Billy Talbot Interview - 1996
Here's an interview with Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot from 1996. (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR , October 24, 1996, BY NICK KREWEN)
You can't accuse BILLY TALBOT of having a short memory span.More on Crazy Horse.
In a career that has lasted 27 years and boasted somewhere in the vicinity of 1500 concerts, the good-natured bassist who anchors CRAZY HORSE, the band that helps NEIL YOUNG achieve his ragged glory, not only remembers the group's 1991 appearance at Copps Coliseum, but Hamilton itself.
"I remember meeting some great people, going to eat at a great African restaurant, and meeting a security person who has turned out to be a great friend over the years," says Talbot Tuesday from his Vancouver hotel room.
"We were really smoking that night. But we're smoking way more now on this tour," he adds, referring to band's current ten-date cross-Canada tour to promote Neil Young's latest album, Broken Arrow.
What's even more impressive is Talbot's recollection of the first time he accompanied Neil Young to Hamilton: as bassist with THE SANTA MONICA FLYERS back in 1973 when they played McMaster University on October 28 to kick off the Tonight's The Night tour. It was one of the first tours since the November 18, 1972 drug overdose of DANNY WHITTEN, ex-Crazy Horse guitarist and one of the band's co-founding members.
Talbot admits that a year later everyone was still reeling from the tragedy.
"We knew it was coming, but it was a shock," says Talbot of Whitten, who left Crazy Horse in 1971 due to his problems. "But that album wasn't solely about Danny. It included some of the other good friends we lost -- BRUCE BERRY, who was one of our roadies. JIMI HENDRIX. JANIS JOPLIN.
"Danny was the topper. That was the one that hit too close to home."
Talbot says he remembers flying to Ontario and playing three gigs on the university circuit before the band embarked on a week-long European tour.
"It was like an Irish wake," he recalls. "There was a lot of celebrating, a lot of drinking, and being rowdy instead of playing out the darkness."
As for The Santa Monica Flyers, which featured longtime Young associate BEN KEITH on pedal steel, future E. STREET BAND guitarist NILS LOFGREN, Talbot and drummer RALPH MOLINA?
"That was just another pseudonym for Crazy Horse," chuckles Talbot, who celebrated his 53rd birthday yesterday.
Although Crazy Horse -- Talbot, Molina and guitarist FRANK (PANCHO) SAMPEDRO, who joined in time for 1975's Zuma -- is best known as Young's favorite rock and roll accompanists, sharing credits on such classic albums as Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and Rust Never Sleeps, the band's origins come from an unlikely source: the acapella vocal music known as doo-wop.
Born in New York City, Talbot first became involved in music singing doo-wop on Big Apple street corners at the age of 14. At 17, he migrated to Los Angeles where he met Whitten and Molina, forming a vocal group called DANNY & THE MEMORIES.
"That's why there are a lot of harmonies in Crazy Horse," says Talbot. "From performing doo-wop when we were youngsters."
After a short stint as THE CYRCLE in the studio with producer SLY STONE, Whitten, Talbot and Molina took up instruments and joined forces with LEON and GEORGE WHITSELL and BOBBY NORCROFF, becoming THE ROCKETS. At that point Neil Young came into their lives.
"I first met Neil around 1967, when he first got in town," says Talbot, who resides in San Francisco.
"We knew each other slightly before the BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD days. He heard The Rockets' album and we used to jam on`Mr. Soul' before he recorded it with Buffalo Springfield. But I remember him pulling up in his hearse."
When it came time for Young to enter the studio to record Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, The Rockets had dwindled to three and Crazy Horse was born.
Talbot says that although Young writes the songs, Crazy Horse is more of a partnership than people realize.
"It's like art," he explains. "He's the leader. We're the colors. We all contribute to the overall picture."