Over the next year Terje Fjelde has agreed to listen to nothing but David Foster on his iPod. He’s loaded the thing with over 1,200 songs produced, arranged, composed, and/or played by David Foster. A deal with the devil? He keeps wondering.
Thanks for all the encouraging words in the comments section last week. You almost convinced me that me pulling this series off is about as likely as someone making a soft landing on Celine Dion’s ass (thanks, hagen.) But I’m hanging in there.
I’ve been listening a lot to David Foster’s early work in the past week and I’m actually excited about a lot of it. His session work at the time was diverse, and it’s pretty much like a snapshot of the music scene in L.A. in the mid-1970s, with a bit of country, a bit of folk, a bit of funk and two bits of AM pop/rock.
You know, at an early point in his career Foster was a relatively rocking, funky session pianist — always a very polished one for sure, but he had rocking, funky moments. In the early 1980s he abandoned the funk, and by 1990 the rock was gone as well — so what we’re left with throughout the past 20 years is basically… well, polish. And without any surface to apply it to that’s really just a lot of goo, isn’t it?
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
He started touring with Chuck Berry in his teens. A few years later Foster and his wife at the time (B.J. Cook) played with Canadian rock and roll legend Ronnie Hawkins’ band for a while, but he was eventually fired due to his lack of charisma.
Classic rock band send-off. “David, you look like a cadaver up there,” Ronnie told him. Sorry man, you gotta go! Or so the story goes.
Ronnie Hawkins himself on the matter: “I don’t know if you know it or not, but I fired David Foster. That’s the big story he tells everybody. He was fired by The Hawk. He says it was because he tried to put two chords in ‘Bo Diddley.’ So he says ‘The Hawk fired me.’ [laughs] So I told him, ‘If you fucked with Mozart’s compositions, he might’ve fired ya too!'”
When David was fired B.J. quit as well, and by 1972 they had established themselves with the band Skylark in Canada. In an attempt to boost their career they relocated to L.A. It paid off — they got a hit with “Wildflower,” the one we covered last week, but the momentum slipped. After releasing their second album to little fanfare, the rest of the band moved back to Canada. David Foster stayed behind with his wife — and he was looking for a gig.
The gig he found was in the orchestra pit in Lou Adler’s L.A. production of Jim Sharman’s rock musical “The Rocky Horror Show” at the Roxy Theatre in April 1974.
Tim Curry, who came over from the original London production, starred as Frank-n-Furter and Meat Loaf starred as Eddie/Dr. Scott. Both of them left the cast in September 1974 to begin recording the soundtrack sessions for the film, but a recording of the Roxy production was made before they left, with Foster and Larry Knechtel on keyboards and musical director D’Vaughn E. Pershing helming a stellar combination of budding and well-established L.A. session stars.
The performances on the studio recording are entertaining and energetic. When Curry left, he was replaced by Paul Jabara, a name we’ll possibly return to later in this series as Foster did some session work for his solo records in the late 1970s.
Foster stayed with the production for a year and by the time he left, he was promoted to its co-director. It was during this engagement that things really started rolling for Foster, getting calls to do sessions during the day.
The second track from this Ringo Starr album on Popdose in just a few weeks! It’s a track from his 1974 album, “Goodnight Vienna” — and Foster’s first ex-Beatle-collaboration. He worked with every Beatle except John. He apparently laid down some tracks for him at one point, but Lennon didn’t like what they were doing, so nothing came of it. I guess there’s a logic to that.
But he must’ve gotten on well with George — he played on several of his albums as part of the Dark Horse band, along with Gary Wright, Jesse Ed Davis and Jim Keltner, in what was surely a very important stepping stone in Foster’s career.
“Goodnight Vienna” was recorded in the summer of 1974, only a few months into Foster’s Rocky Horror gig, so this must have been one of those early calls he got following the buzz surrounding his performances at the Roxy Theatre.