With one of the crucial spectacular resumes in rock, Pete Sears has so much to look again on.
Rising up in South London, he frequented common blues golf equipment and eagerly absorbed the music of legends like Freddie King, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, whereas concurrently exploring jazz albums from the likes of Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck, in addition to folks and native Celtic music. Quickly, Sears went from piano classes and informal faculty gigs to performing professionally with English bands like Sons of Fred, Les Fleur de Lys and the Sam Gopal Dream.
A number of years later, he’d change into nicely linked within the trade, showing on 4 Rod Stewart albums between 1970-74 – a run that included the extremely profitable hit, “Maggie Might.” Sears then helped type Jefferson Starship, whom he continued to play with till 1987. He joined Sizzling Tuna, the extra blues-based Jefferson Airplane offshoot, and recorded a handful of albums with them. Alongside the way in which, Sears rubbed shoulders with a bunch of legends, together with Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, Ike and Tina Turner, Neal Schon, John Lee Hooker, Betty Davis and extra.
Sears spoke with UCR from his dwelling in California, the place he continues to play and document in rock bands like Moonalice, whose new single, “Let’s Get Funky,” is out now, and the David Nelson Band.
One in every of your first skilled recording experiences, while you had been nonetheless a young person, was at none apart from Abbey Highway Studios, which was then known as EMI Studios. Was that intimidating to you?
I used to be on this kind of dreamlike state the entire time. You simply kind of take it because it comes, you realize? I imply, it was superb. It is what I used to be doing then: I used to be out on the street enjoying. It wasn’t intimidating in that sense. You are simply younger and boastful, and also you’re on the market and also you’re simply doing it. Nerves, after all, at completely different occasions in my profession have performed an element. I am not with out being nervous about issues. Simply at that time in my life, I used to be simply dwelling on this kind of dreamlike state and enjoying rock ‘n’ roll.
At one level in these early days, you wound up enjoying with Jimi Hendrix. Do you bear in mind your first impression of him?
Yeah, that was truly the second band I performed with, Fleur de Lys. We performed Motown, Impressions, that kind of factor, I used to be enjoying keys for these guys. A few guys had been staying at Eric Burdon’s home from the Animals, in London. I used to be over there simply hanging out within the kitchen and [Hendrix manager] Chas [Chandler, the Animals former bassist] walks in with this man. Actual good man, you realize. Simply wore denims, not one of the actually fancy clothes that he wore afterward. We had an extended speak for about an hour, simply sitting there speaking and chatting. He performed guitar with Little Richard, however I had no concept he was nearly as good as he was. He was simply actual good. Unassuming wasn’t egotistical or something, at that time. I feel he was all the time a really cool man. I knew Mitch Mitchell, the drummer, however at that time, I did not know something concerning the Expertise down the road, he was only a man I met. Then Chas introduced him down and he overdubbed on a document we had been making known as “Amen,” an previous Impressions track, however no person is aware of what occurred to the acetate.
And also you bumped into Hendrix once more while you had been in Sam Gopal’s Dream, proper?
We had been enjoying the Speakeasy. And Jimi simply got here up. He took our guitar participant’s guitar, performed it backwards — it nonetheless sounded nice — and used the mic stand to slip towards the neck, that type of a slide guitar kind of factor. And, Mick, my guitar participant, picked my bass up and I sat on the B-3 [organ]. So we simply did this loopy jam.
Take heed to Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie Might’
I am interested by the way you ended up within the Rod Stewart circle. The place did that connection come from?
I feel most individuals would say that there is a few individuals of their lives that they assume had been key in a manner. One man I used to be actually shut with – a superb buddy, he performed drums with the Jeff Beck band and is on the album Reality – Micky Waller, the drummer. Micky Waller was considered one of Charlie Watts’ favourite drummers. They had been actually shut. [I] shaped a band known as Silver Metre, [with Tom Cowan and Leigh Stevens of Blue Cheer], and Micky was a part of that. We recorded at Trident Studios in London, and Micky launched me to Rod. So I performed on Rod’s second solo album, Gasoline Alley. I went in and performed piano on “Nation Consolation” and bass on a track known as “Reduce Throughout Shorty” that he did. So then, I did 4 albums with him. I did Each Image Tells a Story after which, By no means a Uninteresting Second, after which Smiler was the final one.
You have to have clicked with these guys in a roundabout way. It would not sound such as you essentially deliberate to stay round for 4 albums, but you probably did.
Yeah, proper. We bought fairly shut right here for some time, Rod and I. You already know, I might go off — I used to be with Silver Metre after which I joined Stoneground, after which after that, I used to be again within the states, and I flew again to play on Each Image Tells a Story, which might be my favourite Rod Stewart album. And all the pieces was very spontaneous within the studio.
That spontaneity appears to return by means of on these early albums within the track selections. You talked about “Nation Consolation,” which is an Elton John track. And considered one of my favorites on Each Image Tells a Story is the duvet of Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Lengthy Time.” It looks as if Rod was attempting out a variety of issues.
Yeah, he had kind of various influences. He favored Bob Dylan so much, and he additionally favored Sam Cooke. He had this kind of attention-grabbing [mix] of the blues and folks, so all of it kind of got here collectively. Rod, he had a very attention-grabbing manner of manufacturing. He’d actually be into the texture, fairly than microscopically kind of moving into and ensuring all the pieces’s completely excellent.
And but that album nonetheless sounds fairly cohesive.
That is proper. It actually did come collectively that manner. We would go over to his home within the afternoon, after which we might sit and I might play his piano and the fellows would play an acoustic guitar. We would simply get all the pieces, hearken to the track after which go to the studio. Nearly first take, you realize?
Was “Maggie Might” a kind of one-take songs?
Nicely, not fairly. “Maggie Might,” I wasn’t there once they recorded that track. They did it with Ian McLagan, who’d come from the Faces. Superb, nice buddy, superb keyboard participant — [he] performed the B-3, and so they did the entire thing. That day, I wasn’t there. However I got here in and performed the Celeste on that, which is sort of a [plays riff on piano], like a toy piano. That is me close to the top of the track. Yeah, that is the explanation it was an enormous hit. [Laughs.] That was a joke.
Did you’ve got any inclination on the time that it was going to be an enormous hit?
No, none of us did. In reality, the track that was the A-side was the one I used to be enjoying piano on, which is [plays another riff], “Cause to Imagine.” [Sings] “If you listen long enough to” — I performed piano on that, and that was launched because the A-side single. And the B aspect was “Maggie Might,” however the DJs began enjoying “Maggie Might” and it simply took off. And so it was a shock to Rod.
Take heed to Grace Slick’s ‘Higher Mendacity Down’
Whenever you shaped Jefferson Starship and began writing songs with Grace Slick, what was that course of like?
Truly, early ’73, I used to be co-producing an album for a lady named Kathi McDonald, arranging the music, known as Insane Asylum… David Freiberg, who performed bass and sang with Quicksilver Messenger Service with John Cipollina, he was within the final model of the Airplane. So, they had been upstairs. I ran into David within the hallway. He mentioned, “Why do not you come up and say hello to Paul [Kantner] and Grace? And I went up, I used to be within the studio, simply sitting down enjoying some blues piano, after which I did not understand that they’d hit document and Grace was upstairs scribbling away. And he or she got here up with a track known as “Higher Mendacity Down,” considered one of her extra refined lyrics. [Laughs.] Grace and I carried on writing by means of the ’70s. In a while, I might write music and ship Grace the music and he or she’d write lyrics to that music. And typically I remorse doing it that manner in some methods, I feel. I want I might saved spontaneity, you realize, as a result of I actually love blues rock, and I want I might accomplished extra of that in our writing, however it turned out alright.
I’ve somewhat listing of names right here of individuals you have labored with. Possibly you may shed some mild on every of these experiences. The primary one is a trio you shaped with a pre-Journey Neal Schon and Greg Errico from Sly and the Household Stone. Whose concept was that?
Yeah, that is a superb query. God, how did that begin? It may need been Neal, or truly it was Greg, I feel. We bought collectively and we began enjoying as an influence trio. And we tried it out, however we could not discover a singer that may resonate with us; it was all instrumental. We went to Hawaii, and we performed the Diamond Head Crater Pageant, like a New Yr’s Eve present, going into ’73. You’ll be able to see it on YouTube. There’s somewhat little bit of sound from that, however there is no vocalist.
So that you had been actively on the lookout for a singer?
We had been, yeah. I had my cellphone e book. I had Steve Winwood’s cellphone quantity. I used to be attempting to name England in a name field, over right here in San Francisco – attempting to get by means of to that quantity to see if he needed to do it. He would not have accomplished it anyway. [Laughs.]
What about Ike and Tina Turner? I imagine you probably did some studio work with them, together with an incredible cowl Tina did of George Harrison’s “One thing.”
I knew [Ike’s] engineer, John Mills. He mentioned “It’s best to come right down to the studio, Ike’s studio.” I mentioned “Yeah, okay, after all.” And it was Bolic Sound; it was Ike’s private studio. So I went down there and I just about frolicked for 2 weeks. Ike would simply document nonstop. He had tapes – you realize, large 15-inch reel tapes, throughout the nook of the room, and he’d simply be consistently including to that. We would play and he would go on. I bear in mind him actually falling asleep on the studio ground and a few gigantic bodyguard fellow would cowl him with a blanket proper there, and he’d get up the following day and stick with it recording.
Take heed to Tina Turner Cowl George Harrison’s ‘One thing’
How about Betty Davis?
[Greg Errico] was producing Betty. She’d damaged up with Miles [Davis], I feel, at that time. She was doing her funk albums, so he introduced me right down to overdub on considered one of her songs known as “Anti Love Tune.” I performed acoustic piano on that monitor. However I hit it off together with her; we had been good pals. She had an incredible humorousness.
And lastly, Jerry Garcia? I only in the near past discovered that each he and Bob Weir had horrible stage fright. The years you labored with him, specifically, had been fairly tough for him. Do you assume he was extra snug within the studio at that time?
I feel he hid his stage fright very nicely. I bear in mind [Jerry] had his dressing room; he had a ritual. He needed to go in his room and simply be actual quiet in his room earlier than he went on, however you realize, when you hit the stage — I do know what it’s to be nervous about doing one thing. When you hit the stage, generally, and also you begin enjoying, it simply goes some other place.
Yeah, I learn that he and Weir would make eye contact after they bought on stage to type of check-in with each other and ensure they had been okay.
They had been so shut. In reality, the primary time I met each these guys was collectively, you realize. It was 1970, I used to be enjoying with Stoneground, dwelling in Mill Valley with these guys and I met John Cipollina. However I had change into pals with Richard Gossett, who was a KSAN rock-radio FM DJ, and he was broadcasting from Sutter Avenue in San Francisco. They’d a station there, and Richard mentioned, “Why do not you guys get some music collectively? We might do some jamming within the studio.” And I mentioned, “Yeah, all proper.” And so I went and talked to John. He bought ahold of Jerry and Bobby, and his little brother, Mario Cipollina, who ended up the bass participant with Huey Lewis [and the News]. However all of us went right down to the studio, bought some mics, and Jerry arrange his pedal metal./ Bobby had his acoustic guitar, John on guitar, no drums, and I simply performed piano and Mario on bass – and we did a stay broadcast. There is a bootleg of it round.
So the very first time you met them, you jammed? That is superb.
That is proper. Precisely. Jerry did not assume he was an excellent pedal-steel guitar participant, very insecure. However different pedal metal gamers I speak to, they are saying they liked his enjoying. It is all about be aware choice, too. And he simply had the true really feel for it.
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