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A Dispatch from COVID-19 Quarantine: Checking in with Rick Springfield from His Studio/Bunker in Southern California
For many of us, being self-quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re following strict heath guidelines and using the extra time to finish up long abandoned projects or simply taking stock of our lives for some quiet reflection. Cooped up in isolation in Southern California, however, Rick Springfield is busier than ever, whether writing and recording new songs, putting the finishing touches on his next novel or taking part in a “How to Play Jessie’s Girl in 60 Seconds” series of comical videos where he never seems to get the job done.
Rick is also participating in All Together Now!, a special streaming event scheduled for April 25 benefiting COVID-19 relief in the Los Angeles area. For more details on that, check below:
For more, visit the All Together Now website here –> https://alltogethernowla.org/
We caught up with Rick by phone at a safe self-distance of over 10 miles away to see how he’s been spending his time during this crisis.
Rock Cellar: Under self-quarantine, what have you been during both creatively and personally?
Rick Springfield: I’ve been getting a lot of sleep (laughs) and hanging with my family, I’ve actually never been busier. At home I’m in the studio all of the time doing videos and songs, doing parodies and stuff.
We did a “Human Touch” parody that I did on Good Morning America recently.
We did a new one coming out soon called “Glove Somebody,” [a play on Rick’s hit song, “Love Somebody”]. I’ve also been doing a series of videos about writing a song with a partner. I’m doing these with Vance DeGeneres, the brother of Ellen DeGeneres. It’s kind of a comedic, kind of a silly thing.
Paul Stanley did a video for it, Sammy Hagar, Richard Marx and different people have done videos for it, just asking questions in the whole spirit of the silliness of it all. But it’s actually turned into a good song.
It’s called “The Wall Will Fall.” The rough version I put out doesn’t have the big long “Hey Jude” fade we’re gonna do in it. (laughs) It’s gonna have a long sing-along at the end. The song’s basic message is about taking care of each other in a time like this. We’re recording it now. I’ve done my vocal and a guitar.
Today we’re doing a remote session with Gregg Bissonette, who plays with Ringo; he’s one of the best drummers in the world and he’s gonna be drumming on it. His brother, Matt, who plays with Elton and previously was in my band, is gonna be playing bass and doing the backgrounds on it. Tim Pierce, who played with me all through the ‘80s, is gonna do the guitar. Richard Marx wrote the words for the bridge so he’ll probably be singing that.
Eventually we’re gonna put it out and whatever money’s raised will go to a COVID-19 charity. I’ve also been doing a “How To Play Jessie’s Girl in 60 Seconds” series of videos, and I never quite get to the end of the lesson.
Rock Cellar: The “How To Play Jessie’s Girl “earthquake” video popped up on my Instagram feed and it’s hilarious. How did you put that together?
Rick Springfield: Jim Bullotta, my creative guy for all things online, and I came up with that idea. I filmed it at my studio and he added all the “B-movie” effects. We’ve also done one where there’s a total eclipse and we did one where I accidentally burned the original “Jessie’s Girl” lyrics, which is a pretty funny one.
Rock Cellar: The million dollar question, will you eventually teach people how to play “Jessie’s Girl” in 60 seconds?
Rick Springfield: That’s up to the gods, I’m gonna keep tryin’. (laughs)
Rock Cellar: Do you view this time as an opportunity for all of us to reset and examine our priorities in life?
Rick Springfield: I think that’s probably the altruistic view for sure. I think a lot of people are struggling, to be honest. I think a lot of people are very stressed out by financial things and health things in general, and I’m not quite sure what the outcome will be.
Knowing humanity, we’ll probably get over it and forget about it in two weeks. But it’s really interesting to see how clean the air is and how clean the water is.
It’s proof right there how we are destroying the planet. It’s weird, I’m finishing up the follow-up to my first novel, Magnificent Vibration. It’s called World On Fire and it’s actually about a plague and how the earth brings it to the people to try and save herself.
I believe the earth is a living organism and it’s really weird to be writing this book through an actual plague. It’s been in the works for about three years. It’s in the final edit now. I’ll be reading it and it will be out on Audible and at some point it’ll be published as a hard copy.
Not a lot of people read anymore, so the Audible approach is a good idea I think.
Rock Cellar: In the video series with Vance De Generes, you unveiled a very rare Beatles collectible.
Rick Springfield: Oh yeah. The standup from the Sgt. Pepper cover. I have a bunch of stuff I collect. I’ve always been a collector; I have robots, all kinds of things. I’m a big HG Wells fan and a big Sgt. Pepper fan and a big Paul McCartney fan. There’s only about six or seven of the original standups left from the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album photo session. I have the HG Wells one and it’s one that Paul actually signed the day of the photo shoot so it’s pretty cool. You can see HG Wells on the Sgt. Pepper cover, it’s very apparent. He’s right by Bob Dylan. It’s the greatest album cover of all time, so to have a piece of that is pretty staggering.
Rock Cellar: What’s the first thing you’ll do when the quarantine order is lifted?
Rick Springfield: Go out to a restaurant and have dinner. (laughs) I’ll look to when we can reschedule all of the shows that have been postponed because of it. I want to try and take in what has happened and how the world is gonna react to it all when this is all done and see if there is anything I can do to promote the positive side of that.
Rock Cellar: From your perspective, looking ahead, what do you think the prognosis for being able to tour again?
Rick Springfield: Oh I have no idea. My live show is very audience interactive. I go into the crowd, and it’s very one-on-one. I don’t know, I’ll have to rethink that until this thing is behind us.
I think people will want to get out and celebrate, and concerts are a great way to do that. I’ve always loved the kind of universal collective consciousness you get at a concert and I think that’s a really healing thing.
Every artist I know is doing stuff online to fill the void. There’s nothing like being in a room with a bunch of people and feeling all that energy; it’s pretty amazing and very healing.
Rock Cellar: Have you been writing new songs, formulating a new album?
Rick Springfield: I’ve been thinking about that for a while, long before this came along. I’ve been doing all of Comic Book Heroes with an acoustic guitar and a voice, which is pretty difficult considering it was an orchestrated album. That’s been out on a site called Access RS but eventually we’ll put it all out anyway. It’s kind of a favorite album of mine. It was unknown.
Rock Cellar: What’s it been like to reconnect with the Comic Book Heroes album and play songs that you likely haven’t played in almost 50 years?
Rick Springfield: What was interesting is I realized in doing this how advanced the songwriting was on it. I’ve had to listen really carefully to try and pick out the chords. There’s some pretty wild changes on it. I was very adventurous. Trying to play “Why Are You Waiting?” (laughs) on a single acoustic guitar is really interesting.
That record garnered the only good review I’ve ever gotten in Rolling Stone Magazine, (laughs) so I have a bit of a laugh over that. They said “this guy sounds like a teenage David Bowie.”
The last song I did was “Misty Water Woman.” We’re doing them in order so I still have to do “Bad Boy, “Born” Out Of Time,” “The Photograph” and “Do You Love Your Children.” I’ve already done the first side and I’m moving onto the second side of the record.
Rock Cellar: Listening to that album, I hear a distinct Cat Stevens influence. You also worked with Del Newman on Comic Book Heroes — he was Cat’s arranger too.
Rick Springfield: I was a big fan of Cat Stevens. It’s a very ‘70s record, the kind of thought process and what to sing about and stuff. But Del arranged Cat Stevens’ stuff and he was responsible for me laying down the basic tracks with just an acoustic guitar and a voice, which is what Cat also did.
Rock Cellar: You recorded that album at Trident Studios, the same studio used by The Beatles, Queen and David Bowie. What was it like to record at Trident?
Rick Springfield: Oh, it was amazing! I did my first two records there. It was a great studio. The Beatles had done “Hey Jude” there. I wasn’t aware of much of that stuff back then, the kinds of things of what studio did they record it.
Rock Cellar: The piano in that studio was famously used on everything from “Hey Jude” to songs off of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory album to early Queen records.
Rick Springfield: I played a lot of the piano on my first couple of records, so yeah, I probably used that same piano, which is really cool. I got to play with a lot of the famous session players at the time on my first two records. It’s funny, I think Jethro Tull where there when I was recording, I remembering in the bathroom and Ian Anderson walked in for a pee. (laughs)
Rock Cellar: Getting back to your current work, the thing I miss about your recent records is your piano playing. Any thoughts on getting back to doing some songs in a piano setting ala your Wait For Night album?
Rick Springfield: That’s very interesting because I’ve been playing the piano a lot more these days. A lot of the songs I wrote with Vance for that songwriting collaboration series, a lot of that I wrote on the piano. I played electric piano. My next album is gonna be quite different from the others.
Rock Cellar: You’ve been connected to Sammy Hagar for almost 40 years; he wrote one of your first big hits “I’ve Done Everything For You.” I understand you’ve recently partnered with Sammy Hagar on a business venture, Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum.
Rick Springfield: He wanted to see if I wanted to get into it with him. Sammy’s great at that. I’ve always thought it would be a fun thing to do and get involved in the booze business. Sammy is a good time guy, a very real, down to earth kind of a guy and it seemed like a fun thing to do. The last time we got together was very successful, so this was very appealing to me.
Rock Cellar: God willing with this pandemic, late this year you’re undertaking an Australian tour with your first major band, Zoot — with Russell Morris taking over on lead vocals replacing the late Darryl Cotton.
Rick Springfield: Zoot got together for one of my fan events and played a show. I think it was the first time we played together in 40 years and it was really a blast. That was the last time I played with Darryl; he died about three months after that. He was trying to put a Zoot reunion together then.
Before he passed away he handed it over to a friend of ours named Bruce Hutchins to see if he could make this happen. It’s not a money thing or anything that we would continue. We’re just getting together for old time’s sake, and Darryl’s sake, to play some old songs. They’re pretty good songs considering we were all whipper-snappers when we did it and we all went on to do other things.
Beeb (Birtles) formed Little River Band. I came over here. Darryl became a big TV star in Australia, and Rick Brewer, the drummer, had a big hit. He was in a band called The Ferrets who were very big in Australia, so we all went on to do other things.
There’s an interest there for sure in Australia of having us play again.
Rock Cellar: Finally, in your formative years in Australia, back in 1968 you were fortunate to have seen what I consider one of the greatest double bills in music history, The Who/Small Faces tour. Bring us back to that night.
Rick Springfield: Yeah, that was pretty wild. I saw them at Festival Hall in Melbourne. That’s where I saw The Beatles in 1964, I saw the Yardbirds with Jimmy Page. I saw the Stones twice there in ’65 and ‘66. That was when “I Can See For Miles” was a hit.
At the time Pete Townshend was smashing guitars, but when you travel like that you can’t be smashing guitars up. So he had this guitar that he could pull a pin where the neck joined the body and threw it up in the air and it would look like it broke, I’d seen a photo before the show of him smashing a guitar and said, “hey, wait a minute, that’s a perfect break, it can’t be real.”
So I’m at the show and he’s playing a blue Strat and I guess it must have weakened and bent forward and he kind of got busted (laughs) on how he’d been doing it. So he said, “I’m gonna smash that guitar for real” and he didn’t have a second guitar so he went and got Steve Marriott’s Gibson that he was playing in the shows and finished the show with that.
Then in “My Generation,” they’d put the Strat back together and he started playing it and really smashed it at the end of the show and threw the pieces out into the audience. Sadly, I didn’t get one.
The next morning I was doing my rounds of the guitar stores and I’m walking in this store where I bought my very first electric guitar just as Pete was coming out. I was much smaller then, and Pete seemed like he was six-foot-seven at that point. He had jet black hair and that big nose.
He was walking out and he’d obviously been trying to get another guitar (laughs).
Rock Cellar: Seeing the Small Faces live must have been exciting.
Rick Springfield: They were incredible. They were lesser known than The Who in Australia. They opened for The Who. I still have the program, which has The Who on one side and on the other side the Small Faces upside down so you could turn it around and either one could be the front cover.
Marriott’s voice was so great; he has to have one of the top five rock voices of all time. They played Tin Soldier” and “Itchycoo Park” at the show I saw. For me, “Tin Soldier” is one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
It’s kind of like “Hey Jude” or any of the Beatles songs, someone is still trying to copy it in some way or the other because it’s that good.
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