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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 16, 2003

Singer goes 'On And On' about ... Clapton?

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, who nearly won a best-song Oscar in 1985 for writing "Separate Lives," performs Saturday at Doris Duke at the Academy. And since it's a paying gig, you can count on hearing Bishop croon his biggest hit, "On And On."

Henry Diltz

Stephen Bishop is still the sometimes hopeless, other times hopeful romantic you might expect him to be from his songs.

At 51, he's still looking for the right one, still waiting for love to take him away, and still thinks I have no right to ask him how he feels about any of it.

Actually, I'm kidding about that last one. Truth is, the chatty and humorous Bishop will thoughtfully answer just about any question concerning his 25-plus year music career, and even those of a few of the folks he's met along the way. And usually, with a pretty decent story.

On this day, still a couple of weeks away from tomorrow night's Honolulu concert, the man who wrote "On And On" and was robbed of a deserved 1985 Best Song Oscar for "Separate Lives" — "Lionel Richie won for 'Say You, Say Me, Say I'm Gonna Steal Steve's Award,' " Bishop quipped — couldn't wait to tell a story about ... Eric Clapton.

"About three or four years ago, Eric was in the recording studio and he said, 'Bish, it would be great if you knew any girls you could set me up with,' " recalled Bishop.

Longtime friend Clapton contributed guitar work to three Bishop albums, including the singer-songwriter's 1976 debut "Careless." And Bishop had the perfect woman in mind for the 50-something Clapton: a 26-year-old blonde named Tina.

"So I set it up and we go to have dinner at the Four Oaks restaurant," said Bishop. "Everything's going well, but she ... doesn't really know anything about him."

Tina knew Clapton was a musician and had achieved some modicum of success, sure, but that was about it. So she innocently asked Clapton if he had been in any bands that she might have heard of.

"And Clapton goes, 'Yes, I was in a band called The Yardbirds,' " said Bishop, doing an impeccably British impression of Slowhand.

"The Yardbirds?" Tina replied, laughing out loud. "That's a funny name! That's so funny! That's hilarious ... The Yardbirds! Why didn't you just call yourselves The Seagulls?"

Bishop sat back in his chair and turned green. But the ordeal wasn't over. Tina's brilliant follow-up question for Clapton was asking whether he had been in any other bands.

Cautiously, but politely, Clapton answered, "Yes, actually. I was in a band called Cream."

"Cream?" crowed Tina, laughing again. "That's a funny name, too! Why didn't you just call yourselves Milk?"

Said Bishop: "Believe it or not, Clapton got a kick out of it. He thought it was funny."

Clapton and Bishop remain friends, but the guitar legend's relationship with Tina didn't go beyond being wonderful that night. As for Bishop's own relationships with women, let's just say that he readily admits to having lived out much of the best songs he has written.

In "Separate Lives" (made famous by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin), Bishop really experienced, for the most part, all of the drama of the male lead. And that includes every single, "You have no right to ask me how I feel" and every last "You have no right to speak to me so kind."

" 'Looking For The Right One' is a song I wrote for my second album ... and I'm still living that one," said Bishop, laughing.

There's no life experience lurking behind Bishop's biggest hit "On And On," except for a love-hate relationship with the song itself.

"My feeling about (singing) it is ... I either get paid or there's gonna be a serious foot massage involved," said Bishop, with just a hint of sarcasm. "I love it ... but at the same time, I've sung it, like, a trillion times.

Still, Bishop makes sure the song is part of every show's set.

"I do like singing 'On And On' for an audience," said Bishop. "They get a kick out of it and it means something or rekindles memories. And all of that is very valuable to me. I really like that."

In Bish's CD player ...

White Stripes, Sheryl Crow, Steely Dan