“Learning to Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs & Englishmen”: https://bit.ly/3CWe4l7
Everybody’s dead. Well at least the two stars, Joe Cocker and Leon Russell. And Carl Radle and Bobby Keys and…Jim Gordon’s in jail.
I actually saw Mad Dogs & Englishmen. At the Capitol Theatre, in Port Chester, New York. The mania from the Woodstock movie was selling tickets, but Joe was a star already, with two albums played incessantly on FM radio, where all the action was. His cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends” became a staple of the FM rock format just after it was released in 1969. And I knew about Mad Dogs & Englishmen.
Today there’s too much information, yesterday not enough. I read about the tour in “Rolling Stone,” a couple of other places, but I had no idea who most of these people were, Leon Russell being the exception, I purchased his debut solo LP back in March, I still prefer his version of “Delta Lady,” and you’d be surprised how many people know “Roll Away the Stone,” and I learned that he co-wrote those Gary Lewis & the Playboys hits, I loved “She’s Just My Style,” a Beach Boys flavored track, but I did not know the details of his years in the studio, the dues he’d paid.
As for the band’s third star, the other breakout? The first time I became aware of Rita Coolidge was when she was singing on stage.
Back then there was an almost impenetrable barrier between the players and the audience. There was no social media. No way to easily look up their address. Maybe if you were in L.A. you could see them driving around, hanging out, but if you lived in the rest of the country they were exotic animals, who dropped down into your town and then jetted out, to where the action was.
And it was only about the music, at the Mad Dogs & Englishmen show they weren’t even selling any merch. The Fillmore East didn’t sell merch, wasn’t the music enough? Concert t-shirts didn’t really become a thing until the seventies, and although the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour took place in the spring of 1970, it might as well have still been the sixties, with Kent State… Once rock became corporatized, blasted on stations all over the country, then the merch became a big deal. People in backwater hamlets were just as infatuated, just as eager to get attached as those in the cities. I could compare the musicians of yore to the techies, maybe even the bankers, of today, but it’s not really a good fit. With the bankers it’s just about the money. With the techies…well, it used to be about innovation, pushing the envelope. But the musicians of yore…IT WAS ABOUT THEM! Not only did they sing the songs, they wrote ’em. They embodied the lyrics, you felt that you knew them. Then again, Joe Cocker did not write, and as a result he was kind of a cypher, and the endless testimonials to his character in this film ultimately tell us nothing about him, he’s dead, you never want to speak ill of those who’ve passed, I mean what was Joe really like? I don’t know, nor do most other people.
So you know the history… The band goes on the road, the double live album comes out only a couple of months later and Leon Russell becomes an overnight superstar and Joe Cocker disappears. Not only did Joe not record for two and a half years, ultimately releasing the substandard “Something to Say,” he grew an enormous beer belly, there were pictures, he seemed completely burned out.
But Leon’s comet burned very quickly and flew by soon. One can state that Leon’s peak only lasted three years, three solo albums and then a bloated triple album set and then he went country and he never could recapture the magic. He was seen as stealing the spotlight from Joe, using the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour to his advantage, so there was little good will to sustain him, and by the end of his life he was barely able to walk, getting around on a scooter, playing clubs, even Elton John couldn’t resuscitate his career. Maybe because Elton and Leon both played the piano, could both be flamboyant, in dress and in their playing, but their roots were completely different. Elton was from England, Leon was from Oklahoma.
Oklahoma, have you been there?
I’ve been to every state surrounding it, but never to OK, despite knowing the musical by heart. But a certain creativity came from the flatlands of the oil-producing state. Not only Leon, but Dwight Twilley, who with his partner Phil Seymour released one of the iconic tracks of the seventies, “I’m on Fire.” And sure, Jimmy Webb came from Oklahoma, but soon left. Garth Brooks went to Nashville to make it. But Leon Russell was constantly going back to the Sooner State, Shelter Records set up a studio in Tulsa and…if you were from the coast you just couldn’t understand it, there was nothing there, thank god you left, why in the hell would you want to go back?
But Leon Russell is Oklahoma through and through. That’s what you see in this new movie. It’s the way he talks, the cadence. Slow, with a drawl. And with attitude. They don’t talk this way in the north, or on the coasts. And his roots were different. There was a bunch of country, soul and gospel mixed in with the rock, so the ultimate sound is unique. And for a while there, it resonated throughout the country.
So you want to see this new movie for Leon.
But the star of the show is Chris Robinson, another musician people have a bad taste in their mouth about, another one hated by many, but when Robinson steps to the mic, be prepared to be wowed. He doesn’t sound like Cocker, but he evidences the same blues roots, filtered through years of rock and roll. Robinson doesn’t shout, he just emotes with extreme intensity, and the music lives in him just like it lived in Cocker, he moves to the sound, he can’t help himself. I was watching thinking how he also sang the Zeppelin hits with Jimmy Page, and he even sang with Phil & Friends, Phil Lesh’s side project.
I know you don’t want to hear this, you just want me to pour endless love on Tedeschi and Trucks and the oldsters, but I’m being honest here, when Chris steps up to the mic you’re convinced he’s a national treasure, and he’s still here!
Not only so many of the old band are gone, so is the sound. This concert was filmed at LOCKN’, one of America’s hippest festivals, but it gets very little media love, it’s for fans of the music as opposed to those who just want to parade, be seen and post. But that’s today’s world, all the focus is on the Spotify Top 50, but that’s just a smidge of what’s truly happening out there.
So it’s a reunion of the oldsters, paired with the Tedeschi Trucks band.
Let me just state straight that Derek Trucks is an incredible player. Like Jeff Beck he uses no pick. And as much as he’s lauded, he still doesn’t get enough respect. He’s genius, probably the best of his generation. And his wife Susan Tedeschi has the pipes to sing these old songs, as well as the ability to play guitar, despite getting only a tiny bit of press, which flummoxes me, then again, Tedeschi Trucks has a significant following, that can keep their large band on the road.
Today everybody’s a solo performer. The music is made alone in your bedroom and the creator makes all the money. To create a sound like Tedeschi Trucks, which is akin to the Allman Brothers, but with its own twist, it takes a lot of players up on stage, which means it costs A LOT OF MONEY!
It’s not about the money…it’s about the money. That’s a classic music business aphorism. And you see all these people on stage and one thing is clear, no one is getting rich, you’ve got to be doing it for the love of the music, the love of playing, because that’s all there is.
It used to be different. No money was made on the original Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, but there was plenty of money in the music business back then. Most of it in the records themselves, a ten dollar ticket was unheard of. Then again, managers and labels were famous for screwing the artists, hopefully you wrote something and regained the rights via copyright reversion in this century, but if they’re still alive, so many of these old players are broke. Because you’re hip, and then you’re not.
It’s different today, because no one is as big as those of the past, they don’t have the mental footprint. And you can’t possibly make the money of the techies and the bankers, even though musicians keep complaining they can’t. In other words, there’s a bifurcation. Either you’re in it for the money and fame, or you’re in it for the music. But if you’re in it for the music, you must be really damn good, because you’re gonna earn your keep on the road. Watch Derek Trucks and the rest of the band, are you as good as they are? If not, keep your day job.
So yesterday you used to shine incredibly bright for a few years, and then you fell back to earth. The band broke up. You were so burned out you sat at home, licked your wounds and adjusted your perspective and then, in the nineties, if you’d had success, you went back on the road with the reunion tour. But people wanted to see you, commensurate with your impact the first time around.
So first we’ve got the camp reunion, Rita Coolidge, Pamela Polland, Claudia Lennear, the Moore Brothers, Leon… It’s been half a century, almost none of these people played together ever again. Rita Coolidge went on to become an icon, but she appears so normal here it polishes her image, she’s throwing off no star vibes, no divadom whatsoever, but when she steps to the mic, she’s still got it.
Ditto for Claudia Lennear, another cultural icon, often referenced as the inspiration for “Brown Sugar,” sexiness incarnated, she ultimately punted the music business and became a school teacher. She couldn’t be more normal in this film. But then she steps to the mic, and she’s still got it.
The Moore Brothers? For all their writing credits, they get no history, no backstory in this movie, hell, Matthew Moore WROTE “Space Captain,” which is one of the highlights of this film, if not THE highlight.
And Pamela Polland?
If you were reading the music news you knew who she was, but she never broke through, I had to look on Wikipedia to see that she’s been making her living in Hawaii, playing music there, literally off the radar screen. And now she’s 77, 71 when the concert was filmed in 2015, it took the producers that long to raise finishing monies, but she’s still lucid, SHE’S STILL THE SAME! She’s a rock chick, but not in leather like Lita Ford, but an equal of the guys back then. Sure, there was a ton of sexism, but the women got record deals, and they didn’t have to sing pop tunes.
And I know all this because I lived through it. But almost everybody testifying other than the old band members WASN’T EVEN ALIVE WHEN THE ORIGINAL TOUR TOOK PLACE!
So they’re talking about the old show and you realize it’s just history, moving images from the original concert film, they’ve got no idea how it really was. An oldster in the flick states that they didn’t think there was one person over thirty in the original Mad Dogs & Englishmen entourage. Music was a youth business. The oldsters had given up, hired house hippies to tell them what to sign, twentysomething managers were making it up as they went, inventing, formulating a business that is a smooth running machine today, at least in comparison.
So this is not the movie I thought they’d make. I figured it would be a concert film of the 2015 show, with a few interstitial conversational moments, like the rock movies of the seventies, but no…this is really a documentary juxtaposing the old with the new, with music at best equal to the story.
You see they’re constantly referring to the original Mad Dogs & Englishmen movie, a 1971 production that almost no one saw. Distribution was sketchy at best. It wasn’t quite like “Cocksucker Blues,” but prior to the VCR and digital TV, almost nobody had seen it, it was a secret, all the money was in the double live album. The players of today are testifying about the film, not realizing it was a dud upon release, almost nobody was aware it came out, you had to be a big rock fan to know about it, and then you had to find somewhere they played it, which was essentially nowhere.
And the original film is 57 minutes. And the new one is 111 minutes. “Learning to Live Together” is essentially the two shows put together.
But really, it’s a peek into the way it used to be. When you see Leon Russell and Chris Stainton play the piano, you’re wowed, you can’t believe they’re actually playing those notes you know so well, sans flaws, sounding almost identical to the originals.
And then there’s a horn section, adding a broadness to the sound that you can’t get anywhere else, never mind a flourish.
And the endless backup singers… Nobody ever carries this many on the road. They’ve got the music in them, they’re singing along, and since they’re pros they’re singing in tune.
I finished watching the movie and I felt sad. Because what once was is no longer. Did you see that Commander Cody just died? This is a regular thing now, old rock stars kicking the bucket. Cody, real name George Frayne, passed away at 77, you’d think from hard living, but the truth is the Big C got him. There’s not a single boomer who doesn’t know “Hot Rod Lincoln,” but they’ll never hear the original sing it ever again. Same deal with David Bowie, Glenn Frey…
But Mad Dogs & Englishmen were unique. It was a lark, pulled together for one tour, with little rehearsal. Leon Russell called up some friends…
That’s right, you had to know somebody. Which meant you had to live in L.A. and hang out. There was a community. You only wish there was this community today.
And it was a big band and it was a one time thing. Either you saw that tour or you never did, like the Beatles there was no reunion, until LOCKN’.
Where they’re playing the music once again.
But there are no originals being written as good as the songs of the past. Not only is there no McCartney and Lennon writing “With a Little Help From My Friends” and “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” Wayne Carson Thompson is gone and there is no under two minute gem like “The Letter” anywhere and Leonard Cohen left us “Bird On the Wire,” but the heir to Mr. Cohen has yet to appear. Dave Mason is still singing “Feelin’ Alright,” a song so good it’s been covered endless times, who is covering the music of today? And Bob Dylan is still plying the boards, but if you think what he’s doing today is anywhere near equal to what he did back then, you’re a blind, boot-licking apologist.
So we’re used to beats. And electronic sounds. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with either, but a real band, like Mad Dogs & Englishmen, evidences a humanity absent in the digital world. It’s people with practiced skills coming together to present a cohesive sound that looks easy yet is anything but.
At some point “Learning to Live Together” will come to you. Probably on some streaming service. You should definitely dial it up. Because irrelevant of the film’s arc, you’ll get a look into a world that is soon to be gone forever. And if you were there the first time around, you’ll weep. As for the Tedeschi Trucks Band keeping the sound alive, you’ll be thrilled, but you’ll also notice they inhabit their own world, which doesn’t really cross with the mainstream.
Then again, what does.
And what is mainstream.
You watch this new movie and you get depressed, but you also gain hope. You see it can still be done. You just have to take the road less traveled. You’ve got to pick up an instrument, practice really long damn and hard, build a band and then…
Building a band and keeping it together is nearly impossible. But a sole performer is inherently something different.
As for songs?
I’ve yet to hear new classics, but there are tons of old numbers just waiting to be redone, even reworked a la Joe Cocker.
And I could say you can only do it with a little help from your friends, a summing note equivalent to the summing up scene in this movie, but I don’t want to leave you with a cheap shot.
But I think of the words of “Space Captain.”
We’re never gonna learn to live together. But as big as the generation gap was fifty-odd years ago, the truth is all the youth were on the same page. They drank, smoked dope and listened to music.
It was the music that kept us together. It was our reference point. It’s what we talk about in our old age. What the songs meant to us, where we first heard them, the shows we attended. Ultimately, the music is bigger than the players, which is the way it should be. Ultimately no one owns the sound, the inspiration…then again, we can say all of us own it!
“I lost my memory of where I’ve been
We all forgot that we could fly”
But “Learning to Live Together” will remind you. And you’ll realize you’ll be caught up in the music until you die. You can try to deny it, but if you’re a boomer, everybody was in, everybody knew the music, everybody went to the show, everybody had to get closer.
And it was clear the stars were on stage.
And the truth is they were just regular people.
But not to us. To us they were untouchable stars.
You’ll remember that watching this movie. You’ll ponder your own life path. And then you’ll just crank up the music and feel good once again. The music brought us together, and it still can. Because we’re all just birds on a wire, trying in our own way to be free, and the music helps get us there. It inspires us, it sets our minds adrift, we remember what once was and still can be. And there’s nothing more powerful than that.
Responses from Bob’s readers. These comments are posted unedited.
Dear Bob, thank you for the article on Leon. It warmed my heart. As you know I adored his style of playing, singing and songwriting. He was a one off and treated me with incredible kindness when I came to America. He took me on tour with him and I was able to watch the maestro every evening. What a beautiful experience it was!
So glad that other musicians are playing homage to him.Great musicians and singers.
To be honest you have to be good to play his stuff. Derek Trucks is a beautiful man and an incredible guitarist as you so rightly point out. In fact DT plays on one of my upcoming album tracks. Tedeschi Trucks keep soulful music alive amongst many others.
Their tribute to “Layla” being a recent example. This is the music that inspired me and thousands of other musicians/singers. Joe Cocker was an extraordinary singer and performer. The rendition of “The Letter” has been shown many times to new artists that I encounter. They always make me play it again. Also the backing vocalists are sublime. Ditto Bobby Keys. Going to shows like “Mad Dogs” made you feel superhuman after you left. Your whole being became joyful and full of love.
When I did “The Union” with Leon, I took HIM on tour and we played big arenas the likes of which he had not played for many years. When he came on stage at every concert he got a standing ovation. During the barren years he had lost his self worth as an artist.
I was SO happy to give him his belief back. The album came in at number 4. He got into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The Songwriters Hall Of Fame. His star was shining again. Alas his health had long deteriorated long before we started the album. He was unable to take advantage of his resurrection, so to speak. But, he got his self respect back which was all I ever wanted.
By writing about him you help keep the magic alive. Thank you so for doing that.
He was a true musical genius. And, I still think about him, talk about him and play his music on my radio shows.
I send buckets of love to you Bob.
Hey Bob, Mad Dogs! The Best. I grew up with that record, found the movie on DVD a decade ago. It is the most compelling music ever and the movie? I couldn’t stop watching it. Being a young musician in LA at the time those people were heroes of mine. Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Leon, Russell, Rita Coolidge, I mean with Carl Radle on bass and Chris Stainton on keyboards? A few friends of mine knew Don Preston. Did you know they took the band into A&M studio after rehearsals before they hit the road? Henry Lewy recorded it. I know a big time engineer/producer that was the second engineer, he’s got a 1/4 of the roughs. He even said that night was the best music he has ever heard. I keep telling him to dig the tape out of his closet!
I remember seeing this movie with my brother and some friends in the early 70’s when it came out. I was in 10th or 11th grade. I thought it was one of the best rock documentaries ever. Became big fans of Cocker and Russell after this. And since seeing it I never found another person who saw it.
Over the years I’ve had people talk to me about “rockumentaries” that we each had seen and when I mentioned this movie I just got blank stares. So much so that I began to wonder did I dream that? Was I just confusing it with something else? Over the last 15 years I have searched the internet for a copy of the movie all to no avail. Guess I never looked in the right place. A couple of years ago I found a DVD copy of the movie on eBay and bought it immediately. Alas, I wasn’t crazy.
This music was fantastic. I remember you saying you actually saw this show live and I was so jealous. I actually met Rita Coolidge in 2017 when she came to see the band I was in play a couple of shows. I really wanted to ask her about this tour but I thought of your constant advice about when you meet a star don’t talk about their work so I didn’t. She did say she loved the stuff we had written and we should absolutely record it, so what more did I need in my musical life. Frickin’ Rita Coolidge liked it and saw us more than once!
So I got that going for me.
Loved, loved, loved this piece and will definitely check out the documentary. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
Member of the now-retired Sarah Mac Band
Cool man! Glad you liked it. I played bass in tedeschi trucks in that show. Was one of the best shows I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been part of a few. Was super powerful to be around those people and yes, sue and derek and chris Robinson are genuine stars.
I was lucky enough to be working at A@M records when the employees were invited to participate as audience members for the filming of the original video of Mad Dogs and Englishmen in Hollywood.
One of my fondest memories.
It was a joy to work for Herb and Jerry during those glory days on the lot at Sunset and La Brea!
Lin in Honolulu
I was there at ten years old!
Between them and Sly Stone I thought all bands were about community, then later I joined one.
What a lesson I am still smarting from.
This Diamond Ring was my first 45 and this one was where it all began for me.
So – the link is that Leon Russell did the arrangement for the song and, of course, Al Kooper who you just highlighted last week, shared writing credits as part of The Brill Building stable.
My earliest LPs included the 2nd “Joe Cocker” LP and not long after, Leon Russell’s first. Saw MD&E at the Fillmore East and the album was a had-to-have as soon as it was released. The earliest incarnations of the jacket had a semi-floppy fold-up half. The entire cover was made from some unusual material, not quite cardboard but something glossy and thinner than a standard LP jacket.
And without Carl Radle’s Oklahoma connection with Leon Russell, he’d have never been a Domino.
Leon Russell followed up the MD&E tour with a PBS special – The Homewood Session (recorded, or broadcast, the same night I saw the next to last Derek & The Dominoes US tour show at the Portchester Theater). An eye-opening peek at the creative Russell with entourage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bwMqliLXZQ
That was the shit. Went to see Mad Dogs & Englishmen in a theater in Hollywood on acid, came out at midnight and went downtown for one of my first tattoos. That music sounds better today than the day they made it and while we are on the topic, it was pretty much the same time frame as the first “Delaney & Bonnie” album was popular and to me those two recordings were THE best of the era and of course those musicians often mixed and matched. Jesus our generation brought it like a mother fu**er. Gerry McGee’s guitar on the Delany and Bonnie thing was hipper than anything old no mask Eric ever did once they got famous enough to be self destructive.
Larry Brown (guitar)
I went to Franklin & Marshall College (Class of ‘71). Back in the late 60’, early 70’s, we had more major concerts per month than any college in the East Coast . Why? Because every major act that played Philly either Friday or Saturday would be offered to play Lancaster on the other night. Bill Honey was the Philly promoter who came up with the arrangement. Who else had Simon & Garfunkel in the afternoon and James Brown at night on the same day? I was on the F&M Student Union Board that booked the shows. Bill offered us The Grease Band ( Joe’s 6 piece band) for $7,500. A good draw as Joe was getting great FM play from his solo albums. But what showed up at Lancaster Airport when I drove out to pick up Joe, was an old 1940’s Constellation plane that spilled out with over 40 musicians, singers and “ friends.” Sure Leon ran the music, but no one was there to see him. It was Joe’s show, 100%. They must have been losing many thousands of 1970 Dollars per day. Jerry Moss was underwriting it as the double album was selling millions. Years later, when Joe had a resurgence on Capital Records, we saw each other in a NYC club, and reminisced about the insanity of it all.
I saw mad Dogs and Englishmen at Winterland in San Francisco. My girlfriend liked Joe Cocker and we had previously seen him with the Grease Band at Fillmore West.
I can still picture them onstage with Leon playing guitar standing on top of the piano and me with my mouth hanging open going WTF is that! I could not take my eyes off Leon the whole night.
I went to see him on tour with his own band as well. I later found out about his history as a studio musician in Los Angeles and his being part of the Wrecking Crew.
I think Carney is my favorite album of Leon’s.
Bob, love the newsletter. But I’m an old friend of Jim Horn and I’m pretty sure I would’ve heard if he had died. In fact, Steve Cropper and I were talking about Jim just the other day and in the present tense (as in still circling the drain). If you know otherwise hit me back. But I’m pretty sure you got this wrong.
Leon and Shelter actually set up in Tulsa and their studio, The Church Studio, still stands today. After Leon, it was sold to Steve Ripley of The Tractors and then it passed through a few more hands in the late 00s before being purchased by the new owner, Teresa Knox. She and her husband are in the middle of restoring it into a functioning studio, along with adding an addition that will include a museum and event space. If you ever do make it to Oklahoma, make sure to stop in Tulsa. Get a tour of the studio and get a taste of our musical history. Like Leon was the in-demand studio musician that everyone in the know knew about but only had a flicker of mainstream success, Tulsa gets overlooked, but I’ve lost count of the number of touring musicians I’ve heard proclaim their affinity for this city after playing for a Tulsa crowd (or even better, in a legendary room like Cain’s Ballroom).
Leon had 3 studios in Oklahoma. One in his house in Tulsa. One at his lake house on Grand Lake. His main studio was in a converted Church in Tulsa. It sounded amazing. Dwight also had an unknown bass player play with him, Tom Petty. Leon signed two other locals, JJ Cale and the GAP band. GAP is short for Greenwood Archer and Pine. It was the location of the Black Wall Street and Tulsa’s race mass murder. Leon never had a studio in OKC….that I know of.
Steve Ripley of Tractors and Bob Dylan fame purchased the Church when he moved back to Tulsa from California. I will send you Steve’s radio show he did for the the Oklahoma Historical Society about Oklahoma music. It focused on Rock and Red Dirt.
Hope you are well.
P.S. Here is a video of Dwight with Tom Petty playing bass.
The Shelter Records studio in Oklahoma was The Church Studio in TULSA (https://thechurchstudio.com/)! Please come visit Tulsa in late 2022 or 2023, check out the Woody Guthrie Center (https://woodyguthriecenter.org/) and the soon to open Bob Dylan Center (https://www.bobdylancenter.com/) and the Oklahoma Museum of Pop Culture (https://www.okpop.org/).
You can learn more about all those great Okie musicians you mentioned including some of the all-time great drummers (Chuck Blackwell in Mad Dogs and the LOCKN reunion, Jamie Oldaker, David Teegarden (https://teegardenstudios.com/), Jimmy Karstein and the amazing Jim Keltner), as well as J.J, Cale, The Gap Band, David Gates, Jesse Ed Davis and more.
You can take in a show at the historic Cain’s Ballroom (https://www.cainsballroom.com/) and if you time it right, you can sit in on one of my Oklahoma Music History classes.
Twilley is still around, plus great art deco history, Greenwood/Black Wall Street (https://www.greenwoodrising.org/), and The Gathering Place (https://www.gatheringplace.org/). I’ll even treat you to a show at the Hard Rock.
Hard rock Tulsa
I don’t usually have much to say about music as I got out of DJing and went into news radio where I stayed employed for 34 years in Los Angeles. But before KNX & KFWB I was a construction worker in Tulsa and did a small bit of carpentry on the Church Studio that Leon built in 1972. It’s not in Oklahoma City. Although I never met Leon the club scene at that time was a blast. Freddie King , El Roacho ,Gary Montgomery & Gary Busey. My construction worker buddy the late Buzz Clifford,himself a musician, knew all of them. Buzz went on to be a fabulous blues man but never made the charts again like he did with “Babysittin’Boogie” They are restoring the Church Studio . You can read about it here:
I did say hello to Joe Cocker at the Byrds reunion show in Ventura.
We promoted Leon‘s last show with mad dogs at the swing auditorium in San Bernardino. I stood on the stage with my wife and my dog and watched how Leon ran the whole band. And an evening I’ll never forget turned into the honor of currently representing the estate.
I think the movie is great and I am sure it will make the kind of impact that will help reawaken interest in Leon’s music. We have many hours of unreleased material and what You realize is if it was happening, Leon was there, and his songs stand the test of time. You will be hearing a lot more Leon in the years to come.
Hi Bob. Thank you for taking the time to watch and wax at length on my film Learning To Live Together: The Return of Mad Dogs & Englishmen. I’m honored by your reaction and touched that you connected so profoundly to it. I know a lot of that has to do with your fundamental relationship to this music- you actually got to experience the original Mad Dogs tour (at the Capitol Theatre no less, which makes a cameo in the film)! Not a lot of people can say that… You’re in a special class, along with Jon Landau, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan…
But I think ultimately what your letter hits upon is the very reason Tedeschi Trucks needed to organize the only-ever reunion of the Mad Dogs (and why I needed to make a film about it… and I certainly was not alive when the original took place)- the music of Mad Dogs & Englishmen is some of the most sacred in the history of rock’n’roll. You say it yourself, “You’ll ponder your own life path.” “The music is bigger than the players.” Amen, amen…
There was a piece I left out of the film, where Leon tells me a few hours before showtime that he hoped the audience that night would receive “the holy ghost.” That they did (I’ve heard the trope “greatest concert I’ve ever been to” from many in reference to the reunion concert), and I’m fairly confident that “spirit” is captured in the film. You certainly hear it in the performances (I’ve watched/heard these edits/mixes hundreds, if not thousands, of times over and I’m still not tired of it). As much as I still mourn his loss, I really wasn’t surprised that Leon passed so soon after the reunion. The Master of Space & Time himself needed to have this one last communion with this all-powerful music he dreamt up, this time with Derek at the helm. Sure the spirit has moved on to Susan, Derek, Chris Robinson (“superstars” in their own rite), but my hope is that some teenage singer or college-band sees my film and the spirit of Joe and Leon and Tedeschi Trucks passes on to them (like when the lead singer of my college band played me Mad Dogs for the first time), and they go on to create inspired music or art that has some impact on someone, not matter how big or small. Mission accomplished if that happens, because that’s what it’s all about…
As you note, it was a long-time coming for us- six years in the making actually (with a couple pauses and a pandemic thrown in), but I couldn’t be more thrilled that the film will finally see the light of day. Major gratitude to Wayne Forte, Blake Budney, Derek and Susan for their tireless support and efforts, and the countless others who invested creative energy, finances or simply opened doors, made connections etc. It was a herculean task to get this film cleared (simply look at the Mad Dogs repertoire), but we got it done, and now the greater public can enjoy it soon, like you have.
Thanks again for watching and I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention we have our world premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival this Thursday September 30, will be in theatres nationwide later in October (you can follow @maddogsdoc on any social platform for updates), and will make our international premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London on Halloween! We hope that reactions like yours will get it on a streaming platform in the near future, and that the film doesn’t suffer the same fate as the original Mad Dogs documentary, which I own on LaserDisc…
Director/Producer, Learning To Live Together: The Return of the Mad Dogs & Englishmen