Jim Goodwin is a keyboard player who is in the MTV era band "The Call". The Call has produced many videos and hits such as "The Walls Came Down, Turn a Blind Eye, All about You" and many more. After Jim had stints with John Cale from the Velvet Underground and The Sparks, he joined forces with The Call and remains with them today. The Call lost their singer Michael Been tragically while he was helping his son Robert's band on tour in Europe. Robert and the remaining members of The Call recently united and just released a CD/DVD tribute to Michael and the music of The Call.
R.V.B. - Hey Jim, how are you doing today?
J.G. - Hey I'm good
R.V.B. - You're on the west coast right
J.G. - Yes I am in Oregon.
R.V.B. - How are things going on in Oregon?
J.G. - Things are going great. I'm in central Oregon in a very small town called "Sisters" and we are having our annual folk festival this weekend and everything is just as explosive and wild and crazy as a folk festival can get.
R.V.B. - Who is appearing at the festival?
J.G. - Anais Mitchell is here... who I love. Phil Medeira and a bunch of interesting bands. The Brothers Comatose, Ruth Moody, Heather Maloney and I'm working the stage for her tonight. We had some interesting names here in the past. We had John Hammond here a couple of years ago. The Sub Dudes were a huge hit here a couple of years before that. They're all good quality Americana touring folk artists. It's really amazing stuff and there's a big program for the kids in the high school. They have a songwriting program in school. They do a song camp three days before the folk festival with a handful of the artists that are here for the festival. The entire folk festival is a non-profit organization to raise money for the camp program. There's some pretty amazing kids coming out of this program. There's a kid named Slater Smith who has a band called "The Weather Machine". He graduated about five years ago and got a degree in political science and he's never given up on his music. He's fantastic... his songs are wonderful and his band is great. It's exciting to see the kids come into their own as real artists a few years after they graduated from high school.
R.V.B. - It's great when any program keeps the arts alive.
J.G. - This community is incredible here in central Oregon. The community supports the arts so much and it's really inspiring to be a part of it.
R.V.B. - How did you wind up in Oregon?
J.G. - My parents lived up here and they're aging so I moved up here to kinda help them out. When I found out what the music community was like, I felt like I landed in nirvana. I met the love of my life here. This is probably the best time of my life in a lot of ways.
R.V.B. - That sounds really nice. You know I saw you guys back in the 80's at a club called Heartbeats in Oyster Bay here on Long Island and me and my buddies Jeb and Marcus got to chat with your guitar player. It must of been real nice for you to revisit all of the songs on the your new CD and DVD release with Robert Levon Been.
J.G. - It really was... It's been so long, you know I left the band in the early 90's and I never got in another band. I had my two kids. I had gotten married and I didn't want to go on the road because we weren't getting anywhere. We were barely making a living. It was so frustrating... we had these chances but it just never worked out for some reason. I didn't want to miss my kids growing up so it was a tough decision but it was just the way it went. I stayed in touch with the guys but not a lot. I tried to go see Michael when he was touring with Black Rebel Motorcycle club as their soundman. There was a snafu and we didn't get to hook up. That was a few years before he died. Right before he died I actually reached out to our old tour manager Dan Russell and I didn't realize he was managing Black Rebel Motorcycle club at the time and I reached out to him and he said "Michael is gonna be in Europe and when he gets back I'll give him the message". Michael sent me an email saying "As soon as I get back from" - because at that time he had relocated to L.A. "As soon as I get back from this tour we gotta hook up. I miss you so much and it's been so long". I was so excited to be seeing him and then I got the word that he died while he was in Europe on that trip just a few weeks later.
J.G. - He was sixty, yeah. It was weird because I hadn't thought about it much for several years and all of a sudden... I forget how but a bunch of things happened with The Call. These people contacted me from a fan club that I didn't know we had and all these things happened about The Call and I thought I gotta get in touch with Michael. Then when he died it was just like really weird. It was like I wouldn't have any expectations about seeing him if that hadn't happened. I did have all these expectations about seeing him because of this contact I had with him and then to have that not happen, it was just very weird. It was difficult and then when this opportunity came up to play... I saw Rob sing the song "You Run" at the memorial service. I thought "Wow he could do some really great things with his dads music". Then our guitar player Tom Ferrier went out on the road with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Just to be kind of in place of Michael so that Rob would have sort of a father figure there, because he had grown up with all of us in the band. It was on that tour that Tom said "Why don't we put a band together and you sing the songs?". Somehow Rob thought maybe there is something there and he started thinking about it. Months later he got us together for a rehearsal just to see if it was worth doing. That was the first time I played those songs with anybody in quite a few years. That rehearsal was just so amazing. It blew all of our minds. Tom, Scott and I were just looking at Robert like "Wow, he sounds like his dad". He looked like him... he got his bass... he got his amp. He just wanted to be as close to his dad as he could make it. You know, it's not exact because he's a different guy. There were times during the show that I'd look over at Rob in the smoke and the stage fog and it sounded exactly like it always sounded and Robert's silhouette with that bass, looked just like Michael. There were times during the show where I thought I was hallucinating. I wasn't sure what year it was or where I was. It could have been a club. It could have been anywhere in 1986. It was amazing and so surreal.
R.V.B. - Now that was at the Troubadour right?
J.G. - That was at the Troubadour and we did a show the night before in San Francisco. Some of the best songs are from the San Francisco show. "The Walls Came Down" is from that and "Let The Day Begin" is from that. It was just a grittier more raw live sound the way it was recorded there. Those are some good bonus tracks that are on the DVD. That was a good show because the band was based out of the bay area and the fans that night were... it was so reverent. When we were playing and if Rob was gonna talk you could hear a pin drop. They were hanging on every word and I would watch them looking at Robert while he was singing and I could just see the reverence they had for Michael. They were looking at his son and saying "Wow this is like having the band back with Michael". They were impressed with his kid doing his music. A lot of our shows were really intense, you know, you saw us. We had a great relationship with our crowd. It was very spiritual and very deep. This show in San Francisco was just remarkable. There was such a love in the room. It felt like waves crashing over us on the stage. It was just beautiful.
R.V.B. - That's really what rock and roll is all about... Being one with your audience. How long did you play at that show?
J.G. - We did eighteen songs and it was probably close to two hours.
R.V.B. - How much rehearsing did that take to put that together?
J.G. - Well we had the one rehearsal in L.A. and then it was almost probably a year after that. Then we got together and rehearsed in Los Angeles I think for three nights. After rehearsal we drove up to San Francisco overnight because we rehearsed really late and just parked the bus right at the club. We went in for a sound check at some point and did the show and then left late that night after the - after show party. After that, we drove back to L.A. to do that show so we really didn't get any sleep. We used the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club bus and their crew and that's how they tour. They toured on a bus with no hotel room. We never did that. We always had a van or a Winnebago and just got a couple of rooms. The sleeping on the bus thing, especially at our age... we're a bunch of old geezers. We were just all excited because it had been twenty five years. I didn't get any sleep. It added to the surreal quality of the Los Angeles show because by then, I was just in some kind of dream state. The whole thing just seemed like a dream.
J.G. - For us old guys, it came right back. The thing that blew my mind was that Rob had all this stuff worked out. He played every lick that Michael ever played on his bass. He had every lyric and I really didn't think he could do twenty songs. The kid busted his butt.
R.V.B. - How old is Robert?
J.G. - I guess he's in his early 30's
R.V.B. - So you were in the Sparks before you joined The Call, I understand.
J.G. - I was, I was with Ron and Russell Mael
R.V.B. - Did you play overseas a lot?
J.G. - We did a lot of shows in France.
R.V.B. - Did he have that mustache? lol
J.G. - By the time I was playing with them he had changed his Charlie Chaplin type mustache because he was getting some grief about it to a thin pencil type mustache. There was an incident at Saturday Night Live that led him to decide to change it.
R.V.B. - My wife had the 45 with the picture sleeve of "Kimono My House".
J.G. - That's my favorite album. That album was just a classic.
R.V.B. - How did you get involved with them?
J.G. - It's a funny story. It was kind of an accident. I was living in New York and I was playing with John Cale of the Velvet Underground. That was my first real recording gig. I did an album with John Cale and a tour. I had been working at a record store in the east village and this girl named Allison East came in to take my place in the record store and she got a call from their manager who knew her... to get her to go on tour with Sparks because they need a guitar player. She said "No" and they said "Do you know anybody?". I came to her mind because of the job connection and she said "Call Jim Goodwin". They called me and I said "I play keyboards". They said "Do you know a guitar player?" and I said "Yeah, I know this guy named Jimmy Zhivago". Then they called me back and they said "as it turns out we need a keyboard player". They had this guitar player in L.A. that they decided they were fine with. So I ended up getting the job. I was kind of looking for a change because John was kind of nuts and i wasn't sure what he was gonna do. It was pretty late in his career and he wasn't going to be doing a lot of albums and stuff. So I was pretty excited. I was a young guy and I get to go back out to the west coast because I was originally from Oregon. I did live in San Francisco before I went to New York. So I ended up coming out here to play with them. It was a really interesting experience. It was like night and day from playing with John Cale. In John's band we wanted me to do whatever I wanted to bring to the song. He wanted me to make up my part and make this into something good. I loved that and then The Sparks just wanted me to play whatever Ron had recorded on the album. It was great. I've heard from them every once in a while and we've stayed connected through the years. The last time was probably six or seven years ago but Ron and Russell are just wonderful guys. The guys in the band Les Bohem and David Kendrick and Bob Haig the guitar player, I've stayed pretty close with Les over the years. Those guys were really important in my life. I was younger than those guys in the band and pretty green. We toured Europe and it was like being in school with those guys. They would take me to all these art museums and turned me on to all this great literature and music. They turned my on to Richard Thompson. I didn't know anything about folk music. I was a punk basically. (Hahaha) It was a great time in my life. That ended up leading to another weird fluke. I ended up being in The Call. That was my home. I stayed with The Call for eight years. Before I joined them, they were opening for bands like Simple Minds and then when "The Walls Came Down" got so big, the bass player and the keyboard player didn't want to tour. I was in Los Angeles and I ran into a guy who auditioned for the bass role. Again they really didn't need a keyboard player but he said "I think they need a keyboard player". So I called their management and the girl talked to said "Yeah, Yeah they need a keyboard player. Give me your number and we'll contact you". I got a call from them and they said "We really don't need a keyboard player but we'd like to meet you anyway just in case". As it turned out they kinda had this suspicion about this guy they were gonna take out on the road with them. They were just finishing the album "Scene Beyond Dreams" and they were in L.A. so they said "Why don't you come down to the studio and meet us". It was the night that I played one of those shows at the Whiskey with Sparks. After the show I went down to their studios late at night... probably one or two o'clock in the morning. I kinda hung out with them and talked to Michael a little bit and they said "We'll let you know. We're not sure if this guy is going to work out". So it went back and forth a couple of times like a yoyo and as it turned out they called me last minute and said "It turns out that we need you. Can you be on a plane tomorrow to go to Santa Cruz to rehearse because we're going to Europe to open for Peter Gabriel". I was like, yeah I can do that. Hahaha.
R.V.B. - Hahaha. I bet you could
J.G. - Yeah Peter Gabriel was like my favorite guy at the time.
R.V.B. - So Michael played guitar originally.
J.G. - Right he played guitar, Tom played guitar and we had a guy who I roomed with and became very good friends with on that tour Joe Reed. He was from Lester England. He was living in Los Angeles and he got this bass player job. He and I joined as bass player and keyboard player and we did the Europe thing and we toured for a while. Our album came out and it didn't do anything. It just got shelved by the label. They wouldn't promote it at all, so we lost our deal and Joe had another band and he went off. We had a gig in San Francisco coming up and Michael said "Look, let's just do the gig and I'll play bass and we'll see how it goes". We got halfway through the show and he started looking at us like "Wow this is it" and we all looking at each other like "Wow, this feels really good". After the show we all got in the dressing room and agreed that this was it. This is the band. Michael said "Hey... I'm happy to play the bass. This feels fantastic". No one ever said anything ever about it again. This was it. Michael would play guitar every once in a while and I would play the keyboard bass on a couple of songs.
R.V.B. - Was he playing a fretless bass?
J.G. - Yeah, he had this Ampeg scroll top fretless bass. It was such a unique instrument.
R.V.B. - It had such an unusual sound when I saw you guys.
J.G. - Oh yeah and the way Michael played it, it was so weird and unique. Half the time he's just let it hang there when he sang and then he would bang on it a little bit and then all of a sudden he would play it percussive. He just did so many thing that were unorthodox. It was really a big part of our sound. His whole vibe... the way he sang and played that bass. That's why I wasn't sure Robert could do it. There was nothing normal about it. That's why I was so impressed that Robert pulled it off. He had all the licks.
J.G. - Yeah, that was "I Still Believe". Another thing that is interesting is, I put together a Indi label with some partners in Los Angeles and a guy in Miami called Label Records. We had the opportunity to be a subsidiary of a company called Lightyear Entertainment... who are part of the Caroline Music Group Family. So we have this great distribution deal with Universal Music Group with Caroline as our parent company. The guys at Lightyear loved the project. They said "Wow this is a beautiful story" and they were fans of both bands. It turned out that people at Caroline were huge fans of The Call and Black Rebel. They have got on it big time and went after a full international release with vinyl and there's a CD/DVD combo packet that is out everywhere.
R.V.B. - I can't wait to see it.
J.G. - It's getting a ton of action and the video is phenomenal. The reviews have been unbelievably good. What Robert did was amazing. If you know The Call and you watch this you'll go "Wow, The kid pulled it off". He looks great... he's a total rock star.
R.V.B. - Well it's been a pleasure to talk with you Jim.
J.G. - Likewise Robert. I appreciate your support all these years especially
R.V.B. - Have a good day and enjoy your folk festival.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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