Off the Record Specials: Westwood One Radio: Mary Turner Interview
Interview with Mary Turner
Broadcast on Westwood One Radio, 1990
Steve Winwood: It was a line from a song, which was a, uh - we actually wrote, part of the verse was actually a haiku, which is a Japanese form in a, a poetic form, and it was, "On the street, the refugees from a war that was lost in the heart." I think it just seemed to sum up a lot of the feeling of the album for us, you know? It just kind of - Refugees of the Heart, I mean, the whole haiku was obviously too much to use as the title, so we just condensed it to Refugees of the Heart. We just like it!
Mary Turner: Don't be misled by the title, he's still in the high life and rolling with any changes that come along. He may be the happiest guy in Nashville. You didn't know he lived in the South? You'll hear all about it, and his new album. I'm Mary Turner and for the next hour I'll be talking to Steve Winwood, Off the Record.
(They play "The Finer Things")
MT: You've been in the business for 26 years, your life story takes up 3 pages in rock history books, you have an attic filled with gold and platinum records; so what do you do as your 6th solo album? Anything you want.
SW: I didn't care to prove much about whether it conformed, probably, on this album. I think I cared less about that. In other words, I didn't really care what anybody thought of it, you know. I did an album that I like. You know, well, I always do anyway, but I didn't make any concession towards "this is too long" or "that instrument or passages are too long" and if the song ended up being 10 minutes long, then, I didn't care, it was 10 minutes long, I mean, I just put a 10 minute cut on there, because that's what I felt was best.
(They play "You'll Keep On Searching")
SW: I don't understand, I don't know quite what this album represents, because sometimes it takes me a while to understand what it is that we've done. I mean, um, certainly 'Keep on Searching' was a song that grew as we were recording it; it was, as a song it was a good song, but then as we cut it, somehow the musicians that played on it, Randall Bramblett played sax, Michael Rhodes the bass, Bashiri Johnson percussion, Russ Kunkel and Anthony Crawford, I mean, they all added a certain something which, like it increased a mysterious element about it, especially the opening which is not so far away from Traffic either. Very Traffic-y, kind of.
(They play "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys")
SW: I'm always learning by things I hear, and I never, y'know, know all I can know, so the more I know, the more I know I don't know.
SW: I always wanted to play the saxophone because my dad was a saxophone player. But he always told me that I had to play the clarinet before I could play it. But it is good, theoretically that's right, because if you can play the clarinet then the saxophone comes easy but I could never handle the clarinet. I have trouble with trying to play bowed instruments too, they make the most awful row, bowed instruments, and y'know, wind instruments and that type of the thing. I can knock a tune out of a few things, but I mean that's not exactly playing 'em! I was interested in blues, when I was like 12, 13, and still at school. Actually with a couple of friends of mine that were at school then, we used to go to each other's houses and listen to records and blues, and jazz too. Well, actually, I can't remember when, y'know, I actually got interested in - I was kind of interested in jazz first, because I had an older brother and he was interested in jazz. I had - I still have an older brother, he ... But, um, yeah, he's interested in jazz and so, I mean, I was also interested in rock n roll, like Elvis and Buddy Holly as well, but then when I heard, started to hear more blues, then I got very interested in that.
(They play "Roll With It")
SW: We didn't have a record player when we grew up, we had a tape recorder that - I had, I have an uncle that used to make tape recorders in the 50's, he used to build tape recorders, and he used to build all kinds of things like that. Yeah, he made it, and then he gave - he made this one and then he wanted to make another one, make another one a bit better, so he gave us this one and we used to, we always used to mess around and, uh, multi-track as well. I started multi-tracking, this was in the kind of early 50's, we were messing around with the tape machines, playing something and playing something over it, y'know. And we used to tape off the radio, that's how I used to - (MT giggles, and SW sounds amused) highly illegal, I know. BBC, yes, off BBC, Radio Luxembourg, and uh, Voice of America, we used to tape, yeah, lots of stuff.
(They play "While You See a Chance")
MT: Is it true that they told you at the music school that you weren't good enough to play piano because your fingers were getting hard from playing stringed instruments?
SW (interrupting enthusiastically): Oh, yeah! That's right, yeah, they also told me I didn't sit properly at the piano, and I, I mean, I soon realized in fact, I mean, I wasn't going to be a concert pianist and then of course, as soon as I found out I wasn't going to be one, I didn't WANT to be one. (laughs) "Well, if I can't be one, I don't WANT to be one." (laughs) But, uh, I dunno, I mean, they were quite straightforward and that's - for that, I'm very thankful, to have known that fairly early on, it allowed me to, y'know, concentrate on other things.