In fifty five years of knocking around the music game I’ve been lucky enough to rub shoulders with a shipload of folks; some idols, some peers, some up and comers, and the occasional nasty, but surprisingly few of those, when I think about it. The nature of the business requires a modicum of social skills, including when and when not to impose, or insert oneself into a situation. I’ve only been completely awe-struck and dumb-struck once, and I mentally kicked myself for years because of the lost opportunity.
At the time, Randy Newman was at the early stages of his career and was probably best known in the U.K as a result of Alan Price covering several of his songs, most notably “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear.” A friend of mine had brought me a copy of his first album back from the States, so I’d had almost a year to become completely besotted by his style in every facet….a real game changer for me. I must have become a very quick study, because by the time Randy arrived in London for his first appearances, I had already written a big hit for Alan and Georgie Fame, “Rosetta”, which owed a debt to both Randy and Fats Domino (I wasn’t yet aware of Randy’s New Orleans background, or that Fats was a huge influence on him). Alan very kindly invited me as his guest to Randy’s first concert at the Festival Hall, and lo and behold, I found myself backstage in his dressing room after the show- just him. Alan and me. Being a Liverpool/ Irish lad I’ve never been short of the gift of the gab….but Alan was a rather taciturn Geordie, and Randy wasn’t overly talkative either, except for general pleasantries. They had obviously met before, but the level of cool, as I perceived it, was such that my usual blarney was severely compromised. There was so much I wanted to ask him, but I couldn’t do it. After half an hour or so, the meet came to a conclusion, and I’ve always regretted not jumping in. Years later, when I was able to link up with Van Dyke Parks, who produced that first Newman album, and became equally influential on my own musical path, I was far less reticent.