Wednesday, November 17, 2004

mtm news: RPM

Robert White Johnson talks about his RPM re-release due in November 22nd: Robert White Johnson: "First and foremost, a heartfelt thanks to all the fans who have helped 'keep the music alive' by supporting bands like RPM as well as countless others over the years. It's a pleasure to now be able to share our first record project on CD as well as six additional tracks that have never before been released in any form. The bonus tracks that have been included in this release lend a significant historical as well as musical perspective to RPM. "The songs,"ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN" and "OH, OH PAMELA" were recorded soon after touring to support our debut album sometime in 1982. This was the first time that the band had produced itself in the studio. There had been some creative differences with our first producer Brent, and being the classy first rate guy he was, he let us do our own thing. An inevitable chain of events I suppose. Anyway these two songs were recorded at Creative Workshop Studios in Nashville where we also did our first record so the territory was quite familiar.

However, there are glimpses into the future with these recordings as we experimented more with special effects on the backing
vocals in addition to the guitar work. These two songs could also be described as a musical bridge of sorts to the future as I'll describe more later. The instrumentation for these two songs were the same as this, our first record with Mark Gendel on guitars, Jimmie Lee on bass, keys and backing vocals and Tommy wells on drums. Something else that's noteworthy regarding our first record project on EMI, "RPM," there were four songs from the project that were also covered by other major artists, an accomplishment that rarely happened back then in the rock world. "A LEGEND NEVER DIES" was recorded by the band BLACKFOOT
featuring Ricky Medlock on Atco/Atlantic records. This was a fun but also a strange moment as I was asked to help sing and arrange the backing vocals for their version in Atlanta that was produced by legendary producer Eddie Offord. The track "2+2" was covered by legendary rock singer Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd family & fame for his debut solo Geffen record release. This event actually led to an almost 20 year creative and personal friendship between Johnny and myself. It was a couple of years later that I
went on to produce and CO-write the "Brickyard Road" single and CD for Johnny on Atlantic Records that spawned the # 1 rock hit for 3 weeks in a row in the US. "RENDEZVOUS", the third cover from our first album was also
recorded by TYGERS OF PANG TANG.

This track was not only a successful single for them in the UK and Europe, it was also included in their Greatest Hits package. Interestingly enough a few years later while we were recording our second RPM LP in London at Trevor Horn's studio SARM, I was having dinner during a break and sitting next to me by complete surprise was Peter Collins, who had produced the TYGERS OF PANG TANG version. It was a fun moment! Last but not least, the song "YOU," was recorded by Mark Farner, lead singer of GRAND FUNK. This was for a solo project he was working on. It was a personal thrill for me since I had always been such a fan of his. Mark
even tracked me down to discuss the song, so we were able to speak on the phone. He was very complimentary of the song, the band and my voice but asked me about the key of the song. Seems as though he had a bit of a tough time doing it in the same key as it was very high. He was relieved when he found out that I later demanded the band lower the key a half step so I could sing it live without killing myself!!! It was one of those things where you start out recording a track on a good day, then after the track is
mostly done you start asking yourself ,"What in the hell did I do" am I going to sing this thing live?"?? Live and learn......

With regard to the other four bonus tracks, since I already described the first two; these were actually recorded in 1985 after our second project on Warner Brothers was released in 1984. These were also the last things we did creatively as a group before we
disbanded. Our second record for Warner Bros. was recorded with Gary Langan (of YES/ART OF NOISE fame) engineering and CO-producing with the band, at Trevor Horn's studios SARM, in London. We had spent upwards of a year and a half on writing and recording the second project in the hope of getting it just right. Because of massive competition within the label (Warners) at the time with releases from VAN HALEN / "1984" , ZZ TOP/"ELIMINATOR"as well as "PURPLE RAIN" by Prince, it just wasn't meant to be, even though the band received high critical acclaim. The tracks "DEEPER THAN LOVE" / "HANDS" / "EVERY HEART YOU BREAK" & "HOW DO I GET YOU" were recorded at the famed studio 'The Castle' outside of Nashville. Having recorded with Trevor Horn's right hand/engineer, Gary Langan, we were bent on delving even further musically and sonically speaking. All tracks were produced by Mark, Jimmie and myself as our drummer Tommy had left at that point. It was a very tough time for drummers in general at that time because of all the drum machines and of Fairlight (our particular instrument of choice at that time). Because I was also an ex-drummer, I overdubbed live cymbals & percussion to make these particular tracks feel more live.

There are elements that are reminiscent of our first album especially in the tracks, "DEEPER THAN LOVE" as well as "EVERY HEART
YOU BREAK" at times. Sonically speaking these bonus tracks rock since technology had come light years since our first project just a few years previous. The Castle Studios had purchased the latest and the best of everything. The owners, the Nuyen family originally from Belgium, brought a very fresh attitude and creative mindset to town. It was perfect for where our heads were at. While we were able to spend a good deal of time putting down the rough tracks and the overdubs, mixing was another story. The 'A' room was getting booked solid and so we had to go for it. These four songs were mixed in one day and all night...................! We had never done this before but the result was amazing. To this day, these mixes stand up remarkably. Our engineer Giles hung in there with us for over 24 hours. Not long afterward, the group decided to split. I'm sure everyone has their own story or reason so I won't get into that, but it was a great experience while it lasted. Jimmie and I actually first got together in 1979 as a duo and started writing songs which led to Mark coming to town from Toronto, Canada in 1980 adding a tougher rock edge to what we did. Tommy, from Detroit had been originally our session drummer of choice and a natural fit for the band. I came from northern Illinois and told my wife when we first came to Nashville in 1978, "If I ever talk about joining/starting another rock band, swiftly kick me in the ass." She didn't kick me and I'm glad we formed RPM, a group of extremely talented individuals whom I'll always be grateful in knowing and having the chance to have worked with. Enjoy the music, and as it loud!!! p.s. Thank you Mario Lehmann (MTM MUSIC) for your unending appreciation for RPM and great rock music in general as well as for your perserverance in
tracking me down to get this project done!"