Best of 2014: Neil Young, Melissa Etheridge, Billy Idol, and More!

Listen to some of the best musicians of all-time candidly talk to Howard about other brilliant artists

February 6, 2015
Photo: The Howard Stern Show

The Howard Stern Show has always been the best venue for great interviews with musicians. They hang out and have a long-form conversation with Howard and Robin that always lead to big revelations—usually involving their fellow rock star peers.

It’s a small, exclusive club at the top of the rock heap, so there are often fights, affairs, bartering, stealing, mud-slinging, criticisms, and (sometimes) admiration.

Here then are the best gossip and opinions Howard pulled out of the tunesmiths who stopped by the studio in 2014.

Neil Young on David Crosby & CNSY

Neil and his ex-CSNY bandmate David Crosby have feuded famously for years and years. When Neil sat down with Howard, he assured everyone that a CNSY reunion tour will never ever happen, but he does wish David Crosby well in his life.

Neil, who is something of a contradiction, said there is love there for David, but there is also nothing there for David. “Playing with Stills and Nash in that band was really great,” he said, indirectly elaborating on his feelings for his former bandmate.

When you’re Neil Young, you can pretty much do what you want.

Melissa Etheridge on David Crosby

Photo: The Howard Stern Show

As everyone probably remembers, Melissa and her then-partner had a baby via a sperm donor and everybody wondered who the lucky guy was. She later revealed the father to be the aforementioned David Crosby.

It was Crosby’s wife’s idea, Melissa told Howard, and he brought his sample over to Melissa’s house in a brown paper bag. Beckett, the sure-fire musician baby, still hangs out with David from time to time and calls him “Bio Dad.”

Billy Idol on Lou Reed

When Billy Idol was on the show, he told an interesting anecdote about one of the rock greats: Lou Reed.

Billy decided that he wanted to write a song with Mr. Reed and he tracked Lou down. Lou said he’d write with Billy, but the fee would be $100 per hour. Lou, Howard theorized, was trying to act as a songwriting tutor to Billy—but at least his services were reasonable.

Joe Perry

Legendary Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry was once in such bad shape financially—about $180,000 in debt—that he had to sell one of his prized guitars to Guns N’ Roses founder and Stern Show regular Slash. At one point, Joe asked to buy it back but Slash refused. Out of the kindness of his heart, Slash returned the guitar on Joe’s 50th birthday.

Photo: The Howard Stern Show

Lenny Kravitz on Rock Legends

Lenny has worked with some of the best and he had the stories to prove it.

Working with Mick Jagger

Lenny worked with Mick Jagger on Mick’s solo album “Goddess in the Doorway“ and never before had he met anyone like himself who makes up gibberish lyrics while they write Lenny had never met anybody else who makes up gibberish lyrics while they write—making Mick a kindred spirit. And because his mom was a known actress—Roxie Roker from “The Jeffersons,” and he grew up around famous people, he wasn’t nervous working with the singer and was instead able to just enjoy the experience.

Working with Bob Dylan

Lenny opened for Bob Dylan to promote his first album, “Let Love Rule.“ He and Bob kept in touch and folk icon recently hit Lenny up when he was in Paris. Bob came over to Lenny’s house and they hung out for hours.

Eventually, Bob decided he wanted to go for a walk. It was pouring rain in Paris, but if Bob Dylan wanted to go for a walk, Lenny was going for a walk. They we wet and cold and they talked about politics, Barack Obama, real estate, everything. Eventually, Lenny was able to go home and dry off. Bob even gave him his harmonica.

Working with Madonna

Lenny wrote the song “Justify My Love“ and knew that it wasn’t right for him to perform. He thought of Madonna and called her up. ‘I have a #1 song for you’, he said. The infamous video was so racy for 1990 that it was banned from TV. Madonna, smart as she is, printed it on VHS tapes and sold it in stores. It was an enormous seller.

Working with Robert Plant

Legendary Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant actually opened for Lenny on his “Are You Gonna Go My Way“ Tour and Lenny describes him as a “great human being.“

Sia on Rihanna

Photo: The Howard Stern Show

Sia was one of the most poignant, fascinating interviews of the year. While she’s not a household name yet, she’s written some of the biggest hits of the last five years. One of them wound up in Rihanna’s hands and became a mega-hit.

“Diamonds,” which is probably Sia’s most famous song, wasn’t actually written with Rihanna in mind. She wrote the song in about ten minutes, after a particularly bad bout of depression. She thought about the kids in the dance tents taking ecstasy at music festivals. Rihanna had a hold on another song Sia had written, but Beyonce came along and snatched it up. Sia felt bad and offered her “Diamonds” instead.

Donovan on The Beatles

Donovan stopped by early in the year and told Howard about hanging with the Beatles on that famous trip to India.

He became very close to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, as well as the Beatles. When John Lennon became fascinated by Donovan’s finger-picking technique, he taught the band how to do it—all except Paul McCartney, who is left handed and had to develop his own odd way of picking, which is heard on the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”

Donovan would go on to contribute a line in the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”—“Sky of blue and sea of green, in our yellow submarine.”

Billy Corgan on Everyone

And then there’s Billy …

No musician was as open about his opinions of other artists as Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. There are plenty of news articles to prove it. Here are Billy’s thoughts and experiences on and with his 1990s peers.

Billy on Kurt Cobain

Billy flat out said that he and Kurt were the top two alternative songwriters of their time. ‘Anybody else is a distant third.’ He really admired Kurt’s ability and Kurt was one of the few people who could make Billy jealous through his greatness. Billy figured there were ten amazing Nirvana songs, which he love. Oh yeah, and Kurt did steal his girlfriend.

Billy on Courtney Love

Bill saw a photo of a young Courtney Love and said ‘I need to meet this girl.’ He called her label and arranged for her to stay at his apartment when she came through town. Not surprisingly, a romantic relationship developed. Billy called a young Courtney ‘a typhoon’ and he eventually had to throw her out of his apartment. She moved onto a ‘bigger fish’, her future husband Kurt Cobain.

Billy and Courtney have publicly feuded over the years, but he called her a ground-breaker and one of the undervalued musician. Still, Billy admitted that he stopped making hits when he stopped writing about Courtney and Courtney stopped making hits when he (Billy) stopped writing her songs.

Billy on the Foo Fighters

Billy was surprised that Courtney recently made up with former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl. Billy felt that Dave is a great musician, but the Foo Fighters have not “evolved” since their earliest days. Billy puts his life on the line to make new and different music, and the Fighters don’t seem to do it for him.

Billy on Pearl Jam

The act that really bore the brunt of Billy’s criticism was Pearl Jam. Robin asked if Billy would rank them up with Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins—Billy said “not even close.” Pearl Jam, according to Billy, are “derivative” and it’s “hard to say” whether or not their songs will stand the test of time. “I don’t think they have the songs,” Billy said. “You can’t stack them up against my songs and Cobain’s songs.”

Billy on Celine Dion

The Pumpkins were up for a bunch of Grammy Awards one year and they didn’t win—it finally got down to album of the year and Celine Dion took home the prize. She brought twelve producers onstage and proceeded to thank “the little people.” Billy was disgusted.

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