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The Taylor-made star who quit Savile Row ... Print-ready version

by Roy Shipston
Disc and Music Echo
November 7, 1970
Original article: PDF

JAMES TAYLOR was in London last week, a much bigger star than he was as a resident in this country a year ago and a member of the now much-depleted Apple stable at London's Savile Row.

He returned in style - gave two great shows at London's Palladium, and did two TV appearances, including "Top Of The Pops" and recorded a Disco 2! Yet he isn't really of the disposition to be a big star. He's introvert, nervous and shy and that ultra-cool impression he gives when he comes on stage is just a way of getting over his stage-fright.

He doesn't really like talking about himself, certainly not to reporters, and note-books seem to scare the living daylights out of him.

But when you get to know him a bit you get through to an intensely interesting person.

Apart from being a fine song-writer, individual performer and exceptional guitarist, he's going to become a film star, which again, doesn't really fit his personality somehow. He's made a film called "Two Lane Black Top" which is a sort of "Easy Rider," but not quite. In it he drives across America - he actually did drive across the States for the film! - and the story is based on the tiredness and fatigue of such a ride.

"I didn't want to be an actor. I see my future as a musician, and I've never had any training to be an actor. I didn't really act in this film. I just acted myself. The hardest part was doing a scene over and over again and making it seem as though it was the first time, every time; that's half of what film acting is about and it's very hard.

"'I quite enjoyed making the film but I don't know whether I'll do any more. I've been asked to do another one - they want to make a factual film of the life of Billy the Kid, which is interesting because his life was nothing like the Hollywood version. I've read the script and it seems to be very authentic, but I'd like to wait and see the rushes of 'Two Lane Black Top' before I decide, and that won't be until May."

If you are already imagining Taylor as the gun-slinging Billy dressed in black and robbing trains and banks, stop. If he does accept the offer, he won't even be playing the part of The Kid, but that of Pat Garrett, the sheriff who "got him in the end."

Right now there are more important things in Taylor's life than making films. For one, he wants to take a long break. "I've just got to take time off because, if I don't, I'm just going to dry up. I just want to go on living and write about it. If you are just a song-writer you don't have anything to write about.

"I want to come back to Britain in the spring, not to appear anywhere, but just to stay for a while. I'd really like to go to Scotland and get away from everything in the Highlands, which I hear are very beautiful. There's also a village near Aberdeen I'd like to visit as my family comes from there originally.

"And I also want to get to Tunisia and Ethiopia if I can find the time, because they are really interesting places. There are so many places I want to visit. It's all experience and I have to have experiences to be able to write songs. The record company wants me to record another album but if there aren't any songs there I won't be able to do it.

"I'm not the sort who can sit down and force songs out. I admire people who can do that but I just have to wait for songs to appear."

James, who seems and looks older than his 22 years, will be back next summer to perform and he wants to do a full European tour, and not just play in London, but in the North and Scotland as well. "The thing is that I don't want to do a strenuous tour, it would have to be easy, just two or three concerts a week."

When he returned to America at the weekend, James had a few appearances to do but he was mainly looking forward to getting his house "sealed-up" for the winter. He has had a place built at Martha's Vineyard, and island off Massachusetts, which "needs a few doors and a flue." The fact that he lives on an island is a clue to his apparent preference for isolation. He stayed in Knightsbridge during his stay with girl friend Joni Mitchell, on whose forth-coming album he "plays a bit of guitar." He isn't too forthcoming about the possibility of their appearing together, but it seems that they're considering it. From the things both of them have said it appears that they are very close and have a lot in common. About his association with Apple he doesn't seem bitter or resentful.

"That's where it all started. It's all developed since then. You have to have an album out to do anything and the first one sold 50,000 which isn't bad." The second has now topped to million mark.

So the money is starting to roll in and James admits he doesn't really know what to do with it. Apart from his house, which says isn't very big, a 1953 Chevrolet, and a two-year-old Ford Cortina, he doesn't have anything that you could call a luxury.

James does have some idea of what he is going to do with money. He intends to buy a lot of land - another interest he shares with Joni. But don't jump to the conclusion that he intends to become a property tycoon and build supermarkets on every piece of land he can get his hands on. "I want to buy land and just leave it as it is so that, in effect, it will become public. I feel that the bit of land I bought to build my house on was a bit of a selfish act, really." One of this tall, gangling "Jesus-like" figure's greatest fears is that the tax he pays on the money he is earning will be used by the American Government towards defense costs. "I will fell really guilty if I earn money that helps to buy missiles and planes. I've got a lawyer back in the States try to see if there is a way round that."

At Top Of The Pops last week James admitted in his dressing room that he is getting a bit tired of "Fire and Rain." He said: "I've sung it a lot of times, and it's OK if I feel like singing it, but, unfortunately, the times I do feel like it and the times that I have to do it don't often coincide."

During rehearsals for the show he was told "the next run-through will be a dress rehearsal" to which he replied, standing there in his faded jeans and smock-shirt, "Well, do you want me to take something off? Because this is all I've got!"

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Added to Library on October 19, 2021. (598)

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