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inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #26 of 61: Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 27 May 11 08:57
    
Thanks, Ed. Looking forward to listening to the SXSW panel that was.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #27 of 61: Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 27 May 11 10:29
    
How did that first move to the States come about? I am trying to remember 
back to the book - he'd gone on tour with Jeff Beck (two tours?) which 
ended badly thanks to Beck. Then, there he is onstage with the Jefferson 
Airplane at Woodstock and tootling off to Marin where he joins Quicksilver 
Messenger Service. Was it just a desire to get out of the rut of the 
previous years' session work? A desire to be elsewhere from Jeff Beck? It 
sounds like session work in the US was less lucrative than in the UK, but 
it seems like he was a band member more over here? Is that a relevant 
observation, even?
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #28 of 61: David Freiberg (freemountain) Fri 27 May 11 10:33
    
Nicky saved our butt in Quicksilver!!  I can't imagine what "Shady
Grove" would have been without HIM!! 
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #29 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Fri 27 May 11 11:02
    
First off a big Hi to David. I just came back from San Francisco and
my last 2 events were a show in Santa Rosa with Richard Thompson and a
book event in Book Passage in Corte Madera. The whole landscape around
Marin and Mill Valley is so redolent of those times when Nicky arrived
on the West Coast. I love being there and wish I could have given David
a book in person. I did visit Julia Brigden who Nicky immortalised as
'Girl From Mill Valley' - which brings us to the Jeff Beck Group...

Nicky joined Beck because he was fed up with the grind of session work
and wanted to get to America. Though the touring with Beck was
anything but easy, he did get to travel all over the States with the
band and when he hit California he fell in love with it. For someone
with his medical conditions, it's not hard to imagine how the sunshine
must have appealed after growing up in foggy London.

It was Glyn Johns who gave him his 'ticket', by booking him for one
track on Steve Miller's 'Brave New World' album in London. Miller liked
Nicky's playing so much he invited him back to California right away
to join him on his next album, 'Your Saving Grace'. (Nicky left the
Beck group less than a week before his departure). Once there he was
invited to play on Jefferson Airplane's 'Volunteers' (which led to the
onstage appearance with them at Woodstock), but it was Quicksilver
Messenger Service who made it possible for him to stay. They had
recently lost a founder member, Gary Duncan, and needed some
instrumental muscle to go back into the studio for a follow-up to
'Happy Trails'. 

No one exactly seemed to remember whose idea it was, but Nicky
definitely hit it off with guitarist John Cipollina and moved into his
house on King Street in Mill Valley. He cut enough tracks for 3 albums
before his membership of the band came to an end and  marrying Lynda
(aka Dolly), his first wife, gave him the necessary Green Card that
allowed him to stay in the USA for (more or less) the next 20 years.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #30 of 61: (tm)whatshername, the elderly freak lady from Washington State (crow) Fri 27 May 11 11:09
    
Fascinating stuff.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #31 of 61: Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 27 May 11 12:03
    
I have never been able to stand Dino Valenti's voice, which makes it 
difficult for me to evaluate Nicky's work on the two post-Shady Grove 
albums, but my, Shady Grove is just wonderful. In fact, one an early mix 
tape I used to go from Fairport singing "Matty Groves," to some Library 
of Congress or Folkways recording of a folk version of "Shady Grove" to 
the QMS version.

(I also miss the version of QMS prior to those sessions. I wouldn't have 
wished the band stay stuck into "channeling Bo Diddley" mode forever, but 
I wish I had more recordings from that time, anyway).

The chemistry seemed to click, as well - or, at any rate, exceptionally 
great music seemed to result. Having said that, I don't think I've ever 
heard any live recordings featuring Hopkins without Vanelli. Did QMS 
simply not perform live during the period that Shady Grove was coming together?
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #32 of 61: Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 27 May 11 12:05
    
I have to add that, as much as I enjoy the keyboards on "Baby's Home," in 
the end I like Steve Miller's singing not a whole lot more than Dino 
Vanelli's. I dunno why. But the recording raises the question in my head 
of why Hopkins didn't continue playing with Miller, or does it just come 
down to happenstance and chance and the recordings we hear are what 
happened to get put together at the time without any metameaning or 
narrative?
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #33 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Fri 27 May 11 12:33
    
Well, Liking or not liking a singing voice is about as subjective as
life gets. Some people can't stand Neil Young's singing - I've always
found it emotive and expressive, though clearly not 'good' in the
normal sense. Likewise Bob Dylan. If I hear Phil Collins or Neil
Diamond I have to reach for the off button, though logically I can see
that the music is well-made and the songs well-written.

I love the first 5 Steve Miller and will continue to do so. Why Nicky
didn't continue to work with Miller is probably down to
spur-of-the-moment decisions made at the time. It's certainly true that
when Dino and Gary rejoined QMS, Dino's aggressive  and domineering
ways put paid to Nicky's involvement. I believe I do have a couple of
live recordings of the 4-piece line-up. They certainly played some
shows. Interesting to link QMS and Fairport...definite connections, now
you mention it.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #34 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Sat 28 May 11 07:51
    
Oh and its Dino Valenti...his son Joli came and sang with me at the
Book Passage book event I mentioned earlier.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #35 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Sat 28 May 11 23:35
    
Well we seem to have hit a slight pause here. I guess everyone is out
having a barbecue or something.

I'll throw out the concept that Nicky Hopkins should be inducted into
the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ASAP - next year would be good.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #36 of 61: Ed Ward (captward) Sun 29 May 11 01:28
    
But are there any other studio musicians/sidemen in there? Come to
think of it, is Quicksilver even in there? I mean, Carol Kaye should
also be in the "Hall of Fame," but the voting population is pretty
entirely ignorant of rock history.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #37 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Sun 29 May 11 04:25
    
Hi Ed,
A precedent was set last year when Spooner Oldham was inducted (I
don't know if he is the first sideman in there. I know Spooner through
my Dan Penn connection and though he has done incredible work in his
career (all the Muscle Shoals and Memphis stuff plus stints with Neil
Young & Bob Dylan), I still think that Nicky Hopkins pips him at the
post for sheer breadth of sessions and for his 'A List' clients. Just
the big 4: Beatles, Stones, Who and Kinks, quite apart from the other
300 major and minor artists he worked with justify a Hall Of Fame
nomination. There has been a petition going round the internet, and I'm
hopeful that the book might help focus some attention on him for 2012.
I thoroughly agree about Carol Kaye...
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #38 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Sun 29 May 11 04:26
    
PS I don't know if Quicksilver have made it yet. Let's ask David
Freiberg.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #39 of 61: Ari Davidow (ari) Sun 29 May 11 09:34
    
I would happily join any campaign to elect Nicky Hopkins to the rock 'n' 
roll hall of fame.

One of the things I think I gathered from your book, Julian, is that he 
was pretty straight until moving to California, where he eventually got 
more and more heavily into drugs to the point where he ultimately checked 
into rehab. 

Okay, so up to that point, a familiar story. But post rehab, he seems to 
have almost started anew--new bands, experimenting, finally, with 
keyboards and synthesizers, something he had once avoided. It's like the 
same creative drive that made him great in the '60s and '70s overwrote the 
equally strong preference to stick with his big accoustic pianos.

Can you speak a bit to that period and to his newer work, including, as 
near as I can tell, a plethora of film scores?
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #40 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Sun 29 May 11 11:00
    
The 70s was a difficult time for many musicians and Nicky didn't
escape either. It is a tribute to his strength that he recovered from
his addictions, but he pushed the drugs and alcohol lifestyle almost to
the ultimate limit. After being given two weeks to live, he went
through rehab in 1979/80 and that new phase in his life involved
re-making old acquaintances, establishing new ones and passing on the
message that he was sober and back on top form. 

I don't think he ever lost his love for his grand piano, but in the
80s, just being rock's greatest piano-player was no longer enough. The
world had moved on and in the era of sequencing, drum machines and
digital technology, a move towards synthesisers was almost a must.
Nicky actually embraced new keyboard innovations with open arms and
great skill, witnessed by his brilliant and very successful film and TV
soundtracks, which he sometimes composed and arranged and conducted
himself (or played everything himself on a sampler). I think his real
allegiance still lay with his grand piano - the love of his life!
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #41 of 61: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Sun 29 May 11 12:17
    
I've been loving this topic.   For a guy whose era WAS the 70s, I'm amazed
at how much I'm learning.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #42 of 61: David Freiberg (freemountain) Sun 29 May 11 13:19
    
No ... Quicksilver is NOT in the H of F (and I'm not holding my
breath)- but I surely think Nicky should be ... Geeez!!!
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #43 of 61: (fom) Sun 29 May 11 15:22
    
(Quicksilver should be in the HOF too.)

re the JG band at the Keystone in 1975 -- I think I actually was there one 
night. Must listen to the recording.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #44 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Sun 29 May 11 16:30
    
Amazing to read all these varied and interesting postings - When you
see some of the cr-p that has made it into the Hall Of Fame, I'm
shocked that QMS is still languishing outside - not that it matters
cosmically...but Nicky? What has a man got to do to qualify? Come on H
o F people...

Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, Steve Miller, QMS, Airplane, Joe Cocker,
Peter Frampton, Fats Domino, Ella Fitzgerald, Meatloaf, Rod Stewart,
Donovan, Jeff Beck, Lennon, Harrison, McCartney, Ringo, Cat Stevens,
Yardbirds, Dusty Springfield, The Move, The Hollies, The Easybeats,
Nilsson, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Garcia, Lowell George, Jack Bruce,
Gary Moore, Spinal Tap!!! Need I say more? And that is just scratching
the surface with Nicky Hopkins...
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #45 of 61: My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Mon 30 May 11 16:17
    
this is a bit of a non-sequitor but one of the things i liked about the book
was the perspective it gave on Keith Richards and the Stones.  Nicky's
perspective is both as an outsider, he never became an actual band member,
but also as an insider--imo, he is pretty resposible for a lot of great
things on some of their best work.  I read the keith autobio recently, which
I liked, but thought that Nicky's take on the band and some of the famous
episodes gave a richer and more complex context, a better background, in
which to look at KR's version of events.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #46 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Tue 31 May 11 02:37
    
I'm glad you felt the book gave a different viewpoint. I think that
being a musician myself led me to ask questions a journalist might not
have. Considering that Nicky appears on 14 (!!) Stones albums, the fact
that Keith only mentions him twice in his autobiography, is amazing
really. 

I interviewed Keith for the book and at one point asked him if Nicky's
chronic illnesses ever meant he was absent or had to leave a session
early. He replied that that was the reason the Stones never took Nicky
out on tour. Since Nicky played on some of the most celebrated Stones
tours of all time (the legendary '72 tour of the USA, for instance),
this shows how little Keith, bless him, can actually remember. I liked
Keith's book, but it was mostly a patchwork of stories and anecdotes
that have been around for some time. There were precious few real
insights into the life and work of the Stones. Still a good read
though. 

Whether Nicky was ever formally asked to join the Stones remained one
of the unanswered questions in my book. Opinions within the band
differed wildly.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #47 of 61: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 31 May 11 07:32
    
Well, Keith was deeply loyal to Ian Stewart.   "Life" seemed to be him
reminiscing about old friends, and even Darryl Johnson, who updated their
sound in a major way, gets very little mention.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #48 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Tue 31 May 11 10:37
    
Hi rik,
I wasn't meaning to diss Keith's book in any way. I thought it had a
great vibe and sounded authentic, which is already 2 good things. 

Curiously, the Nicky / Ian Stewart relationship was completely without
any rancour or sour grapes. Stu loved his 3 chord blues and boogie and
if any minor chords were called for, he was the first to say, 'Get
Nicky Hopkins in!' There's a lovely story in the book from Stu's wife
Cynthia who remembered the two of them playing beautifully on 2 pianos
at home and the contrast between Stu's big 'workman's hands' and
Nicky's thin spidery digits.

I don't think Mick and Keith have ever been too focused on the people
around them, even when they were making major contributions to the
Stones' music. Strangely I knew Darryl years before he joined the
Stones when he was playing sessions in Berlin (for some reason).
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #49 of 61: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Tue 31 May 11 13:01
    
Didn't take it as a diss, and am very much enjoying this.   And yeah, the
Glimmer Twins did tend towards self-centeredness.
  
inkwell.vue.408 : Julian Dawson, "And on Piano, Nicky Hopkins" May 25-June 1
permalink #50 of 61: Julian Dawson (juliandawson) Tue 31 May 11 14:33
    
Maybe you can't keep a machine like the Stones rolling all those years
without having the ability to use who and what you need and then move
on regardless. 

There are certainly a few notable casualties left in their wake. Is it
a coincidence that when they stopped recording with Nicky and the 2
horns (and Mick Taylor) the quality of the songwriting and the albums
took a dive (with certain occasional and honourable exceptions)?
  

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