Stephen Bishop: Careless (1976) + Interview
Is this the quintessential 70's album?
Yes, it is a perfect album from beginning to end that emerged in the mid-1970s. But, let's go back in time for a minute and discover Bishop's beginnings. Before his music was the soundtrack to so many of our lives.
Originally from San Diego, Stephen first discovered his songwriting talents at thirteen. He was creating his own chords and referencing the Mel Bay Chord Book. At seventeen, Stephen left San Diego for Los Angeles. He secured a job as a staff songwriter with E.H. Morris Publishing for fifty dollars a week. After years of struggling with some success, Art Garfunkel recorded two of Stephen's songs on his 1975 'Breakaway' album. This helped Bishop secure a record deal for his first album, "Careless," on ABC Records. Henry Lewy, known for producing Joni Mitchell's and Simon and Garfunkel's albums, co-produced the album with Bishop.
"It was an unexpected success," states Bishop. "I didn't think one of my most popular songs, "On and On," would be a hit. The first single released on Careless was the catchy tune "Save It For a Rainy Day." Lending talents from hitmakers Chaka Khan and Eric Clapton. The entire album was star-studded, often surprising listeners when they find out the musical talent Bishop was able to secure for his first album.
Other notable musicians include…(many of whom were not big stars yet), "Eric Clapton, Chaka Khan, Andrew Gold, Lee Ritenour, Russ Kunkel, Art Garfunkel, Lee Holdridge, Larry Carlton, Tommy Tedesco, Larry Knechtel, and many more."
Careless Track Listing
The album features eleven songs, twelve if you count the guitar interlude, all different and perfect in their own way.
On and On
Never Letting Go
Sinking in an Ocean of Tears
One More Night
Save It for a Rainy Day
Rock and Roll Slave
The Same Old Tears on a New Background
We were honored to interview Stephen for this article. Our editor could not stop laughing at his endless jokes, impressions, and wild stories. He was incredibly kind and patient with our questions. He gave us almost an hour of his time, and we are very grateful to this musical legend who has shared his talents with the world for nearly five decades.
Stephen, it's quite an honor interviewing you today. I have been a fan for many years. I'm glad we were able to schedule this call. I hope you have been staying safe during this pandemic?
Stephen: It's my pleasure. Yes, I have been staying safe and keeping busy. This pandemic has given me a lot of time to reflect on my career and bring new life to projects I've had on the back burner for many years.
What projects in particular?
Stephen: My autobiography, titled "On and Off." A documentary about my crazy life and new songs. I've been working on both projects with my manager for over three years now.
I love the title of the autobiography. It's a takeoff of your hit song "On and On." I know you have been asked about this song too many times to count over the years. But, we are covering your first album. Is there anything you would like fans to know about it?
Stephen: You are correct. Almost everyone I know mentions that song to me. I never intended for the song to be a hit. I didn't think it was at the time. The title just came to me one day when I was walking down to the corner store in Silver Lake, CA in 1975. I wanted to write a song about somewhere else to be. My landlady had these exotic flowers from all over the world, which inspired me to use Jamaica in the song. Most people don't know that the late Kenny Rankin released the song before I did on Careless. We were good friends. I was inspired by Kenny early on in my career. I am glad I was able to perform with him a few times and had a close friendship with him until he passed.
Wow, Kenny Rankin is one of the greats. I am a huge admirer of his catalog. Are there any other songs on the album that stand out to you? Do you have a favorite?
Stephen: It's hard to choose just one from the album. A fan favorite has always been Madge. I have been contacted by other artists about their love for the song over the years. It's the only song I wrote from a dream. It's one of a kind.
It truly is, to me, it's a masterpiece, with Lee Holdridge conducting an orchestral arrangement for it back in the day. It's quite a stellar album with many stars.
Stephen: Yes, I was lucky enough to have the record label, management, and friends get the best talents on that album. It was a rare moment in time to have so many legends play on Careless, many before they were well known.
This album has stood the test of time. Do you think there is a reason why? I have always recommended this album to music lovers.
Stephen: Hmm…All of my albums are one of a kind. There are so many albums that took from the past to make something new. I have always tried to stay original, to stand out from the crowd with my music. I think that's why my songs have gotten covered so much over the years. It doesn't sound like anything else. In a world of copies, my albums and musical compositions are originals. So many other artists like me have original ideas. Sometimes they are accepted and sometimes not. Did I have outside influences? Of course. "The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, etc." But those bands helped mold me into a better songwriter. I wrote Careless for myself, not for a record label or for any romance. I wrote all of the songs by myself. There is nothing wrong with co-writing every now and then. But this was my first album. I felt like this was my "big break," and I wanted to make it count. If I failed, I would be only disappointing myself. Careless was for me, and I am glad I got to share it with the rest of the world. That's why it has stood the test of time and will continue to do so.
Careless is 39 minutes of pure bliss, do yourself a favor and carve out time in your pandemic day to escape the world.
We want to thank Stephen Bishop and his management for the time he took to interview with us. His new book, "On and Off," is currently available for pre-order. It can be found at the links below and links to his social media accounts.
Follow Stephen Bishop
About Stephen Bishop
Stephen Bishop, a veteran songwriter, has had his songs recorded by Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Art Garfunkel, Barbra Streisand, Kenny Loggins, Beyonce, Pavarotti, David Crosby, and many others. Over the years, film fans have long treasured Bishop's appearances in pictures such as Kentucky Fried Movie, The Blues Brothers, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and, of course, his legendary cameo as the "Charming Guy with Guitar" in National Lampoon's Animal House, which he did the theme to. In addition to "Separate Lives" from the movie White Nights, he's contributed songs for other films, such as Tootsie, The China Syndrome, Roadie, Mickie & Maude, and Unfaithfully Yours, among others.
Stephen is a two-time Grammy-nominated recording artist and Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter. His hits include "On and On," "It Might Be You" (the theme from Tootsie), "Separate Lives," "Save it For A Rainy Day," and more. In total, Stephen has written 650+ songs, released 19 albums, has had his music streamed over 500+ million times, and sold over 15+ million records worldwide for himself and other songwriters.