most recent interview introduced us to Harvey Shield, a composer, singer
and songwriter since the early 1960’s, when he was a drummer and
singer in the British band Episode Six, forerunner of rock icons Deep
Purple. The band performed
in “beat” clubs all over England
and in Germany and on TV shows such as the legendary “Ready, Steady, Go.” In the
immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Los Angeles, where he became a solo recording artist on Atlantic Records. His
ballad “The Way I Feel Tonight” became an international hit for The
Bay City Rollers. His recording and performing career continues as a
member of The Mighty Echoes, an award-winning a capella quartet, which
specializes in the doo-wop sound of the ‘50s and ‘60s and now
Harvey will be involved in the upcoming Thousand Oaks Festival of Musicals. The
Festival invites writers and composers from all over the continent to
submit works that are then rated by a panel of judges. Out of these, a
few are chosen to debut in the Festival through staged readings by local
actors. The festival brings the writers and composers to hear their work
before a live audience and receive feedback as they tailor their work
toward a full production.
We understand that you will be participating in the festival and are a
major part of it.
– Well, I’m the composer of the songs for the show MACCABEAT –
And you are collaborating with Richard Jarboe – did I pronounce
HS – Yes
RP – And there’s another
person there –
HS - Chayim
Ben Za – the mysterious Chayim Ben Za
RP – Right – I was hesitant
to tackle his name. He wrote
the book and the lyrics
He wrote the book and adapted the lyrics.
RP – I see – and so we’re
looking at a comedy, or what type of performance will this be?
HS - Well, it is a musical
comedy. It’s a Jewish themed show – it’s the story of
Hanukah – sort of. It’s like a romp through the
before the Romans.
RP – Before the Romans?
That takes you way back, doesn’t it?
Yes it does. It’s, let’s say, between Alexander the Great and
the Romans. - But I’m not sure of that exact date.
RP – And you wrote the music
RP – So how does one approach
writing music between Alexander the Great and the Romans?
Well, first of all I should say that this whole Maccabeat story is quite
unique. The songs that Richard and I wrote were originally in
another show – that show was called Hamelin.
RP – That was the show you
did in Silverlake years ago.
Yes! And you could easily ask your question about that show,
because that was set in the 13th century.
RP - I see
But for that show, although the action is set long ago, the language of
the characters and the humor is such as if it were happening in the
RP – Right
So it’s not as though the music reflects the times. If one were doing
a complete serious show set long ago, then one might try to recapture
the sounds – not that we know exactly what those sounds might have
But really, we’re doing a comedy that has modern music set in ancient
RP – Sounds like fun!
RP – I’ve been reading a
little about you and learned that you have a doowop group.
Yes I do. We’re called the Mighty Echoes and we’ve been doing
it for twenty years. We do television – we do movies – we do
You’re quite busy.
I’m getting a lot of attention lately from my daughter’s friends
because we were just on a TV show called “The Suite Life of Zack and
Cody” . That’s a popular Disney Channel show and I have all
these twelve and thirteen year old girls recognizing me.
RP – That’s wonderful!
–Yeah it is- it’s fun!
RP – Have you had a chance to
meet Jim Geoghan?
Yes - I know Jim!
RP – I interviewed him about
six months ago. If you look
at the website interview you’ll find our conversation with him.
Oh great! I know Jim quite well. Actually, the Mighty Echoes
first worked with him on a show called “Family Matters” and our
daughters go to the same school!
RP – You also worked on some
episodes of the TV show Murphy Brown?
Yes – that was also with the Mighty Echoes. We appeared on
several episodes with Candice Bergen and the rest of the group – and
that was quite fun.
RP – You remember the actor
who played Frank Fontana – Joe Regalbuto –
A very nice man.
RP – I’m happy to say that
you will also find an interview with him in our website. I spoke with
him early in the year when he was directing Romeo and Juliet.
He’s a really good guy –
RP – By the way, Ray Bradbury
is also there –
Then I’m truly honored (laughing)
RS – It sounds like this is
going to be a terrific presentation, but you’re only there a couple of
The show in
is just staged readings and I believe it’s going to be only with a
piano conductor. It’s just two shows on Sunday. This is a
prelude to the end of September where we will have a full production at
the New York Theatre Festival.
That sounds very exciting
It is. That’s going to happen at the Acorn Theatre in
New York City
and that will be taking place between September 24 and October 6 of this
RP – So that’s already here
– like next month already?
It is. It gives me an opportunity to see how the music is jelling
with the new lyrics – and see if there’s any little music cues that
don’t sound quite right and still gives a little time to make
adjustments and alterations before the full production.
RP – I imagine that working
on a staged reading is quite different than the full blown version.
It is different. In the reading it’s very minimal props –
minimal costumes. You try to get an impression of what the show is
going to be, but you really can’t do that much. I know the
actors work very hard – I’m not sure if they had a week or two weeks
to learn it, but they have a very short period to learn the music and
learn their lines, and at the staged reading they may not have learned
it completely, which is why they have their scripts with them in case
they need them.
RP - Right
Of course the other big difference is that they’re only working with a
piano conductor rather than a full band. But I think that if the
show works, you still understand it – you still get it.
RP – Are you the type of
person who does hundreds of re-writes before the final draft?
Not really. I’m very instinctive – instinctual composer.
I get ideas – I work with my ideas and once I have something I like,
certainly I try to hone it to make it as good as it can be. Once
I’m satisfied with it, I don’t see the necessity to keep tweaking
and tweaking. However, if I hear something that doesn’t right
that’s a different matter.
RP – Of course, definitely.
– I was reading that at one time you were part of the “beat
Yeah – (chuckling) I was. I have to tell you, it seems like only
RP – Does it really?
Yeah – absolutely. In fact just the other day I got a call from my
friend, Roger Glover from Deep Purple. They were playing here in
last weekend, and we started talking about the old times and how
wonderful they were. I was fifteen years old when he came up to me
in the corridor at school and invited me to start a band. Actually
in those days they called it “groups”
RP – So you started a
“group”. Was that
That was Episode Six.
RP - Then you went on to Deep
Well, actually I didn’t go on to Deep Purple. Roger Glover and
Ian Gillen who were bass player and singer respectively joined Deep
Purple in 1969. By that time I had already left on my own musical
odyssey, which really took me around the world until I arrived in the
One thing that I always like to ask of artists is this – when
did you first discover that music was going to be your life?
Well – I think I was destined to do it. I obviously was.
I’ve always loved it. I think I was tapping with my knife and
fork as long as I can remember.
RP – Really
Absolutely – absolutely. When I was about 15 I was already
playing the drums. I was originally a drummer. Then I
started hearing artists like Ray Charles, like Sam Cooke and I loved it
so much I just wanted to emulate them. Obviously I wasn’t alone in
that – every other musician in
wanted the same thing and I was among them. (laughing)
course, I played music through high school and when I left high school
in 1965 – at that time in
being a musician was a very viable profession – because it was all
RP – Definitely.
So you are a trained musician as opposed to self taught>
I have studied – but I am mainly self taught. Most of my
training has been pretty much “on the job” training, even with my
composition and arranging. You know that they have that expression
- “necessity is the mother of invention”?
RP – Oh yes – I know that
Whenever I’ve come up with a project that I’m not familiar with,
I’ve tried to learn the techniques and list to a lot of good people
who do it well and I’ve tried to learn from them and develop my own
So after the drums, what instrument came next?
HS – After
that I learned to play guitar. I did study that and I play pretty
good guitar but I’m a terrible pianist.
RP – Oh really?
I play it very much like a drummer. I don’t mean terrible in a
self deprecating way. I mean that I have a very good understanding
of harmony and chords and I can accompany myself on the piano with
chords and harmony but I don’t have good finger dexterity.
RP – Guess that kind of comes
in handy when you play the piano, doesn’t it?
Oh, absolutely! I couldn’t imagine composing without it, and
even though I can’t necessarily play all the notes as fast as I would
like to, I can write them down, and of course, in this era of
music software programs, there’s a lot of aids out there to help
somebody like me, who isn’t as proficient a pianist as he’d like to
RP – Do you do most of your
composing at the piano – or some other instrument?
I think it’s fifty/fifty between the guitar and the piano.
RP – I’ve heard your group,
the Mighty Echoes and you guys have some wonderful arrangements.
Who does them?