Anyone who says that super groups are a thing of the past may want to reference The Immediate Family, a group of renowned solo artists and session players that have backed up some of the biggest names in the business over the course of the past 50 years .
Danny Kortchmar (guitar and vocals), Waddy Wachtel (guitar and vocals), Leland Sklar (bass), Russ Kunkel (drums) and Steve Postell (guitar and vocals) are all seasoned players — having credits with James Taylor, Carole King, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Linda Rondstadt, Stevie Nicks, Phil Collins, among many, many others — and having worked in tandem through various groupings earlier on in their individual careers, it’s fair to say that their handle is wholly appropriate.
The band’s upcoming release, released on Quarto Valley Records and previewed here exclusively for American Songwriter, features five songs in all. Two of them will be readily familiar — a somewhat subdued take on “New York Minute,” originally recorded by Don Henley and cowritten by Henley and Kortchmar (who also produced the track), and a strikingly faithful rendition of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” credited to Zevon, Watchel and Leroy Marinell.
In addition, the band is premiering three new songs both Kortchmar and Watchell had a hand in writing— the first single, “Slippin’ And Slidin’,” as well as the steady and straight-ahead “Top of the Rock” and the album’s blues-fueled final entry, “Cruel Twist.”
Kortchmar and Wachtel were kind enough to offer their insights into each of these offerings, giving our readers an idea of how the songs were conceived and what to look for with the EP.
“I wrote ‘Top of the Rock’ ten years ago,” Kortchmar explains. “You will recognize the kind of person that song is about. ‘Cruel Twist’ was originally done by SLo Leak, a band I had with Harvey Brooks and Charlie Karp. However I rewrote some of the lyrics for The Immediate Family.
As for that established standard “New York Minute,” Kortchmar has vivid memories of how the song came about.
“Don Henley had the idea to write a song that captured New York City during the fall,” he recalls. “So one night I was on a keyboard and came up with the changes that you hear. Once Don heard the changes I had, he knew he could write to it. We got Jai Winding to help with the bridge, and off we went!”
Watchell is also effusive when it comes to describing the origins of the two songs he was involved in — “Werewolves of London” and the album’s funk-fueled opener, “Slippin’ And Slidin’.”
“It’s amazing how things fall right into place sometimes,” Watchell reckons. “Phil Everly suggested the title to Warren. I had just returned from a trip to London that same night. The next day, at Roy Marinells’s house, Warren told me the title. Roy had come up with a guitar lick a year earlier that became the main lick. So I said ‘Roy, play the fucking lick.’ I looked at Warren and said, ‘Werewolves of London’? That’s easy. You mean something like, ‘I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand…’ and then the whole first verse just poured out of me.”
Of course, there’s also that famous howl that cascades through the chorus.
“I said, ’It’s a wolf, so let’s go ahhh-oooh…werewolves of London!’ Warren loved it. I had to leave and go to a session, so Warren and Roy wrote nearly all the rest of the song that day. Warren and I wrote a couple more lines and finished them in the studio. However, one line took forever until Warren got it. I’ll let you guess which one.”
Watchell says “Slippin’ And Slidin’,” which Kortchmar also had a hand in writing, came together rather fortuitously. “It’s also one of those songs that came together very quickly,” he explains. “It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, you gotta be ready to get it all down. We were. I showed up at Danny’s with our dear friend Tito Larriva, and I think that was the first time Danny and Tito had met. We had no groove planned, no title in mind, but within a few minutes, I came up with the main guitar lick, Danny put his great nasty drums up against the guitar, we added the chorus chords, and then, I can’t remember if it was Danny or I, but one of us played the bass. Tito, who had just been watching the two of us, said ‘Gimme a minute,’ left the room, and came back about ten minutes later with the complete lyric, which I wound up altering very slightly for The Immediate Family recording — only because a couple of the images were just a little bit too extreme for me to be singing. I just exchanged a verb or two for another couple of verbs. That’s all because Tito’s lyric was — and is — brilliant, and as good as any Raymond Chandler story — dark, very street savvy, nasty and beautiful — completely poetic and severely rocking.”
A twist on an old adage comes to mind — The Immediate Family that plays together this well lives up to their handle indeed.
Dig what you hear? Get it on your favorite digital outlet.
The Immediate Family will be performing live on the web platform StageIt on Saturday, October 17, 2020. The performance will commemorate the release of the band’s EP, Slippin’ And Slidin’on October 16. Tickets can be purchased at http://stageit.com/TIFAdmin/88918 or visit the Facebook event page here: https://fb.me/e/1WJylcqCv
Photo credit – Rob Shanahan