Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Today's Forgotten Hit


Here is one of my favorites from the '80's (and a track we haven't featured in a long time ... nor do you hear it on the radio very often anymore ... but it makes for a GREAT tie-in to a brand-new feature on Carl Wiser's Songfacts Website)

For his Songfacts column They're Playing My Song: http://www.songfacts.com/blog/playingmysong/ Bruce Pollock (author of The Rock Song Index and By the Time We Got to Woodstock: The Great Rock Revolution of 1969), spoke with Steve Forbert, and as you'd expect, the song that had the greatest impact on his career was "Romeo's Tune."  

The song reached #11 in 1980, which was pretty good for a folk song by a new artist with a title that isn't in the lyrics. Steve had the song written for his 1978 debut album Alive on Arrival, but left it off because it didn't fit with the other tracks.    

He played "Romeo" on tour, however, and got a great reaction, but there was something missing. Steve told us: "Linda Stein, my manager, suggested to me, 'You know, that song is there, but not quite. It needs another verse.' And I said, 'Hmm, you're right.' So I remember being in Paris and writing that other verse, which turned out to be, 'Let me see you smiling back at me, hold me tight in love, and love is free.' And that worked well. Adding something to a song when it's already done can be tricky, because you might not be able to pick up the same emotion. It can be elusive, believe me. That was a really good ending, because it fit me just a little bit more. Almost like 'Step Inside Love,' by Paul McCartney, which was a hit for Cilla Black." 

Capturing this delightful song to tape wasn't easy. Steve recorded it in Nashville with his producer John Simon, but it felt flat. They tried again at CBS Studios in New York, and still no spark. Finally, they went back to Nashville and got it right away. "When all the musicians came into the room and listened to the playback, everybody said, That's it, that's the version we've been looking for," said Steve. "I think it was the third take that day."    

For Steve, "Romeo's Tune" meant airplay, bigger crowds, and the freedom to make a living doing what he loves. He said: "We'd be going into, let's say, Lansing, Michigan on tour and it would be on the Top 40 stations. That's when you know this is hitting everybody and their sister. This is a freakin' hit. That was great. We had a lot of good momentum. The venues got bigger. We started moving up to some larger theaters. I wound up for a minute there on a tour with Kenny Loggins. I wouldn't have expected that. I went all the way to Japan. Ever since Alive on Arrival there was a lot of interest. I had a band after Alive on Arrival, and it was all touring, touring, touring, and plenty of activity. It was a helluva lot of fun. It's pretty great to be invited places where they're waiting to hear you sing your own songs and be yourself."   

Steve still records and tours, and "Romeo" is always the encore. He was fortunate to have a patient record company that let him refine his song. Said Steve: "Maybe I didn't turn into the kind of monster hitmaker that Stevie Wonder is, but I was able to go my own way, and if it didn't turn out to be superstar status, well, I did it myself. I was allowed to make my own mistakes, my own choices, my own good ideas."    

Here's the full interview with Steve Forbert:  

Forbert always had a big following here in Chicago. Years ago my sister dated Steve's bass player, a guy by the name of Danny Counts, so we got to hear some great Steve Forbert stories and music at the time. Be sure to check out the complete interview via the link above. (kk)