Wednesday, January 25, 2012
CHERISHING THE ASSOCIATION: BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
This is a rerun from my old Yahoo blog, first posted a few years ago.
CHERISHING THE ASSOCIATION—BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Who’s peakin’ out from under a stairway?
Calling a name that’s lighter than air?
Who’s bending down to give me a rainbow?
Everyone knows it’s Windy!
Bet you can hardly keep from tapping your foot when you hear that song, right? It’s one of the many hits from the classic 60’s pop band The Association. And I interviewed the guy who sang it!
Yes, Russ Giguere, the man in the middle pictured here, sang lead on Windy, way back in 1967. And I met him in 1985 when I did a story on the group for the local newspaper. Also pictured are original band members Jules Alexander on the left and Larry Ramos on the right. And that’s me in front, at 28 years old.
My story didn’t get published after all (instead they ran something with the headline group The Mamas and the Papas), but it was fun talking to the guys responsible for the music I loved so much. I had seen The Association in concert while in high school in the early 70’s, and then later interviewed what was SUPPOSED to be the same group for my college newspaper in 1979. But it turned out to be a bogus group, as Ramos explains in the story below. I suspected it at the time, and even questioned the guy passing himself off as lead singer Terry Kirkman (who also wrote “Cherish”), but he would not admit he was a fraud.
Anyway, I thought I’d post my 1985 interview here, since it was never printed. I wrote it and own it, so here it is. Maybe SOMEBODY will read it and get something out of it, so it won’t be a total waste. In reading it now, I realize I could have done better, but I was a young rookie back then, hehe. Since this interview, The Association was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003, an honor they much deserve.
THE ASSOCIATION INTERVIEW 1985:
Anyone who "cherishes" the nostalgic mood of the 1960's probably remembers tunes like "Windy", "Never My Love", "Along Comes Mary", and "Time For Living."
These songs, along with the tender love ballad "Cherish", were all recorded by The Association, a primarily soft rock and ballad band which sold over 15 million records.
The group is back together again and performed at Aurora's Paramount Arts Centre March 30th, along with The Mamas and The Papas. Original members Larry Ramos, Russ Giguere, and Jules Alexander were joined by Donnie Gougeon on keyboards, Brian Puckett on drums, and Jo Lamano on bass.
In an interview before last Saturday's performance, Larry Ramos, who sang lead on "Never My Love," said, "We're back working and this is the happiest I've been with my group at any time in my career."
In concert, the group sang all of their hits. The biggest collective sigh from the audience came when they sang "Cherish", their most popular ballad. Although original lead vocalist Terry Kirkman was not present to sing the song he wrote, the group knows the audience demands to hear Cherish, and so they perform it with or without Kirkman.
"People come a long way to hear the songs they love," explained Russ Giguere, best known for his lead vocal on "Windy". "We do a couple of things just for fun, like 'One Too Many Mornings'. Although it was fairly obscure, it was our first record, and we put it in the show for historical value."
The guys in the band are getting older, yet they perform with all the youthful energy they had back in the 1960's. Giguere bops across the stage like Mick Jagger (well, almost), and they all seem to enjoy what they do, which is, according to Ramos, sending out a "collective message of creativity." He says that everyone has an input in their arrangements, and that they refine all the time.
Anyone who went to see The Association in the late 1970's may have left the concert feeling disappointed that the group did not sound up to par. That's because it wasn't The Association. Ramos explained that there was a bogus group passing itself off as The Association one night, and as other 60's groups such as the Grass Roots or the Loving Spoonful another night. He said that they had been "after these people for a long time because they were passing themselves off as us. They even used my picture on some of the publicity shots," he said. When Ramos did not appear in concert, the bogus group told the fans he was sick. "It was misrepresentation," he said.
Finally the situation straightened itself out, because, according to Ramos, "there is only one real Association, and it was obvious who they were." He said they made an attempt to get as much publicity as possible in order to raise their profile, so that people would know they were seeing the real Association and not some bogus group.
The Association usually tours on the weekends with other 60's groups such as the Four Tops and The Beach Boys. "It's fun," Ramos says. "This is what I've worked for all my life, so that I only have to work on weekends."
The Association is celebrating their 20th anniversary and plans to release an album this year containing tunes recorded by most of the original members, with the exception of the deceased Brian Cole. "There's a freshness to it that's really nice, very warm," Ramos says. "I'm anxious to see it out. Everything's been recorded and all we have to do is remix it and release it.
"We're also thinking of doing a cross-over county album. This would not necessarily be our mainstream music, but it's a good market and we're comfortable in it, because I'm a folk singer as well. I don't see why you have to choose. If you do everything well, why not do it?"
A political science major in college, Ramos became disillusioned with learning how "the ideals of government seemed so right, and in practice it is not the same at all." He found that he could spread more good will through his music than he "possibly could as a representative of government spreading the supposed good will of the U.S."
He credits his long-time standing in the business to being a "survivor." He was a member of the New Christy Minstrels before joining The Association in the 1960's, and ten years before that he was at Chicago's Schubert Theatre with Yul Brenner playing one of the kids in "The King and I". Ramos says that his broad education in music has helped shape the sound of The Association, as has all of the group's members.
Without the benefit of a recording studio and the entire original group, The Association will never recapture the distinct sound of its intricate multi-voice harmonies. Yet in concert the Association "sound" still comes through. "We try to spread a good feeling to everyone," Ramos says, "so that when people go home they're in a better state of mind than when they came to see us. They're happier, more fulfilled.
"If we've awakened some memories for them that are good memories, then that is a lesson for remembering. I think that entertainment is one of the few businesses that affords you the ability to do that. I don't feel that I would be happy doing anything else."