KABC interview

KABC interview (2-20-77)

Sunday afternoon…one of the true superstars in popular music, Mr. Neil Diamond.

Interviewer:
How are ya Neil.

Neil:
I’m fine Bill, how ya doin’.

Interviewer:
Oh not too bad. Just kind of relaxing. It sounds like you’re, ah, having ah, breakfast on a Sunday.

Neil:
Actually, I’m over at ah, I’m talking to you from a payphone at Nate-N-Al’s in Beverly Hills and I have my cup of coffee here by the phone.

Interviewer:
(Laughs)…okay

Neil:
And uh, I’m just kind of relaxing.

Interviewer:
Let me ask you something. First of all, I know a lot of people are wondering why you uh, initially retired from performing and then, and then, why you chose this time to come back?

Neil:
Well I had to get away from it for a while. Um, I, I wanted to spend some time with my family and uh, just relax a little bit, get away from the road, let my juices start flowing again, and uh, really, actually I started planning my comeback almost as soon as I’d stopped. You know, I started taking notes and getting together ideas of things I might be able to present on stage. But, um, it was a great time for me. Great uh, uh period of, ah, I guess it was productive in a way because uh, I learned a great deal um, basically how to relax and uh, I came back much mellower than when I left, I’m much more relaxed on stage. I’m enjoying it all more. So it was, it was real good for me. I’m. I’m very happy about it. I’d like to do that every few years uh, take a little bit of time off…maybe not four years off, but ah, ah, I think a year or so and uh, I still have that dream of uh, going and living in Europe and, and studying music in London and uh, doing all those kind of things.

Interviewer:
I’m sure it, I’m sure it gave you a chance to get to know your family real well again too didn’t it Neil.

Neil:
Yeah, that’s, that’s really, the, the heart of came down to that, ya know. My son was about 2-1/2 at the time and I just didn’t want to miss that uh, miss those early years with him. He needed me and uh, and I wanted to be with him and uh, it was real important. He’s, he’s older now, and he’s stronger and he’s able to handle it so when I go off and uh, travel to Europe or Australia, he’s uh, uh, he can deal with it a little bit better.

Interviewer:
Now Neil, you mentioned uh, you’ve become more mellow as an individual. Has your music changed at all since the return?

Neil:
Well, you know, it’s always changing because um, as you change, the music changes. Uh, you learn things, you get a little more experience in certain areas. You grow up a little bit but uh, uh, as you change, the music changes. So I’m sure it’s changed and ah, I’m sure it will continue to change.

Interviewer:
Is your writing primarily personal?

Neil:
Well, it, it involves a lot of things and some of it is from…based on personal experience, a lot of it is based on fantasies uh, um, uh, but it, but yes it all comes from basically a writer and from his experiences and his outlook. So uh, uh, it’s personal in that respect, but uh, it doesn’t all relate to um, my own life directly.

Interviewer:
Although I can recall with “I Am…I Said”, I’ve heard other people sing it but it isn’t as realistic as when somebody else do it because it’s so “Neil Diamond”.

Neil:
Yeah that’s true although I’ve heard a number of people sing that song and I, I thought it came off pretty well with them. It’s a song that uh, uh, a surprising number of people can identify with. I, I’ve gotten letters from all over the world about that song and uh, uh, I don’t mind in the least having other people sing it. As a matter of fact, I like it when other people sing it.

Interviewer:
Now Neil, what about the, the “Beautiful Noise” album of course, which uh, I think has gotta be one of the best albums of 1976. That basically, I guess, is a, is a trip back to the Tin Pan Alley days when you were a struggling writer.

Neil:
Yeah, I tried to uh, uh, tried to tell this story, ah, relate some of the experiences that I have had when I was ah, just beginning as a writer in New York and I uh, uh, try and tell about some of the people I met at that time and uh, tried to get it all wrapped up in one basic uh, conceptual theme which was the “Beautiful Noise” theme and um, I was really pleased with it. We, Robbie and I, spent about a year working on it and ah, I was very pleased with it.

Interviewer:
Now when one looks at uh, the Grammy Awards of last night, of course, ah, you were not nominated and I, uh, again wonder how the Grammy nominations are selected and to me it was quite disturbing that a piece of art like “Beautiful Noise” and a great entertainer like Neil Diamond was completely shut out of the Grammy Award nominations.

Neil:
Well, I agree, I’m, I’m just furious about it and uh, no, actually I’m uh, I’m, I’m kidding. No I, I, it’s okay. There’s, there were a number of very good albums nominated and uh, I’ve had my share of nominations and um, I actually won one of those things for Jonathan Seagull’s score, so um, it’s okay. Really I, I’m, I’m out to please my audience more than anything else and um, um, that’s, that’s basically what I’m after and so the response I’ve received from the audience on this album and the songs on the album is, is really uh, the satisfaction that I look for and of course, if you can win a Grammy or an Oscar or something like well that’s, that’s fabulous. It’s just a, it’s a little bonus. But uh, that’s not what’s it’s all about.

Interviewer:
Neil will you record other writers today?

Neil:
Oh yeah, I, I like to sing other people’s songs. It’s, it’s, actually it’s a lot easier for me to sing other people’s songs than it is to sing my own things because I tend to be very critical of my own music and uh, uh, when I’m doing other people’s music, I just sing it and, and enjoy it and I don’t think about it too much. So I think on the next album, after this live album, uh, I’ll do a number of ah, other people’s songs, other writer’s songs that I’ve been collecting over the years that I’ve wanted to record and uh, I’m looking forward to it. It’s great fun to sing other people’s music ’cause you, then you’re just a singer, you’re a vocalist and uh, it makes the job a lot easier and it’s a little more fun.

Interviewer:
Neil just hang loose there. We’re gonna be right back, we gotta pause for a commercial message or two and then we’ll be right back with Neil Diamond.

Neil:
Yeah Bill…..

Interviewer:
Ok we’re back. When one looks at Neil Diamond, and again, I’m looking at the Greek Theater engagement that happened this past summer here in Los Angeles, which is, of course, the basis for your NBC television special tomorrow night, I was delighted to see so many varying age groups in attendance. Ya had them there from 70 years of age down to 5 and 6 years of age and it seems to me that you’re helping bridge the gap in today’s popular music.

Neil:
Yeah well, you know, it’s very interesting because I’ve um, the audience is very broad and uh, it’s, at first, ah, when I realized that um, my audience was very broad it disturbed me a little bit because I didn’t really know exactly who to aim the music at, who, who I was performing for. But, um, then I realized that uh, it was a tremendous advantage because I wasn’t uh, I didn’t have to be limited to one particular style or type of music. I could, I could really run the gamut of uh, of musical forms and styles ah, ah in concert and on records too, so it’s, it’s really been great. I mean there are kids in the audience and uh, um, old timers as well so uh, it, it gives me the chance to really stretch out and, and do just about everything that I can do, all different styles and types of music rather than being limited to one particular form aimed at one particular age group.

Interviewer:
Um hum, but again very few entertainers in today’s musical spectrum are able to do that.

Neil:
Well ah, that’s probably true although ah, I think what happens is that a number of writers and performers get botched in by uh, what their audience is and uh, their afraid to lose the audience so they uh, continue to cater to one particular style or form of music and uh, ah, it can get tiresome after a while. I, I consider myself very lucky in being able to uh, play around and use all different kinds of things.

Interviewer:
Do you think the older people understand what you’re about?

Neil:
Well um, I’m not sure it’s uh, it’s important whether they understand what I’m all about, ya know. The real, the real important thing is that they uh, that some emotional response uh, is elicited from them with the music. You know….

Interviewer:
Um hum, which we saw at the Greek Theater.

Neil:
It makes terrific copy and terrific interviews but, I don’t, I don’t think the writer is as important as the actual piece of music itself.

Interviewer:
Now when you look at the Greek Theater engagement, which of course, was sold out for the entire week, and you sold the concept, or your people sold the concept to network television. That must have been a difficult sale when you consider what musical variety on TV is all about.

Neil:
Well actually, it’s kind of an unusual thing because uh, see when, when I did the uh, Greek Theater in ’72, and we did that “Hot August Night” album, uh, I was kind of disappointed that I hadn’t filmed it or taped it. I had no film on it and I just uh, for my own, for myself really and so, uh, when this engagement came around and I realized that I was gonna go all out with it, um, (cough), I decided to tape it and Dwight Hemon and Gary Smith who were, who were set to direct uh, my television show, came in and directed it and um, they put together a, a sample hour version of, of that Greek Theater performance and a number of people from NBC saw this thing and they just ah, they really flipped. And ah, so that’s basically how it ah, how it all came about. It is kind of unusual for a, a, especially for a premier first time television appearance for someone. It’s um, it’s a performance show um, but it is designed uh, for television. There’s some really beautiful, beautiful things going on in this show and um, ah, I’m very happy, I’m very happy with it and it was, it was real easy to do because all I had to do was go out and perform. You know, it’s just very natural to me and very comfortable for me.

Interviewer:
How’s the sound gonna come across on television because ah, it’s difficult getting the sound of ah, of live performance in a recording studio on a little television tube?

Neil:
Well you can never really capture a live performance uh, on television or (clears throat) or any other medium but uh, I think we’ve come as close as you’re ever gonna get. Uh, Robbie Robertson handled the sound on this and uh, uh, I think it’s quite extraordinary and also we have a, it’ll be simulcast uh, on FM at the same time, so if anybody want to listen to it in stereo with real fine quality sound, they can do that as well. Um, but basically it is a visual experience and the show itself involves the audience and myself more than anything else, so that the sound considerations become um, really secondary.

Interviewer:
It’s going to be delightful seeing a performer singing on television instead of lip-syncing.

Neil:
Well I hope so, if you feel that way after you see the show.

Interviewer:
Oh I know we will. How would uh, how would an individual who, who was at the Greek Theater, basically then it is the Greek Theater show, is there anything additional to that show on the special?

Neil:
Um, yes, there’s an introductory piece, which we filmed at the Greek Theater and um, we use it as an introductory piece to the show. But aside from that it’s the show that um, that the audience saw at the Greek Theater in a condensed form. Don’t forget that the concert runs uh, the full concert runs for about two hours and uh, we were limited uh, to one hour uh, show on this. But we condensed it and uh, uh, I think we’ve gotten to the heart of the matter. It’s a pretty good representation of uh, of uh, of the songs, the music and the performance and uh, I feel very good about it.

Interviewer:
About 14 songs…right Neil?

Neil:
Pardon me?

Interviewer:
About 14 songs

Neil:
I think it’s something like that. Um, 13 or 14 songs on the show itself.

Interviewer:
And also there’s a live album from the Greek Theater. Is this not correct? It’s your new release on Columbia records.

Neil:
Right. Columbia put uh, just actually this week, put out a live album, um, it’s a much more complete version of the show. It’s um, 20 or 21 songs and um, ah, real high quality stereo so it’s, it’s really made for listening at home.

Interviewer:
It’s super, and of course uh, 24 songs so a lot of the hits and a lot of new material on one album. Neil we’re gonna be right back following this….

Interviewer:
Your special tomorrow night on NBC TV will be on at 9 o’clock, isn’t it Neil?

Neil:
That’s right…9 o’clock

Interviewer:
On KNBC, channel 4. What about the future of contemporary music on television? It seems that uh, we’re grabbin’ everybody. I know recently Joe Smith who’s the uh, the president of Electra/Assylum, is the chairman of the board for Electra/Assylum records had mentioned that the record industry now is an upwards of 2.7 billion dollars which makes it the heaviest industry in entertainment and yet, television, for the most part, overlooks the contemporary performer. Do you see a future for contemporary music in television?

Neil:
Well actually um, I think it’s a, television’s more open to uh, uh, to music now than it’s ever been. I, I remember when I first started, ah, it was very difficult to even get a, a guest appearance on television. Um, and now they have the, these um, there are many specials around and uh, um, they have the, the midnight concert show, and so the access to network television is much more open now than it’s ever been. Whether it will continue, I don’t know. I think ah, a lot of it depends upon the uh, the quality of the performers they put on and how well they come off on television. Uh, this whole television thing is a first experience for me and I’ve been very, very nervous about it. Um, ah, but uh, real happy about the way it came out. You know, I almost chickened out this one. I’ve chickened out of a few of them in the last….

Interviewer:
In the last 5 years!

Neil:
Um, but this one’s kind of special and I’m, I’m very proud of it and uh, uh, I feel very good about it.

Interviewer:
Now, Neil Diamond, what about the problem of the progressive rock area? It seems that that’s the one area where you’re not getting airplay. I know initially you did. Why do you feel you’re not getting it now? Do they, is it a matter of being branded too pop?

Neil:
In which area is that?

Interviewer:
The progressive rock area.

Neil:
Progressive rock?

Interviewer:
Yeah, at one time you were getting incredible airplay on those types stations. That seems to be the only area where you’re not getting play. Is it, does it reach a situation when a person becomes immensely popular that the progressive rock stations decide not to play them? Or is it a matter of lifestyle or what is the problem in that area?

Neil:
I don’t know and I tell ya I wish you wouldn’t had of brought up the subject and it makes me feel very unhappy. Um, now the progressive rock, I don’t know, music changes all the time, you know, and there are an awful lot of stations around that play different kinds of music, and I’ve been very lucky. Uh, my music has been played uh, on all kinds of stations, easy listening stations and middle of the road and rock stations and um, FM stations, and so, (cough), I really have no complaints and music is being played and it’s getting out to ah, the people and uh, the ultimate test is that the audience is uh, coming to the concerts and um, people are buying and enjoying the records. So, um, you know, and I’m just going to continue to write whatever musical, music I can write. I’m not trying to cater to any um, radio format. I mean, I’m doing what I can do and uh, uh, I’ve been very lucky and fortunate in my career so uh, I’m, you know, just keep keepin’ on uh, keepin’ on.

Interviewer:
That’s right and what about the motion picture area…and I know you did the Seagull album and the soundtrack. Any more motion picture work and songwriting in the future?

Neil:
Well, I’d like to. Uh, you know the Jonathan Seagull piece was a very interesting kind of piece. It doesn’t, doesn’t come along everyday where they have a very poetic uh, spiritual film where you have the uh, ability to really spread your wings and, and uh, write whatever music you feel and I had pretty much carte blanch for the music that I wrote for that film so, so it was a fascinating project for me. Uh, it’s not uh, every day that a project like that comes along but um, I’m sure I’ll be doing some uh, music um, periodically, you know, as the, as the interesting projects come up.

Interviewer:
I had heard also….

Neil:
It was great fun.

Interviewer:
It was just one of those things. Neil, I was curious about “Beautiful Noise” and adapting it to Broadway. I, I’d heard there’s some talk that you might want to get involved with Broadway.

Neil:
Yeah, when it, when “Beautiful Noise” was written, it was, it was uh, conceptually it was built around uh, the idea of presenting it on stage.

Interviewer:
Um hum

Neil:
And uh, I’d still like to do that. Uh, I’m, I’m leaving next year open to uh, either put that together as a um, Broadway kind of stage presentation or do it as an actual film. Ah, it’s a really interesting story, it’s got some really juicy things in it, and um, it, I think it deserves a larger platform than ah, just limiting it to a recording.

Interviewer:
I agree with ya. I believe it would be excellent performed on stage. Now there was also some talk that Neil Diamond would like to do some motion pictures as an actor. Is that in the cards?

Neil:
Yeah, I’d like to try that too. You know it’s all part of the ongoing education that you ah, if you’re lucky enough, you get the chance to do it and uh, uh, I would like to try it. I, I, I studied acting for a little bit in New York and uh, uh, done a couple of interesting screen tests over the years, and uh, so I, I think in the next year or two I’ll have the chance to try that and I, I definitely want to do it. I, I think it will be good for me and I, uh, I have to learn something from it even if what I learn is that I’m a bad actor. You know, I’ll learn something from it and uh, I think that’s gonna happen.

Interviewer:
We’ll be back with Neil Diamond in one minute. What about, as you look back over your career, some of the songs that are the most meaningful in terms of your life and the songs that you’ll never forget?

Neil:
Well, that’s um, ah, there are some songs that ah, stick out in my mind. Actually I think ah, ah, “Solitary Man” is one because it was, it was my first, the first record that I had that was uh, that had any kind of commercial success, it was accepted by the public to any degree, so that, I guess that will always be in ah, in the back of my mind somewhere, and, of course songs like ah, ah, brother love uh, which has always been a great song for me and a piece for me to do in the show uh, and “I AM…I SAID” which is uh, I, I, I think is one of my, one of my best things um, it’s, it’s held up over the last 6 or 7 years and uh, uh, people are still recording it and people are still being moved by it so I feel very good about that. Ah, it’s generally very difficult to pick out favorites or things like that among the songs because um, they end up being like children and uh, uh, it’s hard to pick your favorite children. They’re all part of you, they represent a certain part of your life, your experience and uh, you put a certain amount of yourself into each of them. Ah, but, I think the three that I mentioned are the ones that um, stick out in my mind first.

Interviewer:
Now, as far as looking ahead to the future, ah, what, what are some albums coming up, what, what are some of the things you’re working on besides of course, the Greek Theater album is out now. What’s coming up in the future?

Neil:
Well, Robbie and I are gonna ah, we started putting together some ideas and uh, I’ve written a number of new songs, which I’m working on now and in the process of completing and um, we’ll have an album out in the fall of uh, brand new songs, that will include some songs from other writers and that, but uh, really a beautiful, beautiful album. That’s what we’re looking to do a very warm, intimate, beautiful, well-orchestrated album. And, uh, I’m hoping to uh, have that, have that completed and released in the fall.

Interviewer:
What about a live performance in Los Angeles again for the…to provide an opportunity for the public to see you again?

Neil:
Well I’d like to do another, um, um, performance here in L.A. in, in ’77. You know I’ve been thinking about it, uh, but I have to really figure something that I can do that I feel is interesting and exciting and fresh, you know?

Interviewer:
Can we put you in a place where there’s a few…where we can accommodate a few more people?

Neil:
I think I probably will have to do that. I was thinking of maybe doing a, um, a big show or a few shows at The Forum, which uh, can be very, very exciting. I’ve played a number of large arenas like that over the states and I think that uh, a show can be developed and uh, and presented in a place like The Forum that could be very exciting. So, I’m, I’m in the process of thinking about that and trying to figure out exactly how I can do it.

Interviewer:
Neil, I hope you do play The Forum because I think there’s an awful lot of people out there who would want to see ya. And when you talk about the small facility out at the Greek Theater, ah, we need, we need The Forum and hopefully….

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