Sunday, January 21, 2018
At its core, this song is about marketing strategy.
A few years ago my wife, Lynn, and I were talking about my 'music career,' such as it was. The phrase popped into my head as the perfect explanation for how I like doing things. 'Peter Pan' refers to the fact that I'll never grow up. And a lemonade stand is a business where it's not important to make any money. It's more about hanging out on a sunny day and sharing with the neighborhood. I own the lemons, the sugar, the water, the cups, etc.
This was one of those songs that, as soon as I wrote it . . . I hated it. But I liked what it said. The original groove was more of a cut-time 2/4 thing. I piddled around with a little, played it for Jonathan and a couple other people, got good feedback, but still didn't like it. And then, I played it for Rocko. He put a whole new spin on it, and now it's a favorite of mine.
This might be one of those one-take songs, two at the most. Including the guitar solo. Jonathan does a really nice little harmony on the chorus, but he wasn't there when I went in to re-do the vocal, so I did that one myself. Sorry, Jon.
Saturday, January 13, 2018
I got so involved with telling how the song got written, I forgot to mention how it got to be recorded.
The original plan for our album was to record it ourselves. That would save a lot of money. Then, Rocco gave me a copy of Stovepipe Mountain's CD. One listen was all it took to convince me that you get what you pay for.
I made arrangements to visit the place where it was recorded, and meet the man responsible. Wes Chapmon owns and operates Studio Bohemo in Bath, NH. I hope I'm getting this story right; he used to co-own a commercial studio in Texas and wanted to open a little one of his own. His wife happens to be from New Hampshire, so they found a place and set up shop.
We hit it off immediately, and I was very impressed with the facility. He even offered to cut us a break on the price, and we set a date for the first session. Jonathan, Rocco and I got there about 9 am on a Saturday, set up, and started. The plan was to do basic tracks for as many songs as we had time for, and build the finished product from there.
By the middle of the afternoon, we were pulling out songs that the three of us had never even played together. Every song on the CD was begun that day, and most of the bass and drum parts are from that first session. A lot of the rhythm guitar, and even some of the leads and lead vocals all happened in that one day. I don't think we needed more than 3 takes of anything, and some we nailed in 1. It was quite exciting.
This song in particular is an example of the magic that Wes worked from that point on. The rhythm guitar parts were done with a Fender Strat, through my Deluxe Reverb. I went back in to add leads with a Les Paul and one of his Fender Princetons. I also re-did the vocals.
At that point, Wes took over. We did the original guitar parts dry except for a little reverb, so he added some effects. He also pulled the rhythm guitar completely out of the first half of all the verses, which I thought sounded great, so we do it that way live now. He also put a little synthy-thing in that same spot, which gave it a nice little edge.
I have made it a point to not ever ask Wes what he thought of the music, whether or not he liked it. Jon and Rocco, yes. It was important for me to know what they thought of what we were doing, because it was as much theirs as mine. If I find I've brought them a song that either of them don't like, it's gone. Wes, on the other hand, is essentially a sub-contractor we hired to perform a service on our behalf.
The mark of his professionalism is that he tackled the whole project with a passion, working hard to make every note as good as it could be. I would like to think he would put that much into any project he worked on, even if he didn't particularly like the music. Whatever his opinion was of what we brought him, he truly became the 4th member of the band.
So anyway, thanks, Wes, for a job very well done. I'm honestly amazed at how good the finished product came out. It sounds better than I could have expected, and much, much better than what we'd have done on our own.
Studio Bohemo has a very good web site, http://studiobohemo.com/ and they sell gear on the side. I've got my eye on one of those D'Angelico archtops.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
The genesis of this song was a chance meeting with a gentleman who had once been a member of an outlaw biker gang. As he explained, there are only two ways out of such gangs. One is, to die. The other is, as happened to him, "getting religion." He became a born-again Christian, and promptly told the leadership of his gang that he could no longer participate.
Now, anyone else who said such a thing, announcing that they would no longer be a part of the gang and its activites, would find leaving very difficult. In his case, he was shown the door. It seems that, while not understanding the impulse to surrender oneself to ones creator, it is traditional to at least show said creator a certain level of respect. In a nutshell, if that guy is now the property of God, and he's willing to risk his life to tell you so ... well, that's an owner they don't want as an enemy.
Being the inquisitive type, I asked about life in the biker gangs. The gentleman told me about the breadth of influence these gangs hold over large segments of society.
"My God!" I said. "You should write a book! Expose them."
He just laughed. It seems the books have already been written. I'd even read a couple of them. And, the gangs go on as if nobody knew a thing. So, I asked him if he felt a responsibility to do anything about them.
Turns out, he does. He goes back. Not to join in on their crimes, or get hammered at their parties. He goes to be available. He does whatever he can to be allowed to hang around; cleans their bikes, get someone that's passed out to safety, treat injuries; he's cleaned up messes when somebody throws up, gives "guests" rides home, whatever he can.
If you've ever been to the Bike Week festivities at Weirs Beach, you've surely seen tables occupied by different chapters of some bike "clubs." Members of the chapters sit out in the hot sun and promote the clubs more beneficent works. This guy will bring them bottles of water, no charge.
His whole purpose for hanging around a group of people whose activities he has disavowed is; every now and then, somebody else gets the idea that they'd like to leave. They'd like to put that life, and the things they've been doing, behind them and move on. But so far as they know, there's only one way to do that. He hangs around, to show them that there's another alternative. Not that they have to respond as he is doing, but just so they can get out.
I have thought a lot about that conversation over the years since. I've come to realize that this situation is not restricted to biker gangs. We are surrounded by groups of people who have a unified identity and a singular vision. A lot, if not most, (if not all) of these groups may present a public face that is benign, to show that their motives are pure and good and righteous.
The reality is that they exist only for their own benefit. They are willing to go to varying degrees of effort to advance their agenda. Often, a few at the top of the pecking order run things and the deception dribbles down through the ranks, until the operatives in the street believe the lies themselves. If they challenge the holes in the logic they promote, they are silenced. They may be directed into activities that keep them busy, or driven out, or even promoted. It's a way of dealing with people who say things like; "If A is B, and B is C, isn't C really A?"
A lot of times, a person who has invested their efforts, time and treasure into something comes to a crisis point. They wonder, what the hell am I doing this for? I work and work, and we all do, and it all seems to be going nowhere. Maybe they've even gotten a peek inside, and come to the realization that the people they've been following are not what they were thought to be. Maybe what they're part of was founded on a lie. Or maybe it was founded on a good idea, but that idea has become lost over time and succumbed to selfishness. The thing they believed in has become a means of acquiring power that is now being misused.
The world, life, is a living thing. It moves in a rhythm. All things are like music, moving together from one moment to the next, the rhythms bouncing off each other, the notes struggling to harmonize. Our brains are wired to try and make sense of it all, to catch the melody line, to move in harmony and rhythm with it.
We know that we cannot hold all of this within our minds, hear it all, dance to it all, so we try and hold onto the parts of it that make the most sense to us and hope that we are a "good" part of the music. Or, it's all so confusing we decide we just don't care, and sing our own song.
And every now and then, in the little spaces between the notes and the beats, we get little glimpses of something. In between the protons and electrons and neutrons of every atom, there are vast reaches of space, unoccupied areas that dwarf the physical particles that orbit one another.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
So I put this in for the umpteenth time, and went looking for anything that anyone was saying about it ... and found, basically, nothing.
Lynn found a recipe once for a snack that combined rice (or corn) chex, non-dairy powdered creamer, and Nesquik. There may have been something else, but that was just about it. It came out kind of gray, and didn't actually look all that appetizing. So, I tried one. Not ... bad ... and that was pretty much the standard reaction. But pretty soon, you had another. And before you knew it, the bowl was empty and you were wondering if she could make some more.
That's what this album is like.
Back in the day, when vinyl records roamed the earth, I knew a number of people who had interesting record collections. I would go to their house/apartment/whatever, often with a friend; we would roll a couple of doobies and hang out for a while. There was often a long wooden crate filled with albums in random order. The usual thing was for the most recently played ones to get put in the front. So, I would go to the back.
This is how I got turned onto a lot of great music; Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Uriah Heep, Super Session, early Fleetwood Mac, lots of different stuff. This album showed up in a few collections, and I got to hear it a few times.
Mike Bloomfield first came to the public's attention as lead guitarist for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, one of the first white blues groups. Actually, of the 6 members, only 3 of them were white, but that was white enough for the early 1960's.
John P. Hammond was a blues musician, and the son of record producer John Hammond, who discovered and produced such performers as Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bruce Springsteen, Benny Goodman, and many others.
Dr. John (Mac Rebbenack) was a pianist/singer/songwriter from New Orleans, best known for his one chart hit, Right Place Wrong Time.
All three were signed to the CBS family of record labels in the early 1970's. As was the practice of the time, the company would sometimes take artists that weren't doing much and put them together for one-off projects. This was one such project. On paper, I suppose it looked like a no-brainer; three guys who all played blues.
The liner notes are surprisingly brutal in their reporting of the situation. Usually, liner notes gush glowingly about how brilliant an idea the collaboration was, etc. As it turned out, the first recording session produced the whole sum of nothing. There was just no apparent chemistry between the three, and they noodled around for a couple days until Dr. John just got sick of it and left.
At this point, the story becomes a little vague. Did he get a vision, and call them all back? Or did CBS just apply pressure, reminding him that he was under contract and that he'd better do something. At any rate, his assessment was that the project lacked focus. So, more studio time was booked, and Dr. John returned with a fistful of songs and his road band.
What this means is that the album became a Dr. John album with John Hammond on vocals and Bloomfield on lead guitar. On the whole, you could do a whole lot worse.
I hadn't heard this album in at least 30 years when I found it on CD at Pitchfork Records in Concord. I was in the middle of a blues blitz, and couldn't resist. Playing it on the way home, I wondered what it was that I liked about it. Lyrically, it's not the most profound, and the music could best be described as loose.
But, like the aforementioned snack, I found it growing on me. Pretty soon, I got thinking about it, and grabbed it again. I've done that several more times, and the more I listen to it, the more I like it. John Hammond is not one of my favorite vocalists, but he's not too bad, and he's quite the good harmonica player. Mike Bloomfield is brilliant, as ever. And it's hard to resist that blues/New Orleans/swamp groove that Dr. John and his band lay down.
So, I would recommend you pick up this album, or at least find it on YouTube or some streaming service and give it a listen. But be warned; you won't be impressed at first, and yet it will suck you in.
Thursday, December 07, 2017
The Rick Clogston Band is the alter ego of the Red Hat Band. Both names come from a complete lack of ability to think up a name for either version.
I have a red fedora, the third in a line begun when Lynn Bradley bought me the first at Rochester Fair back when we were dating. We'll celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in July, 2018. Anyway, it's become something of a trademark for me, and the band. During the years while we kept trying, and failing, to think of a proper name, people were asking club owners when the guy in the red hat was coming back. So, when we got booked, they would put on the sign out front; "The Red Hat Band." And it's stuck.
So, that band is myself on guitar and vocals, Jonathan Sindorf on bass and vocals, and Ken Anderson on drums and vocals. But that band does nothing but cover tunes, and I write songs that weren't getting played by anyone. Jonathan very graciously agreed to help me get them played, and possibly even recorded. One of our fill-in drummers, Rocko Russelli, also agreed, and the second band was born. Again, couldn't think of a name, so the guys sat me down. They pointed out that we're doing songs that I wrote, and I'm singing them and playing lead guitar on top of it, so it's the Rick Clogston Band. I would like to note that the RCB could not exist without the RHB, so thanks, Ken, for helping make this possible.
We contemplated recording it on our own, seeing that there are so many options easily available at reasonable prices. Luckily, one of Rocko's other bands, the Stovepipe Mountain Band, was thinking the same way but much more intelligently. They had gone to a local studio in Woodsville, NH called Studio Bohemo operated by Wes Chapmon. The finished product sounded great, so I just had to meet this guy. He impressed me as much as Stovepipe's CD did, so we made arrangements to come in and record.
We arrived on the appointed day, set up, and got to work. We quickly ran through the songs that we had prepared, and it was going great. We'd get a good take or two, and Wes would turn to us and ask; "What's next?" So, we kept on going. Pretty soon, we were running through songs that Rocko had never played, although you'd never know it. The basic tracks for every song on the disc were recorded that day.
The way it was done, we were basically live in the studio, but any part of any song could be done over. What we were recording was considered to be scratch tracks, but some came out so well we kept them. On most, I went back in and re-did the lead vocals. Most of the lead guitar parts are overdubbed, although some were left from the raw scratch tracks. There were also some background vocals recorded later on. I think I did one song, Jonathan did a couple, and my daughter, Cathleen, came in and did a couple as well.
From there on, it was up to Wes to mix and master. We came by the studio to sit in on the major mixing, and he took it from there. He actually did quite a bit of tweaking on it, and I am flabbergasted by how good it came out. As it progressed toward completion, we started to think about the cover art. I had a rough idea, and knew exactly who I wanted to do the photography.
My thinking was, if we put a picture of the three of us with our instruments, people would make a judgement on what was on the disc and decide from there whether they were interested. I thought instead that it would be fun to have a cover photo that would really give no clue to what the music was, and that would either pique their curiosity . . . or not.
The pictures were done at the Pemi Valley Church in Woodstock, NH. This is the church I went to when I moved back from California in 1985. It's also where I met my wife. And, they have this beautiful old pipe organ, which made the perfect backdrop. We brought various instruments, and I handed the idea over to my son, Alex Clogston, who happens to be an excellent photographer. He was ably assisted by his girlfriend, Jess Nichols.
The three people on the cover are Jonathan's son, Peter Sindorf; my daughter, Cathleen Clogston; and my mother-in-law, Sharon Bradley. The picture on the back cover happened when somebody brought the little white bear, and then somebody else set the hat on its head while it was sitting at the organ. Alex couldn't resist taking a picture of it as well.
As for the title, that comes from what has been my standard retort for years now. People I've known for a long time will ask; "Are you still playing?" And I reply; "Yeah, they'll never shut me up." And by gum, they won't!
So, that's the story of the CD. I'll take apart the songs in future posts. And if anyone has any questions, I'll be happy to answer them here.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
It's interesting, how the passage of time can change one's perspective. If you know me, you know how obsessed I am with music. When I was young, my preferences were for music that was contemporary.
As I matured, I kept up with new music as it came along; The Beatles, Dylan, and Hendrix were joined by Yes, U2, Dave Matthews ... Katy Perry? Yeah, even her. At the same time, I came to appreciate music that came before my time, from early rock, jazz, classical and so forth.
One of the things I learned to appreciate was the Hollywood musical. I came to a point, probably while listening to something by Yes or ELP, that I was complaining because there were no more Mozarts or Beethovens in the world. Then, I saw this:
I couldn't find a video of the full "Broadway Melody" from Singing In the Rain, but it proved that there were, indeed, people in the world who were writing long-form daring things. And they didn't stop in 1952. Since then, I've become a fan of the Hollywood musical. Turner Classic Movies is one of the channels I am happy to binge-watch. As such, and having become something of a beginning student of the genre, I think the best musical of the last 50 years is ...
... High School Musical.
Wait a minute, what? Looking up above ... yeah, the title of a recent musical. We DVR'd it the last time we had a free HBO weekend. I finally got around to watching it, and ... it ain't bad. I've also seen Chicago, and Rent. Not bad. Haven't seen Mama Mia yet, and have been warned away from it. Almost turned off La La Land a few times, but the story sucked me in. In a lot of ways, it resembles a classic musical. In a lot of ways.
So I'm watching, and a couple times Ryan Gosling would do a move that shows how hard he was willing to work. Less about his skill as a dancer, more about his work ethic. And during the movie, he and Emma Stone were surrounded by people who could have danced them both into the ground. Those people struggle along, take whatever gigs they can get, do a lot of commercials and music videos, and actually made it through a cattle call for a big-budget musical. It earned awards, even.
And that's the problem. Back in the day, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, would pull off moves and the side dancers would watch in awe. Now, they watch movie stars and actors to be on hand if they need help figuring out how to do what the choreographer has asked of them. Yeah, Emma, Ryan, Richard Gere, they all did serviceable jobs of their steps and their singing. But it's clear how good they are at acting; even to the point that they can act like singers and dancers.
BITD (back in the day) a musical would feature singers and dancers. If there was enough of a story, they would have an actor/singer be the co-lead, and the dancer would play the happy-go-lucky friend. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn. Really, the only dancers that could regularly get away with being the star were Astaire and Kelly. But the first movie that Astaire and Ginger Rogers were in, they were in supporting roles. (Flying Down To Rio, 1933.)
The simple fact is that the market for movie musicals is very limited. Chicago and the rest have been attempts to bring them back to prominence, with limited success. As you might suspect, I think they're doing it wrong. High School Musical, a production of the Disney Channel, proves that there is a sizeable audience for a good musical, well written, acted, sung and danced. Nobody had really heard of Zac Efron or Vanessa Hudgens before.
The Disney Channel wisely turned it into a franchise with several spin-offs for its supporting cast. To me, the break-out star of the franchise was Corbin Bleu. He played Zac Efron's best buddy in the original and the 2 (3?) follow-ups. He also got a movie of his own (Jump In!). He's an amazing dancer, and has gone on to some success as an actor.
Personally, I think that the big studios could learn a lesson from the heyday of the record industry. BITD, the '60's through the '90's, every Beatles, Michael Jackson, U2, etc. paid for a hundred Pat Metheny Group, Captain Beyond, Steve Hillage, etc. Their largess, some of it at least, got invested in art projects that never made them a dime.
These days, the studios or production companies rely on a handful of big blockbusters for their primary income. This is nothing new, but again, learn from the record business. BITD, the big money recording acts paid for the small ones, but now it's the small ones that are keeping the doors open and the lights on. For instance, Yes hasn't been on the charts in a couple decades, but most of their stuff is still in print and still sells in profitable numbers.
A big studio or production company can take some of the hundreds of millions they make and use it to make some low-budget musicals, featuring good music, sung and danced to by real talents that no one would have heard of otherwise. These movies may, or may not, make a profit upon initial release, but you'd have them in the catalog for later release.
At the same time, it would give talents like Corbin Bleu the freedom to perfect and advance their craft. Ten years after High School Musical, he could be putting out his 8th or 9th musical. By then, he'd be where Gene Kelly was by the time of Singing In the Rain. His movies wouldn't make the money that La La Land probably did, but ten years from now they would be cult classics; the growth of a major talent. La La Land will be something that Emma Stone chuckles her way past in an interview.
And if Captain Cast-Iron Ass-Kicker IV flops, they'll have something to fall back on to help pay for #5. That's my $0.02 for today. And, a final tidbit to enjoy.
Monday, August 14, 2017
Somewhere in North Korea …
“… I’m just asking, that’s all,” the General said to his counterparts. “I mean, if we truly care about our people …”
“What you’re suggesting borders on treason,” the eldest of the group snarled.
“I’m not suggesting any such thing,” the original speaker said. He looked around at the rest of the group of nine Generals. “I’m just saying that things are escalating out of control. Possibly, that is, out of control. And, that maybe it’s time that we step in and … try to …” He locked eyes with several of the group. “… maybe, do something about it.”
“We’ve tried talking to him,” one of the others reminded his colleague. “He is very stubborn.”
“A quality he shares with his father and grandfather,” the eldest said. “And I believe that ‘determined’ would be a more appropriate word. It a mark of the greatness of his line.”
The others shuffled in their seats nervously, each wondering why he in particular had been invited to this little unofficial conference.
“You have his ear,” one of the others said, normally one of the quieter among them, answering the unasked question from his seat. “He trusts you. If any among us, if anyone anywhere, can reason with him –“
“He trusts me because my devotion is total,” the elder man barked. “I was a lowly Private and was plucked out of obscurity by his grandfather. He trusts me, because I trust him.”
“Then prove to him that his trust was not misplaced,” the quiet man said, rising to his feet. “Do you believe that the Kims were divinely appointed to lead our people to greatness?”
The old man rose, stretched himself to his full height and stuck out his chin. “I do, with all of my soul.”
“And do you think our greatness will be fulfilled by embarking on a nuclear war with the United States?”
There was stone silence for a moment.
“I will hear nothing of treason,” the old man said.
“It is not treason to try and save one’s country,” the quiet General said softly. “Jong-un is the Chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission, but he does not act alone. He comes to us for advice and counsel.”
“And then he does what he knows is right! It is his divine privilege.”
The other seven watched at the two men debated, not daring to speak up.
“And what do you think will be the end result of challenging the American President, Trump?” the younger man asked softly. “Do you think he will back down?”
The old man glanced around the group. “No. He will not.”
“Do you think he will strike first?”
Again, a moment of silence. The old man pondered the question, a very serious one. “I do not think he will. He is not the crazy man his news media proclaims him to be. His desire is to force Kim’s hand, to make him, as the Westerners say, shit or get off the pot. He will insist on Kim backing down, capitulating completely. He will only strike if we strike first.”
“And will Kim back down?”
For the third time, silence.
“No, he will not,” the younger man said. “The moment of truth will come, and Kim will order the weapon launched. We will be called to the bunkers. And when we emerge, we will find our beloved country reduced to a radioactive parking lot.”
“I expect that you have an alternative to propose,” the eldest of the Generals said.
“Indeed, I do,” the soft-spoken man said. He began to pace around the table. “The next time he calls us all together, I will wear my sidearm … and shoot him.”
There was a collective gasp around the table.
“Then, the logical thing would be for one or more of you to shoot me,” he continued. “After which, you can announce to the world that the beloved Kim was assassinated, but that his assassin was killed as well. At that time, you can declare a state of emergency and a one-month period of mourning for the great leader. Quietly, behind the scenes, you can reach out to China, America, and the other nations. Begin dismantling our nuclear program, open diplomatic relations, and negotiate for assistance so that the country can get back on its feet.”
“And leave ourselves defenseless?” the old man asked.
“You know as well as I do that America is not our enemy,” the soft-spoken man said. “Her people are very sympathetic to our plight, as are our brothers to the South.”
The elderly General nodded. “And you would willingly give your life to do this?”
Again, the old man nodded. Then he drew his sidearm and aimed it point-blank at the other man. “Why wait?” he asked.
“Or,” one of the others began, slowly getting to his feet. “We could try this.” With that, he also drew his sidearm and shot the elderly man in the head. With a look of surprise, the old man dropped to the floor.
With looks of shock all around, the group of eight generals rose, looked at their colleague on the floor, and then around at each other. The freshly minted murderer replaced his weapon calmly.
“I think we've all entertained the same idea,” he said. “Until now, it's been a fantasy. With the world situation as it now is, the time has come to choose. Either we save our nation … or burn with it.”