What’s it like to be catapulted from the brink of obscurity to the top of the charts–to become an “overnight success?” The story is best told by Ed Sanford and John Townsend, whose “Smoke From A Distant Fire”is burning up the charts, after having smoldered silently for over a year:
JT: It all started rather crazily, several months back . we had cut this album that had been out for a year and three months–our first album–and as we were in the studio trying to salvage our careers and cut a real good second album, something started happening with the first one … so Warner’s said, “Hey, we’ve gotta have a band out on the road helping the record along.” Management says okay; we get the agency and they book a million gigs … we started out on August first with Dave Mason and Heart, opening the show, and we’re just finishing a string of Fleetood Mac dates … we’re very fortunate to have the gigs that we got, for a brand new act … there are thousands of acts that would pay to get on a Fleetwood Mac date, and all of a sudden, here we are … it’s good, but at the same time it’s also very frightening–intimidating .
ES: (laughing) They’re so goddamn great, it’s hard to get their audience off … they don’t know who the hell we are!
IT: The intimidation factor is involved, but we’re overcoming it to a large extent … it’s hard bein’ under that kind of pressure, ’cause our job is to go out there and warm up the audience for Fleetwood … to get ’em standing up by the time Fleetwood walks on stage … DR: Is your road band the same musicians you used on the album?
JT: Some of the guys were in the original band we recorded the first album with, but we had to make a few personnel changes .. .
ES: The musicians are all friends of ours, and they vary at times …it’s just who’s available and that kind of thing …
JT: We were all part of ‘a late Sixties, early Seventies migration of Southern musicians, which includes anybody from Duane and Greg Allman to Bobby Keyes and on down through this barrage of people … we assembled this band out of a lot of those people who happened to be here the same time as us …
ES: When we came out here we were in a band, and we went through so many bands, like everybody else does … you know, come out here and starve for eight years … we built up a reputation as song writers in the last four years that enabled us to get a record deal as artists …
IT: We pulled back out of that band thing at one point and started concentrating on writing … after a while we landed a deal as staff writers with Chappel Music … they allowed us to cut the kind of demos we needed to one, get our songs placed and, two, get a record deal…. that was part of “Plan A,” and all of a sudden we realized, “Hey–it’s working!”
DR: You mentioned earlier that “Smoke” had been out for over a year before it really started to take off–how do you account for its “sudden” success?
ES: It was the second single released— the first one was “Shake It To The Right,” which didn’t really break .. . and “Smoke” was the song everybody really believed in
.. when we put it out, it started breaking in the South … a lot of people started workin’ real hard on it; John and I got on the phones and kept in touch with it daily; and it just inched its way up …
DR: What was involved in your choice of Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett to produce the first album?
JT: Wexler was a good choice for our first album cause we had never really developed ourselves as recording artists … we needed someone that could give us some strong direction–to whip us into shape … out of Jerry, we got years and years of experience of working with some of tile most incredible artists ever . • . then out of Barry we got very strong musical identity–we could communicate our ideas to Barry, cause he is a musician … also, we cut the album in Muscle Shoals, which is kind of like goin’ home . . . it was comfortable and helped us get a