We are just a tad excited about Earl Slick’s gig in Glasgow this week, celebrating one of David Bowie’s finest waxings, Station to Station, alongside Rolling Stones/Tackhead vocalist Bernard Fowler. Slick was Bowie’s “street guy”, his go-to guitarist for dirty, bluesy licks and some of his finest work can be heard on Station to Station. Those were crazy times in the Bowie camp, and Slick can’t remember most of it. So he must have been there.
But when we spoke to this native New Yorker recently, we were surprised to hear about his love and affection for the work of two very different singers from Glasgow. One he came to as a fan, the other as a collaborator.
Although not a prominent part of his CV, Slick worked with the late Jim Diamond, arguably best known for his yodelly chart-topper I Should Have Known Better. The pair gigged together as duo Slick Diamond in the late 1970s, not long before Slick was seconded to play on John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album. Diamond died in his sleep last year, just three months before we lost Bowie.
“I found out about David the worst possible way,” recalls Slick. “My girlfriend was on the internet and a news alert came through at, like, 2 o’clock in the morning, that’s how I found out. With Jim, thank God a friend of mine called me and told me. But I had no idea, I’m not even sure if Jim was sick, all I know is he went to sleep and didn’t wake up.
“That was a shocker, that one hit me right between the eyes too because I hadn’t seen Jim in a while. Last time I saw him he was great. He was just the old Jim Diamond, singing and doing his thing and being himself. That was a big loss, especially because we never really got to finish what he started. We had the band here in the States and that didn’t really pan out. It wasn’t me and him, things just weren’t falling together right, y’know? I went on my way, he went on his way and he became very successful in his own right. We’d stay in touch and every once in a while we would say ‘you know what? we should really try to do something together again’. The last thing I did with Jim was many years ago, might have been 1984 on one of his first solo albums.”
Slick did indeed play on Diamond’s solo debut, Double Crossed, and it’s clear there is great respect there. But he reserves most of his enthusiasm for one of our greatest bluesy belters, Frankie Miller, whose biggest hit, Caledonia, can cause grown men to weep. Though, like Slick, we prefer the soul rather than the sentimentality.
“For some reason, you guys spawn singers like rabbits,” he says. “I always rated Frankie Miller as way up there. I’ve got everything he recorded and I listen to it all the time. I met the man once briefly in the 70s, I was with one of the Thin Lizzy guys. The guy just had that magic voice. If there was one guy I could go out and do a tour with it would be Frankie Miller, I would have loved that, that would be killer. Then he had that stroke happen years ago and that was that. But I gotta tell you, to this day, without a doubt, he could be my number one white soul singer. I was always into the real R&B, the Wilson Picketts, Otis, and all that kind of stuff, and man could Frankie do that like nobody’s business. I always thought ‘wow!’”
Earl Slick and Bernard Fowler perform Station to Station, ABC, Glasgow on Tue 26 April