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Shawn Phillips Ignored Talent

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					 JANUARY 2000 q discoveries                                                                                                                                         39




Shawn Phillips: Ignored Talent?
by Albert Salerno
                                           out the ‘70s and ‘80s, and he never        acoustic trio, and occasionally with a      Collins. Like Phillips, Collins had been
  Since the mid–1960s, when he began       scored the hit single which might have     7–piece band. When he’s not on the          consciously moving away from folk as
veering away from folk music, Shawn        helped him expand his audience. But        road, Phillips lives with his wife in       she began using rock and neo–classical
Phillips’ music has been nearly impos-     certain of Shawn’s albums were popu-       Austin, Texas, where he serves as a         orchestral arrangements. Her record-
sible to categorize. Is he a progressive   lar in the midwestern and southern         part–time volunteer firefighter and cer-      ing of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”
folk–rocker, a protest singer, or a        United States, on the West Coast, Cana-    tified emergency technician.                 was given a straight–ahead pop treat-
singer of orchestrated pop?                da, and South Africa.                         During the 1970s, he tended to be        ment, became a Top 10 single, and
  Perhaps “singer of art songs” is           Phillips’ voice has always been his      overshadowed by fellow ex–folkies like      introduced her to a mass audience in
more accurate. Yet each of these           trademark – hear him once, and you’ll      James Taylor, Paul Simon, Neil Young,       1968. Had Shawn’s “progressive pop”
descriptions could be justified by lis-     usually recognize him again. His 35        Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell.          songs reached those listeners who were
tening to a scattering of tunes on any     year career has been fraught with bad      Some of these performers lacked             embracing Collins, he might have
of his Best Of compilations, and every     management, lack of promotion, tax         Shawn’s vocal gifts, but due to other       enjoyed a similar crossover success.
person who listens is apt to hear some-    problems, and various mis–dealings.        factors – better management, higher           In the liner notes for the 1992 com-
thing different.                           At a particularly low point in the early   visibility, more accessible songwriting –   pilation, The Best Of Shawn Phillips --
  An exceptional singer with a             1980s, he could be found playing guitar    they achieved a level of stardom that       The A&M Years, Bob Garcia writes:
multi–octave range, Shawn Phillips is      and panhandling on Santa Monica Pier.      would elude Shawn throughout his            “Phillips has never played the rock
perhaps the definitive American cult        Although currently without a record-       career. Radio by then had already           and roll game with exactly accepted
artist. Perhaps you know his music;        ing contract, Shawn still makes his liv-   begun solidifying into the rigid cate-      rules. A prolific writer, Phillips has
maybe you’ve only heard of him, or         ing as a performer. Stubbornly refus-      gories in place today. Programmers          composed poetry, fairy tales, and even
possibly remember the image of the         ing to take part in the corporate music    must have considered Phillips someone       two ballets. He has continually
long–haired guy with hazel eyes that       hustle, he appears at festivals, college   who fell just outside their ever–narrow-    worked outside of mainstream rock, in
stared dreamily out from his album         concerts and bars – any place where        ing formats, and excluded him from          a variety of musical forms – from his
covers. His dozen or so albums             he can connect with his audience. He       their playlists. A fellow ex–folksinger     early symphonic, fully–orchestrated
received only regional airplay through-    performs either solo, as part of an        who escaped a similar fate was Judy         musical tone poems, to his much later




                                                                                                                                                                             photo: Rob Gravis
 40                                                                                                                                      JANUARY 2000 q discoveries




rock / jazz musical configuration with                                                                                                    be finding them again every day. I’m
scat, be-bop and croon vocalizing.”                                                                                                      always surprised at what an avid bunch
   Shawn adds: “I have chosen to be a                                                                                                    they are, too.”
musician. I discovered early in life that                                                                                                   Barry Margolis, who worked in a
I had what I consider the greatest gift
any individual can be given – the ability
to create music. Not rock and roll, but
                                              “Second                                                                                    Minneapolis record store in the early
                                                                                                                                         ‘70s, says Second Contribution was a
                                                                                                                                         monster hit in Minneapolis. “Our local
music.”                                                                                                                                  progressive station, KQRS–FM, was
   A&M Records co–owner Jerry Moss
says, “I admired and had a great deal of
respect for Shawn Phillips when I
                                              Contribution was                                                                           playin’ the shit out of that album, along
                                                                                                                                         with people like Joni Mitchell and Jack-
                                                                                                                                         son Browne, while ignoring all the inter-


                                              one of the finest
worked with him. He was, to me, a very                                                                                                   esting British artists like David Bowie,
interesting and unique artist. He never                                                                                                  Mott The Hoople, and Roxy Music.”
fit into any particular slot on the pro-                                                                                                  Arlo Hennings says of Second Contribu-
gramming scale, but he was a wonderful                                                                                                   tion, “It is Shawn’s Let It Bleed, Dark
guitarist, composer and vocalist. Bright,
sometimes downright funny, and always
easy to be around.”
   A host of legendary musicians have
                                              American                                                                                   Side Of The Moon, – take your pick, hall-
                                                                                                                                         mark. Personally, I think the record
                                                                                                                                         should be recognized by the [Rock &
                                                                                                                                         Roll] Hall of Fame as a work of special
appeared on Shawn Phillip’s albums;
keyboardists Steve Winwood, Joe Sam-
ple and Rick Wakeman, guitarists Glen
Campbell, Larry Carlton, Caleb Quaye
                                              progressive rock                                                                           merit. It was one of the finest American
                                                                                                                                         progressive rock albums ever made. In
                                                                                                                                         Quebec and South Africa for example,
                                                                                                                                         it’s considered a cult classic like
and Robben Ford, bassists Alphonso
Johnson, Lee Sklar and Chuck Rainey,
drummers Russ Kunkel and Jeff Por-
                                              albums ever made.”                                                                         Sergeant Pepper.”
                                                                                                                                            To further substantiate his claim,
                                                                                                                                         Hennings credits Shawn with introduc-
caro, among many others, have con-                                                                                                       ing the sitar into pop music. Phillips
tributed their services. Producer                                                                                                        was instrumental for the sitar being
Jonathan Weston and orchestral                the series, My Favorite Things, with a        Shawn remembers. “They were truly            heard on a few songs from Donovan’s
arranger Paul Buckmaster (who also            similar format. A merger with CBS             more interested in who made really           Sunshine Superman album in 1966. But
provided orchestration for Elton John)        resulted in the re–release of both            good music than who would sell the           the commercially oriented Hall of Fame
were longtime collaborators, providing        albums, but after poor sales, the strug-      most singles. There were, of course the      is not noted for inducting many cult
lush settings for Shawn’s quirky compo-       gling folksinger was dropped from the         usual bunch of naysayers and                 artists into its hallowed ranks; and,
sitions.                                      label. (The Landsdowne masters were           bean–counters like Bob Fead. Still,          notwithstanding its immeasurable
   Born in 1943 in Fort Worth, Texas,         subsequently acquired by Polygram,            some 60,000 records [sold] by word of        stature in Indian classical music, the
Shawn is the son of writer/journalist         and are now owned by Universal.)              mouth alone should give you some indi-       sitar’s influence on pop music proved to
James Atlee Phillips, who published a            In London, Shawn roomed briefly             cation that you might have had a hot one     be fleeting, briefly adding a quaint touch
long series of cold–war espionage novels      with Donovan, with whom he co–wrote           on your hands. At last report, the people    of druggy exotica during the psychedel-
in the 1960s under the name “Philip           the Sunshine Superman album. During           who were working there believe that the      ic ‘60s.
Atlee,” and also wrote the screenplay         this period, he met and hung out with         finest record made at RCA during their           Today at 56, Shawn is brimming with
for the 1958 film “Thunder Road,” star-        the Moody Blues, Paul Simon, and sev-         tenure was Transcendence.”                   insights, and has amassed a bumper
ring Robert Mitchum. As a child,              eral Beatles, and also acted in a film            Phillips survived open-heart surgery      crop of new compositions. There are
Shawn traveled constantly with his            called “Run With The Wind.” Return-           in 1991. “I had no idea that 42 years of     enough, he says, to fill three CDs. What
father, settling for brief periods in vari-   ing to America, he was chosen to play         smoking, stress, and fatty foods, (in that   he lacks is a label to provide the finan-
ous parts of the United States, Mexico,       the lead in the Broadway musical “Jesus       order), had caught up with me. After         cial backing necessary to produce such
the Canary Islands, Tahiti, France, Eng-      Christ Superstar,” but when the deal fell     the procedure, I was glad to be alive,       a project, and then to promote it. Shawn
land, Switzerland, Germany, Africa and        through, Phillips set off for Europe          but I felt incredibly violated. After the    speaks in a Texas accent far too ener-
Italy.                                        again, eventually settling in Italy.          pain passed I went into a deep depres-       getic to be called a drawl, and recently
   Shawn’s musical talents were evident          In 1970, he was signed to A&M              sion, and still am to some degree. I         discussed his long career and its current
from an early age. In addition to his         Records, which released his Contribu-         know how many people out there love          challenges with the magazine.
impressive vocal range, he also became        tion album, a collection of folk–rock         my work, and how I have affected peo-           Discoveries: I’m hearing your early
a nimble and creative guitarist. Add to       songs with cryptic lyrics that seemed         ple all over the world, maybe changed        folk albums for the first time, and they
this his talent for composing offbeat         deliberately obscure. His next two            their lives or helped them get through       are certainly as good as a lot of the stuff
songs, many of which reflected the cyni-       releases, Second Contribution and Col-        crises and trauma, and I cannot get          that came out in the ‘60s. Why weren’t
cism and spiritual musings of the 1970s,      laboration, continued in this style. Fur-     through to them any longer, because of       these records released in the United
with titles like “Manhole Covered             thermore, from 1974, was recorded with        the arrogance, greed, and flat–out stu-       States before now?
Wagon” and “Schmaltz Waltz.” Finally,         the English rock band Quartermass.            pidity of the people who control the            Phillips: I don’t know, I’ve never
there is that unmistakable image: long,          The late 1970s found Shawn experi-         machinery of the music industry.”            understood it. Never had really aggres-
straight blonde hair which fell languidly     menting with a variety of musical gen-           In 1994 Shawn Phillips became the         sive management. I’ve never bothered
past his shoulders, reaching almost to        res, including classical, jazz, progressive   first American musician to perform            myself with the business part of things,
his waist. Blue–jeaned and black–caped,       rock, and even disco. A distinct funki-       there in over 20 years, ending the cul-      always trusted someone else, because
he was the consummate flower child, a          ness could be heard on 1975’s Do You          tural embargo which had remained in          you really can’t do both simultaneously.
perfect hippie emblem for the times.          Wonder, which Billboard called “an            effect during apartheid. Beginning with      So these two albums have finally been
   While in high school in Fort Worth,        intriguing mix of disco–styled songs,         the Splashy Fen Festival, a career high-     released in America on CD, thanks to
Shawn played in his first band, The            some soul, a bit of scat singing and a        point which demonstrated to Phillips his     Terry Wachsmuth at Wounded Bird
Straight Jackets, which featured class-       side devoted primarily to classically–ori-    incredible popularity in South Africa, he    Records. He used the original artwork –
mate Delbert McClinton on vocals. John        ented material, with strong vocals from       went on to play 27 shows in that country,    talk about a pimply–faced kid on the
Denver (then known as John Deutchen-          Phillips in all of the formats.” Of this      of which 20 were sold out.                   record cover!
dorf) attended the same high school, and      period, Shawn says, “The entire U.S.A.           Shawn has changed with the times.            Discoveries: What brought you to
occasionally performed with Shawn.            went apathetic and spiritually bankrupt,      His current interest in electronics has      London when you were 20?
After leaving high school, Shawn              didn’t want to think any more, and            led to the creation of an elaborate web-        Phillips: I went to England on my
embarked on an existence worthy of            escaped with dance music.”                    site (shawnphillips.com). Eight of           way to India, to study the sitar. I was
Kerouac – bumming across the country             While certain of his albums sold fairly    Shawn’s albums have been reissued for        playing at a party, and I met Dennis Pre-
with his buddy Tim Hardin, getting high       well (Second Contribution eventually          the first time on CD, and are selling         ston, who unfortunately is now
on LSD and mescaline, performing in           went platinum in Canada and South             briskly over the internet. Arlo Hen-         deceased. He was involved with Colum-
coffeehouses all over the U.S. and Cana-      Africa), Phillips was unable to come up       nings, Shawn’s manager, negotiated for       bia’s “Landsdowne” series. He liked my
da. Eventually he became a regular on         with the “Holy Grail” he needed to            the release of I’m A Loner, Shawn, Con-      playing and singing, and he asked if I’d
the Greenwich Village folk scene, along       solidify his career – a hit single. In        tribution, Collaboration, Bright White,      like to make an album.
with Hardin, John Sebastian, Carly            1973, three of his singles found their        Furthermore, Do You Wonder, and Tran-           Discoveries: Just like that? Had you
Simon, and Cass Elliot.                       way onto the lower rungs of Billboard’s       scendence. Aided by Phillips’ fan club       been performing prior to this?
   In 1963, at age 20, Shawn emigrated        Top 100: “We,” “Bright White,” and his        and the New York–based Wounded Bird             Phillips: I’d been performing in Cali-
to London, where he made his first             last–charting appearance, “Lost Hori-         Records, Hennings pulled off this coup       fornia, New York – I’d been doing gigs
album. First Impressions was recorded         zon,” the theme from the ill–fated            based on the interest generated by the       for quite some time. I was in New York
for the Lansdowne Series, a Capitol           Bacharach/David film musical.                  website. “We don’t know exactly who          with Tim Hardin, and then we traveled
Records affiliate, and included interpre-         His recording schedule slowed down         Shawn’s fan base is anymore,” says           out to California. During that time I was
tations of songs by Phil Ochs, Shel Sil-      in the 1980s, although he continued to        Hennings. “We get an average of 1500         getting gigs in all kinds of places, the
verstein, Gibson & Camp, Rodgers &            tour. Reluctantly leaving A&M, he             hits per day on the site. I believe most     Midwest, Toronto. I spent some time
Hammerstein, and some originals. The          recorded the Transcendence album for          of them are USA fans who lost track of       with Joni Mitchell there when she was
next year he made a second album for          RCA. “A&M was really a family affair,”        Shawn in the early ‘80s. But we seem to      just getting started.
 JANUARY 2000 q discoveries                                                                                                                                             41




  Discoveries: Did you perform with                                                                                                 countries.
her?                                                                                                                                   Because of this, I know it was the
  Phillips: No, she wasn’t performing                                                                                               music that carried them. The most dif-
then, but I taught her how to play gui-                                                                                             ficult thing for any musician, compos-
tar. I was playing in Saskatchewan, at
a place called the Louie Reo Coffee
House, where she was working as a
                                            “This entire                                                                            er, or songwriter to do is to create
                                                                                                                                    unique melodies. Over the thousands
                                                                                                                                    of years that music has been created,


                                            industry is made up
waitress. I was playing my red                                                                                                      for someone to come up with a brand
twelve–string at that time, and she                                                                                                 new melody is really the most difficult
said, “Can you give me some guitar                                                                                                  thing. That’s one of the reasons I veer
lessons?” So I gave her a few lessons,                                                                                              more toward writing what I consider
taught her a few things.
  Discoveries: How did you discover
the sitar?
  Phillips: I had gone to Toronto in
                                            of nothing but                                                                          classical music. I was always influ-
                                                                                                                                    enced by classical composers,
                                                                                                                                    Debussy, Prokofiev, those kind of peo-
                                                                                                                                    ple. And when Pete [Robinson] and
around 1963 or ‘64 to play at a coffee
house called the Purple Onion, and
somebody there told me to go see this
guy called Ravi Shankar, that he plays
                                            charlatans and                                                                          Paul [Buckmaster] jumped into my life
                                                                                                                                    35 years ago, they started playing me
                                                                                                                                    composers like Krzystof Penderecki,
                                                                                                                                    and that totally turned my head
this strange instrument called the sitar.
So, on my night off, I went to his con-
cert in Toronto, and after the concert,
                                            thieves.”                                                                               around.
                                                                                                                                       Discoveries: People don’t think of
                                                                                                                                    Shawn Phillips as a classical composer.
he was kind enough to sit down with                                                                                                    Phillips: Part of the reason for that
me for about four hours. He showed                                                                                                  is, there is no category for me. If they
me how to sit with the instrument, how                                                                                              had a box for composer, it would just
to hold it, the very basics of the sitar,   like to do if you had the chance?’ So I      man.                                       open up an entirely new field in the
and that hooked me.                         told him about the trilogy I wanted to          Discoveries: What was it like to be a   music industry. They almost tried to
  I think Donovan was the first person       make, that included the fairy tale, and      pop star during the 1970s? Were you        do that with New Age, but it ended up
in pop music to use a sitar, on a tune      the semi–classical music I’d been writ-      pretty much living the “high life” back    a lot of computer sequencing.
off the Sunshine Superman album             ing, and all the new songs, as well as       then?                                         Discoveries: Do you listen to New
called “Guenevere.”                         the first attempt at science fiction on a         Phillips: Well, it wasn’t really so     Age music?
  Discoveries: How did you happen to        record. So he went back to England,          much the “high life,” because I wasn’t        Phillips: No, there’s not a lot of it
get signed by A&M?                          he got together with Dick James, and         living in the United States. I was still   that’s much good. There’s a couple of
  Phillips: Jonathan Weston, who was        they came up with the $25,000 we             in Positano, a small fishing village in     folks out there that are happening, but
my English manager, came to Italy           needed to record three albums.               Italy. The best part about it was, I was   not too many.
after I’d lived there a couple of years,       We did in fact record all three, and      making enough money to be able to             Discoveries: Would you be comfort-
and he said, ‘Do you want to come           Jonathan took them to a guy named            continue to buy the equipment that I       able as a New Age musician?
back to America and make a record?’         Jerry Love at A&M Records, who lis-          needed to go forward in creating              Phillips: No, I couldn’t go that route,
And I said, ‘No, I’ve got my 2–track        tened to them and called Jerry Moss          music. I finally became aware that          because, very simply, there’s too much
Revox tape recorder, I’m having a real      that afternoon and said, ‘We have to         people were listening to my music and      energy in my work. The only thing I can
good time just creating music, and I’m      sign this guy!’ They flew Jonathan and        really responding to it.                   say is, they can put any label they want
not ready for any of this to come out       me out to Los Angeles, and we did the           Discoveries: So far, you’ve released    on me at this point, as long as I make a
yet.’ He said, ‘Well, what would you        deal then. In my opinion, Jerry Moss         14 albums. Who are your fans?              living at it.
                                            is the only person with any integrity in        Phillips: People love my work.             Discoveries: You have threatened to
                                            the recording industry.                      That’s all there is to it. The funniest
BELOW: South Africa tour 1994; L-R:            He’s still my friend to this day, and I   part about it is that most of my records
Jonny Fourie, Shawn, Travor Donjeany        have a great deal of respect for the         were sold in non–English speaking          BELOW: “Bright White Tour” 1975
 42                                                                                                                                                      JANUARY 2000 q discoveries




title your memoirs “The Two Most                                                                                                                         and I went out there and finished the
Important Words in the Music Business:                                                                                                                   concert. Of course I didn’t sleep for
Fuck You!” Sounds like you really been                                                                                                                   two days, but it was well worth it.
screwed.                                                                                                                                                    Discoveries: What kind of venues
   Phillips: I have. If your manager, or                                                                                                                 are you playing these days?
whoever it is you’re working with – if                                                                                                                      Phillips: On my Canadian tour, it’s
they do something wrong, it’s considered                                                                                                                 mostly college gigs, bars. For me it
your fault. Another big part of my disil-                                                                                                                never really matters where I play. If
lusionment with the music industry is                                                                                                                    I’m in a bar, I turn it into a concert hall.
[one experience] that could have turned                                                                                                                  This has lost me work in the United
my entire life around, but it really disap-                                                                                                              States. I’ve tried to go back into certain
pointed me. I was approached by two                                                                                                                      clubs where I’d packed the place, and
gentlemen, Kevin Maher and Wink Mar-                                                                                                                     the manager says, ‘Nah, you made my
tindale, to write some music for a televi-                                                                                                               bar into a concert hall. We don’t sell
sion special called “The Game Show                                                                                                                       enough alcohol when you play here!’
Biz.” I wrote the music for it, 36 min-                                                                                                                     Discoveries: How did you first dis-
utes of music for this program. I did                                                                                                                    cover you had a large South African fol-
everything by the book, cue sheets,                                                                                                                      lowing?
                                               Hugh Ambrose




index cards, the whole lot, who the pub-                                                                                                                    Phillips: I ran into some South
lisher is, all this stuff. I presented it to                                                                                                             African people at Peter Robinson’s
ASCAP, and I waited and waited for my                                                                                                                    house. They were staying downstairs
royalties. I asked the people at ASCAP,                                                                                                                  from him. When Peter introduced us,
‘How does this work, how do I get paid?’                                                                                                                 these people just went nuts! I said, ‘You
and they told me, ‘For anything you do                                                                                                                   guys know my music?’ and they said,
that goes before the public, you will be                      anger, with wonder, and with technique.        ABOVE: Shawn Phillips and Donovan,          ‘Didn’t you know? You’re bigger than
compensated as the composer.’ That was                        Anger is, when you look at the world           1964                                        Paul Simon in South Africa!’ I told
their promise to me. I remember the                           around you; is it a perfect place? If you                                                  them they were out of their minds, but
guy saying this. Well, I did this program,                    think it is, then you’re probably certifi-      that I got unchosen was simply because      they said ‘Absolutely not!’ and soon
and it aired on 136 stations across the                       able. Wonder comes from looking at the         Robert Stigwood subsequently discov-        afterwards I got over there, and it was
nation, including WNBC in New York                            world through the eyes of a child. And         ered that Jonathan Weston was my            very strange.
City, at 9:00 p.m. Prime time! And I                          technique is keeping a balance between         manager, CMA was my agent, Dick                When we drove in from the airport, I
waited and waited, and finally I went                          the two.’ That’s the way I write, always       James was my publisher, A&M was my          kept seeing signs and posters on tele-
back to ASCAP and said, ‘Where are my                         has been.                                      record company, and Stigwood wasn’t         phone poles and walls, with my name
royalties for this work?’ and they came                          Discoveries: The theme of your cur-         going to get his finger in the pie!          on them. I said, ‘Is that the advertising
back with something like, ‘Oh, well, we                       rent tour is “Health, Love, and Clarity.”         Discoveries: Were you disappointed?      for the concerts we’re going to do?’ and
have a company that does random sam-                          What does this mean?                              Phillips: A bit, at the time. But in     they said ‘No, those are concerts that
pling. They’ll watch the television for                          Phillips: I realized that you can’t have    retrospect, no. Ted Neely, who ended up     have already happened.’ I said, ‘Wait a
four hours in Dubuque, Iowa, and if your                      any one of those three without the other       getting the part, is a good friend of       minute, I’ve never been here before,
program comes up, we pay you, and if it                       two. I like to come up with sayings, I         mine. He’s happy with what he’s doing       man!’ They stopped the van, and I got
doesn’t, we don’t pay you.’                                   like to take situations in life and give       now, but he always felt that the part       out and looked at one of the posters. It
   They called this an excuse! Random                         them a verbal definition that anybody           limited him, he hasn’t really been able     had my name in big letters, and under-
sampling. I never got a penny for it.                         will understand. People ask me what my         to do anything else after that.             neath it said, “A Tribute to Shawn
Had they paid me what they were sup-                          philosophy is. I tell them, ‘If I tell you        Discoveries: Tell me about the movie     Phillips.” It was singer/songwriters in
posed to pay me, it would have been                           what my philosophy is, I’m just telling        you starred in.                             South Africa that were doing my works!
about $468,000. That really disappointed                      you how full of shit I am!’                       Phillips: In 1964, I made a movie        I was fairly impressed with that.
me, that really turned me off to the                             Discoveries: Which singers do you           called “Run With the Wind” in England.         Discoveries: And you’d been
whole thing.                                                  listen to?                                     I wrote the music for it, and Phillip       unaware of this?
   Discoveries: Wasn’t there any way to                          Phillips: My favorite singer is a man       Martell did the musical direction. The         Phillips: Completely! It was very
fight this?                                                    named Carl Anderson. Carl sang the             movie starred another guy named Sean,       gratifying. I was absolutely amazed.
   Phillips: We tried, with lawyers and                       part of Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”     I can’t remember his last name, and the     Within the next six months, after that
everything, but because of the previous                       Great voice.                                   Shakespearian actress Francesca Annis       first visit, I ended up doing more shows
problems with my management, I had                               Discoveries: What was your involve-         (I wrote the songs “Woman” and “Hey,        than any international artist had ever
some I.R.S. problems, and there wasn’t a                      ment with “Jesus Christ Superstar?”            Miss Lonely” for Francesca). Anyway,        done there. I enjoyed it immensely. I
lawyer in the world that would touch it.                         Phillips: Well, I’d heard the record, I     this other Sean played the boxer, and I     think we’re scheduled to go back there
   Discoveries: What did you end up                           knew Peter Robinson had played on it, I        played the singer. It was fun, I loved      in March, 2000.
getting paid for this work?                                   knew Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim                doing it.                                      Discoveries: Tell me about your new
   Phillips: Not a penny. At that point, I                    Rice. My agency sent me to the audi-              Discoveries: You have a very wide        project.
just decided that this entire industry is                     tion. They gave me a song to learn, “The       vocal range. Has your voice ever failed        Phillips: I would like to re–record
made up of nothing but charlatans and                         Garden of Gethsemane,” and it took me          you during a show?                          some songs that appeared on an album I
thieves. That’s what “Money Dance”                            about 45 minutes. I was in Philadelphia,          Phillips: When I played at Lincoln       made in Montreal in 1992, The Truth If It
(from The Truth if It Kills) was all about,                   doing a concert, so I flew up to New York       Center, I was sick as a dog on the day of   Kills. On that project, the producer,
which I’m going to re–record, because                         at 9:00 in the morning, walked out onto        the concert. I had no voice at all. I       Michel Le Francois, didn’t follow my
it’s an important tune.”                                      this stage in a Broadway theater, and it       went to see this famous voice doctor,       vision. I want to re–record those tunes,
   Discoveries: It’s too bad you have to                      was all dark in front of me. I sang the        and two minutes before I was supposed       because they’re good ones.
write a song like that.                                       song, accompanied by a single piano            to start the performance, he sprayed           What I have in mind is to do a three-
   Phillips: I know. But all my songs are                     player, and I heard a voice in the dark-       my larynx and vocal chords with pure        CD set, because I’ve been writing classi-
written from my own life experience.                          ness say, ‘That’s fine, he’ll do fine.’ I rec-   adrenaline. A minute–and–a–half later,      cal music for about 15 years now. I want
That’s what my dad taught me.                                 ognized the voice, and I said ‘Andrew?         I went out on the stage and sang like a     to do all the new things I have, re–record
    He was a great influence on my cre-                        Andrew is that you?’ and he said ‘Yes!’        bird! It was phenomenal. He sprayed         a few others, and present all of it togeth-
ativity. He said ‘You need to write with                      So that’s how I got chosen, and the way        me once more during the intermission,       er as one project – and I’d like to use the
 JANUARY 2000 q discoveries                                                                                                                                                       43




classical music as links between the        your advertisement. So, play our                        DISCOGRAPHY                               Second Contribution (CD) A&M
songs.                                      record and we’ll pay you for the adver-                                                             7502–13128
   Discoveries: Why is it so hard to get    tising that you’re providing. That’s                                                              Collaboration Wounded Bird
your new songs recorded?                    just how it’s done, it’s business as                                                                WOU 4324
   Phillips: I haven’t the faintest idea.   usual.                                                  ALBUMS:                                   Bright White Wounded Bird
I’m looking for an investor. After             Discoveries: So it must be frustrat-                                                             WOU 4402
being in the business all these years, I    ing for [you].                                          I’m A Loner Columbia – Catalog number     Furthermore Wounded Bird
don’t want to do it unless I can work          Phillips: It’s very frustrating. For                   unknown (1964) Re-released as:            WOU 3662
with the same tools that the major          the creator of the music, it is not a                     Favorite Things Capitol – Catalog       Do You Wonder Wounded Bird
labels use. I need about $400,000,          business. If you think of your craft of                   number unknown (1965)                     WOU 4539
which in the music industry is chicken      songwriting as business, you cannot                     Shawn Columbia – Catalog number           Transcendence Wounded Bird
feed; sometimes they spend that much        craft a song. You can write a song to                     unknown (1965) Re–released as: First      WOU 3028
for production alone. My production         fit into some commercial formula, but                      Impressions Capitol – Catalog num-
fee will be about $150,000, that will do    you’re not really crafting a song.                        ber unknown (1966)
everything that I want. Paul Buckmas-          For example, on that ill–fated album,                Contribution A&M SP–4241 (1970)
ter and Peter Robinson will do the          there’s a song called “Most of Us Don’t                 Second Contribution A&M SP–4282           SINGLES:
arranging and producing. It’ll be the       Understand at All.” I think it’s partic-                  (1970)
“Terrible Trio” back together again!        ularly well–crafted, but what they want                 Collaboration A&M SP–4324 (1971)          The (New) Frankie And Johnny Song /
   The remainder of the money will be       on commercial radio is music that is                    Faces A&M SP-4363 (1972)                    Cloudy Summer Afternoon –
used for promotion. My manager esti-        predictable. If you want “predictable”                  Bright White A&M SP-4402 (1973)             Ascot 2152 (1964)
mates that in order for the investor to     music, you are never going to touch                     Furthermore A&M SP-3662 (1974)            Hey Nelly Nelly / Solitude –
recoup, I only have to sell 77,000 CDs.     anyone, you are never going to move                     Do You Wonder A&M SP-4539 (1975)            Columbia DB7611 (1965)
At that point, the investor will recoup     anyone’s soul. The words might take                     Rumplestiltskin’s Resolve A&M SP–4582     Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name /
everything plus 10%. My point is, it’s      you to the edge, but it’s the music that                  (1976)                                    Nobody Listens – Columbia DB7699
not much of a risk for the investor         makes you jump.                                         Spaced A&M SP-4650 (1977)                   (1965)
because we’re not trying to establish a        Discoveries: Did you expect you’d                    Transcendence RCA – AFL1–3028             Little Tin Soldier / London Town –
market – the market is already there.       still be touring when you reached your                    (1978)                                    Columbia DB7789 (1965)
We’ve just got to tell people there’s       fifties?                                                 Beyond Here Be Dragons (CD)               Summer Came / Storm – Columbia
something new on the shelf. If I can’t         Phillips: No, I did not. When I was                    Chameleon Records D2–74764 (1988)         DB7956 (1966)
sell 77,000 CDs, I figure I’m in the         living in Italy, and things were happen-                The Truth If It Kills (CD) Imagine IMD-   Woman Mine / Stargazer –
wrong business.                             ing in the 1970s, I thought, ‘Oh yeah,                    2042 (1994)                               Parlophone R5606
   Discoveries: People in the recording     everything will work out. I’ll be pretty                The Best Of Shawn Phillips A&M            The Christmas Song / Lovely Lady –
industry don’t seem to have the vision      set for my old age, as it were.’ But it                   SP–9045 (Canada) (1980)                   A&M 1238 (1970)
to look at what the public really thinks    didn’t turn out that way.                               The Best Of Shawn Phillips – The A&M      L Ballade / We – A&M 1402 (1972)
of your work. The only thing they look         Discoveries: How did things change                     Years (CD) A&M 31454 0016 2 (1992)      Lost Horizon / Landscape –
at is ‘How did your last album do?’         for you after your quadruple bypass in                  Another Contribution: An Anthology          A&M 1405 (1973)
   Phillips: Well, my last album had a      1991?                                                     (CD) A&M 31454 0508–2 (1995)            Anello / Hey Miss Lonely – A&M 1435
legal injunction on it that I made so          Phillips: Well, I felt pretty defeated.              Lost Horizon (1973 soundtrack)              (1973)
that it couldn’t be released anyplace       I wanted to do something. At that                         Bell B–1300                             Bright White / Dream Queen –
else except Quebec, because I didn’t        point, I felt like I was a failure at                   The Best Of Shawn Phillips – The A&M        A&M 1482 (1973)
like it. Basically what happened was        music. My wife has been wonderful,                        Years (CD) A&M 31454 0016 2             All The Kings And Castles / Salty Tears –
that halfway through the album, I told      she’s been my biggest supporter, and                    Another Contribution: An Anthology (CD)     A&M 1507 (1974)
the guy that he wasn’t going to sell the    she made me realize that the music                        A&M 31454 0508-2                        Do You Wonder / Summer Vignette –
record, and he didn’t believe me. Basi-     itself was wonderful. It was the busi-                  I’m a Loner (CD) Wounded Bird WOU           A&M 1750 (1975)
cally, because I’m a platinum record        ness end of it that was ugly. I just kept                 1748                                    One Way Ticket – Imagine MS-2037
seller up here in Quebec and Canada,        running into unscrupulous people.                       Shawn (CD) Wounded Bird                     (1994)
the guy was absolutely assured he           This is very difficult to say, but every-                  WOU 6006
could sell it. He gave it to the people     thing, everything revolves around                       Contribution (CD) Wounded Bird WOU
at the label [Imagine] to listen to, they   money. I just felt that, since I’m not                    4241                                    Shawn Phillips today
listened to it for a couple of days, and    making money, it’s just not worth it. So
just gave it back to him, saying, ‘it’s a   I started looking around for something
beautiful production, man, but it ain’t     I could do that would affect people and
Shawn Phillips. We know the work            myself, and got into what I’m doing
that he does.’                              now.
   Discoveries: So this was not a good         After the bypass, all those feelings of
collaboration.                              despondency and depression – I mean,
   Phillips: No, it was not a good col-     you look in the mirror and you feel vio-
laboration. Had he listened to me, it       lated. But soon after that, at home in
could have been a fantastic record, an      Austin, I saw on television this com-
amazing record, if he’d just let me do      munity bulletin board type of thing,
what I wanted to do.                        and they said they needed volunteer
   Discoveries: Are Peter Robinson          firefighters and dispatchers, and I had
and Paul Buckmaster eager to work           been a firefighter when I was in the
with you again?                             Navy. So I called them up and said,
   Phillips: Both Peter and Paul are        ‘I’ve had this surgery, I’m recovering,
110% gung–ho. They really want to do        and so on, and they said, ‘Fine. Here’s
it. For Peter, taking the time out to do    the fire phone.’ And they put the fire
this project is very difficult, because      phone in my house!
he’s probably one of the top ten film           So I did dispatching for a few
scorers in the world right now. But         months, and as I gradually got better, I
he’s committed to the project.              started doing maintenance on the
   Discoveries: The big–selling music       trucks around the fire station. Then I
today seems to be rap, alternative,         started going to the various training
techno, and smooth jazz. Have these         academies, and now I’m a certified
trends affected your market?                firefighter in Texas. I just finished a
   Phillips: No, if I can get the word      14–month course, where I am now also
out, and I have the money to hire the       an EMT [Emergency Medical Techni-
independent promotion men to go to          cian]. Believe me, there’s not a whole
the radio stations. If I can get my         lot of difference between a double
tunes played on the radio again, I’ll       standing ovation at the Isle of Wight,
sell records. The point is, I have to get   with 650,000 people, and an 83–year
people to go to those twelve or thirteen    old lady with a fractured pelvis, after
guys that control the entirety of the       you’ve transferred her from the ambu-
AM/FM formats across the United             lance to the ER bed, and she grabs
States, and say, ‘Look, if you put this     your arm and she looks into your eyes
                                                                                         Arlo Hennings




record in rotation, then we’ll give you a   and says ‘Thank you so much for tak-
percentage of the action. Because           ing care of me.’ Not a whole lot of dif-
that’s just the way it works. It’s not      ference between the two.
payola, it’s business. Your record is

				
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