Under The Sheets with Anthony Haden-Guest and Lorraine Leckie: The Story of Rudely Interrupted
By Tom Semioli
“Well it is art if they say it is…” Anthony Haden-Guest.
Music often makes for strange bedfellows. The above-quoted iconic writer Anthony Haden-Guest and noir folk artist Lorraine Leckie would strike most American citizens as polar opposites. He: the legendary reporter, poet, writer and cartoonist renown for his chronicling of socialite life (and death) in New York City in the wild and crazy 1970s. She: the dark princess of the contemporary Greenwich Village folk scene, who, along with her raucous band, aptly dubbed Her Demons, waxed two of the best albums to emerge from this decadent urban theme-park metropolis: Four Cold Angels and the solo Martini Eyes respectively.
On a cold Saturday morning in the West Village whilst dining with Lorraine, Mr. Haden- Guest sets the record (somewhat) straight with his British inflections on the conventionality of their collaboration – which is brilliantly documented on their new album Rudely Interrupted. “Lorraine and I do not exist in such different worlds … not really… it’s all downtown isn’t it? There’s such a great cultural mix here…singers, painters, writers…we’re all in the same stew.” Brimming with satire, double and triple entendre, apocalyptic references, and bittersweet character portraits that would have made Andy Warhol blush through is pancake make-up or Lou Reed rethink Berlin, Rudely Interrupted reveals even more about other people’s lives upon repeated listening. Who says they don’t make concept albums like they used to?
To be brief (not an easy task with the lovingly loquacious Leckie and the pleasurably voluble Haden-Guest), Anthony and Lorraine came together by way of yet another downtown denizen: Billy Leroy, the dashing, dapper, devilishly handsome owner of the infamous Billy’s Antiques on the Bowery and star of the Travel Channel’s highly-rated reality series Baggage Battles. Long story short: Anthony and Billy became fast friends upon their initial introduction at the Santos Party House venue during a memorial for a deceased burlesque artist. Billy invited Anthony to hear Lorraine at the Rockwood Music Hall wherein the two hit it off. Fact: Lorraine knows Billy Leroy even more intimately: they’re married. Billy and Lorraine star (along with their pooch) in the album’s first video for the track “Happy City”.
Notes Lorraine: “Anthony was kind of looking around for someone to put music to his words…he always had it in his mind that he wanted to do songs. When he first heard me, he thought that I would do it. So he gave me lyrics, and I immediately fell in love with what he was writing. Anthony puts me into the now, because my songs feel like they could have been written in the 1800s. And it helps that we have the same wicked, sardonic humor.”
Akin to the fabled modus operandi of Bernie Taupin and Elton John – Anthony mostly supplied lyrics to Lorraine and simply left her alone. “Once I gave her the words it was her baby…I welcomed changes…and mutations…I like accidents! She found new meanings in many of the things that I had written.” Anthony’s drawings were a major source of Lorraine’s inspiration as well. “The title track was Lorraine’s idea…the line comes from one of my cartoons actually… of a gravestone.” Be advised to seek out Haden-Guest’s witty and most timely cartoon tomes The Chronicles of Now and In The Meantime for further insight into his psyche long before Lorraine Leckie set it to melody.
The sessions for Rudely Interrupted were a breeze according to Lorraine and Anthony. Their spirits were high and their potent confidence in each other made for great art. Lorraine has never sounded more relaxed, confident and intimate in the often antiseptic atmosphere of a recording studio which, by its nature, or lack thereof, cannot substitute for a living, breathing audience – the stage is truly the forum wherein Lorraine excels. In addition, Anthony overcame his reluctance to actually appear on the album! Recalls Lorraine, when it came time for Anthony to render his spoken word performance on the track “Goodbye to All This” his inclination was “oh dahling do I have to be on my own record?”
Never at a loss for words, Mr. Haden-Guest viewed that particular incident with a most ingenious assessment : “I think the one thing about collaboration is that it is indeed relaxing…because if something goes wrong …well it’s their fault not mine!”
Producer George Jackson, who is also the Demons’ bassist, worked wonders with the torrid twosome from hearing the rough demos in Lorraine’s kitchen to the final mixes. The album was waxed in the Excello Recording studios of guitarist Hugh Pool – who is also a Demon in his spare time. Anthony enjoyed the opportunity to be taken out of his usual element and Lorraine reveled in her band’s swift expertise. “In the studio, George, Matt Kanelos the piano player, and I would be warming up while Hugh was listening to us without our knowledge. He didn’t know the songs at all beforehand. But by the time we were done – he was ready to do the first take! That’s how brilliant Hugh and the band are …and it shows on the record. At the most we did three takes of each track.”
Despite the fact that Rudely Interrupted in its recorded format is a finite piece – both Lorraine and Anthony view their song-cycle as a work in progress. Haden-Guest is constantly revising his work, and Leckie is notorious for altering her lyrics on the fly during gigs. Professes Anthony Haden-Guest in the voice of Lorraine Leckie in the cut “Formerly Fairly Famous:” “you will never be ordinary.” Why would we expect anything else?
Anthony Haden-Guest and Lorraine Leckie’s Rudely Interrupted can be found at www.lorraineleckie.com