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Desperate Fools


elle4ec

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Wow Eric, after all he put you through, it is amazing that the worst thing you can say about him is that you just didn't care for him. You are a saint!

Well, one thing is for sure, Boats is an incredible piece of work, in my opinion, your best. So I guess it was all worth it in the end!

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Eric:

Was that a difficult decision for you to replace the original band or was it something you just had to accept to get the record done? I always wondered why you didn't use those guys again after the great job they did on the first album (and tour). Obviously, you had some fantastic musicians playing on "Boats", but there seemed to be such chemistry with that original band.

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Wow...can I feel any worse than I do now?

It's just the way peanut said "Gus" I thought this was someone she personally knew, so I thought I'd ask because I thought I missed something. I really had no clue who he was. If I knew he brought back such bad memories, I would have never asked. I don't know what else to say...

Wendy

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When Gus was hired, he asked me how good my band was. I told him I thought they were VERY good, and that they had done a fine job on my first solo album. He agreed to use them, but told me he wasn't sure about them, and that he planned to have some session players "waiting in the wings," just in case. I explained this to my band, but I assured them that I thought everything would be fine. We were well rehearsed and the band sounded great.

When we got to London, nothing seemed to work. Gus just sat in his chair in the studio, day after day, and gave us very little feedback. We'd play the same song over and over for eight hours, and then ride back to our rented house in the country feeling pretty demoralized. I did everything I could to psyche the band up, but the lack of input from Gus and the lack of progress in the studio began to take it's toll on everyone. I really cared for all the guys, and had great respect for their talent, but I always felt especially protective of Donnie Krueger. I loved his sensitivity as a drummer, and he was very young and I sensed that he was a bit emotionally fragile. Gus destroyed him, and it just killed me. I was contractually obligated to do the album with Gus, and he had decided my guys weren't cutting it. It was absolutely horrible, for them and for me. I had a very weak manager who told me I "had to go with Gus's opinion" and that was that.

In hindsight, I should have tried to break the agreement with Gus after the fiasco in London, but I was under the gun from the label and my manager to finish the album and get it out before people forgot who I was. I was coming off my first hit album and they wanted "product". There wasn't enough time to find a new producer who was immediately available, and start from scratch.

That was a moment where having Irving Azoff would have been very, very helpful. He would have fired Gus after a week. Unfortunately, I didn't know Irving at the time.

All I heard from MY manager (Stan Poses) was "How many tracks did'ja get today?" I would reply "none" and he would say "You've gotta push Gus harder." Apparently he thought it was MY responsibility to not only sing, play, write and arrange but also to ride herd on Gus Dudgeon AND keep my band psyched up. The pressure damn near killed me.

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Oh, my! Those session details make the Boats album seem all the more amazing, to me. To work under those conditions... yikes. And to still come up with the collection you got... unbelievable. What should have been a fun experience sounds more like torture.

When you think about it, all the tension and conflict could have resulted in something like the Beach Boys' Smile sessions: so much effort put into something you knew you wanted to do, but in the end, an abandoned project. I'm glad you pushed on, Eric, and worked around Gus's "magic touch."

PS: Wendy, I'm glad you brought it up! WORD!

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Eric Carmen said:

When I attempted to explain to Gus that the sound I was looking for [on "Run Away"] was probably a triple tracked Fender Strat, recorded direct (without an amp) compressed to death, like Andrew Gold's guitar on "You're No Good," he became enraged and said, "I wouldn't know the difference between a Gibson and a Fender if it bit me."

Ha! One of the great lines in popular music history! :lol::lol:

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I remember buying the "Boats.." album in August 1977. And if I remember right, I knew of it's imminent release and title well before that, and was aware that something was delaying its hitting the record stores. We know what that delay was.

But like LC said, the pain and sweat weren't in vain. If I had to give up all my albums except one, I think "Boats Against The Current" would be the one I'd keep..

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Some people are more fans of the Raspberries stuff, and others the solo stuff. I like both equally.

But like a few others have stated, and it's true for me too, the "Boats.." album is more personal to me than the other albums. So it's the one I'd keep.

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Here's one more story.

On the first day of recording in L.A., we all assembled at Crystal Studios in their big room (where Stevie Wonder recorded). We had a brilliant young engineer named Kevin Beamish (who came to be known as Captain Beamish) during the sessions. It was a huge studio with high ceilings and lots of room (think Abbey Road).

Gus chose a spot for Nigel's drum kit, and the drum tech set up, and the engineers placed the mics, and then Gus sat down to get "the sound." I figured this should be pretty straightforward since he'd done 13 albums with Nigel on drums, but apparently this was not the case. We all sat there while Nigel pounded away, one drum at a time, and Gus worked on "the sound". It him took FOUR HOURS to get the drum sound. I couldn't imagine why it was taking so long, but, as this was the first day, I just sat there and let Gus do his thing.

Normally,a good engineer and a good producer should be able to get a good drum sound in an hour or so. I was a bit perplexed. By the time Gus finished, it was dinner time, so we took a break and went out for dinner. We returned, about an hour and a half later, and began piano and bass sounds, and put together a headphone mix. Eventually, we were ready to try to lay a track down. We played for a few hours and by that time it was midnight so we knocked off for the day.

I had purchased the studio time at a "lock-out" rate, which means that no one else would be using that room for at least a month. That meant we never had to break down our equipment after the session. Everything would be in precisely the same position when we came in the following day, since nothing had moved, and we should be able to be up and running much more quickly.

We came in the next day and Gus began working on the drum sound again. It took FOUR HOURS AGAIN, even though nothing had moved. Nigel's drums and the mics were exactly where we had left them. We all sat there and, once again, Nigel pounded his snare drum for and hour and a half before Gus thought it was acceptable, and then moved on to the kick drum, etc.

At some point, Gus left the room, and I asked Captain Beamish why it was taking so long to get the sound. He explained that Gus didn't "believe in" using a Kepex, which is a noise gate, commonly used to help eliminate the rattling noise of the snares when the drummer hits a tom-tom, or his bass drum. I asked why, and Kevin said Gus thought it somehow changed the sound of the kit. Gus was a "purist". This was the "old school" method.

Well, to make a long story short(er), we'd come in everyday, and Gus would spend four hours getting the drum sound, even though nothing had moved from the day before. It drove the rest of us MAD! Imagine how tedious it would be to come to the studio everyday, ready to play, and have to sit and listen to the drummer pound on one drum at a time, over and over and over again, at about 110 decibels (Gus liked to listen LOUD) for four hours, day after day. About two weeks in, I was ready to go ballistic.

One day, I arrived at the studio a bit early, and I was talking to Kevin Beamish about Kepexes, and I said "Kevin, let's put one on the snare drum, just for fun."

Kevin agreed, and we patched it in and adjusted the response.

When Nigel and Gus arrived, we once again began the process of getting the drum sound, but from the minute Nigel began to play, his kit sounded great! It only took about forty minutes to get everything going, and we were ready to start going for a take. We played for an hour and a half or so, and we had all come in the the control room to listen to a playback, when Gus glanced over at the patch bay and saw the Kepex patch.

"WHAT'S THIS?", he demanded. Kevin said "It's a Kepex."

Gus glared at him and said "Get it out of there." Kevin pulled the patch, and then Gus spent four hours getting the drum sound.

I was ready to kill him.

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James said:

If I had to give up all my albums except one, I think "Boats Against The Current" would be the one I'd keep..

Amen, James.

I wouldn't even have to think about it. If I was stranded on an island and could only have one album for the rest of my life...Boats Against The Current would definitely be the one. I've never tired of it once in thirty years (and I doubt I have thirty more). I can listen to it every day...and it's magic every time I listen to it. I can't think of any other (non-EC) album that can come close to that. I hate that the production of BATC was such a bad experience for Eric and that there are so many bad memories associated with it for him. I feel guilty that I can only think good things when I think of BATC...I wish it were the same for Eric. He deserved for that to be the career masterpiece that he could forever look back on proudly (which I know he does)....but it's a shame his memories are clouded with all the woulda, shoulda, couldas. The biggest shame... that I'll NEVER understand...is that so few of us "got" Boats Against The Current. It should be at or near the top of everybody's alltime album list.

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Duane said:

If I was stranded on an island and could only have one album for the rest of my life...Boats Against The Current would definitely be the one.

Me too, Duane. The BATC album (and a source to play it on), food, water, and the right person,(one who would "get it" musically) - no, not Ginger or Mary Ann for me! Those things would make being stranded on an island sound like not such a bad thing at all ,(at least for maybe a month or so)! For me, BATC supplies all my basic emotional needs....it can be upbeat, serious, and definitely sexy...depending on what I need at any given time. It satisfies everything I could ever want in a compilation of music. I can't imagine it being any more perfect..an amazing feat after reading all of the hell Eric went through to complete the album. All I can say is Eric, thank you! I'm so thankful you stuck it out and completed BATC! You'll never know what your masterpiece has added to my life!

...Now I just need to figure out which island I want to get stranded on... :cool:

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Yeah, Elle and Duane, I'm with you both. Boats is the right one for that desert island. (Um, would MaryAnn be there, too? Oh, wait, wrong island. And wrong thread.)

Anyway, Elle, "masterpiece" is the right word for it. Eric took a lemon (Gus) and made some great lemonade (the finished product). And he set the bar pretty high for himself, too!

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Gus was that rare combination of great technical ability, mixed with a complete lack of human compassion. I can remember coming into the control room after doing a good vocal performance and asking him what he thought. His reply was "I don't know."

One morning, in London, we arrived at the studio and I said "Good morning, Gus! And how are you today?"

He replied "I'm bored and frustrated, and I can't get into it."

We had a whole day of recording ahead of us. All I could think of was "Thanks for sharing."

It was like recording with Adolph Eichmann.

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Well, when Gus and Elton started out together, they were both young and hungry. As I've said, Gus was a very good engineer. Elton was obviously a HUGE talent. Gus got very good sounds on Elton's early recordings and "Your Song" became a huge hit. Often, when a combination works, you don't want to mess with it.

Over time, people can change. The "Gus Dudgeon" that I worked with was a very wealthy, very successful record producer, not a fledgeling producer just starting out. I think his attitude may have reflected that change.

It's funny, before I hired him, I asked James Newton Howard, who was, at that time, Elton's synthesizer/ keyboard player and sometime string arranger, what he thought of Gus. He told me he thought Gus was a a genius. At the same time, I asked Clive Davis to speak to John Reid, Elton's manager, to get his take.

When Clive asked John about Gus, he said "It's ALL Elton."

I suspect it was just the right combination at the right time.

Here's a little tidbit.

When I signed on with Gus, we discussed the possibility of having Elton and I play two pianos, together, on "Boats Against The Current." He told me he had spoken to Elton and Elton had agreed to do it. I had asked James Newton Howard to do the string arrangements for "Boats" and "She Did It," as well.

A couple of weeks into the recording, in London, I went to the opening of an art exhibit with Gus, and, at the party afterwards, he told me that he and Elton had had a falling out, and had just split up. I remember thinking "There goes the my second piano. Bummer."

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Thanks for the reply Eric. Don't want to make assumptions about Gus' talents, but obviously when you have a huge hit with one of your first songs ("Your Song"), and with a new artist (Elton), it goes a long way in establishing your credentials. It's too bad your experience with him was so painful, but sometimes with pain there comes an emotional release, and that is, I believe the "Boats" album. Although I don't know if I'd bring it to a deserted island, (I'll take "Fresh", "Side 3" and "Starting Over", "Tonight You're Mine" and the first solo album), it certainly was a creative high-point for you.

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Gus was in the music business for a long time, and produced two albums that, I think, rank among the best ever, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy." That's why I wanted to work with him.

In the studio, it's all about chemistry and trust.

I went into the recording sessions with the highest hopes and expectations. I couldn't understand why someone who had made so many great records was taking so long and having such a difficult time. We worked in the best studios in L.A., with the best musicians in L.A., and Gus stayed at the best hotel in L.A and drove a Mercedes to work, all on my dime. We weren't getting anything done, and yet, there didn't seem to be any sense of urgency coming from him. I was under a lot of pressure, and we were WAY over budget. He had fired my band, hired all new musicians, many of whom HE had personally chosen, and we STILL weren't getting anywhere.

When he finally blurted out that "Elton just came in and played on the basic track, and then left all the rest to him", I realized I had a serious problem. I came into the sessions with the whole arrangement in my head. The guitar solos, the drum parts, the vocal harmonies, what the string arrangements should sound like, even what guitar would be right for any particular song. That's pretty much the way I had always worked. When I'm writing, I hear the whole thing.

I knew what I wanted, and I was looking to the producer to get great sounds on everything, add a few finishing touches and make it all work together. Polish it up, you know?

We weren't making Gus Dudgeon's second album, we were making Eric Carmen's second album. And it was the most important, personal album of my life. It was my bid for F.M. credibility, coming off of a big hit album. It was my "make or break" record and I knew it. If it didn't happen, Gus would just go on and produce someone else's next record, but that album might determine the trajectory of my entire career. Artists have much more at stake than producers.

Unfortunately, things just spiraled out of control. Nothing seemed to motivate Gus to get things moving faster, and my poor excuse for a manager just kept telling me I had to "push him harder."

It was an awful situation. I remember someone asking Clive about how long the album was taking, and how much it was costing and his reply was something like "What do I care, it's HIS money." In the end, the studio got paid, the engineers got paid, and the musicians got paid. I would have had to have sold about half a million albums to break even.

Welcome to the music business.

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