Peter Edwards (3-1-76) with Marty Smith interview (12-7
John Cook: Good morning, everyone. There’s a special guest in the studio this morning. I have a voice that is very well known to you and that is Peter Edwards, Five AM’s breakfast announcer. Good morning, Peter.
Peter: Good morning, Johnny. Good morning, everyone.
John: You’ve just had a very hectic and fantastic weekend in Melbourne and you came back this morning and you did your brecky show and you must be feeling a little bit tired and beat, but it’s all worth while because something pretty important happened with you and a lot of other people in Melbourne over the weekend.
Peter: It was important, John, because I feel it was one of the nicest, most beautiful weekends I have ever spent in my life. I was asked to go over with a couple of other guys from Adelaide radio to see Neil Diamond’s concert at Melbourne on Saturday night. And it was absolutely incredible. The guy’s incredible! His music’s incredible! He’s a beautiful person.
John: Neil, of course, is in Australia and he’s coming to Adelaide for football part this coming Saturday night.
John: And, when he was in Melbourne he was appearing at the Myer Music Bowl.
Peter: He did three concerts there. One on Friday, one Saturday, and the final one was last night. The Saturday night concert I was told was perhaps a little bit better …if that’s a good word to use… than the Friday night concert in the fact that he feels that he needs a couple of warm-up concerts to really be at his best and he had the opportunity to on Friday night of warming up. Apparently, the crowd that went along to the Friday night show were equally as impressed as I was with the Saturday night event.
John: When we think of an outdoor event in Melbourne, one always tends to be a bit dubious about the weather and something like that…to have it mucked up by a bad night would be terrible. How was the weather?
Peter: It was a great night. It was cool…pleasantly cool. We had magnificent seats. I don’t know if people here realize that the Myer Music Bowl slips down into the pit area and for about the first fifteen rows of seats, you’re a little bit under the stage. We were in the fifteenth row which is exactly level with the stage…right in the middle. And it was really a magnificent seating area to be in. The crowd there numbered roughly in the twenty thousand mark. Fifteen thousand of those people had paid and there were a few extras got in obviously tree people and people like that snuck in, but no one seemed to mind.
John: One of the incredible things about Neil Diamond, Pete, is that…let’s face it…he has universal appeal. The young boppers love his music and the grandmas and the granddads …people of eighty years of age…are incredibly wrapped up in Diamond. They have all of his records and that, so did you notice that sort of thing in the crowd? You certainly have that cross section.
Peter: The main age people would be between twenty and forty, but there were a lot of older people than that and there were quite a few younger people…ten-fifteen age.
John: So you’ve got that sort of range from the Bay City Rollers almost through to a symphony concert or something like that as well.
Peter: The concert itself, John, was a great happening and before it took place…when people were arriving…there was this great air of expectation and you could feel the excitement in the crowd. I’ve never experienced anything like it. He came on stage roughly ten minutes late and went into that great number he does, “Soolaimon.” And within, I should say, ten seconds of him appearing he had the crowd just where he wanted them. And he held them for around about two hours and ten minutes with some really beautiful music. Did roughly half of what is recorded on “Hot August Night.” Did numbers from the “Serenade” album and he did an absolutely brilliant sixteen minutes of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” music. And then he walked off stage, was called back three times…really outstanding ovations, and the third time he came back he walked on stage and shook his head. He looked at the crowd and then he smiled…this beautiful, warm smile. Obviously, he was very appreciative of the audience there.
John: We’ll get back in a moment and talk about more aspects of the concert and the music Neil was doing. And also Neil as a guy because you had the tremendous pleasure of chatting to him after the show. Peter and I are talking about Neil Diamond and Neil Diamond for Adelaide this coming Saturday. What a spectacular event that will be.
Announcer: John Cook and Peter Edwards were talking about Peter’s amazing experience over the weekend viewing the Neil Diamond in Melbourne at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl and meeting Neil Diamond after the show.
Announcer: We’ll get on to the music, I think, John, because this is what it’s all about. It’s been ???
Peter: There are two well-known names from “Hot August Night,” Dennis St.; John on drums, who’s also the leader of his band and an amazing guy, Alan Lindgren, who worked the synthesizers on Saturday night. He has a grand pianist ??? world of music that this guy could use.
John: These are all people that he brought out from America?
Peter: Yes, he has as well as Dennis St. John on drums, he has a guy from Nassua who plays the congo drums and a backup female singer who helps him out on a couple of the numbers who has a beautiful voice, three guitarists and Neil on guitar as well. That’s the composition of the band. They’re on stage, as I mentioned, for something like two hours. They really work hard. Neil is probably one of the best guitarists I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. His music, as I said, ranged from songs like “Soolaimon” to I Am…I Said.” He did a couple of his earlier numbers like “Kentucky Woman,” “Sweet Caroline.” He had an encore for that in which one bank of speakers broke down. He went through the final ???, stopped and said “Right, we’re not going to do any more music until the speakers are fixed.” He said it in a nice way. They got to work…they were back in action in about a minute. This is the kind of guy he is. He’s conscious of people as individuals and he comes across this way… this magnificent feeling that he’s singing to you and talking to you alone and he’s able to get involvement I’ve never seen before. You know you go to a concert and they call for audience participation. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. It happened instantaneously on Saturday night with “Song Sung Blue” which he composed during one of his depressed states when he was listening to some classical music and liked what he heard and adapted it into that. That went on for about ten minutes. He involved the whole audience in that and got it immediately. And then he swung his attention onto three policemen. Just to put you in the picture here…along the two sides of the Music Bowl there were policemen and security men and people from the ambulance brigade over there…all lined up. But there were three policemen on their own, right in the very corner down near the front of the stage and he decided that they should sing “Song Sung Blue” with him. If you’ve ever seen three policemen singing “Song Sung Blue” and waving in unison to the time of the music and giving their hand actions… this is the kind of appeal that that guy’s got.
John: Well, I (stutters)…don’t think that sort of thing has ever happened before and probably never will. That is for sure a very unique aspect of what the Diamond concert ??? is all about.
Peter: One other thing he did which was rather interesting was the fact that many people, of course, took binoculars with them to have a better view of Neil. He asked for a pair about half way through the concert and then sat down for ten minutes and reversed the tables and talked to people that he could see through the binoculars and really drew them into his part of the show and made them feel really important.
John: One of the best selling LPs of all time … probably is the best, actually, is “Hot August Night,” Peter, as you know. It’s sold more copies than any other LP in Australia.
Peter: Yeah, I believe about one in every four homes in Australia has it.
John: …has a copy of “Hot August Night” which is fantastic. And this is to me when the whole unique aspect of a Neil Diamond open air concert first appeared on the scene with the Greek Theatre and of course we’re looking for a very similar thing here in Adelaide. We’ll get it, too…next Saturday night, which is going to be so tremendous. Here is one of his very early songs recorded live at the Greek Theatre from “Hot August Night” and it’s a very personal Neil Diamond type of testament which is typical of a lot of his material called “Solitary Man.”
Play: “Solitary Man”
John: We have an interview now which was recorded by 5DN program manager Marty Smith with Neil Diamond in 1972. It was the first ever Australian radio interview with Neil Diamond. Neil was in America and Marty spoke to him for about fifteen minutes on the phone from the studio here at 5DN. Now in a couple of Neil Diamond songs, he specifically mentions his origins. One of them is “I Am…I Said.” The other one is “Brooklyn Roads.” Well, he talks about being born in New York and living in Los Angeles and having a slight… shall we say… personality thing of being drawn between the two cities on either side of America…one on the west coast, the other on the east coast. And just a bit of confusion of identity as to where he really belonged. And firstly, Marty will talk to Neil about just what his childhood origins are, where he was born, how he grew up, and how he started to become a singer in the first place. Marty Smith and Neil Diamond….
Neil: Well, it was kind of a normal childhood. I grew up in New York City and I lived in a couple of places in New York, went to quite a few schools. New York is a strange place to grow up, but it can also be very interesting. New York doesn’t have any open spaces that you have in Australia, but a lot of pavement, a lot of tall buildings, but it’s quite an exciting city. For a child growing up in that city, in that kind of environment, it can be very educational and have a very strong effect on forming the personality. I think that New York and what it’s been …what it is… has had a tremendous effect on my music in so far as it’s the drama of the city and the many different types of music that you find in New York and I’m thankful for that. Really, I think it’s been a very strong and good influence on me.
Marty: What kind of people were your parents, Neil?
Neil: Well, one was a male and the other was a female.
Marty: In particular.
Neil: Kind of a…my parents were very simple, second-generation Americans. My father was a shopkeeper and my mother also worked in the shop, and I worked in the shop, also… when I was younger. They were very free as far as my music and my desire to write and to sing were concerned. I’m kind of thankful for that. I didn’t really run into any problems. I did start when I went to New York University. I was a pre-medical student, and my heart really was in music and they were very open with me and I never really had any problems as far as what I wanted to do. They are good people… simple people.
Marty: It has been suggested that these days you are something of a loner. Do you think that even in those days, you were a lonely person? Or are you a lonely person today?
Neil: I don’t think as much today, but I found myself in a situation when I was younger with my … I went to quite a few schools and every time you go into a new school you find out that you’re a stranger to the school so you have to go make some friends. It was difficult for me. I wasn’t really a particularly social person and I think that…more than anything else… affected me and caused that loner kind of attitude on my part, but I think I’ve been able to work out of that and become more of a social animal.
John: 5EN’s program manager, Marty Smith is talking with the man who is going to stun thousands of people in South Australia this Saturday night …football park…Neil Diamond.
Marty: Do you think your career has gone the way you wanted it to go?
Neil: Do I think that my career has what? Gone the way I wanted it to go?
Marty: Yes…did you ever…
Neil: Well, I can’t really say that I’ve had any complaints. I’ve done really what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve written the music that I wanted to write. I really haven’t had many limitations imposed on me by professionals in the music business.
Neil: The success has been tremendous and success can overcome a lot of feelings of inadequacy.
Marty: Is money important to you?
Marty: How important? More important than singing just merely for the words and the feeling you get from songs?
Neil: You asked me how important singing is?
Marty: Which is more important to you? Do you sing for money or do you sing for the love of it?
Neil: Well, that’s a…I mean I sing because that’s what I do. I don’t know. Money is secondary. It happens to be one of the things that you derive from …when you’re successful in anything. But…and I suppose you …you have to make a living. You have to feed yourself. You have to be able to live in some kind of helter, but once you go beyond that…once that is assured… you know you can eat and that you’re not going to have to live out on the street or anything. Other considerations come to the fore and I sing because it’s one of the things that I do best, and I think that everybody likes to do what they do well… I suppose that, more than any other reason. I’ve been singing since I was ten years old for the pure love of it …enjoyment of it.
Marty: Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Neil: Yes, I remember it very well. I had written four or five songs …the first four or five I wrote I brought to someone who has been in…a professional writer, who was very successful at that time. And he said to me that one of the things he missed most was that he could never recall his first song. And I made up my mind then to always have some recording of that first song. I remember it very well. It’s a song called “Hear Them Bells” and it was…it was really quite forgettable. But it was important in my life because it opened up my life to a whole new world, really, and I suppose I’ll remember it for as long as I live.
John: ??? Neil Diamond
Marty: Who encouraged you and guided you in those early recording days?
Neil: Well, actually, when I first started, I didn’t get into recording. I was writing and I was encouraged by the need to do it and I didn’t really get too much encouragement from the music people in the business. I was a beginner and really the excitement of being a writer and being a singer was all the encouragement really that I needed. The prospect of being able to do that and be successful at it …it was something that I had dreamed about. That was the encouragement. The need for the acceptance and the love of what I was doing…those ingredients resulted in the…this giant birthday cake that I find that I have before me at this point.
Well, I don’t really know ??? once said that creative genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration and I tend to agree. Most of the things that I’ve done…most of the music that I’ve written and performed have involved a lot of work and a lot of care and some part of it is also inspiration…a creative thing coming out. I suppose some of it is God given, but I just also know that it involves a lot of work.
Marty: What is more important to you? The past, the present, or the future?
Neil: Well, up until recently, it’s been the past and the future, really, but I’m beginning to feel that maybe I’ve become preoccupied with those things and have left out the enjoyment of the present. So I’m kind of concentrating on here and now and hoping to enjoy ??? this time.
Marty: There were some stories printed in the press here that you were going to quit the business for a couple of years and drop out and come back and perhaps be a new kind of Neil Diamond in three years? Were these stories true or are you going to continue recording and performing?
Neil: Well, what I want to do is stay off the road…come off …stop doing concerts for a little while. I don’t know exactly how long. I will continue to write and to record and explore and hopefully grow in those areas, but I really need a rest from the road. I’ve been doing it for a long time and it is very exciting, but it’s also a tremendous drain because you need to devote yourself to it in order to do it very well and it takes away from part of you that you’d like maybe to devote to yourself and you find that your energies are devoted to that. And so I stopped doing concerts two months ago and I suppose that I’ll start again when I feel that I have something that is so exciting and so interesting to me that it’s enough to bring me out of this kind of sabbatical and go back on the road.
John: Well, for the love of music fans, Neil Diamond is back on the road and he’s heading towards West Lakes in South Australia this Saturday night and thousands of you, I know, will be heading down there, too.
Marty: Did you involve yourself in the great moral and social issues in America? Do you campaign at all or…
Neil: Well, I…only to a very superficial degree. I did some fund raising things for Sargent Shriver at the request of the Kennedy family, and I…but really I haven’t involved myself deeply in the political arena here. I just feel that there’s got to be some kind of separation and that I don’t know whether it’s right for entertainers to use their name to support a political figure because I just think it’s two completely different fields and generally my attitude is that I prefer to keep my political beliefs to myself and to act on them by myself rather than try and exploit my name in supporting political people.
Announcer: Neil Diamond and Martin Smith through 5D and talking this morning and the biggest selling LP of all time Neil Diamond recorded live on hot August nights at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. This amazing outdoor amphitheatre which Neil is going to talk to Marty right now…this incredible Greek Theatre where he recorded the biggest selling LP of all time.
Neil: Well, the Greek Theatre is one of the great theatres in the world. I’ve played some beautiful theatres in Europe and in the United States and I performed on Broadway and played Carnegie Hall in New York, but the Greek Theatre is a special kind of a platform. It’s set in a park in Los Angeles…an enormous park called Griffith Park and it holds something like forty five hundred people and it’s surrounded by these enormous pine trees. And the stage itself which has…it’s almost set in the middle of a forest. Just for the scenery…for the beauty of what you see…it’s awe inspiring. I had played there the year before and the response was just tremendous. So we wanted to really do something special…spectacular. We had a sound system designed for quadraphonic sound and it was a performance without intermission …a two hour performance and something like thirty-five strings and my band. It was really an extraordinary experience for me…probably the most exciting performing experience that I’ve ever had and the fact that it’s been recorded is nice to me because it’s an actual record of a happening and …The Greek Theatre is almost indescribable. It’s almost as though nature had created that theatre and when you go there, you’re performing under the stars. You’re performing in the center of this forest and beautiful, beautiful pine trees which are lit. It’s quite an experience…quite an experience from a performer’s as well as the audience’s point of view. We tried to capture a small part of what the Greek Theatre was on this record and I’m very pleased with it, actually.
John: The interview we just played was recorded by Marty with Neil Diamond back in 1972. Peter Edwards saw the concert in Melbourne on Saturday night and he met the man after the show and we’d like for you to tell us all about him.
Peter: Right! I think from what people have heard of that interview they’ve obviously found that Neil is an extremely easy person to listen to and he’s equally as easy to talk to. He’s responsive. He’s interested in you as a person and he really brings this out of you. He’s interested in his music, naturally, but he’s interested in so much more. He’s interested in life itself.
How I met him was really quite interesting. We went back stage afterwards and there were so many people there because the Lord Mayor had been backstage with a party of people. There were other people there and they were downstairs talking with Neil. And so the two other guys from Adelaide and myself went out to the bus to go back to the hotel and then eventually on to a party which Neil was going to. We got on the bus and in about twenty minutes…. There were around 1,000 people waiting to see him go outside the theatre. And all of a sudden this guy appeared and said “Are you with so and so and so?” And we said, “Yes.” And he said, “Well, Neil Diamond is waiting downstairs to meet you.” He’d obviously found out that we were there. We came across and he was very interesting to talk to.
Peter: He mentioned something along the lines that he’s developed into a social animal. He still appreciates his privacy very much, but he also again appreciates the fact that he’s got to talk to people. He’s got to be seen at parties and so forth. He said to me that he likes this scene now where a number of years ago it wasn’t really him. He ostensively is a shy kind of person, but he warms to people very quickly if he likes them, obviously.
John: When you really look at it that way you’ve got two distinct sides to his life…he’s in public so much…you couldn’t be a more public person than to have 20,000 people cheering and singing along with you as will happen on Saturday night. Now after being so public for such a time, I should image privacy is something he would cherish.
Peter: Yes, he says he pays dearly for his privacy in America and he has an estate which is …
John: You can’t be on show all the time, can you:
Peter: No, that’s right. He has a lot of security people.
John: Well, actually, you met him. Was this at the party afterwards?
Peter: No, I met him backstage and also at the party a couple of times. He came up and said “Hi” and spoke to us at length for about twenty or thirty minutes.
John: And at the party he mixed around with people?
Peter: Oh, yes. There were a couple hundred people there. One thing I really like to mention, John, which was really outstanding and that’s the finale of his concert. After he did the sixteen minute medley of numbers from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” he walked off stage. It took about five minutes for him to come back. The audience was as one. They stood, they clapped, and they cheered. The band came back. He came back. And he did a couple of numbers including “Brother Love’s Traveling Show” which was absolutely out of this world. Then he walked off again and back and as I mentioned before, he walked on stage, shook his head, smiled this beautiful warm smile…obviously very appreciative of the audience’s response. He sang this very beautiful song with comes from the “Serenade” album. It’s called “I’ve Been This Way Before.” The words are beautiful.
Play: “Ive Been This Way Before”