Tuesday

MICHAEL LLOYD INTERVIEW


BEAUTIFUL MUSIC: Musician, composer, arranger, producer and New Dimensions co-founder Michael Lloyd recently discussed with Blitz Magazine's Michael McDowell his work with Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz on the latter's solo recordings for the MGM label, as well as a variety of other projects, including collaborations with the Beach Boys and Barry Manilow.  Pictured above: Beach Boys front man Mike Love, Barry Manilow, Beach Boys keyboardsman Bruce Johnston and Michael Lloyd, backstage in November 2016 (Click on above image to enlarge) (Photo courtesy of Michael Lloyd).

IT'S AMAZING TO ME:
PRODUCER MICHAEL LLOYD
ON WORKING WITH MONKEES
DRUMMER MICKY DOLENZ
(AND MANY OTHERS)
By Michael McDowell

“I’m an artist, and an artist must tear his work down to the bare bones. There is no room for excess in real art. As far as I’m concerned, excess is self-indulgence. That is, the narrow, limited, individualized self. Not the greater, glorious self that we all partake of. You can’t be self indulgent at that level.”

So said Monkees bassist, keyboardsman and co-founder Peter Tork, in an interview conducted with Blitz Magazine in June 1979 and published in Blitz number 36 in May-June 1980. Tork’s observations were part of a greater response to an inquiry about his being able to incorporate his considerable technical acumen into his work without sacrificing the crucial components of universal appeal. heart and accessibility.

And while Tork’s overall recorded legacy to date has been fueled more by pure inspiration than any sort of adherence to the greater parameters of a clearly defined mission statement,  the beloved multi-instrumentalist has unwaveringly succeeded in achieving his desired results through such professed methodology for more than a half century.

To be certain, a greater emphasis on different attributes of the creative process is occasionally evidenced among other musicians. Nonetheless, it is within reason to assert that the notion of utilizing one’s own God given talents in a manner that produces the most aesthetically fulfilling and most widely acclaimed results has likewise been an integral part of the methodology that inspires the work of veteran producer and musician Michael Lloyd.

Born Michael Jeffrey Lloyd in 1948 in New York City, New York, Lloyd pretty much hit the ground running upon making his initial forays into the music business in the early 1960s. Schooled from an early age on piano and guitar, Lloyd developed a working relationship with Mike Curb (with whom he would later enjoy a remarkable run at MGM Records) and the late producer/composer Kim Vincent Fowley, who was garnering ever increasing accolades throughout the early 1960s for his work with the Hollywood Argyles, the Murmaids and the all star group, the Renegades.

Lloyd’s first endeavor of note that featured him in a more prominent role was as co-founder (along with keyboardsman James Boyd “Jimmy” Greenspoon, as well as Art Guy, Craig Nuttycombe, Dave Dowd and Danny Belsky) of the surf rock band, the New Dimensions. The band made their debut for the Sutton label in 1963 with their Deuces And Eights album, which featured such ambitious fare as Junker, Totaled, Blacktop and Bongo Shutdown.

By the mid-1960s, Lloyd joined forces with drummer John Ware (who would go on serve in that capacity for Michael Nesmith’s First National Band) and Bob Markley in the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. With Lloyd as rhythm guitarist, the group was an integral factor in the ongoing success of the Fifo label, whose endearing “Fifo Fan” caricature on the label became a prototype for Dunwich Records’ renowned, It’s Dunwich, Man logo. Several years earlier, Fifo was the recording home of rhythm and blues pioneer Joseph Coleman “Sonny Knight” Smith and also released the Triangles’ vocal harmony monster classic My Oh My.

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band made their own singles debut on Fifo with Sassafras / I Won’t Hurt You in 1966, and released their debut album for the label that same year. The band’s Fifo debut album has long been widely hailed as a hallmark of first generation garage rock. At that time, the band also included brothers Danny Harris (lead guitar) and Shaun Harris (bass). The Harris brothers had previously performed with Lloyd in the Rogues, who later became the Laughing Wind. The Laughing Wind’s 1966 Lloyd-penned and Fowley-produced Don’t Take Very Much To See Tomorrow / Good To Be Around single (Tower 266) remains a hallmark of first generation garage rock.

During 1967, Lloyd again collaborated with Kim Fowley as a composer and producer; this time for the latter’s album, Love Is Alive And Well for the Tower label. Lloyd continued in that capacity for albums by the Pasadena-based Saint John Green (in conjunction with Fowley) and October Country.

All of those triumphs notwithstanding, Lloyd at last began to hit his stride in earnest in 1969, when Mike Curb (then president of MGM Records) brought him on board as Vice-President of A&R. Under their watch, the MGM roster grew exponentially over the next several years with such acclaimed signings as Solomon Burke, Lou Rawls, the Osmonds, the Mob, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bloom, Steve Lawrence, Sammy Davis Junior, Billy Walker, John Sebastian, Pat Boone, Eric Burdon and War, Lamar Morris, Chuck Roberts and Curb’s own Mike Curb Congregation, with label veterans Hank Williams Junior, Sheb Wooley/Ben Colder, Conway Twitty and Roy Orbison continuing to more than hold their own. Curb went on to serve as Lieutenant Governor of California from 1979 to 1983, under Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown.

Meanwhile, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Lloyd remained in the spotlight through various projects with Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Righteous Brothers co-founder and MGM veteran Bill Medley (via the 1987 Dirty Dancing soundtrack, which included Medley’s (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life duet with Jennifer Warnes, as well as classics from Mickey and Sylvia, Bruce Channel, the Five Satins, the Ronettes and Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs), Go-Gos lead vocalist Belinda Carlisle and Barry Manilow (on Manilow’s 1989 self-titled album). He also worked extensively as producer with American Idol contestant Kimberly Dawn Locke in the early 2000s.

Most recently, the U.K.-based 7A label undertook an ambitious schedule of CD and vinyl releases that includes an album of rarities by Bobby Hart (an expanded edition of his 1980 solo album), a spoken word disc featuring Peter Noone and Micky Dolenz, a single featuring live renditions of Daydream Believer and I Wanna Be Free by the late David Thomas Jones, and (most notably) a four-track EP with new recordings by Dolenz, Christian Nesmith and Circe Link (most disconcertingly now out of print), as well as a seven inch single by Dolenz featuring live renditions of the Monkees’ Sunny Girlfriend and Zor And Zam, and a collection of rare Dolenz solo recordings, The MGM Singles Collection.

Accompanied by a world class essay from journalist/author Mark Kleiner, the latter release encompasses Dolenz’s work with MGM and its affiliate Lion label, both as a solo artist, and with the supergroup Starship. Most happily, The MGM Singles Collection by definition includes Easy On You, which was saluted by Blitz Magazine at the Best Single Of 1971.

In the following exchange with Blitz Magazine (conducted in the closing weeks of 2016), Lloyd offered his insights on those monumental studio collaborations with Dolenz. Inevitably, the scope of the conversation expanded exponentially to encompass Lloyd’s legacy at large; in the process reaffirming not only that the Dolenz/Lloyd partnership was a fortuitous one, but that each brought to the table an extraordinary calibre of talent, instinct, ability and vision that remains among the best in all of music.

BLITZ: The current Micky Dolenz solo anthology fulfills the intended purpose two-thirds of the way, in that it includes an extensive and impressive essay from journalist Mark Kleiner, as well as a recent audio interview with Micky Dolenz himself. However, what it does not include are your own insights and observations as the producer of two of his solo singles.

LLOYD: I’ve never seen it! I don’t know what songs are on it.

BLITZ: It’s on the 7A label out of the U.K. It’s extremely well done. The tracks that involve you would include the Unattended In The Dungeon and A Lover’s Prayer single, as well as both sides of the Starship single on Lion Records.

LLOYD: I think I recorded other things with him. But I don’t know if they are on the record.

BLITZ: It does include the 1971 Easy On You single that he recorded for MGM. You were of course working for MGM at the time.

LLOYD: I was the vice-president of A&R.

BLITZ: The compilation also includes the Daybreak single that Harry Nilsson produced for him as well as the Buddy Holly Tribute single on Romar, plus later tracks like the Love Light and Alicia single that he recorded for Chrysalis. It runs the gamut of his solo career, aside from his two pre-Monkees singles for Challenge Records.

What stood out in your mind with regards to the two singles on this collection with which you were involved?

LLOYD: There is another one that we did, and it’s not on there. Since I Fell For You.

BLITZ: The Skyliners’ classic.

LLOYD: I have copies of it somewhere. Anyway, what was the B-side of Johnny B. Goode?

BLITZ: It’s Amazing To Me.

LLOYD: Yeah, that’s right! Johnny B. Goode was recorded with some friends of mine: Jimmy Greenspoon and Mike Allsup of Three Dog Night, me and the guy who was the bass player for Jimi Hendrix.

BLITZ: That would have been either Billy Cox or Noel Redding. 

LLOYD: Noel Redding, the original one. The drummer was the one that I was using on a few things from Paul Revere and the Raiders. He was a studio drummer. A really good drummer. I can’t remember his name at the moment.

BLITZ: So you are not referring to Mike “Smitty” Smith, then.

LLOYD: No. We’d have to research that a little bit!

Anyway, I recorded that with these guys in just one night. We recorded a whole bunch of things. I was just interested in putting out something that had people from different groups and me doing things. That was me singing on Johnny B. Goode. Micky and I decided to put that out as a Starship record.

BLITZ: It is curious that in opting for a Chuck Berry cover that you chose that particular one. Chuck Berry had recently re-recorded it himself for his London Sessions album. There were also numerous interim versions of it, from the Beach Boys to Buck Owens.

LLOYD: I didn’t care about anybody else! I like the song. There wasn’t any reasoning behind anything. It was just, “What do we like and what do we wanna do?”

That’s why I say, with those guys, we didn’t have any schedule or any list of things. We just said. “Let’s do this!” I also recorded You’re No Good.

BLITZ: The Betty Everett song.

LLOYD: Yeah. And then later Linda Ronstadt and a lot of other people. We recorded a lot that night. So when Micky and I did that single, we both liked it and decided to put it out as a Starship record.

BLITZ: Given the personnel on that single, was there any intention of promoting Starship as a supergroup? When the single was initially released, it just referred to Starship, with no indication as to whom was involved with it.

The flip side, It's Amazing To Me, with Micky’s lead vocal was somewhat of an anti-typical song in that it championed the basics, rather than defer to the supergroup perspective.

LLOYD: That’s all we did. Anything makes sense when you look at it in hindsight. We liked the song and we put it on the B-side. There were no preconceived ideas, where we sat around and analyzed the psychological impact of what we were doing. We liked the song! It’s really good. And since I’m singing Johnny B. Goode, we wanted something that Micky wrote on the other side.

That’s about the extent of the thought process. When you look back on these things, it might appear as if there is some deep seated reason for all of this. But the fact is that we did it because we either liked something or we wanted to showcase something. That’s how things get done. You don’t sit around like you are in a corporate boardroom, trying to decide the ingredients of something, like fifty percent of protest, twenty-five percent love song. It’s just whether or not it’s a good song. Is it a good performance or isn’t it? That’s the only thing that really matters!

BLITZ: In a sense, you have underscored the original point. That single came out at a time when over-thinking tended to take precedence in mainstream rock. Getting back to the basics was remarkable in and of itself.

LLOYD: Well, I don’t know. All of the hits that I had at that time, whether it be Lou Rawls, the Osmonds, Sammy Davis, the New Seekers or any of those people, we were just trying to make good records! So we weren’t over-thinking anything.

Mike Curb and I have been together for over fifty years. I don’t think we’ve ever tried to over-think something. We’ve tried to do the best we can, obviously. And I think that we have tried to find the best song, the best mix and the best artist.

It’s a team of people that work on these things. We have been fortunate to have some wonderful teams! And there were wonderful promoters. Record people like the Scotti Brothers, Tony, Ben and Fred.

I’m recording the Beach Boys with Mike Love and Barry Manilow. The only thing I think about to this day is what’s gonna be good? What is going to touch people in their heart? What is going to make people feel good? That’s the only thing that matters to me! That’s the only thing that’s ever mattered.

BLITZ: It is interesting that you refer to Barry Manilow in that capacity. In his early days with Bell Records, his work gave the impression that he was an artist who really tried hard to think out the whole process. It was as if he was thinking, “Is this an appropriate track for me?”, or “Is there some sort of historical significance or background to this piece?”

LLOYD: I don’t think he ever thought that. Whether it was a song that he wrote, or a song that Clive Davis found, I think they were only interested in hit songs that people could identify with. If you go to a Barry Manilow concert, he is going to play hit after hit after hit. Everybody sings along and knows the words.

BLITZ: My late wife, Audrey and I saw him live more than a dozen times. He had been known to defer from obvious tracks for at least a portion of his set.

LLOYD: But he was thinking, “What can I create that’s great?” You know, every artist obviously thinks, “What can I do that’s great for me?” That’s just a natural part of it. They have to feel that they are creating something for them. Otherwise, they are creating something for some other artist, whether it’s Barry Manilow, whether it’s Mike Love and the Beach Boys, or whether it’s anybody that I’ve ever recorded. They’re thinking, “What’s a great song? Is this something I can really lay out there? Is it me? Do I sound good on it?”

I don’t think Barry ever said, “This is the song I need to sing because this is the moment in time. Barry is way beyond that. He doesn’t look at the prevailing winds. He’s a writer. He’s a musician. He’s a producer. He’s an arranger. He’s an artist. There aren’t a lot out there like that. That’s what he concentrates on. That’s what Clive Davis concentrates on. That’s what I concentrate on! That’s what Belinda Carlisle wanted, and that’s what Micky Dolenz wanted.

I’ve always believed in finding great songs and getting great performances, and hopefully making great records. There have been many times when I have failed. Many, many times. I am trying to learn something new every day. I’m trying to understand what is going to make a better record and what is going to touch people. That’s the basis of it all to me, Mike!

BLITZ: Could that possibly been at least in part a lesson learned during your tenure with Jimmy Greenspoon in the New Dimensions? The albums that you recorded with them were released on Sutton Records. From the perspective of the average end user, a record collector or musicologist, Sutton was one of a small group of labels like Diplomat, Spin-O-Rama and Somerset that were known as “low fi” labels, yet not necessarily in a disparaging way.

LLOYD: Of course! I was thirteen. We didn’t have any control over any of that. The only thing that we were doing is that we were going in and recording all of the time. We recorded with Hite and Dorinda Morgan at their place, the same people that discovered the Beach Boys.

As a matter of fact, the New Dimensions are recording today! I don’t mean today generally. I mean today; this day specifically. Unfortunately, not with my incredible friend, Jimmy. We were friends since the fourth grade. Sadly, he passed away a couple of years ago, as you know. But I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, and he did play on some of them.

Anyway, as you know, the Sutton label was a horrible, nothing label. But those guys didn’t have us under contract or anything. We own all of that stuff.

It was a great education for me, being literally able to record all of the time. I learned an incredible amount doing that at thirteen and fourteen. And then it ended.

I have all of the tapes. But they ended up putting out those records on Sutton. We didn’t make a deal. We didn’t sign anything. We didn’t even know it was happening until it happened!

But you know, it sold for a dollar, or a dollar twenty-nine. Something like that. So we made a little money selling it to them. And I got an incredible education!

I tried to write songs at twelve and thirteen that were related to what I was interested in at the time: surfing! It was the Ventures and it was surf music. So that’s what we did. And interestingly enough, that’s what we’re doing today.

I don’t think anything has changed for me. I’ve gotten older! I still want to have the best song and the best performance possible. I want to be able to communicate something to the listener, so that they feel good about it or like it. Touch people with music! It’s pretty much that same way with everybody that I’ve ever recorded. I’m grateful that I still have that opportunity with some of these wonderful artists that I’m working with, plus some that you’ve never even heard of yet!

I’m still on some really good teams. I’ve been making records for fifty-six years.

BLITZ: You started out during the best possible time. In 1960, the creative atmosphere was still at an all time high.

LLOYD: In 1960, it sure was. And it got even better. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to grow and learn along the way.

I’m very technical. I’ve stayed on top of these things, in terms of the technique of recording as it progressed, from mono to stereo, from three track to four track to eight track to sixteen track and on and on. I’m grateful that I’m technical, because I’ve mixed since the beginning. It’s important for me to know that. I’m grateful that I know the little that I know, and hopefully I’ll know more tomorrow! That’s the thing, Mike. Onward and upward!

BLITZ: Do you think that perspective may have been beneficial in the studio with Micky Dolenz? At the time, he had just come off of his first run as drummer with the Monkees, whom of course Blitz Magazine has championed relentlessly from the onset. But as you know all too well, the band took quite a beating from the mainstream media in the early 1970s, most undeservedly.

LLOYD: Yeah they did, unfairly. But I have a mono recording of them playing live back then at the Hollywood Bowl, right off of the console.

As a matter of fact, I have that for everybody that played then at the Hollywood Bowl: the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Henry Mancini. I have everybody!

BLITZ: Given that, do you think that your perspective helped provide a pep talk of sorts for Micky as he was beginning this new phase of his career?

LLOYD: All of those things helped. But I think that Micky has one of the great rock and roll voices. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Micky Dolenz and Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five. They were just great. They didn’t do anything special. They just sounded great.

BLITZ: You could make a case for adding John Fred to that list, but yes.

LLOYD: The point isn’t that I was thinking of how to protect Micky. I just thought that he was a great artist. We became really good friends.

Sometimes it’s hard to change people’s minds. I think that if I had been able to make a great record, that would have been something. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to make something great for him.

BLITZ: That speaks well for the validity of the team approach. Case in point: no one ever expected, for example, an artist like Doris Day to enter the studio, play bass, write all of her songs, produce and engineer the overdubs. Instead, the best representatives of every category came together for the best possible results. Doris Day on vocals, Columbia for a label, Mitch Miller handling the arrangements, and such. The team approach puts the best of the best together for maximum results. And that’s what you did.

LLOYD: I did. But I guess I just didn’t do a good job. As I said, I am very grateful for whatever success I’ve had. I regret that haven’t been able to do it for more.

But anyway, I am proud of the time that I was around Micky. It was a lot of fun. We remain good friends to this very day. You know, you do the best you can. I just wasn’t up to it. But he made some wonderful records with lots of people. He is one of those rare, rare talents: acting, singing, directing. He is a very, very talented guy.

BLITZ: But as Michael Nesmith once observed, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. And hindsight is twenty-twenty. Those two singles, Unattended In The Dungeon and the Starship single are both excellent records.

You had already set the stage. You were already in place at MGM Records at a very young age. MGM had also undergone radical changes in its artist roster during the few years that you were there. The artist roster at the label between 1967 and 1970 is almost entirely different.

LLOYD: Of course. Mike Curb and I were very fortunate to be able to do what we wanted to do. Nobody wanted the Osmonds. Nobody wanted Lou Rawls. Nobody wanted Sammy Davis. Nobody wanted the New Seekers. But we did!

It wasn’t that we were super geniuses. Getting back to what I said at the beginning, it was something that we felt an attachment to and that we liked. We thought that we might be able to make an impact in a positive way. Obviously with Mike as President and me as Vice-President, we had a great run at MGM, compared to what they did prior to that.

We also had Eric Burdon and War. We had Bobby Bloom. We had the Shocking Blue. I produced all of the other records. But obviously Eric Burdon and the Shocking Blue, we didn’t do those. We had a nice team of people. It was a fortunate moment.

Still, I think of the things that I should have done better, and Micky is one of them. So just as I had number one hits with the Osmonds, I wish I had number one hits with Micky, too.

You know, I’ve said it a hundred times. But as I look back on these things, I am very grateful. And that’s going all the way back to the New Dimensions. You just try to get better, Mike.

BLITZ: The Osmonds had cut some barbershop harmony recordings for MGM several years earlier. A collection of that period of their work was released as an album on MGM’s subsidiary Metro label.

LLOYD: They did do a barbershop album. But that was done through their connections with Andy Williams. Mike had tried to do something with them before at MGM, but we failed. They had been dropped. They weren’t on MGM.

BLITZ: On the Osmonds’ Phase III album, there is a cut called My Drum. Blitz Magazine had a conversation with Donny Osmond in the late 1990s. When we mentioned that track to him, we suggested that it sounded like the Osmonds were impacted therein by Led Zeppelin. Donny took that as a high compliment and said that the track itself was his brother Jay’s idea.

LLOYD: It was a team effort. You couldn’t look at it and say, “Jay, you should do Led Zeppelin”. You should do what you feel! You should do what you’re influenced by.

He felt like that. Jay was a really good drummer back in the day. He played on Down By The Lazy River, Crazy Horses and all of those.

The Osmonds were great with Wayne on guitar, Jay on drums, and Alan a little bit. But mostly Wayne. Merrill played bass. Donny played a little keyboard. And I played guitar! We just made records. They wrote some cool songs. And they sang their butts off. They played with passion. They were very, very into their stuff. They could hand clap and sound like one person. There was no end to their abilities.

BLITZ: Perhaps not unlike the Everly Brothers, with that unique blend that only comes from a sibling perspective.

LLOYD: Absolutely! And that was the Beach Boys, too.

One day, you need to talk to Mike (Love) about it. My band, the New Dimensions opened for them a couple of times. I was thirteen when I met them.

Then I met Bruce (Johnston) before he joined the Beach Boys. We became friends and worked together on a couple of things.

After he became a Beach Boy, he reintroduced me to Mike. Then Mike and Bruce took me to sessions, sat me in a corner, and when they needed someone to play something, I played it. I played on various Beach Boy records up until Good Vibrations.

It was all kinds of little things. And again, it was an education! I was very quiet. I was just observing, back in the corner. It was an, “only speak when you’re spoken to” kind of thing!

But then Mike and Bruce came to a little studio that I had, and they did demos. So we’ve been friends for a very long time.

BLITZ: Prior to that, Bruce had been recording as Bruce and Terry for Columbia with Terry Melcher. In the mid-1980s, the Beach Boys were scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. They were going to perform the Rover Boys / Four Freshmen song, Graduation Day, which the Beach Boys covered on their 1964 Beach Boys Concert album.

At that time, Bruce contacted us at Blitz Magazine. Since that album was released before he joined the band, he didn’t have a copy of it handy. He wanted to listen to Graduation Day and rehearse with the track. We have copies of the Beach Boys’ entire recorded legacy at Blitz. So he asked us if we could make a cassette dub of that song for him, which we gladly obliged.

But interestingly enough, during our conversation, when I mentioned his work with Bruce and Terry, he made a comment, hopefully in jest, about destroying copies of those records. Those Bruce and Terry records are bonafide classics, and we took serious exception to his observation, jest or not. That said, do you think that his perceived shortcomings may have inspired him to greater heights, just as you suggested that your own perceived similar circumstances inspired you to try harder?

LLOYD: Oh, I don’t know. I tend to be more critical of myself, perhaps. I wouldn’t be tossing records in the river, per se! But I would be disappointed that I wasn’t able to do better, that’s for sure. Everyone has a different way of handling these things, I guess.

Bruce’s I Write The Songs is certainly one of the top five most performed songs of all time. That’s pretty remarkable. And Disney Girls has always been one of my favorite songs. He has written others, which I have copies of, and they’re great.

I’ve known him since I was about fourteen. He’s one of my favorite people. He’s the one who sat me down at the piano and taught me how to play God Only Knows.

BLITZ: You also did much at MGM to champion the back to basics ethic with Lou Rawls. When he was still recording for Capitol, his records tended to get more and more into the blues, such as one of his final releases for the label, Your Good Thing (Is About To End).  Wonderful records, but with A Natural Man at MGM, you brought him back into the straight ahead, 4/4 “I am somebody” type of record.

LLOYD: But none of that was the thought. The only thought was, “Here’s a great song for Lou Rawls”. That’s it. He did that little narration bit at the beginning, which was very long. I had to cut it down, because it was a long record anyway! He was famous for those kinds of soliloquies.

A Natural Man came out of the blue. It was just one of those things. We cut it twice. The first time wasn’t as good. But the second time was better. And there you go!

I hadn’t had any hits with my name on them as a producer. I was twenty, or maybe twenty one. This was a great opportunity, and Lou believed it would work out.

There was a publisher involved in bringing Lou Rawls to me named Julie Chester, who believed in me and wanted to get Lou signed to somebody. Julie represented a really great song that we ended up recording with Lou as the B-side of A Natural Man, which was You Can’t Hold On.

If Julie didn’t believe in me, who knows what would have happened? That was a giant fork in the road. We promoted that record for nine months before it was a hit! You talked about a team. Now there was the team in action!

BLITZ: Did you perhaps maintain the same perspective at MGM with Solomon Burke? In other words, great songs like The Electronic Magnetism and Love’s Street And Fool’s Road, so let him do what he does best?

LLOYD: Yeah. Solomon was a dear friend, too. But again, it’s not a case of “let’s get back to minimalism”. I never, ever think of any of that. I never have. I don’t even know what that would mean! I try to find a good song and a good artist and say, “This could be a hit!”

I grew up around Clive Davis, when I was fifteen and sixteen. Mike (Curb) is the same way. No one was thinking, “Is this going to fit into the synthesizer world?”, “Is this going to be minimalistic?”, or is it going to be this or that. It’s whether it’s going to be good!

BLITZ: That perspective keeps coming up because, bear in mind that in the early 1970s, mainstream rock was caught in the onslaught of the so-called AM/FM wars. It was the post-Woodstock generation. Mainstream music in general was becoming more self-indulgent and more negative.

Those of us on the listening end, the end user, if you will, were beginning to say, “Wait a minute! Something is off here!!” But then you and others came along, however inadvertently championing a back to basics ethic. You filled a void, whether you thought about it or not.

LLOYD: Sure, sure. I never thought about it as back to basics. I thought whether it was something I was going to like, and that someone might say, “Great! This reminds me of my dog, my boyfriend, my girlfriend, the dance I was at, school or whatever”. I don’t know.

The only thing I cared about was that it touches them. Back to basics or whatever you call it, be it forward thinking or being an idiot! But what I was thinking was, “Am I accomplishing my goal of touching people emotionally?”

BLITZ: In her new autobiography, They’re Playing Our Song, songwriter Carole Bayer Sager touched on a similar perspective. Therein, she cited Broadway musicals as a catalyst in her writing process. She said, “When the cast would take their curtain calls, I got goose flesh all over. The excitement of a live performance thrilled me. The big emotions conveyed in song, the way each one told a story that all added up to a much bigger story”.

LLOYD: That’s her perspective. It’s what worked for her. And Brian Wilson didn’t surf. But he wrote about surfing.

In a creative world, there is no generalization possible. So if that’s what Carole says, and that’s what she feels, and that’s what works for her, then that’s great.

But would that same thing work for somebody else? Would it be completely different for somebody else? Then that’s great, too.

When I speak at conventions, I can’t teach that. There is no one straight path. “This is what you do, guys”? No, no, no!

I have seen countless ways that people think or imagine. So there is no straight path. You have to discover what works for you. Then, for lack of better words, you have to do it!

BLITZ: And presumably if you don’t, then you can’t convey it convincingly in a song, then. Even if it does not convey personal experience, it is important to at least get behind what you are trying to convey in a given composition. In other words, writing in the third person should not be an issue for you.

LLOYD: Obviously there are people that do. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to work every time. I could say that I want to be a brain surgeon, and then write a song about brain surgery. But maybe I could write it once, and that’s all I’ve got.

I don’t know. There is no pattern in creative thinking. That’s why it’s creative thinking! I have no pattern of any kind. I just try to make good things.

BLITZ: Would it be fair to say then that you had inspirations when you first got into music, but you did not necessarily incorporate those inspirations into your own vision?

LLOYD: Well, everybody gets inspired! I don’t think I do that consciously. Obviously I am inspired by what I have heard over the last seventy years. That could be Frank Sinatra. That could be the Rolling Stones. That could be Percy Faith.

My influences go back a long way. I mean, I’m influenced by the palm tree that I hurried by!

If I’m making a record for Mike Love, I’m naturally thinking of his legacy. I’m thinking of his history and what he’s about. It was the same with Lou Rawls. That’s why I said that we were able to put that little soliloquy at the beginning.

That doesn’t mean that we’re trying to imitate something. Your influences are just whatever they are. You could say, “I saw the palm tree and it reminded me of the spiritual side of things; maybe we should incorporate that”. Who knows? Influences come from everywhere!

BLITZ: It sounds like you’ve just described the legacy of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band! The band’s first album on Fifo Records is a classic. But it was tough to find, even back in the day.

LLOYD: Well, that’s a different vibe! This is very well known, and I’m not talking out of school. We got introduced to Bob Markley through Kim Fowley. We needed equipment. Bob wanted to meet girls! It was good for me to be in the studio and recording.

But it was like making a deal with the devil. It wasn’t good.

BLITZ: Thankfully the legacy doesn’t cloud what was in the grooves. The records hold up very well, particularly that first album on Fifo.

LLOYD: That album was recorded in the studio where Mike and Bruce used to come to do demos.

BLITZ: There was a dramatic change in style and direction between that album and the second one.

LLOYD: That’s when they brought in Hal (Blaine) to play drums. With Markley, it was very, very hard to make sense of things. He would throw out a couple of lines of the lyrics, and there are endless stories about that online.

It’s very unfortunate. Bob had a very unfortunate life. I’m very, very sorry about that. But for us, it was making a deal with the devil. Whoever got along with Bob, your picture would be on the album. If you didn’t get along with Bob, then your picture wasn’t on the album. It was like a punishment! There was all kinds of weird stuff.

By the time 1968 came along, it was very hard for me to put up with any of that. It was a very, very bad psychosis. Very, very tragic. A tough time.

Looking back on it, I wish I had been smarter. But I was only seventeen and eighteen. There wasn’t any way for me to know what was going on.

BLITZ: It sounds as though you were by and large able to sidestep a lot of the largesse and excess that was indigenous to that era. In other words, you were a survivor when many were not.

LLOYD: I am very grateful that God seemed to have His hand on me and kept me safe. There were a lot of my friends that perished. A lot of my friends had horrible moments that they were able to get past years later. But there were some really bad things going on.

I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t do drugs. Mike didn’t, either. And for all of his eccentricities, Kim Fowley was very straight. As I said, God keeping His hands on me kept me away from things that perhaps would have been influencing me. I wasn’t really interested in doing any of that, anyway. For right or wrong, I was pretty focused on what I wanted to do.

So I tried to do that! I kept at it, and I had a little success. I was lucky that the success didn’t lead to things that could have been very negative.

BLITZ: Perhaps you and Kim Fowley had an advantage in that respect because you were both well grounded in the process of making records. He had extensive background through his work with the Hollywood Argyles, the Murmaids and others. It seemed as though that was his priority, as well.

LLOYD: Yes, it was. He was an enormously talented man. All of those eccentricities were all fabricated. It had nothing to do with how he was.

BLITZ: Kim would contact Blitz occasionally whenever he had a new project in the works. In the early 2000s, the Murmaids had reunited and recorded a new album. Blitz Magazine reviewed it, and that came to his attention. He then contacted us to use that as a stepping stone to bring some of his own new projects to our attention.

We of course had heard other accounts about those so-called eccentricities. But such things never, ever factored into our dealings with him. He thought outside of the box, and we always appreciated that.

LLOYD: He really did, and he was a swell guy. He came over to my house for Christmas and Thanksgiving when I was fourteen and fifteen, and my mother and grandmother were there. He was a great guy. I miss him.

BLITZ: We spoke to him briefly a couple of times during his last final months, when he was ill. It sounded as though he was trying to make peace with God and make whatever amends that he felt were necessary.

LLOYD: All I can tell you was that he was a good guy. That I know.

But I’m still carrying on to the present day. You are very kind, and I appreciate your taking this time to show an interest in all of this.

BLITZ: A key component of our journalistic mission statement is that it is incumbent upon us to make the respective artist look good and be presented in the best possible light. Our firm resolve is that music is not “memories” or some sort of byproduct of such periphery as where and when it happened to be recorded. It is timeless art, and is to be respected and treated as such.

LLOYD: I greatly appreciate that. I look back on these things fondly and I wish that I could have done a little better. But I did what I could!

You’ve heard it from me, but some of this could be a little boring. This isn’t what people want to hear. They want to hear “That’s tough” or “This guy screwed me” or “This guy did this and that” and blah, blah, blah.

BLITZ: Well, that’s not Blitz Magazine, either. By the grace of God, we are literally the last still active magazine from the independent music press publishing boom of the mid-1970s. We didn’t get this far by being negative.

LLOYD: I think that’s very wise, which I appreciate. You’ve got to be positive in talking about some of these things.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not pessimistic. I respect the past tremendously. But I live in the today, and I look forward to tomorrow. Obviously, I have a long past. I respect it, and I’m trying to learn from it and get better.

BLITZ: God’s grace and mercy, if you will.

LLOYD: Absolutely! Hopefully that will continue. In fact, the New Dimensions will be here soon. It’ll be fun!