Neil Diamond Spectacular – Ken Evans

Announcer: It’s twenty-three minutes away from news time here on Radio Luxemburg International. Once again it’s Ken Evans…

Ken: Neil, this is the recording from the “Moods” album which is my favorite album of yours. I prefer it…A lot of people have a great debate whether “Taproot Manuscript” is the greater of the two. I love Moods and I love this one, too…”Gitchy Goomy” and we’ll also have to include it in the program.

Neil: Yeah, “Gitchy Goomy” is a little lesson in philosophy to a little kid. It’s written half in baby talk and half in big people talk and I guess you have to be two years old or a grown-up to understand it. It’s a philosophy lesson with a realization that you really can’t teach kids anything. They learn everything by themselves and they take more from example than from teaching. That’s what “Gitchy Goomy” is about.

Ken: ??? written for your little boy?

Neil: Yeah…

Play: “Gitchy Goomy”

Announcer: Neil Diamond and “Gitchy Goomy” and we’ll be back with Neil Diamond and Ken Evans in New York City in just a moment.

Ken: You didn’t include “Roll ’em.” I’m a little disappointed for myself. Where was it?

Neil: ??? Well, I find that I have to eliminate certain songs only because my voice can only be able to hold out for so long and “High Rolling Man” is one of the songs that I didn’t do last night and there are a number of others that I like and that I would do in concert, but there are others that I have preferences for…for special reasons. And so ??? songs like “High Rolling Man” and “Walk On Water” and “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind”…and special songs like that have to be held aside because there are songs like “Canta Libre” and “Morningside” and “I Am…I Said” which I want to do.

Ken: ???? I was very glad that you did include “Shilo.” That’s an outstanding one.

Neil: Yes, I started to do that in performance about a month ago. I didn’t do it for five years because I had very unhappy feelings about the song. I wasn’t permitted to have it released as a single in the United States and I wanted to very much. And I just kind of turned it off. I pushed the song to the back of my mind and I never thought of it for five years and I found that over that period of time that it was one of the most requested songs that I had written. I never did it, but it was always requested at the concerts. I just recently said “Why not. Let me try it. Maybe I could do it now.” And I hadn’t done it for all that time.

Play: “Shilo”

Announcer: Recorded live during the concert at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City last night. That was Neil Diamond. We’ll be back with the Neil Diamond special after ???

Ken: Well, this is the morning after a very very great night. Now one of the big things you must be out to do Las Vegas before too much longer. ?????? Could you see yourself doing the cabaret scene in Vegas at any time in the future?

Neil: I think I’ve been spoiled by concerts. People come and they sit and they look at you and they concentrate on you and there is no food being served. There are no drinks being server. People are not involved in conversation. No, I doubt very seriously if I’ll ever do nightclubs or cabarets or Vegas. I have contact with my people and that’s enough. I’m there to express myself and to do my music and I’ve been spoiled. I really… I don’t know how well I could handle the distraction of clinking glasses and people eating. I want them to concentrate on my music and if they do that, I’ll give everything that I have in me and so I have avoided cabarets.

Ken: ??? and I’m sure you will Neil, if I could go off to that desert island… for me it would be a toss-up of your music between “Morningside” and probably “Canta Libre,” which I love, Neil, why do part of it in English and half of it in Spanish and there’s talk on it as well?

Neil: Well, the song wrote itself. It started out in Spanish and then it’s always been one of my little dreams that I would write a song in Spanish because to me it is a beautiful language…a magical language. It always infers so much. It always puts so many little seeds of imagination in my mind…the language does. And I’ve been trying to write a song in that language for a long time now and I haven’t been able to do it, but “Cantra Libre” wrote itself. The song came. The words came and when I reached the bridge of the song…very strange… it was no longer Spanish. It was English. I was singing the things that were deep and important to me, maybe because I couldn’t express them in Spanish. I don’t know. The thing wrote itself. It was Spanish and it became English and I needed to express the universality of it, but that’s the way it happened and I love it. To me it is also magic and has that special thing…for me…touches special resonant chords inside of me.

Play: “Canta Libre”

Ken: Neil, “Morningside,” which I just mentioned is a particular favorite of mine which I feel is as strong as “Moods.” I just love it. I’ve played it a great deal to myself…to friends… and I know that it’s become something close to you and your family. I just adore the song “Morningside.” How did you write it.

Neil: Well, “Morningside” is a very sad song. It’s a song of dying alone…something that I’ve been aware of for a long time. I was struck by it when my grandparents passed away…that they did die alone…that they weren’t with their children when they died. And a year and a half ago when I was in London for the first time I passed a shop I saw this beautiful table in the window. It was carved by hand and for some reason the two things came together and the song started then…it started to be written then…when I was in London, and it wasn’t completed…it took about a year, but those two things…the old man dying alone and that beautiful hand-carved table which to me was a legacy…something that would be passed down from generation to generation…those two things determined the song and wrote the song for me.

Play: “Morningside”

Ken: I’d like for the audience to join me in “Song Sung Blue.” I feel “My God, here’s a man who’s really being courageous!” because I’ve been in theaters before when I’ve seen the opposite and it was a disaster. For you this was a triumph. You had the people in the palm of your hand. Did you feel that you were taking on a gamble?

Neil: I didn’t honestly know whether they would sing with it, but I did, as I remember, make the point before I went into the song that it’s always terribly embarrassing when someone on stage asks the audience to sing along and I would never do it myself. I would be almost offended by it, you know…”I’m here to watch you sing. Why are you asking me to sing.” But the feeling was so good and it was so warm and I just felt that even if they didn’t, it would be O.K. I would be willing to accept it. Even if there were one person in the audience who would sing along with it. I would have that one person stand and then me and them…we would go and do the song. But as it worked out, everybody sang and they sang at the top of their lungs and they knew the words and the did it beautifully and they even did those little turns in the notes that I do and it was fantastic! It was just fantastic!

Ken: Neil, probably to anyone from London…in the theater of course…there was one song that meant so much because it got you into the status…the division in England… that you should have been years ago…the leader …”Cracklin’ Rosie.” Was there anything going through your mind like “This is the one that did get me way over there?”

Neil: No, well, actually at that moment I was thinking that maybe my guitar was out of tune. You know there are so many strange things that go through your head while you are singing…first of all ???? Most of all you want the song to have the excitement in it that you conceived of it having when you first wrote it. No, “Cracklin’ Rosie” just streamed out. The audience was with me right from the beginning and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it, and by the way…it was tremendously exciting for me to know that that was my first successful record in Europe. I didn’t expect it. After a while I’d given up. I thought that, well maybe they just weren’t going to like my music and I had become accustomed to it. I was very surprised to find that it was successful there and I was delighted. And because of that I decided to come there and perform for the first time and it’s been fantastic since then. It’s been a real bonus because I never expected it. After having ten or twelve or fifteen successful songs and records in the United States and none of them seemed successful in Europe, I just felt that maybe they were not going to like my kind of music. So it was just whipped cream and dessert and all kinds of extra goodies that I didn’t expect.

Ken: After the show was over I was one of the very lucky people to be in Sardi’s restaurant to welcome you ???? on a very, very momentous evening. Now Neil, to you, what was the feeling when you walked in…there was applause. We were waiting for the newspapers to come through with the critiques. How did you feel when you walked in?

Neil: Well, I was numb. I was numb. I didn’t, you know,.. I’m still a little star struck myself and to see all of these people who had been at the concert…all these famous, well-known people…people that I respected professionally…people who I had read about. I was numb. I was awestruck and I was a little embarrassed by it. I didn’t feel that I deserved it, but it was just one of those joyous things that I felt I had to take in and remember and record in my mind for as long as I lived. It was extraordinary to see Ethel Kennedy there…to see Neil Simon there…to see all of my friends…my close friends …my friends from school and New York and my family and …It was extraordinary. It is really indescribable. I couldn’t begin to describe it. The closest I could get is that I was numb.

Ken: Neil, there were very many wonderful ????, but “Holly Holy” really stuck out as a tremendous high point to it all. I love it! How does it rate among your particular favorites that you have written?

Neil: Well, “Holly Holy” is also one of my favorite songs and one of my favorite records, too, because I fell that as a recording it has a special kind of feeling to it and it’s also a very…it is one of the high points of performance and I know that before it comes up and when it begins that I must summon all of my energy and all of my strength and all of my concentration to perform that song in the way that it has to be performed with all of it’s strength and power and passion that that song requires. Otherwise, it is just another song, and it went very well last night. It was very exciting and I was excited by it. And when I do it well, it brings me up, and it brought me up last night.

Ken: There are words to “Holly Holy” and of course there are wonderful words to “Play Me.” I love this one, Neil. I really do. I think this is one of the most beautiful songs that you’ve written and you feel the song so much when you sing it.

Neil: “Play Me” is …of the songs I’ve written…one of my favorite love songs. It is pure and simple. “You are the sun. I am the moon. You are the words. I am the tune.” It is a love song and for that…it is special to me.

Ken: What can possibly be said? It is one of the most beautiful songs that has come out in many many years. Where did you receive the inspiration for it, Neil?

Neil: Well, about two years ago I went to Columbia Pictures to do a screen test for a film that I wanted to do. It was a film based on the life of Lenny Bruce. He at one time was an underground comedian in the United States and because of what he did and the way that he did it, he was ostracized and he wasn’t able to work. And he died a tragic lonely death…a young man, still…a brilliant man and I wanted very much to do that film at that time. And I came to do a screen test and I was to do three scenes and I had done two and I thought that I had done them very poorly and I was very very depressed. And we took a break from the filming and I went into my dressing room and I had my guitar there and a tape recorder. I flipped the tape recorder on and I started to pick out this melody and some of the words came. And that was the beginning of “I Am…I Said.”

Ken: ??????

Neil: To say was one of the more meaningful songs of my writing life would be an understatement. It speaks of me. It speaks of my life and what I dream of and what I am and what I am not.

Announcer: Recorded conversation in New York City between Ken Evans, Radio Luxemburg Program Director, and Neil Diamond.

Ken: “Taproot Manuscript,” Neil, the album itself…how long did it take you from the moment you conceived it until it was finished?

Neil: Well, that was a very difficult album to do. That one side, “The African Trilogy” took fourteen months. It was fourteen months of work from the time that I began writing it until we got into the studio and started to work with it. We had to assemble all the instruments that we needed. The lyric that was written in Swahili had to be marked and remarked and checked with the people of the United Nations and the African Studies Department of UCLA. It had to be right. It was very very difficult and yet exciting. We never knew what we had until the last minute until we put all of the pieces together. Up until then we were working on segments…one segment at a time…Soolaimon, The Mass, The Suite, The Child Song. And then we put it together and we ???? It was breathtaking. It was one of the most exciting moments of my recording life.

Ken: ??? There have been so many people around you Last night there were so many people. I’m sure there are quite a few that you would like to mention in particular for giving you the inspiration for making you such a success at the Winter Garden Theatre.

Neil: Absolutely! Absolutely! There is no question. Know what? You can bill that as a one-man show, but that’s absurd. No one goes and does that. First, I’d have to say Tom Catalano, who has been my friend and my producer. Ten years ago when I first started knocking on doors in the music business, Tom’s door was the first to open up. He gave me confidence that I was going to be a fine writer and he made me feel better about myself than I felt and after that I owe him more than I can possibly say. Joe Gannon, who directed the show and did all the lighting and oversaw the set and the design of the thing. He’s been with me for the last three years and none of it would have come to fruition without Joe’s work and his imagination and his creativity… and his ability to excite me and enthuse me and to bring me up when I was down. Joe Gannon has been somebody that …wow…he’s just added so much to what I’ve done on stage. Jim Newton who was involved in designing the set. I’m sorry…I know all the people in Europe haven’t seen the sets that were done, and I had to turn around every once in a while during the show just to see what was happening behind me. Ken Fritz, who is my manager and produced the show, lived in the Winter Garden for four weeks. All of the artwork, all of the designs, all of the photographers, ??? and Tom Bert …my conductor, Lee Holdridge who has been my arranger for the last three years. He’s brilliant. He’s twenty-two years old. He’s written ballets and he’s a classically oriented musician, originally from Costa Rica. All of these people…all of these people added and have given me excitement and knew what I had to do when I walked out on the stage…something that would be joyous and full of meaning and love and I owe them more than I can possibly say.

Announcer: For the last two hours you have been listening to “The Neil Diamond Spectacular” featuring a conversation recorded between Ken Evans, Radio Luxemburg Program Director, and Neil Diamond himself in New York City.

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