Malibu resident John Zambetti, composer, arranger and producer, has earlier this month released “Queens’ English,” with his group, The Malibooz, along with a number of 1960s “British Invasion” icons participating. This unique and unexpected assemblage of talent and music, which spans decades and continents, was made possible by both modern technology and the musicians’ good old-fashioned love for their music.
This British Invasion CD (which went straight to No. 1 in its genre on CDBaby.com), is a departure from the surf music for which The Malibooz are known. It is at once a return to an element of their roots and groundbreaking.
Joining Zambetti, Walter Egan, Scott Monahan, Martin Fera and Dave Chamberlain of The Malibooz (with a bit of guitar by son Johnny Zambetti) are British Invasion icons Andrew Loog Oldham (producer of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”), Tony Hicks (The Hollies), Spencer Davis, Ian Whitcomb, The Quarrymen (original Lennon/McCartney bandmates), Richard Moore (The Troggs), Chad and Jeremy, Mark Griffiths (The Shadows), Nokie Edwards (The Ventures) and David Carr (The Ventures). Also contributing are fellow Malibuites John Farrar and Virginia Rockwell (of the Royal Academy of music), among others.
The Malibu Times caught up with Zambetti on the beach in Malibu to talk about the making of this latest recording, which involved sending tracks and recording via the Internet.
What is the genesis of the songs on “Queens’ English”?
When we celebrated The Malibooz’ 40th year with a concert, I looked back on my 1964 playlist and saw that in addition to our surf songs, we played a lot of British Invasion-influenced songs that we had composed as teens. That sparked our revisit to that era and genre, and led to composing the new songs for “Queens’ English.”
How were you able to bring in so many of the musical icons from the ‘60s?
Sometimes being naive about the impossibility of a project you’re about to embark upon is the most crucial factor in securing its success. Initially, I contacted a record executive friend and told him about the project, and asked for some introductions. His immediate response was “What’s in it for them?” It had never occurred to me that my fellow ‘60s musicians would not be as enthusiastic as I was and just record for the fun of it.
I bypassed the naysayers, and with my connections from over 40 years as a musician, gradually reached all the artists, who said “Send me the track, and if I like it, I’ll play on it.”
In spite of the short time you had with all these contributing musicians, all the tracks are polished and sound so well-practiced. How did you manage that?
All the tracks were ready. I sent the musicians MP3s so they could choose their parts and register. They are all practiced, talented musicians, who have continued to play regularly over the years. Modern technology allows us to send a song anywhere in the world via the Internet, so they could hear what we were doing ahead of time, and be able to walk in and lay down their parts immediately.
Our electronic age made this album possible. Just five years ago ProTools (a music mixing program) and the Internet were not at the level at which you could be in a studio in Malibu and record a group in Manchester, England, much less master that album, recorded in Malibu, via a secured server at Abbey Road Studios in London. We were able to coordinate recordings from around the globe via the Internet on the budget of an independent recording company.
What instruments account for the authentic sounds?
Mainly the combination of acoustic and electric guitars together, especially the 12-strings. Also, Spencer Davis plays blues harp, Richard Moore plays the ocarina and I play the mandocello on one track.
How did you arrive at the title “Queens’ English”?
Walter Egan is from Queens, and The Malibooz had broadcasted from Queens in 1965.
That leads us to the double visual references on the CD cover: Malibu, with the Woodie and surfboards, a nod to your surf music heritage and the Abbey Road studios’ famed crosswalk in the foreground, all bridged by a double-decker bus. Who did your photography?
Gered Mankowitz, the legendary British photographer, known for his iconic portraits of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones (among others), agreed to shoot the exterior of Abbey Roads studios for us. Scott Smith shot in Malibu and created a photo illustration from all the images, with the bus symbolically spanning the two locations.
As a small, independent record label, you have accomplished a herculean task. What have you learned making this CD?
When I asked Andrew Loog Oldham about the importance of recognition, he said, “The recognition is in the making; the aftermath is random. As long as the artist can listen to it now and feel like they made music that afternoon, it still works.”
“Queens’ English,” by The Malibooz can be found at Diesel, A Bookstore, on CDBaby.com, Amazon.com and iTunes.