|Michael Lloyd (right) shows the audience his well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award after TAXI founder Michael Laskow (left) made the presentation.
If there's one word that exemplifies what this weekend is about, it's generosity. Did you notice in the really long registration line how generous the people you met were in giving you tips, not only about songwriting, but just about how to work the Rally and everything related? So generosity... that's a word that I think you're going to think about all weekend long, and nobody exemplifies that more than our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient this year, Michael Lloyd.
Michael was Vice President of MGM Records at 20-years-old. Can you imagine? He has had chart-topping hits that expand an amazing six decades. Six decades! He's produced more than a hundred Gold and Platinum records in his lifetime. He has provided scoring, music supervision, songwriting and music production for well over 100 motion pictures, 16 TV movies, 13 TV specials, and 35 TV series. What an amazing career. Michael's work has been recognized by the Oscars, the American Music Awards, the Dove Awards, and the Golden Globes. He also happens to be a partner in Curb Records. After all these accomplishments I can't think of anybody I've ever met in the music business who is more supportive, encouraging, helpful, humble and, most of all, generous. Michael takes dozens of CDs from our members every year at the Road Rally, and he listens to every one of them. And he calls them up. I get calls from people, "Michael Lloyd just called me from his cell phone in his car and told me what he thought of my song." Who would have the time? Michael Lloyd.
I just can't say enough about Michael Lloyd the person. Outside of the music industry, he's such a good, good man. So it gives me tremendous pleasure to have him as our honoree this year. I want to have you listen to a montage, a tiny smattering of Michael Lloyd's music. I am here only for one reason. It's because of people like you that I have been blessed with and have had the opportunity to work with for more years than I care to talk about. It is only because of you. This is not lifetime for me—this is our lifetime. This is what we do; this is our life. So this goes on for all of us. It doesn't matter how old or young you are, this is what we do. I am very appreciative of being here. I come here [to the Road Rally] all the time; I see a whole bunch of you, a lot of you look familiar. I'm just grateful to be here. And this is the guy who makes it possible for all of us. [applause for Michael Laskow]
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me tremendous pleasure to introduce to you TAXI's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2010, Mr. Michael Lloyd! [applause]
Michael, on behalf of myself, my staff, the people in this room and the millions of people throughout the world that have enjoyed your music for six decades, I'd like to present you with this award.
Thank you so much. Thank you. Guys, thank you.
Welcome back, Michael.
Glad to be here. It's an exciting time for everybody. The gentleman who spoke at the beginning who talked about opportunities, there are so many opportunities. We all read about how the music business is crashing. It's crashing because the record companies are stupid. It's because radio is fraught with incredible problems and change of their own. The splintering of radio and internet and all this kind of stuff they're trying to hold on to audiences. But there are so many opportunities that we can take advantage of.
Why music? Did you have an "aha" moment? You started out when you were in diapers I think. Was there a moment?
I started playing classical piano when I was about four years old. My great grandmother and grandmother had a piano and they were gracious enough and sacrificed for me their whole life to give me piano lessons and guitar lessons and theory and harmony and believe in my love for music, and all this kind of stuff. That was my opportunity at that time. Obviously, I was really little, but, you know, the discipline of classical piano was key because you practice all the time, and by the time I was seven or eight I was probably practicing four or five hours a day. It was a huge part of my life, so there never was that "aha" moment; it just was kinda always there.
How did you make the transition from player to producer? Back then you certainly couldn't go to school for that. How did that happen?
I think the main ingredient for the progression of what I did was from being in a band, because the other band members were excited about playing, but they weren't as passionate, perhaps, as I was—they went on to do other things in life—and I was kind of the de facto leader of the band, because I always wanted to do a certain thing, which can be good and bad. At the very beginning, when you're 12- or 13-years years-old, and they're kinda looking at you to tell them what to do, that's great. But after a year or so, they don't want you to tell them anymore. You know, "Hey, why you? We're not successful. You're not that bright." But, honestly, that was the start of it, because I would be kind of, in my own limited way, directing people, and that led to recording other bands when I was 13 or 14 and kind of directing them. Again, this was all unsuccessful stuff. You can go on the Internet and see stuff of mine from years ago that's like, "Oh gosh, did I do that?"
When I was doing my research, I saw some of that stuff, and adorable is the correct word.
I know Mike Curb has had a huge influence on your life. Every conversation you and I have ever had, somehow you come around to Mike Curb in the conversation. Obviously, he's been like a dad to you and mentor for an entire lifetime. How important was his mentorship, and mentorship in general?
I think Mike would prefer older brother. Dad may be a little frightening to him. We met when I was 13 and he was 17. I was writing songs for groups, and I was pitching him songs for something he was doing over at Mercury Records, and he didn't take any of my songs, so I thought he was an idiot. We'd bump into each other around town, in studios, over the years. A couple years go by, and then a gentleman named Eddie Ray-who was just out here recently at a showcase we were having... Eddie Ray was the head of A&R of a company called Tower Records, which was a subsidiary of Capitol. They were in the Capitol tower; it was a small company. I was recording something there, and Mike was doing stuff there. So Eddie takes us both out to lunch at a place on Hollywood Blvd. called Diamond Jim's and says, "You guys would be better working together." So even though we had met three or so years before, Eddie was the guy who really put us together to work. Mike is just an incredibly talented, brilliant guy, good at business, good in the studio, good with songs—just a real record guy. So I was able to learn all kinds of things from him, not the least of which is how to treat people and how to work with people. He has just been a great guy for me, and with that comes another opportunity.
You know, the thing that has been clear to me, and hits me in the head every time, is that as opportunities come along, you've got to be somehow ready for them. Because if they come and you're not, it's like, "Oh, you know, I could have done that." And I'm not saying that I knew it all at that age, but I probably bulled my way through enough to make people think I knew. And, you know, some of that is true, but you do have to have the background.
So coming here... I hate to get back to this—it sounds like a long TAXI commercial—but I don't know any place else that's like this. If you utilize all the tools here, you may not be able to apply them right now to something you're doing. It may be, "Oh, I don't like that kind of music," or "Oh, I don't do this, I don't do that." But if you become aware of it and you learn about it, it becomes part of the fabric of what you are, and then when the opportunity comes along, you have a chance to utilize that.
Here's a quick example. I recorded a guy at MGM named Tito Puente. He was just a really talented man, but it was so far away from the music I was into—in terms of like the Beatles and the Beach Boys or something like that—but I still went in and did this. Now, years go by and here comes a movie that I'm doing. They were gonna have a band playing in the movie that was going to be kind of like a Tito Puente band. It was all set up in the Catskills, and we were going to get Miami Sound Machine to write all this music. They kept saying that day after day. Well, Miami Sound Machine never even returned the call, so it never came to pass. Now they were going to start to shoot—and it's like two days later-and they have no music. So it kind of fell on me to do, which they never would have asked me to do prior to this moment, because they wouldn't have thought I'd be into that type of music. But it fell on me to do this, and because of the background I had with Tito Puente years and years before, I was at least able to emulate what they wanted. Now, that movie was Dirty Dancing, and that was all of that Latin dance music, which was done, literally, over the phone with Kenny Ortega while they were shooting. So that wild opportunity from way before is what helped me down the road tremendously.
You used it on the instrumental in Dirty Dancing.
"John's Mambo," all that stuff that Patrick danced to with Jennifer. All of that stuff. The point is TAXI gives you an opportunity to learn lots of different things. Learn 'em. They'll influence you on all kinds of levels... all kinds of levels. It's a great thing.
It's one thing to produce hit records; it's another thing to produce classics.
And that guy will be here later… [laughter]
Did you know at the time that any of them would...?
Why yes, Michael, I knew every one of those was gonna be... Funny you should ask. [laughter]
I've been wanting to set the record straight for a long time. I've gotta tell you something. I put together for my wife and kids about a 25-minute thing like you just heard with all the records from all the people and all the hits and all this stuff, and I listened to it in the car as we were driving up to see Barry [Manilow] in Vegas, and I thought I had no idea how any of this happened. And I listen to this thing here [the opening montage] and I'm thinking, geez, how did that happen? I have no idea. It is just a miracle, truly a miracle. The Lou Rawls record, which was just after "Time in My Life," and Lou was a dear friend and, again, I had no business recording Lou Rawls.
How old were you?
I was 19 or 20. It wasn't anything like what I was into. A publisher had a song he wanted Lou Rawls to sing. I could sign acts at MGM. Lou had been dropped by Capitol Records already and his career was over. But this publisher was really bright. He figured if he could get somebody to sign Lou Rawls, then Lou Rawls would have a deal and he could cut his song. So he hammered me and he hammered me to do this. Finally I said yes, and that record won a Grammy and all this kind of crazy stuff. And then—and here's where the other opportunity comes along—I had been resistant. I didn't want to do it; I had no idea what to do. But that record becomes successful, and then we sign the Osmonds, and Mike Curb says to the Osmonds, "This is Michael Lloyd, who just had a big hit record with Lou Rawls. Then the Osmonds go, "Ooh," right? If he had just introduced me as Michael Lloyd, a talented guy he knew, they would have gone, "Oh," right? I mean, it's a superficial business. So if I hadn't done the Lou Rawls record, he wouldn't have been able to introduce me to the Osmonds on that level, and I probably wouldn't have recorded their records. That's just another thing.
I look at this stuff and I honestly have no idea. The Eric Carmen record of "Make Me Lose Control," I can just imagine being at Cherokee Studios where we cut this—which was the old MGM Studios that I had built and the Robb brothers bought it—and I'm thinkin', Gosh, it seems like yesterday. And then my dear friend Patrick [Swayze]... You know, it's just crazy. I just hope we were doing good work. I hope we were doing the best that we could do and being respectful of the song and the songwriters, and being respectful of the audience that's gonna be listening to it. I just hope that we were making something that people would enjoy, quite frankly. You can never predict that.
Did you study the work of other producers? Would you check out why a chord was voiced a certain way...?
Yeah, but way beyond that. Who was the publisher, the color of the label, what was the B-side? Mike [Curb] and I used to drive along in the car and turn the radio on and turn it off real quick and say, "Now what's that song and who wrote it? Who published it?" I went to some of the Beach Boys sessions, Beatle records that I used to listen to. I listened to that stuff over and over. That was my school—listening to records—and, of course, classical music. But listening to records and trying to understand them. I still try to understand. I hear great records today and I'm trying to understand.
There's something to learn every second in this business, which is another reason to learn here what you can, because there's so much that changes and so much to learn.
You've never ignored what's going on currently in the market. So many times I've talked to you—it seems most of our conversations take place while you're in the car—and in almost every conversation you'll say to me, "I just heard the amazing song." I can't believe that you're still interested—after six decades of making records—in what's current. Most people would just rest on their laurels, and that's that. You have an incredible drive to discover.
What else would I do? I don't really know. This is everything to me. The contradiction would be, "You've got to be appreciative and grateful for whatever happened. We're all looking for that and are appreciative of it. But then you have to be hungry enough and passionate enough to want to do it again. And that's, I think, a constant battle with anyone who is having success.
I record Barry Manilow's records, and Barry is the prime example of somebody that has been successful for so many years, has had so many hit records and so many fans. We were doing backgrounds the last three days on this new record of his, and it's like it's his follow-up to his first record. He is so into it and so concerned about it being exactly the right part, that the song is right, and that the background vocal part is just right. He is so into it and passionate about it. I said to him that it's incredible how he's not lackadaisical, or like, "Oh yeah, sure, it's fine. Yeah, it sounds good. Let's go." Nothing like that. So I think that that's a part of it, it keeps you vital, it keeps you connected and I'm just grateful to be still doing it.
How do you live up to your own expectations? You set your own bar so high; doesn't it scare you to go into the studio every time? I guess you could see it as an opportunity—there's that word again—but with the track record that you have, I'd be petrified every time that the next record would be a flop or a career ender or something. How do you make it over your own bar?
I don't know. But you did say something interesting about being scared. He played one Kimberly Locke Christmas record called Up on the Housetop—which was a #1 Christmas song for her—and at certain point… I guess it had to be before that, but every time I walked into the studio, I was—not scared so much—but it was like what's gonna happen? And maybe that's kind of what I said at the beginning. I don't really understand how some of these records came to be, and how when you listen to one after the other like that, really how that happened. I think I kind of approach that by going into the studio thinking, "Well, we've got good musicians and everything's kind of prepared. I wonder what's going to happen." I think there is a certain amount of innocence that maybe is a good thing, and couple that with a certain amount of experience or something, I don't know. What does it take to write a good song? What inspires you when you're thinking about something? What inspires anybody? I think if you try to be available for the opportunity of inspiration, maybe it will be more available. So I don't know, and I'm not trying to be cute, I just don't know.
Make sure to read Part two in next month's Transmitter!