Rock Around The World • July 1977   7



In His Own Words;

“Beginning To Make It.”

by Becky Sue Epstein

Richard Torrance’s third album, “Bareback,” has recently appeared on AOR (album-oriented rock) radio. Torrance recently appeared in concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in a Los Angeles showcase with his new band, following their tour. About concerts in general he says, “I notice that a lot of people are bored at concerts. All they do is go there and get stoned with their friends and freak out.

“I like to get the people off. If I look out in the middle of a set and see people going like this (hands over ears) I know I’m not getting them off and it bothers me. It makes me terribly insecure though there’s nothing I can do about it at the time. I want to turn around and stop everybody in the band: ‘OK, turn down ten notches and let’s start this one over again.’ But you can’t. It’s impossible because once the energy level sets up to a certain point the volume is up to a certain point.

“My band now is not representative of “Bareback” because this record is too laid back for where I am onstage. I’m a real high-energy rock and roller. There are definitely mellow points in the set and I love to sing ballads. We’re a raunchy rock and roll band–a real good rock and roll band, comparable to Little Feat, comparable to Sons of Champlin without the horns.

There are presently five people in Torrance’s band. “But I’m probably going to add a percussionist before too long–congas and timbales and all those side trips that come with ha percussionist.” This group of people “came together so fast” for the tour, explains Torrance. “When Capitol (his new label) heard the band they said, “Hey, back into the studio, Buddy. Take these guys with you, and forget the Hollywood


Torrance and band began recording at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles in early June, again with “Bareback” producer John Haeny. “I’m trying to get into what my producer calls the sophisticated rock and roll. I need to sophisticate the sound a little bit so that it’s above punk rock and roll–so I can appeal to the intellect in people but at the same time still get them off.

“Bareback took almost a year to complete–four months of recording and six months of production. “I don’t like that,” he says, “because you have too much time to listen back and too much time to get insecure about what’s happening.

“I used the hottest guys (studio musicians) in L.A. on that album, and the only thing it got me was the prestige of saying, ‘Yeah, I had Jeff Porcaro and Billy Payne and Sammy Clayton and Wilton Felder playing on it.’ And all the disc jockeys were going: ‘Ooh, wow! What was it like talking to them?’ Huh? Talk? Who talked? I played with them. And it really didn’t do me that much good. All the people now in Los Angeles think it’s hip to have these guys come in and play on their records. Consequently all the records are

starting to sound the same. You have the same drum licks and the same guitar licks and a different lead vocalist and a different song. It’s a prestige thing.”

The “Bareback” album packaging contains four nude, tasetful black-andwhite photographs of Richard Torrance and a woman (who happens to be his wife. Robyn). “We’ve already gotten a lot of ‘guff,’ so to speak, about the tit on the cover, and male naked body in contact with female naked body. The discount houses and some of the rack jobbers won’t put it out in front because of that.” The album concept was Torrance’s–with the help of photographer Johanna Van Zantwyk and producer Haeny. “I like it a lot for what it was at the time,” says Torrance. “I didn’t have a band. I had no idea that when it turned out that way it would appeal more to males than females. But I have talked to a lot of women who think it’s a gorgeous package. They just like looking at naked skin, I guess.

“I thought I was going to have a hit record with “Bareback.” I really did. I

still think that there are hit records on there. I think that it’s probably not being approached the right way or, like they say (at Capitol), it’s the wrong time for the radio season. I don’t know what it is.”

Rock stardom in Los Angeles is a long way to come from Bismark, North Dakota, as they would mention on the Johnny Carson Show. When asked about his “humble origins,” Torrance wisely replied: “There’s not much to know. When I got out of high school I was just desperate to get out of Bismark and do something with my music.” So he moved to Idaho, staying with an older sister and brother-in-law. We got a little band together and then we went on to Los Angeles. I was switching around playing drums and guitar and singing. It was just a terrible little band we had together then.

“This was way back in ’69 when all the hippie craze was really at its peak. That was the first time I saw L.A. and the panhandle and all of those freaks walking around. And I thought ‘My God, this is for me’.”

There’s a Richard Torrance quote in his bio that says, “When I was young I dreamed about being somebody” (along with a lot of other mush). Every kid has these fantasies, but Torrance, “a stone-cold fan of Ricky Nelson’s,” was acting them out. Instead of the traditional Midwest Cowboys and Injuns, he says, “I’d be playing with my cars in the house, pretending I was going from my house to the recording studio to the job.” At the tender age of eight, this kid was hooked.

“Back there people didn’t understand if you wanted to write your own songs and sing them onstage. They’re a bit backwards back there. So I didn’t really play any of my own songs onstage. The big thing that was hot back in the Midwest at that point was rhythm and blues–James Brown and Otis Redding and Sam and Dave and all those

people. So we did a lot of rhythm and blues stuff. We had an 8-piece band with a 3-piece horn section in it. We never really did the style of music that I was moving into.”

Torrance’s “dues” were paid during the years he lived and played in Santa Barbara. A few years ago he met Duane Scott, the producer of his first two albums on Shelter Records, who said to Torrance, “We’ll come down to L.A. and we’ll see if we can get some recording together–just on your own, as a solo act.’ I said OK and I came down and bought a 4-track Teac and got my songs arranged and went into the studio. That,•in turn, finally got played for Denny Cordell, to make a long story short. And he liked it well enough to give me a contract. I got two records released on Shelter and a third one was recorded and never released.”

Then Torrance bought out of his Shelter contract. “All I know is that whenever I would say ‘Shelter, I need some money to get this together,’ they would say ‘We never said we were going to give you any money.’ I mean, we were recording records for $20,000!

“I got really insecure and almost felt like leaving L.A. and going somewhere else and just playing music and not worrying about making records–until I played for Columbia and Warners and Capitol, and Capitol picked up on me.”

And now the plans for Richard Torrance’s rosy future in the music business: Torrance is not unrealistic about making it. “I want to work. I want the record to be a success and the only way that it can be a success is to get out on the street and meet the people, sell yourself. And so that’s what I’ve been doing. The only way you can sell yourself is like a politician.

“I know that if I was really concerned about money I’d he really struggling for an AM hit single right now. But that’s impossible. It’s not impossible for me to get one, but it’s impossible to sit down and say ‘OK, this is the one that’s going to be an AM hit single.’ Because you’ll play it for the record company and they’ll go ‘You’re crazy. That’s not an AM hit single.’ And

just the one you thought is the worst song on the record they’re going to release as a single. And it’ll go.”

His next album will be “as much representative of the band that I have now as I can get it. And we are going to do that by recording as much live as we can–not live in front of the public, but live in the studio without any overdubbing. The only overdubbing we’d do is probably back-up vocals and percussion parts. On every song that we can we’re going to do live solos and live lead vocals because I sing ten times better when I’m singing with the band. It’s just the energy and the people being aroune me playing at that point that makes me feel better–the adrenalin flows. While I’m playing live I’m not thinking of what I’m doing so therefore I do it better.

“I want it to be fresh. Then I won’t have , time to think about ‘Well, do I want a guitar solo or do I want an organ solo?’ It’s going to be there live and I’m going to work it out with the band. I want to use the sophistication that I learned in “Bareback” and combine it with the raunchiness that I got in “Belle Of The Ball” (recorded for Shelter) and come out with a band record that has both qualities.”

And for the not-so-immediate future? I’ve signed a contract with Capitol for 51/2 years and it was only signed last July.” Musically, “I’ve got a baby grand at the house that I plunk around on and I’ve written a few songs on. I intend to try and work myself onto a grand piano onstage one of these days, but I haven’t built up the confidence in my fingers yet.

“And within the next decade 1 intend to be a very famous and successful musician. I’m not going to give up until I get there. And even if I never get there I’ve still accomplished what I had, and that means success.”

Adding career strategy to his musicianship gives Torrance a good chance in the harsh world of Hollwyood. We’ll see what happens this fall, when the new album is released.