Scotland’s best albums: Love And Money. Strange Kind of Love – 1988
There is an archival footage that captures a moment in the history of music. Cilla Black performed Alfie with an orchestra at Abbey Road Studio in 1966 under the watchful eye of songwriter Burt Bacharach. As he asks her to record the vocal track again and again, the singer fears he will not please the maestro and suffers from a real crisis of confidence.
But it is quite the reverse. Bacharach simply grows pop to perfection. After recording the 28th version, he told producer George Martin, “How are we?
Martin replies, “I think we got it on Take 4, Mr. Bacharach.”
I wonder if James Grant from Love And Money has seen this famous clip. Because he would surely identify with what Cilla was going through. He suffered a similar ordeal when his band recorded their second album, Strange Kind Of Love, with Gary Katz in New York.
Katz produced seven of Steely Dan’s classic albums, from Can’t Buy A Thrill in 1972 to Gaucho in 1980. Like Bacharach, he also had a reputation for getting the best out of musicians.
“We recorded at the Chelsea Sound Studio on 42nd Street. We walked through Times Square every day to go to work, ”recalls James. “And when I say work, that’s exactly what we were doing. Gary was a serious guy. His attention to detail was off the scale.
Grant found out how much of a task master Katz was when they worked on the single, Hallelujah Man. “The recording of the album went pretty much as planned. But I have never experienced such scrutiny, ”he revealed. ” I am going to give you an example. I must have sung Hallelujah Man 30 times. I had never been subjected to this kind of attention before.
“Don’t get me wrong, if it takes 30 times, that’s fine. At the time, I didn’t really trust my voice. The pressure suddenly came on me. That’s when it started. So I didn’t like it and it screwed my head a bit. Gary loved me playing the guitar. But singing is different. When you criticize someone’s voice, it’s very personal. One day we had a fairly full discussion and I said, ‘I don’t understand. I sang five takes. It sounded good to me. ‘
Gary replied, ‘IT IS good, but I think you can do better. ”
“You’re sitting across from the producer of Steely Dan. In the end, you go there. As difficult as that may be.”
Grant normally had complete self-confidence. In 1985, he parted ways with Friends Again, bringing with him two band members, keyboardist Paul McGeechan and drummer Stuart Kerr.
He also recruited bassist Bobby Patterson to form Love And Money with the goal of marrying rock ‘n’ roll and dance music. It is a gesture that he has never regretted. “It was just me now. I was a songwriter, guitarist and leader in a band. I WAS basically Love And Money and I didn’t want to disrespect the other members, ”James said.
Their first single Candybar Express was due for release on indie label Stampede, run by Graham Wilson of The Sub Club.
Andy Taylor from Duran Duran heard the song and said, ‘I f ****** love this. I want to produce it.
But Grant was initially reluctant to work with the guitarist. “I remember telling Graham… I’m not going to do it. He told me that I had lost my mind, ”he said. “It was two weeks at Air Studios in London, followed by another week at The Power Station in New York. It was a potent enough carrot to hang for a single bachelor.
“When opportunities like this present themselves, you think, ‘Is this going to happen again? I made the decision, I should just do this and worry about it later.
But it turned out to be a baffling experience. “Andy did a really good job. I still think the single sounds good, but it was a single, “James said.” He was like a big kid, really immature, but visibly in good shape. In terms of money and fame, he didn’t know. what to do with himself. I never got the impression that he liked Duran Duran very much, nor them. I think he still does a lot. I don’t want to look bitchy, but he appeared to be an archetypal pop star.
But Grant’s next move really raised the bar. The band recorded their debut album, All You Need Is… with Tom Dowd at the Townhouse in London. He was a member of the Atlantic Records dream production team with Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler. Dowd’s credits included hits from Aretha Franklin, The Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Sonny and Cher, and Diana Ross.
“How did we start working with Tom Dowd? I can only think he liked the songs. And he was probably paid a lot of money, ”James said frankly. “Tom was a famous producer. Once again, this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by him at all. I had complete confidence in myself. ”
When the album failed to land the Top 40 and was not a commercial success, Grant remained fearless. “I never had any warmth from the record company. They seemed to think we were going to be absolutely huge, ”he said. “I didn’t think of things like that. I was totally focused on the music. I knew what was going to happen and that the next album was going to be even better.
Grant’s optimism was well placed. Strange Kind Of Love songs were demo-ed at Parklane and CaVa studios in Glasgow. By the time they reached New York, the group was well armed. “Gary hasn’t done a lot of records so it took a bit of time to convince himself to work with us,” James revealed. “I flew to meet him and we really hit it off. But I never went into those situations thinking I was just a little guy from Castlemilk. I had absolute self-confidence. I didn’t think I was being arrogant. I had complete confidence in my own abilities.
Katz’s name has helped attract the cream of the American music scene. Jeff Porcaro from Toto was recruited to play drums at Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles after Stuart Kerr left. He had performed on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and his discography includes appearances with Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon.
In New York City, Donald Fagan of Steely Dan spent time with the band and played clavinet on Hallelujah Man while Timothy B. Schmitt of The Eagles performed backing vocals on Jocelyn Square. But recording was a painstaking process thanks to Katz’s almost legal attention to detail. “We were in the studio every day for eight months. It dragged on and on, ”recalls James.
“It cost an absolute fortune. The food bill alone was £ 45,000… that’s what we ate when we were in New York. But the record company didn’t give a damn about it. It was the 80s. We were probably a tax loss. It was mental. And quite intense.
Grammy-winning producer Elliot Scheiner was scheduled to mix the album. But when their schedule didn’t allow it, the band did it themselves. It was a disaster. “Paul came home to attend a wedding and when he left we were working on a snare sound,” James revealed.
“When he came back five days later, we were still on the drums. It was like psychological torture. We didn’t know what we were doing. Dave Bates, our A&R man hated mixes. I was completely pissed off. I was like… fuck you, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
His solution was for the group to go on vacation and book at CaVa when they returned. “When I got home I walked into CaVa and listened to The Shape Of Things To Come mix for the first time in over a month,” James said. “The tape lasted about a minute and I was horrified. It was so crap. Me, Bobby and Paul were all watching. We couldn’t believe it. It was surprisingly bad.
Bill Price was recruited to mix the tracks and saved the day. When Strange Kind Of Love was released it made the UK Top 75 and sold over 250,000 copies. But a hit single proved elusive. The title track – one of four songs from the album – performed the best, reaching No. 45.
In addition to missing his appearance on Top Of The Pops, Grant has no regrets. “I think the album still sounds great. We have tried to make records that stand the test of time and we have succeeded with all of them, ”he said. “But I don’t think that’s the one that defines James Grant or Love And Money. Dogs In The Traffic in 1991 does better. It reflects me more as a human being, artist and writer. It also exposed me in terms of the lyrics.
“Strange Kind Of Love perhaps defines the idea of Love And Money, the group’s poster advertising version. But even that’s not standard pop. If you watch songs like Hallelujah Man, the lyrics are a real headache. It takes a bit of work on the part of the listener. All good records fall into this category. We were one of those bands that if we put you in the shoes… that was it.
The Billy Sloan Show airs on BBC Radio Scotland every Saturday at 10 p.m.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
JAMES Grant has produced a series of impressive albums in the wake of Strange Kind Of Love. Hearing him talk about his music is a very enriching experience. His passion is stronger than ever.
“We were part of that lineage that probably started when The Average White Band went to New York to do their second album with producer Arif Mardin in 1973,” he said. “It was extremely prestigious. They were just a bunch of guys from Scotland. But now they had this global identity.
“I guess it was like us. I wasn’t that little guy from Castlemilk anymore. We played with the grown-ups. I liked it. ”
What Grant didn’t like, however, was the added pressure on him as the leader of the group. “When all of showbiz started, I was never really comfortable with it all,” he recalls. “I knew the promotion side of things was coming, but I had this real crisis of confidence.”
Grant has fond memories of filming a video for Candybar Express in the Mojave Desert and another for Hallelujah Man in Tokyo. The rest without which he could live.
“The reason I was put on this earth was to write songs, make records and be on stage,” he said. “I fully understand that there are other things that allow this. But if doing interviews or going around the radios was essential, I saw it as a chore. I know why it had to be done, but I was a little sarcastic about it. I wish this whole fame thing hadn’t happened at all. It made me extremely uncomfortable at times when I wanted to be more anonymous. ”
Several years ago, Grant performed at Glasgow Town Hall and asked the audience to choose the songs they would perform. “They pretty much took love and money wall to wall,” James said.
“I remember thinking, bitch. But they really enjoyed it and so did I. A friend said, “Would it be so wrong to do some of your old stuff?” So it was almost as if I had made my peace with myself.
But he has no plans for a Love And Money reunion. “I would never say never, but it’s not high on my priority list,” he said. “I appreciate the value of nostalgia, but you can do too much. It cannot be just looking back.