Gary James' Interview With
Elliott Murphy








He was born into a show biz family. His band won a 1966 New York State Battle of The Bands competition. He counts Bruce Springsteen as a friend and The Boss even invites him onstage with him during his European tours. Paul Rothschild, who produced The Doors, produced one of his albums. His debut album, "Aquashow" was recently called an "album classic" by Uncut Magazine in the UK. Making his name in Paris, France these days, Elliott Murphy clues us in on his life.

Q - Elliott, why do you base yourself out of Paris? Does that city have a thriving musical scene?

A - Yes, Paris does have a thriving musical scene with many great French artists and also is a world music capitol. But that had little to do with my decision to move here in 1989. I released four albums in the '70s and they all had an impact in France and Europe in general, even more so than in the USA. So, when I first came to Paris to play in 1979, it was a sold out show with six encores and a huge revelation to me. F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives and I realized then that if I was to have a "second act", it would have to be in Europe. I finally moved here in 1989 and am still playing a hundred shows a year. Touring in Europe is still exotic to me after all these years, but I'm thrilled about playing for American audiences again.

Q - You were born to a show business family. Does that mean both your parents were singers? Musicians? Actors? What degree of fame did they achieve?

A - My mother was an actress, but on an amateur level because she was raising three children. My father, Elliott Sr. was the producer of Elliott Murphy's Aquashow, which was a very successful outdoor multi-media show with swimmers, diver clowns, fireworks, comedians and great music like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. The show ran for over ten years in Queens, New York on the World's Fair site.

Q - What band were you in when you won that 1966 New York State Battle of The Bands?

A - We were called The Rapscallions and had a very talented and pretty lead singer, Jan Rundlett, who sang an incredible version of the Shangri-Las' "Remember Walking In The Sand".

Q - There used to be a Battle Of The Bands in Syracuse N.Y. at a club called Three Rivers Inn. Is that where you took the title?

A - No. We performed three times to win the New York State award; first in Garden City for the town award, then Long Island at Eisenhower Park and finally in Rye, New York.

Q - After the band won that title, you went solo and sang your way across Europe. What happened to the band?

A - Oh, the band broke up soon after because none of the other kids in the band had any support from their parents about being professional musicians. I was the only one from a show biz family and Garden City was a very conservative town. I was in lots of local bands after that, playing five sets a night in Long Island bars and clubs until I finally went to Europe in 1971 and began writing songs and singing on the streets.

Q - Then you came back and got a record deal. With what label?

A - My brother Matthew who played bass with me at the time and I had a plan about getting a record deal and we did it the old fashioned way; recorded a demo of my songs and tried to get every label we could to listen to it. We really pounded the sidewalks of New York City and knocked on every door. Finally, Polydor Records offered us a deal the day after they heard the demo, although they only wanted to sign my bother and I and not the rest of my band, which was very difficult at the time.

Q - What was it like to work with Paul Rothschild in the studio? Did he ever talk to you about his recording days with Jim Morrison?

A - Paul was a very gentle man and a wonderful producer. His musical history was incredible and included so much more than The Doors. Paul Butterfield Band, Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and many other great stars. Of course he told me lots of stories about Jim Morrison because I was so infatuated with Jim's legend and late at night after the sessions were finished, him and Fritz Richmond, the legendary engineer who also worked with The Doors, would bring up rare Doors tapes from the archives and play them at full volume. I was in the same Elektra recording studio as The Doors had been, so it was ghostly! Paul told me that Jim Morrison lived in the L.A. Cienega Motel without a telephone for most of his life in L.A. Compare that to Rock stars today!

Q - I take it you're good friends with Bruce Springsteen. How did that friendship start?

A - Bruce and I are the same age and from the same general greater New York area, although he's from New Jersey and I'm from Long Island. I first met Bruce in 1973 when Paul Nelson, the legendary critic and school mate of Bob Dylan, took me to see Bruce perform at Max's Kansas City in New York and gave me "Greetings From Asbury Park". I immediately liked Bruce and his music and that feeling has continued to this day. He has very graciously invited me on stage with him many times in Paris and sang on my album "Selling The Gold". He's a friend, a teacher and the man who put a smile back on the face of Rock 'n' Roll.

Q - Paris town hall has put on this exhibition: Elliott Murphy - Last Of The Rock Stars Retrospective. What does that mean?

A - First of all, it's the title of the first song on my first album "Aquashow", which is slightly ironic because it's "the last." But more than that, it's the song that I projected my future onto the fantastic world of Rock 'n' Roll. It was an audacious statement to make, but I'm not sorry I did it. It kind of set my path in stone.

Q - Is that how you feel about yourself?

A - Do I feel I am The Last Of The Rock Stars? Definitely! Yes! What else could I be?



© Gary James. All rights reserved.


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