Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Forgotten Hits Interviews Ian Lloyd

We've got another EXCLUSIVE Forgotten Hits Interview for you today ...

Ian Lloyd of Stories has joined us!!! 

With the second season of "Louie" scheduled to premier on FX next month (June 23rd to be exact), we thought that this would be the PERFECT time to talk with Ian Lloyd, lead singer of the '70's band Stories, who sings the title track to the Louis C.K. FX Comedy, a reworked version of his band's biggest hit, "Brother Louie", which topped the charts here in The States back in 1973. 

Some of you may recall that Lloyd "sneak-peeked" his brand new Christmas single in Forgotten Hits last season ... and we wondered what he's been up to lately ... 

FORGOTTEN HITS:  How did you come to snag the theme song to the hot new FX adult comedy "Louie"?  Were you friends with Louis C.K.?  Did he personally approach you about it? 

IAN LLOYD: I woke early and found an email from Louis asking to speak with either my representative or myself about doing a recording session. At the moment I didn’t connect Louis w. C.K. [even though I’ve seen and loved him on late night talk shows forever!]. I replied back with my phone number. Within an hour we had spoken and by mid-afternoon I was back home, having done the session. I have not had the opportunity to meet Mr. C.K. but we have spoken frequently. I’m trying to get him out to a local show and have him introduce me and my band. Louis????  

FH: Was there any reluctance initially to go back and revisit that track? (It really does make for a pretty cool show opening!) 

IL: I love the show and yes, it’s a really cool opening [being a New Yorker, I love the subway sequence] and don’t forget the nice shout-out they give me in the closing credits. To answer the question, I had no reluctance at all. Take note that my current CD “In The Land Of O-de-PO” contains a cover version of ‘… Louie’. I chose to add it to the record because it made sense to revisit my biggest hit.  

FH:  "Brother Louie" has a bit of an unusual history, having first been done by the group Hot Chocolate in England, where their version went all the way to #7 on the U.K. Charts.  How did you first discover the song? 

IL: Sitting in Bob Reno’s A&R office at Buddah records, I went through a lot of different, demo tapes & discs. When I heard the chorus to “… Louie” I told Bob –“This is a number one record – let’s do it”. At the time I did NOT know that I was listening to Hot Chocolate’s finished master [I thought it was just another demo]. I think both versions were released around the same time ... the rest is rock history.
EDITOR'S NOTE:  The Hot Chocolate version was released in April of 1973 in The U.K.  It never charted here in The States.  Stories' version hit The U.S. charts a couple of months later ... and then stayed there for four and a half months, ultimately peaking at #1. 

FH:  We recently covered the Hot Chocolate version ... it's not what you'd call by today's standards "politically correct" ... in fact, it's down-right slanderous!  I don't know that this record would get played today ... yet in 1973 it became a Top Ten Hit in Great Britain. 

IL:  STORIES' version of “… Louie” has appeared in lots of different films, as well as ‘other’ TV shows, and, of course, it still gets airplay on the radio, so I guess it’s not bothering anyone. I mean it does make an important statement in any decade. 

FH:  No question that it addressed a sensitive issue ... although The Rolling Stones were singing about "Brown Sugar" a couple of years earlier, interracial dating was still somewhat taboo back then and not nearly as common (and accepted) as it is today.  Your version cleaned things up quite a bit ... and is a much "smoother" recording, to say the least.
(EDITOR'S NOTE:  The Hot Chocolate version actually had spoken interludes that said"I don't want no HONKY in my family!" and "I don't want no SPOOK in my family!"  NO WAY that would get past The FCC today!!!)  
Meanwhile, Stories' "cleaned-up" pop version went right to the top of the charts in America and today is considered a '70's Classic ... you still hear it on the radio all the time.  Do you recall running into some resistance back then, simply because of the subject matter of an interracial couple?  This, too, seems to be far more common today. 

IL: Well the music industry [radio, TV, etc] jumped all over it. It charted Top 20 in the BILLBOARD “R&B’ charts which, at the time, was very rare for a white artist to cross over. Other than a few ‘death threats’, everyone loved our performance and here we are today with President Obama!  It’s nice to be AHEAD of your time. 
(EDITOR'S NOTE:  "Brother Louie" officially peaked at #22 on Billboard's R&B Chart in 1973.) 

FH:  I have to admit that I was a Stories fan right from the get-go.  I'll never forget the very first time I heard "I'm Coming Home" ... I was driving around with a friend (who was also a HUGE Beatles fan) and we just happened to catch the tail-end of the song, right after the piano break in the middle ... when it was over, both of us looked at each other and, almost in unison, blurted out "Do you think that's the new Paul McCartney song?"  (lol) 

IL: Thanks. Well, needless to say both Michael [Brown] and I were HUGE BEATLE fans. Big surprise. (ha ha).  [Let’s not forget “I’m Comin’ Home” was STORIES 1st  single release – hitting the local Top 40 and even Top 10 slots in various parts of the US]. 

FH:  Truth is, it was better than most of what McCartney was doing at the time ... he had just recently formed Wings and was still refusing to perform any Beatles music ... his output for 1972 included "Give Ireland Back To The Irish" and "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and then along comes this GREAT "sound-alike" record that blows McCartney's stuff away! 

IL: Funny, I remember The Cal Rudman report, [a weekly? sheet that went out to all the radio stations across the U.S. to report new releases], saying something like “Paul McCartney should listen to this song”.  In retrospect, I guess that’s why. 

FH:  Did you get a lot of that at the time ... comparisons regarding the sound of Stories vs. The Beatles and / or McCartney? 

IL: Yes all the time. I believe mainly because of the song structure and the thick backing harmonies…. [listen to “Please Please” or “Love Is In Motion” as obvious examples]. 

FH:  I LOVE that record ... played the heck out of my 45 to the point that it's almost unplayable today!  Luckily, I've since replaced it with a good, clean CD copy! 
(EDITOR'S NOTE:  For all our "stat fans" out there, "I'm Coming Home" just missed Billboard's Top 40, peaking at #42.  However, it was a #26 Hit in Cash Box Magazine, who monitored their chart positions more by sales than by radio airplay.  Here in Chicago, where WCFL played the hell out of it, it rose to #22).
Then you guys disappeared for about a year and when "Brother Louie" came out and first hit the radio airwaves, a number of people were saying "Man, that sounds JUST like Rod Stewart!!!"  lol  Did you feel at the time that the band (and you in particular) needed to form your own identity?  Complimentary and flattering as they may have been, did these comparisons also bother you at the time? 

IL: After  “Brother Louie” hit the charts, people either thought I was black ["as the night”] or Rod Stewart. I actually got some fan mail from some of Rod’s biggest fans saying that they were positive that I was Rod Stewart.
We spent time in the UK recording our second record “About Us’ [which eventually included … Louie”]. I was very lucky to develop what I feel is an identifiable vocal sound, so I never really gave it much thought. 

FH:  "Brother Louie", of course, went on to become a HUGE #1 Hit ... and still gets played virtually every day today ... it's definitely a '70's "keeper"!  How did things change for the band at this point with a #1 Record on the charts? 

IL: We loved the attention and airline / hotel upgrades. But in reality I felt the bulk of Michael and my compositions kind of got ignored by our new “Louie” fans. A lot of the ‘older’ fans felt we had sold out.  ‘We got stuck between a rock and a hard place.’ This eventually broke up the band. 

FH:  Prior to Stories, what was your background?  Had you done some earlier recordings?  

IL: I was lucky enough to sign a  recording deal with United Artists [One single: A / B side] in 1964 - 65 and it was actually released. (Let's see if your readers can do some detective work and find out what artist name I used.) The A side title was "Let's Build A World Of Our Own". It was actually a hit in upstate NY, and when I attended college it was on the Juke Box at the campus hangout. Quite exciting! 

FH:  Much has been made about the fact that Stories was formed with Michael Brown, who was a founding member of the '60's soft rock band Left Banke.  (They had a couple of MAJOR '60's hits, too, like their version of "Walk Away Renee", #2, 1966, and "Pretty Ballerina", #12, 1967.)  But the truth is, the vocals of Ian Lloyd pretty much came to define the "sound" of Stories. 

IL: Thanks again. Michael and I had a great writing partnership and my vocal style and range fit the songs perfectly that we were creating! 

FH:  How did you happen to first hook up with Michael Brown?  Had you known him during his Left Banke days?  And what did you think of the Left Banke material ... some of it was pretty avant garde for its time, no? 

IL: Both our Dads were session violinists and played on everything from AJAX to SINATRA. A chance meeting  with his dad at a recording session led me to Michael Brown's door and the rest is history. You know I don't believe I met Mike when he was in ... THE BANKE. I loved the Baroque style and especially their stage outfits! My personal fave was "Pretty Ballerina". A classic group.  

FH:  You mentioned being a huge Beatles fan ... Who were some of the other artists that most influenced you early on as a musician? 

IL: Well, the obvious would be DALTRY, PLANT, ROD THE MOD but TERRY REID was someone I really listened to a lot and who effected my vocal style. All of the late 50's [AVALON; ANKA; LITTLE ANTHONY; DION & THE BELMONTS, & on & on] and of course ALL CLASSICAL MUSIC! 

FH:  Once Stories started doing major tours and tv appearances, who were some of your contemporaries that you had the pleasure to work with? 

IL: Boy that's a tough one. I'll just ramble out some names as they come to me: BB KING and GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS [we shared the same management]; SLADE; ALICE COOPER;  JOE WALSH;  ELO; CHARLIE DANIELS; RENAISSANCE; CANNED HEAT; [my brain is starting to throb], THE RASPBERRIES; LOOKING GLASS; REDBONE; BOZ SCAGGS; FOCUS; BLACK OAK ARKANSAS + ... OK - there were more, but I can't remember any more at the moment. 

FH:  It sounds like you feel that Stories lost their direction after they started having hits with outside material.  What were the original goals of the band?  Where there certain avenues you wanted to explore that you felt were derailed in some fashion once the major hits started coming? 

IL:  The success was great and I will forever be proud of the "Louie" factor. I just wanted to do more progressive stuff like "You Told Me" and "Darling'" [I play both these great 'progpop' songs in my live show]. Even on the third and last record TRAVELING UNDERGROUND, with "Mammy ... " charting, I still got "Bridges" and "Earthbound / Freefall" tracks out there. I guess I was / am such a fan of GENESIS / PETER GABRIEL / YES / KING CRIMSON ... that I wanted to fit into that catagory. I mean we were one of the first American bands to record and tour with a mellotron! Remember that Mike and I formed the band around our writing partnership. After Michael left the band, I had to refocus the band's direction, which included finding outside material. This really did create some stylistic confusion for the band and our listeners, which led to the end of the group. All things happen for a reason, I'm just not sure what the reason was [haha]  

FH:  Are you and Michael still in touch at all? 

IL:  Mike and I have had an occasional writing session in the past decade [see: "Sensetize" demo track on In The Land Of O-de-PO] and I'm hoping to have a Brown / Lloyd composition on my next solo project. 

FH:  Going back to your run of hits with Stories, your next chart single was also a HUGE hit here in Chicago ... "Mammy Blue" went all the way to #7.  Billboard charted your version of "Mammy Blue" at #50 while Cash Box placed it at #21.  This was another remake, this time of a mid-chart single by Los Pop Tops.  How did you come to select this song and give it the Stories treatment? 

IL: At this point the record company was desperate to follow up “Louie” with another similarly-styled tune. “Mammy” fit the bill. It was brought to my attention, once again, by the Buddah A&R department. This tune was covered by EVERYONE. Unbelievable – Roger Whittaker, Demis Roussos, Julio Iglesias, Celine Dion, etc. STORIES version was the highest charted of them all.  

FH:  The hits pretty much stopped after that ... and you started working as a solo artist.  But didn't you also do some work with some of the other big name bands of that era?  Foreigner immediately comes to mind ... and Chicago's own Survivor, too, if I'm not mistaken.    

IL: After STORIES, I began my solo career. For my 1st album I introduced Mick Jones [SPOOKY TOOTH] to Ian McDonald [KING CRIMSOM] and brought them together for the record [they eventually formed FOREIGNER] This led to my involvement with the mega band. I sang backing vocals on all their records, including most of their hits [ “Feels Like The First Time”; “Cold As Ice”, “Ive Been Waiting ..., “Juke Box Hero”, etc]. 
Survivor, on the other hand, was a one CD appearance. I sang most of the backing vocals with Tommy Shaw [of STYX] on “Too Hot To Sleep’. That was fun.
Other than FOREIGNER, my other most memorable contribution was on the YES “Union” CD.  I was even featured, singing the lead hook on “Dangerous”. Being a monster YES fan, this was a dream come true.
Oh yes – and let’s not forget my backing vocals on the #1 Billboard hit by Billy Joel “I Go To Extremes”. I even had the opportunity to do some group shouting on KISS’s “I Wanna Rock & Roll All Night” back in their early days.
If anyone is curious, they should checkout my discography.[www.machinedreamrecords.com]. 

FH:  Now this was primarily session work, right?  But more so as a VOCALIST than a musician? 

IL: I actually don’t look at myself as a musician, but as a recording artist. I love being in the studio and writing new songs is the ultimate creative process. Bringing the end product to the live stage is the final piece in the rock puzzle. 

FH:  Have you continued to tour and perform?  Anything coming up in the near future that we can tell our readers about? 

IL: I keep busy working with my band [Ian Lloyd’s Stories] as much as possible. My show consists of slightly more than half-Stories tunes followed by solo songs [including “Slip Away”] and a cover or two [“Feels Like The First Time” and "21st Century Schizoid Man” are two that are fun to do]. SOCIAL HERO keeps me the most occupied. We are playing constantly, having rocked through DC, Detroit, Chicago, Boston and of course the Big Apple in the last few months.   

FH:  You mention performing with your current band Ian Lloyd's Stories ... but then say that your work with Social Hero keeps you the most occupied.  Tell me more about your relationship with Social Hero ... is this more of a "side project"?  In what way are you involved ... is this a second band, so to speak, that you're involved with?  Does Social Hero allow you to take your music in other directions that you find you can't really explore in a solo vein?  

IL: I am a member of SOCIAL HERO and function as the principle second vocalist. David Lloyd, lead vocalist, is my son and we blend tight BEATLE / YES / FOREIGNER style harmonies. David writes most of the songs, along with the Lotti brothers [bass & lead guitarist].  SOCIAL HERO is real ROCK in the style of those mentioned above and has been compared to STP, AIC, PEARL JAM. Oh yeh there's one tune that has a definite JETHRO TULL influence and we do a mean cover of "She Loves You" and "Substitute" from time to time.  
As far as live performances - I am there on stage performing with the lads. My favorite live situation is both SOCIAL HERO and IAN LLOYD's STORIES playing on the same bill together. This happens several times a year and it's like a 2 hour rock fest!!! I keep my writing and 'other directions' for my solo projects.[...O-de-PO, FORD / LLOYD + next solo CD, etc.] 

FH:  I think it's great to hear that you've still been recording new music ... your website mentions that you released an album in 2009 called "In the Land of O-De-Po" ... what's that album like? 

IL:  “In The Land Of O-de-PO” is a unique blend of Progressive Pop Rock tinged with just a hit of ‘Hip Hop’. The title track, “O-de-PO”, won the 2009 Marijuana Music Awards for “Best Rock Track” and that helped open up airplay for other tracks from the CD like “Hi2Fly” to be played on NORMAL radio. I plan on releasing a 2nd ‘single’ track, “”City Of Dreams”  for promotion this summer.  

FH:  What else have you got in the works that we can look forward to?  

IL: Coming up next is SOCIAL HERO’s next recording. At the moment we are finishing up our second CD [readying it for staggered mp3 track releases starting this summer].  
In addition I’ve got a project with John Ford Of The STRAWBS  [FORD / LLOYD] that I’m very excited about. We’ve got three working tracks at the moment and will hopefully have something for release by this Fall. 

FH:  Do you find that you are writing more these days?  What kind of music do you listen to these days?  Who are some of your favorite artists ... and where do you feel your music should fit (if given the proper chance.) 

IL: At this point I just want to keep making music in what ever style I feel like doing at the time. I'm thinking about doing a Space Rock [mellotron] style approach for my next solo project. We'll see.
Here's a short list of my fave current artists. [I purchase their CD's - yes CD's! as soon as they're released]: MUSE / THEM CROOKED VULTURES / RADIOHEAD / INCUBUS  / BECK / MALISSA AUF DER MAUR / plus! 

FH:  Speaking of which ... it's no secret that it's tougher than ever to get airplay these days ... what's your take on the record industry circa 2011?  How has the Internet helped you promote your new music ... and in what ways can you take advantage of this resource in getting the word out there that Ian Lloyd is still making great contemporary music all these years later?  (Obviously, Forgotten Hits is a GREAT source to let the fans know ... and by sneak-peeking a track here and there, give them so idea as to what you've been up to musically.  Radio, on the other hand, isn't quite so forth-coming.  Once they pull off an artist, it's almost impossible to come back.)  

IL: We're all trying to figure out how to reach our respective fan bases. It looks like we're in a singles market with no real radio outlets [unless you're with a major], so online marketing / promotion and music sites like yours really help to connect.  Other than that, good old fashion touring your ass off is always a great way to bring more fans to the table. 

FH:  We ALWAYS end our Forgotten Hits Interviews with this question ... 
Is there any particular piece of music that you've been involved with that you feel people should know about ... maybe something that just didn't get as much attention as you felt it deserved ... or was overlooked for some reason, whether it be bad timing or lack of promotion reasons ... something that you're especially proud of that shows more of who you are as an artist?  We'd like to share something with our readers that you feel best represents the way you'd like your audience to perceive you as an artist.  

IL: I’d have to say that “Goosebumps” is a very special recording, featuring many classic rockers [either playing on or contributing songs to the record] and is a piece of work that I am most proud of. 
(EDITOR'S NOTE:  Ian Lloyd's "Goosebumps" CD becomes available on Tuesday, May 31st, for digital downloading ... you can check out the ordering link here: Click here: Amazon.com: goosebumps ian lloyd: MP3 Downloads)  
Also, check out “Real World” [on FOREIGNER’s Mr. Moonlight CD]. Not unlike YES “Dangerous”, I’ve got  a featured lead vocal in the bridge. This was the closest I got to singing lead with my buds.
My most recent solo effort - “Everybody’s Happy 'Cause It's Christmas Time” is a recording that I’m very excited about. I missed last year’s Thanksgiving release deadline [most radio stations have all their holiday programming set by T-day], but it will be out in time for Holiday play this year. Having written and recorded it at home, with David Lloyd [SOCIAL HERO] producing, it is perhaps one of my more personal creations to date. [This track also gives my fans a clue to the direction of my next solo project! – out at the end of 2012???] 

FH:  Tell me more about "Goosebumps" ... in the "timing is everything" department, it's GREAT news to see that this CD is finally being released here Stateside ... and on the day our interview runs no less! 

IL:  The CD was released as a German import only and is no longer available. [although I did find a copy on Ebay]. The good news is that all the tracks should be available as individual downloads from I-Tunes / Amazon, etc., by the end of this year, along with tracks from various other solo records, so keep an eye open for ALL THAT IS IAN!  

FH:  Available TODAY on Amazon.com!!!  (See link above ... I just ordered MY copy!!!).  
Can you elaborate a bit more on "Goosebumps"?  You refer to it as "a very special recording, featuring many classic rockers either playing on or contributing songs to the record, and is a piece of work that I am most proud of."  Anything from this that we can share?  A personal favorite track?  And please tell us about this "Who's Who" of recording cohorts who helped you make this album! 

IL: Let me grab a copy of GOOSEBUMPS. 
Here's the line up of guest star appearances:
Mick Jones, Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott [Foreigner]
Jim Vallance [Bryan Adams]
Jimmy Crespo [Aerosmith; Rod Stewart]
Ric Ocasek, Ben Orr [The Cars]
Larry Fast [Synergy; Peter Gabriel; Nektar]
Jimmy Maelin [Peter Gabriel; Roxy Music; Bryan Ferry]
Steve Buslowe [Meat Loaf]
Michael Brecker [Brecker Bros]
List of writers who contributed to this record:
Russ Ballard [Argent] "First Heartbreak"
Ric Ocasek [The Cars] "Slip Away"
Barry & Robin Gibbs [Bee Gees] "Holiday"
Bryan Adams & Jim Vallance - "I'm Ready"
Rod Argent [Zombies] "Time Of The Season"
Corky Laing [Leslie West & Mountain]  "Easy Money"
Ian Hunter [Mott The Hoople] "Easy Money"
Having a hit single with "Slip Away" was especially satisfying for me as I brought together The Cars [classic pop rockers] and Larry Fast [Prog-synth keyboardist] for a special moment on the record. 
I am also proud of my arrangement of "Time Of The Season" [spacerock meets disco meets Yes/Foreigner Harmonies!]  

FH:  Well, I'm kinda partial to the title track ... and your re-working of the old Bee Gees' tune "Holiday" ... so I'm going to run with those two to close out this piece. 

FH:  Ian, thanks SO much for taking the time to talk with us here in Forgotten Hits ... I really do appreciate it.  I wish you continued success with your new musical ventures and if you find yourself headed out Chicago-way, please let me know ... would love to come out and see you play! 

IL: Always my pleasure, Kent. You will be informed about any Chicago appearances. 

For more on Ian Lloyd, be sure to check out his website here: 
Click here: www.machinedreamrecords.com   
Click here: www.myspace.com/ianlloydsStories


Both Stories [self titled] and Stories "About Us" are now available as mp3 downloads on I-tunes.
For more on the program "Louie", click here:
[LOUIE Official Website | Only on FX]

Thanks, Ian!
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits