During June, 2005, Jim conducted a wide ranging interview with his namesake, Jim Smedley.

Part One
covers some of his early musical memories and recalls some musical highlights.

In Part Two, Jim talks about his own music and his approach to songwriting.

In Part Three he talks about some of the songs on American Dream


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Jim Lesses Interviewed: Part One
by Jim Smedley

Part One | Part Two | Part Three 

 

What was the first album you ever owned?
Would you believe, the soundtrack to Calamity Jane, starring Doris Day and Howard Keel? How embarrassing! Not only that - but I still have it! This may be the movie that started me on a life-long love affair with musicals, whether of the Hollywood movie variety or live stage productions. 

Do you have any particular favourites?
Two of my all time favourite movie musicals are Little Shop of Horrors, starring Rick Moranis, and Ellen Greene; and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick. My two all time favourite stage musicals are Jesus Christ, Superstar, and Les Miserables.

By the way, is the right place to admit that I had a childhood crush on Doris Day? Sadly, for Doris, when I got older I dumped her for Bridget Bardot! Poor Doris, they say, she never got over it!

What was the first single you owned?
An EP (extended play) recording of Scottish Pipe Band music, which I think I also still have! 

Scottish pipe band music? 
Probably because when we were children we were always taken to see an annual Christmas Pageant which took place in Adelaide. In fact it still takes place. Pipe bands featured prominently as part of the Pageant, and I still remember the excitement I felt whenever the bands marched past with the pipes and drums roaring away in all their glory. To this day, I still get excited whenever I see and hear Scottish pipe bands.

The first CD you ever bought? 
I can't remember exactly which, but in 1994 (the year I bought my first CD player), I bought only four CDs, all by Bruce Springsteen: Greetings From Asbury Park; The Wild, The Innocent, and The E-Street Shuffle; Born to Run; and Born In The USA.

So you're a big Springsteen fan then?
Absolutely! Ever since Born To Run, but even more than that, I became a true Springsteen fan after exploring his back catalogue, which in 1975 (his break through year), consisted of Greetings From Asbury Park; and The Wild, The Innocent, and The E-Street Shuffle. Even now I get huge enjoyment out of those first two albums.

And your first video? 
Don't Look Back, the D.A. Pennebaker documentary covering Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England was my first video purchase in 1995.

What about your first DVD? 
Again, I can't remember, but it was one of three Sergio Leone movies: Once Upon a Time in America; Once Upon a Time in The West; or The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Sergio Leone? Didn't he invent Spaghetti Westerns?
That's the man. Mind you, Sergio himself hated the term, 'Spaghetti Western', because he thought it undervalued what he was trying to do with the genre, which I think was to reinvent it in some way. Sure, his first two 'Dollars' films starring Clint Eastwood, may seem inconsequential today, but when I look at them now, I see a man working out new ways to depict the American West. His absolute western masterpiece, where I think all his ideas come together is, Once Upon a Time in The West with Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, and Charles Bronson.

 

What was the first live concert you ever saw? 
Now you're really asking me to go back a long way! Of course, I can't remember, but one of the first international touring acts I do recall seeing was the great folk trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, in the early '60s. I also remember seeing Bob Dylan play in Adelaide in 1966, and he may well have been the second major international act I ever saw perform live.

Wow! Was that with The Band? 
To be honest, I can't remember - although it was during the period in his career when he was making the transition from a purely 'folk' performer, to a 'folk-rock' performer. 

I remember that he did the first half of the concert solo, and that he came back for the second half with a backing band, but I don't remember which musicians formed the backing band. And yes, his electric folk-rock set was greeted with lots of boo's and catcalls during the performance.

Read additional information about the 1966 tour... 


Any other great acts you've seen live? 
During the '60s, I used to see live bands in Adelaide quite frequently. I still have enduring memories of seeing The Twilights, performing in the late '60s. The Twilights featured Glen Shorrock on lead vocals. Glenn Shorrock later sang with a couple of other seminal Australian bands, Axiom, and Little River Band. The group did perfect covers of many Beatles songs, and I remember sometimes thinking their versions were even better than the Beatles! 

During the early '70s I lived in London (1971-1976), and saw a huge number of great acts including: Bob Marley; The Rolling Stones; Supertramp; Osibisa; Joan Baez; the Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis; The Who; David Bowie; Mott The Hoople, and many others, too numerous to mention - or remember! 

When was your first public gig & where? 
Sorry, can't remember that either, but in the late 1960s I frequented an Adelaide basement folk club called, The Catacombs. I used to sing there fairly regularly, as did most 'folkies' in Adelaide.

Were you writing & singing your own songs? 
I'm sure I did a few, but I was mostly doing covers. Mostly Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, and songs by my other folk heroes of the day.

Which artists do you most want to see live? 
Bruce Springsteen; Neil Young; Bjork; Pete Seeger; Steve Forbert; Bob Dylan (for about the fourth or fifth time); and… that will do for now…

Steve Forbert?
Steve Forbert is one of the great (almost unknown), singer-songwriter's of the past 30 years. He had a hit back in the late '70s with a song called, Romeo's Tune, and was hailed as the latest in a long line of "New Dylan's". Since then, he has released album after album of great songs, which sadly have been all but ignored by the traveling circus which is contemporary music and its promoters. I urge anyone with an interest in great songs to check out his extensive back catalogue.

Your ultimate 'Great Gig In The Sky' lineup? 
Wow. Assuming they were going to be appearing in a Woodstock type of festival event, that is, as a series of individual performances rather than one big super group, it would have to include Jimi Hendrix; Woody Guthrie; Bob Marley; John Lennon; George Harrison; Janis Joplin; Roy Orbison; Ray Charles;  and Buddy Holly; and how could you not include Elvis Presley? Assuming he really is dead of course! Oh, and Keith Moon on drums, and John Entwhistle on bass guitar, backing up just about everyone.

Who are your current musical heroes? 
There are probably too many to mention, but Neil Young is certainly one, and Bjork is definitely a musical heroine. And of course, Bob Dylan is a perennial favourite.

Why Bjork?
For her unique voice; the uncompromising pursuit of her craft; and the way she honours her Muse by not churning out the same predictable music, album after album. 

Your greatest influences?
Again, too many to mention, but Bob Dylan would have to be at the top of the list. Others include Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, and yes, even Bjork.

 

Any regrets? 
Never having seen Pete Seeger perform, or Neil Young, and dare I say it, missing Bruce Springsteen's first London show in 1975.

You missed Bruce Springsteen in 1975? 
I'm almost too embarrassed to talk about it even now, 30 years after the event!

As I've already mentioned, I was living in London during the early 1970s, and I still vividly recall the saturation coverage that Born To Run was getting on London radio. You couldn't turn on the radio and not hear the song! The hype was everywhere, so when they announced that Bruce Springsteen was coming to London to perform, and despite the fact that I thought Born To Run was a great song, I decided that I was not going to be sucked in by the hype and therefore would not go and see him. Later, after I'd bought the Born To Run album, and especially after I'd also bought his first two albums, I realized what a fool I'd been. And I've regretted my stupidity ever since!

Ok, let's talk about your music... 
Sure... Fire away!

< Read Part Two of this interview here… >
 

JIM LESSES: Sometimes I Wake Up Naked

Go straight to CD Baby and order the CD...

 

JIM LESSES: American Dream

Go straight to CD Baby and order the CD...

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