Category Archives: Daily Soundtrack

The music running through my head at any particular moment. Bear in mind, everything’s a song to a musician. Often, my headlines have a musical reference.

Over and Over Again

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Over and Over Again

There is something people don’t really think about when you go into a situation where you want to record music you have written.

This stuff doesn’t magically just appear on acetate or hard drive or in the cloud or wherever it’s stored today with perfection and  bliss.  This is something taking preparation and arrangement.

I am lucky in that I have this group of amazing people who, even with little time on their hands, are willing and able to meet to settle those arrangements for music before we go into the studio on March 28th and 29th.  This is a particularly interesting thing because, though I can read music, I cannot write out charts and give full transcripts of all the stuff I have written.  I even have to look up some of the chords I’m playing because I honestly have no idea what it is I’m fingering, it just makes some sort of logical sense.

Then there are bass parts and keyboard parts and rhythm/lead guitar and what breaks we put in and what ones we ignore and . . . you begin to realize just how much more work there is than just “writing” your song.

Part of all this is playing sections of your song over and over again.  Some of you may have been through this if you ever sang in choir or were in the high school band or marching band.  You mess up a section . . . you do it over and over and over again until you no longer mess up that section.  With the help of technology today we can get those arrangements going and suddenly . . . we have a recording from a cell phone.  No, it’s not one you’d put on the record itself, but you can share it on a cloud-based drive, share that with everyone in the band, and suddenly you all have access to what the arrangements are.

Repetition might seem like it would get monotonous, but it actually is inspiring, particularly with talented people.  We suddenly have breaks where I had put none.  We suddenly have harmonized guitar lines and backup vocals . . . something I’m particularly poor at arranging, harmonies.

It’s been an amazing thing just to arrange two songs.  You might think that sounds a bit strange, only two songs in two days.  It’s not.  First you set up everything, and drums are the biggest thing to set up.  You mic up all those things, instruments, do a scratch vocal track while you play.  You will put a backing track with everyone.  Then you’ll do lead guitar.  Maybe acoustic.  Then vocals . . . then more backing vocals.

By the time we are finished I’ll be thrilled if we get these two songs completed.  The next step will be learning a few more . . . then a few more . . . and so on.

In the midst of what in years past would be one of the hardest months of the year – March, when my wife passed away – this is turning out to be the most ambitious we been through yet.

And it’s not even the end of March yet!

More updates later in the week!

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The Loss of a King

BB RAH

The Loss of a King

I was awakened last night by the news…the distinct and jarring tones of the BBC News World Service alerts. One of only two that I allow my phone to chime.  When it goes off, I know it’s likely important.  (Except the day the royal baby was born…I silenced my phone that day)

I got the chime around 10pm PST.  It simply read “BB King, legendary blues singer, dies in his sleep at 89 confirms manager.”

I talk a lot about parenting, loss, home all that here.  It is no small thing, no subtle metaphor to say that this man was a hero of mine.  He was, without question, an icon – a uniquely American form of royalty that spread throughout the world.

I grew up with Mr. King playing in my home.  His records played all while I was growing up in Nebraska.  His 1970’s LP Completely Well was completely worn out.  When we would go to the mall and I’d walk out with a Clapton or Van Halen record my father would have a cassette with a live BB King show.  We always listened to it . . . and it first.  None of us ever complained, either.

I went to my first BB King show in high school.  My older brother had procured tickets at Red Rocks Amphitheater and it was a triple-bill: Taj Majal, Stevie Ray Vauhan, and BB King, with BB being the headliner.  Taj was good as always.  SRV was amazing, but a bit hesitant.  We found out later that he’d spent hours the night before jamming with Jeff Beck and worn off his callouses.  He’d super-glued his fingers in order to get through the night.

But BB King…the man was just brilliant.

Years later I learned to play guitar and it was important to me to learn who the influences of my influences were.  When I looked at Clapton, Beck, Green, Vaughan, Allman, they all did songs I recognized.  They all recorded BB King songs…but yet somehow, not quite BB King songs.

That tone.  That crying . . . that singing tone . . . only he could do it.  I learned from this master of the instrument and musical mediums (plural, lest you be fooled that all he could do was sing in 3 chords) that one note was all you needed if it was the RIGHT note.  You could play 1,000 notes in a single song and he would tell you more by wringing a tone from Lucille than the best of guitarists.

When I met an amazing woman who loved me and cared and treated me well I sang her a song one night on stage.

“I got a sweet little angel…I love the way she spreads her wings.”
I called my wife, Andrea, that all our married life.  Even in death, on her headstone, carved on the back, it says “fly on my sweet little angel…I love the way you spread your wings.”

In the late 1990’s I worked the phones, pushed, screamed and begged until I got the opportunity – during his tour promoting Riding With the King – to interview him.  While he was supposed to give us just 5 minutes in a dark corner, deep in the bowels of Omaha’s Orpheum Theater, the maestro of the blues ushered us onto his bus.  He gave us close to an hour there and we did almost a half-hour interview with him.  He talked about how he had an incessant appetite to learn as much as he could.  He toured with a laptop computer and a library of books he read constantly.

My father was unable to come to the show and I asked, rather sheepishly, if I could bring him my father’s worn-out copy of Completely Well and have him sign it.  He insisted I bring it backstage after the show.

I told King that my daughter asked to see him for her birthday . . . and he insisted I bring her along.

Abbi and BB

My daughter was scared to meet this man . . . this American King.  You can see it in the photo we took with him.  But after we walked into the dressing room – following a stellar show – he said “you don’t have to worry about coming in here, Princess…” and he gave her a hug.  He took her arm in his and sat down on a chair.  He asked her “do you have a brother or sister?”
My daughter nodded.  Her sister was just a baby.  “I have a little sister, Hannah,” she told him.

King tipped over a cup on the counter, filled with guitar picks and plastic pins.
“Grab something out of there for your sister Hannah,” he told her.  She obliged.
“You probably want something in there, too,” he told her.  She nodded.  “Well, I’m not going to give you any of that,” he said, a twinkle growing in the corner of his eye.

My daughter looked at him, crestfallen but quiet.

“You know why,” he asked her?  She shook her head “no.”
He pointed to his lapel, where an enamel pin of Lucille hung…gold-embossed with her name on the headstock and his on the pin.
“I’m going to give you this one,” he told her.  He unpinned it and put it on her collar.

On the way home my daughter just repeated, in hushed tones, “BB King called me Princess!”

My daughter marks the 3rd generation of my family to love this man and his music.  For an American King to call her Princess is simply beyond description.

We saw him several more times…each time floored by the energy, tone and warmth this man projected.

When I put the phone down tonight I could only think . . . a beautiful woman is silent tonight. Lucille cannot cry, she cannot wail, she cannot shout for joy.

She cannot sing.  The man who says his only love is Lucille left her behind, and she will be silent.

But for years they made music together, sang together, were sad and angry and sarcastic…and joyous.

And what an amazing body of work they left us.

A tuxedo and a shiny 335
You could see it in his face, the blues has arrived
Tonight’s everybody’s getting their angel wings
Don’t you know you’re riding with the King!

Aquadog

Aquadog

I write a lot here about my immediate family . . . and my songwriting process and all my efforts to move forward.

This, however, is about my brother.

Adam Manoucheri, my younger brother, is one of the most talented people I know.  He plays numerous instruments, one of the greatest rock players around and I love him, well…like a brother.

His new release, Aquadog, is due out in the Spring.  If you have a chance, please, please go like his Facebook page.

Until the release drops, he was kind enough to tease everyone with a video of some of his time in the studio.  It’s well worth the watch and I recommend keeping an eye out for the release.  I’ll give you a countdown when it’s coming when we have a release date!

 

Wish You Were Here…

I would have posted the above Pink Floyd song title 2 1/2 years ago and had a totally different frame of reference.  Today, however, the frame is built by my middle daughter, Hannah, in reference not to her mother but her sister.  My oldest daughter Abbi, you see, has moved to another state and started college.

Hannah on Guitar
Hannah on Guitar

The reference is actually quite literal.  Hannah came into the living room on Friday night, after an entire evening’s activities, and said “look what I learned how to play, Dad!”  She started the opening salvo of the title track of Floyd’s 1975 ode to longing, loss, memory and their friend, Syd Barrett.

“Could we do another video and send it to Abbi?”

With someone that excited by their musical inspiration, I could hardly say ‘no’.  Rather than set up a webcam, though, and simply grab our guitars and play, I took her into my office and set up ProTools and put the headphones on her ears.
“We’re going to record it and then make a video.”

Hannah was really apprehensive, so I plugged in, click track running, and had my amp very quiet, the mic closer to her, and helped her play.  She decided at that point this should be a project for both of us, asking me to sing the opening verse, she the second, together on the 3rd.

It’s a beautiful song, particularly in its simplicity, and I was quite caught up in her enthusiasm.  I won’t post it here both for her nerves and for the fact that I don’t want to infringe on Gilmour and Waters’ copyrights.

Wish You Were Here is always gives me a little bit of a twinge.  Andrea loved the song, not just due to the message, it made her think of her sister and some random teenage adventure she’d had.  It’s almost hard at times to hear the line “we’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl year after year” without thinking of her belting out that line, off-key, sometimes on-purpose, and grinning from ear to ear.

Today, however, it brings nothing but fond memories of how my daughter had a burst of inspiration, leading to my own inspiration and then making a video.  It took all day, but then we put it all together.  The melancholy feeling was there, but more about missing Abbi than about sadness for their mother.

It’s interesting that a song about loss and mental illness and sadness can bring happiness to others, but in the end the message is universal.  How I wish you were here.

Our Typical Evening is NOT a Typical Evening

Me, Recording in the House
Me, Recording in the House

Our typical evenings aren’t too different from most families.  On any given night we’re usually eating at the kitchen table, not the dining room one.  It’s too far removed from the kitchen, feels too fancy, and quite frankly it’s a carpeted room and I don’t want to clean up food off the floor at the end of the meal.  I get home each night, make our dinner, which I try to plan out at the beginning of the week, and then the kids clean up after.  Since they’ve gotten home from their grandparents’ house I’ve done a better job of continuing what they did in Nebraska and I’ve also done a better job of keeping on them so they do it.

To give you some context . . . every summer at the end of the school year, my kids go to visit their grandparents.  It’s like summer camp except they work harder and get to sleep in a bed instead of on the ground.  After their mother, my wife, Andrea, passed away in 2011, it’s become the tradition that has to happen so that I can continue to work.  Otherwise I have nobody to watch the kids.  My oldest, Abbi, is 18 now, sure, and the kids came back a lot earlier and she watches them for that very reason, but I didn’t want Abbi, at 16, to have to act like Mom to her brothers and sister.  So for 2 summers she went to her Grandparents’ house, too.

But I digress . . .

Our typical evening centers around the meal, the kids will watch a little TV – with it being summer, Abbi turns on Hulu and they watch a bunch of British comedies because there’s nothing on American TV right now they want to watch.  Sometimes we’ll have a fire outside and roast marshmallows.  More often than not I’ll make a dessert and we’ll eat it after dinner at some point.

But when inspiration strikes, I record.  It’s really that simple.  I have a ProTools setup that allows me to record in my home.  I use a “click” track that keeps beat and I have mics that I use that are specially suited for guitar/vocals and high-impact/high-volume, like a guitar amplifier.

Friday night I was in that mode.  I’ve been working on a song that is, I’ll just say it, is a bit personal.  As a result I wanted to get it right and hadn’t gotten it right in over a week’s time.  I’d re-recorded it twice.  I was on what felt like take 64 when I was recording an electric guitar line with my green Fender Stratocaster, “Dot”.  In the middle of the rhythm/lead I was recording I noticed the lights turn on, bright and a bit disconcerting, but I wasn’t going to change what I was doing.

After the take Abbi came up and said “did you know Instagram lets you do video now?!”
I did, they’re battling with Twitter’s “Vine” app and this is how.

Her inaugural video was me up there, bobbing back and forth to the rhythm and saying “recording night in our house.”

I hadn’t thought about it until tonight . . . this is normal for my kids.  Two to three years ago this would never have happened.  Oh, sure, I had the ProTools setup, but I would never have done it, not in the evening.  My wife barely tolerated my being a musician.  My kids . . . well they tolerate it because they have to, I suppose.  I’m the Dad, after all.

But for them, this is normal.  On any given night they might hear Dad belting out a vocal line and hear no music.  They might hear a cranked-up “Adamamp” amplifier with a Clapton Stratocaster plugged in and turned to “11”.  But for them it doesn’t phase them.

These are the things that have changed.  My daughter’s friends have visited our home and found it “eclectic” because of the records, turntable, guitars and amps sitting out, like decorator items, in the home.  But they all get used.
“This is just our home, our family,” is the response my kids give.  Their Dad records.  I send the demos to my brother.  I put together the songs that will likely be the next LP.  I have dreams of cutting some of this stuff as vinyl.  It may seem a pipe dream, but in today’s world, that’s not so much of a dream any more.  Beside that, my kids see me creating and enjoying and I have even had them be a part of it.  This is how our lives has turned out and I do the things that help me, the kids, all of us survive.  Guitars sitting around and an evening recording session may seem odd to some people, but for us it’s normal.  It happens a lot.

And who’s to say what’s normal?

Some People Want To Fill the World With Silly Love Songs…

Okay, I know, it’s a Paul McCartney & Wings song…but still, it gets the point across.

Just over two years ago I lost my wife. In the days, weeks, months, hell years since I have noticed something that initially drove me crazy.

We are, seriously, a society based in and obsessed with love.

Most of the time, I guarantee it, you never see or think about it. You go through your daily life flooded with visions, sounds and thoughts of love. Movies – almost every single one, whether it’s a horror movie or a comedy – have a love story somewhere in the theme. The American Film Institute has a list of “the 100 Greatest Love Stories.” Search their site for movies with “love” in the title there’s almost 1,000 – and the film industry is only about a century old. That’s at least 10 movies a year with it just in the title.

You might hear it in music, from heavy metal to acoustic hipster songs to Ella Fitzgerald belting out melodies. The Beatles alone had close to 70 songs that dealt with love (that’s a rough estimate, no emails, please!)

It’s everywhere.

Some people notice just how much. You can group us into categories: those who just had a breakup; those who love someone and either a) it’s not mutual or b) they can’t bring themselves to tell that person; and last…those who have lost someone. I have the unfortunate happenstance of having fallen into all those categories in my life.

I’m guilty of creating the same kinds of content. I write stories all the time, even here, and love is the general theme, is it not? Love of a spouse, love of your kids.

But if you have lost your wife or broken up with your boyfriend or opine the unrequited love of another everywhere you turn is a reminder of love. The one thing that has our brains wired so differently than the animals that live in the world around us is the emotional connection we feel toward others. That’s no small thing, believe it or not. Sure, you can talk pheromones or chemical attractions or dopamine or norepinephrine or whatever in your brain. The fact remains that we still feel like our hearts are going to leap out of our chests when we see or speak with the woman we love or our kids come down the escalator at the airport after visiting their grandparents. We feel like we’re bleeding internally when they die.  But if you don’t have that, or lost it, you are overwhelmed by it and reminded that you don’t have it. So when those around us feel the need to express sympathy for that or, worse, feel the need to help (notice the italics?) those who don’t have it, they don’t see what they’re inflicting sometimes.

I haven’t gotten a lot, but I get the push to “meet my friend” or “I know this person” or if you even mention you know a woman outside work you get “oooooohhhhhhh! A girl?!” Some of it is the need to make sure people are happy.  That makes you happy and if they’re unhappy…you don’t want to be unhappy.   I think a lot of it is to make yourself feel better so that you don’t feel sad when you see the person who’s lost their love or their Mom or whatever.

But I both understand and feel love’s pull. Love from the past pulls you backward. Want of love in the future pulls you ahead. Love of your kids grounds you in the present. It was really, really, hard those first couple years to live with it swirling all around you. You miss all kinds of things . . . you miss talking and emotion . . . but don’t mistake missing it for just throwing yourself into the pool all over again. I certainly miss Andrea, I always will. I also miss the little things, like how she put her hand on the back of my head or held my hand when we drove in the car. But I don’t jump into relationships lightly and won’t date someone just because I miss a touch or a smell or a feel.

But before you see your friend in their breakup or your sister who lost her husband or what have you, are you meddling to help, or to make yourself feel better? Do you push or prod when you’re certain they’re ready? I’ve been climbing that hill for a couple years now and I still don’t know if I’m really ready.

Still . . . where things were hard and the world swirled around you filled with love, love stories, love songs, all of it is there and initially that was really gut-wrenching.

Now, I see that some people want to fill the world with silly love songs.
“And what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know…”

Talk to Your Daughter

With Abbi this past weekend
With Abbi this past weekend

I had a conversation with someone today that both made me think . . . and realize how lucky I am to have the children I do.  Not because they’re little angels, God no, they’re far from that.  But if they were I’d probably worry something was terribly wrong with them in the first place.

No . . . the conversation started with “you must just be so happy to have this opportunity to reconnect with your daughter!”

If I’d been the normal human being and not the mutant that I am, I would have politely said “yes, it’s great to spend the summer with Abbi! (My 18-year-old)”.  You see, Abbi’s heading to college in the Fall and stayed home to work and make some extra money before heading off to school.  Stay home, I mean, because every year my kids go to their grandparents’ house, out of state, for the summer.  It’s not summer camp, nor is it a vacation or project or anything like that.  It’s a necessity.  My kids go there so that, thanks to my parents watching them for two months, I can work and make a living.  Otherwise, they’re home alone and I’d worry, constantly, about what’s going on.  You might say “oh, but your parents love it and they get to spend time with the kids” and all that, and you’d be right.  But at the end of the day, let’s face it, I’m exhausted much of the time and I’m almost half their age.  It’s a brilliant and amazing help to me that they do it without complaint.

But the conversation didn’t go that way.  No, I didn’t simply agree and leave it at that.  I paused, thinking for a second, and then against probable social graces, I said “no, I’m not reconnecting with my daughter at all.”

The fact of the matter is that I didn’t have to reconnect.  Not really.  Sure, she’s 18, and sure, she’s had some issues with me and the fact we’re growing and moving on from the loss of my wife at different paces, but I expected that.  I lost my wife. . . she lost her Mom.  That’s a totally different thing.

Abbi and me
Abbi and me

But the part to remember is that no matter how we might clash or conflict or get in an argument, at the end of the day the reality is that I still and always will enjoy Abbi’s company.  The fact she’s going into drama and likely the entertainment industry doesn’t bother me, in fact, it has opened my eyes to thousands of new things I would likely have never experienced.  Not that I was opposed to them, but her aggressive thirst for knowledge of acting, directing, filmmaking, scriptwriting, all of it, has opened my eyes to tons of old movie and old shows.

But I’ve exposed her to tons of material as well.  Without me she’d never have seen Sherlock or even Downton Abbey.  (Yes, sue me male counterparts, but started watching Downton and brought it to Abbi’s attention.  Sue me.  It’s well written!)

When great, or silly or amazing things happen, I tell her.  When bad things happen I shelter her.  It’s not a hard thing to spend time or talk with my daughter, I actually enjoy it.  I enjoy it with all 4 kids.  The other three, Hannah, Noah and Sam, give me a dissertation on their entire day each night when I call to electronically tuck them in.  I hear about how the cotton from the trees outside at my parents’ house has blanketed the ground looking like fluffy, down-like snow in 80-degree temperatures.  I absorb all of it.

I gave the person in the above conversation an example just from today.  I started watching a show on BBC America called The Hour.  Abbi didn’t think she’d care for it at first, thinking that it was the Brits’ way of capitalizing on the Mad Men craze. But five minutes into the show, with the character of Freddie Lyon needling his love interest by calling her “Moneypenny” like James Bond and that same woman, “Bel” not backing down and wanting to be a hard-hitting journalist and she was hooked.  I watched season 1 and adored it.  Season 2 came out and we watched it every week, thrilling in lines like “but a scandal…a scandal has wings!”  The second season ended on a cliffhanger that had Abbi beside herself and dying to know what’s next…when the BBC announced they weren’t doing a Series 3.  Abbi was crushed.  (Okay, so was I, a little.)

But today, I found out that Peter Capaldi, one of the actors in season 2, told the crowd at the BAFTA awards that he thinks they’re in the process of doing a 1-hour special that would wrap up the story lines.

The first person I thought of was Abbi.  So I sent her a text . . . and got the response that “if it’s true it’s the best thing to happen to my life today!!!!!”

With Abbi in New York
With Abbi in New York

Before they said it I made sure to add “she’s not a surrogate wife, by the way, I don’t do those things because I don’t have anyone to tell them to.  My wife wouldn’t have cared in the least.”  It’s true, too.  I didn’t make Abbi become Mom and emotional stabilizer for the family.  It was important to me that she be 16, 17, then 18 and not 24 before her age caught up.  Sure, she had to mature faster, but her mother had already prodded and poked her that direction before passing away.  I tell and do these things with Abbi because, quite frankly, I always have.  When Pete Townshend says something amazing about the making of Quadrophenia, I tell my daughter Hannah.  When William Joyce says something about a new book coming out I tell Noah, who adores his writing.  When Lemony Snickett has something funny to say . . . I pass it along to Sam, who’s reading A Series of Unfortunate Events.  All my kids have interests that interest me as well…and I pass them along.

So, no, I’m not reconnecting.  Sure, there are adjustments.  There are emotional minefields.

At the end of the day, though, it’s all about one thing, and one thing I need to do:

That’s to Talk to Your Daughter.

A Father’s Day

Not actually Fathers Day itself, but a Father’s Day . . . that’s spent with the company of his daughter.

Three of my kids, if I hadn’t made it clear in the previous posts here, are not in my house for the summer.  In order for me to work for a living through the summer, someone has to watch my children so my parents, without my even having to ask, take them to their home for the summer.  It’s a lot of work, time, effort, and I’m incredibly blessed that they want to do it for me.

Doobie Brothers in Lincoln, CA
Doobie Brothers in Lincoln, CA

This weekend was a pretty spectacular one, as weekend adventures go, though.  It started with a concert in the small suburb of Lincoln.  Saw the Doobie Brothers, 43 years into their career, and they sounded better than I saw them more than 20 years ago.

Then I went to the local chapter of television Emmy awards.

Then came Sunday.

After I got home from San Francisco, where the awards were held, my oldest daughter, Abbi, was waiting at home with baited breath for me.  She had a present she’d been holding for weeks to give me.  I got home, after my fun weekend, and inside was a new phone case and a coffee cup (I live on caffeine) with all the kids’ pictures on them.  I know that may seem like a typical Father’s Day gift, but it had special meaning for me since it came from my kids without any parental influence to give it to me.

I then spent the afternoon having an insanely unhealthy and delicious hamburger for dinner and then went and saw the new Superman movie.  All of it came from my daughter, who refused to let me pay and used money from her own paycheck to foot the bill.  I was more proud than you can possibly imagine.  It’s hard, as a parent, as a Dad, to let your kids do something for you.  But I remember trying to do it for my own father and how uncomfortable he was allowing me to pay for an expensive dinner.  That in turn made me uncomfortable.  It wasn’t either of our faults, that’s just how we’re wired, we take care of the kids, not the other way around.  I wasn’t going to let Abbi feel that way, so I took the day with great pleasure.  It was a good meal, good conversation, and a great movie.

With Abbi
With Abbi

Father’s Day had far more adventures I won’t chronicle here, as did the weekend.  Still…I am both thankful and – in a word I don’t often use – blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people that let it all happen.

It’s Not a Record…It’s an Experience!

Yesterday I got an order in the mail of an old record.

The mailman, in the 106 degree heat, hand-delivered the box labelled “vinyl record, fragile” to the door.

“Who’s the record collector,” the mailman asked my visiting mother?  “My son,” she told him, “he has a lot.”
“Me, too,” said the mailman, who said he used to work for a distributor in the days when vinyl was king.  Now he delivers them to the proud few who listen to the needle and groove in the mail.

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I still listen to and have vinyl in my household.  But I don’t do it because of the reasons so many people do.  It’s not because vinyl is so much more vivid and dynamic than an iPod.  (That’s true, though, by the way)  It’s not because vinyl has a richer tone and many of the old albums were mixed for vinyl, not iPod or CD.  (That’s true, too, by the way, and also why so many sound odd on CD or iPod)  It’s not even because it’s the cool, hipster vibe that gets people to cringe at you when you arrive with your massive bushy beard reminiscent of a member of the 5th infantry division of the US Cavalry displayed in a Ken Burns Civil War episode.  No, I don’t do it for shock value or crazy indignant ego.  

Vinyl is an experience.

I put it that way because it, too, is true.

Full Moon Fever by Tom PettyYears ago, before my oldest daughter was born, a mere twenty-odd years ago, there was a record by Tom Petty called “Full Moon Fever” that was released.  If you bought the album on CD there was a weird sort of no-man’s-land in-between tracks where Petty, in a joking, snarky comment, says “ATTENTION CD LISTENERS!  We’ve reached the point in Full Moon Fever where listeners who were enjoying on a record or cassette would have to get up, go across the room and then flip over to listen to side to of said record or cassette.  Out of respect for them we give them a few moments to do so.”  The CD then sits, weird background noise ringing for a bit, and then “now side 2 of Full Moon Fever.”

This gives you part of what music on records was and is for me.  It’s not a record, it’s part of your life, it’s an experience.  Vinyl isn’t just vinyl…it’s part of your life, and experience you lived.  I remember saving up money and going to the store to flip through the new releases, looking for that one record, that one musical experience, that I’d been dying to hear.

As a little boy my Dad worked in a chain store much like Target or what have you.  He’d get first crack as the LP’s came out, I guess, because he came home with new music a lot.  When I was little I remember going to a store in a larger town and buying an entire stereo system that we then took home and hooked up.  After that, my father bought new records as they came out.

Fly Like an Eagle by Steve MillerI remember the day he brought home Fly Like an Eagle by the Steve Miller Band.  We put it on the turntable and listened to it.  I spent weeks walking around singing “tick, tock, tick doo doo doo doo!”  I stared at the photo of Miller, face invisible, covered by hair, playing a left-handed Fender Stratocaster.  I was enamored.

Hotel-California by the EaglesWhen Hotel California came out we took it out and put it on the turntable.  The opening salvo of the twelve-string guitar filled the room.  It had a gate-fold album cover with an atypical Los Angeles scene, a hotel on the cover, and the neon sign you only pictured as a little kid must be what LA looks like.

A new record was an experience from the beginning.  You went to the alphabetical bins filled with records.  You flipped through the albums there, looking for bands you knew.  You made it to the one you wanted, bought it, got home, and couldn’t wait to tear the cellophane off and see the artwork and the label.

Paradise Theater by StyxWhen I was a teenager STYX had a record called Paradise Theater that had an amazing artistic representation of what the same said theater looked like in the heyday and what it looked like, decrepit, dying, just before it was torn down.  Inside you got the lyrics and screamed along with Tommy Shaw as he said he had “too much time on my hands.”  But the capper: the laser-inscribed cherubs that bordered the edges of the actual vinyl…rainbow shadows enhanced by the light, the only things decorating one side of the vinyl.  For effect, they removed the record label from that side Laser Etchingso it was all-black but for the laser etching.  The other side had the listings of the songs for both sides of the LP.

Stereotomy by the Alan Parsons ProjcetMy favorite, though . . . was by the Alan Parsons Project.  The album is universally ignored, not critically well-received, and I loved it.  It’s very ’80s, it’s very keyboard-centric, and it’s an odd high-concept album.  But the album artwork . . . it’s AH-MAY-ZING!  If you were lucky enough, as I was, to get a copy of one of the first pressings it was an album that was encased in a PVC cover that was then wrapped in cellophane.  Take off the plastic and the PVC was blue on the front . . . red on the back.  All the front said, in seemingly green letters, was “The Alan Parsons Project” on the top and “Stereotomy” on the bottom.  The back had an odd, crystalline design and nothing else.  Open the flap and take out the album cover, though, and the front is gibberish with a larger design in red and The cover without the 3d lensblue.  The back showed the actual track listings.  The album used the old 3D glasses effect to erase portions so you could only see them with the PVC cover on.  It was radical, had to be expensive, and just…so…cool!

This is the experience.  The act of taking the vinyl out, flipping it over and over again in your hands, and putting the center hole onto the spindle of the turntable.  You smelled the vinyl and the cardboard on the records.  You read the liner notes as the record started to play.  After all that, even, you played the record and you were cognizant of the music flowing through your room.  When it stopped, you got up, moved across the room, and moved flipped the record.  You cleaned it to remove the dust and grime, pulled over the needle. . . and you listened to the other side.

I have most of my record collection at home.  I have more new vinyl I’ve purchased.  I’m no throwback, I have an iPhone.  I listen to music in the car, on the iPod, I use it when I exercise in the mornings.  But music is meant to be experienced.  To that end…my kids tend to pick vinyl over CDs or the iPod when we choose music for the evening.  They look at the album covers.  The latest one by Rush has each side of each record is a clock…showing the album side from 1 to 4 by showing the time on a clock…for the album Clockwork Angels.  Others have clear or colored vinyl.  I have jazz…a Dave Brubeck small microgroove LP from Record Store Day that is all red see-through vinyl.  The music is amazing and the vinyl looks like a clear old 78rpm record.  It’s meant to tell a story before you ever put the needle on the groove and hear the first notes: this is a history lesson to what music was, can be, and should be.  It’s from the ’78 era but re-thought by Brubeck for the then 20th century.

Revelator by the Tedeschi Trucks BandWe are missing the experience today.  Kids, sure, listen to music and go to concerts.  Still, in an era where auto-tune is the norm and perfection is the preference, isn’t it amazing that four kids in a California household will listen – voluntarily – to a vinyl record.  There are pops, hisses, the occasional skip and none of it is auto-tuned.  I have new acts, like the Black Keys and OK Go along with my old Brubeck, Miles Davis, Clapton, Bonnie Raitt and Allman Brothers.  Tedeschi Trucks mixed a version for vinyl and then added free digital download of the “mixed for iTunes” version.  It’s brilliant.

As Jimi Hendrix so aptly asked . . . “but first, are you ex…perienced?”  I have to ask you, before you call me a fuddy-duddy, or old, or grumpy or just too set in my ways…have you ever been experienced?  Well…I have.

 

Coming Back to Life

PFDivisionBellCoverThere’s a song . . . yeah I know, I’ve said it before, everything’s a song to a musician . . . but bear with me.  There’s a song from the last album Pink Floyd put together.  It’s not one of the hits.   Hell, most people decidedly ignore “The Division Bell” as a Floyd record anyway.  But I started listening to the LP again the other day, just because one of the songs had gotten stuck in my head.

Then this song came up, between the typically played ones.

Bear in mind…this is Floyd, a normally dark, insanity-laden group with great writing, deep lyrics.  Much of their stuff has a tinge of sorrow and longing in it.  This song is no different.

But it seemed strangely apt for me.

Where were you…when I was burned and broken.
While the days slip by, from my window watching
Where were you, when I was hurt and I was helpless
Because the things you do and the things you say surround me
While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the rising sun.

It’s not a very subtle metaphor for you here, I get that.  Still…subtlety isn’t always the best policy.  I think it’s good I didn’t hear this song when I was at my worst, in the peak of sadness and grief.  Most people have never lost someone this way and I truly don’t wish that on anyone.  The thing is . . . I can’t even tell my kids that I understand what they’re going through.  Their grandparents can.  Their Aunt can, to a degree.  But my loss is different.  We can relate in loss but we can’t dwell in the same space.  They lost their mother, and that’s cold, hard, and difficult.  The warmth, the softness, the silly, smiling truth that a Mom, a woman can bring has left.  I cannot give them the motherly embrace they desire.  I can only embrace them and give them the best I can.

But for me . . . I lost something different.  In the days, weeks, and now years after losing the woman I lived with things changed, a lot, almost with a strange, off-beat rhythm.  In the beginning I could easily have shouted those first two lines – I was burned and broken.  I was hurt and helpless.  The person I normally turned to when things went totally bonkers, haywire and crazy was gone.  She often took the word of others ahead of those who loved her.  I know that’s human nature, but it doesn’t help anyway.  When doctors said she was weak, there were times I wondered if she gave up.

In the first few months I was blinded, staring straight into the shining sun.

Then last year, without even realizing or noticing what was happening, there was a shift.

I don’t know when it happened, but I started going to bed and hadn’t noticed the lack of the shift in weight from the other side of the bed.  I didn’t notice the warmth that emanated from my right side was gone.  I didn’t feel the press of her shape against me any more.

At some point, without realizing it, I stopped telling Andrea goodnight.

I reached a point where I did the final things.  The grave has a stone.  The picture on my dresser of her was gone.  I changed the mail and email so that her name wasn’t there any more.  It’s not a cold thing to remove those imprints, they had faded already.

Don’t take growth for coldness, though.  There is a tear in my soul that will be there forever.  You don’t heal it, though.  The tear changes you, like a hole in the universe, pieces of your past and future swirling into it.  Sometimes the best things are all that come to the front of the tear…and you forget the horrible things that the person may have said or done to you in a moment of fear or weakness.  Sometimes the horrible things are all you can feel.

But just about a year ago I felt the change in how I dealt with that tear.  It was no longer the worst part of me, it was part of me forever.  That was a good thing.  The tear brings in the best and worst part of more than twenty years of life.  You can’t ignore it or sew it shut, you embrace it and ride the waves of emotion that it brings.  A smell of pizza from the Italian restaurant in Omaha reminds you of meeting her sister.  A certain wine reminds you of a horrible fight you had on your 30th birthday.  A movie makes you laugh out loud not because of the movie’s humor but because of how it tickled her one day.

A song still makes you tear up a little.

I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life

Coming back to life.  I feel like the last half year to a year has been the seeds of life growing again.  I’ve felt all of us start to come back to life.  We weren’t zombies or comatose creatures wandering through the mist.  We were dormant, waiting for the time when we could feel the warmth above us again.  We were waiting for the touch, feel, and love of each other and those around us.

You see . . . the tear in my soul was there, swirling, light going in and out of it.  For so long I avoided and feared it because I thought it was like a black hole, taking the memories one at a time and plucking them from my mind and dragging them into obscurity.

But it wasn’t a black hole I was looking toward.

I was staring straight into the shining sun.