British, LA-based guitarist Laurence Juber has had a storied career so far, and he isn’t slowing down. Juber was a member of Paul McCartney’s band Wings for three years from 1978 to ’81 and, since then, he’s recorded an arsenal of solo records, and movie and TV scores. But of course, he’ll forever be a favorite with Beatles fans because of his work with Wings. He plays at Boulevard Music on Saturday, so we caught up with him…
CULVER CITY NEWS: AFTER YOU’VE DONE SO MUCH, IS IT FRUSTRATING THAT PEOPLE ALWAYS COME BACK TO THE FACT THAT YOU PLAYED IN WINGS?
Laurence Juber: When it comes to having worked with Paul McCartney on one’s resume, that’s nothing to shy away from at all. I just got back from the Beatles Fest in Chicago where I played with three other Wings members. The four of us, what I call the ‘Four Wing-Men,’ other than Paul, were the active musicians that were in the band at various times. We weren’t always in the band at the same time, although Denny Laine was the consistent one. For me it was a remarkable experience. It was a great education, and it set me on the path of being an artist myself because I came from the background of being a studio musician. Even though post-Wings when I got to New York first and then LA, I immersed myself in studio work, especially during the 1980s and ‘90s when I had young kids and didn’t really want to travel, studio work was a natural environment for me because that was my original ambition. I didn’t get into music to be a rock star. I got into music to make music and to make a living as a musician. But I always had in the back of my mind the idea of being able to develop a solo acoustic approach. I was always impressed with the self-sufficiency, especially of the folk players that I used to go and see. As well as pursuing the electric lead guitar aspect which is what I did in Wings and which is what I was often called on to do as a studio player, being able to play fingerstyle and being able to have a strong sense of rhythm were necessary attributes and as time went on I found that I was really drawn to playing solo fingerstyle acoustic.
YOU’RE KNOWN FOR THAT. YOU’VE ALSO DONE A LOT OF TV AND MOVIE WORK. DO YOU ENJOY THAT?
Oh yeah. It’s always a challenge. Especially walking into a studio with an orchestra. The studio musicians in LA are amongst the finest anywhere. Just walking in to play with musicians of that caliber is a joy. It’s musically challenging but it’s fun too. There was a period when there was a lot of studio work here. The technology impacted things as time went on. When I first started doing television setting for example, let’s say for a show like “Happy Days,” there would regularly be 15 to 20 musicians in the studio with strings and a horn section. Then it gradually got whittled down to four or five players. Sometimes it would just be me, working in my own studio and using the technology to create a movie score or a television score. I also did a lot of record stuff along the way and some of it crossed over. “Dirty Dancing,” for example. I played on “Time of My Life,” and “She’s Like the Wind.” “Time of My Life” won an Academy Award. I think that soundtrack album is probably the biggest selling album that I’ve played on. Playing on that kind of thing goes back to me to being in London in the ‘70s before I joined Wings, playing on the score of “The Spy Who Loved Me,” which was a great thrill because I got to play the James Bond theme.
THIS YEAR, YOU PUT OUT A THIRD ALBUM OF BEATLES COVERS – “LJ CAN’T STOP PLAYING THE BEATLES”…
We did “LJ Plays the Beatles” and then “LJ Plays the Beatles Vol. 2.” We decided to give it a little bit of a sense of humor this time. I put out a Christmas album last year, so I put out two albums in the space of six months. Now, I have my own record label, so that makes it easier. I like being productive and people seem to like the music that I put out, so I keep doing it.
BUT YOU KEEP COMING BACK TO THE BEATLES…
The material is just so great. It really is transcendent. There’s so much to learn from doing arrangements of Beatles tunes. Of course, The Beatles remain enormously popular. But there’s a point when I need to get back to my own compositions. I don’t see me doing a fourth album of Beatles songs. I wasn’t going to do a third, but my wife said that she wanted something to listen to in the car.
WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF PLAYING BEATLES SONGS WITH WINGS AND PAUL?
One of the songs that we would always play in the Wings set was “Let It Be.” I played the solo on it. There were certain moments that I just took as my own, so I wasn’t trying to just copy what George Harrison did. There was a series of concerts in London in December 1979, a series of benefit concerts for Cambodian refugees that were organized by Paul in association with UNICEF. Wings had recorded something called the “Rockestra Theme,” Paul’s idea of doing a rock orchestra. We had members of The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd – it was a really amazing band with three drummers, five guitarists, three bass players, and a horn section. We recreated it for the finale of these concerts. During the set, we did “Let it Be,” and I’m on stage with Pete Townshend, John Bonham, and there’s this huge band. It comes to the guitar solo so I look around and realize that nobody else is going to step forward and it was my spotlight. So I stepped forward to do it, standing there with some of my idols. Pete Townshend was looking over my shoulder, watching my hands.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE SET AT BOULEVARD?
Obviously, there’ll be some Beatles, and there’ll be some originals. I play some stuff from the 1930s. A little Hendrix. I have a special guest that I’m bringing in – my wife has a band that she put together with Marcy Levy, also known as Marcella Detroit. Marcie worked with Eric Clapton and co-wrote “Lay Down Sally.” She was also in a band called Shakespear’s Sister in England. We’ll do some tunes together.
Laurence Juber plays at 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 at Boulevard Music; 4316 Sepulveda Blvd.; 310-398-2583; $17.50.