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Since the Fudge were really quite a departure from the styles of the artists you had originally produced, what inspired you to produce a group like them?
Well, there was no common ground - not by any means. When I reached out and did the Fudge it wasn't the act. Understand my acts. I mean - if you can find a comparison between Shangri-Lahs and Janis Ian, Iron Butterfly, Jimi Hendrix. I mean I see all of these acts as being totally different.
So I had no bag. What I did do was... something would kind of like fall into my lap, that I fell in love with. And that was it. The Fudge was "The Group".
And I've said this to many people. They ask: "Are you going back into rock and roll or do some of the oldies?" And I said, "What are you - are you out of your f...... mind? Why in the hell - I don't even have [the gold records] hanging on the wall. I don't have them at home. Why would I do that? However, if I ever was to do anything from the past, I would jump into it with the Fudge. That's the group I would go after.
I mean that's a joy. That's an act of love... Did you know that Atlantic Records would not put out the Vanilla Fudge?
I've heard that, yes. As a matter of fact, I think I read that in your Goldmine Interview.
Can you believe it?
Well in a way I guess, a lot of music I love never made it - of course I have no connection with record executives...
You lucky son of a bitch. Nobody likes a braggart!
Sorry [Laughs]. I mean - the Fudge were way ahead of their time.
Way ahead! I agree. Of course, I didn't know that at the time. I don't think the boys did either. They weren't looking to change the industry but they did.
When you started with the debut album - when you started working with them. Did you really have to hold their hands or were you, as you say, just guiding them slightly and being a referee in certain instances? Is there a lot of you in the debut album?
There's a lot of my heart in it - it's their talent. I don't know how to answer that. I did a little hand holding there. I did a little bleeding. There were times like when... uh, a Vinny piece that we did where we broke it all the way down to just one acoustic guitar for the session and they didn't like that.
Oh. There were a lot of times, a lot of things that went down and had people looking at one another, giving dirty faces.
There were things.. People were coming up with ideas for songs - what songs to do, and they would come in with a total album package ready to record. Again to the best of my recollection, and others might disagree with this, we were cutting stuff that nobody knew was going to shape the future. Therefore, all we knew was this was different. This was borderline weird! And there was a lot of questions in balance because of that. I mean there were people who were ready to walk. There were people going "What the f...? What the hell is this?". And to the best of my recollection a guy who came to me 3 or 4 times and said "I got to change this!" He hated it! And I had one time that I got very angry - I said, "I swear I'm going to lock the f...... doors. I'm going to keep people out of here! I'm going to stop people from coming through the doors on this session".
Were you involved in any of the arrangements?
I'd get in on a line or some shit like that. Not that much. Where to go into a solo or there should be a longer solo here or let Timmy do a line here or can Timmy & Carmine do a duet together? Drums against the bass - syncopation - things like that. Telling people you don't have to start at 100% on a song. You can start at 10 and build to 100. You can do it in 5 seconds or 5 minutes. Swells - you know, getting into real ass-kicking swells.
So a lot of that came from you then?
Well you know [producers] do something often... An old trick was... I would have the assistant engineer in the back of the room, and I learned this before the Fudge. We'd continuously keep a quarter-track reel going. If anybody said anything or played anything that I wanted to recall later, I would turn and signal him and he would white chalk the tape so when everybody was gone I could go back and see what the hell it was that got my ear.
And with the Fudge I never had to do that because it was almost instantaneous. These boys were really - their wings were wide open - they were flying! So it was very often that some one just out of the sheer kick of it with the song would play a line. And it was very easy for you to stay in there and say "That's a great line. That's a great line. That can go in here." That's very easy.
It's very refreshing to hear you say that they could do most of it by themselves.
I was their support. I was their friend. I was their enemy. I would hold their hand, or I would turn my back. I was... I had to be - I didn't have to be - THEY put me in a position where that's what I was. I was part-time friend - part-time distant - part-time exact - part time fake... Whatever it called for at the moment to get them through it.
On the first album, it's pretty common knowledge that You Keep Me Hanging On was recorded live in one take. Were all the other tracks recorded live too?
Yes. Pretty much so. More than any group I had before or after that I'm aware of. And it was very usual that we would run down takes - up to 8 - 9 - 10 - 12 takes, and end up taking somewhere within the first 3 takes.
Over the years, as a fan, when I've talked about the Fudge, personally I've defended them many times against accusations of heavy over-dubbing and...
Oh no, Let's stop this shit!
...when I got into the arguments no one could believe that the 4 instruments and the 4 voices could create all that music live. So I just wanted to hear it from their producer and let all the people I've argued with hear it from their producer.
Oh [Disgusted] that's bullshit. That's total bullshit. Tell them I said it was bullshit. I know it's hard for them to believe but I was there.
I've also heard more than once - you better set down for this - that you electronically altered their voices in the studio to generate that vibrato.
[Laughing hard] Well... you ask them this. "Well, if he's the guy who knew how to do that - how come he stopped at the Fudge?" [Laughs].
You know what? There was, among the four major voices, a vibrato that went down between Timmy and Carmine - when that vibrato would kick in and hit. I know what you talking about. It used to amaze me and the engineers and everybody else in the room!
I mean, I called the boys together to do about 30 seconds of a song that I've never finished called "I Am Eagle" - the whole song is 14 minutes long and getting longer by the day. And the reason I asked them to do this at a time people said they won't show up - the only reason Vinny wasn't called was because I wanted Carmine and I wanted Timmy's voice's specifically for that vibrato piercing powerful sound. Mark played bottom end and at the time I did this, if I could have had it in the budget to fly Vinny out I would have. But I didn't have it back then.
I did not get the exact vibrato they used to get. But believe me, I didn't fly out to California and call the 3 guys into a studio - being told "You're nuts. They won't show up! No way in the world Carmine and Mark will get into the same room, blah - blah" - I didn't go up against that just for the "average group sound". I went after that because I knew on this one piece of music where the eagle lifts up off the desert floor - I had 28 children singing in the Apache language: "lift eagle fly to the sun" - that there was a dramatic pause and then there was an incredible downbeat of a full symphony orchestra where the eagle lifts up off the desert floor and starts climbing. There was only one group going to be able to sing the word "fly": Vanilla Fudge.
Wonderful. When was this?
This was about 6 or 7 years ago. About 7 years ago, because when I did this I was anticipating that the Polygram case would be over in about 2 months and I could really go in and work this song. I was off by 5 years. But I've been off before.
[Note: the suit Shadow refers to had to do with collecting back royalties on Shangri-Las records.]
Do you still expect this to come out?
Yeah. That vocal sound is theirs.
You Keep Me Hanging On was in mono even on the stereo album. Is there a stereo mix in existence anywhere?
No but there is an 8-track.
You mean an 8-track master?
Yes. That thing could be brought to stereo.
Was there a pre-release mix of Eleanor Rigby? Bob Jaccino of the web site team insists that he heard a different version of it on the Murray the K radio show. Specifically, he remembers that the ends of the verses, where the band answers Mark, there were different vocals there. Does that ring a bell to you?
No. But just because it does not ring a bell does not mean it is not so. It could very well be, I can't remember. Murray the K was the number one jock in New York. As a matter of fact, at the same time all of this was going down I had just taken over Murray the K's office.
Yeah. 1914 Broadway.
Is that the office above Ahmet Ertegun's?
Did you know Sonny Bono?
I met Sonny a couple of times. I never really got close.
The reason I ask is because of The Beat Goes On and Bang Bang. Of course, we didn't know how much influence you had as far as track selection. But we thought it was more than coincidence that there were two.
Well the first album happened and Bang Bang went on it. But the second album was a whole different approach.
And I don't say that to brag as the producer on that one, but I should hang my head. If there ever was a time when I let my ego get in the way, it was on that piece.
You think so?
Yeah. I don't think the boys regret the album and I don't regret it. I think we jumped the gun. I jumped the gun on that. I should have waited the 3rd or 4th album. I should have stayed more on the direct line of what we done on the first album. I was so excited by this group and I was so swelled up with myself that I said "Oh yeah - well watch this one!" [Laughs]. And we took on something that was absolutely lost... That was a work! That was a work. And it drove poor Bill Stahl [the engineer] absolutely nuts...
You know even on the Internet, I still read today the critical lambasting of The Beat Goes On. But the album was nowhere near the sales failure that the critics made it out to be. Most of the fans liked it. To what do you attribute the critical lashing it did receive that we don't think it deserved?
Give me a for instance, what did you hear?
There's an Internet article out there claiming it was "one of the ten worst concept albums every made.
That's an opinion. It's wrong. It's absolutely wrong. If there was a fault in the album was that it was a totally concept album. We never gave anybody one song to fall in love with. Not really. I shouldn't say "we" - I didn't. And there are universities today that still use that piece today to discuss the theories of music and how it leads to life. I mean I've gotten letters from California and different universities. It's very nice that they appreciate it because it doesn't mean nothing to me. I wasn't making that record for them. I clouded the issue on that. And that's the damn truth on the matter.
I'm the one who - what the boys did and what that album's about is absolutely fantastic and unbelievable. However, it's got nothing to do with the buying public. That's the long and short of it.
I put the wonder of the Vanilla Fudge and their ability to do something alongside of a concept that I had... That I wanted to make a mark forever.
Well there's a lot of people there that think you made that mark.
Well, Atlantic doesn't think so [Laughs].
Still it went to what? Number 17?
Yes... That is a fantastic album. There is no group alive that could have done that album. However when you say it went to 17, let's be honest. A good share of those sales were based on people going to buy that album because they loved the first album. They were running into the stores to buy Vanilla Fudge before they even heard what was on it. All right? To be honest with that.
OK, but I'm not so sure... most of the Beat Goes On albums I've seen were quite worn out.
Any failing that comes the way of the Vanilla Fudge pertaining to The Beat Goes On, I have to take the bow for that. That was totally my concept. My idea. And the boys after the success of the first album, with all the questioning on the first album, they just went along with me. They figured he was right on the first one, he's going to be right on the second one. And I was wrong.
And like I said earlier, if that concept was to work it would have had a lot better chance if I had allowed the Fudge to have 2 or 3 more albums in the same vein as the first one. If they became another name that everybody was talking about - a household item.
In other words, they would have just needed more of a foundation first?
Yeah. Then they would have had such loyalty in their fans. They could have done an album like that but directed it that time as a 2-hour movie for TV, showing the sessions being done. Showing the incidents that are mentioned in the sessions. That could have been exciting at a stadium. To have those picture flashing up of Churchill - they would have gone crazy!
If there had been the right kind of promotion. [To] many of the people who were promoting the shows, and I went to [them] earlier saying, "You've got to get slides for this thing and you've got to have points in the show where there's only one man on stage." I don't care if he's not even playing. He's just sitting on a stool and looking at the audience while the music's playing. This was long before we got into... in other words, you can have the whole thing set up back stage and there can be a two-minute piece where everybody walks off the stage and there's just spotlights on their instruments. But the music continues! It could be just a guitar piece - it's just the acoustic guitar! Let everybody take a break while the slides are flashing up above. It could get very exciting.
You're absolutely right. I couldn't agree with you more. If the Fudge get back together, then talk them into doing just that.
What is it they say? The next morning bite the dog that bit you? Well that should be the comeback. Maybe now 30 years later, the world is ready for it.