Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Joe Cocker + Genesis, Pink Floyd, and more


Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!
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Jun 22, 2020
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Kaneohe, Oahu
I've been meaning to tell you for a while about a UK documentarian named John Edginton who doesn't have the rights to share the documentaries he's made (mostly for the BBC), but managed to retain the rights to the raw interviews, which he's been posting on his YT channel for the past year or two.

They're not proper interviews in the sense that Edginton himself is neither mic'd nor on camera. He's the guy asking the questions, and in the final presentation, all we'll see is a few clips interspersed with the usual stuff you see in music documentaries. It's VERY raw -- you'll hear doorbells and phones ring, and there's some repetition and a few dead ends...but overall, it's absolutely gripping!

He does some true crime, which I hate from the bottom of my heart but if you love it, you can find it here. What I DO love about John's stuff is that he's done some documentaries on Pink Floyd and Genesis in particular that have yielded an absolute treasure trove -- hours and hours of unedited interviews with all four members of that heart of Pink Floyd talking about, well, everything, starting with Syd Barrett, who was the focus of his own documentary. That means that there are also conversations with Syd's roommates, early managers, early famous fans (including journo Nick Kent), and much more.

As we get into later Pink Floyd, the interviews include Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis, who's one of the funniest guys I've ever seen on tape, talking about the covers of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here in particular. Needless to say, Edginton also interviews the man on fire on the cover of WYWH! Seriously, it's ALL here.

The Genesis stuff goes even deeper. Multiple hours with not only the 5 fellows in the core prog era (Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, and Steve Hackett, who's also the best interview of the bunch, I think), but also long conversations with touring drummer Chester Thompson (also from Weather Report) and touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer (who was playing with Jean-Luc Ponty when Genesis found him -- tells you a lot that their touring band members come from the jazz fusion world!). Nerds (like me) will also flip for an hour with founding guitarist Anthony Phillips, who's also a terrific storyteller.

As with Pink Floyd, Edginton was clearly working a number of angles at once. The story of Genesis in general, a separate film on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album and tour, and some later stuff that included the solo careers of the three members who remained to the end (Rutherford, Banks, and of course Collins, whose solo career was a massive success of an entirely different nature than the band who still managed to sell out stadiums.)

There really is days and days of stuff here for fans of these two bands alone...but even without the true crime stuff, there's lots more music stuff!

What prompted me to finally getting around to posting about these is an unedited conversation with Rita Coolidge talking about the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, which came up on a thread featuring @Yukio's spectacular tutorial for The Monkees' "I'm A Believer". I'm still not sure how we wound up talking about Joe Cocker, but I swear it seemed almost on topic. LOL Check out the thread for yourself, starting, again, with his terrific arrangement and tutorial of an all-timer.

Okay, back to Joe Cocker. Even casual listeners of classic radio will have encountered Jhis live version of "The Letter", which was a massive hit in 1970 going into '71, and well beyond! I still come across it now and again, aside from being a massive Joe Cocker fan who owns multiple copies of Mad Dogs in multiple formats, going back to the original releases at the time.

My knowledge of the tour itself was pretty limited at the time, as I think was the case for most of us...even though the movie reveals quite a lot. It's just hard to see what the STORY is, because the music and the personalities were so huge.

In the course of my life in film and video production, I got to know one of the cinematographers of the 1971 tour film. Although very much a mainstream cinema and TV guy, he's done a lot of music along the way, including operating camera for a little Rolling Stones pitcher called Gimme Shelter, the 1977 Grateful Dead tour film, and a couple of Miles Davis docs. He later became the head of the cinematography program at the American Film Institute (AFI)...

...and while we never got as far into Mad Dogs as I wanted, he definitely gave me some insight into how outlandishly chaotic it was -- not just for the performers and the audience, but for the filmmakers.

Rita talks about this at length, but the context is that Joe was coming off a blazing performance on Woodstock to a highly acclaimed UK tour, and had come to LA to rest and get his strength back...where he was told that he had less than a week before the US tour HAD TO start. HAD TO.

I'll let Rita fill you in, but his protests that he didn't have a band ready were met with, "Leon will take care of it." Leon Russell casts a long shadow across the early 70s that deserves its own lengthy essay, but yeah, for Mad Dogs, he put together a band of DOZENS of musicians and singers in two days, giving them three days to rehearse and a day to pack. Rita mentions that nobody on the tour was older than 26 or 27, so three days of 18 hours of singing while the arrangements were still being worked out was...sorta doable I guess. LOL

When Jerry Moss (the M of A&M Records) came to the second day of rehearsals, he said, "The world has never seen a tour like this. We have to film it!" -- so he hustled a film crew together, which roughly doubled the size of the entourage....and which meant that the part of the crew that saw the MOST rehearsal saw ONE DAY, but the rest of the crew had NO IDEA what they were even looking at, much less trying to shoot. It's amazing that we got anything watchable out of this, but man, is it a corker!

Definitely steals a few moves from Thelma Schoonmacher's edit of Woodstock (her assistant Marty Scorcese went on to some fame as a director, and used Thelma as his lead editor starting with Raging Bull), notably the split screens to try to contain the chaos.

There's unfortunately not a lot of high-quality footage of this floating around, but for goodness sake, TURN THIS UP to get an idea! Forty-ish musicians and singers make quite a racket. LOL Pay particular attention to Joe of course, but also Chris Stainton on piano, Leon Russell on lead guitar and musical direction (you can definitely see him lead the band with his guitar!), and, well, all of it. LOL

Go ahead, wake up the kids!

The key words for us watching this now might be "spectacle" or "exuberance" (it really is a joy to behold)....but for Joe in particular, and for Rita as well, the key words are "exhausted/exhausting" and "sad/sorrow." I'll let Rita tell you the best stuff, but a few things really jumped out at me:

  • Joe wound up broke and homeless by the end of the tour. He alternated between sleeping on Jerry Moss's kitchen floor and Rita Coolidge's couch while he got strong enough to think about getting home.
  • Did I mention broke? He figured he might be able to write a song or two to finance his trip back, but he couldn't afford a guitar. Moss had to get him the money for one (and I'll bet you a nickel billed Joe for it later).
  • He didn't sing in public for years after Mad Dogs, and I'll let Rita tell you about his comeback, which she features in, and is a genuinely sweet story.

I was going to talk some more about Leon, which I'll save for another day, except to observe that his nickname "The Master of Space and Time" came from this tour, and his supernatural ability to keep this many people sort of on the rails.

A couple of follow-up videos.

  • Super producer Glyn Johns (whom you met in the Get Back documentary, if not known earlier for his work with, well, everyone -- Beatles, Stones, Who, Faces, Eagles, Clash, Dylan, etc etc etc) tells the tale of turning a giant pile of disorganized tapes into a pretty darn cohesive album....but it ends up being a pretty sad story too.

  • Billy Joel confesses that he was signed to a record contract based on his Joe Cocker impression!!! He'd told Joe this story, so I'll let him tell you too.

  • Randy Newman breaks down the differences between what HE did (and intended) with his own version of "You Can Leave Your Hat On" , and how Joe handled it (as with With A Little Help, Joe's really is a fundamentally different song), then walks us through the two very different versions of "Sail Away" too. Needless to say, he's a fan, and his insights are pretty striking.

There's enough to get anyone started. :)
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"Started!" Holy cow*. I never was much into Genesis but was totally into Pink Floyd starting with Umma Gumma all the way through to The Final Cut. There were several duds along the way, but the best in between (not necessarily in order) were *Atom Heart Mother, Obscured by Clouds, Meddle, DSOTM, The Wall, Wish You Were Here, Momentary Lapse of Reason, Division Bell, and The Pulse. The Pulse DVD is Amazing!
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The 'Feeling Alright' video gives me the chills from about 30 seconds into the intro. Leon's guitar solo face-off with Joe's air guitar leading up to that break around the 4:50 mark just nailed it.

I have watched all of the Rita Coolidge interview (when you tipped me off a few days ago) and it was everything you said about it. Excellent.

Okay, Gotta check those Billy Joel and Randy Newman interviews next! Ciao!
Hey, thanks for the tip, Tim. Lots to watch here.

Remembering the emotion and energy Joe Cocker expended at Woodstock (saw the film), I can well understand how he must have wanted some rest before another tour.
"Started!" Holy cow*. I never was much into Genesis but was totally into Pink Floyd starting with Umma Gumma

With me, it started at Meddle, and includes a couple of post-Waters records. Roger can be a dick, but he really did write an awful lot of amazing songs, and I enjoyed his interviews a lot more than I thought I would.

I had started reassessing all this when I saw him in 2016 at Desert Trip (aka, Oldchella), just down the road from where I was living in Palm Springs at the time. He had not only by far the best live sound I've ever heard (especially tricky outdoors in the howling desert wind, and yes, notably better than anytime else that weekend), but also the most emotional show I've ever seen. When the lights came up, I saw strangers falling weeping into each other's arms. It was staggering.

Ironically for me is that of everyone there (besides Roger, it was McCartney, Neil Young, Dylan, The Who, and the Rolling Stones), I was so not interested in seeing him -- I'll say it: I'm a Gilmour guy through and through -- and he was the last guy on the bill on the last day, that I came within a hairsbreadth of skipping out. Quite a few other folks did....but I'd heard that he was doing a couple of tracks off Meddle, and it's not like I don't love what he wrote for Pink Floyd, so I stayed with a little curiosity, but otherwise very, very low expectations...and as I noted, was completely swept up in something on a scale I wasn't in the least prepared for.

My seats were roughly a quarter mile from the stage, but I'd bought a 2000mm lens for the ocassion and was able to get some decent-ish pictures of everyone there. I really love the Roger-ness of these, though. :)


(The last one is still zoomed in a bit, giving you some idea of how far away I was for all of 'em.)

Anyway, John Edginton's YT channel is a gem that more people should know about, and I'm glad that you're finding some stuff there to enjoy!
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Great pics! Waters is certainly one-of-a-kind.
YT Roger Waters - Mother
YT Roger Waters - In the Flesh? (Live) [From Roger Waters The Wall] (Not for the faint of heart.)

<edit> I just bought a long-forgotten CD: "Leon Russell and The Shelter People." Excellent!
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Wow, this is fodder for a late night YouTube session, for sure!

Oh, and Roger... has become the bitter old man that he used to laugh about. I've been largely ignoring him for about 10 years.
Appreciate you sharing Tim. I am now going to have to go on a binge of watching and absorbing it all. And will be delighted to do so.
Roger... has become the bitter old man that he used to laugh about. I've been largely ignoring him for about 10 years.

I think that that HAS been true, but I think less so now. I think the end of Pink Floyd with Rick's death put the whole enterprise in the rear view mirror. I was struck by how generous both David and Roger were toward each other in these interviews.

One thing that especially jumped out at me was them agreeing that their collaboration on the song Wish You Were Here (Roger had words well underway, but was struck by a riff that David was noodling, and it turned into a face-to-face with two acoustic guitars jam that they finished together) was not just a career highlight, but a life one. I can't imagine that Roger would have said anything like that just a few years earlier.

My point with the live show was that I had no use for the guy. At. All. None whatsoever. I'd actually stopped listening to any Pink Floyd songs that he sang on for decades, but by golly, the man brought the goods.

So I'm not disagreeing with you in the least, just saying that people can grow. Some. Maybe. A little. :ROFLMAO: And I think that it has been easier for both of them to move on now that there's nothing left to fight about.

Not to go down THAT rabbit hole. You can still spend a dozen hours or so with Edginton's Pink Floyd conversations just with David, Rick, Nick M., Storm, and the many people in Syd's orbit. :)