For Mother’s Day, Lisa Burns and Sal Maida (Roxy Music/Sparks) pay tribute to their son Dylan with the EP My Boy and discuss a book about 100 Flop Albums You Should Know.
GOLDMINE: I want to welcome you both back to Goldmine. Let’s begin with your book The White Label Promo Preservation Society: 100 Flop Albums You Ought to Know that you, Sal, wrote with Mitchell Cohen and other writers including Lisa. I love this type of variety. My favorite music books are when you learn about songs or albums which inspire you to check out music you may have missed. It includes one of my favorite lesser known albums in my collection, Glen Campbell’s 1974 Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb with some gems like “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and “I Keep it Hid” back-to-back, which Mitchell Cohen wrote about.
SAL MAIDA: Thank you so much. It was fun to put together with my friends and my wife.
GM: Yes, Lisa, you wrote about Shangri-La’s 65! which includes the single “Right Now and Not Later,” about being tired of excuses. You stated that it was a Motown style track and I agree. I hear a little bit of “Back in My Arms Again” in that arrangement.
LISA BURNS: I love both sides of that single. I am fascinated with “Right Now and Not Later” because it is not in their normal style. First of all, I love Motown and it shows you that they could sound good in any style with their great vocals and interpretations. I love the flavor of the song and that it is a clear command but not mean spirited. She is strong enough to say that it has got to be now or not at all.
GM: The flip side from the single, also on the album, “The Train from Kansas City” is about the old potential boyfriend coming to town and she didn’t have the courage to write him a letter prior to that. Now she is going to meet him at the train station, hopefully let him down easy, and show him the ring on her finger. You also wrote about the propulsive train rhythm.
LB: I think that Jeff Barry joining Shadow Morton as a producer on this song has something to do with its sound. I liken the story to “24 Hours from Tulsa” because it has that similar theme, and it contains that kind of drama of confronting a relationship. I found those themes so compelling when I was young, and I still find them to be compelling.
SM: It was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who were an incredible team. It is very atmospheric.
Fabulous Flip Side: The Train from Kansas City
A side: Right Now and Not Later
Billboard Top 100 debut: October 5, 1965
Peak position: No. 99
Red Bird 10-036
GM: Let’s move on from the book to your new EP My Boy which is the perfect length as is the song order.
LB: I had three songs, added a fourth, and then I said, “No more.” This is enough to finish my statement as a recording artist who wants to express herself.
GM: Your opening song on the loss of Dylan is very honest, “Hey God, do you ever make a mistake?” People certainly wonder that.
LB: Losing a child is the ultimate test of your faith unless you are so devout that you don’t question it, which I can’t imagine, but I can respect that. You question why and don’t get an answer. You can surmise this or that. Perhaps it is random or is it by design? Whatever your belief system is, I think it gets shaken.
GM: What I hear in the recording, which puts a smile on my face, is the piano. I think about Dylan and his long fingers playing keyboards with the musical bravery he possessed. This is a good tribute to his style.
LB: Yes. That is exactly why I chose it for this track. Dylan’s close friends love the samples that I chose because they really felt Dylan in it, like you noticed. The EP is filled with samples with Sal and I being the only musicians in the studio.
GM: My favorite song is “Jamming with Walter.” Thank you for creating the video to debut on Mother’s Day to go with our Goldmine interview article. I love the shots of Dylan and Steely Dan’s Walter Becker. When I wrote the Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides In Memoriam article on Walter Becker in 2017, the flip side I highlighted was “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” which you quote in the song. Dylan goes to heaven, and he is jamming with Walter Becker, of all people.
LB: Sal came up with that title. I asked him, “What do you think Dylan is doing now?” He said, “Jamming with Walter.” Of course, I knew who Walter was because Dylan was a huge Steely Dan fan as were all of the people who were in the jazz program when he attended The City College of New York. All the students became Dan Fans, and he was a Dan Fan before that. He had seen them many times. About two months before he passed, he was in a lot of pain, but bought me a ticket to Donald Fagen’s show, because I had never seen Steely Dan and it was just Donald Fagen at that point as Walter was already gone. I remember asking him how he was going to make it with his leg hurting. He said, “We have got to go.” We took the train and went to The Beacon Theatre and he and his friend and I saw the concert, for my first Steely Dan experience. It was awesome and we talked about it for days. It was the first song that I wrote for the EP.
GM: “That Day in December,” the month Dylan passed in 2019, deals with not knowing at the time that it will be the final time.
LB: That is the honest truth that you don’t know. It was a surprise to the doctors also. It wasn’t like when you are on a watch, and they tell you it is close. He was still receiving treatments. It was serious but not expected at that moment but there was no warning.
GM: You mention Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. When I was in college, our jukebox had “I Wish” and “Sir Duke” on it from that album.
LB: Dylan was really listening to that album a lot in rotation in the hospital, so it was very meaningful. He was playing a small keyboard that the music therapist had brought. Dylan was teaching the therapist some of his songs, as the therapist was a guitarist, so that they could jam together. Even on his last day he was playing that keyboard in bed. It was terribly sad, but it was inspirational.
SM: We received a wonderful letter from the music teacher who spent time with him at the end. It was absolutely heartwarming that he bonded with our son during his final days.
GM: My wife Donna and I were at an oldies show here in Daytona Beach in March where Ronnie Spector was referenced twice. First, La La Brooks, of The Crystals, sang “Be My Baby,” and dedicated it to Ronnie Spector. Then when Jay and The Americans were on stage, before performing their cover hit of The Ronettes’ “Walking in the Rain,” they dedicated it to Ronnie Spector, who we lost in January. I detect a touch of Ronnie’s vibrato, which is what La La mentioned about her friend Ronnie, in your voice on “See You When I Get Home.”
LB: Her vibrato was a huge influence on me from the first time I recorded in a recording studio, and someone mentioned that which took me by surprise. What we hear as young people stays in our memory banks. I remember trying to cultivate a vocal vibrato by listening to Rita Coolidge singing Leon Russell’s composition “Superstar” on Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen live album. When I was old enough to be in a band, the people said, “You should put a tremolo in your voice” and I didn’t know what they were talking about. Then they gave me Mad Dogs and Englishmen so that I would understand. In a certain key, the vibrato brings up Ronnie Spector. It was devastating to hear about Ronnie.
GM: Being from Cleveland, it was tough losing both Ronnie Spector and Meat Loaf in January. Ronnie recorded the first Cleveland International Records single, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” and Meat Loaf recorded the first album for Steve Popovich’s label, Bat Out of Hell.
SM: Like you, we also knew Steve, who was a wonderful guy. I also played with Ronnie.
GM: So many of our musical heroes are leaving us. My In Memoriam series is growing in length. Sal, from what I recall, around the time of Dylan passed from melanoma, weren’t you heading to another country for medicine for him?
SM: Oddly enough, I was headed to Latvia, via Moscow of all places. We had a GoFundMe page, and a lot of people were very generous, which was very touching, so that I could make a trip and get this experimental medicine. I felt a sense of responsibility to the people who contributed and to our son to give it a shot. Unfortunately, nothing really worked for him, not all the drugs or chemotherapy. Surgery turned sour in the end, and this was our last hope.
LB: He had several surgeries which he did well with but the actual treatments to stop it from spreading just never worked.
SM: The illness was too aggressive. I made a quick two-day trip to Latvia, which we are now seeing on the news map a lot. It is a democratic country. The taxi driver explained its history to me on how it escaped from the Soviet Union before Putin took power. I made the trip, got back, but it was too late.
LB: I never thought that I would want to write or sing about losing Dylan. Just the thought was abhorrent to me. After a year I tried but thought it was terrible. Then I found a way to do it in the second year and it was much longer before I would let anyone hear this. We kept it very fresh in the studio because I thought that if we were going to do this, I wanted the listeners to feel the truth of my intention.
GM: The EP, available on Bandcamp, is a fundraiser for St. Jude Childen’s Research Hospital, who are doing wonderful things with Ukrainian children, where they flew to Poland to get the Ukrainian children and fly them to Memphis for their cancer treatments.
LB: That is fantastic. Ever since Dylan’s passing, I had been thinking, what could be worse than your adult child going through this? I think having a young child going through a cancer related disease would be so difficult. The idea that they take the parents in is wonderful so that the child isn’t just in the hospital alone with family being so far away. I was pleased to be able to send them a big check, because in the first couple of weeks, from supporters like you and Donna, and others, we did well, and it was a good feeling to be able to do something in your kid’s name.
SM: They also sent a beautiful card to us. Lisa and I thank you so much for your coverage of our music over the years. I know you and Lisa go back to her 1978 album debut.
LB: Yes, thank you so much again for this Goldmine Mother’s Day article to go with the rest of your coverage and we thank you for remembering Dylan with us.
Dedicated to Dylan Maida: August 1993 – December 2019
Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides now in its seventh year