Interview: Guitarist Peter Beckett Discusses New Player Album and Touring with Eric Clapton
From his days growing up in Liverpool — where he watched the Beatles perform — to opening for Eric Clapton with his band, Player, guitarist Peter Beckett has been privy to a part of music history.
Player struck gold in 1978 with the chart-topping, feel-good smash hit, "Baby Come Back." Player slowed down in the 1980s as Beckett focused on film and TV projects and his band mate Ronn Moss gained stardom playing Ridge Forrester on the CBS series The Bold And The Beautiful.
In 2003, Beckett and Moss began performing again as Player, usually with all-star lineups of musicians that included members of the Cars, Mister Mister, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner and Little River Band.
Now, after an almost 20-year hiatus, Player is back with a new album, Too Many Reasons. The album, which features 12 new tracks and a new acoustic version of “Baby Come Back,” is a welcome return. The main musicians on the album are Beckett (guitars, vocals, keyboards) and Moss (bass, lead vocals).
I spoke with Beckett about the new album, touring with Eric Clapton and more.
GUITAR WORLD: How did this new Player project begin?
I was working on another project called The Limey Cowboys and had about six songs finished when I got a call from Frontiers Records asking me to send them some material. This new album is very eclectic, with a little bit of everything on it. There's a "metal" song, a ballad, then there's pop and an R&B songs. When I saw the final collection of songs I was a bit concerned, but then I started thinking about the old Player material, which was always like that. We changed like a chameleon a lot because one minute we were out touring with Boz Scaggs and the next; we were touring with Eric Clapton on the Slowhand tour.
Tell me about a few of the songs on the album and how you approach songwriting.
I approach songwriting in one of two ways. I can either be a machine or I find the muse. If I'm working on a movie or TV spot, I'll often be sent a highlight tape and I'll go down and study it and get a vibe for what it should be. Other times, I'll just get a melody or a phrase in my head and then I'll sit down and figure it out on guitar. Those are the ones that come from somewhere else and I channel. The best songs though, truthfully come when I'm doing things like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes. [laughs]
"I Will" is a good acoustic song that's catchy and not very deep. It has a lot of double entendre to it. Then there are other songs that have a much deeper meaning. "A Part of Me" came out of my divorce five years ago. It was something that devastated me and sent me out into the void just trying to figure out what was going on in my life. That song is the "Baby Come Back" of the album. It comes from the heart.
Do you have plans to do a formal tour?
Ron and I have been touring as much as we can over the years. Because I’ve been busy doing film and TV work and Ron was doing his TV show, we'd go off and do weekend shows. Now that his show is over, we're planning a summer tour with a few '70s and '80s bands, and will be doing the "sheds" around the country. We're excited.
Tell me about when Player showcased for Clive Davis.
We had been doing a lot of showcases looking for a record deal when we met Clive. We didn't know who he was at the time, but we showcased for him at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I remember we went in with just acoustic guitars and Ron had his bass playing through a Pignose amp. We sat there on the edge of the stage and played him a few songs, one of them being "Baby Come Back." Afterwards, I remember he came up to us and said, "Guys, you look great, and the music is great. I just don't hear a hit." Obviously, he's a legend in the music business, but that day, he didn't hear anything.
How long was it after your meeting with Clive that "Baby Come Back" went to No. 1?
It was a matter of months, actually. [laughs]
You also toured with Eric Clapton. Tell me a little about that experience.
We were beginning to write our second album when our record company [RSO] asked us to tour with Eric. They said he had a new record coming out called Slowhand. We decided to record a few "harder songs" for our new album so we wouldn't come across as lightweights before Eric, and it worked. The Danger Zone album is a little bit harder edged.
Here's a funny little story Ron likes to tell: We were playing the Aladdin Theatre and were coming to the end of our set, when the power suddenly went out in the theater. The power came back on, but it was our last song and the moment was gone. Although Eric had nothing to do with it, we later found out that one of his roadies thought we were getting too cocky and decided to pull the plug on us [laughs]. On the last night of the tour, we were all standing around backstage and Eric came out with a bottle of Jack Daniels and stood with us for a while, thanking us and apologized for his roadie.
When did you realize music was something you wanted to pursue?
My brother and I grew up in Liverpool and when I was a kid back in the '60s, they used to do these lunchtime sessions at the Cavern Club. My brother was about three years older than me and was just crazy about all the new bands that were coming out. He loved the Beatles, who had just gotten back from Hamburg (This was all pre-"Love Me Do,” which was their first single in England). They were still breaking out at the time and were playing these lunchtime sessions. I was too young to go, but my brother knew one of the bouncers and managed to sneak me in.
I still remember walking up Mathew Street (a little cobble street alley full of warehouses) toward the Cavern door and feeling the whole street shaking. The cobbles were just like thunder under the ground. I'll never forget walking down the stairs and the Beatles were playing. It was so loud and the club stunk of beer and piss. It was just so full of atmosphere, and I was just taken and thought, "Oh my God, I've GOT to do this!" [laughs]
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.