and try and find some good or interesting sounds, and Graham was in LOVE with my Custom Telecaster from 1962 I think. That's basically how we worked....this band was sort of a little light on the guitars, which these days I wouldn't do so much....But it made sense that Graham played guitar. One of the only songs that I played lead guitar in was Anchors Aweigh. I had a nice long patch to show off in the end of that song right after the horns play the title melody loudly daaa daa da da daaaaaaa! then my Led Zeppelin rip off from Good Times Bad Times.....the Wax days were some of my favorite years...back on Top Of The was one of our being in our mid and late 30's y'know....still making hits...It was great!

PS: Please tell me how & why The Fraternal Order Of The All came to be?

AG: It came from two places.
1. The record that a group ('t recall the name XTC I think...good group too...Beatle-esque even when they are not pretending to be someone else) came out with a record by The Dukes Of Stratosphear ...actually they came out with a couple. The first, I think, was 25 O' Clock, and the next was something I can't recall. It later became one big album, which had Chocolate Fireball in the title. Anyway, I thought the record was good, and I thought I could do something similar - a fictional 60's group doing songs in the style of psychedelic 60's.
2. I had a few songs which I had done already which were purposely like some 60's groups - Somewhere In Space And Time, which was, obviously, Byrds ala 1965-66. The Byrds were in my top 3 of groups (Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys (mid-sixties especially - Pet Sounds, etc), and I did send it to Roger McGuinn, who raved about it, saying Perfect! Sigh. If only he and Crosby would stop their decades old fight and reform for an album and tour...Crosby will, and is a pretty good guy these days....But Roger said to David, "I'd rather be in the army!", that's a no go. Anyway, I digress-
I had another one that also was sixties like (actually I had done the stuff that's out as Copycat on iTunes etc, which is exact copies of Beatles mainly, some Beach Boys and etc. So I thought it would be fun to just let my natural tendencies run riot and do a whole album like this, but with songs I, I got a group name from drummer David Kemper, who had been the stoniest (years ago) he'd ever been and thought he heard a voice from the cosmos say: Welcome to the Fraternal Order Of The All. Apparently, he was talking to Jerry Garcia, before he died, who got all excited and said "I know the all thing! It happened to me too!" So I had the group name, made up a picture of the group, which was just me and one other guy, which I just photoshopped into looking like 5 different guys....and recorded the rest of the music etc.. and voila. I got a lot of calls and emails from stoners who were all in their twenties, who'd listened to the album through headphones, and I got nothing but mad love from all of them. It is one of my favorite albums of mine.

PS: Any thoughts of doing a follow-up to it?

AG: Yes, from time to time I've thought about doing an album of the All, but just a couple years before psychedelia....sort of like The Beatles We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper days (right before they went semi psychedelic with Revolver) opposed to Sgt. Pepper...more electric guitars-only type of things, with maybe one interesting instrument (harmoniums, and the like). Of any album I did, this is the only one I might do pt 2 one of these days.

PS: How did you come to work with Eikichi Yazawa?

AG: My friend Mark T Jordan was producing him, and I was invited to play as studio musician, which I did a lot in those days. Apparently, by the time we finished the album (PM9), Yazawa asked me to produce his next ones. I ended up doing 8! I loved working with him, but alas, he moved on...We send each other Xmas cards every year tho. Love that guy. He taught me dirty words in Japanese etc.

PS: You ended up producing a good fistful of his albums. Any clue why his success didn't translate to the rest of the world?

AG: I'm more interested in why my albums didn't become huge. lol. People are sometimes just not into what I'm into. Also, after the first 4 Elektra/Asylum records, my albums (and there are a lot of them since back then - a new double album will be ready by Summer : -) - were mostly all self-made or with small record companies without publicity money, and I never really got the exposure. I could've done more about that, but I am an artist, not a business guy, I'm a terrible schmoozer, and somewhat lazy. My last real album was in 2001...It was called Intermission...I didn't quite realize how prophetic that was to become. But now, I want to tour like crazy...even just to play behind other artists I love.

PS: I understand that you heard that Eric Clapton is a fan of yours.

AG: My friend, Stephen Bishop, told me that a friend of his, Eric Clapton, heard a song of mine from a relatively recent album, Since 1951....The song is called Teardrops, and evidently Clapton went nuts for it, called Stephen and raved on and on. This is particularly gratifying because it's in my personal top 10 of my own songs, and it's almost number 1....So, Eric, who I've met but never knew really well, is an idol of mine (I went through a big Cream phase in high school) and his being knocked out by a song I did....well, it made my year for sure. Eric is obviously an intelligent and discerning fellow. lol.

PS: What elements do you feel a good composition must have?

AG: Good music, good words, a good singer (doesn't mean he or she has to do vocal gymnastics...think....John Lennon or Rod Stewart would probably lose the first round of auditions for American Idol...Come to think of it, so would Stephen Tyler) and good sounding instruments playing a good arrangement. So basically, there are no rules, it just has to be good. There are three types of music in this world - good, bad, and eh....

PS: What does a major label bring to an artist other than wider distribution?

AG: Usually, these days, nothing much. But if they really believe in you, then they'll bring a great publicity campaign, and add (not too many, hopefully) good suggestions about the music, and a great artwork company etc, etc. Most importantly, they'd let you fail a few times, and let you keep putting out albums with the same verve from them....but alas...sadly, the major companies often are not all that, and spend money on the first record, and maybe second...but if you haven't satisfied the Bottom Line ie: making their money back and more, you're fucked and they'll drop you...It's not personal like it used to be, and if you're the greatest music person in the universe but are 31, they won't sign you. It's basically, it's the do-21-year-old-girls-wanna-fuck-you mentality, not so much about the music. But, honestly, if the Beatles weren't so damn good looking, their debut might not have worked back then as well. So, this is not new...and the Beatles were so cute, so cool, so tough, so talented, so free, so arrogant in a good way, and just plain so damn good, I woulda fucked them, lol...and I'm hetero! They were seriously infectious on every wavelength maybe it's always been the same way, except the majors back in the day did give you some time to gain an audience, which gave the artists real deep fame that wasn't just suddenly hyped into people...and then people would light up for a few months...and then get tired of them and move on, as happens these days....all because they were forced to like isn't a real's just a brief thing made up from mainly hype...and not that the bands themselves are great. So people get excited, and then...move one remembering why they liked those guys...and you get a stupid show like American Idol. Of course, sometimes the bands/artists are actually cool and have a lot of charisma and good music to boot...and those ones usually last...Like, say, The Police, Prince, U2...etc. You know what? I talk too much. Next question.

PS: Conversely, what are the greatest strengths of releasing work independently?

AG: No interruptions from the record company, and people who are actually excited to be working on your projects... but independent usually means no money to spend promoting your CD, or worse, Independent means you are releasing it yourself, and carry around CD's in your trunk to sell at gigs. Touring or playing live is then the only real means of promotion, which is not enough. But it's nice to have iTunes and Youtube and websites to help you...but, it's not anywhere are good as it was in the old days of majors. In the sixties, and especially the seventies and eighties....majors were the thing. But somewhere in the 80's, money men came in and ruined the biz by the mid nineties. Here in 2011...It's a totally different beast to the days of DJ's playing your records over and over because they liked it...Then the days of station managers who personally liked your music...and then it was all over when, say, Clear Channel came in and bought everyone out, and now we have business men telling stations all over what to play..and their playlists no longer have the top 40....just the top 10! And a few from 10 - 20....So, each station plays the same 112 songs over and over...and it's all rap, bad R&B, and 'tween pop, like Katy Perry. Not that they are all bad...but miss so much if you listen to pop stations. You only hear 10% of what's out there. In the old days, even AM radio played the top 40.....40!! And FM was just fantastic...album cuts...oldies....far out stuff...very few commercials...Pop radio has commercials like every other record, and the DJ's if there are any, never tell you what you just, you can't buy the records don't know who the fuck they are, and what the name of the song's just disgusting. Even satellite radio has commercials now...movies....I hate it.


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