Dan McCafferty Interview: Nazareth Quintessential Rocker Celebrates 45 Years with New CD
By Ray Shasho
Scottish Rocker Dan McCafferty has been the quintessential and charismatic frontman for hard rock veterans Nazareth since the bands inception in 1968. McCafferty has fired up live audiences across the globe for 45 years with a heavy dose of undisputed hardcore crooning power. Most recently McCafferty has retired from touring with Nazareth due to a lung disease that makes breathing extremely difficult called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Dan McCafferty will pass the microphone over to Nazareth’s new frontman, 41 year old Linton Osborne of Rosyth, Scotland.
McCafferty will cease touring, but will not cease from recording in the studio. In fact, McCafferty and Nazareth have recently released a mammoth new hard rock gem entitled ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Telephone.’ The album features Dan McCafferty on lead vocals, Pete Agnew on bass, Jimmy Murrison on guitars, and Lee Agnew on drums. It’s the band’s 23rd studio album and their first since 2011.The CD features 11 original heavy rockers and bluesy ballads. The deluxe digipack edition will include a second disc with two additional studio recordings and five live tracks, and will also be available in a double LP gatefold vinyl version.
Invigorating and commanding hardcore rock ‘n’ roll is back, just the way we remembered it ...It's the rock we all listened to and partied with in high school …I gave ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Telephone’ by Nazareth (5) Stars.
NAZARETH: Over the years …critics and music aficionados alike have correlated Dan McCafferty’s vocal styles with such artists as AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, Slade’s Noddy Holder, and Humble Pie’s Steve Marriott. The band supported Deep Purple on tour during several occasions which led to Purple’s bassist Roger Glover producing their third studio album entitled Razamanaz (1973). Subsequent Glover produced albums included … Loud ‘N’ Proud (1973) and Rampant (1974).
In 1975, while looking for a new direction, Nazareth appointed lead guitarist Many Charlton as their new producer. The band’s new order resulted in their biggest selling album to date entitled …Hair of the Dog. The album spawned the self-titled hard rock classic “Hair of the Dog” and their popular Top 40 hit “Love Hurts” (1975 #8 U.S. Billboard Hot 100) a cover track penned by Boudleaux Bryant and first recorded by The Everly Brothers (1960) and Roy Orbison (1961).
Nazareth has maintained modest popularity in the U.S. while enjoying significant acceptance in Europe. Across the globe, Nazareth remains a consistent concert-pleaser.
Former band members that have contributed to the success of Nazareth were … original drummer Darrell Sweet (1968- 1999,Sweet died in 1999), original lead guitarist Manny Charlton (1968-1990), Zal Cleminson on guitars (1978-1980), Billy Rankin on guitars (1980-83,1990-94), John Locke on keyboards (1980-82, Locke died in 2006), and Ronnie Leahy on keyboards (1994-2002).
I had the great pleasure to chat with legendary Nazareth frontman Dan McCafferty recently about the band’s brilliant new CD entitled… ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Telephone’ … The inception of Nazareth … ‘Hair of the Dog’ album … COPD … and of course my infamous ‘Field of Dreams’ question.
Here’s my interview with the quintessential voice of rock, songwriter, and legendary frontman of 45 years with Nazareth …DAN McCAFFERTY.
Ray Shasho: Hi Dan, thank you for being on the call today … where am I calling anyway?
Dan McCafferty: “Hi Ray, I’m in Scotland near Edinburgh.”
Ray Shasho: Dan, first of all, I’d like to say congratulations on a remarkable career with Nazareth that has spanned over 45 years. You’ve recently decided not to tour with the band anymore is that true?
Dan McCafferty: “That’s true. I’ve got COPD, which is a lung disease, and I can’t sing on tour like I used to anymore. I figure if you can’t do the job then you really shouldn’t be there. But they’ve got somebody else, a guy named Linton Osborne and he sings really well. I’m sad about it but I just can’t sing a whole set live anymore.”
Ray Shasho: I always notice advertisements on television regarding medications to help battle COPD, what have you been doing to improve your condition?
Dan McCafferty: “I’m taking all the meds they can give you and going to rehab classes to help learn how to breathe again. So we’ll wait and see. At the moment there’s no cure for it. I exercise up to a point but because it’s COPD, if you do anything physical it makes you breathless and therefore you panic, so it’s a kind of a Catch-22. I feel great, but you’ve got to remember I’m sitting at home on my ass.”
Ray Shasho: Where did the band find Linton Osborne your new lead singer?
Dan McCafferty: “He was from the same area that we all grew up in, somewhat younger of course. He’s been involved in the local scene for years in different bands.”
Ray Shasho: Was Linton involved on the new album at all?
Dan McCafferty: “No, he was not, but I guess he will be on the next one though.
Ray Shasho: Dan, this doesn’t mean that you’re giving up recording?
Dan McCafferty: “No, no, no, I hope not, I plan to continue on recording. I’ll just need someone to support me or accompany me while I’m doing it.”
Ray Shasho: Dan, for years you’ve delivered that quintessential, commanding, raw rocker voice on stage and in the studio … and I know people sometimes compare your vocalist style to AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. But I hear a lot of Steve Marriott and Noddy Holder in those pipes as well.
Dan McCafferty: “I think if you listen to these guys you’re talking about, we all kind of grew up at the same time and probably influenced by the same people, so I think for some reason it all makes sense.”
Ray Shasho: Brian Johnson lives about twenty minutes from me here in Sarasota.
Dan McCafferty: “I see … the last time we played around there, years and years ago, Brian came along for the gig. We used to do a lot with Brian when he was with Geordie, it was great fun. We did college gigs in Britain and had a lot of laughs together. He’s a Newcastle guy, a Geordie, they’re really cool people.”
Ray Shasho: I always wondered about the true origin behind the Nazareth band name … did it actually derive from the classic tune “The Weight” by The Band?
Dan McCafferty: “(Dan began singing) … ‘I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead’ …yup, that’s where it comes from. We were sitting around in the place we used to rehearse in when we first got together and we couldn’t agree on a name, there must have been four hundred different names. We were listening to “The Weight” when it first came out and Pete Agnew our bass player said what about Nazareth …and that was it, we all agreed on that one. So any rumors that God came down and spoke to me about it would be a lie. (In a Godly tonality, Dan utters) … ‘You will call your band NAZARETH!’ (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: Nazareth was actually formed in 1968, what were those very early days like?
Dan McCafferty: “In the early days we were just playing in a band. We weren’t trying to be famous or trying to change the world or anything. We lived in a small town, loved music, and all the guys in the band liked different things. It was the chemistry of everybody that we eventually ended up with. It wasn’t something that someone came up with by saying … I have a plan! (All laughing) It was just a bunch of guys trying to meet girls basically …we were terrible spokesmen.”
Ray Shasho: Who were some of the bands you shared the stage with back then?
Dan McCafferty: “We used to play at a place in Dunfermline called the Kinema Ballroom and a lot of bands used to come up from London before they went out on the road. They’d play Glastonbury on a Saturday and the Kinema Ballroom on a Sunday to try out their new album or set. It was always a big draw on Sunday’s. We opened up for everybody man … The Who; the second time they did ‘Tommy’ was in Dunfermline. We played with Deep Purple, Cream, Jethro Tull … you name it … everybody!”
Ray Shasho: Let’s talk about your final studio album with Nazareth entitled ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone.’ Invigorating and commanding hardcore rock ‘n’ roll is back, just the way we remembered it. It's the rock we all listened to and partied with in high school.
Dan McCafferty: “What we managed to do was to capture the feel of the music from back in the day, and it’s not an easy thing to do, you can’t do it forever. It’s kind of hard to maintain your identity with all the technology and what people expect to hear. It’s difficult, but I think we did it really well.”
Ray Shasho: Tried-and-True rock fans are going to cherish ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone’ for years to come, because you sure as hell can’t find pure/fresh rock ‘n’ roll on your radio anymore. The legends of rock are unfortunately classified as ‘classic rock’ artists and those morons that run mainstream radio nowadays refuse to play anything new by rock folklore.
Dan McCafferty: I was talking to Billy, a local music guy that writes for a lot of music magazines and does radio shows, and I asked Billy, what happened to the music scene? Part of his job was to notice whose coming up, and he said nothing actually. He’s got colleagues around the world and he said unfortunately there’s nothing much to here right now, and that’s really sad. Music has become more of a visual thing. The last band that I got excited about from the states was ‘Kings of Leon,’ I liked them. Caleb has a very good voice you know.”
Ray Shasho: Straight off, from the very clever first track entitled “Boom Bang Bang,” the album delivers a long-awaited rock manifesto to all music fans.
Dan McCafferty: “It is a fact man, once you get a certain age like me, and you’ve spent a lot of time in hotel bars, you wait for something to happen. Or when you go to the show, going for a plane or waiting for the bus … I’ve become a people watcher these days and I’ve seen “Boom Bang Bang” go down more than a few times.”
Ray Shasho: “Speakeasy” was another favorite tune, what was the origin behind the track?
Dan McCafferty: “I was sitting around with Lee Agnew having a beer and imagining what it would have been like in the 1920’s in America when you couldn’t get a legal beer. So it was good because we went into this whole discussion and it developed with a Speakeasy in mind. We had a laugh about it at first, but the more he worked on that tune, the more serious the song got, and all of a sudden… this is a good tune man!”
Ray Shasho: My favorite song on the new release is “Just a Ride” because your vocals shine brilliantly on the track!
Dan McCafferty: “That’s a good vocals track. I liked it because it’s about Bill Hicks, he gave me many a good laugh that young man. We envisioned the track to show how epic the guy really was.”
Ray Shasho: “Love Hurts” became a huge hit for Nazareth reaching #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts in 1976. It was a hard rock ballad and a cover tune. Was it The Everly Brothers or Roy Orbison’s recording that inspired Nazareth to record it?
Dan McCafferty: “Obviously The Everly Brothers, we used to sing the song in bars when we were sixteen. Like most groups we started out as a cover band, so you played what people liked. It was a massive hit for us and just amazing.”
Ray Shasho: I understand there was some controversy surrounding the title of the ‘Hair of the Dog’ album?
Dan McCafferty: “We wanted to call it ‘Son of A Bitch’ and A&M Records who we were with at the time said, oh no, you can’t do that, they won’t sell it. We said why won’t they sell it? We weren’t American so you see we didn’t know. It was Jerry Morris, God love him, who told us that it was a cussword here in America. So then we called it ‘Heir of the Dog’ which is ‘Son of A Bitch’ anyway, but the title eventually became ‘Hair of the Dog’ on the album. It was a good record for us and a good record anyway.”
Ray Shasho: Sources around the internet state that the album was released for a short while with the title ‘Heir of the Dog’ and is a heavily sought out collector’s item … any truth to that or just another worldwide web misconception?
Dan McCafferty: “(Laughing) it was never called ‘Heir of the Dog’ anywhere and never released under a different title, always ‘Hair of the Dog,’ but I guess it gives it some mystery.”
Ray Shasho: The most successful album by Nazareth was recorded immediately after Roger Glover stepped-down as the bands producer. ‘Hair of the Dog’ was produced by guitarist Manny Charlton. Did Roger Glover perplex about the album’s enormous success after his departure?
Dan McCafferty: “No, I don’t think so. We all wanted to have a change and Roger’s attitude was, yea, I can take that. We had done three together. The albums we did with him were all good and opened up a lot of doors.”
Ray Shasho: Dan, do you have any good road stories from back in the heyday of Nazareth?
Dan McCafferty: “The weirdest thing that ever happened to us was … we were playing Brazil and our gear got kidnapped and held for ransom. The guy’s were freaking out because you know how guitar players are without their guitars. They caught the guys but money was gone! Generally Brazil is a pretty cool place but there was some guy just trying to be a smart ass … there always is one isn’t there.”
Ray Shasho: Nazareth will be hitting the road beginning in June and tour throughout the summer including various dates in the Czech Republic, Canada, Europe and Brazil. Now that you’re not touring with the band anymore, bassist Pete Agnew remains to be the only original member left.
Dan McCafferty: “Yea, Pete is the only original member left, but you’ve got to remember, Jimmy Murrison the guitar player has been with the band for seventeen years, and our drummer Lee Agnew has been with us since Darrell Sweet died. So they’re not exactly new kids. It’s pretty much the same band with a new singer.”
Ray Shasho: Dan, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Dan McCafferty: “I would have liked to been around Bob Dylan when he first started out and kind of picked up on the vibe he was getting, because he just had something that was totally magic. I liked all the changes he went through. Yea, I think I would have liked to hang out with Bob.”
Ray Shasho: Final thoughts Dan?
Dan McCafferty: “Look out for yourselves and be kind to each other.”
Ray Shasho: Dan, thank you for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the incredible Nazareth music you’ve brought us all these years and continue to bring.
Dan McCafferty: “Thank you very much indeed Ray … Cheers!”
Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at email@example.com
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