BEHIND THE SONG - ABOUT FACE
Aside from my family, my songs have been my life's work. I love writing and rewriting songs. I crave the construction process and the sense of wholeness when all the pieces fall into their proper place. Writing songs is how I am able to make sense of the world around me. It is how I can deal with the stimulus I am often overwhelmed by. I write songs to help ease my anxiety and bring to bear a small slice of personal order. Though at most moments, I believe as Martin Mull best communicates, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, I am a junkie for reading and hearing what artists have to say about their work and creative process. I also have always loved to get into an artist's head by way of their demos and outtakes to see if I could come closer to the spark or flame of their creativity. It is for this reason, and at the risk of "cooking about sculpture", that I have fashioned the "Behind The Songs" pages.
Where do the songs come from? What was their life like before you officially met? What makes them tick? Always questions I wish to explore if a song means something to me. As I have said, I have spent much of my time inside my songs writing and rewriting them and have many versions of them laying around. Live versions, demo versions, sitting alone versions and so on. Some songs I have captured on “tape” the very moment of inspiration, a moment often times unrecognizable as a song or even as music. These moments are very personal and certain fodder for embarrassment. They do not always sound like a musical person created them, but they are always real and pure, and that, I think, is a very cool thing to reveal and share for those interested in songs. If the finished songs are the meal, what can be found on the "Behind The Songs" pages is like sneaking into the kitchen for a look at the counter, a peak into the oven and a lick of the spoon.
Behind My Songs: Songs, Songs, Songs, Songs and Concerts
As far back as I can remember, I have always loved songs. My earliest clear memories of songs are from around 5 years old. There I am at recess on FE Bellows playground rescuing my crush from monsters along to Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" (1972). Three short years later, after my first crush moved so far away, there I am feeling the pangs of lost love, lamenting along with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as they sing "My Eyes Adored You" (1975). Around this time, I remember being struck by the helplessness of Jim Croce's "Time In A Bottle" (1972) while waiting with my Mom at the traffic light on North Barry Avenue just across from Carvel, wishing I could spend more time with my older cousin who also lived far away. These moments are for me as clear as any I experienced yesterday. Even before these ear memory crystals, musical memories of my parents playing for me "Ahab The Arab" (1969) and "Everything is Beautiful" (1970) by Ray Stevens are strong. "Tiny Bubbles" (1966) by Don Ho and albums by Englebert Humperdink, Tom Jones, Roberto Carlos and the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack also all hold early places in my memory.
My next big clear musical memory sees me sneaking with my 5th grade best friend into his older brother room to listen to the Charlie Daniels Band "Fire On The Mountain" (1974). I am certain there was some Lynyrd Skynyrd involved also, but Charlie left the mark. It was like listening to something from another world. When years later I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie Daniels, he proved quite decisively he was most certainly from my world.
My second big crush, on Charlie's angel, Jacklyn Smith, was soon on the way and was also set to music in my head as I imagined I was "Jim Street" from the TV Show "SWAT" rescuing my Angel along to "Heaven on the Seventh Floor" (1977) by Paul Nicholas, "Undercover Angel" (1977) by Alan O'Day and "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" (1977) by Andy Gibb. To this day 70's AM Radio hits all remain familiar friends for me. I unashamedly welcome them in whenever they pass by.
At another cousin's house in Harrison is where I first heard Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" (1977). When I now think of being titillated by Scooter Rizzuto's play call in "Paradise By The Dashboard Light", the fact my cousin's house was located in the next town, just around the corner from my first crushes new home must have certainly heightened my experience. Several years later, when I first met Rose and George Marino they asked who my favorite songwriter was, Jim Steinman, Meatloaf’s Songwriter, was my answer because to me his songs were so distinguishable, regardless who was performing them. I had instinctively somehow known the same Meatloaf man had written Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (1983), Air Supply's "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" (1983) and the main songs from the movie "Streets Of Fire", "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young" and "Nowhere Fast" (1984)….this made an impression on me.
Middle school found me strumming my tennis racket and making Kiss stages out of Legos as I listened to "Destroyer" (1976), "Rock and Roll Over" (1976), "Love Gun" (1977) and "Alive II" (1977) or sleeping over my best friend house and having him turning me on to the exotic sounds of Yes "Drama" (1980) and Rush "Permanent Waves" (1980).
Looking back it was the TV movie “Birth Of The Beatles“ (1979) that I think turned me on to the Beatles. I remember seeing it while I was at my VoVo’s house… also in Harrison, New York. My first Beatle album followed soon after. It was a cassette tape of "With The Beatles". I think I wore it out listening to it incessantly. Then within the year John Lennon was murdered. Home sick the next day is when I first found out he was killed as I listened to the radio. For the next two weeks you could not escape the coverage and I was wrapped up in the death of this person I was previously not at all fully unaware of. I experienced a profoundly deep sense of loss as a result of what I saw those weeks. I have never been able to shake it. For my birthday that same year my Aunt and Uncle gave me the silver covered Beatles "Rock and Roll Music" (1976) double album and I asked my parents to take me to see Beatlemania at the Westchester Premier Theater in Tarrytown, NY. It was my first concert and my first date, I asked my first crush of course. I got the Beatlemania Soundtrack (1978) double album following the show, or perhaps at the show, and wore it out listening and looking at the artwork over and over, again and again. The inside fold image of the John Lennon character sitting cross-legged on the stage in a white suit while “Faul” (Fake Paul) sat at the piano is a quintessential musical image for me. I recently got my hands on a copy of the album and listened to it for the first time in over 30 years… every single pre-song quip flooded back memories, especially the Lady Madonna false start which could be the very thing that placed the seed that would grow into my desire to be able to play music for myself. I love the idea a song can start, crash, meander, regain its footing and then lock in. Very powerful idea for me. "Magical Mystery Tour" was my first real Beatles vinyl. It too opened up into a double page picture of the band with their psychedelic instruments. Another picture I looked at for hours not yet realizing I was a musician.
As I sort through my musical past I would have to say I was unknowingly a fan of McCartney before Lennon as I am certain I was familiar with Wing's and all their hits before John Lennon's death, given my obsession with 70's AM radio.
My early fascination with the Beatles and live music continued to be feed at the 1981 Rye Neck High School AFS Talent Show where some older kids played a set of four songs. I was mesmerized. I clearly remember some older kids playing the Beatles "I'm Down". It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I went to every show that weekend, and though I would not start playing guitar for another 7 years, seeing regular people play music certainly help gestate the seed for my pre-mentioned desire to do so also.
So with the Beatle and live performance seeds firmly planted, as the 80's started, I became more discriminating, so I thought, and turned away from AM radio and towards FM radio and album bands... Styx "Pieces Of Eight" (1978), "Cornerstone" (1979), "Paradise Theatre" (1981), REO Speedwagon "Hi Infidelity" (1980), "Good Trouble" (1982), "Wheels Are Turnin" (1984) and my all-time favorite... Journey "Departure" (1980), "Captured" (1980), "Escape" (1981), "Frontiers" (1983). I had all the Journey albums. I was a Fan. I had the three pre-Steve Perry fusion records, "Journey" (1975), "Look into the Future" (1976), "Next" (1977), though truth be told I did not enjoy them as much as use them as proof of my devotion. I also had the very hard to find Japanese Import "Dream, After Dream" (1980) which I found in the record bin in the basement of an audiophile store in White Plains I had no business being in... and so my addiction to B-Sides and Demos started. I did not realize this until many years later, but my favorite song on the early Journey Albums was the George Harrison Cover, "It's All Too Much". My fourth concert experience became Journey and Bryan Adams at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island on May 8th, 1983. Our seats were “obstructed view” as we were right behind the mixing board. One notable memory of this concert, beside how very excited I was, was I clearly recall watching on the large monitor Steve Perry walk around the stage in his “Fred Flintstone” shirt and as he passed over one of the ramps there was a view down below the stage where I saw several other musicians playing along. At the time I was not sufficiently learned to be let down.
Like "Dream, After Dream", there are other records I clearly remember purchasing. I remember taking the bus from Mamaroneck to White Plains to a stand-alone record store at the very end of Mamaroneck Avenue to purchase Journey “Captured” (1980). I can clearly see the layout of the store. I remember touching the album for the first time and then spending endless hours staring into the centerfold and sleeve photos just as I did with the “Beatlemaina” and “Magical Mystery Tour” Albums. I also rode the same bus line to the White Plains Galleria Sam Goody's to buy Journey "Escape" (1981). I remember walking into the store on the second level not far from the escalator on the right and going straight to “J”, but seeing the “Escape” display on the row end cap, picking up the album for the first time and trying to read the letters that looked like numbers, but spelled “ESCAPE”…coolest thing ever to that date, and then being heartbroken finding my favorite member, Greg Rollie had been replaced by Jonathan Cain….least coolest thing to that date! As I licked my wounds, and reveled in the new art work, the new songs won me over and my crush on Greg Rollie quickly dissipated as songs triumphed over personality…as well they should.
By then I had a stack of albums, which for a brief time, I separated by placing a paper towel between each, a method of reverence for me I learn from my neat freak neighbor and friend. The stack included Supertramp "Breakfast in America" (1979), Billy Joel "Glass Houses" (1980), Linda Rondstadt "Mad Love" (1980), Pat Benatar "Crimes Of Passion" (1980), Foreigner "Head Games" (1979) and "4" (1981), Bryan Adams "Cuts Like a Knife" (1983), The Kinks "Give The People What They Want" (1981), Air Supply "Greatest Hits" (1983), The Blues Brothers "Briefcase Full of Blues" (1978), Jefferson Starship "Winds of Change" (1982), John Cougar Melloncamp Uh-Huh (1983), Quarterflash "Quarterflash" (1981), Go-Go's "Beauty and the Beat" (1981), J.Giels Band "Freeze Frame" (1981), Loverboy "Loverboy" (1980) and "Get Lucky" (1981), Aldo Nova "Aldo Nova" (1982), Van Halen "Fair Warning" (1981) and "Diver Down" (1983), Billy Squier "Don't Say No" (1981) and "Emotions in Motion" (1982).
Billy Squier was my first real concert. It was also at the Westchester Premier Theater in Elmsford, NY on October 16th, 1982. My first real concert was to be Van Halen on the "Diver Down" tour, but the show was postponed due to Eddie hurting his hand. Eventually, we drove to the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, NJ on November 15th, 1982 with my friend's brother in his white Ford Mustang to see the show. It was a tight fit in the back seat.
Also in my pile of records at that time was Novo Combo "Novo Combo" (1981) and "Animation Generation" (1982) and with Novo Combo lies another very key musical memory, again finding me home sick from school and listening to the radio, WNEW to be exact. It was under these conditions, laying on my attic bedroom floor, I first heard Novo Combo's song "Up Periscope". I made a miraculous recovery from my ailments and immediately went down to Mostly Music on Mamaroneck Avenue to purchase the album, which I have to this day. I remember picking this album up from the bin and walking it to the very high checkout counter. I remember the smell of the store. The walls covered with posters. It was the coolest place I knew of. Of that early stack of albums, though I still look upon all the albums in it fondly and with the sole exception of "Breakfast In America" and Roger Hodgson's songs in particular, none of the albums have grown with me the way Novo Combo has. Years later, when I finally discovered for myself the internet, the first thing I did with my Netscape Browser was try and find out what happened to a couple of my favorite bands. Novo Combo was top on the list. The Rainmakers Next. Then Kerry Livgren of the band Kansas. It was this inquiry which lead me to meet my only friend of online origin, Ted Leonard. I did a search for Novo Combo and stumbled upon Ted's page where he mentioned being a roadie for many people including my point of interest, Novo Combo. From NY, but living in Helsinki Finland with his family, Ted and I became fast friends and he very graciously, in exchange for a shipment of Oren Daily Roast and Pop Tarts, filled me in on the band, including eventually graciously introducing me to my favorite member, Pete Hewlett. Since our introduction, sharing a similar sense of humor, Pete and I have also become friends (I think) and, with my work taking me to Pittsburgh where he lives, I have gotten to see him perform in very intimate settings on several occasions. A huge thrill for me each time. My favorite memory is sitting at the bar with him on a Monday (July 21st, 2008) just after he had returned from singing with Paul McCartney and Billy Joel at Billy Joel's “Last Play At Shea” Concerts (July 16th and 18th, 2008). We sat talking about life and the dichotomy of his experience over those last couple days leading up to our place sitting together at the bar of his local weekly happy hour gig. It did not matter to me Pete was not playing a stadium that night. To me he was and still is a huge figure. He and his bandmates created music which has informed and helped me define “me” from an early age and I am very proud to call him my friend (I think) and wherever he is playing, I will always want a front row seat. My second favorite Pete memory is getting abandoned by American Airlines in Pittsburgh on my way to Copenhagen and calling Pete on a whim and then sitting with him for three hours effortlessly conversing in a very nondescript hotel lobby. You often hear people talking about who are the historical people they would love to sit and talk with. I kinda got to do it, though truth be told, I would probably place talking to Jesus or J.D. Salinger ahead of sitting with Pete, but if given such an opportunity, I would certainly bring Pete along for the laughs because God know those other two guys can be a bit serious.
High School continued on with my next huge musical impact occurring while getting a ride home from Varsity soccer practice in the back of one of the older guy's open topped jeep while he blasted Squeeze "Argybargy" (1980), still one of my all-time favorite albums. Something about the chemical mixture of the freedom of that back seat, the fear and excitement of being a Freshman accepted by upper class-men and the infectious music was completely intoxicating. I can feel it to this day.
The summer of 1982 I got my first girlfriend and very soon after we met, 3 days, my family and I went on a month long trip to Spain and Portugal. I pined for my new “love” throughout the trip to the soundtrack of the Scorpions "Blackout" (1982) on cassette tape. There were other cassettes, but it is the Scorpions I remember. I listened to the tape on my new red auto-reverse Awia Walkman which I had gone down into Times Square with my friends to buy. I negotiated hard and ended up with an open box return and a hard lesson in NYC reality as the player, in spite of how much I loved it, never really worked properly. It was hardly the last lesson my friends and I would learn the hard way in Times Square before Disney invaded, but those are non-musical stories better remembered elsewhere.
As high school continued, my taste moved from mainstream, or so I thought, as I discovered and got heavily into Sammy Hagar. His live concert on MTV's Friday night concert (1983) was the coolest concert I had witness up until that point. I went onto get his whole back catalog, with “Three Lock Box” being my favorite album. I recently listened to it again and it was so clear why a 15 year old boy would love it. Around the same time, individual songs I can remember being struck by, and having 45's of, were Santana "Winning" (1981) and Point Blank "Nichole" (1982).
A high school house party held in a classmates attic introduced me to U2’s "Under A Blood Red Sky". It was on repeat all night long. I remember having a feeling of being accepted by the cool kids. Good thing feelings cannot be seen or someone would have certainly told me I was mistaken. On lunch trips that year to Sal’s pizza, across the street and up the road from Mostly Music, I was usually accompanied by school mates and Patrick Hernandez singing "Born To Be Alive" (1979). I was recently told by one of my pizza buddies that I was the only one her mom would let her drive with because I was “responsible”….another blow to any thought of High School coolness.
MTV burst on the scene around that time and I could not get it fast enough nor watch it long enough. I loved all the old videos, many of which were live performances by “ugly” bands such as Kansas. “People Of The Southwind” comes quickly to mind. I clearly remember seeing and simultaneously hearing Night Ranger "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" on MTV for the first time and watching the dueling guitarists, starting a man crush on Brad Gillis and taking note their keyboard player was from Sammy Hagar's band! A key moment in my musical development as I could now recognize sidemen.
Around this time I got my first real set of Speakers, Polk 5jr. These speakers were my prized possession for many years perhaps only surpassed in my esteem by my first guitar given to me as a college graduation present by my parents. More about that later. Speaker in hand, as soon as I was able, I purchased a CD player. The one I got was the Sony CDP-200. Another prized possession for quite some time. The day I made the pilgrimage to Crazy Eddie’s in White Plains, I also bought my first CDs, Asia "Asia" (1982) and Rod Stewart "Greatest Hits, Vol. 1" (1979). Other CD’s I remember having in my early collection were Dire Straits "Love over Gold" (1982) "Making Movies" (1980) and "Brothers in Arms" (1985), Dan Fogelberg "Greatest Hits" (1982), Yanni "Keys To Imagination" (1986), Phil Collins "Hello, I Must Be Going!" (1982), Julian Lennon "The Secret Value of Daydreaming" (1986), Chuck Mangione "A&M Classics in Modern Jazz, Vol. 6" (1982), Supertramp "A&M Classics, Vol. 9", Steve Miller Band "Greatest Hits 1974-78" (1978), Survivor "Vital Signs" (1984), Tommy Shaw "Girls With Guns" (1984), Alan Parsons Project "Vulture Culture" (1984), Grover Washington Jr. "Winelight" (1982), Hall & Oates "Rock N Soul The Best Of" (1983), The Moody Blues "Voices In The Sky" (1985), Huey Lewis And The News "Picture This" (1982) and "Sports" (1983), The Hooters "Nervous Night" (1985), "One Way Home" (1987) and "Zig Zag" (1989). Pink Floyd "The Wall" (1979) snuck in there sometime around the same time. I do not remember how I was introduced to Pink Floyd, but it may have had something to do with too much Blackberry Brandy.
Late in my High School years I took to driving to see my older cousin and cruising/touring Torrington, CT with him and his friends while we listened to Dire Straits "Money For Nothing" (1985) and “Green Grass and High Tides” by the Outlaws over and over. I also remember GTR "The Hunter" (1986) and ZZ Top "Rough Boy" (1986) from visits to my northern cousin.
As one would expect college brought with it much change in my tastes and interests and one of my best friends, James, prepped me for this by introducing me to Bob Dylan via “Greatest Hits” (1967) and “More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits” (1971). James would also give me my first harmonica brace when I started teaching myself guitar later in my college years. I use it to this day.
Once I was exposed to the ideas and thoughts my course of study at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (the only US University sanctioned by the Pope!), a sense of longing and unease developed and I was immediately redraw to the music Kansas in a much deeper way the previous. I was familiar with Kansas having been introduced to them years earlier by my older cousin, who also introduced me at the same time to Rod Stewart "Hot Legs" (1977) and J.Giels “Blow Your Face Out” (live) (1976). This, all in his room on the hill in Torrington. But in hindsight, my interest was really just, “my cool older cousin likes this so I do also”. My second CD being Rod Stewarts “Greatest Hits” may certainly be a bit of the remnants of the power of this introduction. Rod Stewart’s Live album where it states “recorded live with no overdubs” and then publicly apologizing to the Sax player for keeping in a bum note, was also a big influence on me now that I think of it. So Kansas “Leftoverture” (1976), “Point of Know Return” (1977), “Monolith” (1979) and “Audio-Visions” (1980) all took on much greater and deeper meaning for me as the searching underpinnings of Kerry Livgren's pre-born again lyrics spoke so loudly to me. (As part of my internet search I had discovered Kerry Livgren’s rebirth. His music that followed did not speak to me…I wish it could, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for). I recall doing a paper on the lyrics for “Chronicle: He Knew” as the subject of a Philosophy paper my Freshman year.
While in college the boxset made its appearance and the two key ones for me at that time were Springsteen’s Live box Set (1987) and most importantly of all, Bob Dylan’s 3 CD set “Biograph” (1985). First Springsteen; I was aware of Bruce Springsteen as his “Born In The USA” (1984) was everywhere in 1985, but it was the box set that introduced me to the power of his live music. It certainly left an impression and an inspiration. Where Springsteen’s set shows me the power of live music, Dylan’s “Biograph" should me the power of honesty in song. The power of under production. The power of revision. The fearlessness. That sometimes missing the mark is OK. Dylan says little about it, but he tells you everything. “Up To Me" became a big song with me along with “Caribbean Wind”. “Biograph” blew open the doors to deeper songs and washed aside all the top forty music I once loved. I proceeded to acquire the entire Dylan catalog. I was obsessed.
Still pre my full on Bob Dylan obsession, Kansas came to Constitution Hall in Washington DC on the "Power" (1986) tour March 25th 1987 without Kerry, but with Steve Morse on Guitar and all of Kerry’s songs. I went to see Kansas, but was enraptured by their opening act the Rainmakers, long before Kansas hit the stage. The next day I went to Tower Records near DuPont Circle and purchased the Rainmakers first Album on CD, “The Rainmakers” (1986). It became my favorite album…and since very few have heard of them, they were my discovery which made them all the more special to me. I knew a secret…I had a view behind the curtain…or so it seemed to me. Bob Walkenhorst remains one of my all-time favorite writers to this day. Much more about him later.
Another big musical event happened going to see my high school girlfriend at her school in Cortland, NY for the school’s spring concert. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band with Otis Day and the Knights were the acts. I had seen Eddie and the Cruiser when my family first got HBO and watched it what seems like a hundred times. But alas, the big event was not seeing the bands or my girlfriend, but rather having my cherished box of tapes stolen from my car. I had placed them on the floor behind the seat of my unlocked car. As a result it was a long ride back to Washington. The tapes I remember being most upset about losing were Jimmy Buffett’s “You Had To Be There” which my would be senior year roommate had turned me on to well before pulling my head out of a toilet during Sophomore year. That was also the year of Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” (1986). The second tape was Tommy Shaw’s second album “What If” (1985). In the pre download/Ebay world, it was hard for me to replace the Shaw album and its mystique grew for me year after year. I did finally download it on Napster, and unfortunately, it could not stand against the compounding years of anticipation. In hindsight, my current sensibilities would tell my younger self the loss was not so big.
Throughout my college days we would often head down to the Irish Times and there we would find Pete Papageorge sitting upon his perch and singing about “Green Alligators” with just his voice and a guitar. I studied what he did every time I would be in the bar fascinated both before and after I started playing my own guitar. Other big records for me in college were Steve Winwood “Back In The High Life” (1986), Kenny G “Duotones” (1986), Anita Baker “Rapture” (1986), “The Big Chill Soundtrack” album (1983), Elvis Costello and the Attractions “The Best of Of” (1985). I became an Elvis fanatic and went on to procure his entire catalog….my Elvis obsession has now dissipated.
Junior year I witnessed one of my top ten concert highlights as leaving the U2 “Joshua Tree” show at RFK on Sept 20th, 1987 all 40,000 people sang “40” the whole way out of the stadium and into the metro station. It was amazing. Even religious. My roommate that year made U2 “Joshua Tree” (1987) a constant companion in our dorm room as I lay on the bottom of our Queen bunks. I got my roommate a framed photo of Bono with his arm in a sling; a shot of him finishing the concert we had seen with a dislocated shoulder after having fallen from the stage. It was raining during the show and the stage slippery. Safer and dryer than the U2 stage was our bunks. My roommate was to become an engineer and I was a carpenter’s son. I would see U2 once again in DC on their “Zoo TV” Tour (August 16, 1992) and it remains the single most amazing concert I have ever witnessed.
Another musical memory from my sophomore year was going to see the same Huey Lewis concert twice on April 4, 1987 at the Capitol Center in Landover, Maryland with my campus mailroom work study colleague. While having a pre-concert cocktail, the evening was foreshadowed when he looked up out of my Pontiac Fiero sunroof and innocently said, “ooooh look at the horse” as its breath proceeded to fog the glass, only to be wiped clear by officer “go on empty that out and move along now”. Well I guess we drank more than we were forced to spill on the parking lot because once inside we soon had to use a bathroom. With the “Cap” Center under construction and woefully short on bathrooms, we jumped the line. As we left, our relief immediately turn to dread as we were ejected from the concert, but then that dread immediately 180’d into good fortune as we scalped a pair of reentry tickets just outside the door for 8 dollars, returning to the floor seats just in time to hear Huey sing “I want A New Drug”. …one that won’t make me pee 10 times.
The key moment of my musical history, which really open the door for me to learn to play music for myself, was seeing The Alarm perform at my college on April 14th, 1988 during their "Eye Of The Hurricane" (1987) tour. I was in the cafeteria when someone asked if anyone could help setup the Spring Fling Concert in the school gymnasium. I volunteered, ditching class, and ended up as a stage hand for the band. I remember standing near them when they refused to perform unless a handful of fans, who did not go to the school, were allowed access to the show. Access was granted and I was inspired by Rock and Roll giving the man the finger and winning. After this concert, I got their album and then every album and B-side I could hunt down that came before it. I had witnessed first-hand a band living the fact they had something to say and in them I had found my next favorite band and an impetus to start writing my own songs. When I returned from break following the Spring Fling Concert I did so having dug out of my attic at home an old classical guitar that had been given to me by my Aunt Leslie when I was 8 or so…3 months of bad lessons and zero songs equals quit. I was also armed this time with the 100 Greatest Hits of Rock for Easy Guitar. The first song I would play was America’s “A Horse With No Name”…because, according to the “100 Greatest Hits of Rock and Roll” it all happens on the same fret.
Through my devotion to the Alarm, I was exposed to several opening acts I became very fond of, Face To Face, “One Big Day” (1987) from Boston and The Kevin McDermott Orchestra, “Mother Nature's Kitchen” (1989) from Scotland, both of which had something to say in their lyrics.
On July 1, 1988, shortly after the end of my Junior year, I attended a Bob Dylan and the Alarm concert at Jones Beach and I can honestly say it was a religious experience for me. I went with James and the moment Bob Dylan and GE Smith together played "Tangled Up In Blue" on Acoustic guitars crystalized my love of songs played on an acoustic guitar and my desire to be able to one day do it for myself. “Tangled Up In Blue” became a favorite song of mine and years later when I stepped on stage with Bob Walkenhorst, it was “Tangled Up In Blue” that we played together. A Thrill of a life time for me. More about that later.
Beside for drawing the chuckles of floor-mates on the second floor of the converted Holiday Inn known as Monroe Hall, my new found obsession with playing music set my focus on seeing live local bands up close and personal. Derryberry and Alagia, an acoustic guitar duo gave me the idea to one day form a duo and to get my hands on an all Blonde cutaway Takamine guitar. To this day I have a “Blonde” fetish and all my guitars are natural blonde finishes. Though the duo thing would soon materialize and lead to the Indigo Girls “Indigo Girls” (1987), first my budding new wave interest needed to be explored further. My keen interest saw me driving to inner harbor Baltimore many Saturdays to see a cover band called Y-Not?! perform all the new wave hits at a gigantic old power station converted to a multi club venue called PT Flags. From these experiences I discovered my fondness for such bands as The Cure “Standing on a Beach The Singles 1979-1985” (1986) and “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me” (1987), The Violent Femmes “Add It Up” (????), New Order "Love Vigilantes" (1985), Simple Minds “Live in the City of Light” (1987). Also, on the new wave front, I was experiencing an ongoing forced exposure to the “Pretty in Pink Soundtrack” (1986). The soundtrack was played at the National Archives Ice Rink where I worked as a skate guard. As I skated in circles the tape made loops over and over and over and over, day after day after day after day as it was the only tape we had in the control room where they kept the big fat turkey hotdogs. We once went and played a late night pickup game of hockey at an indoor rink in the Anicostia section of DC and brought the tape! "If You Leave" Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, "Left of Center" Suzanne Vega, "Get to Know Ya" Jesse Johnson, "Do Wot You Do" INXS, "Pretty in Pink" The Psychedelic Furs, "Shellshock" New Order, "Round, Round" Belouis Some, "Wouldn't It Be Good" Nik Kershaw, "Bring On the Dancing Horses" Echo & the Bunnymen and "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" The Smiths are all burned into my brain as nasty Turkey Hot Dog are upon my taste buds.
As I was getting set to graduate from college another huge musical discovery happened very much by chance at the Union Station shops. There I became infatuated with the music that was being played in this new age kind of store I was in. The music was by Govi and the album, his first, “Sky High” (1988). I can see myself holding the light blue cover CD with him and his hovering Ovation twelve string. Govi’s is my “go to” catalog when I need to relax or focus and I will add his lead guitar playing has had the most influence on how I do the same.
Upon graduation I had an offer to go and work for the IRS. I recall being told by the recruiter that the coolest thing they did was taxes for a recent Rolling Stones tour. Faced with 20 years of boredom, I opted out and asked my Parents for a Guitar as a graduation present. I chose the same guitar I saw Derryberry playing, an all Maple (blonde) Takamine EF-350MC. It cost $503 dollars at Sam Ash in White Plains, I play it to this day and have written most of my songs on it.
Post college back home in Larchmont, New York, work at another Ice Rink lead me deeper into alternative music and into my first first-hand involvement with a real live group of musicians who had a band name, Door Number 3. Skating in circles with the band leader’s girlfriend and singer, we shared our interest in songs, and eventually I got an introduction to the Band leader who was one of the nicest guys I ever met and we became fast friends. I really wanted toe be in the band and since they had two guitarist, I bought my first keyboard a Kawai K4! Journey played one. I was planning to use it in their Dead type half cover/half original band. Jealousy from the other guitar player kept me out the band and my stage debut would have to wait another year or so, but in the meantime I got to experience my one and only Grateful Dead show on March 29, 1990 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Branford Marsalis was a guest soloist, but all I can remember is walking through the parking lot where countless people were looking for a “miracle ticket”. Also at the rink I meet another work friend who introduced me to the Go-Betweens "16 Lover's Lane" (1988), the Smiths and most importantly, The Dream Academy (1985) and The Beautiful South (1989), two band I still hold dear. I clearly remember going to the Ritz in New York City on April 21st, 1990 to see the Beautiful South as they performed their set in tracksuits, a show that could not be further away from the Grateful Dead show I had just attended a month earlier. I was unsure of what I was seeing at the Beautiful South show, but to this day remember it and love the smart, cynical twists they bring to each song of their songs.
Around that time several other friends who passed through my life after college left me with musical remnants I have to this day. Vin Scelsa and Idiot’s delight, Blue Rodeo "Casino" (1990) and John Hiatt to name a few. I also went to several concerts, one of which was the Walden Woods Benefit at Madison Square Garden. Harmony singing came into my awareness around this time would become a useful interest when I got together with a friend of a friend to start gigging soon after.
But first there was time spent at Westchester Community College studying music and working at my Aunt’s Restaurant, Jillyflowers. At this time I got turned me on to Dan Fogelberg, “Greatest Hits” (1982) and the “The Innocent Age” (1981) and went to see Eric Clapton at the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on August 6, 1990.
It was at Jillyflowers in Harrison where I was introduced to Rose and George Marino. I spent a Tuesday evening sitting with them and my Aunt. Rose was Clive Davis’ assistant and George was one of the main mastering engineers at Sterling Sound in Manhattan. They were both very nice to the novice guitarist who was sitting with them and Rose promised to help me get a job in the music industry, but before she did she asked me if I was sure I wanted to get into the music business. When I whole-heartedly confirmed I did, she said she would help me and left me with the following advice, “Remember, nice people do make it in the music business.” Rose would get me into the mailroom at Capital Records at 810 7Th Avenue in New York where I would work for a year and meet some nice people.
Around this time, my very good friend introduced me to a friend of her's from college, who also wanted to start playing gigs. A keyboard player to couple with my guitar, we got right to work and soon had enough songs to start getting paying gigs. My partner ekindled my interest in Crosby, Still and Nash, initially sparked by Brandywine in the basement of the Round Table in Maryland. My partners brother-in-law would come and see us and sit in on occasion. It was from him that I first gained exposure to Todd Rundgren and my fondness for the “Runt” would slowly grow into the deep respect I now have for his work.
Our duo jelled very well and fast and I thought that was how it would always be when you get a band together. I now know what a rare experience we had. Eventually, with my partner working a regular job and me working in the music industry, I wanted to play more and started branching out on my own. I think I used the band speakers once for a solo gig and this prompted our Beatles break-up and claiming of the gear. In the end we remained friends and returned to our pre-“Barley & Hopps” personas and paths.
It was also working at Capitol Records that I got my first full set of Beatles Albums in CD format. Bruce Lundvall's lovely assistance was kind enough to place the order for me as getting complimentary Beatles CD’s was very hard to do at the time, as everybody wanted them having just been recently released. With my industry holy grail secured, I lost interest and would not become a true Beatles fanatic for several more years; for it was only after I had been playing music for some time and had been inside their songs that I truly came to appreciate the Beatles and their catalog.
At Capital I was exposed to many new artists. Of the three most important, two I had been previously introduced to. My brother had given me Lloyd Cole’s first solo album “Lloyd Cole” having won it somewhere. In the mailroom I got my hands on "Don't Get Weird On Me Babe" (1991) and loved the orchestral side of the album. I would also eventually get and love “Love Story” (1995). I was also familiar with Crowded House as I got “Crowded House” (1986) as I was leaving for College. I remember loving the Video for “Something So Strong” and often confusing it with “Don’t Change” by INXS. “Woodface” (1991)” was the album released when I was working in the mailroom and I got comp tickets to see the band accompanied by brother Tim on October 8, 1991. Neil Finn would become one of my all-time favorite songwriters. Crowded House’s “Temple of Low Men” (1988) and “Together Alone” (1993) and brother Tim Finn’s "Tim Finn" (1989) and “Before & After” (1993) would spend a fair amount of time on repeat during this period.
The third band was Toad the Wet Sprocket ,"Fear" (1991) “Dulcinea” (1994). I remember very clearly pulling the “Fear” album out of a mailer and thinking what a grandiose album cover and title…I hate it, but then I listened and learned the “Don’t judge a book by its cover lesson.” I was very into the band for a long time. I learned how much a band influences the “Singer” when I tried to follow Glen Phillips after the band broke up but found his solo work and I disconnected.
During my time in the mailroom I had put together a mixed tape that I listen to on repeat. Some of the songs on it were “Woman of the World” Michael Hedges, “Hard Travelin’” Dave Sharp, Jeffery Gaines “Hero In Me”, Vigilantes of Love “I can’t Remember”. There were also a couple songs on it by a new artist called Michael McDermott. I later discovered two of his tunes sounded far too much like songs by Bruce Cockburn so I more or less lost respect
TO BE CONTINUED.....