Interview: Robbie Robertson on The Band and drugs. Oh his new album too. He also has a nice Les Paul

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by rze99, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. Jim622

    Jim622 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Not you. Robbie. I would not ever justify my actions by bringing up a friends who has past issues.
     
  2. Teleguy61

    Teleguy61 Friend of Leo's

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  3. Teleguy61

    Teleguy61 Friend of Leo's

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    Robbie took sole credit for tunes that had contributions from other band members.
     
  4. Keefsdad

    Keefsdad Tele-Holic

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    Sorry, I misunderstood.
     
  5. jimash

    jimash Friend of Leo's

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    My friend was a huge fan so I was too, and we saw them several times around 1970-71.
    Later about 1981 I opened for them at a club, post Robbie, pre Manuel death. It was an interesting evening remininscent of that scene in Blues Brothers where they play the club with the fence in front of the stage. The sound guy ( who I knew) asked me for $20 to turn on the reverb. ( I'd never heard that one before). We had to set up sideways, and the roadies were very nice, and plugged my amp into Jim Weiders Mesa cab just for fun.

    Anyhow I just wanted to say that yes, they cloistered themselves in the dressing room and applied massive quantities, and when they hit the stage it took them about 45 minutes to warm/sober up. Yes, Richie Manuel was very sad. And yes, after the show when we were hanging out, Levon was getting very friendly/handsy with my girlfriend/wife.
    They were magical though.
     
  6. Mad Kiwi

    Mad Kiwi Friend of Leo's

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    There is so much presumption in this comment.

    IF..Robbie was the key songwriter, Melody Lyrics etc....he by law deserves the songwriting credit. Im in a band, we make music to fit the singers basic songs. We introduce key sound signatures etc. BUT get nothing...thats the way it works. Harsh but real.

    IF...the others were too stoned to properly complete the work or couldn't be bothered etc....he deserves the credit.

    And in regard to U2, you have a group of relatively mature, not stoned, not drunk people contributing to a very professionally managed and run band. Not to mention all of the lessons learned from the massive boom and development of the whole industry since the 60's when the Band was setup, contracts written etc.

    I read so many biograhies, autobiographies of bands 60's through 70's and even later that were absolute disasters despite the success. Contracts with album $ values, managers not passing over money etc....there have been many, many lessons learned since then that smart band members can (and should) have taken onboard.

    I.E. Comparing a band from one generation to the other is hardly fair.
     
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  7. Jim622

    Jim622 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Valid points
     
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  8. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    I think some of us might need a refresher course on what constitutes "songwriting" in a legal sense. There are two components-

    1. Lyrics
    2. Melody

    That's it.

    Did you come up with the intro? The guitar solo? An instrumental hook? Determine the beat or rhythm? That's all considered "arrangement," and you are owed exactly squat in songwriting royalties.

    Now, some bands (U2 and REM for example) realized that creating a vast income disparity, especially early on, was bad for morale. Legally though, if you wrote the lyrics and melody you don't owe the other guys in your band a dime of the songwriting royalties no matter what they did.

    One famous example of this is Tom Petty's "Breakdown"- Mike Campbell came up with the famous lick that basically makes the song (and given that it was Petty's first hit, kicked off Petty's career too), but because Petty wrote the lyric and melody, guess who got the songwriting credit?
     
  9. bumnote

    bumnote Tele-Meister

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    Like it or not ^^^^ this is reality.

    Waiting years after the band broke up to address that situation is ridiculous. They weren't complete novices when "Music From Big Pink" came out. They'd released 3 singles prior to renaming themselves, signing with Capitol and releasing "Big Pink"...and they'd been working with Dylan and if you hung around him for that length of time and never realized the importance and rewards of songwriting credits, you weren't paying attention. You fix these problem early on, not years later..by then it's too late.
     
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  10. trouserpress

    trouserpress Tele-Holic

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    Didn't they have the option to share the credits for the melody let's say 50/50 or 60/40 back then?
     
  11. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Don't underestimate how ignorant most musicians were about how the money worked in those days. Hell, most musicians TODAY don't understand it- I have a friend who's going through a thing where an ex-band member is trying to claim songwriting for songs on which he performed but neither composed lyrics or melody. The guy's not trying to pull a fast one, he genuinely doesn't understand.
     
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  12. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    You always have the option to do whatever you can negotiate for, and in 1976 Campbell didn't. He learned fast, though.
     
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  13. jimash

    jimash Friend of Leo's

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    You know......
    I tried that stuff. I tried the group writing credits for morale, especially on the more adventurous material. WE even used a song that my drummer initially came up with and he hummed it for me and I finished it, as our first single.
    We founded a corporation with the band members, manager, and sound guy.
    And the song got play. We got Royalty checks. There was some notice. Bands wanted to be on our label.(Slapstick Records)
    Then guess who had second thoughts about spending the next few years being my drummer, and left the band ?
    Unfortunately the new guy, a great drummer, was weird and made me fire our manager, and then he'd call me and act all insecure because I showed him a demo with a drum machine
    "What do you need me for ?" Oh god. I have to go take a pill, before I start raving about Bon Jovi.
     
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  14. DonM

    DonM Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Wow, that’s a description of Motley Crue. I never expected that of them. I thought Manuel was the only one with a heroin problem. Sometimes the less I know, the better off I am. However, I saw the Band four times and always got the impression that Robbie was a pompous ass, watching him on stage. He always seemed to be mugging trying to gain attention, I believe, due to his not singing lead, and the versatility of the others.
     
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  15. jimash

    jimash Friend of Leo's

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    Many years ago I read "Up and Down with the Rolling Stones"
    Recently I repeated the mistake with "Long Strange Trip" about the Dead.
    TMI.
     
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  16. DonM

    DonM Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Yep, there’s truth in the old adage, “you never want to meet your heroes.”
     
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  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Lots of us can sing and play beautifully, and even write some good songs.
    But few of us managed to make a successful big money business out of singing songs.
    So where is the money exactly in the music business?

    Or we can look at it from the other side.
    A band where one member does all the running around business, keeping it on schedule, booking gigs and recording studio time, and maybe even turning to all the guys who just want to sit around and play, asking them to do some of the work.
    Commonly the sitters prefer to let the runner run while they sit.
    Not that playing and singing is easy, but the money is in the business and the business is hard work that is not enjoyable.
    We've probably all seen this, if not BEEN that guy that does all the work, and even writes a check or hands over some out of pocket cash now and then.
    In many cases these are bands that would not have gotten out of their local bar without the one guy who ran his ass off for a decade making it into a business.

    The guy running around in and out of offices is the guy whose name is signed, and who is responsible.
    Sign the papers own the product.
    Hard to believe that all the members believed they were the songwriters but didn't notice the songwriting credits? Maybe it was later that they decided they had written the songs too?

    Band members who want to make sure they are credited for all that work might need to get off their stools and DO all that work.

    Often it is said that any band wouldn't have sounded like them without all of them.

    The same could be said for any classical orchestra, without those players there would be no music.
    What exactly does that amount to though?

    Would eliminating one member change the success of The Band?
    Which member was the most critical to their success?
    How successful would they have been without the member who did all their business and kept them on track?

    Lose Robbie at the start, likely lose The Band.
    I love all those guys but Robbie was the one who really made it happen, and the one who was indispensable.
    Not having been there it's hard to say exactly how even the songwriting was.
    I've never not added anything to a tune I worked on with a singer songwriter.
    That didn't make me a writer/ co owner of those songs though.

    I can certainly relate to feeling emotions about the appearance of some unfair treatment resulting in one guy doing well but the others doing badly. I'm not sure about the assumption that great musicians did badly because of some old band they were in years ago.
    Great musicians keep making and selling great music, keep making a decent living.
    Robbie didn't get them all blacklisted out of the music business.
    I doubt Robbie caused the substance abuse and depression either.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2019
  18. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    There's no doubt Robertson was "the adult in the room" in that he was focused on the bottom line and had career aspirations beyond party band. He deserves a lot of credit for seeing that they could do more than love songs and party music. He got a lot of credit for seizing the legal initiative.

    Robbie says he wrote all the songs. Maybe he did, maybe not, but still, it's a purely legal distinction. What made those songs good was the people he wrote them for or with, and the musical contributions they made. IMHO Robertson's work outside the Band is banal and uninteresting, and the puffed up mythology of the road that he and Scorcese vended in the Last Waltz is comical and phony. He was probably the songwriter in the legal sense, but in the artistic sense? Everything that made the Band good is somewhere else.

    Another famous example is the Police, "Every Breath You take," where sting is the songwriter but the song depends heavily on Andy Summers add9 arpeggios. Sting gets all the dough, but the song's hook is Summer's work. That's what I mean by a purely legal distinction. Same with the example of Petty's "breakdown." The Zanes book about Petty is really good, BTW--there's a point where Petty seizes control of the legal leadership and all the songwriting, and I think later he's unhappy and feeling lonely and pressured and I think Tench says "well you wanted to be the guy in charge and so you are." Something to that effect: paying the cost to be the boss.

    A kind of reverse example is Little Feat. One great songwriter and musical visionary, Lowell George, and a bunch of really talented musicians. In that band, George was the screw up and squandered everything on drugs, and the others got fed up with waiting for him to do the stuff that he, the self declared leader, needed to do.


    Being in a band is tough. Sooner or later people will feel cheated/underappreciated/exploited. Robbie has the advantage of having outlived everybody else and he's exploiting it to the fullest
     
  19. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's

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    Also his frustration is understandable. The Band is huge; they are making real dough with the chance to make tons more, and plus Robbie has gone from playing bars and screwing chicks from Flin Flon to the big time art-world, where he's buddies with Bob Dylan other celebs and Scorcese is taking him really seriously as some sort of musical sage. And meanwhile all the other guys are still getting high and drunk and screwing. He can't get them to focus. When he does, when they aren't on board fully, the result is Northern lights. Southern cross, which is ok but only just

    I just finished the new SRV bio and it's really interesting how much SRV didn't care about. Like for most of his twenties he's sleeping on couches and owns nothing, and they can't find him for gigs, and he's happy to play for however many people wherever and live on whatever the gig paid and get loaded all the time. The only thing he takes seriously is guitar playing. And for most of the time it's the same way with Shannon and Layton. This has to be a big part of what makes him good, the not giving a...hoot.

    Robbie has to end up being the manager, which is a role he kind of likes, but the rest of the guys just aren't interested in sharing his career plans. Being a manager seems like a very tough gig to me, trying to get a bunch of ******* musicians to be minimally responsible for doing anything other than plugging in and playing
     
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  20. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    You are somewhat right about "at the beginning".....but a large part of Levon's motivation early on was he didn't want to farm cotton. He wanted out of the "family business" as best he could. He did seem to bring a good work ethic to some of the music, but drugs, partying and, above all, women were what lured him in.
     
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