There are some artists who are lucky enough to record a song that helps define a decade. With “Jeopardy” and “The Breakup Song” Greg Kihn had two of them. But his 40+ year career is far more than just those two songs. I was lucky enough to talk with Greg on his 70th birthday as he looked back on his music, his books, his favorite Springsteen stories and so much more.
Please press Play below to hear the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Greg Kihn:
On his legacy and playing with original drummer Larry Lynch again – I feel like I want to hang on to my heritage because, you know, we were rehearsing with Larry today and he’s got a certain touch when he plays songs like “Remember” or “Break Up Song”. He’s got a certain touch and it just it really drives the band it’s a completely different energy… this is been a great career and I really, I’ve been blessed and I’ve had a great run but looking back on it right now I really feel like we got a legacy and it’s time for us to cement it. 1:45
On Willie Nile and East Coast musicians – We did a couple of tours way back in the eighties with Willie Nile and I just had a great time I love, I respect Willie he’s a great songwriter he puts on a really good show and it was a real nice 1-2 punch with with Willie. I’ve always had a good relationship with the Jersey bands like Bruce and Southside Johnny and Johnny Cafferty, we played a lot of gigs over the years and it’s just been, I’ve been blessed, I keep coming back to that thing but I really feel like this could’ve turned out horrible and it turned out great! 4:30
On the early days of The Greg Kihn Band – We were encouraged to write songs…they left us alone and we really didn’t realize, it was just the beauty of when you’re a baby band and you’re just starting out, we didn’t realize it was impossible. We just thought some guy’s going to pay for us to go in the studio, let’s go! We never thought that you guys, you’re never gonna make it but we didn’t care. At the time, which was late seventies early eighties, there were F. M. stations all around the country and they all played album tracks you didn’t have to really put out a single. Like “For You” which was on the second album and “Madison Avenue” is another one, a lot of those early songs were turntable hits and they got a lot of airplay on FM stations so that we could go and play local clubs and we did we did that for many many years. 8:40
Oh Bruce Springsteen giving him “Rendezvous” – About a year (after recording “For You”) Bruce would start showing up the gigs and he showed up when we played at the Roxy in LA and here comes Bruce and he’s hanging backstage with us and he loved my version of “For You” so (he says) “I want to give you another song”, it was “Rendezvous”. So he gives me the song, he writes the lyrics on a napkin from the Roxy. I stick it in my pocket. In those days we had to do two sets, we do an early show and a late show, I sweated like a pig! Well I go out there and when I go back to the hotel I reach in my pocket to look at the lyrics and it’s white pulp. I was freaking out and I go “Oh my god Springsteen gave me a song and now I can’t do it!”. So I called Jon Landau’s office and explained Bruce gave me the song and he says “Okay no problem I’m going to send you a cassette”, so he sends me a cassette which I must’ve listened to a million times…Bruce is not really known for his diction and there were some lyrics I could not figure out what he was saying, like in the bridge
totally sounds to me like he’s singing “And we desire so much more than squirrels” I can’t be right.
I played that cassette 1000 times for everybody then I knew, the guys the band to go yeah it’s squirrels, it got to be squirrels. So I tried to slur my voice when I did it …I didn’t really sing it either way but I knew it wasn’t squirrels so a year later Springsteen shows up at a gig and goes “Hey Greg, there ain’t no squirrels in that song”. 13:23
On writing his first novel Horror Show in 1996 – I remember writing stories in high school and junior high school but by the time I was doing the first novel I was just writing it just from sheer joy of writing. And it started as a short story which really became the first chapter of the novel, but it was a short story I enjoyed it so much I just kept going 500 pages later it was like “Oh my god what did I just do?” 20:55
On using a real-life story from the Beatles as the basis for his fictional book Rubber Soul – I got to interview Paul, actually I interviewed him twice because he came back a couple months later. I also got to interview Ringo, John was obviously gone and George was gone at that point but at least I got to talk to the 2 surviving members of the Beatles and I asked them both the same question, “Where did the Beatles get their music?” Because they didn’t have any import shops, you couldn’t go down to
Brian Epstein’s store and buy the latest Chuck Berry…Ringo and Paul gave me the same answer, “We got the stuff from merchant marines”…every 2 or 3 weeks they would show up in Liverpool and they would bring back those 45’s you know 45’s were everything back in the old days… so it gave me the idea of a character whose got a secondhand store and his name is Dustbin Bob because he gets most of the stuff out of the dustbin…I said, “Man, this guy could be the best friend of the Beatles, furnished the music that the Beatles would make famous in all those covers on the first couple albums. Where did they get that stuff? Well they got it from Dustbin Bob. So I invented this guy and then Dustin Bob started to have adventures well, lo and behold he saved the Beatles lives from an assassination attempt by Marcos royalists in the Philippines. 23:34
On “discovering” Joe Satriani in 1985 – Joe was legendary, he was a Berkeley boy, and he had a band called The Squares and they would open for us around the clubs we were playing…of course everybody recognized that Joe was a genius and he was just so good. I had asked him earlier when Dave Carpenter left…I had asked Joe to join the band I said “You’ll make more money you’ll be happy”. and he goes “I’d love to but I’m loyal to my guys and until this band breaks up I can’t do it”.
so lo and behold about a year later The Squares break up and I get a call from Joe “okay I’ll do it”…The problem was Joe is too good…Joe needed to of much bigger palette and I remember telling him “Joe I only got 3 chords in these songs, you need 3 million chords to express yourself”. 29:36