Robbie Robertson interview
Quotes from Ooor magazine, October 2005
Robbie Robertson: "People cherish The Band since you can feel it is made by men's hands. No tricks, just hard work".
RR: "One of the lost songs that really touched me was "Home Cookin'," a charming Rick Danko song. When I hear it my heart breaks, because it's so beautiful."
RR: "There also is a version of my song "Twilight." I had probably just written it and you hear me singing it to the others. Someone recorded it by accident and I really couldn't remember at all. But that's the way we used to work: I wrote a song, sang it to the others and than we decided who exactly would play and sing what part."
RR: "Garth was an enormous help since he has a lot of our old tapes in his possession. No copies, but the original recordings. So in this set we have the first generation of all we could get."
RR: "Levon's help was very convenient to get all information lined up. We are talking about songs and material from decades ago, so not everyone recalls everything. 'Are you the one playing bass on this song and am I doing the mandoline?' I checked that kind of things with Levon in order to make everything as trustworthy as could be."
RR: "The Band was different from other bands. We were not a singer, a guitar player and some other people on the background, but just the opposite. What Garth Hudson did in a song was just as important as the leadsinger of that song. Everybody had a specific and equal role and I was enormously proud of that. If I had written all the songs, had sung them myself as well as playing the guitar solos, that would have disturbed the balance. Rick Danko would say to me: Robbie, you are my favourite singer, so why for God's sake do you want me to sing it? But I'd found exactly the perfect way to present our music as sincere as possible. I would deliver a sketch of a song and say to Richard Manuel: please try and sing the first verse, Levon and Rick will join you in the chorus and then Levon will take over the melody line. Then I would listen and decide wether it worked or we had to reshuffle the line-up. I considered this such a unique starting point for a songwriter that I didn't bother at all to leave the leadsinging to someone else. Again: you didn't see something like that with other bands and that's why this was the ultimate way for me. The balance was perfect, otherwise it would have turned into Robbie and the rest. And I really was not waiting for all that attention."
RR: "After we made Northern Lights - Southern Cross (1975), I felt that the passion had changed, wasn't on the old level anyway. You can go on with something until it becomes less fascinating than before. We started as teenagers and in a perfect world we would have played on to eternity. But the world is not perfect. (...) You read the writing on the wall. (...) It's just like a relationship: after a very long, wonderful time you can suddenly be fed up with your partner and look out for another woman. Well, I'm stating this very simple now, but something's hidden in the human nature that makes you want to look elsewhere. For me this all started around 1975, and a year later I discussed it with the boys. (..) It was just not exciting anymore."
Question: "Did you never feel tempted to join the reunited Band in the 80s?"
RR: "No, never, I simply couldn't. The Band really was a closed chapter to me. At the end of the original group it was for me such a complete story on an emotional level that I made a movie about it: The Last Waltz, of course. To do that first and then come back a few years later and say: hello everybody, just kidding, here we are again... that would sound a bit cheap to me. You often hear a band announce a farewell tour because they don't stand each other anymore and then a few year later they come back because they can make more money out of it, or more of that Eagles-like motives. Actually you are not only fooling yourself, but your audience as well. That's why I admire the Stones. They never said they would stop. 'We don't talk to each other anymore, but we surely won't stop, ha ha!'"
Question: That also explains why the musical history doesn't go any further than the original Band.
RR: "That is something quite different, I preferred to restrict it to the official part."
Question: What do you miss most from your days with The Band?
"Mmmm... honestly I don't miss it very much. I cherish my days with The Band
very dearly and respect what we have achieved, but I don't miss it."