"...we all showed up at this rehearsal as Ronnie arrives in his Jeep Cherokee, or some kind of four by four, and he backs it up to the door, and we ask Are we not going to go and park it in the parking? He goes No. Leave it here. I’ll show you why... and he opens up the back and it’s a full bar in the back."
In Conversation With... Jim Cregan
Jim Cregan has decades of experience in the music industry. Not only a fantastic guitarist, Jim Cregan has written, produced and performed with many names from Cockney Rebel to Rod Stewart. Jim Cregan spoke with us for an in-depth discussion of his career. From blues to psychedelia, acid to sushi, The Dissatisfied Blues Band to Cregan & Co., Cregan discusses it all…
With an eclectic genre of groups, what musically influenced you in your younger days?
It was mainly my older brother who was older by six years. His name is Maurice, and he was interested in jazz and so my really early influences were from the records that he bought home. He predated rock and roll by a little while, so around the house I would hear André Previn and Shelly Manne playing their interpretation of My Fair Lady – that was one of his albums that I really liked. Also, some classical records that were lying around, too. We weren’t a very wealthy family. We didn’t have a huge record collection; we probably had about a dozen albums or something like that. So that was the music I was listening to, and then of course, Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock appeared and Lonnie Donegan, of course, who was a very early influencer of nearly all us musicians. He came along with Rock Island Line and many other tunes that we all love. He was Chris Barber’s banjo player and then he started the skiffle movement. I was just a kid, probably eight or ten when that was going on. Then my uncle gave me a ukulele and I started playing that, and that was really fun. I liked picking out melodies on that for some reason. Then my parents bought me a guitar for my thirteenth birthday and that was it – I was off. Along came all the other rock records, Little Richard, Elvis, Bill Haley as I have already mentioned. That was my early days, that was the music I was listening to. Then shortly after that I discovered the blues. I think it was a student friend of mine who turned me on to people like Lightnin’ Hopkins, and then eventually I got through to B.B. King, and of course Chuck Berry, and all those kinds of guys. So, all the classic rock people, and not to overlook The Shadows who were vastly popular in those days. I had a band that could play Shadow tunes when I was at school. We tried to write our own stuff in that style, which was pretty horrendous, but I constantly had a guitar in my hand. The end of me being a proper student was as soon as the guitar arrived as I didn’t really think about much else.
From a teen, you have been consistently in bands, such as The Falcons to The Dissatisfied Blues Band. Was you just eager to play, or was you trying to find the right sound, as you moved through genres?
I don’t think in those days many people considered trying to find a sound necessarily – wait, actually, that’s not true with The Dissatisfied Blues Band. At one point, everybody was playing twelve-strings. We had a twelve-string bass which was most unusual, and I don’t know if the bassist kept playing that for any longer, I think he might have gone back to playing an ordinary four-string. We had a twelve-string bass, the rhythm guitar player; he played a twelve-string acoustic, and I played a nine-string. I had a Burns Double Six, horrible guitar, green and black, dreadful thing, and I took the top three double strings off so that I could bend notes. It was quite a nice sound for playing riffs. So, I suppose we were deliberately trying to get a sound of our own. I never thought of it until now.
You then moved to rock and soul with The Ingoes, which became the Blossom Toes. What was the reason for the shift from soul to psychedelic rock?
Mainly – I think – acid. We were dropping acid at the time and the underground movement was coming along. We had been groomed to be a pop group by Giorgio Gomelsky, who put quite a lot of money behind the band – even made an album with an orchestra. I had people design clothes for us and all that crap. I didn’t mind, I liked the attention and I thought these are people spending money to turn us in to a successful rock band. What the hell, let’s go along with it. In fact, it wasn’t a great idea because when we went into the studio – I don’t think it was that we weren’t good enough to make an album – but it was quicker if Giorgio bought in a couple of session guys to play on things. So, sometimes the band would be playing live and then overdub, then the orchestra and the brass players would go over a track that we had recorded. Other times, [Giorgio] would just go in with a rhythm section and an orchestra, and record the lot in one go, which was a bit annoying. I think we had Jimmy Page on one of the tracks, and Alan White who played with Yes. They were the session guys back in the day – in the 60s. We were a little bit put out by that, not because we couldn’t play – we could – we went on to prove that by making the next record in a week, and it was all cut 100% live apart from vocals. Then we went out and took that on the road and that got a great reception, and I guess we would have continued to build as we were getting booked back at festivals. We’d be playing clubs and there’d be queues round the block to get in, so it was a really exciting time. Then we had a car accident and a couple of the guys went off and got snowed in at a cottage somewhere in the country, and I don’t know what went through their minds but they decided that they would like to quit the band. That essentially split the band in two because the drummer and I were left on one side, and the two went off and started a band called B.B. Blunder, which sadly didn’t do anything at all. So, they kind of threw the potential for the band to be successful out the window. I was really grumpy about it, well, not grumpy so much as hurt. I thought it was short-sited and I think there was probably, even though I didn’t feel that I was aware of it at the time, there must have been some animosity that I wasn’t fully aware of between the other guitar player, Brian Godding and myself. I didn’t feel it but I think he did and I think there must have been a power struggle that I wasn’t really paying attention to. I guess part of my personality is to be assertive and I think his is as well. We didn’t really have fights or be arguments but I think he didn’t really feel he needed to have me; to listen to any of my ideas or put up with having another person in equal strength to have to put up with. So, the band fall apart which was a great shame really because I think we would have done very well. Wishbone Ash took up the mantle and had quite a successful career which was really ours for the taking and we just gave it away.
We Are Ever So Clean became a cult classic, it is a shame not knowing what could have been. Stud was another band that, given its band members, seemed like it should have succeeded. At this point, was you still looking for something that the band wasn’t giving, or did you see this as another development in writing experience?
This one is pretty straight forward, because John Wilson – who I admire and love as a man and drummer – was tired of playing blues and shuffles. He’d been doing that with Rory Gallagher for years, and he also played with Van Morrison on Gloria, and other successful records from that period. He wanted to play jazz fusion and at the time, John McLaughlin and Tony Williams were both in the public consciousness in a way that not very many people are these days. That long jamming, improvised solos in strange time signatures was somewhat current, and John wanted to go down that road and I said Okay, let’s do that, but the audience wanted to see those guys from their past with Taste. They were slightly confused and didn’t really get it, and the writing was really scrappy. We didn’t really have a direction; we would do a little folk song here and a little harmony part there, and then we would go off and play some mad nonsense in three and two-thirds four, which is a time signature I don’t really advise anyone with. I can do it but I don’t want to. I quite enjoyed the challenge but I would listen to my playing afterwards and think Oh, what a load of bollocks. They were wonderful guys to work with; we had a fantastic time, we laughed ourselves silly doing the work. We toured all over Germany and France and had some adventures, and I was really happy doing it, but it was obviously going nowhere. That was the problem. If you start off and you’ve got six-hundred people in the club and you come back three months later and you’ve got three-hundred people in the club, then that’s going the wrong way. So, I left and I can’t even remember what I did after that.
You then joined The Family, I believe. How did you get that gig?
I did some work with Linda Lewis in-between. I think I was doing Cat Stevens’ world tour with Linda Lewis at that point. I went to Family, which seemed like a natural progression. First of all, Family and Blossom Toes and similar other bands were all pals. Blossom Toes had a house in Holmead Road in Fulham, and it was paid for by the management. It was a four-bedroom house and we just partied there relentlessly for a couple of years. It was one of the hangs in London; people would just drop in, open door policy, and just show up with some hash or some grass with a bottle of wine. I remember one day waking up with twenty-two bodies in the house; one person sleeping in the bathtub, people would sleep on the stairs. It was like one of those silly Hollywood movies – that one called The Hangover – it was a bit like that. All sorts of people from Eric Clapton to Eric Burdon to Stevie Winwood would all just kind of end up there for some reason. After the speakeasy closed it was always a party back at our house, and it was great fun. So, Family were part of that team. They had a house up the road and we would go around there as well. They were looking for a bass player and they asked if I knew anybody, and I said Yeah, I know a guy called Tom Westwood, who I had known since he was a kid. I said He is a great bass player, maybe you would like him. They auditioned him and he got the job. He was very happy to move to grown-up touring because Family were doing very well in those days; they had a proper crew, lighting, our own sound system, and travelled around in their own Bentley. It was really quite glamorous. He took the job and that lasted for a couple of years, but then he got another offer and decided to bail. So, they came to me and said Well, Tom’s gone, it’s your fault, and I said What do you mean? and they replied You got him in and now he’s gone. You’ve got to take his place. I’m not really a bass player and they said You’re a guitar player, you can play bass and I said I don’t even have a bass! They said You have now, we just bought you one! So, I was in the band like that.
Touring across America in support of Elton John must have been an experience. Are there any tales from the tour bus you can share?
I remember Elton John because we were travelling on scheduled airlines and we sometimes took the three-flight job. You had to leave at like 9 o’clock and in those days there was no security, you just went to the airport and got on the plane as long as you had a ticket. I remember we were standing in the jetway waiting as there were people getting on board and putting their bags in the overhead lockers. Elton was dressed in a bright pink fur coat and very silly sunglasses, and it was packed on this jet plane. He just suddenly decides to sing and sang I feel happy! Oh so happy! I feel happy, and happy, and gay! and he sang gay at full belt, like it was in huge capital letters, neon lit, five-feet high. We all fell about because the regulars didn’t quite know what to make of it. He has a huge sense of humour, Elton; a very, very entertaining guy.
There was the time that our truck broke down and Linda Lewis was on the tour coming out to visit me as she was my girlfriend at the time, and she had already opened up for Elton on one of his British tours. They said Family can’t play because they haven’t got their stuff will you do a half an hour? and she said Yeah, of course. She got up and did half an hour and she got two encores! Family were like ah no! We didn’t get an encore that whole time we were out on the road – we didn’t get one, never mind two encores! Damn you. Don’t bring your girlfriend again, Jim, I was told. That was a great tour and I got to know everybody really well; Davey Johnstone, Nelson and Bernie. Bernie Taupin was on that tour and I got to know Bernie really well and became very good friends. We wrote a whole bunch of songs together and had a band for a couple of years which was great. I like him a lot; he is a very nice guy.
After the end of The Family, you worked with Linda Lewis. Could you tell me about your dynamic and relationship?
It was fine, we didn’t fight at all. We both have a similar taste in music. We didn’t row about any of it. I think we both had quite a lot of respect for each other as players, and writers, and whatever it is we do, and we were very happy. We made some – I thought – really nice records. We had the good fortune to work for the engineer Phil McDonald. We recorded at Apple Studios and he was the house engineer there, and he had done loads of stuff with [Paul] McCartney, he recorded Imagine… He was a great engineer and I’m one of those people who have a very curious mind; I want to know what everything does, What is this doing there?, Why did you turn that up?, What are you doing when you are fiddling about with the EQ?… I learnt so much from working with him, and made two albums in the studio with him. George Harrison would stick his nose in from time to time and Ringo was wandering about in the hallway. We got to work with Tower of Power who came down and put some brass on a couple of tracks, and Lowell George from Little Feat came down and played some slide guitar, Snowy White played on stuff, and Anthony Davis, Max Middleton on piano, Phil Chen who ended up in the Rod Stewart band with me, he was on Bass, Richard Bailey on drums and sometimes Gerry Conway. They were really good players, the top guys in town. I was blessed to be some what in charge of the production on these things. Linda and I shared the production credits but she left most of it to me because she was busy being the artist, which is a big part of a job. It was great.
Was it at this point you realised you would like to write and produce for other people, or another skill you wanted to develop?
Being a producer was not necessarily in the front of my mind, being a guitar player was really the main thrust of what I wanted to do. I loved playing live on stage, and I came to the idea of being a producer quite a bit later, after I’d coproduced some albums with Rod Stewart. I then ended up working as a staff producer for BMG, and that was really because in Los Angeles I wasn’t good enough to be a fully working session player. I did some sessions but the competition there is very fierce and the best guys get all the work. They’ve got better skills than me; they’re hugely creative, they have all the tricks and toys. They would come in with refrigerator-sized things full of amps, and they could make all these wonderful different sounds. They were staggeringly good; they’d play an arpeggio and every note is equal in volume and tone, the skill there was ridiculous. Most of them probably went to Berklee College to learn, whereas I’m a self-taught guy. It’s not that I can’t play, I can definitely play, but it’s not my favourite thing to do. It also can be really stressful and really annoying if you’ve got a producer who doesn’t know really what he’s doing, and I have worked with several of those. They tell you what to play and it’s a rotten part and you say could try to suggest – No, you can’t, shut up and play the tune their telling you - and you would hate playing the part because it was crap. I learnt a lot about that when I produced records as I’m always happy to let the musicians bring what they want to bring to the table. I would give the outline of what the tune is doing, the feel and the general vibe, let them play what they would like and what they feel would be right, and if they are not playing what works, I will ask them to play something different, I will suggest something. The whole point about them is that if you’ve got the right guys, they will figure out in a heartbeat what is going to fit and what is going to work. Just let them go, let them do it. That’s why people like Jimmy Iovine could be a successful producer, even though he doesn’t know anything about music and he’s an absolute dickhead. You would read his credit list and there was somebody who’s arranging the rhythm section, and all the best players in town are on it. He had so many people involved in making the music sound good that he doesn’t really need to do anything. In fact, he’s mostly on the phone setting up his next gig.
We were recording in the record plant and management decided that we would have Jimmy Iovine because he was a big deal in pop at the time. The record plant (which was one of the top studios in LA at the time) had a sweepstake on how long Jimmy Iovine would last with us because they knew what we were like. One day we were working on this tune and we were really having a bit of trouble. There were some pretty good players in the room; there’s Kevin Savigar; there’s me, who’s got loads of experience; there’s Robin Le Mesurier, who’s a great Guitar player, and we can’t figure out how to move from one passage to the next passage. We had to change key but not make it look like we’re changing key, so there’d be some chords that are going to sound good, because Rod’s voice couldn’t stay in the same key and sing this melody that we wanted to keep. We were working on this for about half an hour and we came to a stop. I said Jimmy, what have you got, mate? What do you think we should do? What ideas have you got? He says Hey guys, I think we should go for Sushi. We said Oh yeah, that’s a good idea Jimmy. Why don’t you go off to the sushi place and find some seats and we will join you in a couple of minutes. We will be right behind you! Of course, we never went and worked out the parts ourselves. I don’t know if it was Rod or the management that said Tell you what, Jimmy, you needn’t come back. He was on the phone all the time and it was so annoying. You’d finish a take and you’d look into the control room and then the engineer would go I actually like that. Jimmy, what do you think? He’d go Just do another one. and you would know he hadn’t even listened to it as he was on the phone. What’s wrong with that one? You really just wanted to go there and rip his wig off and throw him out on the street. He used to wear this hat all the time with a wig sown into it. He didn’t own up that he was bald for years. It was dull, he was dull.
Never staying still, you moved to Cockney Rebel, where you gained a number one single with Make Me Smile. After writing and performing for years, did you find this a significant achievement, or feel short-changed that perhaps We Are Ever So Clean did not get the recognition?
I don’t think like that. I think in terms of when the record is done, that’s it. You think half way through the record what’s coming next. My own band, Cregan & Co., have almost finished a new album and I’m writing more stuff that won’t make it to that record. It’s an ongoing process. I was delighted, of course, I was hugely delighted to have a number one record. The serendipity of the way the guitar solo came out made a difference in my career as suddenly I was the go-to guy for acoustic guitar solos. All sorts of people said really nice things about me; Eric Clapton came up to me and told me how he loved it, and Mick Jagger. These kinds of people would say nice things about that guitar solo and to this day it seems to still stand up. I’m pleased as it is just me jamming and there was no conscious effort. I don’t really do thinking about what I’m going to play, but if you give me a bit of time I will come up with something that will be melodic and thought out. Mostly, I just play the guitar and part of being untrained, unschooled and undisciplined means that I am unencumbered by any kind of thought process that I shouldn’t be playing or I shouldn’t be doing this, because musically I wasn’t schooled in a anything. So, when you put your head in between your hands and your heart or your soul, you’re not going to get the best stuff.
You already had had a fantastic music career by the mid-seventies. Had you had enough of all the promos and TV appearances?
No! Eventually, if you’re on a world tour, the being away from home is the hardest wrench, especially if you’ve got children or you’ve got a loved. Some of these tours were really long; the unplugged tour I did with Rod Stewart in 1993/94 was ten months long. That’s a long time to be away. I came home for a break at Christmas whilst the gear was all shipped to Japan, maybe Australia. I don’t love that part of it. Where I am at the moment with Cregan & Co., we play two or three times a month, four or five at the most. We just go off and play a couple of gigs at the weekend and then I come home, or I can go and play a gig then come home and be in my own bed – that suits me fine. I’ve done so many world tours I don’t yearn to do that anymore, and I’m an old guy, too! I love playing playing shows but if I was to do three weeks, that would be plenty. I did one with Steve Harley a few years back, I think it was a month or so, and there was a week’s rehearsal. It was about five weeks of intensive work and that was plenty. I would have been happier if that was shorter.
Your never-ending career kept going, and you joined Rod Stewart. How did you manage that deal, to be co-producer and co-writer, as well as musical director?
There wasn’t any discussion, it just happened. I got the job because he saw Cockney Rebel play at The Roxy in LA. After I got to know him, we would always pop in and see whatever bands were coming in from England; from Culture Club to Paul Young to Haircut 100 to the Flock of Seagulls, who ever was coming through town, we would go and see. One of the things he did was come to see Cockney Rebels to see what all the fuss was about because we had a number one record. He liked the way I played or something about me and there was an offer made which didn’t really get anywhere for about six months because I went back to England. I was in LA during a Cat Stevens session and I phoned him up and asked Are you still looking for a guitar player? And he said Yeah, actually, I am. I went down to the rehearsal room, played, and got the gig. None of this is very thought out, it’s all intuitive. I knew Phil Chen really well and had done loads of work with him, so he probably didn’t say Stay away from Jim, he’s an arsehole.
Becoming the co-producer was because Tom Dowd, who produced the first two or three albums, also did Atlantic Crossing. A wonderful producer that I learnt so much from. I always watched what Tom did, and he was very laid back, which was very cool. He kept a great vibe in the room and then for some reason, Tom suddenly wasn’t making the record and left. Rod said to me Would you like to take over producing this with me? and I said Sure. As he had seen me show a lot of interest in this, he kind of relied on my opinion to some degree, which was rather flattering. When we were doing the vocals there was only the engineer, me, and Rod in the studio, and having produced records before this, I knew how to get the best out of performers because quite a lot of it is psychology. You’ve got to be very careful how you phrase remarks, how you encourage someone without sounding patronising, when you’re enthusiastic about something, you’ve got to be genuine, and if you want to criticise you don’t want to make them feel insecure. Rod seemed to like working with me and we went on to do another couple of records which was cool. I left Cockney Rebel and that was one of the first questions I asked Rod, apart from Where’s my drink?, was Will there be any song writing?, Do you want co-writers?, and he said Absolutely. I replied, I’m in.
In regards to phrasing things with caution, did you ever rift with Rod Stewart, or anyone?
No, I never had a row with Rod at all. We didn’t have any rows in the studio. When you have a bunch of really professional guys, even though we behaved like lunatics, you don’t fight. I don’t do fighting and arguing with people and Rod doesn’t do it either. I don’t remember Rod ever shouting at anyone or beating them up, or threatening them, or having a harsh word. It’s all good fun but making a record is meant to be a joy, it’s not supposed to be hard. It is physically hefty if you’re in a studio for 12 hours a day, certainly on a guitar player, that takes a huge toll on your shoulders and neck. There’s also a certain amount of tension involved as you don’t want to be the one who messes up the take. These were all cut live, and if you’re the one who messes it up, God’s sake, Jim… There’s a lot of banter but it would all be good natured, and Rod would take it as much as anybody else. If you treat the person who is the boss of the operation as an equal, even though financially that’s not the case, you build a kind of camaraderie that transcends the difference in wealth and success. That’s something you want to attempt to do because as long as you’re in any kind of subservient position you no longer have the ability to be honest. You have to be honest and be diplomatic as you can say This isn’t working for me, I don’t why but I’m not happy. I’ll say Is it me? And people say Yeah, it is you Jim. I just smile and say Okay, let’s get on with it then.
Whilst you two may have had a good working dynamic, was there any collaborations with you two and others that just wasn’t working?
We did have some players who would eventually not be invited back. You don’t get fired, you just didn’t get invited back on the next tour or next record. There were a couple of players like that. I will leave that for you to figure out, but there were moments. Generally speaking, it wouldn’t happen. I can remember having a row with Kevin Savigar, who was one of my dearest mates in the whole Rod Stewart thing. We would go on song writing holidays, which were great fun. We went to this ranch up in California and we would ride horses in the morning, have lunch and a glass of wine, play tennis in the afternoon, go for a swim, go and have dinner, drink more wine and go back. We shared a Cabin which had two bedrooms and a living room. We’d set up some equipment in the living room and then from nine o’clock to one in the morning we’d write. We did that for about a week and wrote about nine or ten songs, of which about five made it to the record. It was a very successful trip. Kevin was not a writer until he came in to the Rod Stewart band. He said I’ve never written a song! We were sharing a house at the time and I said Here’s what we will do; we will get up in the morning and we will write a verse, a chorus, or a bridge every day. Just music and melody – no lyrics, no titles; just music and melody. That’s what we did every day. That was our discipline.
Despite a brief departure you reunited with Stewart for Unplugged… and Seated. Again, can you tell me a bit about the behind the scenes?
The MTV Unplugged was great fun. We did quite a lot of rehearsing; three weeks of rehearsal with Patrick Leonard, loved him. He was Madonna’s producer and I think he was Michael Jackson’s keyboard player for a while. Absolutely brilliant guy, we got on like a house on fire. Moving out of LA, we lost touch a bit, but fond memories of him. The best memory I have was on the first day when we all showed up at this rehearsal as Ronnie arrives in his Jeep Cherokee, or some kind of four by four, and he backs it up to the door, and we ask Are we not going to go and park it in the parking? He goes No. Leave it here. I’ll show you why... and he opens up the back and it’s a full bar in the back. You could have anything you wanted and there’s a platform to which the drinks come out and I was like Hey, welcome Ronnie, and that was the way the rehearsals started. We never played the whole show through from top to bottom. Our rehearsals were always chaotic and spasmodic and daft. We didn’t believe in rehearsing too hard. The record that went to number one, I played the acoustic guitar solo, called Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, was only put into the show about two hours before we went on. We did not rehearse it, and I had no idea what I was supposed to play! I hadn’t done any of it because I wasn’t touring with Rod anymore but it was cool. Then we took most of that band – apart from Ronnie and Kevin – adding Ian McLagan from The Faces, which was great. We took that tour on the road for ten months. It was a long time.
On the flip side of the gruelling tours, you are credited as appearing with Stewart at the Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, and is still today the largest outdoor crowd for a concert in history.
I would have liked to have been there but I wasn’t! This is one of those things that I can’t get rid of, like Jeff Beck describing Hi Ho Silver Lining, It’s like going through the world with a pink toilet seat around my neck. I wasn’t there as I quit the band right before that South American tour, and Tony Brock went in the end. There was a huge shake up as management was getting on my tits and I really didn’t want to do it any more. I loved working with Rod but the management had started to get a more important role in what was going on musically and artistically, and I didn’t like it at all. He wanted to bring Tony Thompson in as my co-band leader and I wasn’t having any of that. Tony Thompson is a drummer, he doesn’t know the material, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and you need somebody out in the front of the band to do whatever signals have got to be given, and that’s me. I said I’m not sharing this. I just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t really want to play with Tony Thompson because even though he can play the most fantastic groove, if he’s not got anything else to do, he plays a fill and then reinvents one. He goes around the kit and there’s a new one for the top of the bar and everybody’s waiting for him to finish the fill whenever he feels like it. He was great with Bernard Edwards. That was enough anyway, so I handed in my resignation and Rod and I went off and had a very emotional dinner in our favourite restaurant in LA. That was it, I was down tools. We have remained great friends since then, I was his best man at his wedding. Obviously, I didn’t do too much damage to our friendship but I’ve never been fond of his manager and consequently anything I have to do with him nearly always goes wrong between us. He’s not really a very kind man. He’s quite successful but he’s not very kind and I can’t be bothered; life is far too short to be bothered with anybody winding you up, or who’s agenda is not known to be kind, honourable and friendly, decent and polite. You see somebody be rude to a waiter, you know he’s an arsehole. He’d be rude to the road crew, and these guys are our friends. Without the crew, we’re nothing. You don’t talk to them like that, don’t boss them about. You don’t get respect by bossing people about, you get respect by being polite and friendly and kind and thoughtful and treating everybody well. I have no time for it. I have a phrase where it’s called the arrogance of wealth. I used to live in Cobham for two years and I remember going into Waitrose and this woman zoomed in in a brand-new black Porsche, one of the top of the line ones, and just pulled to the handicap zone, got out and flounced into Waitrose. I looked at her and thought You’re such a bitch! What are you doing? You’ve got more money than some of the other people but that doesn’t give you any rights to behave in this manner. It’s quite disheartening to see that and it’s quite common too, unfortunately.
Re-joining Rod Stewart on stage in Hyde Park, you played a fantastic guitar solo, in which it seems even Stewart stand back and looks at you in astonishment. What’s that feeling like, knowing you have thousands of people in the palm of your hand, listening to you, and you alone?
Rod was waiting for me to make a mistake! It’s great, I love it. I’m very happy being on stage. I’m comfortable there and that’s not the easiest way to do it when you walk on at the end of the show with everybody warmed up and you’re cold. It’s like I’m the substitute going into a football match in the last minute, hoping he’s warmed up enough that he’s not going to do himself any damage. The guitar started to go slightly out of tune because I’m standing in the wings and it’s cold. Playing that solo has become a set piece, although the whole thing was improvised when I first recorded it. I’m sure it was the same with The Eagles’ Hotel California. That was originally improvised and then they decided to harmonise it. Improvisation is inherently dangerous because you can make a mistake, you can get it wrong or you can go down an alley that is kind of a dead end, but you’re either going to plummet to the floor or you’re going to fly high, and you always fly. Even if I make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not like I’m a surgeon and I just cut the wrong artery and the bloke’s bleeding to death! It’s only music. Look at Kanye West when he sang Bohemian Rhapsody, as he’s still got a job. I would have thought his audience would never go and see him again, but they don’t care. I would have thought you would have lost your whole audience immediately.
After all these years, is there anyone that you have not worked with that you would have liked to?
I would have liked to have worked with Bruce Springsteen. I wouldn’t like to play with Bob Dylan because too many of my mates have played with Dylan and he’s too much hard work. I think Bruce Springsteen, whom I’ve met. When I broke up with Linda Lewis, we had a house in Laurel Canyon and I sold it to Bruce Springsteen. It was a nice house if he’s going to be buying it, and I liked him very much. He’s really, really cool. I thought if there was an opportunity to play in that band, that would have been perfect. The band is very good, they’re great players and that’s important. You don’t really want to be in a band when no matter how much money you’re getting, if the players aren’t up to a certain standard. You don’t want to be coming off the stage thinking God, good God that was awful. I’m having a great time with the guys I play with now, as we come off the stage and we are all just elated. They’re so good, they’re such great players, and there’s a groove from the inside. They are wonderful, and I love it. I love playing with them, they’re all great.
Here we are today, and you’re still playing.
I am. My band’s called Cregan & Co.; Sam Tanner, Harry James, Patrick Davey and Ben Mills. We do concerts up and down the country, mostly playing little theatres, I don’t really play clubs. I don’t really like playing clubs that much because there’s too much racket going on, and if you want to play an acoustic tune, you don’t really want to hear everybody talking about Arsenal while you’re doing it. I play theatres mainly and we have a great time. It’s brilliant at music festivals.
With a hand in many influential bands and artists, it is undisputed how impactful Jim Cregan has been upon the music industry. Keep an eye out for new music by Cregan & Co., and updates for their next gig via their website. Meanwhile, you can listen to Cregan & Co. by clicking here, as well as Blossom Toes, Family, Rod Stewart, and Cockney Rebel.