25 May 2008
Nigel Olsson's Fan Club/ Website: Noreen's Interview
Nigel was Elton John's original drummer. With guitarist Davey Johnstone and bassist Dee Murray, Nigel played on all the classic Elton albums. To me, one of the best drummers of the world, a great vocalist singer... So, we have to bring on someone who knows everything about Nigel, that drummer: Noreen Romano
Nigel first contact to music was working as a vocalist, before taking the drums. He started his career, as a drummer, in bands such as Plastic Penny and Spencer Davis Group. Then, Nigel became Elton's tour drummer in the Spring of 1970. What represented Elton in Nigel’s career as a musician and how they met?
Nigel met Elton (and Bernie and Dee) through Dick James Music in London. As you just mentioned, Nigel was playing drums with the DJM group Plastic Penny, and he would hang out at Dick James' studio and help out on Elton's demos along with Penny bassist Tony Murray (no relation to Dee), who went on to play bass on all of Empty Sky. Plastic Penny also recorded an early Elton/Bernie tune, "Turn to Me" which Nigel sang backing vocals on as well as playing the drums--it's a great song. When Nigel found himself out of work after Spencer Davis broke up his group, Elton recommended him to his friend, vocalist David Byron, who was looking for a drummer for his band Uriah Heep. Nigel recorded a couple of songs and played several gigs with Heep, and then Elton asked him and Dee to play a gig to promote the Elton John album at The Roundhouse in London in April 1970. And the rest is history!
Nigel is the drummer who best captured the art of tasteful rock drumming. He said: ”I hate clicks! I just hate them. They're too mechanical and too confining”. How could you define Nigel as a drummer?
What I love about Nigel's drumming is its soulfulness. He's a self-taught drummer, which I think is great, because he can't get bogged down by technique or what he "should" be playing...as he's said, he plays from the heart. He's a very emotional person, and he pours himself into every song. I love when he does something you wouldn't normally expect...you'll wait for a beat that doesn't come, or you'll notice he's tapping out an odd pattern on his bass drum or a cymbal. He's always been so inventive and exciting to listen to, and I don't think Elton's music, especially the classic albums, would have been the same with another drummer.
And how about Nigel’s drawings on the drums? Do you know if himself does it? And why always an orchestral leader?
Oh, you mean Nigel's caricature... we call it the Stick Guy. It's a cartoon of himself viewed from the back, with his once-trademark long hair, wearing headphones and holding up drumsticks. Yes, whenever you see the Stick Guy on a drumhead, Nigel has drawn it himself (and signed the drumhead) just before the concert. It's a ritual he has. DW Drums has also embedded the Stick Guy on the actual shells of Nigel's kit, which gives it a very cool look. If you like the Stick Guy, keep checking nigelolsson.com, as we hope to be launching a new merchandise line this year.
Great! Explain us something about Nigel’s solo career, please. Which songs could you recommend us from Nigel’s catalog and why? And Nigel spent much of the '90s away from music, aside from the occasional recording session, what does he did?
Unfortunately, hardly anything in Nigel's back catalog is available on CD--each album he released was on a different label!--but his albums on vinyl do pop up on eBay from time to time. You can easily get the compilation Golden Classics, which is really the 1979 Nigel album, on CD. Some of my favourite tracks are "China" and his cover of Spirit's "Nature's Way" from Nigel Olsson's Drum Orchestra and Chorus; his cover version of Neil Young's "Alabama," which was only released as a single in the UK in 1972; his single "Only One Woman" and the b-side "In Good Time" (written by Davey Johnstone)--this was the closest we got to hearing Nigel, Dee & Davey as their own band, and they really rocked out; "Something Lacking in Me" and "Tides" from Nigel Olsson in 1975; "Rainy Day" from 1978's Nigel Olsson; "Dancin' Shoes" and "Thinking of You" from Nigel in 1979; "Should We Carry On" from Changing Tides; an unreleased song called "All I Want Is You" which he sang onstage in 1980 during his reunion tour with Elton; "If I Was Love," "Building a Bird," "Say You Feel the Same," and the title track from Move the Universe in 2001.
Nigel spent much of the '90s on the vintage racecar circuit in America as well as working with his father-in-law, reknowned Nashvile producer Larry Butler.
Why do you think Nigel’s reaction was different from Dee, when Elton replaced them of the band? Dee was very upset... Nigel was a great friend of bassist Dee Murray, who unfortunetly passed away. Miss he Dee, does he?
I don't think Nigel had a diferent reaction...I think both he and Dee were very surprised and upset when Elton fired them in the spring of '75; neither of them saw it coming, even though Nigel was working on his solo album for Rocket Records at the time--he'd meant it to be a sideline project. Nigel and Dee were very close, in both their professional and private lives; in the '80s they married American twin sisters and were brothers-in-law for several years before Nigel's divorce. Nigel has said he thinks about Dee every day. I think that shows when he plays the classic songs in concert that he and Dee recorded together.
The Nigel Olsson Fan Club/website was launched in March 1998 by Lisa Ann Nespoli, along with Noreen(the person who knows more about Nigel than he does, according to him). In May, Mark & Kim, next-door neighbours of Nigel's best friend Cris, discovered the 'beginner' website and chat room and informed Nigel & Schanda of the club's existence. They "went official" in July 2000, and Nigel bestowed his new domain name (nigelolsson.com) on him in August 2003... Could you explain us what we could find in that great website, nigelolsson.com?
I'm so glad you like the site! We certainly have the most comprehensive collection of photographs of Nigel, by both professional and amateur photographers, none of whom have ever charged us a cent for their work, bless their hearts. We know we're maintaining the definitive archive when Elton's people come to us for a photograph for a tourbook or a press release, or ask for our help identifying a photo. We like to think that anything you need to know about Nigel can be found on the site, but we always welcome questions and suggestions if something is missing.
Thank you very much for being here in the EltonJohnAllSongsList... oh... do you like Elton? Which are your favourite songs?
I certainly wouldn't be working for Nigel if I didn't like Elton! I've been a huge fan since I first heard "Crocodile Rock" in 1973 when I was a little girl in grammar school. Some favourite songs that spring to mind are "Harmony," "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket," "High Flying Bird," "Tinderbox," "January," "Look Ma No Hands," "Come Down In Time" and "I've Seen the Saucers." My favourite album is probably Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. For the record, I wish Nigel had been in the band and played on Made in England!
Bye Noreen, it was an enjoyable experience to chat a little with a Nigel fan. Greetings to all your community.
You're welcome!!! Well, eltonites, we really must check out this great website: www.nigelolsson.com We have Nigel's Bio | Discography | Album Tracks | Singles | Pre-Penny Days | Plastic Penny | Warpipes | Holiday Greetings | Picture Galleries | Drum Clinic Pix... and if you would, they could forward an email to Nigel for you.