Interview: Larry Greene "Fortune"
This self-titled album from the Los Angeles based
Fortune has long been considered by AOR aficionados to be a demonstration
of just how good melodic rock can be when it's delivered by a team of
professionals at the very top of their game. I've seen more than a few
postings on the internet over the last few years proclaiming this to
be the best AOR album of all-time. That is, of course, very much open
to debate, but the facts are that whatever the quality of the material
the problem was that, at the time of release, the band's record was
rather overwhelmed in a competitive, cut throat business by a huge array
of other like-minded acts forging a similar path. Either through bigger
budgets or more promotion (even those, like Giuffria and Night Ranger,
who were signed to the same label) the sad fact is that other groups
thrived whilst Fortune rather got swamped.
Still, Fortune's vocalist, Larry "L.A." Greene, is immensely proud of
the album they released back in 1985. Indeed, so much so that the original
CD release of this album emerged a few years ago on the band's Gypsy
Rock imprint to celebrate its 20th anniversary complete with bonus tracks
- including three captured live opening for Fleetwood Mac - and a clever
update in the booklet on the photo that adorned the back cover of the
original LP release of the band pictured inside a bank vault.
The seeds of Fortune were planted by brothers Richard and Mick Fortune
who came from a family of professional musicians; their mother was a
singer and their father a bassist. However, Richard didn't start playing
the guitar until he was 16, whilst Mick started out as a keyboard player
before switching to drums. The brothers cut an album, "Fortune", on
Warner Brothers in 1978,, but by 1982 had totally revamped the group
with a key acquisition being the recruitment of Roger Scott Craig. A
classically trained pianist from the age of 8, the Irish born keyboard
player was, even then, the most well known member of Fortune having
spent a successful stint with Scouse pop group Liverpool Express in
Detroit born bassist Bob Birch had cut his musical teeth playing in
jazz bands in Motor City lounge bars, but was a man who had an appreciation
for more harder sounds from the likes of the Doobie Brothers and REO
Speedwagon, both bands he had encountered on numerous occasions over
the years as they would often be staying in the same hotels his bands
were playing in.
As for Chicago native Larry (his father, Brian Greene, was a blues guitarist
but is now a well known character actor), the singer had relocated to
Los Angeles where he played and recorded in a number of long lost groups
as well as earning some dough singing on commercials for products such
as Schlitz Beer. He was seemingly the sixtieth singer to have auditioned
"I was in a band on RCA called Teaser at the time I met Allen Mostow,
Fortune's manager," recalls Larry. "He put me together with Richard
and Mick who had just hired Roger. Roger and I hit it off as songwriters
right away. In actual fact, the first song we wrote was for the Tom
Cruise film "All the Right Moves". We've written a lot of songs since
then! Richard and I have as well."
"In terms of my past, I could go into a long history of recordings and
tours from back in school days, but it's kind of like looking into a
ghost-life, if you can imagine that. I did do a tour with Steppenwolf
for a little over a year when I was a kid in the late 70's. That was
just as crazy as you can possibly imagine it to be - Hells Angels and
There were no problems in continuing with the Fortune brothers' surname
as the band moniker: "I never really thought much about Fortune being
Richard and Mick's last name. Now that you bring it up, I think they
owe me. There are still plenty of alternatives - Doomsday Daiquiri,
Cigar Soup, Penguin Dust. The Toxic Sloths was a good one too!"
It would take the band some time to get noticed by record labels, but
by that point they had really established themselves on the L.A. club
scene as one of the regular bar bands in town. "We played around the
L.A. scene for a couple of years before the guys at Camel Records noticed
us," Larry acknowledges. "There were other labels interested, but I
don't think Camel had as much influence in signing us to MCA as Kevin
Beamish did who produced the LP. I had played with the Beckmeier Brothers
who were signed to Casablanca (their best known song, "Rock & Roll Dancin",
featured in the "Foxes" movie starring Cherie Currie and Jodie Foster),
so I knew who (Camel boss and former Casablanca executive) Bruce Bird
was, as well as few of the other guys who ran labels back then, Scotti
Brothers included. I never told anyone that until now. It was really
shady back then. I'm not going to mention names, but if you're reading
this, and I did anything to piss you off, it's all Roger's fault!"
"It was the manager, Allen, who had contacted Kevin Beamish. He liked
the songs, and the band, and we in turn liked what he did with REO Speedwagon
on the "Hi-Infidelity" album. I think we all thought that big, multi-layered
sound was good for us. Songs like "Smoke From a Gun", "Dearborn Station"
and "98 in the Shade" were his forte.
"We started the album at Sound City when Joe Walsh was recording there.
He had a trailer parked in the parking lot, so I guess he wouldn't have
to drive home. He'd come out at about two in the afternoon, wrapped
in an Indian blanket, engulfed in a cloud of smoke. Mick Fleetwood was
there as well, with the Mac. I think they were all part-owners or something
like that. We spent about three months recording and mixing in total.
We'd been playing live steadily, so we knew all of the songs pretty
well. We probably could have finished quicker, but that was right at
the heyday of the L.A. party scene. The wolf got a hold of the sheep,
and it made for a long night - if you know what I mean. In the end,
we had to go on total lock down, just to cut back on all the buffers
Camel/MCA opted to go with "Stacy" as the first (and, it appears, only)
single. "We never wanted the label to release "Stacy" as our first single,"
states Larry somewhat surprisingly. "We were a hard rock band. Having
a ballad as a first impression didn't seem like a good idea, but it
was easy to get airplay with that song, so they did it against our objections.
We played a few gigs after the release, but as far as promotion was
concerned, there wasn't any, and that was our biggest problem. Just
a lot of broken promises, and that eventually split us up."
Interestingly, by this point Larry had garnered a good deal of success
on his own by way of his contribution ("Through the Fire") to the massive
hit "Top Gun" soundtrack album and continued to do so after Fortune
on another soundtrack album for the Sylvester Stallone movie "Over the
Top" on which he contributed "Mind Over Matter" and "Take it Higher".
"I had met (producer) Giorgio Moroder during the 1984 Summer Olympics
here in L.A. I sang the song "Reach Out for the Medal" that he wrote
for the games. After the Fortune album was released, the chance to do
"Top Gun" came along, and as I was still signed with Camel/MCA, we thought
it might help to promote the Fortune album. I don't think any of us
who worked on that film thought it would be as big as it was, and still
is. Giorgio Moroder wrote most all of the songs on that record, although
Harold Faltermeyer wrote the theme, along with Steve Stevens from Billy
Idol's band. My old friend Tom Whitlock got to do the lyrics, and then
some of the artists, Kenny Loggins, and a few others got involved. I
had worked with Richie Zito before "Top Gun" on a band project called
Renegade with the guitarist/producer Ron Aniello. We worked well together,
and because Giorgio was so busy I lobbied to have Richie produce me.
I think that was his first real producing credit. He went on to produce
some great albums - Eddie Money, and Heart - to name a few."
""Over the Top" came my way after Fortune had split up," he continues.
"Working on that was a lot of fun, but the film wasn't up to the soundtrack,
in my opinion. I also had a song on the film "Mystic Pizza", which was
Julia Robert's first. That came after "Over the Top" and was a real
kick to work on, especially with Barry Mann."
Despite his soundtrack success, Fortune was the itch that wouldn't go
away, so Larry eventually reconnected with Roger Scott Craig to put
a new version of the band together having first begun operating as a
trio with two other musicians using the new band name of Big City. "I
met with drummer Rich Onori, and bassist Brian Peters a few years after
Fortune split up. The three of us formed the band Big City using some
of the songs Roger and I had written that weren't on the Fortune album.
I wrote a few songs with Tom Whitlock and Steve Porcaro that we used
as well. We played a few gigs, and it just sort of clicked."
However, by this point it was becoming increasingly harder for a band
like Big City to attract that same kind of attention from record labels
as they had previously. It was a frustrating time for melodic rock groups,
although Larry has an interesting perspective on this particular period.
"I don't think I know any serious musicians who think much about going
in or out of style. You kind of do what you do the best, and if it's
honest, someone in a position to help you usually shows up. I think
I've remained well tethered in my music and without much bloodshed."
Luckily, AOR guru Magnus Soderkvist, then at MTM Records came to the
rescue. "Magnus is one of those guys with a love for music that makes
him a pleasure, and a privilege, to work with," Larry acknowledges.
"I changed the name from Big City to Harlan Cage when Roger committed
to the band. I thought the name Big City was too generic, and pedestrian
to get properly noticed. Besides, it just seemed like a good idea at
Intriguingly, Larry and Roger offered new versions of Fortune songs
with Harlan Cage. "98 in the Shade" appeared on the self-titled debut
in 1996, "Dearborn Station" on 1998's "Double Medication Tuesday", "Thrill
of it All" on the third album "Forbidden Colors" and "Deep in the Heart"
on the fourth and last album "Temple of Tears" in 2002. Was that because
they still believed that the music had been overlooked and was too strong
to remain ignored or rather to give reference points to fans of the
"We honestly didn't know there were people outside the U.S. that had
heard any of our songs. We were surprised to hear they had. According
to our record company, very few albums sold there. Looking back, it
was probably just a way not to pay us. It's hard not to still think
about that, but you learn to stop letting it show."
As Roger Scott Craig took the Harlan Cage template even further with
the equally critically acclaimed 101 South, Larry has been keeping himself
just as busy. "I still get to work in films," he notes. "It's mostly
credit songs, and with young artists trying to promote themselves. Thankfully
there's been a broadening into television, which has been a real blessing.
I write with Peter Antansoff, who you probably know from Tito and Tarantula's,
and Ricky Lee. I also work with Ron Aniello, who's with Springsteen
now, as well as Steve Porcaro every now and again."
The Fortune guys have remained in touch. Indeed, Larry reunited with
them on May 7, 2011 at the Arena in San Fernando Valley. "It's the first
live performance we've done together in may years. Don't look now, but
I think someone left the window open at the asylum! I can't predict
whether there will be another Fortune or Harlan Cage CD, but the dice
that bear the numbers of our lives are pretty much our to roll, if you
know what I mean. I've learned to never, say never."
-- Dave Reynolds, May 2011