A friend of mine called attention to this wonderful article:
Author's note: Klaus Voormann will celebrate his 70th birthday next week. I found an interview with him in a german newspaper and translated it for all of you...
Original interview (german) can be found here: http://www.neue-oz.de/information/noz_print/medien/19327065.html
The "gunslinger" of the Beatles
Content, unexcited, mysterious: These are the first impressions of Klaus Voormann, the so-called " fifth Beatle ". In 1960 he discovered the boys from Liverpool in a club on the Reeperbahn and remained with John, Paul, George and Ringo life-long friend. He played the bass for their solo projects, sketched the Grammy-awarded a prize "Revolver" cover and was in the seventies the studio-bass player in demand.
Q: Mr. Voormann, next week you will become 70. In the review what are your individual highlights?
KV: There is a lot. Professionally certainly the shaping of the revolver cover to the Beatles LP of the same name and with it connected naturally the Grammy award.
Q: What you have experienced is enough for two lives...
KV: (laughs) Actually I am doing a life's work documentation for cinema and television where I visit all my phases, all colleagues of that time, play music, draw and meet old friends again. These are completed periods of life, in which I suddenly jump into again. Therefore, it insanely wears me down at the moment. emotionally and spiritually. Recently I was with Carly Simon whom I like very much when I had some flashbacks, and I noticed that many colleagues have already died.
Q: Your bass intro in Simon's song " You're so vain " is legendary. How did it come to this?
KV: We all were in the studio, and I tinkled on my bass when Carly suddenly shouted: " I want this as an Intro! " If you listen , she murmurs says in the background, while I play the Intro: " Son of a Gun! ", and it was a damned fantastic compliment.
Q: The list of the musicians for whom you played bass reads out like the Who's Who of the music scene in the 70s. You must have been constantly in the studio...
KV: I wasn't session-randy. But I can say with pride that I can count all these fantastic musicians to my circle of friends. Because it must go together not only on the musical level, but also humanly if you want to record a tape together. On one hand you behave like a chameleon because you must adapt yourself. But on the other hand you may not be soulless. In the studio you must have your own head, a personality which is capable however to communicate with the others, capable to listen, so that a symbiosis develops, just the magic of the record. This is the trick.
Q: Is there something which you would have wanted to correct in the review?
KV: Yes, I would love to change a thing. I know, I cannot write texts so well. I am not talented in language. But I should have written more than two songs because I had the talent to do so. Today this would be a beautiful old age pension for me.
Q: Which songs are these?
KV: That is the song " So Far ", produced by George Harrison and sung by Doris Troy. By chance Delaney and Boney came to the studio and were so inspired that they took part immediately. It was a great atmosphere. The second song, and even today I have goose-skin when I think of it, was 'Salmon Falls', a beautiful orchestral arrangement. Harry Nilsson sung the song with a very profound, beautiful text.
Q: As far as songwriting, did you have too much respect for the famous colleagues?
KV: Yes. I always thought: Let them do it. That was a mistake. However, this is also my mentality that I be scared stiff and wait first. I wish, I would have been a little bit bolder and more insisting.
Q: Your name, nevertheless, appears in all Rock Encyclopaedias. In 1967 you have got a Grammy for the Revolver cover, being the first German who was honoured this way. Your masterpiece?
KV: Definitely. I have created many beautiful things, have sketched more than hundred covers for records, DVDs and books. But I like "Revolver" best, graphically and from the idea behind. Naturally also from the importance which it had for the whole world. A big milestone in the history of music and cover Artwork history. Some people even state, that it is the most famous cover Artwork. I do not know, however, it could be.
Q: Have you anticipated at that time that something revolutionary happens with the Beatles?
KV: Naturally. This is my task to render such a thing. It has given me a lot of headaches to create something really equal to the music. I was glad that I had completely free hand and the boys were so enthusiastic. Up to three small photos, among others one with Paul on the loo, everything went smoothly by the Beatles censorship.
Q: Were the times more creative than today?
KV: No. Today there are so many new dimensions. For example, the computer is a blessing. Nevertheless: What happened at that time in art, literature, film and music in euphoric mood and experimental joy, will not come again so quickly.
Q: You got international acknowledgment as an artist in a time when the image of the Germans wasn't free from heavy burden. Did you feel as a kind of cultural ambassador?
KV: There were a few more jazz musicians and classics who were good. But in the matter of pop and rock I was probably the only one. Sure, being German was sometimes obstructive - a mentality which not always got on with the Anglo-American values. But I am not exactly a typical German. However, my punctuality and dependability has always helped me. I always was at the right time at the right place. There certainly were many German musicians who would have made it international, but they did not show the consequence which I had. I have had the will and could also take a lot with humor. Especially if it was about British irony.
Q: British irony is something the Beatles were also well known for: Which pictures are connected with them?
KV: The very early years in Hamburg when nobody knew the boys, when they had no money and played only cover versions. At that time they were still cheeky, raw and had real impudent manners. Particularly John who greeted the audience jokingly with " Heil Hitler ". This time is in my bones just like the later solo things.
Q: What was your first impression at that time when you descended from the Reeperbahn into the Kaiserkeller?
KV: I was sh*t scared and thought, I will immediately be bashed. This was a rocker's club of full people with rivet jackets. Stuart Sutcliffe was the first on the stage, with his sunglasses he looked cool, like the head of the band. But then he came into the corner and plugged in the bass. Then there came Paul and shouted: 'Hallo, wie gehts? ' And it went off. Their music carried me away immediately.
Q: Stuart fell in love with your girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr. From this episode the film "Backbeat" was developed...
KV: He is also very authentic from the contents. The film does not show the conditions at that time over here: this mud, the aggressiveness, the pimp's scene with the tarts, the stench and the alcohol. Nobody can fancy this, not even an Englishman. The Beatles lived in two broom chambers without windows, musty, with bunks and a light bulb. Astrid took them under her wings, fed them at home, put them in the bath and scrubbed them. Stuart and Astrid were together up to his early death, they fitted well.
Q: With his bass you wanted to get into the Beatles?
KV: Yes. However, this was earlier, when he left the band. I knew, I can learn the bass quickly, it required only to look closely. When I asked John whether I could get, Paul had already bought his own bass because they had decided that he takes Stuarts part.
Q: What bad luck! Do you believe, this would have worked?
KV: Yes. But it would have been different. Paul noticed, what a great singer John is, and he also saw the potential of George. But the fact that this constellation was so important and was so astonishing, I could see better than the Beatles at that time.
Q: Is the title 'Fifth Beatle' alright with you?
KV: I can laugh at it. My wife Christina said recently: If you consider it sometimes properly, you are really the fifth Beatle. I have played after the Beatles era for the solo projects of George, John and Ringo the bass and could count myself always to their closest circle of friends. Anyway, it's not important for me to be the fifth Beatle.
Q: Do you miss George?
KV: Very much. I am happy that shortly before his death I could participate so much in his life. He asked me to be with him.
Q: How could you comfort him?
KV: Oddly enough he was more a support to me than me to him. He could handle his close death much better than me. We had a deep friendship because we smeared not mutually honey around the beard) to us, but talked straight away.
Q: With George you organized the Bangladesh concert 1971 in New York and received in return your second Grammy for it. A pioneer's action if one looks at the Live Aid concerts today?
KV: Yes. This was the first charity concert of the superlatives. We have done it at that time sincerely, for our friend Ravi Shankar. He collected donations for the starving people in Bangladesh. At that time in contrast to today nobody tried to get everything out of personally. So it is unique.
Q: Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll stamped the music life in the wild 60s and 70s years. With which strategy can you survive this?
KV: I have never come to the embarrassment to slip into a complex drug situation. I have drunk a lot in a certain phase, later I completely withdraw from alcohol. I could see how my colleagues functioned or why they did not function. At that moment I said to myself: I don't need this.
Q: Is this so easy? Nevertheless, the temptation at parties and with groupies must have been huge...
KV: You can even say that you have missed certain dimensions of this whole Rock-'n-Roll-Life, if you weren't in it. But this made no difference to me personally. There were things which I could not do because I was too respectable. I remember sessions where someone said to me: Come on, Klaus, you play fantastically, how do you this without drugs?
Q: You were a founding member of the Plastic Ono Band. Has Yoko contributed to the separation of the Beatles?
KV: Everybody has contributed to it. For me the band was at the end already years before. When it came to work it went well, and this wasn't made public. But the Beatles hardly spent time with each other and were really glad if they were in their own four walls. A constant strain.
Q: You have experienced so many great moments of the music in its origin. What are your feelings?
KV: I can consider it only personally. One morning my friend George sat one besides the swimming pool and played "Here comes the sun" to me. I thought it was great. But I cannot bring it in relation to what the song symbolizes worldwide. For me the music always deals with my friend and what he means to me.
Q: IN 1964 you lived in the Beatles flat they shared in London. Full of suspense or strenuous?
KV : Both. To me the flat seemed to be like a prison because the boys could not freely move in the city any more. Nobody of the management looked after the four. In the flat there was only tea, toast and marmalade. Today I can understand that even less than at that time, because they already earned a lot of money and were important for the record company. Every evening hundreds of fans shrieked outside and robbed the sleep of the four. The Beatlemania was difficult to endure.
Q: Today the band Tokyo Hotel experiences the same...
KV: Correct. But they deserve their success, too.
KV: They write great songs, make good texts, look interesting, are gifted, have charisma and can handle the audience. Of course they look extreme on mummy and dad, but the kids love them for it.
Q: You come out as a fan...
KV: Yes, because I see that Tokyo Hotel are clever enough to carry out the step from the teenage band to the big pop group. According to the motto: Now we make another film. I believe in the boys.
Q: In the end of the 70s you came back from L.A. and worked here in times of the New German Wave as a talent scout and producer. Crass change?
KV: Interesting. However, you must make a clear distinction: Typically New German Wave for me were groups like Kraftwerk, Rheingold, Der Plan, Joachim Witt, Ideal. Nena does not belong to it definitively. I liked it very much that the Germans had suddenly found their own way in music to cultivate their stiff language.
Q: In 1983 you have produced Trio. Where is the common denominator between "Da Da Da" and "Let it be"?
KV: Well, first of all ' Da Da Da ' is a great piece of music. Also the text is good if one listens to it instead of complaining immediately that this is rubbish. Trio was witty. Peter Behrens is an endowed drummer, in addition Stephan Remmler and guitarist claw Krawinkel - a constellation, which without twitching with the eyelash I would compare to the Beatles. They brought a similar charisma on stage.
Q: How do your children actually react to your turbulent past?
KV: They are completely amused. For some time they haven't got this at all, and that was alright with me. Meanwhile they can well handle the fact that their dad was a real Rock'n Roller way back.
Q: Your wishes for your 70th birthday?
KV: Peace and quiet, deep inside and everywhere.