Last year on our quest to find Liz Damon in hopes of securing permission to reissue her band's underrated funk gem, "Woota (Feelin Good)", we discovered that Liz had been living and working in Las Vegas for several years now.
No one I knew had her contact info, so I took to the Facebook fan page and asked if anyone could put me in touch. Thankfully, someone did! And soon enough, I was hearing from Liz Damon herself. She'd recently retired and, although keeps a low profile herself on social media etc, was pleasantly surprised to hear from us about this obscure record the band released sometime in the late 1970s.
Liz was excited to imagine a new generation of music lovers discovering the Orient Express' music. I told her we'd start with "Woota (Feelin Good)" and go from there. The 45 in question is definitely a departure from group's sunshine pop sound, and it appeals more immediately to Aloha Got Soul's foundational focus on of funk/soul. (For those of your wondering: yes, we plan to reissue some of the band's other material as well!)
Around Thanksgiving time last year, Vinyl Don had plans to visit Las Vegas with family.
"Hey, what about meeting up with Liz Damon while you're there?" I said to Don. Of course, he jumped at the opportunity. Meeting Liz Damon is dream for many of her fans! And for us, a connection that was just waiting to be strengthened in person.
The two met at a restaurant during lunchtime. Here's an excerpt of their conversation, where Liz talks about how "Woota" went down.
Vinyl Don: ...were you involved in the songwriting process? I mean you guys started as a vocal pop band, more or less. And then you evolved, but always kept the same members? Or was it a rotating cast of people that worked with you guys?
Liz Damon: It was always a rotating cast. Maybe not the entire group, because a lot of us were together for a long time. But somebody always fell out. Somebody always had something else to do or didn't want to do it. I had two singers, two girls, and one of them had to leave because she got into this religion and she couldn't sing "Jesus" on stage. And one of our biggest songs performance-wise was Manhattan Transfer's "Operator", "get me Jesus on the line". She wouldn't sing "Jesus". So we lost her. There's was always something, you know, somebody that couldn't do it for some reason or another. So yeah, it was always a rotating cast.
But when we recorded our first album, we had extra singers that we hired — studio singers — that sang with us, and they doubled our voices. It wasn't easy enough in those days to overdub, you know, we'll sing and then you sing again and you overdub. Well, our manager decided, we'll just bring the studio singers in with you guys and you'll just all sing together, like a choir. It was kind of like in those days the Alan Copeland singers. Yeah. Kind of like that kind of thing.
Vinyl Don: That's amazing. And you recorded in Los Angeles that album as well?
Liz Damon: Oh yeah. That was the first one we recorded was in Los Angeles.
Vinyl Don: White Whale is based in LA?
Liz Damon: Yeah. And two of the other albums were done at home in Hawaii. "Me Japanese Boy" was done there — and I did all the overdubbing on that.
Vinyl Don: Wow.
Liz Damon: Yeah. Except, we had the Honolulu Children's Choir on "Japanese Boy". They sang the entrance to that, "La la la la la la. They were adorable. In fact, maybe five years ago when I was at the Fremont Hotel, this family came up and this lady said to me, "I sang in the children's choir on your "Japanese Boy".
Vinyl Don: Talk about full circle.
Liz Damon: That was incredible. There must've been like 25 of them or something. And of course they couldn't be paid cause they were children. But we, the company gave a big donation to the Honolulu Symphony Children's Choir. It was all part of the Honolulu Symphony. Anyway. It was great. And then the other album, it was Heaven In My Heart—
Vinyl Don: —Try a little Tenderness?
Liz Damon: —Try A Little Tenderness, that was on the first album, Heaven In My — wasn't it?No it wasn't. That was done at home (in Hawaii). Heaven In My Heart was done in LA, and there was another one, but the other ones I'm pretty sure we did in the studio.
I didn't like LA that much because — well for instance, let me tell you about "Woota". We would go in the studio early in the morning and everybody would have coffee or whatever and we started. We would sing, try out different songs, the band would play, "Hey let's do this here, let's do this here..." and it would go on for hours. Studio time is very expensive, even in those days, but it was part of our creative process.
So by the end of the day, I think it might've been four or five o'clock and we were all hungry and wanted to go. And somebody said, "No, let's just order something in," So we ordered chicken wings or pizza or something. And the guys said, you know, we're just going to relax. We're going to jam. So they went in and they jammed “Woota".
Vinyl Don: Wow.
Liz Damon: That's how they did it.
And so, you know, the girls got bored sitting in the green room and so we went in and said, "Hey, what's going on?"
And the band said, "Hey you guys! You, come over here and go, 'Feeling good!'". We went, "what?" They said, "No just try it Listen!" And it sounded pretty good. Just, "Here's what we're going to do..."
So we rehearsed it that way. And then the next day we went back in — we would do this for like four days out of seven: we'd fly in to LA, plan to stay a week and come back home, and four of those days we would just be in the studio, and then the rest was free time for whatever anybody wanted to do — so we went back the next day and said, "Well, let's try it out just to get an engineer in here and let's record it."
Vinyl Don: Wow.
Liz Damon: That's what we did. We did an awful lot
Vinyl Don: At the time or now?
Liz Damon: Now.
Thanks for reading. AGS-032 is out now on vinyl and all digital platforms.
If you agree that "Woota" should be in a commercial, hit us up here!