Saturday, August 23, 2014

Interview albums by Phil Collins and Lou Reed

If you flip through the bins at a used record store -- something I hope you are still able to do in your area -- then it is possible that you may find a few interview albums among the regular LP stock. Interview LP's were sent to radio stations in the '70's and '80's, and were not intended for retail sale (and you will usually see stamps or stickers that say so on the packaging and/or record). Interview albums contained spoken-word statements by recording artists that could be used to make it sound as if the artist was being interviewed at a local radio station. Some interview albums contained full question-and-answer audio, along with sound clips of music from the albums that were being referenced (read: promoted). Other interview albums contained no music, and only the artists' answers to suggested questions. This type of interview album was designed so that the DJ at a local radio station could be made to sound like he or she was interviewing the artist in person. The LP would come with a script of suggested questions for the DJ to read before playing the audio of the artist's answers.

The blog from WFMU-FM in Jersey City has mp3 files and script documents for two of the latter types of interview albums from the '80's, one from Phil Collins, and the other from Lou Reed.

First off, I recommend reading the post related to the Phil Collins interview album, because it also reveals much about other things that are designed to make your local radio stations and DJ's sound like they are connected to famous artists. It offers examples of star "indents", station identifications, and an explanation about how Billy Idol's 1982 hit song "Hot In The City" was cleverly tailored to appeal to different metropolitan areas.

The Phil Collins interview album, titled Collins On Collins: Exclusive Candid Interview, was produced in 1985, the same year that Phil’s diamond-certified solo album No Jacket Required was released. Fortunately, the interview does not dwell on that now-dated mega-seller. Although the interviewer (who, on Side B, would be the local DJ) asks questions about “Phil-mania” and about women swooning at concerts – which Collins, to his credit, did not take too seriously – the interview has Collins giving more interesting insights about his joining Genesis in 1970, his taking over of that band’s lead vocal duties after Peter Gabriel left them in 1975, and the somewhat accidental creation of his 1981 solo debut Face Value. One question-and-answer that is rather surprising at this point in time involves the difficulty of getting the song “I Missed Again” played on mainstream pop stations, because its horn arrangements made it sound “too r&b” for mainstream radio – something that is difficult to imagine 30 years later, when r&b virtually dominates some Top 40 stations. Collins comes across as a very relaxed interviewee throughout, so that if a local DJ were to dub the scripted questions into the Answers Only side for broadcast, it would seem as if the DJ had a special, friendly rapport with the superstar.

The Lou Reed interview album recorded in 1982 was designed specifically to promote Reed’s ’82 album The Blue Mask, which is widely considered to be the solo masterpiece of the late Velvet Underground pioneer. The first side contains Reed’s answers to scripted questions about each of the album’s ten tracks. Most of his answers describe the psychology of the characters in the songs, and the way he tried to portray them on record; these explanations make Reed sound very much like an actor or director describing characters from films. It’s interesting to hear him discuss such things in detail, but the key quote on this side is his response to a question about the song “Women”, where he explains that the album was done with almost no overdubs, and that he and the backing band aimed to complete the songs in “one shot” to give them a “real” feeling. The much-shorter second side of the interview album contains Reed’s answers to a few general questions about the creative process. The standout question and answer on this side comes when Lou responds to a question about whether he will ever tour and perform live again, saying “I doubt it”. As it turned out, Reed went on tour the following year to support his 1983 album Legendary Hearts, and continued to perform live until 2012, one year before his death. It’s hard not to chuckle at the very end of the interview album, when the DJ is supposed to say that he/she thanks Lou for being on the show, and Reed (who, as we know, actually was not at the radio station) says “Oh, it’s my pleasure…really”.




Phil Collins "Collins On Collins: Exclusive Candid Interview" (Atlantic PR 759) 1985

Track Listing:

A Side: Questions and Answers (unbanded) (30:03)
B Side: Answers Only (banded) (24:00)




Lou Reed "Lou Reed Interview: A Radio Interview Album In Which Lou Discusses Track By Track The Songs On His RCA Release 'The Blue Mask' " (RCA DJL1-4267) 1982

Track Listing:

SIDE A: Track by track answers to questions about each song on "The Blue Mask" LP

1. My House (2:07)
2. Women (1:57)
3. Underneath The Bottle (1:52)
4. The Gun (1:37)
5. The Blue Mask (1:47)
6. Average Guy (:51)
7. The Heroine (2:15)
8. Waves of Fear (1:24)
9. The Day John Kennedy Died (1:07)
10. Heavenly Arms (1:26)

SIDE B

1. Question re: Playing Guitar (:32)
2. Question re: Joy Of Writing Songs (:38)
3. Question re: Process Of Composing (1:48)
4. Question re: Studio Environment (1:24)
5. Question re: Performing Live (:18)
6. Question re: Thanks for being on the show (:03)