Here we are in Telstar recording studios from Phoenix, Sarasota, Florida with Melanie and her band on a QSR coffee break concert - welcome!
Oh, okay . . .
How are you feelin'?
I feel very nice . .
Want to sing?
Take it away!
Take it away, boys! I'm not playing drums on this one, I'll lay out . . .
That was "Knock On Wood" which I recorded when I was a child of thirty . .
Last time around as a matter of fact . . .
That was on the "Phonogenic, Not Just Another Pretty Face" album, which had a similar cover to that FM T-shirt you are wearing except it wasn't in silver . .
Black and white for that one, who's idea was that Melanie?
Well, it was mine but only after I had gotten the original album cover in the mail at Fort Myers, where I was living - it looked like this girl from Iowa or somebody - - it was just the most adorable picture of myself that ever could be, but it just didn't look like I look, first of all, looked a little nicer I think, but it didn't have the feel of the whole album at all on the cover, the original title was going to be called "Spunky", it was a song I wrote on the album, the whole picture just didn't feel right and I thought I don't want anybody to look at that cover and say 'I don't think I like the music of the person who's that cover' because it was definitely a definite thing -- some people would have liked it a lot, some people wouldn't - I didn't, so I thouhgt, Peter was talking in the studio one night about how I was really a 'phonogenic person' - I don't kno if knew that wasn't a real word or not - he's Ukrainian you know, he coins these words and phrases sometimes - he doesn't realise he's very inventive. Anyway I thought that was nice - I was 'phonogenic', so we used that on the album and I added the 'Not Just Another Pretty Face'. When that album cover came to me in the mail and I looked at that, I was a little frightened because it was so austere -- more a declaration of war than it did an album cover.
Then too, somebody could look at it and get an impression from it that you might not want them to get.
What would you do if you had to do it all over again, call it 'Spunky'?
No, I did the right thing - it was what it was - the music was right for the album cover - it was free of any kind of personality, it was free of my mannerisms to a great extent. It only had four of my own songs on it, the rest of the songs were like, "Knock On Wood", "Let It Be Me", "We Can Work It Out" - I don't even know how I picked these songs - it was just, there was Richard Tee in the studio and Will Lee and Chris Parker, Hughie McCracken was kinda directing the whole thing, it just turned out to be - I wanted to go with what was going on instead of trying to take these people to somewhere I was - I wanted to go where they were for a minute, so that's what 'Phonogenic' is. I don't feel that was like a trend in my music - it was definitely me - It wasn't like I was trying to do another thing - but I just got led to where they were - I wanted to, and so that is why we picked the songs that we did. "California Dreaming" came about kind of that way, really natural, singing acapella, Richard Tee just joined in with me on piano and we recorded it - I didn't even know they were recording.
We're ready for another song now, by the way . .
Yeah! Okay what shall we do, "BoBo's Party"? "BoBo's Party" I was going to say before is the very first hit record that I had, it was a monster hit record only in France, nine weeks at number one record on French charts.
Is this before the Buddah Records days?
The first album I did on Buddah Records - the only record they were playing on FM radio in New York was "Beautiful People" - that was the only thing, Rosco on WNEWFM was playing, "Beautiful People", and with the release of that album, there was a song called "BoBo's Party", they sent that album to France just to see what the reaction would be and they picked up on that as a single, it became number one for nine weeks. I got called over to do a concert when I was totally, except for a small group of people in New York unknown anywhere in the world, I got off the plane in Paris, there was a group of people holding Melanie banners - this couldn't be, this is impossible, I was like a star somewhere in the world and I was totally unprepared for it.
Must have seemed like a dream . .
Yeah, it was, it was a dream, so I did a concert tour in Paris, that was the first time I ever performed, and of course, every time I performed the concerts in Paris I did this song. . . . (french accent) je, suise, jer per dor, many a gold record for this one in Paris . . .
Is that a song you stopped doing for a while?
Yes, I stopped doing it for ten years!
How does it feel to have it back?
It feels really good - we did it at a concert in San Francisco, it was a benefit for 'Bread and Roses' - I don't know if you're familiar with, 'Bread and Roses' is a organisation that brings live entertainment to people who are shut in, institutionalised in some way, whether they're in prison or hospitals, the money they raised from this benefit they sponsor shows all through the year -- to bring entertainment in - they had ten thousand people at the Greek Theatre, we performed it for the first time there, I did it for the first time in ten years. That was the last time we performed together. That's the nice thing about having musicians rehearsing and working with you. This only came about because we were fooling around - we were just going over old songs - it's nice to have new musical input, I thought of this as an old song, Bob Leoni heard it - he never heard it before.
Suddenly it sounds fresh and worth doing . .
A new idea. He told me to tune down my last string and we got a new chord and it all of the sudden sounded alive and good again, so we did that. So that's what that was . . .
Good one, number one in France ladies and gentleman. Back in . . .
An old goldie in Paris! Here's a new song that I just added a verse to yesterday, when I was on the good ship, The Silver Eagle, and with the crew of the nautical news team, some of us and the crew of The Silver Eagle we wrote a little sailing verse, and I just added that to the song, this is recording history here. I hope I remember the words, I keep wanting to say the jib, but there's no word, jib in this song, I would love to put jib in this song, People in New York wouldn't know what I was talking about your jib . . .
I like the cut of your jib .
Yeah your misen and your jib . . . .
yahey . .
Alright, a new one . .
That was nice!
There's one for the next album.
Yes, actually that's what I'm doing touring now like this with great inventive people like I have got with me today -- we are kinda working on my new songs and everybody's contributing ideas and involved. A lot of times I have written songs and just run into the studio with them, and they haven't had the chance to breathe in front of an audiences and things . . . I'm allowing myself the opportunity to let these songs grow and to be done in front of people - that's kinda what I'm doing in Florida - I've been doing a lot of concerts throughout Florida, there's one in Tampa, Wednesday night, September 20th - I've been doing a lot of new songs and we've been working on them and letting them become what they're gonna become.
That's a good thing to do for songs . .
Yeah, what we hope is to gather some of the recordings - we have been recording a lot of the concerts and we hope to assemble a live album primarily from concerts we've done in Florida.
Good, I hope it works - hope everybody comes out and can be a part of your live recordings!
I hope you will all memorise that song because I expect you to know it!
Okay, good, we got it.
Know it! Know it! I expect you all to know it!
We'll have following the bouncing orange or something . . .
I am just about to do a new song that is -- you know you have one that comes along every once in a while and you really feel that this is the song, this is the one that states everything I've been thinking for the past lifetime . . .
You Light Up My Life or something like that . . just kidding
It's like one of those . . . something like that . . . but different . . . (jollyful)
So, you wrote yourself a good song, eh?
Yes, I'm sending this off to Debbie Boon tomorrow (laught) - It's called "Hand Me Downs" or "Golden Chains" - I haven't decided yet . . .
Yeah, I can you would be happy with that.
Yes, it's great - I love it . . . Been doing that at every concert since they wrote it . .
I would like to introduce the band . . . .
Sal De Troia and his magic fingers (classical acoustic guitar)
Robbie Georgia (lead guitar)
Bob Leoni (bass guitar)
Mary McCaffrey (who sings at least as loud as I do)
Steve with the good questions and FM T-shirt and all that . . . I'm sure that's half the reason why the movie got as far as it did - we got all these nice FM T-shirts and all the nice FM people. The last big label I recorded on, Atlantic, I asked to have a T-shirt made, and they told me they weren't in the T-shirt business! So that's why I went away from there and went to another label, and they promised me a T-shirt, they got it out, but it was like eight weeks after the album came out - kinda lost it's impact. So then, what I decided to do is open my own label - It's called the World United Record Company, and to quote Robin Williamson of the old Incredible String Band, he said it sounds like an intergalactic football team, and that's just about what it is!
Like Manchester United, that's where he got that from, they call football teams, something united.
Well, anyway, we recorded just as we are, this group here including a drummer, Richie Chako came in - we weren't expecting to make a record there, especially if you'd seen this studio we were in, you would know that we didn't expect to make and take home any records, but we did, and I like to think this song was recorded with the original spirit of the original Buddy Holly record - it doesn't sound like, we didn't try to make it sound like the Buddy Holly record, but it was one of my favourite ones -- we recorded "Oh Boy" and it turned out just the way - I couldn't have done it better in a eighty-two track monster recording studio - this was just right - just the right feeling - so here we are again assembled - I'll stand for this one because I need to breathe good, Mary, you stood up, so I am gonna definitely stand up - one, two, one, two, three and
That was good . . I couldn't remember it for a minute . . . (laugh)
The reason this came about was because, again the wonderful thing about having musicians around me and working, creating with me is that things come about, one day I was playing around in my living room and we were doing "Brand New Key" and Rob picked up this oboe that I had around the house and he started playing the song, and I said 'you know, Rob, this is the way that I originally wrote "Brand New Key"', after it got produced and everything - Peter - it got nice, I really like the record, but the way I wrote it, it was a lot funkier and a lot more - there was no such thing as Ry Cooder then, but, well he was a person, but he wasn't . . .
Don't tell him that . . . ..(laugh)
No, I won't tell him that ..(laugh) . . but there was no such thing as Ry Cooder then, and it was a lot more Ry Cooder in approach - that's the way I wrote it. I told him that - not only did I tell him that, but we proceeded to, in that Vermont studio where no records could possibly be made - we made this record -- and here it is - our original - the way I really wrote it -- before there was such a thing as Ry Cooder record, "Brand New Key"
A version even Ry Cooder would like! Brand New Key '78 from Melanie
on QSR in the coffee break
I wanna do one song more, I think we have time for one more?
Yeah! Let me tell my favourite Melanie story, and I hadn't even
thought of it in about - ah it's been years, but sitting hear
listening to your music and suddenly it went POP right in my head
that it was the summer of 1970 and I went to a thing called Powder
Ridge in Connecticut.
I sure did, it was a strange time to be alive let alone a strange time to be young and long haired, the summer of 1970, was right after Kent's day and it was one year after Woodstock and every promoter in the North East was just looking to make it happen again. There were ones in Jersey, ones in Canada, Strawberry Fields and there was Powder Ridge in Connecticut, it was the last weekend of July / first weekend of August in seventy - I bought my ticket in advance, I got ripped off at twenty dollars and it turned out to be the Powder Ridge drug festival, it was terrible (laugh). There was a whole lot of people there, about twenty or thirty thousand and there was a court injunction or something . . .
Yes, they tried from where I remember it from, I heard on
the radio as I was leaving to go that they're not allowing the
festival to go on, and I said nonsense, 'cause they're gonna allow
it, I mean all those people there - they said on the radio there
was a hundred thousand people there - I don't know maybe that
wasn't right, but that's what they said on the radio, and there
were all these kids that had paid twenty dollars to go see a concert,
that were going to be very disappointed because there was a court
injunction that said no concert would go on at Powder Ridge, and
I said 'I just got a feeling the court injunction will be lifted
and everybody's gonna have a concert, 'cause how can they do that
you know after they take the money, and the people are there already
anyway, I mean why bother . . .
As it turns out, they did it . . they had control of the electrical power. . .
They said any performer who showed up was gonna be arrested with a possible ten year sentence, oh, they can't arrest singers I said to myself because that's ridiculous, you know, they won't do that, and what I did, I ended up -- everybody said don't go, it's dangerous and you shouldn't do it because you're gonna be arrested and go to jail for ten years, Me? In jail? How could that be? So I went and I snuck in - because they wouldn't let me in as me - so what I did is I combed my hair back, I hid my guitar in the trunk and I just rode in with the WINS news team, I went in with their limo - they all knew they were harbouring a refugee . . .
Smuggling in a musician . .
A rock person, I got in to the festival, I didn't know what I was gonna do there, I just thought there were a lot of people, and I am one of the people they came to see and I'm gonna be there, so I parked myself on the top of a hill, and I do have a loud voice, I can project maybe for at least five hundred people without any kind of amplification, so I decided I would entertain in spots, pick a hill this time, then I'd go to another hill and pick another hill . .
Ah! So you did a few eh? 'Cause I saw you with the help of an ice cream truck!
That's right. What happened was they heard I was there and I'd gotten in, and the Mister Softee people with the only electric of any kind that had gotten in, so they hooked me up to a -- they hooked up makeshift kinda sound system to a Mr Softee generator . . .
It's the truth - you gotta believe her - I was there!
One microphone, no guitar mic . .
As a matter of fact - if I remember the wording correctly . . they said they were going to arrest any musician that even stepped on the main stage. . .
Absolutely not, you were definitely not allowed to do it, no way . .
So you avoided the main stage - came right over to where I was camped, I was sitting in front of my tent and suddenly it was Melanie and her ice cream truck!
Yeah! Me and Mr Softee did the Powder Ridge festival single handed!
And I remember "Beautiful People" being so good!
That was fine, I just performed for as long as I thought people could stand me, so I was at the festival that never was . .Anyway I still do "Beautiful people" and I don't -- a lot of people thought of this as a Woodstock nation song, but I really don't agree with that - I never did agree with that, when I wrote it, it was, it definitely has a humanitarian theme, but I thought, because of the times we were going through that it was perceived a little differently than the way I had intended it to be -- I wasn't ablissing running around the streets kissing everybody, you know what I mean - I wasn't an idiot! I was young, I was sixteen when I wrote this song, by the time I got to perform it I was nineteen, in front of large audiences, the first time I ever recorded this song, the man who's playing the classical acoustic guitar over there, Sal De Troia played on this session with me, and I think we had to record the song - I think we did about fifty takes to get it! By the time the fiftieth take came I was so exasperated - I knew what I wanted out of myself . Everybody was really patient, and Sal was really patient, everybody just went it, and fifty takes later we recorded the song, and I still sing this song now! I think I got more understanding of the emotion that I was feeling then and it's a valid now as it was then. So it ends now in "Beautiful People" . . .
Very nice, Melanie, Sal, Very nice. Must have been one fine day when you discovered how those songs go together like that. At any rate, "Beautiful People" 1978 or whenever you came upon that arrangement is wonderful - really nice . . .
Just me and Sal, we were - I don't know how we discovered to do that again (laugh) -
Sal: Save The Ocean!
Save The Ocean - That's right, and we decided that just Sal and I would record it since we knew it (laugh), and we did that at a benefit for the Atlantic Ocean Alliance.
As you said, it's as applicable today as it was in the hippie era.
It is, I think it is almost more applicable, because, then, you know they had an abundance of humanitarian . . .
There was just too much flower power, and you suffered for it - that song suffered for it, shall we say?
I thought so, but it's kinda live for me again - I continue to do it and feel about it the way I do.
Speaking of large gatherings of people to see you, the last time many of us saw you was at Sunfest, which was a year and a half ago. It was quite an occasion!
Yes! I loved that concert! What an unexpected concert that was!
Was really nice! Many people in the Greater Tampa Bay area made that trip haven't seen you since - so this will be a real nice follow up to that.
If you have any interest at al, you'll come and see me at the Tampa Theater which will be - I think Theater -- enclosed places are much - I'll tell you what it is . . No matter how big it is, it could be a ten thousand seater or a two hundred seat auditorium, but if there are walls at the end of it, I think that you can fill it. Sometimes at big outdoor places, like you're just going out to never never land - you're trying to reach infinity or something, and sometimes it's really difficult.
Yes, plus it's probably a gradually depreciating effect as you go further and further out.
The person who has the 150th standing position at a outdoor festival is probably eating a hot dog or taking his favourite drug or something, and they're really not too involved in it - you see somebody's up there, he hears the sound, but he's not really there, whereas the first two thousand or so get the whole thing.
You're gonna like the Tampa Theater too!
I heard! Everybody's been telling me it's wonderful - I'm so happy they didn't tear it down.
Yeah, so are we . . .
Thank you all very much! You have been listening to Melanie and her friends and company on the coffee break concert on QSR - thankyou.