A SALUTE TO THE SONG-WRITERS
Norman Warwick joins
A SALUTE TO THE SONG-WRITERS
photo 1 Songfacts, as its name implies, is a magazine (left) that explores a song-writers canon of work, often through the prism of one particular song.
In a recent article they spot-lighted the legendary songwriter and musician Jack Tempchin. Jack is best known for penning the songs Peaceful Easy Feeling (sing us that song by The Eagles, folk club audiences would shout), or Already Gone, as also recorded by the Eagles. Audeinces in local music clubs in the UK were probably almost completely oblivious as to who were the writers of such songs. Magazines like Songfacts and Omaha Rainbow played important roles in raising awareness of the writers as well as the performers.
Tempchin (right) also wrote many songs with Glenn Frey during the Eagles’ long hiatus. These tracks – You Belong To The City and Smuggler’s Bluesamong them – ended up on Frey’s solo albums.
Songfacts began their article on Jack, though, with a quick update.
Recently, Tempchin has been performing with the band Mrs. Henry, who do a tribute show re-creating The Last Waltz, the famous 1976 farewell concert for The Band that featured a litany of special guests. After Tempchin joined them to play the part of Neil Young (minus the visible cocaine), they found a quick chemistry and started recording together. One of these collaborations is a new version of “Waiting,” one of Jack’s tracks from 2007. With Mrs. Henry backing him, the song sizzles with energy and comes off like a norm-defying Dylan tune.
From there, the magazine interviewer and his subject focussed on a small window of time, as Jack looked back over his career.
The Laurel Canyon, Southern California Music Scene In The ’70s. It was the zeitgeist, as they call it. All these forces came together.
For one thing, we were living in a completely different world than our parents. Our parents came out of the Depression and then World War II. They had to be grownups and all that. And then, we were the first generation to have television. Television became the authority instead of your parents. Before television, it was just your parents that told you stuff, and that was the world. But after television – like right now – you’ll say something about something that happened earlier in your life, and your kid will pull out their phone and check it. The phone is the authority now, not dad.
Then we started to grow long hair and become hippies, and parents couldn’t understand. It was just a whole movement. I’d see somebody on TV with long hair and go, “Wow, that’s cool.” Why was that cool? And why did I want to grow long hair along with everybody else in my high school? We all wanted something and we didn’t even know what.
In the ’50 and coming into the ’60s it was actually a very prosperous time when you could just live off the dumpster in the back of the grocery store if you were a hippie – you’d get all kinds of vegetables. It didn’t seem like we were well off, but every house had one car and one parent worked. Now two parents have to work. So, it was prosperous, and we decided we didn’t want to have to work our lives away like our parents did. We just wanted to go off and be free.
And then there was this whole hippie movement worldwide, country-wide, and then the Vietnam War with the draft. We don’t have a draft now, but that was a huge deal, so we reacted to that.
So it was like a giant wave that came in the culture, and I was at the forefront of the wave because I was older. I just rode that wave and it kept getting bigger and bigger.
Everybody was into the music, and man, when you add the two drugs – the birth control pill and LSD – those things changed everything because then there was a sexual revolution. Because keeping a lid on society was you can’t sleep with the wrong person because you’ll get pregnant. And all of a sudden there’s the birth control pill, and then penicillin was curing every sexual disease, so there’s no reason not to sleep with anybody if you want to. And then LSD was a religious experience that impacted all the music, all the art, all the thought. It was just taken to this other place than the churches that our folks went to.
So, it was a huge, different, massive movement of people, and the creativity was unbelievable going off in different directions. I was just right in the front of it.
People are just naturally competitive, but in the early days of the Troubadour music scene – Jackson Browne and JD Souther and Glenn Frey – there was a camaraderie too. I wanted my friends to make it, and they wanted me to make it, which is unusual.
None of us had record deals, we were all just playing. I met Jackson Browne because I’d heard a couple of his songs and learned them way before his first record deal. Then he came to town to play in a little coffee house. So there was a brotherhood of people making this music and we all wanted to rise up together, which we did.
I wanted to write a country song because I was in the folk movement, but I’d listened to the country radio station on my transistor when I was supposed to be sleeping. I didn’t know how to write a country song, but I had a friend, Robb Strandlund, who played at the coffee house with me, and he rode a horse. He lived miles out of town and had a cowboy hat… country.
We had a get-together at a coffee house, what we used to call the folk music club. I was running this club [The Back Door] on the campus of San Diego State University, which was then San Diego State College. We were playing one night and we were in the back room, which was the kitchen where there were these big refrigerator doors. I opened the door and there was a white jug. So I got this jug out, and for some reason, we thought it would be OK to just drink out of this jug. It was hard cider, and I had never had any alcohol or any drugs or anything at that point.
So, we were drinking out of this jug and we started to feel really good, and I said, “Let’s write a country song.” So in about 20 minutes in the back room there, we wrote “Already Gone.”
The chorus goes woo hoo hoo because I just felt so good suddenly.
So we got on stage and we played it once, and I don’t think I played it much after that. Then a couple of years later I got a phone call from Glenn Frey, and he was in the studio with the Eagles working on their third album. He says, “Do you know that country song you wrote? I think that’d be a good rock song.” Then he held up the phone to the speakers in the studio and there was their version of “Already Gone.”
There was no expectation that I was ever going to make any money off these songs. That was unheard of until the Eagles got together and did it. So it wasn’t money or competitiveness or anything, I was just writing songs for myself so I could sing them when I got up in front of people.
Almost all the songs I wrote were just coming out of me, with the exception of the 14 years I wrote with Glenn Frey (right) . I never started writing with Glenn until long after he had recorded “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone.” The Eagles had done their thing and broke up, and then I started writing with him and we wrote together for 14 years and wrote all of his albums.
He would come over and we were writing for his album for him to sing, although we were still just exploring what was coming out of us. But all the other songs, like Emmylou Harris and George Jones… I mean the closest I got, George Jones recorded a song I wrote with Bobby Whitlock [“Someone That You Used To Know”]. After we got done writing the song, sitting around my kitchen table, we said, “This would be perfect for George Jones!”
Of course, any song that you wrote that was a country song you felt would be perfect for the greatest country singer of all time, George Jones. And then later, somehow he got a hold of that song and recorded it. I never found out how he even got it.
But all the rest of the songs, I wrote them for me to do, and then other people just found the songs and liked it. I didn’t say, “I’m going to write something for Emmylou Harris.” Of course, if you go to Nashville, they have a completely different system.
More recently, working with the Mrs. Henry line-úp I played just two songs. It was kind of weird for me because I don’t usually have to learn somebody else’s song, and I don’t really sound like Neil Young. But when I saw their show, they had all kinds of other guests. Every time there was a guest in the movie, they had somebody come to be that guest for their show.
But the band, Mrs. Henry, they’re just so very, very good. And usually after a rock band is playing, unless they’re great, after a while it just seems like a wall of sound and I just want to go home. But I stayed all three hours the whole night and listened to these guys. They have dynamics and they’re just so great.
So when it was over, I wrote them an email. I said, “Look, I’m not Bob Dylan, and you’re not The Band, but maybe we should get together and make some music.” And they went, “OK.” So it was really cool.
I came down and rehearsed over a couple of months, rehearsed about six times with them, and then they set up a video shoot. They hired some photographers and lighting guys and they already had a mixing board for their rehearsal that would take every input and put it into Logic in a computer. So, we already had that, and so we recorded some videos, and I think they came out great.
I had a co-writer friend, John Brannen, and we wrote quite a few things, and that’s just one of the things we wrote. It’s a list song.
I recorded it a ways back in 2007, so it’s not actually new, but it’s different. It’s not your normal song pattern or anything. And that’s when you get into Dylan style (right) , just doing different things with the song art form.
I’ve always loved that song and I thought it would be perfect for a band. When I started playing it with them [Mrs. Henry], they’d heard the record, and so they immediately – all four of them sing – jumped in with harmony right away and they just had the arrangement. All kinds of stuff happens in the arrangement that I had nothing to do with.
It’s been about seven years since I used a band. I’d been playing solo, so it just wasn’t practical. I always liked playing solo when I started out, but having a band is like having a 747 jet. It’s not like playing by yourself, especially with these guys. They hear each other while they’re playing and they’re adjusting and it’s just powerful.
I feel like the only way you get something like that is to be open to it and wait, and you just stumble into it. You can’t just put a band together like that. I’m always hearing bands and thinking they’d be a good band to back me up, but they’re usually not. But I talked to them about it and they said, “Well, it’s always been in the DNA of this band that we feel we’re a great backup band.” They were looking for somebody to back, which isn’t usually the case. The band usually wants to make it on their own.
So they just kept doing it and feeding energy and learning more songs. Then we got a couple of gigs, and to me, that’s just spectacular. I can play solo, but if I have a band, people can dance, people can party all night.
And the other thing exciting thing is, so far I’m not doing my hits. When I play solo, I’ll do five or six songs that people know, but in this band I don’t have to do my hits, I can just be the me that I am now instead of the guy that I used to be. I can be a new artist because I’m writing stuff all the time. So this is an opportunity and it’s been really great.
We’re planning to do a lot of gigs and we have several more videos to release. One of them is going to be a song called “When The World Opens Up.”
And also a song I wrote with a Nashville friend of mine called “Bob Dylan Whiskey.” You know how Bob Dylan has his own brand of whiskey? It’s called Heaven’s Door. He made a $10 million deal with whiskey manufacturers and he has his own brand of whiskey. So my friend and I were thinking that somebody needs to write some Bob Dylan songs to help change the world. We’re in a lot of trouble right now – maybe if I drink this whiskey, I can write a Bob Dylan song.
So that’s this guy in the song. He says, “I’m drinking Bob Dylan whiskey, I’m trying to write a song like I think he would write, and I’m drinking Bob Dylan whiskey tonight.” So that’s a new song that I get to do with this band.
And then the other song, my friend Keith Allison died. He wrote a famous song called “Freeborn Man” that was a country-bluegrass standard. So I wrote a song for him called “Ramblin’ Freeborn Man” and we’re doing that. So these are videos that we have done, and then we have a lot of other videos in the works. So I’m just going to go as far as I can with it.
They’ve been a real band for about 10 years, so all the personality things have been worked out. No one’s looking for conflict. And they have a big machinery behind their band. All I have to do is sit back and play the songs, and the actual playing with them is so much fun. So that’s great.
For years, I’d go down to the beach and I’d sit there and write songs, and then a lot of times I’d video myself because I can’t remember the stuff I made up when I get home. So when I get home, I’d look at the video and type out the stuff, and then I’d work on it.
This project I’m doing, I make up a song at the beach, put it on video, and that’s it. I just make it up on the spot and then it’s done. I type out the words and then I’m just going to post it. I’ve got some little microphones that work at the beach trying to keep the ocean noise down. I’m doing them every day and I’ve written about 50 songs. It’s called Jack’s Beach Jams.
And so I’m not really advertising the fact that I’m making this stuff up, but I’ve got all these songs and they’re different because they kind of flow and then something else happens. I don’t even know when I sit down what I’m going to write about, and if I think about it ahead of time, it screws it up, so I just turn everything on and start playing. People are walking by with their dogs. So that’s my new project. I’m pretty excited
I call it a “red button song” because in the studio we used to press the red button to record. If you don’t have a song, you press the red button and just go – everybody starts playing.
But most of my life, you write a song, then you work on it, you try to get it in a form where you’re going to play it, and then you get it in a form where it can be on the radio. That’s been my whole life, and that’s cool, but to me, that’s not the fun part. The fun part is when it’s just rolling out of me. So I thought, I’m getting older, why not just do all the fun parts?
Artists may have their red period or blue period, I’m calling this my delusional period. Because I’m thinking, These songs can’t be that good Jack, you’re just making them up. I’m deluded into thinking that they’re going to be OK. So, I don’t know – no one’s ever heard them yet. I’ve got about 50 of them, but I haven’t launched this thing yet.
I go and I make up four or five things a day. I just sit there and make up song after song. I never know if another one’s going to come out, but they just do. So I may be delirious, but I’m having some fun with it.
I remember The Girl From Yesterday very clearly because I have a little house in Hollywood, and that’s where Glenn would come and we would write.
He went through a divorce, and then he later got happily married. I was going through some bumpy times, so he was like, “Let’s get even with the old girlfriend in a way by writing a song called ‘Girl From Yesterday.'”
So we were writing it and we really liked it, but we got to the last verse and we’re going, “What’s going to happen? Is he going to get back together with her or not?”
Well, it’s up to us, we’re creating it, so it turned out that no, she’s just always going to be the girl from yesterday.
Jack shared a story about “Peaceful Easy Feeling” in the Singfacts series They’re Playing My Song
The Eagles had been broken up all those years and then they decided to get back together. The first time they played back together, they had this concert and they videoed it and they recorded it for an album. Talk about a little pressure – they hadn’t been together in 14 years. I saw Glenn backstage right before, and he was just, “Ehh.” They had rehearsed so much that he wasn’t upset. They just were under all this pressure. So then they did that song and put it on that Hell Freezes Over album.ç
You can also hear him on the Eagles Songfacts entries.
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If you are visiting Lanzarote, and more especially if you live here, then check out Movie Vault (left) in Playa Blanca. If you love all things Movie related then rest assured they sell everything to do with Movies TV and Pop Culture, including Disney, Star Wars, DC, Marvel, Harry Potter, horror and more. They also cover all the classics, so if you enjoy Memorabilia , or you want to buy gifts to take home, they have something for everyone. Movie Vault also sell DVDs and CDs on behalf of granny’s attic, a wonderful local charity, for only €2 each Movie Vault is at at 110 Calle Limones, Playa Blanca, on the main shopping street next to Blue Marlin,. Open Monday to Saturday 10:45 – 19:30 but closed on Sunday.
Our thanks to AJ The DJ, Aileen Hendry at Monster Radio fm, for the following e-mail.
The Fabulous Sharon Shannon (right) is flying into Lanzarote next week with a one off show on Tuesday the 21st. Sharon and her band ‘The Reckoning Crew ‘ will be appearing at the Electric Island in Puerto Del Carmen. The band features some of the best musicians on the island including Albert Serrano, Pedro Ruiz,Pal Teleki along with her musician/producer Craig Mulvagh. Sharon and Craig will be dropping in to Monster radio for a chat along the way. In the meantime tickets are on sale for 30 euros (5 euros of which will be donated to the Sara charity on the island) One not to be missed!
For tickets firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are not available elsewhere
We´d also like to thank Caroline Gilfillan, a writing friend from the UK who is a frequent visitor here on the island of Lanzarote and who has featured previously on these pages. She tells us that she has recently been to hear a poet who has also been noted wandering down our Sidetracks & Detours in the past.
Tony Walsh (left), the brilliant Mancunian poet, did a fantastic reading of The Ulverston Poem at Another Fine Fest this weekend – and read some of his own excellent poems. Huge thanks to everyone who sent in words, lines and ideas. Your lovely contributions were heard and loved! Thanks to Zosia Wand Simon Wand and Kirstie Pelling for your help in getting the poem ready, and to the v special Dave Crossley, without whom none of the wonderful joy and madness that is Another Fine Fest would happen.
Whitefield was my play ground when I was a teenager living with my mum and dad on Nursery Road in Prestwich in the sixties and seventies. I might have the sort of young man on which Harry Enfield would base the slouching, hands in pockets scruff always complaining to his parents there was nothing to do round here.
There was, though, a pub about half a mile away where I could drink under-age without fear of being seen by anyone I knew. The Prestwich and Whitefield was a dangerous one to cross, but worth the risk to be able to have a beer in anonymity.
Of course, it is a lot more civilised now, (and so am I). I learned from a facebook friend this week that The Eagle And Child (right) now hosts poetry nights ! So, if you are in the area this weekend, why not pop in and hear the excellent poets they have gathered there?
The primary source for this article was first published in Songfacts, an excellent and positive information stream of good music and supporting information.
In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.
This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.
Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.
As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.
From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.
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