Rabbit on Roger Waters
John "Rabbit" Bundrick is a talented musician appearing on many albums as the main artist or as a "session man." His keyboard prowess includes types of music as diverse as Country & Western, Rock, Folk, and Pop etc. John is one of the many talented musicians to appear with Roger on the album "Amused to Death." John kindly granted me an interview for REG, revealing a very interesting and varied musical career.
Alistair: First how did you get the nickname Rabbit?
Rabbit: "...5omebody in the band said that 1 looked like a rabbit and the name stuck, that's how I got the name Rabbit. In the band they were teasing me because of my teeth and they started calling me Rabbit."
Rabbit was born on 21 November 1948 in Baytown, Texas, about 30 minutes from Houston. He shares his family's love of music, whose background is Country & Western music. Rabbit explain; "My dad played bass and still does, my brother plays drums, one brother violin and the other plays saxophone. My mother played a bit of piano and sang. Whenever I go home to Texas now we always have a big country & Western jam session in the house, because the very grand piano I had when I was seven years old, my mum and dad still have it in their house so it's still in tune and plays well. Uncles, aunts, nephews, friends and everybody who wants to drink beer and play country music all night, brilliant. Rabbit's musical interest started at the age of seven when his parents bought him a piano which he "took to" straight away. At school he was not particularly interested in Math or Geography etc., failing these subjects because his heart "lay elsewhere," namely with music. He earned straight A's in all his music courses. Rabbit explains; "1 took piano lessons from the age of seven. When I got to High School, obviously there are music classes you can take, so I took all of those and when I went to college I took the mandatory classes like English, Geography, and Math and I failed every one of those. And I took a load of music courses and I made straight A's in those which obviously means I spend 100% of time on music classes and no time on Geography, English, or Math etc. For recreation, the physical education class, you had a choice of whatever you wanted to do, Tennis for instance. I opted for Bowling because you got to leave the campus, drink beer and hang out at the bowling alley. So I took music and bowling and drank beer basically in college."
Alistair: Could you tell us which artists influenced your early years as a musician?
Rabbit: "On Hammond organ, that's the best way to do it, was, Vanilla Fudge and the organ player from the Young Rascals, Jimmy Smith, an organ player from the old days, and Billy Preston, guys like that. And piano-wise, Floyd Cramer, Steve Winwood obviously is wonderful, and Jerry Lee Lewis is high on the list. Yea, Jerry Lee Lewis' rock n' roll piano and various other classical kinds of guys. That's it really."
Alistair: Do you listen to them today?
Rabbit: "Today I don't listen to any music but mine unless I'm actually playing in it. If I'm playing on it, 1'11 listen to it, but if it's a record or album or tape, and I'm not on it, I don't put it on. I only listen to stuff that involves me because that way I can keep abreast of how I'm doing musically. It's not an egotistical thing, it is a self study, whether I'm loosing it or not."
When Rabbit was 12 years old, he, with the rest of his family were in a band that backed a singer by the name of Johnny Morrison. They would do club gigs and barn dances playing Country & Western music. By this time Rabbit was seriously interested in music. By the age of 16 his father started him doing session work with various musicians. In 1968 he joined a showband from Fort Worth Texas. This band played in a club in Los Angeles called "Arthurs." This was the first tim he played music other than Country. It was members of this group that gave Rabbit the nickname that he was known by in the music industry. In 1969 he did a session for Johnny Nash. He moved to Sweden to write and play with him. It was here that he met Bob Marley, after which they became room-mates sharing a house in Sweden. Rebob Kwaku Baah, who was in the band Traffic took Rabbit to see a gig by Free. This gig "...blew his mind," and began the celebrated partnership with the band.
Alistair: Did you enjoy working with Free?
Rabbit: "Working with Free, what can I say, Paul is the best singer in the world for me, just for the fact that he sang my two songs on "Heart Breaker ," that's it for me, he has sung two of my songs, fuckin incredible. Simon Kirk is one of the nicest guys in the business. He is a wonderful person. I didn't know Andy Fraser very well. Tetsu was wonderful. Paul Kossoff, needless to say, was excellent. He was probably, while I was in the band, I was probably closer to him than any of the rest of them, because he was a bit more fragile, creative."
After his commitment to Free was over he co-founded the group Crawler. Rabbit was basically the leader and songwriter for this group. Then with Paul Kossoff at the helm, the band became known as Back Street Crawler, and Rabbit did a few albums, among them; "Kossoff' 1973, and "2nd Street" 1976. And then Rabbit met Pete Townsend and was invited to join The Who, leaving Back Street Crawler to carry on without him.
Alistair: Tell us your thoughts on The Who?
Rabbit: "When I first joined The Who, it was fantastic because I thought I had made the big time. Just the original guys and me, no horn sections like it is today, no background singing, no extra guitar players. It was The Who, as raw and rough as they could be, and I got to jam with them and that was fantastic... The very first tour I did with them in 1979 was my favorite because I did all the overdubs live on stage without any synthesizers and recorded bits, like that sort of thing."
Alistair: You of course worked on " Amused To Death" with Roger Waters, how did you get introduced to Roger?
Rabbit: "A very good friend of mine, Andy Fairweather was doing some work with Roger Waters. I have done some various things with Andy when he occasionally does a gig. We did the Half Moon pub in London, Putney I think, and I played organ for Andy on his gig then, and Roger Waters was in the audience. He's a good friend of Andy's. So he came up the stairs to the dressing room and Andy introduced me to him and we had a little chat. He's a very amicable, very nice guy, but that's as far as it went. When I was in my little studio one day while they were workif1g on Roger's "Amused To Death," Andy Fair-weather phoned me and said coulld I come an" do a session for Roger Waters, and I said yeah, when, now... I went down and walked in on something and they stopped the tape and Roger re-introduced himself to me and I said hello to Andy and all that business, and I said what would you like me to do. They said, "We'll play you a track," and I stood in the center of the studio speakers to have a listen and they put the track on and all of a sudden it blew my head off! It was awesome! I didn't understand, it was so good, the track that they wanted me to play on, ain't no way what I can do to add to that. But at any rate, when I was a kid at high school, I used to take acid and dope, and we listened to Pink Floyd, and I haven't heard Pink Floyd since my high school days and when I heard that tape it brought all my high school days back in one flash. That's what I thought Pink Floyd was when I heard this roger Waters tape for the first time. That's what Pink Floyd is, it's not what Dave Gilmour's doing, it's what Roger Waters is doing, because it sounded more like the old Pink Floyd records I remember that Dave Gilmour's stuff, which is very strange. I went on and did the session and it was fine. I didn't do a whole lot, just bits and pieces, a couple of Hammond overdubs and piano, and that's it really. But it was a great experience to work with Roger, it was really great my contribution was very minimal in terms of standing out. One thing I did was an incredibly frantic Hammond solo, and it wasn't there anymore. He had replaced it with Jeff Beck who did an even more frantic guitar slide solo which obviously I don't mind because it was incredible what Jeff Beck did. I gave way to Jeff Beck, mine was the next best thing. My own solo that would have been released on the record, and Jeff Beck stole it away, but he's so great it don't matter. I'm proud he stole my solo." The comments made about Dave Gilmour are very interesting. Rabbit should know, he is one of only a select few to work with Roger Waters, and Dave Gilmour. The others being; Pat Leonard, Michael Kamen and Tim Renwick.
Alistair: You obviously enjoyed working with Roger, any stories to tell about the sessions?
Rabbit: "The producer was the guy who produced Madonna, Patrick somebody, (Leonard), he was quite good to work with. I was only there for the day so there wasn't any real stories to happen, we all had a nice time, I did my work and I came home. We did a little chatting afterwards and that was it."
Alistair: Did you work on any videos from the project?
Rabbit: I worked on a video at Abbey Road, it's the black and white version not the colour version. I believe there is a video out that includes both his color version which is a different video, and the video we did in black and white with Snowy White on guitar and Jeff Beck is there, you can't see me because unfortunately keyboard players are the last, for some reason bands think keyboard players are bottom of the list. I don't understand that, but at any rate, I am in there, at least the Hammond is."
Alistair: Any plans to tour with Roger?
Rabbit: "No plans to tour with Roger. He hasn't asked."
Alistair: Were there any other musicians on the Roger Waters-Amused To Death project that you liked in particular?
Rabbit: "My mate Geoff Whitehorn plays most of the guitar on the album. Jeff Beck is the star name but if you listen closely, most of the intricate guitar work, apart from the heavy Jeff Beck solos, is my friend Geoff Whitehorn who played guitar in Crawler with us, he is excellent. I liked that musician. The Producer played a bit of keyboards, he was a good musician as well."
Alistair: Did you appreciate the final product, Amused To Death?
Rabbit: "Yes. I listened to the tape only once, and I haven't listened to it since because it is so awesome, it made me want to quit playing music. I'm not going to listen to it again because it is too good. I don't listen to Steve Winwood either because it is too good. I don't want to listen to someone who is going to put me to shame, and make me want to quit (playing music). Amused To Death is so good, I can't listen to it."
Alistair: To finish up I'd like to ask you about any projects that you might be working on at the moment?
Rabbit: "I'm working on a CD called Same Old Story. We have released it through the Free Fan Magazine, but we are re-packaging it through a proper record company. I'm putting more songs on it and changing the cover." Through the years, Rabbit has worked with many different musicians ranging from the likes of Donavan, John Martyn, Sandy Deny, Eric Burdon, Hank Wangford, Mick Jagger, and Richard Thompson to name a few. The list is far too long to go into much detail. Rabbit has just finished working with Snowy White on his new album.