DAVE RADSTOCK

NEIL DIAMOND

ON  TELEVISION  

This new series will be concentrating on television appearances made by Neil Diamond. It will be looking at TV specials as well as guest appearances on chat shows and other variety shows. What this will give the reader and viewer will be an insight into not

just Neil Diamond as a music superstar, but also as a person, which will highlight

Neil Diamond as a multi-faceted personality.

In days gone by, it was a rarity to catch Neil Diamond on television. Being a very private person, it was only via a special broadcast that Neil was ever seen on TV, and it could be argued that due to Diamond’s immense standing as a global superstar, he didn’t need to advertise himself on television.

 

That all changed in more recent years where Neil Diamond was regarded as a top drawer guest on various chat shows, and also his own TV specials, it seemed viewing figures increased whenever Diamond was announced as a guest or feature on another kind of programme. None were as well received as when Neil Diamond was the subject of ITV’s “An Audience With.... series. - Dave Radstock

NEIL DIAMOND ON WOGAN    1989

Wogan was a British television chat show hosted by genial Irish DJ/Broadcaster, and raconteur, Terry Wogan. The show, was noted for having some of the biggest names in show business appear,

Sammy Davis Jnr, Elton John, Liza Minelli, George Best, Nancy Reagan etc...

Terry Wogan himself had a knack for interviewing such high profile celebrities, his easy manner and obvious charm was a great attraction for his guests, and so on 26 October 1989, he welcomed Neil Diamond onto the famed upholstery for a chat and some music. The show usually invited two or three guests, but on this occasion, given his immense standing, and the draw, Neil Diamond was his only guest, Terry’s introduction was sublime, humourous but sincere, and a fitting welcome to his superstar guest.

“Now, even allowing for the dingy purlieus of Shepherd's Bush, my one and only guest tonight could be pardoned for thinking he’s slumming it a bit, not too long ago he was asked to the White House, where Nancy Reagan invited him to sing, and the Princess of Wales asked him to dance. Now, if you're nice to him he might do a little bit of the both here as well, but only if we’re nice to him. As a songwriter, as a singer, as a live performer he has few equals, Ladies, and Gentlemen... Neil Diamond.”

 

The studio audience erupt into raucous applause, as a screen is lifted to reveal the man standing behind it, Neil Diamond, he gives a polite nod, and sings ‘This Time’ from his new album at that time, ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’.  Neil follows this up with ‘Forever In Blue Jeans’ to further enthusiastic applause.

Neil is dressed in smart, light blue/grey trousers, matched with a white shirt, and a navy blue jacket, he looks very relaxed and at ease as he greets Terry with a warm handshake before taking a seat in readiness for a chat with the host. The rapport between the two men is obvious, and gives the impression they know one another due to their work in the public domain.

 

Neil talks about his career, his early life growing up in Brooklyn, what motivates him, and how he strives to give everything when on tour. The conversation is cordial, and relaxed, Neil comes across as thoughtful, thinking about each question before answering, the questions are not in any way an interrogation, merely looking to give a glimpse into the world of Neil Diamond. For the audience and for the viewers at home, and also to promote the album and the UK tour. Neil reveals how he attended school with other music luminaries, Barbara Streisand, Carole King, and Neil Sedaka, who he speaks warmly of, also probably unknown to many people at the time, Neil Diamond was very adept at Fencing, and could have represented the USA at Olympic and championship level.

The interview continues with Terry asking Neil about his family, and asks him where his ideas for writing songs come from. Neil’s answers give an insight into his sharp mind in using a particular piece of information as a topic for a song, he uses ‘Cracklin’ Rose’ as an example.

The interview concludes with Terry thanking Neil for taking time out amid his hectic tour schedule to appear on the show to chat with him, Neil sings one last song from the album, a cover of Tracey Chapman’s 'Baby Can I Hold You’, a lovely version which sounds like a Diamond composition, such is his ability as a great interpreter of other’s work.

This show was a rare TV appearance by Neil Diamond on British TV at the time, and showcases Neil as the humble, gracious and genuinely sincere man that he is.

AN AUDIENCE WITH NEIL DIAMOND    2008

Over the last thirty years, ITV (Independent Television) had commissioned a series of shows featuring some of the world’s finest entertainers from various fields of entertainment, music, comedy, variety, and narrative. The show was simply entitled, “An Audience With... " and featured a singular artist, it proved a massive success, where such icons as

Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, and Lionel Ritchie from the world of music had appeared, and comedy geniuses such as Billy Connolly, Jackie Mason, and Ken Dodd all featured, and famous raconteurs such as Peter Ustinov, and Kenneth Williams were also afforded the stage.

The format was quite simple, but highly effective, the featured artist would appear and entertain a celebrity audience whilst fielding questions from members of the audience about their career, it made for fabulous television.

And so it was in 2008, amid a world tour, Neil Diamond was approached to appear in one of these specials, and he duly agreed.

The show was filmed at the London Television Centre on Saturday 17th May 2008, and was broadcast on Saturday 31st May 2008 at peak viewing time.

The broadcast began with announcer Marc Silk paying tribute to Neil Diamond over a montage of filmed concert footage, and then he introduced the Superstar singer/performer to the expectant and equally excited audience, as Diamond entered the stage from behind a screen, the audience erupted in tumultuous applause, it was something to behold seeing famous actors, musicians, comedians, and broadcasters looking in awe of the man standing before them on the stage. Neil immediately launches into 'America' a lively and upbeat start to the show, after  taking further applause, Neil Diamond accepted the greeting warmly, and stated how special it was for him to be performing on this, his first TV special in England.

Not only is this show a musical treat for the attendees and viewers at home, it also shows how genuinely sincere Neil Diamond is in the way he relates to the audience and in how he answers the varied questions posed. There is warmth, humour, and humility, none more evident as when he answers a question from Craig Revell-Horwood, (dancer and choreographer) who tells Neil he is an inspiration, and how it was Neil’s music which got him interested in dance. He asks Neil what it was like dancing with Princess Diana, Neil’s reply is beautiful and eloquent -

“She was extraordinary. She was an extraordinary person to begin with, she was a real human being, she was sensitive, and it was an honour of course, and she asked me, I never would have had the nerve to ask that lady to dance, or speak to me, or even look at me, and she turned out to be a fan, and she asked if it was proper in the United States for a lady to ask a gentleman to dance, and I said of course, and we danced, and it was like holding a feather, and moving to the music of the gods, and I don’t think she will ever be forgotten, certainly not by me.”

Neil Diamond looks impeccable in a smart black suit, matched with a dark shirt, his neat hair and clean shaven appearance belies his age, where he looks decidedly younger than he actually was at that time, his vocals are rich and smooth as he moves through his catalogue of hits to the delight of the celebrity audience, all the big songs are there. 'America', 'Cracklin' Rosie', 'Sweet Caroline', these are interspersed with a few new songs at the time from his then new album 'Home Before Dark', which had reached #1 on the album chart both sides of the Atlantic, where Neil replied to a question from fellow musician

Alex James who had asked what it felt like to finally have a number one album, where he said it was “Onederful”

The questions continued, one particular one from actress Michelle Collins of Soap Opera fame, she is evidently and noticeably swooning at

Neil Diamond whilst asking her question and also taking the reply. She asks, “Some of your songs are about love, what’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?" Neil answers by relating how he fell in love as a teenager, and he didn’t have anything to give her, so he wrote a song for her, and she married him, the lady was his first wife Jay Posner, and the song was 'Hear Them Bells'.

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The show continued towards its conclusion, a rousing rendition of

'Sweet Caroline' which has everyone on their feet, and singing along, it was a fitting end to a fabulous show, and Neil as gracious as ever, thanks the audience warmly and bids his farewell.

I have seen many of the “An  Audience With....”  specials on TV, and without fear of contradiction, this stands out as possibly the best of them, Neil Diamond was at his most talented, gracious, humble and sincere best, a true human being and prodigiously talented.

Diamond’s performances of those songs were masterful, 'Pretty Amazing Grace', 'Home Before Dark', and 'Don’t Go There'. Described as a “sly song” by Neil, there are artists who would kill for a song like that, speaking about the perils of unprotected sex, and drugs, but done in a way that was not only clever in getting the message across, but without being overtly graphic in the lyrics as would have happened with many rap artists of today.

Sir Tim Rice, another genius songwriter/composer asked Neil whether it was harder to write songs now as opposed to when he was younger, Neil sends the question right back to Tim, and asks, “Well, you tell me, is it easier to write wonderful lyrics that you've have written now then it was when you were 19?" 

Sir Tim replies that you get better technically, and more expertise, but you lose the passion and emotion, Neil’s reply is beautiful, where he states, “You need to write with a composer that can provide the passion and emotion, and I volunteer.“

NEIL DIAMOND: ELECTRIC PROMS    2010

The BBC Radio 2 Electric Proms was an October music festival in London run by the BBC for five years, from  2006-2010. Over those five years, the series hosted some of the biggest names in music, where they would perform a live set at London’s Roundhouse in Camden. In 2010, Neil Diamond was invited to perform, the show was filmed and broadcast on BBC2. The series each year covered three nights, and on each night a particular artist was featured, In 2010, Elton John, and Robert Plant guested, prior to Neil Diamond closing the event on October 30.

 

This appearance was Diamond’s first live performance since his world tour of 2008. The set would include songs from his new album release at the time, ‘Dreams’ and would feature classic covers like Bill Withers, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, Gladys Knight’s ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’, and a reworking of his own composition, ‘I’m A Believer’, which became a massive hit for the Monkees.

The set focused on his extensive back catalogue, including performances of his most famous songs, ‘Cherry Cherry’, ‘Forever In Blue Jeans’, ‘Sweet Caroline’.... Diamond appeared in a smart black suit, with little if any of the glitz that he had become known for, with his neat cropped hair, he looked every inch an elder statesman of music rather than the energetic rocker of his immense live shows. However, Diamond still oozed the charisma that he always possessed, and charmed the audience with his performance.

The audience was pressed tight to the stage, where many could actually touch the Superstar singer, it didn’t phase him, where he actually welcomed the attention from his adoring fans.

Diamond announced that he hadn’t performed live for two years, and “Was wondering before I came out tonight, are you going to make a fool of yourself? 

And the answer is, absolutely yes, I have every intention of doing that.”

Halfway through the performance, Diamond introduced the first of his guests, the diminutive Scottish singer Lulu who had a moderate hit with Neil’s song ‘The Boat That I Row’.

Neil explained that he first met Lulu at a recording of Top Of The Pops after she released her version of the song in 1967. Diamond told the crowd that he remembered Lulu as “A little spark-plug, like a little bit of Champagne”, after their first meeting, but joked, "She came from a poor family, I know, because they could only afford one name for her, and even that had two of the same syllables! I mean they really had to save money on this kid!"

Neil was joined a little later by his second guest, Amy McDonald, who he described as a beautiful and talented Scottish Lass, who sings like an Angel.

She performed a rendition of Diamond’s ‘Shilo’ as well as her own song, ‘This Is The Life’, at Diamond’s request, after completing her guest spot, Diamond took the reins again and performed a stunning ‘Holly Holy’ complete with full orchestra, conducted by Neil’s long-time keyboardist and arranger Alan Lindgren, this was followed by a lively ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’, which had everyone singing along, Neil slowed the tempo down with an impassioned ‘I Am... I Said’ which received a due and rightful ovation, this was followed by the penultimate song of the night, Neil’s universal hit ‘Sweet Caroline’ complete with raucous singalong. This song never fails to hit the mark.

Diamond left the stage briefly, before returning for an encore of 'Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show', a fitting finale to a celebration of his music.

Once again Neil Diamond had triumphed, after a career spanning five decades, over 130million albums sold, and three dozen top forty hits, a Grammy, a Golden Globe, and many other accolades.

Neil Diamond had created his very own new moments of his career with this closing night performance of the Electric Proms 2010, the show was a fitting showcase for the incredible performer as he revisited his own back catalogue of hits, interspersed with some of his own favourite compositions, and we were thankful it was captured as a live broadcast from the BBC Radio and Television.

NEIL DIAMOND: ONE NIGHT ONLY    2014

This one off TV special was commissioned by ITV, where Neil Diamond was to perform a concert at London’s historic Palladium Theatre, as the title of the broadcast suggested, it was for “One Night Only” and possibly the broadcasting station sensed they had a sure fire hit show on their hands.

The show was broadcast in November 2014, and was hosted by lifelong Neil Diamond fan, Welsh comedian and actor Rob Brydon, where he seemed in his element presenting this show, and almost in awe of the legendary performer. The chemistry between Diamond and Brydon was at times forced, given that they were initially thrown together, but was on the whole cordial, and by the end of the show, it appeared both had warmed to each other.

The show was offered freely as a first come, first served basis, and was a precursor to Neil Diamond’s UK tour the following year, as well as promoting his new album at the time, ‘Melody Road’.

The broadcast isn’t solely devoted to the concert, it takes us back to Brooklyn, New York, where Neil spent his childhood. He takes Brydon back to the home where he grew up, which inspired ‘Brooklyn Roads’. The present occupants probably couldn’t believe they were to be visited by such a star. Diamond spoke of the escapades he got up to, much to the annoyance of his neighbour below, and was a true reflection of how kids are.

There is a wonderful moment where Neil recounts his last appearance at the Palladium where he stated Michael Caine was in the audience, and wished that he could have attended tonight. It was an obvious lead up to allow Rob Brydon to showcase his own talent of mimicry, and his impression of Michael Caine is really good, this carried out whilst performing ‘Song Sung Blue’ with Neil Diamond.

The show continues with Neil performing ‘Cracklin’ Rosie’ and telling Rob he can’t sing it with him, all tongue in cheek of course. We are then taken back to America where Neil talks about how he was fired by five publishing houses, and the nostalgia of revisiting the Bitter End Club, we are then taken to Neil’s former High School, Erasmus High, where Neil is to perform a

pop-up gig in order to showcase his ‘Melody Road’ album.

The show starts with Brydon stood in the wings of the theatre going through his introduction of the superstar singer, as he reads some of the facts, Neil Diamond is stood at his shoulder correcting him on some of them, it was an attempt to inject some humour prior to the performance. Diamond pats him on the back as he makes his way to the stage following the call. He enters to raucous applause and the strains of his hit ‘Beautiful Noise’ which opens the show, the audience are ready and Diamond looks relaxed as he launches into the song.

 

He is dressed in a dark velvet jacket, and grey shirt and slacks for the performance, but what is notable is his sporting a beard, giving him a more distinguished air, looking every inch a silver fox.

The broadcast then returns to the Palladium Theatre, where Neil does indeed perform a selection of songs from the aforementioned album, they are well received.

The show includes all the standards that we come to expect from a Neil Diamond concert, interspersed with some beautiful new songs, and a wonderful insight into Neil’s life, both growing up, and his climb to superstardom.

Neil Diamond retains that genuine sincerity that exists within him, where he is warm and welcoming to his host, Rob Brydon, who turns out to be a good choice to take this musical and personal journey with Neil, where in being a fan of Neil Diamond would prove to be a great personal experience for him.

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Thanks and appreciation to Dave Radstock for his invaluable and infromative contributions