Toronto Interview (10-22-76)
Announcer: Broadcasting from the C.N. Tower. This is 99.9 CKFM on top of Toronto.
Interviewer: Well I suppose if we were to use a customary greeting it would be, nice to have you drop in right here at 99.9 CKFM, Neil Diamond.
Neil: Great, nice to be here.
Interviewer: (Laugh) You know how long I’ve been waiting for this? Remember the last time you were supposed to hit Toronto and unfortunately something came up and it was cancelled at the last moment?
Neil: That’s been over 3 years ago.
Interviewer: Our listeners want to know more about Neil Diamond. They’ve heard your songs; they want to know about the man himself. You were born in Brooklyn correct?
Neil: That’s right. Brooklyn New York, right.
Interviewer: And Coney Island was part of your history obviously.
Neil: Right I lived in Coney Island until I was about 10 years old.
Interviewer: When did the music start?
Neil: Music started, I guess I was about 16 years old. I got an old beat-up guitar and took a few lessons on it and almost immediately started writing songs and really started it and I wrote continually; I wrote for a number of years, wrote through collage and finally at the tail end of collage I dropped out to see if I could really get serious about it and do it right and well and got my first offer from a music publisher and it was great. I just quit school, I got a guarantee of $50.00 a week for 16 weeks and I left school and everything else behind and I ran off to be a songwriter.
Interviewer: You were a Pre-med student at that time weren’t you?
Neil: Right it’s a memory right now. As a matter of fact today I was thinking about buying a microscope.
Neil: I’ve always been intrigued by microscopes and laboratories, actually I wanted to be a biologist and so I was thinking about that just today. I may do that.
Interviewer: Neil, what comes first the lyrics or the music?
Neil: Generally the music comes first, but even before the music comes the feeling, the mood. Sometimes it’s the feel of the song or music, but the music comes before the lyrics for me.
Interviewer: We have quit a reggae-oriented audience out there and it’s interesting that you brought out “The Reggae Strut”. How does an individual who’s so wide in his scope pick up the Caribbean beat?
Neil: Well they’re all basically musical forms they have their own styles and textures but they’re forms that I like to work with. I like to do reggae and I don’t know… I’d like to do a string quartet as well, so they’re all part of the vocabulary of music.
Interviewer: So “Don’t Think… Feel” was just another one of these forms wasn’t it?
Neil: Yeah, that’s right.
Interviewer: Have you been in Toronto before?
Neil: Sure, I’ve been here plenty of times.
Neil: All over, I played at the Embassy Club here about ten years ago, did some concerts here. I’ve been here a number of times.
Interviewer: Have you gotten to know Toronto?
Neil: Yeah, I like the city very much.
Interviewer: Have you noticed any changes since the first time?
Neil: Well yeah, it’s growing it seems to be keeping up… It’s always had a feeling of it’s own that I liked. There’s a good artistic community here and it’s a good feeling city, and of course Robbie Robertson, who produced this last album that I did; “Beautiful Noise” is from Toronto. It reflected Robbie’s experiences as well, and I told him, I said “I like that town, whether I ever work with you again or not, this is a special town.”
Interviewer: Was this just the title of a tune?
Neil: The album began to come into being and then the song was written and we just felt that song kinda summed up what we were trying to say in the whole album, which was basically that New York and Tin Pan Alley was very musical and very cluttered and exciting and frustrating and fantastic all at the same time and “Beautiful Noise” seemed to sum it all up.
Interviewer: The interesting part in having this conversation with you Neil is the fact that your speaking voice is really similar to your singing voice, which I find rather unusual. What would you describe your voice as being.
Neil: Well I’m a second base…
Neil: … in the chorus, I don’t… I really couldn’t describe my voice beyond that.
Interviewer: Have you ever done choral work in your infancy… in your earlier years?
Neil: Oh yeah, I sang the mixed choruses in the public schools in New York; in both high schools I went to and loved it.
Interviewer: Do you come from a musical family?
Neil: Not really. My father was an amateur performer when I was a youngster. My grandfather was kind of a violinist, but most of my family has been involved in music only in the sense that we’ve been fans and lovers of music. Whether it’s Latin-American dance music, which my parents were into or Russian-Classical things, which my grandfather was into, but there’s really no professional tutored musical background in my family.
Interviewer: With “Beautiful Noise” this is the beginning of a new Neil Diamond isn’t it?
Neil: Well it is in a sense and it’s also a kind of a recapturing of the past recollections. Musical recollections really, of experiences and people and situations if fascinating. It was a fascinating time of my life, just beginning to be a professional, it was a very very exciting and really we tried to capture that whole feeling of New York and Tin Pan Alley and the early 60’s and what was going on in the world at that time in this album.
Interviewer: In fact then “Don’t Think… Feel” fits in quite nicely doesn’t it?
Neil: Well it did it was good advice. It was given to me by another songwriter. I tend to intellectualize my music much too much, and he told me to let it get through to me and to not think about it, just feel it.
Interviewer: How did you feel about that hiatus you had, when from what the press reported you took what was it a year or two off for “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”?
Neil: Well actually I stopped performing for a number of reasons. Actually it was closer to 4 years away from concerts and the road. I felt that I had to become a human being again and a person, I felt that I was loosing that being caught up in all the celebrity and all of the fuss that’s made over you when you’re in the public eye.
Interviewer: This disturbs you?
Neil: Well it’s fine. It’s like part of a meal; it’s like desert in a sense, you can’t make a full meal out of it and you can’t make a full life out of it either.
Interviewer: What does life mean to you?
Neil: Well I’m not sure I have the answer to that one yet; I’m still working on that.
Interviewer: You’re still looking, as we all are?
Neil: That’s right.
Interviewer: Does Neil Diamond have a
Neil Diamond favorite? Is there one in particular?
Neil: I can’t really say that there’s one song. There are a number of songs that I like and generally, what I do in concert is what I like to do; my favorite songs, which is really what determines what I’m doing in concert. There isn’t any one song though.
Interviewer: When you go out there suddenly do you have a feeling for another song and switch in mid-stream?
Neil: Oh sure we change it. It’s a different show every night we do it. It keeps us excited about it, it makes us a little nervous, there’s always that uncertainty and you need that in a sense.
Interviewer: How many do you have for this concert?
Neil: I have 9 musicians on stage and… But it’s a very sophisticated kind of a presentation, we carry our own sound and lights and stage and sets and it’s quite extensive and sophisticated. I’d say there are almost 40 people involved in the entire production.
Interviewer: We had quite an entourage, quite a following of our listeners report back to me on the Neil Diamond concert in Buffalo New York…
Interviewer: … and well I’ll give you a little quote. They said, “We expected it to be a great show, but what happened there last Friday night was unbelievable, indescribable.” How do you feel about a thing like that?
Neil: Oh that’s great, that makes me feel terrific.
Interviewer: Some of them had a special bus that took them from Toronto right over to Buffalo…
Neil: Is that right?
Interviewer: … and they were just knocked out.
Neil: That’s fantastic. Yeah that… this has been a very special tour for us. It’s been very exciting, we’ve been up about the whole thing, and you know I tend to think that time away from the concert stage was very good for myself and as well as the people that I’m working with. It gave us a chance to get our juices up for it again, rather than just doing it continually and loosing the enthusiasm for it after awhile.
Interviewer: Why do you appear in concert?
Neil: Well there’s lots of reasons that uh…
Interviewer: Over and above the monetary value obviously.
Neil: … Well the primary reason that I come out and do concerts is because it’s the only time really that I have to have a direct meeting with the audience. When you write songs you do it by yourself. When you’re in the recording studio you’re working with musicians, and in a very closed controlled situation. So coming out on stage and doing a performance and getting to relate directly to an audience and hearing them respond when they like something and hearing them respond when they don’t like something. It’s the kind of experience you can’t duplicate anywhere else; it’s that direct meeting of one to one; myself and the audience.
Interviewer: There was a time when Neil Diamond recorded various other people’s songs? In the past few albums it’s been nothing but Neil Diamond compositions, lyrics and music, which I think is a feather in your cap. Is this something that you’ll continue to follow?
Neil: Well… not… I like to do outside songs, songs written by other people and I want to do that. I’m hoping that the next album that we have out will be… would include a number of other songs. I am a songwriter, it’s basically what I am and I like to do my own material but I’m also a singer and I enjoy performing other people’s material, so we’ll do more of that as well.
Interviewer: Are you still awestruck by the response you get from your audience after all these years Neil?
Neil: I don’t think that awestruck is the word I’m uh…
Interviewer: What word would you use?
Neil: Uh… I think excited by it… I think that’s the word really. It’s very very exciting to come into a city like Toronto, or Buffalo or Fort Worth Texas or Los Angeles or San Francisco and to find an audience that knows your music and knows you and is willing to open up and give themselves that evening to what you have to present. So no I’m not awestruck about it but it’s very exciting for me to be able to do that kind of thing.
Interviewer: I believe it was your “Hot August Night” that introduced our audience to the other side of Neil Diamond- that is the live side in the full sense of the word. Do you have any live albums in the future?
Neil: I like live albums and I’d like to do more of them. We recorded… I was at the Greek Theatre this September and we recorded it and there’s a fantastic album in there and I think we probably will put that out also it’s a very very exciting album.
Interviewer: What will they call it Hot September Night…?
Neil: I don’t know we haven’t…
Interviewer: (Laughs) Or Cool September Night?
Neil: We haven’t really come up with a title yet for it. We probably should have a contest or something.
Interviewer: So if you want to start a contest…
Neil: No, no, no I’m just kidding
Interviewer: …write into 99.9. We’ve had quite a few contests. We were discussing the “Neil Diamond, diamond” not to long ago and Don Lousie is with me. Do you have the name of the winner Don?
Don: Susan Young from Toronto
Interviewer: Susan Young from Toronto.
Neil: Yeah that’s fantastic. Congratulations Susan.
Interviewer: Forty-five hundred dollars richer with the “Neil Diamond, diamond.”
Neil: What can you say; it’s great.
Interviewer: It’s amazing, the repertoire we have with our audience when it comes to Neil Diamond the singer. They’d like to know so much more about you, as the individual and yet there are certain things that are personal, I realize that. Is there anything that you’d like to discuss about yourself that isn’t common knowledge and that you don’t mind mentioning?
Interviewer: Good question eh? (Laughs)
Neil: That’s a very good question. No I’ll tell you that you can just speak night after night about yourself and it tends to become a bore after awhile, for myself. I think basically what I have to say is incorporated into the music and the songs and I think also the audience can get to know me a little bit better when they come down to see a show, and there’s that relationship that’s established at a concert or at a performance and I think that’s really the time for me to open up and for the audience to get a glimpse inside.
Interviewer: Do you generally try to relax as much as possible before a concert?
Neil: Yeah I think it’s… you have to. There’s a tremendous expenditure of energy and concentration and singing and that goes on when you’re on stage so I try to get as much relaxation as possible.
Interviewer: Neil one more question before we let you get back to the rehearsals. “Taproot Manuscript”.
Interviewer: Was there a number one?
Neil: Was there a number one…?
Interviewer: It seems to me that on the original disk it said: “Taproot Manuscript” volume two or part two or something of that nature and I’ve often wondered where is part one?
Neil: That’s an interesting question. Yeah I think the African Trilogy was ultimately to be expanded into a full ballet and, which I liked to do and so it was listed as a volume one or part one of the trilogy and I may complete it over the next five or ten years and really present it as a ballet. Which was what it was really intended to be.
Interviewer: Would you do your fans a favor here in Toronto? Would you complete it?
Neil: Yes I’ll be happy to do that…
Neil: … for my fans in Toronto.
Interviewer: Gospel seems to be uppermost in your mind when that was being recorded and written obviously. You had a little something on the inside of the cover or was it a little insert…
Interviewer: … that appeared…
Interviewer: …with the record? Can you still remember gospel something to do with the…?
Neil: It spoke about the roots of gospel music really and it brought me back to African music which I’d became very interested in…
Interviewer: And you referred to Harlem.
Neil: … and right that was in a church meeting that I visited up in Harlem, but the basic root of the “Tap Root Manuscript” album is the American folk music which eventually led to gospel music which eventually led to rhythm and blues which eventually led to rock and roll.
Interviewer: And why “Soolaimon”, Solaimon? You change it three times.
Neil: That’s right it’s a variation on the word Salamah, which means…
Interviewer: Welcome, welcome, welcome.
Neil: Yes, peace.
Interviewer: Once again we’d like to welcome you to our Toronto and thank you very much for taking time out from a very busy schedule to chat with us Neil
Neil: My pleasure, great to be here. Nice to talk to you and I hope you enjoy the show tonight.
Interviewer: I’m sure we will.
Interviewer: And we’re looking forward to the next album.
Neil: Well aside from the live album I’m hoping that Robbie and I can do one for the spring. There’s some songs that I’ve written and some songs I want to record that other people have written, so I’m looking forward to a spring release for a new album.
Interviewer: Neil Diamond, what a pleasure it is to have you here at 99.9, if you know what I mean?
Neil: Ok I do know what you mean. Thanks very much
Plays: “If You Know What I Mean”