Still Got the Mojo: A Conversation with Foghat’s Roger Earl (Part 2 of 4)

Continued from Part One

Foghat had some commercial success early on, but it was when “Fool for the City” came out that things really took off. With the benefit of hindsight, did you see that album success coming?

No. Other than the first album, which we had plenty of time. And of course, [producer] Dave Edmunds sprinkled his magic fairy dust all over it. Absolutely brilliant, that lot. And we had lots of time making that record because we couldn’t get any work anywhere!

Most of the other albums were done a week or two week here, there and everywhere, until we got to the Fool for the City album. Nick Jameson had just joined us on bass and producing. And we said, “We’re taking some time off the road to make this record.” Nick and I rented a station wagon at the beginning. We had a keyboard, bass, some drums and guitars in there. And we went to three or four different studios that Nick wanted to try out. Nick found it in Sharon, Vermont. 1974 was when you used to get your money’s worth in metal with station wagons. You could put a whole bunch of stuff in there.

And we found this place and it worked. Nick booked time there and we took about two or three months, I think, to record the record. And there was no pressure. We rented a band house at the bottom of the mountain. And when we’d finished recording for the day, we’d go back to the house and drink wine and talk. We had acoustic guitars there and we would sit. It was a really good time, actually. Nick Jameson is an absolute genius, as far as I’m concerned, out of any one that I’ve ever worked with or known. I’ve probably learned more from Nick than any other single person. Just the way he records, the way he looks at music, the way he suggests arrangements and comes up with ideas he’d be worth talking to. He’s a lot of fun as well!

Did you feel like you had something extra special on your hands when you finished making that record? Or did the commercial success of that album take you by surprise?

I should answer your question, shouldn’t I? [laughs] We knew we’d made a good record. That’s what we were doing. We’d been on the road for three, four years; we’d honed our chops. Everybody could play. The band was hot, and the audiences were great. Dave was fantastic. Rod Price was playing at the peak of his performance. And Nick Jameson, as I said before, was an absolute genius. We knew we had a great record. Yes.

And I recall now why we knew it was so good. Everybody had left, and Nick and I stayed up there. Nick was mixing. I would bring him a cup of tea and some biscuits or something. Or I’d say, “You turn the drums up a bit, Nick.” We mixed “Slow Ride,” and the b-side was “Save Your Loving.” And then we drove back down from Sharon, Vermont to Bearsville, which is another journey. We went in to see Paul Fishkin and played him those two songs. And Paul Fishin said, “Well, you can’t put an eight minute song out as a single.” And Nick and I said, “Yes, you can. Fuck you; we’re going to put it out!” And that was the only time that the band, or certainly myself and Nick, insisted on a single.

Yeah, we had something special with “Slow Ride.” And we thought “Save Your Loving” was a really strong contender to be in the charts. Up to that point, we didn’t have any. We always made the records the best that we could. Every song we took as a separate entity; it just eventually became an album. But, yeah, those two, we fought to get released as a single.

And Paul said, “Well, they’re going to edit it anyway.” Which they did. Of course, back then, FM stations would play the whole eight minutes. They’d play eight minutes of rock and roll music on the radio. Those were the days. And DJs were allowed to be brave and pick whatever artists they wanted to.

Foghat came in the wake of the British blues boom, after it had really taken off. What do you think sets British blues apart from its American counterpart?

Well, all our heroes, 99.9% of them, were all black American blues musicians. That was my initial influence, of course, was Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and Elvis Presley. Actually, I still am a big Johnny Cash fan. Sun Records is the home of everything that inspired me right at the beginning. My dad played piano a little bit, somewhat in the style of Fats Waller. I remember my father brought home Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire,” and he played me the b-side. This is when I was about eleven or twelve years old, I think. “Mean Woman Blues.” And I went, wow.

And then a couple months later my father took me to see Jerry Lee Lewis play a theater in southwest London. I was there with my best friend at the time, Dave Hutchins, who was a bass player in the first band I was in. And I was never the same after that. As my father was a piano player, my brother Colin, four years older than me, was starting to get his Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard chops together.

I learned to play a twelve bar blues in the key of C on the piano. But drums were a lot louder than the piano! And I was always banging on stuff with knives and forks at the table. Lampshades, of course, were a cymbal, actually.

My mother and father were really cool. There was always music in our house. Ever since I remember, they always had the radio on. Then, of course, a record player. Then we got. My older brother got a Grundig tape player and used to tape stuff off of the radio that was coming from some of the stations in Luxembourg and Germany where the U.S. had bases. So we had all this really cool music. I was fortunate because there was music in the house. Always fantastic, it was.

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