Don't Wanna Hold Your Hand

Who in his right mind would have passed up the chance to join the Beatles? Rock-and-raving pianist Roy Young did. Regrets? Don't get him started.

"It turns out he'd written all this music for [the 1976 film] The Man Who Fell to Earth and it had gotten turned down. But he still wanted to use it, so he decided to put that on one side of the album. He brought in Brian Eno from Roxy Music to put all that synthesizer stuff into it. It was the first time he worked with Eno, but he ended up working with him quite a lot. He was a very clever guy, and David was very fond of him. But there was no specific sort of notation to it or anything; it was all sort of a synthesizer free-for-all. It was way out of my league, and out of anyone's league for that matter. So we all left after doing one side of the album and he finished it with Eno."

In yet another questionable career choice, Young moved to Toronto in 1977. He planned to conquer the U.S. and Canada the way he had England and Europe A by touring constantly. But the North American market was far different from the one he had just left. "Clearly the way to do things here [in the U.S.] was to release an album and then tour like crazy to promote it," Young theorizes. "But I was always doing something else in England or Europe when I had albums I should have been supporting here."

As a result, Young never released another album after Mr. Funky, and while he has toured North America extensively over the past two decades, both on his own and with Ian Hunter and seminal British blues-rocker Long John Baldry, the live gigs have gotten fewer and further between. Young and his second wife, Carol, a free-lance art director who has been listening to England's Little Richard for twenty years, moved to Miami in the spring of 1992 and were barely settled in when Hurricane Andrew ripped the roof right off the Kendall home they were renting. ("When I heard the storm was coming, I was like, 'What is a hurricane? What does it do?'" remembers Roy.) After briefly relocating to L.A. and Phoenix, the couple returned to Miami in late 1993. Some of Roy's bandmates lived in South Florida, and, after spending nearly fifteen years in Toronto, Young admits the sunshine still held a strong appeal despite his now-firsthand knowledge of hurricanes.

But while the meteorological climate has been more to Young's liking, until recently the musical climate has been absolutely frigid. Incredible as it may seem, the man who once shared a microphone with John and Paul, recorded with Berry, Bowie, Beck, Clapton, and Daltrey, toured with Rod Stewart, and counts nearly every British rock superstar from the Sixties and Seventies as a fan, has landed exactly one club gig in South Florida in eighteen months.

"My friends Eric Burdon and Brian Auger were here to play at the [now-defunct] Stephen Talkhouse on Miami Beach," Young relates incredulously and more than a little indignantly. "They found out I was in town and they just assumed I must have played there a hundred times already. They were amazed when I told them I hadn't played there at all. They invited me to join them on-stage, and I told them I'd love to. So I rang up the Talkhouse to clear everything ahead of time, and their response was, 'We've never heard of you. How do we know you're who you say you are.' I told them they could ask Brian or Eric. They took the attitude, 'We don't know who you are. If you want to play with them, it's your responsibility.' I tried to phone Brian and Eric at their hotel, but they were already out. By this time it was getting pretty close to their starting time, so I just gave up."

Young finally finagled a date at Hooligan's near the Falls in South Miami in mid-February. "They'd never seen anything like it," Young enthuses of his own performance. "The waitresses had this dazed look on their faces. Even the chefs were coming out to watch. But you can't explain that to someone at the Stephen Talkhouse." (Hooligan's employees contacted by New Times back up Young's assessment, saying that by the time Young and company finished their set, the club was packed to SRO capacity.)

Even if he were to play Rose's, Chili Pepper, Churchill's, Lefty's, Jessie's, and every other live music club in South Florida, however, Roy Young would still be a long, long way from the Reeperbahn in 1961. (Young has been tentatively booked to play Tobacco Road upon his return from Germany. He attributes a resurgence in interest in his career to the discovery by Dania resident Dave Rappoport of some striking photographs of Young on-stage at the Star Club with the Beatles.) "Roy's one of those introvert-extroverts," speculates Hunter. "He's not got the most confidence in the world. You always have to tell him, 'Roy, you're great. Roy, you're great.' He's an amazing musician. He'll always have a great band, and he'll always do a great show in that kind of way he does it. But he's from a different era. He's got a healthy ego but he doesn't know quite what to do with it. I mean, he'll sit at home and he knows he's good, but he just can't broadcast it."

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