Springtime in Paris can be highly overrated. It can rain for days with a freezing dampness that seeps into your bones and won’t let go. The best remedy I’ve come up with is snuggling up until noon with a sweet little mademoiselle, then after a leisurely hot bath with said mademoiselle, a cafe au lait avec un croissant, and then maybe a glass of rose with a hash joint. Finally, it’s off to the studio to enter the bizarre world and imagination of Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart and a certain chanteuse by the name of Annie Lennox and… well what can I say? With a set of circumstances such as these one can soften the blow so to speak.
[Disclaimer: In the following, I discuss my use of illegal drugs. Let me be clear, I no longer do illegal drugs or have plans to ever do them again, nor do I wish to condone or encourage their use by anyone. Illegal drugs were a part of my life in the past and I can’t change that.]
But of course if you’re married and the wife is back home half way across the world in LA wondering what the fuck you’re up to, the musician sideman must convey with every phone call, the monotony of the endless sessions, the horribly boring and lonely existence you are enduring and how much you miss your beloved. Lord knows she isn’t buying it most of the time but if a man with a silver tongue and flawless delivery can get it just right he can end up having his better half feeling sorry for him for all his suffering… kind of. Oh how I suffered! I knew my acting career was just a matter of time.
I’d been in Paris about a month working on the, “Revenge,” album and filming videos with Eurythmics. The powers that be, i.e. RCA Records, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, were very excited and pleased with how the new album was coming along. As I’ve mentioned before, they were trying to move away from their techno pop formula and rock out a bit more to reach more AOR (Album Oriented Rock) radio stations in America. Apparently they were succeeding by the looks on the faces of the RCA A&R reps after playing “Missionary Man” and a few other tracks from the new album for them. The unique phenomenon of a collective group high (very high some days) of working on a project that everyone feels has, “ the magic,” to it, all being done in one of the great cities and studios of the world and planning a world tour on top of it all can be intoxicating to say the least. Throw in some beautiful dancers and models in the mix with carte blanche entrance to all the top clubs and restaurants of gay Paris and life can seem very sweet for us lowly musician types. Alas, my friends, the suffering was immense.
One day Dave Stewart came into the studio to announce that we would all be going to Montreux to perform a few songs for something called the Montreux Pop Festival. I’d been to Montreux a few years earlier as a guest of the late great Claude Nobs, the well known founder of the immensely more famous, Montreux Jazz Festival, so I was familiar with the place a bit.
There we are not even finished with the record and going on a mini road trip. Nothing shows what people are made of more than life on the road and nothing gets my motor running like a road trip. Let’s just say it can be very enlightening and revealing… and frightening at times.
We flew into Geneva and then we were to catch a train up the beautifully rugged Swiss Alps into Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva. If you’ve never been, Montreux is right out of a post card, nestled on the shores of a large bay looking south silhouetted by the spectacular Alps… and of course we’re staying in a five star hotel right on the lake called the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic. And boy did that mutha live up to its name.
When we all met at the airport we discovered Dave would be hooking up with us later as he was working with Mick Jagger and Daryl Hall on a theme for a soundtrack to a movie, “Ruthless People”, starring Bette MIdler. And man, that use to really piss Annie off. Ya know, like Dave standing her up for other projects and especially this one ‘cause Mick seemed always to be hanging around pulling Dave in a million different directions other than Eurythmics. I remember Annie getting on the tour bus outside the Sunset Marquis in Los Angeles one time, screaming her head off saying, “…that stupid Motherfucker… we put all this time and energy to get to this level and he keeps fuckin’ around with all this other shit!” She was crying and throwing shit, it was heavy. It definitely put a little vibe on our trip to Santa Barbara. Forgive me, but I digress. Back to our adventure.
Another little surprise at the airport for us was that Annie’s dear old mother would be making the journey to Montreux with us. Apparently her husband had just died a month or so before and this was to be her first trip out of Scotland. She was a very reserved and proper Scottish matron. I was politely introduced to her and didn’t think much of it as I didn’t think we’d be hanging out together much. So we all arrive (minus Dave) at this motherfuckin’ Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic five star hotel and it was all of that and more. I mean this thing was a fuckin’ palace. We’re waiting for the keys for our rooms and everything’s cool until some of the group arrived to their rooms and after seeing what they are going to be living in for the next four or five days they are not pleased. On a rock and roll tour or any tour for that matter, if you’re not the star you never know what the fuck you’re going to end up in.
As it turned out, most of the lowly members of the orchestra ended up with tiny little rooms on the inner sanctum of the hotel which means when you look out your window you are staring at a brick wall with no natural light, full of pipes and air conditioning ducts. Sounds pretty glamorous, eh?
At the same time these poor shmucks are discovering their fate, I remember padding down a huge, dimly lit hallway on some luxurious carpet looking for my room number. I finally come to it and tried the key (a real old key like in an old movie) and the door swings open and it’s very dark and there’s nothing in the room. I’m thinking, not only is there no bed or furniture there’s not even a TV or bathroom… and then I realize this is just a fairly large security foyer just to get to my real door.
I finally get the real door open and I’m blown the fuck away. I mean, there definitely had to have been some kind of mistake here. Now I’ve stayed in some sweet hotels in my time and hung out in some bad-ass suites like the Presidential Suite in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, but this bastard was the Mother of all suites. The chandelier was immense. EVERYTHING was IMMENSE. Decorated in classic French/Swiss decor with Louis XlV furniture and original art on the walls. Gilded mirrors everywhere. Flowers and huge bowls of fruit. Hell, you could’ve had a nice cocktail party for 25 easily in the bathroom.
I start exploring a bit and tripping thinking, oh shit, I must have got Dave or Annie’s room so I better not get too cozy in here. We were on the top floor which was around the eighth floor and I went through a room with a wet bar at least fifteen foot long with French doors leading out to a very long balcony with tables and umbrellas looking out over a million dollar view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
I grabbed a beer out of the fully stocked refrigerator and sat out on the balcony to soak up the scenery so to speak when I heard a door opening on the far side of the bar… and who walks in? None other than Dave Stewart acting so nonchalant and he says in his sometimes annoyingly low key monotone, ”Hi, Jimmy Z…nice place, eh? Is your room ok?” like it happens everyday. So I play along and say, “It’ll do. I suppose I can suffer through it for a few days.” We have a good laugh and yuck it up a bit exploring both suites which were connected through the bar in between them. Private but connected if you wanted to be. I guess there had been no mistake because Annie had her suite. I’d just got lucky.
We had to meet up in the lobby to go check out the gig, which was being held at the Casino where the Jazz Festival is held also. When I got to the lobby I heard Clem Burke, the drummer (Blondie) bitching at the desk clerk about his room and some others too and I realized just how lucky I’d been. They would be sleeping in the equivalent of a broom closet with toilet. I kept it quiet for a while but at the sound check I just had to share my good fortune with the band. I really had no choice as Dave stuck me in it by saying, “Well mine and Jimmy Z’s rooms are ok.” Oh well c’est la vie.
As it turned out, our guide and minder for the festival was a gorgeous little brunette French-Swiss girl. Everybody was perking up and hitting on her immediately and I have to admit I was lying back waiting for my chance too. When we had a moment together I asked her if she could score me some hash or blow. She said she’d see what she could do and I went back hanging with all the cats at the bar. As I said it was the Montreux Pop Festival, which meant each act could play up to four songs to a backing track and in our case Annie would really be singing. Basically it was for British and European TV and they wanted it that way. I hate it myself and always prefer really playing (what a concept) so when we were doing our sound check I asked our Scottish roadie Booby Daniels (who had been Elton Johns longtime roadie and out with us on the Petty tour) to plug my harp amp in so I had some juice in case something happened or I just go bored during the taping.
I can’t remember the whole lineup but it was pretty cool on our night. There was Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Roger Daltry, Paul Young and our keyboard player Pat Seymour knew the Attractions and most of the cats so we were all getting pretty frisky at the Casino bar together and everybody was giving me stick for having a suite and they started planning a, “big fucking knees up in Jimmy Z’s fuckin’ suite, the fucking cunt!” after the gig. Which, at the time, sounded pretty good to me but having been with the Rod Stewart Group for five years I was a little leery about having a suite full of raging Brits on my hands and the possible chaos and damage that can ensue ignited by the tiniest amounts of liquor and drugs (and most times not so tiny!)
Then something happened that sealed my fate. All the groups shared a private VIP lounge area with a full bar. It was packed and the Eurythmics band members were in full regalia. We all had on long, black dusters, black pants and cowboy boots with a white shirt. All I needed was a mustache and bolo tie and I’d have looked like Wyatt fucking Earp. Not bad, though. Our sexy little minder came up to me and said in a sizzling French accent, “I think I have what you want.” So of course I couldn’t help myself and I look her right in the eye and say wearily “Je sais, ma cherie… je sais.” (I know, my darlin’… I know) She gives me a half smile, sideways look that says, “yeah, yeah, very funny ya fuck”, and we walk away from the bar looking for a little privacy. The only place we could find was the women’s bathroom just right off the bar… and I mean the door was very close.
Fortunately, it was empty and we tumble into a stall and she proceeds to get out a small packet and start chopping some rails on a little mirror set up she had. We do a couple of lines and we hear someone walk in the bathroom and we freeze. We’re standing there so close to each other trying not to move let alone breath and I sneak a peak through the cracks and its Annie fuckin’ Lennox primping in front of the mirror for the longest time. Finally, she leaves and I go for it and give her kiss and she kisses me back and things are heating up nicely but I’m do on stage in 5 minutes so I say to her “C’est soir? Toi et moi?” and she just smiles and I have her leave the stall first and I wait for about 2 minutes.
It seems like the coast is clear, so I slip out doing my best James Bond and as soon as I go through the door and turn the corner, Annie is right there waiting for me and she yells, “Ah, Ha! I knew it!” and I swear to you she turns around running and skipping through the whole bar yelling, “I just caught Jimmy Z fucking a girl in the bathroom!” over and over. She was so proud of me she told me later. Said that it felt like she was in a real Rock n Roll band now.
I walked out a bit sheepishly, and there are all my boys, the Attractions, Costello, and Dave. What a predicament. What was I to say, “Uuhhh… actually I wasn’t just fucking that beautiful, sexy French girl in the john/loo… she was just packing my nose to the fucking gills with drugs right before my first show ever with you… that’s all… no biggie.” You see what I mean. Not exactly the thing you want to be saying to your new employer on the first gig. So I tried to act cool, ordered a drink and just took the ribbing and got on with it. Which is not the worst thing in the world to be thought guilty of in front of your new mates.
We finally go on for the taping of our mini concert and it was a technical disaster. Something happened to our backing tape or DAT. I believe it still was tape back in those days and when you ain’t live, you’re just standing up in front of a packed house like an idiot. So thank God I had asked for a live amp and Dave had asked for one too when he heard I was getting one and he and I proceeded to jam and thrill the crowd with some impromptu boogie shuffle with harp and guitar. We were smokin’. The TV people finally got their shit together, we made a decent showing of pantomime with Annie singing live and we were out of there back to the Grand Majestic, with our sweet, sweet little guide leading the way.
(photo courtesy eurythmics-ultimate.com)
Continued in Part 2
Jimmy, I follow your career as if knew you, as if you belong to my culture. I am very happy when I open my mail and find your news. My grandfather and niece are musician. I’ve seen most of your videos. I like very much your sense of humor. Unfortunately, as time passes, the career of the artist is losing strength giving way to younger musicians, I hope you are motivated to go on for many, many years. Sorry to tell you as if you were here on the side, a longtime friend. When it comes to appear again in Rio? hopefully soon. Nobody plays sax and harmonica like you. I wish you the best.
Thank you for your support for so many years. It’s nice to hear that people enjoy the blog and my music. I plan on playing and creating as long as possible so stay tuned for more in the future.
I too enjoy the stories my brotha. I still chuckle from the Stevie Wonder backstage story. On a side note, we just finished mixing and mastering our songs including a few tunes that you played on over at Studio City Sound. Need to get those to you. Sorry we missed you when you came up to Sac.
Glad you enjoy the blog. Yeah too bad about Sac.It was a great night. Can’t wait to hear the songs.
Have really enjoyed reading your recollections of the past. Love the humor and the vivid writing here. Do you ever dispense wisdom to aspiring, up and coming musicians on how to survive the tours, the business, the women – in other words how to be successful and not lose your soul and all your money? Keep up the good work Z.
So glad you enjoy the blog. I’m not sure I’m the one to be advising young musicians on the ways of the world but hell… why not? Ha!! As far as my soul I’m fairly sure it’s still mine and intact. I wish I could say the same for all the money I made but sadly no, I spent it as fast or faster than I made it and lived the life of a millionaire as song goes. But damn I had good ride. So I’ll just have to share the wild, tall tales (all true) and let the chips fall where they may.
April in Paris and the Road Back to Montreux part 2
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