A Sideman’s Journey
To Honor a Sideman is a Tribute to All Sidemen
For my 70th birthday the Sideman Klaus became Frontman Voormann. Together with friends of mine I created a musical journey in time that carries the audience off to the most exciting period of popular music. From session to session I realized that A Sideman’s Journey not only puts me on center stage but that this album also serves as an hommage to all side(wo)men of pop history. Each one of them inevitably reminds us of the great names of ingenious artists who played a significant role in popular music. And I ask what good is a great locomotive if the waggons are not there to transport the goods? What would Motown Sound be without The Funk Brothers? Where would all those soul hits be without the Muscle Shoales Musicians from Alabama? This album is dedicated to all those sidemen-colleagues whose talents and skills helped turn compositions and arrangements with potential into rousing and moving successful productions,
ASJ Session 1
The Mill Studio East Sussex
It was in 1962 when I first held a bass guitar in my hands. Stuart Sutcliff’s President Bass in the Top Ten Club in Hamburg. In the wee hours of the morning some of the musicians preferred having something else in their arms besides the neck if a guitar. For Stuart it was Astrid’s hips. „Here, you take this,” Stuart put his bass guitar in my hands. At that time Paul was still the pianist for the Beatles and he waved to me to come up on stage. But shy Klaus chose to stay on his chair in front of the stage and played “I’m in Love Again” with the Beatles.
And it was this same old Fats Domino number that Paul and I pulled out of a box of nostalgic songs 46 years later for my first very own album. That afternoon for a few hours we let the old Top Ten Lists come back to life again. Paul sat at the piano in his white shirt, vest or waistcoat as he would call it, and jeans, as though he had just come straight from the Liverpool Cavern Club. In a wonderful mood and looking just great. I sat beside him, a bit nervous with a President bass model in my hands, from the same Hoefner series as Stuart’s instrument back then. My friend Bernhard Paul from the Roncalli Circus had given it to me for my 70th birthday.
It didn’t even take 5 minutes and Paul and I took off! Instead of 2 hours as originally planned we were at it for 5 hours. Paul, as always, the absolute professional, could not be stopped on this Monday in May. He was in high spirits and infected us all. The overdubs went just like clockwork: Paul on drums, Paul on acoustic guitar, Paul on the E-guitar (….That’s an Epiphone, one of my favourites. We played it on „Taxman” and „Paperback Writer”…) Paul with a toy harmonica out of a gum machine, Paul on the Hammond organ. in between stories and finger-food from Linda’s recipe book. While we were floating through sounds and memories and lost all sense of time and place about a hundred sweet little rabbits took over Paul’s garden. „They are safe here” Paul told us explaining the invasion of his hopping friends. „They know we don’t shoot them.” An unforgettable magic day with Paul the Great!
ASJ Session 2
London Strongroomm Studios
A Strong Room Full of Manfreds
Now and then I had some contact with Tom MacGuiness. Off and on also with Mike D’Abo. And then when I was sitting together with all of them at the table there was no end to all the old stories, for example, when Mike told the one about how he had gone to the Manfred Mann audition and wanted to just turn right round and leave again because he thought that I was the new singer! And during this get together I also found out that we had actually had a flop! Randy Newman’s „So Long, Dad” a great title but no sales. Must have repressed that one all those years.
The Manfred Mann Group was the pure hit-maker -machine. Seven number 1 hits, one tune after the other. It was difficult to choose one for my album and we decided to take „Mighty Quinn” and „Just Like a Woman”. Mike Hugg no longer on drums but at the piano. An excellent pianist! Now it’s Rob Townsend on drums a top-class drummer! For technical reasons due to misunderstood communications we had to record both pieces on two tracks. Under the motto „all for one and one for all” or something like that. This wasn’t easy but we soon saw what a damn good live band the Manfreds still are. And when Paul Jones joined us with his harmonica Dylan’s Quinn song really took off mighty
Come all within
Come all without
You’ll not see nothing
Like the „Mighty Kraut”
ASJ Session 3
Los Angeles Palm Tree Studios
Angels like Jim, Trevor and Van Dyke.
Palm Tree Studios, Los Angeles
Ringo had actually wanted to come to Paul’s studio in East Sussex in May. We had phoned a number of times and he had considered countless possibilities, even flying in by helicopter. In the end nothing had worked due to both of their busy schedules.
As an alternative we targeted Los Angeles at the beginning of August. This coincided with Ringo’s last performance on his tour through the US to be followed by an important family celebration.
Without the incredible support of “Los Three Angels“ and former studio partners Jim Keltner, Van Dyke Park and Trevor Lawrence this session could not have happened. For many weeks the phone lines were running hot despite everyone’s overly busy schedules and many commitments. After much debating I finally decided to do the recordings in Trevor’s Blue Palm Digital Studio in Hollywood.
During those two days there was a great coming and going of old friends and collegueas like Don Preston or Albert Lee. Not to forget Joe Walsh whose solo with Short People prompted me to launch into an impromptu virtual guitar performance in the control room. And when the two world-class drummers Ringo and Jim played “You’re Sixteen“ it was like a very special belated birthday present, truly something out of the ordinary. Inara’s version of “He Needs Me” just excellent, accompanied by Van Dyke’s brilliant piano and top-notch orchestral arrangements so typical of him. Together with Grant Geissmann this highly professional studio crew gave a timeless first class performance.
ASJ Session 4
Hamburg Home Studios
What a Night for Such a Night
For a musician to play in Mac Rebenack’s band was equivalent to the honor of being knighted.The decision to close that chapter of my life as a musician in 1979 was directly linked to my belonging to Mac’s group. I knew that nothing could ever top that experience. And that is why it was so important for me to have Dr. John be on my album. For months I tried to get us together but to no avail. Finally, in the beginning of November we met again and it was like having a Birthday-Christmas-Easter Bunny all at once.
Christina was waiting for us in the hotel lobby. Mac went to her and asked, ”Could you smudge the studio before we start?” He opened a large plastic bag and handed her a bundle of herbs. “That’s Sweet grass, my favorite herb.” Christina smelled the silvery green dried bundle. “I know it. It’s white sage, a ceremonial plant.” “I call it sweet grass.” Mac put the plastic bag in her hand and shuffled over to the taxi. He had received the herbs from some Oglala friends from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Mac was doing a tour through Europe and had just had a performance at the Hamburg Congress Center. He seemed quite tired and exhausted but he knew how important it was for me to have him be a part of the album. He didn’t want to disappoint me. I don’t think know a more kind-hearted man than Mac. On that same evening I also got to know his guitar man John Fohl who offered to accompany us. A great guitarplayer and a very, very nice person.
It was a magical after-midnight session. A perfect night for Such a Night.
ASJ Session 5
Munich Zara Studio
M like Max in Munich
Max Buskohl & Carl Carlton
What on earth is Buskohl doing with Ringo here? Well, I have known Max for quite a while and he is a very talented young singer and musician. I’ve invited Max after Ringo told me that he had crossed the song “You’re Sixteen” off his stage program. He felt it was somewhat out of place to have a sixty year old man declaring his love to a sixteen year old girl. And when Ringo is right, he is very right. So he decided to just stick to playing drums on this recording. Together with Jim Keltner he drummed away in this piece just like in the good old days. What a rare treat to experience these two world-class drummers playing together!
I have always found it important to stay in contact with the younger generations, to include them and to be a bridge-builder between generations. I like Max Buskohl’s interpretation of „You’re Sixteen“ The playback for this song was recorded in Los Angeles. Beside Max’s singing a few guitar overdubs and the slide solo by his father Carl Carlton were recorded in Munich. When Carl’s magic fingers play the slide guitar it’s like greetings from Ry.
ASJ Session 6
London Kensalatown Studios
In the Spirit of George with Yusuf
Somehow I kept feeling that Georgie was floating round the room. The question is whether it was Georgie as the eternal All-Things-Must-Pass gardener in rubber boots or as a Hare Krishna angel. Once again I realized what a significant role the concert for Bangladesh still plays in today’s world and what an important part George had played in bringing spirituality into the music scene. Thanks to his great commitment everyone in the pop scene now knows that spirituality has nothing to do with Spirulina. I’ve met Yusuf long time ago when the world called him Cat Stevens and have always valued his person and music very highly. I love his lyrics. I love the way he is singing. After many years we met again in Germany in 2005 at a charity event. Among other things we talked a about our Lakota relief project on Pine Ridge Reservation. As it turned out his son Mohammed is very much into Native American topics and has named his first album “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. Interesting how the wheel comes full circle, isn’t it? This session was very moving for Yusuf and me. And we both had the strange feeling that George was constantly around. We used both of his songs for two charity projects knowing very well that George would like that and that he would approve. He who was the father of all charity concerts and albums. While recording his two songs the word PEACE floated in an invisible cloud throughout the room of Martin Terefe’s extraordinary studio. In the Spirit of George.
ASJ Session 7
Memphis Ardent Studios
Memphis Blues and Elvis Just Round the Corner
George Klein’s hair was perfectly styled, something that hadn’t changed since the time he used to roam around Memphis with his teenage buddy Elvis. The whole time I was there I had the feeling the King of Rock ‘n‘ Roll himself was present, ready to jump in and play „ Mistery Train“. Don Nix dragged me to George’s wonderful show “The Sound of Memphis”. He was probably trying to distract me because he didn’t really want to sing. Don was in the middle of a lengthy dental treatment and had no teeth in his mouth. I know him since we’ve started the first rehearsels for the Concert for Bangladesh in Los Angekels. Bonnie was still mourning Delany, her husband, who had passed away a few weeks ago. Another legend gone, leaving his bodily remains behind. When Bonnie stood in the recording studio to „My Sweet Lord“ she had a picture of George propped up in front of her. „I had always wanted to sing his favourite song. Do you still remember, Klausie?…Aaangel Baby, my Angel Babayyy…” A suspicious shining veil covered her eyes and I had to swallow several times to get the lump out of my throat as fast as possible. After we had „Mocking Bird” and „My Sweet Lord” in the can we went on to synchronise „So Far”. Once again every tone, every note in this song was telling entire stories. Oh yes, back then when George produced my first song that I had composed and Rita Coolidge’s eyes raised my blood pressure. She had sung the backing vocals together with Bonnie and Delany. Eric Clapton’s solo already unmistakable and Carl Radle plucked the bass. Bobby Witlock and Jim Gordon were also there. The latter didn’t play the drums because Alan White was already on them. Doris Troy was the soloist and the actual producer. It’s rare that a cover version sounds better; but this recording with Bonnie and the Memphis Crew was plain fantastic. And that’s not only because Voormann the rock-dinosaur was in a nostalgic mood