Written by: Matt Wardlaw
How's your falsetto voice holding up these days? Because if you're like me, it's very likely that you'll be singing the chorus of Dan Hartman's "I Can Dream About You" as soon as you start reading this interview. And of course, the next logical step after that is to listen to "I Can Dream About You" about 80 times or so.
Here - let me help you out with that piece of things:
I picked up a huge trunk full of music magazines from the '70s and '80s last night from a friend, who is back in Cleveland, helping to clean out his old family home. Within those magazines was an issue of Modern Recording & Music from June of 1985.
Reading this interview, which was conducted by Jimmy Guterman, I decided to see if I could find a good program that would let me scan to text (which I did - it's called FreeOCR, for the interested tech heads out there.)
I found this to be a really interesting read, no matter whether you're a fan of the song or not, it's just an interesting snapshot look at one man's perspective on making records, circa 1985.
I'm jealous of Jimmy, who had the chance to use what might possibly be one of the best opening interview questions ever. "How did 'I Can Dream About You' happen?"
More recently, Jimmy wrote a book which will be of interest to fellow Bruce Springsteen nuts, called Runaway American Dream.
Here's the interview - enjoy!
Nineteen eighty four was a year of many rock n‘ roll comebacks. Tina Turner and John Fogerty got all the headlines (and rightly so), but they weren't the only artists who returned to the spotlight last year after a long absence. Of those less-celebrated, the most unlikely return may be Dan Hartman's. Hartman's public career started with the Edgar Winter Group(for whom he wrote “Free Ride") and led to a checkered solo career as an artist (the 1979 disco smash “Instant Replay"), writer (for Diana Ross), and producer (Plasmatics).
Hartman's return to the charts with “I Can Dream About You,” one of the few listenable songs from last summers Streets of Fire soundtrack, places Hartman ?rmly in the center of the pop zeitgest. With co-producer Jimmy lovine and new songwriting collaborator Charlie Midnight, Hartman's new LP has spawned two dancefloor hits (the aforementioned title track and “We Are the Young”). I Can Dream About You has its share of obvious moments, but it is still an effective show-case for this self-proclaimed “studio rat's" skills. Modern Recording and Music sat down with Hartman in late March at New York's Top Cat Studios, where he was rehearsing for his first tour in the past decade.
Modern Recording & Music: How did “I Can Dream About You” happen?
Dan Hartman: Jimmy (Iovine)and I have known each other foryears. He worked on the Edgar Winter Group’s Shock Treatment album as assistant engineer for Shelly Yakus, and we stayed in touch over the years. One time I was in California and he was producing Stevie Nicks’ Wild Heart in the same studio I was working in. I saw him in the hallway and he told me he was working on the Streets of Fire soundtrack and he’d like me to submit something. I had a tape of “I Can Dream About You” sitting around the studio as a demo. I sent it to him and he loved it. The version on the record is mostly my demo version, even though the original demo was much more electronic-sounding. The electronic drums at the beginning are there for the whole track. Jimmy added a real drummer, a real bass player, and a real guitar player. He gave it a more human rock element to complement my electronic dance element. It's got the best of both worlds.
MR&M: Why has it been ten years and why now?
DH: The ‘now’ question is easy. I'm making music I’m excited about that can be played live. I never stopped making music because I have the studio in my house, but I didn’t have the means to play them live. I was doing a lot of dance music that I couldn't play live and honor it as an art form. What I’m doing now can be played live with a rough rock n‘ roll band. The two kinds of music that are prevalent today, rock and dance music, have finally come together. That’s where I am—rhythmic dance rock n’ roll.
MR&M: What's your approach to synthesizers?
DH: I prefer synthesizers without a sequencer. I don’t like the sequencer to play the part. I like to play it live-it feels better.
MR&M: Do you think you'll be working with Jimmy Iovine in the future?
DH: I don't know. People change between albums. When it comes time for the next album, I don’t know if he'll have the time. There are so many variables. When the next album comes up, there’ll probably be more steps I want to take. It's difficult to produce yourself. You have to keep a wide enough perspective and you have to be ruthless and cut and edit. Sometimes you get confused and need an outside ear. I recognize that. Some artists don't recognize that and come out without something sounding weird because of it.
MR&M: How do you hear “Instant Replay” almost a decade down the road?
DH: I'm successful at communicating When I‘m in the studio messing around, I don't think, “This sounds commercial." I just turn the music up to 10 and have a party. My natural inclination is what lifts me off the floor. With your own studio, you can either get real lazy or become a workaholic. When I play “Instant Replay" now, I listen to something that at the time communicated in the best way I knew how. It incorporated the trend of the time with real communication. I did that song because I was in love and I was elated. I did the whole thing in one week as a gift. It reflected the times.
A lot of my rock friends said at the time, “That‘s a hip record." If you listen to the disco records of that time, “Instant Replay" had more of a rock edge. I just put together a new version that we'll be doing on this tour. It will reflect the sounds of the Eighties now, instead of sounding like 1978 disco. I‘m still proud of the original. The vocal performance is great and it achieves a feeling. That's the most important thing. The song communicates.
MR&M: With “Instant Replay," you were a rarity, a white man with a disco hit in the midst of the racist ‘Disco Su--s’ movement." With the new album. you seem to be making a conscious effort to integrate stereotypical “black” and “white” styles.
DH: That's right. It's not so much a conscious effort as the consciousness of my focus. On “I Can Dream About You," the idea was to establish myself as a vocalist. I want to make mainstream records—I don’t want people to miss my message. I don't want to be too weird. I want to be heard—I want to communicate. I'm a rock n’ roller, but I also love rhythm n’ blues and soul. I love the spirit, the passion, and the sexuality of R&B much more than headbanger rock n’ roll—even though some of my favorite albums are Pyromania and For Those About To Rock. They’re headbanger albums,but they also have soul.
Two years ago. I fired everybody around me. I fired my manager, my lawyer, everybody. I got away from everything. I wanted to carry forth a concept of dance rock n‘ roll and the people around me wanted to do the same stuff again. I wanted to do a Big Bam Boom. They weren’t behind me. so I quit and disappeared for eighteen months. I lived my life. Along theway, I was writing. “I Can Dream About You" is what I was trying for. It’s crossover, black, white, rock,dance, and has a great vocal. It’s everything. Remember, it looks like black people do “I Can Dream About You" in the video. People saw the picture sleeve and said “Huh? He's white. This can't be Dan Hartman.” If they like the music, that's all that matters.
MR&M: How is getting ready for a tour different from preparing to record?
DH: I don’t actually get ready for records. I just do ‘em. It’s day to day; I live in it. For the tour. it's been easy and fun for the band to master tracks that are mostly just me on the album.
MR&M: How has producing or engineering other peoples work affected your own records?
DH: When I do somebody else's record, I'm a totally different person. I feel more of a responsibility to make sure nothing's messed up. Like my own work, I try to go for the magic, the essence of that artist. But I am more careful.
MR&M: You've said you want to play mostly small venues on this tour. Can you make money doing that?
DH: No. I'm not going out to lose money—who wants to bleed?—but I don't think it's all about money. I don't necessarily want to make money on the road. I've been lucky to make money from my records. When I go out on the road, I pay my band all the money. I don't make any money. My manager gets his cut, the expenses get paid. and I come back with the same amount I left with.
MR&M: But you do get to play in front of people.
DH: Yeah. that's it. The thing is to translate the studio excitement onstage. You've got to live what you're doing onstage. It's got to be raw energy. It doesn't have to be perfect. If it was. it would be boring.
MR&M: What inspires you?
MR&M: That's a great motivator, but anything else?
DH: I'm inspired because people are starting to hear me. I want to be heard. When no one's listening, I'm not real motivated. I'm motivated by listening to Chaka Khan. She's the Jimi Hendrix of our age. She'll sing and sometimes it sounds like Hendrix's guitar. It's the same essence of freedom he had in his solos. She's a major vocal influence and inspiration. I love Foreigner, Vangelis,Robert Palmer. Lotsa stuff.
MR&M: “I Can Dream About You" became a hit mostly because it fit snugly in the current dance/rock sound that's all over CHR. Was that calculated or accidental?
DH: It was luck. I do not consider these things when I'm recording. I just do what I want to do.
MR&M: Do you and Charlie have a writing method?
DH: I met Charlie eighteen months ago when I cut myself loose of the corporate leeches. I met him through some people at CBS and tried some songs together. Those songs had a real uniqueness. When we write a song, we have a reason. I like songs that have no reason at all, but they don't wear very well. If you want to say something and mean something you'd better have something strong to say that'll reach people. We usually start with a title. discuss it. He'll go off somewhere and come up with the lyric and I can read his lyric and hear the music. I don't fight it—I just get it down on tape.
MR&M: What kind of music canwe expect from you and Charlie next?
DH: We're discussing topics. We want to get strange, but still communicate. It'll be weird.
MR&M: What do you consider weird?
DH: When you get into the areas of eroticism, politics, and belligerency, you have to be careful. Some of it will get out. Both Charlie and I have slanted minds. If “Relax” or “Sugar Walls" can be hits, there is a place for that kind of stuff, too. It's fun and interesting to write about that. Or with politics: Third World people own the bomb. That's probably where the nuclear war will start. They have nothing to lose. You can write about that. It'll be just another record from a romantic cynic.more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
In a perfect world, I'd have all day everyday to sit around and watch the album "making of" documentaries and videos featuring the "stories behind the songs," but too often, I see something of interest, bookmark it to watch it later and then never get around to it.
But when I saw that Richard Marx had put a video blog online with the story behind "Hold On To The Nights" teasing "a little behind the scenes info you may not have heard before," I had to watch it. One of the things that I love as a music fan, is continuing to learn about the inner workings of an album or an artist, whether it's an album that you got today, or one which has been in your collection for many, many years, which is the case with Richard's self-titled debut, a longtime favorite of mine.
I've touched on the general territory before, writing about "Don't Mean Nothing" a few years ago when I learned that Joe Walsh had played guitar on the song. As I found out, I was apparently the last person to realize that.
"Hold On To The Nights" was my song. One of those that you hear and you just totally identify with it....but how was that possible, considering that I was barely a teenager when I first heard it? It was just so raw and emotionally atmospheric and it was one of the early songs that I had heard which was mostly mid-tempo for the bulk of the song, building to a somewhat unexpected big power ending. Power ballad, indeed. When I heard it for the first time, I of course immediately wanted to hear it again. So there I was, glued to my radio, back when you used to do that kind of thing, waiting for them to play it again.
The radio in my area played what I would come to learn was the live video version of "Hold On To The Nights," which was 200 percent more awesome than the studio version in my opinion. When the band reached that power ending, they really went for it, above and beyond what had been captured on the studio version of the song.
Years later, when I tried to find that video version in audio form, I discovered it was quite an impossibility to track down, because for whatever reason, it had never made it to any of the Marx hits compilations. I finally found it as a bonus track on an import 3" CD single.
The first time I went to see a Richard Marx concert in the late '90s, he didn't play "Hold On To The Nights." Thus began a quest to see a show where it was in the setlist. Finally, after four or five shows over the next few years, I got to see him do it...and he nailed it.
Remembering now that it was his first number one hit, it's kind of curious that he doesn't have it in the setlist as an automatic....what's the story there? I'm not sure, but the story behind the song itself is pretty awesome. Here it is, in Richard's own words...
"Hold On To The Nights" was my first number one pop single and it was the fourth and last single from the first album. I wrote "Hold On To The Nights" in the middle of making the first album, so it wasn't a song that pre-existed. I really only had one real ballad on the record, which was the last song, "Heaven Only Knows" and I felt like I needed another ballad for this first album.
I went into produce "Hold On To The Nights" with my engineer David Cole and we deliberately produced it in such a way....I was listening to the So album by Peter Gabriel non-stop at the time. Because I made this record in 1986 and it came out in 1987. So 1986 was the year of Peter Gabriel's So, so "Sledgehammer," "Don't Give Up," "Red Rain" and all of those amazing tracks from the So album. When I would listen to Peter Gabriel's record, I was so blown away by the space and the atmosphere in those records that he made.
And that's what I wanted to do with "Hold On To The Nights." I didn't want it to be a standard pop ballad. I got a lot of flak from the record company and radio because the drums didn't come in until the very end of the song. There's just a lot of atmosphere and space in the production of "Hold On To The Nights." It's really just about the lyric and my vocal and my piano a little bit. And even that, it's almost produced in a way that it shouldn't have been a hit, because it didn't sound like anything else on the radio. But again, I think that people relate to that lyric and there was just something magical about it that I didn't know at the time.
I built the track up - I played the keyboards on it and Mike Landau's guitar playing had all of this little spacey atmosphere guitar and his solo was amazing. I was lucky enough to get Patrick O'Hearn, the bass player from Missing Persons, to come in and play the fretless bass. Again, not somebody I knew, but I knew a guy who knew him and he was kind enough to come in and help out this young kid making his first record, being me. I had worked a little bit with a drummer named Tris Imboden and Tris, I was a big fan of, because he'd played with Kenny Loggins on the road and had played on a lot of Kenny's albums, so he played drums on "This Is It" and "Keep The Fire" and all of the "High Adventure" album, which I really loved. It was a big album in my life.
I'd become friendly with Tris, so I asked him to come and play drums and all I told him was "hey, when the drums come in at the end, all I know is I want it to be a really dramatic fill, kind of like "In The Air Tonight.'" When Phil Collins' drums come into "In The Air Tonight," everybody goes crazy, because it's so exciting. I kind of wanted that kind of thought. So I think it was really the first take and Tris played that....all of those triplets, it was just so incredible and we were all screaming in the studio. We knew right then and there that we'd made the record that we wanted to make.
I absolutely did not think this was a hit record. I thought it was the opposite of a hit record, but like so many other times, I was wrong, luckily and "Hold On To The Nights" became my first number one single.
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
It's pretty great to see the positive reception to this movie and whether or not it's something that your kids will enjoy, I guess that's debatable - it's going to be a total winner with some....and for others, it might be a bit over their head or out of their personal interest zone.
There's no doubt though that if you're an adult who grew up with Muppets, chances are very, very good that you'll love this movie to pieces.
I certainly did.
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
This one's near and dear to my heart for a couple of reasons. 1) I love Hall & Oates and 2) there was that one time that (in my mind) I almost had a Fiero.
It was the '80s (of course it was) and KWES (my local radio station) was giving away a Fiero. I had the great idea that I could register to win it and we could keep it in our garage until I was old enough to drive it. Dad - who was always very cool in my eyes - said no when I presented him with the idea.
Of course, I now realize that little things like "must be 21 years of age or older to win" probably would have kept me from winning my dream car. Still, it was a lot of fun to dream...
(Kudos to the girlfriend for sharing this picture with me!)more
Written by: Peter Chakerian
Has it really been 25 years since 'Play Deep,' the debut album from British power pop trio, The Outfield? Or 22 years since the last new material that founding members John Spinks (guitars), Tony Lewis (bass) and Alan Jackman (drums) have recorded together—the buoyant 'Voices of Babylon?'
It has. And while I feel old typing that, rarely have I felt so young at once. Why? The group’s brand new effort 'Replay' makes good on all the youthful summertime vibes that earmarked their early work. In fact, it’s the kind of album that makes you feel 1985 again, even when “there’s a clock on the wall… and a mirror reflecting it all” telling you otherwise.
The Outfield took to the airwaves in 1985 with their multiplatinum debut. During the next four summers, the group dominated pop radio and summer concert sheds with a sound so minty fresh, so without airs, and yet so undeniably shrewd, engaging and cotton-candy crafty—not even to mention incredibly American sounding—that MTV audiences couldn’t help but sit up and take notice.
The love affair didn’t last forever, at least with radio followers. But it did for me.
By the time 1989’s 'Voices' arrived, things were steering toward urban contemporary and rap, with sign posts suggesting the alt-revolution was to come. Nonetheless, the group (sans Jackman) soldiered on to ten Billboard chart hits and millions of record sales across the globe.
All that to say, 'Replay' is like Bryan Singer’s reboot of the 'Superman' movie franchise a few years ago: it virtually ignores that anything happened after 'Babylon,' while maintaining a true and defining line to the songcraft and production structure of those first three records. 'Replay' has everything in its right place.
The first single 'California Sun' might as well have been a 'Babylon' b-side. Ditto the sprightly 'Aladdin’s Cave,' 'New York City' and 'Disraeli Years.' Lush vocals abound, with the dual-channel Lewis-Spinks harmonies recalling simpler times, sunnier days and influential classic rock and pop bands at once.
Yes, there are ballads. Natch! It’s The Outfield, after all… but they’re done with a keen eye on the current surroundings and an ear on everything that made (and makes) The Outfield pure magic.
Those poppy brushstrokes, balmy harmonies and chiming guitar lines layer 'Replay'—written, produced, done-and-dusted by Spinks, who owns the masters according to the liners. Dunno what that all means, but if he had to get all overlord to make this record and restore the act’s legacy, it worked.
'Replay' is a time machine designed to suspend disbelief that embraces and rejects time passing. I played this outside in my backyard on a Sunday with a cold Sunkist soda in my hand and my feet in my kids’ wading pool—praise be, of course, to Sir Matt of Wardlaw.
And for a closed-eye moment, I was a skinny (ok, skinnier) 13-year-old at my neighborhood pool waiting for rest period’s end and that night’s softball game and hot dogs on the nearby diamond.
Maybe that means I’ve given up on “what’s next,” but I’d like to think that it means for me what it means for Spinks: that the past was pretty good, the future’s always bright, that you can go home again with the right songs in your heart… and yes, summertime rolls.more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
Driving home tonight, I was listening to the new 'Icon' hits compilation from Steve Winwood and it put my thoughts off into an interesting direction.
One of the things that continually bugs me somewhat silently (except for when I'm writing posts like this) is the shift that Steve Winwood made that took him away from performing material from his '80s albums. Somewhere around the late '90s, it seems like the focus shifted from a somewhat even mix of the old and older to a heavier focus on the earlier material from Blind Faith, Traffic, etc., with the occasional dose of 'Higher Love' thrown in. It was the Winwood equivalent of the expected 'The Way It Is' from Bruce Hornsby, thrown in as a token nod to fans that were listening to his music during that era.
More recently, there's been a bit more of the '80s stuff creeping into his setlists, but it's still not at the level that would make a Steve Winwood concert ticket an automatic purchase for me.
So what would do the trick?
Well, that was what was on my mind as I was driving and initially, my answer was a full album performance of the 'Back In the High Life' album.
But hell, you know I could just as easily go for a double shot - how about both the 'High' and 'Roll With It' albums?
I know - I just presented the world's least likely scenario with the above sentence, but that's my problem that I keep running into. If I get that full album performance, whatever Winwood album it is, there's going to be additional songs that I need to hear. Sure, I'd love to hear the Blind Faith and Traffic stuff, but I also want to hear the other '80s hits like 'Roll With It, 'While You See A Chance,' and maybe even a really cool random deep cut like 'One More Morning.'
For my dream Winwood tour, it's going to have to focus on the '70s and '80s solo stuff nearly exclusively to make room for stuff like the above.
Truthfully, perhaps it would be the 'Chronicles' tour where Steve runs through the entire 'Chronicles' hits album in sequence, with selected additional tracks - stuff that didn't make 'Chronicles' but should have, plus tracks from 'Roll With It.'
I'd be all over that.
Tonight, it all brought me back to 'Talking Back To The Night,' the one Winwood solo track that I always have to crank up, without exception. I can't tell you what it is about that song, but a few years back, I was going through a breakup and in all of the years that I had owned 'Chronicles,' I'd never quite heard 'Talking Back To The Night' the way I did on that night that I listened to it for what effectively was the first time - the first time that I heard it and it really made impact.
It's just one of those great songs that does what any great song should do - it takes you far away from wherever you are at the moment that you're listening to it and it sets your mind free to dream and as your mind begins to wander, you just feel that much better...no matter what your mood is.
At least that's what it does for me. Your mileage may vary.
Honorable mention - how great is 'Vacant Chair?'one
Written by: Matt Rowe
Our friend Matt Rowe from MusicTAP takes a break from bringing us awesome news about things like the recently announced 30th anniversary edition of Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon to ponder Move Like This, the first new studio album from The Cars in 24 years...
One has to ask the question. Why had the original lineup (minus, of course, Benjamin Orr) refused to record over all of these years? Even allowing a faux version of The Cars to come to fruition as The New Cars? Questions, questions. I ask because the new Cars album is a legitimate release, so good that it makes you wonder what magical tracks have been lost along the way due to negligence.
Or is Ric Ocasek that essential to the success of The Cars?
No matter because they're here now with the release of Move Like This (also available on vinyl, for fans of the black wax). And it's filled with ten tracks of excellence. Ten tracks that carry within them the sonic ghosts of the '80s and yet seem so right for the times.
There are lots of surprises here. The opening track, "Blue Tip", while sounding a little different, eventually gains traction. It leads into completely unmistakable Cars music with the excellent "Too Late", and later, the gorgeous ballad, "Soon". "Keep On Knocking" carries the banner high as do, well, let's face it, as do ALL of these tracks. Move Like This is a 'caught breath' of an album, a refreshing, welcomed album from a band that knew how to craft them.
The Cars latest album is a bridge for those that mourn the "golden years" and those that are young now. With releases like these, Rock gets added muscle proving once and for all that those from years past, even decades past can still churn out productive and classic material.
Move Like This is definitely classic Cars and will be remembered well.
Welcome back, boys.one
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
The other day in the office, we discovered with horror that a couple of our younger co-workers were unfamiliar with "No Reply At All" by Genesis. This is hardly a new thing - a few years ago, I went to see Howard Jones with a friend and her boyfriend and at the conclusion, we walked out of the show and he admitted that he hadn't recognized a single one of Howard's hit records. It's sad but true, we might be getting old.
But that doesn't mean that we can't educate the youngsters about the old-timers that are still here and making good music. Enter: Mr. Richard Marx.more
Written by: Matt Wardlaw
All You Need Is Now is seriously the great Duran Duran album that a lot of Duran fans probably never thought they'd hear again, but they've certainly done right with their latest album, produced by Mark Ronson. The album has been available as an Itunes exclusive since late last year and will drop in CD format on March 22nd via S-Curve with several additional tracks (and there also is a deluxe edition available, of course that adds a second disc and for only $1.50 more, it's the easy choice). Here's a clip of the band performing the title track this past week...I'm not sure how "live" it is, but it's awesome to see them on stage again.zero