I'm not surprised if that name doesn't ring a bell.
For every big-time solo musician out there with a recognizable name and face, there are hundreds of studio musicians who labor in obscurity. Yet they are just as essential to the artist's oeuvre as the guy on the record cover himself.
A perfect example: Peter Wood.
If you've got an old vinyl version of the 1976 Al Stewart album Year of the Cat, you'll find a picture of him on the inner cover. More importantly, you'll hear his beautifully understated piano solo at the beginning of the title track and throughout the song. He is, in fact, credited as the song's co-writer with Stewart. So there's a bit of trivia for you.
Yes, Stewart's poetic lyrics have a lot to do with why this hit song was so good and kickstarted the mainstream career of this formerly obscure British folkie. So does Phil Kenzie's epic saxophone solo at the 4:12 mark. But Wood's underlying keyboards are what make it for me.
You can get an even better sense of Wood's contributions by watching this old video clip of Wood performing "Year of the Cat" with Stewart. Taking a cue from the opening lyrics, he starts out playing "As Time Goes By" before launching into the classic opening stanzas.
My favorite music is music that I just wallow in. It describes the state I feel when I hear music by people such as Vienna Teng, Sarah McLachlan and Bill Evans. I lose track of my surroundings and just become engulfed by the song - particularly if it is in my headphones. For me, "Year of the Cat" is definitely a wallowing song.
Wood would go on to work with extensively with Roger Waters, backing the Pink Floyd lead singer during "The Wall" tour and continuing to work with him when Waters went solo. You'll also find him on albums by Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and Cyndi Lauper (Believe it or not, you may have heard him play synthesizers on "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun").
One of the only times Wood put himself front and center was on the soundtrack of the obscure 1982 French farce Ils Apellent Ça Un Accident (They Call It An Accident). Collaborating with British vocalist Jess Roden, the duo contributed two tracks. The best is the spooky-sounding "Future Soon."
No keyboard wonderfulness here, just a really nice song with a message. How it fit into the film, I don't know. I've never seen it. But I do have a cassette of the soundtrack, an Island Records release that also features contributions from the likes of Steve Winwood, Marianne Faithfull and U2.About the same time I started listening to the soundtrack (I even reviewed it in the pages of my college newspaper at Georgetown University), I was heading backstage for a concert. My dad and I entered the elevator with a ordinary looking man in his 40s. He introduced himself to us as Peter Wood. I instantly asked him whether he was the same Peter Wood who co-wrote "Year of The Cat." A short pause. Yes, he was. I told him how much I liked the songs on "They Call It an Accident." He thanked me.
Throughout the brief conversation, there was kind of a stunned look on Wood's face. What a crazy coincidence. Here was a rock 'n' roll sessionman who had gotten used to a life of obscurity. And he happened to have stepped onto the elevator with someone who not only knew who he was, but could list some of his major accomplishments.
Not much else to the story. I didn't see him again at the concert. But I'm glad I was able to do a little fawning. Everybody deserves a moment of glory in some way.
According to Wikipedia, Wood died in late 1993. The Google research I've done indicates that the death of the 53-year-old Wood was ruled a suicide. Here's a link to a page that attempts to list all the albums and tours that featured Wood. (Who is also, for some reason, sometimes billed as "Peter Woods.")