Our pal Barry Stoller has a cool interview with Grand Funk Railroad and Bloodrock impresario and producer Terry Knight on the Perfect Sound Forever site:
- PSF: Andrew Loog Oldham – an obvious inspiration – said in 1965 ‘the Rolling Stones are more than just a group – they are a way of life.’ An obvious blueprint for GFR’s marketing…
TK: I met Andrew back in the 1960’s – he was first on tour with the Beatles’ manager. The Stones played Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago [where Terry Knight & the Pack opened those shows]. Great guy. I hear he’s living in Colombia now, very well enhanced.
PSF: Do you remember meeting Phil Spector [in 1963]?
TK: Yes, the president of A&M, Jerry Moss, sent me to Los Angeles to record a demo and knocking at my hotel door there was this little tiny mite and Rosy Grier – what a couple! – and I was strumming a guitar. I asked Phil if he played. He picked up that guitar and proceeded to play Bach’s Tocata and Fugue in D minor – very well, too. Tremendous talent. Grier sat there doing needlepoint.
PSF: John Sinclair also had an in-your-face media style…
TK: Not really the same, our styles were at odds. I never let the foundation of his philosophy influence me, his adversarial support for marijuana – I stayed away from that arena. I didn’t take one side or another with marijuana. I do remember the “Fuck Hudson’s” ad, though – but that was the MC5, not Sinclair.
PSF: Ever heard of Malcolm McLaren?
TK: I wasn’t a big fan of the Sex Pistols. I knew they were huge but they slipped by my radar at that point in my career. [Knight effectively retired from the music business in early 1974.]
PSF: Do you recall meeting McCartney [in 1968]?
TK: Yes, I recall meeting McCartney very well. We first met in Detroit and shared a brief hello. Later, he called me to England, Apple bought me a plane ticket, he invited me to sing. We had lunch in London with Linda and Twiggy, Roger Moore and Peter Sellers – and then I went to the studio where Yoko and Ringo and everyone else was assembled. It was the session where it was over [Ringo walked out during White Album sessions]. I went back to New York empty-handed and wrote the song “Saint Paul” on the flight.
PSF: Are you aware that the song is credited with starting the “Paul-is-dead” rumor?
TK: [Smile.] Oh, yes, I’ve heard that before.
PSF: I want to praise your production touches, such as the backwards guitar on Bloodrock’s “Fatback” and the wind/chimes on “Sable & Pearl” – they seem to pick up from the Beatles, only with a 1970s dread…
TK: I recorded backwards guitar before the Beatles – back with the production for a band named the Jayhawkers. It’s the producer’s job to set up the sound on tape, record and mix that sound with the right equalization. It’s the producer’s duty to enhance that sound with whatever effects work to bring the performance about. I’m pleased and proud of the end results on the Bloodrock albums.
PSF: Your interview with Discoveries [February 2000] quotes you as saying that you came up with the name Bloodrock and that the “concept name” gave you an LP cover in mind…
TK: That first album [with the rock and the bloody smashed window], the cover was my design. I did not get the cover credit, though. George Osaka of the art department designed the second cover [with blood dripping over the band photo].
PSF: What were your favorite sessions?
TK: Well, that first Bloodrock LP – I stand behind that completely. Those are immemorial tracks. I loved the compositions on Bloodrock’s second album, too. Good sessions. Then, there’s [GFR’s] “Closer To Home,” that was a producer’s composition. I edited that to add the lengthy ending recorded with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra; GFR didn’t even hear it until they were sitting around in Flint. “People, Let’s Stop the War” – that, too; I edited that one line over and over to compose the chorus. And, “Paranoid” – the crying.
PSF: The first time I heard “I Can Feel Him in the Morning,” a friend played the spoken word intro and when the music came on, he pulled the needle off the record, saying that we just heard the best part…
TK: [Laugh.] Well, thanks. That was [engineer] Kenneth Hamann’s idea – we went outside the studio and found some kids on the sidewalk. We recorded them right there. The last line, “If you’re good you’ll live forever and if you’re bad you’ll die when you die” repeated over and over – Ken did that. That was the first time a GFR song painted a picture, that one. The innocence of the song suggested to me a grieving mother who lost a son in the Civil War – and we just took it from there. The backing singers on that, by the way, were hookers we found on the corner – they got $100 each for that session.
PSF: Survival was one of the first records to feature a mellow heavy metal sound. Coming off the success of GFR’s earlier productions, that was a bit of a commercial risk.
TK: The group wanted a studio album, they were conscious to show some musicianship with that one.
PSF: How long did those albums take to record and mix?
TK: With Bloodrock, it was two days for an album. Each song was well-written out in advance and they played them all for me in rehearsal. They were pretty intricate performances, the placement of all the instruments was a challenging venture. I took liberties to rearrange some of them and they would come back in a week to play them for me the new way. I don’t remember them ever challenging any of my suggestions. Mixing took about three weeks for each album. Grand Funk Railroad – they took about three days to record.
PSF: How would you compare the two bands?
TK: It was very different material with each band. They were both at the cutting edge of their style, though. GFR had a basic, uneducated, visceral style. Bloodrock’s performances were studious and mathematical; their songs were like algebraic computations…..
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