Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Sep 13th 2007 5:00PM by Steve Baltin
How is it in Las Vegas now?
Gorgeous. I'm sitting in a room that's all windows and it's gorgeous out today. I really have a good time here. They treat me great and the shows are fantastic and the audiences are fantastic. I got no complaints. It's better than being on the road and staying in Holiday Inns.
Does your Vegas residency and the fact you don't tour anymore make the one-off shows you occasionally perform more special again?
It does. A couple of months ago I did Atlantic City and the three weeks later we did Chicago and then a week later we did three nights at Madison Square Garden, and they were just great. If that's the way these little one-nighters are gonna be, I'm in. They were just thrilling; it was just like starting over again.
With the new album coming, are there plans to do more one-off dates on the road?
We are all talking about dropping in a few nights here and there for the rest of the year. And I'm all in favor of that, as long as I don't have to stay away from home and stay in hotels for weeks at a time.
There's a perception that the traveling life of a rock star is glamorous. But it can be exhausting.
Well, 30 years of it does. When I started off, it was exciting. It really was. You ran around and discovered all these beautiful cities and they treat you great and all, but after about 30 years of it, it really didn't matter. I'd seen it all and I really wanted to have my life back. And that's why I stopped.
Your new album, 'Greatest Songs of the Seventies,' takes you back to the era in which you began your musical career. Does revisiting songs from this critical point in your life take you back to that time?
Doing the '50s [album] was a musical treat 'cause I got to sing those wonderful songs that were before my musical time. And the '60s was my kind of generation and that was fun, but the '70s was the most emotional of all three decades for me because the '70s I was just becoming a popular musician. Everything was a big surprise. I never dreamed of becoming a singer or a performer, and every time I began to sing these songs, whether they were my own or the songs that were in the air at the time, they just brought back incredible memories. It was the most emotional of all of them.
Were there any particular emotions that surprised you?
As far as the cover songs, they were competition to me, so although I always realized that they were beautifully written and they deserved to be hit songs, I never really crawled it into each one of them battling out way up the charts. But now, when I did [Elton John's] 'Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,' I of course realized what a brilliant song it is; it's a beautiful melody, terrific lyrics, and it was an honor to sing these songs. You must remember that half of the '70s I wasn't there. So most of these songs I was just a listener on the radio and I was just a guy trying to make a living as a musician, and then suddenly 1976 happened and I was bouncing checks at the A&P, and just as suddenly I was bouncing up the Billboard charts.
Were there any songs you would have loved to include that you couldn't for one reason or another?
So many of them: [The Eagles'] 'New Kid in Town' I couldn't just pull off vocally. Any of the R&B songs I tried; any of the Neil Diamond songs, you can't touch them. They're his and he's put his stamp on them. I tried to do 'What's Going On' -- God, that one sounded like it was gonna be just a fantastic idea. You can't touch a Marvin Gaye song unless you're in that world, not a Jewish white boy. I tried to do some disco stuff, I sounded like a moron. But what we finally wound up with I think is a really good representation of the '70s and a good representation of what I'm capable of doing.
It's funny, because for so long the '70s was such a maligned decade musically...
It was. Believe me, I know it.
But you look at it now and you had punk, disco, your music, Neil Diamond, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye. It's hard to think of a more diverse era of popular music.
I agree, and I think a lot of that had to with the simplicity of these songs. They were baby songs; they weren't mature yet. The '80s, I think, and maybe the '90s, they had gotten more mature. Maybe by the end of the '70s they had become more mature. But I'm telling you, and you know it, these were well-written songs. They really were, even though we didn't believe it when we were listening to them on the radio. Elton John's entire catalog, there's not one clinker. I tried to do the Kiki Dee thing, 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart.' I did it with Rosie O'Donnell, it didn't sound right with the two of us, but, boy, what a wonderful song that was. And when you hear 'Don't Go Breaking my Heart,' you really pay no attention to it compared to all the other great Elton John songs, but it is a great song and a wonderful record.
Projecting ahead, are there any songwriters right now that you could see yourself wanting to cover for an album of songs from this decade?
The guy [John Ondrasik] that's the lead singer and writer in Five for Fighting, he's great. James Blunt is great, and there are a handful more than I hear actually writing lyric and melody. The rest of them, as people who make records do, they make records. God, the records sound great; the grooves, the drum machines. But I keep looking for the song. Is there a song hidden in the middle of a great record? And now and again they jump out at me. And there are a handful that jump out at me.