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- Posted on Jun 16th 2011 10:36AM by Julian Marszalek
Let it not be said that rock'n'roll is without humour and Duane Eddy, one of the most instantly recognisable and important guitarists of his and any generation, is chuckling at his recollection of re-working 'Peter Gunn' with the Art of Noise back in 1986. Of course, Eddy goes back to the Golden Age of Rock'n'Roll and along with Chuck Berry and Link Wray did much to popularise the notion of the guitar and its place in the pop firmament with classic instrumentals such as 'Rebel Rouser' and 'Shazam.'
Working with Yorkshire crooner Richard Hawley in the production seat and on six-string duties, the legendary 73-year-old guitarist is about to release 'Road Trip,' his first new album in 24 years. The result is an album that matches Eddy's trademark twang with Hawley's widescreen retro romanticism and it easily recalls an era of filterless cigarettes, seamed stockings and envelopes sealed with a loving kiss.
How easy was it for Richard Hawley to tempt you back into the recording studio after a gap of 24 years?
Well, I've been in a studio during that time but I haven't had anything released! But it was a great experience recording up in Sheffield. It was like going back to Phoenix in the old days in many ways. The studio was so comfortable and the musicians all sat around together and wrote the songs and played the songs and recorded the songs. We did them all live.
I'd been hoping to work with Richard as I'd been listening to his stuff. I'd been knocked out by the sound and I started talking to his manager and then my manager and we got together and I thought, "What a fortunate thing!" because maybe I could prevail upon Richard to share some of that good sound with me. When I listened to his albums I could almost hear myself playing a solo in the middle of them. He has that big, open sound that has plenty of room for my guitar to fit right in. When he mentioned that he'd like to produce then I just jumped at the chance.
What were your impressions of Sheffield and the surrounding area and did they make any impact on the music?
I believe they did. I'd spent some time there which I'd never done; I'd played there before but it was always just in and out and I didn't get to see anything. This time, they drove me around the countryside and I was stunned and amazed at how beautiful it was. There were big canyons and huge rocky points around there. We got up to the Peak District in Derbyshire and saw beautiful little villages and it's an amazing place.
And the city of Sheffield too -- it's as charming as can be. The people there are like the people here in Nashville -- friendly, sweet and wonderful people. All that affected the album because when I got in the studio it was so familiar and homely and it made for a relaxed and creative feeling. Everything just came out in 11 days and it was a great experience. It was comfortable and easy and it seemed like the right thing to do every day.
Is there any truth in the rumours that you and Richard Hawley played some low-key gigs in the back rooms of local pubs?
Not gigs but we sat in with some local musicians in some of the pubs. They've got a great music scene in Sheffield. There were guys there that had been to Nashville and has bought instruments there and then returned to Sheffield and played bluegrass. They've got some good singers there. In fact, I told Richard, "You should take some of these guys into the studio" and he said, "Tried that. Didn't translate!"
But it was great fun playing with them in the pub. I did a couple of ol' country things and Richard sang on a couple of things. He did a blues thing and they all loved that. The pub landlord's daughter came in and sang a song that reduced us all to tears!
Did you acquaint yourself with English ale and how did you find it?
I acquainted myself with it many years ago and I'm one of the many who have fallen in love with it. I like to have my pint! I like the occasional pint of Guinness too but that's a little thick. You can almost chew it! But I love the taste of English ale.
With a track like 'Primeval' you seem to have gone full circle. It's a fabulously raunchy number...
Yeah, Richard kind of inspired that because he's kind of a raunchy guy. Actually, I started with the big note and he jumped right on it and started this whole thing. We ran through a couple of times and recorded it but it kind of just wrote itself. We had the sax player there and he jumped in and played a couple of screaming solos.
Rock'n'roll at its best has always been concerned with primal, sexual urges -- just check out Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis among many others for evidence. Your music is extremely sexy without using lyrics which is a hell of an achievement...
Why, thank you. I hadn't thought of it that way but I'll take that! I like that idea and I agree with you. I suppose that when I started back in the 50s, I'd play my guitar and the girls would all like it. Maybe that's what inspired that! But I just try to paint a picture every time I write and record a song and to communicate an idea to people and hope that they like it.
As one of the most influential guitarists of all-time with an instantly recognisable sound, how do you view your legacy?
Well, I suppose that would be pretty much it! I've influence a lot of people with a very distinctive style but I don't really give it much thought. That's for other people to do. If I stopped to think about these things I'd be too scared to record. You start analyzing it and it all goes to hell!
Which guitarists have you admired most over the years?
Too many to name, really. But from the 50s I'd go for Les Paul and Chet Atkins and in the 60s and 70s I'd go for George Harrison and Eric Clapton. In the 80s I loved Eddie Van Halen but you get new guys coming through every decade. But you know, I never get bored with guitar players and I can always learn something from them. But there are just so many...
How did you arrive at your signature sound and how important was producer Lee Hazelwood in those early days?
Lee was great for the sound on the records. He was a disc jockey before he was a record producer and he sat there in the radio station and he's playing all these hit records and he's analyzing every one of them by listening to all the bass sounds and keyboard sounds and drum sounds so whenever he recorded he always managed to choose sounds from this huge library in his brain. He put them together sound-wise and that's why they hold up pretty good today.
I came up with my sound but he fitted right in with the rest of it. We didn't have an echo chamber but just before I started we all went down to Salt River and we found a 2000-gallon water tank that echoed. The studio owner bought it and shipped it up to his studio and put it out in his parking lot with a speaker in one end and a mic in another and we ran my guitar and the other instruments through it and it gave us the echo.
Then Lee would take the basic tracks to LA and then add some more echo and he'd mix them. It was very exciting because different things would happen and it was surprise a minute! Sometimes we had to go and chase the birds off the echo chamber or sometimes a police siren would go off on 7th Street in front of the studio and we could be in the middle of the take and we had to stop because it reverberated through the echo and start all over again!
'Road Trip' is released in the UK on June 20. Duane Eddy plays the 100 Club in London on June 21 and the Glastonbury festival on June 26.