Early in the evening of December 8, 1980, New York singer/songwriter Roxanne Fontana composed her song "Time Won't Wait", on electric 12-string guitar. The entire song was written in one sitting: the words, the music, even the opening intro notes. Exhausted from the creation, the 21 year-old Fontana fell asleep before 10 pm that evening. Woken by a phone call from a friend in New York City who had just returned home from Studio 54, she was told of the shooting death of John Lennon. Ms. Fontana shares thoughts with jungleroom.com:
What was you life like in 1980...in New York City?
In 1980, I was living back at my parent's house on Long Island. I had already been living on a greyhound bus, Hollywood at the sleaziest point of it's history, and then in Greenwich Village with this band called the Student Teachers--who were a poplular band in the village out of the lineage of Blondie and The Mumps. I was back living with my parents at age 21 and traveling into New York City to hang out at the downtown club scene, which I began doing when I was sixteen, underage, at CBGB's and other clubs with phony age ID! 1980 was the beginning of a very prolific songwriting period. I debuted at My Father's Place--a Long Island club that was very well known with international acts. I debuted there on Halloween-eve 1980! Outside of one song at a local bar, my first stage was on one that many legends played on...that's good for a buzz...inspiration. Instead of honing one's work at big parties and bars it was...bang!... and then it never got bigger. That is mainly what my book 'American Girl' is about...that and chick stories.
Were you a big Beatles fan? A John Lennon fan?
I was a Beatles fanatic since age 5 . There is a story in my book 'American Girl' about how I made the whole class go home from a field trip to Kennedy airport, faking stomach pains. I was terrified because we had found out the Beatles were coming in. The teacher made the correlation and told my mother, I thought I had outsmarted the teacher pretending to be ill... but I guess not. Years later, my mother told me that the teacher was "concerned" at my reaction. Ha! I made the whole class abort their trip. Yes, I was a Beatles and Lennon fanatic my whole life. I still remember that school trip. Crazy...
How did your song "Time Won't Wait" come to the attention of Jack Douglas?
Jack is a fan of my videos, which are low budget creative videos done to my very melodic, lyrical songs. I think I showed him a video to "Time Won't Wait' from a 1998 show. I tell the story behind the song as I introduced it. That is the first time he may have lerned about the song...a few years ago.
How does it feel to have "Time Won't Wait" released after all this time? It's been a long journey...
The title is irionic! It feels like it's "time" has come... very strange.
What was the role of producer Jack Douglas (John Lennon, Aerosmith, etc.) in the recording of the song? Did he act as primarily as the engineer, help with arrangements, gather the appropriate musicians, etc.?
We corresponded a bit before I got to New York...we thought we'd do it girl group sound...but then I didn't like the way it was sounding, so we ended up scrapping the idea of doing that and just making it sound like a typical Roxanne Fontana song with only the Jack Douglas magic on it--and I am happy. Yes, he did have input, he made me carry the outro words a bit longer, for instance. I picked the musicians...the cream of the crop of New York players.
It must have been a dream come true to work with Jack Douglas on a project so close to your heart...
Well...when he said that he wanted to work with me years ago, after watching my videos, it was one of those lie down moments..and I just thought instantly "Oh God, time won't wait." Yes, it was a lie down moment as you can imagine.
Who are the musicians that played on the song? Is your husband on it?
My husband, Mat Trieber, played the piano and all the keyboards on it. I wrote the music that he is playing. For the most part, the intro for example, I wrote taht night December 8, 1980. I wrote that all in one sitting. We got Anne Husick who is well-known as a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter spearheading the anti-folk village scene. She also curates shows at the Sidewalk Cafe. I'm in love with her guitar part on this record--it sticks in my head. Jack was well pleased with her, they loved each other. She deserved the praise from a great like him. Cynthia Ross, the bass player, is legendary on the New York rock scene. I use to go see her band The B-Girls at the top clubs in New York. She is a mega girl group fanatic and loves the Shangri-las, as did the whole New York Dolls crowd...and that's my voice. I'm from Brooklyn and Elmont...just a few minutes drive from Cambria Heights, where the Shangri-las were from. They recorded those records in Hempstead, across the street from the Calderone theatre...so Cynthia and me are a perfect fit because of that bond. She is a bassist in a band named New York Junk--they have an album out. Dominick Salvemini is my cousin and my original drummer. He is a mega John Lennon fanatic, so he had to do it. I pulled him out of his slumber, he's a world famous car guy...in fact, he was chickening out and wanting his friend Max Weinberg to do it. I was like...ummm, well, uh...ok, but you should do it. Dominick and I were at the Lennon vigil together in Central Park, December 1980. He was there for the spirit of the matter, but did a good job playing.
Where was it recorded at? How has the recording process change from your artist point-of-view from the 80s to today?
Bunker Studios in Brooklyn. We were using tape in the 80's, we almost used tape on this song, but we were moving at a fast pace, so we did it digital. Jack and I both love tape, we are old school by preference... actually, most are! Funny, how ridiculous is that? Hah! It is now easier to work than then...what we did in two days probably would have taken four in the 1980's.
Are you still living in England? How did your music tastes and talents change when you relocated from the United Staes to the UK?
Yes! I live in the west midlands England, in the country, it is beautiful...nothing changes because things are stagnant anyway. There is no longer any scene in London or in the UK, as there was in the 90's or obviously before that. Bands play, bands come in and they go out... it's just a conveyer belt of concerts. There is no vibe...there are different small scenes that are worldwide anyway. I have been made aware of the young psychedelic music scene. People in their 20's into 60's psychedelia music and clothes..full-on, no compromise...beads, jams...it's fantastic. I was always a bit of that myself and now it's coming into full view. I'm old enough to be their mother (at least!) but it is freindly to me. I have a record offer out of Rome, Italy by one of the labels putting out this music. It is run by the coolest looking young Italian guy. It is fantastic. I am so honored to be welcomed. It makes me feel like maybe I can be the next Amanda Lear: any female performer's dream. To be in one's 70's, look fabulous, stay as you are in the right way. Energy. She's better than Mick Jagger. I wouldn't mind being the oldest kid on the block, as long as i'm on the block.
Do you still perform live on occasion? Is there any possibility of you performing "Time Won't Wait" in front of an American audience?
Yes! I do acoustic shows here and there. I did a few shows in Stockholm this year and then a big one in New York at a packed club billed as a birthday party for me that was thrown for me at the Sidewalk Cafe. I got to pick the acts and I picked David Peel to headline, His band did Occupy Wall Street and there were some people hanging there that were from the 1960's Greenwich Village scene...old friends of Jimi Hendrix...they have all come back. It was an amazing experience in my life, i've had many scenes down there, with historic places. The Bitter End, CBGB's, and to be so celebrated ten years after moving out, for just disappearing and visiting, it was crazy fun.
How are you involved with the NYC John Lennon statue project?
The people behind it found out about the song and helped fund it. Now that's another great type of thing that's happened to me this year. That kind of endorsement.
What is the progress on having the statue erected? Where is the proposed location?
The location is obviously in New York City...maybe Central Park...most likely. The sculptor is as realistic as the Beatles statues that were unveiled in Liverpool. The project just needs the right kind of commercial support, financial support. They are looking for commercial support. Public funding...I guess it is considered. Not from fans, or Yoko Ono, but where funds are huge. Commercial enterprises make more money than most successful artists, as we know. Not that it should be a bank...guess it would have to be something "good"...something that John Lennon would have been into...would be the best candidates to back the statue. Maybe a clean energy company or something...the possibilities are endless with that statue. The prototype is on their website...
World events (the refugee crisis in Europe, war in Syria, terrorism in France and America, etc.) seem to have taken an unusually bad turn lately. Do you have any thoughts about what John Lennon might say if he were here today?
The same thing that he said then: the world is run by insane people! We always go through troubled times do to the Kings and their money...we have been here before in history. The serfs always win, otherwise we would all be gone by now, if you let the greedy pigs get their way.
Do you have any personal views to share? The war profiteers seem to be hell bent on starting World War III...
They probably will. I think it is interesting, as a virgi I ananlyse it all. This morning I listened to a talk tank on BBC radio discussing Saudi Arabia and their relationships with the United States vs. China. I try to piece together when Armageddon may in fact occur by their projections. I don't do this out of fear, but more out of fascination. Astrology, bible prophecies, other prophecies...the behavior of my fellow man. "What's wrong with my fellow man, what's wrong, what's wrong" that's the Steppenwolf song "He's A God Fearing Man"--do you know that song? There is something soothing about the cyncism of it.
Any thoughts about writing another book--perhaps taking up where "American Girl" ended?
Definitely going to do another book of stories--a lot has happened since that book ended...more...lots more. A big part of being the mother of a special needs child, but rock and roll ties in with that, because i'm a true rebel and so ofcourse there are stories there with the establishment...and the music thing is ever developing. I stopped doing music for a long time because I was writing with my husband and managing his band in LA. He is 20 years younger than me...then my first cd "Love Is Blue" started selling and it was like...hhhmmmm. So I got back in, with the best results ever...so that was unexpected!
What is next for Roxanne Fontana?
Putting the book into print and putting out some vinyl 45's on Crytmo Records out of Rome...trying to rock it in the "end times" , hope i'm not a victim of the crazy stuff going on in the world but I believe in the hereafter...so no worries, no fear.