- Cher – “The Music’s No Good Without You” was inspired by Gormengahst. What’s a Gormenghast?
- Def Leppard – Why?
- Guns N’ Roses – What were they like to work with?
- Help – Please help me I get in touch with (INSERT NAME OF STAR HERE).
- Linda McCartney – What was she like?
- Nickelback – How did you get the idea for the “Savin’ Me” video?
- Ozzy – What was it Ozzy said to you about crying at the movies?
- Scandal – Can you give us some dirt?
- Special events – Anything that stands out?
Cher – “The Music’s No Good Without You” was inspired by Gormengahst. What’s a Gormenghast?
English writer Mervyn Peake wrote three novels based on a ficticious gothic kingdom called Gormenghast. They were Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone. The trilogy is wonderfully dark and mischevious and Sting was rumoured to have purchased the movie rights at one time. Peake started writing Titus Groan in the 40’s while he was employed as a war artist and his sketches of the emaciated Flay are surely influenced by the horrific scenes he witnessed in Belsen. The BBC & WGBH Boston eventually produced a series based on the books last year (2000) and you can purchase the result on DVD (Warner home Video E1545)….
Def Leppard – Why?
It seems our careers have intersected a number of times over the years.
PART 1: Back in the 70’s when I was working at Stiff Records I heard this EP by a great band from Sheffield on their own Bludgeon Riffola label and tried to get my boss to sign them. He said: “No. To be successful in this business you need to sign bands that will make you some money!”
PART 2: In 1982 I moved to Phonogram Records and one of the bands whose videos I had to look after was Def Leppard – by now a mega-selling International act. I sat in on the shoots for “Bringing On The Heartache” and a couple of others. Their manager and I used to butt heads and disagree about what should be in their videos. One day he said to me something along the lines of: “The problem with you Nigel is that you wouldn’t know a great rock video if it bit you in the head.”
PART 3: Some years later I was doing some work back in England when I got a call to write an idea for “Rocket”. I was lucky enough to get the gig and flew to Amsterdam to do the shoot and took the opportunity of reminding the manager of his earlier comments. He slammed the phone down on me.
PART 4: In 1996 I was back in England for a funeral and they sent me tapes for “Slang” and “Work It Out”. I wanted to do “Slang” but not “Work It Out” but they insisted I do both. “Slang” turned out great but “Work It Out” didn’t and we had to re-shoot some of the footage.
PART 5: In 2006 I got the call to shoot a video for Rock On. It was fun to see everyone again and I had a blast. I got to edit the video myself (something I do very rarely) and it was approved without a change. I’m still recovering from the shock.
POST-SCRIPT: I’ve always found the Defs to be a great bunch of guys and loved the Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize albums – as did about 40 million other people!
Guns N’ Roses – What were they like to work with?
I’m currently writing a whole diary section on that one. It should be ready sometime in early 2007.
Help – Please help me I get in touch with (INSERT NAME OF STAR HERE).
Firstly you’d be surprised how few people I have phone numbers and e-mail addresses for and the reason I do have those few numbers is because I promised to keep them confidential in the first place. So please don’t ask me for a contact number and then you won’t be offended when I ask you take a hike. In case you’re feeling there’s still some wiggle room here, or you have trouble with words of more than one syllable, the answer is NO.
Linda McCartney – What was she like?
I met her when I did a video for Paul in 1990. I’d read lots of stuff that lead me to believe that she would be a difficult and pushy woman but she seemed quite different when I met her. On the set she was obviously quite nervous in front of the camera and I asked her if she’d like me to clear the set of the huge number of on-lookers who’d congregated to make her feel more relaxed. (This is quite acceptable behaviour on the set). She said No – it wasn’t a problem. Later in the day she quietly came up and asked me whether I would have moved the people if she’d said Yes. To which I replied “Of course I would.” “I wish I’d known,” she murmured, “I was really nervous but I did not want to upset anybody’s feelings.”
The moral of the story being that instead of the tough, stuck up woman that the press had painted her as being I found her to be a quiet, sensitive and friendly person. She was obviously very passionate about being a vegetarian and gently berated me for having a burger at lunch “You’re eating one of my friends.” Paul also told me that, apart from the time he’d been arrested in Tokyo, Linda and he had never spent a night apart. She later sent me a lovely letter and Paul rang me personally to thank me for the video. After directing over nearly 300 videos he is one of the few artists who have ever said thank-you personally for the job I have done.
Nickelback – How did you get the idea for the “Savin’ Me” video?
Am I a genius? Sadly, no. The idea came from Ryan Peake’s wife and the minute I heard it I knew we were on to a winner – the rest was just execution though I will confess to being very proud of the result.
The numbers above the heads roughly represent the minutes left in each person’s life though, for the old lady who dies, we took the liberty of speeding it up. I figured if we used seconds for everyone the numbers would be so vast that the point would get lost. I let someone else choose the exact numbers for all the people as it freaked me out giving people a number – what would happen if I was actually right in predicting the time of someone’s death?
We shot the video over three days. The band were shot in a three hour window before a gig in Vancouver on a Friday afternoon and the conceptual footage was done over the Saturday and Sunday. It was so miserable and wet on both days that shooting didn’t start till after 9am and we were done by 4 both afternoons – that’s how small the window of available light is in Vancouver in January.
Ozzy – What was it Ozzy said to you about crying at the movies?
When I shot ‘Back on Earth’ with Ozzy in Prague we all had dinner one night with Ozzy and Sharon and their kids. His son Jack was 12 at the time.
During the conversation Ozzy mentioned that being the King of Metal wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He said it was a real drag being Ozzy Osbourne because he couldn’t allow himself to cry when he was at the movies. “It would ruin my image you know – I’m the ‘Prince Of Darkness’ – I can’t have people seeing me cry at the movies.” To which Jack replied: “Yeah Dad – I saw you crying when we went to see Braveheart.” Quick as a flash Ozzy barked back: “Shut up – I’ve told you not to tell anyone about that!”
Scandal – Can you give us some dirt?
My job is to direct videos for people – not dish the dirt on them. And consider this – do you think people would want to work with me if I had a reputation for blabbing about everyone on my web page? It is a sad reflection on mankind that everyone wants the dirt on the stars – just look at the front page of a tabloid the next time you’re in a supermarket check-out line.
Special events – Anything that stands out?
OK, Here’s a top ten…
1) Band Aid – Making £12 million to save famine victims in Ethiopia. It feels good to save a life.
2) Watching Smokey Robinson take a homeless man to McDonald’s in his white Rolls Royce to buy him a quarter pounder with cheese, large fries and a coke.
3) Meeting Macca and having him call me to say thanks – see Q33
4) As a favour Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) played me the intro to “I’m Going Home” (See Woodstock) and then asked if it would be OK for HIM to get his picture taken with ME!
5) A certain singer walked off the set of Champagne Supernova in the middle of a take then told me to F Off when I asked why.
6) Working with a Canadian singer (who shall remain nameless) in LA who refused to try on any clothes at a wardrobe fitting “I don’t do fashion shows” she said. Then flying the next day to Prague to meet another Canadian, Celine Dion, who proceeded to strip in front of me and try on clothes for 2 hours (with a smile and a hundred jokes) after she’d just spent 14 hours in a plane straight after a gig. Now THAT’s why she’s a star. Go Celine! (We chose the very first thing she tried on which was something of her own.)
7) Speaking to Jeff Porcaro of Toto (a wonderful man) about plans for a video and saying to him, for reasons which I’ll never fully comprehend, what a great Dad I thought he was. He said: “Thanks Nigel, let’s talk again tomorrow,” put the phone down and died from a heart attack two hours later.
8) Having a video rejected by the label / artist. It’s happened more than once I’m afraid. It makes me feel very sick.
9) Whilst preparing to shoot Green Day in Prague we flew to Lublijana to see one of their gigs. Seeing 10,000 Slovenian punks body-slam during Geek Stink Breath is a hard image to forget.
10) Still waiting for this one.