I’ve been told or I read some where that after the Columbia episode, you were somewhat reluctant to sign with anybody else.
I can’t remember exactly. The people said that everyone in town was trying to sign us up, but it wasn’t really true. In fact, Jac Holzman’s may have been the only concrete offer we had. We may have made him come up with the best deal possible, but there was no question but what we weren’t that much in demand.
You said the first LP went easily …
Fast. We started almost immediately, and some of the songs took only a few takes. We’d do several takes just to make sure we couldn’t do a better one. It’s also true that on the first album they don’t want to spend as much. The group doesn’t either, because the groups pay for the production of an album. That’s part of the advance against royalties. You don’t get any royalties until you’ve paid the cost of the record album. So the group and the record company weren’t taking a chance on the cost. So for economic reasons and just because we were ready, it went very fast.
Subsequent albums have been harder?
Harder and cost a lot more. But that’s the natural thing. When we make a million dollars on each album and hit singles come from those albums, we can afford it. It’s not always the best way, though.
Why haven’t you done a live album?
Well … I really don’t think it was time yet. We had other things to do. Because I have an idea that when we do this live album … I can’t really see it in its entirety yet, but I would guess that a lot of the material would be old rock classics … and I mean really old rock classics, from the rock and roll era. Also old blues.
The “Great Balls of Fire” — “Rock Around the Clock” era?
Not particularly those tunes, but yeh. Also, blues. I don’t think it was time to do that, until we’d shown we had a large fund of original material. I think it would have looked like we’d run out of original things to say. But now it would be like, doing it just because that’s the stuff we want to make.
Are there particular artists you really dig from the early days?
It’s like the way I feel about writers. There are so many that I couldn’t really single out. Too numerous to mention. Really. I think we’re an incredibly gifted country in pop music, incredibly rich. Think of the people who in the last 10 to 20 years have come out of America. It’s really going to be interesting to look back on blues and rock. It happened so fast. From a historical vantage point it probably will look like the troubadour period in France. I’m sure it will look incredibly romantic.
Well, look at us. We’re incredible. I guess I mean people who ride motorcycles and have fast cars and interesting clothes, who are saying things, expressing themselves honestly. Young people. Yeh, it seems romantic to me. I’m pleased to be alive at this time. It’s incredible. I think we’re going to look very good to future people, because so many changes are taking place and we’re really handling it with a flair.
I’m hesitant to bring it up, because so bloody much has been made of it, and I guess I want your reaction to that as well as the truth of the matter … the Oedipus section of “The End.” Just what does this song mean to you?
Let’s see … Oedipus is a Greek myth. Sophocles wrote about it. I don’t know who before that. It’s about a man who inadvertently killed his father and married his mother. Yeh, I’d say there was a similarity, definitely. But to tell you the truth, every time I hear that song, it means something else to me. I really don’t know what I was trying to say. It just started out as a simple goodbye song.
Goodbye to whom, or to what?
Probably just to a girl, but I could see how it could be goodbye to a kind of childhood. I really don’t know. I think it’s sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery that it could be almost anything you want it to be.
I don’t care what critics write about it, or anything like that, but one thing that disturbed me … I went to a movie one night in Westwood and I was in a bookstore or some shop where they sell pottery and calendars and gadgets, Y’know … and a very attractive, intelligent — intelligent in the sense of aware and open — girl thought she recognized me and she came to say hello. And she was asking me about that particular song. She was just out for a little stroll with a nurse. She was on leave, just for an hour or so, from the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. She lived there and was just out for a walk. Apparently she had been a student at UCLA and freaked on heavy drugs or something and either committed herself or someone picked up on her and put her there. Anyway, she said that that song was really a favorite of a lot of kids in her ward. At first I thought: Oh, man … and this was after I talked with her for a while, saying it could mean a lot of things, kind of a maze or a puzzle to think about, everybody should relate it to their own situation. I didn’t realize people took songs so seriously and it made me wonder whether I ought to consider the consequences. That’s kind of ridiculous, because I do it myself; you don’t think of the consequences and you can’t.
Does this lyric relate to your family in any way?
I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to involve anyone unless they want it.
On your early biographies, it says your parents are dead — yet your family is really very much alive. Why the early story?
I just didn’t want to involve them. It’s easy enough to find out personal details if you really want them. When we’re born we’re all footprinted and so on. I guess I said my parents were dead as some kind of joke. I have a brother, too, but I haven’t seen him in about a year. I don’t see any of them. This is the most I’ve ever said about this.
Getting back to your film, then, there’s some of the most incredible footage I’ve ever seen of an audience rushing a performer. What do you think in situations like that?
It’s just a lot of fun. [Laughter] It actually looks a lot more exciting than it really is. Film compresses everything. It packs a lot of energy into a small … any time you put a form on reality, it’s going to look more intense. Truthfully, a lot of times it was very exciting, a lot of fun. I enjoy it or I wouldn’t do it.
You said the other day that you like to get people up out of their seats, but not intentionally create a chaos situation …
It’s never gotten out of control, actually. It’s pretty playful, really. We have fun, the kids have fun, the cops have fun. It’s kind of a weird triangle. We just think about going out to play good music. Sometimes I’ll extend myself and work people up a little bit, but usually we’re out there trying to make good music and that’s it. Each time it’s different. There are varying degrees of fever in the auditorium waiting for you. So you go out on stage and you’re met with this rush of energy potential. You never know what it’s going to be.
What do you mean you’ll sometimes extend yourself … work the people up a bit?
Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what would happen. That’s all it was: just curiosity.
What did you do to test the bounds?
Just push a situation as far it it’ll go.
And yet you don’t feel at any time that things got out of control?