JIM KELTNER - FACE2FACE Part 2
By Jonathan Mover
Oh My My
JM: I can't think of any greater compliment than to be called by one of the greatest drummers in the world to play on his solo record. That would be like calling me to play on your record. I wouldn't know what to say, let alone what to play.
JK: Every time I get to play with, or even hang out with, Ringo is amazing. Those early records, again with Richard Perry producing, were so much fun. And all I wanted to do was support, just enough, but I never really felt that he needed any support.
JM: How did it all start?
JK: George took me to a session where Ringo was overdubbing maracas on a single that George had written for him and was producing. I think it was over at Island (Studios). I was just so knocked out to meet him. And then he said, ”Do you want to play a bit, play some maracas?” He handed me these big massive maracas and we overdubbed together on "It Don't Come Easy." That's how I meet him.
Ringo and I hit it off really well, just one of those things, as people. It might have been because I was such good friends with George and John.
I could feel that he didn't quite believe what I was saying when I told him things like: ”In LA when we're recording, we're referencing you all the time. We want that sound, we want that feel....” he didn't quite buy it. But, later on when I started playing with him, from Bangladesh on, I was bound and determined to not get in the way of that feel, that famous feel. So, like I said before, I hardly played any hi-hat, because that was a big part of the Ringo thing.
JM: Then that explains why you're playing more of a military type snare drum groove instead of a backbeat on ”Oh My My.”
JK: That's right. I was always trying not to play anything normal, which would take away from Ringo's feel. It just didn't make any sense to me, and I made that very clear: I did not want to ruin anything about the Ringo Starr feel or sound, but especially the feel. You don't want to do anything to take away from what he does. That thing that we've all loved and enjoyed for so many years, how could you have another drummer come in and mess that up? So I was always very conscious of not doing that. And of course, I always felt like I did mess it up. I'd hear a play back, and I was always wishing that it was just him playing. He always cracked up at that, he never felt the importance of it like I did.
JM: Did he have any input on what you were playing or was it left to you and your interpretation?
JK: He always left it up to me. He began to trust me very early on. Our relationship was based on trust, and I treasure that even to this day.
The Dream Weaver
JM: I, like a lot of people thought this was Newmark. So when I sat down with Andy and played it for his Face2Face, he just listened to it, really digging the groove and taking it all in. I'm thinking he's getting into his own playing, and he says: ”Yeah, 'Dream Weaver' and that's Keltner, and let's give credit where credit's due.” He was very happy to sing your praises.
JK: That's great. I'm a huge fan of Andy Newmark's playing. That was a period where I was just going from one session to the other. It was early in the morning and I think Gary called me, although it hight have been David Foster because I had been playing with David. You know, I kind of got David Foster his start in the session world.
Anyway, when I showed up, I think I was surprised that it was only going to be three of us. It turned out that they had the groove, which was a straight groove, but then, typical of David-who loved the shuffle and played it just about as good as anybody ever-he re-arranged it.
JM: You mean David Foster played keys and not Gary?
JK: Gary ended up playing the Moog. This was David Foster early on. You think of him now as Celine Dion and all that, but back then he co-wrot with Maurice White and Earth, Wind & Fire, some of their best stuff. He was a bad boy and played great. We had a little band together called Attitudes. Anyway, David changed the groove and when he did that, it just came together and that was it.
JM: So originally it was straight eights, and he turned it into the shuffle.
JK: Yeah, and I didn't really remember that until David told me recently.
JM: I remember hearing it on the radio all the time. Was that one of the tunes that put you on the map? I mean, as we all know, when you own a shuffle like that...
JK: That was right around the period where I was think there were several records. But you see, the records that I played on that a lot of people talk about now, didn't make such a big impression then. Like ”Josie” on Aja (Steely Dan) record... people would talk about Steve's performance on the title track, and they still do, because it was like first take, and he's playing all that ridiculously great stuff. Steve was on fire in those days. They talked about that, and ”Peg,” which was the one played on the radio all the time.
Then ”Josie” started getting airplay later. ”Josie” became the one that you would hear in between The Super Bowl stuff, or all the sports things. For some reason they'd play a little bit of ”Josie,” you know those chords and that vibe; you heard that all over the place.
And then, right around same perod, there was the crossover record that we did for Dolly Parton. It was Dean Parks and Foster again, with Gary Klein producing.It took her from the worlds she was in all the way to the pop thing, and so people were talking about that a lot.
But ”Dream Weaver,” like you said, not a lot people knew that I played on ”Dream Weaver.” Even Lenny Waronker didn't know, and he was the head of Warners with Mo (Ostin). Somebody was playing it for him in the car and he thought it was Andy too.
Handle Me With Care
The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1
The Traveling Wilburys
JM: Okay, I hope I don't make an ass of myself here. I know you time perfect and all, but this to me sounds like a machine, and maybe you overdubbed the toms...? Or dare I say, someone Pro Tooled you, for which I cannot imagine why. But man, that groove is so spot-on, and the big tom hit on 4 couldn't be any deeper.
JK: You're a godd spotter. No, that's machine. That was Jeff Lynn (a.k.a. Otis Wilbury). And the 'bammp' (tom hit on 4), that was Ian Wallace playing tom with a machine. The only other human on that, drum-wise, was Ian playing a couple of the tom fills.
JM: Whew. Good, I'm glad I didn't offend you.
JK: That was the first song they did. George (Harrison) was in town and he called me, but I couldn't make it. They went to Bob's (Dylan studio), but that song wasn't to be for the record.
This song was specifically for something that George had to do. T think it was supposed to be a B-side, that's why it wasn't very important that I didn't make it. That was the first thing they did, and when it turned out so good and they got serious about making a record, I was on the rest of it.
We worked at Dave's Stewart house, and I was set up in the kid's bedroom. They moved the kid's stuff out and moved my drums in.
JM: I love the music, and of course the talent there; it's ridiculous. But even more than the music, what I really like is that consider you an equal Wilbury. It's not that often that the drummer, any drummer, is shown that much respect and appreciation.
JK: Well they wanted to make me equal. I was kidding around with George all the time, I'd say, ”No, I'm just a Sidebury.” And so that's what they'd call me. But what they ended up doing with me was, they bonus-ed me. They were very, very generous and really good to me.
I have a history with all of them. With Bob, I played on “Watching The River Flow, that's where I first met him. Then there was ”Knockin' On Heaven's Door,” and all kinds of stuff after that. With George, there was a ton of stuff, and Tom; I've played with him in different situations over the years. Full Moon Fever, I played on ”Love Is A Long Road.” With Roy, I played on ”Mystery Girl” with Bono and some other tracks. And then Jeff, we worked together on Cloud Nine with George. I had this history with all the guys, so it was just natural.
That was one of the most fun things I've ever done in my life.
Rumor And Sigh
JK: Hmm? (the vocal comes in) Oh, Richard Thompson.
JM: Richard is amazing. I love everything he does, from Fairport (Convention) to the solo stuff. He's truly one of the great artists of our time.
JK: I haven't played with him for a long time. He was fun to play with. There was another one that I remember playing on I really loved thet was really dark...I can't remember what it was.
JM: ”Why I Must Plead,” or ”I Still Dream?”
JK: I couldn't tell by titles with him because it seemed like there was so much stuff I did with him for a little while here.
And a lot of it was hard to play for me, because it's very Gaelic. But I think that one is one that I remember liking a lot. Yeah, what a tremendous artist, I agree with you on that.
JM: Top notch in every way.
JK: His artistry is unquestionable.
JM: He's one of the few guys I could happily go see do a solo show, no drums, no bass, just Richard, and be completely knocked out.
JK: Yeah, that's how strong he plays and sings. And in fact, that's probably the best way to hear a lot of those songs.
If the drums are not there for a really great reason, then sometimes it's better for them not to be there at all.
JM: I agree. Songs like that speak for themselves, with or without drums.
Watching The River Flow
Greatest Hits Vol. II
JK: That's one of my favorites, ever, and that's Jesse Ed plying guitar. Listen to that...I haven't heard this in a while man. Play it from there (00:35). Okay, now listen to the bass, the piano and guitar. See, you don't need to play drum fills.
Everything I played on that record was understated-except for that one thing in the middle. That is a perfect example of what we were talking earlier: when you're playing with people that are so strong, you can really be understated. I love that.
JM: As a kid, I didn't get Dylan. It sounded too out of tune and out of time for me. I didn't understand the looseness and artistry of it. But then, growing up, I heard all of these amazing songs from other artists, and I'd see 'written by Bob Dylan.'
As an adult, I went back and listen, and realized just how amazing he is. And on this recording he just sounds so focused.
JK: Right. Well, as I understood it, he wrote that song that morning. He was writing the words as we were playing. But yeah, you're right, he is an amazingly focused guy.
I've got rehearsals on tape with him that are just extraordinary. Some of my best drumming, the band killing, him playing lead guitar, which is hilarious because the first two bars, when he comes in as a soloist, you think, ”Damn, listen to that, who is that?” And of course he can't continue it because he doesn't have the facility of a lead-guitar player. But he has amazing imagination.
Bob is the Gov. Bob is the President. There's nobody like Bob Dylan.
JK: Oh man, I just heard that the other day at Richard Perry's house. That's Mac Rebennack playing.
JM: Dr. John, another great cast of characters to play with.
JK: They were fantastic, James and Carly. T think we did Night Owl during that same time period. There was some good stuff, and that was one of my favorite things with them.
JM: I don't know if it's because I was so young when all this stuff came out, but going back and revisiting this now; yes, they wrote some wonderful pop tunes that everybody knows, but the drumming on their tracks is really pretty serious. I remember when I heard ”Anticipation” as an adult, and really listened to Andy's (Newmark) tracks, there's some serious shit going on there, and this one's no different. It's a simple pop tune until you start dig in and listen.
JK: Yeah, Andy playing with Carly was always great.
Richard Perry produced most of that stuff. Richard and Carly had a big hand in making and shaping the drum parts. It always great fun listening back, like you really felt you had done something after you'd worked with those two. It was a fun time. And a lot of it was due to Richard Perry's production. Richard was so good at structuring things; how to play a part, how to not play something, and how to make it be an event rather than just a groove thing.
And that particular song, ”Mockingbird,” with Mac playing piano made all the difference. The feel was tremendous.
It was in the same room we cut Steely Dan (Aja), The Producer's Workshop.
JK: Oh wow, so good to hear this: Wow!
JM: He's the reason I'm a musician. When I was very young, I saw his animated film The Point on TV.
JK: The Point, of course, Earl Palmer.
JM: That's right. That film turned me on to music, and turned me on to Harry. And then, collecting all his records led to you and (Jim) Gordon and some really great music.
JK: That's a nice thing to now. I remember The Point. I loved it, and my youngest son was into it too. And that may have been what got him started. I could never get him interested in playing, but on his own he just learned to play.
He became a monster drummer, and then he gave it up and is now acting instead. My first born, Eric, is one of my favorite guitar players, and I've played with some great ones.
But, Nilsson, I think that was me and Jimmy (Gordon) again. We did a lot of stuff together, and that was just a wonderful time.
Those days in the studio with Harry were incredible. Got me in a lot of trouble (laughing) got all of us in a lot of trouble, but it was great. One of those nights, we were kicked out of the Spotlight Bar on Cahuenga, which is still there (laughing). I mean, hardcore alkies ther, and those people at that time in the morning, they didn't want to hear any rockers coming in and turning the jukebox up and being loud-crazy days indeed.
JM: You did a lot of work with him throughout the years.
JK: Yeah, Harry loved being in the studio with his friends. We had a lot of fun and built some great memories around his legendary partying. He and John (Lennon) had some great nights on the town: they wrote the book.
JM: Did you meet Harry through John, or vice versa?
JK: I meet Harry through Richard Perry while I was in London. I did “Without You” with him. That was such a big record that it all evolved from there, and we ended up playing together all the time.
JK: Wow, what's funny about you playing this is I just saw (producer) John Brion yesterday. We went to the Disney (Concert Hall) for the matinee to see the last time (Esa-Pekka) Salonen would be conducting Stravinsky's ”Rite Of Spring.” You know the timpani part on that is unbelievably hard and very complex, but amazing.
My friend Joe Pereira, who is now principle timpanist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, came right from the New York Philharmonic to be with (Gustavo) Dudamel, and he gives us these tickets once in a while. It was magical performance.
But, John Brion was standing in line, and he's the one who got me on Aimee's record. You know she's Michael Penn's wife, and I had played on one of Michael's records with John. So when he produced her record, he had me come down. I remember really loving this song. She's got one of the great voices in pop music.
JM: And her lyrics....
JK: Yeah, she's some songwriter. She's amazing. And yet you know, nobody makes a big fuss. I don't quite understand that.
JM: Well, maybe if they made too much out of her, it would change things. Musically, she's been consistent since she hit the scene, all the way back to 'Til Tuesday. I love the fact that she's still around, still has all her integrity and didn't sell out.
It's interesting that you said that you really loved this song. One of the reasons that I chose this one is I wondered how much of it did you hear lyrically or melodically? Because, even though it's a simple tune, your drums seem to emotionally back up exactly what she's talking about, what she's feeling.
JK: Michael Froom used to say that about my playing. He said, ”When you play a sad song, the drum sound sad.” And when he said that I thought, ”Oh man, what a great compliment.” I wonder how that happens, because I don't know. But hey, if it can happen, then what can be better than for you to be right there with the emotion of the song.
I guess playing the drums on this song, the lyric was probably talking to me in some way. That's probably what it is. Same thing with you when you play, you know you are consciously or unconsciously making the drums say what that song's saying. It's what you do. But it's also a tribute to the artist, because not everybody's going to bring that out in you.
It's like being in church with that preacher when they say that the preacher has the anointing upon him that day. What that means is: that day, the preacher was talking right to you. There might have been a hundred people in the room, but that day, that message came right to you ass if he knew exactly what was going on with you. That's what I feel from an artist with a great song, a great set of lyrics and a really great performance. That just makes my drums come alive and do what they're supposed to do. That's what we live for as musicians, to have that kind of stuff come into our lives.
Better Off Dead
Just As I Am
(I was about to play ”Better Off Dead,” but accidentally started ”Ain't No Sunshine.”
Barely a second of it played, and I immediately hit stop. Before I could start ”Better Off Dead,” Jim jumped right in with.....)
JK: I saw that record.
JM: What do you mean you saw that record?
JK: ”Ain't No Sunshine,” I saw that record.
I had just recorded ”Better Off Dead” the night before with Bill and (producer) Booker T., and I heard them talking about Al Jackson coming in the next day. I couldn't believe it. I said, ”Oh man, can I come in and watch?!” They said, ”Sure.”
Ten o'clock the next morning, I'm sitting there waiting at (Wally) Heider's (Recording Studio) and I see the guy from S.I.R. walk in with a little drum kit. Nothing special, just a little kit, and he sets it up an them leaves.
Sure enough, a few minutes later, in walks Al JAckson. He's wearing a nice suit and holding a pair of sticks: that's it (laughing).
No key. I didn't see him put a key to the kit. He played them just as they were set up and tuned, and played exactly the right thing for the track.
That track, ”Ain't No Sunshine,” (excitedly) I saw him do that and I will never forget it. It's one of my favorite songs ever. Forget ”Better Off Dead,” that's the track.
JM: ”(Ain't No) Sunshine” is a beauty, but ”Better Off Dead,” that is one serious backbeat. And very different from the other tracks on that record.
But okay, we'll move on. One more and I'll let you go.
She's Just My Style
She's Just My Style
Gary Lewis & The Playboys
JK: Man, you're going right back to the beginning. Back to Genesis.
JM: Rumor has it that this was your first professional session.
JK: Well, I always believed that it was. It was the first record that I ever played on that went somewhere. We're talking 1965, and I only did a few things in the studio before that. I made an acetate with a band I was with called The Aristocrats; we made a little EP. I also recorded with The Pasadena Boys Club Band when I was around seventeen or eighteen. A few things like that, but ”(She's) Just My Style” was the first record I played on.
JM: I know Hal Blaine played on Gary's first single, so that must have been something coming in after him, but I'm also curious to know what you remember it was like recording back then. I know there was multi-track recording going on, but was it full-talks all the time, very few mics, everyone playing at once, what do you recall?
JK: Well, by 1965 they already had 8-track recording. I think it was a bass-drum mic, snare-drum mic and one overhead at least. Maybe more, because by that time they were also probably able to link up two 8-tracks. But for me, I knew nothing about the mics and recording, or ant part of it other than I was there and I just needed to learn what it was that they wanted me to do.
That's Leon Russell producing and if you listen to the intro, there's that part where the hi-hat open up. We did one take and he really liked it. When it came to the second take, he was real specific about what he wanted me to do. He knew that I was inexperienced in the studio, and he knew that I was a jazz player and not a rocker. So he said, ”Play this real simple and don't do any other fills, just play a fill here in the beginning and nothing else.” It was just a simple fill down the toms, but he said, ”Can you do that backwards?”
JM: Okay, so that's the session you were referring to when we listened to Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
JK: Yeah, that was my first time meeting him. And coincidentally, I just did a session recently with Robert Randolph following up on a record that we started a few months ago. Leon was there on the last day because he happened to be in town, and he just played so great.
And I just remember, on that track for Gary, the guitar player was Tommy Tripplehorn (actress Jeanne Triplehorn's father), he's a Tulsa native, a great jazz piano player and great jazz guitar as well. And he was kind like me; he was a jazz player, but he was there playing a rock gig.
Well, he played a great solo during that section of the song. Leon went out immediately, picked up the guitar and played that little simple solo that you hear. I just thought to myself, ”Man, that's unbelievable. He just took that great solo that Tommy played and replaced it with a dumb little one.
But then over the years, I came to realize the brilliance of that. It was supposed to be a simple little rock song, by a guy named Gary Lewis, who had a fan base that expected a certain a kind of rock-not sophisticated hip stuff.
And that record hit. I remember driving through Hollywood and hearing it on the radio a couple of weeks later; turning it up really loud and thinking, ”This is it. I'm on top of the world.” I was completely hooked
Ringo Starr - Oh My My
Gary Wright - Dream Weaver
Traveling Wilburys - Handle Me With Care
Richard Thompson - I Misunderstood
Bob Dylan - Watching the River Flow
Carly Simon - Mockingbird
Harry Nilsson - Down
Aimee Mann - Stupid Thing
Bill Withers - Better Off Dead
Gary Lewis & The Playboys - She's Just My Style
Published in DRUMHEAD issue March-April 2010 #20