AM GOLD, made up of Silverlake/Echo
Park musicians, hash out all the licks and weird changes that make
these songs interesting. They do it because it's fun and to show
respect for a bi-gone era of songwriting. You may never have another
chance in your lifetime to see such meticulously rendered 70's (and
some early 80's) jams back to back on one stage.
AM GOLD is currently only playing in
the LA area, but will hopefully reach NYC before the next black
Photos and interview by Lew Baldwin:
Lew Baldwin is a musician, artist, filmmaker who just finished up
his first film score for the movie 'November' - which will premiere
at Sundance 2004.
AM GOLD is a god send for lovers of
those classic warm 70's tunes that you heard riding in your mom's station
wagon as a kid - driving by a car lot filled with rows of white vinyl
topped Pontiac Grand Prix's or playing road trip games with your freaky
kid sister. Songs like this are just not written anymore. Maybe it was
the drugs combined with too much Southern California sun that produced
such unforgettables as Todd Rundgren's 'I Saw The Light', Gerry
Rafferty's classic 'Baker Street' or 'Ventura Highway'
by America. Whatever it was - these tunes stuck to your brain. -LB
How did AM GOLD get started?
I was approached by a filmmaker – for a club
scene set in the ‘70s he needed a cover band that could play the
hits of the era & look the part. I love a lot of the music from that
time period & thought it would be fun for me & my friends to do.
The movie never happened, but we all enjoyed the idea so much we developed
the band idea anyway. The funny thing is, we are all writers of original
music and NEVER imagined ourselves in a cover band. Much to our surprise,
we found it to be really fun just being performers, and not having all
this ego pressure to be some hyper-unique next big thing or to try to
blow people away, you know? The strange part is that I’m sure this
will be my most lucrative musical endeavor because it’s just fun
& sort of ridiculous.
Why do you think classic 70's tunes appeal to people in 2003?
Well, I first realized it when every time I mentioned
the idea (of AM Gold) to someone, they had a favorable reaction &
would say, "Oh, you gotta do…" and would mention their
favorite song of the era. Then, while researching the hits of the era
I realized that many of these songs would NEVER be made today. A lot of
the instrumentation & production & subject matter are specific
to that era, but still seem fresh today. I also think a lot of Thirty-somethings
will be surprised to realize they have nostalgic sentiments when they
hear these songs. It really throws you back to the era.
Do you think the indie hipster set would dig an AM GOLD show?
Oh, absolutely. Actually, that’s our main target
audience – I think when people hear the term ‘nostalgic music’,
they think of old dudes reliving the ‘50s. I think the time is ripe
for 30-somethings that grew up with music of the ‘70s to give in
to their guilty pleasure of enjoying these songs in a nostalgic way. Plus,
a lot of these songs are ignored these days and I feel they were an essential
part of the evolution of modern music, and in some ways had superior elements
– you know, the songs tended to tell a story, or take you somewhere
else, whereas today a lot of popular music is just all about "look
How do you guys decide whether a tune is AM GOLD worthy?
A great question. When the project began, I compiled
a list of about 100 songs that were potentially AM GOLD worthy and brought
them to the band. We went through them and weeded out those that members
had reasonable objection to, and picked the best of those that were left
over. After a while a kind of specific AM GOLD vibe materialized and we
were left with an initial set list of these:
“Ventura Highway” - America
“Make It With You” - Bread
“Brandy” - Looking Glass
“Summer Breeze” - Seals & Crofts
“Saw The Light” - Todd Rundgren
“Tin Man” - America
“Baker Street” - Gerry Rafferty (Yes, I actually
play the sax part)
“Sundown” - Gordon Lightfoot
“Stuck In The Middle With You” - Stealer’s Wheel
“Lucky Man” - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
I guess we play white-ass-bread early ‘70s
songs that had a lot of radio play and that struck you as cool as a kid
in the back seat listening while your parents drove you around.
Do you play vintage instruments or use any vintage gear in order
to replicate an analog 70's sound?
Actually, yes. I play a ‘70s Ovation Breadwinner
electric guitar through a ‘70s Music Man amp. The
other guitarist plays a variety of vintage guitars through a Fender
Twin. The drummer has a Ringo Starr style Ludwig
kit. The bass player has a ‘70s Music Man bass
and an old Ampeg amp. The keyboard player uses a Rhodes,
but sometimes uses a modern keyboard that emulates the old Hammond
B3 and other vintage sounds, so there’s some ‘cheating’
if you will, but most of our gear is actually from the era. We do use
modern guitar stage tuners & new microphones & such, but ironically,
none of us bought any of the vintage gear specifically for AM Gold, this
is just what we use!
or are you trying to give it a new flavor with your own sound
and style, not simply emulating?
We stay pretty true to the original songs, but we
do let our styles creep in here and there – we also weed out little
things that may insult our modern sensibilities – for example, take
"Make It With You " by Bread. It’s a pretty Milquetoast
kind of song, but we build it up at the end & rock it out a lot harder
than Bread ever did & it sounds amazing.
Besides enjoying yourselves and giving these songs new life,what
are your goals for AM GOLD?
We actually want to make some money playing music,
which is a novel idea for all of us, having been in original bands for
the last 10 years! We have all had to hold down regular jobs to make our
original bands happen (even those of us who have been on major labels).
We want to play Hollywood parties and clubs that are suited to our thing.
So far, the response has been amazing. 3 out of every 4 clubs I send the
promo to call me back & book a Friday or Saturday night!
There is an interesting resurgence of bubble gum music happening
in LA (www.bubblegum-music.com).
Does AM GOLD cover any so-called 'bubble gum' tunes?
It was discussed, i.e. "Yummy Yummy Yummy (I’ve
Got Love in My Tummy)", but AM Gold’s sensibility is to be
FUN, but not directly FUNNY, so we walk a thin line. The bubblegum is
a little too far into the ‘funny’ realm, so no, we don’t
rock any Bubblegum.
Will you guys travel to New York City for a show? I think your
California sunshine would go over huge here! We are in need of it...
AM Gold will play in Sri Lanka if the promoter pays
our way! We are looking at doing some shows in Las Vegas soon and we would
love to play in NY. If the budget’s there to get us to NY then we
would definitely do it.
Is there an upcoming AM GOLD tour in the works?
We’re mostly playing here in Los Angeles, but
travel isn’t out of the question for AM Gold.
How do we contact AM GOLD for info and booking?
Check out: www.a-m-gold.com
or call me (Shawn J) at 323.574.5090 X