Chip Taylor: Role Models
The man who wrote “Wild Thing” and “Angel Of The Morning”’s latest album Rock And Roll Joe shines a light on his own heroes – the session men and musicians who flew under the radar.
On getting back into music after many years:
I was a gambler, and I always wanted to stay close to the race tracks in the States. That had a big pull on me in terms of not playing. In 1996, my mom got ill, and instead of going to the race track, I spent several days with mom, playing for her. I got the total spirit back again. That’s why I loved music in the first place. All of a sudden I was this high school kid who wanted nothing more than to play music for people. That’s why I gave up gambling entirely, because I figured I didn’t want to have any kind of pull to stop me from going out and playing for people.
In the ‘90s, I didn’t know who would release my records. I sent my little recording to several labels and they all turned me down. I saw this ad in the Nashville Scene to send your song to 3,000 European country DJs for 200 dollars. I called the service and I said to the guy, “Look, I got a question for ya: What if you sent my whole album over there? Would you do that? What would you charge?” He said, “I don’t know, a couple of thousand dollars. Let’s do it.”
So he sent my whole album over to these DJs, and a couple months later, he said he had never had this kind of response. Most of these DJs over there thought I had died or something. I nervously called [British roots music booker] Paul Fenn about doing some touring over there. I said, “This is Chip Taylor. I don’t know if you know who I am.” He said, “Are you the Chip Taylor?” I said, “I guess so.” He said, “Well, congratulations! You have the hottest off the ground record in Europe.”
Rock And Roll Joe:
The album and the website are extraordinarily important to me. The site is the most powerful thing I’ve been a part of – to be able to have a place to talk about some of the people from my past who were so wonderfully talented or inspiring in some way that really never got that much credit. Like AL Gorgoni. He played the signature riff for “Brown Eyed Girl,” and he’s the guy who played electric guitar on “The Sound Of Silence.”
As you get older, you just appreciate being around something that is in essence just a good thing. Maybe it makes up for some of the things that I’ve done.
Me and [collaborator] John Platania were in the middle of talking about Rock And Roll Joe and I asked, “Do you have any old riffs that maybe I could write a song around?” He said, “Well, I got this one I wrote with Van Morrison for ‘Domino.’ He asked me for the riffs for it and I gave him two possibilities, and he chose one. But I’ve got the other one. I could send it to you.” So he sent it to me and I wrote “Monica” based on that riff.
Being known best for two songs:
That’s okay with me because I love those songs. I could send myself right back to the day that I wrote “Angel Of The Morning,” how it felt. I had a buzz through me that morning that was so powerful. I knew I had done something that meant something, because of that feeling. It wasn’t a question of whether other people liked it … I loved it. To me, it had to be one of the most important love stories of all time. It’s people in the war zone who may never see each other again. They are going to have this night together and they will love each other throughout eternity together, but because of some massive problem, they may never see each other after that night.
With “Wild Thing,” it was such an unbrainy kind of feeling. I always loved music like that – the blues stuff, the race records stuff. “Wild Thing” is just about a feeling. He’s thinking something, and he’s not saying it, but you know what it is anyway. We always try to put it in these clever words. I like it when you don’t have to do that.