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Interview with Robin Beck

Robin Beck

Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: January 2009

Robin Beck : Hi Brian, It's Robin Beck, how ya doin’?

Brian Rademacher: Yeah I’m from Brooklyn too!

Robin Beck : (Laughing) I can hear it in your accent, It’s actually heartwarming to me.

Brian Rademacher: Yeah, I’ve been out of New York for some time now; I was born at Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn and lived in Queens off Myrtle Avenue in Glendale. I remember going to Coney Island and Lake Ronkonkoma on the Island.

Robin Beck : Me too... I went to High School nearby, in Coram L.I. I was born in Brooklyn at Brookdale Hospital but it was called Bethel Hospital then. Then I grew up in East New York and Canarsey, lots of good memories.

Brian Rademacher: Nothing can bring back those days of 8 mm film and photos that looked like pastel pictures.

Robin Beck : That was awesome and people do that now like SNL; People try to capture that look like a scratch on a record. When I was born, I don’t think they had color film (Laughing)... I know we didn’t have a color TV in our house though I wouldn’t trade my youth for the world. Brooklyn was a great place to grow up. I can take anybody on, that’s right! That’s right! I’m from Brooklyn, LOL. Not that many people know how great Brooklyn N.Y. really was back then and even now!

Brian Rademacher: I remember playing stickball, handball and things like that.

Robin Beck : My husband James (James Christian of HOUSE OF LORDS ), loves Base Ball. A match made in heaven... I used to play stickball and if you can hit a ball with a stick you should be able to hit it with a bat. We used to take the broom stick off the broom and tape it up and there you go! What about stoop ball? Robin beckIf you're not from Brooklyn, you don’t know about all the real Brooklyn stuff like street get a good Spalding ball and anything is possible.... Stoop ball was my favorite thing to do. I miss that kind of stuff. No stoops in Florida or Malibu. People might think that's a hard life but it was great... We weren’t rich but we had what we needed. I remember that I slept in a bedroom with two older brothers till they moved out. Then shared a room with my other brother. My big brothers took me to Coney Island and I rode the Cyclone... remember the wooden roller coaster from hell? We ate Nathan's hot dogs and white castle burgers for a nickel, the Carousel, the brass ring that you could reach out and grab... it so cool. Back in my neighborhood on Eastern Parkway pre Canarsey, we used to go sled riding in Lincoln Terrace Park... I would lie on my brothers back and he would take me down what seemed to be the highest hill... I remember that as one of the best times in my life. All that is a memory that I hope to never forget.

Brian Rademacher: How did you get into singing?

Robin Beck : My father was a pocket maker and my mom was a seamstress but my dad, he could sing.... “Pennies From Heaven” every night he would sing that song and throw pennies up in the air for my amusement... LOL. It's kind of like the quarter behind the ear trick without the ears.... So I got my talent for singing from him. Then there was this deep rooted feeling that I had inside of me to make it out of Brooklyn and become a singer. I used to meet my friends on the corner and this kid name Larry Di Salvo (who later became my boy friend) used to tell me to sing. We were out until nine o’clock at night playing ball and singing. I could hear my mother calling my name from the doorway of our two family home. In fact everyone could hear their mothers calling for them. I could hear my mom calling from blocks away... Robin, it’s time to come in. Oh that reminds me to say, I got my strength vocally from my mom... She couldn't sing but boy could she holler. Oh and another fond memory... I remember the carvel guy that came around and sold cigarettes to my dad. I was always guaranteed to get a cone if I told him when the truck was coming down the street. Ice Cream and Cigarette's, what a combo!

Brian Rademacher: I remember the Good Humor guy that came around with his truck that had like a little house with shingles on the back of it. He would stop his truck and get out. The house was a big refrigerator and he would open the door and get the ice cream out for ya. I remember my favorite was this ice cream that looked like an upside down cone and at the bottom was a gum ball.

Robin Beck : (Robin,’s Laughing) that’s funny. I remember Mr. Softee, once you heard that music Robin Beckfrom his truck you would come running and my dad would say get my wallet, my cigarettes are here. I guess they were hot and fell off the back of a truck into and into the Ice Cream mans hands.... Ahhh the candy man can syndrome. Now you know where they got that from!

Brian Rademacher: Do you remember the first record you ever owned?

Robin Beck : Actually it was 'CROSBY, STILLS, NASH, YOUNG, & REEVES TAYOLR & REEVES , Déjà vu album. I loved the song "Our House” before that it was the SUPREMES the one with "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” I didn’t own that one I had to listen to it at a friend’s house. In my house we only had a clock radio. Also "Meet the Beatles"... "This Boy" was my favorite song ever. Later it was Carol King's "Tapestry" But CROSBY, STILLS, NASH was my first.

Brian Rademacher: For me just a few weeks ago I got to see one of my childhood idols Al Green and a lot of rockers can learn from that guy because he was amazing. He must be in his sixties and so gracious to his fans. He played ninety minutes running from side to side of the stage and handing out roses to the women in the front. Some of today’s artists can learn a great deal from a guy like that.

Robin Beck : Wow now that’s a real legend; and being gracious is so important. Kids today don’t know it like we did... what real R & B is like, like I mean Al Jarreau and Marvin Gaye. The songs had substance, vocals, lyric, melody; the attitude back then was a little more genuine and original. There is some good stuff out there but not much like the old days. I do like Justin Timberlake though and Beyonce. I really stick to my old records like THE BEACH BOYS, THE BEATLES old classic Alice Cooper, Simon and Garfunkel and a few gems like Jelly Fish and of course Al Green and Marvin. I don’t mess around with too much of the newer music but I like NICKLEBACK. I recently heard a band called RED. I went to check them out here at the Hard Rock a few weeks ago just to see what the kids really love now. They were really good and melodic and metal and cute I couldn’t take it. Their hair was long and they were wearing leather pants to die for. The 80's all over again. Now if we could just get the whole song that would be great. I'm a sucker for a good hook and a strong melody.

Brian Rademacher: How about the first concert you attended?

Robin Beck : The very first one was Janis Joplin at the Fillmore East. I was snuck in because I was under age and after that was Joe Cocker. The biggest impact for me back then was FLEETWOOD MAC and Stevie Nicks. I was sitting at the back of the theater crying my eyes out saying "That’s what I want to do", It was really inspiring. On Janis Joplin, I was a little too young to understand her attitude. I was more into THE BEATLES just then and I was grooving on the soul coming out of THE BEATLES... so to be hit with Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker I'd be saying how do they do it? Get those sounds to come out so effortlessly. Speaking of Janis reminds me that I thought Wow, she really believes in herself to be so free fierce and sing like that... Well if only I knew of her history and how down on herself and how desperate she was, I might not have even tried to be a rock singer. I thought it was all guts and Glory... but it was pain and anguish.... She was so overwhelmingly available and there, heart blood sole and guts so it seemed. I was like eleven or twelve and it was a lot to take in but I was mesmerized by it all. I learned of her deep fears and heartache much later in life. I have to admit... it makes me love her even more... I feel so sad thinkin' bout what she had to go through to do what she did and still mean it on stage. Sigh....

Brian Rademacher: What was the Christmas gift you remember the most growing up?

Robin Beck : Didn't get a whole lot, we never had Christmas, we never had money. My best friend gave me a beret that I found at a store on Avenue L. My family is Jewish and James is Italian and now we are both Christians. But going back we never had money for that sort of deal.... My friend’ Maxine and her family always had a tree and I'll never forget this. Me and my friend Gail were going to this place called the L in Canarsey and I saw this beret that was navy blue and burgundy stripe and I said I love that hat it look so artsy to me. That was the first Christmas gift I ever got. I'll never forget what a nice feeling that was to get a Christmas present.

Brian Rademacher: Tell me what Robin Beck was like as a child growing up.

Robin Beck : I think I was basically a good kid...I got what I wanted by asking for things, I was fearless. I had a big mouth like most kids from Brooklyn, but I was always respectful to adults. I hated school; I was a dreamer and still am.... I did well with my grades but I just didn’t give a crap about school once I reached High School age... except for, well you know... BOYS! I had street smarts and you know that can take you a long way. For god’s sake, I went to Wood Stock and slept in a granny gown in the back seat of some older kid’s car. I couldn't stand to miss a music event once I reached 11. My parents couldn't stop me. I don’t preach that to my 11 year old daughter though... I lie to her about that as much as possible and how important it always was to me to get good grades. The world is very different today and you gotta have more than raw talent to get by, I worry a lot.... She’s very talented and she wants to be in the arts like me and James... she loves the stage and she could sing before she could even talk. She's got moxy like her mom, that's what scares me. But changing the subject back now... Do you remember the year of the big blackout in N.Y.? Well my brother was the one reading books by candle light and I was the one going into dark buildings and running around. I didn’t give a damn about reading by candle light, I just wanted to be on stage or in dark hallways I guess.

Brian Rademacher: What was it like the first time you sang in front of an audience?

Robin Beck : I was in a talent how at school, sixth grade and I didn’t win either. I remember we couldn’t just pick any song we wanted... it had to be a classic pop song or Broadway, a song the parents knew. So I did "Somewhere over the Rainbow". I got stuck on some of the lyric and the piano player said come on robin and I made up my owe ending and the piano player followed me out... It felt really good to end that song finally. That’s a long song and my kid did that for her school too in fifth grade... she didn’t make one mistake and did it perfectly then got a standing ovation. ALL RIGHT! When I was nine my brother used to get the backstage magazine... Hale Roach Jr. was holding an audition to make the new Little Rascals Variety Show for T.V. and I wanted to audition O had to prepare a short monologue. I think I did something from West Side Story. I do remember singing a Doris Day song (Laughing) hey, I was nine years old... I also remember writing my first song called "Why" and sang it to my brother on the way... he said, “you didn’t write that!", but I did. Matter of fact my daughter just wrote a song called "Why" and she never knew I had written a song called "Why" when I was a little girl. (Robin starts singing the song to me)! Must be a cosmic question. Remember that song “I think were alone now” and “Sherry" by Frankie Valley? That was the inspiration for my song.

Brian Rademacher: How was it when you were a background singer for Melissa Manchester, Chaka Khan, and Leo Sayer?

Robin Beck : That was amazing; I was dating a famous bass player then who got me the introduction to Arif Mardin. The first time he heard me sing, he was playing on my record “Sweet Talk”. When he heard me sing he said you’re good enough to be a session singer also. I didn't really know what a session singer did but if it was singing, I wanted to do it. When Arif met me he threw me in the studio to sing on Melissa 's tracks and then Leo Sayer and I did something for David Bowie, Chaka Kahn and George Benson... Arif Mardin, he’s my hero. Technically he gave me my first shot at studio singing for others. Not a bad day gig that's for sure. I still do it today and I still love it. I do all the back grounds for HOUSE OF LORDS. I got that gig locked down... LOL.

Brian Rademacher: Your first release "Sweet Talk " came in 1979, it had Irene Cara and Luther Vandross, how did that come about?

Robin Beck : My good friend Guy Marshall, and here we go again with the news papers... picked up a Village Voice and saw an ad that read something like, "Producer looking for talented singers for Record Deal". He sent in a tape of me singing with our band and I got the call.... Then I met Luther during our production of "Sweet Talk ". We co wrote one of the songs for that album. Irene became a friend of mine. We would always hang out together in our crowd...she became a great friend of mine then. My older brother was in a band and worked with Barry Manilow and thru Barry he met Luther and then Vickie Sue Robinson and we all became good friends. We all worked together for years after. I was also in a Broadway Show that closed on opening night and Irene was the star. It was called, “Got To Go Disco" at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway. It was a wild time in 1978/79 A turning point in musical history from Disco to Rock... the end of studio 54 and the beginning of 80's Rock and my studio career and my introduction to the jingle business through my then boyfriend and famed bass player Will Lee. I owe a lot of my success to Will. Hey Will if you're reading this, thanks :-) I think I was the very first female rock singer to hit the scene and it was at that time they began to throw the charts away, as more artists who couldn't really read charts, but sang their asses off were in demand. It changed the face of the jingle industry forever and they can thank Will Lee for that too. He actually got me started in the Jingle biz. (factoid) One of the first spots I ever did was for Close Up Tooth Paste. They used the song "Get Closer" by Linda Ronstadt and we won a Cleo.

Brian Rademacher: “First Time” reached #1 in several countries making you an international star, and charted in a few more... but not in the US. What goes through your mind reaching that great achievement but your own country didn’t get it?

Robin Beck : Yeah it was stunning and it hurt me because It was being backed by Coca Cola and we had the international dept at Mercury dealing with Phonogram in England where I was signed. It had everything going for it and I was being sponsored. I had already recorded the second hit "Save Up All Your Tears” even though that song wasn’t a hit in England, it was everywhere else, where “First Time “was #1. Here in America no one gets famous singing a TV commercial and there was a bit of a power struggle so they decide to put “Save Up All Your Tears” first and Coca Cola had a hairy and they pulled out from the promotion. They made a two million dollar commercial featuring me and that was going to be the beginning of the whole thing. I was on the cover of Billboard magazine that was going to be the kick off of the record in America. I was touring all over and out of nowhere the record got pulled. It never saw the light of day. If “Trouble or Nothing” got released today in America it would get recognized by the rock community and be a success I feel. I did get a nomination for Best New Comer by New York Academy. Great things were going to happen, it was all political and it was all about Coca Cola and Mercury and the labels not agreeing. I was an American artist who made it big overseas and is coming back to a label that I was signed to once before with "Sweet Talk". No American label wants to play second fiddle. I felt sad but I rejoice in the fact that Europe is so faithful to me still to this day. I have to mention... it's not that the record didn't find its audience in America after all. I have many fans all over the world thanks to word of mouth and the internet. So in the end it is still a blessing to have had it happen at all.

Brian Rademacher: It was mentioned in the UK in 1988 on Top Of The Pops you were the first female rocker to wear a bra on stage on the outside of the clothes, when you were singing First Time. You are wearing a hat on the video, is this true? (Link for commercial)

Robin Beck : Yes I think that’s true, the person who invented Madonna’s style, Marlene Stewart was my stylist and she said let’s start something new. If I had it my own way I would have been the jean and T-shirt girl with a leather jacket, I’m a New York girl after all. As you can see I did have it my own way later on LOL.

Brian Rademacher: You worked with Desmond Child and featured songs by Child, Diane Warren, & Holly Knight on your “Trouble Or Nothin' ” (Mercury 1989) release.. Did you actually work with them in person?

Robin Beck : Yes, Holly and I were friends before my album and we hung out together and Desmond produced the record and hung out all the time, Dianne and I were always together going to parties. Paul Stanley we really weren’t friends but I’ve been to parties with him and sat and talked, very nice guy. Alice Cooper I was up at Bearsville doing the record and Alice was doing his record. That’s how I wound up doing one of Alice' s songs "Hold Back The Night". I love that song.

Brian Rademacher: SUNBLOCK also did the song “First Time”, that went over pretty good?

Robin Beck : Yeah it hit the top ten in the UK. It was a dance version. That's pretty popular these days. They take a great rock song and turn it into a dance song. I had to re sing it though. It was way to fast for them to use the original vocal.

Brian Rademacher: “Hide your Heart” was done by KISS, Ace Frehley, and Molly Hatchet. Did you get any feedback from KISS, Fans?

Robin Beck : Yeah, I heard they said mine was really the best in contest. But I've only heard this, so maybe I'm the wrong person to ask. I didn’t know those guys did it; it was a song Desmond, gave to me with no real tracking record of where it had been before or if it would be done again. . I had no clue and when mine was coming out in America (causing another label war) at the same time KISS, decided to put there’s out, it was a big surprise to me. But like I said earlier in this interview, I'm fearless when it comes to my dreams. But everyone knows that if you are a KISS, fan you are a KISS, fan. End of story. We should find out someday how the KISS, fans felt about my version. I've only heard tales out of school.

Brian Rademacher: You worked on the 2007 “Voices of Rock”, CD and did the song “Underloved”, how did that go.

Robin Beck : First of all it was my pleasure and an honor to sing on a record with some of my peers. I love the way it came out. In the Melodic Rock community I will be the first in line to help out if I can. There are so many great song writers out there that just need the right artist to sing their stuff and make it come to life. It's a real compliment to be selected and trusted with that thought in mind.

Brian Rademacher: You have the “Trouble or Nothing”, 20th Anniversary Edition CD coming out soon and fans can pick it up through your website right?

Robin Beck : Yes... It comes out Feb 6th in Germany and worldwide Feb 9th. I'm running a special lottery at my site right now when you order a copy of the new "Trouble Or Nothing, " from my website and fill out the entry form, you get a chance to win my entire collection sold at the site. Plus a phone calls from me and a meet and greet with me and James, while we are out touring. All the detail are there for the fans read. It's starts January 15th and will run through May 1st. Then it will be announce on the website June 1st. and some lucky winner gets a phone call from me to tell them personally what they've won. It will be so much fun.

Brian Rademacher: With this new record, what was the design or intentions behind the making of?

Robin Beck : Trouble or Nothing’”, went out of circulation years ago and the only way to get the record would be if we would give you a promotional copy with no booklet or go on eBay and pay a huge fee. Over the past several years so many fans contacted me about the record. It got overwhelming. I went to Universal when I was in the UK to argue with them, because they didn’t want to un-achieve it, WHY! Because the people who now work at Universal UK were in diapers if they were even born then. They don’t know anything about the record they don’t even know how to look up what was outstanding or recoupment. There’s no recoupment on that record, that record went gold. There was no reason not to give me the licensing. We didn’t have limousines, sushi and jets, we were very modest. I decided because of the overwhelming requests and the fact they wouldn’t give me licensing rights put it back out I decided to re record the whole album NOT RE-ISSUE the entire album is newly recorded mastered and mixed by HMMR. We tried to stay true to its original versions and give it a fresher and stronger sound, James produced it for me and did an amazing job. We all worked tirelessly and very hard to stay true to it. Tommy Denander did all the lead guitars and some of these guys are his friend and heroes. I tried to keep the vibe of the original record cover without ripping it off. I don’t expect to get rich over this, but I hope that my fans will be satisfied and stick with me further down the line as I keep going. This is a gift back to them and be able to get music out to the fans without a record label telling me what I can and can’t do. I want that album to meet it's new friends too.

Brian Rademacher: I read on other websites from the fans that they are saying it will be worth buying the new 20th Anniversary Robin Beck “Trouble or Nothing’”, just to get those four new songs?

Robin Beck : That makes me feel happy. I'm so flattered. I’m finally getting recognized as a songwriter, that kind of approval. It’s like being reborn starting over. They are giving me the chance I always dreamed of, it makes me feel incredible. I will give it my very best.

Brian Rademacher: Did you write all the song yourself or did James, help?

Robin Beck : The 4 new songs were all written by me and my writing partner Tommy Denander and one with Jeff Kent... but James, is my inspiration and he gives me valuable input.

Brian Rademacher: Do you have a favorite out of the four new songs?

Robin Beck : “Love is Divine” is one of my favorites, it just hits hard and I love “Lost Summer Days” and “Superstar” has a great little story and there is a line in there that says Love My little Rock n Roll girl. That’s what Desmond, wrote to me before he even met me. That’s very meaningful to me. “Changed For Good” is a tribute to the fans that have been so supportive to me and made it possible for me to do this again. Anyway, they are like my children, if say I like one best the others might get jealous.

Brian Rademacher: Can fans expect a new full length CD from you in 2009?

Robin Beck : You bet they can, I have four or five songs already done. It's gonna slam.

Brian Rademacher: How is your daughter Olivia doing on guitar?

Robin Beck : Laughing James, taught her some chords and she plays well. She’s going to performing arts school. She's thinking how to make a band, and trying to write lyrics and learn more. She’s very good. She has a combination of James, and myself like I said. She has phenomenal time and a range that won’t quit. She’s a belter like her mom too.

Brian Rademacher: If you can say anything to the fans what would you tell them?

Robin Beck : I live and breathe for them, they are more than just fans to me, I consider them my friends.

Brian Rademacher: Well Robin, I appreciate you taking the time out to talk to me.

Robin Beck : You can call anytime, it’s great to go back and reminisce how it was growing up in Brooklyn. Let's stay in touch. Thanks so much for the interview. Love to all!


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