To most people being an arts and entertainment correspondent would be a dream job and they’d be right: meeting famous celebrities, rubbing shoulders with their idols.
And to most it’s a given that people like me treat interviews with these same celebs as a matter of fact-just part of their everyday job.
Well, they are wrong! From the very first interview that I did with Tom Waits in 1974, to the many conversations with among others including Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend and Mick Jagger I have never ceased to be excited to be in the company of such creative and interesting people. Many of whom I grew up listening to on treasured vinyl or stood shoulder to shoulder with other fans in small dark backrooms of London pubs watching them forge their early careers.
Many of the of the interviews didn’t just take place in hotel rooms or record company press offices but on planes and tour buses, backstage at gigs and after show parties!
One particular interview with Ozzy Osbourne was conducted on his tour bus as it travelled between Dortmund and Frankfurt, Germany. Ozzie was in the middle of the European leg of his world tour promoting the album, Bark at the Moon. As we sat side by side on the bus as it sped down the Autobahn Ozzie held his young daughter Kelly in his arms. An interesting sight, to see-a supposed madman caressing and cuddling his little girl with such love and affection!
The Amnesty International Human Rights Now! World Concert Tour is a good example of concerts where issues of social conscience were highlighted by the performances of global superstars, such as Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Tracey Chapman and Yousou N’Dour who, along with the respective backing bands, roadies, technicians, managers and members of Amnesty’s senior staff travelled to 19 countries on five continents in the summer of 1988 and I was fortunate enough to provide radio coverage of this travelling musical campaign to raise awareness of the plight of political prisoners, the disadvantaged, imprisoned and victims of torture. One particularly poignant memory of the tour was witnessing dozens of women-mothers and sisters joining Sting on stage in Mendoza, Argentina to sing We Dance Alone. These women were all related to a husband, brother or father who had disappeared under the leadership of the brutal Chilean dictator Augustus Pinochet. And these same women had walked over the Andes Mountains to take part in the concert to protest their relatives’ innocence and to highlight the atrocities committed by their government and leader.
Another musical event that I was fortunate enough to take part in was Live Aid on July 13th, 1985. The Global Jukebox as it became known began at 12 noon in London’s Wembley Stadium and finished 16 hours later in JFK Stadium Philadelphia and during that time some of the world’s most popular artists performed in aid of famine relief.
I worked backstage at Wembley where I gathered interviews for NBC News, my employer at the time. I ran between the backstage area and the press box in the stadium throughout the day taking the interviews that I done to my newsroom colleagues for editing and final transmission to the U.S.
My most poignant memory of the day was towards the end of the concert when the British artists were coming the end of their day of live performance before the Philadelphia concert took over. Paul McCartney was on stage as the last act and the temporary band hospitality area that had been modelled on a replica of the London Hard Rock Café was full with all of the artists who had performed that day. They all had a printed lyric of the Band Aid song, Do They Know Its Christmas, to rehearse for the finale and were about to run through the song when all of a sudden the power went out leaving the hundred or so rock and pop stars in darkness!
One or two of them didn’t know what to do and Bob Geldof, the self-styled leader of the whole affair let out an expletive in his customary Irish way and candles were lit and the global superstars carried on in the darkness.
A few minutes later the power came on and they all made their way to the stage to join McCartney for the end of what can only be described as an incredible day and an unforgettable experience. You can hear some of those memorable backstage interviews in my archives including Phil Collins, Sting and Bob Geldof.
Australian bands featured heavily during the early to mid 80’s dominating the charts both at home and on the international stage.
In 1984 I visited Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney partly to see the wineries and tourist attractions but also to interview some of the countries most successful recording artistes of the time. These included, Icehouse and their lead singer and main writer Ivor Davies, Midnight Oil frontman, Peter Garrett and Men at Work singer and songwriter Colin Hay. All three groups were enjoying international success at the time with Men at Work leading the way with Down Under. In January 1983, they were the first Australian artists to have a simultaneous No. 1 album and No. 1 single in the United States Billboard charts – Business as Usual (released on 9 November 1981) and “Down Under” (1981), respectively. With the same works, they achieved the same distinction of a simultaneous No. 1 album and No. 1 single on the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom charts.
Back home and at the same time the New Romantics – Duran Duran, dominated the British charts along with Howard Jones, Spandau Ballet, Gary Numan and Nick Kershaw. In addition, Joan Armatrading, Kate Bush, Tears for Fears, Ian Dury and Simple Minds enjoyed considerable chart success and critical accolades for their innovative and unique songwriting and live performances.
Jumping back in time I was fortunate to interview some of the musicians who had an early influence on my musical taste including The Doors and Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, one half of CSN&Y and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. Whilst not rooted in the past they all gave a unique perspective on their own musical journeys from the sixties to the early eighties and retained an enthusiasm for their music and performances.
I hope that you enjoy listening to these musical archives as much as I have enjoyed re-visiting the recordings. I am sure that you find that they will provide a useful insight into the creative minds of the artistes all those years ago!