Gary James' Interview With
Andrew Gold








You could say he came from a show business background. His father won an Academy Award for his musical score for Exodus. His mother was the singing voice of Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Deborah Kerr in The King And I. He was a member of Linda Ronstadt's band. His work with recording artists reads like a Who's Who: Celine Dion, James Taylor, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Diana Ross, Cher, Trisha Yearwood, Wynona Judd, Vince Gill, Aaron Neville and the list goes on and on. He is the writer of the song "Lonely Boy" and "Thank You For Being A Friend", which later became the theme for TV's The Golden Girls. We are speaking of course about Mr. Andrew Gold.

Q - As I understand it, you're keeping busy these days writing commercials?

A - No. I'm doing a lot of things. Just regular things like making records, writing songs, just like I always have. However, I have recently added acting to my resume. I've been filming commercials. Starring in a few. Just to kind of break into the film business. I'm hoping it leads to bigger roles. This is something that when I was very young, about maybe 10, I was very tempted to go into; acting, as my career. I wasn't really clear between acting and music. I did a movie with Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelly and Fred March called Inherit The Wind. I had a small, little, extra part. You can see me. I didn't know how far away I was gonna be from the shot. So I did a little thing with my cap, but I did it so slyly, I didn't even move it or anything. I kind of went up and put my hand down, because that would be easier to see. However, it was actually a very close shot. So I'm just there doing this thing and they left it in and I don't know why. (laughs) So that's my big Hollywood moment back then. Since then I've done a few little things. I did walk-ons on Mad About You, the show with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. I sang the theme song.

Q - You worked with the Hollywood legends! Spencer Tracy!

A - I know. I didn't know who these people were. When I look at these pictures, I go "Oh, my God! Gene Kelly is standing right behind me!" With my parents being in the business, that's the way I grew up. There were people around that I would have known, but I hardly knew at all. Although I remember once my mother was talking to Bill Shatner on the phone. When I realized she was talking to William Shatner, you know, Captain Kirk, I wanted to say something. So I got on the phone and mumbled "you're great" kind of words. He said "Why thank-you son" and that was about it. But I think that's the only real star that I knew that knew my parents. So that bug was, is in me. Recently I got an agent who thinks I could do well in the commercial business. I don't really want to do a lot of commercials, but this could lead to real acting.

Q - In your bio it says you want to be a film producer.

A - A director. If it says producer, I was thinking of an album producing. Film is just like directing in movies where you direct the shots and you do what your vision of he movie is and I think I would be very good at it, especially as I've watched some of these directors direct. I think I could do this. I don't think I'm that good of an actor that the acting part of me would be the main thing.

Q - So, would you be happier being a behind-the-scenes guy?

A - I do that now when I produce other people's albums. I started producing really in 1980. I produced an album for Rita Coolidge. Then I started getting interested in that. I played a lot on the album. So, nothing had really changed, but I did stay in the studio longer than I wanted to because I didn't want to tour. After awhile I wasn't touring enough and now I want to have sort of a renaissance of doing shows and I think I'll do quite well, because of the rarity of me going out. So I think some people would be very happy if I toured again. So I think I'm gonna do it. In the meantime I'm still writing songs and putting out an album of mine. It's gonna be a four album set because the last ten years, I've been writing a lot of songs.

Q - Are you putting this album set out on your own label?

A - Yeah. It'll be out on Q-Brain. It is basically me. I might sell it through a bigger company to have kind of a boutique label at their label. Use their distribution guys. But it's basically these days it's almost sort of hobby time. I put an album out. A lot of people buy them, but it's not like it used to be. It's like my little core of fans.

Q - What is the meaning of Q-Brain?

A - I have a license plate that says it. Somebody stopped me once and said "Is that some sort of scientific thing, like you're doing research on your brain?" I said "I'm sorry, I can't answer that. I'd have to shoot you." But it's short for Quart Brain, and Quart Brain came from; I was talking to someone and they said "Hey, they found a particle that was smaller than a quart." And the guy said "What, you're brain?" They laughed and that sort of stuck with me. Quart Brain. Then I shortened it to Q-Brain and it became the name of my publishing company and record company. But it's just a name. It doesn't really mean anything. It's not a real company. It's a name I put on my records.

Q - How difficult would you imagine it will be to get airplay for those CDs of yours?

A - Well, in the last twenty years...it's gonna be hard. It's basically gonna be played for my core fans worldwide. Maybe that's 20,000 people. If they were all around my house, I'd feel very popular. (laughs) But I just think of all of them standing outside. Some of 'em are real nice. Some of 'em are crazy. Some of them are just weird. But that's basically it. It'll go on i-tunes. Most of my records are on i-tunes. So it'll be available.

Q - Did you ever give any consideration to doing something other than a show-biz job in your early years?

A - It started out because I was so creative, as I am now. I draw. I act. I do music. Then, there's other parts of my life where I'm totally bewildered and lost. (laughs) Don't give me a math problem to solve. I'll have to count on my fingers. I did take a job before I started writing or doing anything as a cleaner at A&M Studios. What I'd do is, you'd get the cables and wrap 'em up nicely. Tidy everything up. Once in awhile I'd get a free hour and somebody would have a tape on the player, but there was no mix on the board. So, I got to sort of mix things. Whatever was around and put effects on everything. So I sort of learned some of that. I'm always interested in how good records are made. I have a lot to learn. It's funny, I saw other albums being done that later I realized they were major albums. I was the second engineer, assistant engineer on her "Blue" album, which is quite a famous album for Janis. I remember they had her miked up so. There were so many mics on her guitar I couldn't believe it. She sang a bunch of songs that are now famous and when he pointed to me, I would press Record and Play, (laughs) and Stop when it was over. That was it. That was my total thing. Whether it was James Taylor, Carole King, there were quite a lot of people wandering through that studio. It was great.

Q - Lucky you.

A - Yeah. And these were all people who in a few years from then, I was playing with and were friends with and producing some of their stuff. Carole King is an old, dear friend of mind.

Q - You could've retired from the royalties you received from that song you wrote, "Thank You For Being A Friend".

A - Yeah.

Q - Golden Girls has never really left the air.

A - I used to always call it onstage as "this is my accountant's favorite song." It's true, it made me millions of dollars over the years, just because it's one of those friends songs. There's about five songs like "You've Got A Friend". It made it into that area. So now I see it in like, cards. You open it up and there's a little chip in there and it sings music, "Thank You For Being A Friend" and luckily it sings my version.

Q - And you get a royalty on that as well, I would imagine.

A - Yeah. Well, anything that has even the words, the name of the song. Anything that refers to that song. If you put up a sign for a Homecoming Team for a friend or for a school, I don't get anything.

Q - How long did it take you to write "Thank You For Being A Friend"?

A - About an hour.

Q - How long did it take to write "Lonely Boy"?

A - It was about four hours. I was just in this zone where I can get when I'm writing songs. I'm kind of tuned into some sort of like a stream of creativity that you stop sort of judging yourself and realize that mistakes made can really be great instead of bad. It can take you interesting places. That kind of stuff makes for writing a good song. I always feel when I'm writing that if I'm sick, I don't feel sick. That's sort of an alpha wave that gets very strong in creative people when they're creating. So it took about four hours. It was gonna be a real long song, because back then that's what people were doing a lot. They would cut it down for radio. But I got bored after the third verse. Originally it was not gonna be me at all. But then I thought, just leave it like this. And then we went out and rehearsed the song, played it on the road during my show as a song we hadn't recorded yet. We played it for about two months and really knew it at the end. I went into the studio and recorded it 'live'. All of it is 'live'. There were little strings on this machine which were like fakes, but we liked the sound. The sleigh bells, the drummer was amazing. It's quite a feat. Quite a show. The song originally had a real plaintive kind of soft section in the middle. And everybody said to hell with that, let's pump it up! And we played it out and it was much better. We were playing it on the road and we were getting applause in the middle of the song. A brand new song, they were going "yeah." So when we recorded it, I felt very confident about what we were doing. And we added some real strings and I put the vocal on and that was it.

Q - How'd you get that gig in Linda Ronstadt's band? Were you friends with Peter Asher?

A - No. I hadn't met Peter Asher yet and I didn't know he was managing Linda. But looking back, I heard he had just started with Linda, and producer of the album before the one I did, which was "Heart Like A Wheel", which had various big hits. My band, who had Kenny who was part of The Stone Ponys, was a magnificent guitar player. A guy named Gene Garfin played drums and sang high. Bass was a guy named Peter Bernstein, whose father is Elmer Bernstein, a famous music composer. We were opening up for Linda. It was a George McGovern fund raiser. We went on and Linda watched us and liked what I did and called me the next day and said "Would you consider playing in my band?" I said "Consider it? Absolutely." I got there and they put my amp onstage. I thought oh, I have arrived to total luxury. I don't have to carry my amp anymore, which to this day is still my least favorite thing to do. About a month later Kenny joined, playing bass. He usually played guitar, but he got really good on the bass. After I was in her band for about one tour, and I had never been on a tour and it was a very rough tour, we were opening for Jackson Browne. The first part, when we flew out, we had the worst turbulence I had ever felt in any plane before or after. Because of that, I wrote a song called "Endless Flight" that was pretty much the story of my life there. (laughs) I hate flying. It was so cold back East. It was pretty disheartening and the people on the tour were kind of weird. Just didn't get along with them that much. So when it came time for the second half, she was begging me to come back and play. They had a temporary girl, in fact it was Karla Bonoff, but she just sort of did a very slow miniscule version of what I was doing. She (Linda Ronstadt) begged me. "I'll give you more money." She basically said...let me put it this way, "I'll give you my body. I'll sleep with you." I can't believe that I did not take her up on that. That would've been very nice. I said "C'mon, you don't have to go that far." So anyway, I did join her band and then stayed in it for real. She started paying us retainers and off we went.

Q - You also worked for Paul McCartney?

A - I bumped into Paul at various things. When I was young there was a charity thing which you would go in a line and walk by The Beatles for $75 each. There was a lot of kids of movie stars that came to see The Beatles. And you get your picture taken. I still have that (picture). In fact, I showed it to Paul fairly recently and he said "God, I remember that thing. It was so weird with all those movie stars around." So, it was funny. I never really worked with him, like played in his band or did some recording with him. I did however sing with him on "Hey Jude".

Q - Where did that happen?

A - At a 'live' concert. Somebody has a picture of me doing that, but I don't know who that somebody is. But it was great.

Q - What year did you meet The Beatles?

A - 1964. I just shook their hand and said hello. Then later in my life, I remember going backstage to hang out with him (Paul) on those Wings shows, when he first started. It was great. He looked amazing to me. I've always been amazed at the way he looks. He was a Beatle, so I found it difficult to talk to him. In fact, I was kind of walking around looking at things in the room. I was too shy to say anything. I wanted to ask him ten million questions. But it was still a lot of fun. I kept running into him. We did this Earth day in 1994 at the Hollywood Bowl. That was where he sang "Hey Jude" and all that stuff. If my ex-wife runs into him, he'll say "How's Andy?" So he's very aware of my thing. I met John Lennon at the Inauguration of Jimmy Carter. He was talking and I said hello. Before that, I had met him while he was in New York working on "Walls And Bridges". I just said hello. He was a bit of a mystery. I couldn't tell if he was standoffish or what. But he seemed quite nice.

Q - You also played with Ringo?

A - Yeah. Ringo and Paul are the ones I know best. Paul I know enough to call him an acquaintance. Ringo is basically the same. But I had a longer time to ask him all kinds of stuff, including "Was it great to be in The Beatles? (laughs) And he said "Are you kidding me? It was the most fun a human could have." It was incredible. We played on an album of his called "Time Takes Time". One of the songs that we did with him was a song that was written for him by McCartney. There was a lot of ways to sing it as a guide vocal, which was my job. I kept singing it very lightly so it wouldn't bleed through everything. I couldn't help but put on sort of a McCartney accent while I was singing. I told a joke. I was looking out the window of this little compartment I was in and there was Ringo on his Beatle set. I asked him about the cymbals. He said "These are the ones I've had since The Ed Sullivan days." I was just going "Oh my God." It was very difficult for me not to just slide into A Hard Day's Night fantasy. Singing Paul's stuff, making him laugh at little things and slowly getting an English accent.

Q - And you never did record anything with George Harrison?

A - No. And it's too bad because we would've gotten along. We went to a party and he was there. Dylan was there on this thing on the Queen Mary, but I didn't meet him that night again. I don't know where was.

Q - As long as we're on the subject of famous people, did you ever meet the Big Three - Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison?

A - I saw Jim Morrison in a restaurant. It was a tiny, little place that we used to go to called Lucky You Restaurant. It was a Mexican place. Very small. Almost derelicts would eat there, but not quite. The food was amazing. I wish the guy didn't die. Anyway, it was Jim Morrison and he looked like he hadn't had a bath for awhile. And he had his big beard, which I didn't like. He wasn't particularly rock-starish looking.

Q - Do you remember the year you saw him?

A - Sometime in '69 I think.

Q - Given that you came from a musical family, if you were in any other city than L.A., would you have had the same career?

A - Well, maybe not. I think the important thing is not that I was in L.A., although it helped. But I was really inundated with that gene, the gene of playing music. I remember my first experience was this old building that was like a garage or something. I remember we were waiting for something for our car and I went back there. There was nothing to do in the garage and there was a piano. An old upright piano. I don't know what it was doing in a garage. (laughs) I started playing it. I was just amazed that it had all these tones. I was playing this funny music, just playing on the black keys. It was kind of like Chinese music. It was great. At that point, I was hooked. But the real moment was that Sunday night when Ed Sullivan presented The Beatles for the first time. When I saw them, heard the girls screaming, how great their clothes were, how cool they looked, their hair, I just went "OK, I know what I'm going to be when I grow up."

Q - Did your parents ever open any doors for you?

A - No. The only thing that happened was, there was one session that I did for a friend of my mother's who had her own thing going. She was a producer. She produced this kind of soulful music at times. I don't know what it was for. It could've been important. There were three guitar players. Everybody knew it was my first session and I was very young and I didn't read music. In fact, I still can't read music. So they sort of molly coddled me and I did well.



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