I’ve been writing about this for various reasons lately… this song. The first time was when I was putting together a study course on how I record vocals and the moment that changed my life, the moment everything changed… now remember, it’s one thing to look at the data… the facts of what happened but when it brings back the actual emotions… wow… very powerful and I encourage ANY and EVERYBODY to do this, if they have the chance.
When I share I’ve done this I get a couple of reactions… 1, is that people say, I’ve been doing that too and it’s amazing what happens! Mainly, the gratitude… it’s so easy to look back on our lives and think we wish we could have done things different… made different choices… but then, you do something like de-cluttering, organizing… (discovering lost gems), and the gratitude hits. We see how far we’ve come. Plain and simple… looking at today… personally, from where I was 20 years ago… 10 years ago… 5, 2… you get the point. How far we’ve come. For me? That’s important.
Ok, typical me, a little bit of a tangent, BUT, I’m back on track now!
The other place I talk about this song is in my songwriting course which again points to the moment when everything changed. And here’s what I went through last night listening to this demo, over and over again.
It took me back to what led up to it all.
I was living in L.A. and was your typical young musician just making the rounds. I won’t even go so far as to say I had a plan, I didn’t. I’ve covered in some of my other writings that I just came to L.A. because I wanted to be *around* all my heroes. Never really thought I’d be in that club… just wanted to go to the grocery store and maybe bump into people like Maurice White or Gino Vanelli… well, not bump into them… I would have just gawked at them!
(Funny enough… I went to a car wash on Ventura Blvd. one day and Maurice was sitting waiting for his car! AND, I was listening to an Earth Wind and Fire song on the way there! True story! And, I did introduce myself. I was in the club by then so I didn’t feel I was *fanning* out on him… or at least I didn’t show him that!)
So I was living in a great 2 bedroom house in Beachwood Canyon with one of the sweetest people on the planet earth. Peter Atanasoff. In fact, the story is so cool… he had taken over the house that one of our friends, Bill Quateman, had for many years. It was just Peter for a while and then he asked if I wanted to rent a room.
Sorry but I need to go off on a couple tangents… Bill Quateman was looking for a bass player and Peter recommended me. This was probably around 1982? Somewhere around there. I was so smitten by Quateman. A BIG personality with tons of confidence. He was signed to CBS records as, what he calls, one of Clive Davis’s million dollar babies.
Bill’s first album cover was a bit similar to the 2nd Elton John album. Same kind of look… a bit dark with a great headshot. So again, I was drawn into this. (and when I think of all the hints that are coming at me, now that I reflect, it’s eery. As they say, pay attention… the universe is really telling you things).
So I end up playing with Bill and going on the road… just a duo and ironically, we head out east, (the first time I’d been further east than Yuma, AZ), and we go to Chicago. Quateman is from Chicago!
So there we are in his mother’s house… the one Bill grew up in with the basement that his bands rehearsed in… and we play down in Champaign, IL, Peoria… and we played on the Navy Pier in Chicago for Chicagofest in 1982 I believe?
A couple of things stand out to me that are real cool and shapes of things to come. I hear that REO Speedwagon is from Champaign, IL so I’m feeling a touch of a connection having seen them from afar at Sound City Studios when they were recording “High Infidelity” and I was in recording with Tom and John Keane for their 2nd “Keane” album for Japan.
Never really thinking that these little brushes are getting you closer to something… never in a million years would I have thought that… but, look what happened?
I remember looking at the records of Bill Quateman’s, (LP Records for all you youngsters out there), and seeing the credits. All the bigtime studio musicians on Bill’s records. Denny Seiwell of “Wings”, Buzz Feiten, Andy Newmark, Rick Shlosser… the list just went on! Oh, and another future connection… Cherokee Studios! I would eventually be working in that studio with future friends… Steve Cropper, Skunk Baxter… you see the picture unfolding?
When I finished my little stint with Quateman I was settling in L.A. to really try and get to the next level, (whatever that was! remember… I wasn’t really thinking too *big*. was incapable of that), and I ended up in that house Quateman was living in… oh, and the great Peter Chaikin was in the house in the front! So here was another *name* I was surrounded with. Since he was in the front I figured he was the top dog and I didn’t want to really bother him. We’d end up out in the driveway some mornings in morning attire, bathrobes? whatever… but that was as far as I got back then. He had gold records on his walls! He’s too bigtime for little ole me!
Ok, back to moving in with Peter. Peter was a HUGE Buzz Feiten fan and was a close friend of his. When he’d mention his name, of course I would be dreaming of being able to MEET the guy some day and in my limited thinking thought he’d probably smile, say hello and maybe if I was lucky he’d pat me on the top of the head saying something like, “Yes little man, I know… but calm down… it’s all going to be fine”.
Let me tell how different the experience was when I finally met him. Buzz gave me a feeling that was to come from all my subsequent associations along the climb to the top in the music business. He greeted me with a very warm peer to peer energy. This was not teacher to student… at least not on the surface. It wasn’t ordained…
It helped me settle in to what would become an incredible relationship. He let me know right off the bat how much he respected my musicianship. Now at this point we weren’t writing any music, yet. I was petrified to show him anything! This was the guy who played at “Woodstock” at 17 years old with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He was also the guitar player on the GREAT Ricky Lee Jones records. The KILLE acoustic guitar, well, all the guitars, on “Chuck E’s In Love”? That’s Buzz. Let alone the INCREDIBLE records he made with Neil Larsen. Both Neil’s solo record and the Larsen/Feiten Band records.
Yes, I was TOTALLY starstruck, but again, as I said about all the subsequent artists, producers, musicians I’d meet in the years to come, they wouldn’t have any of the worship I was ready to bestow upon them.
Buzz asked me to join his band he’d put together with a guy named Sal Bernardi. Sal was, and is, incredible. A GREAT artist… an incredible poet and was Ricky Lee’s boyfriend around her “Pirates” album. In fact on the back of the album is a photo of both of them.
Sal had these great songs so we learned and rehearsed them. I was surprised that Buzz didn’t really want to be the lead singer. I loved his voice on the Larsen/Feiten albums but Buzz was at a place where he wanted to share the duties. So Sal with the singer. Me? No way… just a background vocalist.
Well, we played some gigs around town with that band and eventually Sal went his own way.
So here’s the big moment… Buzz had heard a song or 2 I had recorded recently and said, “Ok, YOU’RE the lead singer.” and again, I was a bit intimidated, but, I went along with it.
Turns out we didn’t play live with that band, Buzz and I wrote a couple songs and went into the studio to cut them.
We got some studio time given to us by my great friend Michael Boddicker who played keys on the original recordings. We cut with my Linn 9000 drum machine, (or Micheal’s… I can’t remember), and then we added Neil Larsen to the recordings with more keyboards.
We then went into Crystal Recording studios and here’s where it all happened… again, Buzz takes us into the studio with his longtime friend Bob Margouleff who owned the studio, AND, was co-producer on some of the greatest Stevie Wonder records EVER! Music Of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fullingness First Finale… Yes, THIS was the studio Stevie had changed the world in with Margouleff and his partner Malcom Cecil bringing the sound of synthesizers to Stevie and modern music.
There I was, in a temple… were he walls talking? Kind of! Now again, remember, I would NEVER be comparing myself to any of these incredible artists who’d made this room a place of holiness… all I knew was I was in it and taking in the vibes!
Bob Margouleff was brought on to co-produce the project to finish it. We brought John Keane in to play drums on the 2 songs and of course, he drilled them.
I went out and cut vocals to both songs. One was an uptempo tune called “You’re Old Enough” and the 2nd was called “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”.
While I was listening to this demo last night I remember distinctly how I was feeling. I was feeling that it was a very serious opportunity and I couldn’t goof around… did I have the confidence to stand there saying, “I’m the next lead vocalist/artist ready to take the world by storm!” as most of the up and comers say and do in L.A.? Of course not…
But once the tape started rolling and I heard this incredible track in my headphones something started to settle. I started singing and as the song played down I got more and more confident.
Listening back now it’s funny to me how some of the ways I was affecting my voice was, I don’t KNOW where it was coming from! Maybe a little Ricky Lee, a little Sal, a little Buzz? Who knows… I certainly wasn’t thinking, “This is ME so you’d better watch out!”
I was just reacting to the music… and when we were done, Margouelff was very excited. He started making calls and was setting up some meetings to take the stuff to.
Well, things didn’t quite work out for that configuration… I ended up moving on and within a year or so that demo got into the hands of Warner Bros. Records which got me into the band Chicago.
I could go off on so many other tangents right but I’m going to spare you a novel here. I’ll actually break it down into other blog posts… but one that comes to mind is that Buzz and John Keane ended up continuing on with that band… I believe John became the lead vocalist after I left… and they were recording in Jeff Porcaro’s studio, The Villa, when I called to tell John that I was going to audition for Chicago. I’ll save that for another post… but for now… check out this demo… and you can compare this to what ended up on Chicago 18.
I will say this… what an honor and compliment that David Foster really took the essence of what we did on our demo to record for the Chicago album. Tempo… all of it.
And you can read another post, or 2, on how I stepped up to the microphone on day 1 of vocals for Chicago 18 to sing this song thinking… “Well, you’ve already sung it once so you know it… just try to do it again…” ah, the moment of truth!
Thanks for indulging me and reading this story. Please comment on how any of this hits you. Let us know YOUR moments of truth. We all have em!