Speaking of Dream Lover, here is the story behind the Memphis Sessions,
as told by John Beland, who was featured in the two YouTube clips
mentioned in the first post.
"The truth about Rick Nelson's Memphis Sessions."
So John, tell me some about how you got to work for Rick.
"I first met Rick in 1972 when I was with Swampwater. I knew Rick from a club called 'The Troubadour' where we all hang out and there we became friends. In 1978 Rick wanted to go to Las Vegas for the first time and put a band together, with real great pickers. He called me, I came and from then on we became real close. I was very active in the new direction he was heading; back to his rockabilly roots. Until that time he was only playing country, countryfolk. So we got Rick doing his old hits again. And I did an album with him called "Goodnight Vienna", which was a total disaster because of producer Al Kooper."
What caused the disaster?
"It was an example where a rock 'n' roll producer wanted to use Rick Nelson as a vehicle for their own talent. In other words Rick's role in the album was basically that he showed up and sang. None of the songs reflected Rick's musical direction.
So the album was shelved and Rick was frustrated. So one day he decided with his manager that he wanted to go Memphis for the first time in his carreer leaving L.A. . So Rick and I flew to Memphis where we would get a drummer and a bass player and record an album with just tunes we wanted to do. The kind of songs we always liked and had fun with. But we didn' t have any ideas which songs we would pick, except a few. We recorded in a 16 track studio called "Little Lew' s Studio". I think it's still there only it's a 24 track studio now. We had Larry Rogers as a producer. The studio was a house with a veranda giving it a very homy atmosphere and as it was January. I believe, it was snowing.
Rick picked up his guitar still not knowing what to do and started joking about being in Memphis where Elvis recorded all his great records and began singing 'That's allright mama' in the microphone and we picked it up and recorded it. That's how the album went, just a spur of the moment.
But the farther we went the more special it became to Rick, and we went back to the old style of recording with echo on his voice. The album became a mix of his rockabilly roots and his days with the Stone Canyon Band. We spent three weeks working on the album. We mixed it, Rick and I wrote a song and meanwhile I came up with Bobby Darin' s "Dreamlover". We recorded it and Rick a little later had a chartrecord with it. So when the album was finished we went on the road, hired a rhythm guitar player named Bobby Neal (who crashed with Rick seven years later).
But unfortunately CBS thought the album wasn't strong so they never released it. So it stayed in the shelves until after his crash. Then I called CBS and asked them for no charge to re-mix and re-master it to put it out the way it was intended to be, because as an intimate friend I was probably the best person to package the album up for release.
So they said that they would get back to me, and the next thing was that they wanted me to write the liner-notes. So I wrote all these personal notes about what was going on during the sessions, and that it was a personal album for everybody involved. But then I heard the album. They had brought in producer Steve Buckingham who hired Nashville studioplayers, to overdub all my guitarsolos, remixed Rick's voice, got the slab-echo off of his voice and overdubbed everything, so raped a product that probably was Rick's most personal album ever."
Then I pulled my linernotes from the album which obset CBS very much because they had to call back all the albums. Against the wishes of Rick' s mom, his brother, his manager and all of us they still wanna have it released.
They put a cartoon picture of Rick on the cover and said it was the way Rick intended it to be; to me it was closer to gravedigging. If Rick would have been alive he would never have allowed it to come out like this. He didn' t wanna record in Nashville, that' s why we did it in Memphis. He hated the way of guitarpicking there and that's what they did on the album. So what CBS and Steve Buckingham did was a terrible slam against rock'n'roll. That's the kind of thing Nashville used to do with Hank Williams jr, they took the old masters to re-do them. They lack integrity. You'd think they have respect for an artist like Rick Nelson who died in an airplane crash but they took the apes into the studio, changed everything and had the nerves to call it The Memphis Sessions. And a far as I'm concerned anyone who's reading this and is a Rick Nelson fan shouldn' t spend any money on this. Because it's not Rick and it's a slam against Rick and his memory, it's a total disgrace and I'm very bitter about it."
What was the result of all this manupulation? Did it sell?
"No, it did not. A writer from U.P.I. called me for the story and my comments on it and the story made headlines in America, pretty much what I am telling now. The result was nobody bought it. You know, when it comes down to real rock'n'roll fans who like Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, there no dummies. But the record companies always think they can fool the public for a quick dollar. So rather than buying that album Rick whould have wanted them to buy one of his old albums. But Larry Rogers and I will try to get back the tapes from CBS and put them out in a package the way they were intended, I still have all the memories and the photos from the sessions. If CBS had any class they would make a nice package as a tribute to Rick."
What kind of person was Rick actually?
"He was a dear friend. I really did love Rick. Everybody close to Rick did. He was a teenager, he never really got old. He was a Peter Pan. He was very shy. He was very hard to get close to. I mean to get intimite. He only had a few intimite friends. He was a very underrated pioneer in rock 'n' roll. People tended to look at him as another Fabian, Bobbie Rydell or Frankie Avalon. But in fact he was a pioneer. He helped starting rockabilly and paved the way for all the others. He made them accepted. Later he was one of the country rock pioneers in L.A. But he had that image of a teenage idol and he didn't care for that kind of stuff. He was very sensitive and we had a lot in common. We both lost parents to cancer. That was very devastating to us. He was very close to his father and I was very close to mine. I learned so much from him professionally. When I got the offer to join the Burrito Brothers in 1980 I was still with Rick and it was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. It was harder than a divorce but Rick was all support to me going on my own. By that time I was Rick's bandleader, involved with his recordings so when I left him , it was terrible because I left a very dear friend. Some two years later Rick and the Burritos shared the same bill and that was fantastic so we kept in contact over the years. He was of the kindest, most creative, wonderful people I've met in my entire life. I've worked with alost everybody in the business but he was one of a kind. Anybody who has ever met him will have walked away with a warm feeling. He was as you've seen him on the Harriet and Ozzie Show. It was very similar to how his family was, his Mom, his Dad and his brother David; they were all warm, friendly people."
Amazing was that he later turned into a terrific songwriter and that for someone who always depended on others.
"He was, we wrote together the flipside of the single from the Memphis Sessions that was released in 1979: Dreamlover. We wrote: That ain't the way love supposed to be. He was great to write with. We mainly sat until 3 pm in our hotel having burgers and coke meanwhile writing, I think Garden Party finally gave him credit with those who've always seen him as just another star from the fifties. The only reason he didn't follow that all the way because he was always very busy travelling. But yes, he was very creative in all kinds of way."
How succesful was Dreamlover actually?
"It was his first big song since Garden Party, that's why we were all so exited about the Memphis Sessions. It got til about 30 in the country charts. It was a great version. We did it as a James Taylor / Stone Canyon Band version. We used acoustic instead of electrical guitars, pretty Eagles type ooohs and aaahs along with Rick's warm voice. It was his comeback. Then we went doing all the Nashville shows and out in America like the Saturday Night Live Show with John Belushi. We previewed the record on that show. During the concerts the people were screaming like in the old days; it was fantastic but CBS never released the album. To me that was their tribute to Rick Nelson; they blew up a whole comeback. Because it could have brought him back where he belonged like Kenny Rogers, but they blew it."