Jon Fiore: The Updating Of A Classic.
Preview frontman Jon Fiore talks about the band's one and only album and his views on why success alluded the band, despite seemingly having all their cards lined up. He also talks about the Fiore albums recorded with the Harem Scarem guys and life as a session singer.
Ok Jon, so it's great to talk to you again. It's been a long while. I was looking back through the site and it was 1998 when we last did an interview.
Yeah, it was a long time ago when we were doing all that stuff with Harry and whatnot.
I'll go over all that again but I thought I'd start back at the beginning.
Well, you're back on the CD shelves with Preview again.
I know, that's kinda nice. It's nice that it was out. I remember when those guys called me from Rock Candy and they said that they were gonna do the re-release. That was nice, you know, you don't expect much of any of this stuff to happen.
Well it's great for the collectors.
Yeah it's nice that it can get out there again and who knows? I don't know how it did, so.
I don't think it's been out there too long so I'm not sure either. It hasn't been on CD before has it?
No and that's a good thing. They said they were gonna send me one. They sent me early CDs of what they did to give me a sample of what they did. They sent Judas Priest and a whole bunch of Riot and stuff like that. I looked nice and I said great when it comes out send it to me.
So it was 1983, twenty four years ago!
Yeah, long time.
What first springs to mind now, when you think of Preview?
For me it was exciting because it was the beginning. It was the beginning of getting a record deal, I was young and we had that opportunity and we got there. We had the record deal.
It was an interesting time. It was fun. It was hard work but it was a lot of fun. Getting up into the record deal, you know how it is
it was a lot of work it's not just luck. Its years and years of traveling to and from Long Island where the Gold brothers lived and I would work with them. We'd just work on these songs and record and just do it. It was a lot of work, a lot of money, a lot of my own money just getting to and from. But we all wanted the same end result and we got there. Unfortunately we just didn't have the success we thought we'd have.
I was reading through the liner notes from the re-issue which guitarist Danny Gold wrote.
I didn't know that he got to write the linear notes.
Yeah, it's a really nice and fairly detailed little story.
Well don't forget, it's their interpretation of what they want it to sound like
The thing that struck me about reading the notes was, I mean you had a major label, you had major management, and you had Keith Olson producing the album. We had everything.
Yes, you had everything. So why didn't it work out?
Did you happen to see the Keith Olson story on this?
Oh, you should check that out. If you Google my name you'll get a whole bunch of things and eventually you'll pull up Keith Olson's interview for Preview. Or maybe if you just Google Keith Olson and punch in Preview and see what happens.
I actually interviewed Keith but I can't remember if we talked about Preview.
Well Keith did a whole article or an interview on Preview and what he thought about the group. It's interesting. His thoughts were like the group should have never been signed and I'm surprised because he was there. He was the one that came and saw us.
He actually said you shouldn't have been signed?
Yeah, you know I guess someone asked him about his success as a producer. I don't know who was giving the interview or how our names came up. Maybe it was how many groups that you wish would have happened that never did or something like that. He said Preview, but his story was interesting.
Interview Link: www.angelfire.com/zine2/strutterzine/KEITHOLSENINTERVIEW.htm
In a nutshell, what did he think you were missing?
Well we had problems in the studio. Again, the fault of the record really not coming out was really because, you mean you don't know the story? Did these guys ever explain it to you?
Oh, what happened was, we had four labels vying to sign us. So we were hot. We were rockin'. Someone saw something in us. They liked us. We had great songs
another group, another look you know, whatever. We could have been anyone of those other groups that sustained.
We could have been the Bon Jovi. I think what happed was when we went with Geffen we were all like a little bit, yeah let's go with Geffen. He's coming back, starting a new label he had John Lennon, Elton John you know, the superstars on there. We're saying how do you miss with a guy like this?
Epic was offering us a deal. Chrysalis was offering us a deal. We went with the Geffen thing. They flew Keith Olson to New York to see us and Keith obviously liked what he saw. I'm not trying to boast, but from what I understand he loved my voice and he loved the songs. That's what got him and he even says that in the interview. Great singer, great voice you know.
When we got into the studio he felt a lot of the guys couldn't cut the tracks. So there was that issue going on. He wanted his studio guys to come in. Whether or not it was easier for him to cut a record like that rather than work with the group, work with the tedium of doing all that. Whatever it was, we were young, we were naïve. I remember the guys were upset. You can't blame them. They felt like this was their chance and Keith doesn't want to use them on the record. He wants his studio guys. He has this core of guys that he used like on the Rick Springfield and Pat Benatar records and that was his core.
So he felt like that's what he wanted to do. The guys were upset so were went to David and he said let Keith do what he wants to do. He's gonna make you stars. That's what his words were. I remember plain as day being in his office and him saying let him do what they want to do. He's gonna make you stars.
And me, as far as I'm concerned, I'm saying I wanna do whatever it takes to get to the next step. Get the power, get the next record out. It was a tough time, it was a tough task.
It wasn't an easy time. It's a funny, funny thing. I mean I've got some stories. I mean I got that song on the record It's Over that I wrote because Keith Olson heard it and said where'd this come from? It was a tough time.
That was your only writing credit on the album, right?
Well that was the reason. I wanted to write more songs, but those guys wanted to do writing and I was the singer, the frontman. I mean, no offence, it was a tough time but it pissed them off that I was on the front of the album.
I did everything I could do to just hang in there. That's how it was. I'm a firm believer that people get what they deserve. Unfortunately we didn't get the success out of that but luckily I went on and did very well in other areas. I don't know how well they did. I know Ernie went on and wrote on or two songs that became hits
he had a hit song with Taylor Dane but I don't know after that. I was lucky enough to be a studio guy for twenty years so I did pretty well. I ended up writing for a lot of artists after a while too.
I've talked to a lot of bands and songwriters over the years. The whole control issue and who has it the label or the artist is a similar problem isn't it?
Yeah, it's a similar problem. You work it out eventually. You usually let things like that go in the beginning and sort of wait until you get the success under your belt and then things change. I realized that. I thought, you know what, fine let's get a hit record then we'll come back and we're all gonna be more valuable to each other. Especially if they want me to sing the songs, you know what I'm saying?
It seems that guys that perhaps didn't find success on albums like this, even though they're cult favorites
.the guys that ended up better off are the ones that did turn to songwriting.
Right, exactly, songwriting is the best. That's where you're gonna make your money.
I don't know if you can talk specifically but what is the value of having a hit song as a songwriter?
It's hard to say what a value is but luckily over the years working with a lot of R&B guys I've had pieces of songs. It's hard to say what the value is but you can't think in terms of one or two or three you just have to do a lot because it all adds up. And it's all different for everyone.
Some people do publishing deals so they'll get some money up front and they're betting that the songs are gonna do well. You can go either way. The good thing is you have the money in your hands whether it could be several hundred thousand dollars, a million or a half a million, whatever.
Then if nothing happens you have that money at least. But if something happens you win also, but you're giving up a little bit because they're loaning you the money. It's a totally different thing. You gamble when you don't get.
I other words, we in Preview, we were in a position where we, and back in those days you could get a chunk of money in advance - so if you've got a label that's so hot on you that, they were talking about Preview being a big, big, big group, Keith Olson, this and that - you strike while the iron's hot.
We're talking to Geffen records. We're talking to this label and that money and they're offering us a nice chunk of money back then. And since I was a writer on one of the songs I was part of it. So I remember going into these meetings. It was like the Gold's don't want to do it. They don't want to give it up. They want to hold it and it's their right to do it, but it turns off certain people. I think it turned off Geffen records in a way.
I just think that they felt that they were going to be a problem later on down the road. I don't know what it was exactly but to be honest with you
it's not their fault that the record didn't do well.
The problem really lied between when it took so long to get the record finished because of the problems. Keith was doing a lot of drugs, a lot of cocaine back then. I'm not saying he didn't do it on everybody else's records. We weren't the only ones, but our luck and our timing just didn't work out.
I also, maybe more so I blame John Kalodner the guy who signed us. He's the guy. He loved us. It was up to him to be in that studio listening to the record, finding out what wasn't right and what we needed to do to change it. But instead he said well let Keith do it. Keith's gonna do it. Then in the end when he gets the record and the record is maybe not what he expected it to be who do you blame? You can't blame us because we're being told what to do by Keith and Keith has no direction from Kalodner because Kalodner hasn't been listening to it. So it's really a tough situation. Kalodner gets the record and maybe by then, a year or year and a half later, they're not as excited. Things are changing. Music changes like anything else. So they try and remix it.
They got a guy to change it, make it heavier. I think they wanted it more like Def Leppard. Maybe Def Leppard started to happen then. Who knows? Don't forget they put the record out and we had no video. That was the time of MTV. We were an MTV band but there was no video involved.
In fact I remember that they didn't even want to put this record out. The label, as far as they were concerned, they weren't excited over it whatever the reason. Our manager and with our pressure they put it out and they were hoping maybe with the little airplay it would get something would happen with it. Unless you promote something it doesn't happen. It happened to be a good record. I mean there was a hit song on there.
Oh it's a great record. You can tell the era it came from but it's still a very fresh record.
Yeah it's a great record. Everybody who hears it loves it. I love the record. I still listen to it to this day.
So that's pretty much the Preview thing. Then when we were ready to talk about doing the second record again we did demos and we had some good songs. I just think maybe they saw the problems and that was pretty much it. The drummer playing on the record, Ed Bettinelli
nice guy and he played some songs but the bass player wasn't there.
It is a shame it didn't work out.
Getting back to you
what was your first job as a session guy?
Well after that when they didn't pick up the second record I just got lucky. I came back to NYC and our manager at that time knew somebody who was writing commercial jingles and doing session stuff in NYC. Big time, they were very successful. They were writing all the major car commercials and stuff like that. They needed a rock guy to so a song and I came in and here I am singing with these guys and they don't look like me. I have long hair and an earring in my ear and stuff like that ya know. But that's the voice they wanted and I got lucky. From there on I just kept doing them one by one. It took a little while. It didn't happen over night. Maybe it took about half a year. I did a lot of demos and stuff like that. Then when I got my first commercial on the air, I think it was Soft 'n Dry deodorant or something like that, then it just took off and I was doing everything. I was hot for a long time. I was singing everything. I'd work with all the top session guys. The next thing I knew that's what I was doing every day.
Wow, and that's been very lucrative for you?
Oh, it was ten hours a day working in the studio. But the interesting thing was that you got paid for it instantly. It was all union. I don't know if you know anything about this but it was all union work. You're an actor in SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and then you get residuals on top of that. So coming from the Preview thing, you know we did the touring for about a year or so and had the fun of the big tours with the Pat Benatar's and the Asia's and opening up for all those groups. It was exciting but it wasn't fun being an opening act. You just wait for that time and you can see that it could happen. And you say wow if we could only have that hit record it would make a big difference. Just that one hit could start it off. I wasn't meant to be but anyway.
So the commercial thing ended up and that was a long, long, long run. Then Michael Bolton came back into making commercials. He couldn't get locked up in records then all of a sudden I met him in commercials. You know his rock thing didn't really do that well. (laughter)
So all of a sudden he's doing commercials with me because his manager had another guy who had been doing commercials for a long time. Another guy like me who'd had a couple of records. There are a lot of guys like that. We all had that similar thing. They all had records but it didn't happen for them. Some of the writers for the jingle companies did too. Some of them had some success.
It was a lucrative business because some of them had hit records on the outside that they wrote for people but they knew that they could do so well in commercials that they were writing commercials. If you're a writer you write, if you're a singer you sing. That's what you're supposed to do. If you can't find a place to do it then you shouldn't be doing it. You can't just sit by the phone and wait. It's just like an actor. Are you just gonna sit and wait for your next role? If you love it you don't do it for the money you do it for the art and you go out and find a place to act. Whether it's in a play, a musical or this or that you've gotta find a vehicle for your creativity.
Are you still doing that yourself today?
I'm still doing some writing. My last success was some songs I wrote with another friend for George Benson. We had three songs on his record which came out last year. The name of the record was Irreplaceable. It did fairly well. It was out in Europe and I still see the residuals that come out through my ASCAP. I wrote the title song called Irreplaceable and another song called Strings of Love. I co-wrote that with a couple of guys that were very successful songwriters. And another song called Six Play. So we wrote six songs and we had a Grammy nomination. Not for one of our songs but George always get Grammy nominations. So there was an instrumental on there that got nominated. George won Grammies this year for a record he has out with Al Jarreau. In fact he's coming here on the 11th of April and we're gonna see him. So that was a highlight when that happened last year. That was fun. Still do some writing and feel like I still have some good songs left. I still do some singing here and there. I haven't done any recording in a while.
The last recordings I have from you are the last Fiore albums. Themselves very highly regarded records.
Yeah, they were pretty good, right?
Absolutely I mean you can't go wrong with Harry and Pete [Harem Scarem were the backing band for both records].
It was a lot of fun. You talk about the musician and the way they played. They were great. Harry is great and nice to work with. Had a lot of fun.
And you wrote the songs with Harry.
Yeah, which was nice. That was a nice thing. Harry found me through someone. I forget who it was but he said he said he wanted to do a record. He'd heard my voice and loved it and I said great. We wanted to do it quickly so he had a bunch of songs for the first one Today 'til Tomorrow. So I said fine, that'll be great. I mean if we can do some writing we'll do it but he had a bunch of songs so again, that's the way I looked at it.
Then we got to do another one and we co-wrote. So then it was fun and that's how I looked at it.
You said you still had some songs left in you?
Yeah I still feel like I have some songs left in me to write. My voice is still as strong as ever. I do a bunch of charity things here. This is a very, very philanthropic island here. We do a lot of charity work. There are all kinds of charity organizations here. My wife and I chaired and event here called the Drifer School of the Arts which is a magnet school here. It's a school for the creative arts, dance and all that stuff. These kids go on to become professionals in music, film, media. They can become anything they want. People that tend to go to this school, they have to audition to get in, usually go into the arts. So we chaired an event for them to collect money and we raised probably about a million dollars for them. We put on a big gala and sell tickets. We did that at Mar-A-Lago one year. We had a big banquet hall and used the kids to perform. We had the school band so you get a 40 piece orchestra and have the theater department do something. Then you'd have the dance department do something. So it's quite an entertaining evening then I would get up and sing like a theme song with them. With the orchestra and then have the choir join me in the end. With all my experience at doing conventions, after the commercials when I went back into performing, I used to do conventions all over the world. I did Vegas. I mean I was all over as a performer again. You know I got another deal in '93. I don't know if you knew that, with Atlantic.
I didn't know that.
Oh, I got another deal in '93, a solo deal. There were a lot of things that happened.
What style of music did they sign you for?
Well, it's a fluke how it happened. You know, through sessions and working with all those guys. Here's what happened.
Like I said I was doing commercials with Michael Bolton and Michael was going to do another record. I guess his timing had come. You know, he found what he wanted to do and maybe he didn't know if it would work or not. I guess he met a couple of great song writers because he was always writing songs. So we met doing commercials and he loved my voice so he said would you come sing on some of my demos. So I went and on the Soul Provider record, which was a big record for him, I sang on How Could We Be Lovers, You Wouldn't Know Love, and there was a couple more.
He worked with a big writer, I can't think of his name right now but he gave Bon Jovi his biggest hits.
Yeah, Desmond Child. So Desmond wrote How Can We Be Lovers and a bunch of songs with Michael and I remember being in the studio with Michael and saying man that stuff sounds really good. The next thing you know it was a success. The timing was great, he's found his niche. So that sort of haunted for years because I'd always wanted to have a hit record. It was always my dream. So I started working on some songs, writing again. I was working with different people and I actually met a guy who introduced me to a different songwriter. We did some demos and just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was coming back from a place in NYC where they were putting a stereo in my car or a telephone, something like that. It happened to be one of those high end places in NYC that only dealt with high end stuff. So he'd get presidents of record companies and stuff in there and he was a friend of mine.
So he says you know who's coming in here today? I said who and he said Jason Flom. This was in '93 or '92 somewhere. I said oh Jason Flom I've heard of Jason. Back then he was with Atlantic Records and he was a big A&R guy but he did a lot of the rock stuff. But anyway, long story short, I happened to come there and I was playing my friend the demo that I had on me and in walks Jason. He goes, what's this, and my friend says this is John. He hears it and he goes wow this is great. You know, again, timing.
He goes this is great, you could be my Michael Bolton or my Garth Brooks. I'm looking for someone. It was a hit song, a great song that I wrote with a guy named Jed Leiber. I don't know if you know who Jed is but he's a California guy, friend of mine. It was Jerry Leiber who wrote a lot of the big, big hits of yesteryear. You know '50s, '60s, '70s. Leiber and Stoller they had a big show on called Smokin' Joe's Café.
You know, they wrote Stand By Me and all those old '50s/'60s songs like Yakkety Yak.. They wrote so many songs. Anyway Jed and I got to be good friends.
I think I was doing something off Broadway called Leader of the Pack which was another sort of theme show where they did songs from Ellie Greenwich. Anyway, so I met this guy. We wrote this song over the phone. He was in California and I was in New York. I had the music in my head and I said Jed, what do you think of this? He said well why don't you try this, change this change that chord and we wrote the song. I demoed it and that's the song this guy heard.
We got the deal, eventually. It took a little while but we got it. The only problem was that we only had two or three songs. So we had to go and write more. Where with Preview we had the record, but this time we had to write the songs. I would go back and forth to LA and work with this writer or that writer than come back here. It was just a long arduous task but it was a fun journey. It was a great time but again, it was the same typical thing with the record companies. The president of that label was Doug Morris at that time. He was leaving. Danny Goldberg was coming in. Being around the Preview thing I was going oh God here we go again. But it was different then. Then it was like they were only gonna get one or two groups to go.
They were only gonna put so much money in somewhere. They didn't know where, which one, they'd find out.
But we did what we had to do. Then I was close with the guy in California and David Foster's wife, Linda Thompson. Andy Goldmark, who was a writer on the Michael Bolton record. Like it all came back into circles, you know. Andy Goldmark heard of me and he wanted to get involved. You know they all, these songwriters, all want to get a song on someone's record that they think will be a hit. The come out of the woodwork. (laughing) That's what I like about songwriters. They're really smart in that way. I mean the ones that really were successful at songwriting because they know how hard it is and they want to get their records here and there. I used to get boxes and boxes of tapes from people that I'd never even heard of. The record label would get them for Jon Fiore. Once they smell some sort of success it comes out of the woodwork. You listen and you listen and you hope you find one, but most of the stuff is eh, you know, not great. So you hope you get the A song from like the Dianne Warren, people like that. You're only gonna get an A from her if she knows the label's gonna get behind you.
I think at that point the same thing was happening. David Foster was not quite sure he was gonna come aboard because David doesn't want to lose. If knows the label's gonna get behind it then he'll jump on board. We almost had a commitment from him. He says alright I'll do a song then the next thing you know I heard that Doug Morris was leaving and Danny Goldberg was coming in, again that name Danny Goldberg. It's haunted me my whole life. Then he comes in and it just doesn't work out so they just never released the record.
What style was it? Sort of an Adult Contemporary or Pop Rock?
It would be more adult contemporary/pop rock, yeah. Shooting ahead, that's why in '98 when Harry then came along and we had a chance to do a record I jumped at the opportunity. I said this will be great, let's just get a record out. Let's get people to hear it. That's the main thing. It wasn't about money or anything like that because I was very successful in commercials for probably close to twenty years. I started in like '84 or '85 and then '98, yeah it was a good 14 or 15 years.
I would have loved to have heard that record.
Well I have all of this music. The good thing is that I still listen to all this music. I still love the songs. I love the Preview songs, I love Fiore record. I mean I listen to this stuff.
But I'm still a fan of the voice. I'd love to hear it.
I can always give you a sample. It's funny, when the Atlantic deal didn't work out I tried to salvage it. I went to some other people, managers, a lawyer. If all people I found Clive Davis's daughter is a lawyer. Somebody recommended her to me and when she heard it she wanted to try and get me a deal in Europe. She said Oh this stuff will go over great. We were close. We had a deal in one country but the same old thing. It just never worked out.
There's a lot of luck in this business isn't there?
Oh yeah, talent is one thing but there's a lot of luck. I was fortunate enough that I was at least able to do what I did. To do what I've loved to do for a long, long time. It was only up until a few years back that I was still touring. I had a band, I was booked and I worked all over. I'd fly to Vegas and do stuff, but I would do cover stuff. But I was lucky enough that I could sing anything. I still could move people and that was the fun of it. But a part of me in life missed being married and having children. I was really sort of yearning for that other side of life. So for me, when I met my wife, her husband had passed away and she had a six year old daughter. These were all the things that I was yearning for so things just all worked out. I have a wonderful life, just absolutely wonderful.
I'm pleased to hear that. That's great.
In fact we just sang something tonight here. She loves my songs. She wanted to do some of my songs so we were doing a duet of Butterfly Kisses that was out years ago.
I know the song.
It was kinda cute. There are people who like to hear the stuff. So that's it. I could ramble on but I don't want to go on and on and on here.
Jon even though you've done a lot of other stuff, is there any chance of you doing another record in any form for the melodic rock crowd?
You know, there's always a chance. People say I have a gift and to waste it is not the right thing to do. I still feel young and I am young. I'm in great shape. I'm still passionate about music and I still feel like I can move people.
(laughing) Hey you never know. I would do it.
Edit: Needless chatter and discussion of this and that removed!