Lloyd (top center) with his family
To say that Michael
Lloyd is a record producer is an understatement.
Michael was a Vice President of MGM Records by the age of
20, and for more than 35 years has been producing hit records
and soundtracks, earning more than 100 gold and platinum records
along the way. Some of the artists he's worked with include,
Lou Rawls, Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwicke, The Moody Blues,
The Monkees, The Osmonds, Donny and Marie Osmond, Sammy Davis
, Jr., The Righteous Brothers, Debby Boone, Pat Boone, Air
Supply, and Frank Sinatra, just to name a fewand I mean
Michael was also the Music Supervisor for the film "Dirty
Dancing" and produced the "Dirty Dancing" soundtrack
album. He's also done the scoring, music supervision, or had
songs placed in 38 feature motion pictures. And he's a partner
in Curb Records.
Do you remember the moment in your life when you knew
that a career in music was what you wanted to do?
Yes, I had a little transistor radio, and all of a sudden,
I became aware of KFWB (an L.A. radio station). I could have
been nine or ten which would have been in 1958 or so. I somehow
remember it was a rainy day. I had a radio, and I turned it
on, and I heard this incredible music. Now, up to that point,
I had been playing classical piano from the time I was four.
I had listened to my mother's albums of show tunes and Broadway
shows because she was involved in that. So this was different
to me. I listened to songs like "Step By Step" by
the Crests, the Kingston Trio's "Worried Man," "Rock
Around The Clock" and "Shake Rattle and Roll."
All of these songs were all quite different, but they had
a certain energy to them.
Even when I was playing classical music, I had this incredible
facility to absorb it. It wasn't a chore. I practiced in the
morning before going to school, and also when I got home from
schooljust all the time. So by the time I discovered pop
music and rock 'n' roll, I had been kind of initiated into
the whole aspect of practicing and trying to get better and
I used to make tapes of radio programs because we didn't have
enough money to buy records. My godfather was Jimmy Durante,
and he bought me a Sony two-track 7-1/2 reel-to-reel tape
recorder. I put a microphone in front of the radio and recorded
all of the records that I liked to hear. I would listen to
these things over, and over, and over. I would learn the parts
to all the records, and I would teach the musicians in the
bands I was in all of the parts. At that point, it was kind
of just copying and picking up what was going on. I literally
would spend most of my time doing that, to the detriment of
my school work. I never was a good student. The kids that
I had in bands did poorly in school, too. Their parents yanked
them out of the band. "Enough of this ‘hobby.'
You've got to get back to your studies and to what is going
to be important for you." Fortunately, my family believed
that this was what was going to be important to me, so I never
had any of those problems. It was a very, very important thing
Did your mom become one of those mothers that had to schlep
the Farfisa mini-compact around for you?
Yep. We had a station wagon. By the time I was thirteen and
had a band, every time we playedand we played all the timeshe
drove us all around and picked us up. That kind of thing you
can't replace. That was, in a nutshell, the genesis of my
interest in music.
What advice would you give to somebody who is just starting
There are several things that I think fall under "best
advice." There is no one way to become successful. However
it was that I was fortunate enough to get the opportunities
I got doesn't mean that it's a formula or a path everyone
should follow. The thing that is important, though, is that
you don't know when opportunity is going to come, so you'd
better be ready for it when it does come.
How do you get ready?
You learn everything you can about your chosen field. I was
a "rock star." That was my chosen fieldin very
broad strokes. Okay, you get on stage, you perform, you write
songs, you sing them. The reality is that that is kind of
a narrow little opening. You put out an album every eighteen
months maybe. So every eighteen months you get an opportunity
to be successful.
However, if you're a songwriter, or if you're record producer,
or doing something else working with lots of people, now your
chances for success have gone up tremendously. If you're doing
songs for motion pictures and/or television show scores and
themes, once again, your chances of some kind of success have
You have to have a dream, and it's great to follow a dream,
but don't be afraid to expand your dream to include other
things that you might not be thinking about in a primary sense.
Maybe you can learn about publishing, learn about songwriting
and what it takes to be a good songwriter, how it relates
to the music business. What is a good song? What kind of songs
are hits on the radio? What kinds of songs are being played
on certain types of radio stations? What songs cross over
to other formats? You learn about what makes a record sound
good. Why does one record sound a little better than another
one? You can learn about the technical side of things. You
can learn about the musicality of a record, of balancing instruments,
of arranging them, the tonal qualities that make something
sound good, the colors that you bring in and out of songs.
Now you're talking about how the record might shape up. Obviously
vocal performances are important. How compelling do you need
to be? How much emotion do you have to have in a particular
style of music and to be a particular kind of singer?
My point is, learn everything you can about the music business
in order to be ready when opportunity comes. It might be,
"We're looking for someone to go out to clubs to listen
to some bands." "Oh geez, I don't want to do that
because I want to be the band they discover." But you
go out there, and you find a band. Maybe that band gets signed.
All of a sudden now, they are taking you more seriously. And
you say, "By the way, I've got something else you've
got to listen to," and you play them your band. "Why
didn't you play us this before?" "Well before I
didn't know you, and you wouldn't have been interested."
Something can always be turned around to accomplish your primary
goal as long as you're in the game.
The trick is getting into the game. Whether it's easier now
or harder isn't so much the point. It's always difficult.
But when you hear that knock on the door of opportunity, you've
got be ready to take advantage of it. The best way to take
advantage of it is through educationwhether that's through
some schooling, private lessons, or on the street, or programs
that ASCAP and BMI offer in the way of workshops, or help
that TAXI may offer through its convention or critiques. All
of this goes to round out your education.
I think you have to have a hot burning passion to do this
stuff. I think that you have to obviously have some ability
and be personable in some way. But that hot burning passion
has got to lead you by the nose to anythinganything that
you can do to be involved. I would do anything. I would engineer
stuff for other people. I would go in and sit and listen to
other people make records. I went to the recording sessions
for Pet Sounds and Good Vibrations. I played on "Bluebirds
Over the Mountain," by the Beach Boys. Those were big
deals. Obviously anyone would do that. But I did stuff for
my friend, producer, Kim Fowley where he'd pay me $50, and
I'd go in and record all day long. I'd make up songs right
then and there, and he'd put it out as some funny, funky thing.
I didn't care. I was in the studio recording and doing something.
I would have paid him.
Looking at your discography I think maybe it would be better
to call you the "King of Pop Producers." What are
the essential elements you need to make a great pop record?
To me, the most important part of rock & roll, and by
extension pop music, is the emotional content and excitement
that you connect with the record. When I was a kid I listened
to "Theme From a Summer Place," which is far from
a rock & roll record. It was so romantic. It was this
great theme from this romantic movie. When you have that type
of thing coupled with certain artiststhe traditional pop
artists that were idol types like Bobby Vee, Paul Anka, Bobby
Rydell, Fabian, Frankie, Elvis Presleythese were life changing
events. These became things that when you heard those songs
later in lifeit could be a year later, or thirty years lateryou
remember everything about what was going on.
Nothing can touch you like music does in terms of bringing
back memories and transporting you there in a time capsule
kind of way. Pop music has this unbelievable ability to transport
people emotionally and capture their imagination. There is
nothing like dreams. There is lots of music that has a social
commentary, that has an edginess, that has something to say.
That's all fine. This is different. This captures people's
dreams and emotions, and you never can get away from it. The
basic you-me, boy-girl, new love, found love, lost love, rekindled
love thing works. Those are emotions that people are interested
One of the reasons that I think Country music is so popular
is because it conveys those emotions. There's enough sadness
and enough ugliness in the world. If you can escape for a
few minutes with some romantic song or just imagine that a
singer is singing just to you, I think it's great. That kind
of music may be thought of as being kind of sugary, or fluffy,
or not as meaningful. Well, I would challenge people by saying
I think those songs are more meaningful because they stick
with people forever. They become part of your life, as simple
People always ask "How good does my song have to be?"
and what they may really be asking is "How good does
my demo have to be?" What is your answer to that?
To me, it's about the emotional content, and how that connects
to people's hearts and dreams. I'm not talking in musical
terms, I'm talking emotional terms. I remember Clive Davis
(legendary President of Arista Records) listening to mixes,
and to songs for people, and songs that I was working on,
and he never reacted like, "Well I don't know if I like
the sound of the drums," or whether there was enough
guitar, or things of that sort. He would take it all in and
react to it emotionally. "It doesn't feel warm. I don't
understand the emotion of it. I'm not feeling it." He
would use non-musical terms. He was really reacting as the
audience would react. They're not sitting there saying, "Oh,
that would have been better if they had used a different snare
drum… It would be better if the guitars were a little
more crunchy." He would react to it as an emotional kind
of sounding board. And he is very rarely wrong. My emphasis
would always be on the song. And in a secondary sense, who
I am playing it for is going to determine who I'm going to
get to sing the demo.
Should an aspiring diva send in a demo covering a song that's
already been done by a major artist?
I think that's a really bad, dangerous idea. They shouldn't
make a demo out of those songs. If people say, "She's
great. She's the new Whitney Houston," she shouldn't
go in and sing a couple of Whitney Houston songs. It's already
been done. It doesn't give a record company, or a manager,
or a lawyer, or anybody the chance really to say, "Wow
this girl is great." What they'll say is, "Boy she
sounds just like Whitney Houston." That may be of little
value. I used to go see bands that would do covers, and they
would sound terrific, just like Elton John or Chicago. But
when the time came for them to do something that wasn't a
hit by somebody else, they sounded miserable. No vision, no
ideas for what to do with their song, and no songs. That's
What do you think of the current state of radio?
Well, in some ways it's great, in that you can hear all kinds
of different music. The bad thing about it is that it's so
splintered and so genre specific, that if you are a Hip-Hop
artist, you hear kind of the same records over and over and
over all day long. It doesn't promote spontaneous change and
growth. It promotes a sameness. It promotes conformity. In
a particular genre that prides itself on its non-conformist
behavior, it is actually promoting conformity within its non-conformist
atmosphere. I use Hip-Hop as an example, but all of the genres
The great thing about radio in the Sixties and even earlierfrom
the beginning of rock 'n' roll up to about maybe the Seventies
or soI could turn on the radio and hear Dean Martin sing
"Everybody Loves Somebody." Then I could hear Lulu
singing "To Sir With Love." I could hear "Can't
Buy Me Love" by the Beatles, "Satisfaction"
by the Rolling Stones, a Four Seasons song, a Beach Boys song,
a James Brown songyou'd hear all of this stuff. So it was
a giant melting pot of musical styles. And while I might not
have been a big Dean Martin fan, per se, I was influenced
by that mixture. I was influenced by the Motown songs. I was
influenced by the Stones, the Beatles, the Beach Boys. You
heard them all on the same station. That promoted the musical
diversity. Not just by playing it, but in the people listening
to it that were later going to be the ones making music.
Can you describe how it feels to be associated with the number
of hits that you've worked on?
Having hit records is interesting because you want success
so badly, that when it comes, sometimes it's not elation,
it's relief. It's not like, "Oh this is the greatest
thing that ever happened to me." It's, "Thank God
this happened." It's just the relief that something happened.
That's also coupled with the knowledge that after having a
#1 record there's nowhere to go but down. There is a certain
ability to accept what you're doing and be satisfied with
that, juxtaposed with the tremendous insecurity of not knowing
what to do next. It's amazing. It's like sports. You win a
big game and, well, you've got another big game in two days.
You hardly get a chance to celebrate before you have to worry
about what you're going to do to follow it up. In any kind
of entertainment, it all comes out of the same thing which
constantly promotes dissatisfaction, and insecurity, and fear.
But you have to stay away from that.
John Wooden, the head coach of the UCLA Bruins for many, many
years, had a comment about basketball games and winning and
losing that basically said: Don't ever get too high after
a victory or too low after a defeat, but rather maintain a
certain levelness that you are satisfied that you did the
best job that you could do. He promoted that with his players,
and they maintained a level of consistency that was kind of
unheard of in college sports. It is hard for us in the entertainment
business not to get too excited about winning awards. It's
great. But you should try to put those same energies back
into the next thing and keep a consistency. That's the one
thing that's always called for in the entertainment business.
Consistently having hits. Consistently having good songs.
Diane Warren consistently has great songs. So does Carole
King. That consistency is very important, and it's the hardest
thing to achieve. It's harder than success. You can always
spike and have one hit. But, boy, trying to maintain that
consistency is something else.
Is there anything left for you that you haven't accomplished
that you want to accomplish?
I feel kind of like I did when I was thirteen. I think that
there is so much to do that I get confused about how to pursue
it sometimes. I'm writing a screenplay that I've wanted to
do. I want to produce some more movies. I've had fun doing
that. They were just miserable little teenage movies, but
they were fun to do and a great learning experience. I want
to do a Broadway show. I've always wanted to do that, I've
just never had the opportunity. I never tire of new artists.
There is always something fresh and exciting about that...
the anticipation and hopes and dreams. And when they get realized,
it is just unbelievable.
I also do a lot of charity work with children's hospitals
all across the country. The Children's Miracle Network is
one of the more outstanding organizations that you can ever
find. Those are some tremendous people.
There's a lot that I don't know, and I'm just eager to learn
about it. There is always something going on, and there are
always people coming along that have better ideas than I do.
So I have to learn from them. Just as when I was listening
to "Step By Step" by the Crests. If someone had
said to me, "Okay, we'll let you make music for the next
forty years… that's your job." This isn't work.
This is what I do. I'm really, really lucky to have had these
chances. I'm looking forward to the chances that come along
in the future.
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