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Rock Interview: Nils Lofgren – Being “Blue With Lou”

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By Blake Maddux

“For the reason that late ‘60s I’ve been up and down the Northeast hall, and Boston’s all the time one in every of our favourite stops.”

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Any résumé that features Neil Younger, Bruce Springsteen, and Ringo Starr as references is certain to be seemed upon favorably.

This may clarify why rock musician Nils Lofgren has labored steadily since he obtained his first credit score at age 19 on Neil Younger’s 1970 album After the Gold Rush. Following that, Lofgren recorded 4 albums with the critically acclaimed (learn: commercially unsuccessful) band Grin, which included his brother Tom, from 1971 to 1974.

Since 1975, Lofgren has made the occasional return to Younger’s backing band Loopy Horse, performed in Bruce Springsteen’s E Avenue Band from 1984 to 1989 and between 1999 and 2014, been a member or Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, and recorded a slew of solo albums.

Final month, Lofgren launched Blue With Lou, a 12-track providing that features six new originals and 6 others that he co-wrote with Lou Reed in 1979. The tour in assist of the album features a sold-out present at Metropolis Vineyard on Could 18.

Lofgren spoke by telephone to The Arts Fuse from his dwelling in Scottsdale, AZ, the place he has lived for 23 years together with his spouse, Amy, and their beloved canine.


The Arts Fuse: When did you first cross paths with Lou Reed and the way did your relationship proceed from there?

Nils Lofgren: I used to be working with [producer] Bob Ezrin on the Nils album in ’79. We felt the lyrics had been subpar and we talked about co-writing versus me simply doing rewrites. He talked about Lou Reed. I believed that was unlikely however I cherished the thought. I had no concept of their historical past and that Bob had produced [Reed’s 1973 album] Berlin. The following day we make a journey over to Lou’s studio, we meet him, we speak for 20 minutes. Surprisingly, he was open to the thought and he stated, why don’t you come to my house the next week and we’ll talk about it.

We talked into the night time about writing and are available to seek out out music comes extra naturally to me and he’s the alternative with lyrics. He stated to ship him a tape of what I had and I despatched him a cassette of 13 full songs within the sense that I had verses, choruses, bridges, and titles, however a whole lot of the lyrics had been unwritten and there have been choruses and themes that I didn’t actually really feel connected to. We requested him to please change any music if it helps.

About three or 4 weeks glided by, and I kinda forgot in regards to the concept as a result of it appeared unlikely. Then he woke me up at 4:30 within the morning and stated he cherished the tape and had been up three days and nights straight and had simply accomplished 13 units of lyrics and was enthusiastic about it. That’s why he woke me up! I used to be very stunned and impressed, so I bought a pad and pencil, placed on a pot of espresso, and spent two hours-plus taking dictation from Lou Reed. On the finish he stated, Look, I’ve bought three songs that I’d like to make use of for myself instantly. Bob and I used three songs, and I spent the following few days placing the phrases to the music. I’ve put out two since then, and I all the time thought Lou may name to have a look at the 5 left behind. After we misplaced Lou, I knew that it was my job to get them on this document.

AF: How lots of the six songs on Blue With Lou that you simply and he wrote collectively have by no means appeared on document earlier than?

Nils Lofgren — he hasn’t introduced a full band to Boston in round 20 years. Photograph: Carl Schultz

NL: 5 of those songs are ones that nobody’s ever heard. All six of mine are new. There’s one track referred to as “Metropolis Lights.” Lou cherished my refrain and he stated, I’m gonna use your refrain and write a track about Charlie Chaplin. He selected to relate it, however I all the time needed to document that with unique melody. And I got here up with sort of a reggae really feel, slightly little bit of a lighter skipping. It’s a really darkish track about this genius comic coming and sort of therapeutic our nation whereas we’re in the course of a despair and after it, then we flip round and throw him out. Not not like a number of the insanity happening now: no widespread sense and letting the darkness take over. I requested Branford Marsalis to paint the entire thing together with his sensible sax, which he did.

AF: Do you assume that it’s significantly vital within the age of Trump for musicians to deal with social and political points?

NL: Nicely I don’t power that. My spouse, Amy, is a fierce a part of the resistance on Twitter and he or she actually will get into it. Particularly as a lady, she’s rightfully so incensed with what’s taking place. However I had this nice title, I believed anyway, “Rock or Not,” and in mild of what’s happening, the entire idea is “shit or get off the pot.” I simply needed to go deeper into sort of a political assertion, primarily via a lady’s eyes however mine, too. I imply, we’re all on this collectively. It’s actually an abomination, what’s taking place by the hands of those wealthy, highly effective males that appear to get mentally ailing with the illness of energy and cash on the expense of all humanity, all life. It’s not a protest album, however I didn’t draw back when it got here to me.

AF: “Pricey Heartbreaker” is a tribute to a different lately departed musician. How far again did you and Tom Petty go and the way typically had you labored collectively in that point?

NL: Most likely the final time Tom Petty & the Heartbreaks had been a gap act was for me in ’77 in England. We did a 4 or five-week tour and so they kicked me and my band’s ass. I turned a large fan and adopted them ever since. Final tour they weren’t taking part in Phoenix, so we handled ourselves to a present at Pink Rocks in Denver. I had no intention of writing a track, however in the future this one verse began coming to me. It was virtually identical to slightly be aware to myself and to Tom, like, rattling man, that is terrible, however I’m gonna preserve listening to this nice music with now an actual unhappiness in my coronary heart. And the verses saved coming. I didn’t actually need them to and didn’t plan on it, however after I had 5 verses I went, “Rattling, I believe I want to jot down this track.”

AF: Had been you anticipating Neil Younger to ask you to work on his new album with him?

NL: No. It got here out of the blue. We did 5 exhibits final yr and a pair in Winnipeg throughout the polar vortex in February. Neil knew I had a brand new document popping out and was on the point of hit the street, and stated, I do know it’s dangerous timing, however I’ve been writing these new songs and I actually be ok with them. Might ya rise up to Colorado and we’ll begin performing some recording and see the place it leads? It was actually seat-of-your-pants, last-minute stuff, however I actually be ok with it. Most likely that can proceed via the yr, I believe. We had a great begin.

AF: Do you’ve any particular reminiscences of taking part in Boston all through your 50-year profession?

NL: Oh yeah. I like Boston. The previous Jazz Workshop and Paul’s Mall, used to play there two or 3 times a yr. My band Grin opened for Van Morrison up in Boston. One among my favourite rock cities. The audiences are nice. For the reason that late ‘60s I’ve been up and down the Northeast hall, and Boston’s all the time one in every of our favourite stops. I’m actually glad it’s on the tour. Taking a full band into Boston, that hasn’t occurred in, I don’t know, 20 years. I’m excited to return again with a band and a brand new album I be ok with.

AF: Talking of Grin, do you assume that they may ever get the popularity that they so richly deserve or are you pleased with the band’s legacy as a cult favourite?

NL: Nicely, I wouldn’t say I’m completely happy. I like Grin. My three brothers and Bob Berberich, the opposite drummer and singer, are doing Grin Once more exhibits and I’m actually completely happy about that. However look, we made 4 albums, we actually bought good at all the things, and we simply didn’t have hit data so the document offers dried up. However I’ve fond reminiscences of Grin. You make music to share, so my imaginative and prescient wasn’t to be some cult obscure band, and l’d love for individuals to proceed to get uncovered to the music. I’m grateful anytime someone discovers Grin that didn’t learn about us.


Blake Maddux is a contract journalist who often contributes to the Arts Fuse, the Somerville Occasions, and the Beverly Citizen. He has additionally written for DigBoston, the ARTery, Lynn Occurs, the Windfall Journal, The Onion’s A.V. Membership, and the Columbus Dispatch. A local Ohioan, he moved to Boston in 2002 and at the moment lives together with his spouse and one-year-old twins–Elliot Samuel and Xander Jackson–in Salem, Massachusetts.


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