Chip Taylor is a frequent visitor to the UK, touring here most years to promote his latest album, the most recent of which, 'Unglorious Hallelujah', is not long out on Train Wreck Records. A delegation from S'pop was there at the Luminaire in downtown Kilburn, North London, to catch him on his latest tour with singing partner Carrie Rodriguez, and again at his hotel the next morning for a pre-arranged interview. Our agenda was to talk to him, not about his ongoing career as an alt-Country troubadour, but about his days as a jobbing songwriter in the '60s. To jog his memory, we arrived armed with a box of precious old 45s - by not only the Troggs and Evie Sands, but also Billy Vera & Judy Clay, Walter Jackson, Little Eva, Lorraine Ellison, Reparata & the Delrons, Garnet Mimms, Jean Thomas, Carol & Cheryl, Peggy Lee, Debbie Rollins, Barbara Lewis, Ginny Arnell, Baby Washington, Johnny Thunder, Jackie DeShannon, Dusty Springfield and others - each written by Chip Taylor. We didn't get around to discussing them all, but gave it our best shot.

Courtesy of Chip Taylor and
Florence Arpin
[click each image to enlarge]

Wes Voight, aged 14/15

With Teddy Meister (left) and
Greg Gwardyak (right), c.1958.


With brother Jon (right), mid-'50s.


With his band Chip Taylor's
Last Chance in Holland, 1975.

With Carrie Rodriguez.

Kendel Carson.

John Platania.

Courtesy of Rob Hughes
[Click on images to enlarge]

Courtesy of Mick Patrick
[Click on images to enlarge]

[click on image for details]


S'POP: So, you're a young kid from Yonkers … whereabouts is Yonkers?

CHIP TAYLOR: Yonkers is just outside of New York City - it's about 45 minutes outside the city, adjacent to it. We were towards the southern part of Yonkers, a kinda lower-middle class area where we grew up. It was a good area - good buddies, good families around us. Nice memories, but a little tougher than the area where we ended up moving to when I was 11 or so. Yonkers was great!

S'POP: Were you a musical family?


S'POP: What made you want to become a singer?

CHIP TAYLOR: I always liked music in the house. I gravitated towards it more than the rest of the family. My dad was a golf professional; he was a man of the arts in his spare time - he played Bing Crosby music, he loved Al Jolson, the Inkspots, things like that. And he loved movies - we went to a lot of movies when we were kids, whenever we could. My hardcore turn towards music was when my dad and mom babysat me at a musical, My Wild Irish Rose. I think I was about seven or eight. They didn't have a babysitter, I didn't want to go to the show, but when I went I was just mesmerised by the music, and I remember going back in the car that night, I didn't want to talk, I just wanted to keep the physical feeling I felt when I heard the music sitting in the fourth row. So I felt, that night, that something changed in me. I remember thinking to myself, "I want to do this for the rest of my life." Then it became country music a few years later. My dad and mom used to let me stay up and listen to the radio. The local stations I didn't like, so once in a while, late at night, I could get stations I did like, like Wheeling, West Virginia, every once in a while.

S'POP: How far away was that?

CHIP TAYLOR: I don't know. Usually when the weather was bad I could pick it up. That was when I heard country music, and that became really a thing for me. And, in and amongst - I had a country music band in high school - I was listening a lot to doo wop groups and the race records from down south - Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, things like that. This was just before the Moondog Show came to New York, so I was really hungry for that stuff - the blues, any blues things I could get. So, Southern blues and country music were really important to me at the time, and it's that hybrid that I brought into my writing that made me different than most of the writers in New York.

Most of the writers in the Brill Building area - which were three buildings: 1650 Broadway, which is where I was; 1619 Broadway, which was the Brill Building; and down one block, on the East Side, was Screen Gems Music, where Carole King and Gerry Goffin did their writing. So it was three buildings that used the large term "Brill Building" - it wasn't the Building, it was that area. All those writers were more sophisticated than me. All those writers could write music, but I couldn't. I didn't have anyone to write music. So I was more of a blues/country guy in New York when all hell was breaking loose and we were taking over the business. My stuff sounded more like Memphis than it did New York. It was all good times, we were all friends. I've great memories of all those people.

S'POP: How did you end up on King Records?

CHIP TAYLOR: Well, it was just before I made it as a writer. I was in high school and I did these demos of some songs I had just written for my country band. They were kind of rockabilly things. [I was] 16, 15 maybe. We sent them around to all the record labels - Dot Records, I forget what others. We just sent them in a package, a professional package. We got a professional "thank-you-but-no-thank-you" back from all of them. My lead guitar player at the time, Greg Gwardyak - he's the guy who taught me how to play guitar actually - he loved my songs. I was less sure. I was a little more shy about them than Greg. He had a passion about the music we were making. He went door to door of the record companies in New York, anybody he could find. One day he called me up, he said "I'm sitting at King Records, Chip, talking to Henry Glover. He says we're just what he wants, and he loves our band." And that was it, I couldn't believe it. Here's the guy that signed James Brown, Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, an all-black label - he wanted us. So, we signed there, and that was a great time, but it wasn't a lucrative time. There was no money involved. The records were released and they really didn't do anything. And the records were augmented. I think it's a lesson. Henry loved the sound of our demos - it was a real garage-sounding thing. I had a different name then, I was Wes Voight & the Town And Country Brothers. When it finally came down to the recording session - Syd Nathan, the head man from Cincinnati, his daughter really liked my pictures - Syd thought that I could be his big white hope. He called Henry and said, "Henry, don't spare anything with this kid, get the best musicians you can with them." Henry liked the sound of what he heard, [but] he tried to augment it a little bit. What it meant was my boys came to the session, but they didn't play, and I always felt bad about that. The players we did get were magnificent players: Mickey "Guitar" Baker, from Mickey & Sylvia; Panama Francis; I forget the bass player. They were nice guys. We cut two or three sessions with them, and nothing really happened.

And then there was the question of whether the DJs could pronounce my name correctly, and should we change the name? And at some point, just as I was doing my last things for King Records, they changed my name to Chip Taylor, and I think the first record actually we put out was right after that, because we decided not to go ahead. We had an offer from Warner Brothers Records as well, and Warner Brothers sounded like it was a better place for me, and I had no obligation anymore to stay with King Records. I think they still wanted me but we shifted to Warner Brothers, and had my first chart hit with me as I am on Warner Brothers. That was a nice little record too, with Stanley Applebaum producing it with strings, on a song I really liked a lot. That song was at the time I just started to get to know Burt Bacharach. I used to take my wife at the time, Joan, down to a place called Chuck's Composite, where Burt would play every night, or a few nights a week. We'd go there to watch him play. I'm a really unsophisticated player, but he loved the little flavour of me as I am. I was using the suspension (sings an example) and he started writing a lot of songs that were based similarly around that song (sings: "Dearest, darling" from '24 Hours From Tulsa'). He wrote about four or five songs that were around that simple thing I used to do with the little suspension. I was very flattered. He was a friend. Even though I had the hit record, on some areas on the East Coast, it wasn't any moneymaking time for me. It was still "How am I going to survive to stay in this business?" And that's when I decided I was going to really make an effort to write for other people, and see if I could survive the business that way.

S'POP: Greg Gwardyak, he changed his name too, to Greg Richards, and he wrote 'She Cried' with Ted Daryll.

CHIP TAYLOR: Yes, Greg Richards. The story with that is, we were all buddies. We had this band together - Greg Gwardyak and Teddy Meister, who changed his name to Ted Daryll. We played in high school, bars, Irish bars mostly. They were great buddies. They had made a deal early on that whatever they did they would do together. So 'She Cried' was the product of their friendship, bringing them to the point that they were both on that song. But Ted Meister wrote the song. Greg's name was on it for all the camaraderie they had in the past years. It was mostly a Ted song. If it wasn't for Greg Richards, Greg Gwardyak, I would never have been here, sitting talking to you - him walking the streets. He had a big heart. He wasn't a great, great guitar player, but he had a lot of soul. So, those demos that we did had Greg's stamp on them and they were really nice demos. I have found a few of them. I'm trying to find more. Before Greg passed away, he played with Tammy Wynette. He wasn't a great player, but he had soul. He was terrific. I owe a lot to Greg.

S'POP: So you turned your attention to writing songs for other people. Were you freelance or did you get signed by a publisher?

CHIP TAYLOR: I was freelancing. One of the first things I did, I wrote a song that I needed a gut-string guitar player on. I didn't know who the players were, so I asked some people in town that I'd met, and they said, "There's a guy you should talk to, Al Gorgoni. He's a very good guitar player, he can play folk-ish kind of things, gut-string and classical guitar." So I got hold of Al, and we've been friends ever since. He played on my first demo, a thing called 'Springtime'. I loved his playing and it was wonderful to do that demo with him. You sold your song before you'd made a demo of it. You walked into a publisher's office and you played it for him. They said yes or no, and if they liked it, they gave you a $25 or $30 advance, and you tried for a couple of weeks to survive. That was one of the songs, so Al played on that.

S'POP: Did that get recorded?

CHIP TAYLOR: It ended up being recorded by the Browns, my favourite group. That's the first one I remember Al playing on. Before that I published things with a couple of other companies. Right after I was signed to Warner Brothers I was signed to MGM for a couple of records. They were bad records, but during that period of time I wrote this song, 'He Sits At My Table', which I really liked, and Willie Nelson recorded it. That was one of the first things. I thought, "Holy Christ, if I can get one of my heroes to record my songs!" That was really big time for me. That got me to thinking I should really do more of this. It was not a good recording, I must say. It was the perfect song for Willie, but it was one of these productions where they did some silly thing on it to try to trick it up. The song sold itself, and they put a high soprano voice on it, just singing over the top of the second verse. It sounded silly to me. I think it's been released on packages.

That was the start. Then this one guy I was publishing with - I don't remember the name of the song, his name was Gerry Teifer - he had a little company. Gerry had this little connection in Nashville, and he was the one that got one of my songs - maybe 'Springtime' - to Chet Atkins, who was producing records for RCA at the time. One day Jerry showed me a note from Chet saying, "I'm cutting that song you sent me. I have no idea who Chip Taylor is. It's hard for me to believe he's from New York, but wherever he's from I want to hear every song he writes." And that was the start for me. Pretty much every song I sent down there, he recorded with someone. He was the head of A&R. Then, the next thing was, that little publisher got took over as the head of CBS's publishing company, April Blackwood Music, and I became one of the first staff writers. And that was the first time somebody said to me, when they had the contract in front of me, "Well, how many songs shall we fill in here, that you have to give us a year?" I said, "You tell me." I could have given them hundreds. They said, "Ah, let's make it easy. Give us ten songs a year. That's your obligation."

S'POP: What were you thinking? One a week?

CHIP TAYLOR: They were just saying we're going to put you in a position where there's no pressure on you. They didn't want ten songs a year, they wanted a lot more, and they knew they were going to get a lot more, but they didn't want any pressure on me. They just wanted everything I'd write.

S'POP: Were you writing songs you consciously thought of as country songs, or that could be recorded as country songs? I tend to regard most of your compositions from this period as R&B songs.

CHIP TAYLOR: In the beginning, when I was first signed, they were country. And then, because I had R&B influences, there were some R&B things that were floating in there, but the majority of my successful ones were country. The combination of my race records background and the country would lead me to this Memphis thing that was kind of R&B. Even the rock things, like 'Angel Of The Morning', 'Wild Thing' and 'Anyway That You Want Me', had a Memphis sound to them. Nobody would really guess that those songs were written by a New Yorker.

S'POP: Here's a good R&B one that you wrote with Jerry Ragovoy, 'I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face' by Baby Washington on Sue Records.

CHIP TAYLOR: Juggy Murray was right upstairs in 1650 Broadway. We were on the first floor in April Blackwood Music, and Juggy Murray had his label upstairs. He was a hustling kind of guy. Everybody knew everybody. The relationship with him was a nice one. [Jerry Ragovoy] had done some work with Ted Daryll - a demo of 'She Cried', originally with Ted singing - and I had got to know Jerry then. He asked if I'd try to write some things with him, and this was one of the first things we wrote together. It was a little different writing with Jerry - he was a keyboard guy, I wrote on guitar by myself, I hardly wrote with anybody else. I wrote a little bit with Al Gorgoni, he played guitar as well. It was fun writing with Jerry - he was this funny kind of writer.

S'POP: Did you demo that song?

CHIP TAYLOR: No. The way we did things with Jerry, we didn't really do demos. Jerry could write music and do arrangements. He had a reel-to-reel tape recorder in his office, so our demo would be made in his office. I'd go in and play and he'd have the microphones there, and once we got the song down he'd record it right there. He'd have an idea that he was going to be producing, because he was producing Garnet Mimms, or whoever he was producing, he'd have an idea for them. So he wouldn't need to give them a demo, he'd just play it for them. Lorraine Ellison would come by and ask for a song …

S'POP: Did you generally attend the sessions?

CHIP TAYLOR: No. Sometimes I did.

S'POP: 'I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face' is a big record over here. They love it on the Northern Soul scene.

CHIP TAYLOR: Do they play Baby Washington or do they play the other one?

S'POP: Pat Thomas, the jazz singer? They play Baby Washington.

CHIP TAYLOR: They also play Dusty (Springfield)?

S'POP: They do. There's another one by Baby Washington, 'Run My Heart', co-written with Wes Farrell. You wrote a few songs with him.

CHIP TAYLOR: I have to be honest with you about Wes. He was more of a businessman than he was anything else, and I liked him. He was one of those real dark characters in the business. He was a good guy to get you to do something, to write something. He'd come down, "We gotta get a song for so-and-so." He'd be upstairs, just near Juggy Murray's - Wes was on the tenth floor, we were on the first floor, Juggy was on the twelfth. Wes worked with Juggy Murray for a while at Sue. He'd try to get you down there, and I couldn't write with Wes, there was no inspiration. Wes was really a cerebral guy. I'd just get in the corner and write something, and because Wes had inspired the idea to write for this person, his name is on a bunch of these songs. But I would say, for the most part, I didn't consider Wes really a writer, even though his name is on them. He was more of a good character, a Damon Runyan kind of music business hustler.

S'POP: A Fixer.

CHIP TAYLOR: Fixer. He might change one word on the song, and put his name on. He was a good guy. I liked him.

S'POP: Well, his name is on quite a few, like 'Hey Child' by Johnny Thunder. Remember Johnny Thunder?

CHIP TAYLOR: Vaguely. You'll have to refresh my memory.

S'POP: He's the guy who did 'Loop De Loop'. That was a bit of a dumb record, but 'Hey Child' is great. He was on Diamond Records.

CHIP TAYLOR: I wish I could remember it, I don't remember it. I think that was Wes's label, wasn't it?

S'POP: I always associate Diamond with Teddy Vann.

CHIP TAYLOR: Yeah, maybe. They were all characters. 1650 Broadway housed all those guys: Teddy Vann, Wes Farrell. 1650 was a darker part of the music publishing. Except for April Blackwood, which was a clean kind of place, the other guys were mostly all hustlers in the R&B community.

S'POP: There seems to be some rivalry between the people that worked at 1650 and the people who worked over the road at 1619, the Brill Building.

CHIP TAYLOR: I didn't feel it. 1619 seemed to be more of a Tin Pan Alley building that had switched now to rock'n'roll. So you had your more sophisticated guys that were being allowed in that place of Tin Pan Alley. Leiber & Stoller were perfect examples. They could make the transition to show tunes, to their dumbing down rock'n'roll things that they did. But they had a good feel for that stuff anyway, they were pretty sophisticated guys.

S'POP: So 1650 had the younger crowd over there?

CHIP TAYLOR: It was more colourful. You had a lot of R&B stuff, real serious R&B stuff going on in that building, and you had more sophisticated R&B stuff going on in 1619 with Leiber & Stoller, and Jeff Barry, and Cynthia Weil. Gerry Goffin and Carole King were a block away over at Screen Gems. You had bunches of writers in all these places. A lot of them weren't doing very well.

S'POP: And you were in your early twenties?

CHIP TAYLOR: Early twenties. And it was great. I loved going in the morning. I had a life I really loved. I was a gambler at the time, and a good one, and I would study the horses at night, and make a decision on them. I used to live in Westchester with Joanie and the kids, when we got married, when I was 23 or 24. I'd take a train in with the racing form, and pick my two bets to make for the day, and make my bets at around 10 o'clock in the morning, and then it would be music for the rest of the day. I had bookies that would take my bets, and at the end of the day I would go pick up the paper to see how I did, and head back home. I was very good at it, so it was mostly very pleasant days. I was a little genius, for horse racing and any gambling, these were all fun things for me. I used to have bookies that would drop me all the time because they were small-time bookies and they couldn't take the pressure of it. When I had Meyer Lanski handling my action he didn't care because he was happy. I found out later, that every time I would make a bet he would bet the same horses at the racetrack and bet ten times as much as I would.

S'POP: Did people see you as a bit of a wonder kid with that. Did they think that some of the luck would rub off on them?

CHIP TAYLOR: I had a reputation of being a great handicapper, but I also had a reputation of being a loner. I didn't want to share anything like that. My focus to be good was always not to talk to anybody about anything, just to focus on my science of it, to study it.

S'POP: That was just the horses? It didn't extend to the music?

CHIP TAYLOR: The music, I wanted to be by myself too, most of the time. I did write with the people you're mentioning. When I went to April Blackwood, I was taking a draw against my royalties. They were paying me $250 in advance a week, but against my royalties. So if I made royalties, that money would all be deducted. Almost right away, within a few weeks of being signed, the boss came over and said, "Look, I've another idea for you. I want to forget the $250 a week advance. I'll pay you a little more than that, I'll call you Associate Professional Manager of the company, and your job will be: whenever there's somebody you think I should listen to, or somebody I should sign, you'll let me know." So I brought in Al Gorgoni and Billy Vera and James Taylor. Al and I had just met James and the boys. We'd met the boys first, we'd been doing a little movie. The King Bees were Danny Kortchmar, Joe Bishop and I forget who else - we got to know them, and Danny kept telling me about this guy that was coming in from North Carolina that I would really love. And one day he brought me up a reel-to-reel tape and I listened to it, and holy shit! I called up Al and said we've got to stop everything - we've got to work with this guy. So I brought James in and signed him to April Blackwood, who were paying the bills.

S'POP: He was signed as a writer?

CHIP TAYLOR: Yes, a writer. Al and I produced some things. I tried to convince this little record company - back in those days it was a singles record company, you didn't put albums out, until you got three hits - of a different way to do it with James. He had come to town and was playing at The Night Owl, we were in the studio working with him, and I had a meeting with the company. I said, "Why don't we put an album out with James? He doesn't have a typical radio voice - treat him like a jazz artist or a traditional folk artist. Not necessarily go for a single, and have his records in the stores near where he plays. And try to develop two or three towns on the East Coast where we could do it?" James was so excited about the idea, and I went in, and had a guy tell me, "That's a good idea, we can do it." And then they had a big meeting, and they decided not to. And that was a real big disappointment, to me and to Al and to James.

S'POP: Is that what spurred you to start your own label, Rainy Day?

CHIP TAYLOR: That was when we had our own label. I was just asking the parent company - Jubilee, Mickey Eichner and the crew - to do it differently with James, to let us make an album with him. They would have let us cut as many things as we wanted to, but they wouldn't put it out as an album, because back in those days that wasn't the formula. And I was telling them to break the formula - don't even think about a single, put the thing out, let it be a vibe thing, that people who go to his shows will want to buy it, that you sell it in Greenwich Village, you sell it where his shows are, you go to Washington, Boston. They thought it was a good idea for a minute, then they changed their mind. At that point James was needing to go away for therapy. We were supposed to meet the next year, we picked a point where we would meet. Around that time I got a call from him - he was in England with the Beatles, who offered a deal - and he asked if he could break the contract with Al and me. He signed a deal with the Beatles - we worked it out with him. The deal that was supposed to be worked out was never really worked out - the lawyer from Apple Records didn't really do what he was supposed to do for Al and I. Our contract was with James, and we didn't want to sue him, so we just let it go.

S'POP: There was a girl named Kathy McCord on Rainy Day.

CHIP TAYLOR: Kathy McCord is Billy Vera's sister. She was a terrific singer, a very, very talented girl. I always liked Kathy. In my shyness - I was writing songs, I started to get together with Kathy, I hadn't played 'Angel Of The Morning' yet for Al and Evie [Sands], and I didn't know if they'd like it or not - I was shy about whether someone would like one of my songs or not. But I felt less shy with Kathy for some reason, and I said to her, "If Al and Evie don't want to do this song, I want you to cut it." So I played it for her first. She had rehearsed it with me and she sounded really good on it. And I always felt bad that the next day I had the meeting with Al and Evie, and I was ready to do it with Kathy, 'cos I was afraid they were going to say, "I'm not sure." And if they said that they weren't sure I was going to go ahead and cut it with Kathy. I played it for them and they both went nuts for the song. So then I had to call Kathy and say, "We've got to do something else." She was always disappointed that it wasn't hers, but that's the way it goes.

S'POP: Do you remember Jean Thomas? She was on Rainy Day as well. You wrote and produced 'Don't Make Me' by her on MGM. This was before Rainy Day, about 1964.

CHIP TAYLOR: She was a sweet, sweet girl. Jean was a background/session singer. I don't remember even producing this. She probably did a demo for me of this song and we made it into a recording.

S'POP: This one here - 'Who Are You' by Stacey Cane, which you wrote with Ted Daryll - is a Kama Sutra Production. They were a bit of a dodgy crowd, weren't they?

CHIP TAYLOR: Absolutely (laughs).

S'POP: Where were they based?

CHIP TAYLOR: They were based in 1650 Broadway. A lot of dodgy characters through that building! I don't really remember this one, but I would say that a lot of the troubles in the business were … these were all good guys, but they were dodgy characters. They would make some kind of deal with the record company, through the parent company that would pay the bills, and then they would make deals with their artists, and this was the Catch 22. They would get a lot of money from the record company as an advance to making recordings, and the Kama Sutra [productions] would be distributed through another big company. They'd pay a lot of money to them and they'd get big offices, big cars, big houses in the country, big everything. They'd get a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and then the artist would record and the biggest problem they could have is that the artist had a hit, and they'd have to pay them royalties. They'd have no money - they'd already spent it on their cars, offices and everything, so they'd have to find a way not to pay them.

S'POP: Like 'The Producers'? The central premise: if it's a success, you're really in trouble.

CHIP TAYLOR: That's true. That's the way a lot of these production companies went.

S'POP: Let's talk about Evie Sands. How did you find Evie?

CHIP TAYLOR: I didn't really find Evie. I just knew of this young girl, 15-years-old, every once in a while she'd walk into this dodgy building, 1650 Broadway, and head for the eighth floor mainly, Teddy Vann's office. I used to see her. I didn't like the song she was singing, but I heard her voice - "Wow! This girl can sing!" And she was a really attractive girl too. I said I'd like to get involved working with this girl. Then, Al Gorgoni said, "Somebody's put up some money for me to do some recordings with Evie." So I said I'd like to get involved with that project and do some writing with you. So it really came through Al. To me, as a producer and a writer, you could not have asked for a better situation. A girl that had a wonderful voice, and for me - with my background in race records and R&B - a white girl who could sing like the most magical black girl around. She had this honey voice that was one of a kind. To me it was like the ultimate find, just to be working with Evie Sands. How could you ever not love that, every minute - working with her, rehearsing with her, producing her. She was a great girl and she loved the way I wrote, the things that Al and I did together.

S'POP: Did you do a deal with Leiber & Stoller?

CHIP TAYLOR: Yes, that was fun. The first deal we did with them wasn't 'I Can't Let Go', it was 'Take Me For A Little While', the Trade Martin song. I think I was a little nervous to go over and see them, but we had done the skeleton of the record and were about ready to put the strings on. We wanted to find an outlet and thought Blue Cat might be the place for us. So we went over and had a meeting with them, and got to know them, and they were great. We played them the track and they loved it, so we worked on it through them and released 'Take Me For A Little While' with Evie.

And she started her career off as the biggest hard-luck girl in the music business. Her record was shipped, the test pressing was sent around to four or five different places. The record company was hugely excited about it. George Goldner was the promotion man - the mafia kind of promotion guy that Leiber & Stoller had working for them. In Chicago, Jackie Ross was coming off a big hit record on Chess Records, and they were at a session when somebody brought the test pressing of Evie's record in and said, "You've gotta hear this record." And they played it at Jackie's session, on a Monday night. They stopped the session and they cut the song. On that Wednesday, they took a full-page ad out, and our record wasn't coming out until the following week. I opened up Cash Box and I see this big thing: The next Jackie Ross number one, 'Take Me For A Little While'. I said, "What a bad break - somebody used the same title!" Ours was a Trade Martin song. I said, "What the heck is that!?" Then I got hold of a copy, and it's the same song! So we traced it. We found exactly what happened with the test pressing. And so George Goldner called up Leonard Chess and finally, as the Jackie Ross record was bulleting up the charts, they had it stopped. It didn't really help Evie - Evie's record was played maybe in 5% of the places that Jackie Ross's was, 'cos Jackie Ross was coming off of a big record. Where Evie's record was played, it was big, but you couldn't expect the station to stop playing Jackie Ross and play Evie's instead. So Evie just lost the game.

The same way she lost with 'Angel Of The Morning' on Cameo. When we released her version it was the biggest record every place it was played - it was a number one request record. I think they had ten thousand copies, they were all sold in two weeks, and Evie was gonna head for a number one - and then the company went bankrupt. So, she was the hard-luck girl there. Merrilee Rush had the hit. Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill cut the thing very much like Evie's record. Those were tough things for Evie. She was Dusty Springfield's favourite singer.

S'POP: She's been recording recently.

CHIP TAYLOR: Somebody told me she's out with another record. We made one record with her ['Women In Prison']. I was just trying to fit her into what I was doing, the Americana thing. I wasn't really trying to do what was best for her, I had no idea how to exploit it.

S'POP: It was a little before its time, maybe a year or two, because Lucinda Williams has really come on since. I think ever since that album Evie's been on the road. Didn't she join some rock band?

CHIP TAYLOR: Yeah, it's a wonderful record. I hear she's doing something else. She was with our friends from Scotland, the BMX Bandits, Douglas Stewart. There's the whole connection with Belle & Sebastian, who are big fans of the stuff that Al and I produced with Evie back in those days. We did a show with Belle & Sebastian up in Scotland a few years ago.

S'POP: Let's move on to Billy Vera - 'Storybook Children'.

CHIP TAYLOR: He's one of these friends of a friend of a friend. Through Ted, and somebody else, I got to know Billy and his band - they were playing around Westchester County and had a very good reputation. I heard some of the demos that they had done and, to tell you the truth, I was very jealous - this guy's got it! He had a song called 'All My Love' that I felt was terrific. Billy was the real deal. He had that R&B thing to him, and a pop-ish thing in his writing. I signed him to April Blackwood Music as a writer and tried to figure a way to do something and break with him.

I was driving down the highway to work one day - and I usually don't write like this - and I saw two little kids in the field, a black kid and a white kid, walking hand in hand across the field. By the time I hit the city I had this whole thing about 'Storybook Children' - you've got your world and I've got mine, and it's a shame two grown-up worlds can never be the same. It was at the time that the race stuff was still fairly intense. I said to Billy, "Play me those old Joe Cuba chords that I used to love that you played. I've got an idea for a song." So he played me this thing. I'm never good at getting exactly what someone is giving me, because I'm not sophisticated enough, but somewhere in there, within a few minutes, we had 'Storybook Children', and I asked Billy to help me finish it up. But it was almost finished by the time I got to the city. So we went and recorded it. We were looking for a girl for it. We had a girl to sing it, but we weren't thinking she was the right girl. We brought her over to Jerry Wexler, and played it for him. I said, "I just need money to put strings on it, and find the right girl." He said, "I got two or three girls for you to pick from." Judy Clay was one of them. He got us together with her and, basically, we made a deal with Atlantic Records for that. They ran a tight ship over there … We shook hands on a deal, and walked back to my place of work, and Jerry called me on the phone and said, "Look. I've decided, I want to change the deal a little bit." "What do you mean, Jerry, we shook hands on a little deal. You're gonna put up $2,500 for the strings. We'll put the strings on it. We're gonna get Judy Clay, we'll make a hit record. How simple can this deal be?" He said, "Well, how about you put up the $2,500 for the strings, and I'll give you another two points?" I said, "You have to be kidding me, Jerry!" So that's the way it ended up.

S'POP: Another two points - would that have been a better thing or not?

CHIP TAYLOR: No. It's the same as 'The Producers' thing. You don't get the money, 'cos by the time you get the hit, you're into making an album, and then all the money you would have got is in the album. And then by the time you're ready to pay for the album, you're into making another album. So you never get the money. The only people who make the money are the songwriters, because they get paid, whether it's an advance or not, whether they paid for the strings or not. For the most part those artists didn't get paid, and if somebody came in and complained - one of those artists on Atlantic Records, or the doo-wop groups - they'd say, "Oh, by the way, we got you a Cadillac."

S'POP: Ruth Brown died recently. In some of the obituaries they mention her activity in getting restoration for black artists. One obit refers to Atlantic as "the house that Ruth built".

CHIP TAYLOR: There was so much energy going on with those artists who didn't get paid, and so much good efforts for them to promote their own things, I think the companies should just wash those things. If these things are selling again, then pay a little bit of royalties to them.

S'POP: I read somewhere that Billy did 'Storybook Children' first with Nona Hendryx?

CHIP TAYLOR: Yes. That's the one we did first. We brought it to Jerry Wexler with Nona on it, but we weren't sure it should be Nona. We weren't convinced we had the right girl. Jerry said right away, "We've got to find somebody better." So Jerry was the one who gave us options, and Judy Clay was one of the options.

S'POP: It really took off, that record.

CHIP TAYLOR: It took off on the East Coast. It was a funny thing, we had two singles with them - Billy and Judy - and they were the first inter-racial couple, and the first to play the Apollo Theater. The second release, 'Country Girl - City Man', became a big southern record, and 'Storybook Children' was a big East Coast record.

S'POP: Was 'Country Girl - City Man' a tailor-made follow-up?

CHIP TAYLOR: I don't know if it was a tailor-made follow-up. It was a song that Ted Daryll and I wrote and it sounded like a really good thing for them. I didn't think about hits back then. I thought about it after the fact, not to sit down to write a hit.

S'POP: So you never wrote with particular singers in mind?

CHIP TAYLOR: Hardly ever. 'I Can Make It With You' I wrote because somebody asked me if I could write a song for Jackie DeShannon. So I wrote that thinking about her. Most of the time I asked my company not to ask me questions like that, or not point me in those directions, but I must say that whenever they did it made me feel good.

S'POP: What strikes me about your songs is most of them are by female performers. You seem really good at writing songs for female performers. Not many writers can do that.

CHIP TAYLOR: David Olney says, "What's wrong with you? You're always writing for girls, from a girl's point of view? Don't you have a man's point of view?" One day I made a joke about it - maybe it's because I like to write songs where a girl's told me something I want to hear. I put words in their mouths, and say, "OK, I like to hear that."

S'POP: Reparata & the Delrons did a couple of your songs - 'Tommy', that was a bit of a hit.

CHIP TAYLOR: I don't really remember it. I wish you could play these, I'd have some fun listening to 'em.

S'POP: We've put most of them on a CD for you, so you can listen to them later … 'Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)', that's a great one.

CHIP TAYLOR: There's an interesting story about this one. Jerry (Ragovoy) and I had written a song called 'Try', an Otis Redding-ish kind of ballad. for Garnet Mimms. Then one night Jerry said, "Can you turn 'Try' into an up-tempo song? I need it for Lorraine Ellison." He said he needed it by the morning. That morning - my bookie for some reason was out of town - I'd planned on going out to the racetrack to bet a horse, and it was a very important bet to me. I said, "I don't know if I can do it. What time are you going to be in the office?" He said, "Around 10 o'clock." So, I went home that night, I picked up my guitar and I started singing one of my favourite songs that I've ever written, and it's never been the big hit that it should have been, 'On My Word'. This song is a story in itself, a total chapter. I took the groove of 'On My Word', and I started force-feeding lines from 'Try' into it, until it took its own shape. Then 'On My Word' was out the window, and 'Try' was there. I wrote it out a little bit more in the morning, wrote out the words, got in the car, walked down to Jerry's office and I played it for him. He liked it. He put his tape recorder on, wrote some notes down, banged on the piano - I had that little horn section in it that I wrote for it. He said, "Great!" I said, "OK, see you - I'm off!" And I went out to the racetrack to bet my horse. Then I heard that Lorraine had cut it, but I didn't even hear her version of it, because I was on to something else - some other horses, some other music. One day I was driving in the car, the DJ said: "The new Janis Joplin single ..."

You know, I have to get going, I have to get packing my clothes. We'll have to do this in part one and part two, yeah? We have a show tonight in Buckingham. We're supposed to all meet down here in the lobby at 12, and it's after 12 now. Three more shows, then we're off to Europe. Set part two up with Florence for when I'm back in town, or we can do it over the phone. Boys, I'm headin'.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We pick up, as promised, eight months later. This time Chip is accompanied by the rest of the Train Wreck Revue: guitarist John Platania and fiddler/singer Kendel Carson.

S'POP: Last time we talked, you told us that you generally didn't write songs for specific artists, but there's a song that Peggy Lee did …

CHIP TAYLOR: 'Sneakin' Up On You'?

S'POP: Yes. It sounds so Taylor-written for her.

CHIP TAYLOR: No, it wasn't. I got this little groove with it and my friend Ted Daryll and I worked on it together. I liked the little groove, a cool little groove. I didn't know what we were going to do with the thing. It was like "I'm a one-eyed cat, sneaking round the corner, trying to get to you." I can't quite remember, something like that, but it was a cool, sexy little thing. One of the guys in the office made the decision to play it for her. I didn't.

S'POP: Well, it was a good idea, because it turned out a really great record.

CHIP TAYLOR: That was one of the great things about the company I was with. It had a wonderful professional staff that truly loved the music that was coming in and really worked hard to find artists for the songs.

S'POP: That was April Blackwood Music?

CHIP TAYLOR: Yes. And David Rosner was the guy that was the real hero of that company. He was just wonderful, so passionate in everything. They did great. They got ideas right away for my songs and they were excited about them. You couldn't ask for better surroundings.

S'POP: You were responsible for finding and signing other writers too?

CHIP TAYLOR: Yeah. Right away, I brought in Al Gorgoni, who was my partner at the time. I wanted to write with him a little bit, so I brought him into the company. And I brought Billy Vera into the company. I always liked Billy. I was always jealous of Billy. I thought he wrote some cool things that I couldn't write. I was jealous of one particular song of his, but I can't remember what it was. And then I brought James Taylor in. That was the big thing.

S'POP: Do you remember a young lady called Fangette Willett?

CHIP TAYLOR: I can remember the name.

S'POP: She wrote this great song for Walter Jackson, 'It's An Uphill Climb To The Bottom'. [Gives Chip a copy of Walter Jackson's 'Welcome Home' CD.]

CHIP TAYLOR: Ah, it's great to have this. You can't imagine how much glad I am to have this. 'Welcome Home' is one of my favourite songs I ever wrote.

S'POP: Which do you like best, the Walter Jackson version or Garnett Mimms? A tough call, that one!

CHIP TAYLOR: I like Walter's a little bit better and I like Dusty's version. She had a great version of it. Walter Jackson used to perform on crutches. He was truly one of the great soul singers of that generation. He wasn't like a performing soul singer, he felt this stuff. He would reach the masses in the way he performed. Garnett Mimms was great, but he was more over the top. Walter had a certain sadness to his whole way of singing that was wonderful.

S'POP: Fangette told us that when she first met Walter he had a residency at some jazz club or something?

CHIP TAYLOR: Is that right? I didn't meet him.

S'POP: You didn't meet him?

CHIP TAYLOR: No. I was kind of behind the scenes at most times. I wasn't hanging out in the music business. I was married to Joanie and, having the kids, I wasn't so typically in the business running around. I would just go in, write my songs and come back.

S'POP: You were a nine to five-er?

CHIP TAYLOR: Well, a bit more than nine to five, because I spent about four hours handicapping the horse races for the next day. So it was a double job I had, just like you guys! But right now, this is an amazing time for me. I think back to the time, there was so much energy floating around in those days. We were taking over the business. But now, the way we're on tour, and what we're doing with John [Platania] and Kendel [Carson], there's new energy going on around here. We don't know where it's taking us, but with that band, there's wonderful stuff around.

S'POP: How long have you known Chip?

JOHN PLATANIA: Since 1972.

S'POP: Was that with Flying Machine?

JOHN PLATANIA: It was way after that. I never knew Chip with Flying Machine.

S'POP: You weren't involved with Flying Machine?

JOHN PLATANIA: No. Sometimes, people say that I was, but I never worked with James Taylor in my life. I don't know how that connection came about.

S'POP: You were with Bang Records?

JOHN PLATANIA: Yes, I was signed to Bang Records.

CHIP TAYLOR: That's around the same time as all that stuff. John was doing this stuff with Bang and I was doing my other stuff. All of a sudden, when I decide for a solo career, John enters the picture and from then we knew each other.

S'POP: So what were you doing with Bang?

JOHN PLATANIA: Bert Berns signed a group I was in, Silver Bike. I had never met Bert, though. I came in, they made the deal. I just signed the deal with that group and Bert died. So that was it for everybody. Van [Morrison] left too about the same time. He was sort of run out of town.

S'POP: That would have been '67 or '68?

JOHN PLATANIA: I was '67. I think Van probably left some time that year.

S'POP: Bert died at the end of '67.

JOHN PLATANIA: Bert brought Van in from the UK.

S'POP: Just Us. That was you and Al Gorgoni?

CHIP TAYLOR: The way that came about was I loved this song that Al wrote with Estelle Levitt. I loved working with Al, period. He wrote this little song and asked me to help him demo it - 'You Can't Grow Peaches On A Cherry Tree'. We demoed it. It sounded like it would work as a nice duet, so we demoed it singing it together. So I was kind of producing it with Al. We got it back from the studio and I said, "This sounds like a hit to me just the way it is." He said, "I think it needs another harmony." So I went back in and did another harmony on it. A guy was in town from Minute Man Records from Boston. He had done something else with April Blackwood and he heard it. He said, "I think this sounds like a hit." And I put it out on their label. To make a long story short, we put it out on Minute Man and it broke so fast that Al and I were rushed into the studio to do an album as the thing was going up the charts. Minute Man couldn't handle it. It was so big and they were just a little label in Boston. So they sold it over to Colpix. They sold 60,000 on Minute Man and then 200,000 on Colpix. Colpix was going bankrupt, so they sold it to Kapp. So, it was a big selling record. It probably sold 600,000 or 700,000 singles, but its chart position was smaller than it would have been had it been on the one label. So it got into the top 40 or something.

S'POP: It was played on BBC Radio recently. They said Al was in the band.

CHIP TAYLOR: We never really had a band, just studio musicians. And Al was the one who didn't really want to go on the road. We ended up doing the Dick Clark Show and all those things.

S'POP: So you [John] get signed and the guy who signs you dies. You [Chip] get a hit and the record label goes bust. That's the business, isn't it?

CHIP TAYLOR: Things like that happened a lot in those days.

S'POP: What was the atmosphere at Bang Records like when Bert died? Doom and gloom? The label carried on for many years.

JOHN PLATANIA: When Bert died we did go in with his wife, Ilene. She was trying to figure out where to go from that point.

S'POP: She was involved in the business?

JOHN PLATANIA: Oh boy, was she was involved.

S'POP: I don't know much about Ilene.

JOHN PLATANIA: Well, I won't go into anything. She's almost an untouchable woman. Considering the fact that Van Morrison never got any royalties from 'Brown Eyed Girl'. She's a tough woman. But, from what I remember, she was completely in control, absolutely in control in business, and remained so, until recently, when Sony bought Bang. Maybe it was at that point that Van got royalties. My only association was at meetings, which I remember one or two times, with Ilene, and going into a studio with Chris Houston from the Undertakers, the British band.

S'POP: He became an engineer.

JOHN PLATANIA: He did Zeppelin, the Who, War. He did all that stuff. Now he's in Nashville - a studio designer, a great engineer.

CHIP TAYLOR: The thing about Bang - it may turn out to be one of these labels that didn't treat people right, or whatever, but the energy of Bang reminds me of a similar energy from the tough stuff, the darker stuff, like Atlantic Records or something. There were certain people doing poppy things - real keyboard oriented things - and certain people doing gut-felt things. Solomon Burke was one of those - he could do it. It was nothing about precision. Bert just wanted an organic thing going on in the studio.

JOHN PLATANIA: He was a good writer too.

S'POP: John, did you play in bands?

JOHN PLATANIA: Yes. Once I was in New York I started doing some studio stuff with Mort Shuman, a couple of things with John Cale, nothing big. But I was still Upstate, working with bands. I was working with a trio, which is when Van's people saw me and asked me to audition.

S'POP: Did you know Van through Bang?

JOHN PLATANIA: I kind of knew him. I think we'd met once or twice. We crossed paths. At that point I knew 'Brown Eyed Girl'. I knew Them's stuff. But beyond that, no. When I really connected with Van was after 'Astral Weeks', before 'Moondance'. He had left New York to go to Boston, where he landed after leaving Bang. He had to leave town - literally - because he was coerced. He didn't want to fulfil his obligations because he wasn't getting any money.

S'POP: I've heard a couple of outtakes he did.

JOHN PLATANIA: They put an album out of all that. They didn't like that at all. They didn't finally release it - hysterical stuff!

CHIP TAYLOR: He wasn't getting paid, yet he had obligations

JOHN PLATANIA: 'Ring Worm'! Quite clever titles, as funny as can be. They were just right off the top of his head.

CHIP TAYLOR: So they were saying he was not doing the right thing by the contract, but on the other side, they weren't paying him any money.


CHIP TAYLOR: So, that's just like the old kind of record company.

JOHN PLATANIA: I mean, he was starving. Anyway, they pressured him out. They said, "Either do this, or…" I don't know what the details were. He wound up in Boston and somehow his managers at some point signed him to Warners. From Boston he moved to Woodstock.

S'POP: You worked with John Cale?

JOHN PLATANIA: I don't remember what, I know it was a couple of tracks.

S'POP: Pre-Bang, or afterwards?


S'POP: So once you'd left Bang you went solo?

JOHN PLATANIA: Yes. I did various studio things.

S'POP: You still play with Van Morrison.

JOHN PLATANIA: Yes. For over a year now, we reconnected. I've always been in touch. He's always trying to get me to move here, but I don't want to do that right now at this point.

S'POP: Does he gig much these days?

JOHN PLATANIA: More than ever, in the States and Europe. I played with him at Montreux.

S'POP: Chip, what about the label you started up, Rainy Day?

CHIP TAYLOR: That was Al and I. We started it up for was James Taylor, totally for James. A friend of mine, Mickey Eichner, ran Jubilee Records and we were telling him about James. So Mickey offered a deal with Jubilee. The nice thing was they gave us a little studio - a little hole in the ground, but it was free. So, any time we wanted, we could just go in there and do experiments. That's how we started. We did all the early James Taylor things at that studio. The first thing James put on the tape in that little studio was "Hey mom and dad, this is my first rock'n'roll record!" The whole deal with that was that I went to the label and I said to them, "Look, we've got this great artist. He doesn't sound Top 40. He's going to get difficulty getting played on the radio. Let's put an album out by him and do like the blues thing. He's been playing in a New York club called the Night Owl. If we could just do this in three markets. We could do a folk/jazz concept with him." This was '67 or '68. They almost did it. That would have been great, but their thing was, "Let's do singles." Nobody wanted to do albums. My brand new concept was to try him in a different way. We had meetings and meetings and they finally said, "No." James was heart-broken and I was heart-broken and he left.

S'POP: You put some other singles out on Rainy Day. You did one yourself.

CHIP TAYLOR: Two or three, I think.

S'POP: 'You Should Be From Monterey'.

CHIP TAYLOR: Yeah. I liked that.

S'POP: So, you let the label fizzle out?

CHIP TAYLOR: Once James was not there the heart of it was gone. Once I didn't have a good concept to think back and forth with the label, it wasn't worth it.

S'POP: We didn't want to dwell on 'Wild Thing' earlier, but we did want to ask you about the Wild Ones, the group that did it first. Were they a real group?

CHIP TAYLOR: Everyone's trying to get hold of a copy! Yes, Jordan Christopher and the Wild Ones, they were a real group.

S'POP: Did you produce it?

CHIP TAYLOR: No, I had nothing to do with it. Gerry Granahan, head of A&R at the record label, asked me for a song for them. And that kind of inspired me that day to start thinking about writing another song and 'Wild Thing' came out.

S'POP: Did they name themselves before the record?

CHIP TAYLOR: Jordan Christopher was the head guy and his group was the Wild Ones. They'd been floating around, but I didn't really know them. No one really knew them.

JOHN PLATANIA: Sybil Burton started to all intents and purposes the first disco in New York. Jordan Christopher's band, the Wild Ones, was the house band with this disco. I played there myself.

S'POP: Was that The Scene?

JOHN PLATANIA: No, it was called The Office. It was around 57th Street. I played there, so I pretty much know that scene, while I was signed to Bang. The Scene was really a listening venue and Arthur's was the first disco in New York. Other than in LA, there was nothing in the States other than those two places. Chip played me the record. It had strings and stuff on. It was terrible!

CHIP TAYLOR: Gerry Granahan was such an instigator for the thing for me, so I never want to say anything bad. All the records in the late '50s and '60s were done by arrangers writing out every note for every player. So, when you walked into a session, most of the time it was with strings and horns and stuff. So it was like Sinatra, finally winding down to rock'n'roll. Even though it was coming into rock'n'roll, there were always still going to be some string players around. There were still going to be notes written out for the drummer to play every beat and for the bass player to play every note. So, with 'Wild Thing' it's the strumming. The guitar is almost like a little bit of a percussion instrument. When they recorded it, they didn't do any of the in-between things. It just meant nothing! It didn't get the power of the song. They took the power of the song and they diminished it. I don't blame Gerry, because he was used to doing those kind of things. Everybody did it, arrangers. We were just starting to say on sessions, "No arrangers." I would arrange the string parts if I was going to do it. I wouldn't let anyone else do the arrangements and I would not touch the rhythm section until we got to the studio and just fooled around and there would be nothing except the chord charts around. Nothing other than that.

I think the Troggs' record was a right funky record. You couldn't beat that. It was like the demo, except they played it with an electric guitar. The feeling was exactly the way it should have been. To me, that was the start of punk.

S'POP: And the Troggs have the ocarina

CHIP TAYLOR: Well, the ocarina was something Reg Presley thought was on my demo, because my engineer did this thing with his hands. When the demo was being played back, Ron Johnson was going whistling. I said, "Hey Ron, can you play something like this?" I hummed. He did something close, we over-dubbed on it, and that became the thing that everybody who heard the demo thought was an ocarina.

S'POP: Have you still got your demo?


S'POP: Still got all your old demos?

CHIP TAYLOR: I got a lot of them. I've saved 'Wild Thing' on to a tape, so that will never be lost. Reg Presley carries an ocarina with him all the time, in his back pocket, when he comes to one of my shows, in case I call him up on stage, he has one.

S'POP: I think "Wild Thing" sounds better with a fiddle! [as played at the previous evening's gig]

KENDEL CARSON: I'm just trying to step up for John!

S'POP: How did you and Chip meet?

KENDEL CARSON: Chip and Carrie [Rodriguez] were playing at the Canmore Folk Festival, near Calgary, Alberta. I was playing there with a band called the Paperboys. Carrie and I were doing a fiddle workshop stage together. There were about six fiddlers on stage. We said "Hi" to Chip after that one. I didn't know who he was at that time. I remember very clearly walking back to the guys in the Paperboys. They said, "You know who you're just talking to? That's the dude that wrote 'Wild Thing'" I said, "That's really cool!" I kept running into Chip and Carrie there, and our bands were playing at the Edmonton Folk Fest, which is a really fun festival, it's big. And so we just got to hang out for a while and really got along. By the end of the festival Chip and I exchanged our addresses. He asked me if I made records and could I send him something to see what he thought. He's easy to talk to and easy going. I thought it couldn't hurt and who knows? So we went back and forth a bit and he ended up saying, "Why don't you come up to New York and try to do some writing?" I was over the moon about that, so I came out. The plan was to hang out and write for 10 days and hopefully cut some demos at the end after two days in the studio. And it was insane. It ended up Chip wrote a bunch of stuff even before I got there. I showed up and he already had six songs written. We went back and forth on a couple of songs, a couple of co-writes. And we went into the studio and just recorded thirteen tracks in two or three days. We've kept in touch since then.

CHIP TAYLOR: It's an amazing thing. One of the things was, aside from whatever you say of her talent, she had a certain energy that I really liked. There's a spirit about her. When she came up to New York it wasn't just about saying, "OK, you're perfectly talented, let's just get a couple of songs together and record them." It wasn't that. It was trying to find a thing that would be her, a new energy for her. That was part of what we worked on. That new energy came so fast that week, it was just magic. So she came with, totally as a writer, and what she left with was like a milestone of work and energy. So to me it was like one of those magic things when somebody just blossoms into something. The girl that walked up to the studio and met me in New York - the first day she met me she could never have walked into that studio and sang thirteen songs with a band and made it feel anything. The girl that did it made it feel everything.

KENDEL CARSON: It's amazing.

S'POP: Your brother is a player as well. Is he older or younger?

KENDEL CARSON: He's about two years older

S'POP: Do you play with him?

KENDEL CARSON: We haven't been doing so much recently, but we grew up playing all the time together. He's a fiddle player as well, so we do the natural twin fiddle stuff.

S'POP: Chip, do you have your own studio?

CHIP TAYLOR: I do have my own studio. I don't do much work in America. The guy who plays bass with John and me - Tony, a great bass player and friend of John's - he's in the studio more than I am, getting old things together. Normally, what I'll do is I'll record stuff in New York with John and Tony and then, if we need to work on it, sometimes up in my studio we'll do that. Times are shifting now; there's not so much of a need for studios as there was.

S'POP: I've got a bit of a thing about the recording studios in New York in the 1960s. I think some of them had their own sound. Does that still apply?

CHIP TAYLOR: It sure did back then. I'm not sure about now.

S'POP: Because of the studios or because of the engineers?

JOHN PLATANIA: The engineers, the equipment. They had the need to come up with this equipment to capture the sound being created.

CHIP TAYLOR: Also the rooms. I think back in those days they had more significance …

JOHN PLATANIA: Absolutely! The RCA studios, Stax studios, Sun studios, Gold Star.

CHIP TAYLOR: … than they do now. Now, if you're going into these digital things, the room and the sound becomes less and less of a thing. Unless you capture a certain kind of engineer who's attuned to that. Listen back to 'Gasoline' [CT solo album from 1972]. We did that at Bella John's and the sound of that is so analogue and live.

S'POP: Currently, there is a bit of a move, there are some bands that are trying to do that. Little places in London, analogue studios, using vintage equipment, with people queuing up to record. The White Stripes, for example. And one that's making a bit of a noise is James Hunter. He sounds like early-'60s King Records, the way he sings and plays.

JOHN PLATANIA: Howlin' Wilf?

S'POP: That's the guy

JOHN PLATANIA: He's a very specific R&B style. Very good. It's consciously capturing a specific R&B thing.

S'POP: I did a little interview with Brooks Arthur last year. Do you know him?

JOHN PLATANIA: No. I know who he is.

CHIP TAYLOR: I know him. Brooks is one of these guys that was like, he didn't know more than other engineers. He might have known less. But, what he would make up for from being on the same page with you, with energy, was unbelievable. He'd be one of these engineers, I'd say, "This is a crescendo," and he'd be on the board. He'd stand up like playing an instrument. So it was nice to feel like that the guy was on the same page. Probably standing up and doing all this vibration didn't mean much. I didn't know what he was doing. He was moving at the same time and wanted something very important to happen. A great guy!

S'POP: What about your work as producer in the early days?

CHIP TAYLOR: I was an organic kind of producer. I was always fighting for emotion. That's what I was best at. I wasn't a technical producer. I knew what I wanted things to sound like, but I wasn't an engineer, so I didn't know how to get them. But I knew what I didn't like and fought hard to get what I liked.

S'POP: Did you have a studio of choice, a favourite one?

JOHN PLATANIA: Bell Sound was quite a big studio.

CHIP TAYLOR: I liked Bell. I did 'You Can't Grow Peaches On A Cherry Tree' at Associated and I liked that folk recording. I liked Dick Charles for all the little demo things I did. It wasn't really a thing where I just loved a studio. I liked a lot of studios. If we got the right engineer we always felt comfortable. It was mostly the engineer.

S'POP: I went to New York a couple of years ago and I went 'round all the addresses where the old studios used to be. Some of them are still there. Different names, but still there. Some of them are a demolished, some of them are car parks. I think the one that used to be Dick Charles is still there and is still a recording studio. It does TV jingles.

CHIP TAYLOR: [Looking at his 'Last Chance' album] I reissued it, but I didn't do the right job with it

JOHN PLATANIA: You didn't master it from the same tapes?

CHIP TAYLOR: I mastered it from a two-track I had, not a half-inch. They didn't want to go through the whole Warner Brothers thing of buying it out. Someone was trying to do me a favour real quick. I didn't like what we did with it. Next time we master it we're going to master it from the vinyl, scratches and all.

KENDEL CARSON: [Reading the LP liner notes] Guitar and fiddle?! I never knew Chip ever played the fiddle.

JOHN PLATANIA: He resurrected the fiddle in spite of his brother's contradictions.

S'POP: I wanted to ask you about your work as a solo performer. You did the work with Al, Just Us, but when did you decide to start out as a solo performer? What brought that about?

CHIP TAYLOR: Well, I always wanted to do it. I'd been comfortable behind the scenes writing songs for a while. The taste I had from working with Al, having a hit record and having Al say, "I don't want to go on the road," Then I was thinking, if I do it myself, I'm scared of the road, I'm scared to perform. I was less scared when I was in high school. By then, I was scared, but I wanted to try it.

S'POP: But in high school, it was with a band.

CHIP TAYLOR: I was the lead singer. I was less afraid then, for some reason. I came back with 'Gasoline'. I was as nervous as hell to get on stage. I was scared.

S'POP: So it was just yourself?

CHIP TAYLOR: And whoever. I had some people playing with me. It was nerve-wracking for me, but I wanted to do it.

S'POP: When you were working in New York, in the writing, did you still perform?

CHIP TAYLOR: No. Played on my own.

S'POP: Sat in your kitchen?

CHIP TAYLOR: Wherever. Worked on my racing form. Wrote a little bit. I didn't hang out in the city.

S'POP: John, how's your album ['Blues, Waltzes & Badland Borders'] doing? It's got some good reviews.

JOHN PLATANIA: Review-wise, it's doing fantastic. It's really pleasantly surprising.

S'POP: This is your first solo?

JOHN PLATANIA: Second. The first was less than a year before. This record, on Train Wreck, has taken a while to do. Only because we'd stop, record it, shelve it for a few months, then start in again. It's taken quite a while.

S'POP: I like the tracks I've heard. It works well with the different vocalists you use.

JOHN PLATANIA: It's almost an instrumental album.

S'POP: Do you call it an instrumental soundscape?

JOHN PLATANIA: Soundscape's great. I immediately saw the cinematic elements of the whole thing.

CHIP TAYLOR: I've heard that Jonathan Demme - he was in the audience - heard John and Kendel perform at the South by South West Festival in Austin. He licensed three songs from John and Kendel for his movie, a documentary about President Carter. He's licensed them and then he has to put it together, so we don't know what the final thing will be. But he loves them and there's a good chance that John will be a part of that.

S'POP: Who have you got singing on the album?

JOHN PLATANIA: Lucinda Williams is singing. Then there are various narratives. Chip's brother Jon (Voight). There's a children's chorus. Alejandro Escovado. Ruben Ramos, who was lead vocalist for Los Super Seven.

S'POP: How is Alejandro?


CHIP TAYLOR: He's never found a good releasing structure for his records over here. With a bigger company, they don't much care. It's not like going on Train Wreck, where everybody cares. Alejandro, and even Lucinda Williams, when they're on a major label, they're competing with the monsters. If they're not going to be up there selling 300,000 or 400,000 records, they're going to get some lip service, but not the real passion of the label.

S'POP: How long are you in the UK for?

CHIP TAYLOR: Until tomorrow morning.

S'POP: Have you done much radio here?

KENDEL CARSON: No. We did some things in Sweden and Europe.

CHIP TAYLOR: Kendel's record ['I Like Trucks'] is getting so much radio support here. Her record is breaking.

KENDEL CARSON: Danny Baker (BBC Radio London) is playing it, every day for ten days. Johnnie Walker (BBC Radio 2). Somebody told me that Danny Baker said, on his show, "I'm going to say this one time: Kendel Carson." He played the song, then he played it the next couple of days, and he never said a word before or after it. Johnnie Walker said that he heard it on Danny Baker's show, that's why he started playing it.

CHIP TAYLOR: He's doing a little trick with it. A mystery thing. That's the nice thing about Kendel's record. It's not your typical country power pop record, yet people here in this town and DJs will hear it and love it. It doesn't have to be power for them, it's got the song. It's just a cool little record, and I don't think it would get the same treatment in the States.

S'POP: We were saying after last night's gig, you were right to play it twice.

KENDEL CARSON: It was funny! Doing it twice, hilarious!

S'POP: We don't use the word "truck" in England, it's "lorries". It gives it that snappy little title - it's foreign, exotic.

KENDEL CARSON: I never thought of that! "Lorries" doesn't have the same kind of …

S'POP: Kendel, do you listen to much English fiddle music? There's a young woman fiddler and singer, Eliza Carthy.

KENDEL CARSON: One of my buddies is her boyfriend right now. She's good. Canadian fiddle music is influenced a lot by English folk music, and Scottish. The Cape Breton music is almost Scottish sounding, and the West Coast is more Irish, and possibly more English as well.

S'POP: I once saw Ashley McIsaac. He was wearing a kilt and a Mohican haircut.

KENDEL CARSON: He's an East Coast fiddler, a punk fiddler.

CHIP TAYLOR: Just to give you a little advance about the new thing. It will be coming up in the next year and you guys are the first ones to know about it. There's going to be a concept album with the entire band. It's going to be a pretty big adventure. Not just recordings. It's going to be John, Kendel and I doing vocals that inter-weave with each other, different kinds of songs. Sometimes it'll be John and I, sometimes Kendel and I, sometimes the three of us. Drifting back into the spirit of why we are in the business in the first place. It's going to carry a lot of weight for us, and the band is going to be very much part of it. So it's going to be a band concept. We're doing demos for it today. It's all stuff that's been written in the last week or so. So I'm really excited about the project. We're going to work on it together.

S'POP: It sounds exciting. Last night, what came across was that you were working as a band. It was the Train Wreck Revue, but you were playing together, playing things from your own albums and careers.

JOHN PLATANIA: We wanted to minimise the "revue" concept.

CHIP TAYLOR: We have a bigger thing coming, next year, that will make more sense.

S'POP: You'll take that show on the road?

CHIP TAYLOR: For sure. It's going to be an important thing, on many areas, not just recordings.

S'POP: Are you writing together?

CHIP TAYLOR: I've written a bunch of things to get started and we're going to collaborate.

S'POP: And you're carrying on with your solo careers as well?

CHIP TAYLOR: Yes. One of the things that makes the project exciting is that John's record is out there now - it's a record for all time. We don't want to be filling it up with another album right away. The same with Kendel's album. We don't want to put this one out and then come with another within six months. Their albums are way too important. But this other thing, this group thing, won't interfere with that. And then we can slowly get ready for what they're doing next, without being too pressured to be back in the system. And some of the things that we're going to be doing are going to be featuring John and Kendel.

S'POP: How do you fit in with the country music establishment?

CHIP TAYLOR: We don't fit in with them. We have nothing to do with them, except for the fact that maybe they're coming more toward our way, but it's nothing I want to play, any of those kind of things. They're still playing pretty powerful pop, selling soap box kind of stuff.

S'POP: Do you think that's always been the case with yourself? In your career as a writer, maybe too soul for the country field, and too country for the pop field?

CHIP TAYLOR: That was more when I was a singer. When I was a writer, I had no problems with the kind of music that was being done back then. There was the Brown Family and Eddy Arnold and Waylon and Willie. There was some politics going on, but still wonderful records being made. So, having been part of that scene, it was great. I just got further away in the '70s, and then in the '80s and '90s it was nothing to do with us.

S'POP: Country music stations today don't play people like Eddy Arnold anymore, unless it's an oldies station.

CHIP TAYLOR: If you listen back to those recordings, they're just nice recordings. In the '50s and '60s there were a wealth of things that were brilliant and very soulful, but they just got more plastic as the day went on. We're back doing soulful things. If people like it, they like it. Now they like trucks!!

S'POP: They like lorries!

CHIP TAYLOR: People say, "You've gotta another 'Wild Thing', Chip!"

S'POP: The hook is the "1-2-3-4!"

KENDEL CARSON: It's a huge part of it.

CHIP TAYLOR: The simplest things.