Review Fix Exclusive Q & A: Michael Des Barres Part Three

tiger des barresReviewfix.com – You mentioned Power Station and playing Live Aid – What was that like? Was it mind-blowing? Was it just an average show?

Michael Des Barres – It was spectacular – it was beyond my wildest dreams. To me, it was the most wonderful afternoon. If you watch the tape, I’m just grinning from ear to ear. I’m so happy because how I got there was so crazy and magic – I was down there in Texas with Old Don Johnson, a family friend, he was making a movie, and I got a call. Do you know this story?

Reviewfix.com – I think so.

Michael Des Barres – I got a call, the guy says, “There’s a band going out on the road this summer, the singer just dropped out. Would you come to New York and meet them?” And I said, “Who are they?” “We can’t tell you that. If we fly you to New York, we drop you off at the Carlyle Hotel. Would you come?” I said OK. I had this song that I wrote at the time, “Obsession.”

Reviewfix.com – Oh yeah, that was a big song.

Michael Des Barres – That week I think it went to number five – it was that huge. I was feeling very good, and I’m still in New York and I’m walking into this office and it was John Taylor and Tony Thompson, and I figured it was obvious I thought that the Power Station record was out and was selling like hotcakes, and they booked a tour. Robert Palmer (their singer) did not want to expose himself to a teenage audience, which sounds dirtier than I probably intended. They had seen me, I was with Steve Jones; we had this band called Checqered Past, and we opened for “Duran Duran.” Andy actually remembered – I said when Palmer dropped out, they said we’ll get him, and Andy was in London at the time, so I had to go to N.Y. and meet John and Tony, so I went to the Power Station studio that night and listened to the record, and said, “We’ll take Palmer’s voice off; give me the tape and I’ll go to London and meet Andy.” So the next morning I got on the Concorde. I had his album and I had another tape without his voice and I listened to it all that way, and I landed in London, and I went to the Dorchester – because Duran were, like, massive at the time, a grand and super high-echelon, rock ‘n’ roll universe – and then I went to the studio and I waited and I waited, and Andy eventually showed up with two bodyguards, and I set it up. I sang “Get it On.” I had all the mix set up with the studio, so as soon as you walked in I went right into the studio, I sang the verse with the chorus. He hit the button on the control board. He said “Michael, come on, let’s go shopping.” I said OK, then I went in and we went shopping, and I was in the band.

Reviewfix.com – Did you play the London end of it, or the Philadelphia end?

Michael Des Barres – This was such a whirlwind – literally from flying back to New York 10 days later, I was in Philadelphia playing for the biggest audience in history. I had 30 songs I had to know – think about that for a sec. So I was so in the moment of the songs, I was just so happy to be alive, and for one second if I’d have thought of what was happening, I would’ve run screaming into the dirt.

Reviewfix.com-You can’t think about the audience. I once heard of someone telling Paul McCartney, “Oh, you are going to be playing in front of a hundred million people,” and once he heard that he got a little nervous.

Michael Des Barres – I was trying to remember the words.

Reviewfix.com – How did your friendship or association with Jimmy Page begin?

Michael Des Barres – A long time ago, like ’72. I don’t remember how it happened, but we were playing in Birmingham where Robert and Bonzo (John Bonham) lived, and we were playing this club, and it was about 20 people in the audience, four of which were Led Zeppelin. Then we went back that night to Bonzo’s house and got to know them, and then I just became very friendly with Jimmy because we had mutual interests. I just think he was – is – the sexiest, most magical guitar player that ever picked one up. Then I discovered that Pamela (Des Barre’s ex-wife) was with Jimmy and loved Jimmy, and I guess a year or two later after I met Jimmy I met Peter Grant who I was really close with, too, because he was an amazing man. He changed the whole template of  rock ‘n’ roll management. He invented the enigma: The no singles, no videos, no pictures and no promoter.

Reviewfix.com – I actually interviewed Simon Kirke (“Free and Bad Company drummer”) a while ago, and he said what a great guy Peter Grant was to work for.

Michael Des Barres – Is he still alive?

Reviewfix.com – No, I think he passed away, but there’s a book called “The Man Who Led Zeppelin.” It’s sort of a whole story about him pre-Led Zeppelin, managing the Yardbirds, and with Zeppelin.

Michael Des Barres – The story is, you know, Peter Grant was John Arden’s driver; John Arden was Sharon Arden’s (Sharon Osbourne) father. John Arden was a gangster. Rock ‘n’ roll has been always been very associated with organized crime. You see it in the movie “Performance.”

Reviewfix.com – Yes.

Michael Des Barres – Check it out again, it’s the most brilliant movie ever made I think about the rock ‘n’ roll phenomena of that lead singer, that magical lead singer in London at that time. It’s a very brilliant version of rock ‘n’ roll,  which there are few and far between and which you know don’t capture what rock ‘n’ roll is; very difficult to capture on film. It is something that’s very rarely done well, but you’ll see in that movie that there is a tremendous connection with the English gangster world, which is what Peter Grant was. And Jimmy was incredible, loved him.

Reviewfix.com – He produced the first “Detective” album?

Michael Des Barres – He did. He was part of that – some of it, not all of it. Anything he was associated with, I mean, he’s Jimmy Page.

Reviewfix.com – We recently heard your vocals on a version of “All Right Now” with some newer bands for an insurance company commercial, is that correct? It was great, but do you think rock ‘n’ roll and the advertising world should go together?

Michael Des Barres – It’s so funny, man. Today, I was just thinking the secret is turning your passion into money. I’m a great believer in abundance – it gives you a divine right to be a buyer, if you have any qualm about putting your songs into commercials or movies, God bless you, I think it is spectacular. I started to live in Tokyo – it enabled all of my friends to have a fantastic time. Norman Mailer once said those who don’t sell out were not asked.

Reviewfix.com – Right, and that’s true, and it also gets these songs out there for people who haven’t heard them.

Michael Des Barres – They are there anyway. All I know is to me, “All Right Now” is a rock ‘n’ roll anthem, it’s one of the most important songs – its sexy. It’s got holes and gaps, it’s brilliant and when they came to me and said “would you sing this?” I said I’d be honored to sing this, and the fact that I’ve made an awful lot of money from that commercial, because you inevitably do because of the repeated playing of these things, I was delighted with the whole thing.

Reviewfix.com – That’s a good attitude to have. And you’re also hosting a documentary festival too? How did that come about?

Michael Des Barres – Its fabulous. I did that movie with Rosanna Arquette and Beverly D’Angelo called “Sugar Town.” Wonderful movie, pick it up.

About Steve Janowsky 88 Articles
Steve Janowsky is a former co-host of the Rocktologists theme based classic rock show radio show on WKRB 90.3 fm, which was voted the best classic rock podcast in the country by Dave White of About.com. Some of the interview guests on the show were Simon Kirke ( Free and Bad Company), Carl Palmer (ELP), Vince Martell (Vanilla Fudge), Randy Jackson (Zebra) and Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. Janowsky is also an English and Journalism instructor at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY and is an avid guitar player and songwriter.

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