I recently found an ancient bag of microcassette tapes containing some of the interviews I did in the early ’90s. Here’s a 15-minute chat with erstwhile Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird, on the occasion of the release of his first solo album, Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired.
I want to discuss some of the experiences you had on each of the albums — starting, of course, with the first one.
Well, I was really nervous. Everybody was. Rick Price had made records before, so he kind of knew what to expect. He’d been, you know, playing in the Brains, but me, Richards, and Magellan were…uh, first time! Scared as shit! We really had to trust Jeff Glixman, who had recorded the fabled EP. For a whole lot of reasons, it was a very worrying experience. It’s funny that it came out so good.
Did you ever think that “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” would be a hit?
Nope. Did you?
The first time I heard it? No.
In all honesty, how could anyone have said that was a hit? It’s a ridiculous, silly song.
The reason I didn’t think it was going to be a hit was that I liked it so much.
That’s usually the kiss of death with me, too.
And then, of course, you came out with another album within…
A couple of years. Yeah, that was a problem album. The band had actually wanted to use a different producer, and I kind of demanded that we use Jeff again, and that created a rift that just kept growing. It was very un-bright on my part. It didn’t have anything to do with Jeff, it didn’t have anything to do with the band — it was just me being stubborn. Stubborn equals stupid a whole lot of times, and I’m living proof.
I wish I had about half the songs back on that record — either rewrite or throw out or something. That album was a ton of leftovers and all kinds of messed-up stuff.
The basic situation where you spend your entire career writing your first album, and then…
Yeah, you’ve got two months.
Which brings us to the third album — my personal favorite.
Well, In the Land of Salvation and Sin was probably the most heartfelt record I’ve made. I was going through a divorce, and it kinda shows up in the writing — kinda, like a sledgehammer — and it was actually a very easy album to make, because I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The band was really behind me, the producer, Joe Hardy, really liked it, and the record company liked it…and the general public didn’t.
It was just one of those things where we wanted to make a screamin’, dyin’, rock ‘n’ roll record, and we kinda did. You know, I’m still really proud of that one. I only wish I had the second one back, and only about half of that one, because half of it was really rockin’. Just take a look at it as an EP. An EP with five bonus tracks! (laughs)
After that, the band was involved in recording a soundtrack, right?
Yeah, we did.
I forget the name of the movie…
So do I! I’m serious. It never came out. It was called Where’s the Check? (laughs) That was the name of that movie, and we did get paid. It stunk, everyone knew it stunk. I even told the producer, “I can write songs that are better than the movie.” He didn’t know what to think of that.
What happened to that material?
It’s just lying around someplace. It’s really…the songs were written for the movie, and the movie wasn’t good. ‘Nuff said. I mean, the performances are fine, but the material itself is very…written for hire.
And then you…decided to fire yourself.
Mmm hmm! Yes I did!
What led to that?
Just the inability to…I just didn’t have the desire to keep it going. It got too hard, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and go, “you’re doing a good job.” I wasn’t.
Did it have anything to do with the band’s album sales?
That was frustrating, but it usually isn’t the reason bands break up. It’s a contributing factor, but a lot of times, it’s symptomatic of…well, you don’t want to say artistic differences, ‘cause that’s such a bullshit phrase. It’s just, it had to do with personal energy. I just didn’t have it. I looked at myself and I thought, if I were looking at someone else in the band, I would do everyone else a favor by quitting. You’re fired. I love you, you’re fired. I really had to look at myself as another person for a few minutes.
About a year and a half after this, the Black Crowes came along, and making pretty much the same kind of music, sold a lot more records.
Right, but I think they have a lot more R&B in their sound. I think of them as more R&B. They’re parallel styles, but only because they draw obviously from certain points in time, and I think that to people that are younger than their influences — in other words, if you didn’t hear, with the Stones and the Faces…I think the Faces would be our common ground. But they do stuff that’s a lot less fun and a lot more heartfelt. I think we had a little more Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers than they do. But I think those guys, if they pay careful attention to their songs, they’re going to be a great rock band. They’re already a really good one, but there’s a difference.
When you heard them break out, was there any frustration?
Not really. I think the first thing I heard was “Jealous Again,” and I went, like everyone else, “Whoa! That rocks.”
In the aftermath of the Georgia Satellites breaking up, did you know you wanted to make a solo album?
No. It was just that I couldn’t think of a great band name, so it just became Dan Baird instead of Dan Baird and the ____________. But I kinda wanted to put myself a little bit at the center of it, just to give it a try and see if I could. I shared vocals the whole time with the Satellites, and I just wanted to see if I could do it! It was that innocent.
It sounds like it came together really quickly.
It did come together fast. Is it really that sloppy? (laughs)
It just sounds like a lot of fun! Especially one of my favorite tracks, “Look at What You Started.”
I like that song too. That’s a rockin’ little thing there — very few people know how to swing like Keith and Mauro figured out, and it’s just such an NRBQ ripoff. It’s just kinda like, you know, if Terry or Joey come at me with a gun, I got nothin’ to say except “here’s the money.”
I only have an advance cassette, so I don’t have access to writer credits, but I do know that “I Love You Period”…you picked that up from another writer, right?
Yes, Terry Anderson. He wrote that by himself, and together we wrote “Look at What You Started,” “The One I Am,” “Dixie Beauxderant,” and “Knocked Up,” and the rest of ‘em are mine. Terry’s a guy who works with a band called the Woods, and he also wrote “Battleship Chains.”
I saw his name on the back of the single, and I was surprised — I assumed this would be like the Satellite days, where you wrote most, if not all…
No, this time I decided I wanted to have good songs. (laughs)