Robin Trower Interview: Celebrating 40 Years of ‘Bridge of Sighs’ -A Title Inspired By A Race Horse
By Ray Shasho
-Interviewed on September 9th 2014
Guitar gallantry … innovative songwriting … soulful vocal styling’s … hard rock & blues tenacity … legendary artistry … these are just a few words that can describe the amazing musical genius of …ROBIN TROWER.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest rock albums in music history. ‘Bridge of Sighs’ (1974) was only the second studio album released by the Robin Trower power-trio of Robin Trower (guitar and vocals), James Dewar (lead vocals and bass) and Reg Isidore on drums. It was this simplistic framework that musically overpowered many of their peers and lofted the band into superstardom. ‘Bridge of Sighs’ was recorded on the Chrysalis/Capitol label and reached #7 in the U.S. while staying on the charts for 31 weeks. That same year the album was certified gold.
BRIDGE OF SIGHS: composed a mesmerizing and overwhelming sound mix of Psychedelic Rock, R&B & Funk melodies combined with lucid mind-numbing lyrical content. Most of the tracks were written by Robin Trower and James Dewar. The success of the album motivated many listeners to go back and retrieve Trower’s debut album ‘Twice Removed from Yesterday’ (1973) which also became a certified gold album. Both albums were produced by Matthew Fisher (Procol Harum) and also engineered by Geoff Emerick (The Beatles audio engineer).
From the very beginning, Robin Trower developed a very unique style of his own. Trower’s ingredients include a heavy dose of hypnotic rock with Progressive, Blues, Acid Rock and R&B overtones. The metaphysical lyrical content was delivered by the commanding voice of James Dewar. The mesmerizing musical qualities of Trower and Dewar instantly transported the listener’s mind musically into other worlds and dimensions. Vocalist/bassist/songwriter James Dewar (1942-2002) was a rare musical gem and extremely crucial to the success of ‘Bridge of Sighs’ as well as all his recordings with the band and their live performances.
The title of the album was believed to be inspired by a bridge located in Venice, Italy. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. In my recent interview with Robin, I learned that the name of the album and monumental track came from an entirely different source.
ROBIN TROWER TODAY: is back on the road again with a rather lengthy tour which kicks off on October 4th in St. Louis, Missouri. The Trower power-trio lands in St. Petersburg, Florida on November 12th at Jannus Live. For a full listing of Robin Trower concert dates click [HERE] or go to www.trowerpower.com for further information. To purchase tickets for the Jannus Live concert in St. Pete, Florida click [HERE] or visit http://jannuslive.com/ for more information.
The Robin Trower travelling power-trio is …Robin Trower (vocals, guitar), Richard Watts (bass and vocals), and Chris Taggart (drums). Trower’s most recent album entitled ‘Roots and Branches’ (2013) will be supported on the tour.
Robin Trower also has a brand new album coming out sometime at the beginning of 2015. The album will follow in the footsteps of ‘Root and Branches’
but all the tracks will be originals and written by Robin.
I had the great pleasure of chatting with Robin Trower recently about… The new album …The tour… ‘Bridge of Sighs’ turning 40 … James Brown … And much more!
Here’s my interview with legendary guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, with … The Paramounts/ Procol Harum/ Robin Trower / and collaborations with Jack Bruce …ROBIN TROWER
Ray Shasho: Hello Robin, good to hear from you again … beautiful weather here in Florida as always while we anticipate your arrival to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg for a live show on Wednesday, November 12th.
Robin Trower: “Hello Ray, we’re looking forward to coming back to St. Pete.”
Ray Shasho: The tour kicks off October 4th in St. Louis Missouri, who are the musicians that will be touring with you?
Robin Trower: “Richard Watts on bass and vocals who has also performed on ‘Roots and Branches’ and Chris Taggart the same drummer on the album.”
Ray Shasho: How’s Davie Pattison these days … any chance of working with him again?
Robin Trower: “I haven’t spoken with him for awhile but I think he’s doing okay. Because I’ve been doing more singing myself, I think I’m going more down that road. I’ve discovered that I enjoy singing what I’ve written and feel the vocals are more connected to the original idea when I do it. Of course when you’re writing you are singing it to yourself, so it’s a natural thing when you actually go in to record it and you’re singing it yourself, it sounds right to you. Obviously Davie is a great-great singer, but I think the material is a bit more personal and especially this new album where the lyrics are more personal to me.”
Ray Shasho: Let’s talk about the new CD, when can we expect it to be released?
Robin Trower: “I think just in the new year. All the songs will be originals and I must say it turned out really well; I’m also very pleased with the guitar on it. The album is rolling on from ‘Roots and Branches’ only having written the material myself instead of doing a few covers. I think what I’ve learned to do with the guitar when I did ‘Roots and Branches’ has fed into this new album and that’s the way I’d put it.”
Ray Shasho: Besides rock and roll & the blues, I know you’re a big fan of R&B/Funk/Soul music. In our last interview you stated that James Brown was one of your heroes … would you consider recording an entire R&B/Soul album some day?
Robin Trower: “I think of myself as fundamentally rock and roll and obviously very rhythm and blues influence. Doing the stuff I do with electric guitar, I don’t think I could make that shift. I’m thinking music from the 60’s and 70’s with dance beats going on … either that or heavy soul ballads, and you need to be that kind of singer to start.”
Ray Shasho: Your vocals on one of my favorite albums ‘Go My Way’ (2000) was strikingly soulful … especially tracks like “Into Dust,” I think you could definitely pull it off with amazing success.
Robin Trower: “I feel very comfortable doing blues … blues influence and rock and roll, that’s really where I’m coming from. My favorite artist as you know is James Brown, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, and the people like that had a great influence on my writing, so I’m very comfortable singing those kinds of tunes.”
Ray Shasho: I was very saddened to hear about the loss of your wife Andrea earlier this year.
Robin Trower: “It’s very tough to lose the missus. I’ve been very fortunate to have something to work on. I had the material already and was able to get in the studio and get working, and now I’ve got the tour coming up so that will help to clear my head a little bit.”
Ray Shasho: Robin, I can’t believe it’s the fortieth anniversary of ‘Bridge of Sighs.’ It seems like yesterday when I bought the album right after its release in 1974.
Robin Trower: I know …I don’t want to even think about it. (All laughing)
Ray Shasho: The album’s title and legendary track “Bridge of Sighs” has been speculated for years to be named after a bridge in Venice Italy. Apparently the view from the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. It’s also the name of a famous poem of 1844 by Thomas Hood concerning the suicide of a homeless young woman who threw herself from Waterloo Bridge in London. Was the title inspired by either of these circumstances?
Robin Trower: “I actually had the piece of music and the verse for several months and one day I opened the sports pages of the newspaper and there was a horse running that day called ‘Bridge of Sighs.’ I just thought, oh, what a great title, I wonder if I could make it work with the song that I’m working on … and it worked! When I saw the name of the horse called ‘Bridge of Sighs’ I immediately thought about the story of the bridge in Venice, so it is connected to that. The horse wouldn’t have been called that if it wasn’t for the bridge in Venice.”
“When I was writing material for the new album coming out, I was reading an article about an author, and they mentioned a friend of his who is a lady author named Jean Rhys, and they mentioned the title of her famous book ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ and I thought, oh, I’ve got to have that, and I’ve written a song coming from that title. You stumble across these things and they spark something off in your mind.”
Ray Shasho: In my opinion, track per track, the “Bridge of Sighs” album is among the Top- 10 albums in rock history.
Robin Trower: “Thank you very much … well a lot of that is due to the fantastic singing of James Dewar. I always thought his vocals are what made it commercial, so it would be played on the radio. He had a beautiful voice and was very soulful.”
Ray Shasho: James Dewar was my favorite vocalist; he was mesmerizing and just incredible to listen to.
“Bridge of Sighs” has to be one of your favorites to perform in concert.
Robin Trower: “No doubt about it! It has a real power to it and once you start it, it takes on a life of its own.”
Ray Shasho: There are also a lot of funkier rock riffs on the album like …“Day of the Eagle,” “The Fool and Me,” “Lady Love,” and “Little Bit of Sympathy.”
Robin Trower: ““The Fool and Me” was definitely inspired by James Brown. “Too Rolling Stoned” I think is also James Brown influenced, in fact there are some changes on that when it goes to the turnaround, I actually lifted those changes from a James Brown song called “Down And Out In New York City.” If there was anyone you could call genius it was James Brown, he just had the most incredible voice and it would tear the heart right out of you… just wonderful! He and Dinah Washington are my favorite singers. I was fortunate to see James Brown perform at his peak; he came over to London in 1965.”
Ray Shasho: I chatted with Randy Bachman (BTO) recently and he told me that he’s always heard music in his head. He was quite surprised that so many people didn’t share the same experience that he had since he was a young boy. Do you agree that musicians have that special gift?
Robin Trower: “You are born with a gift and I do believe that. Here’s my take on it, I think anybody and everybody can learn to play music up to their efficiency, but to be a creative person, that’s the gift you have to have to take it somewhere.”
Ray Shasho: Robin thank you so much for being on the call today … we’re all looking forward to the brand new CD sometime at the beginning of 2015, and the tour which kicks off October 4th in St. Louis, Missouri. I’ll be there in St. Pete, Florida to review the show.
Robin Trower: “Hopefully you can stop by and we’ll have a chat, thanks Ray
… cheers for now!
Purchase Robin Trower’s latest CD ‘Roots and Branches’ on amazon.com and watch for Robin's brand new release in the beginning of 2015.
‘Roots and Branches ‘Track listings: 1) Hound Dog 2) The Thrill is Gone 3)When I Heard Your Name 4) Little Red Rooster 5) I Believe To My Soul 6) Shape Of Things to Come 7) That’s Alright Mama 8) Save Your Love 9) Born Under a Bad Sign 10) Sheltered Moon 11) See My Life
Very special thanks to the legendary ‘Derek Sutton’ and David Maida
COMING UP NEXT … Country music’s shining new star -19 year old Mary Sarah…
Don Wilson guitarist, pioneer, and co-founder of ‘The Ventures’… Folk/Rock singer & songwriter Jonathan Edwards (“Sunshine”)
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