For the first time ever on CD, Eddie Manion, saxophonist with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, has exchanged his role as band member, to that of band leader and has produced an outstanding collection of mainly original material entitled, Follow Through.
Comprising of instrumentals as well as vocal tracks, the tempos on this excellent, début release from Eddie, range from jazz to blues to rock/pop and to soul. As well as adding incredible depth to the music, Eddie’s superb sax solos are mellow, rich and wonderfully melodious; but on the tracks where Eddie’s vocal prowess emerges, Follow Through moves onto another level.
My initial reaction upon hearing Eddie’s album was to look around the room to see if he had somehow snuck in when I wasn’t looking such was the clarity of the sound coming out of my CD player.
From my own perspective, I guess I’ve always associated Eddie with the saxophone that has become his musical trademark over the years; so where had Eddie been hiding his vocal talents all this time I wondered… and, I’m happy to say that while the Jukes were on the German leg of their recent and hugely successful European tour, Eddie was kind enough to take time out of his hectic schedule to answer that question as well as some others I had prepared. I found Eddie’s answers incredibly enlightening and what follows is a bit of an insight into the making of his brand new CD, Follow Through.
Congratulations! This is a really great album and I was so surprised when I heard you take lead vocals… I really was like “Wow!” So, I guess my first question has to be, how have you managed to keep your vocal prowess such a secret up to now?
Eddie: Well, thank you. I used to have my own band in the 80s and I played up and down the Jersey Shore and just about every club in New Jersey.I was the lead singer with the band and we played a few places in NYC like Delta 88, the Lone Star Café… and then down to places like Razzles in Seaside Heights, the Stone Pony in Asbury Park… and then up to North Jersey… and that was going on back then, right up until like, ’84/’88 when the Tunnel of Love tour started with Bruce. And after that tour, I just became so busy with different things… touring with Bruce, then I was touring a lot with Willy DeVille; and then I joined the Robert Cray band for 3 years; and after Robert Cray, I came back to the Jukes and never really had time to put my band back together; and that’s how it’s been.
So, that kinda sounds like you haven’t so much been keeping your vocal prowess a secret, more that it’s always been there, but on hold?
Eddie:Yeah that’s about right, it’s been on hold.
The liner notes say you’ve been writing some of the songs since 1984… that’s like 20 years ago so, maybe we should start at the beginning… what is the actual chronological order of the songs?
Eddie: Some of the instrumentals I did in the last couple of years… but the others, well I wrote them around 1988 and just about all in the same order as they appear on the album.
When I listened to the songs, it really did feel like you were sitting in the room with me and I found some of the lyrics very evocative… maybe you could tell me what inspired you to write them?
Eddie: It’s just that I wanted to make an album of my own and so I just started writing. I’ve always been writing, even when I was in the Jukes back in ’76 and ’77. I would write a song, make a demo of it, put it away, keep working… and it’s hard to say why you write a song… it just happens.
It’s hard for me to be selective about any of the tracks on the album because I like all of them but I’d love to know the background to Streets Of London which is one of the three great instrumentals on the album and sounds a bit more bluesy than say, Harlem Nocturne…
Eddie: That song was a result of being on the Tunnel Of Love tour with Bruce Springsteen and from just walking round London. That whole tour I would bring my little 4-track tape recorder and my keyboard and a drum machine… and every night I would go back to my room and work on this record. I’d written a couple of songs before that like, My Son, My Daughter.
Yeah, My Son, My Daughter – the liner notes dedicate this song to your father… it also has a determined feel about it…
Eddie: Yes, on the album I dedicated this to my father, he was always there and I guess I kinda wrote it from my father’s point of view. I wrote it based on memories of growing up.
Blackjack – I love this! It’s a great party rock song and I couldn’t help noticing a couple of significant lines like: “on the beach” & “quarter to three”… so what’s the story behind this track?
Eddie: I think I was working with Diana Ross, in 1981, when I wrote this. I was with her like, 3 years and it seemed like I was living in casinos. You know, we’d play Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for a month at a time then we’d go to Lake Tahoe and play Caesar’s… then we’d go to Atlantic City… and so you have a lotta time on your hands. So one of the other guys in the band and I used to play blackjack a lot.
Did you win??
Eddie: Sometimes… sometimes! So I think that song is a result of walking around these casinos as well as the influence of the surroundings I was in at the time.
And were the lines I mentioned accidental?
Eddie: EM: Actually, when I was writing that song I was doing it with a video in mind. I never made the video but the whole thing centred around being in a casino and you know, there’d be a girl on the beach seeing a clock on “quarter to three”… and I was going to have special guests yeah, like Gary Bonds.
In my mind, I thought if this could happen, and if I could get a record deal you know? I think I was writing a lot of these songs with the idea of using a demo to get a record deal for myself and then there would be a video if that happened. And that was the video I imagined ‘cos the way the Blackjack song starts off with the really fast beat? That was the cards coming out of the pack…
Hey, that’s a good idea… I think you should still do this! And Gary just kinda snuck in there then?
Eddie: It is probably just a result of at the time I was playing a lot with Gary Bonds at the time…and yeah, he just kinda snuck in there.
You must have worked with a fair number of producers over the years, so what made you decide to produce your album by yourself?
Eddie: I had to do everything myself… pay for it… get the musicians in… get the studio… so when you don’t have a producer that’s going to produce it, you either produce it yourself, or…
But that’s why it took me a long time. I’m very fussy about the way it sounds and I got very spoiled with expensive state-of-the-art studios when I was working with the Jukes and Little Steven. And if I was trying to get a record deal I knew I had to sound compatible to those records. So that’s why it took so long. I’d do a little bit, then go out on the road and then I’d go in and spend a couple of thousand dollars and do some more. And the guy who co-produced it with me, Dan Grigsby, he was an engineer at the House of Music and he’s done a lot of stuff with different people like Joe Cocker and Kool and the Gang. So we put a lot of time into the record and I think it is pretty well produced.
I have to say how much I love the artwork on the CD. I think Joe Bellia has captured the very essence of you as a saxophone player perfectly with all the wonderful blends of gold and bronze colours he has combined.
Eddie: Yes, I think so too. We did that shoot at the New Brunswick train station and we were there until 3 in the morning waiting for the train to come by and try to get a particular shot. We must have taken about 250 pictures to get the right one.
What plans do you have to promote the CD and/or will we be seeing any solo performances from you in the near future?
Eddie: Probably not. I’ll probably be pretty busy with the Jukes. Yeah and see… it would be very hard for me to put a band together and make it sound like the record. I did that in the 80s and unless you have a lot of money to put a band together of the right musicians and rehearse, it’s not that easy. But you know, I would like to get out and do a few shows to promote the record… that would be nice. We’ve been playing one song with the Jukes once in a while – There’s A Reason For Everything – and that’s worked out pretty well.
Yes, I read some of the reviews about that and it sounded like it was really well received in the UK.
Moving slightly sideways… to my ears at least, the saxophone is such an incredibly sensual instrument and I’ve noticed some intricate engravings on some models I’ve seen so I would like to know what types you play and what makes them special for you?
Eddie: I have a few saxophones. On the CD I played tenor sax on Harlem Nocturne and Sleepwalk, and baritone sax on Streets of London. The baritone sax is a Selmer Mark VI – an older Selmer from 1961 and it’s a very special horn. The Mark VIs were probably the best Selmers that were ever made; and the tenor I play is an old Conn called a “Chu Berry”. It’s actually a Conn 10M and it was made in 1927. I bought it in NY and certain horns have a certain sound and usually older horns are better than anything they make today. Years ago they used to be a lot more ornate with the engravings but I tend to go for the sound, the markings are just decoration.
So what does Eddie Manion do when he is not playing his saxophone?
Eddie: What do I do when I’m not playing saxophone? Wow… music is pretty much a full-time thing and every day you have to practise. I don’t think there’s much I do that hasn’t got to do with music and that’s what I love to do. But I relax, go to the beach, read a book…
Eddie: Yeah, play blackjack! No, I tend to stay away from blackjack!
I believe you teach at a music centre, would you like to tell me something about that for example, what type of students do you work with, how old are they and do they put on performances?
Eddie: I teach one day a week and I have 12 students… mostly kids from 10 years old to 17 and it’s very rewarding. And I have some students that I taught from the beginning and it’s just amazing seeing them become excellent players. And it’s good for me, good practice… it’s very rewarding to teach something and you want to pass things on… someone taught me and now it’s my turn to pass it on. Some things you just can’t learn from books. Sometimes we have little concerts for them. So yeah, I do one or two days a week when I’m not busy…it fills up my schedule and pays the bills.
How do you plan to follow through Follow Through?
Eddie: I’m already working on my next CD. It’s a combination of instrumentals and vocals but there’ll be more instrumentals this time around… at least half, maybe more. It’s something I’ve been working on in the last 3 years and all the music is written and all the arrangements are done. For the instrumentals I’ve been writing everything out on my computer using a special programme I have installed. So I’ve written the music for ten songs and I’ve been busy doing that so when I record this next record, I plan on doing it live in the studio. I’ll have one rehearsal with the musicians, I’ll pass out the music, we’ll rehearse it and then we’ll record it right there. And I’m hoping to use some really good musicians on the instrumentals. So, yeah it’s in the works already. When I go home, I’m going to start recording it and hopefully it’ll be done by the summer.
Now you’ve had a chance to reflect on the release of the album and all that it involved, how do you feel about it now?
Eddie: I just wanted to do something I was proud of and take my time with it and it was more for me, than trying to get a record deal. It was personal, and it was the type of thing I’d do and then I would put it under the table and listen to it a couple of months later and think well, I need to add this, or I need to add that… I took way too much time. And then I didn’t really feel like I had a market to put it out. But then every time I played it for somebody they’d say, “Put this out… why don’t you put this out… what are you waiting for?” So, I just finally said OK. Basically, I record for me and for my own personal satisfaction… you know, like an artist with a painting… you try to do the best job you can and not try to be commercial.
In terms of Eddie’s vision for his CD, I think we can safely say “mission accomplished” and I for one am certainly looking forward to his next release. Be sure to check out www.eddiemanion.com for all the latest news and updates about Eddie’s activities as a solo artist when he’s not performing with the Jukes.
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