Lou Adler interview - Crazed Imaginations

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Reprinted from Crazed Imaginations #72 (August 2001): an original interview with Lou Adler, who brought the Rocky Horror Show to the US and got the movie made!

Interview by Ruth Fink-Winter

The Man Who Brought Rocky Horror to the US: Crazed catches up with Lou Adler

Most fans don't know a whole lot about Lou Adler, the man who brought the Rocky Horror Show to the US, produced the Roxy album, and brought Rocky Horror and Shock Treatment to the screen.

Lou Adler at his piano. Note the photo from the Audience Participation Album gatefold on the piano. Photo provided by Lou Adler.

Adler has a long rock and roll history: he produced such groups as Jan and Dean, Carole King, and The Mamas and The Papas, and (with John Phillips) produced the Monterey Pop Festival, considered by music historians as perhaps the most significant event in the history of rock, introducing artists such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Cult film devotees are probably familiar with two of the movies he's directed, Cheech and Chong's "Up in Smoke," and underground punk classic "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains."

How did you get into the music business?

"I started as a songwriter with Herb Alpert. I wrote mostly lyrics; he wrote music." Adler notes that he started in high school, writing songs and poetry, and working on the school newspaper. "I thought I would be a journalist," he said.

Songs he wrote include "Poor Side of Town," "Wonderful World," and "Honolulu Lulu." "Those are the successful ones," he notes. ("Wonderful World," written with Sam Cooke and Herb Alpert, is #52 on the BMI Top 100 Songs of the Century.)

Do you have a favorite musical project you've been involved with?

"The three that stand out as extremely talented, bordering on genius, were John Phillips from The Mamas and the Papas…Sam Cooke, and Carole King."

As a sidenote, in addition to producing Carole King's seminal album "Tapestry," which won King four Grammys in 1971, Adler also produced King's "Really Rosie" album, which fans may remember from the 1970s CBS special. Adler notes, "My respect for Maurice Sendak as a children's illustrator and writer made it something I definitely wanted to be involved in, and Carole felt the same way….I think one of its strengths is we recorded it as a Carole King record, not a 'kiddie' record."

When you brought the Rocky Horror Show to the US, did you plan to make it into a film?

"Maybe not specifically…mostly everything that I get involved in, I look at all the ancillary possibilities," said Adler. He first got the idea for the film as "[I was] realizing how much of a talent Tim was."

Tell us a little bit about the Roxy play…

"[The Roxy production] stayed true to the [original London] arrangements…We opened it up somewhat, which Jim Sharman was able to do every time he took it to another venue, and eventually to film. I don't think that could have happened with another director."

The Rocky Horror Show was the Roxy's first play, starting five months after the club opened. (Adler notes that the Roxy has hosted two or three others since.)

Do you have any souvenirs from the Rocky Horror Show or from the film?

Adler kept the original Time Warp chart—and yes, that was the original at the 25th anniversary! From the Roxy production he kept a few "tickets, posters, things like that."

Tell us about your involvement with the Rocky Horror conventions…

"Actually, I've produced all of [the five-year anniversaries]," notes Adler, "starting with the fifth anniversary in Denton, Texas….It was Tim and myself…and the mayor [of Denton], who made Tim and I citizens of Texas. He was dressed as Frank N. Furter." Adler notes that this was the only anniversary Tim has attended, other than the fifteenth, and cites Tim's attendance at the 15th as one of the high points of his Rocky Horror experience.

Are there plans to strike new prints with the new 5.1 sound mix?

"Nobody wants 'em!" snorts Adler. "Every time we try to do something like that, someone says 'Where's the mono?'" He does note that a 5.1 print might be struck "for a special event with a good sound system," noting that the 5.1 mix from the DVD was run at the Joint during rehearsals "and it sounds great!"

Are there any plans to re-release punk classic "The Fabulous Stains"? [NOTE: after the interview, the DVD was eventually released.]

"We've been trying to get it released as a video on Paramount Pictures for the last 6-7 months. It's difficult to get a company to release a cult product that's not successful, that's not current."

What are some projects you're working on now?

"I'm working on a couple of films: one with Cheech at Warner Brothers based on the kiddie records 'Cheech the School Bus Driver,' and I'm doing some development deals for Fox." Adler is also overseeing some other artists' work, including an Andy Vargas record due out next March/April.

"And I'm watching over all my kids," Adler says proudly. Son Nicholai, the reason for that fateful visit to London back in 1974, has just finished work on a tribute album for singer Lynn Strait [whose group "Snot" Nicholai co-managed], "Strait Up," featuring artists from Limp Bizkit, Korn, etc. (If you own the Audience Participation album, Nicholai is the Eddie in the front row of the audience shot in the gatefold. "He grew up with Rocky Horror," notes Adler.)

Adler's other son Cisco has just finished work as an actor and executive producer on a film, "Sweetie Pie," due out later this year. [A 7-year-old Cisco can be seen as the world's littlest Riff Raff at the 10th anniversary with Lou and Daryl Hannah on page 56 of Sal Piro's book Creatures of the Night.]

Do you have any general thoughts on Rocky Horror?

"I'm as amazed as anybody else by the continued success of it," says Adler, adding, "If everyone—'everyone' being the reviewers and the motion picture industry—had really paid attention, Tim Curry would have been nominated for an Academy Award. It's not the subject matter as much as how good the music was…the direction to the acting to the music to the art direction is [all] A+. It's all really well done. That's the real reason it's still around."