Tony Blackburn

Tony Blackburn (12-9-74)

… throw them immediately in front of a microphone, we like to sort of ease them into this with a nice cup of coffee, or that’s what we hope it is this morning, and we’ll be chatting to Neil I guess after the next record.

That’s one of our Radio One – I can’t say Radio One this morning! – Radio One new spin LPs, and that’s a number called Mr Businessman. Nine and a half minutes past eleven o’clock, and welcome to my very first guest, Neil Diamond.

ND:
Hello Tony, how are you, nice to see you again.

TB:
Yes, it’s been a long, long time hasn’t it.

ND:
Yes it has, you look marvellous, as I said before.

TB:
Thank you very much, you’re looking very good yourself!

ND:
Thank you.

TB:
Tell me something, where have you been, because you haven’t been over here for about three or four years, have you?

ND:
No, actually I was here about three years ago, and I really committed myself to stop touring for a while, to concentrate on writing some songs that were pleasing to me, and also to learn how to live a normal kind of existence that most people, most entertainers aren’t really permitted to live, and it’s been fantastic for me, fantastic, you know, to live like a normal person can, get up in the morning, to have breakfast, you know, it’s a whole new experience for me, it’s been wonderful. But now I’m preparing again next year to go out and do some concerts, I have some really spectacular new material, so I’m looking forward to that now.

TB:
When you say permitting yourself to lead a normal life once again, what do you find difficult leading a normal life when you’re touring? Is it just the living from one hotel to another that’s the problem?

ND:
Yes, that’s – the travelling, you know, when you’re constantly travelling and on the move it’s very difficult to establish any kind of roots, it’s – you miss simple things like birthdays, like Christmas, like New Year’s, you know, and special occasions when your friends are getting together and you can’t be there because you’re in Afghanistan performing somewhere, and – I always felt that I was missing out on that, and in the last couple of years I’ve been to all the birthday parties and it’s been marvellous, just marvellous.

TB:
It’s a sort of problem with loneliness really then, is it? I mean, not having your friends –

ND:
Yeah, you know you do get that, just feel kind of left out after a while, you know, not to experience these things with your friends. Very difficult to establish friendships and relationships with people while you’re constantly travelling. No, I wanted to stop for a while, I’d been performing and travelling for seven or eight years, and I wanted to know what it was like to live a normal, quiet, peaceful life that you live.

TB:
So now that you’ve lived that normal, peaceful life, are you fed up with it now, or …

ND:
No, I’m not fed up with it at all, I’ve experienced it and it’s been fantastic, and now basically my blood that rushes through my veins cries out now for the stage, and the material that I have now is, I think, very suitable for the stage, and we have some spectacular things in mind for the new show, and I’m looking forward to that too.

TB:
When you say, of course you write songs, you write the music and the lyrics, what do you find comes first? Is it something you see or experience, or is it the actual melody that comes first?

ND:
Well, it’s difficult to say. I guess for the most part the music comes first, the music is very emotional and non-intellectual, you don’t think about it, you just write it, and the music suggests the story, suggests the lyric, then it’s up to the writer to put down the right story and to do his work well.

TB:
So you do write absolutely from the heart, do you? ‘Cause I remember once meeting a songwriter who wrote some very beautiful songs, and I said ‘Are these personal experiences?’ and he said, ‘No, they’re just chord sequences really, I just sit down and write them’. Which rather destroyed it for me a little bit. But from you it is an experience from the heart, is it, mainly?

ND:
Yes, the music is very close to me, and I think also for this writer that you’re talking about as well, even though the lyric ideas may not be directly from his experience, there’s no way that you can avoid expressing yourself in the music and in the lyrics. I’m sure you could find quite a bit of him in the way he puts the lyrics together and what he says, he still has to make those choices. But music for me is a very personal experience, and very close to what I am as a person.

TB:
On the subject of music, let’s have a little break right now for a bit of music, shall we? Thirteen and a half minutes past eleven.

… a number called Love Is All. Right, that brings the time now to sixteen minutes past eleven o’clock here on wonderful Radio One this morning. Neil, we were talking about your songwriting. Of course you’ve been doing nothing else but writing songs for the last year or so, is that right?

ND:
Well, almost nothing else. Occasionally I’ll go out and see a movie.

TB:
(Laughter) How many songs have you written over the last year?

ND:
I’ve written maybe ten or twelve songs, I like to spend time with each song and give it the kind of care that it deserves.

TB:
When was the first time in your life you realised that you wanted to be a singer and songwriter?

ND:
I never really – I never really had the ambition to be a singer. Originally I started writing poetry to girls in my classes at school when I was a youngster, and – through one thing or other I started taking guitar lessons when I was in my teens, and almost immediately the two came together, the poetry and the music and I started immediately writing songs, and I’ve been writing ever since.

TB:
What gives you the most pleasure, actually performing a song, or writing it perhaps?

ND:
Well, they’re both really completely different. Songwriting is very substantial and it can last for years, you can write a song and then five years later still enjoy it, whereas a concert is very much a thing of the moment, tremendously exciting, tremendously exhilarating, but it has its limits and it doesn’t go beyond the time of the performance. But they both have their little satisfactions.

TB:
I would have thought you probably enjoyed television as well, having seen some of your – you did an In Concert programme here once, I think I’m right in saying, on BBC2.

ND:
Yes.

TB:
Do you like television, or –

ND:
Actually I’ve stayed away from television for the most part, although last night I did a Shirley Bassey show which came out just wonderfully, but of course she’s a fantastic artist, and I’m very excited about that particular show. But generally I’ve avoided television because you lack that real close contact with the audience that you get when you’re doing a concert.

TB:
The show that you’re talking about presumably will be shown over Christmas, I should imagine?

ND:
Yes, that’s a Christmas special.

TB:
Is that BBC1 or 2, do you know?

ND:
I’m not sure what it is, but it’s quite a spectacular show.

TB:
What were you doing in that, do you do a number with Shirley Bassey?

ND:
Yes, we do a number together, we do a song called Play Me together, and she is absolutely fantastic, and we – I think we both fell in love during that song!

TB:
(Laughs) Who are your favourite artists? I mean, are you influenced songwriting-wise by any other songwriter?

ND:
Well, I’m sure I have been over my lifetime, but d’you know, my favourite people have been either classical composers or certain folk singers, I was very much into The Weavers and Pete Seeger when I was younger, and Odetta. As far as pop people, the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison were real big favourites of mine when I was a kid, and then of course more recently the Beatles, and of course my good friend Elton John.

TB:
How about Gilbert O’Sullivan, are you –

ND:
Yes, he’s quite good, he’s quite good.

TB:
He’s popping in to see us in a couple of days, actually.

ND:
Yes, please send him my regards.

TB:
I will. OK then, let’s have a little bit more music. How about Elvis Presley, one of your favourites, or –

ND:
As a matter of fact we live next door to each other, so we wave to each other over the fence every once in a while!

TB:
22 and a half minutes past eleven here on 247. That’s quite something to live next door to Elvis Presley, that’s not bad at all, Neil (laughter)

ND:
Well, actually it does have its problems, you know, Elvis always has a group of people in front of his house, and – er – I have a group of people in front of my house, so occasionally he will send his people over to my house, and I’ll send – they’ll call me up and they’ll say ‘is Elvis here?’ and I’ll say no, he’s next door, and then I’ll send my group of people over to his house, and it’s kind of fun!

TB:
(Laughter) Is he very rarely in, or not?

ND:
Well, he travels quite a bit, but we do see each other every once in a while.

TB:
Is there any favourite song that you’ve written, do you think, what is your all-time favourite, the ones that you’ve done?

ND:

Um – very difficult to say, I suppose if I had to pick one I would choose I Am … I Said.

TB:
Yeah, that’s a lovely song. I like Stones as well, that’s a nice song.

ND:
Tell you what Neil, can I give you these cards now, I’ve got six cards that we’ve already read out, I’d like you to select your favourite out of these, OK? I’ll let you read them over just a little bit, ’cause we’re going up to the news fairly shortly.

TB:
Now Neil, we’ve been having a lot of phone calls from people asking what was going to be my next question in actual fact – you see, you should have held on and saved yourselves a phone call! – a lot of people are ringing in asking whether or not you’re going to be doing any live appearances this time.

ND:
Yes, absolutely. I’ll be appearing here sometime in the spring, I’m hoping to do the new concert show in the springtime here.

TB:
And will you be touring the country with that, or –

ND:
That’s possible. We haven’t said it yet, but – er – I have a feeling that we’ll be able to get about in England.

TB:
But you’re not going to be doing any live appearances this time, on your stay here now?

ND:
No, no, just this particular Shirley Bassey show.

TB:
When do you go back to Los Angeles?

ND:
I’ll be going back Wednesday.

TB:
Uh-huh. Tell me something, you’ve never written a song, nobody I don’t think has ever written a song about the pollution thing in Los Angeles, with that terribly dark cloud floating above the city!

ND:
No, it’s not a particularly inviting subject. We try to avoid it as much as possible in Los Angeles.

TB:
Do you like Los Angeles yourself?

ND:
I love it, I love it. It’s a fantastic city, the weather is just beautiful all year round, except for the smog and an occasional earthquake it’s very comfortable!

TB:
(Laughter) How often do you get an earthquake then?

ND:
Actually we had one there a few days ago, they have small ones and big ones and – it makes life interesting though!

TB:
I bet you were terrified, weren’t you?

ND:
Yes.

TB:
What does it feel like, you just feel this sort of slight shudder, do you?

ND:
Well, actually the last big earthquake we had there, which was a 6.5, they judge them on a scale up to 10. 10 is total destruction, this one was 6.5 and it happened about 5.30 in the morning, and it knocked me out of bed, it was quite frightening. And my dog had puppies at the moment of the earthquake, which was unusual because we didn’t know that she was pregnant!

TB:
(Laughter) That’s getting a little bit close to the 10 mark, isn’t it, 6.5.

ND:
Yeah, it was quite frightening, some buildings came down.

TB:
That’s not too good is it? Anyhow, we’ve been busily, or I should say you’ve been busily selecting our winning card, so –

ND:
Yes, I’ve found one here that I think has fantastic potential. Should I read it, Tony?

TB:
Yes please.

ND:
OK, well, this is from Beryl Lyons in Brighton, and it goes like this:
I’ve cooked and prepared for the festive season
And now I don’t see any reason
Why it should be so very shocking
If I found Tom Jones in my Xmas stocking!
And I think that’s very good.

TB:
That’s rather nice isn’t it, who was that again, Beryl –

ND:
Beryl Lyons.

TB:
She lives in Sussex, Brighton in Sussex.

ND:
Right.

TB:
Well, congratulations, you’ve won the first Christmas pudding, and also we’ll be sending a pen to you. Neil, thank you very much indeed for being with us this morning.

ND:
Thank you Tony, wonderful.

TB:
We’re going to play of course your new record, Longfellow Serenade. We have two versions of this, the disc jockey version and we have the other side, and I’m always a bit suspicious that perhaps the disc jockey version was a special version and the other side had something doubtful on it, but you assure me it hasn’t, and so there must be some reason. I don’t know why there’s a – obviously it’s longer, is it, the other side, there’s more something or other of it – ah, mono and stereo, we’ve solved the problem! Tell us, is there any story with this song or not?

ND:
Well, yes, actually, when I was a youngster in school I would ask a girl out on a date by writing a small poem to her, and this is a – although the fellow in this song has much better luck than I had when I was younger, this is a story of a young man who woos and wins his woman through the beautiful poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

TB:
Lovely, well, let’s listen to it now. Once again, Neil, thank you very much.

ND:
Thank you, Tony.

TB:
And we look forward to seeing you back, we hope, in the spring.

ND:
Thank you.

TB:
I think we’ll play the mono version, as we’re not in stereo, it’ll probably sound better that way.

(Plays Longfellow Serenade)

TB:
That’s a number by Neil Diamond, a number called Longfellow Serenade. The wonderful sound of Radio One, it’s seventeen and a half minutes now before twelve o’clock. Just been waving to a young lady opposite, who I think is probably listening at the moment, on about the third floor up in the opposite building there. The whole year they ignore this studio, and then we start getting guests in and all of a sudden they start waving at us, and sort of taking an interest, which is very unflattering when you come to think of it! Anyhow, thank you very much once again to Neil Diamond, who had to dash away actually by quarter to twelve, so we’ve got him away right on time. Seventeen minutes to twelve now. Thanks to Neil Diamond, congratulations once again to Beryl who lives in Brighton in Sussex, for getting one of our Christmas puds.

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