(Pictured: Styx singer and keyboard player Lawrence Gowan onstage in 2021.)
So last week I got to talk to Lawrence Gowan from Styx for my radio show. Despite many years in radio, meeting and/or interviewing celebrities is not an experience I have had all that often.
I think I have probably told most of the stories here already. The first rock stars I ever actually met were Ray Sawyer and Dennis Locorriere of Dr. Hook. I got to hang backstage with Paul Kantner and Jack Casady. I watched Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon go off on a roadie over a bottle of water, although he may have been kidding. I was taken backstage at a Guess Who show to meet the road manager, who turned out to be original bassist Jim Kale. I sat down to interview Eddie Money only to find that the batteries in my tape recorder were dead. When we finally got to talk, he impressed me with how businesslike he was. Before I could ask John Cafferty a question, he asked me one: “where am I?” He wasn’t impaired, just sleepy, and he’d gotten on the bus after the previous night’s show without worrying about where the next town was. When I was a little baby DJ in Dubuque, Kate Mulgrew was a live guest on a show I co-hosted. The radio company I work for today does an annual three-day benefit for Madison’s American Family Children’s Hospital. One year, in my capacity as a producer, I talked to supermodel Cindy Crawford for 15 seconds after she called in to do a segment with the hosts.
But that’s it, to the extent I can remember anymore.
I am not especially bothered about it. I am not a good interviewer, and I don’t particularly enjoy it. The easiest interviews for me are the ones where all I have to do is wind up the guest and let them go. Lawrence Gowan was like that; I am pretty sure I didn’t ask him anything he hasn’t already been asked a thousand times, so doing the interview was easy for both of us.
Since there’s some of the word count left, here are a few things that have passed through my Twitter feed recently:
—On March 1, a radio station in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, rebranded itself as “Groundhog Country.” The thought process behind this is unfathomable to me: if you knew you were going to make that change, why on earth wouldn’t you do it on Groundhog Day? I can imagine some of the excuses: “Well, there’s too much going on in town that day.” “We were too busy with our Groundhog Day remotes.” Or—and this is more plausible than you might expect—they didn’t think of doing it until Groundhog Day or shortly thereafter. Small-town radio is like that; if the owner wakes up with a wild hair one morning, they can make stuff happen in a hurry.
—I have purchased a fair number of box sets over the years, and I was tempted by many more than I actually bought. I am not tempted by them anymore. A lot of them are of dubious value, but every once in a while something of genuine historical worth comes along, such as The Complete Wattstax Collection, which includes everything from the famous 1972 Los Angeles event. Like the comprehensive Woodstock box, it offers us the sort of full immersion in the event we couldn’t get any other way. I’m not going to buy it, but I’m glad that it exists.
—Robert Smith of the Cure is the latest to set Ticketmaster on fire. How is it that Ticketmaster and Live Nation’s active support for the legalized thievery of the resale market doesn’t get their executives thrown in jail?
—Friend of the blog and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voter Tom Nawrocki is making the case for and against this year’s class of nominees. Up first: Sheryl Crow.
—A new biography of Leon Russell reveals a vastly more complicated individual than I ever suspected.
—Read why ABBA is the greatest band in the world, learn how to prepare yourself for the Rubberband Man, and enjoy this translation of “Honky Tonk Women.”
Check your spam filter, because a new Sidepiece went out yesterday, about the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War. Otherwise, that’s all I’ve got this week. Thank you for your continued patronage of this Internet feature.
10 thoughts on “Rock Stars and Supermodels”
Celebrity interviews are crapshoots. I’ve had several that I pray nobody was rolling tape on. I’m sure you’re better at it than you think you are.
Not to sound like I’m bragging here, but I have done hundreds, maybe over 1,000, interviews with celebrities for my books and other written materials, and I usually find that they work best if you’re able to talk them about things they haven’t been asked to death, or if they have, find a different angle. For example, when I talked to Toni Tennille about Love Will Keep Us Together, I asked her about her memories when accepting the Grammy for Record of the Year. She told me a funny story of how Joan Baez looked at her as if she was an alien.
But as mikehagerty noted, your mileage may vary depending on the interviewee. If they’re not ready or willing to talk, like Hugh Grant was on the “Champagne Carpet” on the Oscars, it can be a frustrating experience with little headway. I somehow got a few words out from Al Stewart about Time Passages, but it was like getting a blood from a stone given his curt answers and general demeanor that he wanted to be anywhere else than where he was at the time.
I interviewed Al Stewart at his house, so he was fine with where he was at the time!
“So Lawrence (d’ya mind if I call you “Larry?”)*, how does an obscure artist from Glasgow find himself as a member of one of the most popular American bands of the late 70’s to mid 80’s, who’ve sold 20 million records?”
Re-read your linked piece about Jim Kale and it’s only gotten worse (?) since then. For the most part people just want the tunes sung competently and don’t care who’s doing the singing. The tribute band is a cottage industry; we live a couple blocks from a theater and there is some sort of these bands two to three times a week.
* Maybe you get a brownie point or two for knowing the title of his 1993 album “…But You Can Call Me Larry.”
I keep losing hope for future cd releases based on how their sales are dying off, but the Complete Wattstax set was truly a gift from above. I’ve always wanted to hear the entire show, so this set being released makes me very happy. My dear wife gave me a copy as an early birthday present. I don’t know when I’ll get to actually listen to it, but I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve done three interviews in my life, but none for radio. Two were by phone and I did a terrible job, but the guys being interviewed – the leader of Barry and the Remains, and a member of Moby Grape – were wonderful to talk to. The third was an email interview with a member of Montage (“I Shall Call Her Mary”) and that went much better on my end.
Having said that, I don’t think I want to interview anybody else ever again. Worrying about questions that haven’t been asked to death is a lot to deal with.
Hell, it can go south before the questions.
Around Labor Day, 1983, I was given the assignment to interview Debbie Reynolds for the CBS TV affiliate in Reno. We had just started doing a show in the past year called “Live at 5”, a half-hour with about seven minutes of headlines, followed by celebrity news. At the time, between Reno and Lake Tahoe, an hour away, there were seven casino showrooms booking big-name acts, and Debbie was one of them.
We set up in advance in a room at Harrah’s, Debbie’s aide then ushered her into the room. I stood up, shook her hand and said “Ms. Reynolds, it’s a pleasure. I’ve always wanted to meet you. And congratulations on your daughter’s wedding.”
Carrie Fisher had married Paul Simon two weeks before.
Nobody told me Debbie didn’t like Paul and sure as hell didn’t want to be his mother-in-law.
Debbie looked at me like I had handed her plutonium and it was an uncomfortable ride from there.
This comment has me laughing out loud, mikehagerty. I can only imagine the potentially lethal follow-up questions, like “Your daughter has the top grossing film of the year right now, Return of the Jedi, while you haven’t been in movie theaters in nearly a decade since That’s Entertainment! How does that make you feel?”
Wesley, today—yeah. But these were softball interviews, for the most part. I may not even have mentioned Carrie after the response I got to the wedding. Normally, I would have likely wrapped up with the “view to the future”—her career and the next generation (Carrie).
What people who didn’t do the Vegas-Reno-Tahoe casinos probably never knew was that Debbie was a force in those shows—right up there with Sammy Davis Jr. and Wayne Newton for showmanship. And at that point, she was only 51.
IIRC, there’s a scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (the book – I haven’t seen the movie) where HST and his companion get kicked out of a casino while watching Debbie Reynolds sing a schlocky version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
I’ve never seen it, either—but yeah, it exists. We don’t see Debbie, and it’s a long build-up to about four seconds of audio, but: