Neil Diamond: People covering my songs is like sex

Neil Diamond: People covering my songs is like sex
Monday, August 24, 2009

Neil Diamond: covers are like sex American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond tells Metro about supporting the Who in their ’60s heyday, what he thinks of American Idol and why cover versions are an erotic experience.
What’s the new album all about?
It’s an actual representation of my live show. It was recorded from a glamorous night on my concert tour at Madison Square Garden. I’m not sure I’ve ever done a live release before so I’m a little nervous about it, even after all this time. I just want people to love the show.

What made you choose this performance over all the others?
It?s special because it was in New York, my home town. People there feel like they know me and I feel like I know them and in many cases we do actually know each other! I find New York different to anywhere else in the world.

The audience sang along to every word, did you ever consider saying: ‘Shut up, you’re ruining the DVD’?
That sort of thing bothered me at the beginning of my career. I thought: ‘You shouldn?t be singing. That’s my job. Let me sing and you listen.’ Then I realised it was a compliment. They knew the songs, they loved the songs, and they wanted to sing the songs.

Is black still your costume colour of choice?
Yeah. I still wear black but I got sparkly somewhere along the way. If you’re playing in an 18,000-seat arena, you like to be seen by somebody in the back.

You’ve continually worked with producer Rick Rubin, the Beastie Boys’ original DJ. Has he ever suggested a collaboration?
I’ve worked with Rick on my past three albums and I’ve got a new record on the way with him. We?ve started talking about it and I’m looking forward to getting into the studio and laying down some stuff. I’d love to do something with the Beastie Boys but, because of all the travelling, you don?t necessarily see these people unless there is something that brings you together. Most of the time these things are down to luck rather than judgment, so you never know.

Seeing people cover my songs is like sex; it’s never bad. Even when it’s bad it’s never bad

How did playing Glastonbury 2008 compare to a normal gig?
It was kind of numbing. I loved every minute of it but I found the overall experience kind of awe-inspiring for me. I gather it’s something of a national treasure in Britain and I can understand why.

Didn’t you miss Obama’s election victory because you were touring?
I missed the election completely. I was performing for the wonderful people of Green Bay, Wisconsin, who came and filled the venue and I said to them: ‘I appreciate you coming down, because there is something really good on television.’

Are you coming back to tour here anytime soon?
I hope so. I’ve got an album to write and record but Britain is always on my schedule and has been since the 1960s. It’s a wonderful place.

In your early days you supported The Who, did you try to out-party them?
Well, they were pretty rock’n’roll. I didn’t know exactly what they were going to do but they pulled out all the stops and supporting them was a lot of fun and all I can say is they were very loud.

You were a guest mentor on American Idol, do you agree with the concept of the show?
It’s fun and entertaining.

It misses giving these young people experience.
That takes time. If you become a star overnight you can also burn out overnight because there is nothing like experience, that’s the only regret I have for these people. I wish them luck but they have to understand winning is only the beginning.

So many artists have covered your hits, including Elvis, Lulu and The Monkees. But which is your top pick?
My favourite cover is Frank Sinatra’s version of Sweet Caroline. He did a big band swing arrangement of it and I thought it was great fun. Seeing people cover my songs is like sex; it?s never bad. Even when it’s bad it’s never bad.

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