When he was 23 years old Sandy Salisbury got his start in the music industry recording with the Ballroom. After the Ballroom he joined the Millennium, which like the Ballroom, featured studio-whiz Curt Boettcher. The Millennium’s “Begin” remains the pinnacle of Los Angeles/sunshine/psychedelic pop. Now, Sandy is a published author, and is celebrated for the reissue (of his previously unreleased) studio album.
TEENAGE NEWS: When did you write your first book? How old were you?
Sandy Salisbury: I started writing late, at around age 40. It took me five years to teach myself HOW to write. It was a long, glorious process, and I reveled in every minute of it. One big key lesson to me was that one is never too old to start just about anything. “Just dang do it.” That’s my motto.
TEENAGE NEWS: What were you doing before you published your first book? You had been long retired from being a musician; what pushed you to write your first book?
Sandy Salisbury: I was working in a graphic design studio as a project manager. That job was a good one, artists all around me, a bunch of good guys and one talented woman. Writing was something I sort of stumbled into. I had no idea that I had this hidden interest. But it started popping up after I became a reader, which was at age thirty, when I finally picked up a book and read it without it being a school assignment (slow learner). Once I was hooked on books – and boy did I get hooked! – and started reading my brains out, I thought, wow, this is fun stuff. I wonder if I can do it. And that’s where it all began. With a thought. So it’s true: thoughts become things. And here we are.
TEENAGE NEWS: Do all your books have autobiographical aspects? Why do you think this is?
Sandy Salisbury: To this point I have been writing what I know, so to speak, and I know me, and Hawaii, and what it was like to be a boy. I loved that time in my life, so my stories have all gravitated to that younger age of wonder. My presence in my work has nothing to do with my physical path, but a whole lot to do with my emotional and spiritual path. My sensibilities are all over my work, my values and what I believe in so in that sense, I am in everything I write. The other reason I pop up in my fiction is that I am sort of working out important issues. For example, I grew up on my own, with no father around to model the way a man should move in the world, nothing of world of manhood. And my mom was constantly overwhelmed by my three younger sisters. She’d say to me, “Go outside and do something.” Which to me was the ticket to paradise. But because of it, I had to figure my life out on my own. I managed. So when I write, I often imagine what it would have been like to have had the things that I missed out on. Writing for me is a kind of therapy. I get to make my fictional worlds exactly how I want them to be, and then become a character within those worlds. It’d kind of awesome, really.
TEENAGE NEWS: How many books have you published?
Sandy Salisbury: I’ve published 19 books to date, with a new one in the making.
TEENAGE NEWS: When does your next book come out?
Sandy Salisbury: Well… hard to say, but my guess would be it would see the light of day in 2016. It all depends on the health of my work ethic. Ha!
TEENAGE NEWS: Can you tell us about your new album? It accompanies your book, right?
Sandy Salisbury: Well, I’m not sure which album you are referring to. I’ve had a few collections of old music released, along with the British vinyl edition of my “Sandy” album produced by Curt Boettcher. But you may be thinking about my Little Johnny Coconut EPs. However, calling those two collections of four songs each “albums” is stretching it. I just did these for fun to accompany my Calvin Coconut books. Calvin’s dad is a musician, and I thought I’d come up some music for him. I did this with one of my old music buddies from the Millennium, Joey Stec. We enjoyed the process immensely!
TEENAGE NEWS: How old were you when you first recorded with the Ballroom?
Sandy Salisbury: I was around 23, I think. Back when I was still handsome.
TEENAGE NEWS: Did the Ballroom ever get a record contract? How many years was the band around?
Sandy Salisbury: The Ballroom was short-lived, and only recorded the one collection. The Millennium was born from that group, but only Curt Boettcher and I survived the transition. Jim Bell and Michelle O’Malley went on to other projects. If there was a contract, I never saw it. But that was Curt’s way. He kept the contractual details to himself. I was just happy to be playing my guitar and writing songs.
TEENAGE NEWS: What did you think of 16-track stereo when it first came out?
Sandy Salisbury: 16 tracks were unheard of! And 16-track stereo was mind blowing! So many sounds, all coming at you from different directions. Curt, Keith Olsen, and the Columbia engineers absolute creative wizards when they put the old machines together to produce multiple tracks.
TEENAGE NEWS: How much did the Millenniums’ “Begin” cost to record?
Sandy Salisbury: I really don’t know, but my guess is that it was in the $100,000 range, an enormous amount for that time. The reason it was so high was because the way Curt worked, creating and practicing in the studio – with the clock ticking.
TEENAGE NEWS: Would you have toured with the record if you could have?Sandy Salisbury: Oh, man, yes! Performing live is the ultimate rush – if your group is good, that is. We all would have toured in a heartbeat!
TEENAGE NEWS: How did the Millennium pay back their recording debt for “Begin?”
Sandy Salisbury: Here’s a secret: we are STILL paying it off! Ha! But true…
TEENAGE NEWS: Do you remember how the Millennium was able to make a hit out of “5 AM” in the Philippines?
Sandy Salisbury: There was a young Columbia executive named Clive Davis who liked “5 AM” and wanted it to go out as a single. I guess it went off to the Philippines, too. That song was on the Billboard top 100 at one point, but in the Philippines it went straight to the top. Boom! Wonder of wonders. This is my one musical claim to fame. Number One in the Philippines! Ho!
“5AM” by the Millennium:
TEENAGE NEWS: Did you, or the band, ever feel disillusioned by Curt Boettcher’s bouncing between projects? He produced other acts and fronted Sagittarius around the same time.
Sandy Salisbury: Maybe it bothered some of the guys, but not me. I was just happy to be there making music with those guys. It didn’t matter which project Curt had going, because he used me on most of them as a background singer. If I was in the studio, I was happy. It was all good.
TEENAGE NEWS: Do you remember how you felt when you heard “Present Tense” by Sagittarius for the first time?
Sandy Salisbury: What a magnificent project that turned out to be! But I worked on it with Curt and Gary, so was a witness to its creation.
TEENAGE NEWS: You teamed up with Gary Usher, from Sagittarius, to release your first solo record. His label eventually folded before your debut release. Was this the moment when you retired from music, or did you look for another label to release your album?
Sandy Salisbury: That was the end of the trail for me. I figured I had to get serious about making a living, so went back to college. It was the right move. But I sure had the time of my life up to that point. I can’t say that life has gotten any worse, either. It’s been good to me. Very.
TEENAGE NEWS: Was there any interest from other labels for your solo work?
Sandy Salisbury: Not to my knowledge. I think my work got buried by Curt Boettcher, and perhaps even Four Star Music. They’d wanted to save it for future Millennium material. I had no idea this was going on until many years later. Kind of a sad turn of events, thinking about it. If I’d have known then what I know now I’d have been out there like the Monkees, I’m sure of it. But I didn’t know beans about the business back then. So…
TEENAGE NEWS: Can you talk about Steve Clark? Was he ever an artist himself or just a master manipulator?
Sandy Salisbury: He was the quintessential master schmoozer, and yes, manipulator. But I liked the guy anyway. He always had me laughing as he slipped my royalty check into his back pocket. So there was that. He was not an artist, but he was a great trickster. Ha!
TEENAGE NEWS: When did you first start recording solo tunes? Was it always established that Curt Boettcher would produce you?
Sandy Salisbury: Curt was my producer for my entire musical career, and that was fine with me. He was good at what he did. And we got along fine, never had a disagreement – but that’s my nature. I’m an agreeable sort.
TEENAGE NEWS: Were any of your songs produced by anyone besides Curt Boettcher?
Sandy Salisbury: Some of my songs were, yes. But I don’t know who the producers were. Some were in England. Some in the USA.
TEENAGE NEWS: How did your music career get its second wind? It’s not often that tunes are released 40 years after their original recording to such high critical acclaim.
Sandy Salisbury: You know, for some reason we have always had a following, a loyal group of people who appreciate what we did, love the music, love the era. Young artists of today with a historical mindset discover us, I think, mainly because our music was so innovative. It’s still a thrill to listen to. The fact that we still sell is amazing to me. Wonders never cease.
TEENAGE NEWS: Do the record labels that release all your 60’s tunes pay you? Do they own the rights to the songs or do you?
Sandy Salisbury: Any royalties that I get go to Sony. I get a few cents now and then.
“Do Unto Others” by Sandy Salisbury:
TEENAGE NEWS: How involved were you in the reissues?
Sandy Salisbury: Not much. But a little. Joey Stec was the main driver behind most of the reissues. He was/is a tireless worker. There are others, as well. I mostly provided a few demos I had and a lot of commentary.
TEENAGE NEWS: When was the last time you saw Curt Boettcher? Do you know how he died?
Sandy Salisbury: The last time I saw Curt was at the demise of Mee Moo Music, around the end of the sixties. I believe he died in a hospital during an operation. This was in 1987. He had a lung infection, it is said. Sad to lose such a talent so young. However, he may have fallen on his own due to his lifestyle, a condition not unknown to far too many talented musicians.
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Post by August Bernadicou