Total Pageviews

5 Feb 2012

Question 7 To The Experts Committee: Charlie Morgan

Welcome Eltonites, this is a new edition of the Committee Of Experts. Today the comittee has a very special guest. With six albums and five world tours, our man was Elton John's drummer for thirteen years. We could also find performances of him with Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Cher and the Moody Blues, to name a few. With over 150 album credits he has appeared on numerous international TV shows and movie soundtracks. You know we're talking about the greatest: Charlie Morgan!!! Charlie is one of the great musicians they had been as members of Elton's band and he's one of the most remembered. He's such a great guy, always kind with us, and we adore him so much. So this time, the committee is dedicated to him. The pretention is to make a “virtual” meeting together chatting with him, as a musician, as a former band member. So experts, thanks for being here, let's start, please. And what do you like most about Charlie?

"The skills as a musician", starts Sophiah Ko’i’kas, from Detroit, MI, a new member of the committee, thanks for coming. "The way he plays his drums. Charlie is a fantastic drummer. He plays the drums with energy and very well. He has a good humor. He played in Rio de Janeiro in 1995 and I love the sound of the way he played. I danced a lot", is adding Leila A. Santiago, from Brazil. Obviously we haven't met him, on a personal level, but Kimberlee Kemble, from Boca Raton, FL, has it clear: "What I've read about Charlie, he seems like a down-to-earth guy", while Vera Rio, from Brazil, is agree: "Charlie seems like a nice guy and accessible to his admirers. This will make unforgettable his passage as a musician of Elton John". Ahhh that's it! No one could say it better. "With all of his success and all the people he's worked with, he still calls himself a "freelance rock drummer." How refreshing!". Yes, Kimberlee: "And I must also say I like his sense of humor - his posts are hilarious!" Hahaha, definetely, he's sense of humour is well known.

But hey, experts, how do you value Charlie's work with Elton, while he was on the band? Kimberlee? "My favorite Elton John song that Charlie Morgan played drums on is a tie... Heavy Traffic (from Reg Strikes Back) and Paris (from Leather Jackets). Very different musically, but that just shows Charlie's range". Vera? "I believe that one of his best work was on "Reg Strikes Back" (1988). I particularly like: "Town of Plenty","Word in Spanish" and "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters". Experts, this time we have another member of the committee, he hosts Two Rooms Radio Show, a reference for Eltonites too. Mr. David Sigler, please, your turn: "I first became aware of Charlie's drumming on Nik Kershaw's album, The Riddle and was thrilled when he joined Elton's band in 1985. I think he represented a new style for Elton then and certainly served him well over the years. I like Charlie's straight forward, hard hitting style - songs like This Town, Goodbye Marlon Brando. But ballads always carried great timing such as Believe and Live Like Horses". Thank you.

"I've seen some videos from youtube though where he has played drums in Elton's band, and he obviously is a great drummer" explains Antti Honkasalo, an Eltonite who hasn't been an Elton fan for so long, but he's one of the most passionate fans. "During the 12 years he was in the band, Charlie had impressed his beat in Elton's songs. It was not easy because he was succeeding the longtime Elton's friend, the talented Nigel Olsson (who was removed as the drummer of the band during this period, making only a few featured on some albums of Elton). Charlie did very well, earned his place inside the Band and in the heart of the Eltonites", you have reason Vera Rio. "The drummer carries the beat of every song... very important" is adding Sophiah.

What surprised you most, Kimberlee?
"I really like Charlie's versatility. I was familiar with what he's done with Elton - and that shows his immense talent and range - but when I visited his web site (Manicdrums) and viewed his discography, WOW! I had no idea of the volume and diversity of his portfolio". Absolutely true. "As a top session drummer he played in so many styles over the years with a wide variety of artists. With that in mind, Charlie was more than well qualified to play in the Elton John band. As Elton's music has so many styles to makeup. Not to mention that at the end of the day he is a savagely good drummer!!" thanks for coming Paul Purcell, from Ireland, what else? "He stayed true to the sound on the records when playing live with Elton, which for me is very important. While at the same time putting his own stamp on it, which for any artist is important. On the albums he played on, he had a strong, punchy sound. You were never in any doubt that he was putting 150% effort into what he was doing! For me personally, he plays on possibly my favourite Elton/Bernie song of all time, Believe. So for that alone, his place will always be cherished by this Eltonite".

Well, let's welcome our guest: hello Charlie Morgan, an honour you could be here with us. Let me explain what the comittee of experts is about. Yes, this blogsite is nothing without Eltonites, me and Rabbit know. So, we're so priviledged to count with some Eltonites from around the world discussing about things related to Elton. I know it's impossible to have everyone here, and a lot of people deserved to be here. For this, in every question I am trying to have new people, new countries, and everything. So, people!!! Let's begin about our questions for Charlie. Who's gonna start????

Leila Avelar Santiago, for example: Charlie, what do you tell us about your work since you begin to play? How do you choose to play drums? And do you know to play other instrument? Thanks Leila, Brian Gold, from New York, US also is interested in such particular.

I actually started learning descant recorder when I was about 8, then piano at the age of 10. When I was 11, my family moved to Geneva, Switzerland, and I became friends with a group of kids that had a band. I used to hang out in the basement of one of the boys, and he had a drum kit. I sat down at the kit, and within an hour was able to play a basic rhythm. He told me I had a “natural feel” for drums. When I was 14, we moved back to England. A school friend phoned me one day and said he was putting a band together. He asked if I knew anyone at school that played drums, I said: “Ill do it!” The rest is history!

Thank you. Kimberlee Kemble: Do you have a drumming mentor/idol?

I have many mentor/idols: Ringo was my first hero. I discovered Heavy Rock, and listened to Ian Paice (Deep Purple) and John Bonham! I love the way Steve Gadd plays all styles. I always loved Jeff Porcaro's playing, too. I am also a big fan of Nigel Olsson - he changed the way drummers approached Rock/Pop music. His contribution is not to be under-estimated.

Antti Honkasalo, your turn: What kind of special techniques does you have in your drumming style, what kind of drum set you prefer to use?

I have always thought of my self as more a “feel” drummer than a “technique” drummer. I do have trouble with more technical styles of drumming. Nigel and I are similar in that way. But I have developed a technique over the years, especially with more practice as I get older!

David Sigler: How did you handle stepping into the shoes of Nigel Olsson in 1985 and did you feel awkward about that knowing fans devotion to Nigel?

When I first met Elton, it was on the sessions for “Ice on Fire” and I wasn’t aware that it was for anything other than studio sessions. By that time I was one of the top session drummers in the UK, and so I was used to getting phone calls from many top artists. But later, when Elton asked me to play Live Aid, I must admit I was more than a little bit nervous about filling Nigel’s shoes!

Antti Honkasalo, yes you could ask: I'd like to know how different are you when compared to other drummers that have been in the Elton John band. What are your strengths, what are your weaknesses (if you had any)?

Very difficult question! All I can answer is from my OWN perspective: I always tried to listen to what Elton was playing (and singing) and complement it to the best of my ability. I think it’s important to concentrate on showcasing Elton’s incredible talent, and less on showing off your own!

Mark Schmidt, from Wisconsin, US: What Elton songs do you think best showcase your style and are most proud of?

Ah! Well, I always loved playing “Burn Down the Mission” and “Funeral/Love Lies Bleeding” - I think these two songs are definitely the best “drummer” songs. But there are so many of Elton’s songs I loved playing. “Believe” for instance, is also a personal favourite of mine, and “If the River can Bend”

Kimberlee: What is your favorite Elton John song to play on (either one he recorded in studio or playing live)?

Impossible to say! I think I part-answered this on the question above! But I will tell you there was nothing quite like the first session I did with Elton. We recorded “Cry to Heaven” that day. What a magic moment!

Sure! Paul Purcell, you're ready: When you were recording with Elton, what was the hardest track you had to put a drum line down to, from a musical or technical point of view?

When we recorded “Paris” in Holland (1986). We did this as a complete rhythm section: even Jody Linscott was there. This song was unusual, because we had been playing it for a while on stage (before it was cut), and Elton was insistent about doing it as a “full band.”

Jim Oksen, from Arizona, US, your turn: How you liked working with Paul Buckmaster on Made In England sessions, compared to some of the other albums you collaborated? I really enjoy Buckmasters work and wondered how maybe Buckmaster influenced you on Made In England.

Paul became, and is still, one of my good friends. I love his genius. His orchestrations and arrangements have changed the way people used classical instruments in Popular music. He and George Martin (who I’ve also worked with) were the pioneers in that area. Paul worked so hard on complimenting what I had played on the drums. I noticed he used drum fills as rhythmic points for his arrangements. What a genius!

Kimberlee, please: What surprised you the most about Elton?

His passion for Motor Racing (as you might know, I have been a huge fan of Motor Sport, and also raced cars for 25 years). He and I could talk about Racing for days on end!

Vera Rio, this is your turn: In a huge schedule like the Elton's schedule with very little time between the shows, countries that succeed in short time,the musicians can know something about the cities where they are playing? You get some information before arriving in the places? Some cities stayed in your memory in a special way?

It is very hard for al the cities NOT to blend into one when you are spending, at most, a day or two in each place. but there are some cities that are special: Barcelona, Madrid, Milano, Sydney, London (of course).

Here's Sophiah Ko'i'kas: What’s the funniest thing that happened on stage with Elton? Dagmazyca Lakomy, from Poland, is also interested. I am sure there's plenty of anecdotes to share while playing live. Someone told me there's a longest song-ending in Elton's band history and you were involved. Charlie, What's the story?

In 1990, I came back to the band to tour Australia & New Zealand (I got a call while I was in Paris, playing a show at the Olympia. I drove back to London, packed my bags and got on a plane to Perth!!). My drum riser was quite narrow on that tour. My drum stool was normally less than 10cm from the back of the riser, and there were steps at the back for me to climb up.

When we played "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" I used to stand up at the end, to hit the cymbals, then sit down for the final big end. One night, I stood up and my stool fell down the back of the riser. Before my drum-tech could warn me, I tried to sit back down - into thin air! Lucky I rolled down the stairs backwards, finding myself at the bottom of the riser. In the meantime, Davey, Elton, Guy and everyone were still playing the end chord, waiting for me to cut them off with the big crash. They looked up at my drum kit and it was empty! Elton was looking around, confused, still playing the end-chord!!! "Where's Charlie?"

In the end, my drum tech picked me up, gave me a pair of drumsticks, and I climbed back up the steps, throwing my sticks at the cymbals to try and end the song. Elton couldn't stop laughing for several songs. And it took a few days for the jokes to stop!

Another question? Kimberlee: Do you think you'll record or tour again with Elton?

Who knows? I’d love to have the opportunity.

Oh, I would love to. What do you think of today’s music, Charlie? Which new talents would you like to present?

I love the more genuine artists. The performers that don’t have to rely on Lights & smoke to make their performance seem better: Adele, Amy Winehouse (poor girl), and of course all the “old school” performers I grew up listening to! It’s all about the music for me.

Charlie, I really love your website, now rebuilded, specially the studio blog. What could you remark about this site?

I rebuilt this site to attract more customers to my “on-line sessions” business. I do a lot of drum tracking for people all over the world, now.... all from my studio here in Nashville, Tennessee.

And could you explain a little bit about your future projects, please, Charlie?

I am actually looking around for a regular live project to be involved with, but I am also spending a lot of time promoting the on-line session business. it seems this is the way of the future: doing drum tracks for people in countries all over the world, from the comfort of my own house! But I would also love to do another top-level world tour!

Oh, once you said: “It's possible that dreams can be built on promises. But real life needs to be built of sterner stuff”. Why is that really so?

Well, dreaming of great things is important, but there comes a point when you have to actually get up and DO what you dream. It is important for people to follow their dreams. So many of us are frightened of failure: so much so that they keep dreaming without acting on it. Fear of failure is probably the single biggest factor in preventing people from doing things.

Well, that's the end of the committee of today. We will have question number 8 very soon, so be ready experts!!! Charlie, it was an incredible experience to be with you, thanks for sharin' your time with us, again, you're a superb artist and best human being. Thanks to the experts this time you came here. I would like to apologize if I missed someone, it was not my intention to do, in case I did. Charlie, we prepared this question number 7 at Xmas time, and I asked my experts to send their wishes to you. The wishes of a happy Xmas and happy new year for you and your family succeed. I would like to finish with what Brian Gold sent for you: "Keep making new dreams, and keep making them come true!". So, as Vera Rio said: We wish you a 2012 with health, success and lots of joy! Oh, Dagmazyca Lakomy, you could close the committee of today with your wish? "I wish you a bear hug from Elton ;)"

* Jack Rabbit would specially thank to two dearests friends: Sophiah Ko'i'kas and Melanie Vandegrift. Without them this couldn't have been possible. Thanks by heart, ladies, I love you so much.

Pictures courtesy of Charlie Morgan