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Your tour with Hendrix. I didn't see but I did hear you at Red Rocks Park [Denver, Colorado]...
You heard us? But didn't see it?
Well no [laughs]. I couldn't pay to get in, but it was outside so we could hear.
That was a great tour [Sept '68] because we had You Keep Me Hangin' On as a hit single again, the album was top ten, and Hendrix was hot. But Hendrix was drugged out a lot. There were a lot of nights - it was a pretty long tour - that we blew Hendrix off.
When the band was "on" it was really great. Nobody blew us off. The first group that blew us off was Led Zeppelin. We blew the Who off, we blew Cream off, we blew Hendrix off, I mean, who's left in those days? The Doors? We even blew them off.
We had a lot of great gigs in those days. We did Central Park with 10 or 12 thousand people - just unbelievable, the vibe and energy. With People Get Ready we got people so quiet you could hear a pin drop. That was the funny thing about Vanilla Fudge. We thought we were cool if we had the whole place so quiet that we had total control of the audience. Whereas right after us Led Zeppelin came out and it was the opposite - having the audience quiet wasn't the thing to do anymore. Then the thing was to make them as rowdy as they could get, like getting them involved the way Black audiences used to, like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and James Brown used to do. It sort of changed the vibe that was going on in that era.
Vince told the story of how the arrangement for People Get Ready was worked out in a motel room. Was that done after you joined the band?
Yeah. I think that might have been my idea to do it, but I can't remember. We used to like all the old soul and R&B songs. I always loved People Get Ready. Just like on BBA we did I'm So Proud, which is by the same Impressions group.
I've heard Rod Stewart did People Get Ready as well but I've never heard...
Well, I did that with him.
Well, I'll have to get it [laughs]...
Basically what happened: Jeff Beck was in my house in LA. He was trying to get something together, and I was getting divorced at the time. I said, "Jeff, what do you want to do? Do you want to write songs? Do you want to put a band together? What do you want to do? Why don't we go over to Duane's house?"
Duane Hitchings was a songwriter. He had a little personal studio and we figured we'd feel it out. So we came up with [Jeff's] People Get Ready version there. The riff that Jeff played [Carmine hums it] was actually Duane Hitching's lick.
At that point we came up with the arrangement of People Get Ready and Jeff said, "Now we need somebody great to sing it", and I said, "Like who?" And he said, ""Like Rod". [Jeff] and Rod were still sort of friends. I helped them get back together when I played with Rod. So we called up somebody who knew that Rod was going to dinner that night. We went to the same place and we happened to have the tape in our pocket.
At that point I'd just got out of the band with Rod and Duane Hitchings had written a lot of songs with him. We played People Get Ready for him and he loved it, and the next thing we know we were in the studio.
I had Jeff Beck on the right side of me and Rod Stewart on the left, and I was directing both of them because I knew the lyrics from the Vanilla Fudge version. Jeff did 3 or 4 different guitar tracks and we put them all together as one. If you listen to the song, I programmed the drum machine on there, and the voices you hear in the background are all my voice on this sampling unit called an Emulator. They could play it on the keyboard and it sounds like a choir. So basically I was heavily involved in Rod's version of People Get Ready as well.
Well, I know your version of the vocals with the Fudge was unbeatable. If you don't mind my saying so...
Well, when I went to Japan a couple of years ago we did both versions. We did People Get Ready - Vanilla Fudge version into the Jeff Beck version - since I was involved in both of them. The audience loved it.
Back to Vanilla Fudge... Did you guys have any idea how different you sounded?
Not really, because we were just part of a movement in New York, like I said before.
But even within that movement you were so different...
Well, we just did what we did. We didn't realize we were that different until we did the album and everyone started freaking out. Everyone said to me, "How did you come out with that drum style? You've influenced so many drummers and that style is still going on today". And "How can you beat the s**t out of your drums that way?" Out of necessity! How come there were no PA systems back then?
I remember when we toured with Hendrix I had a monitor system. I had a Dual Showman amplifier on each side of the stage. I had a 6 input Shure mike mixer and I put my mikes in there. We miked the drums through this big amplifier. When we first started with Timmy we had a Shure mike inside my bass drum. We used to plug it into this bass amp and when we started playing the little clubs in 1966, it gave us that R&B vibe with the bass and bass drum together. That was really cool. We just amplified the whole drum set. Mitch Mitchell used that setup as well, with Hendrix. If you ever see a photo from that tour you'll see two big Showmen amplifiers on either side of the stage.
Are the Showmen - when I saw you in the Denver Coliseum you had these huge wood cabinet amplifiers? Is that what they were?
Um hmm, yeah, on the sides. Yeah, that was the Fender Showmen. I had 2 tops, 2 bottoms and a Shure mixer. No EQ's. I mean that tour even had Voice of the Theatres for a PA system and there wasn't even a board out in the audience. The guy was on the side of the stage. The board of the amplifiers were knobs, big knobs (laughs) they weren't faded like we have now. And no monitors. Monitors were the worst if there were any.
I do want to compliment you on The Beat Goes On, because I do like the album. It took me a while to get used to it when I was 16 [chuckling]...
I'm still not used to it [laughs]. I noticed on the [Web] forum people were quoting things that Timmy said [in his interview segment on The Beat Goes On]. You know, I didn't say anything [on the album]. I felt ridiculous. I said, "I speak through my drums" or something like that [laughs].
What was your favorite cut from the album Renaissance?
I actually liked Faceless People. I really dug that one. Paradise was pretty cool too. At least those mixes weren't too bad. But like The Sky Cried was a cool song, but the mix was awful.
I like the ending to That's What Makes a Man. That was where you'll hear John Bonham - a lot of his fills. I've heard that when we took Led Zeppelin on tour, one of the songs on Renaissance, Zeppelin listened to and got the riff off from Timmy. They came up with Good Times Bad Times from that riff. I think it was That's What Makes a Man.
Renaissance was the last album produced by Shadow Morton. Was there anything in particular that caused the split with him?
Well, we were just ready to move on. We didn't like the sound of Renaissance really.
I don't know what was going on, but I think maybe Timmy was a bit loud in the studio and leaked into everything and they couldn't get any clarity. It was done on an 8 track. I couldn't get my clarity on the drums. On the first album, drums and bass and everything were in proportion. It was great, even Moonlight Sonata was great, but Renaissance, I don't know what happened there.
I listened to it on CD the other day in the car, and I couldn't hear the drums the way they should be heard. They were like a whisper in the background to me. After that album I was always conscious of the fact that Timmy had to be in a place where he wouldn't leak into the drums. The bass drum and the bass had to be just in the right place like with You Keep Me Hangin' On or Take Me For A Little While. With those songs the relationships were great. But on this album they were pretty screwed up. That was why we produced the fourth album [Near The Beginning] ourselves.
We wanted to do it ourselves. By then we'd done enough recording to have an idea of what was going on. We got Eddie Kramer, who was a great engineer at the Record Plant where Hendrix used to record. We also recorded Shotgun at Mirasound.
About the Break Song: We called it the Break Song because we used to do that in the clubs. We used to play the song to take a break, I was reading in the forum that people were wondering about that.
When bands like Hendrix and Cream that featured soloists were getting so big, and we knew that we could play, we wanted to do a song that featured the individual members. Rather than one member doing each song like Cream did, we just did one song that was originally 29 minutes long. We had to edit it [for the album] and there are probably live recordings of that because we did record the whole show. I read that on the Forum, people wondering, "Did they record everything?". Richie Havens was the opening act on that, and it was recorded at the Shrine in 1968, I believe.