Waddy Wachtel looks back on “magical” work with the Rolling Stones
Guitarist Waddy Wachtel has been a familiar presence in the sleeve notes of music fans around the world for decades, thanks to his participation in thousands of sessions.
Working with a wide range of artists has been a blessing for the musician. “Let me put it that way. I’m the musical director of Stevie Nicks, I’m on the road right now with Joe Walsh and I’m the other guitarist in Keith Richards’ solo band,” Wachtel recalls, explaining to a journalist in recent years. “I think I’m fine. I’m fine right now. Thank God or whoeverâ¦ I thank the pickaxe in my hand for doing all of this.”
Currently, having performed on so many albums for other people, he has focused on writing and performing his own music as part of the immediate family.
The group includes other session legends Danny Kortchmar (guitars, vocals), Leland Sklar (bass), Russ Kunkel (drums) and guitarist / vocalist Steve Postell, who Wachtel says is “the new one” in. Training. “I’ve only known him for about 10 years.”
The group recently shared a video for their latest single, “Fair Warning” and will release their self-titled album on August 27. We spoke with Wachtel, who was more than happy to share some of his fondest memories of the session.
Working with the Rolling Stones in the years 1997 Bridges to Babylon album.
I was in the studio for the whole album. Keith called me when they got to town and said, âWe’re here, come on. When I arrived it was Ronnie [Wood], who was not yet in town. We just started playing. And then when Woody arrived he gave me a dirty look. [Wachtel laughs]. It was like, “What, are you taking my job? What are you doing here ? I went, “Hey man, I didn’t hire myself!” [Laughs] So the three of us, you know, we all love each other very much anyway, but that was awesome.
Jim Keltner and I, I’m proud to say, were there every night during the making of this album, which lasted a few months. Every night we were in the studio with the Rolling Stones, playing some great stuff and wondering what we were going to play next. Determine what to play. Come back and play some more. It was a magical time in my life and that of Jim.
We would pass each other in the hallway and we would look at each other and say, âWe’re still here, aren’t we? This is amazing. “Every night we were there. All of a sudden, Mick [Jagger] just said to me, “Waddy, come over here, you gotta play this song.” I went, “What? He said, “Yeah, you got to do the Keith stuff on this song. He doesn’t wanna do it. Or something like that. I went,” Really? Oh, okay. ” So I did Keith’s stuff!
Listen to “Saint of Me” by the Rolling Stones
Work with Ringo Starr.
“You have to come and play on it …” [Wachtel imitates Joe Walsh, who produced Ringoâs 1983 album Old Wave]. I brought this band that I had produced, Hardchoir, to sing some backgrounds there. We went up to Santa Barbara and stayed for one night. I played a few songs and the boys sang a couple of songs.
[For 1992âs Time Takes Time,] on the songs that Peter Asher produced, Ringo drummed on them. It was unbelievably sensational. His drums went up and he sat down and hit the top hat. I just melted. I went, “Oh my God. âI looked at my dear friend Bob Glaub, who was playing bass on the song. We were sitting next to each other. I looked at him and said, ‘Bob, this is the top hat from ‘Getting Better’ this fucking sound, man!
I went to see Ringo and I was like, “Ringo, is that the top hat you used on ‘Gettin’ Better?” He said, “It’s the only one I have.” I said, âI doubt it a lot! But that’s it, isn’t it? He said, “Yes, that’s it!” You would recognize it too! You hear that [Wachtel imitates the sound] like that and that’s that sound. I went mad, you know, I went mad.
We had a great time. Ringo is a doll. Soft as possible. Funny man. Serious, serious and brilliant musician.
Listen to “Going Down” by Ringo Starr from Old wave
Help bring Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” to life.
Steve came to Record One, the studio where we all worked. He had heard of the studio, so he wanted to check it out. He showed up just one night and I met him. He’s been there several times and he’s a very sweet cat, a lovely guy. So I met him once or twice in the studio. We had talked a bit. I said, âIt’s really nice to meet you. I also love Sam Cooke. What did he say ? I said, “You know, Sam Cooke, the way you sing?” He does a lot of Sam Cooke in his voice. We got along well. So they called me to come play [“Oh Sherrie”]. I’m so glad they did.
Niko Bolas, who [worked on] this recording [1984’s Street Talk] along with Steve, is also an amazing engineer and a beautiful producer. They called me up and said, âWaddy, we’ve got this song that really needs your beat. That dirty eighth note rhythm you do. I had met Steve once or twice at the studio. They played the song to me and I said, âOh, that’s great. I know exactly what to do on this rhythm part. We did it and it went very well. Niko said, “Alright, man, that’s it, you’re done.” I said, “What do you mean, I’m done? “
He said what ? I said, “Well, what about this solo spot?” He says, “Oh yeah, Steve is considering putting a saxophone in there.” I went, “Saxophone? No he’s not!” [Laughs] “I know what has to go there!” Because I could hear it in my head. What you hear on the record is what I heard in my head. âGive me a lead! He said, “Alright!” He gave me a track and I played the solo. Steve walks in and says, “What is this?” He said, âThis is fantastic, what is it? I said, “What do you mean, what is it?” This is the solo. It’s your solo on your record. It is what it is ! He said, âOh man, that’s perfect! “
Steve and I adapted the last one [part of the song] and decided in which direction these last notes should go. But basically, it’s the solo that I posed. Because I could hear it! I said, “You don’t put a saxophone on it!” It’s a guitar record, man! You know, there’s this whole synth thing, but now that the rhythm guitar is on it, that dictates what the solo has to be and it has to be that. I played it for him and we all happily accepted.
I made some [further] stuff for him [at his studio], almost a year ago now, probably. It was cool.
Listen to “Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry
Top 100 rock albums from the 70s
From AC / DC to ZZ Top, from ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ to ‘London Calling’, they’re all there.