At the beginning of the album, there's somebody stating the number of cycles and such. Do you remember who that was?
Oh yeah. That was one of the engineers. That was Heeaavvyyyy. You know? Let's get Stoooonned! Heeaavvyy! [laughter]
What about Illusions Of My Childhood?
Well, that was really Shadow Morton's idea.
What did it symbolize?
What did it symbolize? That's a good question [laughter]. Fantasy. Childhood. Innocence. That's what it's supposed to be. All those things. Shadow was... I used to always call him "The Master of Fantasy". He always used to have all these little creative ideas and ditties... He was the perfect producer for us back then. It was a good marriage.
Is it true that when you were alone you used to play the You Keep Me Hangin' On 45 at 33?
No. No way. Never.
Do you remember any of the guys that worked on the production, like Bill Stahl?
Vaguely. I remember Bill Stahl, I remember a couple of the assistant techs..
The first album is dedicated to Mrs. Lucy Monaco?
You want to know something? I never knew why. Mrs. Monaco was a very close friend of Shadow's, and years ago I asked him. He never did tell my why, but I think it was some very personal thing that went down there. Obviously, they had some kind of relationship. That's all I knew.
Do you remember where the photos were taken for the back cover?
They were taken in Central Park.
Oh. So that rock must be right by the lake?
Yeah. I remember that. Do you know how far you're going back? It's 1992. So that's like 26 years ago... I was younger than you when all this happened. Can you imagine? I was twenty years old when I did the vocal for You Keep Me Hanging On.
So was Phil booking all those gigs that you played as The Pigeons all up and down the East Coast, or were you booking them?
Yeah. Well, I guess him or an agent. You know we were booking all those. 'Cause the best thing was to keep playing, to keep generating income and keep playing. The worst thing is to sit around doing nothing when you're a musician, you know? So we were playing pretty much.. Everything happened pretty fast, you know, 'cause everything happened so fast, you didn't even know it hit you. We were only together about nine months before that first album came out.
THE VANILLA FUDGE MONIKER
Anyway, getting back to that first album and when we recorded it. Ahmet Ertegun, he heard it and he said, "We gotta come up with a different name, we can't call these boys The Pigeons". So we were rehearsing at the Action House and this girl came up who was watching us rehearse, and she was also the lead singer of one of the bands there, it was a band called The Unspoken Word, and we said we were looking for a new name. She goes "Why don't you call yourselves the Vanilla Fudge", so I said "The Vanilla Fudge? Why?". She goes, "I don't know, it's a nickname my grandfather used to call me when I was a kid, cause I used to eat a lot of ice cream". That's it. It was nothing profound. That's the story. And then we told Ahmet Ertegun, and he says "No way. The music is too important. We gotta come up with a stronger name. Nobody's gonna like that name." So history... the rest is history. We didn't change the name. Everybody said "Wow, Vanilla Fudge. It's like white guys doing soul music." Everybody thought, what a great name! Psychedelic Symphonic Rock they were calling it.
BEGINNINGS OF A BREAKTHROUGH
Do you remember what the first gig as the Vanilla Fudge was?
The first major gig?
Well, the first gig at all.
Well I know the first gig as the Vanilla Fudge, after the album came out. We opened for The Mamas And The Papas at the Portland Coliseum and I was scared shit, you know. 'Cause The Mamas And The Papas, it was like WOW! 'Cause they were huge. And we were opening for them. And I remember walking on the stage and everyone was booing us... it was nervous time at the Forum, you know what I'm saying? And I remember I got pissed off. First you're scared, then you get mad. And I remember I just screamed out at the audience, it had to be sold out, there were like 18,000 people. I just screamed over the mic. I said "Look, we came three thousand miles to play for you people, you may not have heard us, or you may not this or that, but no matter what you say, whether you like it or not, we're gonna play. So, you know, whether you like it or not..." and the whole place went "Yyyeeaaahhh!"
So you won them over?
Yeah. See, they thought it was all tricks on the record, they thought that was all electronics or whatever, but it wasn't, it was just the way we approached our instruments and our approach to the music. And then once they started hearing us live they said "Holy shit. These guys, you know, they're for real".
You used to use Leslie's, and then you changed to amps. Do you remember when?
I can't believe you know all these things. You know more than I do. I remember I started using amps because the house systems in those days were atrocious, and you couldn't be micing the Leslie's like today, of course. Back then, I think we miced the Leslie's through Dual Showman's. I used to get more volume, obviously.
FUDGE MANAGER PHIL BASILE AND HIS LEGENDARY CLUB
What was the Action House scene like when you played there?
The Action House was like.... the melting pot of Long Island. Everybody went there from all over the island, you know? Everybody hung out there, everybody rehearsed there, everybody met people there. Like I said, it was like the melting pot. T'he place was always packed. Every weekend there used to be one of the top bands playing there. From time to time there would be a record act there. It was a hell of a place they had going.
Do you remember other bands that Phil had under contract?
Other bands? Who was that band that had Expressway To Your Heart back then? From Philadelphia? [sings] "Ba doom doom - I've been trying to get you for a long time..."
I don't know. [laughter]
It was a number one hit. I forgot the name of the band. "The Soul Survivors" that was it. They had a number one hit. Other than that, I don't know.
Was he a pretty heavy business manager?
He was a club owner. He just took a shot. That's all. He knew how to run clubs, excellent businessman. He took a shot with this, and it just happened.
So did he have any interest in the music, or was it just business?
But did he like the music?
Oh yeah. He loved the band.
Do you remember who else was involved in the Fudge organization besides Phil?
Well, Steve Weiss, who was our business manager. He was the top rock business manager of the day. You know, he worked with some of the top acts, a lot of the English acts. He worked with Jeff Beck and then of course later he worked with Led Zeppelin. And, uh, there's an interesting point here also. Shelly Finkel, who's a big name in boxing, you know. As a matter of fact he manages for Evander Holyfield. But at the time this was happening, he was working for Phil at the Action House. I don't know how many people know that. And at the time he was gonna co-manage the Vanilla Fudge... I think it's kind of neat that, you know, we went on to make it big and he lost out on that, but look at him today. He went on to become a multi-millionaire in the boxing game. He's been a big name in the boxing biz for years.
There were a couple of promotional films made for You Keep Me Hangin' On. The first was a black & white of you performing...
You know what that was, when we were in England, uhh, there was this place called The Beat Club in Brehmen, Germany. It was this real popular network TV show that broadcast all through Europe. So whenever bands were in Europe, it was like a stopover, like Dick Clark in America. you know what I'm saying. That's where that came from, I'm pretty sure. Or it could have been taken at The Speakeasy, which was a big club in London, I don't remember.
The second one is with you guys out rowing a boat on a lake, a dock...
You know what, I never even saw that, do you have that? Was that Paradise or something like that?
No. It was You Keep Me Hangin' On.
I remember doing something, and somebody taking a video of it, but... I think it was some place, some park on Long Island.
Do you remember if it was a Super-8?
Umm.... I don't know. I don't remember.
There's a third one. You guys on a TV set. Tim's holding a sax, Vinnie's holding a trombone, and Carmine's holding a trumpet. Do you remember anything about that?
I didn't have an instrument, did I?
You were the only one that had your own. It looked like a Hammond. They were sitting on bar stools -
- acting like a bunch of fools. You know what that was? That was on the Dick Clark Show. What happened is, I think that was taped in Florida, we were on tour, and our equipment didn't show up. Then we figured what the hell and we made a goof out of it. That's what it was.
At one point Vinnie was trying to get into it and Carmine pushed his trombone down. Vinnie looked pretty unhappy. Was Carmine picking on Vinnie a lot back then?
[Laughs] Oh God. Everybody was picking on everybody. I'll tell you, it was really a shame, because the Vanilla Fudge really didn't get along.
From the beginning you didn't get along?
Yeah, we really didn't. It was a really strange thing. We didn't get along. A lot of volatile personalities. Not that mine wasn't either, but it was really just difficult.
The next clip was from the movie Popcorn. I think Eleanor Rigby was the clip.
Yes. I think some of the footage on that was definitely shot in England, at that place called The Speakeasy.
So that was live?
Have you ever seen it?
Were any of these films released as Super-8 loops?
No, that was never done back then.
On July 30, 1967, you played a gig with The Vagrants & The Fifth Dimension at the Action House. Do you remember that?
Do you remember any gigs, or a tour with Three Dog Night?
Was that an early Fudge tour?
I remember we, uhh, Three Dog Night was opening for us. They hadn't... nobody knew of them yet. That was another thing about the Vanilla Fudge. A lot of bands that opened for us went on to be very famous. We broke a lot of bands in, it's amazing when I think back.
Do you remember any other ones?
Led Zeppelin, Canned Heat, Deep Purple.
Did Jon Lord ever say anything about you being an influence at all?
Yeah, and I'm real happy about that. I just think it's so great that he said that. You know what Rockline is? They were on Rockline some years back, and someone asked him who were some of his influences, and he mentioned me on Hammond organ, he said Mark Stein from Vanilla Fudge. Thanks Jon. In fact I just saw a Deep Purple video with Ritchie Blackmore, and he was saying "I don't know why everybody was so..." in his own words, he said "we were just ripping off the Vanilla Fudge." Yeah, it's a shame, he was saying that history has not been kind to that band. you know, we're not mentioned that much today. I think we had an influence on a lot of bands. Even Led Zeppelin. They used to hang out with us. I just remember telling Plant, "You've gotta move more up there". I said to Jimmy Page, "You've gotta get bigger amps, man, you know?". John Bonham, rest his soul, he used to be like a meek little lamb. He'd walk into our dressing room and be like "is it all right if I come in and hang out with you guys?" It was like "Come on in, John".
You played with The Byrds. Do you remember them at all? At the Village Theater, before it was the Fillmore? With The Seeds and The Conspiracy.
That's right! that was in the beginning, yeah.
What was the sound like in those day?
It was a great sound for those days. Playing in the Fillmore, well, it was the Village Theater before it became the Fillmore. But in those old theaters, the resonance, it was like a natural... the sound was so full, beautiful. I remember that was the start of a big buzz for us that night. That was one of the first major gigs coming out of the Vanilla Fudge. I'm glad you brought it up. 'Cause we were talking about before about The Mamas And The Papas, but this was before The Mamas And The Papas. I think we pretty well blew people's minds that night, they said wow, like this was a band that was gonna be happening.
You weren't headliners that night, though.
No, it was The Byrds. Wait, what am I talking about, it was The Yardbirds!!
No, that was another gig.
I remember Keith Reif was one of the first English rock stars that I became friends with. He got electrocuted.
Do you remember the lineup?
Hmmm. It had to be. Jimmy Page. It was Jimmy Page.
Did you hang out?
Not at that time. We got to be real close friends when we toured together. We'd hang out all the time. We'd party together all the time. Well I guess you read about some of that, though. [laughter]
So do you remember the Byrds gig?
It's A distant shadow. [laughter]
You also played a gig with Mitch Ryder there, and The Illusion. Do you remember Jim McCarty? Did you watch the show?
Oh yeah. McCarty was one of the hot players back then.
Do you remember Tim's reaction?
Timmy loved him. Timmy loved McCarty. Those solos he used to do on those records for the time, he was like the happening guy.