Off the Record with John Kalodner Feb 22, 2004
UJ: John Kalodner saw Cream at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 1967, and he says that single concert experience changed his life and is definitely one of the reasons he pursued a path in the music business. A path that started as a Philadelphia music critic and freelance writer, and wound its way to the Atlantic Records publicity department in New York City. That in turn led him to A&R, Artists and Repetoire which the initials originally stood for in the 40s & 50s. As an A&R man, John Kalodner's responsibilities turned to scouting and signing bands for the label, and then guiding those bands' careers, from picking producers to helping craft the songs that end up on albums, to joining the artists on the road. In his 30 plus years in music, John Kalodner built the careers of Foreigner and Berlin and Whitesnake to name a few. He believed in Phil Collins' solo success and signed the former Genesis drummer when no one else would. John Kalodner's also worked with Aerosmith and Journey, and Bon Jovi, Santana and REO Speedwagon and The Black Crows and many others. He helped Sammy Hagar and Jimmy Page acheive success as solo artists. And he masterminded the Vision Quest, Armageddon and Runaway Bride movie soundtracks. And today, he gives us a rare inside glimpse at what it was like to work with some of those incredible bands and artists. Welcome to John Kalodner . . . Off The Record.
Track Foreigner - Hot Blooded
UJ: This is your Uncle Joe Benson speaking with John Kalodner Off The Record. Now you got your start in Philadelphia as a free lance music writer and a photographer. That turns into what, a job for the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. And you are doing that when Earl McGrath, head of publicity for Atlantic Records contacts you about moving to New York to work for Atlantic. So you take the job. How'd you move into signing bands for the label?
JDK: So I was doing my job in the Spring of 1976. I was going out to see bands as well, I went to see this band on Long Island called Trigger and I didn't think they were very good. And I see a tape on Jerry Greenberg's desk, it was a band called Trigger, and I said to, um, his assistant "I'd like to see this band, I'm interested to hear their tape, I never heard their tape". So I take the tape in my office, and I put the tape on and the first song on this tape is Feel Like The First Time, the demo of it. And I'm thinking,"What the hell is this, this is not the band I just went to see. So, there's 3 or 4 songs on there and they were all really good, So I call Jerry Greenberg, and I say "I went to see this band but it doesn't sound like the same band". So he says to me that this band, Trigger, was managed by this guy Bud Prager. He felt that Bud Prager could have something so we should go see this band which was just maybe 10 blocks from 75 Rockefeller Plaza. So right around, um, Memorial Day, we went to see this band play in Bud Prager's offices. He had a rehearsal place, and they play Feels Like the First Time and Lou Gramm is singing and Mick Jones is playing and they played some other songs. And we go down to the street. I remember Bud Prager's office was 1790 Broadway and Jerry Greenberg says to me, "Ya know I just have a feeling about this guy, this is the first thing you should sign. This is your project."
Track Foreigner ? Feels Like The First Time
UJ: Because you’d signed the band, were you involved with the production? The first …
JDK: I was totally involved, so this is how the A&R part comes. So, I sign this band, and, ummmm, I figure “OK, I’m gonna, like, go to some of the big producers of rock music cause this band has a good taste”.
UJ: Uh huh.
JDK: So I go to Glen Johns and Roy Thomas Baker and all these people, and they all pass. I thought, “what the hell am I gonna do?” It was just bizarre, and so Roy Baker, I think, tells me that this guy Jonathan Clarron and Gary Lyons were like an upcoming kinda production team, that I should use them. So I got ahold of them; Mick Jones liked them, Bud Turgon liked them, and we went into the studio in the Fall, and they do this record and Mick Jones to a large extent knows exactly what he wants to do, and in December they finish the recordings then the .. Gary Lyons and Jonathan Clarron mixed it and I hear the mixes and I think “OK I’m gonna get fired”, it didn’t come out the way it should, so I called Jimmy Douglas, who taught me to edit music, and I said, “can you mix this?” because Mick Jones felt that he could mix the record he just didn't have an engineer, so in January of 1977, the coldest January ever in New York, and Jimmy Douglas and Mick Jones mixed the record and it turned out great, and in March of 77 it came out, and all of a sudden I was an A&R person who knew what he was doing!
Track: Foreigner ? Cold As Ice
UJ: Even though you had this tremendous success right out of the box, the next album, Double Vision, does even better.
JDK: Which was even harder for me to do because Keith Olsen produced it, and I had the same problems with the mix because obviously Mick Jones’s concept and Lou Gramm’s vocals were probably difficult to do and I had to really consult with Bud Krager and have Mick Jones and Jimmy Douglas mix it, even though Keith Olsen was a very fine mixer at the time, but he could not mix Double Vision and then, and of course when that came out, that record was really huge, I mean, ‘cause the song, I was able to have input and tell me, ‘cause Mick Jones was really at the peak of really commercial rock songwriting and I was able to say I’m like how this rhyme is or this isn’t melodic enough in this song and it was very interesting to have somebody attempt to interpret what I was saying.
Track: Foreigner ? Double Vision
UJ: Foreigner’s Double Vision album was the first to sport John Kalodner’s trademark double credit John Kalodner : John Kalodner. Engineer Keith Olsen came up with the name doubling idea just before the album was mastered. This is your Uncle Joe Benson, and when John Kalodner Off The Record returns, John makes his first music video appearance in a Sammy Hagar video, and drags disgruntled Berlin singer, Terry Nunn, into her first Number One record.
JDK: Hi, this is John Kalodner. Welcome back to Off The Record with your Uncle Joe Benson.
UJ: When did you first run across, aaaah, Sammy Hagar?
JDK: Ummm, I had y’know, been a fan of his in Montrose I heard those records and I heard the records on Capitol, so when I came to Geffen I wanted to sign him, I wanted to sign Pat Travers too. But when I was able to sign, umm, Sammy Hagar, I started making those records with ummm, Keith Olsen and then later Ted Templeman and that was the, the really, the first A&R where I was really involved, really going to the artist’s house and working on the songs when he was demoing them and working with the producers and that was one of the first times that I really had a lot to say and really pushed the artist, and Sammy Hagar had a lotta, a lot of ability. Alot of times I say to him nowadays that “I really want to work with you” and he says “I don’t really want to work that hard" and I really, I really can understand what he means because when you’re the creator of music, it’s, it’s pretty painful to have people constantly criticising you.
UJ: Of the first ahhh three albums, Standing Hampton, Three Lock Box and VOA, was there a song on there that was a particular that you thought really demonstrated what Sammy was all about?
JDK: I’ll Fall In Love Again which I put on Vision Quest. I thought that was really something that demonstrated how great he was, obviously I Can’t Drive 55, which was my first video appearance, it was really funny because Sammy Hagar got to take his aggressions out on me on the video, like pushing me down numerous times as the judge which, y’know, we had to do many takes so I was black and blue by the end of the, of the session of shooting that thing!
UJ: Oh, it was for art’s sake!
JDK For art’s sake! And ummm, just in general, those records, especially VOA and Standing Hampton were pretty big works of art from start to finish, which was some of my early experiences in really knowing what that was; when I did Foreigner, it was sorta Mick Jones’s concept to a large extent and I was able to really A&R Sammy Hagar’s records.
Track: Sammy Hagar ? I Can’t Drive 55
UJ: It’s Joe Benson, Off The Record talking with John Kalodner
UJ: So you’re working with Sammy Hagar, you’re working with Asia, and in the middle of all this, you come across Berlin. How difficult were they to work with?
JDK: They were difficult, because they were very opinionated. They knew what they wanted to do, ‘course they didn’t like each other, like most bands, and Terry Nunn was very opinionated, she really did not wanna do Take My Breath Away and she did not wanna sing Take My Breath Away, which really put me a whole day of working with her to get her to sing it with Giorgio Moroder, with great patience, and when she sang it, it was beyond spectacular, but I don’t know if she ever liked it, I’m not sure that she did, I mean she used to say quite unpleasant things about the recording at least for a while, but …they were very difficult to deal with.
Track: Berlin ? Take My Breath Away
UJ: Take My Breath Away, Berlin’s lucrative contribution to the Top Gun movie soundtrack in 1986. I’m Joe Benson, and coming up: John Kalodner and the story of Whitesnake. Also, look inside Aerosmith’s rehearsal room. It’s a stunning John Kalodner visual you don’t want to miss. Off The Record will be right back.
JDK: Hi this is John Kalodner, welcome back to Off The Record with the legendary Joe Benson.
UJ: Whitesnake, ahhhhh was well known ahhh in European circles and in hard rock circles. The combination of John Sykes and David Coverdale is ummm some fairly interesting music …
JDK: Right, Ah, well, there was no John Sykes in Whitesnake when I signed them. It was umm Bernie Marsden and Nicky Moody, and …
UJ: Ah, OK, yeah ….
JDK: That was a different band but there was David Coverdale, who I thought was one of the greatest singers ever, I just really wanted to work with him, and I really wanted to sign him, I loved the concept of what Coverdale was trying to do, and I told David Coverdale we had to change the band …
UJ: Uh-huh …
JDK: Cause I didn’t think the players were good enough for him.
UJ: How difficult was that to ahhh pull off?
JDK: Every single thing about it was difficult, because I got different players to make the record, and we started, you know, the first Geffen record which was in 1984 or 85, and we had, I had to change to Keith Olsen working on it, and I don’t know, it was very complicated, but I, y’know the only thing I thought about was just about the music, and so, after that whole thing I decided that I would, for the next record, I wanted him to work with this young guitar player, John Sykes, and I wanted Cozy Powell to play drums, and I, y’know, I just, I really was obstinate and opinionated, 'cause I had a vision of this kinda big, grand rock record, and Jon Bon Jovi beat me to what I was trying to do with these musicians, with Slippery When Wet, because the Whitesnake 87 record took two years to do, because I had trouble getting the songs right, and then I had trouble, Coverdale had trouble singing ….
UJ: Uh-huh …
JDK: And we went through many producers, and then he was fighting with John Sykes, and then I had to recut Here I Go Again in January 1987, with completely, now, different musicians, which is a whole, y’know that version of the single is completely different than the version that’s on the album.
Track: Whitesnake ? Here I Go Again
JDK: Hi, I’m John Kalodner, and you’re listening to Off The Record with Joe Benson.
UJ: Permanent Vacation was such a turnaround for them (Aerosmith). What convinced you that you wanted to keep working with them, that this wasn’t going to destroy you mentally, physically and everything from working with them? Was there a song, was there just they seemed to have a focus?
JDK: No, they were a great band which is why I wanted to sign them. I had seen them. I didn’t really understand what a great problem the drugs were, and when Tim Collins finally decided that he had to do something about it, and he did do something about it in the fall of 1986 and I decided I was gonna try one more time to see what I could get outta them, and I’ll never forget, going to rehearsal; it’s a blizzard with lightning in Boston, January 1987, they had gotten cleaned up, and I go in their rehearsal room, and there’s an entire wall that’s maybe 30 feet high and 40 feet wide, of bras and panties, and that’s what, y'know, this is in their rehearsal room, and I’m thinking, “what am I doing"? Like, I really appreciate bras and panties, but it's like I, I’m not really sure that, y’know, because they played new songs which I didn’t think were good enough, so I finally say to Steven Tyler, in front of the wall of bras and panties, that I really feel that he should try to work with Desmond Child who had just done Slippery When Wet, try their focus on some of the ideas, like Dude Looks Like A Lady, which I heard the idea of, but not being a songwriter or musician, I couldn’t straighten it out. So anyway, they listened to me and ahhh Tim Collins got Steven and Joe to meet with Desmond, Jim Valance and a few other people and that’s how it started to take shape then I convinced them to go to Vancouver to work with Bruce Fairbairn, who I had to convince to work with Aerosmith, because he wasn’t very convinced that that was going to be a good use of his time.
UJ: They didn’t have a very good reputation …
JDK: No, they did not. Although, you know, after they really got straight, I mean they’re about the hardest workers I’ve ever seen, ever, and ummm, ya know, then we made three spectacular records with them, although there were with tons of pain, for many lifetimes, in those records.
Track: Aerosmith ? Dude Looks Like A Lady
UJ: Pump, for my money, is one of the greatest albums…
JDK: Of all time.
UJ: Yep. That was a tortured process putting that together as well?
JDK: Less torture than the other albums, because they had a fairly good concept, the band, and Steven Tyler, of what he wanted it to be, and it took the pain to, um, just times when I had to push him to get things right, but, I mean, he had a lot of those songs, and a lot of those songs, I just had to work on to get them right , ya know, Take Me To The Other Side, and things like that. I made some mistakes as well. I should have put Deuces Are Wild on there, which is on the Beavis and Butthead soundtrack. I made a mistake by that, but they were so creative and they were so, everything about the session was great, I mean a lot of the sessions were, the songs were recorded pretty much in a few takes, and Bruce Fairbairn was right on it, the band was right on it, and every single thing was …always difficult, because for instance that cover … I mean there were 30 covers done of Pump, y’know, 30 covers, and y’know, Tyler even at the end wanted the artwork changed.
Track: Aerosmith ? Janie Got A Gun
UJ: Pump marks Aerosmith’s second effort with producer Bruce Fairbairn. They spent 3 months at Fairbairn’s Little Mountain Studios in Vancouver, writing, arranging and recording the songs. Pump was released in September of 1989, became the biggest album of Aerosmith’s career, it hit Number 5 in the American album charts and sold over 9 million copies in the process. I’m Joe Benson, and when Off The Record continues, John Kalodner turns his attentions to New Jersey and Bon Jovi. Plus we'll hear Kalodner’s perspective on whether Steve Perry will ever rejoin his former Journey bandmates.
JDK: Hi I’m John Kalodner, and you’re listening to Off The Record, with Joe Benson.
UJ: You ahhh hook up with Jon Bon Jovi; completely different experience ...
UJ: … than Aerosmith or Whitesnake...or anything like that
JDK: Yeah, exactly, completely difference experience, ‘cause he was already a star. I met him after Slippery When Wet came out and I thought wow this guy and the guitar player, they’re incredible.
UJ: When you recorded New Jersey, were you doing a lot of other projects at the same time, or were you just recording New Jersey?
JDK: Ummmmm I was on, um, a lot of other projects at the same time and ummm, he just needed some kinda input, but over the years, I, I would be less, more or less involved as he needed it, and he was very smart always to ask me, y’know, then he said, “well, I’m stuck and what do you think” … he’s very smart and very focused, and always tries to give people the most for their money. He really is.
Track: Bon Jovi ? Bad Medicine
UJ: You mentioned, ahhh, being around the tour, that Journey was on with Bryan Adams and Sammy Hagar did part of that. When did you finally hook up with the guys from Journey because they were ….
JDK: Well, you know, obviously I put the song on Vision Quest, Only The Young. And I did a record with Sammy and Neal, Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, HSAS. And I, y’know I think probably next to Tyler, I mean Steve Perry is, is my favourite singer, Tyler, Robert Plant, you know, Steve Perry and ummm, I just always love Journey, so when I came to Columbia, I started remastering their records properly and technically treating their records and going to see Steve Perry on his solo tour, and convinced him to talk to Neal and Jonathan again, and they made that Trial By Fire record, and it’s always been great to work with Steve Perry; it’s different, but it’s great, I mean I wish he’d go back with Journey, but, y’know, it’s his decision and I mean, I work with him now, cause y'know, I'm repackaging their DVDs, and it’s his life, he can do what he wants, and I’ll try to help him if he wants to repackage something, if he wants to start a new band, if he wants to produce a band, but it’s, ummm, one of those people you always want to work with, even though it's currently difficult and unusual because he’s one of the great talents, and y’know, maybe one of the legendary singers in pop music and rock music ….
UJ: He’s still got the voice …
JDK: Yeah, and still has everything, y’know I have lunch with him and he’s a star and looks like a star, so even when I go to restaurants and people still notice him he has the aura of a star, still, even just wearing regular clothes, because he’s a star, Steve Perry is a star as a singer, as a songwriter, as a personality.
Track: Journey ? Separate Ways
UJ: Is it completely his decision whether he rejoins the band or not, d’you think?
JDK: It’s completely his decision. I mean, I think, y’know, there’s always bands have conflicts and I’m not sure what, y’know, his issues are with Neal and Jonathan or, y’know, the former manager, Herbie Herbert, who was a great manager, but they would take him back in a second, I mean, there’s not even a question. Who wouldn’t wanna go on tour, at least one tour with Steve Perry, I mean everyone that I know from anyone who’s y’know,16 to 60, they’d love to see Journey one time ...
UJ: Uh Huh
JDK: with Steve Perry singing those songs, so it’s totally up to him.
UJ: Tremendous band.
JDK: And I just hope he does it, but no-one should try to influence him it should be something that he wants to do.
UJ: Check out John Kalodner’s Official Website at JohnKalodner.com. That's J O H N K A L O D N E R.com. He's got pictures and tour updates and detailed musical history and a place to answer all your musical questions. It's an excellent website.
John Kalodner Off the Record is a presentation of Westwood One, and was written and produced by Stacey Ferran. Production and engineering by Ron Harris. Assisted by David Mayan . Executive Producer Norm Pattis. Special thanks to Westwood One's Kevin Monday and Steven Costeo. And of course a big thank you to John Kalodner for taking the time to chat. Off The Record was brought to you by Radio Shack. "You've got questions, we've got answers". I'm Joe Benson and you can email me at email@example.com. And I'll see you next time for "Pink Floyd" on Off the Record.
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