Stephen Bishop's Tales of Angry Rastas, Animal House and Debby Boone's Missing Grammy
The cover of Stephen Bishop's 1978 album Bish
In his career of almost four decades, singer/songwriter/guitarist Stephen Bishop has seen and done a lot. In a phone interview, fascinating stories come pouring out of him at such a rapid pace, it's a wonder the man hasn't sat down to write an autobiography yet.
We spoke with Bishop about tonight's gig opening for Christopher Cross at Stafford Centre and his new album, Be Here Then, available on iTunes and his Web site. But the talk also veered into some pretty entertaining tales.
The Night He Pissed Off Rita Marley Bishop's biggest commercial hit was 1977's "On and On," which hit No. 11 on the Billboard chart. The song opens with the couplet "Down in Jamaica they got lots of pretty women/ Steal your money then they break your heart." This apparently drew the intense ire of Bob Marley's wife, Rita, who confronted Bishop at a party.
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"Yeah, she started screaming at me," Bishop says, imitating a Jamaican accent. "'You do not know about Jamaican women! They do not steal your money!' I was scared to death because she was really livid! I was just...uh...'poetic license?' I spent the rest of the party hiding out in the kitchen."
Asked at what possible soiree would the guest list include a sensitive singer-songwriter and the wife of the first Third World Superstar, Bishop is nonchalant. "I don't know, you'd be surprised at people who get together. I've been to all sorts of weird Hollywood parties. It's a crazy town."
Filming Animal House Bishop was a "longtime friend" of director John Landis, who wanted the singer to be involved with this little comedy about a college fraternity he was in charge of making. So Bishop spent four days in Eugene, Oregon on the set, arriving just after an incident in which some of the actors had been beaten up by real fraternity members.
He contributed the theme song (featuring a falsetto which Bishop, now 62, demonstrates he can still pull off), but is best remembered for a cameo as the "Charming Folksinger." During the toga party, he serenades some doe-eyed coeds on a staircase. Sample lyrics: "I gave my love a cherry that had no stone/ I gave my love a chicken that had no bone."
John Belushi's more garage-rock-loving character Bluto Blutarsky, offended by the wimpy tune, snatches the guitar away from Bishop's hands, smashes it against the wall, then hands back the shards with a heartfelt "Sorry."
"That scene wasn't in the script, and it was my idea to do the song," Bishop says. "It was done in two takes, and I still have the ruined guitar -- the second one that's in the film -- on my wall. I got it signed by all the cast members."
Bishop recalls that the ascendant Belushi was an "exciting" person to hang out with and a "great guy" most of the time, but adds "part of the time he wasn't such a great guy. And it was drug-influenced."
Bishop says that he spent most of the time hanging out with actors Tom Hulce (who played innocent freshman Pinto) and -- in his first film role -- a very young Kevin Bacon. "Kevin was young and full of questions at that time," Bishop says. "Years later, I saw him at the premiere of JFK, and he was much different. He just looked at me and went 'Oh....hi..."
More with Bish on the next page.
The Beatles and Harry Nilsson "I'm a giant Beatleholic," Bishop says during a time when the 50th anniversary of the Fabs coming to America is on at lot of people's minds. "I was so into the British Invasion. So many great songs and bands. The Animals. The Kinks. The Zombies."
Bishop had already met three of the Beatles when he spotted the fourth, John Lennon, at the Troubadour club in Hollywood on the infamous night Lennon and Harry Nilsson were thrown out for drunkenly heckling the Smothers Brothers.
He later became a friend of Nilsson's in the '90s and had dinner with the cult-favorite singer just three weeks before his death. "I was sad," Bishop says. "I got a lot out of his music. He was so adventurous."
The Case of Debby Boone's Missing Grammy At the 1978 Grammys, Bishop was up for Best New Artist (along with, believe it or not, Shaun Cassidy, Foreigner, and Andy Gibb), but lost to Debby Boone. She was coming off the monster smash "You Light Up My Life," which spent ten weeks at No. 1 on the charts. Still, the golden statue didn't stay in her possession long.
"She gave me her Grammy and told me 'You should have won.' And I had it for six years," Bishop says. "Then I read in an interview with her in TV Guide where she said she didn't know where the award was, because she gave it to me! I gave it back to her. I didn't want Grammy Guilt."
And finally...Houston! Bishop says that he remembers playing Houston "a couple of times" with Linda Ronstadt in the '70s, but is only opening for Christopher Cross at two shows: the one in Stafford, and another date in Midland. He says the latter gig will allow him to live a longtime in-joke.
"I have this thing where people ask me how I'm doing, and I always say 'Fair to Midland.' And now, I'll actually be in Midland!"
Stephen Bishop opens for Christopher Cross 8 p.m. tonight at Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Rd.
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