Sydney Press Conference (2-17-76)
Announcer: ??? biggest convention. At 5:00 on the 17th of February it was filled to overflowing with radio, TV, and press reporters from all over Australia. This was to be Neil Diamond’s only appearance for the media while in the country. Cameras and lighting equipment sent silently in waiting. Reporter’s pens were poised and the conference table was topped by a pitcher of water and enough microphones to fill a suitcase. There was a strange air of excitement, not unlike that of a real concert as David Frost entered the room to introduce the press conference.
David Frost: It’s my great pleasure to just do this very brief introduction. When we first started… Paridy and Patterson … everyone told us that the one artist you should really try and persuade to come to Australia was Neil Diamond and of course it is his first concert tour in four years. As you may know, in New Zealand he played in two concerts on his way here … 62,000 people and beat the records of Elton John, Billy Graham, and the Commonwealth Games all in one go…religious and fit and musical all in one go. And now he’s here for a concert tour which is already in terms of its grosses …it’s a record in Australian terms and it’s also a record for any concert tour, anywhere in the world outside the United States. And so it is my privilege to say for the first time in Australia…ladies and gentlemen…Mr. Neil Diamond!
Neil: Thank you assembled ladies and gentlemen… and photographers. Do we have a format to this thing? Or would you just like to ask questions or how should we do it? O.K….I’ll tell you what…if you just tell me your name before you ask a question, it’ll be great.
1st reporter: ??? What can the Australian audiences expect from this concert?
Neil: Ah…you would ask a hard one first, would you. Ah…well, they can expect the best show that I can possibly give. Yeah…
2nd reporter: ????? 2UE. I believe that you were born in Brooklyn.
2nd reporter: Was it a tough neighborhood? How was it?
Neil: I guess it was, but I lived in a kind of enclosed ghetto in a sense. It was a Jewish ghetto in Brooklyn and I was pretty protected and most of the people around were friendly. It was O.K. I think the hardest thing about living in the city…growing up in the city…is that you don’t see very much other than pavement and cars. And I didn’t experience things like trees and grass until I was about thirteen or fourteen years old. That’s really the hardest thing about it.
1st reporter: What type of grass was it?
Neil: Green grass that grows on the lawn. Yeah…
2nd reporter: ??? How many on your family?
Neil: Well, I have a mother and a father. I have one wife, three uncles, a few nephews, one brother…I have a younger brother and I have a wife and I have some kids, too. I have a boy and two girls.
3rd reporter: Apparently you’ve been off the concert stage for a few years now. 1) why were you off and 2) when you came back, why did you choose to come out to Australia to tour?
Neil: O.K. Why did I go off? Well, I went off to save myself, you see, because I had been on the road and performing and traveling for a long time and what happens is that when you’re traveling people don’t treat you as a person. You’re treated as something else and you begin to lose sight of what you are as a person, the real thing. And I felt that I had to get off to find myself again… to find the real person again, and that’s why I got off. And why did I choose Australia to come back? I knew I was going to come back to Australia the minute I got off. I’ve been wanting to come here for a long time and it’s just been in the back of my mind. I knew I was going to come here when I stopped on Broadway at the Winter Garden, I knew I as going to come to Australia for the first time. Call it adventure. Call it the fact that there’s been so many good things coming from Australia toward me that I just felt that it would be good…that it would be a happy experience for me. So that’s why Australia…adventure and because it’s what I want to do.
Play: “I Am…I Said”
3rd reporter: ???? National News. ??? changed????
Neil: Well, it has changed because there are new songs. I’ve written lots of new songs in the last few years. Jonathan Seagull, which has now become part of the concert performance is included in the show. A number of the songs from “Serenade”…from the “Serenade” album are included and it’s also changed because I’m three and a half years older and wiser…well, maybe only a year and half wiser. I haven’t caught up with the time span yet, but I’ve changed. So the concert has changed.
3rd reporter: What can we expect to see?
Neil: A changed Neil Diamond.
4th reporter: Neil, you said that the turning point in your career several years ago was when you finally discovered that you were a human being.
Neil: Yes, I woke up and …turning point? Now? I’m not sure there is a turning point now. You mean the reason that I’m back and performing again?
4th reporter: Well, your publicity bloke here said that you were going into new phases of your career. ???
Neil: We can call it middle age. I don’t know. Ask my publicity bloke. He came up with the idea.
4th reporter: Are you any different than you were several years ago?
Neil: Sure…I’ve read a lot. I’ve met more people. I’ve grown up, you know, I’ve grown up. I was a mere child when I left the stage.
4th reporter: How do you feel now, when you are on the stage?
Neil: Great…It’s the highest most exciting experience that I could ever experience and that I ever have experienced. That’s why I do it…’cause it’s fun.
5th reporter: Neil, you’ve been quoted as saying that performing is a lot like making love.
5th reporter: Have you been frustrated over the past three years when you haven’t been performing?
Neil: You bet!
6th reporter: ????…Neil, how much has your early environment affected the music you’re playing up until now and what you’re going to play?
Neil: It had tremendous effect on it because I’m from New York City and New York is just an accumulation of not only all kinds of different people and groups, but different kinds of music. Because every group has it’s own music…the black American has his music and the Spanish-American, the Italian-American, and the Jewish-American …and it all just came together. I was in the choral groups when I was in school…when I was in public school and I was just exposed to so many different kinds of music that it naturally had an effect on what I like and what I do and therefore it plays a part in all the music that I write now…my experiences in New York.
7th reporter: ??? writing songs for a commercial company ????
Neil: No, not really. I was unhappy because I wasn’t writing songs that anyone would accept. I would have gladly written whatever it was that they wanted. I just wasn’t able to do it. I didn’t really begin to find myself as a writer until I began to write things that I felt. But I tried to write what they wanted. I just didn’t do it very well.
Play: “Cherry, Cherry”
8th reporter: Neil, if you recorded another “Rainbow” album, what kind of songs would you use?
Neil: Another “Rainbow” album? You mean songs?
8th reporter: Which artists ??? would you use?
Neil: Well, actually I have a list I’ve kept for the last few years of songs that were written by other people that I want to record, and I’m going to do that. I’m not exactly sure which ones yet, but it’s something that I definitely have in mind. I love to do other people’s songs. They’re like …you don’t have the same psychological hang up when you’re doing someone else’s song. When you’re doing yours, you’re so involved in it that sometimes you…you know…it’s just fresher. It’s more fun for me to do other people’s songs. It’s more difficult for me to do my own.
Announcer: A song that Roger Miller had a lot of success with. Here’s Neil Diamond…
Play: “Husbands And Wives”
9th reporter: Neil, could you describe the people you mentioned on the live album recorded at the Greek Theatre?
Neil: You mean physically?
9th reporter: What it looks like????
Neil: The Greek Theatre is nestled in the mountains…in the San Gabriel mountains in Los Angeles. It’s kind of dug and carved out of the side of a mountain. It’s surrounded by palm trees…not palm trees…pine trees that go up the mountain. And it’s like an enclosed area that somehow finds itself in the middle of nature…if you can image an amphitheatre in the middle of a forest. It’s very special and very beautiful.
10th reporter: ????? Do you ever play football ????
Neil: Well, I played a couple of places in New Zealand and we played…What was the name of that place … Western Springs in New Zealand and it was a similar kind of a thing. I guess there were something like 36 or 37 thousand people there. It was fantastic and there was no problem…as a matter of fact I was at the Sydney Sports Ground this afternoon just to see it and to get a feeling for it and I was knocked out. I think it’s going to be an extraordinary place to play because the grass is comfortable to sit on. I think everyone is going to be able to see and the way that we have the show set up, it’s going to be very special.
11th reporter: Neil, we’ve heard a bit about the new stage that you’ve built for this tour. Can you tell us about it?
Neil: Well, we found a man in New York whose name is Imertio Florentino and Imerio has had…he’s one of the great stage designers and lighting designers. He is the man who lit the photograph that was first bounced off Telstar and came back to the United States. The United States government called in Imerio Florentino and he’s done the Bolshoy ballet in New York and many many operas. Imerio has designed what I think is an extraordinary stage setting. It’s more like a jewel box than anything else. And also we have a tent…a movable tent. It’s kind of a…I guess if I had to describe it…I’d describe it as kind of a portable Sydney Opera House, And at a much lower price, I might add. And it’s something that we’ll be using at the Sports Ground and it’s rather extraordinary. I don’t know if I can really go and describe it, but it’s like some space-age tent with enormous wings that enclose the stage and the band and all of the lighting system. So you’re looking at a jewel box…hopefully.
12th reporter: You don’t use an orchestra here…a full orchestra like you did on “Hot August Night.” Jonathan Seagull depends heavily on orchestral arrangements. How are you going to do that at the Sportsground?
Neil: What I’m going to do is that I have the most extraordinary musicians that you’ve ever heard in your life first of all. And second of all, we brought along an entire bank of synthesizers which I think will capture the mood and effect of not only “Hot August Night,” but the Jonathan Seagull music as well. But I’m looking forward especially to the Sportsground. I think that’s going to be astounding
Play “Crunchy Granola Suite”
13th reporter: Neil, ??? remembered as someone who made beautiful music. Is there some direction would you like to take in the future? Also, ???
Neil: Is there somewhere I would take my music in the future? I think I satisfied myself in working with large orchestras when I did Jonathan Seagull. Some of the orchestras that we used on a number of the pieces was as large as 120 pieces. And it was great and it was satisfying and I spent a year working with that so I don’t know if I’d like to do that. Basically the music will reflect whatever growth that I go through. It reflects the person and so I want to keep myself open just to grow and see things and experience things and that’s one of the reasons I’m here in Australia. Because Australia is going to generate music in me. It’s that simple.
13th reporter: And do you regard the writing as more important than the performing? ????
Neil: Well, I think that a balance between the two is good. I’d hate to think that I’d be locked in a room for the rest of my life trying to write songs. You have to also experience life, as well. And so touring and performing and going out and meeting people gives me the opportunity to gather all the experiences and then to go back home and to write about them.
14th reporter: You’ve managed to keep your private image quite private. Was that necessary for you?
Neil: Oh, yeah, it is…because how can you live otherwise? There must be a part of yourself that’s just to yourself and especially as a writer, you know. When you’re writing you can …you must be…you must have the privacy or you can’t do any work. So my work comes first and therefore my privacy is very important.
14th reporter: ????
Neil: A masque? What do you mean?
14th reporter: ???
Neil: But I’m not an actor. When I first got on stage I tried to be many different things. I tried to understand who I was on stage and I realized that I couldn’t be anyone but myself on stage and I enjoy being myself on stage. And I felt at that time that if people could accept me as myself, then this is what I would do and if they couldn’t, then I would find something else to do.
14th reporter: Has it been a tough job ?????
Neil: No, actually, it gets easier and easier because I’ve become more and more experienced at it. Money is a couple of things. Money is freedom for an artist. It gives me the freedom to stop working and performing and traveling. It gives me the freedom to go to Paris and study. It gives me the freedom to experience things so that I can write about them. And also money gives me privacy, which fortunately most people don’t have to pay for, but which I have to pay for very heavily. Basically, the really great thing about it is it gives me the freedom to do as I want to and to live my life as I want to live it and that’s the joy of it.
Play: “Longfellow Serenade”
15th reporter: ??? Were you nervous about your decision to ???
Neil: Yeah, I was nervous about it. First of all, when I stopped performing, I stopped with a show on Broadway and it was a very high point …the New York critics and The Times started to compare me with Judy Garland and with Danny Kaye and … It frightened me when it happened because I felt that I shouldn’t be compared with these people. First of all, because I’m my own person. So that was a little frightening and it’s also…you’re a little bit nervous …you know the very first show I did was just a couple of weeks ago and I was very uncertain as to what would happen. Would I make a fool of myself or … and actually it worked out beautifully. So, I was nervous about it. I am no longer nervous about it.
Play: “Crunchy Granola Suite”
16th reporter: Did you try to take your music off “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”?
Neil: No, actually I didn’t try to take my music off of it, but I learned something very interesting when you’re involved with movies. And that is that the producer of the film really controls everything. He’s kind of a slave master. And I had an agreement with the producer of the film not to edit any of the music once it went into the film. Unfortunately there were some slow moments in the film and he decided to cut out some pieces and he cut up one song into seven sections and dropped it in the film which upset me and I sued him. The courts said that I was right and made him put the music back the way it was.
17th reporter: So you weren’t entirely happy with the way “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was handled. Were you happy with the film itself?
Neil: No, I was not happy with the film. I loved the photography. I thought it was fantastic, and I thought the music was O.K., too…for a first effort, but the film did not come together for some reason. I think it was an impossible film to make to begin with … much too ethereal. Maybe it will come into it’s own someday, but it’s just too odd a film to be a commercial (cuts off)
Remainder of Press Conference missing. If anyone has a more complete copy, please e-mail me at email@example.com.