DEAN N. FROM MIGHTY MOUTH MUSIC PRODUCTIONS INTERVIEWS DANCE AND SMOOTH JAZZ ARTIST LAURICE
Please note: This interview is divided into two parts, Part One covering the disco-dance years and Part Two covering the smooth jazz and adult contemporary career of LAURICE
DEAN N.: Laurice, tell me about the early years. They would be…
LAURICE: The early 1970’s really. I moved to London after graduating from Leeds University, where the Who did their Live At Leeds album around the same time. I worked for a music publishing company and became a talent scout for Pye Records, the home of Petula Clark of Downtown fame. I was also a resident songwriter and producer. I composed a lot of pop music at the time. All sorts. In England you had to be able to write everything and anything that was demanded of you. This wasn’t a time for specialization.
What famous people did you meet at that time?
I met many famous artists while I was there. I often worked at demos with Alan Parsons, of the Alan Parsons Project.
How did that go?
Well, I think that Alan thought I was too rambunctious for him. (Laugh). Alan was classically music trained, while I was into all the R&B American stuff.
You mentioned that while in
London you met some artists who influenced you as far as jazz is concerned?
Oh, yes. While working at Pye Records, I was privileged to meet the great Sarah Vaughan.
And Dusty Springfield?
My biggest influence without a doubt. She was my idol. I saw her perform at Mr. Smith’s in Manchester years before when I was still a student, and I met her years later in the 80’s when she performed at Greg’s Blue Dot in Hollywood. She was every inch a lady, and an incredible performer. I would love to do a tribute album to Dusty Springfield if I ever get the chance. Her recording career was absolutely phenomenal. She could and did sing in about every style you could think of.
Did you write anything for
Yes. Well, I tried. But it was very difficult to get to her.
Weren’t you a session
singer as well?
I did quite a lot of that. I was very into Aretha Franklin at the time, so, when the resident wailer, singer Madeleine Bell, Dusty Springfield's supposed secret girlfriend, wasn’t available for sessions, they would send for me. I could wail with the best of them.
Did you do any sessions with
I did a few at Lansdowne Studios and Abbey Road. I also did some with Kiki Dee. She went on to sign with Elton John’s Rocket label and had a Number One hit with I’ve Got the Music In Me and a successful solo single Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, with Elton himself.
It was quite funny actually. They would bunch Kiki together with a few male session singers around one mike, and I would be grouped with some female singers around another mike. Then Kiki and I and some other ladies would group around another mike for overdubs. We made quite a killer session singer ensemble J
Sounds like a lot of fun.
Tell us about your
sessions at Abbey Road, the recording home of the famous Beatles.
I got lucky there. A friend of mine was first engineer at Abbey Road so I got to do many sessions there. I met the Hollies He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother and attended a few of their record sessions. And I also attended some of the Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother Sessions.
That must have been quite a thrill.
Well, Dean, quite honestly it was rather a shock. The whole image of Pink Floyd was supposed to be anti-establishment at the time. But all I heard from the band there was "Will it be a hit?" and "Is it commercial enough?" It was really quite sobering.
Did it sour you on the band?
Oh, not at all. I knew exactly where they were coming from. It was a relief to know that they were actually human, like the rest of us :)
But tell me, Laurice, did your Abbey Road studios help your career?
Yes and no. One producer offered me five recording contracts in one year there, and I'm afraid I turned them all down.
English solo singers, apart from the few lucky ones, rarely were taken seriously by the British recording industry. You have to realize there was only BBC Radio One that played the hits at that time, and if they didn’t play you, you were nowhere. There was no way I wanted to sign a seven-year contract.
Did you actually meet the
I met George My Sweet Lord Harrison. I was cutting some demos at Apple Studios, the Beatles own studios, and I ran a little over time, and in walked George to do some overdubs on something. We chatted for a few minutes and he wished me luck. He was very nice. He said he liked what he heard, which was great praise coming from a Beatle.
And how was your interest
sparked with regard to disco?
A good friend and myself would go dancing all night at this inner London transvestite club. It was a great little venue, and had this tiny dance floor. Every time they put on Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered, we literally beat down a path to the dance floor. We loved the rhythm and, of course, wished it could have gone on forever. Disco wasn’t around at that time. Later, before I left for Canada, I was really turned on by KC and the Sunshine Band’s Get Down Tonight. I just loved the synthesizer opening and raging beat. I still regard it as one of the most thrilling dance tracks I have ever heard. It was such a rush.
And what made you leave for
Canada? Couldn’t you do better staying in England?
No, Dean, I couldn’t. No self-respecting British soul or jazz singer was doing very much in England recordingwise, apart maybe from Scottish jazz diva Annie Ross. There may have been the odd exception, but in general, the confines of BBC Radio One were killing talent there. Someone happened to mention that Toronto was an up and coming place, so I emigrated, and took my demos with me?
Was it easy establishing
yourself in Canada?
It was very, very hard. I tried New York first, but no one there seemed to want to take a chance on an unknown. Then a Canadian record company signed me up to do a disco single with my producer, who lived in Nashville, and We Will Make Love became a national Canadian hit, and then a massive international hit. I followed that up with Disco Spaceship, both the vocal and the instrumental versions, which was another smash. Many of the tracks were put down in Toronto. Some in New York and some in Los Angeles.
So you did a lot of flying
I did in those days.
What were the discos like?
How did people behave?
It was an absolute blast. Sex, drugs, rock and roll - and disco ruled the roost. Poppers, Quaaludes, LSD – you name it, you could get it. It was just incredible. There was so much sex and drugs on offer that you felt it could go on forever, and you wished it could go on forever. Glamour was in, and people looked really good. Patti Labelle and Lady Marmalade, Donna Summer And Love to Love You Baby, Gloria Gaynor and I Will Survive. The list went on and on. You could party all night. Sex orgies were the rage. Drug overdoses were, unfortunately, quite common. I lost a few good friends that way. For many gay people of my age, it was a miracle that we survived that era in some ways. Pleasure was oh, so easy. Today was in. No one thought much about tomorrow. I really don't know how people did this then got up to go to work the next day. It was a real conundrum for me.
You didn’t indulge?
Dean (Laugh) I won’t give away too many secrets. I did have a blast. But I had to get up for work. I take my career very seriously. I had to look my best. I was guest of honour at the Montreal DJ Pool’s Annual White Party, which was an incredible experience. We were all dressed in white, dancing on this huge dance floor in a Montreal Club, while waiters appeared, all dressed in white, carrying five gallon magnums of champagne right onto the dance floor, pouring champagne into our wine glosses. It was astonishing and a complete riot. I appeared on TV singing my latest hits. I signed albums in record stores. The whole shebang. It was, as I say, a huge blast.
You said you met Gloria
I just had released Disco Spaceship, and a DJ friend of mine and I went out dancing at a popular club in Toronto – a straight club – and Gloria was headlining. On stage she came, and, as it was a smallish dance floor, we sidled up to her and danced right in front of her, much to the disapproving eyes of the mainly straight clientele in the club. Gloria went on singing, then smiled and gave us a big, huge encouraging wink. It was just great. Later I went backstage and we compared our new record releases. She was so nice and it was such a pleasure to meet her.
That’s great. But disco
must have had its downside.
Did it ever. Promoting my disco music, which I felt about most passionately, was an uphill battle.
Why was that, Laurice?
Well, again, realize that there was a really wicked resistance to disco and disco artists. Look how Donna Summer, the queen of disco, had to struggle to get herself heard by the public. Many radio DJs just hated disco. It wasn’t rock, and they thought it was too black and too gay.
Sounds very homophobic and
It was. And, in some quarters even today, still is. Disco music has always been marginalized in North America due to prejudice.
How did it affect you
We Will Make Love was banned in America at first. The radio establishment actually said it was too black and too gay. Even though it was a glorious Tom Moulton mix.
Who was Tom Moulton?
Tom was the foremost dance music mixer of the 1970’s. He actually invented the 12 inch single. If it was a Tom Moulton mix, you had really arrived. He was a genius. After he had mixed We Will Make Love I called and thanked him and we had a nice chat. I really was in awe of the man. Recently, with the release of my new retro-disco dance album DANCE DANCE DANCE we have re-established contact by email. I had tried to contact him over the years, but I had never succeeded until recently.
But you did succeed in releasing We Will Make Love in the US?
Yes, finally. It was re-released three times as a matter of fact. I got the same kind of initial reception when we released The Hotline years later.
How well did We Will Make Love do?
It was a big hit in Canada, the Far East, Mexico, Latin America, Europe. It wasn’t released in England, as far as I know.
What happened after that?
Disco Spaceship followed. The record company was resistant to releasing it. I think a lot of the rocker dudes at the company were anti-disco. They would do anything to sabotage a dance release, it seemed. I know this doesn’t make much sense, but it’s true.
So it was never released in
No. But it was such a big hit in Canada, outselling every other 12” single the week of release just in Toronto alone, that it topped the dance import charts in the States. It still sells to collectors to this day in America.
Is that so?
Yes. It’s quite amazing. One of the most remarkable things that has ever happened to me is that I have both Canadian and America DJs sometimes come up to me (the older ones, of course) and tell me that I was one of their biggest inspirations. They tell me that Disco Spaceship actually inspired them to become DJs. I feel so proud of that.
Any tidbits about making Disco Spaceship? I know that you mentioned something before our interview started.
Yes, yes, yes. Quite a few. Although many of the tracks were put down in Toronto, we finished some songs in New York. We booked Electric Ladyland Studios for the mix, and we were so taken by the murals on the walls, and my producer and I realized that they would be perfect for the cover of the 12" Disco Spaceship that we bought permission to photograph them from Jimi Hendrix's studio manager and another cult album cover was born. The murals were absolutely beautiful.
So how come all this wasn’t
Lack of vision on the part of the record company, Dean. Practically every artist has a story like this one, my good man :) We had Love’s Sweet Symphony in the can as a follow up to We Will Make Love, and Rock Me Through The Night as the follow up to Disco Spaceship.
We played Rock Me Thru The Night to the company A&R man, but he didn’t see it. I actually think he really didn’t know what to make of it. It wasn’t rocket science but we tried our best to explain it. He refused to go with it. Love’s Sweet Symphony received the same fate. Oceans Of Love was another casualty. That is why I have released them on my DANCE DANCE DANCE CD as I feel that these songs have been hidden for far too long.
That must have been upsetting
It threw us all for a loop. I packed my bags and flew to Los Angeles. I made a living as a songwriter, and manager of other artists for a while, and I released various singles which kept my head above water. But it wasn’t until the release of The Hotline, another dance song, this time banned by LA’s powerful dance station Power 106, that I felt validated.
And it was banned…
For the same reasons given for banning We Will Make Love. Too ethnic. Too gay. It was really sick.
What was The Hotline about, Laurice?
It was all about the new telephone sex lines that were the rage in the mid and late eighties and early nineties. It was before the cell phone era. The idea was that what could consist of more safe sex than phone talk? It was like the ultimate safe sex solution at that time.
Right. The cover is really
It’s become a collector’s item. We were taking the last shot on the album cover shoot and they asked me to do something really, really outrageous. As if my dressing up in drag wasn’t outrageous enough. So I looked around, grabbed a banana and stuck it in my mouth. That was the money shot J
Ha, ha, ha. Did you do a lot
No, I was never a drag queen per se. But I can tell you, trying to be a glamour woman in those days took a lot of doing. I don’t know how they all did it. The high heels alone were killers! By the way, my co-producer on The Hotline, Danny Aaronson, who was also my manager at the time, has now embarked on a very successful career in Miami as a folk and jazz singer. And he is very, very good. You should check him out. Danny and The Hepcats. He has a MySpace page as well.
You sound like you two had a good time.
Well, Dean, music was in the blood, so to speak. Dan and I were close and remain so till this day. He is a one terrific guy.
So what do you hope to do next?
What are they about?
I will let you know when the time is right. Suffice to say, nobody will be disappointed with the results.
And a new dance album?
If time and the circumstances permit, I will be only to thrilled to do a new dance album. I would welcome the chance. So I will keep my fingers crossed.
Part Two of Mighty Mouth Music Productions Dean N. interview continues with Laurice on the next page. Here, Laurice discusses his smooth jazz music and other music traditions.
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