Popdose Flashback ’82: An Oral History of the Psychedelic Furs’ “Forever Now”
Kids, here’s a little lesson in journalism for you. When a writer formulates an idea for an article, the first step in the process of bringing that article to fruition is usually to set their goals for what they hope to accomplish with the resulting piece. Some set goals which they know will be easy to meet, then see what they can do to take things to the next level as they go. Others, however, set goals which are incredibly high – okay, sure, some would call them unrealistic – and work under the presumption that their unbridled enthusiasm will be enough to help them meet these goals.
In the case of the Popdose Flashback ’82 revolving around the Psychedelic Furs’ Forever Now, which has been in the works for several months, we were absolutely, positively convinced that we’d be able to get Richard Butler on the phone. Indeed, Butler assured us via email that he was up for it. So we waited and we waited, and we believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that this goal would be met…until now. As we stand only days away from the end of 2012, we’ve yet to get Butler – who, it must be said, has spent much of this year touring his heart out – to commit to that conversation, so the time has come to move on and offer what we’ve got on hand…which, quite frankly, stands strong on its own.
And, so, let us set the stage…
Before the Psychedelic Furs went into the studio to record Forever Now, guitarist Roger Morris and saxophonist Duncan Kilburn departed the ranks of the band…and quite abruptly, too.
John Ashton: It was a bit of a dark period in the band’s history. We had played a lot in the years since our first two albums came out. It seemed like a long time, but it wasn’t, really. It was only about three years. But we had played constantly, and…I guess really what was happening was that things weren’t working out anymore on a personality level. There were a lot of fights, a lot of in-fighting. In particular, Duncan and Richard were having a lot of arguments and, basically, Richard just could not deal with it anymore and…well, that was the end of that.
There was no real reason behind it. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It wasn’t like we sat and planned it. It was a spontaneous thing that happened in the heat of the moment, and they were unceremoniously fired basically because Richard couldn’t deal with the way Duncan was antagonizing him…which, ironically, was one of the best parts of the band. Again, this is in retrospect, but the challenging of things is what made us the band we were at the time. It was a very important part of us. You know, you can’t be in love with everybody all the time. At the time, I think I felt, “Well, maybe I could use a bit more room, musically speaking, and can flex my muscles a little bit,” but with that comes a whole different set of rules.
It was just a rash decision, one with no real rhyme or reason behind it, that kind of got out of hand, and before we knew it, we were down to a four-piece. We’ve spoken about it since, and, in retrospect, I don’t think we would have made the same decision. It was something that wasn’t thought out, and we weren’t advised on a management level what it might really mean. It was a mistake, I think, in retrospect. A big mistake.
The Furs worked with Steve Lillywhite a bit on their self-titled debut and for all of Talk Talk Talk, but when Lillywhite proved unavailable for their next set of sessions, the Furs decided to seek production assistance elsewhere. The man who got the gig: Todd Rundgren.
JA: The Furs were riding high on the Talk Talk Talk tour. We actually came up here to (Woodstock) to meet with Todd, and…I’m not really quite sure how it actually came about, but I know that we were all interested in finding somebody else, somebody perhaps with a more American sound, and Vince Ely was a big Todd fan. And I’m pretty sure that Roger and Duncan were, too. I wasn’t so much, really, but I didn’t really know much about his music at the time. I don’t know if Richard or Tim did. Maybe Tim. But, anyway, his name came up, he happened to be around, and we happened to be close to the area, so we just kind of stopped in to see him. That’s my remembrance of it. It may not be based on anything else except that. [Laughs.] But I don’t think there was anybody from the record company who came up with any brilliant suggestions. They never did. They really didn’t. They pretty much left that to us. Obviously, they were wanted us to have hits, so the onus was to maybe try and have something that was a bit more commercial for our next record. So that was probably one of the reasons why Todd’s name came up at the time. And he was a fan, and it seemed like when we met him that the fit was right. And Roger and Duncan were there at that meeting, actually.
Unfortunately, Roger and Duncan were not at the studio when the band arrived to actually record the album. Good thing, then, that Rundgren’s musical abilities included that of guitar, keyboards, and saxophone.
JA: There wasn’t a conscious effort to produce either Roger or Duncan. I know that Todd was a little surprised when only four of us showed up when there was supposed to be six. He was expecting Roger and Duncan. That’s what he had signed up for. I do know that, prior to that, in England, our record company had wanted to hear demos of the songs before they would allow us to come out and record with him. So we did spend some time making them. Because, y’know, prior to that, what happened was… The band was always a very organic unit. We’d go and rehearse. Whereas the first album, a lot of it was pre-written by virtue of the fact that the band had been around a couple of years. So there were songs there. I joined the band in ’78, and “Sister Europe” was already a song, a version of “Imitation of Christ” was there, “We Love You“ was already there. And there other songs that were coming along, like “India,” that I brought to the band. “Fall” was another, and “Black/Radio,” which was just kind of a jam. And the second album, we spent a lot of time in the rehearsal studio just jamming stuff out, and that’s basically what constituted Talk Talk Talk. So with Forever Now, we were kind of like a new band, almost.
At the time, our A&R man, Howard Thompson, had left, and he was our main champion at the label. I’m not quite sure where he went to. Warners, perhaps, or somewhere like that. Also, the record company to which we were signed in England, most of the business side of things was done from the United States. So our record company over here was far more in touch and in tune with what we were doing as a group than our English counterparts were. The only person who was really a strong A&R person was Muff Winwood, who had left. He was definitely a champion of the band, but he didn’t quite have the same insight into the band as, say, Howard did at the time. And there was David Betteridge, too. Those two guys. But things were changing at the record company at that time, at the same time we had change in the band. So it was almost like a new band, and we had to prove ourselves all over again. So we wrote the songs that basically ended up on Forever Now prior to coming out to Woodstock to work with Todd. They were rough. I mean, they were in demo form. But they were in place.
The fact that the Furs were, in Ashton’s words, “almost like a new band” made it a bit easier to accept Rundgren’s additions to the group’s sound: horn players Gary Windo and Donn Adams, cellist Ann Sheldon, and backing vocalists Flo & Eddie, a.k.a. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan.
JA: I think Todd felt he needed somewhat to fill out the record more. Here we’d had a six-piece group that had a sound, and all of a sudden a third of the band had gone…and a third of the sound had gone as well. So whereas once we’d all be fighting to get our parts down, now there was this big space in what we were doing. It was a little bit disconcerting and a little frightening at times for everybody concerned, I think. We rehearsed for two weeks, probably, when we came out here, and Todd… he had a guest house, and there was a double garage there that was… It was early spring, and it was just about warm enough to work in there. [Laughs.] I mean, there was still snow on the ground. But I think we managed to heat it up enough. We rehearsed in there. Especially Tim and Vince, who rehearsed a lot together, working a lot on the rhythm tracks.
We had a cellist who came in: Ann Sheldon, a friend of Todd’s and a conservatory-type cellist who really hadn’t played rock. She played a lot of jazz, but she was definitely not prepared for what we wanted her to do. She was extremely upset when we wanted her to do the things that we asked her to do with a cello. [Laughs.] It took her a long time to warm up. But once she did, that was it. There was no stopping her. She just kind of took off.
Todd also brought Flo & Eddie in to do background vocals, which really was a great idea. He brought in Gary Windo to do the saxes and do some horn arrangements. So it was him and Donn Adams. Donn and Gary played together for NRBQ, where they were the Whole Wheat Horns. So all of a sudden we had NRBQ’s horn section and Frank Zappa’s backing vocalists on the record. It was very bizarre.
Howard Kaylan: We had worked with Todd mostly onstage, but we’d known him for…God, most of our lives. In fact, I can remember first seeing him perform with the Nazz way back when. And we knew Albert Grossman, so we knew about Todd and his life and career. And we had interviewed him in our capacity as disc jockeys and as writers for rock magazines out of L.A., which was sort of our alternate vocation all during the ‘70s and ‘80s after the Turtles ended. So we pretty much knew his situation, and he knew ours.
Right before doing Forever Now, I believe we had just done a television concert with Todd, which I still see online occasionally, and it’s great to see it, because it was a great show, a real tight concert. If memory serves, it was Mark and me and Karla DeVito that were singing background with Todd, and we did…I dunno, five or six songs, but among them were “Compassion” and “Bang on the Drum.” Real classics. I can’t remember the name of the show itself – it was short-lived – but the concert itself was terrific, and it’s all over YouTube to this day.
Anyway, I think it was just shortly after that when we found ourselves in New York City – whether it was for radio purposes or for a concert, I don’t remember – and Todd called and said, “You guys, I want you to come down and meet these friends of mine…” We didn’t know what he was talking about. We had never heard of this band before. We had no perception of how they thought of themselves in the music business. And we definitely had no idea how volatile the Butler brothers were. [Laughs.]
When we showed up at Todd’s place, the band was wrapping up, and they thought they were listening back to their record in its entirety when Mark and I walked through the door. They literally said to Todd, “Who the hell are these guys?” To which Todd replied, “Well, I hear something on this record, and I think it’s gonna be a real good idea if we put these guys on it.” Well, they didn’t like the idea A) of having anybody but them on the record or B) anybody background-singing, period, ‘cause that represented establishment to these guys, and these guys were trying – in their minds, at least – to be the most anti-establishment punks since the Sex Pistols. Nobody told them that they weren’t, but somewhere between writing great pop hits and wanting anarchy in their own minds, that’s where these guys were at the time of this recording. So they weren’t really up for it. And we literally felt like, for the first time as session guys, we were proving ourselves.
I don’t know why we had to prove ourselves. I think we had to literally tell them, “You know all those T. Rex records that you love? That’s us, you sons of bitches!” “Oh, is it? Oh, well, then, maybe you’re all right.” “Yeah, maybe we are all right!” [Laughs.] So we did the three or four cuts that Todd had brought us up to do, and we shook hands with everybody, and it was a pretty good session. The brothers especially…Richard warmed up to us during the course of the day. There were drugs involved and copious quantities of alcohol, and we sort of became brothers of the vine and the snort. It was a pleasant session. We avoided even doing that crap around Todd at the time, because nobody knew exactly where he was, and from day to day that’s still a good idea when it comes to Todd, for anybody who wants to work with him in the future. [Laughs.] But chemically altered or not, the sessions turned out well.
There was, however, a bit of a learning curve for the Furs when it came to working with Rundgren.
JA: Working with Todd was amazing, but it was a very, very big change for the group. Personality-wise, membership-wise, sound-wise, approach-wise. We started incorporating more keyboards from the writing point of view.
I can only really speak for myself, but Todd took me to task a few times about what I was doing, guitar-wise. I would say, “I have this part, and then I want to play this part, and then I want to play this part.” And he would say, “Well, how many guitar parts are you going to play live?” “Well, one.” “Well, maybe you should just learn how to play it all together at once.” [Laughs.] Okay, Mr. American Producer, I’ll get a harmonizer. How about that? I’ll use my delay more. So, y’know, he kind of rubbed me the wrong way a couple of times, but not out of being mean. He just kind of made me work a bit harder at what I needed to do. There were a couple of solos I did that he nixed. I worked for ages one day on a middle section for “Forever Now,” this big, bombastic guitar thing that, thankfully, he erased. [Laughs.] Although every time I hear the record, I hear the actual solo, so it might not have been a bad thing. It seems a little empty to me just to listen to those bells in the middle. It kind of seems a bit boring when it drops down and you hear these…tubular bells, almost like Mike Oldfield. Ding, dong, ding, dong. It’s almost a Christmas-y kind of thing in the middle. It’s, like, what the heck’s that all about? There should be a guitar solo in there. And there was. [Laughs.] But that’s another story…
But he was really inventive. He taught us a lot about tightening up our rhythm. He showed us how to push a beat and pull it back. He made us do multiple takes of songs, like “Forever Now.” And, I mean, the amount of times that we did “President Gas” is mind-numbing, to finally get that middle section after the solo, where it kind of breaks down, you hear the drum roll, and it goes back into the song. There were train wrecks left, right, and center on that one. Vocally, I think he made Richard sing over and over again, to the point where I think he ended up using all five of the keeper takes on “President Gas” as Richard’s main vocal.
We went up to Todd’s home studio in Woodstock. Not the Bearsville studio, but his house. And I was just immediately impressed by Rundgren’s place, because I never saw a studio put together like that before. I mean, literally, there were wires everywhere, microphones hanging, it looked like a family of chimps had gotten there and ripped all of the wires out of the wall. [Laughs.] But it was totally effective and it totally worked. I’d never seen anybody produce a record the way Rundgren produced. We had worked with Roy Thomas Baker and the greats of the production world, and I still to this day have never seen anybody produce a record like Rundgren does. I know he gets the big bucks, but it’s amazing to me what he hears in his head, ‘cause if you couldn’t hear it in your head, then you couldn’t make a record like Todd makes records.
He did a lot of things kind of unorthodox, in a way. His mixing desk was something out of the dark ages, and…I mean, he was recording 24 tracks, so if he recorded everything through a pre-amp and a third-octave graphic equalizer. I’m not sure which ones they were, but some high-end graphic equalizer. He would pre-amp it and use the graphic equalizer to shape the sound quite drastically at times. And at other times, as far as guitar overdubs, it was never, like, “We’ll fix it in the mix.” That was alien to him. It was, like, “You gotta commit to it now. Do you like it?” “Well, I dunno…” “Well, you do or you don’t.” “Um…yeah, I love it.” “Great.” But that was great, because when you’re left with too many decisions, you’re basically playing it safe. Especially when you look at what you’re capable of doing today, digitally speaking. Even as we made our next record after that, a lot of records were 48 tracks. When we first went in to make our first record and we had, like, two multi-tracks of our record, but I think Yes had been in there or somebody like that, and there were multi-tracks to the ceiling, and we were laughing, going, “Ah, look at that! That’ll never be us!” But, you know, that was us, actually, a few albums later. But that’s another story…
There were no multi-tracks to the ceiling with Todd. It was definitely a case where everything that you did, you were conscious of, and you made a decision about it there and then. Because, you know, if you can’t make a decision about this now, then when are you going to make a decision about it? We don’t have the time for you to hem and haw about it, so get your part, play it right, put the effects on it that you want, ‘cause that’s going to be it. And we were, like, “Well, okay, then, Mr. Bloody American Producer…” [Laughs.] But, you know, it was great, because you learned how to commit. And I’ve been a big fan of that ever since, actually, in my own stuff. When I work, I always kind of impart that to other people. Like, “No, I’m not going to fix it in the mix. Let’s make a decision about it now.” ‘Cause that’s art.
It’s like painting a picture. It’s really difficult to kind of un-paint something. How are you going to change an orange? You can’t remove colors. You can paint over them, but you can’t really remove them. You have to kind of blend them all back in. So with music, I think that the parts had to kind of fit like a jigsaw, and you have to decide there and then if it’s going to be a thing that you’re going to go with, and if you don’t, then don’t do it. Just kind of leave it alone and come back and work on it later. But don’t do something and go, “Well, maybe I’ll put a flanger on it, later I’ll put some delay, or maybe I’ll put some flanger and delay on it.” It’s, like, “We don’t have enough tracks. We have a lot of ideas. We need to do this now, because right after that…” It was kind of like making a Beatles record. “Right after this comes the handclaps, and it’s going got be on the same track as the guitar, and then the cello later on.” Something like that. You couldn’t really go back and change things once you’d done them. You had to be kind of really very mindful of that. And he taught us how to do that, and that was really a big learning lesson for me, something I’m glad that we did.
HK: I guess it’s common knowledge that when Todd makes an album, he literally lays things down the way he wants to hear them at the very end, so there’s no room for error. If you’re hearing a vocal and it’s got a lot of effect on it or a warbly tone or he’s putting it through a fuzzbox or whatever, it’s not ever done after the fact. It’s always done live in the studio, and that’s the way he wants it, so he’s able to turn all the faders up just halfway at any given point and make a perfect mix. It doesn’t take him more than fifteen minutes at any one given time to mix anything, whether it’s his own record, the Psychedelic Furs, Meat Loaf…it doesn’t really matter. He puts everything up to halfway, he hits the “record” button, and it comes out perfectly, because all of the effects are already on there, just the way he heard them in his mind. You’ve got to imagine how many tracks are going in his mind at the same time. He’s very amazing for that. You’d never know it to talk to the guy. You would know, though, in concert. Anybody who’s ever seen Todd in concert or watched him perform on YouTube can see it in his eyes. The guy’s just always thinking a million miles ahead.
Those with a keen eye and an interest in imports will note that the running order of the UK and US versions of the album are decidedly different. Keenness of eye is absolutely unnecessary, however, to spot the egregious differences between the album covers in the two countries.
JA: The UK release was the gold standard, shall we say. The American release, they changed the album cover and did away with Barney Bubbles’ artwork. That was just… Y’see, the record companies were really good at doing stuff like that back in the ‘80s. They couldn’t pick a single. They wouldn’t tell you that it might not be a good idea to get rid of two members of your band. But what they could do was totally trash your artwork because they felt that they wanted a more poppy, new-wave-looking cover. Their excuse was that you couldn’t see the name of the band, which was just an absolutely terrible excuse. I don’t know for the life of me who was responsible for doing the American cover the way they did it. Earlier on, I was saying how the American company really understood the band and blah, blah, blah, but by that time I think the ones that we care about had started leaving. [Laughs.] The commercial aspects of things kind of got out of hand, which was another one of those things that was happening a lot. Long story short, the English cover was substituted for this horrible new-wave-looking generic cover for the States. And in the long run, people always came back to the English cover, ‘cause it’s a work of art. The other thing was just kind of, like, a couple of pictures slapped on with a silly name looking over it. If it’s supposed to emulate the design of Talk Talk Talk, then it was a really bad imitation.
Possibly coincidental post-script: Drummer Vince Ely left the band in the wake of the release of Forever Now.
JA: He, at the time, had run his course. He’d kind of gotten dissatisfied with Richard, Tim, and myself. He kind of had visions of doing other things. He was a very good musician by the time he finished working with Todd, and I think it was almost kind of like he reached this point where he said, “I’ve just worked with Todd Rundgren, who’s my idol. I don’t think it can get any better than this. I think I need to leave now.” [Laughs.] You know, he had a few other things he wanted to do. He wanted to produce other bands. It was a little bit of an unstable time for all of us. We were kind of in our mid-twenties, looking for the future, and kind of, like, trying to maybe expand our careers. Some of us wanted to expand quicker and faster than others. I was always happy with where I was, to a certain extent.
With Vince, I was upset that he left, and I think that after Roger and Duncan had left, it was kind of, like, it was down to the three of us, and it was like an it’s-us-against-the-rest-of-the-world, and it kind of brought Richard, Tim, and myself together. I remember the long tours. It wasn’t like it was us against the rest of the band, that it was just hired musicians or whatever, because the musicians that we had playing with us were, like, Gary Windo, who’d done the album with us. Phil Calvert, who came from the Birthday Party, fit right in and was a really important part of the band at the time. Then when Gary couldn’t play with us – he couldn’t leave the States for visa reasons – he hooked us up with Mars Williams, so that was kind of another game-changer. We ended up working with Mars extensively after that, just because he was able to travel and Gary wasn’t. It was a shame that Gary wasn’t able to do that, but…Gary and I ended up being friends. I mean, I’ve been friends with everybody in the band. I never kind of fell out of friendship with anybody, either in the past or the present. I’ve always tried to keep in touch and never had any bad feelings toward anymore. But I did miss Gary a lot when he wasn’t playing with us, because I liked to see him. But, then again, I enjoyed Mars, too. I enjoyed his playing. But I also missed Duncan and Roger at that point.
Going into the Forever Now tour, the ball suddenly dropped, and I went, “Holy shit, we really have changed everything. What have we done?” And I became very unsure about…everything, really. I felt personally that the best songs that we had written for Forever Now had been written when we were still a six-piece, part of that original band. If memory serves me well, “President Gas,” “Forever Now,” and “Only You and I” were songs that were around when those guys were around. Only maybe in a very early stage, but they’re outstanding songs because the orchestration is so different, the way the songs start and then the next part. The dynamics of the songs are very different than, say, “Merry Go Round” or “Danger” or a couple of the others.
I think I would lump “Love My Way” in with that time period, although that came a little bit later. “Love My Way” was the single that the record company were looking for, but they never saw it when we had it. They were, like, “Well, we need a single. We’re sending you over to America, and these songs are very good, but we need a single.” And then we had “Love My Way” come along, and we lumped that in with the demos that we were doing, and none of the record companies saw it. They saw “Aeroplane.” They saw a version of “Alice’s House” that we did that they liked a lot, which came later. “Alice’s House” never made it to Forever Now. But they never saw “Love My Way.” The same way they never saw “Pretty in Pink” when Talk Talk Talk was out. They said, “Well, we don’t see a single on this album.” And then John Hughes gave them a single a few years later. [Laughs.]
Record companies are just like… They were the worst. They were giving good reasons for what’s happened to them now. They just didn’t have the vision…and the people who did have the vision simply left, because they couldn’t deal with it anymore. I think we owe a lot of our only success up to Forever Now to the people at the record company like Howard Thompson and Muff Winwood, who actually signed the band in England. But also guys like Peter Philbin on the west coast at Columbia, who really saw the Furs as a long-term act, not like a flash in the pan, like, “Get a couple of albums out of them and they’ll be gone.” They saw the band as ongoing, what they used to call “artist development” at the time. No one believes it that anymore, but those guys did, and if wasn’t for them and college radio, the Furs never would have made it.
Forever Now – Track by Track
JA: Actually, I remember… I think Steve Lillywhite at the time had come along to one of our shows, and Richard, Duncan, and he were discussing “President Gas” in its early form. We were writing that song at around that time, before we came to America. This was all still on the latter part of the Talk Talk Talk tour. I remember Duncan and Richard discussing that song and the dynamics of it, the way it should come in. That’s something that you… I don’t think that’s something you could’ve come to by jamming. It was something that was thought out. And I remember that as always thinking, like, Duncan was a part of that song. At least to me. Now, he never got credited for it, obviously, because he never played on it. But I remember to this day that they were discussing it – ostensibly him, Richard, and Steve Lillywhite – and what a great idea it would be, ‘cause nobody had ever done anything like that. That’s kind of what we were always about: “Nobody’s ever done that, so why not us?”
The song itself I think is great. Because of the way it’s put together, I don’t think anything’s ever been done quite like that, rhythmically. A lot of fun to play, always. The guitar solo is fun to play and to work out in the studio with Todd. That’s where I learned about backwards reverb and delay. I remember Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan just joking the lyrics and substituting other ones for it while they were doing the backing vocals, and Todd having to stop them and tell them to stop mucking about ‘cause time was of the essence. They were a lot of fun, those two. They basically were just a laugh a minute. They were like a comedy duo. You would hear them talking about stuff right in-between takes. They were always joking somebody or something, and I think the big joke while we were doing our session was… they were joking Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” That was the thing that they kept on busting up about. It was hilarious. They were hilarious. It was just that Todd had to constantly keep reeling them back in to keep from going too crazy.
HK: We were just trying to have fun. I don’t think those guys knew what fun was, at least in the studio. They didn’t understand. You’ve got to remember that they came from England, so they didn’t eat, and we were eating and drinking and constantly belching and farting and doing the classic Flo & Eddie things that we do. It’s just what we do: you book us, and that’s what you get. And I think that not being used to our personas or even knowing who the hell we were in the first place was sort of detrimental at the onset. But once they realized that they were sort of dealing with a comedy world, I…don’t think they became exactly enamored of us, but they tolerated it. I would never put those Butler brothers in the Comedy Hall of Fame or on the lists of Great Sense of Humor. They’re kind of dour, and I think they live in that world. And they like it. But I was just visiting.
Maybe there was a little arrogance on our part, too. Richard’s lyric on “President Gas,” what we were singing, was not exactly the most brilliant of lines. I think maybe in our own way we were trying to help or come up with some irony in the background that would sort of compliment the lyric – writing a song from a British perspective of a US presidency seemed old even then – but I guess it was enough of a social satire on its own to cut through just the way he meant it to.
“Love My Way”
JA: That’s a song that… I remember Richard calling me up one night from the wine bar where he was drinking, saying, “I’ve got this great song, it goes like this…” And I couldn’t make head or tails of it. [Laughs.] But when he did a demo of it and he brought it to me, I really just remember him doing the verse part of it. Then…I had hooked up with this guy, Ed Buller, who incidentally did not play on the record, but he did come up with some of the keyboard lines for Forever Now, including “Love My Way.”
So we did another version of the song, and I think it might’ve been written on one of those Casio VL Tones, those very early keyboards that are about a foot long. You know the drum machine in “Da Da Da”? That was written on one of those. A lot of our stuff for Forever Now was written on one of those. Because there were no drum machines then, really, and doing demos…you couldn’t put drums in your front room. And Vince was out courting models, anyway. [Laughs.] So it was no good. He was never around. So we would do our demos, and I think that the keyboard parts, even, might’ve been done on one of those. I remember buying one, and I think Richard bought one a bit later. Anyway, in Soho Square, there was a music store called The Soho Sound House, and there was this guy, this young kid working in there named Ed Buller, and he was a really good keyboard player, so I invited him ‘round. And he ended up working on a lot of the demos of the songs that we presented to the record company,” and “Love My Way” was one of them. He played the marimba-type keyboard part for it on that and actually helped pull that song together. Todd played a real marimba on the song, but Ed was responsible for that riff.
You know, every time I hear “Love My Way,” I really love it, but I think at the time I was just, “Ah, whatever.” I didn’t really get it right away. But then as soon as I heard it recorded, it was, like, I think I was hooked. As a song, from a guitar point of view, it’s very basic. It’s really just a very basic guitar part, and the actual song itself…it’s a very simple song. But it’s the melody that’s really so catchy, and the counterpoint between the marimba melody and Richard’s vocals is pretty amazing. I remember working on it, and…it was hard in looking for a middle eight and finding a keyboard sound that we really liked. I always had this idea for a harpsichord-y kind of sound, but more with voices added to it. So we found something on the Prophet-5, I think, that sounded kind of like what we were thinking about. I don’t think it hit me straight away that it was such an enduring song. But definitely over the years it never ceases to amaze me that it really is kind of a classic.
HK: As we were leaving the studio…we had plunked down our three or four vocals, gotten our money, thanked Todd, and said, “We’ll see you next time, say ‘hi’ to Bebe (Buell) or whoever you’re with this week.” [Laughs.] And he said, “Oh, by the way, do you want to hear the band’s single before you leave?” So we said, “Oh, there’s another song…?” “Yeah, there is, but I’ve already mixed it.” “Okay, sure, as long as we’re here, let’s hear it.” So he put on “Love My Way.” And Mark and I looked at each other, and we both had the same look in our eyes, which was, “We have got to sing on this one. If we don’t sing on this one, we’re not gonna sing on the hit. This is the fucking hit!” [Laughs.] So we said, “Todd, listen, we’ve got an idea…”
The original idea was just for us to do those high Lesley oooooooo’s that you hear at the very fade-out of the record. And it was a good idea, and even the band said, “Oh, yeah, that’s creepy, that sounds like ghosts. We like that, that’ll be good!” And while we were in the studio, getting ready to do those ghostly Lesley-effected end voices, we started singing along with the chorus, just like we would’ve done had it been a T. Rex record. And the fact that it was so eerie, that we could sing it so straight…Richard’s interpretation was not straight at all, which meant that he was singing against us, and it created kind of a very strange, almost lounge-y effect, if you know what I mean. Even though he’s the most punky of punk singers, when you’ve got him singing up against this sort of female chorus, it’s like he’s at the Sands hotel. [Laughs.] And with the addition of that marimba part and those vibes throughout the entire piece, those two elements take it into a different place and took it from a punk record into a real mainstream classic that’ll outlive us, certainly.
It was just good fortune. It’s one of those bizarre things, like “Bang a Gong” was. Or even (Bruce Springsteen’s) “Hungry Heart.” You don’t know when you leave the studio if it’s going to be enough, if that one little trick is going to make it work, if the addition of those voices is going to transport it or transmogrify it into a different sort of a song or add a different sonic element that is gonna make it radio-friendly. In the case of “Love My Way,” I think those high voices took it into a radio-friendly place and made it a hit record, so I’m thrilled to have been a part of living history. I’m sure Richard Butler wouldn’t recognize me walking down the street if he saw me, and I probably wouldn’t recognize him. [Laughs.] But, you know, it’s been a lot of years, we’ve sung on a lot of sessions, and I’m still very proud of that record. I turn it up every time it comes on. In fact, I probably enjoyed the last minute inclusion on “Love My Way” more than I did most of the rest of Forever Now. But listening to the whole thing now as a package, it’s a really great record.
“Run and Run”
JA: I remember doing demos for that in London and…you know, the chorus, I think, is what sells it. Coming up with the guitar part for that, I think, was a major achievement. [Laughs.] It’s one of those, like, “Oh, try this, try that, why don’t you try it like this?” And all of a sudden, we had a song. The guitar solo in it I kind of liked. I don’t have anything else, really, to say about it. It kind of fits.
JA: My least favorite, I think, just ‘cause…I dunno, I have other tracks that I kind of like better than that one. Again, it fits. I don’t really have any memories about it. I know Richard went back and re-cut the vocals for it. I think it’s one of those songs that we never ended up playing so much live. We did for awhile and then kind of dropped it. So it never really developed past that stage where…I remember it being on the record but not being really attached to it in any particular way.
“Sleep Comes Down”
JA: That one’s kind of a bit of a game-changer, I guess. That really featured the cello in a way in which we’d never featured it before on the album. And it really kind of set the tone. It’s a big favorite with a lot of people. I like it. There’s not really any guitar playing on it on the album. There really wasn’t time. I was trying to figure out something to do which was along the cello lines, but it never got done, and it was, like, “Well, okay, it’s good enough.” It’s great live, though. I’m always trying to add stuff to it live. It’s still a favorite today. A lot of people like it. It was a little bit of bother to me at the time, I think. At the time, I was, like, “Well, I’m trying to find a part here,” and I couldn’t find one. Really, what I ended up doing live was doubling what the cello was doing, anyway. So, y’know, I guess you don’t really miss it on the record. But it’s not there. Live, it just kind of made everything a little bit larger, a little bit bigger. I like the song a lot, though.
JA: I love that song. There’s so much power to it. Y’know, the chorus isn’t great, but the intro starts out with that sort of flange-y guitar, and then it’s onto more power-chord-y verses… I really like the song a lot. As I said, I did work on it quite extensively in the studio, only to have the guitar solo nixed. But it doesn’t really bother me.
JA: I felt quite strongly about the song at the time, and I think what I like most about it are the horns. It’s kind of never really… It’s one of those songs that we never ended up playing so much. I like the lyrics. I like the way Richard sings it. But it’s one of those songs that I felt like was on the B-list, if you will.
“Only You and I”
JA: Love that song. Love it so much. It’s another one of those songs that I think we were working out at the time when Roger and Duncan were still in the band. It definitely had its beginnings way, way early on in the project. A bit of a carryover from the Talk Talk Talk days. The cello was obviously an addition at the time, but, again, the orchestration of it, the way it starts, the way it kicks into the verse, and then the chorus is kind of a carryover to Talk Talk Talk, orchestration-wise. Dynamics-wise, definitely.
JA: Again, one of those songs that really… I kind of lump it in a little bit with “Merry Go Round” and “Danger.” An okay song. Not my favorite.
“No Easy Street”
JA: I like that one a lot. It’s a little schlocky at times for me. Maybe “schlocky” isn’t the right word. It’s a song that kind of has to be… When we played it right, it was wonderful, you know? You had to play it… You couldn’t play it too fast. You had to play it slow. And at times, the beat would be too fast, and it would just sound like the power had been taken away from it. But great song, kind of more in that “Sister Europe” vein. Another of my favorites. Slower, moodier, good words, nice chorus, and – appropriately enough – a nice outro.