If one hallmark of a great songwriter is his ability to pen diverse songs, then 2016 SHOF inductee Chip Taylor stands tall among the masters. Among the hits penned by this writer and crooner are tireless party anthem “Wild Thing,” which the Troggs immortalized in 1966, and “Angel of the Morning,” a smash for Juice Newton in 1981.
This year’s Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony, to be held June 9 at the Marriott Marquis in NY, also honors Elvis Costello, Marvin Gaye, Tom Petty, Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards, Johnny Mercer designee Lionel Richie, Hal David Starlight honoree Nick Jonas and Seymour Stein, who will receive the Howie Richmond Hitmaker award. Performer/presenters include the B-52s, Marcus Mumford, Roger McGuinn, Rachel Platten, Sister Sledge, Jussie Smollett and Jon Voight.
Taylor shares some of his inspirations with Billboard:
War and remembrance: “I was 25 or something like that, and I was playing the chords and singing nonsense things to myself. When the words ‘There’ll be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can’t bind your heart’ came out of me, I didn’t have any idea what it meant. I wrote the words down, I sang it again to myself. I had seen a war movie the night before where two people who had just met each other and were falling deeply in love might not see each other again. He was off to do a tour of duty and it was a dangerous thing, and they were spending a night together. It might be their last night but their love would never die. And it’s that kind of feeling that came to ‘Angel of the Morning,’ I’m quite sure. It was a very serious song to me.”
Getting the call: “With ‘Wild Thing,’ I was starting to write rock’n’roll songs and a writer/producer called me and said, ‘I’m producing for an artist and I’ve got three songs and I don’t have a fourth… and I was wondering if you’d send one over to me.’ I hung the phone up and I started looking out the window and thinking about some girls, some wild things I had known in my life. I don’t remember which one I was thinking of at that moment, but the chorus came right to me. I loved the sound of the chords and the feeling of the chords. I went in the studio without it being finished and I just asked the engineer to turn the lights out and I tried to put myself in the mindset of whatever the heck I wanted to say to that girl. And it was very simple. I didn’t say much but it felt right, it was powerful.”
Silence is golden: “I knew right then when I was writing ‘Wild Thing,’ just like with ‘Angel of the Morning’ and the interlude, that I wanted to reflect. I wanted to stop and say something to this girl. I wanted to say, ‘Wild Thing I think I love you, but I want to know for sure. So come on and hold me tight.’ And then the silence. The silence in ‘Wild Thing’ is the most important thing.”
Fired up: “My mother and dad took me to a Broadway play, The Wild Irish Rose was the musical, when I was about 7 or 8 years old. They had an extra ticket and no babysitter, so I went. I sat in the fourth row and when the orchestra started to play, I knew I liked music, but I was on fire. So much so that when we left the theater and drove home I sat in the back seat and pretended I was sleeping. I wasn’t sleeping, I just wanted to keep feeling that thing I was feeling.”
Room with a view: “If you see Beautiful, the Carole King musical, I was in the same building as Carole King. 1650 Broadway. She was upstairs on the sixth floor, I think, and I was down on the first floor. And the writing spaces were little rooms and they all had a sofa and a little upright piano and a desk and telephone. My window opened right out to 51st Street. I loved my office.”