Damn. What a week!
My assistant at work was on vacation so I was the receiving dept. It's been scary-slow lately, but business has picked up mightily and I was slammed all week long.
I was also sick. As much as I worry about getting...really sick (disease, death etc...), I hardly ever just get sick. Stacey is amazed at my immune system. I think my immune system is so good due to cigarettes and beer and worry - it kills germs dead! Truly, I don't think I've had a cold or flu in about 8 years or so, but this cold got me and got me real good. So on top of being slammed at work, I did it all with probably 3 or 4 hours of the most un-restful sleep you could imagine, each night.
I also had jury duty. I frantically called the clerk at the Superior Court Of Alameda County, trying to postpone my duty. No receiving at work = no shipping at work. No one else can do the job with my assistant gone. She said that no matter what, I had to appear, but it might be helpful if I faxed a letter, and bring a letter from my boss.
I did both. The judge strung me out until lunchtime and then tongue lashed me. (hardship at work is not an acceptable excuse, just hardship personally). I was honest and told her that it wasn't a hardship on me, but work would be paralyzed. She asked the 2 attorneys, they had no objection, so they let me go. This does not count as serving on a jury. She was very clear that I would be receiving another summons "soon".
There was a $35 parking ticket flapping wildly underneath my windshield wipers as I returned to my car.
Oh, and by the way, it was a murder case in Oakland. Surprise.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I don't know why I subject myself to watching so much of the Democratic Convention. It's goofy, it's weird, it's...like watching any event now, be it sports, pageants, whatever. Every event is now a rock concert with bigger than life graphics blinding me on the giant screens. It is appropriate (gag) rock music being assigned and played for every single moment or speaker. It is just so.... stupid, degrading and big. I blame MTV.
But I end up transfixed. I also seem to end up in tears. Not for the sadness I should feel for what our world has become, but for ideals I developed many years ago. When I see Ted Kennedy bravely battling brain cancer, yet making the trip to Denver to speak, I cry. His eventual demise will truly mean the death of the 60's political and cultural ideals that shaped me so profoundly. Not all of the rich and privileged are bad. Some actually help the poor.
I cried during Hillary's speech, not because I'm a big fan, but I felt the pain of many women who were so optimistic that this might be the year a woman could be president. Of course the media insists on playing up the asshole angle of her fans that say they will vote for McCain etc... Screw them both.
Bill Clinton just gave his speech and I cried because he is undoubtedly the finest political speaker in modern times. God I miss him! No one can top him in that department. Pure inspiration shown with intelligence, knowledge and understanding. We as a nation were way better off when he was president. He is kind of strange, though. He looks and acts like a cartoon at times, but he can bust a speech and inspire.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I'm happy to announce that work has commenced on my next "album": Tone X - the sound of love..
The world is in need of some love, and I'm gonna try to do my part in spreading the word. It's another concept album, as was my first album - I Am Atomic Man!. The reason being is that as a limited songwriter, I need....focus and boundaries, or I would just sit there wondering what the hell I was going to write about.
After the last Loud Family tour, I was determined to do a solo album at home, on very low rent equipment. I was talking this over with Stacey, and after I confessed to her that I had no idea what to write about, she smartly (as expected) suggested that I write about a subject I know about and enjoy. Well, I love 50's pulp science fiction and that opened the door in a grand way. (funny, though - take away the sci-fi decorations and what I ended up writing about was basically my inner demons and experiences!) Regardless, it was the perfect solution.
For this one, I got the germ of the idea from my friends Bradley and Gina, asking if I would be interested in maybe coming up with a song or two for their after-wedding party. Thrilled, I went for it! I had a couple musical ideas floating around in my head, and now I had the subject matter!
The lyrics came quickly, I practiced the 2 songs for weeks, and very nervously, actually performed them solo at the bash. That was a huge accomplishment for me. Never in my life had I done such a thing! It went over pretty well (of course it helped that the audience were mostly friends). I still can't believe that I actually did it.
The next idea that I came upon was a title for the next album. Not too long ago, I asked Mitch Easter what was responsible for that very groovy, buzzy and distorted bass sound the Rolling Stones used so much on their earlier albums. He mentioned that early Vox bass amps actually had a "Tone X" knob that was more or less a distortion control. I immediately fell in love with the phrase, and I'm pretty sure that I mentioned to Stacey later that night, that "Tone X" had to be the name of my next album. It's just awesome on so many levels!
It wasn't long after that, that I realized I already had 2 songs about Love already written, so I merged the two concepts together and came up with the present title. I also have a third tune (lyric-less) recorded, so I feel I'm on my way !
I plan to write about my recording struggles as I progress. I also will be providing a couple of...crude multi-media examples of the experience. Please stay tuned.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Jennetta lasted about a month and a half with Skyline. She just wasn’t a very good singer, entertainer or even very good looking. I feel like a jerk saying that last thing, but we were paid to do all of that and she didn’t cut the mustard. She also had some attitude that was starting to wear on the band. After a brief discussion with our agents, she was fired.
It was a good decision - her replacement(s) were awesome! Before I joined Skyline, they had a young, talented and extremely good looking married couple named Scott and Danya B. They handled most of the vocal chores in the band. Scott B. also played rhythm guitar and both of them could flat-out sing their asses off. They were now back and I was thrilled to have them on board.
****Weird! Strange! Uncanny! They were the first real couple I ever played with (John and Pam’s affair in Rhapsody does not count!), and who woulda thought I would end up some 8 years later playing with another couple that could also sing their asses off named...Scott and Donny? Scott and Danya...meet Scott and Donny! Whoa!.....****
They were very young and occasionally things could get a bit volatile between the two. This didn’t bother me at all. By then I had dealt with girlfriends, affairs, couples, whatever...I learned to just go with it and to try and play great shows. This would of course be tested many years and many bands later, but at that time I was not bothered at all. The minor distractions were nothing compared to the pleasure of hearing those two sing together, night after night. Now, Skyline was overloaded with good voices - we had 4 sets of pipes that could easily sing lead, so my vocals were cut back, but I was fine with that. Let the professionals handle it!
There are only three particular moments that stand out in my memory of this version of the band. Unfortunately, my gig list and financial records end in December of 1978, but I know we played a bit longer than that. In looking through those records I now see that even though I was enticed into the band by their offer of an equal share of the profits, I only averaged about $101 a week. This was less than Rhapsody, but by the time I left the band, it was of no consequence at all. I enjoyed this line-up very much.
Skyline played a private party on Halloween night for a very cool record store in Charlotte called New World Records. This was a 2 store “chain” and by far the best record stores in town. They were locally owned and a perfect alternative to the other record stores such as The Record Bar, Grapevine etc...My girlfriend worked at the main store on Independence Blvd., and eventually I would end up working at the South Blvd. store.
The Halloween party was held at the “Top Of The Tower” - a ritzy place located in Charlotte’s tallest (at the time) downtown skyscraper. Since it was a Halloween party, we decided it would be appropriate and fun to perform in costume. Being serious musicians, we didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it, so we ended up at my mom’s house to raid the attic for fun stuff to wear. Here are a few pics from the resulting attic raid. I think it was probably the only time a black man ever picked me up and held me in his arms.
Don’t remember much about the show, but I think a good time was had by all. I made $45 that night.
The second event I remember regarding the Scott & Danya line-up was a very memorable show in Ronceverte, West Virginia, at the “Almost Heaven Supper Club”. The club was a strange place - off the beaten track and it had a...”roadhouse” feel to it. Very Twin Peaks ( the building and the people inside!). It was a 2 night gig and the final night on December 1, 1978 was a night I’ll never forget.
The evening started out a bit slow, but things were starting to pick up during our last set. The dance floor was buzzing (along with the patrons - we were pretty sure the club owner was the local coke dealer) and everyone was having just a good ol’ disco time. After we announced that we were getting ready to play the last song of the night, the club owner came up to us and told us that he’d give us another $100 if we played another 30 minutes. We immediately agreed and kept our boogie shoes on for the extra ½ hour. Money talks!
The club owner was a strange fellow, maybe in his late 20's, with long straight bangs (very redneck). He had a limp that required him to walk with a cane, and he wore a very...creepy leisure suit. He had a this gangster/ big dog thing going on; surrounded by lackeys, probably coked out and kind of mean looking, but he seemed nice enough.
When the show was finally over, Scott P. went over to the table where the owner was sitting to settle up with the money. The rest of us were packing our gear up when suddenly shit hit the fan. The club owner stood up, threw his table over, stepped back and pulled a knife on Scott and screamed: “Are you trying to screw me out of money? I’ll cut you and your g*ddamn n*gger!! Get the f*ck out of my club!! " Holy crap.
Scott P. was bit of a hard head when it came to money and business and he was not one to back down. He stood up and screamed back at the club owner that he owed us the extra $100. William (our black bass player) gingerly approached the scene and did his best to calm everyone down. Brave man, William. Fortunately the screaming stopped, we got paid (minus the promised bonus), loaded our trailer and got the holy hell out of there. We drove straight to Charlotte, not even stopping to change drivers. When Scott got too tired to drive, I went up front and we changed seats as the van was barreling down the highway. I slid under him and grabbed the wheel as he slid over me, relinquishing the driver's seat. Not recommended, but it seemed the right thing to do at the time. We had to get the hell out of West Virginia and this decidedly Twin Peaks/David Lynch nightmare. This was the South at it’s worst, and we saw it up front and personal. I cannot imagine what William must have gone through.
The last thing I recall about Skyline was also unpleasant, but not nearly as frightening.. We were playing at the Greenville S.C. Sheraton for 2 weeks (Rhapsody’s old favorite lounge), and on our last night there, I called for a band meeting. I announced to the band that this was my last show with them. My mom was dying.
After I told them this, I left them to themselves and went back to my room. About 20 minutes later, Danya knocked at my door and I let her in. It was obvious she had been crying. She told me she was not only sad for my circumstance, but she was angry that after I left the room, the rest of the band started to discuss hiring another drummer. I was fine with that - Skyline was a business, but to this day, I appreciate Danya’s concern.
note: a few years after I left the band, I was saddened by the news that Sammy B., Skyline’s keyboardist was killed in a car crash. He was a fun, talented, good guy. I’m very glad that I had a chance to know him and to have made music with him. Even if it was disco... R.I.P. Sammy.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Remember when the Olympics meant something and were way more exciting?
I'm soooo not interested at this point. Bunch of petty nationalistic crap. What's even worse...No Tonya
Best to stay focused. The Left are being murdered by the Right. Georgia vs Russia is a set up. Russia best leave North Carolina alone. Crazy world right now. Pay attention.
Monday, August 11, 2008
On Sunday, August 3, Mynya Giballawinsky passed away.
Mynya was one of the very first friends Stacey made when she moved to San Francisco in 1989. She met him at Tower Records, where both of them worked. He was 70 years old when he died.
I did not know him very well, he was Stacey's friend, but I did meet him and ran in to him on occasion. His life's story is an amazing journey. He lost his parents and his brother during World War II. He survived a Nazi concentration camp. He came to America as a child and was adopted. He eventually ended up in California.
The only memory that I have of Mynya goes back to when Stacey and I lived at Robert and Shelley's house over on Taylor Street in Albany. Stacey and Mynya came by, and I was in the backyard. As they walked towards me I was overwhelmed with an...aura that seemed to surround Mynya. I'm not a very..higher consciousness oriented kind of guy but I immediately got a sense of peace and gentleness from Mynya that I have never felt before. I swear, he seemed to...glide above the ground towards me. The most gentle soul I have ever known.
He had multiple health problems and couldn't get around very easily, so he had asked Stacey if she could bring him a large supply of Dr. Pepper (!) on Monday, August 4. We went to a store and got several cases, came home and there was a message on the answering machine. His caretaker/roommate asked that Stacey call - it was about the following day's planned visit.
Stacey called and got the news. Mynya had passed away peacefully in his sleep the night before.
Rest in peace Mynya, you made the world a better place. You overcame a horrible childhood, but your soul was never broken and you enriched all of our lives. Stacey has a big hole in her heart right now, but she'll be OK. She is a better person because of you. We all are. Thanks for the enrichment. We love you.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I love Jack Bruce. I love his music and I especially love his voice. He is my very favorite rock singer, ever. His voice is strong and powerful. It can also get quiet and delicate. The voice can slide, reach and hit some pretty challenging notes. It can also layer thick gorgeous clouds of harmonies.
Most folks know of Jack as the fiery Scotsman that played bass, wrote songs and sang with Cream. That's were I discovered him upon the release of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" back in 1967. Been in love ever since!
He was classically trained as a cellist and had roots in jazz and blues. His bass playing is like his voice - very powerful, very loud and always challenging. I love his playing. It was the perfect bottom for Cream, though that band had one of the most contentious histories (musically and personality-wise) of any band I have ever read about! I just read that back in the Cream days, Ginger Baker once tried to shove a fire extinguisher up Jack's bum. Don't know if that's true or not, but ill feelings still exist between those two, even rearing it's ugly head during the 2005 Cream reunion.
I have the reunion concert dvd, and while I was a bit shaken with Jack's frail looks (he was still recovering from a liver transplant), I was amazed at how great his voice still is. I actually thought it sounded better than most of the recordings I had heard of Jack from the 80's and the 90's.
Most all of the songs I'm presenting here were co-written with Pete Brown, whose specialty was very trippy lyrics that helped define Cream. Hell....helped define me.
1. "As You Said" (1968, from Cream's Wheels Of Fire LP) - A weird and beautiful song that really shows Jack's classical background. Lovely cello and a great arrangement. I'm guessing that some would be surprised that this was a Cream song.
2. "Doing That Scrapyard Thing" (1969, from Cream's Goodbye Cream LP) - A very playful tune that always makes me smile. This sounds very Beatle influenced, probably due to George Harrison hanging around the studio to play on Clapton's fantastic "Badge".
3. "Theme From An Imaginary Western" (1969, from Jack's first solo LP - Songs For A Tailor) - this is an amazing LP! This tune is very Procul Harum sounding to me, and Jack plays everything except for guitar (Chris Spedding) and drums (Jon Hiseman). Could be my favorite vocal performance of all time. It's such a great song! Mountain covered it on their debut album. (Mountain featured the late Felix Pappalardi who was Cream's primary producer)
4. "Tickets To Waterfalls" (1969, same as above) - Another great vocal performance on a song that had to be a bitch to sing! Check out the melody....his jazz roots really taking hold here.
5. "Boston Ball Game 1967" (1969, same as above) - Speaking of jazz roots...not only do you get one great vocal performance, howzabout 2 Jacks at once! According to the book I'm reading, Jack wrote this in response to a very unpleasant time Cream had in Boston on one of their tours.
6. "Folk Song" (1971, from Jack's second solo LP - Harmony Row) - Jack gets down with his falsetto in this pretty strange tune. When Stacey heard this album, she noted that she couldn't remember ever hearing music like this. For some reason, I think my ex-Loud Family mate - Alison Faith Levy might enjoy this particular style of writing.
7. "A Letter Of Thanks" (1971, same as above) - a powerhouse jazz fusion thing that works for me. Jazz timing linked with primordial rock riffage.
8. "Pollution Woman" (1972, from West, Bruce & Laing's Why Dontcha LP) - This is one of the strangest songs I've ever heard. I immediately recognize Leslie West's guitar sound, but the production and song are both out of left field. A great sampling of Jack's vocal harmony weirdness.
9. "Peaces Of Mind" (1974, from Jack's third solo album - Out Of The Storm) - disjointed but marvellous. Steve Hunter on guitar and Jim Gordon on drums. Great bass playing and of course, a great vocal track.
10. "Into The Storm" (1974, same as above) - wonderful harmonies and a difficult piece.
Here's the link to all of this. I admit that it may be a lot of Jack to take in at one sitting, so if you find yourself getting a bit worn out, please..just listen to a few at time. I hope you are rewarded as much as I have been, putting this together!
The voice of Jack muxtape
Thanks for the voice and the music, Jack. You lift my heart.