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Fabulous Flip Sides of 1980s Capitol Records with Author Dave Morrell and Great White’s Michael Lardie

In his fourth book, Dave Morrell looks back on his years at Capitol with Carole King, Rick Nelson, The Tubes, Heart, Bob Seger, Duran Duran, Donny Osmond, members of The Beatles and Great White, then their keyboardist Michael Lardie joins the back to back interview hour
Capitol main

GOLDMINE: Thank you for all the behind the scenes stories in Run-Out Groove. What a way to spend the 1980s! As that exciting decade for music began, I remember when Carole King’s Pearls – Songs of Goffin and King album was released. I really thought it had a chance of becoming her Tapestry 2 when she returned to the Top 40, for the first time since 1977, with her version of “One Fine Day.” I love how supportive and kind she was in her telephone conversation with you.

DAVE MORRELL: Carole was mind blowing! I heard those great songs for years and then I was on the phone with her. I would have walked over hot coals for her.

Capitol Carole

GM: Rick Nelson’s Playing to Win opens with his version of John Fogerty’s “Almost Saturday Night,” and I thought it fit him perfectly, just like his clothes and perfect hair when you picked him up at his hotel.

DM: Yes. Rick tried, and we all wanted to win with him. Those songs that he picked were all winners, but it just didn’t stick with radio at the time. When I had worked at RCA in the prior decade, I was promoting Elvis, and got the same ho hum response from radio.

Capitol Rick

GM: I enjoyed the in-store appearance story with Fee Waybill of The Tubes. When I worked at record stores in the 1970s, I loved arranging those events. I saw April Wine and The Tubes live at the end of that decade after they both were signed to Capitol. It was great meeting April Wine backstage for an interview and The Tubes had such an exotic and entertaining stage show.

DM: Fee was a classic. The man could act. It was performance art and he could sing. I just saw him a few months ago shopping at Whole Foods.

GM: You and I have received some great holiday cards over the years. I have a collection of them from KISS. You received a very nice holiday card from one of my Top 5 all-time favorite bands, Heart, who I first heard on Canadian radio on their first label.

DM: When they came to Capitol, our team gave them much needed direction, production and songs and they became huge. It was easy to work with the whole team.

Capitol Heart

GM: Before we get to a few flip sides, let’s talk about Capitol’s all-time biggest rock and roll band, The Beatles, the band who inspired me to take this lifelong flip side journey. You met members of the group multiple times and their spouses too. You shared some wonderful stories.

DM: The Beatles were my number one band, so working at Capitol was a dream come true. I first met John when I was a teen, years prior to working there. He was so great. Paul was incredible, warm and charming to all.

GM: Based on all the songs that you wrote about, it seems that your favorite Capitol flip side of the 1980s is “Her Strut” by Bob Seger, one you often played on jukeboxes.

DM: I am a huge jukebox fan and that song is a winner. The reality is that Bob is an album artist. You could take 80% of his songs and get significant airplay at the FM rock radio stations. Each song would last for ten to twelve weeks and we could start the process over. With “Her Strut,” as the flip side of “Horizontal Bop,” yes it would have helped to flip the single over for Top 40 airplay, but his fans by this point were primarily album buyers.

GM: I remember hearing Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” on our car radio when my wife Donna was pregnant, and our daughter Brianna seemed to be dancing inside of her. I bought that gold single and the next one “Rio,” also enjoying “Hold Back the Rain” on its flip side, from this group who you took clothes shopping in America.

DM: What a funny story about the clothes. When they first arrived from England, they had a new romantic style. Then they all saw that I was wearing a boat neck striped shirt and they all wanted them! That flip side was a great bass driven alternative rock club smash.

Capitol Donny

GM: My favorite chapter is the one devoted to Donny Osmond. I shared that one with Donna, who was a big Osmonds fan in her early teen years. You shared an amazing story on Donny’s trust, kindness and humility. Of the flip sides of the three singles from his self-titled album, my favorite is “Only Heaven Knows.”

DM: I love that song. As you know, Donny got songwriting credit on that track and played keyboards and did the drum programming, which are so predominate on that flip side. Donny must have had a ball creating it.

GM: I am speaking with Great White’s keyboardist Michael Lardie next. You wrote some very nice things about the guys, believing that they had a lot of qualities that people saw in Def Leppard in their early days.

DM: Great White is pure rock and roll! The best! Enjoy your time with Michael and thanks again.

Great White circa 1987, Michael Lardie, 4th in the photo

Great White circa 1987, Michael Lardie, 4th in the photo

GM: I enjoy your recordings on Capitol and how much the label and guys like Dave Morrell, who I just spoke with, believed in you. All of your Top 100 singles were on that label. Your first one was “Rock Me,” in 1987, which is bluesy with a great build.

MICHAEL LARDIE: We were recording songs for the Once Bitten album and it was one of those things where we wanted the verses to be sultry and then have a build to a big and dynamic chorus. Our guitarist Mark Kendall came up with his part and he and I bounced off of each other for the basic song structure. Then it was just a matter of showing it to everybody and building it from there. It was pretty adventurous to think about how to make a rock song out of our original moments, but we got everybody on the same page pretty quickly and it turned out to be what I think is the quintessential Great White, if you had to describe us in a time capsule.

GM: “Save Your Love” came next in the Top 100, early the following year, and that one is steady, gentle and powerful.

ML: That one is certainly a concert favorite, one that you cannot ever avoid playing.

GM: I am originally from Cleveland and Ian Hunter was certainly big there. I was with Steve Popovich the week he signed Ian to his newly formed Cleveland Entertainment Company, which ultimately led to “Cleveland Rocks.” When I listen to your version of Ian’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” your piano part reminds me of Mott the Hoople’s “All the Way from Memphis” from their Mott album.

ML: Being a fan of Mott and Ian subsequently I just wanted to put together something which was reminiscent of that style and would hint at some of his great songs, making it an amalgam of Mott and Ian music, and it became our biggest single.

GM: Absolutely, a Top 5 gold single from your Twice Shy album. I do like how you, like the albums Mott followed by The Hoople, released your albums Once Bitten followed by Twice Shy. The next single from that album, which also made the Top 40, was “The Angel Song,” which is so pretty and is one of my favorites.

ML: Thank you. That song was originally a very guitar driven power ballad, maybe how Scorpions would have approached it, and then we decided to go a completely different way and give it a piano treatment. It changed the flavor of the song completely, making it subtle yet powerful at the same time.

GM: The flip side of that single was “Run Away” and is filled with steady powerful excitement, from an earlier album, Shot in the Dark.

ML: We were doing demos for a record contract and decided to do them as studio quality masters, thinking that maybe we would be lucky enough to have a whole album’s worth of recorded material that a label could pick up and run with it, and that strategy helped us get signed with Capitol. That album was a transition to add keyboards to what Great White was doing versus a prior Van Halen or Judas Priest sound.

Capitol GW flip

Great White

Flip side: Run Away

A side: The Angel Song

Top 100 debut: September 30, 1989

Peak position: 30

Capitol B-44449

GM: That single happened in the final months of the first vinyl era of records. “House of Broken Love” followed in 1990 as a bluesy cassette single.

ML: Mark sat in a chair for about ten hours working on his guitar solo, and everybody knows what a great bluesy guitarist Mark was. Listening back to the solo, it all made sense to us. It was one of those lucky and fortuitous times to put that much time and effort and to achieve such a great payoff.

GM: From your latest album, Full Circle, with the artwork that reminds me of the Sharknado series, “Movin’ On” has such a catchy chorus.

ML: It is another element of what we do, blues with an upbeat chorus.

Capitol GW full

GM: In the prior decade, you were a member of Night Ranger and you also worked on Jack Blades’ solo album. I just talked with Joel Hoekstra, who says hello to you.

ML: Yes there was a very brief time that I played with Joel. I was with them from 2002 through mid-2007. I was doing double-duty because Great White had re-formed at that point. Toward the end of that time is when Joel came in, who is a great guy and great guitar player. It was a great compliment for Night Ranger to ask me to join the group. Even though I also play guitar, they only wanted me as a keyboard player.

GM: Well, I think that you play everything, don’t you?

ML: Learning multiple instruments is very interesting to me. Over the years I have been able to infuse that into the Great White sound and the band has always been very supportive of my desire to do that. I grew up in California listening to all kinds of music, from The Beatles to Ike and Tina Turner.

GM: How was it working with Leslie West? Mountain’s Nantucket Sleighride is a favorite album of mine.

ML: It was cool. I worked as an engineer on his record. I did a lot of that in the early 2000s. I have been so lucky to do all kinds of things in the industry. More recently I was lucky enough to do the audio mix for Sheryl Crow’s Live at the Capitol Theater recording. I am a fan of Sheryl, so it was a great joy to do that project.

Capitol Sheryl

GM: “Soak up the Sun” is probably my favorite, but there are so many, and they are all represented on that 2 CD/DVD package from her 2017 Be Myself Tour.

ML: There were so many songs. Every day was exciting to go to the studio to work on it. She has such a great catalog of material.

GM: She is scheduled, at this point, to be back there in late October. Years ago she did a version of Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er” and when I listen to Great White songs, Jack Russell’s voice certainly sounds influenced by Robert Plant.

ML: Well that is his top guy, bar none. We were coming home from a leg of a tour in 1996 and we were sitting on the bus and discussed the possibility of doing an all Led Zeppelin show. We learned 21 songs, including “D’yer Mak’er,” in seven days. To try to replicate the songs correctly, we found that they are a lot more complex than people realize. It was a great challenge to do that. It was a little frightening at first and the task was a bit daunting, but I am surely glad that we did it, because I think it came across as one of the better Led Zeppelin tribute albums.

Capitol GW Zeppelin

GM: I also see that you are coming my way, here in Florida, hopefully in December with Autograph, which was postponed from this summer due to the pandemic.

ML: I am hoping that staying quarantined and socially distancing will make a difference. I look forward to us being busy again when it is safe to being amongst everyone. Thank you and Goldmine for all the support over the years.

Current lineup with Michael Lardie second from the left

Current lineup with Michael Lardie second from the left

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