Speaker So let's just let's just start. And. Let's start with you.
Speaker I met them both, I started. I met Lauren, David at the same time I was complaining about my lot in life at CBS Records or Columbia Records at the time. And I went to see Clive Davis. And Clive told me that he just signed an artists that he was passionate about called Laura Nyro. And he said that he was talking to her manager, who was David Geffen, and that he would put me in touch with David Geffen. So I said, oh, I know of Laura. I was supposed to do her first record. So I said, but because of scheduling problems that never came. That never came about. So he set up a phone interview with myself and David or actually where we would set an appointment for us to meet.
Speaker And Laura lived on 50 Second and Eighth Avenue in a little apartment.
Speaker I think it was on the second floor. So we made an appointment, I think was around seven or eight o'clock. I don't remember. And I had never met Laura. Well, although I was I interviewed with with Milt Oaken, who produced the first record, and they were trying to find out if our schedules would be compatible to work on her record. So, I mean, here it was. I finally got to meet Laura Nyro and knew of her music. I didn't know who David was. And I went up to the apartment and David opened the door. And David was a bubbly, bubbly guy. He was usually younger than I was a kid, but energetic as can be.
Speaker And he introduced me to Laura and the room.
Speaker That she lived in was a one room sort of kitchenette kind of thing where everything was in this one one room and it was very well organized. Very modest little couch and a little bed. And I sat on a little on a little chair in the corner of the room and they had candles. Laura had put these candles all over the room. And she was very soft spoken and speaking like this.
Speaker Oh, hi, Charlie.
Speaker Universe soulfully like that, then naturally we got to the point where I said I'd like to hear the music. And she walked around the room, lit the candles, and she quietly walked over to the piano.
Speaker And it was sort of like she was zoning herself. We're. She sat and looked at the piano.
Speaker Put her hands on the keys.
Speaker And saying the entire elai record from beginning to end.
Speaker And by the third song I was.
Speaker In shock, I had never heard anything like this. My background was I had made Four Seasons records and I was making records, records for Lou Christie. I made a couple of records with Shirlee Ellis, the name game, and I had a bunch of hit records, but nothing like this. This was something out of the I mean, it was out of the stars. You couldn't even imagine what it was like for me to listen to that. Here I was frustrated at Columbia and I said, they're giving me this. And it was almost like like being a kid in a candy store. I could wait to get my hands on it. What was so.
Speaker Was what struck you?
Speaker Well, prior to Laura's music.
Speaker Pop music basically was formalized, their reverse chorus. They sang the song. Everything was in rhythm.
Speaker The choruses were very repetitive, memorable, strong melodies. Stories that people could relate to. Mostly being suggestive in one way or another. Now along comes music from shows that would basically tell the audience about the story or enhance a story in some way. Laura's music. Each song was from a point of reference that was poetic in nature. In nature. It was. Heartfelt. Beyond recognition. And when you looked at Laura and you heard her sing about lonely women and about. But things things like, you know, she was talking from a real place. But putting it musically in a way that no one had ever done before. She changed tempos rapidly. She changed fields from going from age notes to swing. She would she would make climaxes within the music and all of a sudden the music would come down to another place.
Speaker And I had never heard pop music like this. And it was so it was so abstract, yet it had continuity. It was professionally organized. It just was everything that you could ever want. And a great song. And when you think about. This this record was was really the first the first female concept to record. It was the first time that an artist recorded and played piano. Whoo! I recommend that she co-produced the record with me. I wanted her. I wanted her to have the privilege of being able to be even with me when it came time to decisions about the music, because I saw how personally she was about the music. And when you think about being exposed to that at an early age, I mean, this was this was a major. This is going to be a major change in in a music, although I didn't know at that point how we were gonna go about creating it.
Speaker I realized that at that point it was something I'd never heard before.
Speaker Well, this was 1967. I was twenty nine. So she was yeah, she was she was young. David, I think, was only 24. What was David like? Well, David was very quiet. Naturally, my focus was on Laura, but at the end of the at the end of the meeting, David, David always had an agenda that was that was going to take place after the meeting. OK, here's what we're gonna do. I have some other people I'm thinking about that are looking at this. I have to make a decision upon, you know, very, very, very upfront, always very not that he would pull any punches, but he always had something that he was gonna be able to do. And then when I got the call that said that Laura wanted me to make the record, it was like I couldn't believe it. But David David was. David was, I think her mechanism to be able to accomplish what she wanted to accomplish. I think although I wasn't in too many private meetings that they had together. But I think that he understood. Laura. Laura, sensitivity. Laurie, Laura's inability to communicate with people. Her personalization of her own toon's in relationship to her then being as children to her, and also the fact that she wanted the product to be not like what she made before. But she wanted to wanted it to be what was in her hardener, in her mind. So his job was to help her accomplish that. So he was very protective about that. And what was really amazing is that while we were working on the record, although I wasn't really paying attention to what he was doing, he was inside Columbia Records working on promoting Laura. He he he had learned how the art department worked and he immediately learned that they need to do this, this, that and the other thing for them to get the cover they wanted. He met with marketing people. He met with all sorts of people to make sure that everything that we needed was going to be any obstacle was going to be totally moved out of the way so that we could work. So each day that he would come in, there would be things that he would have been able to accomplish, which made it easier for us to work.
Speaker Just one second. Do you think.
Speaker Well, David, love Laura. And he loved her music. He was a fan of her music. And one of the things that is important with most of the projects that I've had success with Pete. People, the people that are actually motivated or that have it in their heart, that they actually believe that this is the real thing. Those are the people that can actually sell it correctly. And I think that his his whole his whole function was not only his passion toward the music and toward Laura, but the fact that he he was able to not only have it in his heart, but he was able to sell it and get things to happen that ordinarily wouldn't have happened at Columbia Records.
Speaker I mean, just I hope he understands the complexity. Right. David was an experienced. I mean, he was he had been he was Morris, right?
Speaker Well, at that point, at that point, I don't think that David was an agent at that point. I think he was still he was the agent that wasn't really sure if certain point he left to just be honest.
Speaker But but prior to that prior to that, he was working in the mailroom and he knew about law. So he he had access to going to see some of the clients that William Morris had. And the way I understand it is David showed up at her door. He showed up at her door and here was this energetic young guy who said, I want to represent you. I want to do this. And I love your music and I want to do this now that that takes desire. You know, I just don't just don't do that without having ultimate confidence that you can do it. And all ultimately believability and the fact that this is really what you want to do.
Speaker I mean, what I'm trying to get at is that.
Speaker Laura's music is not. You wouldn't listen to the music or listen to the pop star.
Speaker You wouldn't. I mean, you wouldn't miss it. That's my ticket. That's the pop star. You know what? What? I mean, what could have possibly been going through David's mind to say, like, this is the person I'm going to put all of my all of my energies into? Obviously, your music was captivating, but it wasn't the obvious choice.
Speaker Well, that's a good that's really a great question about was was there something there that motivated David to be able to say this is going to be a great pop star and we're going to turn this into a mega superstar? Keeping in mind that Columbia Records at that point had Miles Davis.
Speaker They had Barbra Streisand. Barbra Streisand was not a pop star. She was a Broadway artist and recorded music that at that point was not played on radio. It was many years later until she actually started to make records.
Speaker Be the essence of excitement was she was the real thing. Now, if you if any of us that have ever been around people, well, I'm going to let let me back up a couple of steps. When David walked into a room, David was the biggest star. He was bigger than me, bigger than Laura, bigger than anyone he brought. He was the star. David had a magic about him that when he walked into the room, people's attention were drawn to him. So he had he had this ability. Now, there were quite a few people I met in my career that I saw had that talent, whether it came in music, whether it came in management. I'll never forget this one. One day, my wife and I, we were at. I forget the name of the hotel that we were at on Park Avenue. Anyway, we were in. We were in a hotel on Park Avenue. We were going up in the elevator and Adlai Stevenson walked on the elevator. And at that point he walked on with a cane. And as he walked in, I didn't have to know who he was. His presence. Actually indicated that this was a man of importance. His is this persona was just overwhelming. Now David had that persona. So having that persona, he had it within himself. For him to recognize that in someone else, I guess, was not really a difficult a difficult chore because, I mean, after all, you look at the history, the people that he endeared himself with. He was able to find supersmart, not just one, but numerous superstars. How did he do it? He was able to recognize the true talent. And one of the things that you you recognize about. About superstars is all superstars are unique in the fact that they have exceptional talent that is different than anybody else. Now, you could turn on your radio today and you could listen to rap. You could listen to RB. You could listen and or I'm sure the kids can identify the artists one from one from the other. But when you listen to the music of the generation that we grew up in, that generation of music, there were people that were were amazingly unique and different. The Beatles came along. There were Elvis Presley was different. And you can go on and on. And his ability to be able to see the real thing.
Speaker Well, this would be successful, but I don't know how we're going to arrive at it, but we have a diamond here, we'll be able to work with it.
Speaker A fantastic statement, and I'm sure that's what he thought.
Speaker Which is I don't know what I'm going to get there, but I'm going to get.
Speaker That's great. That's a great answer. I always wrap my brain about that because I sort of think there was David.
Speaker And he was this sort of sensitive young man. You know, he always had a very sensitive soul, you know, but still I just still marvel at the fact that he listened to it or the movie.
Speaker And he said.
Speaker You know, it was like his aha moment where he said, this is the one, you know, I got to go. And he called a party bootable and he said, you know, I must meet your client. And he said, why would you want to bother with her? He said, Because I think, you know, whatever he told me, the article is the best. But then he went to seek her out. And it wasn't like she bumped into her. I mean, he he said no. I mean, I just find it really interesting. When you think back on, I'll ask David about it again.
Speaker I mean, David's very interesting because his interview he has he's sort of a hard time putting it back himself back in. That time period. Go ahead.
Speaker Here's sort of a hard time putting himself back in. Ivan, please. He's very a guy that is sort of in the moment. Yes. And so we are always, like, trying to pull it out of him and get him to go back to the time. It's like it's hard for him to answer that question.
Speaker You know, she was not the obvious choice, you know. What were you. Anyway, so thank you for that. That was excellent. She saw that she was a diamond. See that again? Pardon? You'll see them again.
Speaker David saw it. It was a time in the RAF or something, I think just what you said.
Speaker Well, it actually goes hand-in-hand with the fact that when you're passionate about something, if you actually believe it, that someone is really talented and you see it and you believe that they have that that super, super ingredient that makes you special. And if you can work with that and also develop it, you can make it into something great. And I think that's what he saw. David. David, David's talent.
Speaker Just from looking looking at his history, it would be obvious that he would recognize it. It was obvious to me when I when I when I listened to him to the music, and that was my business at that particular time. You know, I've been a lot of hit records in my life and with the hit records that I made. Not all of them I thought were going to be hits as I started the project. But as we developed and we could actually hear that they were that they were going to be special.
Speaker So just going back to Laura's music for one second, I mean, it was she when you listen to her music, were you thinking, well, this is a little bit of pop, this is a little bit of jazz is a little.
Speaker I mean, what were the elements that you sort of heard?
Speaker Well, if you look at our backgrounds. Laura's father was a trumpet player. My father was a trumpet player. Laura was Italian and Jewish. My parents were Italian. She liked Miles Davis. My father like Miles Davis. Her father like Miles Davis. She also was heavily into R and B, I was heavily into R&D at that point. So when you look at all the similarities that we had together when I heard her music, I was able to understand all of those influences. When I listened to it. But what was amazing about it, she came from a totally different place. I'm hearing everything that I ever grew up on listening to as a kid. I heard everything put together in one complete package. Now, back then.
Speaker Sorry, I'm just going to stop and try to see that one more time and just see if you can see it. Like, you know, for his music had.
Speaker Elements of jazz elements, pop elements who try to see it that way. That would be very helpful for the audience understanding. OK.
Speaker Laura's music had elements of pop country. I will use country as great as it does. That's not good. That's white man's contribution to music. We don't talk about that. The thing that impressed me the most about Laura's music was the influences that she had as a kid. Her influences were jazz R and B pop, but also she was a poet. So you put all of those ingredients together. And those were the same things that I grew up with. When you take a look at all those ingredients together and you listen to that as a collective work, it was really, really amazing. Topping that off was her harmonic structure on the piano was different than anything that I ever heard before.
Speaker And what about her piano thing? I mean, she was just a raw talent. And it's not like she was a schooled.
Speaker Well, if there were a piano here, I could actually show you. I could actually show you what made her. And if I played on the piano what the harmonic structure of some of the things that she did, you'd actually hear the difference. Most people play a one six two five. They play a one chord, a six chord to caught the five chord. Now, most of the records that we made with the Four Seasons were one six two five Lauras one chord. Was not really a one chord.
Speaker It was a five chord with the root in the base, which made it actually is the key to see. It would have made it a C major nine without a third. So when she played that chord and then she also went to the sixth chord and kept the G chord on top, that became an E minor seventh within a bass. So although she was playing one six two five, the harmonic tone structure at the top was different. Now, I understood that because I had listened to jazz records and I I understood about four part harmony. So when I heard that that structure of harmonics, that the harmonic structure was totally different when anybody else was doing pop music and.
Speaker Were you concerned at all that it was such a different sound and the tempo changed? The things that that was going to be a tough sell, for example, on the radio?
Speaker My job making records was never. Was never. To try to make a hit. My job was to make the best record. And make it as real as possible, because if it killed me. I knew it would kill you, not kill him. May not. That person may not like it, but that person over there would like it, because if it was in my heart, I knew that somebody else would have the same feeling emotionally and that they would relate to the emotion. So my job was to take that and make it the best it could be. And here was this was brilliant. All I had to do was just do my job and not mess it up now.
Speaker Laura. Laura, I think. Did she ever talk about it? Did she have any desire or say, I want this to be. A commercial records. I want us to be successful monetarily or was she just purely focused on. She was a true artist.
Speaker Each song that we worked on, Laura had an opinion. I loved working with her from that standpoint because. She would play the song on the piano. And I'd say, Laura, how do you hear this?
Speaker And she would pause and she'd think. And she'd say. I want this to have power. But I wanted sensitive. I want to feel.
Speaker And she would use her hands. And and and never really complete sentences. But emotionally, try to express to me how she felt about it. Now, as a as a music writer. Going back with my background, I started with Bob Crewe and Bob was an artist. He was a musician. And Bob made the Four Seasons records, me being the arranger on all those Four Seasons records. Bob would come in with his paintbrush. I'd be scoring and he'd say, over here, I want clouds and I want. And then I want birds like this. And he'd draw them. And then I'd look at it and I'd say, OK, we've got to get me clouds.
Speaker So I had a history of relating to these esoteric kind of emotions that artists would relate to music writers. And my my the thrill I used to get was to be able to interpret that. So working on working on the song, I'll give you I'll give you an example of something we were talking about doing. Eli's Comin. So I said to her.
Speaker I said, Laura, I said, I want this to be like an art and B record. And she says, Yeah, I agree. I said, but I don't want it to be just have a funky beat. I said I wanted to be. I wanted to be musically structured so that we use the horns to play the rhythm. And we played a bass to play a different rhythm. And we use the drums to do a different rhythm. So she says, What do you mean, Charlie? So I explained to her, I said, what we'll do is we'll get the low horns to do this.
Speaker Bob bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom.
Speaker And then we'll get the other horns to do bom bom bom bom.
Speaker And then we'll have the bass. And we'll have everybody play something different. This is Charlie. I like that sound so that she would she would get all excited and giggly and then I would have to find examples to try to explain that to her.
Speaker And when it was when it was going to be something that I thought were thrown for a loop, I wanted to prepare her so she wasn't shocked.
Speaker There were times when when there was no way in the world that I could explain what she wanted until I got I put music in front of musicians and I said, Now, before you play a note, I want you to listen to her sing the song and just look at the chords. Look at the feel and see what's going to happen. And musicians would sit there and listen to her. And then we will just play the song, just play and sing the song, and the individual musicians that played on the record were hand-picked that I knew would recognize her sensitivity. For example, you you, McCracken, played guitar. You also played. He was he was part of wings. When when when McCartney put his first band together. I was using. I was using. Ralph Casal on guitar, who introduced me to you, McCracken. I had Chuck Rainey, who is probably the most innovative bass player that was being used in town at that particular time. And I used who played on so many hit records while there being one of the bass players at Motown.
Speaker But your point is that the musicians sensitivity to Laura herself.
Speaker Well, these were these were guys that were all artists. So you put all these artists in a room together and you're trying to you're trying to create something that's different. So you put dirt, you get their input into it. And before you know, you're coming out with something that we would all collectively agree to, as far as, you know, with the basic concept of what was gonna take place. So Laura would have a hand in it. And then Laura would make comments as we would do these things and then we would finally make the tracks.
Speaker Now, just going back to what we were talking about before, she ever thought that this should be commercial?
Speaker No. Yes. Okay.
Speaker I understand it was it was never Laura's intention that this record should be commercial or not commercial. That that part of the we never discussed that. We just wanted to make the record as best it could be. We wanted to record the songs and make the songs live. Make them live to a greater extent than what she had on a piano. But as far as looking at it being a monster success or anything like that, I don't think that that was really the focus.
Speaker Just because everything you read about her and what she.
Speaker She thought of herself as a star. I mean, she certainly was. Was she? At least that's what.
Speaker He says her.
Speaker Friends said, you know, she sort of said, well, I'm born here. She always had an air about her. She was had a presence that she was strong. But.
Speaker Whenever they talk about this later mean she never became a superstar in that in her own right, her songs became very famous and had no one hits. And, you know, they know whatever particular time someone could have known Stoned Soul Picnic, they might not even have known that Laura wrote it. But they knew the song because it was a hit, you know, from another group. But it's interesting, you know, she thought of herself as a star. She had that presence, but she never really had she never really said. I don't think she never woke up one morning and said, gee, I really got to make a commercial single so that I become a household name. You know, she got herself as a star, but an artistic star.
Speaker It's funny when you. It's funny to listen to someone explain that, because most artists that I've worked with have no concept as to what. As to who they are. Take. Taken. Taking into consideration that most of us that have worked on records all of our lives. We work in a little room like this. When I wrote arrangements, I wrote a little room like this. And I had no one around. I made the record. And the only feedback that I got from making the record was being in the studio. Now, take take us a songwriter who writes a song all alone. She had no one helping her write the songs. She finishes the song and hit her head. She thinks it's great. Now she's gonna go expose that played for people when she goes to play for people. She's gonna be vulnerable as can be, because you are now going to judge her music. And every artist that I know that plays a song for the first time is always like, I hope they like it. So there's always that insecurity. And this is a true artist. I'm not talking about people that wrote songs for a living that wrote commercially and they would create this and create a few. Didn't like that. Well, we'll write another one. These are people that were really, truly artists and they were so far and few between what one of the one of the biggest thrills of my life was working with Barbra Streisand. I had a hit record with Barbara, but also I had the opportunity to sit down and play piano while she sang the tune I was I was going to record. Barbara had the same sensitivity. She had no idea as to why not? When I worked with in the studio, I'm conducting the I'm conducting the orchestra. And at the end of the performance, I walked up to an ISIS barber. That was brilliant. She turned beet red and she looked at me, says, Charlie, it wasn't that good. The level of the level of of the level of quality that every artist tries to reach is so above what they're actually able to attain that they never have the confidence that they achieve it. So when you're dealing with. With artists like that, they're sensitive. And although they might think of themselves as being something special inside, they don't have that certain motivation that wants to make them stars.
Speaker Working with Laura on the smile record was a very interesting experience, but I'll tell you this one little story. I asked her how she wanted one of the songs. I think it really was the song Smile. I don't really remember exactly what song it was. We were in her kitchen. She she and I were. We're talking and she was playing a guitar. So I listened to the song. I said, Laura, how do you hear this?
Speaker And she. Looked out into space. Thought for a few seconds. Then she got real guilty, as you said.
Speaker Like my chair. I looked at the chair. She was sitting out on a wood would chair, sort of like just a stool with a little back on it.
Speaker It was plain, it was just varnished or whatever it was. But as I looked at that, it was very simple. It was very organic. So when I said you want it with acoustic guitars and Kucik instruments, maybe because we she was also into Japanese Japanese music. I said maybe some koto. Oh, totally. Yes.
Speaker You know, it was assumed she would get very giddy. But but to say I wanted to sound like my chair. How do you interpret that?
Speaker Can you remember anything similar like this? That she where she described.
Speaker When we were we were in a studio and. She was recording Taimur. And I got the opportunity to change one lyric. At the end, at the end, she said at the end, the lyric said, you're a jigsaw time of your jigsaw Taimur. And as we were talking about it, I said to her.
Speaker She fit the whole story. I'm sure you know, is about what happens, how how your face changes you as you get older, how someone 20 years old could have written such a brilliant composition is way beyond my comprehension. But the lyric, as she's talking about, time is a jigsaw. It's a time where says, you know, God is in the jigsaw. Charlie, I like that she she inserted that. And when she recorded it, I never thought that much of it. But many years later, when I listen to it, I and I understood, she says, time. You're a jigsaw then. Oh, God. Is that jigsaw? No timer. And she played back and forth was and you just watch. You know, she was open to suggestions would would take comments but was very personal about. Don't touch my children.
Speaker Talk about how she communicated with you during the recording of.
Speaker Was she was very sensitive. Was she very vocal? Was she quiet? Did she?
Speaker The very last session that we did. She was in the studio with David. She was I was in the studio working with the musicians, and she's in the control room telling David he's ruining my music, is ruining my mood.
Speaker So I walked into the control room and David says, Charlie, what do you need from me? For you to finish what you're doing. So I says you need to get her out of here. Please, I said, we're never going to finish this. So he took her out. He took. This was one of the only times he did take her out of the studio. And I was working on on poverty train. And I was trying to get a at that point, we didn't really have synthesisers, I was trying to get the the tripping sound on the flute with the flute harmonics. And it was an experimental process for us to get not only the flute part within it, but also to get those those effects that actually sounded like it was like a pre synthesizer. And also, I wanted to put some strings on the record, and he brought her back after two or three hours where I finished everything and she sat there and she was like a little kid. Oh, she's applauding. And it was difficult to arrive at the process sometimes because she she was very protective about where it might go. But at this particular time, I think she learned a little bit about that sometimes she needed to actually see the process to arrive at certain conclusions. But other than that, you know, we work pretty much hand in hand. If she didn't like anything, I would change it immediately or at least try to arrive at something that would be compatible for both of us.
Speaker Now, she's very. Like perfectionist, like she was like into the specifics of the instrumentation and how things were done or.
Speaker Laura's concept of arranging was when she finished her song, the piano part was the arrangement. If I added a bass.
Speaker Well, that was really important. If I had a drum and a guitar, you were over arranging. So he had to be very selective about what you added in the process. So when I. When I. When I. Talk about how she influenced it. There were a lot of things that maybe I normally would have done with other artists that as a result of her influence, I would not I wouldn't do for her music because she had a she had a really great sense. And to be able to relate that sort of. Everyone knows that. George Gershwin wrote Rhapsody in Blue. But he he didn't write the arrangement. There was another fellow who wrote the arrangement. He was a great piano player, a great composer, but he needed an arranger to bring it to market. So Loras was bright enough to know that she needed her music dressed up to a degree. And if she happened to connect with the right person, that we would make that happen. And that's what I was trying to be. I was trying to be that person to make the record that would would would fulfill my heart and also hers.
Speaker Let's switch gears for a second and talk about what Laura looked like. What was her watch here? You know, when you when you saw what Laura were doing blogging down the street, just give me a description of who she came across as.
Speaker If you take a look at. Well, I want to make sure I make sure I get this right. If you take a look at Anne Hathaway. And and sort of back step, Anne Hathaway. About 40 percent. And at about 40 pounds to her.
Speaker And dresser and bohemian clothes. And saw her walk down the street. She would. And when you look at her, she she she's got something that draws you to her. But yet if you saw her walking down a street next to King Kim Basinger, for example, maybe your attention would be drawn to her. So Laura was not the person that you would look, you know, generally notice because she was she sort of didn't make the most of what she had. She was not really into her looks or or how she had her own vision of how she should look. For example, we were recording one day and prior prior to the session, she went and bought a dress. The dress was about four sizes too small. She came to the studio with it.
Speaker David took a look at it and said, Laura, you need to go home and change that dress immediately. Looks hideous.
Speaker And Laura was shocked because she thought you were great in it, but she didn't have a concept.
Speaker So what did your clothes look like?
Speaker A long black dark usually. She she usually wore were like, I don't want to say hippie clothes, but if Hippie were the upper part, she was sort of like in a middle. And always. But what was always, always sort of. Like, her appearance was not the most important thing. Very rarely would you actually see her where she would try to look glamorous or something like that, she just looks very natural.
Speaker And how talk about David.
Speaker David or Kate became pretty much every night, every night. He was there.
Speaker Well, he would bring people who wanted to meet Laura. He brought he would bring different artists. I remember he brought things. He brought Buffy Sainte Marie one night, brought some other people. But mostly I really did pay attention to we brought to the studio because we were usually working.
Speaker He would he would interact somewhat. But but mostly he would he would try to make himself not noticed and let us work. And if if the session was falling down here, he'd sort of like jump in and try to get Laura back focused. If Laura was becoming disenchanted with what we were doing, where she wasn't letting the process work the way it normally should, he'd be right there, you know, trying to encourage her to give it a chance and he would be there. Not not basically supporting her when she was about to make a mistake, but supporting her when she was going to do something that was going to be right and also trying to give me the opportunity to be able to do what I do.
Speaker How was. He was always.
Speaker Let me be diplomatic here.
Speaker We'll cut it out if it's not.
Speaker On day, David was always very forceful with her. I never wanted to see or make a mistake. So he was the most concerned about how she looked. He was the most concerned about how she represented or herself. What she did at the sessions. So he would be he would not pull any punches if there was something that needed to be said. He would say it. He would take her on the side and talk to her privately. There were times that he would, even when she was being vocal in a studio where he would voice his opinion, but he was always right on the money as to what needed to be said at the right time. So he he was a dominant force in being able to control her and not get her to be too artsy sometimes. Right, Rainer. Rainer in to be able to accomplish what he knew needed to be accomplished. Sort of like a. When anybody who makes records knows that people who make records that are not focused on where they're going. They can go to a point where they make the record and then they go past that because they they don't see that they finished it. So he was trying to get her to understand that you need to get to this process and when it's there, don't. Don't try to waste the brilliance that you already have. The interesting part about most of those kinds of artists and what really took place in the record business from that period of time on is records started to started to increase in cost and studios because they turned the responsibility over to the artist rather than people like myself who basically knew how to arrive at a conclusion. So in order for them to arrive at a conclusion to make a record, they would experiment and experiment and experiment and experiment and experiment would take days. It would take them a week to record a song. I would have done if it will eventually she wound up. She wound up doing that on some of her records because she had. But basically, basically, if you do enough preproduction and if you focus enough on what you're planning to do and you go in there, at least you have some sort of a guide where you're not walking in saying, OK, now that we're here, what sort of building blocks do I need?
Speaker So what you're saying is that, David? Oh, yeah, tremendously. It's good to see. David.
Speaker David ated, and then David was instrumental in getting the album done because otherwise you might as well just the story I told you about when he took her out of the studio, David was was really instrumental in getting the record completed. He was not only there when we made the records. He sat with us when we mixed the records. He sat with us up until 4:00, 5:00 in the morning, some nights, he managed well when Laura was when Laura was not happy with something. And myself and the engineer were happy with something. He tried to reason with her what he was. He was there trying to protect trying to protect the process all along, recognizing that that sometimes she may not have been the best judge of what was completed.
Speaker David, care about the artistic success?
Speaker Oh, yeah. We would have never we never made this record without him. David, David, David. Yeah, well, part of the artistic success behind the record has a lot to do with David because he made it possible for us to not only have what we needed, but he was also he was in a position to be able to make sure that what we were doing was going to keep the level of what he originally heard when he heard the records on a piano. He knew what the records were supposed to be. And he made us have the artistic creativity be able to do it.
Speaker And I think one thing that's interesting, when we interview Clive Davis, he said, you know, David was such an amazing kid.
Speaker Within Columbia Broadcasting.
Speaker And he and like he tells it, like five tells it. This is an unknown artist we're talking about. And yet he would ask for a continuance showing your support, meaning that if it was going long, it was going into the night. It was going over. He was taking more time. David would say, you must support this. Right? Can you say something like that? It was unusual because she was an unknown artist that somebody could. You have the leeway to have to create the record. How did.
Speaker Back, back during that time, the record business was changing. And David was one of the advocates of giving the artists more control in order for the artists to be able to arrive at the record that they wanted to make. There needed to be a degree of experimentation other than just using, you know, arrangers like myself. Now, back at that particular time, I was also making that transition. But the interesting part about it was the records started to take a longer than we had budgeted for. As a result of it, I don't know how we wound up maybe doubling the budget. But in the process of doubling the broad budget, we were you know, we were allowed to do it. But ultimately, I took the responsibility. But David was making it possible for us to be able to, you know, spend the long hours and continue. And when we started to run into trouble, and I call David, that I think I was getting a little resistance from the company, we were able to ultimately finish the record.
Speaker David knew what to do.
Speaker David. David, I don't understand how he moved the the Columbia machine because I had already been there a year and a half and I couldn't move it. But he was able to move it more in the short period time we worked together. Then I saw not only myself and many of the other producers that worked at Columbia. We could move it the way he did.
Speaker Now, I think somebody else said, put it this way. They said David facilitated all of us quirks, dreams. Something to that they came to the studio.
Speaker David and Laura came to the studio one night when they were working on the cover. No, we were still working on the music and they were having a conversation about Laura wanted to have perfume. In the album that when you open up the album and you pulled out the lyrics, the lyrics had the smell of lilac. I think it was lilac and and. David, David was she was trying to explain this to David.
Speaker And next thing I know that the art department was in the process of figuring out how the printers would lie like you did and get and get the aroma in the C.D.. I don't know how he did that.
Speaker Yeah. In the in the LP. I don't know how he was able to accomplish that, but he did. Are they they they shot. I don't know how many. How many. Photo shoots they did to get to cover. When they shot Laura, you saw her face on that record. It was amazing. It was beautiful. Everything was was exactly the way she wanted it.
Speaker You think, oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. How did Laura feel about David?
Speaker Laura, love David. Laura. Laura loved David because she saw the David really had her best interests at heart. So while things were well, things were in the process of growing. She although, you know, there was that sort of dissension that would would would. Be part of any relationship. She was sort of always amenable to the fact that whatever David was doing, she had he had her best interests at heart. I saw that when we started on New York, tend to bury. She was starting to get a little concerned that things were moving too fast. And I think that David was getting a little pressure from Columbia, and I think that Laura felt that and there was a lot more tension on the second record. And I think that whatever dissension they ultimately had must have started around that time.
Speaker Now, I mean, we're it was David in love with law? Well, I don't know. I really don't know. Law in love with David. I don't know. Did they act like.
Speaker I don't know. I think there is a bastard. They act like.
Speaker Were they on the same wavelength? Were they I mean, how were they together? Were they like a couple? Were they a pair with a.
Speaker I didn't. It's funny, it's funny when you when you ask that.
Speaker I think there was a working relationship, it was it was really like a working relationship, but it was a deep respect for for one another. Now, whether Laura was, you know, had a crush on on David or not. I don't know. But, you know, later on, David told me that one of the reasons why she wanted me as a producer, Cushman. She thought I was cute. Which I which I thought was funny because I never made a pair setter. And I never saw David make any passes that her.
Speaker It's flattering.
Speaker I ask that because I'm trying to get at the root of. I mean, clearly they had a special relationship.
Speaker She was hurt, she was. She was his only artist. At that point, Laura was his wife. And Laura was the thing that he concentrated on. To have someone at the caliber of David Geffen concentrating on your life.
Speaker David, you know you know, David, you met him. He's an intense guy. You know, imagine being with someone like that all the time. I mean, this was his this was his full time, his full time job as Laura.
Speaker You know, he was an intense and intense human being. You know, he would never accomplish what he accomplished if he wasn't if he wasn't good at what he did.
Speaker It was his first first artist. You see, Laura.
Speaker Laura was was David's first artist, and he treated her as if she was everything that he ever wanted in any artist. You know, he loved their music, loved her brilliance. He was a fan. He was determined to make her successful. He had he had all the ingredients they had. They're everything working for them. He was great for her and she was great for him.
Speaker Now. As as you ask the record.
Speaker Oh, I know. I forgot to ask you. Talk can you talk a little bit about Laura's made up words like she's sorry. Down to the stone. So like what? You know, I know that's been talked about. It is very unusual. Her words were unusual and poetic and different when she was seven years old.
Speaker She became interested in poetry.
Speaker Her her one of her hobbies was reading poetry before she started to write songs, she started to write poetry. So for her to write songs the way she did, she really had had had a basis for understanding how to put thoughts together. Now, the creative license that she took musically. Was not something that would be unusual because she also took a creative license lyrically. So for her to write some of the things that she wrote, to ask her questions about it, I never really got a straight answer because they were sort of. They were sort of there. Everything sounded like it all fit went together. So there was no sense in really trying to say, you know, how did you come up with this? It was there. And I never really questioned it.
Speaker Can you just say that she actually made up were words that were not really in me?
Speaker Right. Right. Well, then that was what one of the talents, one of the talents that she had to take into consideration that that one of the greatest songwriters of our generation was Billy Joel, because he wrote words and music. He created lyrics in the melody. Laura did this back in the 60s. He wrote. She wrote words in music. And it was not unusual at that particular time for writers to make up words. Giddy gob glop, gloopy in in hair of surry down to a stone soul picnic. If you ask her what Siri was, a Siri was a carriage. So you know me to stone soul picnic. What did this mean? Well, really, if you wanted to look at it, you can say that, you know, there everybody was going to go someplace and get stoned. They were going to. However, they were going to get there was going to be going to Surrey down. She was trying to create a feeling that whatever she whatever she did lyrically, she didn't. So consistently, I just accepted that that was her. And I never, never looked at it and said, any degree or break this down. What does this really mean?
Speaker And. So.
Speaker Can we go back for one seconds and we'll make sure we got this? Just just just describe what Columbia Records was at that time. In other words, Columbia Records was the greatest record company. It had stripes and it had Dylan. It had.
Speaker And that's why Laura wanted to be on Columbia or Columbia Records was going through a transition. Clive Davis was. In charge of business affairs, Goddard Lieberson had run the company for a long, long time. And Goddard was about ready to retire. Clive came in about the same time that I came into Columbia Records, and he was young. He was ambitious. He was bright. And one of the first introductions I had to Clive Davis was when I went to a staff meeting and he conducted the staff meeting. He was very adamant about where he wanted to take the company. For example, it was his idea for Columbia not to make model records anymore. It only makes stereo's. The marketing department argued with him that you need to make these. You need to keep making it. He says, look, the industry is going to change and we're going to make a change. He was.
Speaker I understood why you care.
Speaker Columbia Records had all of the stars, but Columbia Records was going through a regime change. And you're looking at people like Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand. And at that particular time, a blood, blood, sweat and tears had been signed. A Dylan, I think had been signed. But. But Simon Garfunkel. We're just we're just starting out. But the point was that Columbia. Miles Davis was there, but Columbia Records was the record company in the industry. So to be on Columbia Records was a big deal. But the administration was changing. They were going from this this M0 are kind of music. They were trying to make the transition into pop. And for them to have an artist of her stature who had the ability to be able to do that was gonna be a milestone for them.
Speaker But why did.
Speaker Well, I don't I don't really have an answer for answer because it was the biggest record company, best record company based on the image that it projected because, well, Warner Brothers had Frank Sinatra and they're all record company Capitol Records said the Beach Boys, Nat King Cole and so many other people. The record companies. Right. Right then and there. If you took a look at what was an East Coast record company, what was a West Coast company. Columbia was the East Coast company. And here she was on the East Coast company that was on the East Coast. And Columbia was the what was, I guess, the standard. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to be with it.
Speaker So let's see. We did that. We did that.
Speaker Do you remember what David's relationship was like with Clive Davis?
Speaker I don't really know. I know that, David. I know that Clive respected him. And but I didn't see the inner workings of what took place between Clive and David. My, my my experience was only making the record and talking to David, making sure that we could get certain things to happen. And so how he did it with Clive? I don't know.
Speaker Fair enough. Was there some story about Laura took a. Carrot, a horse and carriage to the studio, is that true?
Speaker I vaguely remember that, yeah, I vaguely remember David. I vaguely remember I vaguely remember that. But I mean, it's not it's not so vivid in my mind that I can actually talk about it.
Speaker I just think that's such a funny detail that that's when you talk about her quirks.
Speaker Yeah, I'm trying to think of specific things that David facilitated for her to lie like. Lyrics are a perfect example. You know, I was, you know, did she have only candles in the studio? Was she did she have some special meals delivered? Did she. Like, what other quirks did you have usually?
Speaker We recorded at night, so we went there after dinner. It wasn't that we had food brought in. It wasn't like we started at eleven o'clock. We worked until midnight. It was I was before those kinds of sessions really started. We used to work from 11 o'clock to be from seven o'clock. The session started at seven o'clock. We'd work usually the the the sessions ran from seven to 10. The regular standard unions' sessions, we would record from seven to 12, one, two. And then we would go home. We do that every night.
Speaker Other than this story that you told about.
Speaker Well, he was responsible for making sure that everything that she really wanted creatively was done. He also was responsible for making sure that when she was about to put her foot in her mouth, he would stop her. So he was sort of he sort of handled her as a really good manager, would handle her. He made it possible for her to get every dream that she wanted out of the music accomplished. He made it possible for me to have all the freedom I needed to make the record. He just did everything that was possible to make us complete the record. And if he wasn't there, we would not have made the classic record that we made.
Speaker Do you think more was aware of how much do you.
Speaker I have no idea what Laura was aware of at that particular time. Oh, the fact that when the record was over, I knew she was happy. When you work on something nine, eight, eight or nine months, it's hard to know. You build up a camaraderie with the people you work with, the more every single day. But it's hard to know what happens when they leave the studio. In my opinion, yes, tremendously. In my opinion, I thought that that Laura trusted David implicitly.
Speaker Built up that really built up that trust. When he first came to see her, she was definitely in a different state of mind.
Speaker One of the things I don't think that that David was able to accomplish with Laura was for Laura to get over her fear. Of performing, I think that had David been able to accomplish that, Laura. Probably would have become more of a household name. The the a lot had to do with Laura's overall insecurity. And when you take into consideration as a as a kid going to school, she she was not there. She was she was probably everybody's favorite joke because she was different. She grew up not having a lot of confidence in her appearance. Her music was her outlet when she was with with within that environment. People loved her. But after she wasn't doing her music, she had no confidence in her ability to to be in front of people. I know that she was very insecure about that. And it wasn't until I saw many, many years later to perform that she actually got overall that I actually had fun. Later on in her life, really performing really interesting.
Speaker You know, certainly there was the moderate thing that you have any sense of what Laura's takeaway was?
Speaker We spoke about. We spoke about that. And she felt. That it was the wrong environment for her. She was not. If you've ever been to a rock and roll concert and you see rock and rollers on the stage, they're having a great old time. They're here. It's aggressive. And this Laura was like a flower. All of a sudden, you put this you put this flower in front of these screaming people. It was the wrong environment for her to be in. Whether they accept it or they didn't accept it was just the wrong environment it was gonna turn out negatively for because she really was not in a position to be able to deliver what she needed to deliver at that point.
Speaker My understanding. David, tell us, when you first met her, she said, I never thought.
Speaker Right. Is that true?
Speaker Well, I know she didn't want to. I know it was difficult for her to go to Radio City Musical and and do the concert that she did. The Carnegie Hall. It's funny. In in 1969, I had a big band with Al Cooper. We went played rock concerts and I wanted to. I wanted to the room, Alan. I went to a room. We hung out with Janis Joplin and she was drinking. I think she was drinking Jim Beam.
Speaker And and she she got up on that stage and ated up changes bearing I mean, you saw she took control and she was magical.
Speaker And I when I when I see it when I think about a female going onstage at a rock concert, you know, and you think about someone like Joan Jett or somebody like Janis Joplin and then Laura the sensitive. It just was what was never going to work.
Speaker He worked very hard to put her in an environment where she.
Speaker Right. Right. Well, I don't really know that much about. About what took place between Laura and David in trying to get her to perform. But I do know from talking to her years later that she was always scared to death to go perform. And she never felt comfortable with it. Never felt that this was her thing. But in order for her to become a superstar, in order for her to become a recognized commodity, she needed to do certain things in order to promote a career, a career. Even Bob Dylan as as a singer songwriter went out and performed. He built up an audience. Simon and Garfunkel did the same thing. She wasn't willing to do it. David, I'm sure he did, because he knew what I mean. He was in the management business, the agency business. He knew that that's what they needed to build up the the the career so he wouldn't toward support. I don't I don't really know what the inner workings were, because keep in mind, if I made the record, I was fired. So I was around to see what's going on tour there. I don't think there was a thorough. I swear to support I don't know if they're I mean, I really don't know. I don't know if he put it put one together and she just I don't have no knowledge of that one.
Speaker Didn't happen.
Speaker Well, your history shows you didn't go out on tour.
Speaker I said I seriously doubt if it was David's David's call for her not to tour. I think if David really had the ability to be able to get her, get her to tour, she would've been touring and if and if she had the confidence to do it. I tell you, I told you there was some someone I wanted to speak to. Jimmy beyond a little worked for me. And I put him in touch with Laura to work on putting a band together for her to go tour. And Jimmy told me some very funny stories when he was working with her. He was an apprentice of mine. So I said, go and write, rewrite these arrangements for her and get her to work. And he said that. He calls me up and he says, Charlie.
Speaker He says, this is the sixth time I'm writing the same arrangement. She keeps changing her mind.
Speaker So she she never got to the point where she formalized what she wanted to do to even go to work.
Speaker So flash forward to I mean, I, I understand what happened is I explained it very well because she wasn't really to break that limited, you know, where she could go in terms of commercial success. But we understand that she had a very deep cult following amongst college students. Why do you think they've responded so much to her music, lyrics, and even people who didn't love Laura were very incredible followers of Laura?
Speaker And what was it about music taking into consideration? 1968, the Vietnam War, the change of the old regime to the new regime. College kids were becoming aware of what war was about. Lifestyle changing. You had birth control, free love. All these things were starting to take place that the college kids were aware of. A lot of a lot of the audience that war appealed to were homosexuals, people that were women's lib. She was she was a spokesperson for people that were in that environment.
Speaker And where where was that taking place? Was taking place in the colleges. You listen to the song, Emily, and you listen to the intimacy of that, and then you listen to who is writing songs like that and and also The Lonely Women. And you go through you go through these these songs. And, you know, we all have seen the Hollywood movies where you have the cheerleader type and they get the football player. And here is Laura, who is on the back part of of, you know, everything that that stands for. She was speaking to all those people. She was speaking to the masses of the people that could relate to how she felt. Lonely sort of watching the change go by, watching the change that was taking place within society as far as the morals were concerned. Emotional. I mean, all of that played a major part. And to this day, I still have friends that this is their favorite record because they bought this when they were in school and bought it when they were kids and they played it. They've worn out three copies, four copies.
Speaker It just seems sort of such an amazing song reader, so emotional. Prevented her from becoming.
Speaker Can you say something? Can you echo that?
Speaker Well, that is true. Take a look at you, take a look at what she stood for, what she how she looked, how she acted, and she wasn't an overly gifted person when it came time to be in the looks department or even an ability to be able to put herself together. But the but what she was able to do is she was able to speak to people and express her emotion and express it in such a way that the masses of the people that were similar in nature to her could all relate to and recognize that this was somebody who was expressing how I feel.
Speaker And it's interesting because, David, at least we're understanding than David.
Speaker Said, OK, well, you know, she's uncomfortable.
Speaker Performing, but what I'm going to do is I'm going to take her on a very small tour, college campuses with smaller, smaller spaces and smaller amounts of people and people who he knew would love her.
Speaker So she knew that she would have that adoring audience and he sort of took her through, you know, those kinds of places and venues and dates and and. She enjoyed that. I mean, from what everything I've read and heard and people have talked about. She enjoyed that. And that in a way that was sort of a build up for him to get her to do. I think the first bigger show she did was the Fillmore. I think.
Speaker So Shell was not in the picture at that particular point, at that point, right after I left Columbia Records.
Speaker Oh, sorry.
Speaker Right after I left Columbia Records, I wasn't aware of what they were doing as far as her career was concerned, taking into consideration. I went back out in the marketplace as an arranger, producer. So I had to go make a couple of hit records, so I went out and I made Sweet Caroline with Neil Diamond, I made a couple of other hit records that sort of put me back in business. And it wasn't until I got disgusted with the business in 72 that I quit for a couple of years. Then I came back. And one of the first records that I made, I had a couple of hit records right after I came back with Frankie Valli. And then Mickey Eisner called me to do Laura. They were trying to get a record. So I hadn't seen Laura in maybe seven years.
Speaker Going back a little bit. Can you talk? Can we talk about what I was going to say is those sort of smaller shows an end to the film more? I think he would. David was trying to build her up for which was was Carnegie Hall.
Speaker Which was in November 1969. Wasn't long after the album. Came out less than a year.
Speaker But but I wasn't really I wasn't really involved with them after after I left Columbia.
Speaker But we recorded I was trying I was trying to think about after we had the conversation, if she did that, after we did the smile record. She may have done. She may have done the recording, asked you to smile record. I may have had that confused. I'm not real sure.
Speaker Yeah, well, she did. She did in 1978. The Bottom Line concert.
Speaker But we did record it at the Carnegie Hall. We did. We did a record at Carnegie Hall. You know, first one was recording the first. The first one the first. By that time. By that time, I had no knowledge of what they were doing with her career. All I know is with you, you walk out, you walk out of a record company after thinking that you made the record of your career. It doesn't sell. And you go back on the streets, make it a living. And I had no idea what David was doing with Laura and talk about when the market came out first.
Speaker I understand. Let's talk about the record. So so obviously, Laura Phelps. Happy with the record. She was satisfied, artistically, artistically satisfied.
Speaker You know.
Speaker We see why did it do well? That's that's really the question. What happened was before we finished the record. David took Stoned Soul Picnic and brought it to Bones how? Bonds was recording the fifth dimension. And he got Bones to play the song for the Fifth Dimension. And they decided that they were going to cut it. That was not the first time that I had made a record for Columbia Records, that I made the original record and somebody covered it and they had to hit record. Columbia was not very strong in the singles business back then, so it was not something where Columbia really had a handle on how they were going to go promote single records. So, David, whether he anticipated that or not made sure that she started to get exposure again as a writer. So both myself, Laura and David were excited about the fifth dimension doing the record. So we were all on the same page with that music. I thought that she was she was excited. I thought that she was excited to get the record. But, David, it was getting a hit record, even if it was from somebody else to start the the the having at least something to say about about Laura to be able to promote her as as the writer who wrote who wrote the song. So from that standpoint. Without a hit record, it was and without touring, there was no way to expose the record. Outside of the critics and outside of the fact that the record was was released and it did it did as well as it did. It was really a miracle.
Speaker Can you do you remember or can you say, you know, the record was was a critical success and a success among. Among the creative community, the other artists. I mean, people really look to that album. Thought it was groundbreaking.
Speaker Some of the musicians that worked on the record said to me, we have this record came out. I remember McCracken coming up to me and saying, Clela. He said there were two records that I will remember for the 60s. One is Sgt. Pepper and the other is the Eli record. And I thought that that was really something from a guy who sat in the chair and made the record. And later on I heard from other people that bought the record that that some people bought it in Europe, but it was obscure. And the people that really bought into it confirmed my feeling about it. It was a work of art that was really, really a brilliant piece of record, brilliant record. But the problem, the problem of something, at least back then, at least in my own career and in the career of what was happening within the record business. If you didn't have a hit record, you weren't going anyplace. Are you saying that more as well as many artists, that if you didn't have a hit record back back then, record companies had what they call development projects? For example, Linda Ronstadt was development artist. Billy Joel was a development artist. They developed him. The record companies were were developing artists that they thought had the potential to be able to ultimately be huge sellers. It got to the point where where the record business got to where the record companies invested in artists and had a hit record was next. If they'd have a hit record, it was next. Wasn't what they started to develop these artists to whether they would record and eventually have success.
Speaker That way they put pressure.
Speaker I don't really know. But I do know this, that from my own my own start the record business, starting with the Four Seasons. We started making records for Bob in 1959. We were his studio band. We recorded about 40 songs before the Four Seasons were recorded. We recorded with Frankie recorded. He recorded two or three records that were released, but we had nailed how to make records. By the time Sherry Baby was recorded, we had developed our careers and a record making records. Laura had already made a record. She had developed your craft on how to make the record. So we made Laura a record for the Laura Nyro Eli record. Her craft was made in order for that thing to be able to take off. She needed to have a hit. Laura Nyro singing the hit song. And even though there were several songs that came out of it that were hit songs, we didn't have the hit record. And that was not a good thing for for a developing artists, not Columbia Records. Well, if it wasn't for the publishing deal. Because the songs were becoming successful based on the fact that she was becoming a hit songwriter. It was worth it for them to sign her. David was clever enough to make a deal for her that would give her the opportunity to record for the rest of her life. Later on, she did when we were making a smile record. We had more time to really talk and reflect upon what had taken place, because one of the things that she said to me in a when we were when we were having dinner one night, she said that talking of David, he saw me like a prostitute. And I said, Laura, I said he made it possible for you to be able to record for the rest of your life and give you a base where you have money and you'll make money for the rest of your life.
Speaker Don't you see what he did for you? Says, yes, I know that was very good, but I still don't like it, which is typical of her reaction. She knew that what he did for was great, but she didn't like it. She was an artist. She viewed things from the eyes of an artist.
Speaker Yeah. Made her a rich lady, made it possible for her to live, live the way she lived and create until the day she died. And as a result of it, I think later on in years, she recognized the importance of being involved with them. But during that period of time, she was definitely she was definitely to the point where, you know, they they were on the outs. And although she was still she was still great, as you know, wrote writing great songs and still being herself without David, that extra little something at Columbia Records didn't exist anymore.
Speaker It's interesting. I mean, that's for sure. Yeah. Just to touch a.
Speaker Late 70s, late, 69 until seventy five. I didn't really see Laura right. And when you make records with people, you're with them every single day. Then what happens is, is you don't call for a couple of months. They change phone numbers. You lose touch. Like, I sort of get a kick out of people that that used to come up to me and say, hey, Charlie, use your recorded Sinatra. Hey.
Speaker That is, they ask me questions about, you know, what I thought is cute. Do like I hang with them like we go out drinking every night. You know, I made a record with whether we we pulled around for maybe three weeks in and we you know, we got to know each other well enough to where I could pick up the phone and call. But we don't go to dinner. So you don't really get involved in their in their lives. It's sort of like you're involved with their life for a period of time and then they're off to the next project or off to this and they're off. And then you're off to this and you're off to that. And when I went into a studio and I was working for three months, I really spoke to no one.
Speaker I understand that. I was more thinking, you know, at the time when you began to record Barry, you know, by then already David had was not on the scene every day like he was.
Speaker He was he he worked at least one, at least in my involvement. But what had happened? Laura had built up a fan base within the creative community, so there were a bunch of people that were touting her to record her. This is always a very dangerous period, because what happens is you start to get the hangers on and the people that really don't have your best interests, just that they want to be around the star people. There were a bunch of people who got involved with Laura that were influencing Laura and.
Speaker I took a look at what they were forcing her to do.
Speaker And I wasn't. I wasn't really.
Speaker Into wanting to become part of that. No, no, they're just the just the people, the people that started to get involved with with that wanted to record her and that she was wanted to work with. And I started to look at the situation and said to myself, you know, this is not something that is really something I think I'm gonna want to go go and get involved with. But David was involved with setting up, getting it going, starting a recording. And I remember going into the studio, but I don't have too much recollection about the cuts that I made. Our membership, she came to the house. She played me the songs. There were a few songs I really liked. But the overall magic of what she was creating, I felt that she needed maybe maybe as much as another year before she would've been able to make another record that would have had the substance for her to be able have the quality. Those songs and some of the songs were really good bits. But some of them were just songs that that that were, in my opinion, partially developed or just ideas that weren't completed.
Speaker Now, do you think that this is. Idea that. David should. Realize law is not going to be a. She's not going to have that star persona onstage. That it's my job as her manager to now take her son. She's an amazing songwriter also. And make sure that other people record them.
Speaker Were you aware that he was actively. You know, trying to get other artists interested in her songs.
Speaker Like I said, I wasn't involved with with what they were doing business wise or creatively at that point, because by that but by that point I was like, you know, I was starting a new, you know, a new career as an independent arranger back out on the street. David was starting his own business. I know he was going to California. He did ask. He did invite me to go out to California. He said he's going to start a new company. And I was a Jersey boy.
Speaker You know, I had my my family here and I didn't want to go to California at that point. It was only after I met Clay that I decided to go to California. She was more motivating than David.
Speaker So but Laura did become Laura, songs did become quite successful. I think there is a point in November 1969 where she had three songs in the.
Speaker Well, blood, sweat and tears cut one of the songs because of the engineer that I really wanted to work on, Laura, which was Roy Hally, was not available, but he was aware of her work. And when they heard about the buzz, then they research their catalog and they cut. They cut. When I die, then I know that Streisand cut cut Stony End, which I think was one of her first pop records at that particular time. And Richard Perry cut that record. There were there were producers. There were there were producers that were sort of, you know, now here's the new hot songwriter. Let's go get let's go check our catalog and go and plug into her songs. And what they did was they they they went and did what most producers that they went as to hot songwriters. And she was a hot songwriter. So they cut the songs. So I don't know how much David had to do with getting Richard Perry to cut to cut the side. I don't know, because I wasn't involved with that. But I do know about the the stoned soul picnic. When I die, I think that I didn't know if he was involved with that because Roy Hally was was making the blood, sweat and tears record with.
Speaker With Bobby Colombe.
Speaker And Bobby Columbia was very strong, instrumental in picking the songs at that point, but I don't really know how that went about.
Speaker There's one story that you told us about the studio. When I got back, there was one story that you told me about how long you slept. Hi. I mean, lots of artists in. It wasn't a big one. I mean, everybody. But David didn't of course, David was completely straight.
Speaker I know I didn't get I. I never got hired making her record.
Speaker Now, you said one night she. Things got very quiet. You sort of suddenly went to check on her and she had a huge, enormous join in.
Speaker There was a big pause in the recording session. Can you tell us about that?
Speaker Well, picture this. We were recording at Columbia Studios. Right next door was Arthur Godfrey Studio. Now, I don't know if you remember Arthur Godfrey, but Arthur Godfrey was. On CBS, he had a CBS show for, I think, 300 years. He was like the oldest. First, I mean, he I think he started with Jackie Gleason, where they write. It goes back that far. Now, he he was the he was in his studio. And in fact, I think it was one of the producers at Columbia got him to play on a rock and roll record, play ukulele. But anyway, it was. We were. We were. The employees would certainly not want to encourage anybody to do anything that was going to. This is a public company, wouldn't you? What are you, nuts? So the musicians at that point would go in a closet, had gone to bed. They would get high and we would know they would get high, but we wouldn't say anything. So Laura comes in one night and she has.
Speaker If you have a pencil, you would actually she she took a joint where joint would normally be this big and she rolled two joints together and then rolled up another piece of paper. So the joint was about this big. And she walked in and she opens up her purse and she says, look what I have to say. She she says Laura says, don't don't like that. So. We were. I went. I ran down a song in the studio. And I'll be known to me. I come back and I'm saying, OK, we need this guy to get a mike over here and we got to fix this. We're talking about setting up the recording and we start the recording. And Laura smoked the joint with the band in his studio. So she's. Recordings playing. Playing the piano. Her back was was was was to me. And she's playing the piano. We're recording this. I don't remember the song was. And. And we're making it take a really good take. All of a sudden, Laura stops playing and I.
Speaker I hear a oh, charming. She goes, Oh, I feel like it's the piano. Oh, the black kids. I like the way they go in between the white.
Speaker She's like talking about that. And she's running her hands up and down the piano like this.
Speaker And and now, David.
Speaker I don't know if he was there or if he walks in and he sees this, he becomes it becomes fear. It's furious. And we we actually didn't make any progress that night. But it was funny, was not uncommon for me to try to go find her.
Speaker And she's with the band getting high because that wasn't part of the way we made records back then. There was again again, the the system was changing.
Speaker You know, it was it David said, well, we hear what we're trying to make a record. And to him, making record was making records was a serious business.
Speaker You know, I'm breaking my back. Get everything to work properly. And you're playing around here trying to make you know, we're trying to make progress. We're blowing a night here.
Speaker Let me get back with the band.
Speaker I never saw him do that. I didn't know that much. It's funny. That for as much as we hung out all that all the time. It wasn't the kind of thing like, you know, we'd get together and have dinner before the session or with where we'd really get to get a chance. We would talk on the phone and and hang out in the studio and work in a studio while we were in the studio. It basically worked.
Speaker David was all business or always. David was always all business or business.
Speaker So for him to get upset over the fact that Laura was was getting high in the studio, that was all business. But he was he was always yeah, I'd like I like that term. He was all business.
Speaker He would have thought that that would have interrupted your productivity.
Speaker I know. I don't know what he thought. I was upset. I was upset because I wanted to make. I wanted to get the track cut. So, you know, we were going to make progress because they were all wasted. How do we give them maybe maybe a little time, maybe. Maybe the track would be better? I don't know. No. No. Well, later on it got worse.
Speaker And then and then sort of most mostly then then they went through a period of where there was a part of the. The process of making records, but mostly most of the records were done by people who were like all business.
Speaker So just flashing forward, you were talking about that conversation that you had a thought leader when she when you sort of. You know, she was admitting that it was probably good for her that David had made that deal for her publishing. Did she talk at all about. How she and David had split.
Speaker Outside the fact that she.
Speaker Want what I remember from the conversation was that she, I guess, did not want to do some of the things that David wanted her to do. I think maybe, David, just this only speculation on my my part, I think David may may have just gotten tired of trying to get her to do what she needed to do for herself. Because Laura. Laura was not at that point getting ready to. She didn't want to tour. Although she did work. And during one of those periods, I know that she did go out and do a couple of concerts, but she was always scared to death to do.
Speaker So however they broke up, I know that she was unhappy with the fact that he dealt with her as a commodity. But, you know, how could he? How can she negate the fact that he gave her a life to live where she was able to perform that art for the rest of her life?
Speaker I mean, it's interesting that David found a way to make her a star without having to lose her artistic integrity.
Speaker Well, the reason we're here today is because. He did accomplish his dream. Both are dreams. She is she is really a star because based on David's association with Laura, he was able to use that as a vehicle for him to be able to get a lot of other people because they saw basically what he did for her. He did a lot for her career.
Speaker What do you think?
Speaker Well, first first of all, I mean, I didn't hear about all the people that were became fans of Laura. I know that later on, Joni Mitchell was one of the ones that regarded Laura Nyro as an important influence in her life. Elton John. Many of the other artists that came along, and I'm sure throughout David's Davidge career, he had to run into people that saw that he was involved with something that was artistically brilliant, an artist to want to be involved with people that recognize their art, not only just the business end of it, because although there are two terms, music and business, that you can't do music without doing business. Most artists really never think about the business. They're only really concerned with the art. And they have someone who had the sensitivity in both areas was a was a valuable asset.
Speaker What do you think David learned?
Speaker I don't know. It's hard to say. He was just so he was just so way, way above its way above most people. He was he was so smart. It's hard to it's hard to know, you know, how he process that information. I really I can't even answer it.
Speaker But he certainly has his for me. Right. Streamy Strong.
Speaker It would've been my opinion. It would have been virtually impossible for him to meet any other artist. There could have been that sensitive about their art form because Laura was like, you know, 180 degrees from pretty much anyone else I've ever dealt with. Yeah. So, I mean, anybody who he helped, anybody else he got involved was after that was must have been a piece of cake.
Speaker That was excellent. So.
Speaker We talked about that. You didn't really know how David earned your trust to get back on the stage.
Speaker No, I wasn't. I wasn't I wasn't involved in in that. I really don't remember that at all.
Speaker I mean, do you think that David. I don't know whether you were around or whether there was any kind of aha moment for David and we'll ask him this again. But do you think that they must have come some point or. David. Realize that. Laura was never going to be. Perhaps what he had once envisioned. You know what I'm saying? He must have one day he must have said, wow, you know, I'm really I g- I guess I better come up with a plan B because law is not going to be the stage presence and the confident performer that I thought she might.
Speaker One of the things I know about independent people, people that are independent producers or independent managers or agents, their careers.
Speaker Actually, I learned this a long time ago from Michael Lang. Michael says, Charlie, you've got to put all your eggs in one basket. You've got to watch the basket. Most of them have a lot of eggs in different baskets. And although you'd like to see some of them, some of them are your pets. But sometimes some of the ones that are not your pets start to take off and you go with them. So I don't know if if David was really solely saying, I want to make the best of the rest of my life. Laura Nyro, if or if Laura Nyro was just one of the artists that he became passionate over and then later on became passionate over another. I've no way of knowing that. But I would actually I would probably assume that opportunity presented itself, which she was able to take advantage of, and use whatever he learned from the experience with Laura to his benefit.
Speaker So so we've determined now that you were probably not at that first Carnegie Hall. Performance that I don't remember.
Speaker I really don't remember what kind.
Speaker When Laura did perform, when she did the Times that you didn't see her perform. What was she like?
Speaker The same way she was when she performed for me in the little apartment. She really didn't communicate much with the audience. She just played her music.
Speaker And that's although the last time I saw perform was in Los Angeles. She worked a little theater and she was really having fun because it was a small theater. The audience would interact with her and she'd make comments back and forth. And you could actually see that she was free. She was really free and generally having fun as a performer. But this took many, many years.
Speaker Not so in that year. Right. Right. Right.
Speaker So you don't you don't remember. I see. So she was just be quiet. She would just do just two songs. No patter. No.
Speaker You know, this is a song I wrote. No, no, not I don't. I don't remember her.
Speaker I don't remember her even doing that. Even after she started to perform. When I finally saw her in L.A.. She would say, here's here's a song I do, a lot of people request this song or or something like that, but not anything that she would tell stories about the songs.
Speaker No. Interesting.
Speaker So we talked about her as the covers that were done, that she was excited to see her songs interpret it. Do you think. Did you know? Was there any awareness at that point? Was she excited that, oh, I've got songs in the top 10? Did that mean anything? Her.
Speaker I don't know of any writer there's this ever had a hit record, this is I'm sorry I had to hit record. Usually there they're overjoyed that that's somebody recorded a song and somebody made it a hit and that the public now knows about it. I don't really know because Laura, Laura and I never really talked about. You know, the pop ended the business. It is different, it's a different experience making records with people, you know, you can talk to business people that are in the business that are detached from the art. And when you talk to them, they have one view and you talk to the autistic people, we have another view and it's hard to get a sense, as the you know, when I talk to people, we talk art. When when business people talk to them, maybe they talk business. I don't have a clue.
Speaker I said, oh, I can't stand with the fifth dimension.
Speaker Now, that was my comment.
Speaker OK, now you said that the whole sensitivity of the record is different. Of course I know.
Speaker I like the fact that it was a hit record. But I'm partial to my version, of course.
Speaker OK, so we talked about that. And so.
Speaker You mean she never talked about, oh, the fifth dimension. Did my son so-and-so picnic and it's so different than my version. No, no charge about anything like no.
Speaker Pretty I mean, when you see sort of the shell vision performances of some of his own life of the victim. I mean, it's just it's hard to believe it's even the same song. It's just it's actually I mean, it's comical because it's not I mean, it's so far from from. The essence of what Laura wrote and that you created on the album, when you see these, that I mean, there's this one performance of I wish I brought one for you now. I should send it to you. This is one performance of the fifth dimension when they were on Frank Sinatra's show. And they do. Sweet blindness, I think. And, you know, the fifth dimension in these you know, these outfits, these glittery, whatever. And then here comes and touch and tuxedo. And the tuxedo, he was wearing a red outfit just like the fifth dimension, like a sparkly blue suit with like a being like God. He's literally trying to get up, say he was trying to be so. But the point is, you know, that was. To make her music into pop music in that way? Well, I mean, it worked because the songs were so wonderful. But it was I mean, it's it's just so far from the essence