2SM Sydney Special (before tour)
Announcer – Neil Diamond ………Diamond’s musical odyssey really began half a lifetime ago when he turned sixteen and was given a secondhand guitar. Even then his guitar became the key that opened the door to his dreams and emotions. At high school, music became his life. He’d write songs during every waking moment. And around this time he also turned to performing as a means to an end, getting his music played and heard. He left school a week before graduating to accept a job as a staff songwriter for fifty bucks a week. Neil now had his lifelong ambition realized. Someone was actually paying him money to write music.
Neil Diamond – I guess I’ve always had an urge or a taste to go on stage. My father was an amateur performer, his father was an amateur performer and I’ve, I’ve just seen it ever since I was a kid. I’ve seen him get in front of an audience and receive applause and get acceptance and it never seemed unusual for me so it was a very logical step for me to go from writing, to recording my own materials, to watch that material gain some acceptance, to going out on stage and performing it; and to me the performing was most exhilarating of all the things I did. But Solitary Man was a really extraordinary extreme because it was part of the first recording session that I did for a couple of producers named Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich and on that session we recorded three songs Solitary Man and Cherry, Cherry and a song called I Got The Feelin’
And I was really tremendously excited about them because to record three songs like that on one session was really a very special thing and Solitary Man was the first, the first, really publicly accepted song and the first release, and when it came out it started to get played on the radio and people started to request it and to actually go into a store and buy the record. It was my first experience like that and it was just the most exciting record I think that I’ve had since then, just Solitary Man and the introduction to the public and the acceptance that it got. (Short Solitary Man clip) And this was in 1966, it was my first taste of any real acceptance by the public and part of the recordings that I did in that 66, and 67 and 68 periods included such things as Kentucky Woman, which was written while I was on tour and we were touring through Kentucky. I was sitting in the back of a car and my organ player was driving really… wind down between dates and heading to some far off town We were driving about 500 miles a day then between concerts and I kind of sat in the back seat and we passed through Paducah, Kentucky and I started to noodle around and out came Kentucky Woman.
Cherry, Cherry was also a very special king of a record because it was a terrific feel record. First, we went into the studio and tried it with a string band, an orchestra and horns, the whole thing; and it just missed that kind of real simple groove and feel that it had when I was just playing it on guitar. So Jeff and Ellie and myself went back into the studio and I played rhythm guitar and Jeff and Ellie sang background parts and then a few musician friends. There were no more than three or four musicians on the whole date and we recorded the B track of Cherry, Cherry which was, which we all liked better…it had that nice feel.
Shilo was an interesting song because it kind of took me, as a transitional song, lyrically to another place. Up until then I’d been writing songs that involved a groove and a feel and a form that was just fun and real nice going down.
But Shilo laid more heavily on the lyrics than any of the things I’d done before and in that sense it was special. I felt at the time it was kind of a transitional song for me. Then about 1968 I went to what was then Uni records in the United States. And my first release for Uni was a song called Brooklyn Roads, which was another extension of Shilo and was obviously autobiographical and I loved writing it because it, it touched me and it spoke about not only my life but lots of people’s lives growing up and it was very special in that respect. Mostly I was referring to that time in my life….. I was about 10 years old, and what the world looked liked through the eyes of a 10 year old.
But while I was with Uni records we went down to …I went down to Memphis to record down there with some of those fabulous musicians and did a couple of sessions down there and out of those sessions, which was wonderful, it was terrific for me in Memphis because they were so laid back and Memphis (?) are very laid back and the band was fantastic. We’d cut a track like Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. Do it in an hour, an hour and a half, and I was just so excited I could hardly control myself. ———– go on I wrote a song called Sweet Caroline — particularly laid back and … we’d just sort of take off for an hour and go fishing and at first I couldn’t….it was difficult for me to deal with and I’d say sure, let’s go fishing. You know we had a ball. We’d cut a track, and we went fishing. We’d cut a track, and we’d go out and have some beers. Very laid back but it was fun.
And out of Memphis came Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show and Sweet Caroline and also one of the songs that I’d done in my show and consistently was powerful in the show called Holly Holy and wow, I was just.. that whole method experience was very exciting to me.
Yeah well, Brother Love, both Brother Love and Holly Holy concern themselves with the fervor and drama of religion and spiritualism, but most of the organized religion you know, there is a tremendous drama involved in all the rights and rituals and both of those songs really talk about that.
Then we came back to LA and I started working with Tom Catalano who was then, became producer of my records…and we got into a slightly different thing… we started to record other songs, songs that I had heard and I had liked but I wanted to sing. And it is very special when you’re singing other songs, other people’s songs that you haven’t written because you can approach them with a certain detachment that is difficult to do when you’ve written the song and it is very special to me to be able to sing these things. I really get a charge out of it and I’m talking about things like Everybody’s Talking and Both Sides Now, a beautiful Joni Mitchell song. And then even later on when I began to record outside songs and did such things as Randy Newman’s song I Think It’s Going To Rain Today, which to me is one of the best things that I’ve done on record from a singer’s point of view.
I began to feel enough confidence in myself to be able to do it, to be able to say, ‘hey this is what I can sing and these are some beautiful songs’ and it would be presumptuous of me to say that there aren’t great songs around and I have to limit myself just to writing my own things. There are fabulous songs around and I want to sing them.
I remember that I had planned to record He Ain’t Heavy, to record the orchestra and to come back myself and put the vocal on it and I felt that I really wanted to sing that song alone without a gaggle of musicians around. While the musicians were playing it I sang as well, expecting not to use that performance but I liked the performance so much we just used it…….it was just………feeling
Then that song, when I was performing ’67, ’68, I got a big kick out of performing it at that time because most of the audience were teenagers and they enjoyed it. It was a kick.
Well Thank The Lord For The Nighttime was probably my first experiment with a gospel flavored tune and I’ve always loved gospel, the rawness of it, the naturalness of it; the just plain enthusiasm of it and Thank The Lord For The Nighttime was my first tentative step in trying to do a gospel song.
Well African Trilogy was really an experiment, an attempt to write an extended piece.
Up until then I was writing the songs, the short pieces. And although there was a tremendous amount of latitude and things you could do and say in a song, I began to feel a little restricted and I thought ‘gee wouldn’t it be great if I could put together an extended piece.’
And that was a very natural thing for me because of my natural inclination toward gospel,
and my curiosity about it just lead me to African folk music and the use of drums and percussion instruments It seemed like a very exciting project to me to work with all of these exotic instruments and to do an extended piece at the same time.
Soolaimon and the Missa in the in the African Trilogy were really exciting for me to do. The Missa was very exciting to work with a very large black chorus and it’s just beautiful to hear your music realized in that form you know, because you sit and you write it and you can only imagine it. But then when you get in front of a chorus and you hear them do it, it’s beautiful; it’s just bone chilling.
…I wanted to go back and just write some songs and I began writing things like Play Me, which I was really thrilled about in the recording process because it really came alive to me in the recording. Just a beautiful plaintive love song. And a song like Morningside, which I had hoped to make into a kind of vignette. A picture to paint a scene musically of a person’s life, a person’s life passed, of what remains after, of what the life was all about. I wanted to tell a story in.
(Spoken).. fine, sun shines most the time… the feeling is laid back
Palms trees grow and rents are low
But you know I keep thinking about.. making my way back
(Background music starts)
New York City born and raised nowadays I’m lost between two shores.
LA’s fine but it ain’t home New York’s …… But it ain’t mine no more.
(Singing) LA’s fine the sun shines most the time
Finished my performing at the Winter Garden, which was the last engagement that I’d done.
Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway, a very old and traditional theatre, a fabulous theatre.
So it was a tremendous, tremendous charge for me to come back to New York and perform at the Winter Garden. But it was also very difficult and I was performing every night and I was doing a full show. There were no other acts involved and I was exhausted by the time the run was over.
I did 20 performances there and I felt great and I’m going to have some time to just rest up and come back to California and just contemplate the ocean and the sky and play with my son a little bit.
And when I got back, there was a telegram waiting for me and it said ” must meet with you urgently. Want you to write score for Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” And I just looked at it and I said. Well there’s no way, I can’t work, I have to…my brain’s all scrambled and I tossed it in the trashcan and went out to the beach.
And of course on the beach there were lots of seagulls. And after about two weeks of looking at seagulls and wondering about that whole thing, I called the producer and I said, “Have you got any film? Have you shot anything yet?” And he said, “Yes, come and let me show you the film and they had just completed shooting in Northern California and I was just knocked out… totally destroyed by the film It was, the scenic value and the majesty of it was just beyond belief and I went back to the beach and I thought about it for a few more days and I said ‘my God, it has got to be a fantastically exciting project to write music, to write a score for this kind of a film.’ It was an odd film and it really opened itself up and lent itself to music and song and I called up the next day and I said, “You got it. Let’s do it.”
Hey this is Neil Diamond 2 SM
Well, I try to do as much research as possible. First of all to understand what the story was all about. It was, it was very vague and abstract in a sense and yet it was very beautiful and so in order to understand it I began to read, not only reading the script of the film, but to read, began to read philosophical books, religious books, spiritual books and then by accident one day, after two or three months of that kind of research,
I met a young man who was into a Hare Krishna movement and he knocked on my door and he said, “We’d like to give you this book and maybe you’ll give us a donation because we have something to offer.”
And I said, ‘well why don’t you come in and have a cup of coffee or whatever you people have and let’s talk about it.’
And we sat and we talked for about three hours and I said, well these people really have a very spiritual approach to things and I’d really like to know what they think about Jonathan Seagull, what that whole thing is about. Well I said ‘I’ll tell you what…I’ll read your book if you read my script’, and we made a date for the next day.
And I read through his book and he read the script and we compared notes and we spoke about it we met on and of for a period of about 6 weeks and this was my research into the spiritual end of it.
And I finally reached a point where I said to him, ‘ it’s been fantastic, it’s been an education to me, but now I have to write my music.’
One of the things he always wanted was to go to India and to study there so I said, ‘Here’s a round trip ticket to India. Have a ball. Thanks, you know, you’ve been fantastic and uh, now I have to go off and write my music.’
Then the writing began for Jonathan Seagull and I worked with film. We worked on a script. I read the script numbers of times, felt where I wanted songs, where songs felt right. What I wanted to say in those places, where music was required and began the actually process of writing. I worked for about 3 months and nothing came, absolutely nothing came that struck me, because I had really solved the crux of the story, which was ‘what is this about, what is this story really about?’
And I remember sitting at the piano one day and I wrote down on a note pad on top of the piano the words “God is being.” And I said ‘that’s odd. Where did that come from?’ “God is being.” And it was repeated again. And then I wrote underneath it the word “be”. I looked at it again and I was just filled with a tremendous rush of excitement because, and my heart began to palpitate and I was just, you know, that eureka moment, that I said ‘My God, that is it!’
Be, that is the crux of the story. Be what you can be, be who you are but be. It is your chance. It is your shot at it and that was the cornerstone of all the music that was written for that film, the song Be.
Yeah, After I finished with Jonathan Seagull, which was about 1974, I felt that it was important for me to kind of clear my brain and just get into writing which was, more song writing and to try and play around with some ideas that I had and experiment with some feels; and write some songs that I had been… that had been incubating for awhile and that is how Serenade came about and I was really pleased with the album. It gave me the chance to experiment with some different feelings.
There were really special songs on it. I think songs like Longfellow Serenade, which has always been to me, the poet who writes the words that he cannot speak to the woman that he wants to woo and win. And I remember when I was a youngster and I never really did have enough nerve to go up and ask a girl directly to go out and go to a party with me. I’d write, I’d write a poem. And I found that to be very effective because the girls weren’t getting that many poems from guys and so it’s uh, Longfellow Serenade is about that, it’s about, not a guy that writes poetry, but someone who reads poetry; beautiful love poems and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Great fun to record, one of those songs that I called just delicious. It goes down like ice cream and we recorded it in the first take and we listened to it and said, ‘my God, that is just terrific fun.” Experimented with the use of Latin and jazz influences and a kind of Brazilian samba influences and I find that a very, very, still a very affecting kind of a song…the sax solo in it, the riff section.
Hi everybody, this is Neil Diamond 2 SM
It was the easiest album I’ve ever made because it was recording of a performance, which I was, which I was doing anyway. So the Greek Theatre was chosen primarily because it was a beautiful warm intimate setting to present a concert in. And it’s one of the most beautiful performance settings that I’ve ever played in. It gives the audience the opportunity to see and hear. And it is very, very special and I felt that I wanted to play there and that it would be an exciting experience.
The year before the Hot August Night album was recorded, I did play at the Greek Theatre and it was an extraordinary experience. And I felt that before I stopped to take this little sabbatical, I would want to play there one more time.
“This is uh, this is the Greek theatre, this is the place that uh, God made for performers when they die, they come to a place called the Greek Theatre.”
It’s a moment captured and also that the album was a kind of a, a historical document to me in the sense that it reflected 7 or 8 years of my writing prior to that and so it was special in a lot of respects. The concert was special and the album, I couldn’t be happier, because it was a moment that I’ll always be able to keep now, and you know, I’m sure that I’ll be able to listen to that album 20 years from now and recall that moment and the excitement of the time. The exciting thing about a performance is that it is a moment that cannot be relived. Once it happens, it is over and therefore you can’t consider it, you can’t reconsider it, you can’t think about it. You just have to experience it and from my point of view as a performer it is beautiful I don’t have to worry about it after
I experience it, I live it, it’s over. I know it’s over and so those moments are extraordinarily difficult to recapture and to relive all the time.
There is very little thinking done in performing. Most of it is feeling and I like it that way.
I like to feel it and to enjoy it and to be with it as much as possible and so if you were to ask me at the end of a performance ‘What happened during that performance?’ I would be hard pressed to tell you, although I could very easily tell you whether it was a good performance or a bad one.
HI again, this is Neil Diamond 2 SM
About 1975 a young fellow named Bob Dylan introduced me to a friend of his named Robbie Robertson and both of us being very protective and kind of standoffish, we looked at each other and sized each other up, spoke for a while and over a period of the next year we had the chance to bump into each other and to meet in certain situations. And we realized that we were becoming friends and Robbie and I lived not to far from each other. We began to meet on a regular basis to talk about our ideas and projects and then we began to talk about things we might be able to do together.
Robbie is the leader and composer for a group called The Band which has been Bob Dylan’s band for a long time and Robbie’s established himself as not only an extraordinary songwriter and musician, but as a rather special person as well. And we began by tossing around ideas regarding what we would do, what could we do? An album of songs, no that’s not interesting enough. It’s not exciting for either of us enough.
Let’s talk about a subject that we like and Robbie was always fascinated by the music scene in New York City in the early 60’s. I kind of left that behind. I’d been part of it for about 8 years, knocking around trying to place material, trying to get people to listen to music.
Meeting songwriters, learning, paying your dues in that respect and I kind of wanted to leave it behind me. But Robbie was intrigued by it and he kept bringing the subject up and we began to explore it and then we realized that there were some really interesting and fascinating things that have not been really talked about in regard to song writers and regard to that music.
Music at that time in the early ’60’s was going through a transitional stage. It was coming out of a pop era of Rosemary Clooney and Patty Page and Eddie Fisher and then into the late 50’s with the early, very early rock acts that began the evolution of rock. The Bobby Rydell’s and the Chubby Checker’s and so on and so forth.
And that became kind of popular for a while and then a young guy named Bob Dylan appeared on the scene in the early 60’s and things started to change. So Bob really started it off and then a few years later the Beatles came out and they proved another point which was that the artist could have the free rein of his creative instincts and still satisfy the business instincts of the recording companies and those two changes resulted in a whole revolution.
But music was changing you know with Bob Dylan, with the folk influence, with then the Beatles… the whole British thing. And this story, the story of this album, concerns itself with that period of time. That transitional period of time; the writers at that time, the experiences that they were going through and it reflects not only my experience as a write, but hundreds of other song writers, not only in New York, but in, but all over the world there was a revolution going on and that revolution pertained to what we could write and what we could talk about and what we could put into our music; and the album’s based on my experiences during that period of time.
Well basically what I’d like to do with the Australian concert is to present a spectacular and beautiful musical experience. I’m going down there as much for myself as for anything else.
I’m very selfish about it. I expect to really enjoy myself and I’d like to present as many of the songs that people want to hear as possible and maybe some that they don’t want to hear but I’d like to play anyway.