Twang on Nicky Hopkins
FROM THE COLLEGE OF ROCK N ROLL KNOWLEDGE FACEBOOK PAGE.
Nicky Hopkins is probably the most famous musician that many of you have never heard of. We are remembering him today as it was on Sept. 6, 1994 that we lost him.
Nicky Hopkins was an English pianist and organist. Hopkins recorded and performed on many notable British and American pop and rock music releases from the 1960’s through the 1990’s.
He suffered from Crohn’s disease from his youth. Poor health and ongoing surgery made it difficult for him to tour. His frail health led him to concentrate on working as a session musician instead of joining bands, although he left his mark performing with a wide variety of famous bands, including the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
He quickly became one of London’s most in-demand session pianists and performed on many hit recordings from this period including albums and singles by the Easybeats, The Kinks, the Pretty Things, The Move and The Who.
In 1967 he joined the Jeff Beck Group, playing on the LPs “Truth” and “Beck-Ola.”
The following year, he recorded “Beggars Banquet” with The Rolling Stones, having previously worked for them on their 1967 single “We Love You” and the album “Their Satanic Majesties Request.”
Nicky spent some time in San Francisco were he played on albums by he Jefferson Airplane (with whom he performed at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969), the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Steve Miller Band. He briefly joined Quicksilver Messenger Service and also appeared with the Jerry Garcia Band.
Back in the UK, Hopkins played electric piano on the Beatles’ “Revolution” – a rare occasion when an outside rock musician appeared on a Beatles recording. He contributed to several Harry Nilsson albums in the early 1970s, including “Nilsson Schmilsson” and “Son of Schmilsson”, and recordings by Donovan.
Along with Ry Cooder, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, Hopkins released the 1972 album Jamming with Edward! It was recorded in 1969, during the Stones’ Let It Bleed sessions, when guitarist Keith Richards was not present in the studio. The eponymous “Edward” was an alias of Nicky Hopkins derived from studio banter with Brian Jones. It became the title for an outstanding Hopkins performance – “Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder” – a song released on the Quicksilver Messenger Service album Shady Grove in December 1969. Hopkins also contributed to the Jamming With Edward!
Hopkins was added to the Rolling Stones live line-up for the 1971 Good-Bye Britain Tour, as well as the notorious 1972 North American Tour and the early 1973 Winter Tour of Australia and New Zealand. He failed to make the Rolling Stones’ 1973 tour of Europe due to ill health and, aside from a guest appearance in 1978, did not play again with the Stones live on stage. He did manage to go on tour with the Jerry Garcia Band, from Aug. 5 to Dec. 31, 1975.
Hopkins had a long history with The Kinks. He recorded 4 studio albums: The Kink Kontroversy (1965), Face to Face (1966),Something Else by the Kinks (1967) and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968). The relationship between Hopkins and the Kinks deteriorated after the release of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. Hopkins maintained that “about seventy percent” of the keyboard work on the album was his, and was incensed when Ray Davies apparently credited himself for the majority of the keyboard playing.
Despite Hopkins’ ensuing grudge against him, Davies spoke positively of his contributions in a New York Times interview in 1995. Ray said: “Nicky, unlike lesser musicians, didn’t try to show off; he would only play when necessary. But he had the ability to turn an ordinary track into a gem – slotting in the right chord at the right time or dropping a set of triplets around the back beat, just enough to make you want to dance. On a ballad, he could sense which notes to wrap around the song without being obtrusive. He managed to give “Days,” for instance, a mysterious religious quality without being sentimental or pious.
Nicky and I were hardly bosom buddies. We socialized only on coffee breaks and in between takes. In many ways, I was still in awe of the man who in 1963 had played with the Cyril Davies All Stars on the classic British R & B record, “Country Line Special.” I was surprised to learn that Nicky came from Wembley, just outside of London. With his style, he should have been from New Orleans, or Memphis.… His best work in his short spell with the Kinks was on the album “Face to Face.” I had written a song called “Session Man,” inspired partly by Nicky. Shel Talmy asked Nicky to throw in “something classy” at the beginning of the track. Nicky responded by playing a classical- style harpsichord part. When we recorded “Sunny Afternoon,” Shel insisted that Nicky copy my plodding piano style. Other musicians would have been insulted but Nicky seemed to get inside my style, and he played exactly as I would have. No ego. Perhaps that was his secret.”
Hopkins died on 6 September 1994, at the age of 50, in Nashville, Tennessee, from complications resulting from intestinal surgery presumably related to his lifelong battle with Crohn’s disease.
Here is a partial list of some of the recording Nicky worked on:
The Kinks, The Kink Kontroversy (1965), Sunny Afternoon (1966), Face to Face (1966), The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
The Who, “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (1965), My Generation album (1965), “The Song Is Over” (1971), “Getting in Tune” (1971), “We’re Not Gonna Take It [movie remix]” (1975), “They Are All in Love” (1975), “Slip Kid” (1975), “How Many Friends” (1975)
The Rolling Stones, “In Another Land” (1967), She’s a Rainbow” (1967) on the Their Satanic Majesties Request album, “We Love You” (1967), “Sympathy for the Devil” (1968), “Street Fighting Man” (1968), “Gimme Shelter” (1969), “Monkey Man” (1969), “Sway” (1971), “Tumbling Dice” and many others on Exile on Main St.(1972), “Angie” (1973), “Time Waits for No One” (1974), “Fool to Cry” (1976), “Waiting on a Friend” (recorded 1972, released 1981)
Jeff Beck, “Blues De Luxe”, “Morning Dew” (1967), Truth (1967), and Hopkins’s own self-penned “Girl From Mill Valley”, on Beck-Ola (1969)
Cat Stevens, “Matthew and Son” (1967), Matthew and Son (1967)
The Easybeats, “Heaven & Hell”, and an unreleased album titled “Good Times” (1967)
The Beatles, “Revolution” (single version) (1968)
Jackie Lomax, “Sour Milk Sea” (1968)
The Move, “Hey Grandma”, “Mist on a Monday Morning”, “Wild Tiger Woman” (all 1968)
Jefferson Airplane, “Volunteers” (1969), “Wooden Ships” (1969), “Eskimo Blue Day” (1969), “Hey Fredrick” (1969), whole Woodstock set
Steve Miller Band, “Kow Kow”, “Baby’s House” (which Hopkins co-wrote with Miller) (1969)
Donovan, “Barabajagal” (1969)
Quicksilver Messenger Service, “Shady Grove” and “Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder” (1969), “Spindrifter” (1970)
P.J. Proby, Reflections of Your Face (Amory Kane) from “Three Week Hero” (1969)
John Lennon, “Jealous Guy” (1971), “How Do You Sleep?” (1971), “Oh Yoko!” (1971), “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (1971), Walls and Bridges album (1974)
Carly Simon, No Secrets (1972)
Jamming With Edward (jam session with Ry Cooder, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts (recorded 1969, released 1972)
Harry Nilsson, Son of Schmilsson (1972)
George Harrison, “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” (1973), Living in the Material World album (1973)
Ringo Starr, “Photograph” (1973), “You’re Sixteen” (1973), “No No Song” (1974)
Joe Cocker, “You Are So Beautiful” (1974)
Marc Bolan, “Jasper C. Debussy” (recorded 1966–67, released 1974)
Peter Frampton, “Waterfall” and “Sail Away” (1974)
Jerry Garcia Band, Let It Rock: The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 2 (1975), Garcia Live Volume Five (1975)
Art Garfunkel, Breakaway (1975)
Rod Stewart, “You’re in My Heart (The Final Acclaim)” (1977)
L. Ron Hubbard, “The Mining Song” (1982), “The Banker” (1982)
Joe Walsh, “Guilty of the Crime” from the album A Future to This
Life: Robocop – The Series Soundtrack (1994)
Paul McCartney, “That Day Is Done” (1989)
Graham Parker, Another Grey Area (1982)
Gene Clark (various recordings)
Brewer & Shipley
You see, you do know him.
RIP Nicky. Thank You for so much music.