Reflecting on Lennon’s death 30 years later, he decided to call on his Nashville musician friends in recording a tribute to Lennon, with all proceeds to benefit the Nashville Engineer Relief Fund (NERF), which supports audio engineers in Nashville.
“It was 2010, and I had gone through some heath problems—cancer, a stomach operation, blah-blah-blah,” recalls Marcantonio, whose estimable Nashville studio credits include projects for the likes of Vince Gill, Reba McEntire and Taylor Swift.
“I was spent physically, mentally and financially. But my friends helped out, and one day someone came to my door with a check from the Nashville Engineer Relief Fund, which I’d never heard of—and never forgot. Then I got a call from a reporter doing a story on John, and we spoke at length. Afterwards my wife said, ‘How come no one’s done a tribute record to John Lennon?’ So I said, ‘I’ve got to do one for NERF.’”
The resulting CD is And We All Shine On: A Tribute To John Lennon From Music City.
Available exclusively through music instrument/pro audio retailer Sweetwater, the disc features artists chosen by Marcantonio based on their appreciation for Lennon and his music. They include Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Foster and Lloyd, Jeff Hanna and Matraca Berg, and Gretchen Peters.
Marcantonio was working in New York at the Record Plant in 1980.
“It was well after [completion of the Lennon-Ono album] Double Fantasy, and we were working on Yoko’s single ‘Walking On Thin Ice,’” he recalls. “We started December first and worked until the end of the seventh day, and I said goodbye on the night of the eighth.”
Lennon, who was said to have had great respect for his engineers, was gunned down little more than an hour later, on Dec. 8.
“He was so cool and friendly, and we became close,” says Marcantonio, who went on to work at the Record Plant with Crowell, who then brought him to Nashville to work on Cash’s landmark 1987 album King’s Record Shop.
“She’s the reason why I’m here,” he says of Cash. “What she did for me and for this project was just tremendous.”
Beatles-influenced herself, Cash had previously recorded “I Don't Want To Spoil The Party” and “Not A Second Time”—both sung by Lennon.
“I love Steve, and wanted to help the Engineer Fund--and how often do you get asked to choose a Lennon song to sing? I was thrilled,” she says. “John [husband/producer/guitarist John Leventhal] suggested ‘Look At Me’ and I thought it was a great idea. But I had vocal polyps so I kept having to put it off, and finally recorded it right when my voice was coming back, so it's a little husky.”
Marcantonio notes that he got the green light for the project from Ono, and that everything “fell into place” from that point on.
“Everybody really poured their hearts out, for the love and respect of John Lennon, but also for the love of the engineering community,” he says. “The art of engineering has slightly changed a bit, because people can’t always afford to hire engineers, and pick up a computer and do it themselves. But there’s still a big corps of engineers, and sometimes we need help.”
Marcantonio notes that the entire Nashville music community donated their work to the project, and singles out a special participant on the Jeff Hanna and Matraca Berg track, “Whatever Gets You Through The Night.”
“Besides Elton John’s harmony vocal, what do you think of when you think of that record?” he asks. “The sax! I knew it was Bobby Keys the first time I heard it on the radio, and I knew he lived around here but felt there was no way we could get him to play on it. But [Foster & Lloyd’s] Bill Lloyd’s a friend of his and put me in touch with him, and he was more than happy to do it.”
Sure enough, Keys contributed the same sax part for Hanna and Berg that he played on Lennon’s hit.
“It’s one of the highlights of the record, but everything went my way,” says Marcantonio. “I have good karma—which is something John knew about.”
Indeed, and by the way, Beatles-influenced Nashville supergroup the Vinyl Kings (Vince Melamed, Michael Rhodes, Larry Byrom, Larry Michael Lee, Josh Leo, Harry Stinson and Jim Photoglo) perform “Instant Karma”--the Lennon classic from which the album title derives.
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