Chris Carter- A 2017 Renaissance Man
Updated: Nov 28, 2017
Interview April 13, 2017 Century City View News
By Keith Chagall, Pop Music/Film Editor
© 2017 CCVN/STM Inc.
Merriam Webster’s definition of a Renaissance man is:
An outstandingly versatile, well-rounded person. A person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas. The expression alludes to such Renaissance figures as Leonardo da Vinci, who performed brilliantly in many different fields.
Such is the case of one Christopher Paul Carter; Film Producer, entrepreneur, brilliant bassist, successful music manager, collector of priceless memorabilia and recordings of the seminal holy grail 1960’s super groups, whew, and legendary host of America’s longest running show “Breakfast With The Beatles”, heard every Sunday morning on KLOS 95.5 FM and Sirius/XM Radio program “British Invasion.
In our continuing series on movers and shakers in our entertainment community, Century City News View sat down with Mr. Carter for an in depth interview on how this amazing profession came about.
CCVN: Tell us about the early years growing up in New Jersey and how your interest in pursuing a life in music took shape?
Chris Carter (CC): Well Keith, My first professional music related gig would be running a record store at age 19 called Looney Tunez Records, while attending the renown Connecticut School of Broadcasting and Fairleigh Dickinson University, which was not easy to do, that is going to two schools at once, in what I thought would be a radio career in broadcasting. I listened to radio religiously. My first album was The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” I loved AM radio. We grew up in the best time for music in general. Just being able to turn on the radio in 1966,67,68,69 was an amazing time before FM came along. In 1969 if you were The Beatles or Rolling Stones you put out your best song, like Hey Jude, Honky Tonk Women, Get Back, so that was a great time and our education if you will. I played in every school that I attended, be it drums, bass with my bands like Teazer from sixth grade onwards. I liked the sound of authority that bass guitar adds. Didn’t know whether I wanted to do, be a DJ, record store owner or play in a band so I tried it all.
CCVN: So after the record store thing you were in a band “Dramarama” which had a huge regional hit here in Southern California. What’s the back story?
CC: Dramarama started in the basement of the record store in 1982. So when we started we didn’t have a record deal, though we did put out an indie single on our own. I loved this label in France called New Rose Records, a label that signed all American bands, like The Cramps, Replacements etc. So we got signed to New Rose after we sent them our demo. We flew there and began our career in France. Long story short, Rodney Bingenheimer, noted DJ on LA’s KROQ bought our record because of the great cover art with "Edie Sedgwick “on it.
(Editor’s Note: Edie Sedgwick, 1943-1971 was an American heiress, socialite, actress, and fashion model. She is best known for being one of Andy Warhol's superstars. Sedgwick became known as "The Girl of the Year" in 1965 after starring in several of Warhol's short films in the 1960s. She was dubbed an "It Girl", while Vogue magazine also named her a "Youthquaker")
And the fact that we did a David Bowie song on the LP, so Rodney started playing a song our lead singer wrote called “Anything Anything” which I produced and even here in 2017 has become the most requested song on KROQ, K-ROCK. Not too many songs from 1986 still get played three times a day in Los Angeles, it’s very weird. It’s proven to be an interesting journey with that song. Even was included in the movie “Nightmare on Elm Street”, and more recently on HBO’s Entourage.
CCVN: Rodney Bingenheimer not only helped get you exposure out here but then many years later you produced a documentary film about him called “ Mayor Of Sunset Strip” What was the genesis of that project?
CC: He was one of my closest friends. We started our relationship when he started playing Dramarama. I was the guy he would contact when he wanted to get ahold of us. We had a long running friendship, and I got to know his daily routine and it was really interesting to me. He eats at the same place daily, has the same food every day and the people he knew along with the history of those relationships, I thought he would be a great subject for a film. And since I never made a film before, I found a director that I really respected, George Hickenlooper who directed the award winning documentary, “ Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse” , which explored the making of Francis Ford Coppola film “ Apocalypse Now.” I wanted a guy who was not part of the Rock’n’Roll world, and have his perspective on the whole thing. I pitched him on the idea; we had no budget, and in fact took us seven years to complete. But we ended up getting everybody in the world in this movie, from David Bowie, Cher, Courtney Love, Brian Wilson and Alice Cooper. We ended up selling it for seven figures; it was the second highest selling documentary at the time. Awarded Best Documentary Film at Santa Barbara film festival, nominated for the Independent Spirit Award, played on Showtime and successful all around. We got to make a soundtrack that went all over the world. It was like our first record, my first movie was a home run.
CCVN: Well it definitely enshrined his life and from that you got into music management of a wonderful group, The Wondermints who became Brian Wilsons’ band when he came back to finish the infamous “Smile album and tour doing the Pet Sounds Album. It’s pretty heady stuff indeed. Tell us more Chris.
CC: Well I heard the Wondermints on Rodney’s show and thought they were amazing. Eric Carmen of The Raspberries was their manager at the time, but he lived in the middle of the country and it wasn’t happening, so I became their manager. And we worked really well together. I got them a couple of really cool Japanese and European record deals and made a few records with them. They were big Beach Boys fans and Brian Wilson was my guest on a radio show at the time, and since I managed the Wondermints, I thought it would be cool if they played together on the show. Long story short they became the core of Brian’s’ live touring band to this day. And Darian, keyboardist for the band got to work with Van Dyke Parks and Brian to finish the long abandoned Smile album which Brian had stopped working on in 1967, and it became a celebrated resurrected work that was in David Leaf’s Award winning documentary, “Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and The Story of Smile” which was premiered at London’s Royal Albert Hall!
I managed another act called Baby Lemonade who ended up being in Arthur Lee’s Band and toured as Love. I managed The Negro Problem who had a singer named Stu that went on to put out a play based on his life and was nominated for like seven Tony Awards.
CCVN: Absolutely astonishing. It is definitely an indication that this was the path you were born for and we are all richer for it. Speaking of related paths, you are now the host of the longest running Beatle radio show in America. I am speaking of Breakfast with the Beatles which you have hosted for 16 years now on KLOS 95.5 FM Radio. Did you just apply for the job or did they approach you?
CC: Well I listened to BWTB every Sunday just like everybody else that are huge fans of the Beatles and then one day unfortunately Deirdre O’Donoghue didn’t show up. All I heard was an engineer playing Beatle songs. I found out that she had unexpectedly passed away the night before. I thought “my God what happened to Deirdre as I was shocked by the news ” And I guess my next thought instinctively was what’s gonna happen to BWTB, so long story short, they had auditions with five people during the summer of 2001 rotating each week. I called the station and told them I had a current show on Y107 called The Chris Carter Mess, and told the program director, Jack Silver and I got in the running. One guy auditioning would play half a song and start talking, and I thought that’s not gonna cut it. As I listened every week to check out the completion, the other guy didn’t even show up to audition! And I’m thinking where is this guy? He forgot? Like can you imagine he’s trying out for the show and you forget to show up!? So I called up the station and said where’s the guy and they said he didn’t show up! So I said I’m coming down and started to DJ in his spot and the guy shows up three hours late with an hour to go and I said you’re late or goodbye go home or something. I got the news that I got the job the night I went to see Ringo at the Universal Amphitheater. I’ll never forget it. It was a life changing moment in my life because of all the things I’ve ever done this was the most satisfying to me. Being in a group is fun and making a movie is fun but you’re dealing with lots of different people and it’s hard to be creative. You’re always working with lots of people and everybody has an opinion. This was the first time since I kinda had my own record store that I was kind of in charge. The ideas were mine and I didn’t really have to sell my ideas to anyone or pitch it so I really liked the aspect of that. No one to this day has ever told me how to produce the show, which is extremely rare.
CCVN: How do you prepare for the show each week to make it sound fresh and interesting? I listen every week and am floored how it’s always sounding timely and new
CC: Every week I do the exact same thing. I don’t think of it till Friday. Friday night I put all my thoughts into it to keep it fresh. I look at the history first. What happened on this date in Beatle history? What anniversary of whatever album happened here? Did John get his driver’s license on this date? Even from the minute to the most important birthday or death situations. So once you do all that you look at it and see what’s important and what isn’t. You look at what you played last week. You look at the weather, you look at all these different things, like if we are having a rain storm and then you plan. On the occasionally rainy Sundays I might do all acoustic renditions etc. I think of the quiz questions, guests, so it’s a good balance. You gotta remember that people are waking up and don’t want to hear a lot of talking necessarily unless it’s really interesting. You have to balance between the solo records and The Beatles’ records. And at the same time you want to use your knowledge of obscure solo tracks of great songs that weren’t necessarily a hit like “Back Seat of My Car” from Paul McCartney’s Ram album. That’s a song that most people might not know but that is where you use your experience to share it with fans. Educational stuff of people from the Beatle related family like, Mary Hopkins, Jackie Lomax or Badfinger and there are songs that the Beatles wrote for these people. You walk people through what they’re going hear and it’s interesting. You set it up beforehand. You say it first and they learn stuff they might not already have known.
CCVN: Anything you desire on your bucket list?
CC: Well I have a great wife Allyson and amazing daughter Nicole so I’m good, but if I had one thing I really desire it would have to be a 1968 Pontiac Firebird 400with RAM Air!!
CCVN: What do you do to keep in top shape these days?
CC: I swim and ride my bike and I take pro-biotics twice daily.
CCVN: Wow. You do a lot of shows live at locations like Kobe’s Steakhouse, or Dukes in Malibu, or you have Olivia Harrison, or Yoko Ono call in. I have seen you at Capitol Records honoring Lennon on his birthday etc. I’ve seen tons of people at the live broadcast really express their appreciation to you for all the unsung work that you do make us feel a real sense of togetherness. It’s very touching indeed. How do you feel about the sense of community you have coalesced around Southern California and the rest of the country in being a major flame keeper of it all without the politics?
CC: Well that’s the thing about The Beatles. They were always able to appeal to a wide range of people, never before The Beatles would a seven year old, a seventeen year old and a thirty seven year old all liked the same band! That’s unique and amazing. It has never really happened before or since with anything in the pop culture. a seven The Stones didn’t have that. A track like Sister Morphine is not going to appeal to a kid like it does to someone in their mid-twenties. Whereas The Beatles and the same with Paul McCartney now. When you go see him live in concert today, anywhere you’ll see a little guy sitting with his father and grandfather digging “Penny Lane” which again is really unique and The Beatles really did that. When A Hard Day’s Night came out, you could enjoy that as an eight year and as an eighteen year old. The same thing happens with my show. It’s a family show. I can’t tell you how many fathers and mothers tell me they listen with their kids. The other thing is how many radio shows, not a lot, people listen to in their house in 2017? I mean you also listen in your car but for people to turn it on in their house is amazing. It’s not me that’s The Beatles. I am carrying the news!
CCVN: Well that is gear. And I predict that there is a future big shew show for you on a big Satellite platform. Hmmmn? Tom Petty Show, Billy Joel Channel, and a Fab channel with CC helming the ship perhaps? Final Question, name yer Top Ten All Time Fab Groups/Artists or Songs!
CC: OK…I’ll give you today’s Top 10 fave LP’s…(which might change tomorrow).
The Beatles – The Beatles
T. Rex- Electric Warrior
The Beatles – Rubber Soul (US)
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust
Mott The Hoople – Mott
Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
David Bowie – Aladdin Sane
T.Rex – The Slider
Alice Cooper – Schools Out
CCVN: Thank you very much indeed. You are truly the Chris” Sullivan” of our time and on behalf of myself and the group we’d like to thank you Chris Cartridge (as Lennon would have named ya) for passing the audition, for the splendid time guaranteed for all us listeners with much Peace n LOVE. You are truly a modern day Renaissance man and we are richly blessed by your work.
By Keith Chagall: Pop Music/ Film Editor
Century City View News April 13, 2017