My Page: Leslie Mendelson “Crazy Dreams”

May 20, 2024
My Page: Leslie Mendelson “Crazy Dreams”

It was a crazy dream.

I’m sitting in Malibu at a quaint little Italian restaurant with legendary record producer Peter Asher and iconic singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. They’re going back and forth talking, laughing and sharing stories about Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and the all-night jam sessions they used to have in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It felt like I was back in the golden age of Laurel Canyon. I was pretty quiet for most of the time, just taking it all in. What is there to say when you’re getting a firsthand account of rock-and-roll history? As if the night wasn’t magical enough, at some point over dinner, Peter asked me if I would like to hear the new Susanna Hoffs record that he had just finished producing. Did he know that I was a huge Bangles fan growing up? We took a trip over to the studio and, sitting right there, was Susanna herself listening to the songs they’d just recorded. She sounded as fresh and vital as she did on “Manic Monday.” Then it hit me! Wouldn’t it be amazing if Peter Asher were to produce my record? Yeah, baby!

The album title After the Party was inspired by Andy Warhol’s still life of the same name. I have a print of it on my wall and I would just stare at it. I would imagine The Velvet Underground, Nico and Edie Sedgwick at The Factory. I wanted to be at that party.

I started thinking about working on a new record after If You Can’t Say Anything Nice… came out during the pandemic, in the spring of 2020.  I’d already been working on a few songs, so I sent them to Peter. He liked what he heard and said that he was up for it. Who better than Peter Asher to add a little sprinkling of Technicolor to everything? We got to talking about who we wanted to make the record with. I immediately thought of the dream team that played on all of my favorite records. Waddy Wachtel actually went to high school with my dad. They played in a band together as kids and he was kind of a super-cool, rock-star distant uncle that shredded guitar with Keith Richards. Leland Sklar was a magical bass wizard and Jim Keltner played drums with John Lennon and just about everyone else. When I asked Peter how likely it would be to get these guys, he said, “No problem. I’ll make a few calls.” It’s nice to know people who know people. The last piece of the puzzle was the studio. We found ourselves recording at Groove Masters in Malibu, Jackson Browne’s amazing studio.  

Before long, we were all playing together, jamming on songs like “The Good Life,” “Rock and Roll on the Radio,” “Other Girls” and “Have a Little Heart.” I was totally in my element. It was so much fun to watch these guys play. Most of the songs were cut in one or two takes. Waddy took a slide solo on “I Gotta Go” that sounded so wild and fiery we couldn’t believe what we were hearing. Everyone was having a great time. Even the lunch breaks were entertaining. Leland was just putting out his book about middle fingers, Everybody Loves Me, at the time, so we got to hear some of those stories. He showed us this “magic producer switch” on his bass that wouldn’t actually do anything, but would convince producers that each take sounded better. Jim told us about the wood from one of his drum kits, which came from the bottom of a lake that was over a thousand years old. Jackson would pop in at the end of the day to sit down, hang out and listen to the songs with us. On the last session, Peter picked up the seldom-played ganjo for “I Know a Lot of People.” It sounded like it was straight out of The Muppet Movie. There was also a film crew following Peter around for a documentary they were making on him that made me feel like I was living in a movie. I guess, in a way, I was!

Sometimes you have crazy dreams. And sometimes crazy dreams, now and then, do come true.


Leslie Mendelson is a Grammy-nominated, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based singer-songwriter. She will release her next album, After the Party, on June 21 via Pasadena Records/ Royal Potato Family.