Roxy Bassist Sal Maida Interview - Thu 25th Jul

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In late 2001 (some years before my alter ego Smudge became aware of VRM) I was on holiday in New York, which meant record stores by day and jazz clubs by night. In one of the former I was admiring a display of Japanese mini-LP Roxy Music CD covers when the store assistant casually mentioned that his mate Sal used to play in the band! He gestured towards a tall guy at the back of the store and that was how I met bassist Sal Maida.


It was Sal who told me about the final Hammersmith shows which had only just been announced; had he not mentioned them, they may have been sold out before I returned to the UK (publicity was so inferior in pre-VRM days!), so I’ve felt in his debt for over a decade.


Roxy’s bassists have too often been the unsung heroes of our favourite songs and their contributions have seldom received much publicity. If this e-mail interview should raise his profile slightly, even if only among the Roxy faithful, then maybe I’ll finally have repaid my debt to Sal!



Can we start with a little biographical info? Where & when were you born and where did you live as a child?


I was born in New York City and grew up in Little Italy on the lower east side of Manhattan.


Was there any musical background in your family? Did anyone in your family show any musical talent or play instruments?


Not in my immediate family, but I had a cousin on my dad's side who was a brilliant jazz pianist. On my mom's side we had a cousin who was a brilliant jazz drummer named Frank Steo, who grew up and played with Tony Visconti in Brooklyn!


What were your own first musical interests or memories? Did you have a favourite band or artist?


Well I heard great 45s on a jukebox that was in a social club downstairs from the 3rd floor tenement apartment that I grew up in. I heard Dinah Washington, The Stones, Motown, Sinatra etc. When the Beatles hit, that was like an eruption in my life. Then I became obsessed with The Who, The Move, Small Faces. Also L.A. bands like The Byrds and Love. And in N.Y. The Rascals were probably the best live act I've ever seen!


How did you come to play bass and was it your first musical instrument?


It was literally a bunch of friends that said “well, I'll play guitar, you play drums…” and I chose bass. Always loved the instrument and was never a frustrated guitarist. Started on bass and still playing the bass!


Who were your musical influences, bassists or otherwise, when you started your career? And who has influenced you most in later years?


Paul McCartney, James Jamison, Chris Hillman and Bill Wyman early on. Later on, Joe Osborne, Jah Wobble and Chuck Rainey.


What were your early experiences of the live music scene and/or the recording studios?


You have to understand that I lived 6 blocks from the Fillmore East! I literally saw everyone! For example, one night we went to a club called the Cheetah in Times Square; playing there were The Silver Apples, with Son House opening! Went to The Nite Owl and saw The Spoonful… I could go on and on. Saw The Beatles at Shea, The Stones with Brian Jones. Recording-wise, I had limited experience up till the early 70s. Just some local N.Y. stuff, nothing of note.


When and how did you meet the members of Roxy Music?


I started going to London every summer. Being a big anglophile, I wanted to live there and finally, by about summer 1973, I moved there. On one of my previous trips I had done a session that Paul Thompson was the drummer on. That was in 1971 for a group called Smokestack Crumble; pre-Roxy days for Paul. When I moved there in 1973, I was working in a record store called Scene And Heard in Tottenham Court Road and Paul and Eddie Jobson came in one day. We started talking and they said John Gustafson, who played on “Stranded”, probably wouldn't be touring. 


How did you come to tour with Roxy (I don't think you'd recorded with them in the studio, had you?)?


I basically asked to audition and got the job! No, I didn't do studio work with them, but I am on "Viva!".


How was life on the road with Roxy? Do you have any memories of favourite gigs or songs which you particularly liked to play?


It was fantastic! This is post “Stranded”, so they are probably the biggest band in England! We're staying at 5 star hotels and playing to sold out, screaming crowds!! Loved playing The Rainbow theatre in London; that was a highlight  for me. Also, The Academy of Music in N.Y. was amazing for me as a homecoming gig.

(With the assistance of another VRM member, I’ve been able to send Sal a CD-R of the 1974 NYC show as a thank you for this interview.)


Are there any amusing stories from that period with the band which you could safely share?!


We hung out with The Stones at a hotel in Germany! They were doing Black & Blue. 

(I asked Sal if he’d like to expand on this particular story, but discretion won the day!)


Were you ever invited to join Roxy on a permanent basis?


Bryan did an interview where he said “our current bass player, Sal Maida, looks rather permanent”, but things happened and visas and work permits got complicated.


How did your Roxy tenure come to an end? Were you just engaged for particular tours?


We were all engaged for tours post Rik Kenton. 


I know that "Viva!" will hold special memories for you, but do you have a favourite Roxy studio album?


“For Your Pleasure”.


Were there particular Roxy songs which you looked forward to playing? Or any favourites which you didn't get the chance to play?


All of them, especially Virginia Plain. Ladyton is one I never played that I missed playing.


Which members of Roxy, if any, did you keep in touch with after 1975 and do you maintain contact with any of them now?


I see Bryan every time he plays in N.Y. I keep in touch with Phil and especially Paul by e-mail. The only one I'm not in touch with is Andy and I'd love to be in touch with him. They are all great people, talented, funny and smart.

(I have subsequently contacted Phil via his website and he has kindly agreed to put Sal & Andy in touch with each other.)


You & I met briefly in a great Manhattan store called NYCD (sadly long gone) in 2001 and you told me you'd been to Roxy's recent Madison Square Gardens gig. Was that the first time you'd seen them from the audience and did you get to meet the band backstage afterwards?


That was the first time I'd seen them from the audience! Went backstage and had a great time seeing the guys again after about 20 years. I'd visited them at Atlantic studios around 1979 when they were working on Manifesto.


Was 2001 the last time you saw any of the Roxy guys perform live?


No, I saw them twice in 2003 and I saw Bryan solo in October 2011 with Paul on drums.


Could you summarise for us your own musical activities from 1975 to date?


After Roxy, I joined a N.Y. band called Milk n Cookies in 1975. Then I played with Sparks in 1976-1977. Currently, I play in Cracker, an American band that's been going for 20 years. In between, I've played with The Runaways, Mary Weiss of The Shangri-la's and Ronnie Spector. That's pretty much a shortened version, but with the internet these days, anyone interested can look me up and see the whole story! 


On behalf of Roxy Music fans everywhere, thanks for sharing these insights into your time with the band, Sal, and good luck with your future projects.

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