Interview with JIM CREGAN

January 2008

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If you tune in to a classic rock radio station, or simply watch VH1, there’s a great chance there wouldn’t be a day that you won’t hear Jim Cregan’s guitar. It’s him laying chops on Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and weaving the acoustic lace for Steve Harley’s “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)”. But then again, all the classics that Jim played on sound as contemporary as his parts on Katie Melua’s records. So would you, please, welcome one of the most in-demand artist in rock and one of its best kept secret weapon, Mr. Jim Cregan!

- How did the music life start for you? Who were your influences?

I suppose it was my brother Maurice’s influence. He is five years older and always had music on the record player. He came home one day with a jazz album by Andre Previn and Shelley Manne playing “My Fair Lady”. The sleeve notes said they had no rehearsal and had never worked together before. Large passages of improvisation blew my head off. I was about twelve. We also had Shubert’s “Unfinished Symphony”, so I was being influenced in quite different directions, but that seemed normal… and still does. My parents gave me a guitar for Christmas that year and I haven’t put one down since.

Then came Bill Haley, Little Richard, Elvis and THE SHADOWS. I could play every song THE SHADOWS ever recorded. Only Hank [Marvin]‘s part, as I really didn’t know much about chords at that time. Coincidentally, I was working out the guitar solo to “Rock Around The Clock” only yesterday, for no apparent reason, and it’s really a brilliant piece. Before long, I was listening to the blues. Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf with Hubert Sumlin, BB King and so on.

- Did your art school education inform your music somehow?

No, not directly. Although many musicians came from art school backgrounds in those days, there weren’t many at my school. I loved drawing and design in general so I spent a couple of years there. At the same time I was able to develop my band, THE DISSATISFIED BLUES BAND while learning something about art. We played a lot at the “Marquee” club in London supporting Gary Farr and THE T-BONES. THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP, THE YARDBIRDS and actually played with Howlin’ Wolf with Hubert Sumlin. Howlin’ Wolf was particularly kind. He was using us as his rhythm section and didn’t bother with a rehearsal. He said “I know you boys can play the blues”. Wow… We were just a ragbag collection of students who knew practically nothing but he encouraged us nevertheless. What a good guy!

- Many rock guitarists start with an acoustic instrument but switch to electric and never look back. What does fascinate you in the acoustic that made you carry on with it?

It’s a question I have never considered till now. They are quite different in their approach. Because, when soloing, the acoustic has very little sustain and is difficult to bend the strings, so you need different techniques to be effective. I suppose that’s why I would use the fast trill on a single note to make it last and build tension. After the success of “Come Up And See Me”, I was known for my acoustic work and that suited me fine. I now play more with my fingers and I love the feel of the strings with no pick. It limits my technique but forces me to play more simply and potentially with more feeling.

- There’s a rumour, you once were a shadow player for THE TORNADOS when Joe Meek used sessioners instead of the band members. Were you indeed?

Ah… THE TORNADOS. When the band was in its third or fourth incarnation, around 1965, and hadn’t had a hit for ages, they were looking for a drummer so my pal, drummer Andrew Steele, asked me to drive him to Meek’s studio for an audition. When we got there, there was no one for him to play with so he asked me to jam with him. Although I didn’t know it, Joe Meek was also looking for a guitarist as well as a drummer, and I got the gig but Andrew didn’t. What a mess! I had to wear the mohair suits and learn “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” and other tricky bits, but after a month or two I kept suggesting we did some blues. That was my exit line. There would be no changing their losing format so we parted company. We never did any recording, just a lot of bad gigs. I was eighteen at the time and knew everything!..

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THE FALCONS, Jim’s first Band at Poole Grammar school.
They were 14. Left to right.: Jim Cregan, Mike Domay, Bill Nims

- Was there a band THE MACHINE that you worked with alongside Dave Mason prior to you joining THE INGOES and him joining TRAFFIC?

Yes, I did play with Julian Covey and THE MACHINE… How did you know that? However, Dave Mason must have played at a different time as I was the only guitarist. There was a piano player call Levy, I think his first name was Dave and he really took me under his wing. I would go to his flat and he would teach me chord progressions that I still use. He was an excellent jazz player. We also had Cliff Barton on bass. He was the hottest guy around during those years but he got a better offer and left. I was very young and inexperienced and it was an education playing with those guys.

- How do you feel about “The Somerset Segovia” moniker? Did you aquire it after the Spanish-styled solo of the BLOSSOM TOES’ “Indian Summer” or STUD’s “Prelude”?

It was Rod Stewart who came up with that one during the recording of “I Was Only Joking” or “You’re In My Heart”. I seem to remember he used it as my co-producer credit and called himself Harry the Hook. Who knows why… but I don’t mind.

cregan3- I guess it was you who, according to a Lennon-esque legend on the first TOES album, had “the marmalade hair and a bubbling content”. What’s the secret of you still bubbling with as much music these days?

All that stuff on the first BLOSSOM TOES’ album was Giorgio Gomelsky’s idea. At one time there was to be a cartoon series based on the band, and even though that never happened, the sleeve notes were set up for it. We were just happy to be making records and went along with whatever the management suggested. As for still making music… I see no need to stop doing something I love. I enjoy all the aspects of it, writing being my favourite but also producing and performing on stage. Steve Harley recently invited me to sit in for a show in St Petersburg, Russia, opening for THE ROLLING STONES in the Palace Square in front of 60,000 people. Great fun.

- There’s a big difference between the orch-psychedelic whimsy of the first TOES album and the guitar-driven second. The latter seemed more natural. Was it Giorgio Gomelsky who was drawing you from rhythm-and-blues into pop in the beginning?

Yes. We were a real live band known as THE INGOES and working seven nights a week in Paris and eventually all over France. We played Tamla Motown plus rock and soul, occasionally interspersed with our own songs. Giorgio thought we had potential and took us off the road, changed our name and produced that first BLOSSOM TOES’ album. We lived together in this house in Fulham and wrote and jammed but didn’t play a gig for ages. Management paid us a retainer which is quite dangerous. It takes away some of the hunger. They had stage clothes made and did all the hype associated with the show biz side of music. We went along with it until it fell over by itself. Then we reverted to a gigging band that recorded the stuff we played onstage. That became the second album.

- Two solo guitars: did BLOSSOM TOES look up at the FLEETWOOD MAC template?

Absolutely not. Brian Godding and I came up with that whilst rehearsing in Paris. We were working on a piece called “Weekend” which contained some complex instrumental passages and we realised the lines would sound better in harmony. We were the first band to work this way, although later we heard the American band SPIRIT had been doing the same thing at much the same time. WISHBONE ASH will tell you they used the idea after hearing us.

[That's what WISHBONE ASH's Andy Powell has to say:
I’ll gladly tell you that I first saw BLOSSOM TOES on a festival in Peterborough – in 1967-1968, I believe it was. I was immediately struck by their use of twin leads since myself and my co-guitarist from THE DEKOIS, Eamon Percival. had been dabbling with this. Then I joined WISHBONE where we took the concept further and the rest is history. I later met up with Jim Cregan and talked to him about this when he was in COCKNEY REBEL, before he joined Rod Stewart.
Interestingly, Phil Lynott was to come to our concert at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand, London and he was immediately struck by the twin lead concept. He had just come to England from Ireland and it was one of the first shows he saw there. This was confirmed to me by LIZZY’s Scott Gorham. So you can see that the thread runs all the way back to BLOSSOM TOES, in fact.]

- You sang lead on some of the TOES tracks. Why, with such a good voice, you didn’t go out as a vocalist in the later years?

Well, I sort of did, in STUD as a trio I was doing just that. Pity, the material wasn’t better.

- What did inspire you to write songs like “The Intrepid Balloonists Handbook”?

BLOSSOM TOES - clockwise from left: Barry Reeves, drums; Brian Belshaw, bass; Jim Cregan, guitar; Brian Godding guitar

BLOSSOM TOES – clockwise from left:
Barry Reeves, drums; Brian Belshaw, bass;
Jim Cregan, guitar; Brian Godding guitar

What really happened is, I wrote a little song called “I’m Not Listening”. It was about a failing romance. Quite straight-forward and heartfelt. Georgio and the arranger took it away and for reasons only known to them, turned it into an awful tango at a tempo that did nothing for the original idea. I had to completely rewrite the lyric to match the stupidity of their arrangement. I can’t listen to that song. The lesson learned is, never give up control completely.

- What memories do you have from Actuel Festival where BLOSSOM TOES played in August 1969 alongside Frank Zappa and PINK FLOYD?

I clearly remember jamming with Zappa as I was a huge fan. He came on and got Brian Godding and me in a row and suggested we take turns swapping eight bars each. I expect it was quite a fiasco to listen to but I really enjoyed the moment. He was very complimentary about our band and that knocked me out. I love his work. We had played several dates alongside the FLOYD, and I always liked their work. We had no idea they would be so huge.

- Was it difficult to fill Rory Gallagher’s shoes in TASTE? I mean you’re not a blues guitarist…

I really wasn’t trying to fill Rory’s very big boots. Drummer John Wilson was really leading that band and had enough of playing the blues at that point. He wanted to play progressive rock or jazz fusion. Heavily influenced by Tony Williams’ LIFETIME, we all played as fast as we could in the strangest time signatures we could think of. One song was in 13/8… why, you may ask? Don’t know, is the reply. But I did get that out of my system all in one go.

- What was the big plan for STUD? The band’s albums were very eclectic.

We didn’t have a plan. We just wrote and played whatever we felt like on the day with no thought for commercial success or how well the audience would like it. We were managed by Eddy Kennedy for whom I have little respect and he let his son Billy be our producer. He had absolutely no experience and was no help. What a fiasco!

- How did you feel there in a lead singer’s role?

I enjoyed the singing and I still do. I sing a lot of my demos and sang a lot in FARM DOGS with Bernie Taupin. However, being singer and guitarist in a trio is seriously hard work. I got bored listening to myself. It got better when John Weider joined, I had someone to bounce off. But we had pretty well blown it by then.

- Why do you think the band didn’t break through in the UK?

Bad direction, bad songs and bad management.

STUD: Richard McCracken, Jim Cregan, John Wilson, John Weider

STUD: Richard McCracken, Jim Cregan,
John Wilson, John Weider

- On Mike Batt’s “Tarot Suite” played both you and Rory. Did you meet him in person?

I had met Rory a few times over the years but didn’t work directly with him on Mike Batt’s record. I only worked with Mike doing overdubs. I rarely cut the rhythm tracks. I would come in and fiddle about and try not to mess it up. We did have a lot of fun. One time I was playing rhythm guitar and Mike had a chord chart written for me, but we hadn’t really run the whole track down when he said, “Let’s just do it”. As I got to the end of the chart, Mike realized it was incomplete so just yelled the changes at me while I was playing… Somehow, it made it to the record.

On another occasion I had finished some acoustic work on a track and he said, “There’s a bit of a hole here where the orchestra is going to go. I want you to play a 32-bar improvised solo in G minor… to just a click”. The result was really OK despite doing it back to front.

- Did you play with Snowy White in STUD and later brought him into COCKNEY REBEL or he simply followed your steps?

I don’t think Snowy was in STUD. Snowy was, and still is, a good friend of mine. He is an excellent player but when he was out of work he came on the road with me as my guitar tech. I think that was in COCKNEY REBEL or it might have been the Linda Lewis’ band. Then he joined the COCKNEY REBEL for a while, but I don’t think it was his kind of music. Later, when I was asked to join THIN LIZZY, I suggested Snowy for the job and the same thing happened when I was asked if I wanted to play with the FLOYD. I recommended Snowy, and he’s doing fine these days, playing with Roger Waters.

- Was an invitation to become a part of THIN LIZZY a result of you setting the twin-guitar template? And when did this offer come about?

I was taking a small refreshment in “The Speakeasy” club in London one night with Phil Lynott and he mentioned they needed a guitarist, and I was very flattered to be asked but I had some commitment or other. I don’t quite remember. So as usual, when in doubt, mention Snowy White.

- You spent some time in OBJECTIVO, a band from Portugal. Was there a shortage of British groups at the time?

FAMILY: Jim Cregan, Rob Townsend, Roger Chapman, Poli Palmer, Charlie Whitney

FAMILY: Jim Cregan, Rob Townsend,
Roger Chapman, Poli Palmer, Charlie Whitney

After BLOSSOM TOES broke up, I went to live in Positano, Italy, with Shawn Phillips. We were working on some music and getting ready for a US tour which never happened, when this American pianist Kevin Hoidale arrived and offered me the gig in OBJECTIVO. They were a working band, and Kevin had some serious family money. We lived in this beautiful estate in Estoril with servants and a chauffeur etcetera. It was fun for a while and gave me a chance to get over the break-up of BLOSSOM TOES. We had been together for five years and were just on the verge of becoming a really successful live band when we crashed our car, and Brian Godding decided to call it quits.

- Was it former TOES drummer Poli Palmer who recommended you to Roger Chapman and FAMILY or they were aware of your skills since you had toured together?

FAMILY and Linda Lewis were managed by Tony Gourvitch, and I was married to Linda and maybe playing in her band too, I can’t really remember the chronology, but we were all friends and went to each other’s gigs. I had recommended FAMILY’s previous bassist John Wetton. He was an old friend from the Bournemouth area where I grew up. When he quit FAMILY, with typical musician’s logic, the band blamed me. I was told I had to replace him, I said I didn’t even own a bass. They said “We’ll buy you one”. That was it. I was playing in the band within a couple of weeks.

Strangely, after FAMILY split up, I was approached by Mick Ralphs who asked me would I like to join BAD COMPANY. I didn’t want to continue playing bass – I thought I was rubbish – so I went back to guitar and joined COCKNEY REBEL. All my serious musician friends were surprised I was joining what was considered a pop band. The first gig I did with [Steve] Harley was the Reading festival with only two days of rehearsals and an all new band apart from the wonderful Stuart Elliot on drums. Harley’s stage presence was formidable, and it was after the gig that he asked if I wanted to join. We played together for about three years and had a great time.

- What was special about REBEL that made you want to join?

Harley’s writing and stage presence. As I said, I played my first gig with them at the Reading Festival in front of 35,000 people. Halfway through the one-hour set, the wind blew all my notes and chord sheets across the stage and away forever. Ouch! But Harley took that crowd and made them feel great. They sang and cheered whenever he asked. It was a great performance by Steve, and I knew he would do very well. The next record gave us a number one album and single.

- Why weren’t you given a credit for COCKNEY REBEL’s “Make Me Smile” which wouldn’t be as magical without your solo?

Thanks for the compliment but generally solos don’t count on songwriting credits… I wish they did, occasionally!

- There’s an electric solo in “Make Me Smile” on the REBEL’s “Face To Face” – that, depending on different versions’ credits you played or didn’t play on. So did you do it acoustically on stage?

I don’t think that I ever played it on electric. I don’t know who it is. But it’s all a long time ago, so don’t bet on my memory.

With Rod Stewart

With Rod Stewart

- Would you have joined BAD COMPANY if it meant to play guitar, not bass?

Oh yes. I would have loved it to have been two guitars. I just played this year for the first time with Mick Ralphs at a jam with the Kenney Jones’ band, THE JONES GANG. Great stuff!

- Were you disappointed that FAMILY broke rather soon after you joined?

Not really. We had tried with no success to crack America, and there was this endless cycle of making money in Europe and spending it touring at a loss in USA. You could sense the glory days were over for the band, and although we were doing OK and had a strong fan base, it was time to quit.

- There’s picture of you with FAMILY playing double-neck – with a hand on the guitar neck rather than bass one. How often did you get to the six strings with the band?

Just on a couple of songs when Tony Ashton would cover the bass parts on a keyboard. Also I played guitar with Charlie Whitney on “My Friend The Sun”. What a great song!

- Was it through Tony Ashton that you got to play with ASHTON & LORD?

I don’t know how I got that gig… It might have been guitarist Ray Fenwick or maybe they were just desperate. It was great to play with such a huge band. That was my first encounter with the Carmine Appice person on drums. Ian Paice also played with us… thank God.

- What kind of ego a guitarist should or should not have to play in a band with other guitarists like you did in TOES and then with Rod?

Hmmm… Tricky question. I suppose the answer is, you need enough ego to give you confidence but you still have to be committed to being a team player. I have worked in bands where certain musicians were blatantly using the gig as a showcase for their often dubious talents. When a band is working like a unit, it has an energy and strength that no one person can provide. It is transcendent. When it’s your turn to solo, give it all you’ve got but also provide a groove and empathetic backing for your bandmates, when it’s their turn. Don’t be greedy. And listen, listen, listen… It’s not all about you.

- Usually you played together with other electric guitarists. But how did it feel during the Cat Stevens tour when your sparring partner was Alun Davis, one of the most underrated acoustic player? And how did you join that tour in the first place?

I was playing with singer Linda Lewis, whom I later married. She was invited to support Cat Stevens on a world tour. The band was: Max Middleton on keys, guitarist Robert Ahwai replacing Phil Chen on bass, Daryl LeQue on congas and me on guitar. Well, these were the wonderful hippy years, and Steve, or Cat, most generously invited all of us to join in during the second half of the show. It was a very friendly and enjoyable tour. Alun Davies and I are still very good friends and I occasionally jam with his band, A FEW GOOD MEN IN THE JUNGLE. We see each other every couple of weeks. He is an exceptional player with the best sense of groove. He can hold an entire band together with his impeccable timing.

- There’s a song called “Gi’me Wings” co-written by Stewart, Harley, you and other members of Rod’s band. Is there any story behind this collaboration?

Leaving COCKNEY REBEL was not easy for me. We had become good friends, and telling Steve that I had the gig with Rod was very difficult. I felt I was letting him down. Ironically, it was partially because there was no writing in COCKNEY REBEL, and there was going to be some with Rod. Now, of course, Steve and I have written lots of songs together. I remember the day Rod and Steve met. It was in a pub in LA called “The Cock And Bull”. Rod and I were already there when Harley came in, and before anyone said a word, Rod went over and gave Steve a huge hug like they were old friends. His warmth and genuine respect were very moving. Harley was visibly surprised and delighted.

They are still friends to this day, and Rod is a big fan of Steve”s work. During the making of that record ["Foolish Behaviour"], I moved out of the hotel and stayed with Harley in his house in Beverley Hills. And so Steve came to the studio to hang out and get into trouble… Eventually, it seemed normal that he would contribute to the writing as much of it was done in the studio. An expensive way to make records!

cregan6- Didn’t you find it boring playing with Rod on hits like “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” where you – and Carmine Appice for that matter – didn’t have much to do?

No, not at all. I played on the record and, as I said earlier, being part of a band that is laying down a serious groove is very satisfying. Plus, there are all these people dancing and partying right in front of you, and that energy is enormously uplifting. Live gigs with Rod were never a dull moment, ha!

- Ten years with Rod Stewart. Was it simply time to move on to the pastures new back in 1987?

Hmmm, there was a problem with the new manager who took over after Billy Gaff was fired. As usual, management likes to separate the artist from the band although Gaff had deliberately left all that alone and didn’t interfere with the music or recording in any way. So now we have a situation where the band were used to getting their own way and working as a unit. We co-wrote the songs with Rod. We played as a band on the albums we sang all the background vocals and we toured and made the videos. We were a real group. I co-produced lots of it with Rod.

This was all to change with the new regime. New hot producers arrived with session men, outside writers were encouraged to contribute and unnecessary personnel changes were made. So I quit. For whatever reason, Rod allowed it to happen and maybe he was right to change it all. But the glory days of that outfit were never recaptured by the new guys. Very few of them even played on the albums…

- Were you to be the lead guitarist on Rod’s “Unplugged… And Seated”, with Ron Wood coming on board at a later stage of the project?

No, Woody was invited quite early on. Jeff Golub and I handled most of the guitar parts with Ronnie joining in when he felt like it. We toured that album for nearly a year, in 1993-1994, though I only expected to do three months. I became good friends with Ian MacLagan who played on that tour.

- Did you and Phil Chen reunite in person when working on Roger Taylor’s “Happiness?”? And were your appearances a result of the QUEEN man’s love of Stewart’s classic line-up?

No, Phil and I must have played on different days. As for Roger Taylor, he is such a great guy. He and I lived very near each other in LA and we did a lot of hanging out. He is incredibly funny and is always up to no good. My kinda guy. He was invited to dinner at my house and arrived very late. We had all finished by the time he got there but three months later when he was back in England he called me from his car to apologise.

- Was it when FAMILY opened for Elton John back in the Seventies that you got to know Bernie Taupin?

Yes, FAMILY toured the states for thirteen weeks with Elton. It was a great tour. We would stay and watch them on most nights, and they were seriously good. Bernie and I would meet backstage at various times for a quick “Jack Daniels” in the dressing room. He was on most of the tour just hanging out and getting into trouble. We didn’t see much of each other till I moved to LA in 1980, and then I would go to parties at his house occasionally. We wrote a few things around that time.

- Was “Satisfied”, from Stewart’s “Body Wishes” album, your first co-write with Bernie?

My sense of when things were done is not too good, but I think I wrote stuff with him before that. Kevin Savigar and I wrote together all the time and we asked Bernie to write lyric for several songs. I don’t know what happened to those demos… I must ask Kev.

- What’s the current situation with THE FARM DOGS?

Extended vacation. During the US tour to promote our second album, “Immigrant Sons”, Bernie Taupin’s marriage fell apart. He retreated to his ranch in California and took up painting. He was off the radar for a long while. We all went off doing other things, and no one really talked about another record. I guess something special would have to happen for it to start again. We did love doing it, though. It was a band of genuine friends. The best kind of band. I miss them.

- You seem to have a great rapport with Roger Chapman. What’s so special about the man that makes many artists want to work with him?

He’s the real thing. I have learned a lot from Roger over the years. His honesty and musical integrity are phenomenal. He seems to see his music very clearly. The whole concept of commerciality for its own sake is foreign to him. Music must have soul and emotion. Also he loves players. He gives such freedom to his band. He will make changes in the performance and everyone will have to follow. It’s very exciting to be on stage with him. You don’t know what will happen.

When I first played some shows with him after FAMILY broke up, it was around 2004, he did a country song that is impossibly fast. Before the first gig, I asked him not to give me a solo in that song because I can’t play that quickly. Sure enough, after the second chorus he gave me that look and shouted into the mike. “Ladies and gentlemen, on guitar, Jim Cregan!” I played something or other that got me through it, but I never forgot that you have to be prepared for anything!

FARM DOGS - clockwise from top left: Jim Cregan, Denis Tufano, Robin LeMesurier, Bernie Taupin

FARM DOGS – clockwise from top left:
Jim Cregan, Denis Tufano, Robin LeMesurier, Bernie Taupin

- Is the acoustic drift of Chappo’s “One More Time For Peace” a result of your concept as a producer?

I think Bob Dylan’s album that was out at the time ["Modern Times"] was the influence that lead us in that direction. Of course, I love acoustic music and had made some recordings with Rod at my home studio that Roger liked. We did a lot of pre-production at my house, but the record itself was recorded quite quickly because we had all the right players. It’s a bit like casting a movie. If the chemistry is good, you don’t have to work very hard. I used an old trick from my FARM DOGS days and that was to have two guitarists playing a solo together. The rapport brings an extra dimension, as they play off each other. Also there’s safety in numbers. People often play their best if the track is being recorded live, as against everyone overdubbing individually to a click or drum loop.

- Some sources have it that Nicko McBrain was somehow associated with THE BLOSSOM TOES which seems impossible with regards to his age. But was there a reason for the rumors? And, if so, was it you who brought Nicko into Chapman’s STREETWALKERS?

Yes, I had seen Nicko play with some band and recommended him to Roger Chapman. It was from there that he got the gig with IRON MAIDEN and he still says “thanks” every time we meet.

- You produced Snuffy Walden’s album. Did you know the man from his work with STRAY DOG?

No, I knew his work from Stevie Wonder and Chaka Kahn. Snuffy did a track for an album of various artists I was producing for BMG in LA where I was a staff producer for a few years. I loved it and wanted to meet him. We got on really well and when he was offered a solo deal, he kindly asked me to produce. He didn’t really need me as he is a fantastic producer himself, but I think my enthusiasm was useful in making decisions. Snuffy is a rare man. He pulled himself out of a drug and alcohol habit that almost killed him, to become America’s foremost TV music composer. He is now married, a father of two and a sponsor of many alcoholics whom he mentors with great compassion. He also plays guitar with a blinding clarity. He is so soulful it’s a beautiful thing to hear. I am privileged to know him.

- QUIREBOYS play hard rock, a style that you’re hardly associated with. So, if a style doesn’t matter, what qualities should an artist have for you to want to produce them?

It was Sharon Osbourne who suggested me for that job. But THE QUIREBOYS wanted to be THE FACES and that’s a style I know quite well. We actually used some of the Stewart band on that first record where THE QUIREBOYS were having trouble getting it right. I never mentioned it till now. As to qualities needed… I like a challenge, so I enjoy working in different genres and the artist must have something of interest to offer.

- What do you consider your greatest achievement as a producer?

Remaining friends with the artists after it’s all over. It can get very tense in that room as the record is coming to an end. People start to panic. The time has run out and did they make all the right decisions? Keep cool and follow your nstincts. That’s where the talent is.

- Was your involvement with Katie Melua’s records a result of your work with her producer, Mike Batt, in the late Seventies?

Yes. I was on holiday in the UK from my home in LA when I went to see Mike Batt. He was just starting to record Katie at his house when I showed up, and he invited me to play. That record did incredible business for them, and Katie is still one of the most delightful and unspoiled people in music.

- Are there any young artists other than Katie Melua who you’d like to work with?

Alicia Keys, Jack Johnson, THE KILLERS and many others. I am drawn to artists with a sense of soul. I feel there are three reasons for a song to exist: it should move you to dance, to think, or to be touched in some way, like to feel good or cry. If none of these things happen for the listener, throw it out.

- What made you decide to quit active touring – and what does it take to get you on the road again?

I stopped touring full time after my daughter Camille was born. I was watching her grow up by postcard and I didn’t like that feeling. As to touring again… never say never. But I do think you have to tour with friends. Life on the road can be very tedious so you must be with people you enjoy. It’s quite an art form, getting along with everyone.

- There have been some of your songs covered over the years. May I risk guessing that the most interesting one was Millie Jackson’s take on “Passion”?

I missed that one.

- How did “N’Oubliez Jamais” come about? Was this song written especially for Joe Cocker?

With Katie Melua

With Katie Melua

I wrote it with drummer Russ Kunkel in a French restaurant in LA. We were talking about an article in “Rolling Stone” where [Mick] Jagger had said that each generation has a dance beat of its own. That kicked off the lyric and the title just appeared. We would write a melody on one day and then write the lyric over lunch on the next. Always in the same cafe on Ventura Boulevard with lots of wine. But no, we didn’t write it for anyone in particular.

- Is “Jingle Bells” the only composition released under your own name?

There’s also a track I did with Kathleen Keane called “The Longing” on a “Celtic Christmas” record, I think.

- If you had the chance to re-join any of your former bands, which one would it be?

Oh, that’s a difficult question. I suppose it would be the second incarnation of the Rod Stewart group with Kevin Savagar on piano, Robin LeMesurier on guitar, Tony Brock on drums, Jay Davis on bass, John Corey on keys and guitar and Jimmy Roberts on sax. They’re great players and loads of fun to be with. It’s always difficult to get the balance right between being talented and easy to tour with. That band had it all. Rod was very easy to work with and gave us all plenty of space and encouragement to play. But all good things come to an end eventually.

- Do you find the outlet for all your music by working with other artists? Or is there any other reason for not wanting to come up with a solo album?

I think that working with lots of different artists from THE GYPSY KINGS to Willie Nelson by way of Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart, gives me a range of experiences that you don’t necessarily get if you are in a band that relentlessly tours and records its own stuff. I notice that recording engineers have to be careful they don’t stagnate because they’re often working on their own. I have the good fortune as a producer to see many engineer’s techniques and am constantly learning As for my own solo work, I really should put out an album. I have enough songs!

- What was the most memorable moment of your career?

Playing with the Rod Stewart Band at Rock In Rio to more than 350,000 people. I have never felt such energy before or after.

- And what does the future hold for you?

As for the future, I have been playing and talking to Kenney Jones and his band mates, Rick Wills and Robert Hart, about working together on another version of THE JONES GANG. We’ll see. And all the usual stuff: write a song; produce a record; write a book; play a gig and stay out of jail.

Many thanks to the webmaster of Roger Chapman Official Site for helping us get in touch.

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