Gary James' Interview With Laurence Juber Of
To the world he is known as Laurence Juber. To his fans he is simply known as L.J. Laurence Juber was the lead guitarist in Wings, Paul McCartney's band.
We talked with L.J. about his days with Paul McCartney and his own musical career.
Q - What is life like today for Laurence Juber? Do you have a band? Do you tour? Do you record?
A - I don't have a band, although occasionally I perform with a bass player and drummer. Mostly I perform solo. I play finger-style guitar for my own artistic stuff. That's self-sufficient because I can play all the parts that I need to play at once. In fact, my most recent album, which is called "One Wing" is a collection of Wings tunes arranged for solo guitar. You can hear in that exactly what I do. And that's my eleventh album. I record for a record label out of Southern California called Solid Air Records, which specializes in solo guitar playing. We won a Grammy last year for a collection of arrangements of Henry Mancini tunes, of which the lead off cut was my arrangement of "The Pink Panther Theme". You can hear snippets of the stuff if you go on I-tunes; just type in Juber and you'll find my entire catalog there.
Q - Where do you play?
A - I play clubs. I play performing arts centers. I play concerts mostly.
Q - How are you billed?
A - I'm billed as two time Grammy Award winning guitarist Laurence Juber.
Q - Do they add "Ex Paul McCartney guitarist"?
A - Yeah, sometimes.
Q - Do you like that?
A - Where it's appropriate, it's fine. Of my fan base there is a component that knows me because they were introduced to my guitar playing through Wings. There are plenty of people who are not aware of that aspect of my career and some who kind of discover that because they get into what I do now. So, it's a nice part of my resume. It certainly was a great experience. It's not fundamental to the way I do business.
Q - What does that mean?
A - It mean I don't just do business as a former Wings guitar player. I'm out there with the reputation for what I do now.
Q - When you were growing up, did you see The Beatles in concert?
A - No.
Q - Were you right there in London?
A - I was there in London. I was a Beatles fan, but I never went to see them.
Q - Why would that be?
A - I was never particularly motivated 'cause I knew you couldn't hear anything anyway. I was into the music, so I would be more likely to see Hendrix for example. But, by that time, The Beatles weren't performing 'live' anyway. I was a fan of the records.
Q - You were a studio musician before Wings?
A - I was.
Q - Whose records did you play on?
A - I played a lot of stuff in London in the mid 70s. I played with various kinds of lower reaches of the Top 40 English artists. The first album session I played on was Cleo Laine, who's a great English jazz singer who was produced by George Martin. I worked with people like Shirley Bassey and a lot of very main-stream kind of more adult Pop artists. But, I played a lot of TV shows and movie stuff. I played on the soundtrack of The Spy Who Loved Me. In those days disco was very popular. There were various French record producers that would come over to London and produce stuff. I played on a record for Cerone, who according to Billboard Magazine was one of the two founding fathers of Euro-disco, Giorgio Morodor being the other one. So, a lot of this stuff I've only discovered fairly recently. I played with The Alan Parsons Project on "Tales Of Mystery And Imagination". But I had no idea that I had until I read it in a magazine. So, there's a lot of stuff from that period. I was just too busy. I'd walk in the door, play my guitar stuff and then run off to the next session. And a lot of the time I had no idea what I was doing. But one thing I do remember doing was playing in the house band on a TV show with David Essex and Denny Laine came on as a guest.
Q - You had to be a pretty fast study didn't you, to go from session to session and play all of these different styles of music?
A - Yeah. That was my whole ambition. I really went for the kind of versatility of musicianship and the ability to sight read. So, I'd walk in on a session and they'd put music in front of me and I'd play it. I knew how to get the right kind of sounds. In those days there was a lot of studio work if you were qualified to do it.
Q - How many hours a day would you work?
A - My busiest times I was doing three sessions a day, sometimes seven days a week. So I was putting in solid kind of 8 - 12 hour days. A lot of guitar playing.
Q - What artists would you be backing up on that David Essex TV show?
A - Pretty much the guest artists that would come on. We had Ronnie Spector for example. We had Denny Laine and that was really how the Wings connection came about. We kind of bonded on the show.
Q - So, Denny Laine appeared on this David Essex TV show and six months later he gave you a call and asked you to come jam with him, but didn't mention Paul McCartney would be there?
A - Not exactly. I actually got a call from MPL, the management asking me if I was available to come and jam with Denny, and oh, by the way, Paul and Linda will be there. I mean, I went in there knowing it was an audition for Wings. Paul, Linda and Steve Holly, who just joined the band, was there. Chris Thomas was there too, who had signed on to produce what became "Back To The Egg". So, it was definitely an audition. It didn't feel like an audition, but it was an audition.
Q - So, what goes through you mind when you see Paul McCartney standing right in front of you?
A - It was pretty cool. It wasn't the first time I'd met him. I'd met him a couple of years before that. I was in a session in a studio in North London, with Herbie Flowers, a great English bass player. Him and Tony Newman were the rhythm section on, I think it may have been an advertising jingle. Those guys were the T-Rex rhythm section. They played on a lot of really cool records and we were working together. We went to the bathroom on a break and walked in and there's Paul McCartney washing his hands. So, I got introduced to him by Herbie who's an old friend of his. Then after I had worked with Denny on the David Essex Show a few months later. I ran into Wings at AIR Studios where they were doing some work on the music for the Oriental Nightfish, which was an animated piece that Linda had written the music for. So, I'd actually met Paul on a couple of occasions, around studios. So it wasn't' completely unfamiliar. But it was pretty intense. There I am, kind of auditioning for Wings. Luckily we didn't play any Wings tunes. We just played a bunch of Reggae groove and Chuck Berry stuff, 'cause I didn't really know the Wings repertoire.
Q - How do you get past the fact that standing right in front of you is, perhaps one of the most recognizable faces and names in music, on the planet?
A - You know, I am now and was then, a professional musician, so the professionalism kind of kicks in. I mean, this would be true of anybody. Think of all the studio musicians who worked on Beatles records. All the string players. All the horn players. You don't necessarily fall apart in the presence of greatness. It actually inspires you to play better. My career up 'til that point, I had played with some pretty interesting situations; I had played with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra. I'd done some pretty big gigs. So I wasn't intimidated by being in the presence of an artist of that kind of stature. However, there was always, and this continued throughout being in Wings, there was always that moment of Oh my goodness, there's Paul McCartney. You never really get away from the fact it's Beatle Paul, because you're in the presence of a legend. There's a charisma that goes further than just the human being. There's a mythology that kind of resonates on many levels of your life.
Q - See, with an older guy working in the string section on a Beatles record, it would just be a gig for them. Maybe they wouldn't have had that admiration.
A - That's true. My point being that there still is, as a professional musician, you do the best you can on the gig kind of thing. But, then there's this whole other layer of - Wow, that's Paul McCartney! How cool is that? (laughs)
Q - Pretty cool.
A - I think the most intense moment for me of that sensibility was when we were doing the Concert For Kampuchea, which would have been December of '79. We had the Rockstar Ensemble 'live' onstage. We were playing "Let It Be". I'm there with John Bonham playing drums. Kenny Jones (Faces) is playing drums. Pete Townshend is on stage. All kinds of amazing musicians that I long admired and some of the more contemporary players who were up and coming like Jimmy Honeymoon Scott from The Pretenders were all onstage playing. We're doing "Let It Be" and it comes to the guitar solo and Wings had been doing "Let It Be" regularly on tour. So, the solo comes around and I kind of glance around and I didn't see anybody kind of giving the high sign to do the solo, so I stepped forward and started soloing. Just in the middle of that was when it really struck me that it was just an amazing experience. There I am onstage with Paul McCartney with this host of luminary musicians and Pete Townshend kind of breathing down my neck. (laughs) It was quite a remarkable experience.
Q - Did you ever have the opportunity to meet any of the other Beatles?
A - I worked with Ringo. Paul produced some tracks that Ringo did called "Stop And Smell The Roses". I went to France and we worked on I think three or four tracks. So, that was pretty intense too, working with Paul and Ringo together. That was remarkable. The empathy, that never goes away when you play together so much. Just, you know, first time through with all the drum fills in the song in all the right places. Everything kind of flowed smoothly. I also worked with George on the soundtrack of Shanghai Surprise. That was kind of a unique experience too. It was right around the time, within days of my younger daughter being born. So I was dealing with my wife Hope going into the hospital, going into labor and then basically getting a phone call saying OK, we're in the studio. (laughs) And that was kind of a unique experience because we took my younger daughter to the studio in Los Angeles where George was recording. He held her and kind of kissed her on the forehead and gave her a blessing with the gift of music which took because she's actually a very talented singer / songwriter who's just signing her own record deal.
Q - How long were you in Wings?
A - Three years. I was in the band from '78 through the Spring of '81, when it officially folded.
Q - Why did he fold the band?
A - Didn't need it. Wasn't planning on touring. Didn't tour again after the Japanese bust until '89. And George Martin didn't want to do "Tug Of War" as a Wings album. He wanted to do it purely as a solo McCartney album. So, not needing to have a live band and wanting to be able to be completely free, George Martin wanted to be free just to choose who ever he felt like having play on stuff. Then, as soon as I saw the writing on the wall, I moved to New York anyway. I think the way to understand it is to compare the live version of "Comin' Up" with the studio version. That gives you an idea of what was going on, where the band was really just this kick ass rock 'n' roll band that was really finding it's voice. But, the kind of material Paul was writing, kind of the production direction he was going in, was not necessarily as rock 'n' roll as that. "Tug Of War" wasn't really a rock 'n' roll album.
Q - What did you do in New York?
A - I was working on some projects with a few musicians and doing some record company showcases and getting some good reactions. But, I was also all of a sudden doing all of these American Express and Coca Cola jingles. Because Hope was far from L.A. and we decided we were going to get married and raise a family, we just decided we wanted to do that in Los Angeles. So, I moved out to the West Coast and pretty much immediately started doing session work in L.A. I started slowly but surely writing and developing a solo, acoustic guitar style. Since I got to L.A... I arrived here in October of '81, I started doing session work. I played on Happy Days, TV shows going back that far, the whole run of Home Improvement, most of Roseanne. I played on Seventh Heaven all ten years and in fact it just got picked up for another year. I played on movies like The Big Chill, Splash, Good Will Hunting. Then in 1990 I got offered a record deal and started putting out solo albums, of which I just finished my twelfth album, which is going to be released in October (2006).