Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby is a beautifully raw and touching album: vocal harmonies, crackling, buzzing atmospheres and the upbeat/downbeat lyrics of a couple that have been one too many times around the dance floor. There are no other musicians involved here, just Eric on guitars, bass guitar and organ, Amy on guitars and piano, plus the odd sample, some well placed percussion and an old bossa nova beatbox. This is the first release on Stiff Records proper in the U.S. since the rebirth of the label and the first involving one of the label’s signature artists from the 70’s. This is being released in the U.S. late Fall, PRECEDED by an extensive U.S. tour starting in Aug. and running thru mid October. Here under are the artists’ thoughts on each other:
Eric on Meeting Amy, Amy on Meeting Eric
Eric: We met in a pub in Hull. I was playing the following night and the promoter asked me to come a night early and DJ at a gig Amy was doing. I’d never seen her before though I’d heard a few of her records. I was really enjoying her set and then she played Whole Wide World and the promoter pushed me on the stage. She played it in a different key. I said ‘it’s only got two chords in it and both of yours are wrong’. She seemed very nervous – I think she was scared of me. Oddly enough it was the pub where I first ever sang Whole Wide World back in 1975.
Amy: I knew he was coming, I’d been playing Whole Wide World in my shows for a while. I first heard it as a teenage girl and then, in the late 90s, an Eric compilation came out and it just spoke to me again but in a different way, some twenty years later. I started playing it live, and I found that at some shows I would play it just to pep myself up. It has some sort of magical power – that was what lead to us meeting at that show
Recording the New Album
(The album has been a year in the making and started off when Eric and Amy moved to France.) Eric: We were doing a lot of gigs and we wanted to make a record together. We were a bit shell-shocked by moving – Amy from America, me from England but we both knew it had to be done. You stop existing in some way if you don’t put records out.
Amy: Eric recorded and engineered the entire album himself. It was a new way of working for me, where there’s time to step away and then go back in and try something different, move things around, re-record stuff if it isn’t happening. I’ve never had that kind of time before and you have to have real focus to keep at it – Eric does. I’d wander off to pull weeds in the garden and then I’d hear some strange sound – `He’s at it again. I’d better get back in there.’
Eric: Amy is a real songwriter – the real thing, like Jackie DeShannon or Ray Davies or John D Loudermilk. She’s driven to write and she knows how to do it. I’m not like that – I’ll have an idea and quite often it stays that way, an idea in a notebook or on a cassette. Whereas Amy can take an idea and work it to completion. I’m much more interested in recording so it’s a real luxury working with Amy. And I’ve learned so much from her about layering vocal harnonies.
Amy: As a singer/songwriter, the tendency can be to give the backing musicians a song and a basic idea and leave it to them to come up with something. With Eric at the controls it wasn’t like that. He has spent years creating his own sound in the studio, using his imagination and a whole array of recording techniques picked up from studying the records he loves. He knows how things work so well that we were able to create our own world and play and record without any prescribed criteria.
Here Comes My Ship
Eric: Occasionally something comes up – they’re going to use one of my songs in a massive advertising campaign or whatever. It usually falls through at the last moment, or by the time the sub-publishers and whoever else have all taken a cut there nothing much left for me. So I live in hope and keep my expectations low – ‘Electric light when daytime turns into night’ – that’s all I ask for.
Amy: One day I was stuck in traffic in New York, listening to WFMU, and they played the Len Bright Combo – Eric singing Young, Upwardly Mobile.& Stupid. There was that voice again. I thought, he still exists, he’s still out there doing all kinds of things. Thank God! I got that feeling when we were recording this song. I get it every time we play: It’s him!!
Amy: This song comes from a lifetime of crappy vehicles, all at least ten years old. The Chevy Astrovan got stolen from a parking lot in Ohio. It was quite traumatic – it was like losing a person. I hated that van but it was one of those relationships where you need something more than you want it.
Wreckless Eric: “The first time I heard it I thought she was singing about another man. I thought who the f*** is she talking about?! Then the chorus came in and I was amazed! We did this one with the bossa nova beatbox. Amy played piano and I did the organ – we were like Traffic with a Mini Pops Junior as Jim Capaldi. Amy was Chris Wood and I was Steve Winwood though she might disagree and say it was the other way round. It’s our Traffic fantasy.
Another Drive In Saturday
Eric: I left school just as School’s Out came out. In A Broken Dream by Python Lee Jackson was a huge hit and so was All The Young Dudes by Mott The Hoople. I left home and went to art college in Bristol. It was 1972. Then it was 1973 and Drive In Saturday was on every jukebox. Leaving home, art school, it was all a bit of an anti-climax. But for a moment, ‘with hope that sprang from an autumn dream’ I felt like I could be anything I wanted.
A Taste of the Keys
Amy: I initially wrote this for the arts magazine Esopus. They asked me to write a song based on a Help Wanted ad. I found one for a waitress job in a restaurant called A Taste of The Keys. I’d seen the place, a faux tropical Florida theme on a snowy Cleveland street with the wind howling. What could be more depressing? The ad said ‘Come Have Fun At Work’ and I thought that sounds like the worst job in the world!
Eric: I really like atmospheres and wanted to build this thing up before the song kicks in – a lot of white noise and hiss, Amy’s synthesised choir, I think there’s even a boiling kettle in there, and of course the Cleveland weather forecast. We got it off the internet. It didn’t sound right so we broadcast it using a small FM transmitter that I probably shouldn’t have. We tuned a radio in and recorded it from that. We may have confused a few English speaking farmers with that. If they were tuned in.
Please Be Nice To Her
Amy: We both have daughters – mine is nineteen, Eric’s is in her early twenties. I was wishing there was a warning sticker on kids, that they be protected. Not in a way a little kid would need to be – people are vulnerable at that age, but they still want to get out and do things in the world.
I Still Miss Someone
Eric: To start with we were going to do an album of covers because neither of us had written any songs. We recorded a version of Red Rubber Ball by The Cyrkle, basically because we’d sung it together with Yo La Tengo in New York. But we slowly started to write stuff again and the covers idea fell by the wayside. So this Johnny Cash song was the only one to make it onto the album. We sound like The Seekers on substances. Somewhere in the vaults there are unfinished versions of John Anderson’s Swingin’and Waylon Jenning’s Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.