Jonathan Lowe) You have a most unusual blend of careers, music being foremost. Why did you decide to write a memoir now, and how is it different than the typical music memoir?
Rick Levy) Writing HIGH IN THE MID 60s was never originally intended to be a book or memoir or whatever. I started journaling while touring with Herman’s Hermits (2000-2002), primarily to discover and uncover lost memories, and how and why my life evolved the way it has. As the realization dawned and grew that I was the “everyman”, the bridesmaid…not the bride, I became enthralled and excited that, in fact, my passion has burned for now over fifty years. Because I was never a star, yet continued to move forward, the reality set in that, indeed, the journey has been the goal. This was the reason I thought my life story could hold interest for others who feel a spark, or want to develop a talent, and what it might entail. While the thoughts and intentions swam in my brain for over fifteen years, the real writing, re-writing, editing began about three years ago.
JL) Joe Walsh, the Analog Man, once said that everything is gone in performance now…it’s “all about drum machines, there’s no mojo anymore.” Do you agree? Daryl Hall has a home studio to stroke that mojo in performances from guest musicians.
RL) Funny you mention Daryl Hall. I manage and play guitar with THE BOX TOPS, and in summer of 2018, we played at Daryl’s House Club in upstate NY. Many of us old schoolers feel that in lots of cases the technology has become more important than the raw song and passion. They used to say “you can’t make shit shine,” but in today’s computerized studios, often very mediocre “songs” are dazzlingly produced and gobbled up by a tech hungry, instant gratification public. I do, however, see many young musicians who really want to know the roots of popular music, and experience live playing without all the high tech aids. Hopefully this gets them in touch with the emotion and soul that computerized music just doesn’t seem to capture.
JL) Fondest memory on tour with the Hermits? Interesting anecdote as illustration?
RL) I have had so many incredible touring experiences with name acts, starting with Jay and the Techniques to Tommy Roe, Herman’s Hermits, Bo Diddley, and now The Box Tops. It’s impossible to pick the best, but there have been moments of brilliance, star power, primal attraction, huge crowds, and also disappointments and rejections. But the most powerful experience I had was actually watching James Brown run his band through a grueling rehearsal. I was performing with Hermans Hermits, and James was headlining. He was not happy with the previous night’s show, and the soundcheck turned into a three hour MASTER CLASS in performance, timing, emotion, and excitement. I sat in the back of the dark hall with our keyboardist, and we realized what GENIUS was, and just to be in the presence was a huge gift.
JL) You are also an pottery artist, event coordinator, and TM guy for David Lynch. How did all this come to be, and what takes up most of your time?
RL) I always had many interests and I loved pottery ever since high school. Again, it was something I would drift in and out of, but about eight years ago, Doug Brown opened a teaching studio here in St. Augustine. When the student is ready, the teacher appears! Now I have a wheel in my condo, and just love making ceramic pieces. I learned Transcendental Meditation TM…in 1972. Many young people were looking for spiritual expansion, and of course The Beatles, Donovan, etc went to India in ’68 to learn TM with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I became a TM instructor in ’74, and although I don’t teach now, I still practice TM every day. I find the quiet stress release and creative growth is a great balance in my life. Because of my being in the music business, it was natural for me to get involved with the David Lynch Foundation…providing TM scholarships to at risk youth, veterans with PTSD, and other segments of society. My time is fairly balanced between activity and silence, but I try to be 100% present and committed in whatever activity I do.
JL) Influences and fav musicians and movies or bios? What’s next for you?
RL) My biggest musical influences, in no particular order, are blues, old school soul, British Invasion, garage rock, and really any song that makes me absolutely stop in my tracks. My favorite music bio is LIFE by Keith Richards…a hero, and I feel, a very true, honest artist. To be honest, I don’t listen to too much anymore. Silence has become more and more attractive to me. I’m having a blast still touring with The Box Tops, learning about the literary promotion world, and am grateful that Crossroad Press put out my memoir. Whats next is to stay healthy, active, giving, creative, and spread some joy.