Rod Temperton: Weitere Station in Deutschland

7. Oktober 2016

Rod Temperton hatte für eine weitere Band in Deutschland gespielt. Im Widerspruch zu den Medienberichten, hier was sich tatsächlich zugetragen hatte, nachdem der Musiker und Komponist auf eine 35 DM teure Zeitungsanzeige reagierte… Zudem: Brad Sundberg („In The Studio with MJ“) erinnert mit einer ausführlichen Message an Rod Temperton.

Rod Temperton, der für Michael Jackson unter anderen „Thriller“ oder „Rock With You“ komponierte, trug nicht einfach so den Übernamen „The Invisible Man“. Tatsächlich agierte er meist im Hintergrund – die Öffentlichkeit kannte zwar zahlreiche Hits von ihm, doch die Perosn dahinter kannte kaum einer. (abgesehen von der Zeit, in der er ein aktives Mitglied von „Heatwave“ war.)

So sind auch die Informationen über seine Biografie spärlich. Bereits wurde sein Geburtsjahr auf korrigiert. Offenbar ist Rod Temperton gemäss der Nachricht über seinen Tod nicht im Jahr 1947, sondern am 9. Oktober 1949 in England geboren. Er starb folglich im Alter von nur 66 Jahren. Unklar ist scheinbar auch, von wem und für welche Band die berüchtigte Anzeige in der britischen Zeitschrift „Melody Maker“ geschaltet wurde. Gemäss der deuschen Wikipedia-Seite, wurde „eine Zeitungsanzeige“ von Bernd Springer geschaltet, worauf Temperton nach Worms reiste und ein Teil von der Soul-Coverband “Sundown Carousel” wurde. Gemäss der englischen Wikipedia-Eintrag und aktuellen Medienberichten aus England wurde im „Melody Maker“ eine Zeitungsanzeige von Johnnie Wilder, Jr. placiert, der für die US-Band “Heatwave” einen Keyboarder suchte. Wir haben nochmals eine andere Version.

Tatsächlich war Rod Temperton offenbar über einen andere Band-Station nach Deuschland gelangt und spielte kurzzeitig, vor seinem Engagement in Worms, im ganz in der Nähe gelegenen Ludwigshafen.

Wenige Tage nach Michael Jacksons Tod hatte uns eine Mail vom Musiker Fred Wassner aus Deutschland erreicht. Er hatte einen Beitrag von über Rod Temperton gelesen und schrieb folgendes:


Rod startete seine Karriere keineswegs 1977, sondern bereits 1970 in Ludwigshafen / Deutschland als Keyboarder. Damaliges Equipment war eine, von mir geliehene, Hammond Orgel plus Vox AC 30 Amp. Per Anzeige im Melody Maker Magazin zum Preis von DM 35.00 und einem Ticket per Bahn für DM 150.00 wurde Rod von mir nach Deutschland geholt. Unser Bandname war damals Monicas Group.

Tägliche Auftritte in US-Clubs waren für Rod Grund genug, zu uns nach Deutschland zu kommen. Nachdem alle in der Band der Meinung waren, dass Rod in keiner Weise zu uns passte, bot ich ihn verschiedenen Bands als Keyboarder an. Niemand wollte ihn haben. Rod verschwand ohne eine Nachricht über Nacht und verzichtete sogar auf die ihm zustehende Gage. (Letztmalig sah ich Rod anlässlich einer Band Audition 1986 in Darmstadt, als er plötzlich neben mir auftauchte)

Bernd Springer von der Band Sundown Carousel holte Rod später irgendwie nach Worms. Dort muss Rod dann Johnny Wilder getroffen haben und Heatwave entstand. 1978 hörten wir aus einer Jukebox immer wieder den Titel Boogie Nights und lasen Rod Temperton auf der Platte. Das Weitere ist bekannt…

Fred Wassner, 30. Juni 2009,


Brad Sundberg, der am 21. und 22. Oktober mit „In The Studio with Michael Jackson“ in Berlin zu Gast ist, schrieb heute auf Facebook die weiter unten folgende Nachricht.

Rod Temperton sei eine unglaublich lustige Person gewesen. „Ich glaube die Sessions dauerten etwa 15% länger als Resultat von Rod’s Humor, aber das Endresultat war um 50% besser, da er soviel Spass in den Raum brachte.“

In Lugano in der Schweiz besass Rod Temperton offenbar eine kleine Eigentumswohnung. „Nichts besonderes“ wie Rod Temperton gegenüber Brad Sundberg sagte, als er dem Tontechniker die Wohnung für Ferien anbot. So reiste Sundberg mit seiner Frau und seinen beiden Töchtern mehrmals für Ferien ins Tessin. „I won’t write a travel-log about Lugano (which is beautiful), rather my point is we must have used that condo at least three times. In fact we actually bought bunk beds at the local Ikea so there would be enough beds for my girls! Rod thought that was crazy and loved that I had done it. That was Rod. Genuine and giving, funny and loving. An absolute one-of-a-kind, remarkably talented man. A true gentleman in every sense of the word.“


Sweet Freedom

I read the words on my screen, but I didn’t want them to be true. „Rod Temperton dies at age 66“.

Just a simple headline to a news story about a man who’s name most people don’t recognize, but they all know his music. I knew I wanted to write about Rod, but I have pushed my computer aside for two days, not knowing where to start, what stories to tell. Then I started flipping through an old photo album. It was like visiting with an old friend.

I’m pretty sure I first met Rod during the production of „The Color Purple“ in 1985. I was a new hire at Westlake Studios as a runner. It’s hard to describe those days, and I don’t remember the exact chronology, but Michael was working on Captain EO, and Bruce, Quincy and Rod were working on Purple. But almost at the same time they started working on the soundtrack for the movie Running Scared. It was back-to-back sessions, and I was exposed to pure genius day after day.

Rod had this dry, British humor that draws you in right away. By the time I met him in the mid-80’s he was already remarkably successful in the industry, yet he treated me (and virtually everyone I saw him interact with) with humility, humor and grace. He made everyone in the room feel at ease.

Over the course of those early months I quietly watched Rod and the team bring an amazing song called Sweet Freedom to life. Rod carefully painted this musical work of art with a thunderous bass line, perfectly-placed horns and an infectious melody. It was one of the first „hit“ songs I had ever seen go through the studio birth. I was hooked.

You already know much of Rod’s discography, but in addition to Sweet Freedom there are a few songs stand out for me. Grooveline, Rock With You, Baby Come To Me, Miss Celie’s Blues, You Put A Move On My Heart, and of course Lady In My Life.

Truth be told, Rod was my very first „client“ outside of the studio. He asked me to build him a small theater in his Bel Air home. Rod loved movies and he wanted a sound system that could play loud. Like really, really loud. So I built him a small theater and our friendship was solidified.

Over the course of the next several years I was worked with Rod on albums for Michael Jackson (Bad), Siedah Garrett (Kiss Of Life), Quincy Jones (Color Purple, Back On The Block and Jook Joint) and Barbra Streisand (Till I Loved You). Working with an amazing team like Rod, Bruce and Quincy is a mixed blessing because you start to think EVERYONE makes records like that – then reality hits when you work on „other“ sessions that are miles from the dream team.

But outside of the projects he commissioned me to build matching recording studios in each of ihs four homes in Bel Air, Cannes (France), London and Kent (UK). This is the side of Rod I want to tell you about.

I had done some work in his Bel Air studio and he asked me if I could build him a sister studio in Cannes, so he could start a song in one location and travel with it to another. I had never been to Europe, so I jumped at the chance.

After some friendly negotiating he agreed to bring my entire family along for the project – in fact I will go out on a limb and say he welcomed them along. He was so excited that we wanted to travel with our girls that he arranged (and joined us for) an amazing dinner on the 4th of July on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea.

The funny thing about our dinner photo is that Rod took it, so he’s not in it! He loved digital photography, which was very new, and he owned every camera as soon as they were released. He would spend hours noodling with photoshop and edits.

Rod loved fine food, but he wasn’t pompous. He loved a good story or joke, but he wasn’t vulgar. He loved travel and skiing and fine clothing and music, but he was remarkably approachable. He could tell stories for hours, but he wasn’t a big shot.

The last studio I built for Rod was in Kent, England. We stayed in the guest house of he and Kathy’s estate for about a week. Deb and the girls explored the area in a rental car (stay to the left!), and I constructed the studio with solder and sweat, day by day. At night Rod and Kathy might take us out for dinner, but one very memorable evening Kathy fired up the outdoor pizza oven and we had a huge feast of pizza and salad in the garden. It was nothing short of magical. I think it was that evening that Rod pulled out his Segway and taught us all to ride it. I think he had as much fun teaching us as the girls did learning it. That was Rod.

I never saw Rod drive a car. He owned several, but he didn’t drive. He preferred to go the studio in a taxi, or – as anyone who has worked with Rod will tell you – simply bum a ride home with one of the musicians or engineers. I don’t mean once in a while, I mean every day. I drove Rod home countless times, as did much of the staff at Westlake. I once asked him why he doesn’t drive, and he explained that when he was a young musician in England he would drive the band’s old van to every single gig, all over the countryside. Once he achieved a level of fiscal comfort, he vowed he was done driving. And he was.

Driving Rod anywhere was always a labor of love, because he had this amazing knack of seeming to be interested in everything. Seriously. He would ask about my family, where I grew up, what I thought of a certain politician or musician or movie, and he would listen. He would ask questions, and he had strong opinions, but he wasn’t looking for a debate . He was a master in the art of conversation.

He was also painfully funny. I think sessions might have lasted 15% longer as a result of Rod’s humor, but the end result was also 50% better because he brought such joy to the room.

I remember during the production of „Back On The Block“ Rod discovered something called „Carolina Honey Ribs“ from a restaurant called Tony Roma’s in LA. Each afternoon I would suggest we start thinking about dinner (the best part of any session), and Rod would often light up and say, „Let’s get some Carolina Honey’s!“ And so we did.

One day I was at Rod’s house and the bell rang, and in walked Jamie Guthrie, Pink Floyd’s engineer and producer. (Keep in mind I am a huge Floyd fan). We sat and had coffee (Rod ONLY drank instant coffee because he preferred the flavor!), and I was again humbled at the amazing amount of talent these two men brought to the table. Legends.

I have read descriptions of Rod being this „invisible man“ behind so much incredible music. I guess I never thought of him that way because he was so approachable and kind. And generous.

During the time I was working with Rod he told me about a small condo he owned in Lugano, Switzerland. „Nothing fancy“, he explained, just a little getaway that he rarely used. Without missing a beat he said, „Anytime you want to use it, just let me know.“

Towards the end of the next project I (nervously) asked if he was serious about us using it. „Of course!“ he said, and he had Kathy give us instructions on the how to get there, operation of the heat, etc. And we were off.

I won’t write a travel-log about Lugano (which is beautiful), rather my point is we must have used that condo at least three times. In fact we actually bought bunk beds at the local Ikea so there would be enough beds for my girls! Rod thought that was crazy and loved that I had done it.

That was Rod. Genuine and giving, funny and loving. An absolute one-of-a-kind, remarkably talented man. A true gentleman in every sense of the word.

I was spoiled. I got to spend days, months and years working with musical giants like Michael, Quincy, Bruce and Rod. I don’t take one moment of it for granted, and I am forever thankful.

My heart is broken for Kathy and his family and friends. I pray for them as they try to figure life out without Rod. And I raise a toast to such a brilliant man and such a sweet friend to many, including me.

Rest in peace dear friend, and thank you.



Die Nachricht von über die Todesnachricht von Rod Temperton mit einem Live-Video von Heatwave, sowie einigen Songbeiträgen für Michael Jackson, hier:
Rest in Peace, Rod Temperton