John Abbey talks to War's keyboard maestro, Lonnie Jordan, about their recent signing with MCA.
AS EXCLUSIVELY reported in B&S, War is the latest addition to MCA's rapidly advancing commitment to our music and it confirms the company's intention to compete with CBS and WEA conglomerates in the near future.
"The main reason that we have signed — or should I say, the main reason that I'm glad we signed — with MCA is because they are not overloaded with black acts," explains War's king of the keyboards, Lonnie Jordan.
"Until very recently, the company was best known for its involvement in Country & Western and pop and they proved they could compete there. And they realise the need to open doors into the R&B field and since War is an established act, we can help them into the R&B thing — since we also have our own promotional staff — and they can help us get more into the pop market. And even C&W, because we want to expand ourselves, too.
"This way, we can continue to be versatile and that's why MCA will be good for us and we'll be good for them.
"Sure, we could have signed with one of the majors that is already strong in R&B but then what can they do for us that we haven't always done for ourselves. And why have unnecessary competition?
"And there was an added extra that convinced me of their genuine desire — and that was the fact that they obviously wanted us, and every entertainer or group has to feel wanted because this way you can build on a family kind of relationship. Because of our past experience, too, it's nice to feel we're with a company that doesn't simply want to own us.
"Yes, we'll be keeping our own promotion team so we expect the very best."
Meanwhile, the final War effort with United Artists — the double set of "Platinum Jazz" — is still hanging in there on the American charts, with the single of "L.A. Sunshine" becoming their biggest 45 in two years.
"Yes, it's the last package they can release that has previously unreleased material in it," Lonnie points out. "It was our idea that it should come out on Blue Note because the album relates to jazz more than any other music form and since the Blue Note label is synonymous with jazz, it seemed ideal. But it really hasn't done as well as we felt it should have done and that can be laid at UA's door. Again!
"I'm just glad that we don't have to work with people who obviously don't like us. I don' want to believe it and maybe it isn't as simple as I see it but, to me, it's a racial thing. I can't pinpoint it as such but I feel it strongly.
"But I also don't accept UA as a record company — they are an insurance company who happen to have stumbled into the record business.
"Look at what they have lost — take Don McLean. After that "American Pie" record, he was never heard of again. Look at the problems Bobby Womack had with them and they let Bobby Goldsboro go after he had continual hassles with them. And Shirley Bassey would be a super superstar with another company.
"They seem to concentrate on one-shooters. I know that as far as War is concerned, whatever success we have had since actually breaking through is down to the efforts of our own people and not the record company.
"But I'm sure that when we hit No…1 with MCA, they'll rush into the vaults and start repackaging our old material — though they literally have no unreleased titles in their can."
The initial War album is due to be presented to MCA by October 15 and it's on schedule at the moment. However, the company will possibly hold back until after Christmas before they release it — along with the Van McCoy album mentioned in B&S last month.
"We'll be coming with a single first," Lonnie states. "It's a thing called "Baby Face" — no, not the oldie! — and it's in the "Cisco Kid" vein but only funnier. It's very danceable — halfway between a kind of Reggae beat and a Latin flavour to it.
"You see, we've always been left field but yet commercial and we have always been renowned for variety yet commerciality. Each individual within War has an amazing personality of his own and we all get the opportunity to stamp ourselves on certain tracks. And we still continue to surprise and amaze each other.
"I think that is what keeps us together — remember, we have been together for many years without any kind of personnel change. That's why we will never split up, I believe. And even though seven of us will be doing solo projects within the next year, there is no thought of us not keeping closely together even in those projects.
"We have each got so many things we want to say because we each relate our own individual experiences. People give us the ideas and we just give it back to them.
"We are what you could call a peaceful War — we use our instruments and minds as our weapons!"
And, of course, the million dollar question as far as War's British regiment is concerned is when will they be back to do some U.K. concerts.
"Next summer, man, and we are really looking forward to it," Lonnie is quick to stress. "By then, the album will, be at its peak and the time will be right — we love coming to Britain so much. In fact, outside of America, it is probably our favourite place too live and work.
"And also, by next summer, all of our solo projects will be completed. There will be solo albums from myself, Lee Oskar, Charles Miller and our percussionist, Papa Dee Allen. And then Howard Scott has some production work to do. So does B.B. Dickerson.
"No, it won't all be for one company but maybe MCA will pick up on some of the product. One thing you can depend on, though — it won't be with United Artists!"