To The Nether Lands and Beyond
In RATW's studios for a recent radio special, Dan Fogelberg reminisced about his Illinois roots, his relationship with The Eagles and talked about his now new musical directions - beyond the Nether Lands
What influences show up on the new album?
DF: The childhood influences, more than the adolescence influences, I think show in this album. I had a classical upbringing which my parents gave me. They didn't force it on me, but they surrounded me with it. They were both musicians. My mother was an opera singer, not professional by any means, and my dad was a very good musician and still is. He played in jazz bands all through the twenties and thirties and then conducted an Army band during the war and eventually ended up being the music director at a high school in Illinois where he just retired from last year. So I was constantly exposed to good music. This was before Elvis came out. Then I remember vividly in kindergarten when I heard "Hound Dog." It just tore me apart, you know? And I remember taking "Hound Dog", the 45, to my kindergarten class, and they let me play it. Ah, man, I don't know how, it made my leg move and my pelvis twitch, you know? I can't describe it. It was rock 'n' roll. It was the first real dose of animalistic rock 'n' roll I'd ever heard. I mean at kindergarten when I'm five years old I obviously wasn't into hearing Chuck Berry. I just wasn't exposed to it. But "Hound Dog", there was no way you couldn't hear it. It was such a media blitz, you know? So that just woke me up to it. I got into Elvis for awhile. It didn't last very long and didn't really pay much attention to music really after piano lessons, which I took and hated and quit 'cause I wanted to play baseball. And by the time we got to seventh grade, The Beatles happened and that just opened it up for me, you know? That's just what I wanted to do. A lot of people said the same I'm sure. And my grandfather gave me a guitar, which was one of those old Hawaiian lap guitars that had painted scenes on it. I didn't know that you were supposed to play it with a slide, right? And the action's like an inch off the neck, so that's how I learned how to chord. That's why I have a very strong left hand. I honestly didn't know. No calluses, you know? Blood, man, every day. But I just got fascinated by the guitar. I took to it very easily. It was no problem. I got my Mel Bay chord book out and soon I was playing songs. And I started playing in bands in seventh grade. My first gig was when I was in seventh grade for the eighth grade graduation. And we had one amp with two guitars, a bass and two microphones running through it.
What was the name of the band?
DF: Do I have to?
DF: The Clan. It was called The Clan because our drummer and me were Scotch. So we decided to call it The Clan. We had little tartan things in the drum -- banners hanging around and stuff. We played exclusively The Beatles music and did it real well. At least for our age, boy, we were singing our asses off, you know, doing all the harmony parts and guitar parts just like the records, pretty close. So anyway, we got to that and through a lot of dubious circumstances that band broke up, and I found myself invited to play with the big band in Peoria, the one that was really working a lot and everybody knew and worked just about everything, which was called The Coachmen. I joined them as lead singer, quit playing guitar 'cause I was sick of it and why I don't know, and changed the band's image 'cause at that point they were all wearing Paul Revere and the Raiders outfits. So I got them into wearing blue jeans and turtlenecks and things, you know, just get a little funkier on stage, and a new drummer and changed the name of the band to The New Coachmen and thought that was incredibly clever. So we were making probably two hundred fifty bucks a piece on weekends in high school and there was no overhead living at my folk's house, you know, still doing that. And that got to be a drag after awhile because I was awakening up to my intellectual process as it were and I was getting into folk music, especially Gordon Lightfoot. I love Lightfoot's early work, I mean that was a very heavy influence on me. So anyway, I was waking up and I was getting into being, quote, "the mystic on the hill" introvert, and I was into drawing and painting very heavily then, and got out of rock 'n' roll because it was just too much of a hassle, you know? There was a lot of personality conflicts and I was enjoying being the fool on the hill and doing a lot of painting and drawing as I said, and music. It was folk music now. I got myself a 12-string, and learned Lightfoot songs and a lot of other things and drugs. Drugs played a big part at that time. I started smoking dope and waking up to things and although I don't now, at that time it was a very valid thing, you know, really turned my head around and showed me a whole new perspective which was terrific. Because in Peoria you're looking for any perspective you can find, you know? I mean in Peoria you either end up working a caterpillar at Hiram-Walker, you know? Or Pabst Blue Ribbon. That's all there is, you know? You're either chasing your beer with whiskey or chasing your whiskey with beer in Peoria. That's about it. And making tractors all day. A lot of my friends from high school are still doing that. They got trapped into it, you know? You either get out of there or that's what you do. It's like a space shot in Peoria. You get your one chance. You get your opening in the sky. Like a sky window. You hit it then or you don't and it closes forever. So I got out of there and went to Champaign, which is the University of Illinois. And I was into being this lofty intellectual and artist and studying painting which was very enjoyable and I still do a lot of. But at the same time my music was developing. I was writing a whole lot of original material and getting very good feedback from the campus. And I became somewhat of a local celebrity I suppose on the University of Illinois campus. Finally it became good enough that I knew I could make a living doing music. But I wasn't about to get into this trip, to get into the professional music trip again until I knew I was good enough and I wouldn't have to come out here and beat my brains for years. So it got to a point where I knew my music was ready to be heard by record companies, etc. So after a few aborted trips with Columbia on the east coast, I came to the west coast after meeting Irving who heard me in Champaign (Irving Azoff, my manager). And it was a perfect combination. He loved what I did, and I loved what he did. And we both needed each other, essentially. So we came out and I got a record deal and he started working and working his way up and finally founded Frontline Management . . . The Eagles and Walsh and Boz and Minnie Ripperton and myself where we are today.
What about your association with The Eagles?
DF: I've known The Eagles for a long, long time. As a matter of fact, we were putting our trips together on Lookout Mountain Avenue in Laurel Canyon in '71 and didn't know each other - - lived about two blocks apart. Don and Glen were putting together their first album and I was in the process of doing mine. We finally met in Nashville when I was making Home Free. And I was in the hotel room at the Holiday Inn for months on end and The Eagles came in and it was their first tour. They were opening for Procol Harem. We went next door and they said, "Hi, man, we're The Eagles from Los Angeles", which they're still saying. And I remember meeting Bernie and Glenn and Don, I think. They were in there and they were out of marijuana. So I gave them a lid and we were fast friends ever since . . . a little Tennessee green, you know? It was really funny. And then we got to be very good friends because eventually Irving started managing them and Joe Walsh came into the scene. And Joe and I were working in the studio at the same time that The Eagles were working on On The Border. And I went out and opened for them for about two years, you know? I used to do a lot of hits for The Eagles, opening, which were really fun. It took all the pressure off and it was nice being out with friends and not having to be in a cloistered situation where the band is there and the opening act is here. We were all the same band as far as we were concerned really. And they would go out of their way to help me.
Were you looking for a new approach on the album?
DF: I took a lot of risks on the new album, I think. and from the people I've talked to, I think they basically agreed with it. I didn't go too far off the wall 'cause I don't want to shock people and I don't want to throw too many new things at them at once. There was enough comfortable, familiar music in the styles of Souvenirs and Captured Angel to satisfy those people, but there was also some real radical departures to indicate where I want to go because that's where I'm going. I'm going more to a classical space. I'm very interested in Brazilian music and bossa nova which "You Give Me Some Time" illustrates, I think, rather well.
How long did it take you to write this album?
DF: Well, some of the songs are pretty old. "False Faces" I've had since about '75. I wrote that in Nashville. Let me see the album. I don't remember what's on it, you know? "Nether Lands" and "Once Upon A Time" and "Dancing Shoes" and "Loose Ends" -- I mean, I had a big burst this summer. I'd had like a year and a half drought where I hadn't been able to write and I was getting very freaked because of it. And it was just really, I think, the fact that I was working so hard on the road and was trying so hard to stabilize my position in the recording industry, okay? I mean Souvenirs hit real good and I had to prove it again with Captured Angel and I also had to prove I could produce with that one. And it succeeded but I had so much on my hands that I didn't have any time to live and that is essential for my writing. I've got to have time where I live somewhere normally at home experiencing normal things that I can write about. I mean, I don't want to write about being on the road. I hate that. I think there are more important things to say than 'I am on the road and I hate it', you know? This is not much of a valid statement. So I got home last year I guess in May, end of May; I quit touring, and I just said to Irving, "No more. That's it. And I'm going to take as long as I need off. I've got money in the bank. We're in a good place but I've got to write. Now I've got to do something with myself. I've got to find out where I can take this to." Because I had just about exhausted the limits of country rock. I was getting very bored with it. And I was getting more and more into classical music and classical influence, which again goes back to when I was a child. It started emerging again and my interest it that. And Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66, who I was a fanatic over in the sixties -- I started listening to their albums again. And they are so valid even today, man. They have such great records. So, anyway, I came home, and I was terribly frustrated for about three months. I would just sit up every night and try to write and could get nothing done. And I was going crazy. And literally out of that craziness, that borderline insanity, "Loose Ends" happened all in one night -- boom, you know? I wrote from that place, it happened. It was a risk not only musically, but a risk emotionally to do that, but I went with it. And it was such a cathartic night. After that, within two weeks I had written also a whole album.
What are you feeling about the title track, "Nether Lands"?
DF: The song, "Nether Lands", I think was one of the most adventurous things I've ever written. I couldn't find anyplace else on the album to put it. There's just no other place for that to go. I couldn't lose it on a side. It's too important a song. So the only place to do is to lead it off. It also sets up the major crux of the album philosophically which is the two forks of existence, acceptance or denial. It comes down, that's the only choice we have when you think about it. Any other choice we have is contingent on the basic: either accept the life you're given or deny it and commit suicide. It's either one. You've got to make that decision every day.
So you see new directions for yourself far into the future?
DF: It's nice to work so long on this and go so many directions with it and find that the people really accept it. That's great. The Eagles did the same thing. They were scared about Hotel California. Don't let them tell you different. Henry and I talked a year ago before I started making Nether Lands and before they started making Hotel California. We had dinner one night. And we just said, "Well, we both gotta change. We've done this. We've succeeded. The Eagles got to get another image. They've got to get back to their 'Desperado' image, their more intellectual treatise type thing." And I had to do the same. I had to go a different direction musically more than philosophically. They were getting too in a rut, you know? And they were getting not a bad reputation, but their reputation wasn't as valid as it used to be because they had so many great hit singles. But they were great hit singles. It wasn't just because they were an AM act. The songs that they had on the radio were dynamite songs. Face it, they're two of the best writers who have ever existed, as far as I'm concerned, in rock 'n' roll. And they knew what they were doing all the way with Hotel California from the beginning. They knew exactly what they had to do. And so did I with Nether Lands. And I think we both pulled it off. Henry and I were chuckling about that the other night, you know, 'cause we were thinking about that dinner. And we did it. We pulled it off.