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TIMMY THOMAS APRIL 1977 INTERVIEW
THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS REVISITED
Timmy Thomas is back in chart business with his "Stone To The Bone" disco giant. He reflects on his previous success and how he's learned by his mistakes…

BACK IN 1973, Timmy Thomas exploded into international prominence with his classic record of "Why Can't We Live Together". It was a haunting, simple but effective commentary on life at a time when people were genuinely conscious of their need to 'live together'.

Happily, times have progressed and though that need is still there, circumstances have improved to the point where it isn't necessary to make such social commentaries quite so blatantly. From a musical standpoint, though, the record was unique because if featured just one musician! Timmy!

Timmy. The One-Man Band, he became known as. He used to travel the world over with his massive keyboard on which he could reproduce virtually any basic instrument that he needed. And to make it even more special, he'd synchronise the thing to sound like a whole rhythm combo.

That explains the strange but unique quality that dominated Timmy's biggest selling record of all time but it was a sound that could not really be followed up on and Timmy was allowed to drift into something of a musical wilderness.

That statement is even more true of Timmy's domestic American career because it is only now that he is beginning to reassert himself — mainly with the driving disco giant of the moment, "Stone To The Bone".

Reflecting on those early years, Timmy says: "It was a novelty, I guess. I didn't think so at the time but now looking back, that's what the public probably thought. For me, it was accidental because I had always been that kind of entertainer.

"In fact, until less than a year ago, I had never carried a band on the road with me. It was always my one-man band. But music is changing and if I am to survive, I have to face the fact that I have to change, too. That's why I took on the band — just after the second album was released and around the time of 'You're The Song I Always Wanted To Sing'.

"You know something, I never even knew it did so well for me here in Britain! Anyway, with the release of my newer product — on which a band is used — I wanted to be able to reproduce my records and that meant adding a band. I still do my part just like before — only now I have five other musicians to give a fuller, heavier sound than before.

"For example, you'll hear two distinct bass lines — my one on keyboard and the bass player himself.

"Changes? Well, yes, it has meant a change for me. Before, I could do a completely spontaneous show because I only had me to follow — now, I have to think of the guys and I go off into something, they have no way of staying up with me. And I never used to have to actually rehearse; sure, I was always playing my piano but it wasn't like actual rehearsing.

"Now I have to be considerate to my band…although, they've learned that anything may happen during a show. But, if I had to really tell the truth, I think I would prefer to be the one-man band because that's the way I feel more relaxed."

Now, with the release in this country of Timmy's "The Magician" album, it looks likely that his international acclaim will start to spiral once more.

"I'm so happy with the album," he enthuses. "It coincides with the success of 'Stone To The Bone' as a single back home. Does it remind you just a little of 'Why Can't We Live Together?' Sure, it's funkier but it does have that flavour to it — right down to that little piano figure.

"It's funny but my life always seems to come back to that record. Let's face it, it took me from oscurity to the top in one go so I'll always be grateful to it. And it seems that the public like me that way. It must be something in the rhythm pattern because the other hit in England, 'You're The Song', also had that same feel to it, didn't it?

"In between I have tried to vary what I've done — and they've all been stiffs! I'm the first to agree now that the public always know best. Sure, I'd like to progress but I'll do my best to make records that I can be recognised by.

"Going all of that time wihout a hit record was so frustrating and annoying. Sure, you start to doubt yourself. Many is the time that I've prayed for a second chance! And now that I have been blessed again, I'll try not to abuse it in any way.

"I think that I have matured a great deal since those days, anyway. It's funny, though, because I had far less problems before that first hit — all I had to worry about was getting to the club every night on time and feeling like playing. Everything else was academic. Then, suddenly, I'm all over the country, doing concerts, appearing on TV.

"I remember the first time we met — that was my first time in California and I was completely out of it. My feet hadn't hit the floor and I was almost living in a permanent daze. Before that break, life was much more tiring but I enjoyed it because of its simplicity. Now, I have come to face the terms and if 'Stone' goes all the way, I'll be more capable of coping with it all.

"And musicly, I have progressed a great deal. Now I'm more into writing and production whereas in those early days, I admit I was just a lucky novice."

Were there mistakes made the first time around? "Lord, yes!" exclaimed Timmy with a wide grin. "Nothing that I have lived to actually regret because they were all born out of inexperience. And I'll benefit from all of that experience this time.

"You know, you suddenly stumble upon a hit record and you become inundated with all kinds of offers. It's very flattering and a head can be turned! My biggest error was in not co-ordinating my work. I found nyself flying here, there and everywhere to fulfill engagements and I never got to bed or got to go home at all. It was a lack of awareness and the fact that I wasn't signed to a booking agency.

"This time, I'll take care of business, though. In fact, a second chance will be like a blessing and I'm surprised that the shine has never worn off — I still get the same excitement today that I got three years ago.

"I guess, too, that I was lucky to have such a strong wife behind me to help. She kept me going when I wanted to forget it all and without her I would have never gotten through.

"And I've got a lot to thank Henry Stone (TK's King) for. He has given me confidence by persevering with me. It was Henry who took me aside and told me where I was going wrong and just as I have to thank him for 'Why Can't We Live Together', it was Henry who helped 'Stone To The Bone' come to life.

"He told me how I had gotten completely away from what I stood for and that was why I wasn't selling records. That man has the finest ears in the business. He hears a hit when nobody else can and that will always be his strength in the business.

" 'Stone To The Bone' is more of an instrumental and that was Henry's idea. It's like a deja vu situation and now I'm back in the right groove, I'm not going to lose it. I'm just grateful that Henry didn't write me off — because a lot of companies would have done in that situation.

And so spake the ever-smiling and affable gent from Evansville, Indiana. It's refreshing to hear an artist who genuinely seems to comprehend where things were going astray and I'm personally happy for him that he has been able to put it right in time.


  
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