NEAR THE BEGINNING: NEAR THE END
Who decided to put Break Song on the album?
Well, we always wanted to do that because all the bands of the time were doing live recordings. And the Break Song was, like I said, it seemed to be a real cool thing if we could get that down on tape. We had a hard time doing that because, you know, a lot of time the equipment didn't show up when we were scheduled to do a show. But finally that night at the Shrine it came off. Richie Havens opened for us that night.
What year was that?
'69. I think.
Was it longer than the version on the album?
That was it.
Did you ever do longer ones?
No, I.. don't.. That one was long enough.
Was there a structure to it that you always did?
Yeah, there was a structure as far as format, the arrangement, but as far as the solos, that was always spontaneous.
Did you ever hear Led Zeppelin's Carouselambre?
Part of it is similar to the Break Song. I noticed Tim did all the intros on Break Song. Was he more the front man, because he could move around so much?
Well, we didn't really have a front man.
Was between-song talk shared by both of you guys?
Yeah. We both seemed to do it.
Did you practice a lot for shows anymore at this point?
No, we really didn't. We'd practiced a lot in the early days, but uh ... You know why, we played a lot, we worked an awful lot.
Who decided on Shotgun?
I think it was really Timmy. He always loved that song and we just started jamming on it.
What about Some Velvet Morning?
I don't remember where that came from.
In the lyrics to that song, is it "when I'm strange" or "when I'm straight"?
Was that in the original song?
I think so.
What was the original song?
It was written by Lee Hazelwood. It was a hit record.
When you produced the album as a band, did you really have the most input on it?
Producing, Oh God! (laughter). I mixed Shotgun, now that you bring that up. Boy, was he happy, Carmine. It's all drums! I had that in my mind. I don't know, maybe that was one of the problems, nobody really had much say when it came to anything, per se. I must admit, as far as any real success we had creatively, I had a big share in that, I mean as keyboards and vocals. I really did arrange most of that stuff. The vocal arrangements, all the instrumental arrangements. Everybody knows that, the people that knew the Fudge and who we really were. For what it's worth.
Is the song Where Is My Mind? from the Near The Beginning sessions?
Where Is My Mind I think is like around the Renaissance period. I think the first album was terrific. We put out The Beat Goes On, and that really hurt us a lot. With Renaissance, we tried to got back on the right track with that. It didn't quite work. Horrible. The production was really bad on that. I think Near The Beginning was trying to capture the live performance thing that everybody was doing, but frankly, at the time, what we really wanted to do, we wanted to do a double album back then. 'Cause everybody was doing double albums back then, all the big bands. Atlantic wouldn't allow it. Now if you really look at it, there were only three songs on one side, and then the Break Song on the other side. It really was supposed to be a double album. It would've been cool if it was a two-record set.
Was there more stuff recorded?
Yeah, we had other stuff, but for some reason, I don't know what happened, it just never worked out. It was kind of a weird thing to put out on the market.
I still think it stands up as one of the best Fudge Albums.
Oh, thanks. I oughta check that out. I haven't listened to Vanilla Fudge in a long time. The Mystery album is cool.
Did you collect live tapes of the Fudge? Did anyone record stuff?
I guess we did. I don't really remember anything specific.
ROCK & ROLL
On to Rock & Roll...
The band had already broken up by then. We just had to fulfill the contract. We weren't even together on that. Me and Carmine went in and did the tracks. Timmy came in and overdubbed the bass, and Vinnie came in and overdubbed the guitar and we never saw each other. It was miserable. There was no heart in that thing. Today people comment on that vocal on Windmills Of Your Mind. People think that was a really good vocal.
I liked Vinnie's vocals on Need Love and Street Walkin' Woman. Those were always two of my all-time favorites.
He'd be happy to hear that.
Did you guys ever do those songs live?
Yeah, we did Need Love
What about off Near The Beginning?
We did Shotgun. That was the only one. And the Break Song.
How were the sets at this point? Were they getting longer?
I don't think we ever did more than an hour and a half, hour and forty-five minutes.
What about the Rock & Roll cover? It says designed by Fudge.
It's just Rock & Roll red on white. I don't think anybody really gave a damn. Atlantic just came up with it, and that was the end of it.
Was Look of Love from that period?
No. That was from when we were still into each other.
You can hear the honesty of it. You can hear when the band really meant what they were doing and when they weren't.
But even the later stuff... It had something...
So you like this band?
Yeah, I love Fudge. I don't really like any music from today. I'm totally alienated by it.
I appreciate that. I don't hear that too much.
Who was Adrian Barber?
Adrian Barber was an Atlantic staff producer. That's all that was. We wanted to get together with somebody, and they laid him on us, and we got along, an we did the record, and it bombed and it was history.. Next?
What about the lyrics to Churchbells of St. Martins? Were you at some peace rally?
Yeah. I was at a peace rally at the Hyatt hotel on Sunset in my room. Probably whacked, I was visualizing I was in Trafalgar Square, thinking I was writing the most brilliant poem I ever wrote. (laughter)
VIEWS ON CACTUS
Was Cactus being formed while Fudge was still around?
Yeah. we were broken up at that point, just doing a couple of skeleton gigs here and there to fulfill some last minute contracts, and then it was over. And then Tim and Carmine put that thing together with... who was in that?
Rusty Day and -
Yeah. And Jim McCarty.
When did you first find out.
Well, my road manager told me what their plans were.
You never talked to them after that?
Well, I was really hurt by that. I told them at the airport, I said, "You guys are great musicians". 'Cause they were getting a lot of attention at the time with their solos, and at the time they were the hottest rhythm section in the funking business. Timmy and Carmine. They were getting a lot of notoriety and it went to their heads. They just thought that they were bigger than the band was. And they wanted to break up the band, so they did, I told them "You guys are getting all this applause, all this notoriety. You're making a big mistake. You'll see someday." And to this day, they say I was right about that. Obviously.
So you were never really too fond of Cactus?
No. I never liked that band. I liked one track, Parchman Farm. I thought the pace on that was really wild. It really was amazing. That was a pretty wild track. I liked Brother Bill too. I thought that was a cool tune. But overall I never thought too much of the band. I never thought it was too creative. It was just a... sort of blues band really. I just thought that those guys were better than that.
THE BEGINNINGS OF BOOMERANG
Did you try to get something going with you right after that?
Yeah... Unfortunately my head was in a very insecure place at that time. The band had just broken up, I was 23 years old. I felt at the time, because I was so insecure, I just felt that my life was over. It was weird. Being at the top and then missing it. Then all of a sudden it was gone, I was like, now what? It was weird. A couple of offers came in, but I was so confused I just didn't know what to do, I didn't know what was up or down. I remember Ahmet Ertegun suggested to take me into the studio to do a solo album. And for some reason, I don't know why, I never did it. I was so stupid. I don't know why I never did it. I think I tried to keep the band going, I got a couple of musicians to replace Timmy and Carmine, but it was never the same. It just didn't work. It was a real dark period of my life.
Then came the Boomerang period.
Yeah, then I tried to put this band together. I don't know, we kinda did some pretty flaky things. Nothing happened with it, but I thought we did some pretty cool things. We tried to do Zeppelinish kind of things, like that song Juke It was like a Zeppelin kind of lick. That's what we were... You know it was just all these young guys playing. It was just a funky Rock'n'Roll band.
Songs like Juke It and The Peddler still stand up as great songs after so many years. Did you have auditions for the band?
Well, the drummer, he was a Fudge fan from Poughkeepsie, New York, [James] Galluzi. He's dead now. He got killed in a race car. Racing a car on the track. About ten years ago. The bass player came from Poughkeepsie. And then our manager, who was still Phil, heard about this young guitar player, Ricky Ramirez, from New York City. I'll tell you, we put a lot of work into that. We rehearsed a lot. We were always writing tunes. I don't know, it was about a two year period, and then we finally got signed with RCA, and then nothing happened. It just wasn't meant to be.
Ricky was 15?
He was real young.
Did Joe Kasmir, the bass player, do a lot of vocal tradeoffs with you when you played live?
Yeah, a couple times. It really didn't last that long. We didn't really do too much. We did record two albums. The second one was never released. I got that here.
So the initial reaction wasn't really too strong?
Well, there was a political thing going on too. We were both being managed by the same thing. Cactus and Boomerang were both managed by the same guy, and there was a jealousy thing, a political thing. And our manager put all the strength behind them, and uh, I was Bush and they were Clinton, you know what I'm saying. But to be honest, the band wasn't really that good live. Because when those guys got up on stage, they kind of froze.
Did you tour with Cactus at all?
I think we did one show with them...
That must have been the reunion show, right?
I don't know, I just remember I couldn't wait 'til it was over. I was just unhappy with everything back then. I wanted to get away from all of it. I broke up the band, I said "forget about it". I went up to RCA, I sat in the vice-president's office, I said "I've had it" and I said to him "I would like you to give me a staff position here. I'm sick of playing in this miserable place". I said I wanted him to give me a shot as vice-president of A&R or something like that. He laughed at me. He didn't laugh at me, but he was in shock. Like he freaked out. I said I'm tired of the business. I'm tired of all the bulls---. I want to try an executive position. I had a really good ear, I figured I'd be good in that capacity. The same way the drummer for Blood, Sweat, & Tears became a real big A&R guy now.
Did you ever pursue that in the seventies?
No. I got out of the business for a while. Started writing. For about four years I didn't play. Then I moved out to California in 1973.
AFTER THE FUDGE
But going back, there was a Vanilla Fudge reunion?
Was that in '71 or '73?
It was just a show. There was another one in '73?
We got an offer from Columbia to re-form. I flew back from California to reform. It was about 1973. We had a really nice contract, but it never happened. We rehearsed. All this bullshit. Something happened. I think it was Timmy. Some weird shit was going on. Anyway, the whole deal was blown out.
I heard you did some commercials?
Yeah, I did a couple in the early eighties.
What about Tommy Bolin?
That was about 1974, '75. 1 wanted to put my own band together. And I Was jamming with this really cool bass player, Reggie McBride. he played with Stevie Wonder and stuff. And then the guitar player was Bobby... He used to play in Steppenwolf for a while, and then Tommy Bolin, he was like a real hot item for a while, back in 1974, coming out of Deep Purple. He was cool. I heard he was putting a band together, he was getting all these outrageous musicians together, and I thought it would be a good thing to get me back on stage again, to get into his band. So I pursued it, and I got that gig, you know? That band was incredible. Michael Walden was playing drums, incredible drummer. He played in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and today he's one of the top producers in the business, he produces Whitney Houston, he's very famous, a very rich man. But he was in the band playing drums. We had this chick singer/sax player, Norma Jean Bell, Joey Wild, Reggie McBride, myself on keyboards. Everybody was talking about that band. It was real high-energy. It was cool.
Were you still playing with him up to the end?
No, I didn't. I left the band right before that last tour. He got a couple of other guys together. I wasn't happy with the way things were going. Then he just... that was it.
Then there was the Dave Mason album.
Probably the most fun I ever had in the business was playing with Dave Mason.
Did you play gigs with him?
Oh yeah. I played together with him for almost four years. It was a lot of fun. Great band.
Were there any other projects during that period?
Well, I played with Alice Cooper for a while. I did the "Welcome To My Nightmare" tour with him in '77. Australia, New Zealand, Southern Hemisphere...