*Music plays. You hear snippets of ‘Cherry, Cherry’, ‘Crunchy Granola Suite’, ‘Solitary Man’, and ‘Song Sung Blue’*
DH: Ten years ago, almost to this day, Neil Diamond took the stage at The Greek Theatre, to present one of the most moving concerts ever performed in Los Angeles. It was called, ‘The Hot August Night’ concert. We’ll relive that triumphant concert on this its 10th Anniversary and tonight we’ll be presenting the magic of Neil Diamond’s concert complete and uninterrupted. And we’ll also be talking with Neil before and after the performance to share some of his thoughts about the ‘Hot August Night’ concert itself, his creative life and his future plans. So stay with us and share in the music and words of Neil Diamond as we live it again. Neil Diamond – A Hot August Night – Ten Years Later is sponsored exclusively by Millers Outpost, the Back-To-School fashion answer. I’m David Hall for KNX-FM and we’ll be right back after this.
*Instrumental music of Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show plays*
Back in the late 50s and early 60s, New York City was as it always has been a musical melting pot. Folk music, pop music, rock and roll and jazz were pouring out of the radios and nightclubs in the Big Apple. It was right around this time that Neil Diamond was given a second hand guitar as a birthday present and he began learning a few simple chords and writing his first pop songs. For the next seven years Neil Diamond wrote and performed hundreds of songs for a series of music publishers. Not exactly an overnight sensation, Neil managed to sell some of his songs to groups such as The Monkees while he continued to perfect his craft. One evening in a Greenwich Village coffee house, two record producers caught his act and signed him to a company called Bang Records. At his first recording session Neil cut ‘Solitary Man’, ‘Cherry, Cherry’ and ‘I Got The Feeling’. Since that time Neil Diamond hasn’t looked back. His records sales, television, movie and concert appearances has set attendance and financial records that most artists only dream of. A few days ago we were very pleased to have a visit from Neil Diamond here at KNX-FM. We started off by asking him about his recollections of the 1972 Greek concerts.
ND: Well, they were special, they were very special … for me … ah … it was a chance to … ah … come back to my home town and to … ah … to play (stumbles) for an audience and, you know, an ideal kind of a setting … um … and … ah … I-I was at a point very much where I had to establish my name and … ah … and-and make a reputation for myself and The Greek Theatre gave me that opportunity.
DH; The concert itself had been an immediate sell-out. The 5,000 or so members of the paying audience were joined that evening by at least an equal number of ‘Tree People’. These were fans who climbed the hill behind The Greek to sit in the bushes and trees and share in that ‘Hot August Night’. In an earlier interview Neil recalled the ‘Tree People’ with great fondness.
ND: Yea, it seems that … ah … when I was doing The Greek Theatre show they had sold out. And … ah … ah … from my experience the first year that I was there I knew there would be a lot of people wanted to get in weren’t able to get in…people who would, who willing to climb that mountain and sit on the hills and watch it which to me is the ideal way to watch that kind of a concert. First of all, you get in for FREE…and you’re able to sit under a bush somewhere and … ah … and ah … and break open a bottle of some nice white wine and and enjoy the whole thing. But …ah …they had so many people who were into that thing, they had the parking lots filled with people who just sitting on top of their cars and … ah … listening, this is what I understand, I didn’t see any of it…Ah … and also the hills surrounding The Greek were filled and I understand one night they had something like 5,000 people in the trees which was more than was in the … ah … audience. Ah … it was great fun for me because I couldn’t see any of them and yet we were relating to each other and talking back and forth, it was a big kick…and a big surprise too.
DH: Neil, your audience at the ‘Hot August Night’ concert was comprised of people ranging in age from 11 to 75. How do you account for your wide appeal and in terms of audience?
ND: Well, I’m told that I have … ah … my audience is very broad and … ah … I see teenagers in my audience; I see all kinds of people. It goes all the way up to Grandpas and Grandmas. Ah … I’d-I-I guess it’s because the music is … ah … varied and it, and it touches … ah … a lot of different age groups. Ah … I guess, I don’t know, ah … maybe some of my television appearances have resulted in-in certain kinds of audience coming. Ah … the records do … ah … it’s broad and it’s deep and it’s-it’s my kind of audience.
DH: People who were there at the concert that night spoke of the electricity in the air and the sense of drama and excitement that pervaded The Greek Theatre. Were you nervous that night?
ND: Well, it’s interesting because just before I went out on stage … ah … Bob Hilburn, who’s the music reviewer ‘fer’ (for) the Los Angeles Times, was backstage with me and he sss-and he asked me if I was nervous and I said, ‘No, I’m-I’m not nervous at all’ and … ah … I went out and I-I did the show and it worked out beautifully but it’s very difficult for me to identify nerves at this point. There’s a certain sense of anticipation before your … when you go on stage … um … your adrenalin is flowing, if it’s – if it doesn’t happen naturally when you hear the audience out there, then you-then you force it to happen; you do things in your mind that make it happen and … ah … usually once-once you get in front of the audience your concentration … you-you’re thinking about too many other things to worry about nerves.
DH: Several years ago, however, Neil was asked how he managed to put on such a powerful show and he revealed then where his energy sprang from.
ND: Yea…fear. (You can hear people laugh in the background when Neil says this) Ah… well, you know it’s a funny thing, once you … ah … once you make a commitment and … ah … once you step on stage, there’s almost nothing that can-can stop you from … ah … from doing the performance the way you want to do it. Ah … you feel almost no pain; you feel almost no tiredness when you’re on stage.
DH: That night at The Greek you had a 40 piece orchestra on stage with you. But you also had your 10 supporting musicians, the … ah … touring band that always goes along with you. Want to know, how important these supporting musicians are to your show?
ND: It’s great as a vocalist to be able to get up and sing in front of a band that plays like that because you just have tremendous amount of confidence and you can just, you know, let it go. Ah … the band is always there and always behind you and it’s very, very important.
DH: The audience was obviously behind Neil Diamond too as you’ll hear in tonight’s concert. Ovations and wild applause greeted Neil after almost every number he sang. And we’ll hear that concert in its entirety, complete and uninterrupted right after this message.
Neil Diamond’s ‘Hot August Night’ concert was recorded by MCA Records and released on their UNI label in 1973 (Odd…I got mine in 1972). That album has sold close to 9 million copies and today remains a best seller in many parts of the world. The performance you are about to hear on KNX-FM, however, was taped directly from the 16-track master from which the record was later pressed. As a result, you’ll be hearing the concert in the full stereo brilliance from which it was originally recorded.
And now, let’s go back in time. It’s August 24th 1972. Southern California’s just beginning to recover from a record August heat wave. And on stage Neil’s 10 piece backup band wait while the 40 piece orchestra, under the direction of Lee Holdridge, tunes up. Members of the audience are fanning away the heat with their programs and waiting for Neil Diamond. But all activity ceases as the orchestra plays the first notes of the overture.
BREAK IN INTERVIEW FOR CONCERT
This is 93 KNX-FM Los Angeles. You’ve just heard the entire Neil Diamond ‘Hot August Night’ concert complete and uninterrupted. The program will continue with Neil Diamond in conversation right after this message.
DH: Neil, ten years have passed since the ‘Hot August Night’ concert. Are you any different today from the man who performed here at The Greek back in ’72?
ND: I’m not sure that … ah … I really am that different. I like to think that I’ve grown and-and developed as a person and as a human being as a-and as an artist over the last ten years but I don’t really know how much I’ve changed. Ah … I-I still feel the same kind of things; I’m still motivated by the same kind of things … um … ah … I still have the same insecurities and … ah … doubts about myself. Um … so you begin to wonder if you really have changed; if you really have grown that much or maybe you’ve just kind of gotten your act together a little bit better. Maybe that’s all it is. Ah … I think I’m basically the same person that I was ten years ago and-and I-I guess I’m stuck with it at this point.
DH: You hear a lot about the pressures of being famous, of always having to top yourself. Are there extraordinary pressures in just being Neil Diamond?
ND: I guess there are extraordinary pressures in-in being any … ah … public figure. I mean, somebody that the public can identify on sight or by name. Um … so you’re kind of put in a situation where everybody knows who you are and you hardly know anyone else. I mean, you know your friends and the people that you know. But everybody knows you. So that-that makes things a little bit unusual; makes it … makes it a little strange. You have to suddenly adapt to that now. Um … and I’m not sure that you ever really can.
DH: Alright, speaking of pressures, after your concert tour back in 1972, you took a little time off … almost three years. And one of your press releases said that you were looking for inner peace. Was that the case?
ND: I took off for many reasons. I had … um … I had been on the road for … ah … for seven or eight years before that and there were many reasons that I wanted to get away from it. I wanted to begin to concentrate on writing and-and get into my personal life and so on and so forth. Ah … it’s really too long a story to get into now but … ah … it was good for me and it gave a chance to take a breather and-and then to come back in-in ’76 and to really begin again. Um … but it was-it was a tremendous experience and I don’t-I don’t think I was looking for inner peace but I-I was looking to find a little bit more of myself.
DH: We talked a little bit about the pressures of your fame but there are a lot of people who want your time and attention. In fact, we get calls here at the station all the time from people that want to know when Neil Diamond’s going to perform again here in Southern California. Do you have any idea when that will be?
ND: I wanted to play Los Angeles. I tried to play here in the last few years. A couple of times I’ve actually held some buildings and … ah … booked some time. But … um … something has held me back from-from playing here. I think part of it had to do with my getting back into physical shape to actually handle the number of shows that I’d want to do here. And … um … part of it is psychological thing of-of coming home and-and the expectations that people have of-of what you, of what you do and-and … um …it’s a little scary for me. There have been legitimate reasons for one reason or another why I haven’t been here in the last few years but … um … I’m hoping to get up my nerve and-and change that soon.
Neil Diamond On A Hot August Night
Ten Years Later
DH: Alright, apart from your concerts, you released a lot of successful albums in the past few years. I’d like to ask you about a couple of them starting with ‘Beautiful Noise’.
ND: ‘Beautiful Noise’ came out of a desire that I had to kind of look back on my beginnings as a young writer trying to have my songs heard and recorded and eventually played for the public. Um … the songs in ‘Beautiful Noise’ tried to reflect different people that I met then; different situations that I found myself in. And … um … to kind of tell the story of-of … ah … of a young kid who’s-who’s-who has no other chance, really, trying to make it out of a ghetto, in a sense, and … ah … this is his chance. He’s found that he’s-he’s got a little bit of talent for music and he wants to make that his life.
DH: In the album ‘Beautiful Noise’ and in many of your public statements, you speak almost reverently about the role, your role, as a songwriter. Do you still stay up late at night and wait for inspiration when you write?
ND: There’s something very special about … ah … writing a song. I think other songwriters understand it very well. There’s that sense of discovery when you do-when you do discover something, whether it’s … ah … a line of a lyric or a piece of a melody or an idea; there’s that moment of immortality that last just for a moment because you realise that now you’ve got to take this very vague musical idea and translate it and-and make it into a song or make it into a record. Um … but you do find, I’m-I do find anyway that … ah … that I-I still work late at night with a-with ideas that may inspire me or … ah … keep me up late at night. It still happens because there’s that rush that you get that … ah … you don’t get anywhere else in your life.
DH: In 1979, Neil, you turned your attention to films and starred in The Jazz Singer with Lucie Arnaz and Sir Laurence Olivier. And although the-the film, and certainly your soundtrack album were very successful, you took some pretty hard shots from the critics. Do you ever look back and analyse your role in that film?
ND: It was an extraordinary experience to say the least. Um … I had the chance to work with some tremendously talented people, some-some of the best actors and actresses in the world. Ah … and also I had the opportunity to-to write and to work on so much … ah … new music and I had-I had my own freedom in that regard. Um … I could write the music that I felt there; I felt was right and although I was very open to the other people and to the-the directors and we-we discussed all of this … ah … it was an exciting opportunity for me to not only write music for a film but to … um … but to … for the first time present myself as an actor in a film and … um … it was very intense, it was very difficult; it was hard-hard work and-and I-I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Even when I hated it, I loved it.
DH: Okay, but not everyone loved it. How do you react to negative criticism?
ND: Well, I’m certainly not going to let the critics dissuade me from-from … ah … taking advantage of … ah … opportunities and-and …ah … chances for personal and professional growth that … ah … that I might have. Um … the critics were-were rough on this film; it was a reasonable success box office. I lo- I personally loved the film but I’m-I’m the last guy in the world to ask because I worked on it. I gave myself to it; I cared for it. And it was important to me. So, I think if you can present yourself on stage then you can present yourself on-on film in front of a camera. It’s pretty-it’s pretty much … ah … in the same kind of … ah … ballpark
DH: Alright, it’s your first film and you’re working with Sir Laurence Olivier. What was that like?
ND: Working with Laurence Olivier was … ah … was awesome. I mean, you know, I had to constantly remind myself that we were two people trying to … ah … make a scene work and make it come alive and that this was not Sir Laurence Olivier and … ah … and that we had to get down to work. And after a couple weeks of working together that’s-it-it happens; you’re-you are working together; you’re trying to-to make words on a page, on a script come alive. And … um … I asked him as many questions as he would tolerate and … ah … he was gracious and … ah … and I think we became friends … ah … in that period of time and … um … I value that very much.
*You Don’t Bring Me Flowers begins to play*
DH: Neil, you’ve worked with a lot of talented people but one moment that comes to mind which you duet with Barbra Streisand at the 1978 Grammies.
*You Don’t Bring Me Flowers continues*
People in the audience seemed to be overwhelmed and stunned by your performance. What do you remember about that moment?
ND: Well, I do know that Barbra and I were both very nervous. She was shaking … ah … um … I tried to put on a good front but I was also shaking. Ah … it was very exciting and … ah … I think it was over so quickly that … ah … ah … I think we were both a little relieved that we’d done it and sang the right notes and … ah … she sang her lines when she was supposed to and I sang my lines when I was supposed to. It was just a very special moment for both of us.
DH; Another one of your creative collaborators was French songwriter and lyricist Gilbert Becaud … ah … the man you wrote ‘September Morn’ with. How did the two of you get together?
ND: We had met after a … after a concert that I did in Paris and-and decided to meet the next day and just to get to know each other and I-I met him in his apartment in Paris and … ah … there was a piano there and we both started talking about music and-and said, ‘Well, let’s see if we can wr-come up with an idea together just now, right at this moment,’ ‘cuz the feeling was very good and we did…we came up with the-the general idea and the melody for ‘September Morn’. It was the beginning of a-of a new relationship for me and-and really the making of a new friend.
DH: Alright, we’ve touched on some of your past accomplishments but, what I’d like to know, I think what a lot of people want to know is, what are you doing now and what are you planning for the future?
ND: Right now I’m working on new songs. I’ve been writing with Burt and Carole; that’s Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager. Um … and we’re working on new songs. Ah … as a matter of fact, this afternoon we’re going in and recording a new song, making a new record and I look forward to that; that’s going to be exciting. So, I’m always working on new music. Ah … either writing or recording. And I hope that … ah … maybe in September or October that I’ll be able to begin … ah … touring again and doing more concerts. Ah … beyond that I don’t really know. There are many possibilities but I haven’t really locked in on anything. I do know that I want to get back on stage and really, and do that for a while. I miss it. I haven’t done it a lot. And … ah … I want to just enjoy myself and writing is hard work and recording is hard work but performing and going out on the stage and singing is no work at all and I-I want to take a vacation and just do concerts for a while. I think if I had to predict the next couple of years, I’d say that that’s probably what it’ll be about.
DH: Let me throw a question at you from left field. Neil, how would you like to be remembered?
ND: At this point I’d like to be remembered by the last record that I had out. Ah … you know, which is called, ‘Be Mine Tonight’ and it’s a fun record and I actually get to play guitar on it. Um … beyond that, I’m not ready to be remembered. You know … um … I’m still here and I’m (laughs as he continues) still writing and gee, if I’m-if my luck holds out it’ll-it’ll go for a little while longer and … ah … I just want to keep doing it. It’s what I wanted; it’s what I’ve always wanted to-to be able to write, to be able to do my music, to be able to sing for an audience…it’s the greatest…and-and wow…..
DH: Well, it’s a pretty safe bet Neil Diamond won’t have to worry about being remembered. His musical legacy is staggering and from all indications there’s much more to come from this very talented man. You’ve been listening to the 10th anniversary performance of Neil Diamond’s ‘Hot August Night’ concert here on KNX-FM. And we’ll return right after this message.
*Instrumental music of Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show plays……*
This has been a ‘Hot August Night’ salute to Neil Diamond on the 10th anniversary of his record breaking concert at The Greek Theatre. We’d like to thank MCA Records, CBS Records, David Rosner (??), the Staff at Arch Angel Productions and most of all Neil Diamond himself. The show has been sponsored exclusively by Miller’s Outpost, the ‘Back-To-School’ fashion answer. Technical production was by Marianne Jorgensen (??) with assistance from Ben Deagan (??). For KNX-FM, I’m David Hall.
*Instrumental music of Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show continues……and fades….*