Friday, August 26, 2011


(M. Finnigan/S. Finnigan/Royer) Okay, enough with all this nuisance good taste. Time to get a little raucous. Boys was a bluesy idea I had been working with for quite a while when I showed it to Mike Finnigan. This was about 1990 and I had been working with the Finnigans, Mike and Sean, in one combination or another, since the late 70s. For the historians among you, here’s some background…

In 1978 I was producing a band called Tracks which kept morphing members and names. It started in 1976 as Baby Grand with Mike Boddicker, a keyboardist-singer, Eric Nelson on bass and Pat Mostelato on drums. Baby Grand had a lot of label interest at the time, however it was decided that the band needed a guitar player and Chuck Cochran was added. There was immediate tension between Chuck and Boddicker and when the split came I broke on Chuck’s side.

Okay so now we needed a keyboardist. All-world pianist Larry Knechtel joined the band (which was renamed Bandit) but he decided he needed to move back to Washington and once again, we needed a keyboard player. Mike Finnigan was a legend around LA and I decided to go for the best. I chased him down at the Saddle Peak lodge. He was just out of a couple of record deals, one on Columbia, the other on Warner Brothers, disgusted with the pop scene and resolved to play only the blues.

Here I am trying to talk him into another pop band. I said I was thinking about the audience. His reply: I’m an audient.

I could see he was going to be a handful, but he was an unbelievable player and singer so we combined him with Chuck, uber-bassist David Miner, drummer Rick ‘Snacks’ Jaeger and percussionist-singer Harry Stinson. This was Tracks’ final line-up.

I worked with Tracks for four years, we had interest at A&M but could never get them to pull the trigger so I finally turned the project over to producer Freddie Pirot to see if he could have any better luck. He didn’t.

Okay, here’s where it gets weird. During our last days together in Tracks, Mike kept telling these hilarious jail stories about his brother Sean, who in a momentary lapse of judgment had robbed thirty one banks. I was veering off into writing screenplays at the time, partially because of frustration with the music scene (we were in the throes of Disco) ended up telling Sean’s story to a studio, they loved it and, after parting company with Tracks, my next years were occupied with trying, along with his family, to get Sean out of jail so we could write this movie. Quick summary: Sean got out in 1986, screenplay was written in three weeks, sold to producers at Fox, major director was brought in, Spielberg swooped on the director and, after writing and selling several more screenplays, it was back to the music business.

Clear? Good. Cut back to early ‘90s and, at this point, I am working with both Finnigans. One day while messing around with Boys, Mike activates, starts throwing around ideas, new riffs and rhythms, he and Sean write a bridge, Sean ends up on Bass, I get assigned lead guitar and… well this is the result.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Angel Mine

(Smotherman/Royer) Micheal Smotherman is a true master songwriter, with a haunting voice. An Oklahoma boy, he played for many years in Roger Miller’s band. Glen Campbell once recorded seven of Micheal’s songs on one album. One of my favorites of his is ‘Do I Ever Cross Your Mind’, written with Billy Burnette, recorded by Ray Charles (the title track of his 1984 album) and featured again on Ray’s last album in a duet with Bonnie Raitt.

Micheal and I agreed that I would try to produce him sometime in the late 90s but it took several tries to even get close to capturing his magic. After a number of misfires in large studios I took him over to Todd Cerney’s home studio and the three of us started working on the elusive task of getting to the bottom of Micheal Smotherman. Several of the tracks were recorded or finished at Todd’s. Other tracks were recorded in a small house that stood behind my home in Nashville. Seems like the more humble the setting, the better he sounded.

Angel Mine is a song Micheal and I wrote for the project. The original track for it was laid on a mandocello, a bizarre instrument I bought at a flea market near the river locks in a bad section of London. The minute I played it I was captured by the sound. After the mando part went down, Todd and Micheal laid on several overdubs. The track is from the Album ‘Conjure Man’, a project Micheal and I are very proud of.

Angel Mine

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Edge Of Love

(Burnette/Royer) I met Billy Burnette through Jimmy Griffin when I first moved to Nashville. Those audiophiles among you will know all about the Burnette family. Dorsey Burnette, who had a hit in 1960 with Tall Oak Tree was Billy’s dad. He continued to have success on the pop and country charts for many years. Dorsey’s brother, Johnny, had a number of hits on his own including You’re Sixteen, Dreamin’ and many others. The brothers also wrote hits for Ricky Nelson, including It’s Late. Both brothers are considered quintessential rockabilly pioneers and both are in the rockabilly hall of fame.

This is a Memphis story. Young Jimmy Griffin grew up near the Burnettes and used to hang around, trying to soak up as much influence as he could. He looked up to Johnny and Dorsey just as Billy, ten years younger than James, admired him. Of course Jimmy went on to find success in Bread and Billy, among his many credits, joined Fleetwood Mac, replacing Lindsay Buckingham when he left.

Billy and I knew each other for several years before we finally sat down to write. Edge of Love came quickly. I was highly cognizant of Billy’s legendary rockabilly status and was trying to write something that had rockabilly roots but a bit of post-Beatle mentality. With Billy playing these rippin’ guitar riffs it wasn’t hard. Billy does all the guitars and the vocals and I’m pretty sure that’s Dave Roe on Bass and Lynn Williams on drums. We didn’t get too far on the demo because Billy immediately re-cut it for an album he was working on at the time. But since rockabilly is such a bare-bones medium, I think the economical demo stands up pretty well.

Edge Of Love

Monday, August 8, 2011


(Knechtel/Cerney/Royer). This song grew out of an improv that Todd and Larry and I did in whatever you’d call the post-Toast configuration after Jimmy left (Crumbs, I guess). I wrote the lyric as kind of a tribute to the generous spirit of my wife Madeleine. I imagined a story about a guy who is down on his luck, has taken a tremendous fall, possibly homeless, and is now obsessing on a girl he occasionally sees, who seems to embody everything that is positive and hopeful for him.

The record is unfinished; we never got the guitars on. We have Todd’s vocal and Mandolin, my keyboard and Larry’s bass part but I had a really specific idea what the track should sound like and I guess I drove everybody nuts. I wanted a certain on-the-upbeat bass part that was completely foreign to Larry, but to his credit he hung in there and got it for me. But by the time we did, Todd was burnt, needed a break and we never got back to it. I would have probably finished it on my own but Todd had a completely unique way of recording that was part 8-track tape, part sequencer and part VCR audio. Simply untransferrable. There are a number of other Toast songs that only exist in this system and, now that he is no longer with us, may be permanently lost. We always thought we’d do it someday but, by the time we realized there was no someday, Todd was already very sick and had to concentrate on other things. At least with Magdalena we got a critical mass. For some reason, on this one, I’m going to include the Lyric.

Magdalena, will you be by tonight?
Cause when I see your angel’s face
This is my one redeeming grace
For a stranger, new to this circumstance
Here on the mean streets of this town
Where everything just pulls you down
But when you come around…

There’s a heaven that I see in your eyes
And there’s halo ‘round the street lights so bright
And I feel like it’s gonna be all right

Magdalena, girl how I need you now
If one like you can really be
Then maybe there’s a prayer for me
Please be there for me

Cause there’s a heaven that I see in your eyes
And there’s halo ‘round the street lights so bright
And I feel like it’s gonna be all right

And I could walk on the water
I’d have mind over matter
If you’d shed your grace on me
Magda darlin’ will I see you tonight?
Be there for me

Oh Magdalena