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Time for a program which we are repeating which was originally played on radio Luxemburg just prior to Christmas and due to popular demand we are pleased to say that we are able to bring it again, our interview with Neil Diamond.
Well it’s a great pleasure to be able to welcome back to 208, immediately before Christmas to Neil Diamond.
Neil, lovely to have you.
ND – Thank you.
Sitting in the chair I think you did about 4 years ago.
ND – I’m afraid so.
It’s a bit still rickety.
ND – No it’s ok nice to be here.
Nice to have you here too Neil. Ah we’ve got a lot of things to talk about after all it’s 2 years since you and I spoke personally, but what about we go straight into song and “Longfellow Serenade”.
ND – Wonderful
“Longfellow Serenade” plays.
Well Neil it’s also a very, very great thing to see that you’re back on the recording scene…. not only making appearances again, but coming up with an album like the brand new “Serenade”.
When did you start the album and when did you finish it?
ND – It’s very difficult to say when you begin on an album. The ideas, many of the song ideas, the melodies, have been rolling around in my head for the last couple of years. When I finished Jonathan Seagull, which was a very, how can I describe it? It was a very heavy album in terms of philosophy and orchestration. I felt very much that I wanted to do an album that was much more song oriented as opposed to composition oriented, and so some of the melodic ideas that I had had, and wanted to work on, and some new ones that I had just begun working on, came to mind and I started working on them and actually the album, entire album from very beginning to end took some, a little bit less than a year to make. And as I mentioned to you before, it was a very, very exciting album because we tried songs on this album….. certain feels, and certain song forms that I’d never done before and I was very pleased with them. There are a number of cuts on this album that I’m sure will be among my favorites for a very long time to come.
I notice that in the printed sleeve you describe this as a hymn of sorts and I think this a very apt description. Is this phrase…. just come to you….did you feel when you are asked to describe it that (can’t understand the rest of this sentence)
ND – Yeah, well I did want to write something about the album and yet it is very easy for a writer to become very wordy about (?) book revolving on the making of any album. But this is really the simplest way that I could say what this album meant to me and it was a serenade. It was a hymn of sorts and at most, a small potion for the soul.
I have a feeling as I listen to it that it was written by the sea. I don’t know why but I just got the feeling of the sea rolling in and you being down there and the early morning mist rolling in over from the Pacific. Am I right or wrong?
ND – I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these things were left over from the sea. I wrote Jonathan Seagull down by the sea. I took a house out at the uh, right on the Pacific Ocean and I watched the seagulls for about a year and eventually went completely batty watching seagulls, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this, some of these melodies..
Well what about the last Picasso, where did you write that?
ND – That was, I don’t really know. That was one of the things that just came to me. It was kind of a little inspiration. It came and it grew and developed into that piece. One of my favorite cuts on the album for many reasons. Not only the lyrics but the bridge feel, the change in pace, the use of the jazz riffs, the saxophone jazz at the end, the Latin Brazilian kind of thing. And it came out of the air. God knows where it came Ken. But, you know it’s there….. you know. You take it and you shape it ………
Thank God it came because it’s a beautiful track. Let’s take a peak eh?
“Last Picasso” plays
Neil, incidentally, the last time you and I chatted, just over two years ago, the time when you were doing the Winter Garden bit performance on Broadway, how were you at this time? Because there was some talk that you were finding rather a lot of complex emotional things that you just wanted to get away from everything and you were going to write ballet and maybe do a symphony or whatever.
ND -Yes, well, I had been touring for gee, I don’t know…. I think at that point it was for six or seven years on and off and it is very difficult to constantly be out touring and to be able to live any kind of normal life. And one of the dreams that I’ve always had, because I’ve been writing and recording since like, since I was a child. But uh, I always wanted to try and see if I could live a normal life like everybody else….. get up in the morning, have breakfast and play with my son, and take him to school,,,,, go out and do some shopping, all the nice things that normal people do. And that’s really what I’d dedicated myself to…… try and settle my life down to try and experience a new kind of existence for me. One that didn’t involve continual traveling and performing and public exposure. And uh, I must say that I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s been an experience for me that I’ve never had before. Just wonderful, just wonderful.
Well, now that you are back, does this mean that you are going to undertake a lot of tours both in Britain, Europe, and America?
ND -This coming year, 1975, I’m planning on touring. I feel that I can. I have some material that will work spectacularly on stage, including the Jonathan Seagull piece, which is now being worked on…..quite a number of things from the new “Serenade” album, and some new songs that I’m writing now. And I’m kind of excited about it. I’ve been away from concerts now for almost 2 ½ years. By the time I get back to it, it will be just about 3 years, and I find that I’m getting a little itchy and the best cure for that is to scratch….. and so I will be scratching next year.
Good news. Neil what about another track from the “Serenade” album?
ND- Yes, well I’ll tell you, if I had my choice, there’s one small song that I wrote just before the album was completed. I hadn’t intended to put it in the album. I wrote it, I think, the night or two nights before we were to complete the album and I said “My goodness. I really want to go into the studio and record this and just see what it sounds like.” And I went in with my rhythm group and we put the track down and I just loved it and felt that I wanted to put in on. It’s a very simple little ode to the power of music for myself and it is called “The Gift of Song”.
“Songs of Life” plays.
It was in the last year Jonathan Livingston Seagull has kept the name of Neil Diamond very much before the public and yet you were not very happy with the outcome of the, of the film itself were you?
ND – Well no, actually the film, uh, was disappointing in the sense that uh, I had lost control of it after I put uh, wrote the music to it but in a larger sense it was uh, it was a tremendously worthwhile project. I spent about a year on it. I would do it again without any question. The experience that I got… the working with the book first. Generally when you’re writing songs, when you’re writing an album, they come to your mind or they relate to certain personal experiences. And this was a whole different kind of a story because you had to read a book, you had to read a script, and you had to find places where you thought songs would be justified and the experience was extraordinary for me. I would never regret that and of course the music that was written, to me, expanded my horizons as well. The whole experience was very worthwhile for me despite the fact that the film itself did not do well in the box office. That was not really my area of concern. I was only concerned that the music worked well. And I’m pleased with that.
Any more projects along the film lines?
ND – I’d like to do more films yes but it is very difficult to find interesting projects. There are many films that are offered to you, uh film scores, title scenes, that kind of thing. I’d rather avoid that kind of thing unless I find a project that is really interesting or unique enough so that I could throw myself into it, involve myself into it. I was willing to give Jonathan Seagull one year of my life. It was a considerable commitment. And I’m looking for that same kind of thing. When I find that project, I’ll do exactly the same thing….devote myself to it and love it as well.
You just can’t say next year I’ll do so and so, next whenever.
ND -Well unfortunately, no you can’t do that, not if you want to be selective at all about what you work on.
Neil, back to the album. What one would you like to choose from Serenade?
ND – Well there was one cut that we did on Serenade called Rosemary’s Wine, which I liked very, very much. We got into a terrific feel, a terrific groove, and uh, I just started singing and we did the song in one take and uh, when we finished the take, we all just looked at each other and laughed and uh, terrific fun. It’s called Rosemary’s Wine. It’s one of my favorites on the album.
Rosemary’s Wine is played.
I know you’ve only recently been in Europe. Is this the first time you’ve actually performed in places like Madrid and Paris or have you been there before?
ND – Well, this is my first time in Madrid. I’ve been wanting to go to Spain for a couple of years but I hadn’t had the time or the opportunity to go. But this was a very good opportunity for me to do it. Basically this tour, the purpose of the tour is to uh, to say essentially that Neil Diamond is back and is ready to start performing again. Rather than jumping in to a major concert tour, at first I felt that I wanted to just put my toe in the water and get into the swing of things first. And the last two weeks have really served that purpose very well. I feel much more confidant now about going out and starting concerts again.
What about Germany? I hear you were over there as well.
ND – Yes I did uh, I did one particular show in Germany, a tremendous amount of press but unfortunately the weather there was, was to say the least not good but uh……
Do you get much of an opportunity when you get to places like Madrid or Paris to actually do a little bit of shopping, go out on the street or to see any of the sights that you might want to see.
ND – Yes, I do have time to do that….not too much really because I am there to work. I’m there to either do television or to perform or to talk to the press, but there is enough time. And fortunately, if I had more time I would probably spend all my money and just buy out stores and do that kind of stuff. There is just enough time for me to buy a few things for some friends and get back to the safety and seclusion of the hotel.
In a few moments I’m going to ask you about the day that changed your life, the crunch question of this program. But first of all Neil, I’d like you to choose a record from another artist that is a particular favorite of yours.
ND – Well, I remember 3 or 4 years ago hearing a song on the radio in the states and I just fell in love with it immediately. It was, it hadn’t become a hit yet, and I just fell in love with the sensitivity of the song, the quietness. And also the lyric. Very rarely do you find a lyric and a melody and a vocalist and a recording all mesh so beautifully as this song by Roberta Flack which is “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” plays.
Well, I think a lot of people Neil will go along with you on that one because it must have been one of the biggest hits that’s come out of America over the last few years. Neil, getting down to the day that changed your life, is there a particular day that you can think of that if it hadn’t existed or ever happened you wouldn’t be sitting right in this chair right now.
ND – Actually there was. I guess it was uh, ten years ago. I had been…. when I first started writing, I’d been knocking around New York City and started to bring my music around to publishing companies. And eventually they were accepted to a degree, although I never really experienced any success with the music. And over a period of 8 or 9 years I had placed my music with 25 or 30 publishers and had been signed as a staff writer to 4 or 5 publishers. And I would guess that the day that changed my life was the day that I was canned from my last staff-publishing job. I had been fired from the four that I had been signed to before and this was the fifth one and on that day I just uh, it wasn’t my kind of existence. I couldn’t write songs based on formula. I couldn’t write songs that were ordered and pre-required, that I would go out and try and write the kind of music that satisfied me and I have to say that it was the day that changed my life, because from that point on I began to write music that was satisfying to me and fortunately not too long afterward, became very satisfying to the public as well.
Along came Sweet Caroline and Cherry, Cherry.
ND – Yes there was Solitary Man and Cherry, Cherry.
Lets wind up the program with the song that I think changed your life as far as Britain was concerned and that was of course “Cracklin’Rosie”.
Cracklin’ Rosie plays