In 1984 I was called for a session at the old Record Plant on 3rd St. to play harp for Rick Springfield. At the time he was a big star on the soap opera General Hospital and had a huge hit called “Jessie’s Girl.”A number one hit.
The song I played on was called “Bop ‘till You Drop.” It ended up being another hit single that rose to 20 on the Billboard Top 100. One has to remember a session player in those days could play on plenty of records and never play on the single let alone being the soloist, so that being considered I’ve been amazingly fortunate, talented (naaahhhh) and most likely totally lucky to being a featured soloist on quite a few Top 10 singles.
One unique thing I remember about that session is that I had an idea (or most likely the producer suggested it) to play a harmony part to a section of my solo. To be honest I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone but it did seem to work at the time and after 30 years it is still interesting. Nonetheless, the powers that be thought it was good enough and released it as a single and apparently it was a good decision.
Radio City Music Hall
I was on tour with Rod Stewart at the time and had a night off in New York City. Rick was playing at Radio City Music Hall and I was invited to the show. As I watched the show I was blown away with the packed house and energy. Rick put on a helluva, energetic show. As I was about to head to the bar for a drink they broke into “Bob Till You Drop” so I stayed to listen, curious to see how they handled the solo part.
As it came to my solo, a chubby white guy in white pants, Hawaiian shirt and Panama hat with a wireless mic apparently playing harmonica strolls on stage and blows a helluva solo. My first reaction was, Damn!!! This guy is good. He’s got my chops down!!! Then it comes to the harmony part and… duh!… I realize it’s me I’m hearing and he’s playing to a backing track!!! I think he was a member of the tour who didn’t have much to do at that moment.
I did have a chuckle and to be honest, at first I was kinda thinking I should be paid for this somehow. But that feeling passed quickly and I just thought it was funny.
Fast forward 33 years to a few days ago, and I get a call from Rick’s producer Matty Spindel asking if I could come to the Malibu studio to record with Rick fucking Springfield on a blues record he’s doing. As we are light-heartedly haggling over a deal, I hear Rick’s voice in the background saying, “And this time Jimmy can even play his solo live!!!” I laughed and I have to admit I was surprised he even knew I was in the audience that night as I didn’t go backstage and we had never spoken in over 30 years. I admit I couldn’t remember if I’d even written a blog about it. I immediately say, “Whoa, is this an offer for a live gig too, damn!!!”
We make our deal which was very fair to all parties and I go up to Rick’s place to record and he is the consummate gentleman that I remembered. He, Matty and I worked together like a well-oiled machine laying down harp on some not-so-easy original blues (5 songs!!) in 3 hours which is a good day’s work in anyone’s book. As Rick was helping me load my beast of an amp (old Fender Concert Black Face) into my truck I asked him how he knew I was in the audience that night at RCMH. He said I don’t know, somebody just told me.
As Rod would often say, it’s a silly life… and as I was driving south on PCH on a beautiful summer day looking over the blue Pacific I felt good… and yes Rod, it is a silly life.