interviewed by arjan deelen
Last week, we had a nice scoop with a selection of unpublished pics from Robert’s Tuff Darts days (1974 – ’76), and as an icing on the cake, we are now adding an exclusive e-mail interview with Tuff Darts guitarist/songwriter Jeff Salen. Not much is known about this period, so we’re grateful to Jeff for sharing his insights with us.
When were the Tuff Darts formed?
Was Robert a part of the band right from the start?
We held auditions. Robert pushed his way to the front and did ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love’, by
Paul Rogers and Bad Company. There was no need for any more auditioning!
How did Robert strike you as a person?
He looked like a Marine Drill Instructor with his crew cut. However, he also wore snakeskin platform boots. John and I did not know what to make of him.
Were the Tuff Darts playing exclusively in the NYC area, or also elsewhere?
We played in New York only.
How was the band received in the beginning?
Everybody loved us because we were both musical and visually exciting.
What’s the story behind the song ‘All For The Love Of Rock ‘n’ Roll’?
I wrote that song with Bobby Butani (rhythm guitar) one afternoon in Brooklyn Heights across the street from our cocaine dealing manager. This song of mine has since been covered by Motorhead, Robert Gordon solo, Johnny Winter, Rick Derringer, and John Paris as well as on my new solo CD.
One of my own favorites is ‘Love & Trouble’ – how did you get to write that song?
This is David Johanson’s favorite song of mine. I am going to rerecord it on my next solo CD. The feeling behind the song was Leonard Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story.’ The song ‘ Somewhere’ from that play was the inspiration. I couldn’t swear to it but I’ve heard that Lou Reed loves that song, also.
Did you ever try to write a song with Robert?
Yes, I did. It was called ‘Time Bomb.’ The rest of the band, unfortunately, thought it was too amateurish to perform. I guess we were right because Robert, himself, has never recorded it either.
How strong was his creative input? Would he come with ideas and suggestions?
No, but he had a great voice and called me six times a day to complain about the monitors. When he reads this, I hope he will laugh.
The band usually included fifties songs like ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ on the setlist. Whose idea was that?
Robert’s idea. I enjoyed facilitating his request because I love the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s etc. and T-Bone Walker who started it all.
How did the deal with Atlantic for the various artists release ‘Live At CBGB’s’ come about?
Roy Ericson, our manager, financed the deal.
The Tuff Darts featured quite prominently on this album. Did it generate a lot of interest in the band?
Yes. We about to be signed to Atlantic when Robert announced he was going solo to Private Stock Records. Robert asked me to go with him as his side man. I declined as I was doing the Sparks album ‘Big Beat,’ for Sony and felt pretty confident that I could get Tuff Darts a record deal, which I did.
Around that same time, the band was also filmed for the “Blind Generation” documentary by Amos Poe. What’s the story behind that?
Czech rock idol, Ivan Kraal, (Patti Smith’s lead guitarist) and Israeli film maker Amos Poe filmed this cinema verite ( not in synch) movie. It truly captures the period. I still have that white tab collar shirt but I can’t button the collar.
Did you stay in touch with Robert after the split?
Yes, I did a Robert Gordon solo album on Viceroy called ‘All for the Love of Rock and Roll.’ It was recorded in 3 days in the back of the Soprano’s Bada-Bing in New Jersey. I composed the title track. We also recorded ‘Love and Trouble,’ ‘Attacked, Seduced and Abandoned’ (with John Paris) and ‘Slash’ with Rockin’ Rob Stoner on bass and keyboards.
How do you look back on those early Tuff Darts days and your association with Robert?
Those were the best nights of my life! If Robert didn’t call me ten times a day it would have been the best days of my life as well (just kidding!)
So what is Jeff Salen doing these days?
I have a solo album, ‘The Endless Road’ available at Tower Records and all the usual internet websites (Amazon.com, etc.) It has sold 600 copies so far. Please check out my website, tuffjeffsalen.com. There are 14 great songs and a reunited Tuff Darts. This is augmented with a Memphis horn section and female backing vocals on ‘All for the Love of Rock and Roll 2005’ and throughout the CD.
Jeff, thanks for the interview and good luck with the album!