Transcript: Transcript Rock Rhythms to Congress: Orleans’ John Hall – the journey


(0:13) Welcome to A Breath of French Air with Sandy Kaye. (0:35) Hi and thanks so much for joining me today. (0:39) Have I ever told you how much I love what I do? (0:42) Of course, at various times through my life, I’ve done lots of different things, but (0:46) in terms of putting this show together, I really enjoy tracking down and chatting to (0:51) artists about their musical journey.

(0:54) I learn so much as I go, and sometimes when a request comes in for a person I haven’t (0:59) heard of before, then I really love discovering somebody new. (1:04) Such is the case with my next guest, who comes to us today courtesy of our listener Mark (1:09) from Warwick in New York. (1:12) Mark wanted us to meet John Hall, whom you might remember as a singer, songwriter and (1:17) guitarist with the band Orleans, that had several hits, including this one.

(1:22) Dance with me, I want to be a partner, can’t you see? (1:30) The music is just starting, night is calling, and I am falling, dance with me. (1:42) Fantasy, could never be so killing, I feel free, I hope that you are willing. (1:51) Pick the beat up, and pick your beat up, dance with me.

(2:01) Let it lift you off the ground, starry eyes, and love is all around us. (2:11) I can take you where you want to go, oh. (2:21) John Hall penned that song and many other hits with his wife Johanna.

(2:25) They’ve written for Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor, just to name a few. (2:31) John’s played guitar on tours and records for Little Feet, Taj Mahal, Jackson Brown (2:37) and Seals and Crofts. (2:39) He’s a musician, songwriter, politician, environmentalist and community activist.

(2:45) He was also the U.S. Representative for New York’s 19th Congressional District, (2:50) serving from 2007 to 2011. (2:53) Today he continues to perform with Orleans, and if you think he might have an interesting (2:58) story to tell, you’re absolutely right. (3:04) There was a time before you, (3:12) nights were so restless and blue.

(3:21) But that seems like a lifetime ago, (3:26) without a doubt you and I should know that (3:30) now more than ever we’ve got to come together, (3:35) hearts and hands entwined. (3:40) We’ll soon discover we need each other, (3:44) the weather is stormy times, now more than ever. (3:56) John Hall has recently released his sixth solo album called Reclaiming My Time.

(4:01) It’s a very personal album that sits in with the 18 albums he recorded with Orleans. (4:08) The title is a phrase used in Congress after someone has been interrupted. (4:13) It’s also an allusion to the music he might have written and played (4:17) during his 10 years in elective office.

(4:20) John Hall, welcome to A Breath of Fresh Air, how lovely to meet you. (4:24) Thank you, Sandy, nice to meet you too. (4:27) Where do we find you? (4:28) You find me in my office, in my house in Nashville, Tennessee.

(4:34) Well you have been living the most extraordinary life, John Hall, (4:38) and I’m sure lots of our listeners are going to want to hear all about it. (4:41) So if it’s okay with you, can we wind back to a time where it all started for you (4:47) and your music career got underway? (4:49) Because you’ve had several changes of careers along the way too, haven’t you? (4:53) I have, yeah. I like going on tangents.

(4:56) I’ve always been one who would play music, write music, (5:00) and then get really into sailing or race windsurfers. (5:04) I’m in the United States Congress, but I went back to playing music again. (5:08) Right now my career is trying to straighten up my room.

(5:12) Instead of lunch at this house, we just moved into a new house. (5:15) So to describe you as versatile, I guess, would be a little bit of an understatement. (5:20) Well, I like to think so, but I’ve never been able to play saxophone, (5:24) which I would love to play.

(5:26) I’m no good at reed instruments or anything with a bow. (5:30) I think it’s amazing that we all want something that we haven’t got. (5:34) No matter how good you are at so many different things, (5:37) you still hanker after the ones that are elusive.

(5:40) It’s like girls who have straight hair want curly hair, (5:42) and girls who have curly hair want straight hair. (5:45) I guess that’s just human nature, isn’t it? (5:47) What I know about you, John Hall, (5:49) was that you started studying piano at age five, (5:52) playing the French horn, the guitar, the bass and drums by age 12. (5:57) And by the age of 18, you were playing in the clubs of Georgetown and Greenwich Village.

(6:02) So you were right out there at a very tender age. (6:06) And remarkably, by 21, you had written and directed music for a Broadway and Off-Broadway play. (6:12) And that play actually received a Village Voices Obie Award in 1969.

(6:19) Wow! (6:19) Yeah, I was just going through these boxes I’m unpacking from the move. (6:23) I’m reading a memorial edition of a newspaper about Woodstock, (6:28) the original 1969 Woodstock. (6:31) And that’s the year that those plays were.

(6:34) I didn’t make it to Woodstock. (6:36) My wife at the time, Johanna, who wrote a number of songs with me, (6:41) our best-known songs, actually, (6:43) had a ride to Woodstock with Harvey Brooks, (6:46) who was the bass player for the Electric Flag, (6:49) who was performing there. (6:51) But Harvey’s Volkswagen bus with the Paisleys on it broke down, (6:57) so he had to get a ride with somebody else.

(6:59) Oh, you must have been so upset. (7:02) At first, we were kind of upset. (7:05) And then we were, man, thank God, because it’s all mud, (7:08) and there’s a traffic jam for miles.

(7:11) And then, like, when we heard more about it, like, a couple of weeks later, (7:15) a month later, a year later, (7:17) we were saying, oh, darn, I wish we’d have been there. (7:20) So the grass was always greener. (7:22) Well, I came upon a child of God (7:27) He was walking along the road (7:30) And I asked him, tell me, where are you going? (7:35) Yes, he told me (7:39) Said, I’m going down to Leicester Square (7:44) Gonna join in a rock and roll band (7:47) Got to get back to the land (7:51) Said, my soul (7:55) We are scattered, we are grounded (8:00) We are few, few and common (8:03) And we’ve got to get ourselves (8:08) Back to the garden (8:11) Garden (8:14) Your parents obviously encouraged you to study music from a very early age, (8:18) and you took to it happily? (8:20) They tried to discourage me from doing it as a career (8:23) when I told them I was going to drop out of college and be a guitar player for a living.

(8:28) They worried about it, like all parents do. (8:30) You know, I understand. (8:31) They were just worried that I was not going to make it in this world.

(8:34) And when young people ask me if they should go into music for a career, (8:39) or if they should drop out and play music, whatever, (8:42) I say, if you have to ask me, don’t do it. (8:45) If you’re driven to do it, (8:47) and it’s the only thing you want to do, go do it. (8:49) And that’s what I was.

(8:50) You were driven. (8:52) What was that drive? (8:54) How much of that drive was interwoven with the times that you were experiencing around you? (9:01) A lot. (9:02) And it was also interwoven with my evolving personality.

(9:06) I started playing before the Beatles came out, (9:08) but it was really after they first hit the States, (9:11) and the records were all in the top five. (9:13) A lot of musicians, I saw them on Ed Sullivan, (9:17) and went, that’s what I want to do. (9:19) Because they’re writing their own songs, (9:21) not just playing them and singing them.

(9:22) And it wasn’t like a Tin Pan Alley thing, (9:26) where somebody cranks out songs for you, (9:28) and you just sing them. (9:29) It was also like, the girls are interested if you have a guitar. (9:33) I’ve heard that said before.

(9:36) Identity, in a different way. (9:38) It’s complicated, but I didn’t analyze it at the time. (9:42) I just knew I wanted to do it.

(9:44) And you did it very successfully. (9:46) So what was your first move? (9:47) You’d written that Broadway play, (9:50) and simultaneously you were playing in New York, all over the place. (9:54) You started to have a bit of an affiliation with a group called British Walkers, didn’t you? (10:13) Shake, people make going around.

(10:16) Shake, I tell you what I’m putting down. (10:19) Shake, move your body all around. (10:23) Shake, early in the morning.

(10:26) Shake, early in the evening. (10:29) Shake, don’t ever leave me. (10:32) Shake.

(10:34) That was in Washington, D.C., in Georgetown, (10:38) and in that band for maybe a year. (10:40) And I played in a couple of bands in D.C. before that. (10:44) And it was an interesting melting pot.

(10:46) I think Emmylou Harris, who had been playing at the Silver Dollar on M Street in Georgetown, (10:51) she hit the big time, gone somewhere else, (10:55) and was starting to get really well known. (10:57) Roy Buchanan was playing down the street. (10:59) I got to sit in with him once, and I said, (11:02) what instrument don’t you play? (11:04) And he said, I don’t play drums.

(11:06) I said, in that case, I’m sitting in on drums. (11:09) He was an intimidating musician. (11:38) Nils Woffin was playing in Georgetown.

(11:41) It was a locally fertile scene, (11:43) but when I went to New York, it was much more of a fertile time in Greenwich Village. (11:47) And then I wound up alternating shows with a band called the Castillos, (11:51) with Bruce Springsteen as their leader. (11:54) And at the same time, Love and Springful had been playing around the corner.

(11:58) They just hit it big with Do You Believe in Magic, (12:01) and they went on the road doing a real tour. (12:17) Do You Believe in Magic? (12:49) The band that replaced them was The Flying Machine, (12:52) with James Taylor leading and playing rhythm guitar (12:56) and standing there, and Danny Korshbar playing lead guitar, (12:58) and Bishop O’Brien, who played with Carole King, playing drums. (13:02) And I mean, it was like Hendrix was playing around the corner, (13:05) as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames backing up John Hammond.

(13:08) It was just an incredibly fertile time. (13:11) I was lucky to be there. (13:12) I look back on it now and go, (13:14) talk about being at the right place at the right time.

(13:16) Did you realise at the time what you were part of? (13:20) It seemed exciting, but it was normal in the way that, (13:25) you know, Cafe Wow was making $6 a night, (13:28) and I’d be able to get a hamburger platter at the diner (13:33) on the corner of the street, or actually less than that. (13:37) I had a couple bucks left over. (13:39) But, you know, I had no place to live for a while.

(13:42) I slept on rooftops, I slept on friends’ couches, (13:45) I slept on a bench in the park, Washington Square Park, (13:49) with the police in there, you know, (13:51) poking you with their billy glove and saying, (13:53) move on, buddy, wake up. (13:56) But it’s always work. (13:57) My dad used to say, he’s an engineer, was an engineer, (14:01) he would say, work is anything that won’t do itself.

(14:04) And it’s work, all of it, you know, making music, (14:07) making a living by playing music, is work. (14:11) People see the time on stage, (14:14) which is all glamorous, and the lights, (14:16) and the big sound system, and the big crowd, (14:19) hopefully a big crowd, and it all just looks like glamour. (14:22) But for every one of those shows, (14:25) there’s many hours-long bus rides, (14:27) and hotels that all look the same, (14:30) and there’s a routine that goes on between shows (14:33) that is really the work.

(14:36) We joke about how we don’t get paid to perform, (14:38) we get paid to travel. (14:40) I’m a traveling man (14:43) And I’ve made a lot of stops (14:45) All over the world (14:48) And in every report (14:50) I own the heart (14:52) Of at least one lovely girl (14:55) I’ve a pretty senorita (14:58) Waiting for me (15:00) Down in old Mexico (15:03) And if you’re ever in Alaska (15:06) Stop and see my cute little Eskimo (15:10) John Hall, tell us about how you got to open for The Doors and The Who. (15:15) Well, that was amazing, and I realized it was amazing at the time.

(15:19) The band I was in, Kangaroo, went to Las Vegas (15:22) to play at an MGM Records festival. (15:26) We had made an album for them. (15:28) Then we went to the Singer Bowl at the World’s Fairgrounds (15:30) and opened for The Doors and The Who.

(15:32) I just remember that our drummer had sold his hi-hat for pot. (15:36) So he didn’t have one. (15:37) He said, don’t worry, I’ll borrow Keith Moon’s from The Who.

(15:41) So we get on stage for our soundcheck (15:43) and he asked one of The Who’s roadies (15:46) if he could borrow Keith’s hi-hat. (15:49) And the guy spat on him. (15:51) We were definitely the runts of the litter.

(15:54) People try to put us down (15:57) Talking about my generation (15:59) Just because we get around (16:02) Talking about my generation (16:04) Things they do look awful (16:06) Talking about my generation (16:09) I hope I die before I get old (16:11) Talking about my generation (16:13) My generation (16:15) My generation, baby (16:19) Why don’t you all fade away (16:22) Talking about my generation (16:24) Don’t try to dig what we all say (16:26) Talking about my generation (16:28) I’m not trying to cause a big sensation (16:32) My generation (16:33) I’m just talking about my generation (16:37) My generation (16:40) This is my generation, baby (16:45) Our dressing room was under the bleachers (16:47) where they had the first aid tent. (16:52) And during the Doors set (16:54) these young ladies kept being brought in on stretchers (16:56) from fainting and passing out (16:59) with their excitement at Jim Morrison’s shirt coming off. (17:02) Those were the days.

(17:03) Or whatever came off. (17:06) So that was 1968. (17:08) Kangaroo, very nice name for us sitting here in Australia.

(17:12) Thank you. (17:12) Why do they call it Kangaroo? (17:14) Well, every band name involves a band meeting (17:17) where you talk about names. (17:19) And it’s always hard to find a name that somebody doesn’t hate.

(17:22) You know, two people might go, I love that. (17:24) And the other guy goes, I hate it. (17:27) And so we just tried out a lot of names.

(17:30) There were sort of like the 13th floor elevators. (17:33) There are a lot of ridiculous names you can come up with. (17:35) And that was one that we all liked.

(17:37) We’re all nature lovers and we’re educated (17:40) at least enough to know that there are kangaroos in Australia. (17:44) Yeah, must have seemed very far off and exotic to you. (17:48) Pretty exotic name.

(17:49) Not the most creative name, perhaps, but it worked (17:52) until John became involved in his next iteration (17:55) which netted some big hits. (17:57) Back in a sec with more from John Hall.


ABOFA Seg 2 (0:00) This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. (0:04) It’s a beautiful day. (0:08) Glad you’re still with me.

(0:10) Let’s get straight back into hearing from John about how he moved on from Kangaroo. (0:15) An endless lighted by a charcoal sun (0:39) Protected by everyone (0:45) And I’ll sell my shell if you want me to (0:51) You are the one (0:59) That brand actually broke up the following year in 1969, didn’t it? (1:06) And I believe you decided to concentrate then a little bit more on songwriting. (1:10) Yeah, well, Johanna, her father was a drama critic for the Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper.

(1:17) And it was through him that I met Israel Horowitz, who wrote the off-Broadway play that I did. (1:23) And he also was one of the three playwrights who collaborated on Morning, Noon and Night, the Broadway play. (1:30) And Israel, he kind of got me into this theater world.

(1:34) I had not actually set out to do it, but after the introduction was made by my then-father-in-law, I wound up just, you know, he had words and I had tons of music. (1:45) I’ve since come to write a lot of words myself, but at the time I was a composer and he was, and then later Johanna was the lyricist. (1:54) And so we started writing songs.

We moved to Woodstock, the town Woodstock, not the festival Woodstock, in 1970. (2:01) Having written a bunch of songs, including one that we wrote for Janis Joplin, and thank God she recorded it. (2:08) And it was the B-side of me and Bobby McGee, as well as being on the Pearl album that came out right after she died.

(2:15) Johanna says it’s like having her dub us songwriters. St. Janis went, poof, you’re a songwriter. (2:31) Seven souls in the seven seas (2:34) Just to bring all your sweet love home to me (2:38) Hey, but it’s still been like a mountain (2:41) Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (2:44) You’ll do me like a sea lion (2:46) Not coming fast, but still at my best (2:50) Your love brings life to me (2:54) Your love brings life to me (2:58) Hey! (3:11) Brings us all to come your way (3:19) Just to tell about the first good man I found (3:22) Yeah, but it’s still been like a mountain (3:29) Sea lion, not coming (3:34) Your love brings (3:36) How does that process work? You and your wife had written this song.

(3:46) Did you know Janis, so you were able to just give it to her and say, hey Janis, here’s a great song for you? (3:52) Or did you have to go through a process of sending it to her, or an agent, or how does that work? (3:58) Being in the right place at the right time. (4:00) Johanna was writing for the Village Voice, doing music criticism for the Village Voice, and Janis asked to do an interview with her. (4:09) Janis asked her to do an interview.

(4:10) Well, Janis’ first album after leaving Big Brother, the Cosmic Blues album, it was kind of hit with the critics. (4:19) Some of the critics were down on her for leaving her boys and Big Brother, and it’s like abandoning your friends from the commune. (4:27) But she wanted to be in a band with musicians that were maybe a little more proficient than that, and also had horns in the band, so she made that Cosmic Blues album.

(4:38) Sit back, count your fingers. (4:50) What else, what else is there to do? (5:04) You’re through. (5:08) Oh, I, oh, count my back.

(5:35) Reviewed that in the Village Voice and given it a good review. (5:38) So Janis asked if she could do an interview with Johanna. (5:43) And Johanna took the bus across town, had lunch at a Greek restaurant with Janis Chaplin, comes back, and I’m doing something, probably playing guitar in the apartment.

(5:53) And there’s a knock on the door, and in comes Johanna with Janis Chaplin behind her. (5:59) And I remember wishing I had changed the cat box. (6:03) But it was, you know, it was a four floor walk up, no elevator in the building, we just all living in these four rooms on one floor.

(6:12) And we sat around talking and then playing music, and it was December of 69, and we were singing Christmas carols. (6:23) And Janis Chaplin and I sang a, it sounds funny saying it that casually, you know. (6:29) We sang a blues version of Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.

(6:34) You know, we’re just fooling around. (6:35) And she was drinking our cooking sherry because we weren’t drinkers, but we had that. (6:40) And I played her a couple of songs that I had written both the lyrics and the music for.

(6:45) And she said, I really like the music, but it sounds like kind of juvenile, sounds like a young man wrote it. (6:52) And I said, well, I’m a young man, yes. (6:54) And she turned to Joanna and said, you’re a writer, you’re a musician.

(6:59) Why don’t you two write a song for me? (7:01) So it was the command performance. (7:02) We wrote this song, Half Moon, drove out to California to play it for her at her house in San Rafael, California, north of San Francisco in Marin County. (7:15) In an old Ford station wagon my parents had given us with a bunch of musical equipment and stuff in the back.

(7:21) We actually stayed for, we rented the house for a year in the home of Andy Kohlberg, who played flute in the Blues Project. (8:09) It was just another taste of right place, right time. (8:18) And Janice loved the song and she did it every show until she died.

(8:22) She performed it and recorded it on the Pearl album and thank God she did. (8:27) She sang the vocal before she passed away. (8:30) All of a sudden we were in demand of songwriters and I could perform as John Hall or the John Hall band and people would come to hear us.

(8:39) So it really changed up your life. (8:42) Absolutely, yeah. (8:43) John and Joanna Hall were immediately signed by a management company as songwriters.

(8:48) And then they formed their next band on the strength of being in such high demand. (8:53) That carried over into the time after we started Orleans. (8:58) We were playing on weekends and we would come back home again after playing Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

(9:06) We would come back home and on our days off, Hannah would write and she and I would write. (9:11) And the other guys would be resting or partying. (9:14) And then we would rehearse or do a soundcheck for the next show.

(9:17) And I’d say, let’s try this song. (9:19) And we wound up having material for an album and then a couple more albums after that. (9:39) I knew it wouldn’t last for long (9:40) But it burned so wild and strong (9:46) I knew it wouldn’t last for long (9:51) Cause love takes time (9:54) And it’s hard to find (9:58) You gotta take some time (10:02) To let love grow (10:08) I saw a shooting star go by (10:15) It blazed a path across the sky (10:23) But the beauty did not last, no (10:30) Some things just never grow too fast (10:44) Take some time to let love grow (10:53) What was it like working with Johanna? (10:56) People often say how difficult or enjoyable it is to work with your partner and live with them.

(11:02) How did you find those times doing it all together? (11:04) It worked well for us. (11:07) And I think there are drawbacks to being in business with your spouse, your significant other, (11:14) because it can become pillow talk. (11:17) Sometimes you can’t leave the work at work.

(11:20) So it’s hard in that respect. (11:23) But it makes it easy. (11:24) I mean, writing with somebody else is an intimate, for me anyway, (11:29) it seems like an intimate project.

(11:31) And everybody I write songs with and I’ve written with a bunch of people, (11:35) most of the time you sit around talking about whatever it is that you’re writing about (11:39) or bouncing ideas off of each other. (11:41) And it can become an intimate conversation. (11:44) Was it an easy process for you? (11:46) It got easier as I went along.

(11:49) I mean, the music comes easily. (11:51) Johanna comes from her dad’s theatre family, (11:54) and she’s always been a writing, (11:56) she’s an English major and a creative writing person. (11:59) And she was writing journalism.

(12:02) So she wrote for Crowd 80 Magazine and The Village Voice and Rock Magazine. (12:06) And back then, those publications are gone now. (12:10) So she was used to putting words together and sounding coherent, (12:15) just trying to be more poetic than you usually can be in journalism.

(12:21) So you really complemented each other incredibly well. (12:24) Simultaneously, you played on the Seals and Crofts debut album, (12:28) and then came down home, as well as Bonnie Raitt’s Give It Up. (12:31) You were busy.

(12:33) I was busy. (13:00) I was young, too young to know. (13:08) I have seen you much too soon.

(13:11) Somewhere, somehow, somehow, we’re going to be alone. (13:17) We were still living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (13:19) when John Simon, who was producing Seals and Crofts’ second album, (13:23) asked me to play on it. (13:25) Well, first of all, he asked me if I would play with Taj Mahal (13:29) on his tour three months across the United States, (13:33) which I, of course, said yes.

(13:35) And it was a very influential thing on me in terms of my rhythm guitar playing. (13:39) Taj really taught me to play rhythm, as opposed to lead. (13:42) I formally thought of myself as a lead guitar player.

(13:46) Though you’ve faded, love, and lost, (13:50) and sorrows turn your heart to frost, (13:53) I will melt your heart again. (14:00) Remember the feeling as a child (14:04) when you woke up and the morning smile. (14:08) It’s time, it’s time, it’s time you felt like that again.

(14:14) There is just no percentage end. (14:18) Remember in the past. (14:21) It’s time you learned to live again in love and last.

(14:29) Come with me, leave your yesterday, your yesterday behind. (14:36) And take a giant step outside your mind. (14:41) So after I played with Taj, (14:42) Simon had been playing with me in that band, (14:46) and when he went on to produce Seals and Crofts, (14:48) he asked me to play on that.

(14:49) And that was a great experience, (14:51) and I did some of my best studio work with them. (14:55) After that, I did a lot of sessions in New York (14:57) for commercials for records or what have you. (15:00) I played on Jackson Browne’s Here Come Those Tears again, (15:03) I played on Bonnie’s Give It Up album, (15:06) and a few others.

(15:08) Here come those tears. (15:12) Just when I was getting over you. (15:16) Just when I was gonna make it through another night (15:22) Without missing you (15:25) Thinking I might just be strong enough after all (15:34) When I hear your footsteps echoing in the hall (15:41) Baby, here we stand again (15:45) Where we’ve been so many times before (15:50) Even though you look so sure (15:54) As I was watching you walking out my door (15:58) But you always walk back in like you did today (16:07) Acting like you never even went away (16:14) Well, I don’t know if I can (16:19) Open up and let you in, baby (16:24) Here come those tears (16:28) Here come those tears again (16:35) I gradually started playing more and more my own stuff (16:39) and when Orleans kicked into gear, (16:41) we were busy enough that I played on our records (16:45) and not that many others.

(16:46) So Orleans started what, about 1972? (16:50) How come you called it Orleans? (16:52) Well, before we had enough of our own songs worked up, (16:55) we were playing a mixture of R&B covers, (16:58) reggae covers, and kind of New Orleans, second-line covers. (17:02) We were playing songs that were originally done (17:05) by Alan Tussaint, The Meters, Neville Brothers. (17:08) We had definitely a New Orleans influence, (17:10) and once again, we were having band meetings (17:12) where we threw around names.

(17:15) One night when we couldn’t agree, (17:17) we had a gig coming up, and Wells said, (17:19) why don’t we call ourselves Orleans for that gig? (17:21) And we all went, fine, that sounds good. (17:23) So we did that, and we had a really good show, (17:25) and the club owner wanted to have us back. (17:27) And he said, well, if you don’t come back, (17:31) because we were saying, well, we’re going to change the name, (17:34) so we’ll tell you what it is.

(17:35) He said, you have to call it Orleans, (17:36) or people won’t know to come back and see you. (17:39) So we just wound up being stuck with the name. (17:41) Not a bad name.

(17:42) I kind of like it better than kangaroo. (17:45) No, it’s not. (17:46) What do they say? (17:47) A name is only a name, or something like that.

(17:51) Orleans was poised to hit the big time, (17:53) and all of John’s dreams were about to be realised. (17:56) You remember the songs, don’t you? (17:58) Hang in to find out more.


ABOFA Seg 3 0:00) This is a breath of fresh air with Sandy Kaye. (0:04) It’s a beautiful day. (0:08) It was Janice Joplin who’d given John and Joanna Hall their big breakthrough.

(0:13) After being legitimised by her as songwriters, the couple began writing prolifically (0:18) and managed to collect enough material to put down several albums for their newest band, Orleans. (0:25) You managed to score a couple of top ten hits. Tell us about those.

(0:28) Well, Dance With Me, Johanna and I wrote. (0:32) That was a song where I had the music first, I had the entire guitar part, melody and chords. (0:38) And it was a Sunday morning, I started playing this and she called from the kitchen, (0:42) sounds like Dance With Me.

(0:44) And I called back, could we think of something a little more original? (0:48) Of course she was right. (0:49) She came up with the lyric for the chorus and the first verse and then hit a writer’s block. (0:54) And we were driving back from a show and she said, kick the beat up and kick your feet up.

(1:00) And she started scribbling on an envelope in the driver’s seat of the car while I was driving. (1:05) And by the time we got home, the lyric was finished. (1:08) Dance with me.

(1:10) I want to be a partner, can’t you see? (1:15) The music is just starting, night is calling and I am falling. (1:22) Dance with me. (1:27) Fantasy, could never be so killing, I feel free.

(1:35) I hope that you are willing, kick the beat up and kick your feet up. (1:42) Dance with me. (1:46) Still the one was the opposite.

(1:48) Johanna had the entire lyric first. (1:50) A friend of ours had asked her to write a song about people staying together. (1:55) Our friend and her husband were getting divorced.

(1:58) And she said, there’s so many songs about people breaking up. (2:01) Could you write a song about people staying together? (2:03) And Johanna wrote the lyric and handed it to me on the back of another envelope. (2:08) She actually said, do you think you could do anything with this? (2:11) And I wrote the music in about 15 minutes.

(2:13) Still the one starts with a rhythm guitar. (2:17) Like Chuck Berry-ish kind of guitar part. (2:21) And dance with me starts with… (2:25) On the guitar.

(2:26) Both of those songs are like garments hung on a guitar. (2:30) We’ve been together since way back when. (2:36) Sometimes I still want your face.

(3:22) Did you know you had something special with those two songs? (3:25) Larry Hoppin knew I played him the music for dance with me. (3:29) And he said, you really got to finish that song. (3:32) That sounds like a hit.

(3:33) When we were recording them, we didn’t know that they were that likely to become hits. (3:38) Because we were into all the songs on the albums. (3:40) We thought were good.

(3:42) We were always just trying to do music that we liked. (3:45) And that we thought was good. (3:46) And dance with me wasn’t the first single off of our Let There Be Music album.

(3:51) It was the second one. (3:52) The first single was this rock tune that Larry sang called Let There Be Music. (3:57) And it got to number 30 something on the American charts.

(4:01) And then dance with me went top five. (4:04) When the world was… (4:28) Let there be music. (4:35) Let there be music.

(4:36) Shine like the sun. (4:38) Let there be music. (4:42) Let there be music.

(5:39) The song Give More Heart that Linda Ronstadt recorded that was on the Let There Be Music album. (5:45) So Hannah and I had written it with a whole other bridge that’s not in that song. (5:49) We had an A section and a B section to the verse and the chorus.

(5:53) And Chuck listened to it and he said you should take that bridge and make another song out of it. (5:58) Get rid of it for this song. (6:00) And then take the B section and make that the chorus.

(6:03) So that’s how the song wound up. (6:05) And that’s what Linda Ronstadt heard and recorded and wanted to record. (6:09) Do you still pinch yourself today when you hear those songs played on the radio? (6:13) A little bit.

(6:14) I pinch myself when I realize that I’m still living on the royalties from those songs. (6:18) And I say those songs that paid for another half dozen records to be made. (6:23) Honestly, they paid for me to be able to take time off and run for public office.

(6:29) Why did you decide to do that? (6:30) Well, so Hannah and I were living in the town of Snogerties, which is just to the east of Woodstock. (6:37) And the town decided they were going to build this gigundous solid waste dump with two incinerators with dioxin coming out of the top of the smoke stacks. (6:47) It would be 315 feet tall.

(6:49) It was going to be an eyesore. (6:51) And it would change the tenor of the area and of the town to make it an industrial zone. (6:56) Nobody would want to build nice homes there.

(6:59) It was driving my daughter to school past the site. (7:03) And I decided I did not want this dump and incinerator for a neighbor. (7:08) And I organized this group of neighbors.

(7:10) We got petitions signed. (7:12) And we got everybody in the town organized and raised enough money to hire the best lawyer. (7:18) And he was able to stop this dump from happening.

(7:21) John Hall’s environmental activism led him to 10 years in elective office and to co-founding the organization Muse, Musicians United for Safe Energy. (7:32) As you said, you like to go off on tangents and you obviously get very passionate. (7:35) I know that you also had appeared and co-produced the No Nukes benefit album with Jackson Brown and Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash.

(7:42) So you seem to be somebody that gets right into whatever you’re doing at the time. (7:47) Yeah, that’s true. (7:49) I started with the No Nukes thing when my next-door neighbor came over.

(7:53) He’s a Vietnam veteran. (7:54) He handed me a sheet of papers and said, do you know about this nuclear plant that they’re trying to build six miles from here? (8:01) And I decided I didn’t want to have that for a neighbor either. (8:03) So I started to do musical stuff along the way.

(8:08) I got Bonnie Raitt to perform at a theater to raise money to stop this plant from going in. (8:16) So when Three Mile Island happened, we were in litigation. (8:19) But because it was the same exact reactor, they canceled it.

(8:23) And the company was in disgrace. (8:33) Darkness and the cold (8:36) But some may seek a way to take control (8:41) When it’s bought and sold (8:46) I know that lives are at stake (8:51) Yours and mine are descendants of time (8:56) With so much to be gained, so much to lose (9:01) I’d say that every one of us has a chance (9:06) Give me the warm power of the sun (9:12) Give me the steady flow of the waterfall (9:17) Give me the spirit of living things (9:21) As they return to play (9:26) Just give me the restless power of the wind (9:32) Give me the comforting love of a wood fire (9:37) But please take my automatic poison power away (9:47) We were singing about the warm power of the sun, the strong power that she and I wrote. (9:52) We were successful in getting to stop building nukes for quite a while.

(9:57) But they did not start channeling that money instead to solar and wind and geothermal and tidal power and all the rest of the stuff we were talking about. (10:08) You know, it’s been 50 years since the No Nukes concerts. (10:11) The No Nukes concerts in 1979 were hosted by the Muse Collective.

(10:17) Jackson Brown, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and John Hall were the key organizers of the events and the guiding forces behind the resulting album. (10:28) It was the first official appearance of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s live act on record. (10:34) And Springsteen’s cover of Morris Williams and the Zodiac’s Stay appeared on the 1980 album No Nukes, the Muse concerts for a non-nuclear future.

(10:45) If we just started doing the solar and wind and other renewables back then, we would be in a way better situation now than we’re in in terms of climate change. (10:53) I wanna play just a little bit longer (11:03) Don’t mind, don’t mind (11:11) Take a little time and leave it all behind and say (11:16) One more song (11:18) Oh, won’t you stay (11:22) Just a little bit longer (11:38) Just put your sweet lips on mine (11:46) Tell my life you love me (11:51) One more time (11:54) Oh, won’t you stay (12:07) Since you’ve gone (12:13) Jackson, don’t mind (12:18) Bruce, don’t mind (12:21) Take a little time and leave it all behind and say (12:27) One more time (12:34) Just to finish up, John, I can’t let you go before we talk about the latest album. (12:46) It’s called Reclaiming My Time.

(12:49) That was your pandemic project, wasn’t it? (12:52) Tell us a little bit about that. (12:53) Well, I had a few songs already written, but I spent a fair amount of the pandemic time living in Nashville with a friend. (13:02) His wife passed away while I was driving down from Woodstock.

(13:05) I wound up staying with him for quite a while and writing songs with him and helping him process that loss. (13:11) So we wrote a whole bunch of songs and recorded them remotely with different people contributing different things. (13:17) I asked John Cowan, who’s right now out playing bass with the Doobie Brothers, to sing back up on one track.

(13:23) And he said he’d love to, but he had no way to record it. (13:26) So he suggested that I call Andrea Zahn. (13:28) He said, she can sing too.

(13:30) And so I called Andrea and we wound up talking about how trees communicate and some pretty personal stuff. (13:36) She’s a fabulous fiddle player. (13:38) She’s been in James Taylor’s band singing and playing with him for many years.

(13:42) And has also played before that with Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett. (13:46) It’s been nice being able to once again have a talk. (13:50) John and Joanna Hall divorced in 2021.

(13:53) John has since married Andrea Zahn. (13:55) What’s your favorite track on this latest album? (13:57) I would say, Alone Too Long. (14:50) John Hall, fabulous chatting with you.

(14:52) Thank you so much for being so generous with your time. (14:55) Thank you very, very much. (14:57) I hope to talk to you again when my new record comes out.

(14:59) Take care. (15:00) Bye now. (15:01) Told you he had an interesting story to tell, didn’t I? (15:04) If you’d like to learn more about John Hall, check out his memoir, Still The One, a rock and roll journey to Congress and back.

(15:12) Thanks for joining me today. (15:13) I hope you’ve enjoyed the John Hall and Orleans story. (15:17) Again, a big shout out to Mark from New York for turning us on to John Hall.

(15:21) And don’t forget, if you have someone you’d like to hear from, all you’ve got to do is send me a message through the website,, and I’ll try my best to get that person onto the show too. (15:34) Join me again same time next week, won’t you? (15:36) Take care till we meet again. (15:38) Bye now.

(15:51) It’s a beautiful day.