“After The Flying Machine broke up, James fled to North Carolina, which is where his family was, and then to London. I gave him Peter Asher’s number and address. Peter and I were friends because my first band, the Kingbees, backed up Peter and Gordon on one of their first American tours. James hooked up with Peter, who signed him to Apple Records. They made an album, James’ first album – I wasn’t on that one.
“The way I approached the songs on Sweet Baby James was pretty instinctive. Of course, James is no slouch on the guitar himself – he’s a beautiful player. Peter was going for minimalism, and he wanted it to be as acoustic as possible. Fire And Rain has no electric guitar on it. That’s how Russ Kunkel came up with playing with brushes; he had to tone things down to fit with the acoustic guitar.
“It was a little like walking on eggshells. This was before they made acoustic guitars with pickups in them. It was a real lesson in subtlety and minimalism. I didn’t realize it was the start of something or that James was going to be on the cover of Time magazine. I knew he was great, but by this point I was already slightly cynical in that being great wasn’t always a guarantee that you would be a hit. I thought it should be, of course.”