Dan Navarro: An Interview By Greg Lacour

Dan Navarro: An Interview By Greg Lacour

Greg Lacour is a journalist in Charlotte, N.C., where he’s a contributing editor for Charlotte magazine and contributor to several other publications. You can take a look at his political blog for the magazine and a recent feature of his on the bizarre and somewhat frightening state of politics in North Carolina.

Dan Navarro started his career as a singer-songwriter in southern California in the late 1970s, when he met his longtime musical partner Eric Lowen while both were working as singing waiters in a Hollywood restaurant. They discovered that their voices and styles blended beautifully, but they didn’t begin writing together in earnest until 1983, after Navarro had spent time working for a music manager in England and managing his uncle’s business. (His uncle, incidentally, was the father of Dan’s cousin Dave Navarro, later of Jane’s Addiction and, briefly, Red Hot Chili Peppers.) One of the first songs Lowen and Dan Navarro wrote together was a ballad titled “We Belong.” Lowen included on a cassette pitch to record companies, Pat Benatar plucked it out of a pile, and in 1984 she made it a huge hit in the United States and overseas. It remains the song the duo is best known for.

Lowen & Navarro began touring in 1987 and writing more songs, including a trio for The Bangles, with whom the duo had a couple of personal connections: Michael Steele was an old friend of Navarro’s, and Susanna Hoffs was close friends with Lowen’s wife. They wrote or co-wrote “I’ll Set You Free,” “Everything I Wanted” (released on The Bangles’ Greatest Hits album) and “Something To Believe In,” which Navarro says was mostly her work (although she credited her three co-writers equally in publishing).

From 1990 through 2008, Lowen & Navarro released nine studio and three live albums, developing a small but devoted following. In 2004, Lowen began to experience odd physical symptoms — weakness and fatigue, among others — and was diagnosed with amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lowen was expected to live perhaps two years. He survived for eight, continuing to tour and perform with Navarro on a limited basis until he no longer could. He died March 23, 2012. Navarro played a show four nights later and continues to tour as a solo artist.

In 2009, some of Lowen & Navarro’s friends and fellow musicians released Keep the Light Alive: Celebrating the Music of Lowen & Navarro, a tribute album to raise money and awareness for ALS research. The artists’ roster included Jackson Browne, Keb’ Mo’ and, of course, The Bangles, who recorded a version of “We Belong.”

I spoke with Navarro after a June 2 solo gig at the The Evening Muse, a small club in the arts district of Charlotte, N.C., that’s about a 10-minute walk up the street from my house. It was a rainy Sunday evening, and the crowd at first consisted of six people, including me (another two came in later). “There’s a better than even chance I’m going to be buying the whole audience a drink tonight,” he said before he started (and, after his set, he did!). Dan put on a spirited show, including “I’ll Set You Free” and a bilingual version of “We Belong” to close. His face lit up when I mentioned Michael, whom he said he hasn’t seen or talked to since 1994 but remembers with fondness and respect, both personally and musically. We spoke for about 90 minutes, at the Muse and next door at the Solstice Tavern.

GL = Greg Lacour
DN = Dan Navarro
GL: Tell me a little about yourself.

DN: I’m southern California born and bred. I was raised in a town called Calexico that’s on the Mexican border; I lived there from kindergarten through 12th grade. I was born in L.A. My parents moved down there when I was 4 … I moved to Los Angeles to go to UCLA for school, and loved it and stayed.

GL: I’m assuming you’re at least part Mexican.

DN: Oh, yeah. All four of my grandparents were born in Mexico, so I’m second-generation but 100 percent Mexican. Grew up speaking Spanish and English in the same sentence and everything. But L.A. was a big change for me, and I started getting around people who were doing creative things for a living instead of just for a hobby, and it really opened up my eyes …

GL: And you’re 60, right?

DN: I’m 60. I’ll be 61 in a few months.

GL: And you left to go to school at UCLA in …?

DN: I graduated high school in ’69, same year Eric (Lowen) did, even though he was a year older than I ‘cause I had skipped a grade … I finished UCLA in ’74 — never got my degree; I finished a couple of credits short — and decided to try the professional game: “Let me try it for a year,” and I never went back. I got my first cut two years after I was out of school, first song on someone’s record. It was an Austin country artist named Rusty Wier, who recorded a song called, “I Think It’s Time I Learned How To Let Her Go.” He was best known for a song called, “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance,” which Bonnie Raitt cut, a lot of people cut it. It was on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. He was a fixture in Austin.

But I studied music, I was gonna be a choral conductor, get a high school (teaching) credential, something to fall back on. I never did it. I decided to try being a pro.

GL: And you were a music major at UCLA?

DN: Exactly, I was a music major at UCLA.

GL: What got you started playing music in the first place?

DN: I’d played trumpet in the school band in 4th grade … it became my thing all through junior high school, high school, college. I had always wanted to sing, and I knew that I could, but there were no opportunities, and wanted to write songs, but I didn’t know how to play the guitar. I left high school, went to college, played in the UCLA marching band and the concert band. And then one day, some guy — he was playing piano to a song that I knew, and I start singin’ it, and he looked at me and said, “Man, you sing great. You ought to audition for the UCLA Glee Club.” And I went, “Nah, I’ll never get in.” He talked me into it, and I got in, and it became my main college activity. It taught me everything about voice blending, about placement, about pitch, and really taught me the ropes in a very effective way. When I finished school …

(Some members of the crowd come by to say thanks and good night. Dan tells them about his mobile app. One of the women is pregnant, and Dan tells them about his 16-year-old son: “I’ve had a great life, I’ve had a great career, I’ve had a great time. Nothing comes close to being a dad. Nothing.”)

So I wanted to be a musician, but I didn’t really know how. I decided to become a music major, against every bit of good judgment. I had to learn a lot of fundamentals — I didn’t know how to play piano, I didn’t understand harmony instruments. Second year in college, I bought a guitar to learn how to play and decided, “I’m gonna damn learn this thing.” One year later, I wrote my first song, and it’s horrible. But I pulled it out for my kid the other day, and he goes, “This isn’t that bad.” I went, “Yes, it is.” It’s really bad.

GL: Well, whose first songs aren’t bad?

DN: They’re supposed to be. And you’re supposed to not know that they’re bad. You’re supposed to believe they’re genius. Otherwise, you wouldn’t continue. But it’s definitely what I always wanted. It just took a long time to get there. Even though I had that cut two years out of college, it took eight years before I got anywhere with anything. So I was working day jobs for a record store, for a music manager, then I was a singing waiter, and the singing waiter story is how I met Eric Lowen. We were both waiting tables at this restaurant where you had to sing to be an employee there.

GL: What restaurant?

DN: It was called the Great American Food and Beverage Company. It was in L.A. There were three branches.

GL: And where was the one you worked at?

DN: It was in Hollywood, actually in West Hollywood, on the corner of Santa Monica and La Cienega (boulevards), opposite from a place called Flipper’s, which was an ‘80s disco roller rink.

GL: OK, so right near, like, Barney’s Beanery?

DN: Just around the corner from Barney’s Beanery. Like, an eighth of a mile. Right in the neighborhood, exactly. We had a great time there, and we were singing, but to actually think that we were, quote, “doing music,” was ludicrous. Except he and I started playing and singing together.

GL: What year was this?

DN: It would’ve been … well, I started there in late ’77, and he started there in the middle of ’78. That’s when he and I met. That’s how far back he and I go. It took us a while to like each other, because we were very competitive with each other. I didn’t like him because he was tall and blond and good-looking, I had a D-28 (Martin Dreadnought acoustic guitar), he had a D-35. It’s just that he was smooth and really handsome and really tall, and I fucking hated him. Fucking hated him. And he didn’t like me because I was willful and arrogant and thought that I knew everything about songwriting ‘cause I had been writing for a while. But we both mellowed out, and we sang together one night with other people, backing them up, and discovered that our voices clicked together really well, and that we instinctively understood where to go harmonically. So we thought, “Wow, we’ve got to put our other stuff away.” We worked on a friendship. We liked each other, but we worked on our friendship because we knew we had something that was bigger than our personal interaction. A lot of why we lasted so long is that we worked on being good friends. We didn’t naturally get along, so we had to do things like extra politeness and deference and showing real respect for each other, because the kind of freewheeling, “Hey, shithead. Hey, fuckface,” attitude, we really wouldn’t have gotten through. We developed into that later, as we had been through some things and had been together for about 10 years. We realized we had an unshakable friendship.

The period of time after his diagnosis, it was a huge time, because we were focused on keeping him going, keeping him alive, keeping him making music, and that became my top job. Nothing became more important other than my kid.

GL: When was he diagnosed?

DN: He was diagnosed in early ’04. He had had symptoms for a full year, and he diagnosed himself. He figured it out. Then he got his health insurance in order, then he went to the doctor and said, “I’ve got these issues.” So he knew what he had, and they confirmed the diagnosis about six months after he went to the doctor. We thought we would lose him within a year, maybe two, and he lasted eight. He kept it going and kept it going and kept it going.

Lowen

Lowen & Navarro: All The Time In The World (2004)

(Two other folks come by and say ‘bye. The guy is a sound engineer who said he’d mixed a couple of their shows in the early ‘90s. Dan tells the guy about Eric, then says, “I’m not quitting. I’m going and going and going until the wheels come off the wagon.” He later tells me that if every crowd was as small as this one, he’d consider hanging it up, but crowds this small are a rarity. The key, he said, is to play the same way for 10 as you would for 500, because this is still what he’d always wanted to do with his life — and he’s still doing it.)

GL: Eric’s death was a year ago?

DN: A little over a year ago, about 15 months ago.

GL: How has that affected you personally and musically?

DN: Musically, I got ready early. We knew it was gonna happen. I’d had the conversation with other people, and it’s an indelicate thing to say out loud, but let’s just say I could have simply said, “Look, buddy, you’re on a declining track, it’s a fatal disease” — I probably — we had All the Time In the World came out in ’04, Hogging the Covers came out in ’06, and we didn’t tour behind it, but we toured constantly. I could’ve very easily said, “You know what? You’re out of steam; I’m getting older; we need to stop, and I’m going to start working on solo.” I couldn’t do that. This is my brother. This is my best friend. This isn’t just a guy I played with. He and I tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and failed and then hooked up and succeeded, and it was never lost on us that we succeeded because of each other. We probably never would have accomplished what we accomplished without each other. Maybe, maybe not; impossible to say, because that’s how it happened.

So I started going out for four or five dates every four months or so starting in ’06. I would stay out of markets where Eric could still play. I didn’t want to confuse the audience; I didn’t want to embarrass him or hurt his feelings. So I’d go to places we had to abandon, and would get up there before 20 people and bash it out. The first bunch of times, I looked like I was apologizing for myself. I was uncomfortable and awkward. I sang well, I played well, but the performance itself was … limp. I was apologizing for being onstage. But from late ’06, all of ’07, all of ’08, I got that out of my system. So by the time he retired, I was ready. I had gotten the apology out of my system, so I was performing dynamically, moving around and doing what I needed to do in connecting with an audience …

I went on the road four days after he died. People came up to me saying, “We thought you’d cancel.” It never occurred to me to cancel. But what I didn’t expect is that his death hit me hard about October, about six months later. It’s like, “Wow, my closest friend, my longest-standing relationship, is gone.” I can’t pick up the phone and call him, and I miss my friend …

GL: Let’s get to Micki. You said you met her in ’76 …

DN: I met her in a bar. Now, I’m not even sure she was old enough to be in there, but I think she was. In fact, I’m gonna do the math. She was old enough to be in there.

GL: Actually, today is her 58th birthday.

DN: So she was born in ’55, and this was in ’76, so she was just 21. Today is her birthday?

GL: Today is her birthday.

DN: Aw, I wish I could find her. I haven’t seen her in so long. We were at this place called the Crazy Horse Saloon[1] in Malibu, and I was out there with my best friend, and we were looking for girls. And the lights came up, and I saw this lovely little brunette, and he saw this lovely tall redhead, and we started chatting with them, and damned if we didn’t hang out with them. We didn’t mess with them — being delicate here — but we hung out all evening, and we ended up going to an after-hours place called Dr. Munchie’s in Beverly Hills, and hung out ‘til 4 o’clock in the morning. In the process, I discovered that she was a record store girl from Orange County, she had worked at Licorice Pizza[2], and I was working for Tower, and she said, “I’m trying to get up from Orange County to L.A., I’m looking for work.” And I said, “Y’know, I’ll put in a good word with the manager for you, because we could actually use some help.” I told the manager, “I met this girl, she’s great, you gotta meet her,” and she got the job. So we worked at the record store for a long time, a couple of years.

GL: And this is the Tower Records in …?

DN: This is the Tower Records in Westwood Village, which is the little village just south of UCLA. Now, I had my first cut when I was working there, so of all the people that were aspiring, I was kind of pulling it off. She actually remembered the song years later when we got back in touch.

GL: Did you know about her background? Did you know that she had just gotten booted out of The Runaways?

DN: I knew about the Runaways because it was a record store and we were hawking the recordings, but I wasn’t really sure how far she had taken it or how long she was in it. But yeah, I knew she had been in The Runaways. I knew her under her real name; I knew her as Susan Nicholson Thomas. I don’t think she hyphenated it, but to me she was Susan Nicholson Thomas, not Micki or Michael. I remember the day she told me she was going to change her name to Micki Steele, and then by the time The Bangles happened, it was Michael.

GL: Do you know why she changed her name?

DN: I’m not really sure. I think it was probably just a rock ‘n’ roll thing. My understanding — and this is where I’m not necessarily qualified to tell tales out of school — is that she came from a wealthy family, or at least a well-to-do family, and that there were issues with her being a rocker and deciding to go for that. So I’m assuming, although I don’t have any real proof, that that’s why she might have decided to, you know, not represent herself under her real name.

GL: OK. And middle name “Nicholson,” like Jack?

DN: Yeah. And I’m not sure if that was a middle name or if she had a hyphenated last name. I’ve seen Wikipedia stuff where they refer to her as Susan Thomas, but I knew her as Susan Nicholson Thomas.

GL: ‘Cause I know she has said that she changed her name in ’76.

DN: We still called her “Sue” or “Susan” at the store because she needed to get her paychecks under her real name. But she said, “I’m going to start going by ‘Micki Steele,’” and I didn’t really start calling her that until I re-met her; actually, the period when she was in Elton Duck was when I started calling her “Micki,” because everybody did then.

GL: One quick thing, too: I’ve heard in a couple of spots that “Steele” was her stepfather’s surname.

DN: It’s possible; I don’t know that.

GL: OK.

DN: But I adored her. I had a crush on her, like every guy did. Beautiful, beautiful.

GL: What was it about her? Besides her looks, obviously.

DN: That’s a lot of it. She was very smart, very musical, really cool. She had a dorky side
that I found charming, and it’s interesting when you see a dorky side out of someone who is clearly so frickin’ cool … She had the cutest butt on the planet. And I liked her. I’m not sure I ever really buzzed that tower. I think I just sort of assumed she wouldn’t be interested. I never tried. I don’t think she’s ever known I had a crush on her. But so did almost every guy, ‘cause she was just lovely. Absolutely lovely. I had looked at some pictures of her online no more than a week ago, 10 days ago, and I went to breakfast with somebody, and there was a girl waitress who looked exactly like Micki, looked like Micki did when I met her. And this girl is like 22, she has no idea who The Bangles are, she has no idea who Micki is, and I pulled up pictures and said, “See?” And she goes, “Wow, I see the resemblance.” It was pretty funny.

But we clicked on music. I was the aspiring songwriter, and she was the aspiring player. A guy who played bass with me was playing with Jules Shear in Jules and the Polar Bears[3], so I said, “You gotta meet this guy.” She knew who Jules was, and they became fast friends. They became best friends. That’s David White, with whom she wrote a lot of material, especially the couple of songs, “Glitter Years,” “Complicated Girl,” and I don’t know if there was a third one.[4] And he co-wrote “Something To Believe In.” The four of us wrote that together. I had gone to college with David. So these crowds all of a sudden started mutating into one another.

By the time Elton Duck happened in ’78, I was completely into it. Completely into it. The A&R guy who was going to sign them was a good friend. I was friends with Andy (Robinson); I was friends with Micki, and I became sort of a groupie. I started going from show to show and following them and just loved, loved, loved, loved them.

EltonDuck2

Elton Duck, 1979. (L to R: Micki Steele, Mike McFadden, Mike Condello, Andy Robinson.)

GL: And why? What was it about ‘em?

DN: Economical songs. It was sort of the height of power pop, New Wave, and the songs had a teenage attitude, they were really well-written, well-played, and the band was just a four-piece with a lot of energy, there was a beautiful girl in it … By the way, it’s my understanding — I’m not sure if it’s 100 percent true — that Pat DiNizio (of The Smithereens) was referring to Micki …

GL: In “Behind the Wall of Sleep.” It’s not true.

DN: It’s not true? OK.

GL: The woman he wrote that about was a woman named Kim Ernst, who was the bass player for a band out of Boston called The Bristols. But I totally understand why people would think that. The lyrics — “She was tall and cool and pretty,” etc.

DN: One of the coolest things she did when she was in Elton Duck, the only cover they ever did was her doing “Walk Away Renee.” Vocally, she sounds like the guy who sang the original record. Eric and I ended up covering that. It’s one of the best songs ever written. Eric and I were friends with the guy who wrote it, Michael Brown, a crazy man. Or let’s just say “mentally on the edge.”

GL: Oh, really.

DN: Very talented guy, but some funny, nutso stories …

(They close down The Evening Muse. We go next door to the Solstice Tavern, get Guinness drafts — he’s a Guinness guy — and we sit at the patio bar out back.)

GL: So it’s the late ‘70s, you were hanging out with Elton Duck, talking about how good they were — were you pretty much friends with Micki throughout?

DN: I was decent friends with her by then, but it was the beginning of — what basically happened was, they were coming up, I was working in this restaurant, and I was also working part-time as an assistant to a music manager. The very tail end of ’79, that manager got a job with a management company in London. I was losing my management gig. I had asked Eric to start a band, and he said no — he said, “You’re better off solo,” even though we were doing really great work together — and my girlfriend and I had broken up. I had no girlfriend, no band, and one of my two jobs was going away. So I decided to go to my manager friend, who I worked for, and said, “I’m gonna go with you to London.” “Well, I can’t really take you.” “Well, I’m just gonna go, and I’m gonna show up on the first day of interviews, and try not hiring me. Go ahead, try it.” So I worked for him for a year there.

When the Elton Duck record came out, I phoned Los Angeles and spoke to Micki, and just congratulated her — when it was finished, I got a copy of it.

GL: Who sent you the copy?

DN: A guy named Bud Scoppa[5].

GL: Oh, yeah.

DN: Buddy Scoppa, a well-known music journalist. He was the A&R guy for Arista who signed them. I thought Buddy was one of the best guys I ever met in the music business — upbeat, nice. If it’s true, which I believe it is, it’s because he had come out of journalism and not come up through the ranks with the record company reps. He was a journalist. So it was OK to like stuff. Thought the world of him. So he sent me a copy of this, and I called Micki and said, “Congratulations.” We talked at length. And that was kind of … it. From that point on, I didn’t see her again until about 1985.

GL: Time out. Now, back then, in the late ‘70s, around 1980 or so, did you guys hang out and socialize?

DN: No. We worked together at the store, and we would see each other at gigs ‘cause I was following the band. But we weren’t really close friends. I had no idea what was going on in her personal life; I liked her, but I never made a play for her. I had heard later she was dating Sid Griffin from The Long Ryders, and I know there was a period early on with The Bangles when she was dating Brad, whose last name I can’t remember, from Hoodoo Gurus.

GL: Shepherd.

DN: Brad Shepherd, who I got to meet a bit, and I liked him. And I knew Sid. I knew these guys a little bit. They knew me from around, but that was it. We weren’t colleagues, ‘cause they didn’t think of me as a musician, they didn’t know what I had done. I hadn’t done anything. I was trying and failing. I’d had these cuts four or five years before and nothing else. I wasn’t playing the clubs. I had sort of put my music thing on ice when I was working for the manager.

GL: Doing what?

DN: I was just his assistant. I was his secretary: telephones, letters, filing. But I’d go out and listen to stuff. He’d say, “I’m supposed to hear this band, why don’t you go check ‘em out for me?” When I went to London, I set up his office for him, and it was an incredible experience, an absolute watershed experience.

GL: Before you get into that, what was kind of your general impression of (Micki), personally and musically?

DN: Musically, she was strong and deep.

GL: Even then?

DN: Even then. It’s hard to use these labels for music because they sound stupid now, but they didn’t then. The New Wave, whatever that was, and where it intersected with power pop, were all pretty huge. I had come out of country rock, so it was really a strange fit for me to adopt any of that kind of stuff. I tried later, it didn’t fit well; we’ll get to that in a minute. But because I had come from country rock, which I had gotten into through folk, all of a sudden — God, I remember the day when I absorbed Jules Shear’s first record with the Polar Bears[6], which I thought was brilliant. I went into a deep depression because basically, I thought, “I can’t do this. I’m this guy, and everybody wants that guy.” And Micki, coming out of The Runaways, being with Elton Duck, which was ostensibly what we would call a “New Wave” band, you know, we wore a skinny tie once in a while.

Got No Breeding

Jules and the Polar Bears: Got No Breeding (1978)

GL: Kind of like a Knack sort of …

DN: That Knack sort of thing. You look at it now, and nobody knows what the fuck “New Wave” ever was. Except what it was was post-punk power pop …

GL: … with punkish elements.

DN: Well, it was punkish in that the songs tended to be short and fast, songs about girls — it was a return to teenaged sensibilities in songs, and at that point in time, Eric and I drew a very strong connection between The Knack, for instance, and Tommy James and the Shondells, or the pop bands of the ‘60s that wrote, essentially, bubblegum. It was a version of bubblegum. Bubblegum’s great saving grace was that it was unabashedly songs about girls — not about women, girls. Short, sweet, to the point. None of this sort of stretching out that the California country rock scene did, and none of what also happened around that time — there was a moment when all of a sudden, the waters parted, and whatever it was that was contemporary pop at that point in time that had country leaning through Ronstadt and The Eagles and Jackson Browne, all of a sudden, they started jazzing it up. Michael McDonald joined the Doobie Brothers, and he’s using jazz chords. So basically people went one of two ways: They didn’t stick around in country rock. They either went power pop or they went jazzbo, even if it was considered pop. This was a period, by the way, when Bonnie Raitt in particular was at her absolute low point, because she neither made the jump to jazz-oriented chords (or power pop). She did what she did, and she bottomed out, and then it turned around and she became the icon that she is. I was a fan from day one. Well, for me, finding an identity was difficult …

(Of all things, Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” starts playing on the PA system.)

… it wasn’t a comfortable fit for me to go punk. I didn’t have that anger; I didn’t have that energy. I was coming out of doing folk ballads, and so to sit there and do true punk wasn’t me. But when the New Wave happened, which was ostensibly the pop distillation of the punk ethos, a lot of songs went (rapid-fire eighth notes), and I tried it on. It didn’t fit very well. But I did it for a little while. When I was living in London, I heard the post-punk bands that really would help define the new era: Joe Jackson …

GL: Joy Division …

DN: Oh, Joy Division was fucking brilliant — and to me, had zero to do with punk. Only because punk was about, “You don’t know how to play your instrument, you can’t sing, and you’re just going to throw big energy out there.” Joy Division — Ian Curtis couldn’t sing that great, but the energy of the music was bigger than punk. It was a larger sound. I was living there when “Love Will Tear Us Apart” came out. So I’m this folkie working for a music manager in the heart of the scene in London, but not a player. And realizing, “There is something of value here.” I started writing shorter songs, more to the point. Didn’t quite fit. But I did that. And I discovered that the telephone bills in London were not itemized and came out every three months, so I started calling Eric three times a week from the office phone. They never knew it was me. They just saw a bill. I’ve made the comment, “We sang together before I moved away, but we became best friends while I was gone.” In those phone calls, during which I would talk to him about “what’s going on over here, man, you need to be a part of this, man, the energy is amazing.” We’re talking about very early 1980. I moved there in January 1980. Basically, I moved there the same week “Brass In Pocket” hit number one[6], and I’m listening to The Pretenders, and that’s considered “New Wave.” Well, it also led to something I learned later but that I started developing then: The New Wave never existed. The New Wave was pop. I would put on a suit with a white shirt and skinny tie, and my friends would go, “Oh, how punk.” But in London, where all this was really happening, people called it pop.

The friend I was working for was managing a band called Fingerprints. They were on Virgin. They referred to everything as pop. There wasn’t punk and New Wave and Old Wave and semi-Wave. It was all pop. It was the biggest lesson I got, which is that these divisions in music don’t matter. You pick a style, you adopt a style, whether it’s yours or not. But to put a label on it didn’t make sense, and what made even less sense was the notion that you had some boring old fuck and put a skinny fucking tie on him and suddenly he’s relevant? Wrong. The way that I could tell the difference? In England, the guys wore their skinny ties all the way up. In America, they were loose, and as time went on they got looser and looser, ‘til I saw a picture in about 1981 of Paul Simon on the cover of People magazine with a skinny tie where the knot was around his solar plexus, and I realized, “They don’t get it.” And when I wore a skinny tie, I wore it all the way up …

(He came back to the U.S. ’82ish, joined Eric in a band called Bon Mot, which went nowhere. He left that band July ’83. He and Eric started writing together that September and almost immediately came up with “We Belong.” Six months later, Pat Benatar picked it up, and six months after that, it was a top five hit. “I wanted to poo myself … I still make 35 grand a year off it.”)

GL: Circling back around, musically Micki was solid — how would you describe her personally around 1980?

DN: Personally, Micki has always been a little guarded and a little awkward. We were good friends, but I never understood why — maybe she didn’t like me, maybe she knew I was interested in her, but she was a little awkward and a little uncomfortable in her own skin, or it seemed that way. After she played with Slow Children, who is Jules’ wife’s band, Pal Shazar, Jules and Pal were an item, she had met David, Jules’ bass player, she was playing with Slow Children, and I would go see them. I would pretty much show up for whatever Micki was doing.

 

But after I got back from England, and Elton Duck had made their record but it had been shelved, I lost touch with her completely. The only thing I sort of knew was that I had heard in about ’83 or ’84 that she had been tapped to be the new bass player in The Go-Go’s, replacing Kathy Valentine. It didn’t fly. It didn’t wind up flying. The band broke up.

GL: Really?! Now, why did they want to get rid of Kathy Valentine?

DN: She had decided to step away for some reason. It wasn’t a firing thing. They had gotten a woman named Paula Brown, who unless I’m mistaken was dating Andy Robinson. It’s a tiny little incestuous thing. (Elton Duck’s) Mike McFadden in that period was dating a woman — actually, both Andy and Mike had dated a woman named Karen Crumley, who was the manager, later, of that Tower Records store where Susan and I worked — where Micki and I worked. Mick Garris, who was the leader of the band Andy was in, called Horsefeathers — very sort of Queen, theatrical — Mick later became a very successful director. He did the TV version of The Shining a few years ago with Steven Weber. He’s a very successful director … So we all kind of knew each other from around. But I hadn’t stayed close with Micki. Even though I spoke to her on the telephone, England was the line of demarcation, and we were out of touch from that point on.

GL: Talking about the conversation where you called her up from England, that would’ve been what, spring of ’80?

DN. Would’ve been spring of ’80, yeah.

Gl: What’d she say to you? What was that conversation like?

DN: It was just a nice conversation between two old friends. I said, “Hey, listen, the record’s great, congratulations, I’m over here in England, I’m having a good time, I don’t know if I’m coming back, looks like I’m involved in management, the music here is dynamic,” and she goes, “Well, I’m playing with the Duck,” and it was just catching up a little bit. And then I just wished her well, and we got off the phone, and that was it. I didn’t talk to her again for about five years.

GL: When was the next time you saw her?

DN: Next time I saw her was after I started writing with Susanna Hoffs …

GL: Ah, now hold on, go back a little bit. When did you start writing with Sue? And what was the connection there?

DN: It was very early ’87. So there was a good lag of six or seven years in there.

GL: By which time The Bangles had hit it huge.

DN: I think (Micki) joined in ’84 …

GL: ’83, something like that.[7]

DN: Whenever it was that All Over the Place came out, and of course I was incredibly
proud, because I’m sitting there going, “I know this girl,” and she was the same person, but she had a different name. She had already told me she was Micki, but she came out (with The Bangles) as Michael.

GL: Do you have any idea why she chose that particular name, and why the transition from Micki to Michael?

DN: I don’t. I have no insight into that. I’m assuming because it was a little more creative, a little less hard rock girl, a little more interesting.
GL: ‘Cause, I mean, picking a dude’s name …

DN: Well, the previous experience I’d had with that was Michael Learned from “The Waltons.” I had actually been friends with a guy who was on “The Waltons” who was a musician, Jon Walmsley, who played Jason, the musician, and I figured (her picking Michael for a name) made a certain sense because it had already been primed with Michael Learned.

But I was real proud of her when this happened, and David White and I started getting in touch. Now, this was right around the time — I do know that I got back in touch with her after — I’m remembering two differing things and compressing two different episodes. Almost immediately after “We Belong” hit, David White said, “You should get together with Micki, ‘cause she’s in The Bangles now, and she remembers you real well, and you never know what could happen.” So we all went out for sushi one night.

GL: Now, how did she and David White get to know each other?

DN: I introduced them. I said, “You need to meet my bass player, he plays with Jules,” and she liked Jules, ‘cause she was playing with Pal. And so basically, they met, and they went off on their own and became best friends.

GL: I’ve seen a couple of interviews where she’s referred to him as her best friend. Do you know how that developed?

DN: No idea at all. I think he might’ve been in love with her, like everybody was. What surprised me was, I think I probably introduced them in ’77, ’78, is that they had persisted in their friendship, and by the time we got back in touch in about ’85, and went out, they were still (close friends) … he says, “I’m still really close with Micki,” and I went, “Oh, my God, really? Cool.” And we went out for a meal, and we talked about writing together — and nothing happened. It dissipated.

Less than two years later, there was a watershed moment — 1986, going into ’87, New Year’s Eve, I’m over at Eric’s house, hanging out with Eric and his wife, then his girlfriend, and her best friend, who’s Susanna. And I’m there on my own; I had not met my girlfriend yet, who I ended up with at that point in time. ’86 going into ’87, I figure, “Susanna Hoffs is there? Let’s hang out.” I was a major Bangles fan. Major, major, major. I knew that Micki was in the band. And Eric and I were at the point where we’re starting to maybe not work together anymore. I was going through one of my cycles; the short version of the story is after “We Belong” hit, publisher says, “Put a band together to capitalize on it,” and I wasn’t in that band. I was still working my day job. Two of the guys from the old band were there, and they’re going, “We kicked them out of that band, why would we want him on this one?” “Well, cause he wrote this big hit.” “Yeah, that doesn’t matter.” So I was a silent partner co-writing and co-producing and giving wads of money for demos — but I wasn’t in the band. It was becoming increasingly frustrating. I was getting very bitter. I’m thinking, “I don’t know if I want to work with Eric anymore.”

And Eric has played me this little snippet of something he really likes, and I’m kind of rolling my eyes, going, “I don’t want to work on this. I need to find people I can work with and someone who’ll let me be in their band,” and I’ve got the normal kind of angry bullshit subtext going through my brain, because we’ve got problems. And then Sue says — we are watching “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” with The Bangles on television …

GL: No shit. And had you ever met Susanna Hoffs before?

DN: I had never met her before. We’re hangin’ out, eating, having cocktails, watching “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” and we’re hangin’ out, and she’s pretty, she’s gorgeous, and I like her, and I’ve got a crush on her, and I’m hanging out with my best friend, and we live four doors apart on the same block, and we’re watching “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” with The Bangles on television with Dick Clark, but it’s obviously taped.

GL: Sure.

DN: ‘Cause we’re with Susanna Hoffs, and I’m watching Susanna Hoffs on television with her right here. It’s fuckin’ great. And then she says it: (Sue starts complaining about a longtime relationship with a boyfriend that isn’t panning out and mentions the possibility of her writing with Lowen and Navarro. Dan starts talking to Eric.) “Well, you know, we haven’t been getting along, and I’ve been thinking of stepping away from you, and you’ve played that thing for me that I didn’t like very much, but she wants to write with us, so, yeah, let’s write together.” And we both went (stuttering), “Yeah, let’s write together.”

We got together, he played that snippet that I knew he liked, and I had been listening to her complain about the guy she was dating at the time, an actor she was dating who was just not ponying up — a guy named Hart Bochner. They’d been in a movie together, and he wasn’t being very forthcoming. Plus I also knew she was in the process of breaking up with her longstanding boyfriend, Louis Gutierrez, who had been in the Three O’Clock and later in Green On Red, and much later in Mary’s Danish … and they had been together for ages. And it’s falling apart. She’s saying, “My relationship is falling apart, I’m kind of going with this guy, I’m confused, and who knows?” So Eric plays his bit, and I basically decide to tell Sue’s story, and wrote in an afternoon, “I hear you through the wire/The words all sound like noise/What happened to the fire in your voice?” ‘Cause I’m imagining her on the road talking to him, on the phone, and it’s over, but that’s all she’s got because she’s on the road.

GL: And that was “I’ll Set You Free.”

DN: Right. That was “I’ll Set You Free.” And she goes, “God, this is amazing. It’s like, it’s like you’re telling my story.” And I don’t even bother to say, “I am, girl, I am telling your story, on purpose. This ain’t no hobby, you know?”

Well, we finished the song, and we realized it was really something special. We put together a demo — we didn’t even have a second verse. The demo of us doing it, without her, is still one of the best things I’ve ever done, because it’s just got this incredibly cool, jangly feel, and the vocals are really solid — rich, warm vocals …

GL: And it almost seems like a tiny bit of, you know, where you’re talking about the wire, like a little bit of a tie to “Wichita Lineman.”

DN: Sure. Well, “Wichita Lineman” is in my blood, my friend. I don’t know if you know what’s going on with that. “Wichita Lineman” is very prominent in my life right now. I’ll tell you later. (He’s been covering it in live shows recently.)

So, anyway, we write this song, and I remember the moment at which we’d come up with “I remember eyes that shined/As they looked so hard back into mine … I remember words that fell,” but we didn’t have the second bit. We took bit number one and number three, and they were butted together. And it was OK. And we were trying to figure out what to do. I said, “It needs something, we need a gap here, we need to tell the story more so that we can come back to this other bit.” I start playing with chords, and she says, “I like that bit,” and it was a chord movement that went from the I to the VII back to the I, and it reminded me of an old Byrds song called, “Set You Free This Time,” by Gene Clark: “It isn’t how it was set up to be/But I set you free this time …” That move is from the root chord to the VII chord, and the part (in “I’ll Set You Free”) that goes, “Now it’s just a memory/So I’ll set you free,” goes from the I to the VII.[8]

So she plays this little bit and says, “Wow, this sounds like that Byrds song, ‘Set You Free This Time,’” and she goes, “Let’s use it!” So I’m going, “OK, how do I use it?” Head cocks: “I remember eyes that shined/As they looked so hard back into mine/Now it’s just a memory/So I’ll set you free,” and I left out the “this time.” Suddenly, we have pilfered “Set You Free This Time” and blended it with what we were writing, and we had a chorus.

So we do this thing, and the demo is rough but magical. I started listening to it on endless repeat because it moved me so much. Micki listens to it because Sue said, “Here’s a song I just wrote with Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro!” “Dan Navarro? You mean ‘Dan Navarro’ Dan Navarro?” “Yeah, Dan Navarro!” She hears the song, and she said, “That is the best chorus” — I don’t remember if these are her exact words, but — “It’s a killer chorus,” and just said, “That chorus, that chorus, that chorus.” So suddenly, Micki’s interested in writing, where we had talked about it two years before and never followed up on it, now she wants to follow up on it.

And she and I and Eric and David White all get together and bash out some stuff. We only got to this far — got to the (hums the bridge of “Something To Believe In”) …

GL: Ah, wait, you mean that sort of odd middle eight …?

DN: The odd middle eight in “Something To Believe In,” exactly. We did that, and we did something else, and then we left it alone. Micki goes off and finishes the song. Writes the whole lyric, uses this bit, cuts us in equally. I will never stop being grateful for the fact that she cut us in 25 percent each even though she wrote 75 percent of that song off the little bits that we crafted together. We heard the song, and it’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous. The only problem with the song is one line — can’t do anything about it.

89M

GL: “Winds of change”?

DN: Nope. “Lost direction in the darkness,” which sounds like “Lost erection in the darkness.” (Sings) “I lost erection in the darkness …” There’s no way to get around it. Other than that, it’s fine. It’s great. Oh, and by the way, we go back to “Set You Free,” Davitt Sigerson … um … It has always been my opinion — be careful here — that Davitt sabotaged it. Davitt did not like the song. Miles Copeland, their manager, said, “This is the best fuckin’ song on the whole record.” We heard it for the first time, and we were like, “Oh, my God. He ruined it.” But he had an issue with the song. “’Work it out like business,’ that’s not the kind of line you would hear in a top 5 song.” That’s my favorite line in the whole thing, because I had the notion of them on the phone, dealing with each other in a formal, cordial but tense way: You work it out like business. “That won’t work anymore.” That whole first section was my lyric, and the “eyes that shined/As they looked so hard back into mine.” Sue contributed, “I must go on/What more can I do?” Eric did, “What good is being strong if all I ever want is you?,” and kind of together we came up with, “The moonlight comes into my window.” The whole first bit was mine. And again, the chord progression was Eric’s, ‘cause he’d already had it. So it’s like (Eric to Dan), “OK, I’m gonna bring in this thing that we’ve been talking about that you didn’t like very much,” and suddenly now and for The Bangles, I like it … but it really did change a lot of things. Micki decided — it’s my opinion — that it was cool to write with me because she had heard what we had done with Sue, and she wanted in.

GL: Where she didn’t entirely trust you before?

DN: No, more like she was just working with other people, not so much “didn’t entirely trust.” I think that I probably carried a little negative from her having known me for so long: “How can you be that good when I worked in a record store with you?” But when she heard some evidence, and we had talked about it, she said, “Let’s do something.”

And then we did a third song, you know, Sue and Eric and I did “Everything I Wanted,” which ended up on the Greatest Hits record and was supposed to go on (Everything). They named the album after it, but they didn’t put it on the album. The album’s called Everything, and they had “Everything I Wanted.” But they didn’t do it.

GL: That’s a hell of a song, too.

DN: Well, the thing that’s funny is that it ended up on the Greatest Hits album, which means I have seen more money from that than other guys who had songs that were on Everything, because of how it’s turned out. I think that song was a missing gem, and I think they made a mistake not putting it on the record. They chose between that and a song I think was called “Waiting For You” …?

GL: Was it “Be With You”?

DN: No, “Be With You” was Debbi … um … “I hear your message on the phone …” I think it’s called “Waiting For You,” which (Sue) wrote with Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly.[9] Billy and Tom are friends of ours. And when that came out, the progression was very similar to the progression of “Set You Free,” so we were upset, and it ended up on the record, and “Everything I Wanted” didn’t. So we were very upset. But Billy’s a friend, and what do you do? You can’t complain about that. The record company chose what they wanted.

GL: So around this time, around 1988-’89, the cracks are starting to form in the band, and things are starting to break down. Were you witness to any of that?

DN: Most of it. Much of it.

GL: What was going on? ‘Cause the story we’ve heard, it was in the “Behind the Music” episode and everything, was that all the attention was going to Sue, and the others felt left out …

DN: Pretty accurate.

GL: But was there anything more than that, or was that the root of it?

DN: Well, The Bangles never intended to have a lead singer. But when radio liked Sue’s voice better — and Micki, for instance, was unabashed that Sue has one of the best radio voices on the planet. It’s very distinctive, it stands out, it sounds amazing. But the group never intended to have a lead singer. And what’s happening at this point in time is, the pressure’s on, they’re all writing very much separately with their own — Debbi wrote with Walter Iglehart, Vicki wrote with who she wrote with, and Micki wrote with David, and Sue wrote with us and with Billy Steinberg. And Steinberg and Kelly had written “Like a Virgin,” “True Colors,” and we’re all grateful that they came up with “Eternal Flame.” I remember when I went to Billy’s house, and my old girlfriend, my ex-girlfriend and I were at his house, and he said, “Let me play you what I wrote with Sue,” and I heard “Eternal Flame,” and I went, “It’s over. That’s a number-one record, that’s the lead single.” We were thinking that “Set You Free” would be the lead single. And “Eternal Flame” didn’t turn into the lead single. They came out with “In Your Room,” which was not very good.

GL: What other memories do you have of those years?

DN: It was a fun, heady time, and we got along brilliantly. We were the greatest of friends.

So I would see Micki pretty much at Bangles parties, Bangles functions, Bangles social events. See her all the time. But then it starts winding down, and it was everything focused on Sue. And they got new management. They had let go of their old manager …

GL: Miles Copeland.

DN: Right, and before that, it was a guy named Mike Gormley, who ended up my manager for 12 years. There had been a couple of major mistakes, so Mike ended up out, and Miles took over. But then that wasn’t going well, so they signed up with Stiefel-Phillips, Arnold Stiefel and Randy Phillips; they were managing Rod Stewart. Randy Phillips is now the president of AEG, you know, the concert people. Ran into him at a restaurant about two years ago and went, “Hey, man, you’re Randy Phillips.” He remembered me.

But we’re all part of this crowd, and the girls were very conscious that Stiefel-Phillips took them on so that they could (sign) Sue when it fell apart. It was all about Sue. Well, the irony of it is that Sue makes a solo record, brings David Kahne back into the fold. Eric and I sang on six tracks on it. We had been writing with her for the record, but none of the songs made the record — and it stiffs.

GL: When You’re a Boy, right?

DN: When You’re a Boy. Which is an old David Bowie tune. So Eric and I are singing on that, we’re singing on about three other tracks, and one track that was never released officially; we did a version of We Five’s “You Were On My Mind,” which was magnificent. They ended up putting it on a film soundtrack and as the B-side of one of her singles. I had a great time working with David Kahne. It was wonderful.

So Sue goes solo, and it doesn’t pan out, not really. So everybody’s adjusting, she ends up on a different label, and then a couple of years later they reunite, with Micki. And then Micki withdraws, and I don’t know why, because at this point I didn’t see her anymore. I pretty much stopped seeing her around ’89, and then saw her again in ’94 — and I remember it pretty vividly; we were doing a show in San Francisco; we were at a rock ‘n’ roll hotel called the Phoenix, and completely coincidentally, we were doing a show at a club in San Francisco, and there’s a knock at our RV door, and it’s Dave Navarro and Chad Smith from the (Red Hot Chili) Peppers. “Hey, man. We’re in town, and we heard you were playing, and we came to see you.” (They’re all staying at the Phoenix. It’s Dave’s birthday [June 7], and he’s throwing a big party. He invites Dan and Eric.) And it turns out Micki’s staying at the Phoenix. So I end up going to the party. It’s four stark raving naked strippers and the guys in the Peppers and me and, you know, chatted a little bit with Flea, chatted a little bit with Anthony (Kiedis), Dave and two of the girls go in the bathroom and don’t come out for a while — absolutely decadent as can be. And by the way, the reason the Peppers are up there is, they’re about to go to a studio in San Rafael to start making their record.[10] The sessions got aborted, but the engineer on the sessions was Jim Scott, who produced the first three Lowen & Navarro records because he had become Rick Rubin’s engineer. Now, Dave’s new in the band.

GL: Yeah, ‘cause John Frusciante …

DN: … had left, exactly. Dave’s new in the band, they’re up in San Rafael making this record, and he sees Jim, who he recognizes from 1990 and 1993, having produced our records, because Dave played on those. So he walks up to Jim and says, “You’re the only guy here I know.” So the sessions don’t work out, but later they make a record, which turned into One Hot Minute, and it did OK. Did very well financially, but not looked at as a seminal record in the Peppers’ (catalog). Dave’s influence was so heavily felt, yet he was not 100 percent committed to his influence, so it sounds like half a Dave Navarro record, except not. So it didn’t really figure well for them. It was kind of an odd record. And as soon as they got Frusciante back, they went right back to being them and became huge — which is why they didn’t ask Dave to be part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. They said, “We made one record with the guy, and his greater contribution is in Jane’s Addiction.”

GL: So circling back, like in ’94, when you saw Micki, was it just kind of a “Hi, how you doin’” sort of thing?

DN: Well, we ended up having breakfast out on the patio at this hotel, and just catching up. She said she was thinking about moving up to Northern California but wasn’t sure what was going on yet, and it had been several years since The Bangles had broken up, and Eric and I were still at it. It was a nice, cordial, fun breakfast with an old friend.

GL: Did she seem like she was going through some heavy shit, or did she seem like kind of same old, same old?

DN: Hard to know about heavy shit. I do know that during that period, I had heard about some stuff she was working on, and she was basically trying to put The Bangles’ legacy behind her — trying to find a way to be relevant in her current thing, working with different people, and it didn’t pan out. But I knew she wanted to establish herself as her. But I never really knew much about those bands. I’d heard a little bit about them.

GL: There’s a band that was called “Crash Wisdom,” and they played a couple of gigs, but it was essentially Michael Steele solo, and I don’t think it really went anywhere.

DN: I’ve always wondered what Micki’s reluctance to truly go solo was — to actually craft a statement, put it out there and live by it. And maybe she did with her bands, ‘cause I wasn’t hanging with her, so I can’t know what was really going on. But from a public standpoint, it simply seemed like she wasn’t doing the obvious thing. She was always the one where, when her songs were on a record — “Following” was the biggest example of that — it stood out above everything else as: This is a unique talent. This is not a little Bangle girl. This is somebody who’s in some ways better than all of them.

GL: Yeah, you hear that song, and you’re like, “Wait, did somebody stick a Joni Mitchell track on this album by mistake? What is this?”

DN: It’s pretty cool. And frankly, in some ways, the same thing occurred with “Something To Believe In.” I think she was dealing emotionally with Brad (Shepherd). That’s what I really think that song is about.

GL: It’s not too hard to put the pieces together.

DN: Especially the timing, ‘cause that’s …

GL: Now, not to speak too much out of school, but I get the sense that her song “Between the Two” is about the same thing. Was the thing with Brad kind of a big honkin’ deal?

DN: You know, they were an item, but I’m not sure how big a deal it was. I would see him around, ‘cause he was spending a lot of time in the U.S., and they were together, for sure. But as to whether, when it ended, it left big scars, I don’t really know.

GL: How do you remember the Bangles?

It was an interesting band — this collection of incredibly diverse personalities. And when they did break up, it was pretty sad, because an opportunity was gone. Little did we know we’d end up on the Greatest Hits record … but Sue just wanted to be very successful, and she definitely thinks very highly of herself. She also did this back in ’86 — Eric clued me into this — at one point, she’s going … y’know, I had a crush on her, and she’s saying, “I just want a good, normal guy. I don’t care if he has a pot belly or whatever,” and I’m sitting there going (vigorously waves arms), “I’ll sign up for that detail.” But she wasn’t interested in me. She wanted all of that, and she may have said, “I want some normal guy, I don’t care if he’s got a gut,” but she wanted a normal guy who was an actor or director or somebody fairly successful. Her husband — she was the most successful one in the family. He’s way more successful than she is now. She’s even more successful than she had been, because we’re talking the Mike Myers pictures, the Meet the Fockers pictures — he’s created some franchises and done very, very well, and he is a terrific guy. They’ve got two kids. They’ve been together … 18, 19 years? (ed: They’ve been married for 20.) They have a solid marriage. I don’t see her very often. I don’t know her very well. I know her well enough to send her an email and say, “How you doin’, Toots?” But I lost Sue in the divorce. When Eric and Mary split up — Mary was Sue’s high school best friend. That’s why Sue ended up with us. Eric and Mary split up, and it had been because of an affair.

GL: On whose part?

DN: On Eric’s part. So when the split happened, we left Mary alone, and her friends … (ed. until Eric’s diagnosis seven years later, when everyone came together and decided to let bygones be bygones, etc.) The woman he had an affair with, he married, and they were married until he died. So it’s kind of “All’s well that ends well.” So everybody took the high road, and I’m close with the family again, and Sue’s back in my life. Not very actively, but we had let her go for seven years. Because it was just inappropriate for me to go, “Hey, you’re my friend. Of course, my friend fucked over your girlfriend …” You know, sometimes when that happens, you leave people alone and let them gravitate to where they’re supposed to go.

GL: Getting back real quick to ’94, the last time you saw Micki, how did you leave it?

DN: “See you later.” I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again.

GL: And that was the last time you saw her or communicated with her?

DN: That was the last time I saw her. “Great to hang with you.” She was working on some new stuff, Eric and I were doing what we were doing, I had just met a girl that I liked, and a year and a half later I married her…

GL: Are you still married?

DN: No. We’ve been apart about 10 years. We have a 17-year-old, nearly, and I’ve gotten texts from both of them as they fucking complain about each other. My ex-wife is very high-strung. My son hurt himself today, so she wants to wrap him in bubble wrap for the next week, and he wants to just go be a guy. He’s got a sprained elbow and he’s in a cast.

GL: Any closing thoughts?

DN: My main thing is that I hope she’s musical because she’s good, and I hope she’s happy. And my suspicion is that because no one’s heard from her, and she’s sort of disappeared, my suspicion is that she is happy — that she found something that works for her, and she’s just letting it be and doesn’t need the limelight. She’s got a royalty stream that’s never gonna go away. You wanna hope that somebody talented will continue to make music, but there aren’t many people as stupid as I am, who just keep going, going, going, going. At some point, you go, “I don’t want to play in a club for five people.” Hard to say. But I love her. I’ll always love her. I hope I see her sometime. But I don’t think it’s gonna happen. She’s developed a really personal, private life off the beaten path and away from anything I’m around. I say that I used to know her, but we were real good friends. There was a period in our lives when we were very involved in each other’s lives, and it changed. It just changed over time. She’s pretty cool, though. She’s still cool.

Footnotes: (RealInspectorShane)

[1] -The Crazy Horse Saloon has a long and distinguished history, originally opening in 1920 as ‘The Malibu Inn’. By the 1970s it had changed name and was partly owned by Neil Young (perhaps unsurprising given the name), when it was reputedly an occasional hang-out spot for Keith Moon and Rick Danko among others. It still exists today, albeit after changing back to its original name and being more gentrified (currently boasting of their chefs having Top Chef pedigree) than it once was.

[2] -Licorice Pizza was a Southern-California based chain of record stores which began in 1969, ultimately being taken over by Sam Goody’s in the early 1980s.

[3] -Jules and the Polar Bears also shared some gigs with Slow Children whilst Michael was in the band.

[4] -At least two other Steele/White songs are known to have been composed in the same period as Glitter Years and Complicated Girl; Between The Two, and the still unreleased ‘Cash In On Charlie’.

[5] -Bud Scoppa’s connection with Elton Duck continues to the present, as he contributed liner notes on the recent reissue of their 1980 self-titled album.

[6] – Brass In Pocket was #1 on the UK single chart from 19 January-2 February 1980.

[7] -Michael joined the Bangles in mid-1983, with her first gig being on 7/31/83.

[8] – Dan is referring here to a G–F# chord change. I’ll Set You Free is in the key of G, so this is a shift from I to VII, in music theory terms.

[9] -Waiting For You (Hoffs/Steinberg/Kelly), track 12 on Everything.

[10] Sessions for what became One Hot Minute (1995) began at LA’s ‘The Sound Factory’ in July 1994, dating this San Rafael story to earlier in the year.

1 Comment

  1. That was a fascinating interview. I’m glad Dan took the time to explain in detail how things worked in the L.A. music scene back then too. Very interesting, not just the Micki stuff either.
    Cheers
    Ken

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