What Is “West Coast Music”?

In a recent conversation, Bill Champlin offered his take on what constitutes “west coast music” and what the genre represents. Having been a part of several of the early milestone releases in the late seventies, he should know a thing or two about the subject – though he admits that at the time, “we were just trying to make good music and put our hearts into it.”

Musical trends and genre development are of course, almost without exception, viewed more clearly in hindsight. From an outside perspective, it appears that a handful of up-and-coming producers were in the latter part of the 1970s attempting to graft a fresh and eclectic set of jazz, funk and soul influences into pop music, and that by hiring musicians with similar sensibilities – with an already distinctive style in spite of their young age – they were able to sculpt a cohesive sound that grew richer and tighter from one album to the next.

Champlin attributes some of the particulars of the sound to the producers being hands-on with the arrangements and performances. “Both David Foster and David Paich came into producing by way of session playing and, first and foremost, arranging. They are such great arrangers,” Champlin states. And it was through these roles as studio sidemen and makeshift overseers that Foster, Graydon and Paich broke into production.

Champlin continues: “Everybody knew that even though Joe Wissert is a great producer, and he was credited as such on [Boz Scaggs’s] ‘Silk Degrees’ album, for all intents and purposes, [David] Paich really produced that record. He arranged, played, and ran the sessions. All Joe did was send out for burgers.”

1 thought on “What Is “West Coast Music”?”

  • 1
    Morten Hansen on September 11, 2017

    Interestingly, the first time Champlin came to Norway to play live, back in the early 90’s, it was with a blues band playing mostly blues tunes and very little of his own material. If I recall correctly, he was pretty much unaware of the fact that people over here knew his “west coast” albums, let alone wanted to hear him play those songs. After that first tour, that changed, and his later band included Greg Mathieson, Jerry Lopez, and Tom Saviano, among others. I’m glad to have been present at those memorable 90’s gigs in Oslo!

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