Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sweet dreams and time machines
From CNN Coordinating Producer David Daniel in Los Angeles:

As a Coordinating Producer in the L.A. bureau, I write and produce a lot of stories about entertainment, but rarely "get out of the house" -- the occasional movie junket, the very occasional premiere ... and once in a great while, a story I know I'll remember forever.

This time, I not only got to meet a longtime favorite, but to travel back in time as well.

Our music producer knows I've been a James Taylor fan for decades. So when JT came to town recently for a rare in-store appearance, signing copies of his new CD/DVD, "One Man Band," she assigned me to cover the event, interview James, and put together a story. Heaven.

I didn't mind a bit waiting while he signed autographs -- which is good, because he worked the crowd like a pro, chatting with every starry-eyed fan, posing for photos and talking on cell phones and singing "Happy Birthday" into videocameras and signing everything thrust at him, including a child's teddy bear.

There were hundreds of people in line, and a plane was waiting to take him back east, but even after several hours, with a break for our interview, he didn't rush through a single fan's request.

In our brief conversation, we talked about various topics, including fatherhood: JT's on a second swing through Dadville, with two grown children and twin 6-year-old boys. "It hauls you back into the center of life, you know?" he said. "It reconnects you with the school system, your environment, your community, the popular culture -- everything. You reconnect to it, you re-experience it because you're having to negotiate it with a new batch of kids. ... When Kim (wife Kim Smedvig) and I first had the twins I said 'Oh my God, we're going to do this again?' But you don't live 20 years at a time, you live 24 hours at a time."

It was over far too quickly, but I'd cast my line for a second chance: before the interview, I'd asked his PR people whether I could ask James about the rumor that he and Carole King would reunite at the legendary Troubadour club in West Hollywood for its 50th anniversary. They hesitated, as the shows hadn't yet been confirmed ... and, as I'd hoped, promised to remember me when the official announcement was made.

Flash forward to last night, and there I was, standing in the Troubadour -- and if I squinted, it seemed to be 1970.

JT was center stage, seated on a stool, quietly letting his fingers roam his guitar. To his right, King sat behind the piano, floating chords throughout the tiny, weathered club. And to his left and behind him, The Section: drummer Russ Kunkel, bassist Leland Sklar, and JT's old pal Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar on second guitar. The same lineup that graced the Troubadour stage 37 years ago, when Taylor had just released "Sweet Baby James" and a pre-"Tapestry" King was his piano player and opening act, not far removed from her Brill Building songwriting days. And the same stage where, the next year, Taylor would first hear King play a new song she'd written, "You've Got a Friend," the song that would elevate both their careers and tie them, happily, forever.

After they'd sailed through rehearsals of "Steamroller," "I Feel The Earth Move," and "You've Got a Friend" -- discussing chord changes, and kidding each other just like folks who've been playing together forever -- I got a few minutes with King and Taylor. They reminisced and praised each other and talked about songwriting, while I smiled and nodded and, inside, wondered how in the world I'd gotten there. Watch King and Taylor talk about their experiences

See, I'm about as musical as a train wreck. Even the shower doesn't make my voice sound much better. And here I was on the stage of the Troubadour -- the club where the Byrds met at an open mic night, Tom Waits was discovered, superstars from the Eagles to Elton John launched their careers, and everyone from Miles Davis to Willie Nelson has recorded. Rickie Lee Jones wrote "Chuck E.'s in Love" about a former Troubadour employee, and a band that had been called Mookie Blaylock performed there for the first time under their new name -- Pearl Jam. But few performances hold the historical significance of the nights JT, Carole and The Section played there in the early '70s.

The reunion shows are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, two sets a night, and as one might expect, tickets (at www.tickets-for-charity.com) aren't cheap. But a big slice of each goes to such causes as the Natural Resources Defense Council, MusiCares, and a local food bank. That's a good reason to put on a show, as is the venerable Troubadour's anniversary.

But when those five take the stage, and perform the way they did decades ago, the music and the memories will become all the reason they -- or the fans -- need. Because after all, isn't that why we love the music we love?

It's a time machine.

-- David Daniel
David,
Thanks so much for the moving and descriptive article about James Taylor. His songs hold a special place in my heart and in my memories, and I do indeed step back in time when I hear them again. Also, I'm glad to know JT is still a down-to-earth guy who genuinely seems to care about his legion of fans; kinda renews my faith in human nature.
Hi David,
As I read your article - I felt a smile begin to sweep cross my face. I was transported back in time to my best friend's bedroom. It was the 70's. We were SO cool and oh SO hip - we were 12. JT & Carole became our constant companions...and believe me when I say we sang each and every song - word for word. It is now 37 years later - and we are still best friends. "You've got a Friend".."Fire & Rain".."Handy Man" and "Smackwater Jack"..all became like anthems. You have NO idea how badly this Alberta gal wishes she could find a tiny space (for two)inside the Troubador so we could sit together and slip back in time. I am sending this and then I am going to call her. I need to remind her that no matter how old we get or how our lives change - we will always have those hours and hours of listening to some amazing music produced by two of the greatest songwriter's of our time. Thanks again David...
Dawne Lomas, Alberta, Canada
David,
I have seen James Taylor in concert 18 times. Each time is better than the last. I'm envious of your opportunity to meet James but can only imagine that it was amazing. Thanks for sharing.
Thank You David for writing a wonderfully, descriptive article that I felt as though I was living vicariously through. My first concert as a small child was JT with my parents and now as a 35 year old young adult I still make sure I see him in concert once a year. There is lots of music I enjoy but JT is hands down my all time favorite. Your article put the biggest, brightest smile on my face - Thank You!
why did the author make the story about him. I would have liked more about JT. "oh my god how did I get here?" who cares how you got there, you moron. We want to read about the subject of the article
Best article all day David
I understand that this is a "fluff" piece, but my god: you asked his PR people if you could ask a particular question? While the reminiscenses are nice, that one bit shot the whole thing for me. No wonder the public is losing so much respect for journalism.
David, I know exactly about what you write. Carole King was pivotal in my development as a teenager, particularly the Tapestry album, which, much to my amazement, I still know almost every song word-for-word. And I recently got to experience the same sort of thrilling, life-altering moment when I was privileged to take my near 11-yr old son to see Peter Frampton at a small, local club (The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA), almost 31 yrs to the day after I first saw Frampton at my first rock concert ever. It is something I'll never forget and always treasure, particularly because my son is now a huge Frampton fan himself! It's hard to really explain what that means, but your article comes the closest I've seen and I'm so delighted you had such a rare opportunity.
May this be one of several such opportunities in your life and mine.
Kudos!
David -- I remember my first JT concert; Garden State Arts Center back in the early 70s. Chair and guitar was all he needed then, and all he needs now. Fast forward about 10 years; saw Carol King there, too. Sat in the lawn and just listened to her superb music. Have seen JT about 15 times through the years, got to meet him, and will never get tired of hearing him or the amazement you and others express. Thanks for a great article!
I was lucky enough to see JT and Carole King in concert together in Columbus, Ohio during my freshman year at Ohio State University.
It was one of the highlights of my freshman year and one of the most memorable concerts I've ever seen.
Who knew then what we know now?
What a treat to see them together - I wish they were going to be in Washinton D.C., but I know everyone in LA will get their money's worth.
I saw JT in his One Man Show here at the Warner in Washington earlier this year and he was phenomenal.
David -

Please add the date to my comment-

'my freshman year at Ohio State University' - it was fall of 1970.

thanks.
Tim --

In my attempt to keep the blog entry -- and it is a blog entry, a personal perspective, not a news article -- from running even longer, I may not have been clear.

I asked the publicists about the Troubadour shows because I knew there would be a gap between the interview date and when my story (which you can find on the videos page) was completed. Sure enough, after that night, but before my story went out, the shows were confirmed. So anything Taylor might have said about them that night -- "It would be great," or "I hope it happens" -- would have been unusable. Instead, we went to the rehearsal the next week for a second interview, at which he could talk about the shows concretely, not hypothetically.

I hope that clears up your concern.
The person who called David a "moron" doesn't understand that this was a BLOG. It was not a news article.
Get a life.
The Troub has always been a special place for me and, since I was there in the audience all those years ago, this article is all the more resonant. I remember being beside myself just being inside the famous Troubadour where all my favorite performers played and hung out. Then when I sat there hearing Taylor, not 20 feet away, weaving his particular brand of sweet, honest craftmanship, backed by the tightest rhythm section since the Beatles retired, I was understandably awe-struck. It wasn't until later, when I learned that the tiny woman on piano was the legendary Carole King, that I realised I had witnessed something historic.
So thanks for taking me back to that incredible time. I would later experience many more memorable nights at the Troub' but that night was something I will always cherish.
David,

Pay no attention to the anonymous moron who didn't like that you wrote about your experience. Your article made my day! It brought back fond memories of the nights when I didn’t have my driver’s license yet, so either my Mom or older sister had to drive me & my best friend there to see Linda Ronstadt , Gordon Lightfoot & many others. Gordon’s guitar pick actually fell in my lap when he dropped it. We bumped into the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band members walking through the back alley. That’s what the Troubadour was like. Not some huge arena where you were so far away, you needed to watch a big screen projection to really “see” them. And the music was amazing. You really felt it inside you, and not because it was so over-amplified that you risked permanent damage to your hearing. The crystal clear purity of Linda Ronstadt’s voice gave me chills hearing it up close & personal. You’ll never feel something exactly like that in a stadium. It’s just not the same. So go ahead & reminisce. You helped the intelligent members of your reading audience do just that. The moron won’t even know what that means.
Great blog!! I love both of these artists, With all of the past legends getting back together and touring, I wonder if either of these two will make more appearances elswhere in the US? I'm sure there would be a large audience!
As a freelance writer and JT lover, I've never been so jealous in my life as when I read this blog David! Congratulations on a dream come true. It's great to hear that James is as considerate and lovely to his fans in person as his music leads one to believe. If you have the 20-disc live CD from some years back, there's a funny section where someone in the audience yells out, "We love you James," and he says in his humble way, "thanks. It probably helps that we don't know each other." It's that humourous edge that makes him so charming.
I just joined and I must say Quite interesting view from people.
Double Standards: News Media
Years ago a young quarterback by the name of Joe Namath told the truth about the news media. Joe was always being written about on what he did with so many women. Joe said “If they can’t tell the truth on the sports page how they are going to tell the truth on the front page.” I feel the media has done the same thing with this steroid thing they are making up stories that may not be true. Barry Bonds has been accused of something that has not been proven nor admitted to. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if Obama has admitted doing Blow “street name for cocaine” and if he gets elected are we going to put an asterisk* by his name too. I would like for the news media to only print the truth. Remember if no one did drugs then no one would be selling them. If someone chooses to experiment with drugs what might they do if they were president? If there were no users we could release 60% of our prisoners.
God Bless the U.S.A
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