GORDON LIGHTFOOT has written some of the greatest songs of all time, including “Sundown” and “If You Could Read My Mind,” among many others. The singer-songwriter gives an in-depth interview here.
Kathie Lee Gifford is best known as a morning television personality, especially her fifteen year run on the famed talk show Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, which she co-hosted with Regis Philbin. She’s received 11 Daytime Emmy nominations and won her first Daytime Emmy in 2010 as a part of the Today show team.
For many Americans, Kathie Lee Gifford is synonymous with morning entertainment. However, she has a strong musical side…she has recorded several albums of everything from Standards to Christian music and in the early 90s she began working in musical theatre. She is also a lyricist. Kathie Lee Gifford has written songs recorded and performed by other artists as well as herself.
As you may notice, Lynette Carolla is downright likeable.
Well, tell all the listeners out there…I asked Jim Carolla this question and he had a very philosophical answer.
Of course he did.
Who’s the real Lynette Carolla?
The real Lynette Carolla….you’re talking to her right now. I think I’m…what is…I am doing three things right now. I’m in the kitchen with the kids. I just made them lunch, which, uh, was salami, string cheese, crackers, corn chips and an apple. I just poured myself a cup of coffee and we’re about to go take our blind dog, Mollie, for a walk and then we’re going to go run some errands. And that’s what my Saturday looks like. And then we’re going to come home and go to bed. They’re going to go to bed and I’m going to stay up and watch my reality TV.
ACE Broadcasting is kind of like a family business.
You and your husband, Adam, you both have a podcast.
And then Adam’s father has a podcast.
What inspired you to want to have your own show?
(Laughs) Well, it wasn’t really my idea. What happened was that I did….I was very lucky and privileged and it was an honor that I got to be able to do a guest DJ on E Street Radio….on Sirus FM Radio because I’m a Bruce Springsteen fan. I don’t know if you’ve heard. But what happened was I emailed Baba Booey in New York, a friend of ours, and the producer of the Howard Stern show…I told him what a great job…I heard him on E Street Radio. I’d just got Sirus…it was in my car. I turned on E Street and he was doing a guest DJ on E Street. My girlfriend, Jody’s here…Hey Jody…say hi to the Paul Leslie show.
I told him that he did such a great job as a guest DJ. I said it would be a dream come true for me and blah, blah, blah, and then he like hooked me up with Sirus FM and long story short, I got to do an E Street Radio guest DJ and Adam’s partner at the time, Donny White over at ACE Broadcasting said, you know, we should…well, what happened was they wanted…they were building the network and they wanted to get more female listeners so they thought, “We should have some kind of a female show on the network and so Donny’s wife, Kathy, said, “Well let’s do like a ‘mommy/parenting’ type show,” and thought that I would be good with Teresa Strasser who was working with Adam at the time and who had just had a baby. So that’s how that came about. I’m not a speaker, talker, comedian or whatever. I mean, I just, it just kind of fell into my lap and then we started doing it and it was fun and I, we’re continuing doing it now and it’s now ‘For Crying Out Loud,’ is the name of the show with Stephanie Wilder Taylor who is a best- selling author…who wrote ‘Sippy Cups are not for Chardonnay’ and ‘Naptime’s the New Happy Hour’ and all that. She’s y co-host and it’s more than a “mommy” show now. There’s more women issues and stuff like that and we cover all kinds of…we just talk about whatever’s interesting to us really. We just continue doing it and it’s kind of growing and it’s fun but more so, behind the scenes, I help Adam. I’m a…I’m like his glorified executive assistant I guess. I basically do whatever needs to be done which is a ton. I get like twenty emails a day about stuff, kind of helping back and forth as much as I can in all the different areas of Adam’s podcast. Everything, not just his podcast but his personal stuff, his travel, every…his book…oh, everything that’s Adam, I help. I mean, he’s got an assistant, Matt Fondiler and he’s got ‘Wish You Were Gay Jay’ who works down on his cars in the garage, but I’m with Adam all the time and things come up all the time and I help out where I can.
He’s a very, very busy guy and a very, very hard worker. When you first met Adam Carolla, what was your first impression?
Well even he will tell you, he’s the laziest, hard-working guy he knows. When I first met him, I was attracted to him. I mean, he was my type. That was my first impression, to be honest. At the time at 25, I was working in the entertainment industry. I was working at a syndication sales company, ‘New World Entertainment,’ andwas ran by Brandon Tartikoff. I was 25 years old and I was kind of dating douchie kind of guys that are in the industry and then I met Adam and I told Adam that I saw the pilot that he did for ‘Love Line’ and I said it was really funny and it was really good and our company produced the pilot and I met him and I told him what a great job he did and I said, “Do you have…you saw the show, right? You saw the pilot?” And he said, “No…no I didn’t.” And I said, “Really? Do you have a copy of the pilot?” He said, “No.” And I just thought it was very odd that this guy is a young, kind of unknown comedian who doesn’t….who doesn’t have a copy of their pilot that they did for Fox television stations, and I loved that. I was like, “Wow! This is a normal kind of guy.” So, he was very sweet and he courted me. I’ve told the story many times. Anyways, that was my first impression of Adam, the very “non-showbizy” kind of guy and that’s what I like about him.
We always vow when we’re younger to never do this.
But a lot of times, we become our parents.
My mother always says, “If you’re mad you got to make it glad,” in a very certain tone and I find myself saying that to my nephews and my niece. Now that you’re a mother, do you ever catch yourself doing something and then stopping and saying.
“I’m my mother” (Laughs)
Yeah, all the time. Yeah. Yeah well my mom was an immigrant from Italy and she…I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. I was born in Cleveland but I grew up…my family came here when I was seven. They tried to put me in show biz and I hated it…acting and all that kind of stuff…and my mom was kind of a weird…a pushy stage mom who didn’t speak English and she also taught self defense. She’s a third degree black belt in five martial arts and had a self defense academy and all that kind of stuff I was forced to do too so I had like a show biz kind of mom that was pushy but she spoke broken English and I was raised kind of different I guess. My parents were older. They were both Italian. They were both very conservative. They wouldn’t let me do anything. They wouldn’t let me spend the night at a friend’s house. So, I tell myself I’m not going to be like that but now I do get very protective over my kids. They’re not spending the night over anybody’s house that I didn’t…you know…I’m kind of strict. They were strict and I see myself doing that but it is what it is and in this world, I think it’s not bad to be strict. So…
What do you think the biggest challenge facing parents is?
Well, I know that in living in LA is tough as a parent because you’ve always had the philosophy…you’ve had the hippie mom, the helicopter mom…and all that kind of stuff they talk about is true. I mean, I run across these people all the time. My best friend is a different kind of mom than I am and I don’t know what the challenges…there’s always a challenge…there’s nothing but one big challenge really raising kids so there’s always going to be a challenge. I mean, for me, the biggest challenge is having twins, a boy and a girl, making sure they’re getting both their feelings…I don’t know…their attention, the love from both of us. It’s very weird. You start to see that one feels jealous more than the other…you hug one or you praise one more than the other, the other one’s like, “I did that too,” you know, and it’s kind of like a little competition going on. That’s my kind of challenge and also raising kids out here in LA not having them be self-centered and expecting things and kind of being, growing up, I guess, entitled and stuff like that. Luckily, knock on wood, my kids are not like that yet but I hope they don’t become that way and it’s hard and it’s very, very hard. You have to really keep a tight leash and you kind of have to rule with an iron fist I guess, and that’s what I do. So far, so good.
One of the things about having a show is that you get to invite interesting people to join in on the conversation. You’ve had David Alan Grier on your show. You’ve had some really interesting people. Who have you been most excited to welcome?
Well, I hate to say it ‘cause you just said it, but David Alan Grier, I was a nervous wreck. I have to say. I’m a huge DAG fan and whenever he’s on Adam’s show, he gets me going and I keep repeating and saying things that he said on the podcast to crack Adam up. He’s like the one guy in this world that really makes Adam laugh hard with tears, and that’s very rare and so I listen to the podcast when he’s on Adam’s show and it’s just so funny to listen to it and so I’ll repeat stuff that he says at home to Adam and I just got on it and was like, “You know what? Can we get him…you know, he’s got a little girl, “I said, “Can we get him on our show?” He was like, “Sure. No problem.” He came on the show and I was…the whole morning, I was a nervous wreck because, I mean, how is this guy not a bigger star? He should be hosting the Oscars in my opinion. He’s frigging talented. I mean, he sings opera, for pete’s sake. He’s on Broadway. The guy’s improvisational skills are just awesome…awesome, off the chart. So he’s a talented guy. Very talented. And was very honored to have him on the show. Other people? Kevin Nealon is amazing…he’s such a funny guy. Him and his wife, they’ve been on. His wife is a darling, darling girl. Mollie Ringwald…she was on. That was fun, talking to her. She kind of got teary-eyed. We made her cry. That was early in the episode. So, yeah, I mean, and just people you really haven’t heard of: authors of books and bloggers…stuff like that. Like we had the dad, a blogger, ‘Shake Hard (???)’, I’d never heard of them but they get like a million hits on YouTube a day, and he came with his lovely wife and they were a lot of fun and his whole family came. So just, I mean everybody, it’s just interesting the people that come through there. And sometimes we don’t have guests. Stephanie andI just sit and we talk about our week, what we’re dealing with, what’s going on at home, what’s going on in our marriage, what’s going on with our kids. We’ll talk about our first concert, our first kids…all that kind of stuff. It’s fun. I mean, I don’t know if anybody’s listening but it’s a good time, I guess. (Laughs)
There’s so many different options there with the ACE Broadcasting. I’m enamored with it. It’s really, really interesting to have Jim’s philosophical show and your show and then Adam’s show’s always really compelling. What do you see in the future for the ACE Broadcasting family of podcasts?
That’s a question for ‘Booker’ Mike August. Mike August has been very involved with Adam’s network. He’s a character Adam talks about from time to time but he is a brilliant guy. He understands the business like nobody else; he and Adam basically and he’s been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. Uh, the future? I think that Adam is doing something incredible, which is, he’s basically in uncharted waters. Nobody’s done it. Nobody’s really put their finger on podcasting. Now maybe they can but when Adam started they couldn’t and it was very hard, Like, how do you monetize this? How does this work? How do people access it? How does the content….everything, and we’ve managed to make the machine go and I guess the future, I’m hoping, is podcasting is going to get easier and easier meaning that, when people say, “How did I miss you on the morning radio,” you can say, “Well, I got a podcast now.” And people say, “I don’t know how to do that.” Well, hoping that, as the future goes, it’s going to be easier and easier where people can easily get a podcast in their car as they’re driving to work and listen to Adam everyday and stream it into their car. Stream it at work. Stream it in their homes. That’s what we’re hoping and you know what? From what I hear, it’s pretty close to that. It’s getting close and Adam was at LA Auto Show last week and Hundai’s doing stuff where they….something with the stuff…I don’t know…the technology that they’re getting in their cars. We’re looking towards the future and Adam’s sort of like the pioneer I guess and it’s flattering. I mean, I love… I’m a big fan. I listen to his show every day. I love Ball Bryan and Allison and I download it and when I download it and to see it up on ITunes, number one through five, number one, number four, every day, it’s just so satisfying to see that Adam is working hard but it’s paying off. People are really responding. I know that sounds cheesy, but it really is. It’s all about the fans and the listener base. They tell their friend and they and, you know, you can grow that listener base then you’ve really got something and obviously, Adam has done that. He’s got the best fans and the most loyal fans on earth, I think, and he’s very grateful and I’m grateful and it feels like we’re kind of all in this together. This is hopefully something that’s going to catch on bigger and better in the future I guess.
Well one of the great things about podcasting and the various options now for broadcasting is you’re not limited to just the LA area or the New York City area.
This question came from Georgianna Tiller and she wrote in to ask two questions of you. One: what do you most like to do as a family? And two: as a parent, what do you most want your children to learn from you?
Wow! Okay…as a family, we do a lot of laying around, watching TV together and relaxing but when Adam has time off, we hang out with the kids. We play with the kids. It’s all about them and one thing we like to do is we hike. We go on hikes. The kids are waiting for me right now to go on a hike but we take the blind dog and we go out. We go for walks up in the Hollywood Hills. We’ll go to the movies. We’ll take the kids to the movies. We love to go on a Saturday night. We’ll take the kids out to dinner to an Italian restaurant. We do that kind of stuff together. What was the second question?
She says: what do you most want your children learn from you?
Well, I want them to be good people but that’s it. I want them to be…Adam wants them to be smart. I want them to be good (laughs). I just want them to be good people and to be thoughtful and add something to society. I’d like for them, you know, to learn to follow through. If you’re going to start something you gotta finish it whether you like it or not. Adam’s got the football coach philosophy going with them which is a good thing. It keeps them disciplined. I want them to have discipline. I think that’s important. They both have a really good sense of humor, which is very important in our house. Just be good people and to be Springsteen fans would be nice too.
Oh of course (Laughs). What is the best thing about being Lynette Carolla?
The best thing about being Lynette Car…well I have to say…Jody’s laughing…well, that’s a loaded question too. The best (laughs), uh, the best thing about…alright…the best thing about being Lynette Carolla would be to be able to get good seats to concerts (laughs). I mean, really…I got to meet Bruce Springsteen last week alright. That’s sort of a big plus, I would say. Wouldn’t you say? I mean, I would.
I mean, I’ve admired the guy since I was eleven years old and I got to tell him what a big fan I was and sit down and have a conversation with him, which was unbelievable and just tell him what a true fan I was so there’s that but you know, also Adam is a great guy. Being married to Adam, you know, it ain’t easy…it’s not easy being married to Adam. I’ll be honest. He thinks…uh…I don’t know…he expects the best out of people so I think that a plus about being married to Adam, which I think is probably what the question really was, I think that the big plus is that Adam expects…it’s gonna sound bad…he’s not high maintenance at all but he expects…he expects better from people. He expects them to be at their best, I guess. That’s tough and it sounds…I know it’s coming out wrong, but he’s very big with discipline and stuff like that and I think that when I wasa bachelorette it was different. Now that I’m married to Adam and I have kids, he keeps order and stuff like that. Again, it’s probably sounding wrong. He’s not a hard ass or anything or whatever, but he expects very much from people and it’s good for me and it’s good for the kids, you know, and I think it’s a good thing. The other thing is, now I look at the world a different way and I know now it’s rubbing off on my friends. They’re stuck in traffic and they call me like, “Really? What…” and then they start going off on traffic or they start complaining about things because they listen to Adam…when you live with that, you start to see the world the same way and you can’t help but be a mini Adam and my friends are like, “You sound Adam.” I’m like, “Well, Yeah…I can’t…I live with the guy. I mean, I can’t help it. I know what can’t Adam complain about but it’s true.” There’s a lot of stuff you can complain about and now it’s like exemplified living with him. So, again, it’s a good thing a little bit but it keeps things moving fast I guess (laughs).
This last question is totally open-ended.
Answer any way you like…what would you like to say to all our listeners? Adam told me, he said: “Have a dance party with your kids.”
So what would you answer be?
What I want to say….I want to thank everybody that supports Adam’s show and anything that’s gone out of the network. And the future for Adam and his network, I think it’s changing a little bit. Things are going to be a little different in the New Year, in January. We’ve made some changes behind the scenes, obviously with the new website. We’ve got the app and stuff like that and I have the new show, ‘For Crying Out Loud.’ For the fans who are listening and support us and Tweet us…people whogo on Amazon through Adam’s website…is if, Adam, if he could, he would give a reach-around to every person that went on Amazon through his website. I mean, he’s just thrilled! It just…it shows him that people really do listen to what he is saying and is respectful to what asks and they want to give him a little bit a payback so it’s free…he goes in every night. He does a daily show every day. Nobody’s corporation’s paying him. It’s all being advertising and stuff like that and every little bit helps and it’s sort of a grass roots thing that wouldn’t work if we didn’t have such a strong listener base and that is something that trickles down to me that I’m grateful for, he’s grateful for and it’s just he’s delighted. His favorite thing to do is sit on Twitter and he personally answers people on Twitter as much as he can and especially the ones that support his show like, “I did use your tricks,’ or “I did use your sponsor,’ and that Amazon thing is insane! I mean, people going on there and using it, bookmarking it and using it. It’s so overwhelmingly…it’s overwhelming. I’d just like to say…I’d like to thank everybody…everybody for their support. I mean, everybody supporting my show, supporting Adam’s show and supporting Adam and everything he does and the New Year…January’s going to bring a lot of exciting things. Things are coming out soon that people don’t know about and it’s going to be an exciting year and I think…I think people are going to be pleased and I want to thank everybody.
Well, Ms. Carolla, thank you very, very much.
Thank you. Thank you.
Before we go, which Bruce Springsteen song do you want to play at the end of this interview?
Oh….(laughs)…well, you know what? I’ll do ‘The Ties that Bind.’ It’s a good, “poppy” kick-off. It’s the very first song on ‘The River.’ It kicks off Bruce’s double album called ‘The River.’ It came out in 1980 and it’s the very first song on that album and it’s called ‘The Ties that Bind’ and it’s one of my favorites and the lyrics I identify with. (Laughs)
Alright. Spoken like a true fan (laughs).
Thank you so much Paul! I really appreciate it. I appreciate it. Thank you!
TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO
For readers of glossy celebrity magazines or viewers of the television program TMZ or followers of websites like PopTV.com, Elliot Mintz is a Hollywood publicist and media consultant for clients past and present ranging from Paris Hilton, Nicky Hilton, Don Johnson, Shauna Sands, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Bob Dylan and the estate of John Lennon as well as companies like Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino and Bijan Fragrance.
Elliot Mintz is also known in the world of broadcasting as a past radio and television personality, having interviewed over 2,000 people as a radio talk show host and later as a television correspondent and host. He went on to host “The Lost Lennon Tapes,” a syndicated weekly radio program that ran from 1988 to 1992. The Lost Lennon Tapes broadcasted previously unreleased tracks, rehearsals, composing tapes, interviews and home recordings of John Lennon whom Mintz first met in 1971.
In the world of John Lennon and his living legacy, Elliot Mintz is known as a confidante and friend of John Lennon. His memoirs of John Lennon appear in the book Memories of John Lennon, compiled by Yoko Ono available from Harper Collins.
Undoubtedly, Elliot Mintz is a man whose life has been an incredible journey.
It’s not everyday you get to welcome someone who influenced you and that is happening tonight with our special guest Elliot Mintz. Elliot Mintz started in the world of media as an underground radio personality and became known as a very major press representative whose clients have included Bob Dylan, Don Johnson, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and others. Elliot thanks so much for making the time to do this. It’s a pleasure.
Paul the pleasure is mine and it’s a delight to meet you.
Who is Elliot Mintz?
I guess it depends who you ask.
I think most stories are best from the beginning. Where were you born and what was life like growing up?
I was born February 16th, 1945 in the Bronx. Raised in New York. Lived there until I was seventeen, eighteen years old and caught a plane to LA where I’ve been ever since. My recollections of my childhood are always sketchy. I can give them to you in non sequiturs. I have one sister. My parents were deeply loving people who were married for over 40 years. I lost my father recently at age 99. My mother had passed in her seventies. I never recall the two of them having an argument. It was a kind of 1950s Norman Rockwell childhood as far as I can tell. I can picture a barbershop poles on the street corner of the neighborhood. The local pizza shop where I saw my first Wurlitzer juke box and where I probably first heard Elvis. There was a park not far from where I grew up in the apartment, two bedroom apartment. And I would like to take long walks in the park. I was a terrible student. I had an awful stutter. My stuttering resulted in me having to take speech therapy classes which is one of the reasons I speak this way. When I first decided I wanted to be a DJ, you know you always try to overcome the things you can’t do, like the people who lose their limbs and decide they want to climb Mount Everest. Well, I used to (imitates his old speaking manner) talk like that. I’m not making fun of people who stutter. So I sounded, and besides talking like that I had a New York accent because it’s the only place that I had been to – street corner. So early on I wanted to get beyond the limitations of expression and maybe expand it somewhat. My childhood was neither happy or sad. It was solitary with few friends, poor scholastic grades, lots of reading, lots of reflection, endless hours in movie theatres.
You just mentioned Elvis a second ago. What music did you fall in love with when you were young?
My parents had one of those gigantic radios in the living room, a very modest apartment in 190th Street in Manhattan, not far from the George Washington Bridge. My father lived in that apartment until the end of his life – all of his life. But there was this big mahogany device with that giant speaker in it, you know? It could’ve been a Grundig Majestic, I forgot what it was, and I grew up listening to ‘50s music. First doo-wop, which I love to this day, which I heard in high school, when people would go into the bathroom to create that great early reverb effect off the tile walls, and do the great doo-wop classics that the Five Satins and the others did. My parents came in at the end of the Frank Sinatra experience and the dawn of Doris Day and the Hit Parade and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a very innocent time in America, and I would listen to little bits of that coming through the radio without paying a great deal of attention to it. Until I heard Elvis and that changed everything and from that point on I would listen to the basic music of the ‘50s. If you pick up any one of those classic albums of the one hundred of the top ‘50s hits from the 1950s, that’s what I was listening to and that slowly segued into, probably like most people, from Elvis to two people: Dylan and the Beatles.
You mentioned a minute ago, you said you made it out here in LA. What was it that brought you out here?
There were two major factors, Paul. One, because I was such a miserable student in school and was left behind in every grade, had to attend summer school every summer, finally got out of high school with a 66 average after, I think, five years. My IQ was about ten points lower than the national average. I’m not a smart person. I of course applied to every college that I could, was obviously rejected by all of them except for Los Angeles City College, a community college in LA. So one of the reasons I wound up here was I was invited by a school when all the others turned me down. The second reason was when I was around 16 I saw a movie called The Misfits, the last movie ever done that starred Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe before they died. The movie also included Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach. It was written by Arthur Miller who was married to Marilyn Monroe at the time. He wrote Death of a Salesman. It was about a dying breed of cowboys trying to make the transition from wrestling or roping wild mustang to sell to wealthy Texans as Christmas presents to their children, to roping wild mustang to selling them to the dealers to put in dog food containers. And there was something about the essence of The Misfits, which I’ve now seen a hundred times, it’s my favorite film – Casablanca is my second favorite – it was my first view of the West and I knew I wanted to be there in some capacity. The third was I wanted to get out of New York. So it was those three things that motivated me to get on a plane one day and come to a place I’d never been to before, knew nobody and try to get a start.
So you came out here, you don’t know anybody and from there you become a part of this Los Angeles music scene and you become a disc jockey. What lead you down that path?
Well, Los Angeles City College, fortunately, turns out to have had one of the very best broadcasting departments in America. And it was free. It was a small class, 30 or 40 students and I studied everything having to do with broadcasting. I wanted to know how to broadcast. I wanted to learn how to do the weather, how to operate a camera, how to be an engineer, how to do news, how to do everything having to do with broadcast, to work on losing the New York accent, to work on losing the stutter and I gravitated to a particular area in broadcasting which was interviewing. I found myself all-consumed with the study of how to conduct a meaningful interview and there was a little college radio station KMLA that if you opened the windows really wide and spoke very loud you could be heard to the lunch room, and the students would practice that way and I started practicing by interviewing people on KMLA. I was 18 years old. It was a preview of coming attractions. I enjoyed listening. I believe that everyone had a story to tell. I believed that most people were not willing to give up their story without some degree of an acoustic environment that suggested, “I really want to know,” and I learned my first lesson in interviewing which was “Ask the question. Shut up. Get out of the way and let the guest respond.” After a year or two at KMLA I just applied to a variety of local radio stations and was accepted by one, KPFK, which was a listener-supported station, part of a group called the Pacifica Foundation. There was a station in New York, Texas and Berkley, etc. and if people liked what they heard just sent them a check. Kind of like PBS and that kind of thing. I was 21. I was the youngest talk show host in America and I began doing nightly radio shows, interviewing the cultural icons of the time. After a year or two there I went on to do the same basic thing on seven or eight different radio stations, commercial stations, and then on to television, by talking to people. My guess is I interviewed over 2,000 people. I also took phone calls from listeners, an estimated 20,000 on-air phone calls as well, and in the process over a ten-year period I tried to learn my craft.
Throughout the course of you doing radio, when you were on the air and when you were doing these interviews, what were you trying to accomplish out of that? What did you want the listener to get out of the experience?
The essence of the person I was speaking with. I viewed myself as a conduit. The guest speaks to the audience through me. I was not there to judge or to argue or to quarrel. In those days FM radio, you could sit and talk to somebody for two or three or four hours. Today we have now reduced a sound bite to a sound bark. You’ve got about three seconds to get an answer out. I would be terrible on today’s radio. Nobody would pay any attention at all. See, Paul, I’ve always believed that if somebody has something to speak about, that touches your life, your heart, your experience, there is a valuable exchange because you get another point of view. I wasn’t that big on the exclusives. I wasn’t that big on just racking up how many famous people I could get. Some of my more memorable interviews for me personally were with anonymous people with something to say as opposed to extraordinarily famous people who had nothing to say. When I say they had nothing to say, I append that by saying that they had nothing to say through me. There are some musicians who can create these sensory perceptions through lyrics, instrumentation – music, but they don’t talk because all of their brilliance and wisdom and inspiration comes through a very tiny aperture. Just like there are some great writers who can write but can’t speak. There are a zillion great speakers who can’t carry a tune and can’t write a book. So, I wanted to probe. I wanted to explore and felt there was a camaraderie of interest here, between listener, myself and guest, and perhaps something good would be spoken and, optimistically, maybe something would be learned.
You just mentioned that many times the person you interviewed, they weren’t the most famous person. I’m very curious to know was there anyone that you always felt you could have gotten something good out of that constantly eluded you. That you couldn’t get them.
I would have loved to have spoken with Marilyn Monroe but I arrived in Los Angeles shortly after she had passed. So shy of a séance, I couldn’t have interviewed Marilyn but I always wanted to. On my wish list there were three or four unfulfilled interviews. We all have them. You’re a radio guy. You’ve got a secret list in your back pocket of the three or four people who you just, before you hang up your microphone, you’ve got to sit down and talk. We all got ‘em. We all got ‘em. For me, it was Elvis, Howard Hughes, the Pope, and Mother Theresa. Those were the four, if I could sit down and broadcast the essence of who they are, it would have been extraordinary. All for different reasons. I can’t recall anybody else who I really wanted to talk to who I didn’t get a chance to talk to.
Well on the other side of the coin, can you name maybe three or four people that you were elated to interview and when you were done, you thought “This is great.” There’s nothing better than that feeling.
There were some anonymous people at the time, like a man named Jack Gariss, who is one of the creators of a device called the bioscope. He taught me more about meditation than anybody who I ever met and I’ve been meditating for 30 years. Jack was an anonymous person when we met but was one of my favorite interview subjects. He would be an example of somebody where people could say “Jack who?,” but if they listened to the broadcast it could change their lives. In terms of the ones where you did the interview and you drove home that night, and felt that something meaningful had occurred, the first time I spoke to Yoko. The first time I spoke to John. The first interview I did with Bob Dylan. Then I have to scratch my head. Those are three that jump off the page at me but there were writers like Norman Mailer and Ray Bradbury. There were mystical people like Baba Ram Dass and Alan Watts. There were iconic figures like Salvador Dali. There were an endless list of musicians, actors. Sitting in Jack Lemmon’s trailer when I was 18 years old. Him agreeing to talk to a kid from school knowing that it would only be heard at L.A. City College after he had been nominated for Days of Wine and Roses. An afternoon that I spent with John Wayne. A day I spent with Groucho Marx. You don’t have the time or the tape, Paul (laughs) and I don’t have the recollection to go through all of them. But each name that I just mentioned, when I drove home – and sometimes on the way home I would put the tape recorder on play so I could listen to how it sounded before I would get to the station – and there were moments that just propelled me. Partially, being in awe of the person or persons that I spoke with, partially because they said something that I would never anticipated that they would say, and primarily because I felt such good fortune to have had that opportunity.
On the note of Yoko Ono, you mentioned her as one of the interviews that you felt was especially meaningful. If my memory is correct, you interviewed her around the book Grapefruit came out. Is that correct?
I’m so bad with numbers. I can’t do the time table so Grapefruit had already been written. I had read Grapefruit. I recall that she had released an album called Approximately Infinite Universe which I listened to and I found I was transfixed by it. Approximately Infinite Universe, Grapefruit as well as Yoko’s involvement in bed-ins and the rest of it – she captured me. There was something about the essence of what was coming through. Whenever I heard her public pronouncements – I was aware of her long before we spoke – but she sounded like a completely original woman. There is a term, it has legal meanings and it has philosophical meanings, it’s called derivative. Some people believe that all work is derivative, something that preceded it. I don’t know if that would apply to the space program, but people say it does apply to rock ‘n roll that was an out growth of rhythm and blues. I mean there are definitely progressions with Yoko. I’m going to pour you another glass in a second, I’ll finish talking about Yoko. I heard her say things that I had never heard expressed before and I really needed to speak with her. I really needed to hear more and the first interview that we did, it was a phoner. I was on a local station, she was in New York. We spoke on the telephone for an hour. When I got off of the phone, I just knew that I had met somebody unlike anyone I had ever spoken to before. In that sense I probably shared the experience that John did when he first had his encounter. Refresh your glass…Cabernet Sauvignon by Essex.
What am I drinking now?
You’re having Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Esser from a California label. I’m drinking a glass of Macon-Villages Chardonnay. This here is the 2009 Louis Jadot. It’s basically the house wine. I have a bottle of this every day. You’re on red, I’m on white, but all roads lead to the same path.
I suppose ironically, I’m wearing all white and you’re wearing red.
That observation had escaped my attention.
There’s a book, I’m quite fond of this book, it’s called Memories of John Lennon and it was compiled by Yoko Ono, and in it you mentioned that when people ask you what John Lennon was like, that they already know. That line really struck me when you read it. Were you nervous to meet him? I mean, think about it like this, here’s a Beatle and one of the most influential artists of all time. What’s going through your head?
Well I met John on the radio, again, on the telephone. I interviewed him first on the evening of his birthday – live. So, we quote “met,” but we met verbally. It was different. You know we met on the telephone. We talked on the phone. Talking to somebody on the phone creates a completely different experience. You’re not fixated upon meeting somebody who looks exactly like they looked in the photographs that you had seen of them or the movie or whatever it was. So speaking to him was as natural as natural could be. He was a gracious and accommodating interview subject. He had some experience in this area. He also felt so real and if one listens to that first interview – the Mintz-Lennon interview, there were many that would follow – it was like talking to an old friend for me. Now of course, I knew who he was. I think the only thing he knew about me was that he had listened to the Yoko Ono interview that I had done, weeks or months before. He was also aware of the fact that Yoko and I had struck up a telephone friendship where we would talk to each other on the phone after the interview. So he had some insider knowledge as to who this dude Elliot was but we never spoke until we spoke on the radio live. That was completely comfortable. It resulted in a telephone friendship with John as well, where for weeks and months following the first John Lennon interview, John would call me or I would call John, or Yoko would call me or I would call Yoko, or the three of us would, virtually every day for weeks or months. Hundreds of hours of conversations. You know, people do the same thing. They just call it Facebook, right? Before my time, I think it was called pen pals. For John, Yoko and I it was just the telephone exchange. One day, the two of them drove across the United States from New York to California. They didn’t actually do the driving. Somebody drove them, in an old car. John called and said, “We’re here and we would like to meet you.” I admit that when I got into my car to drive to a little community about give or take fifty miles from where we’re sitting, Paul – a place called Ojai – and John described the car he was in, which I keep calling an old Rambler or station wagon. People have asked for greater identification about the vehicle, but that’s all I remember. And I pulled up along side their car, in what I recall to be the middle of the field, and turned the engine off and got out, and the door opened and Yoko came out first and John followed right afterwards. John said to Yoko, “Go on. Give him a hug.” Yoko is not a demonstrably affectionate woman who just gives hugs and kisses to people and it was a hesitating hug and a hello, and John put out his hand and I shook it, and I looked at that face. This was during the ‘working class hero’ look with very long hair and, of course, the wire-rimmed glasses. He looked like John Lennon. He looked as familiar to me as my closest friends, my parents. I had known him for years. There was no nervousness. There was no hesitation. There was no reservation. Now, if we had not had the telephone relationship prior to the meeting in the field, I may have been a little hesitant and maybe he would have been a little guarded but after a minute or two he said, “So look, we’re going to this house we rented. Just follow us.” And I followed them to a house that they were renting and we spent the day together. And Paul, from that point on, in all those years, eight years, in all those hundreds of hours of conversation, all those visits back and forth – John and Yoko would come to my house and I would visit them at the Dakota when we would travel – I always knew that I was talking to John Lennon but I never attached that to anything having to do with Beatlemania or I Want to Hold Your Hand or any of that stuff. When we were having conversations it was just two dudes talking, debating, discovering. The only time that it was different was when we were in public, if we went out to a restaurant and I saw the way everybody else reacted to him, and how he just needed to react to everybody else, that the vibe was slightly different, but the times shared with them privately were as comfortable as me sitting here and talking with you.
I was thinking about you a few weeks ago. I was at the John Lennon Art Gallery in Atlanta at the Weston Hotel. At first, I think spent probably so long looking at all the stuff that they started wondering what my motives were. I looked at the artwork and then I started looking at something altogether different. I started looking at the people who were coming and how they were reacting and also, who was coming in. You know, young people. You have become kind of, like Yoko, the voice of John Lennon in this era and it has to be a tremendous responsibility. I thought about that also when I was reading your recollections in the Memories book. What is that responsibility like?
Well, let me immediately say that I totally divorce myself of the perception that I am the voice of John Lennon. I insist upon that. (Laughs) Nobody speaks for John and I go out of my way, because people have asked me frequently “What would John say about the war today?” and “How would John have felt about George Bush?” or those things, and I always preface it by saying, “I do not speak for John.” Never have, never could. I only wish he could be here to speak for himself. But in terms of me discussing the relationship between John and Yoko, we were family. My responsibility is to historical accuracy. I am not a John Lennon or Yoko Ono sycophant. I was never the house propagandist. I’m not here to advance any kind of myth about him or Yoko, and John has his frailties as we all did, and I never thought of him as a saint. He was a really good guy who did his best to make this world a little better during the time that he was given to do it. Now, as long as I stay focused on that I’m OK with it but I’m no spokesperson for John Lennon.
On that note, I wanted to talk a little bit about The Lost Lennon Tapes, which was a syndicated radio program. It, I believe, gathered six to seven million listeners during it’s peak?
I’m told that those were the numbers. I don’t know who was out there counting them but I heard that.
What are some of your most vibrant memories from the Lost Lennon Tapes?
That’s a good question, Paul. Nobody has ever asked me that before. I’m going to do a quick mind scan to see if one comes up. I’m pouring myself a glass of Chard. There were hundreds of hours of this broadcast that I did called The Lost Lennon Tapes followed by an additional number of hours called The Beatle Years. I did them for a radio syndication company called Westwood One Radio and they were heard on hundreds of radio stations once a week. They were one-hour broadcasts. It involved the airing of previously unheard John Lennon material. Rehearsal tapes, demo tapes, spoken arts, partial interviews, at-home recordings where they just left the machine on. This was a time – I’m not good at the numbers but I think it was 25 years ago – where Yoko had these hundreds and hundreds of hours of material on John and I represented Westwood One. And I arranged a dinner between a man named Norm Pattiz, who created the, was the CEO of Westwood One, and Yoko. We went out to dinner. Yoko had the material, Norm had all of these radio stations, and over dinner it was suggested that perhaps there would be some value in playing the stuff on the radio. By the time we got to dessert and a discussion about a host, somebody floated my name, one of the two. I said, “I accept.” and it began. My joy was in listening to the composing tapes, in listening to these hours and hours of John with an acoustic guitar or at a piano, figuring out – I’m not a musician so I don’t know what the phrase is – the right chords or the right keys on the piano, experimenting with the lyrics, you know, with a little tape recorder, a little Sony, on the piano, and listening to the evolution of songs that would later become known to all of us. So the first time that I would listen to a composing tape of Strawberry Fields Forever or whatever the song might be, it was an accurate representation and reproduction of John’s creative process and I loved that. Years later, John would wear a little button on his lapel that read “I prefer it in mono”. I like listening to recordings. I mention this without any ego attached to it whatsoever – before The Lost Lennon Tapes, I can’t recall boxed sets or collections that involved alternate takes, bonus tracks, all the stuff that’s now a staple for 5,000 musicians. I think it occurred with some jazz artists but I don’t recall it with rock people. If somebody has information that contradicts that, I would love to hear from them. It was new and it was daring and different to let people hear material before it was 100% ready with the makeup on it. I preferred it in mono. I preferred it in its primitive stages. I loved being the fly on the wall, listening to this experience evolve and I think that’s what accounted for the popularity of the radio series.
Your passion for it, in part.
And others that would feel the same way.
Let me refresh your glass.
Thank you, sir. Of the songs that John Lennon wrote – and this may be a question you’re tired of answering – what would you say is your favorite composition?
From the Beatle period or as an individual artist?
How about one of each?
OK. As a Beatle, I loved In Your Life. “There are places I remember.” That song grabbed me. In conversations with John, when I would ask him those questions on air, because when we were not on air doing interviews we rarely, if ever, talked about the Beatles. John had a great sense of pride about that song. He also felt really, really good about Strawberry Fields. He also had really, really positive feelings about I Am the Walrus. Those were the three that we talked about when I asked him what his faves were. There were lots that he acknowledged as being well-written compositions and many that he acknowledged as being extraordinary compositions between himself and Paul, because, as most people know, a lot of these songs were Paul’s songs, a lot were John’s songs, a number were collaborations, but when they were teenagers they had an agreement that every Beatles song would be titled a Lennon-McCartney composition. Although, obviously, there are songs like Yesterday that was purely a Paul McCartney composition and obviously a work of genius. But rather than dividing who wrote who about what, etc., In My Life, Strawberry Fields and I Am the Walrus are my three favorite Beatles songs. In terms of his individual work, Imagine is our collective. We’re sitting here tonight in January of 2011, and I note that every time the ball drops in Times Square to bring in a new year, they play two songs to the crowd of the million and the viewers of the hundred million around the world, and somebody plays on the loudspeakers first Imagine, then Frank Sinatra sings New York, New York. Imagine was the wish, the hope, the prayer, the vision. It is the song that is most, in my opinion, indicative of the feelings and passions, beliefs, hopes, wishes, dreams, of John. Conversely, I really took to a song called God. He represents my feelings and represented his but what touched me so much about it was the reprobatory nature of the way he expressed his sentiments. Watching the Wheels, Beautiful Boy – dozens and dozens and dozens of others. I was a little old for the Beatle experience. Keep in mind that my teenage years was influenced by Elvis. But by the time I was in my twenties it wasn’t about the Beatles, it was about John and Yoko and, a generation later, for the children to follow it, would be Michael Jackson. I felt that John did his best work after the Beatles. His collaboration with Yoko, who helped to teach him how to imagine, the power of imagining, struck a responsive chord in my heart.
You mentioned a moment ago, Imagine. My mother is someone who most people think of as being a traditionalist and a Christian type, and something that she said about Imagine – I’ll never forget her saying this to me. She said, “Imagine is what everybody really feels but maybe doesn’t admit.”
What an interesting quote from your mom.
Aside from that, this I thought was kind of an unusual question. John also had a fine taste in music and he covered a lot of songs that I thought were awesome versions like Ain’t That a Shame and so many. Was a cover that you thought, “Well done”?
Absolutely. Without question, without reservation, instantly, with all due respect to Ben E. King, with all due respect. When I hear John Lennon singing Stand by Me it puts the universe in perspective. It was the best cover of that song, just like Ray Charles’s cover of Eleanor Rigby was the best cover of that song. Stand By Me by John Lennon was it for me. And if one visits the rock and roll album, the one that was produced by Phil Spector, and listens to John’s covers – I know a lot of people are dismissive of that and they kind of feel that why should John Lennon cover other people’s songs when he was such a genius? His genius was recognizing the value of reminding people of these experiences that they may have missed. That was part of his genius. He wasn’t some kind of creative hog – ‘if it isn’t about me and if it isn’t one of mine, why should I do somebody else’s?’ Those songs, the ‘50s song from the rock and roll album, were the songs that he grew up listening to in Liverpool, via the BBC, that led him down the long and winding road.
I wondered if you were going to say Angel Baby.
Well, I happen to have a particular love for that song. I think that Angel Baby – Paul, in some ways, just based upon what you shared with me a few moments ago, I probably share a lot of your mom’s beliefs. Your mom was a devout Christian? So she would acknowledge that angels are messengers of God. They are sent here for that purpose.
I would think so.
I don’t mean to misrepresent your mother’s feelings but I think that that would be the natural extrapolation.
Well I believe in angels and I believe that they are messengers of God, and I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard Angel Baby. It had to have been, it was in the 1950s when the song came out or maybe later. I was just a kid. But when I heard it, it sounded like a choir from heaven. The song is like a psalm and if you can clear it through YouTube, or whatever you have to do these days to get the angels to sing to people, run it. I listened to it in the past eight or nine months on an old Wurlitzer jukebox, which is the way it should be listened to. It’s sacred.
It’s absolutely a mesmerizing song.
Yes. Especially if you hear it in mono, on vinyl, on a 45 RPM that’s not been digitally enhanced, on an old jukebox or an old turntable with the tone arm, it’s just like heaven being here with you. It’s interesting, John and I never discussed that song and I attended a number of those “Rock and Roll” sessions, those Spector sessions. I don’t know how I would have reacted being in the room listening to John singing Angel Baby. So, yeah – Angel Baby, Stand By Me – a toss-up. Make one the A side, one the B side.
One note on that. Rosie – the woman who wrote that song – she said that John’s version was her absolute favorite.
Yeah, which, I can see it. He really embodied it when he sang it.
For the record, Rosie and the Originals’ original version – my favorite version.
However, John did right by her.
Yoko Ono, she’s somebody – her art had been scrutinized by a lot of people but I’m impressed that she always releases her art and her music. I think a lot of great artists are releasing their work – yes, for their audience but also to turn themselves on. What motivates her?
Again, without speaking for Yoko because she does that most eloquently on her own, my observation is Yoko attempts always to be true to her own heart. She doesn’t sit around with a bunch of consultants to discuss ‘What material should I do? What should I wear? What stylist should I use?’ etc., to try and sell the most records or get the most recognition or any of that stuff. Yoko is an original and her allegiance is to her art. Always has been from day one to day two. Here’s what’s changed, Paul. The rest of the world caught up with her. I’m not sure of the next statistic I’m about to give to you but I think, I think, I think that if you went to billboard and looked up ‘dance singles’ during the past five years, you would find that ‘dance singles by Yoko Ono’ have achieved the #1, 2 or 3 position at least a half a dozen times in the past five years. She is a lady in her 70s.
Well, on the note of Yoko Ono, I’d like to tell you and all the listeners about an experience that I had in Athens, Georgia. I saw Sean Lennon perform. I can tell you it was one of the most moving concerts I have ever seen in my life. I remember sitting there and I was sitting next to a guy who is a friend of mine – he’s an attorney – and he didn’t get it, and you know, that’s cool. And I didn’t hear him when he was talking to me. He would talk to me, he would say things and I was fixated on this concert. What do you think about Sean Lennon?
I’m going to answer the question but first let me ask you a question. The concert that you saw, was that before he and Charlotte formed Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger? Was he just performing solo?
Yes, it was right after Friendly Fire. An incredible album and incredible video accompaniments that go with it. I’m incredibly impressed with his work. It was a beautiful concert. It was at The Melting Point, a very, very intimate venue. I was blown away by the songs.
I commend people’s attention to Friendly Fire. It’s a package of two discs. One disc is just music and another other disc is what I’m going to call a video, but it’s not just your traditional video. It’s shot like a movie. I think it was shot in 35mm. It has a story line to it. It’s exquisite. Bijou Phillips is in it. Lindsay Lohan is in it. I make a brief cameo appearance but you have to look really fast and really hard to see me in it. Friendly Fire was, in my opinion, Sean’s primal scream. It was an intensely emotional time for him and a complex time. In recent years, he has been travelling the world with his girlfriend and fellow musician, and they have a little group – it’s them. That’s the whole group and the group is called ‘Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger’. And people can look that up or just go on SeanLennon.com and they’ll be led to videos and the rest of it. I saw them perform in L.A. about a month ago and they’ll be back here in two weeks. It showcases their collective genius in composition and presentation. It’s a stripped-down, metaphorical, mystical, psychedelic, ‘eternal presence’ exchange between the audience and performers. It harkens back to the days when you would go to a concert, not expecting to see your rock and roll hero, but expecting to be touched, excited, intrigued and leave in a state of personal reflection. It might be the most unique musical act currently touring the world. I love Sean. I met him when he was a week old. He’s 35 now. He’s the son I never had you know. He’s an inspiration to me. I cannot say enough about his generosity of spirit, his creative abilities, his absolute brilliance, his humor, consideration, reverence. Love Sean. I love Sean. He was here last month. You know what we did, Paul? Just before the night of the concert, he was only in L.A. for a day or two. He and Charlotte came up to the house. We set up a couple of cameras. I sat and I talked with him for an hour and a half in front of the fireplace that you’re probably hearing in the background, and we reminisced a little bit about our 35-year journey together. And looking at him and remembering him from the years that he would come out in the summers, when he was seven, eight, nine, ten years old, and he would stay with me in Laurel Canyon in my old house. When I would go to New York to attend his birthday parties. Our adventures on the road. Awards ceremonies. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours and nights in this room where we’re sitting, where we’re having our recording/telephone conversation. If you ever have an opportunity to meet and interact with Sean, that’s a true gift. But considering the pedigree, it should not come as a surprise.
Well, you’ve talked about a lot of these people and I have a pretty good idea of who your answer will be but in your life, what person have you that met most inspired you?
I think Jack Gariss.
Yeah. Right now, people who are listening to this are scratching their heads and saying, ‘Who?” When I was 21 or 22 on KPFK radio, I met this man who was the man who turned me on to meditation and metaphysics. He had the most lasting, meaningful impact. Hundreds of people who I met who touched me and influenced me for different reasons, for different reasons. Sometimes God places some people before you for specific purpose, to evoke a special response, to open a new door, and I could give you a litany of them. A guy named Jack Gariss, who taught me about meditation, probably impacted me more than anyone I have ever met.
I was looking on your YouTube channel – you can check out YouTube.com/Elliot Mintz videos – for your future it said: “Trying to figure that out” What do you see in the future for your life?
I have all of these pages. I have the Facebook thing and the Twitter thing and the MySpace thing and, basically, I’m just holding all of those pages to avoid the people who pretend to be me and say and do outrageous and embarrassing things. By the way, virtually everything on the internet about me at the moment is either embarrassing, inaccurate, pointless, or having nothing to do with who I am. So it will be very easy for people to ascertain that, I’m in the final stages of completing a web site – a little late to the rodeo – and that will be the place where, for those who care, that’s who I am. I have visited the YouTube thing and I have Googled my name, and I sometimes feel a total disconnect with that guy who I see on the screen with the electric blue tie and the spray tan and all that stuff. You know, there is a difference between who we are and what we do and there’s probably more of a significant difference about how we are perceived. That’s the runaway train of the internet. In answer your question about the future, I consult Tarot card readers and I consult people who have certain gifts of peering over the horizon and sharing with me what they see. And in these interactions and interchanges, some of the spoken visions resonate in my heart with my own dreams. It’s been told to me, and what I feel is that I’m in the third act of my life right now. As we sit here this evening, I’m 65 years old. I’m closer to the end than the beginning. And this is act three. And the broadcasting years, and the media consultant years – they came, they went. They were everything. They were everything. When I wrote that ‘Whatever your perceptions of John Lennon were, they were all true.” what I was trying to explain was any vision anybody may have had about what Elliot’s life was like as a broadcaster, those 2,000 interviews, or what would follow with media consultation – those are probably trueto them but my truth is yet to be manifest. If I were writing the script, and I don’t believe I am – I do believe in predestination. I believe in God’s will. I believe that the script has been written. And what I see on the dust cover on the book jacket is a life outside of Hollywood, a life away from show business, a life that would be more rural than urban, a life that would include the natural elements that elude us in big cities – horses, oceans. I could see myself teaching some classes in media in a small college, for those who would be I interested. Or doing something on the internet where I could talk to people about media issues if they wished to. What I primarily want to do is take all the information that I’ve learned in 40 years of broadcasting and media consultation, and make myself available on a pro bono basis to various causes and charities that I believe in. When John and Yoko did the bed interviews, John said what they were trying to do was to send out advertisements for peace, and they wanted to use the same devices that Wall Street used to sell toothpaste. Well, I know a thing or two about influencing public opinion and media. Instead of applying that to another actor or another actress, another show business personality, I’d like to apply that knowledge to those people who are trying to make this a better world. I see that in my future. I’d like to do a lot more horseback riding. I’d like to meditate more. I’d like to sleep later. I’d like to dream. I’d like to travel to places that I’ve not been before just for me, not because I’m tagging along with a client. I would like to explore the mystic more than I have. I’d like to revisit some classic literature that I read too early in my life. I’d like to get married. I’d like to stay healthy. I’d like to be able to be in a position to encourage others to pursue their dreams and not abandon any vision because somebody told them they couldn’t do it. And when it’s time, I would like to pass gracefully, with gratitude. That’s what I see in my future. There was I think a 15th century German mystic named Meister Eckhart who once wrote, quote “Man plans. God laughs.” So what I just put down on your tape recorder computer machine device is Elliot’s vision for Elliot. I quickly admonish myself, you can’t always get what you want.
When you look back on your life – full of great people, stories and events – what is the best thing about being Elliot Mintz?
Hmm. Paul, that’s another question I’ve never been asked. You’re really good. So rather than give a knee-jerk response, let me reflect upon it for a second. There’s nothing wrong with a little fireplace white noise. (Pause) Look, I have received far more than I’ve given. I am just so grateful to have been put in someplace during this incarnation where I could act as a filter or a conduit to others as a result of people that I’ve met. So the best thing about having been Elliot Mintz is that I’ve been given that chance. Just been given that chance, that I met some extraordinary people and that I have passed along the information that they have bestowed upon me. So, I am the CEO of the Cosmic Messenger Service. It’s a kind of a more ethereal version of FedEx. I accepted the responsibility. I hope I’ve lived up to the tenets of the job description, and I’ve lived to see the sparkle in the eyes of those who, at one time, believed that they couldn’t and then, ultimately, we allowed that they could.
This is a kind of a 180 but a second ago you mentioned that you hoped to get married. I’ve always wondered this and I don’t know why I’ve wondered this. What do you look for in a woman? You mentioned Marilyn Monroe earlier. Are you a Marilyn Monroe kind of guy or an Audrey Hepburn kind of guy?
(Laughs) Actually, I’m more of a Mother Theresa kind of guy. She would not have been a possibility (laughs), she had taken a vow. I’m somewhere between a Marilyn Monroe kind of a guy and an Audrey Hepburn kind of a guy. The ideal comic woman for me was always a cowgirl. Recently, they had the rodeo competition in Las Vegas, Nevada. Seven days, 30,000 people showed up. Well, you should have seen some of those girls roping steers. Let me tell you, Paul that would make the heart jump a beat or two. To be more specific, years ago I attended a film festival and I don’t remember if it was in Germany or Cannes. I was representing Melanie Griffith at the time. She had been nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a movie called Working Girl. She’s a marvelous actress and I’ve known her for many, many years. She was married to Don Johnson. She’s currently married to, and has been for many years, to Antonio Banderas. Tangentially, her mother is Tippi Hedron who starred in The Birds, the Alfred Hitchcock film. Anyway, Melanie and I were at a film festival to promote Working Girl and she had done 30 or 40 interviews throughout the day. The last interview that she did, a woman walks into the room where every reporter has five minutes to ask their questions for the country they represent, and the reporter said to Melanie, “Look you’re very, very hot right now and you’re an Academy Award nominee. You receive so many scripts and you’re offered fabulous sums to do it. What is the criteria that you use to decide who you want to play? What kind of woman do you look for in a script?” And Melanie responded as follows. She said, “I look for strong women with open hearts who will back up what they say they’re going to do.” The reporter thanked her. Left the room. Melanie and I were both exhausted. I went back to my room in the hotel and I reflected during the night about her answer to that question. And the following day I had breakfast with her and I said, “You know, you taught me a great Zen object lesson last night and that was, simply, that the same thing you look for in a woman in a script for you to portray in a movie, are the same qualities that I look for in a woman to share a life with. I look for, and love, strong women with open hearts who back up what they say they’re going to do. Now, those three elements with a touch of the cowgirl sounds pretty good to me. My home number is (laughs) … sorry, just being silly.
Well, go ahead – give them the number. (Laughing)
No, no, no.
My two final questions for Elliot Mintz. Some of the best restaurants in the world are here in California, or so they say. I feel you can find out a lot about a person by this question. What is your all-time favorite meal? (Laughs) So we’ve gone from women to meals.
Great question. You know, it’s not the meal it’s who you share it with. Not only who you share it with but when you share it. I can give you a list of the top-ten restaurants in Beverly Hills – or around the world. I’ve dined in many of them. When I was in my teens or twenties, I took a young lady, the first girl who I ever loved, to a place called Du-Par’s – it was an all-night coffee shop on Ventura Boulevard – and it was late at night and we had cheeseburgers, fries, chocolate shakes, apple pie with some vanilla on the side. All these years later, I can still taste. I went the next 30, 35 years without ever tasting meat. I live off of fish and chicken. That changed a month ago. I had my first bite of meat after, I think, 35 years. But that night at Du-Par’s may remain my most memorable meal. It was … the times, it was … the lady. And man, those fries were as crispy as the kind that you used to be able to get in New York.
My final question is very appropriate here. Yoko Ono was just talking about John Lennon and she said he would have loved Facebook and Twitter. In a lot of ways I think sometimes people focus on the bad side of these things but there’s a good side to it too. It connects us all. We’re able to share messages. We’re able to see that people across the country and people across the world are not that different. This broadcast is going out all over the world. My final question is: what would you, Mr. Elliot Mintz, like to say to all of those people listening in?
Hmm. Be true to your own tweets. Do your best to express them to people in person. Never feel a need to limit your expression and understand, with all of the great promise of the social network and sites and wizardry of computers, that they can never kiss you, hold you, or caress you. That words can only go so far. In answer to your question, Paul – turn off the machines and be with someone.
Well, Elliot. Thank you so much for doing this.
Thank you so much. Might I add – and I don’t want to sound patronizing or anything like that but I’ve done a couple of hundred of these – you’re damn good at what you do. Really, really, really good and I want to encourage you to continue to engage in this form of inquiry with as many people as you can and share it with as many people as you are able to do so, because you have the divine gift of posting questions, getting out of the way, listening, and giving somebody an opportunity to reveal themselves. This one’s been a pleasure.
TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA & PAUL LESLIE
Abe Laboriel, Jr. is the drummer for Paul McCartney. Abe Laboriel, Jr. is the son of the legendary bassist Abraham Laboriel, Sr. Abe Laboriel, Jr. toured with guitarist Steve Vai then he went on to tour with k. d. lang when recording artist Sting saw him perform and asked Laboriel to join his touring band. Abe Laboriel, Jr. has worked with the likes of Sheryl Crowe, Fiona Apple, Eric Clapton, Jewel, Vanessa Carlton, Steve Lukather, Chris Isaak, Johnny Hallyday, Natalie Cole, and many others. Over the past decade, Abe Laboriel, Jr. has been touring and recording with Paul McCartney starting with the 2001 McCartney album “Driving Rain,” followed by “Back in the US,” “Back in the World,” “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,” “Memory Almost Full” and the most recent live Paul McCartney album “Good Evening New York City.”
JIM CAROLLA at the time of this interview, was hosting a podcast called Life Lessons with Jim Carolla. He actually read the letter we wrote him on one of the episodes and agreed to do an interview with us. We feel like had a lot of worthwhile things to say, and hope you can enjoy them.
Jim Carolla is the father of Adam Carolla.
Our special guest, Jim Carolla, is a certified psychologist, jazz musician, and also the father of a past guest of ours, Adam Carolla. He’s also the host of the podcast ‘Life Lessons with Jim Carolla.’ Mr. Carolla, I’m much obliged.
My first question: who is the real Jim Carolla?
Ah…that’s a big one. I don’t know (laughs). I know there’s different parts of me and sometimes come to something that fairly feelsmore real…not a consistent anchor of something called…somebody called “the real Jim Carolla.”
Well take us back. What was life like growing up?
I’m from a Sicilian background and my father came here from Sicily in about 1900 and his brothers and sisters invented their life in south Philadelphia. It was kind of a Sicilian family ghetto, Pisans, and everybody else who came from Sicily ended up in south Philadelphia. So I grew up like that in kind of an immigrant first generation family quite, I wouldn’t say poor but, you know, just the regular like immigrants having somehow survived. So that’s kind of how it all begun.
What were your parents like?
Well, let’s see…my father…they both spoke English so that…growing up…so I had the chance to get a mixture of Italian and English but…so communication was…a lot of my relatives didn’t speak English. People first coming over, it took them a long time but my father picked it up quite quickly. My father was a musician. He was a trombone player and what I remember mostly about him in life was he was constantly working on the trombone, studying it, encouraging me. That’s how I got introduced to the trumpet. My mother worked very hard because my father didn’t really earn enough of a living to support the family. My mother worked in the sweat shops, the tailor shops, very hard…very hard life. She kept the family going because she was making a living. I have three brothers. I’m the youngest. I’m the only one left in the family. All my family’s deceased. That was kind of…I would say that hard times were a fact of life, particularly in the early Depression in the 1930’s and through there. Uh, I was always having a hard time but somehow…I’m very thankful to my mother who was always able to keep it going. That might be a start there.
So, tell us about this music that you heard. You said he played trombone. What did you grow up listening to?
We didn’t have a record in the house or a record playing machine so anything I had to hear had to be really in the school. I went to Bach Vocational School where you could learn a trade, but they did have somewhat of a little music department… very primitive. Children there were there to learn tailor, to work in a tailor shop, automotive car mechanics…learn a trade kind of thing. Now music that I’ve heard…really the first exposure to me was to jazz. I mean, I would hear some of that concert band music but not… didn’t really get into it… didn’t even have my own recording machine. But I got interested in jazz early. I really liked the sound of it. Chet Baker was my first, my first idol. I eventually got an album of his and I’d listen to it all the time and truly tried to copy his style but as I got out in the world full of musicians, I started to play some jazz myself and then use to listen to Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. I once had the great honor of playing on the same stage with Dizzy Gillespie, his band. I was working. I was in a band that was his back-up band. He being one of the greatest trumpet players, it was a real honor for me. So…I’m in my twenties, trying to learn to play jazz. In those days they didn’t have the college…today you can get a degree in jazz at USC, West Chester State and they actually have a Master’s degree and a Doctorate’s degree in jazz. In those days, it wasn’t that organized. You had to really listen to other players. Mostly, I listened to black players. They were the first really playing jazz to ask them about how they do it, what they think of when they’re playing, trying…you learn from others at the beginning. So I would say jazz…there wasn’t much of a classical background. That came later. My favorite composer that I loved the most was Stravinski and the Russian style.
Do you have a favorite record of all time?
Of all time? That’s a lot of time. Who would I say would be a favorite record? Well maybe the one I started with since I learned so much from it and that was Chet Baker and I don’t even know the title of it now but I do have to give him a lot of credit because until I learned the beginning part of it. Then there’s a guy, Stan Getz, as saxophone player was a real idol of mine. Oh, and many, many musicians…but mostly jazz and particularly, the bee bop era is the place I grew up in.
What about the interest in psychology? When did that come into play?
That came late. I was a musician on the road for a long time and realized I couldn’t raise a family. Being a musician, it was a difficult business to try and make any kind of living. So, I kind of picked the way of going to school and would go for a while and then go back and play again but finally I got a degree in education. I began to teach school in public schools but I was also doing my…I went into therapy myself…psychotherapy…and I felt like I could do it. I knew one of the directors in a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed children and I worked with psychiatrists and so on and then they said, “You have a talent for this. You ought to go to school and get a license for it.” That was like…by that time I was like close to, I was in my forties somewhere when I went to grad school…to graduate school…I got my license and I’ve been practicing for about twenty-five years now, private practice. I’m in Sherman Oaks, California.
When I interviewed your son, Adam Carolla, one of things that I found out through research: I knew of a few things that he had done but I had no idea the breadth, how many different projects he’s worked on. Did you teach him his strong work ethic?
No, I didn’t, cause I don’t think I had one myself particularly in early times. Well you know, his grandfather…I guess I taught him to work, maybe by example. He saw that I went to school and maybe saw that I was working on myself, trying to get degrees and playing obviously, he saw. That might have been an example. His grandfather was a hard worker and his grandfather, I think, taught him cause he’s very skillful with his hands and carpentry and I think a lot of that has to do with his grandfather. So that might be a way to explain that.
The name of your podcast is ‘Life Lessons with Jim Carolla.’ How did you get the idea to do this show?
Well, Adam has pretty much worked with different kinds of people. You know…entertainment people and certainly comedy and I thought maybe we could have a serious, kind of go for more serious depth about the meaning of life or its purpose of life. So I just asked him. I said, “How about if I develop something to do with people really soul searching and asking themselves, “Who am I?” and, you know, what’s the purpose of my life, the meaning of my life?” So, he said, “Okay.” He said, “Try it.” So I began that way. I did a lot of experimenting. So, I think I’ve had about fifty or sixty shows now. So, it came about that way, me asking him for one of his networks to be a probing, in depth show with the idea of ask the question, you know, “What’s the purpose of my life?”
Well, on that note, I have a couple of somewhat soul-searching kind of questions for you. How do you define a great life?
Great life…well, I think for one to be…to work on themself…to work on themself to a higher consciousness…I think, I don’t know if I’d call it a great life. I would say that would be a purposeful life of working towards expanding, going towards a higher consciousness, developing, trying to see the areas of life that are, that have been…taking the wrong road and begin to repair the life where the repairs are needed and working towards what would kind of be a spiritual life, higher consciousness, a spiritual life…and that’s where would be the real purpose of life and that would be the greatest thing a human should obtain on this earth, is to find his real spiritual birth.
What do you find or what do you believe most people are missing in their life?
Well, just that…trying to find other ways of life, expand the egotistic part of life, our personality . That, to me, there’s something really missing. So no matter how successful you are, on that level the part’s that’s missing is that the spiritual life is the part that really needs to be obtained, this higher consciousness. So, when that’s missing, then all the ways we try to make up for it doesn’t make up for it unless you can find a spiritual path either through traditions, religions and Christianity and so on so you can develop kind of a soul soul develop.
How important do you think positive thought is?
Well positive thought, I’m learning later in years, that if you have a negative thought, it’s a powerful…it has a powerful effect on the body. A negative thought has an effect in the brain very much. I have something I call ANT, automatic negative thinking. In fact, we’re working on thatnow on here. With automatic negative thinking, when we’re in a negative state, it has a tremendous effect on the body, mind, produces moods, the difference between angry moods and so our whole body is affected by that…the blood pressure…everything. So the importance of negative thinking is something we’re working on right now on the show. It’s like a lot of people weren’t aware of what an impact negative thoughts have.
Yeah…I listened to the first of those broadcasts on ANT and I found it really, really interesting. I listened to that today actually.
Okay, I’m still doing that series. Do you know which one you listened to?
I listened to the very first one. It sounded like it was the first of two parts, where you went over like the various internal languages that people use like, or external when they say things like, “You never call me,” or “I always am late.”
That kind of thing. That was very interesting. I think it’s something most people are guilty of.
Right…yeah….we all are. We’re just not aware of the affect of particularly negative thinking…and then there’s the opposite…positive, you know, it enlightens the body. Light relaxes the body. Negative tends to tense up the body.
The world is something that’s always changing. It always will change as long as we’re here. When you look at the young people today, there’s so much emphasis on the cell phones and the computers and email. What advice would you give to young people?
Yeah, that’s a tough one. Young people are really in to all the technologies. In my opinion, I think that’s part of also groping for something. The intimacy of all that material of the texting, allthat, making a contact…just a lot of electronic things has lost some of the capacity of the ones who want intimacy. The electronic wall seems to be…it’s passive entertainment. Looking at it, it has a real passivity to it. I would say, really begin to really ask that question in your life. What’s the purpose of my life? And to not to rely on…not to say you shouldn’t use this technological material…but to more pursue the meaning of my life…how they connect with the community or other people that are really asking that question. That’s what I think the real goal of your life is. I would say that.
What is the best thing about being Jim Carolla?
One thing is my love for music has been, for me, a real wonderful, creative thing. The other thing is, the very creative part of me…being a therapist is a very creative, a very creative within the session in that office when I say that people come to do the work, that office is like the first time or place where you may come to things…you may have insights and ideas for the first time in your life through the work you would do, for example. I think the best part is I work with them very creatively and I learn a lot about myself. So between music and the creativity of psychotherapy would be the best thing I do.
My last question: for anyone who’s listening to our interview, whether they’re listening to it on the radio or they’re listening to it online wherever, what would you like to say to all the people who are listening in?
That your life is very important, the little time we have on this earth, and to make the best use of it by asking that question, “What’s the real purpose of my life?” And then to pursue it however you can get at it and if you need to have psychotherapy if you need to do that…whatever it would be that would help you with that question. So you need to pursue that and when you see things that are not going in that direction and to begin to, so really examine life…whatever that would be for each person. And psychotherapy, it’s not just used for pathology, it can be used for a real search…psychic search…so that you have the freedom of not being caught in a false self, emotional bodies…different things that other people call that and you have the freedom then to pursue the path of your purposefulness.
Well thank you very much for doing this interview Mr. Carolla.
Okay. Well thank you for asking me.
Alright, well you have a good one.
TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO
The great saxophonist Dave Koz joined us for an interview about his musical career and collaborators. Dave Koz is one of the most respected saxophone players in popular recorded music. This interview took place prior to his Atlanta Christmas tour.
Among other topics, we discuss his radio show, his love of music, his friendship with Barry Manilow and more.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is our great pleasure to welcome our special guest, Don McLean. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you, good to be here.
I wanted to kind of go back a little bit, when you started listening to folk music, what was it that you liked about ‘The Weavers’ Album at Carnegie Hall?
Well, I love harmony; there was a lot to be learned by listening to ‘The Weavers’ and anybody who likes harmony can learn a great deal from listening to that particular group, because they did many different things and they did many different harmony things within one song. One of the things that I learned from listening to them was how to build a song that basically had a verse and a chorus, from verse to verse, the song got more powerful or reached a sort of a climax if you will, and it’s difficult with a song like that because they kind of drone on one verse after another one and chorus after another, so there were many things also about their instrumentation, the playing, the guitar playing of Fred Hellermanand the twelve string guitar and five string banjo playing of Pete Seeger were extremely accomplished, and it was a great deal to learn, especially if you were just, you know, starting out in music as I was.
You just mentioned Pete Seeger a second ago, I was hoping you could tell the listeners how you met Mr. Seeger, and what did he teach you?
I was around Pete Seeger from about 1966 until about 1975 and there were good and bad points to being around Pete Seeger, a lot of people are attracted to him and a lot of people also after they find out what’s going on, they kind of get turned off and walk away. I was very interested in him musically but I found him to be politically and personally somewhat of a disappointment. I learned a great deal from him musically, programming songs, how to read the mood of an audience, how to use what’s going on in the world and what’s going on locally as part of what it is you do, as part of your performance to make it a personal experience, not only for the audience, but for you as the artists, also just how to pick good songs, songs that have importance to them, whether they’re, you know, they may be an important song, they might be just a frivolous song, but they have to be really good and musical and also, just what not to say, you know, when to keep quiet, the biggest thing I learned was that he makes huge mistakes on stage, and it doesn’t matter, so that was very liberating
Well, we’re here in 2011, it’s the fortieth anniversary of the album ‘American Pie,’ when you began to record that album, did you feel you had a very special record on your hands?
I knew I had a very talented Producer in Ed Freeman, who was very meticulous and very sensitive toward everything that we were doing, I had just put out an album called ‘Tapestry,’ which had done very well, two songs ‘Castles In The Air’ and ‘I Love You So’, came from that record, but there were many other songs that were on it, so I was off to a pretty good start, but from the time we made the album, the record company was sold and we felt we were out of business, so, I thought I was going to be just a guy that made one album, instead I made, like, forty, but none like the ‘American Pie’ album of course, so, I don’t know what we thought, but, you know, we basically hit a home run.
Could you pick a favorite song from that album?
That would be of course ‘American Pie,’ I mean; it stands head and shoulders above everything.
With all the interpretations that people have written, have you read many of them, and if so what do you think of them?
Well, the song is fun, you know, (Don laughs), it’s funny because the nineteen sixties, people got so serious, the one thing I loved about the Beatles is that they were so artistic but they were also having a good time, most of the folk people, and I am not a folk singer but I love folk music, but I’m not really, I wouldn’t qualify as a folk singer, but I love folk music, but they got so self important and so pompous and here come the Beatles who were infinitely more talented than most of these artists who were ‘Newport Folk Festival’ and they were having a lot of fun, part of the song was that it was just fun, and it was fun to hear people (Don laughs) you know route around and try to find different meanings, because it was all meant to be fun, so, I don’t read the meanings, but what I do love are the parodies that people do, there was one when the NASDAQ stock market went down called ‘The Day The NASDAQ Died’, which is, (Paul laughs) a classic, I mean, it’s unbelievable and then of course, Weird Al’s parody ‘The Saga Begins,’ that was marvellous and there have been probably twenty other ones.
I had the opportunity to interview Lori Lieberman and she talked about the incredible emotional response she had from your song ‘Empty Chairs.’ So, I wanted to talk about that song, what is it like to receive such an emotional response from people from something that you wrote?
You know, I was never really cut out to be in show business, what I wanted to try to do was just the best thing that I could do and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but most of my songs are all very different from one another, really different.
And that was one of the things that I was shooting for was to try to create a new concept every time I wrote a song, to be quite frank I was oblivious to everything, except what I was doing, and the most important thing was to make records, because, and you know, I didn’t know whether I would go over well on records or not, I didn’t know whether my voice would record well or not, I didn’t know what would happen, so when something like the ‘Killing Me Softly’ thing happens, it’s just a sort of a total…. from left field type of a thing, which is very complimentary and it’s a wonderful thing to know that she was thinking of me and they were thinking of me when they wrote the song and when the song was recorded, but again it’s just totally from left field.
I read a quote from you where you were talking about your song ‘Vincent’ and you said “the essence of the artist’s life is his art,” what was it about the print of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ that struck you?
Well, first of all I had decided that I wanted to write a song about him. It was a really, kind of basic kind of a thing, I figured, you know, I would just write using the most famous painting, as I was looking at the painting I realised that, something occurred to me which was this ‘is’ him, it’s not his painting, it is ‘him’, just like my songs are ‘me’ and not just something I do. See, most people do something, you know, they go and get the car fixed or they walk the dog, or they, you know, read the paper, but an artist puts what he ‘is’ into his art, and even without the artist he lives on because it is ‘him’, so, when that very obvious realisation hit me, then I started to just tell the story and write the song looking at the imagery and it just wrote itself, it sometimes happens.
In your opinion, what makes a good song a good song?
Well, that’s just myopinion, and I think Cary Grant says in ‘A Monkey Business’, Marilyn Monroe says “that’s a silly song,“ and he says “well, in my opinion your opinion, if that’s a silly song it’s a silly opinion,” so, you know, my opinions are just my opinions and they’re probably silly, but you have to have a sense of what a beautiful melody is, and what a real lyric is, which at least for openers means that there should be some kind of rhyme, you know, either internal or somewhere, the song should be something that you want to hear again, I mean that I think is really what sums up a good movie or a good song, you know, you may watch many movies or documentaries, but you don’t want to see them again, you don’t want to see the movie again, but some movies you want to see a thousand times, and it’s the same thing with songs I think, some songs you just can’t get enough of, you finish it and you want to start again, and I think that’s also an indication of whether a song is a good song.
Well, just a second ago you said “documentary” and I’ve heard that there’s a Don McLean documentary forthcoming.
Yes, it’s going to be a PBS fund raiser and a full on documentary which will be in theatres called ‘American Troubadour’, and it’s being filmed by Jim Brown, who’s a famous and very successful documentary and filmmaker.
And when will that be out?
March of next year.
Okay. With all the songs of yours that have been covered, could you pick a favorite cover that another artist has recorded at one of your songs?
Yes, I like the Fred Astaire version of ‘Wonderful Baby.’
I wanted to also ask you about the song ‘Crossroads.’ Was that song autobiographical?
No, I don’t think so, I was in a very peculiar place in my life in the nineteen seventies and a lot adjusting was going on and there was a lot of pain, I guess, to making these kind of adjustments, so a lot of that came through in my songs, probably made them a whole lot better than they would have been otherwise, so there’s probably some of that in there, but I was thinking more about America really, the American Pie album. The idea of my albums, was, and again, I say ‘was’ because I’m not making albums anymore and I’m not really writing songs any more, for albums because the music business has basically disappeared as I knew it and I don’t really want to participate in what there is there now. But I’ve made many albums so if someone decides they like what I do, they can spend a long time finding different records that I’ve made. The idea of the album is that one sort of, overall concept but then there area lot of songs that you might not figure how they might fit in with that, but if… but they fit in sort of, on a tangent, rather than directly, you know, if somebody has a concept album, ‘Moonlight Sinatra,’ there’ll be every song that’ll say, ‘Moonllight,’ ‘Moonlight Serenade,’ ‘The Moon Was Yellow’ you know and on and on, well, that’s not my concept albums, and they all are concept records, from the point of view I just described.
Well, on that note the one song, ‘The Grave,’ what inspired that song?
That was a dream I had, I suppose when the Army was breathing down my neck to try and draft me, I guess that was written on later, I forget….after I’d been rejected by the draft. That was a dream, I dreamt it and woke up and wrote the song.
I wanted to ask you about ‘Sister Fatima,’ listening to the lyric of that song, it made me wonder, are you a man of faith?
I was brought up a Catholic, but I’m not a Catholic, my Father was Protestant and my Mother was Catholic, I think my Father probably had as much of an influence on me, in a negative way towards religion as my Mother tried to have on me in a positive way toward religion, so, in the end I feel I probably… I’m not religious, in that I do not believe in religion, but I do believe in God, I believe in… I guess I’m a pampthiest of some sort, I love… I believe it’s all around you in nature and everywhere and harmony, and.. you know, you’re either improving or you’re not, you know, you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, you really don’t stay static and as we move a long in life, many tests reveal to us and to others where we are and how we might be better. ‘Sister Fatima’ was written because I found a circular on top of this set of steps going down to take the sub way in New York, and I put it in my pocket and wrote the song, just pretty much what was said on the circular, all the things she would do for you.
What is the best thing about being Don McLean?
Having a great wife, and two terrific children, I don’t think my life would amount to much if I didn’t have my family, and my wife, really is the person that keeps that together and has provided that, I’ve done my part, but you know, a woman’s very vital to the raising of children and staying together in a marriage, which is very hard to do, but hasn’t been hard for me and I hope it hasn’t been hard for her, it’s really important, so we have two kids in college now and they’re doing quite well, so that’s my greatest achievement really , because that’s the one that alludes a lot of people, you know, who may find success in business or in the arts, it’s the tough one, it’s the big one really.
I have one final question for you, for anyone who’s listening to this broadcast, wherever they are, we have listeners from all over the world, what would you like to say, in closing to all those people?
I would like to say that I think that we should be very sceptical of technology, and especially the kind of technology that we have today, and that, I would advise people of all ages to not stare at screens if possible, it’s very difficult not to, but to look around at the natural world and try to avoid the virtual world that seems to be closing in on us very quickly, because of this very rampant and all consuming technology that seems to be here now.
Well, Mr. McLean, thank you so much for this interview. It’s been a great pleasure to speak to you.
TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON.
Lori Lieberman is best known for her song “Killing Me Softly” written during her Troubadour days in Los Angeles when she saw the legendary Don McLean in concert. Lori Lieberman was born in California, but raised in Switzerland. She was influenced by Francoise Hardy, Tom Rush, Cat Stevens and other American singer-songwriters. Lori Lieberman went on to attend University in Boston and signed her very first record deal with Capitol Records. Lori Lieberman toured the United States with artists like Randy Newman, Billy Joel, Leonard Cohen, John B. Sebastian and Rick Nelson. Her most recent and fourteenth album is entitled “Bend Like Steel.” The CD features songs Lieberman wrote along with songs others wrote like Paul Simon’s “Cecilia.” Lori Lieberman is a part of the great American songwriting tradition. It is a pleasure to welcome her on The Paul Leslie Hour and to take a look at her music.