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3 Dec 2008

Ladies & Gentlemen: please stand up to welcome one of the greatest drummers of the world: Charlie Morgan!!!

Charlie was one of the first sticksmen to master the art of playing alongside drum machines with pinpoint accuracy, while at the same time creating a dynamic live feel. Over the past two decades, Charlie Morgan has established a reputation as one of the most respected and successful players in the world of drums, appearing on albums by Elton John, Kate Bush, Nik Kershaw, Air Supply, Tina Turner, Gary Moore, Beverly Craven & Tasmin Archer. And he gives me the opportunity to chat a little with him.

So, thank you very much Charlie. It's a privilege and an honour for me to do this interview.

You are very welcome. It's great to be able to chat with you.

After signing recording contracts with a several bands, you decided to concentrate on session work. Your success came with Kate Bush's "Lionheart" album in 1978, following Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, Queen & Nik Kershaw, among others. Also you collaborated with spanish band Mecano, with Hans Zimmer precisely. Which memories have you got to work with those artists?

Well, they are all so different. I think that's why I loved session work so much. Every day was a challenge for me. The McCartney sessions were a lot of fun. We hung out at his studio in the south of England, along with Duane Eddy, Jim Horn and Phil Pickett (Culture Club) as well as my old friend, Nick Glennie-Smith (Studio owner, film composer). Phil Ramone was producing the sessions, and Linda came and spent some time with us all. I remember chatting with her a lot. She even gave me a photo she took of Paul playing guitar in their kitchen. I have it back in storage in the UK.

I have known Hans Zimmer for a long time. We both worked a lot at Nick Glennie-Smith's studio in London, and when he first got into movie scoring, I played drums for him. I think the first movie was called "The Fruit Machine".... kind of horror/suspense movie. I remember the main character gets beheaded! We recorded Thelma & Louise in Hans' own studio: Hans, for some reason, decided we would do the LAST cue first, so I got to see them driving off the cliff before anything else!

The Nik Kershaw sessions were amazing. Such an incredible talent. I was knocked out by his musicianship and writing ability. I remember turning to producer Peter Collins at one stage and saying: "this guy's a genius."

I never met Tina Turner during the Thunderdome session. I was working with writer, Terry Britten, and sound engineer John Hudson. I knew the song would be a big hit at the time. Sometimes, you just know.

Great!!! By the mid 80's you were one of the two top-call session players in your country. Could you tell me how you got involved with Elton and how you ended up recording and touring with him?

Actually, it was through the Nik Kershaw sessions. As you probably know, Nik sang and played guitar on "Nikita" (along with George Michael). During the session, Elton mentioned the drumming on the "Human Racing" album, and Nik told him about me. Apparently, he asked Gus Dudgeon to contact me and have me play on a couple of tracks. That was the "Ice on Fire" album.

Have you been an Elton fan before?

I was a huge Elton fan, right from the first album, through Tumbleweed Connection and Madman, Yellow Brick Road etc. Capt. Fantastic is one of my all-time favourite albums.

Nice!!! During "Ice On Fire" sessions, Elton asked you to join him for a charity show to be held at Wembley Stadium later in the year. That was LiveAid! I read that you couldn't hear Elton, and he couldn't hear you, during the show and that you had to watch the tapping of his food in time to beat. It was that so?

Yes, the monitor system went down for the first song and I just watched for EJ's foot to tap in time.

Incredible!!! Leather Jackets sessions were in the middle of Elton's worst drugs days. Lot of material from those sessions weren't as good as Gus Dudgeon should expected, and Elton's mood was up and down. What do you remember about that period?

I do remember the sessions being very long, sometimes well into the early hours of the next morning. But it was also a productive time.

If that wasn't enough, Elton began to have serious problems with his voice, at the America's leg of the Tour. How Elton announced his throat problems and he had to been operate?

In the latter part of 1986, Elton was really struggling with his voice. By the time we were in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, it was obvious he was going to need surgery. I remember he told us towards the end of the tour. The last night of the tour, in Sydney was an emotional affair. I think Elton sang that night as if he would never sing again, because there WAS a possibility of this being the case. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down" was especially good that night. I remember looking across at the end of the song, and there were tears streaming down Elton's face. He put everything into it.

Yes, he did!!! Also it was a 1985 recording session with Cher on that time. And the Don Was sessions in 1990… What do you remember from those sessions? Do you have in mind the name of some of the tracks they were recording? And you know why these projects didn't come out?

I wasn't really involved with the Cher sessions, OR the Don Was sessions.

Anna from Barcelona has the following question for you: Elton has been described by most people who have worked with him as a hard working, a perfectionist and a very professional performer. Is he such a perfectionist and would you say he was difficult to please as a boss? Any anecdotes you could share with us?

I think he has always chosen his musicians amongst the people he respects, so he likes to let us do our "thing." That being said, when he gets an idea, or wants you to play something, he never has any problems telling you his idea. I always thought he was such a great musician, and had so much respect for his writing and playing that I was happy to do his bidding.

Also Elton is known for his interest in the music chart successes of his albums and singles. Is that so? Does he follows the charts every week? Is Adrian Collee his archivist? You know if Elton's has a diary of his concerts or set lists?

Yes, he has always paid a keen interest in new artists, and the popular music charts. Probably why he has remained at the top of his profession for so many years.

After followed six Elton studio albums and 14 years of concerts, finally you left the band in 1998 and a new drummer player Jack Bruno joined. I read you decided to make a complete break and he relocated to Orlando, Florida...

I had to come off the road originally because I was going through a very nasty divorce. After the divorce I settled in Orlando (which was originally only a temporary measure, but became the longest time I lived in one place - EVER) with my second wife. We now live in Nashville, Tennessee. Even when I still lived in Florida, I would drive the 750 miles to Nashville on average 15 times a year, just for sessions and gigs.

Oh, could you tell me your five favourite Elton's songs in running order, for my AllSongsList? Thank you.

Very difficult choice: I think I'll have to go with, in reverse order....

5: Where to Now, St. Peter
4: I Believe in Love
3: Don't Let The Sun Go Down (from Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)
2: If the River Can Bend
1: Burn Down The Mission

But there are so many Elton songs that I love, this really isn't fair!!

Thank you!!! You have a great website on www.manicdrums.com. We could see "news" section, the "store" section with beautiful products, and enter to your blogsite… What we could find there?

We are working on changing the format, to a much more 'open-architecture' system. Until then, the site is a little bit disorganised. Bear with us, and there will be a new site soon.

You had recently published a collection of drum loops, both in stereo (AIFF) and multi-track (WAV and AIFF) formats, for download. This is really a very useful tool for aspiring songwriters. What we have to do if we are interested in?

The site is www.youvegotdrums.com and again we are in the process of building it, and making some changes. But it IS up & running, and I am recording some new loops. You can choose stereo loops (in AIFF form) or multitrack loop, if you want to mix your own drum sound.

You're an independent, freelance, drummer/producer/composer, with over 35 years experience in the Music Industry. You're a regular with two band: Orleans (www.orleansonline.com), both in the studio and live, as well as Classic Rock revue, RPM (www.rpmconcerts.com). Also you were backing the amazing guitarist John Jorgenson, another Elton veteran. And you run a home-based studio facility from your house in Nashville, Tennessee, where you record drum tracks for many clients worldwide. You're really a busy person, are you?

Yes, I keep very busy. I am really trying to push the session work - both in my own studio, and in the studios in Nashville, which is a huge music centre. In July I flew to Los Angeles to record for the new Barry Manilow album: “Greatest songs of the Eighties”. I have also done work, in my own studio, for Disney, both Disneyland, Tokyo and Paris! I'd really like to do less road-work and more studio stuff. After all, it was Elton that really took me out on the road. Before that, I was mainly a studio "cat".

Finally, could you explain a little bit about your future projects, please, Charlie? I know you did the re-recording original Bond theme tune with David Arnold…

Yes, that was tremendous fun. I hadn't worked with David Arnold for almost 11 years (since the Tomorrow Never Dies movie soundtrack sessions). We re-recorded the original (Monty Norman) guitar theme with a 71 piece orchestra, all together! What a buzz.... The venue was AIR Lyndhurst studios, in London, in September.

I am working on a project for world peace... as musical director. Look out for World Peace Tour for Children!

I'm also working on a charity album (again for children) with guitarist, Robin George (www.robingeorge.co.uk). He now lives in Spain, and is putting together a star-studded cast for this project: already on board are John Whetton (Asia), Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple).

Apart from that, I am networking with songwriters in the Nashville area, to record drum tracks for their songs.

Well, that's the end. You have been very kind to me, you should know how much eltonites we love you and remember you. You are a sweet and lovely person, Charlie. We'll never forget you. God Bless You and good luck in all of your projects!!

Thank you, Miquel. Thank you, everybody! I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and a Happy and prosperous New Year! Now we have had a change of government here, let's hope America can become once again a shining example to the world!

Thank you Charlie. Oh! I've got a surprise for you. You didn't know when we chatted, but I've got three people, that love you so much, they have something to say to you. I am sure you will love it, and if that make you happy and smile, that should be perfect for me:

John Jorgenson: "Charlie Morgan is very special to me too. We have gone through a lot together, playing together in the very smallest places imaginable and to thousands of people. The thing I love about Charlie is that he always plays his best no matter what, and gives a lot of respect to the music. We have been friends now for 13 years, and both of us has gotten married in that time, moved at least once, been in several different bands, and now we both live in Nashville"

Larry Hoppen, the "voice" of Orleans Band : "Charlie is not only one of the world's best pro drummers, DP experts and musicians. He is a true friend, generous, thoughtful and with a worldview not just intelliegent and born of travel and experience but of understanding of history. It has been my privilege and pleasure to play music with him and get to know him since we met in 2001. A true British Gentleman, CM has recorded under the most trying circumstances (with me)and knows the value of a great joke. '-)"

Mortonette Jenkins (now Stephens): I'd like to say that Charile Morgan was a pleasure to work with and is an excellent Drummer. Peace.

Thank you John, thank you Larry, thank you Mortonette for collaborating. I am sure that Charlie will smile when he read this...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really interesting!! thank you to Miquel for doing this and of course, to Charlie for answering the questions! :-)
Anna

Charlie Morgan said...

Miquel... what a wonderful surprise at the end of the interview. Thank you so much. I am really touched by what both JJ and LH said. Many thanks , also, to all of you loyal fans out there. Just know that, while I can't always answer all your questions and e-mails, I really do appreciate your passion as well as your friendship!