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Seeing Sha Na Na and their music variety show in 1977 as a seven-year-old, was must see t.v. for me. Their choice of songs, skits and comedy were something that I had no idea existed beforehand. I sat there, week after week with a tape recorder and microphone plugged into the t.v. to tape them on a cassette player. Watching them two years later in Grease as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers- where they performed six Sha Na Na versions of their rock classics and one original song Sandy which was co-written by Scott Simon- screaming for John Travolta to sing- made me love this band even more. And when I thought about it more, fully recently after I found out that Sha Na Na was appearing nearby, I realized that their music had done for me more than any other bands. Which surprises me, given how much music I have listened to and how many bands I have worked with. Because of Sha Na Na, I launched headlong into a still thriving obsession with rock’n’roll. Especially early rock’n’roll because for the first time in my life I got to see, on their show, artists like James Brown, The Ramones, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley, The Ronettes, Chubby Checker…and because of Sha Na Na I become enamored of all things music as a kid. Which lead me watching shows like WKRP in Cincinnati- which lead me wanting to be a DJ- which lead me to a near obsession with the music industry and the people within it. Which kind of mildly affected my decision to take mass communications at university which then informed my decision to work on the other side of the industry as a publicist.

Sha Na Na brings their rock & roll celebration to town in a dynamic, crowd pleasing show that includes highlights of their four decade journey from Woodstock, the movie Grease, The Sha Na Na TV show and their world wide concert touring. In an interactive show where the audience sings along, dances along and participates in a “Greaser Olympics, a good time is had by all ages. Hey all you greasers, teen angels and party dolls: twist, stroll and hand jive to the classics as performed by the crowned princes of doo-wop and rock & roll, Sha Na Na.

Sha Na Na may not have invented rock nostalgia, but the group has successfully – very successfully – celebrated the music and the memories for the past four decades… in concert, in the movies and on TV, and on record. Sha Na Na’s story is an all-encompassing one: they were in the original Woodstock Festival lineup, starred in “Grease”, hosted the “Sha Na Na” TV series for four years, and still play more than 50 concerts a year, from state fairs, performing art centers, casino showrooms to mega corporate functions world wide. And through it all – flower power, hard rock, metal music, disco, hip hop, rap and more – Sha Na Na remains true to the original concept: rock & roll is here to stay.

Jocko, now in his four decade with Sha Na Na, was the first to walk onstage “greased and ready to rock ‘n’ roll” in 1969. That same year, at age 19, he appeared with the group at the Woodstock Festival. Jocko holds the distinction along with fellow Sha Donny of performing in both the most successful music documentary ever (Woodstock) and the most successful rock and roll film musical ever (Grease).

Jocko: It’s all YOUR fault.
Eric: *laughs* It’s all YOUR fault.
Jocko: It’s all OUR fault.
Eric: Do you find that people that are now or are in a position of power at the radio stations or people who work in the media, grew up watching your show?
Jocko: First of all, it’s very obvious you never grew up.
Eric: No *laughs*. No, but neither have you.
Jocko: It’s funny, we have sort of a wide demographic because of what we do. They are all those folks who actually lived the music for the first time and then rediscovered it as “Americana”- instead of calling it “Oldies but Goodies”. They saw our show and enjoyed it but, and we hope we did, we do our best to recreate the songs and not to fix them. People were so interested in this kind of music. But, if we could play in a country sort of place, we could not do hard rock. Not saying we’re heavy metal or anything but you’re right. It was so funny, we had The Ramones come in and they just loved doing variety television show, they were having a ball..

Eric: Let’s start with a pretty obvious question because you’ve been doing this now, coming up on about 47 years – how do you not get stale? How do you still keep it fun for yourself?
Jocko: Well, it’s a very interactive show. You know, as far as a group of songs, I think it’s one of the greatest eras of rock and pop music. You can go back and say the standards; Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Little Richard and Tony Bennett – those songs they were singing. They were just rich in lyrics and music. Then there was this doo-wop and street corner and this ‘Come Go With Me’ and ‘Little Darling’ all those great songs from the golden age of rock’n’roll from ‘55 through ‘62, pre-Beatles. And of course, The Beatles you can give them their own category in terms of great songs. You know, this is just a love for music, it’s shared music. It just doesn’t seem to go away so we celebrate it every night. People say, call them “Oldies but Goodies” – they don’t like that expression. If you were going to go to a Beethoven symphony – you wouldn’t say hey that’s an oldie by Beethoven because it’s old.
Eric: That’s a REAL oldie.
Jocko: Yeah, this is the group of songs we’re doing tonight and, of course, we’re dressed either with leather or, you know, cool bowling shirts. D.As- hair-dos, we grease it up. So it gives you an attitude when you put it on. But I never think I’m going back tonight to do an oldie and I’m going back to the 50s. I’m not going anywhere. This is right now, tonight and everybody are sharing this song. We have the same vocabulary.

Eric: Sha Na Na started as an acapella group at Columbia University in New York around 1969, while you were juggling your schedule around your touring, earning both a B.A. from Columbia and a Masters in Drama from New York University. What did you want to achieve? Did you always want to be in a band? Did you take acting because you knew that you wanted to combine acting and music or did you want to actually become an actor?
Jocko: Well, let me go back. When I was a kid in Boston area, I was in the Boston Children’s Theatre for a season. Then I started having bands when I was like twelve or thirteen-years-old.
Eric: What did you play? Drums?
Jocko: Drums and a bass guitar. We were The Miltones from Milton, Massachusetts. Eventually I was in the Pilgrims from New England with Big Lenny, who I recruited to be in Sha Na Na. I was an All-State football player out of Massachusetts. And Columbia is one of the schools that recruited me, although, I’ve got to tell you late ’60s was not a great time to be playing ball because within a year I had sung at Woodstock and I had to go tell the coach I was moving on and he understood. I said, I got two record deal, I got to play at Woodstock. This was going into my sophomore year. I guess I knew that Columbia was our Broadway so I brought myself to one of the media, of the several cities in the world that show business was in. So I guess I knew all along that I was a good drummer. I had acted all along, in and off the school plays; when I was in the sixth grade I played Scrooge in a Christmas Carol, which is a big part. But first, Sha Na Na became The Kingsmen. Singing tight harmony songs like the School Fight Song and Christmas carols and then they started throwing in the Do-Wop oldies like ‘Come Go With Me.’ So that’s when I knew right away that this had all the elements of the things I was interested in: The drumming, the singing, the acting, the creating a theatrical musical experience. I remember one of the first shows we did on campus. It was completely sold out. It was a night off from the Revolution that was going on outside our doors. There was a lot of protest of the war, especially at Columbia University. They all sort of took a night off to play act and they were as wild as we were because one of my guys’ older brothers put up posters and flyers, “Come As You Were” and they did. I remember I had to negotiate because I was in a play on the stage that night, and I was in both casts. We nailed the drums down so that it wouldn’t topple into the audience and it was hugely successful. We had to go on early because the crowd was so rowdy then we finished, we had 11 songs, that’s all we knew. And they went crazy- so we did them all again. *laughs* I knew that this was something. Right then, I knew this was something.

Eric: What happened next?
Jocko: We had done these things on campus, it was the summer of ‘69. We had done these things on campus so we went down to Yale and we knew we had something. I said, I’m not going to go home so it was the first time I hadn’t gone home for the summer.
Eric: What did your parents think?
Jocko: At first they thought it was wild and later my dad, God rest his soul, he’d sign autographs too. *laughs* We decided to stay in New York, stick it out and see what we could do with this thing. You know, we had a twelve-guy band. What do you do with this now? We did a show at The Boston Tea Party, this was the club where everybody hung out at. After you did your gig, you came to the Steve Paul Scene and hung out. Hendrix jammed there. So we played it for three weeks before it got shut down by a local mafia crew, who wanted protection, and we were there for the last night. But during that week, Hendrix came down three times. Jimi loved it. I’ll tell you how indebted we are to Jimi Hendrix; this whole thing of us getting to Woodstock wouldn’t have happened without Hendrix. He was a sweet, quiet man until he got on stage. Hendrix got the two producers of Woodstock down to see us and that was the very last night it was open. Joplin was there and Zappa was there, Led Zeppelin was there, it was pretty intense for a young rocker.
Eric: Did you see these performers as your peers or as a fan?
Jocko: Hell no! They were the gods! I was the fan.
Eric: Those other musicians all loved Sha Na Na – it was their music.
Jocko: All around, they loved the idea that we were historically looking back at what this was. You see the early pictures of Hendrix with the Isley Brothers and he’s got formidable do and a sharkskin suit on, you know what I mean? This is where they came from, not that long before. So anyway, Ed Goodgoll was our first manager, he was a professor at Columbia, he said “There’s a guy over here talking about Woodstock. Do you want to do it? Do you know what it is?” And I’ve been listening to FM radio. So I said, “yeah, go over and tell him yes”. So, they cut us a deal for $500 and that cheque bounced.
Eric: Did it really?
Jocko: Yeah… and we got a dollar to be in the movie.
Eric: Everybody got a dollar?
Jocko: No, split it up twelve ways. 8 cents each!

Eric: You got the record deal after that. Did the label put any constraints on what you wanted to do or did you know what Sha Na Na was – we’re just going to put it on record.
Jocko: We did an album of some of the original stuff, right away. Half the time we’d do the oldies. The other side were some original songs. Scott Simon, keyboardist, and I had written a lot of songs that are a part of packages. We knew we had a funny thing, a rock in a hard place. We knew that if you played an oldie someone might say that’s not the original. *laughs* If you play the original, that not Sha Na Na. But having ‘At The Hop’ being in Woodstock, it just put us on the map worldwide. And we had a good, energetic set and I think we did pretty well in recreating, and not fixing the songs.
Eric: Where did the idea of the TV show come in?
Jocko: We’re playing nonstop from ‘69 through ‘74, ‘75; were playing to campuses, we’re playing to hippies, we’re playing to punks, we’re playing to everybody!
Eric: How many shows were you doing a year?
Jocko: Oh geez, over a hundred I guess.
Eric: And you’re living essentially on the road?
Jocko: Yeah mostly in and out of New York. But we took classes from Monday afternoon to Thursday mornings and then we used to satellite out to do gigs.
Eric: You were still taking classes… at school?
Jocko: I was still a sophomore when it happened. We always thought, and I’m glad we did it, that we should all get our degrees because there was a changeover right away that the lineup that did Woodstock. Half these guys said listen, I’m going back to pre-med and I’m going back to pre-law and there was some attrition. Then we went out and recruited Johnny, Lenny, Bowzer… And these are the guys who were singers and actors who wanted to be in show business and I was sort of both. It was a good character for me. Some guys had to pretend that they were tough, I was the guy who was tough, you know. It was an amazing time. Then in ‘75– I think it was Colgate-Palmolive or one of the big soap companies who make TV syndicated shows. We were actually one of the first shows offered syndication. Right across American, right off the top. So they came to us and had said they wanted to do a variety show. First, they had pitched it to The Beach Boys and then to Chicago and we were third. And neither of the other groups wanted to do it. But we were a good choice for television because we had the players; I’m not going to say we we’re great dancers but we were capable of movement. Capable of movement. We had a little vocabulary, as we say, in the dance world. We could certainly sing all the harmonies and we had the different flavours of singers- which I think is important. There’s the rockabilly, the rhythm and blues, which is my sort of area, there’s sort of the southern rock, the Jerry Lee kind of stuff and then there’s a little pop Ricky Nelson stuff. There’s a lot of different flavours to this and then we had a character who could sing each flavour. We did 97 half-hours that ran for eighteen years.

Eric: The Sha Na Na TV show will never be on DVD, will it? The cost of licensing the songs is so high.
Jocko: It’s almost too late. People aren’t buying DVD sets, it’s a downloading world. There’s a lot of costs to it and now I just say listen – there must be a 1000 plus YouTube videos, go YouTube it.
Eric: Keep the band alive that way.
Jocko: You know, it’s just all out there. The Sha Na Na name is a household name, and our job and whatever lineup we have is to go there on that given night and entertain with them a set of music we all share. And I think we do that, I think we do it in a very good way. How long I can do it and how to keep it fresh…Until I don’t like doing it, until the phones stop ringing, until I get sick of airports… but that’s with anything, there’s a downside.
Eric: There’re three original members left.
Jocko: Yeah, the good looking guys. We got rid of all those others, guys.
Eric: *laughs* Can Sha Na Na continue forever? Can it go on as a concept with new members all over the world under the Sha Na Na name.
Jocko: Ahh–You’re asking me and I’ve done it for 47 years. I don’t think it would be wise to say no. We worked really hard to get to this point. Other bands, unless they made the charts it was over. No, we were known for our live show. We’re in the biggest in the biggest documentary ever, we ended up in the biggest musical film, ever, and we have our own variety show so we’re in other mediums. We have six songs on the Grease soundtrack and Scott co-wrote ‘Sandy.’
Eric: How does a song like that come about? Does one of the producers ask you or Scott if you have any original songs around?
Jocko: Here’s what happened. Scott quietly did it so that Sha Na Na doesn’t perform it, obviously, John Travolta does. Louis St. Louis and Scott Simon would be sitting in the corner while we were taking breaks at this high school that had an old piano, it was really nice. The producers told them what was going on, that Olivia Newton-John had some great songs that were already in the can. John was light, and he wanted a song. So they wrote Sandy; Scott wrote the lyrics, got it to Louis St. Louis who basically wrote the music, more or less. Then from the writing and then two days later they were recording, then like a day later they were filming at the drive-in. It was really fast and obviously good for Scott. We do it in our show.

Eric: The first time I saw the band live was in ‘77 and it was the night that Elvis Presley passed away.
Jocko: Oh, in Toronto.
Eric: And my parents told me that you did something like five, or six, or seven encores that night. That it was announced, I think, from the stage that Elvis had passed away.
Jocko: Yeah, it was sad. I had never met Elvis. That show, and other concert billings; the monsters of Rock’n’Roll really… Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and a lot of people in between. Ethel Merman– You know it was very interesting this show live. She had the best cold opening, alright, in the TV show. It’s Ethel Merman in front of a big, maroon lush drape, you know, curtain. And she goes “Cuuuuuurrrtaainn uuuppp”, so they raise the curtain and we’re all standing there like The Pogues, standing there looking cool. And she turns around and looks at us and back to the camera, “Cuuuurrrtaaainsss doowwnn”. It was hysterical.

Eric: *laughs* Who did you think wasn’t going to be good on the show but ended up being amazing?
Jocko: Edgar Bergen. This was the funny thing, it wasn’t on him. He had the dummy and he was doing the voice, the ventriloquist. And I swear to God, we had to do three takes; the sound guy kept on going over to the dummy with the overhead mic. For me, James Brown was coming in and I’m a soul fan, this is my wheelhouse, you know- so they gave us his latest tape, Too Funky. I said I don’t want the background singers, let the band sing the backgrounds of this, it will be more soulful. They all said okay. So the next morning, literally, the audience is in and we’re about to play it back and James Brown is about to sing it. We choreographed it the night before. The Godfather of Soul, mind you, he hears it for the first time and we’re all sitting there on the end of the stage. He’s shaking his head, very quiet and finally it ends and he goes, “who’s the drummer?” And I was like wow, uh oh.
Eric: Are you thinking, oh this is bad.
Jocko: Yeah, it could be. So I said, “I am Mr. Brown.” He goes, “Brotha” and he puts out his hand… He wanted five. So a little dab from the Godfather of Soul. So for a drummer, that was the ultimate compliment.

Here’s an addendum to this interview I just did with Jocko from Sha Na Na and if you think he ran out of stories, you’re very wrong. As he’s leaving at the end of an hour talk, he’s walking out the door he says, “I forgot to tell you about the Hollywood Bowl… because Dave Grohl married my niece.” And that’s the last words before he walked out of the hotel room getting ready for the show. “I forgot to tell you about Hollywood Bowl because Dave Grohl married my niece.” That would of been a whole other hour with Jocko from Sha Na Na!

Love live rock and roll.

We’re at Paisley Park [Prince’s studio and home in Minnesota], and I don’t know, maybe I let the s-word slip … and [Prince] was like, “Yeah, that’ll be a dollar.” He grabbed a water bottle and he said, “Actually, you’re rich. That’s $20.”

I said, “Huh?” and he said, “No cursing.” And I said, “Cursing! Wait, you’re the one that taught me how to curse.”

But the thing was, when I said that, I was really saying it to get out of paying 20 bucks, but I saw the look on his face. And when I walked away that night and went back to the hotel, I wondered if he really felt bad about that; if he thinks in his head, “Man, I’ve ruined a generation.” But he really felt that.

And I felt that with a lot of his secret philanthropy, and a lot of the Robin Hood stuff he was doing, I mean real deep political — saving schools, people to this day not knowing where this $3 million check came from, that was all him. I felt like maybe in the last 20 years of his life, he felt the need to overcompensate or pay forward what he feels that maybe he damaged some of us who grew up listening to his music.


Ones and Sixes is the eleventh studio album by Low, released on September 11, 2015, and was co-produced by the band and engineer BJ Burton, at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studios in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In this excerpt, he discusses how to keep things fresh for a band, even after 20 years.

How difficult is it not to repeat yourself at this point?

Alan Sparhawk, Low: Well, I think it is something you have to be on top of, but I feel lucky that I don’t feel like that comes up very often. Every once in a while, you have to wonder “Is this a step backwards?” or “Is this okay? We sound like that, but where does this song need to go beyond that?” I hope we don’t repeat ourselves. I don’t think we do. I know there’s certain traits, and if someone listened to us long enough they could say, “Oh, yeah. Alan likes this certain chord” or “He likes to go from this one to this one a lot.” And that’s fine. We’ve been doing it for 22 years, and at the end of the day the music styles of the world haven’t changed very much. At least [with] The Beatles, technology was changing so fast that it was super recognizable and styles were changing so fast. Now we have computers and stuff, but is there anything new happening in the last 22 years? Is anybody really creating anything new? Hip-hop and R&B are dominating Top 40, sprinkled in every once and a while with some folky person, and then your obligatory two or three Foo Fighters-type bands that are up on top playing arenas.

That’s pretty much the trend. It hasn’t gone to ’50s to ’60s to ’70s. If you’re looking back relatively in history, there have been some new things, but it’s really not much. Point being, if you’re a band that started doing one thing and has been continuing, and you’ve done 10 or 12 records by now, you’re either repeating the same thing over and over again or you’re all over the place in a certain way. I guess I hope we’re more like that. I don’t know that we think about it too much, other than just “Hey, let’s not have the same song over and over again on the records.” Obviously, there are times when I’m writing, and I have three or four songs and think, “Wow. These all have the same vibe.” And you’ll end up using only one or two of them sometimes. That’s probably the most I’ve ever had to think about whether I’m repeating myself or we’re progressing.


In 2006, Paste released an issue on the 100 Greatest Living Songwriters, getting a different writer to sum up their thoughts on why each of the 100 deserved a spot on the list. Patterson Hood of the Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers had volunteered to write about his favorite artist of the 1980s—Prince. Now you’re thinking…wait…what? But read on below, and you’ll see why Petterson is so great, and why Prince transcends. His entry is below:

“If I was your one and only friend, would you run to me if somebody hurt you / Even if that somebody was me? Sometimes I trip on how happy we could be”

Prince was absolutely the greatest artist of the 1980s. He had a run of amazing albums from ’80 to ’87 that ranks among the modern era’s greatest string of classics. He sold a ton of records and was constantly in the news for various exploits. He was heralded as a trendsetter, a chameleon presence and an incredibly versatile musician. What has often been overlooked, though, is the stellar quality of his better songs. Beginning with his third album, 1980’s stripped-down Dirty Mind, and building through his 1987 masterpiece, Sign O’ The Times, Prince sold millions of records while pushing the boundaries of popular music and creating an enormous catalog of incredible songs. His brain became a musical melting pot of different styles and varied influences, yet all of his songs were unmistakably Prince. The funk of James Brown and the rock of Jimi Hendrix mixed with Joni Mitchell’s wordplay and Curtis Mayfield’s social commentary. Influences as varied as The Beatles, The Stylistics, Funkadelic, Brill Building formulaic pop and ’70s art-rock all meshed together into an otherworldly musical stew. His mixing of gospel with carnal sexuality took what Ray Charles had done a quarter of a century earlier to some higher plane. In my favorite Prince song, 1983’s masterpiece single, “Little Red Corvette,” he took the tired old rock-’n’-roll-car-song cliché to such grand heights, it was the greatest single of the entire decade. Every note of the song, from its minimalist opening to its transcendent guitar solo was picture-perfect and has yet to be improved upon. In later years, he was much less successful in trying to adapt to changing styles and his attempts to incorporate hip-hop into the mix made him seem outdated and ridiculous, but none of that (nor his bizarre attempt of a name change or any of his tabloid shenanigans) should ever detract from the greatness of his classic ’80s output. —Patterson Hood

Simon Townshend was born with music in his blood, the son of England’s top big-band reed man, Cliff Townshend, and younger brother of The Who legend Pete Townshend, Simon has been recording and performing since the age of nine, when he was recruited to add vocals to The Who classic Tommy.

Although the Townshend name is familiar, Simon’s music has its own original sound and his song writing, plunders great depths and reruns with unique compelling narratives set against haunting melodies. Simon has a strong loyal fan base which includes a number of fellow musicians such as Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), who has followed Simon since his 1983 release ‘I Am The Answer’.

Simon, a multi instrumentalist and singer, has released 8 acclaimed solo albums and one with the band Casbah Club (featuring Bruce Foxton/The Jam & Mark Brzezicki/Big Country), these all on his US label Stir Records.

Simon has now launched his own label in the UK, Stir Records and will be releasing re mastered versions of his last two US releases, LOOKING OUT LOOKING IN and DENIAL with bonus tracks, later in 2016. Both these albums, well received when originally released in the US, contain some of Simon’s most personal and inspirational work to date.

In addition to his own music, Simon has been guitarist and vocalist in The Who since 1996, playing sold out tours around the world, including monumental performances at the 2010 Super Bowl and the closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics.

Simon, referred to by one U.S. newspaper as The Who’s “secret weapon”, was an integral part of the 2012/2013 Who’s Quadrophenia and More Tour, playing guitar, supplying backing vocals and taking the lead on “Dirty Jobs” every night.

In 2004 Simon served as producer for The Who’s first new, original studio recordings in more than 20 years and contributed his talents to their 2006 album Endless Wire. Simon has also performed with numerous other established acts ranging from Jeff Beck to Pearl Jam and Dave Grohl. He continues to work closely with Roger Daltrey and elder brother Pete on a variety of projects.

Eric: You grew up with music constantly playing in your house – from your parents to your brother. I’ve always thought that when music in the household all the time when you’re a kid it cannot not affect you.
Simon: Well, I thought I couldn’t have done anything else in that way. I could’ve understand music instead of something that I took to toward to, and it was school that some of my friends hardly understood that I loved music so much. Where I grew up is full house of music, it was kind of we had a music room with a pianos, drums, and other instruments that my brother Paul has used, who is 4 years older than I am. My mom was a singer, and my dad was a saxophone player. All my dad’s friends were musicians. All my friends wanted to be musicians, even my brother Paul’s friends. So that house full of music all the time, and for me, I couldn’t see any other than music being a life full of me.
Eric: Were there any other options for you? Any other subjects at school you were interested in?
Simon: I tried soccer for a while, but I was great until I played in a serious game at the playoff. I was substituted one of the players and put me on. I just stood there and watched where the ball was going.
Eric: Every kid has to play football when they’re growing up.
Simon: Yes, it was compulsory. I actually had a big opportunity. I went up along and they put me on a pitch. It was so quick. I didn’t know what was going on, and they actually took me off again!

Eric: Did it ever be a problem being the brother of Pete? Did others put more pressure on you than maybe even you thought you were capable of?
Simon: I suppose people did expect a bit more. What it may have done is opened the doors, but it may have done the same with their expectations. I feel that all the royals, the whole generation of pop as I was sort of growing through my mid teens, who were growling in that popularity, but still wanting to become more and more famous. I was 9-years-old, when Tommy came out. When I was 11-years-old, The Who’s Who’s Next album came out, which both were landmark records, and I sort of grew up with it. I just sort of grew up alongside it. I was in my 20s doing my first album, and Pete actually produced for me. It was only then I realized it in some respects how huge the The Who were, because we went out over to America, Pete came to promote with me, and it’s like huge massiveness.

Eric: For the new album, Denial, do you know where you are wanting to go once you get into the studio? How do you approach the studio now?
Simon: I normally do demos of my songs before I take them into bigger studio. I normally have an outline, sketch or some kind. A quick recording on a mini-recorder or phone, or proper demos made just before. Sometimes you get inspired you write or you sometimes could create live performances or tracks to use as an outline track to play live. If I could, I go into the studio with a drummer and bass player and just kept stuff. It’s kind of you write songs from scratch yourself, then you want to be alone in control. Then you start with basics tunes in the studio.
Eric: You don’t really collaborate with other songwriters. All of your work is really all of you.
Simon: Yeah. I’ve tried that. Less of me in songs with people. It doesn’t really work. I kind of love putting personal stuff and I don’t know if it works trying to collaborate with so much fictional ideas I come up with. It’s something normally inspired from me and gets me going in the first place.
Eric: You go into those stories and happenings of real people in Denial. They are about people that are in your life. Do you have to go to those people and ask permission before putting their story on the album? I’m thinking of the song Saving Grace. On your CD cover, you acknowledged a family member named Grace. The line, “She’s a daisy, a daisy grown from seed,” is about your son’s daughter who unfortunately passed away.
Simon: Yeah, exactly. I suppose I did in some respect, but I spoke to my son, Ben. I played him in a solo and I called him up that I played him in an album. “Saving Grace” is a song about his daughter, unfortunately, she died at 14 weeks. It’s something you have to think about. It’s difficult. Most of the same person experiences, more applied to me. But the ones about other people you would try to make it clear before it gets out to the public.

Eric: Are your solo tour dates based on The Who’s dates when they have a day off or two? That has to be the best of both worlds – you get to hang with your family, play a stadium show, and your own show at the same city.
Simon: Yeah, I love to play in a club. It is very nice, the best of both worlds. Roger Daltry was quite ill last year, but he’s back in good health now. It’s tough on the voice for him. Roger is expecting to deliver being Roger night after night. In the end, the tour we lost him for awhile. We have a bit more days off in-between shows for him to recover. Another show, then another couple days off. When we were in New York, we had 3 days off. It means he can regroup, get back to full voice readiness. And I think the way we planned for Roger is perfect. But it means I get more time off, which works really well for my solo gigs.
Eric: have you ever been hit head by Roger’s microphone on stage?
Simon: No, I haven’t actually. But I came extremely close. So much so, he shouted at me. He shouted he didn’t want to kill anyone!

I urge my students to get a usage dictionary… To recognize that you need a usage dictionary, you have to be paying a level of attention to your own writing that very few people are doing… A usage dictionary is [like] a linguistic hard drive… For me the big trio is a big dictionary, a usage dictionary, a thesaurus — only because I cannot retain and move nimbly around in enough of the language not to need these extra sources.

As a teacher, about 90% of my job is getting the students to understand why they might need one.

A usage dictionary is one of the great bathroom books of all time. Because it has the appeal of trivia, the entries are for the most part brief, and you end up within 48 hours — due to that weird psychological effect — actually drawing on exactly what you learned in some weird, coincidental way.

– David Foster Wallace in Quack This Way

It’s because of the way the Justin Bieber brand was portrayed. I was a wholesome pop star who was so amazing who had nice hair and a fucking image that no one could ever live up to. So when all this happened people were like, “Woah, let’s rip him apart”. If you see Gandhi roll up a blunt, it’s different to seeing Ryan Gosling roll up a blunt. You wouldn’t give Ryan Gosling a hard time.

I watched the Amy Winehouse documentary on the plane and I had tears in my eyes because I could see what the media was doing to her, how they were treating her. People thought it was funny to poke her when she was at rock bottom, to keep pushing her down until she had no more of herself. And that’s what they were trying to do to me.

You get lonely, you know, when you’re on the road. People see the glam and the amazing stuff, but they don’t know the other side. This life can rip you apart. [I get depressed] all the time. And I feel isolated. You’re in your hotel room and there are fans all around, paparazzi following you everywhere, and it gets intense. When you can’t go anywhere or do anything alone you get depressed. I would not wish this upon anyone.

I just want people to know I’m human. I’m struggling just to get through the days. I think a lot of people are.

– Justin Bieber in NME

It’s essentially Facebook’s equivalent of YouTube’s Content ID, albeit focused more on managing copyrighted video content uploaded to the social network and tackling infringement, rather than monetising user uploads of it.

The Rights Manager tool will enable rightsholders to: “Easily upload and maintain a reference library of video content to monitor and protect, including live video streams; Specify permitted uses of each video by setting match rules; Identify and surface new matches against your protected content so you can review them and file a report if needed; Whitelist specific Pages and profiles who have permission to use your copyright content; and Outsource management, monitoring and protection of your content by using our Rights Manager API” according to Facebook.


The latest IFPI Global Music Report that was released this week had some great mentions of the success in 2015 from Justin Bieber, Drake and The Weeknd in the top Ten of Best-Selling Artists of 2015. But the report contains ven more Canadian content in the Report by way in a chapter on Music Cities that made mention of Toronto and Mayor John Tory.

The report noted that “Cities around the world are increasingly realising the economic potential of music alongside its long acknowledged cultural and social benefits. IFPI’s national affiliate Music Canada campaigned for Toronto to leverage music to benefit its economy based on the strategies deployed in Austin, Texas. It pointed out that Austin is much smaller than Toronto, the hub of Canada’s recording industry, but that the US city was using music far more effectively to generate jobs, taxes and growth.

“The campaign secured the engagement of City Hall and the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, has put leveraging music at the heart of his political agenda. This successful campaign prompted interest from other cities around the world, looking for a “roadmap” so that they too could tap into the power of music.”

It also quotes Mayor Tory on the topic: “Growing our music industry is key to driving economic growth, job creation and investment. A city’s passion for music is important in attracting talented people to visit and to stay. The Mastering of a Music City report reinforces in my mind the real potential of what supporting the music industry can do to transform and grow a real 21st century city.”


The album was Every Picture Tells a Story by Rod Stewart. It was the first album I ever bought, and it was the first album I ever wanted to save all my pocket money for to buy. The first artist that I got into was Marc Bolan from T. Rex. Everything he did, the whole catalog, I wanted to be Marc Bolan. David Bowie when he did “Starman” on Top of the Pops as the first single from the Ziggy Stardust album, that blew me and everybody away. That song is the reference spot to so many different diverse artists — Boy George, Morrissey, Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet — all have said in the press that when they saw Bowie do that and threw his arm around Mick Ronson, that that just made them want to go out and buy a guitar or be a singer.

But the song that I’ve always said is my favorite song of all time and the one song that I’ve tried to write myself a million times and failed miserably is “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople, who are my favorite ever band in the world, as weird as that might sound. But “Young Dudes,” written by Bowie and recorded by Mott the Hoople, is the best song of all time. I tried to rewrite it on “We Belong.” Didn’t get there, but you can tell it’s a reference to it. Elton John once said to me, “If you’re in doubt, write a hymn,” and I tried to make that very biblical in its size and swagger, which I’ve always found “All the Young Dudes” to be. It’s never aged. It never will. It will sound as good in a hundred years’ time as it did in 1972.