Remembering Chad Stuart - one half of sixties duo Chad & Jeremy, who passed away December 20, 2020. This interview first appeared in Goldmine issue June 27, 2003.
When Chad and Jeremy were first invited to re-group, back in 1986 for the following year's British Invasion II tour, their first response was, "Hmmm, we don't think so!" Some twenty years had elapsed since the duo went their separate ways, four since an ill-fated reunion under the auspices of the MCA subsidiary Rocshire Records brought them one well-received album, followed by the dashing of hopes and dreams as the record label fell afoul of the law. Surely there was more to life, they both mused, than turning the clock back one more time to fifteen minutes of fame that was a lifetime away?
"Our initial reaction was, aren't we a bit old for this sort of thing?" Stuart recalled. Their second reaction was, how would it even be possible? Stuart himself was free to tour. But Jeremy was about to clinch a part in a new TV series, a big budget European remake of the story of William Tell. With the best will in the world, it would take some judicious juggling of schedules to participate.
Of course they did it, and of course they stole the show. Chad and Jeremy played thirty-three cities in six weeks on a bill that similarly resurrected Freddie and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Searchers and the Mindbenders. "Despite our initial misgivings, we both had the greatest time on that tour. Not only did we get to experience state of the art touring (a bit like the Wright brothers flying a Lear jet), but we also were reunited with fans who were teenagers the first time around. This time we got to meet their kids. It was fantastic."
On the last night of the tour, at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, they were signed to appear for two weeks at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe and, on the final night of that engagement, their sound engineer popped a cassette into his mixing desk, preserving the 50-minute show in its entirety.
Just a cassette. But, when you play it back fifteen years on, the timelessness that held the nightclub spellbound is just as tangible as it ever was. That's one reason (maybe the only reason) why Chad and Jeremy are as fondly remembered today as they were adored back in their prime, and applauded on their reunion.
In Concert (The Official Bootleg), released on Stuart's own Electric Paintbox label (www.electricpaintbox.com) is neither a hi-fi recording nor the ultimate source for all those old hits you hold so dear - Stuart himself describes the show as, "Too self-indulgent. It was our last night, and it sounds like it! The between-song chat is far too chatty and the sound quality is what you'd expect from a cassette. However, let it be said - I resisted the temptation to edit. This beast is the real deal - warts and all!" And, as a document of a night in the life, meandering preambles and all, you can forget its lack of stellar vintage fidelity and happily file it alongside Before And After, Distant Shores, Cabbages And Kings and The Ark. Because you know you want to.
It’s 40 years since Chad and Jeremy first appeared on the American scene, the latest and, in some ways, strangest, of all the British Invasion task force. Other bands were meatier, others still were beatier. There were the big ones and the bouncy ones. And then there was Chad and Jeremy, who were none of those things and are justly celebrated because of that.
David Stuart Chadwick was born in Windermere in the Lake District, in a county now known as Cumbria (very Lord of the Rings, and just as scenic). At the age of five, however, he was transplanted to Hartlepool, a north-eastern industrial city whose only other sons of historical note are the 17th. century peasants who hanged a shipwrecked monkey in the belief that it was a French spy.
Small wonder, then, that young Stuart's earliest dreams were of escape, first to Durham Cathedral where he was a chorister, then the Sorbonne University in Paris, and thence to the Central School of Speech & Drama in London where he met Michael Jeremy Thomas Clyde, the grandson of the Duke of Wellington and, therefore, great-great-great-grandson of the man who whipped Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo.
Born in Dorney, Buckinghamshire, Clyde attended Eton, England's most prestigious private school, where, foreshadowing his future fame, he was a soloist in the choir and active in the drama club. After a year at Grenoble University in France, Jeremy set his sights on acting as a career. He, too, enrolled at the Central School of Speech and Drama and was into his second year when a friend told him about a first year student by the name of Dave Chadwick who could play the Shadow's Apache all the way through.
"This was big news," Clyde remembered. "We used to get together in the breaks between classes and he taught me all the chords he knew." By 1962, as well as playing together as a folk duo, the pair had formed a band. The Jerks were a scruffy, long-haired, rock 'n roll group, a few years before such things were fashionable.
From the earliest of days, the USA was calling. Stuart recalled, "from the first moment we heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ both Jeremy and I - and thousands of other young Brits - were drawn to America like moths to a flame." It was an ambition that was not far from fulfillment. In 1963, John Barry signed the duo to World Artists records (Ember in the UK) and, the following May, ‘Yesterday's Gone’ hit the American chart.
It ultimately reached #21 in America, and the duo promptly began working on their debut album, a fascinating hybrid of Mersey-folk with a Seeger beat, and an eye for all the musical extremes in between. Stuart explained, "When I heard Paul McCartney sing ‘Till There Was You’ at the Royal Command Performance, I thought how cool that was, what a neat contrast to the other material. So I did ‘September In The Rain’ on our album. The idea was that you could be sweet and sentimental as well as doing the in-your-face rock stuff.’
Another track on the album, ‘A Summer Song,’ came about in the same way and, as far as the duo were concerned, it was intended to do nothing more strenuous than quietly occupy a remote corner of the album. Instead, it was released as the duo's next American single, and charged to #7.
Stuart still seems surprised by the suddenness of its break-out. "It was never meant to be a single, but you know what they say - fate is what happens to you when you're busy making plans! After that, the record company goes, ‘Gee whiz, we've got a goldmine here, so let's start churning out those ballads, boys!’
And that's what they did. ‘Willow Weep For Me,’ ‘If I Loved You,’ ‘What Do You Want With Me,’ ‘From A Window.’ Over the next year, Chad and Jeremy were World Artists' most reliable hit-makers. And, when they jumped ship to Columbia in mid-1965, they joined that label's chart-topping roster as well. ‘Before And After,’ ‘I Don't Wanna Lose You Baby,’ ‘Distant Shores.’
Hit followed hit, success followed success, TV came marching in. And, before the duo knew what had happened, suddenly they were everything that they'd never dreamed of becoming, and couldn't have foreseen in their darkest nightmares. Smartly suited, neatly coiffed, softly spoken, sweetly sung, yes, that was all their own work. But they were also whiter than white, cleaner than clean, nicer than nice. In a world of increasingly hirsute Brutish Invaders, they were the kind of boys that a girl could take home to meet her parents, and have her parents take him back to meet theirs’. Politely, you could describe them as "wholesome." Impolitely, Stuart snarls in retrospect, "Shallow and boring!"
Beneath it all, they were still the same people they'd always been, writing and singing the same sort of songs. But down the line, something had changed. "We just looked at each other and said, 'What have we done?' We thought we were sharp, we thought we were bright. We sat up late at night having deep conversations. We suddenly realized that we were slowly turning into Tom Jones. What the fuck happened?" It was 1967. But, in terms of the music they'd been shoe-horned into making, it might as well have been 1957.
"We were swept up in everything - we were on the road, we were, I dunno, distracted by the whole pageant. We were young, we never stopped and said 'hold everything - we're not comfortable with this.' It never occurred to us to do that. We just hung on and made the best of it. But there came a time when we had to grab the horns and try to pull in a different direction. The first time we heard Sgt. Pepper, that was a wake-up call. So we said 'Let's try and do something.'"
That something, of course, turned out to be their sixth LP, Of Cabbages And Kings, one of three Chad & Jeremy albums now enjoying a new, bonus track-packed, lease on life thanks to Sundazed's immaculate repackaging - the others are 1965's Before And After and the following year's Distant Shores.
Of Cabbages And Kings is widely regarded today as one of the key artifacts of the Summer Of Love, a magnificent gesture that, given its makers’ reputation (Tom Jones never sounded like this!), was surely as Quixotic as it was heroic. Wildly ambitious, beautifully constructed and exquisitely detailed slice of philosophical psych, it climaxed with the side-long ‘Progress Suite’ - and it was completely ignored, as Stuart well remembers.
"We were Chad and Jeremy, pop stars. We were the ‘Summer Song’ boys. People couldn't understand what we were doing making a record like that. ‘The Progress Suite’ in particular. Paul Kantner of the Airplane opined that Paul Simon could have said the same thing in four minutes, which cut me to the quick. But now I have to concede that he was right. I'd love to take a razor blade to ‘The Progress Suite.’ It's overdone, its overblown, too many repeats. I may go back and record a revised version one day. Why the heck not? Frank Zappa did it with all the Mothers of Invention stuff. Think about it - any symphony, concerto or Broadway musical is revised, torn apart and re-written. That's one of the drawbacks of a studio recording; once it's released, it's carved in stone. You can't say 'wait a minute - this bit doesn't work, we've gotta fix it!'"
At the time, however, the duo were unrepentant. More than that, they were determined to press on. Reconvening with producer Gary Usher, they set to work on The Ark and if you thought Cabbages was strange, The Ark made it look like two planks lashed together. But it confirmed in Stuart's mind all that history has since conferred upon its makers. Yesterday really was gone. Ironically, according to Stuart, nearly all the mail in response to the release of the In Concert CD mentions The Ark as the zenith of the Chad and Jeremy collaboration.
Before Cabbages and Kings, Jeremy had never demonstrated much interest in songwriting. Now material was pouring out of him, including the majority of this latest opus, and Stuart admitted, "It wasn't until The Ark that I started to feel comfortable with what we were doing. We were evolving a modus operandi that was peculiar to us; Jeremy would come up with his unique brand of songs and I would arrange them." In commercial terms, The Ark never stood a chance of staying afloat. In artistic terms, however, even some of Cabbages' critics were paying attention.
But it was too late. Chad tells the tale, "Two things happened next, to my horror. First Jeremy said 'I'm tired of this, I want to go back to acting.' Columbia responded by pulling the plug on all advertising and our contract was terminated. They couldn't comprehend the idea that just maybe it was possible to be a singer/songwriter and be an actor at the same time. Years later, David Bowie and Phil Collins would both demonstrate how silly that was. If Columbia had stayed with us, we'd have kept recording and it drives me insane to think what might have happened after The Ark."
"We committed the crime, or the mistake, of hubris. Jeremy said, 'I'm worthy of better things, I'm off to join the Royal Shakespeare Company.' My contribution was to say, 'Well, terrific! I always wanted to be an arranger/composer. Who needs you?" Columbia's reaction was. 'Who needs this? Your contract is suspended!' All of it was one gigantic mistake. We should have worked around Jeremy's ambitions, we should have worked around Columbia's objections, we should have kept recording. The Ark should have been a new beginning, not the end."
However, though it's easy to solve life’s problems with hindsight, the situation wasn't really that simple. Stuart continued, “Columbia had been charging us $400 an hour for the privilege of working in their studios. This drove our recording bills sky-high. We might be editing a 2-track but we'd still be charged this exorbitant price. Jeremy and I will remain technically in debt to Columbia Records for the rest of our lives. The combination of escalating studio costs, Jeremy's long absences to indulge his acting jones, and the inflexible attitude of everyone concerned made the situation impossible to resolve." (Clive Davis eventually shut down the Columbia studios, thereby ushering in an era when artists could record at the studio of their choice at a price they felt more comfortable with.)
With Clyde busying himself acting, and Stuart working as a staff producer at A&M, and musical director for the Smothers Brothers, it would be another eight years before 1977 brought a Chad and Jeremy reunion of sorts. They recorded a clutch of demos but then drifted apart when no new deal came in sight. Ironically, Stuart himself promptly landed a solo contract with Terry Melcher’s RCA-distributed label and, though the label collapsed before he'd recorded more than a handful of songs (including a remake of ‘Summer Song’), those tracks would eventually see release credited to Chad and Jeremy!
1982 saw the duo sustain a return to action, signing to Rocshire and cutting Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde in London in 1983, working around Clyde's commitments on the West End stage. Stuart then joined him when the duo took over the male leads (from Paul Jones and Gary Holton) in the Broadway show Pump Boys and Dinettes. A second album was scuppered when Rocshire went into receivership and, by the time the British Invasion II offer came around, disillusion had set in hard.
The tour was a triumph regardless - the live album proves that. And, while another professional separation darkened the horizon, a reunion at a later date was never ruled out. It finally occurred last year when Stuart set about preparing In Concert for release. On September 27, 2002, the 39th anniversary of the release of ‘Yesterday’s Gone,’ Chad and Jeremy came together in the studio to record a new version of the song, for use as a bonus track on the album (it’s joined by a 1984 TV recording of A Summer Song). Today, with the 40th anniversary clicking ever closer, the pair are sparking with new-found enthusiasm, and Stuart is determined to make up for lost time.
"Neither one of us has ever stopped writing. Jeremy has some awesome material ready and waiting, and my mission is to capture that work on Electric Paintbox before it's too late. It doesn't matter if 5,000 people or 500 or 50 get to hear the finished product. If I've learned one thing in this life, it's that it's not the quantity that counts, just the quality. Sounds a bit corny, but it really is true.
"This year is shaping up to be an amazing rerun of 1986, when we were first approached to do the British Invasion II tour. Back then, it didn't work out in the long run. But this year, Jeremy's really into it. He's got a huge backlog of material, we've got a drawer full of unreleased music, Sundazed are doing a terrific job with the re-releases. We have new management and an agency going to bat for us. Another important factor has been the response to our new website, (chadandjeremy.net) People have written in with some really heart-warming and encouraging words.
“2003, the 40th. anniversary of our first hit record, is shaping up to be an interesting year. We had our fifteen minutes of fame in the 60's, followed by an eternity in the wilderness. Then another 15 minutes of fame in the 80's, then another fifteen years in the wilderness. This time, I think we might aim for the full half hour."