Boz Scaggs Interview - Creem Magazine

The Buzz On Boz

Creem Magazine 1976 - By Kris Nicholson

“Why can’t you just get it through your head it’s over
It’s over now
Yes you heard me clearly now I said
It’s over…”

Boz Scaggs is the singer of these words. Used to hear an occasional cut from his Slow Dancer album on FM radio a coupla years back. Now you can hear him on AM too. Funny that the first single from Silk Degrees was titled “It’s Over.” For Boz, it turned out to be just the beginning. Beginning of success that is. As a musician/singer/songwriter Boz has been around, but only now with his sixth album, Silk Degrees, is he finally receiving the public acceptance he deserves.

A few people seem to resent the disco nature of some of his latest work. To set the record straight, let it be known from the words of the man himself, “I was part of the generation that grew up with radio and rock’n roll in the fifties. When I was 13, 14, 15 in Dallas there was a strong R&B flavour to the music on the stations. It was an alternative to top 40.” So, there you have it, kids. Back then the word disco didn’t even exist. R&B did. It just happened to be the music that Boz liked. Who’d have guessed that the seventies would take R&B, extract a few of its finer characteristics, mass produce it for the purpose of dancing and name it after the clubs where dancing is the attraction – discos.

Anyway, Boz began his musical career at the age of nine. He took cello lessons. His parents had more than a little to do with that, you might guess. Soon afterwards he took to teaching himself guitar and piano. There were the usual high school bands that played fraternity parties and school dances. Then, around the mid-sixties, Boz joined up with Steve Miller for a couple of albums. He contributed a few songs, but his primary function was as a guitarist. “I really enjoyed being a blues guitar player,” he reminisces, “it was the thing I emulated.” Soon after that he desired to emulate more than guitar.

In 1969, he began his solo career and continued playing guitar. By now his role as a vocalist was becoming increasingly important.

Today many have come to think of Boz’s primary function as that of a vocalist. Thing is, on stage he becomes a Boz of all trades. He fronts an occasional song and even sits down at the piano, but he looks most natural behind a guitar AND a microphone. A guitar becomes a prop for him, a distraction that somehow allows him to release inhibitions that his body alone can’t. And, he plays. He plays with heart and soul.

Sometimes he gets really loose behind the guitar, when the stage wall in the background lights up like a perfect royal blue sky and he stands alone in a spotlight taking a solo. He looks like he’s in heaven. Probably feels like it, too.

So Boz is a singer AND a guitarist. If his voice has become an entity that overshadows his musicianship, it’s natural. He is the voice of his music, the voice that’s responsible for defining the Boz Scaggs sound. Because of Silk Degrees, lots of people can identify that sound.

Just before Silk Degrees came Slow Dancer (note repetition of the S.D. Wonder if there’s any secret significance, like America and all her H’s?) That was a good album, too. It was filled with romantic R&B ballads like the title track and rhythmic romps like the threatening, “I Got Your Number.” Yes, it was a good album, but people didn’t notice it enough to bring Boz into the limelight.

After that the buzz was that Boz’s next album would be THE album. It’s a wonder he didn’t feel a tremendous strain when it came time to record Silk Degrees. He didn’t, because as he puts it, “I’ve been told every time I do an album that it’s the most important once of my career. If this one doesn’t go, you’re going to have to consider being a garbage man.” He laughs and quickly retracts the part about the garbage man. “They are all important,” he  continues, “they’ve all been different. Times change more than people’s minds do.”

Actually Boz admits to feeling less pressure with this album, probably because of the optimism Slow Dancer brought about and, most likely, because the kind of music he’s been doing for years had evolved into a style that was suddenly popular again. That style is disco, though in this case it may be a less than accurate classification. Labelling Boz’s music as disco makes it easier for people to understand. It’s a point of reference.

“Lots of people manufacture music to be disco,” Boz says in an effort to explain his stance, “I’ve just happened to dig the rhythms all along. I think it’s fun to use R&B and disco to say something new and expressive. A couple of my songs might be disco in terms of their rhythmic and structural content but I think they’re saying something more.” It’s not just, “Do The Hustle,” that’s for sure.

Silk Degrees is sort of an extension of Slow Dancer on which we used contemporary R&B and musicians. I was feeling restricted then, so I looked for other types of things to sing about. ‘I Got Your Number’ was new to me. It was real macho. I wouldn’t write it to someone on a Valentine and I didn’t write it myself (Johnny Bristol did) but it’s a fun song to sing.

Onto the subject of women singing men’s songs, Boz anxiously mentions that an artist named Valerie Carter just recorded “Slow Dancer” and that hearing her sing his song made it even more special than it already was. “Michael Jackson covered a couple of my songs, too,” Boz continues. “’What Can I Say’ and ‘We’re All Alone’ – It makes me feel fantastic. I think he’s the greatest, except for Diana Ross,” he says, his eyes lighting up and a smile breaking on his lips. Suddenly I conjure up an instant daydream: Diana Ross & Boz Scaggs together. She the mistress of her refined style or black R&B and he the master of his own version of seventies blue eyed soul on Broadway. White tux and sequined dress. I snap out of it saying, “Oh, you romantic you,” to myself. But I’ll bet Boz’s thoughts weren’t too far from mine for a moment.

So, what else is there to discuss – Steve Miller? “That’s old news to me,” Boz replies. “We’re friends and we see each other frequently. We’ve toyed with the idea of doing something together but there has never been time.”

Back to the album for a moment, Boz explains that “Jump Street” was written ten minutes before it was recorded. “I did a rough vocal standing in the studio just screaming out words that worked phonetically. The music had been written on piano just before that. It was just one of the areas I wanted to cover. The original rhythm track was completely rock and roll. I wanted it to be as raucous as possible.” It is. A rocker in the tradition of the loose honky tonk of the Stones, “Jump Street” presents one of the many facets represented in Boz’s music.

Currently Boz’s band is made up of ten studio musicians from Los Angeles. It could change any minute because all of the people are young and have their own careers ahead of them, but Boz is used to changes, even welcomes them because new musicians give his music new dimensions.

For now the situation seems stable and Boz hopes this group will last long enough to make at least one more album. “I can’t put my finger on what the music will sound like. It won’t be a radical change, but the music will become more specific. Not definitive, but refined. If there’s any change it’ll be that I’m working with musicians I’m familiar with and have a good rapport.”

That’s not the only change. There’s also the new found confidence inspired by the success of his second single that, along with the album, is steadily rising towards the top ten. That’s the “Lowdown”. Boz is hot.

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