Celebrating Roxy Music’s induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, we spoke with bassist Sal Maida on his time with the band followed by being a member of Sparks and highlight sections of his new book Four Strings, Phony Proof and 300 45s.
By Warren Kurtz
Bassist Sal Maida left New York City for England in the early ‘70s. Between his time with Roxy Music and Sparks, he was back in the U.S. as part of the Long Island band Milk ‘N’ Cookies. In the ‘80s, he co-wrote and appeared on his wife Lisa Burns’ independent single “Love Wanted” / “Cool Boy, Cruel Boy” and their group Velveteen’s album on the Atlantic label. In the ‘90s, Sal and Lisa were part of the country rock group, The Lovin’ Kind with a CD release. For more of Sal’s ‘80s and ‘90s work with Lisa see our Goldmine interview with Lisa Burns.
Roxy Music’s live album Viva! was released in 1976, comprised of UK recordings from 1973 through 1975. During this era, the band had four bassists on record /or tour: Sal Maida, John Wetton, John Gustafson and Rick Wills, along with Bryan Ferry on vocals, Andy Mackay on saxophone and oboe, Phil Manzanera on guitar, Paul Thompson on drums, and Eddie Jobson on violin, keyboards and synthesizer.
GOLDMINE:Side 1 of Viva! starts with the great excitement of Andy on oboe and Eddie on violin, something you generally don’t say about a rock band, on “Out of the Blue” and then ends with “Both Ends Burning,” which served in the U.S. as the flip side of “Love is the Drug.”
SAL MAIDA: Those are great live versions. I play on a couple of other songs on that side, “Chance Meeting” and “Pyjamarama.”
GM:Which was half the namesake later for Bananarama, along with The Banana Splits. The album ends with another exciting number, “Do the Strand.” The flip side of that U.S. single was the lively, “Edition of You.”
SM: I played “Editions of You” live recently. Both of those songs come from my favorite Roxy Music album, For Your Pleasure.
Flip side: Editions of You
A side: Do the Strand
Warner Brothers WB 7719
GM:You joined the band for the tour to support their next album, Stranded.
SM: Yes. I was working at Scene and Heard, a big record store on Tottenham Court Road, almost the size of a department store. Paul came in, who I had known from his pre-Roxy Music days when he was in the band Smokestack Crumble and I had done session work with them. Eddie was with Paul too. They mentioned that their bassist John Gustafson couldn’t do the upcoming tour and that they were looking for a bass player. I auditioned and got the job. On the tour, two of the best songs from Stranded were included, “Mother of Pearl” and “A Song for Europe.” That second one was elegant and challenging to play. The audience loved it.
GM:You performed on Dick Clark’s In Concert television show.
SM: It was an absolute blast to meet Dick Clark, TV royalty, an institution. I watched him stand next to Bryan, interviewing him. We played “Street Life” from Stranded.
Roxy Music: Sal Maida on right, courtesy of HoZac Books / hozacrecords.com
GM:The first time that I saw and heard Sparks was on either Dick Clark’s In Concert or Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert shows. They performed songs from the Propaganda album, which I bought and love. The single from it was “Something for the Girl with Everything.”
SM: That song is a ball to play live. I was a fan since seeing them in 1972 at Max’s Kansas City club in New York. In the mid-‘70s, Russell and Ron Mael wanted to put together an English band. They were searching for an English bassist and saw me playing at The Rainbow with Roxy Music, but I wasn’t English. Later, when they were planning on recording their Big Beat album in New York, they remembered me from that Rainbow show. I joined them in 1976 for the Big Beat album and tour.
Sparks’ Big Beat tour in 1976: Left to right, Luke Zamperini, Ron Mael, Sal Maida, Russell Mael, Hilly Michaels and Jimmy McAllister of The Beckies, courtesy of HoZac Books / hozacrecords.com
GM:In your book you write about a couple of British bass players, Chris Squire and John Wetton, both who we have lost in recent years.
SM: Chris was certainly an inspiration. I enjoy his pre-Yes work in a band called The Syn in the late ‘60s. Then, on Yes’ second album, A Time and a Word, he shined on “Astral Traveller.” When I moved to England I auditioned for the band Family unsuccessfully, but John was successful with his audition. After that he joined King Crimson. They had the same management group as Roxy Music, which led to his time with the band. John always wanted to be a singer and we sure heard him succeed with Asia in the ‘80s.
GM:You also write about some favorite concerts you attended of The Rolling Stones and David Bowie.
SM: I saw The Rolling Stones at their first Madison Square Garden show which would lead to some of the tracks on their live Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out album. Mick Taylor was with them on guitar for the first time. Mick Jagger was wearing a top hat and cape. It was tremendous. I saw David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars show twice at Carnegie Hall and at Radio City Music Hall. These are among my all-time favorite shows.
GM:Like John Borack’s recent book, Shake Some Action 2.0, you also cover hundreds of recordings.
SM: I am in that book too, with “I Can Really Disappoint You” by The John Sally Ride, making his Top 20 songs of 2017 and A New Set of Downs in his Top 20 albums. This is my latest band here in New York.
GM:Let’s go through a few of the 300 45s you highlight. Growing up in Cleveland, we were thrilled at the success of “Time Won’t Let Me.” Years later, my wife Donna and I had our first slow dance at a local Sonny Geraci show, when he sang “Precious and Few” from his Climax years. Sonny is another talent that we lost in recent years.
SM: I love “Time Won’t Let Me” and used it as an instruction record when I was learning to play bass by ear. In addition to that Outsiders song, I also used The Kinks’ “Till the End of the Day” and Beatles songs.
GM:Donna would also choose the same Badfinger song as you, too. We saw Joey Molland perform all four big hits plus “Without You” at a Hippie Fest concert here in Daytona Beach.
SM: It was tough to pick a favorite and I chose “Baby Blue.”
GM:When I was in the first half of my senior year of high school, for our school newspaper, we listed a Best New Artist of 1975 category to vote on. Barry Manilow, who won, and Captain & Tennille were huge in the Top 40. Jefferson Starship had their Top 40 debut with “Miracles” at the time. My friend Laurie selected The Dwight Twilley Band as the dark horse candidate due to their Top 40 success of “I’m On Fire.” From that debut album, Sincerely, you selected their next single.
SM: Yes, “You Were So Warm” for the chills it brings to your body.
GM:George Clinton and Parliament – Funkadelic won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award this year. They sure sounded different on one that you and I loved from ’67.
SM: Ah, “(I Wanna) Testify” on that small Revilot label is an all-time classic soul record, from Detroit, and they used to hang out in New Jersey.
GM:Speaking of Detroit, Donna and I just saw two of the original Vandellas in concert. You selected another Motown favorite of mine, a moodier one by The Marvelettes.
SM: “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” is one of the best Motown records, from an underrated group.
GM:I guess the term underrated would also be fitting for The Chiffons and Reparata and the Delrons, who I learned of from a Rhino collection of 101 songs One Kiss Can Lead to Another.
SM: The Chiffons’ “Nobody Knows What’s Going on in My Mind but Me” is a quirky piece of work. The Tokens produced it. In addition to Reparata’s “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now,” that I chose, they did have a local hit in New York with “Whenever a Teenager Cries.”
GM:That Rhino collection also introduced me to the Brenda Lee song that you chose. I met her here in Florida at a Volusia County Fair concert and she quizzed me on who played guitar on that song, which she said she recorded in England. Fortunately, I guessed correctly with Jimmy Page.
SM: In addition to Jimmy playing on “Is it True,” which I selected, he also played on her version of “What I’d Say,” which is rare.
GM:That same Rhino collection is where I first heard Sandie Shaw with another one that you chose, which I also have on Debby Boone’s 1979 album.
SM: I had no idea that Debby Boone covered “Girl Don’t Come.” I’ll have to check that out.
GM:I am pleased that you selected a Christmas song and one that is a family favorite. Donna, our daughter Brianna and I would wait each year for Darlene Love’s appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
SM: I miss not seeing her sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” every year. It was a tradition that you got used to.
GM:You selected one from a girl group that Lisa and I discussed in our interview, The Shangri-La’s, when we were talking about Lisa’s album Channeling Mary, referencing The Shangri-La’s Mary Weiss. I love Mary’s 2017 album Dangerous Game.
SM: I selected “Out in the Streets” which is one of the Shangri-La’s hits I played on stage with Mary during live shows in 2007 and 2008 along with about half of the Dangerous Game CD.
GM:Lisa has also paid tribute to Jackie DeShannon with her newer song “Girl with the Sunshine Hair.” In 1978, my first published album review was Lisa’s debut and that is where I first learned “When You Walk into the Room.” I was so pleased to see you include this Jackie DeShannon 45 in your 300 45s that you reviewed in the book.
SM: I love that you heard it first from Lisa. She did a great job.
GM:Finally, in the book you write about your time in the band Milk ‘N’ Cookies and now that group is included on a new compilation with your flip side “Wok ‘n’ Woll.”
SM: Yes, a box set is now out in England of glam rock called All the Young Droogs.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.