Rolling Stone interview collection Unknown Legends options long-form conversations between senior author Andy Greene and veteran musicians who’ve toured and recorded alongside icons for years, if not a long time. All are famend within the enterprise, however some are much less well-known to most of the people. Right here, these artists inform their full tales, giving an up-close take a look at life on music’s A listing. This version options keyboardist David Rosenthal.
As a child rising up in Edison, New Jersey, within the Seventies, David Rosenthal used to hop on a practice and head to Madison Sq. Backyard at any time when an enormous rock band was on the town, seeing everybody from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to Queen, Peter Frampton, and the Edgar Winter Group.
“After I noticed Aerosmith, I used to be useless heart within the final row of the sector,” he says. “I used to be so excessive up that I needed to duck due to the ceiling rafters. I believe I used to be farther from the stage than anybody else in the entire place. There have been no screens in these days, so Steven Tyler and Joe Perry regarded like little ants on the stage.”
A lot to his amazement, Rosenthal turned a type of little ants on June nineteenth, 1982: That evening, Rainbow, with Rosenthal on his first tour because the band’s keyboardist, headlined a present at MSG. He was simply 20 years previous. “It was the most important gig I’d ever finished in my life,” he says. “And who knew if I’d ever get to play there once more?”
At that time, it will have been unimaginable that he’d in the future play Madison Sq. Backyard extra instances than simply about any musician in historical past, because of his 28-year (and counting) stint in Billy Joel’s band. He’s additionally hung out gigging with Steve Vai, Cyndi Lauper, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Robert Palmer, and Enrique Iglesias along with his facet profession as a synth programmer for Bruce Springsteen and the E Road Band, Woman Gaga, and plenty of different main touring acts.
We known as up Rosenthal at his New Jersey residence to listen to the entire saga.
How has your pandemic yr gone?
It’s positively been a novel expertise for everyone. I’m lucky to have a pleasant studio right here in my home, so I’m capable of be productive and artistic the perfect I can. Nevertheless it’s been a number of residence time. I’m engaged on initiatives, writing music, and all the time attempting to be artistic.
Have you ever all the time lived in Jersey?
Yeah. I grew up in Edison and I’ve been right here most of my life, however I went to highschool in Boston on the Berklee Faculty of Music. Aside from that, I’ve been dwelling right here just about.
I wish to return and speak about your life. Inform me your first reminiscence of listening to music as a toddler that actually reached you.
I used to take heed to the radio so much once I was younger, AM radio in these days. I don’t know why, however I requested my mother and father for a piano once I was about six years previous. I can’t bear in mind my early publicity to music, however my mother and father informed me many, many instances the story about how I saved asking them for a piano. We didn’t have one. I don’t know the place the calling got here from, however I actually wished to play piano. I requested sufficient instances that they lastly acquired me one, after which I began taking classes once I was seven.
Did you are taking it up shortly?
Yeah. I didn’t realize it was fast. I used to be seven they usually stated, “Do that, try this,” and I discovered. I didn’t suppose something of it, however the trainer saved pulling my mom apart and going, “Your son is studying in a short time.” [Laughs] They noticed fairly early on that I had expertise. However, once more, as as little one, you don’t know one factor from one other. You simply do what you’re taught.
Who had been a few of your musical heroes as a child?
At that age, I used to be simply listening to the songs that had been widespread on the radio. I believe my first publicity to piano gamers got here from listening to [piano duo] Ferrante and Teicher, and Peter Nero and people kinds of piano gamers. Then I began listening to rock and pop on the radio and entering into that. That’s all I wished to play at my piano classes. They had been attempting to get me to play classical music and I didn’t wish to do it in any respect. I simply wished to play what was on the radio.
By the point I used to be 11 years previous, I used to be capable of play just about something I heard on the radio. I might solo. I might learn any sheet music. I might play any track. And I used to be already beginning to play in bands by the point I used to be 12 or 13. I used to be 14 once I dove in deep in classical and actually began to get into it.
Had been there any key rock albums you heard whenever you had been younger that actually scrambled your mind?
Completely. The primary time I heard Sure’ Near the Edge I virtually flipped over backwards. It simply blew my thoughts. I listened to that file one million instances.
I listened to Uriah Heep so much. Ken Hensley was an enormous affect. And, after all, Rick Wakeman in Sure. Keith Emerson in these days … a number of prog bands. I actually cherished that stuff. I used to be all the time listening to it. However I began listening fairly early on to Chick Corea and extra progressive music like that.
Your childhood years had been actually a tremendous time for fusion, prog, and so many different genres.
It’s so true. And also you’re very impressed and influenced at the moment by what you’re listening to. You’re only a clean canvas absorbing every thing. I bear in mind very particularly the very first time I heard Tomita. He’s a Japanese synthesist that did all his music on synthesizer. I heard his model of [Modest Mussorgsky’s] Footage at an Exhibition once I was about 13. That simply blew me away. I used to be like, “Wow! That’s what I wish to do. I’ve to get a synthesizer and learn to make feels like that.” It was a very, actually huge inspirational second for me.
When did you begin seeing your self as somebody who might make a profession out of this?
Effectively, I by no means noticed myself as something however a musician. I typically say to folks, “I didn’t select music; it selected me.” I’m very lucky to have finished properly with it, however I’m a musician by way of and thru. I breathe it. It’s in my blood. It’s my being. It’s the essence of who I’m.
To me, there was by no means any doubt that I’d do something aside from be a musician for my life. How my profession was going to go, I didn’t actually know. I simply knew that music was what I wished to do.
What drew you to the Berklee Faculty of Music? Numerous musicians skip that step and simply begin gigging straight out of highschool.
I used to be already a fairly first rate participant by the point it was time to go to varsity, however I went there and have become a a lot, a lot better participant. And I turned a way more well-rounded musician. I discovered so much about orchestration and concept and I discovered all of the ins and outs of synth programming and audio recording.
It was all types of various applied sciences and issues that I exploit to today. I believe it enabled me to change into a way more well-rounded musician and it enabled me to work all through my profession doing many various kinds of issues, not solely as a keyboard participant.
That was a very attention-grabbing time interval. So many various sorts of drum machines and synthesizers had been popping out. The change of tempo was very fast.
Completely. It was a very thrilling time, and it continues to be thrilling. Know-how hasn’t stopped transferring at that tempo. Lots of people take issues with no consideration these days, however issues maintain going and going and going. It’s a full-time job maintaining with expertise, however I like it. It’s a part of what I do.
Earlier than you joined Rainbow, what had been a few of your earlier teams?
I had a number of high-school bands and stuff like that. However once I acquired to Berklee, I used to be in a band with Steve Vai known as Morning Thunder. He and I met within the first few days in school. We did a number of taking part in collectively and we nonetheless keep up a correspondence to today. I’ve performed on a few his albums.
I’m positive his expertise was obvious even then.
His guitar taking part in even then was off the charts. In actual fact, in all of my high-school bands, I performed keyboard and guitar. I used to be all the time a a lot better keyboard participant than guitar participant, however I performed each devices in all my high-school bands. After which I acquired to Berklee and I noticed Steve taking part in guitar and I simply stated, “I’m going to place this instrument down. [Laughs] I’m simply going to stay to what I’m greatest at.” I clearly simply targeted on the keyboards, which was extra pure for me.
Inform me about these early gigs with Steve Vai. What had been they like?
Effectively, he used to write down stuff that was unimaginable to play, however we’d attempt to discover a option to play it anyway. I’d write stuff. He’d write stuff. And we’d cowl some Zappa tunes and we coated Pleased the Man. We coated among the most tough music you might probably think about. It was simply a number of enjoyable. It was difficult. We pushed one another and grew so much by way of the entire thing. After which he ultimately left to affix Frank Zappa’s band.
It’s fairly unbelievable you occurred to befriend one of many nice guitarists of that period at that age.
He actually is without doubt one of the biggest guitarists. He’s my private buddy. And to me, he’s Steve. However he actually is simply a tremendous guitar participant and continues to innovate to today.
Inform me the way you wound up becoming a member of Rainbow.
A buddy of a buddy informed me that Ritchie Blackmore was searching for a brand new keyboard participant, so I despatched him a cassette. It was my cowl band taking part in a bunch of various rock tunes on one facet. And on the opposite facet was my senior classical piano recital the place I performed all this loopy stuff. I knew he was into classical as properly.
He heard that and invited me to audition out on Lengthy Island. It was a cattle name. I went there they usually narrowed it right down to me and one different man, after which I acquired the gig.
Do you recall what you performed on the audition?
I don’t bear in mind the precise songs, but it surely was a number of jamming. A variety of what Ritchie was searching for was, “Can I join with him musically? How fast does he study?” And so there was a number of jamming. I might need performed “Man on the Silver Mountain” and a few the opposite classics. However I actually don’t bear in mind the precise songs.
It should have been intimidating to be onstage with somebody like Ritchie.
Effectively, to me, it’s not intimidating. I simply did what I did. My philosophy has all the time been to go in there after doings tons and tons of homework the place you put together and put together. I then go in and do my greatest. If my greatest isn’t what they’re searching for, then that’s OK. At the least I do know I did my greatest. On this case, it turned out to click on.
One second of the audition I bear in mind very particularly is that [bassist] Roger Glover was operating the auditions. He came to visit to me and stated, “Let’s say that we’re onstage now in entrance of 20,000 folks and Ritchie simply broke a string and nothing is occurring on the stage. You have to fill house. Go.”
I simply performed. I simply beginning taking part in one thing on the [Hammond] B3 after which I performed some riffs on the Minimoog and jumped over to the clavinet. They had been Ritchie’s keyboards that they’d there. I had introduced my stuff with me. I solely had a Fender Rhodes, a Farfisa organ, and a synth. I used to be a pupil. I didn’t have any cash. So that they stated, “Play our keyboards. Play this setup.”
I had discovered about a number of these keyboards in Idea, however I’d by no means really performed them. However in any occasion, I simply performed just a little bit right here, and just a little bit there. I simply performed. I didn’t suppose something of it.
A few yr later, Roger Glover informed me that out of all of the folks they requested that of, I used to be the one man that simply began taking part in. He stated everybody else had an excuse like, “Oh, don’t fear; I’ll be ready,” or “I’ll work one thing up.” Everyone had a narrative, however I used to be the one man that simply began taking part in.
You’re filling the footwear of Don Airey, who’s a fairly unbelievable participant.
Don is a good participant. However I had the profit once I was making ready for the audition of 4 keyboardists in Rainbow earlier than me. I knew no matter these 4 gamers had in widespread stylistically was what Ritchie favored. I form of tailor-made my taking part in accordingly, figuring out what he was searching for, but it surely was a really pure match. He and I clicked musically immediately. And I used to be solely 20 years previous.
It’s an attention-grabbing time for Rainbow. They had been this huge Seventies group, but it surely’s out of the blue the MTV period they usually had been actually adapting to it.
Proper. The band had a really totally different sound with Ronnie James Dio. I believe Joe Lynn Turner introduced extra of an American type. Ronnie was American too, however this was extra of that Eighties melodic pop that turned highly regarded once we launched the singles “Stone Chilly” and “Road of Goals.” It was fairly a unique sound than the sooner Rainbow.
Do you recall a lot about making “Stone Chilly”?
I do. I recall that complete file. It was such a terrific expertise for me. Right here I’m, 20 years previous, and I’m up within the studio. We recorded at Le Studio in Morin-Heights [Quebec]. It was actually thrilling. I had by no means made an album earlier than. I knew what a number of the tools within the studio did since I studied it, however I by no means actually had an opportunity to be there all through the entire course of.
Ritchie noticed that I used to be fascinated by it and that I cherished to study. He let me sit within the management room more often than not, which he by no means did with anybody else, and let me watch. I saved my mouth shut whereas they did a number of issues that didn’t contain me, however I made mates with the engineer, Nick Blagona, and he gave me all of the manuals to all of the gear within the studio.
Each evening, I’d return and skim and study from them. Then I’d return to the home the place we had been staying and keep up late studying manuals. The following day, I’d watch extra. Other than simply my keyboard duties, it was an unbelievable studying expertise.
You’ve a songwriting credit score on the track “Miss Mistreated.” Are you able to speak about making that track?
Positive. A lot of the songs got here out of jams. Ritchie would provide you with riffs and we’d simply jam on stuff. Typically stuff would survive and different stuff would simply be a jam and by no means get used once more. After which, little by little, issues would become songs, and Joe Lynn Turner would provide you with melodies. Those that Ritchie favored, Joe would go off and write lyrics to.
All of us contributed fairly closely to the arranging. However my contribution was possibly extra substantial there, so Ritchie gave me a credit score.
How did you develop as a keyboardist on the tour?
It was my first tour. At this level, I’m 21. The file had come out and it was the start of MTV. The “Stone Chilly” video was getting performed continually. It was loopy. I used to be so younger. I used to be in all probability 10 to fifteen years youthful than everybody else within the band. Actually, I simply didn’t give it some thought a lot. I simply type of rolled with every thing. “OK, now we gotta do that. We have now rehearsals for the tour.” I discovered the songs, got here up with the elements, and we figured it out.
We went out and did some warm-up gigs for some smaller crowds after which we went proper into taking part in arenas. I had by no means performed gigs of that dimension earlier than, however I’d simply go up there and do what I do and I used to be snug. I’m much more snug taking part in keyboards than I’m talking typically. It’s simply very pure and straightforward for me. And so I used to be by no means intimidated by giant crowds. In actual fact, the power of the gang and the adrenaline that it creates is a tremendous factor when you use it to your profit.
You performed Madison Sq. Backyard. That should have been large for you.
It was large. My mother and father got here to see the band, and all my mates. There was this status of taking part in the Backyard. The Scorpions opened up for us, and naturally they went on to change into a lot larger than we had been in Rainbow. Nevertheless it was a very, actually huge deal.
To today, I rely my blessings at what number of instances I’ve been capable of play the Backyard. Most individuals are fortunate to ever get to play there as soon as.
When “Stone Chilly” turned successful, Rainbow might have change into a Foreigner-type band that saved pounding out Prime 40 hits. Do you suppose that’s what Ritchie wished?
It actually was Ritchie’s band. It all the time was and all the time can be. He type of simply directed it to go the place he felt he wished it to go and the place he was at musically on the time. And, after all, Joe Lynn Turner’s writing was an enormous half in crafting the songs within the path that they went in on the albums I used to be concerned on.
How was the expertise of recording Bent Out of Form?
That was additionally good. At the moment, I’d already finished a world tour and I had an album below my belt. And I wasn’t the brand new man anymore. The entire thing wasn’t new to me anymore and now I understood much more about who Ritchie was and what he was trying to accomplish musically. I understood what the followers had been like everywhere in the world and the variations within the audiences. I went into it having a deeper understanding of what the band was about.
After all, that’s when [future Billy Joel drummer] Chuck Burgi got here round. He wound up taking part in on that file. That’s the primary time we labored collectively, in 1983.
This can be a bizarre second the place Black Sabbath is being fronted by Ian Gillan. Did you have got any sense that Rainbow was going to interrupt up, Ian was going to go away Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple would re-form?
No. We had no concept that was going to occur. I don’t even suppose Ritchie knew that was going to occur at the moment. And so we did the album and “Road of Goals” was a reasonably large hit. We toured the world. The final cease on that tour was in Tokyo and we performed Budokan for 2 nights with an orchestra. I did all of the orchestrations for that. And all of us type of knew it was the tip of the tour, however we had no concept that there was this Deep Purple reunion brewing within the background.
We knew there was going to be a break, however a month or two after, I acquired a name from a supervisor saying that Deep Purple was going to re-form and Rainbow was over.
How did you are feeling?
Had it continued, I’d have finished one other album and one other tour. However by the identical token, I wished to see what was going to come back subsequent in my profession. And I actually couldn’t blame Ritchie for eager to have Deep Purple again collectively. It’s probably the most legendary rock teams ever. The reunion was large. I actually couldn’t fault him for wanting to do this, so I used to be OK with that and I figured it was time to maneuver on to what was subsequent.
How did you wind up with Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul the next yr?
The next yr, I met Little Steven. He was trying to do a tour for his Voice of America album and was placing a band collectively. I used to be obtainable and he requested me to do it and I stated, “Positive.”
How was the expertise?
It was good. It was a unique facet of the enterprise. We had been taking part in smaller venues. It was giant golf equipment and small theaters, so it was touring on a unique degree. I acquired to see a unique facet of the enterprise, but it surely was a memorable expertise. Dino Danelli [from the Young Rascals] was the drummer. The band was good. That was it. The tour went like six months.
I spoke to Steve a few years in the past. He stated the most important mistake of his life was leaving the E Road Band. It value him a fortune.
Plus, this was the height of the E Road Band. However he had a imaginative and prescient and he wished to do his factor. Bruce was actually cool with that. And from what I noticed from my vantage level, he actually felt he wanted to do that. He went on that journey. The tour did OK. It wasn’t an enormous tour, however I believe he went again to it later.
You had been with Cyndi Lauper the following yr. That should have been a really totally different expertise. How did that occur?
I had heard she was placing a brand new band collectively. The True Colours album was about to come back out. They had been auditioning and going to rent a brand-new band on the identical time. There was an enormous cattle name they usually had been auditioning.
It was type of unusual. I went as much as David Wolff, her supervisor on the time, and launched myself. I stated, “How are you going to audition an entire band ?” He stated, “We don’t actually know. We’re simply figuring this out as we go. I assume we’ll have one in all every instrument go up there and play. And whoever she likes will keep on. We’ll simply maintain altering the gamers till we discover the entire band.”
I stated, “OK, if that’s the way it’s going to work, I insist on going first.” [Laughs] He stated, “OK.” I did and Cyndi favored what I did and no person else acquired to play on keyboards. Truly, I acquired to play with Sterling Campbell. He was very younger and it was his first gig. I do know you probably did an interview with him as properly.
This was close to her peak. It should have been a enjoyable tour.
Yeah. She was large and I acquired to start out doing TV exhibits. We did Letterman a few instances and Johnny Carson. I had by no means finished something like that in my life, in order that was a very cool expertise. And the band was nice. Rick Derringer was within the band too.
We did an entire bunch of movies like “Change of Coronary heart” and a bunch of different songs that had been all huge hits and on MTV continually, so I had a bunch extra movies below my belt.
It was your first pop tour. I’m positive you needed to play in a really totally different vogue.
Completely. If I did what I used to be doing in Rainbow, I’d get fired in in the future. It was a totally totally different method. However I grew up on pop simply as a lot as I grew up on rock, and these totally different kinds of music are all actually snug for me. I simply listened to the data actually fastidiously, studied what her music was about, the function that keyboards play, and did what I assumed would sound correct for these songs. And it labored.
Are you recreating horn elements and stuff like that?
Yeah. I used to be doing no matter was on the data. Her data are very keyboard heavy, so there’s a number of keyboard elements. A few of it was actually tough as a result of I needed to play a number of elements . However she favored that. That’s one of many the explanation why it labored. I used to be overlaying a number of floor taking part in all these elements.
As a keyboard participant generally, I hear and go, “There’s a horn half right here I can seize. Right here’s some strings,” no matter. However her stuff was very synth heavy, so there have been a number of elements to cowl.
Inform me about this Will to Energy track you’re on. I’m form of fascinated by this factor.
[Laughs] Will to Energy was largely an digital dance act. I used to be down in Florida doing a number of R&B data with a producer named Lou Tempo, who handed away about 5 – 6 years in the past. He was doing all thee R&B data and introduced me in to do the synth programming. It was all the time the identical group of gamers, however we’d all the time convey in several singers.
We did a file for Donna Allen, one for Stacy Lattisaw, and all these different R&B singers of the time. It was a terrific expertise, and I began to get identified within the Miami space, the place Will to Energy was from.
They introduced me in do some programming with them. On the finish of one of many classes — an all-night session; it should have actually been 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. after going all evening — Bob Rosenberg, the chief of the band, stated to me, “Are you aware that track ‘Child, I Love Your Approach’?” I stated, “After all, I do know it. I used to cowl it in all my high-school bands.” He goes, “Are you aware that track ‘Freebird’?” I’m going, “Yeah, positive.”
He goes, “Aren’t the chord adjustments type of related?” I’m going, “Truly they’re. They’re in the identical key.” He goes, “What would occur if we put these two songs collectively?” I assumed, “I don’t know. I believe possibly you’re just a little over-tired. However OK.”
I begin taking part in it and I put down a fundamental piano half. I simply made a sketch and did a number of overdubs. At 10 a.m. we’re all actually falling over after working all that point. After which I left and by no means thought any extra about it. I assumed he was simply screwing round within the studio.
Quick ahead and I’m on tour with Robert Palmer. In the future I choose up a Billboard and that track is Quantity One. [Laughs] I virtually fell off my chair. I used to be like, “What?!”
I didn’t even realize it was going to go on the file. I didn’t even know he had completed it. And the track went to Quantity One. It was actually, actually a loopy story.
I used to be fairly little, so it was the primary time I heard both of these songs. I assumed it was a totally authentic track. It was complicated later to listen to the originals.
It’s “Freebird” with no guitar, which appears to make no sense.
Crazily sufficient, the lyrics work collectively. It turns into a dialog between these two folks by some means.
Agreed. It positively labored in an odd means. That’s an ideal option to say it.
Inform me about getting the job on Robert Palmer’s Heavy Nova tour.
He was simply beginning out the tour and the keyboard participant wasn’t figuring out, so I acquired known as to come back in and bail the man out. There have been no days off on that tour, ever. At one level, we did 56 gigs in a row in 56 cities.
Yeah. It was simply fully insane. And I needed to study the songs actual fast and simply hit the bottom operating. This was the “Merely Irresistible” tour.
He’s a terrific singer who’s been unfairly lowered to 2 or three hits.
He was actually, actually gifted and a terrific singer, nice author. He knew every thing that was happening within the band behind him though he wasn’t really taking part in an instrument. He was actually a terrific musician. It was actually unhappy he handed away so younger. But when the tour we did was any indication, he could have simply labored himself to dying. [Laughs.]
Nevertheless it was his doing. He didn’t need any days off, ever.
That’s loopy. Most singers demand the other. They wish to relaxation their voices.
I do know. His philosophy was, he thought if he took a day without work, he’d lose his voice.
It’s the other.
Precisely. It’s the other of all intuitive considering and the other of each different singer on the planet. However that’s what he wished to do, in order that’s what we did.
He was my second live performance and I used to be actually little. My predominant reminiscence is simply ladies screaming.
Wow. [Laughs] Individuals cherished his songs. However once I consider ladies screaming, or younger ladies screaming, it takes me proper to my Enrique Iglesias interval the place the women screamed actually louder than we might hear ourselves play.
The Robert Palmer was type of a cool tour, but it surely’s actually all a blur. All we did was play a gig after which get on the bus. He’d additionally take heed to the present each evening on the bus. We’d go to sleep, pull right into a lodge, examine in, fall asleep once more for a number of hours within the lodge, go and do a soundcheck — he’d do one each single day — after which we’d do a present after which again on the bus, take heed to the present once more. We’d simply repeat time and again. We had been all simply zombies after a few weeks.
How do you make time for any form of a private life when you’re all the time on the highway like this?
In that case, there was no life. You simply maintain going and going. And in these days, there wasn’t any electronic mail or cellphones or any of that stuff. Whenever you had been gone on the highway, you had been actually gone. It was fairly laborious to keep up a correspondence. You actually did get pulled away from having any private life. It was very totally different than it’s now.
After which in 1991, you had been again with Cyndi Lauper.
That was only a temporary factor in Japan she did as a part of the American Music Awards live performance collection. We did a number of exhibits right here within the U.S. as a warm-up after which went over and did that. It was a number of the identical gamers, so it was enjoyable to return and try this once more.
Had been you an enormous Billy Joel fan in your youthful years?
Effectively, I had by no means seen one in all his gigs till I used to be in his band. Clearly, I knew all of the hits from the radio. However I wouldn’t say I used to be a fan that went to dozens of exhibits or something like that. However at any time when songs got here on the radio, I all the time loved them.
How did the job on the River of Goals tour come your means?
At this level, having finished a number of different issues, my identify pops up in most of these circles when persons are searching for a keyboard participant. I used to be invited to a closed audition. It was simply me and one different man, and I beat him out.
Describe the job. Some folks won’t perceive why he wants a keyboard participant since he’s taking part in piano.
He’s the piano participant and he does play a number of the keyboard elements on his data. However just about he performs piano through the exhibits, and I play organ and synths and horn strains and string strains and a number of the sound results and all the opposite stuff that goes on round him. And typically we play twin pianos. And sometimes, I’m taking part in a piano half when he’s simply singing.
I put on a number of totally different hats and it adjustments relying on what songs we’re doing. And the function of keyboards in his band modified all through the years, so my job is to convey to life a number of the totally different kinds of music as issues advanced all through his profession.
Proper. A track like “Stress” requires one thing very totally different than “Captain Jack.”
Completely. It’s a very totally different method to the sounds and what must be finished. My function is absolutely supportive. Clearly, it’s all about supporting him as a vocalist and a pianist and doing no matter every particular person track wants.
Inform me about that first tour in 1993.
That was the River of Goals tour. The file did very well instantly out of the field, so the tour began off fairly huge. We did one warmup present in Portland, Maine, after which I believe the second present was Boston Backyard. Every part was on 10 already.
It was a fairly superb expertise proper from the get-go. I’d finished a number of area exhibits with various kinds of artists, however there’s a magical power about Billy’s crowd. I’d by no means seen folks’s faces gentle up the way in which they gentle up after they hear his music. It’s actually a particular factor and really magical. The power of his crowds and the way in which folks reply after they hear his songs is absolutely unbelievable.
I used to be a photograph of you on that first tour. You form of have a Fabio haircut.
[Laughs] I had my Eighties rock helmet. I had simply finished an album with my very own band, Purple Daybreak, which Chuck Burgi was in as properly. My hair was nonetheless very lengthy from that. It was fairly totally different than the look of the opposite band members. I ultimately pulled it again in a ponytail after which I simply hacked all of it off. I used to be finished with it.
How was the Elton John tour of 1995 the place you’re doing stadiums?
That was simply an unbelievable expertise. Each Billy and Elton are giants of radio. It was three, 4 hours of fixed hits, one to the following. The present was all built-in collectively. We’d play one in all Elton’s songs in our set. Elton performed one in all Billy’s songs in his set. The entire present began with simply Billy and Elton themselves, going forwards and backwards with one in all every of their songs. After which Elton did his set, there was an intermission, after which we did our set with Billy. After which each bands performed collectively on the finish to simply gentle the place on hearth. It was simply an unbelievable expertise.
Did you develop near Elton’s band? Did you get to know his keyboardist, Man Babylon?
I knew Man fairly properly. I had met him, however didn’t know him properly earlier than that. We turned excellent mates. Each bands actually acquired alongside tremendously, and the crews. All of it turned one huge household, which is an extension of how issues are in Billy’s group with Billy on the helm. All of it looks like an enormous, prolonged household. We’re all very shut.
I’ve interviewed Crystal Taliefero, Mark Rivera, and Mike DelGuidice. All of them say Billy is the perfect boss they’ve ever had.
He actually is. He’s very beneficiant. He’s taken care of all of us through the pandemic, which has actually, actually been phenomenal. I don’t know some other artist that’s doing something like that and even remotely shut. We’re all very grateful to him. He’s simply the perfect work for.
He takes a break in 1997 and also you exit with Enrique Iglesias. Inform me about that.
Enrique was an enormous Billy fan and wished as many individuals from Billy’s band as he might get. It was me and Crystal and Tommy [Byrnes]. Chuck Burgi was on that tour, however he wasn’t in Billy’s band but. That was a terrific band. It was actually attention-grabbing. It was the start of Enrique’s profession. That was his first tour. He was nonetheless singing in Spanish. It was fairly an expertise. It was 95 p.c screaming ladies and 5 p.c complaining boyfriends.
It’s shocking that he wished Billy’s band. It’s such a unique type of music.
Yeah. However we performed his stuff nice. It was enjoyable and a really, very totally different expertise than something I had finished, but it surely was very cool.
Within the late Nineties, I noticed Billy do a number of interviews the place he stated he was going to cease touring. Did you are worried it was ending then?
He saved saying it at the moment. We had been joking that it was the “annual retirement tour” in these days, however he saved on coming again and we saved doing it. Audiences saved on loving it. It simply saved going. The tempo slowed down tremendously, however we saved going.
How was that New 12 months’s Eve present in 2000?
That was actually magical. Once more, there we had been on the Backyard. And there was all of the hoopla about Y2K and no person knew what was going to occur at midnight. It turned out to be nothing. However there was an enormous build-up to that and it was actually an unbelievable present. We had been all in a lucky place to have turned the millennium, however to do it onstage with Billy and his followers there. It was actually a memorable evening.
Did you are worried that at midnight the facility would exit and “Miami 2017” would begin taking place for actual?
[Laughs] We didn’t know what to suppose!
You program synths for different excursions, like some E Road Band ones. Are you able to speak about that?
Synth programming has all the time been an enormous a part of what I do. I’d all the time develop my very own sounds and provide you with no matter I wanted for my very own elements. However an increasing number of, folks had been beginning to ask me for assist with their stuff.
One factor led to a different and I wound up doing a little programming for the Rising tour. I had finished another programming within the Nineties for another bands like Dream Theater. However then I acquired requested to come back aboard for the Rising tour and do some synth programming, after which in a while the Wrecking Ball tour.
Each of his keyboard gamers, Roy Bittan and Charlie Giordano, had been utilizing gear they’d been hauling round for 20, 30 years. They wanted to modernize, so I used to be introduced in to re-design each of their keyboard rigs. I did it from the bottom up and set them up with computer systems and redundancy and every thing. I helped them get their sound. It was a enjoyable expertise.
Did you go to band rehearsals?
Oh, yeah. I used to be there for all of the rehearsals. It’s humorous. Roy stated to me, “Are you OK being down there and never up right here taking part in?” I stated, “I’m greater than OK. I’m completely positive. I get to do huge exhibits on a regular basis with Billy.”
I perceive how a man like Roy thinks. I perceive what it’s wish to be in his place up there being the man taking part in. I do know his ideas and I do know what he’s going to search for when it comes to counting on his sounds and having a keyboard rig that’s dependable evening after evening. It’s the identical with Charlie. And so I designed the system so it will be one thing that I’d be snug utilizing. However I used to be simply setting it up for another person.
I used to be there all by way of the rehearsals after which the primary couple of weeks of the tour to ensure every thing was positive and dealing, after which they had been on their means.
In the course of the rehearsals, what precisely are you doing?
I used to be ensuring that every thing was working, and I used to be serving to them get the sounds for the brand new file, which was all new stuff. When rehearsals ended, since we had been porting every thing into computer systems and form of bringing it into the twenty first century, a number of my job was taking their previous sounds and changing them so that they could possibly be performed again utilizing MainStage on the pc, which is a software program host for synthesizers and issues like that. And I made all of it computer-based.
Bruce could be very, very specific in regards to the sounds he needs. He needs it to be completely, precisely what it was, so I needed to fully replicate it in order that once I converted from the previous analog stuff to the pc world that there was no perceivable distinction within the sound.
In actual fact, the date I really switched from the previous system to the brand new system, even Roy didn’t discover. He was like, “Wow, I used to be taking part in the brand new system at present?” I used to be like, “Yeah, you had been.”
You probably did one thing related for a Woman Gaga tour?
Yeah. I did some programming for her and her keyboard participant. I’ve finished a number of consulting with a number of totally different keyboardists and helped them put techniques collectively for excursions.
It’s form of an artwork type and I assume not many individuals know easy methods to arrange rigs for these large area excursions.
Yeah. And so they should be bulletproof. I all the time set issues up with redundancy and easy methods to swap issues shortly to a backup. Computer systems are far more secure now than they was, however they’re nonetheless computer systems they usually can crash.
Apart from the Paul McCartney second, inform me your favourite reminiscence from the Final Play at Shea.
Effectively, that was in all probability one in all them. However there have been so many, all of the totally different artists that we had up as company. It was superb. A variety of them had been artists that I grew up listening to, and there they had been up there taking part in with Billy. We had been the band. It was too many pinch-yourself moments to say all of them.
And, after all, Shea Stadium is a spot the place I used to go see baseball video games as a child. There was an iconic presence on the venue as a result of the Beatles, after all, opened it. And Billy was closing it. It was magical.
What are your favourite Billy songs to play stay?
That’s powerful. [Laughs] I’d say that “Italian Restaurant” might be one of many huge ones. It goes by way of so many various adjustments musically and the gang sings alongside and it’s thrilling and it climaxes on the finish of the “Brenda and Eddie” part and comes again.
It’s only a journey, that track, and actually encapsulates what life is like for thus lots of Billy’s followers rising up. I believe everyone actually connects to it. I believe there’s a number of Brendas and Eddies on the market within the viewers. And in order that one is absolutely enjoyable to play.
Did you play on the Obama fundraiser present in 2008 when Bruce and Billy performed with their bands mashed up?
Yeah. It was a couple of month earlier than Obama was elected for his first time period. That was a fairly superb expertise. And to play a few of Bruce’s songs with him and see Billy and Bruce sing collectively … It was actually a magical evening. And though we didn’t realize it on the time, a telegraphed second for what would come later once we did the one centesimal present on the Backyard and Bruce got here as much as play.
Billy toured for a bit after Final Play at Shea, however then he acquired hip-replacement surgical procedure and form of vanished. Did you suppose he was finished?
He stated he was finished, however in my coronary heart I aways believed that he wasn’t. After all, it was nothing greater than a hunch and a hope, however I believed that he’d come again and wish to come again and would miss it after some time. Positive sufficient, that turned out to be true.
Inform me about 12/12/12. From my vantage level, you guys had been higher than the Who, the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, and even Bruce.
It was simply a type of nights the place the celebs aligned. Everybody was at their greatest. Billy was on hearth. He simply lit the gang up, plus we hadn’t performed in a number of years and had been like animals simply set free of a cage. The adrenaline from all of us, and from Billy, after all, we feed off his power. … The power degree we reached was so superb.
However I assumed there have been a number of bands that had been superb that evening. I do know lots of people over time have singled out that efficiency as one thing magical, which I assumed it was, however I assumed there was a number of superb issues that evening.
That was the start of Billy going, “Wait a minute, possibly I’ve nonetheless acquired some extra gasoline within the tank.”
What amazes me is that his physique clearly ages, however his voice by some means stays mainly the identical.
Yeah. His voice is simply superb, and retains getting higher. He’s been singing amazingly properly and his tone is richer than it’s ever been. He’s all the time been a tremendous singer, however he’s even gotten higher with age.
Studying in regards to the MSG residency should have been surprising.
Yeah. It appeared surreal once we began it, however no person thought it will go longer than a yr, possibly two. We had no concept it will go seven years and counting once we had been interrupted by the pandemic. He did say that he’d do it till demand wasn’t there anymore, and that day simply hasn’t come but.
The touring has gone larger. You fill baseball stadiums in markets now the place you used to do arenas. It’s by some means rising.
That’s proper. We’re at a a lot slower tempo. We solely do two or three exhibits a month. It’s a tempo that’s actually working for Billy and protecting his voice recent, hitting the stage recent each time. By the point it’s time to do a present once more, we’re all dying to get again up there and adrenaline goes into overdrive and we hit the stage with all this pent-up power popping out. It’s a number of enjoyable.
I’ve so as to add that it’s a very distinctive group of musicians that may hit the stage actually chilly. We do a soundcheck after which we go. We don’t rehearse. The group of musicians is absolutely off the charts. There’s a lot expertise. And it begins with Billy and trickles down from there.
How is the set record made?
Steve Cohen, the lightning designer and manufacturing designer, often submits the primary draft of what he thinks may work. After which Billy takes a take a look at it in soundcheck. Typically we put our two cents in. Typically he says, “I’m not within the temper to do that track.”
If he’s not feeling a track on a sure day, he gained’t do it. I believe that’s actually cool as a result of the songs he does do, he’s feeling them that evening, and it makes an enormous distinction. Happily, his catalog is sufficiently big that he can afford to throw away a bunch of massive hits and nonetheless have tons greater than he can lean into.
And so Billy will edit it and it will get whittled right down to what ultimately turns into the set record, however even then once we hit the stage, something can occur. There’s all the time a number of spontaneity within the present and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.
Do you ever speak about doing The Stranger straight by way of, or one thing like that?
That was talked about within the early days of this run, however we ended up not going that route. There have been some exhibits the place we targeted extra on one album or one other, but it surely works greatest to the touch on all of the data so that everyone can hear the songs they love. We additionally go deep with the album cuts. It’s not all hits that we do. I don’t suppose any two exhibits ever had the identical set record.
Are there sure uncommon songs — like “James,” or one thing — that you just hope to play in the future?
That one we haven’t finished but, however we’ve hit some actually uncommon gems and we’ve even finished stuff with Billy on the Backyard that he by no means did again after they had been present. It’s a number of enjoyable to work these up. Typically they stay for a present or two, and typically extra, and everybody every so often we uncover a gem that we let slip by way of the cracks for some time and it turns into a mainstay of the set for some time. It’s a really natural factor and it retains on altering.
And, after all, Billy is all the time taking part in totally different cowl songs and throwing stuff in there. We’re all the time doing issues that aren’t deliberate. After I say “spontaneous,” it’s the true definition of the phrase. It’s actually spontaneous. We simply type of go for it. I believe the gang actually picks up on the truth that we’re actually up there and we’re actually taking part in. Typically we make errors, however that’s a part of the power of simply going for it as a band. It’s an entire lot of enjoyable.
It’s all the time enjoyable to listen to “Blonde Over Blue” or “Operating on Ice” and songs I by no means thought I’d hear stay.
Yeah. I by no means thought we’d play them stay, however there we had been doing it. I believe it’s actually good for those that come to a number of exhibits. Each every so often, they’re going to get a particular gem that they by no means thought they’d hear.
my little mans did so good
Prior to now few weeks alone, “Zanzibar” turned a TikTok dance craze, The Boys on Amazon Prime used a ton of Billy Joel songs, and the brand new Olivia Rodrigo track “Deja Vu” has an entire verse about listening to “Uptown Woman.” It looks like youngsters are out of the blue embracing Billy, seemingly out of nowhere.
It’s true. When “Zanzibar” turned a TikTok sensation, everybody felt like they had been discovering the track. However the track has been there a very long time. It’s a terrific track, but it surely’s fascinating to observe an entire new era of individuals uncover it.
His touring gave you a number of downtime. What crammed out the remainder of your time lately?
I’m all the time doing one thing. One in every of my enjoyable facet initiatives that I’ve been doing is correcting all of Billy’s sheet music, which has been horribly improper for years. “Piano Man” was lacking measures and there have been improper notes and elements of songs that weren’t even there. The common individual would purchase his sheet music and attempt to play it and go, “That doesn’t sound correct, however I assume I suck.” Effectively, no, really the music is improper.
Sufficient of these tales acquired again to Billy and he requested me to undergo the entire catalog and take my time with it, however to ensure every thing he’s ever written is correct in print. I’ve finished eight albums already and I’m working my means by way of the entire catalog. That turned out to be an excellent mission to do through the pandemic as a result of it’s a mission I do on my own anyway.
Are you aware each single word now from each album?
I do. I don’t have all of them memorized. However I’ve been documenting all of it. Even earlier than that mission, I’m clearly very aware of all of the intricacies of every thing that he’s finished. It’s a part of my job as musical director. Nevertheless it’s been a really cool mission.
Other than that, I do a number of recording initiatives right here at my studio. I did a progressive-rock album with a band known as Pleased the Man, which was actually cool. That was a band that was one in all my favourite bands of all time. I used to take heed to them on a regular basis once I was at Berklee. I used to be very influenced by them. Equipment Watkins was an enormous affect on me as a keyboard participant. I transcribed a number of his stuff.
And when the band wished to do a reunion album, and Equipment didn’t wish to do it, I used to be like, “I’ll do it! I’d like to play with you guys.” And so I wound up making a file with one in all my favourite bands. That was actually cool.
Are you in common contact with Billy nonetheless?
Yeah. We keep up a correspondence. It’s typically on the cellphone and so much by way of electronic mail. He’s doing good and he’s anxious to come back again, as all of us are, when it’s secure to take action. With these huge concert events we now have, it’s powerful. We have now six stadium exhibits which are fully offered out that we’re ready to do and 6 Backyard exhibits that had been fully offered out that we’re ready to do.
These exhibits had been offered earlier than the pandemic and there’s no social distancing, so we now have to attend till we are able to do them as regular exhibits, which all of us hope will probably be someday this yr.
The dream of so many musicians is a gentle gig, and it’s so uncommon. You’ve one of many few.
Sure. We actually do. I by no means take that with no consideration. I all the time attempt to be cognitive of the truth that you by no means know when all of that is going to finish. I believe this pandemic was a reminder of how fragile something might be at any time limit. I believe that’s why we’re going to all respect it a lot when it comes again, and never simply us as performers, however the crowd and, after all, the crew and everybody from high to backside.
How do you suppose you’ll really feel on the first present again at MSG when the lights exit and the theme to The Pure begins taking part in?
I believe the power goes to be off the charts, not solely from the band and Billy, as a result of we’re going to be so excited to be again, however I believe the gang is simply going to be so euphoric to be at an enormous live performance once more and return to the great previous days once we had been in a position to do this on a regular basis with out fascinated with it. And I believe everyone goes to understand it that rather more.
There’s all the time a particular second within the present when the entire crowd sings together with “Piano Man.” I all the time get chills from that. However after they get to the road, “He is aware of that it’s me they’ve been coming to see to overlook about life for some time,” the gang simply erupts. I’m getting chills now simply telling you about this, simply fascinated with that.
That’s what Billy’s concert events are all about. Everybody there simply forgets about life for some time and has an excellent time. We’re all so wanting ahead to coming again and doing that once more.