The early to mid-‘70s was such a zeitgeist period for songwriters, many of whom you knew and worked with. What’s your take on songwriting these days?
“I think everybody finds their milieu – their buddies and their cronies and people with similar sensibilities. Talent never deserts the gene pool, not unless you get so much lead poisoning that you’re not able to act on it. Those people weren’t stars or part of a particular movement; they were just my pals, and they were writing good songs.
“Jimmy Webb is a master. He’d had success early on, and of course, writers like J.D. and Jackson and Don Henley all revered Jimmy. They thought he was ‘the guy’ – and he was. What a good writer.”
I’m curious – did LA in the ‘70s feel like a particularly creative time? I liken it a little to what was happening in England in the early ‘60s.
“No, not really. We knew who our peers were. The people who were at one side of the Troubadour, we were all kind of chasing country-rock. I wanted to do country songs with a rhythm and blues feel, and that was my idea to mix up rhythm and blues with a pedal steel guitar and a fiddle. My voice was suited for that; it’s not suited for short bursts of rock ‘n’ roll while you’re waiting for the lead guitar solo.
“A guy like Mick Jagger doesn’t need such a generous melody, because who cares what his voice sounds like? He’s a great communicator. He’s not a particularly good singer; he’s not a particularly good dancer, guitar player or musician; but he’s a sum of the parts, a dream maker.”
You did a pretty good job of singing Tumblin’ Dice yourself.
“Well, but it was a real underuse of my ability in terms of what I can do. You know, if you’re Waddy Wachtel, you wanna play Tumblin’ Dice because you can do a lot of posturing with your guitar. As a singer, there wasn’t much for me to do. It’s an interesting song, and I think it’s well written. I think that Mick and Keith are really clever. They’re excellent for that kind of thing, but it’s not a singer’s vehicle.”