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Life, Living and Loving: Mrs. Fever’s September Song Project 2022: “In My Dreams”

There’s a guy I used to work with who was a singer/songwriter and he had aspirations of making it big as an R&B artist. In some of the lull moments on the job, we would sit and talk about music and, I dunno, he didn’t believe that I was a musician or that’s the impression he gave me at times.

We’d gone to a local music store to look at keyboards. He was a fan of Yamaha keyboards and had his eyes on a model that, right now, I can’t remember (but you know I’ll remember it later today and when I’m not thinking about it). I liked Yamaha’s keyboards but some of their sounds weren’t… quite right for my ear. I already had a Technics keyboard and it was frigging amazing but that day, a Kork workstation caught my eye and I was drawn to it like a bee to honey.

I found its power switch and fired it up; I laid my fingers on the keyboard and played a simple warm-up piece that I’d been taught many years before that was designed to enforce proper fingering (and, okay, let this pun stand for the moment) and after doing some idle tinkering, I was hooked. I had to have this instrument and the $3,000 price tag didn’t bother me one bit and more so when I knew that I had a huge bonus coming my way that made that $3,000 look like chump change.

The money hit and cleared my account and… I went on a buying spree. First, I bought the drum kit that you can see in my “Give The Drummer Some!” scribble for this project because that store was like five minutes away. I dropped them off at home – my wife had her “oh shit” look on her face – as I told her that I’d be back in a hour. I hauled ass to the store where I fell in love with the Korg workstation and had a bad moment when the guy at the store said that he didn’t know if they had any more of them in stock and outside of the demo. A couple of things about that.

I had the sense that he didn’t want to sell me the keyboard; I had the sense that he thought that I couldn’t afford it. He’s telling me that he can order me one but it’ll take a month to get it and I called him on his bullshit and I was uncharacteristically irate and even said that if he didn’t want to sell me one, just fucking say so and I might have mentioned that if he thought that I couldn’t afford it, get the fucking keyboard from the back and run my card and find out what happens.

I guess he said, “Oh, fuck me – this motherfucker is for real!” or something or maybe he just wanted me to stop embarrassing him or whatever. He goes in the back and, what do you know? There was one back there after all! Punk-assed bitch. He rings me up; I give him my card; he slides it and gets this surprised look on his face when the sale was approved. I’m still too pissed at him to gloat but I let him know that I wasn’t happy with him. Paperwork in hand and… now I gotta get this thing in my Honda Accord; it’s the 77-key model and I admit to not have taken its size in mind but I got it in the car and hauled ass home.

I tell my boy at work that I got the keyboard and since I figured that he wasn’t going to believe me, I took a picture of it sitting in my “living room” area and it’s set up on the dual keyboard stand with the Technics but despite this, he wanted proof that I could, in fact, not only play but compose and challenged me to write and play something and record it so he could hear it.

Challenge accepted. It took some doing but I got my hands on the stuff I was going to need to pull this off from the MIDI stuff I needed to the SONAR software and to the Tascam recorder/mixer I’d need to, eventually, burn whatever I came up with to CD. I spent the next couple of days giving myself a crash course in how these two very different keyboards could work together via MIDI as well as another crash course in the SONAR software. My boy is getting impatient and giving me his best “you’re full of shit” look, which I ignored. I came home from work that day, sat down at my new MIDI keyboard rig, fired them up, tinkered with some setting for a moment before putting my fingers on the keyboards and… just let them do their thing.

Two hours and a lot of error corrections, I had the new and original song put together including manually recreating a pre-set drum track that the Technics already had – yeah, I was showing off at this point. I had some bad moments transferring it from the computer to the Tascam but I figured it out and, as my proof that I wasn’t full of shit, burned the new song to tape so I could hand it to him, which I did the next day.

As I was replaying the song from the SONAR software my wife and our live-in girlfriend were listening to the song it… got them feeling some kind of way because they dragged me from my setup, took me to bed, and wore my ass out for the rest of the night and into the wee hours of the morning. The next day, my very exhausted ass handed my boy the tape and all I said was, “Here you go – give it a listen.” We take a break and go out to his truck; he puts the cassette in, and presses play… and the song is surrounding us and he’s said, “You really did this.”

“I told you I could,” I said. “It took me longer to get it on tape than it did for me to create it.” Ah, but he wasn’t quite “impressed” and asked if he could take the tape home so his wife could listen to it and I said that he could since, now, I can put it on all the tapes I wanted to. The next day and when he gives me back the tape, he says, “My wife wants to talk to you.”

Um, okay. He calls her and hands me his phone and the first thing she said was, “That was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time! Why did you choose oboe for the solo instrument?” I tell her what I was thinking and feeling in the moment and, well, I’ve always thought that the oboe is a sexy instrument, and it was also the solo voice on Wendy (formerly Walter) Carlos’ rendition of Bach’s “Air on A G-String.” She talked about this one chord change in the song that, whew, it just grabs you and I knew what she was talking about and she even said that after hearing the song a few times, she made her husband’s night… interesting. She asked what the name of the piece was and I said, “In My Dreams” and, no, I couldn’t tell her why I named it like that but… it fit.

He’s impressed but challenges me to compose a different piece and just for piano. That was easier and eventually convinced him that I was the real-deal musician I said I was – and I named that piece, “Infinity” because as I composed and played it “on the fly,” I realized that it could go on “forever” and my biggest problem was trying to figure out how to end the song and when I got it as cleaned up as I was going to get it, whew, it’s 8:20 long. My boy liked “Infinity” more than he did “In My Dreams” but that motivated him to get with another musician friend of his and throw down a song of his own: “I Know You’re Out There Waiting.” It’s a damned good piece of music, too – but I had no doubts about his bona fides as a singer/songwriter.

I eventually burned both songs – and few “practice pieces” to CD as well as saving them to the computer and added them to my music collection as well as being on a playlist. Doing them… stretched me on the technical side of it and I wish that I could include “In My Dreams” here – the file size of the song is too big for WordPress and my free account. Oh, well. I listened to this song last night and, years after I originally wrote it, I still sit and shake my head while thinking, “Damn… I really did that, didn’t I?”

I’d taken a copy of my CD to Japan with me when we’d gone to visit my son and his family there so he could hear it and give me some feedback since he, too, plays piano/keyboard. He listened – and I saw the look on his face when that chord change “punched him in his soul” and when it was done he said, “Damn, Pop – that was sweet! And it only took you a couple of hours to throw it down?”

His feedback meant more to me than the guy at work’s critique did.

We had had a barbeque one nice summer day and I was doing double duty as the grill chef and DJ and I hadn’t realized that, when I was loading up the dual disc player with music, I’d stuck my CD in the pile until I heard it playing. I thought, “Oh, shit – I didn’t mean to put that in the pile!” but the folks in attendance heard it and… stopped whatever they were doing and talking about.

Someone asked, “What’s the name of that song and who did it?” and my wife told them that I did the song and, yeah, I had to prove it by getting the computer to play it on my keyboards. One woman said, “I could fuck to that song – how can I get a copy of it?” Her husband got this look on his face that I interpreted as him going to be in deep doo-doo when they got home… and you know I gave her a copy of it (and after making sure that my rights to the song weren’t going to be usurped).

I would play it for the woman who joined our family and after she heard it, she kissed me so deeply that it not only took my breath away, but I think she took part of my soul, too – and then she jumped my bones and finished stealing what was left of my soul.

The song is… sexy. It wasn’t intended to be but when I write music, I write whatever I happen to be feeling in the moment and this song wasn’t any different… as far as I was concerned. It’s not easy to explain how I came up with the song but those of you who have written a song or have just come up with something as you sat at the piano or some other keyboard, you know how that works. You start with a few notes and it just… comes to life from there.

And I finally remembered the keyboard my friend was looking at that day and bought – after I’d gotten mine, of course: The Yamaha Motif 8. It took a quick trip to the bathroom for me to remember it.

I played “In My Dreams” for my mom but didn’t tell her that I wrote and performed the song; I wanted her to listen to it “unbiased” and as she listened, I just watch her facial expressions that would tell me more about what she thought of the song than what she might say. The song ended and she said, “That’s pretty – who did it?”

“I did,” I said to her and for a moment, I felt like that little kid I used to be and needing her praise for doing good at something, which is a pretty weird feeling for a guy in his 40s. I told her how I put it together and it felt so good to my heart and soul to hear her say that out of all of the music she’s ever heard me play – including the song I wrote in memory of my brother – it was the best ever and I knew she wasn’t doing that “mom thing” and blowing smoke up my butt. Her only real critique was… there were no lyrics for the song.

And there still isn’t. I tried to write some but that’s not where my talent lies and my friend and former coworker, who is a lyricist, couldn’t come up with anything either. But there is music for which there are no words for when it comes from the heart and soul.

I’m going to listen to it again… because it’s pretty and quite sexy.

 
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Posted by on 30 September 2022 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Life, Living and Loving: Mrs. Fever’s September Song Project 2022: Gospel Music

There’s a song entitled, “He Looked Beyond My Faults And Saw My Needs” that our church choirs loved singing. It’s set to the music for, “Danny Boy,” a song we’d sometimes play in the orchestral part of being in the school band and usually as the musical accompaniment to the school choir belting it out and in all its harmonic glory.

I found out that when the church finds out that you can play, they want you to play and they expect you to automatically know of every gospel song ever written. My God… that used to make me insane because whenever our regular pianist/organist couldn’t be there, I could expect someone – usually my mother, mother-in-law, or our revered pastor to come ask me if I’d play for whatever choir was singing…

And like I knew what they planned on singing and, yep, I already knew the song and however it was arranged or, as usual in Baptist churches, rearranged. Most of the time, I… refused such emergency requests because I knew that I didn’t know the music even though I could sit at the piano/organ and play a song from the hymnal as written which, when I did step in, yeah, the membership wasn’t happy with the music because I didn’t put the gospel twist on it.

Well, that’s because I didn’t know how to play gospel music. They didn’t seem to understand that, yes, I’m a classically trained musician but that doesn’t mean that I can play music from every genre that exists unless you have the music for it and I have x-amount of time to learn the piece and if I’m to put a twist on it, figuring out how to twist it. What made it “worse” for me is that the pastor’s very young son was a prodigy and, admittedly, played organ way better than I did and he learned on his own which had the effect of people asking me why I couldn’t play church songs like this kid could and not understanding that (1) he was some kind of prodigy, (2) his father is pastor and he’s been exposed to this music in a way that I hadn’t been and (3) this is not the kind of music I’m used to playing.

There were two times when I didn’t mind playing in church. The first was when my baby sister got married and she – and my mother – had asked me to play the “Wedding March” for the service (as well as “churchy” stuff prior to the ceremony. Fine. One thing, though: I had never played it before. Heard it? Yes. Played it or seen the music for it? Nope. And as such things tend to happen, I was asked to do this (expected to) and I only had three days to find the sheet music specifically for organ and learn it. My mom had come over to my place and I was at the organ feverishly hacking my way through the piece and even she asked me how come I didn’t already know how to play it and I will say that at that point, she should’ve been glad that she was my mom because I was on my way to an epic meltdown because it had taken me two of those three days to find the fricking music, leaving me a whole day to learn it.

My sister’s big day comes and… everything went well as far as the music went. The next time was when my mom had been invited by another church to sing at an event they were having which I thought was cool because mom could sing (even though she didn’t think she was a good singer). Here comes the “bad” part: She asked me to play for her at this event and the song was the one I opened this scribble with. I knew this song like I knew the back of my hand but when we rehearsed for this, whew, she would stop singing and ask me why I was playing it that way or complain about some of the notes being too high for her and now I’m “rewriting” and rearranging the whole cotton-picking song to be able to play it the way she wanted me to and she drove me insane with this and being paranoid about singing in front of a bunch of people to begin with.

I’d often stop playing because she was so nervous that she couldn’t sing the song. I don’t know how many times I’d told her that even though I’ve played in front of a whole lot of people, I’ve always been nervous before the fact and sometimes during it but once I started playing, all I’m thinking about is the music and the people listening don’t exist until I’m done playing. If this had been anyone other than my mother, I would have refused to play. No pressure, right?

Her big moment comes. I go to the church’s organ and… it’s a Hammond B3. Uh oh. I can play an organ. I had one in my home. I had never played a Hammond B3 before and the B3 was the variant that had the full pedal manual… that I hadn’t had much to do with in years. And I have, oh, about two minutes to figure it out before mom gets called up to sing. I’m furiously resetting the organ from where the church’s organist had things set up; mom’s being announced and I am not ready because while I know what tabs control what voices, I couldn’t “test” them to make sure I had them right for the way we had rehearsed the song.

She’s at the mic and does what I had asked her to do; when you’re ready, look at me and nod and I’ll play a lead-in just like practiced and when I nod back at you, face the back of the church and find something to fix your eyes on instead of looking at the people… and sing your heart out. Between my mother’s voice and my rearrangement of the song, by the time we got done, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. My mom is smiling at me and came over to hug me; I whispered in her ear, “I told you that you could do this, didn’t I?” and it was the first time I got to hit my mom with, “I told you so!”

Otherwise? Nah, don’t ask me to play in church. Ever. I can play gospel music like “it’s supposed to be” played but as I learned when I was “forced” to be the director of our senior choir, when you’re dealing with a bunch of people who have had zero musical training – and your mom is one of them – rehearsals usually got ugly because I’m playing the song with gospel twists and they’re telling me that I’m playing it wrong and at one rehearsal, I went ballistic and medieval on them and it was an epic rant that almost got me bitch-slapped by my mom for being “disrespectful” to the choir members who were all way older than I was.

I played and directed them for that one Sunday and told all of them, “Never again.”

I think about that song at times, and it always brings back these memories and more so when my mom passed away; I can still hear how she sang it and I am… comforted. I think about the song and remember – and like it was yesterday – literally sitting at my organ with my manuscript pad and rewriting the song. Playing it later on with my MIDI-connected keyboards and, yeah – I wish I had had them when my mom had to sing that day. Hah – I would have programmed them to play the song without me doing anything other than pushing one button. I would (and still can) take a soulful church song in the gospel mode and turn it into one hell of a song with loads of instrumentation that no real organ can reproduce.

And, oddly, it’s the only church song that I can play without having to think about how to play it. Well, other than “Amazing Grace” – I would sometimes play it for my mom just to hear her sing. I’m getting all choked up at this point so… I’ll leave it this alone for today.

 
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Posted by on 5 September 2022 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Life, Living and Loving: Mrs. Fever’s September Song Project 2022: “Moon River”

My girlfriend’s father was an imposing man. Shorter than I was but built tough from years working at a local company and messing with concrete. His hands looked like he had hams attached to them and every time he said something to me, like, “Boy, don’t you have a home to go to?” my flight-or-fight instincts would try to kick in.

He clearly didn’t like me seeing (or screwing) his daughter. He wasn’t shy about telling me about it, either. She had told me that her father had chased off all other guys who were trying to get with her and that was fine, but we truly loved each other, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop us from being together… but this man scared the shit out of me. Her mom was openly hostile toward me from the moment I met her but she didn’t bother me all that much because she wasn’t always telling me that she was going to punch me in the face.

One day, I showed up at her house so she could take my braids out and redo them. I spoke to her mom, who gave me yet another evil eye and overhead, I could hear her dad leaving his bedroom and heading for the stairs and when he reminded me that I didn’t live there – and I said that I’d just arrived – he balled his fists up and I thought, “This is it – I’m gonna have to fight him to keep my woman!”

But he sat down in his favorite chair which had the misfortune of being right next to the piano bench I was sitting on while my love was messing with my hair. He’s grumbling and cutting his eyes at me then says, “I hear you can play that goddamned thing…” pointing to the piano.

“Yes, sir, I can,” I said, wondering what this was about.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said with a sly grin on his face that made me want to pee on myself, “If you can play “Moon River” on that motherfucker, I’ll allow you to keep seeing my daughter.”

Here’s the musical problem I’ve always had to deal with: People thinking that because I’m a musician, I can play any instrument and any song that was ever written and regardless to whether or not I’ve ever heard the song, knew who performed it, stuff like that. True enough, at the time, I could play four instruments (and in the order I learned them): Organ, trumpet, piano, drums. Indeed, I had met my soon-to-be girlfriend at church and before a choir rehearsal having been invited by my best friend. I was at the organ and playing my rendition of “Over the Rainbow” and she came over and started talking to me and, well, it was love at first sight for us which led to this moment where I have a few seconds to think about two things:

Do I remember the song… and could I really play it? I’d heard it before and several times, but it was one of those songs that you hear and you… just hear it. I knew my father’s father loved the song and apparently my girlfriend’s father liked it, too.

“Well? What the fuck are you waiting for?” he asked, his voice becoming even more menacing. “Get to tinkling the ivory or get the hell out of my house and never come back!”

Shit. The only thing I had going for me was that I had played this piano a few times before despite it being in need of retuning. I’m racking my brain thinking about this fucking song and with her dad literally standing over me and breathing down my neck, I started playing. I glance up and over at her and she looks… worried. To this very day, I’m still not sure how I pulled that off but, again, that damned thing that has some people believing that if you hear a song, you can play it.

Which is true if you can remember ever hearing the damned song and I knew I hadn’t heard it in over a year. My hands are shaking and it was like I’d never laid my fingers on a keyboard before as I make my way through the song. It didn’t help when I heard him kinda whisper, “You’d better play it with feeling, too, you sumbitch!”

No pressure at all, right? In that moment, the song just… landed in my mind and I played like my life depended on it because it did; I loved her. I knew she was The One and we were already talking about having kids and getting married and knew we were… fated to be together. Being in that moment also reminded me to get some… revenge on my friend because he had admitted that he had set me up to get fixed up with her and I have never forgiven him for it, and I never will… but we laughed about it even though I have never meant something as much as I did this.

No, don’t ask.

I finish playing “Moon River.” The final notes and chords are fading away and I knew that this was now one of those defining moments of my life because if he didn’t like my performance, I had no idea how we were going to keep seeing each other and I was so frustrated that I wanted to cry while I awaited his verdict. Indeed, my girlfriend has tears running down her cheek and I turn to face her father, who is giving me his “death stare” and he’s clenching his hands.

“Not bad,” he finally says after staring at me for one hundred years. “Just as I remember it, too. You must’ve played this a lot of times, right?”

“No, sir – first time,” I said.

“Hmm. Okay, you can keep seeing her… but you’d better keep your motherfucking dick out of her or else!” he said with a growl… and a bit of a smile.

I asked to be excused and if I could use the bathroom… because I had never needed to go so bad as I did in this moment. As I’m running up the steps, I can hear him saying something to her and I hear her laughing at whatever he said to her and, no, I never found out what he had said.

Not long after we were married, we were visiting her parents. Her mom hated me even more because we’d already had a child together before we got married and it just got worse after we got married. Her dad and I got along fabulously after I finally stood up to him when he said he was going to kick my ass because I had knocked her up and I’ll say that I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking about when I got back in his face and pretty much cussed him out while professing my deep love for her and even told him that I was going to kick his old ass – and, yeah, I was fairly sure that I could, at the least, let him know he was in a fight – but I did that and he said, “Oh. Okay.” And we were cool ever since.

On this occasion, we’re talking football and how his Minnesota Viking “weren’t worth shit” when he stops talking, smiles, and says, “You know I was fucking with you that day, don’t you?”

For a moment, I had no idea what day he was talking about since there wasn’t a day in those early days of our relationship where he wasn’t fucking with me. “What day are you talking about, Dad?”

“Moon River,” he said. “I really didn’t care if you could play it or not, but I wanted – I needed – to see if you really loved her or you just loved fucking her.” Yeah, this dude was about as blunt as they came. “But you proved to me that you were willing to do something I knew you weren’t sure you could do because you did love her that much… and the pussy had to be that good, too.”

I was caught up between being a bit ticked off and being embarrassed about the “good pussy” thing (which was true but, still) and he sat in his favorite chair and told me about every time he tested my resolve and why he didn’t give me any shit the day I formally came to him and asked if I could marry his daughter; I had expected to fight for that and he tripped me out when he had just looked at me and said, “Sure. Go ahead. About goddamned time, too.”

“Play it for me one more time?” he asked.

I went to the piano which, by now, was very badly out of tune. The song came back to me, and I played it for him and with a lot of feeling. I kinda looked over my shoulder to see him sitting behind me with his eyes closed and kinda swaying to the music and was he smiling? As I played, her mom came into the room and I saw her roll her eyes at me and heard her mutter, “Damned heathen…” and, yeah, that’s yet another musical story I might share tomorrow.

I finish playing it and turn to him with my “how did I do” look. He nods, smiles even more and said, “Wasn’t that worth being able to keep getting in that pussy?”

Yeah. That man. I had gained so much respect for him even though he had gamed the shit out of me and made me prove that I really did love his daughter (and not just that good pussy). The day he died was a really dark day for me and to this very day, I can’t think about “Moon River” without thinking and remembering how me made me prove to him how much I loved his daughter.

 
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Posted by on 3 September 2022 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Life, Living and Loving: Mrs. Fever’s September Song Project 2022: “Give the Drummer Some!”

I remember my first drum set. A neighbor was selling his kit and had asked me if I knew anyone who’d be interested and… I was so interested that I might have had an erection. The problem was that I only had $50 and I guess he saw the very sad look on my face and asked me what was wrong and I told him that I’d buy the set if I had the money and all I had was $50 and, well, damn.

He’d asked me what I would do to be able to buy it from him and… I misunderstood what he was asking and, um, it wasn’t one of my finest moments but I wanted that set so bad that two seconds after he asked me this, I, um, I had his dick out and sucking on it like my life depended on it. He didn’t stop me and I don’t know if he had a shocked look on his face because I wasn’t looking at him but five minutes later, his cum was blasting into my mouth and that’s when I learned that I had misunderstood him.

“That was nice, little bro, but, um, that’s not what I was thinking about when I asked what you’d do,” he said with a smile. “I was thinking about asking for your $50 as a down payment and then you pay me when you can but, uh, since, well, okay – gimme the $50 and the set is yours!”

Oops. Man, talk about being totally embarrassed! He showed me how to break it all down so I could take it home with me; the good part was that he lived three doors down from me so I didn’t have far to go and you should have seen the look on my mom’s face when I started bringing it all in. She said, “Oh, no…” I told her that I had bought it – and he had arrived with a bag full of drumsticks and stuff and confirmed that I did, in fact, pay for it in cash and, of course, neither of us mentioned the other part of the, shit, payment.

I practiced every day except for the days my mom was off and at home. The neighbors on either side of us weren’t happy with all the noise I was making but I guess they understood (or mom got them to understand). One day, one of my friends from the old neighborhood came by while I was practicing and he was so excited to see that I had a drum set that he turned right around, probably ran home, and came back with his bongos and… we were grooving together.

One day, he’d helped me lug my kit over to his house and we were in his backyard kicking it together and I had to admit that we sounded good together. We’d drawn a fairly good-sized crowd and from the crowd, three guys approached us and asked if they could jam with us. We said they could and they hauled ass up the street and returned in a car minutes later with their guitars and amps. We got them plugged in and the jam session began in earnest.

The thing that stands out for me about that moment was that the five of us not only didn’t know each other, we had never played together before but there we were improvising and playing songs by Kool & The Gang and other groups of the time – and like we’d been playing together for years. Someone in the crowd had produced a box and people were dropping money into it and… I know I was hyped and I guess the other guys were, too, and we kept right on playing for maybe another hour…

And only stopped when a guy was driving by, stopped, backed up, jumped out of his car and ran over to us asking if we’d be interested in making some money tonight. That got our attention, as you might suspect. Apparently, the band he had contracted with to play a gig cancelled on him for some reason and he’d been running around the city trying to find a replacement band. He was highly excited; the other guys were, too, but, yeah, I wanted to know some details and especially how much money he was talking about. It took maybe a half an hour of bargaining, but we agreed to play the gig for $200 for each of us and he had to provide us transportation since, um, none of us were old enough to drive.

My biggest concern was where we were playing: The local Longshoreman’s Hall which was really more like a club and they served liquor there, and… I was 15. The guy said not to worry about it since we wouldn’t be drinking booze and could we hurry up and get our act together because the gig started in an hour! I had to run home and tell my mother about this and I, um, left out the part that I’d be playing in a bar because she would have forbade me to take part in this. Oh, and I showed her my $200 – the five of us had insisted on being paid now instead of later. I got the okay from mom and hauled ass back to my friend’s house and off we went and it was pretty hectic because now we’re trying to pull a playlist out of our respective asses and, well, we were just going to play it by ear.

We get there and get hustled through a backdoor and onto the stage where we hustled to get set up. The hall had microphones, which was good but, uh, well, I know I could sing and my friend could but I didn’t know about the other guys and, well, let’s worry about that if we have to. As I set my kit up, I could hear the crowd noises on the other side of the curtain and it sounded like a lot of people. Butterflies flew off of their aircraft carrier to land in my stomach and I didn’t know if I wanted to throw up or go to the bathroom on myself. I snuck peeks at my new bandmates and they weren’t looking too sporty either; the guy who hired us was running around us telling us to hurry up and, oh, yeah, what’s the name of your band?

Name? We didn’t have one! Kinda technically, we weren’t even a band; we were just five guys who happened upon each other! The club had been playing music to keep the crowd occupied and I heard, “Well my mind keeps going through them changes…” and the others heard this, too, and we all blurted out that the name of our band was Them Changes. The guy dashes through the curtain and I’m behind my drums and I’m feeling petrified even though this wouldn’t be the first time I’d ever played before a lot of people since, duh, I was in the school band and orchestra, and we routinely played… but this was different. My friend, who was set up to my right said, “I don’t know about this, man…” and before I could tell him that I didn’t know either, a loud voice was introducing us and the curtain was parting and, fuck me – that’s a lot of people!

I think the five of us were… stunned. Okay. Stage fright. The crowd is waiting for us to start playing and we were frozen in place; I couldn’t think of anything and then the only thing I could think of was the begining of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Sex Machine” and I called this out to the guys; our “lead guitar” played the opening notes and now I got to find out how good I could do that seamless and perfect roll that I knew followed those notes and…

We jammed. We got into “Sex Machine” and I know I got hyped when I heard someone in the crowd say, “Oh, shit! That’s my jam!” People were dancing in their seats and quite a few people were on the dance floor; the five of us are looking at each other like, “What the fuck?” We went from one song to another song and the guy who hired us snuck behind us to tell us to play a slow song and it took us a few seconds to decide which slow song we all had heard… and maybe knew how to play and I would remember thinking that the people who were having so much fun listening to us play had no idea that, for the most part, we had no fucking idea what we were doing.

We took a much-needed break and I literally ran someone over getting to the men’s room. A patron was in there and did a double-take to see a kid pissing like a racehorse… in a bar. “Dude, how fucking old are you?” he asked.

I”m 15,” I said as the urine continued to flow – and then I’m trying to pee as fast as I can because our break was only to be 15 minutes and I had to get back so I could help us figure out what the fuck we were going to play after the break. I got back, we put our heads together and hashed out a playlist that would carry us through the rest of the time we were supposed to be there… like we were supposed to close the joint. We played our hearts out. I still can’t believe how well we played together for a bunch of guys who’d just met a few hours ago.

We were playing “Superbad” by James Brown, and we were into it. People were rushing to the dance floor and, man, it was like I was high or something to see them grooving to my and our music when I heard someone yell, “Give the drummer some! Give the drummer some!” I got to know what it was like to be a deer in the headlights because not only was all those people now staring at me, the guys on the stage with me were staring, too, and like, “Well, what are you waiting for?”

And. They. Stopped. Playing. Let’s not talk about that they stopped perfectly and I almost stopped, too, but this was my “solo moment” and… I had no fucking idea what to do. None. I just made it up as I went along and the crowd was losing their fucking minds. My solo only lasted for about a minute and a half but to me, it felt like a couple of hours before the other guys jumped back in and like they had never left me to play for the crowd all by myself.

After the show was officially over, people were coming to the stage and congratulating us and marveling at how young all of us really were. The guy who managed the hall came to us and asked us how much we got paid for this and we told him… and he turned around and cussed the guy out who hired us and said that we deserved much more than a “piddling $200 apiece.”

He paid each of us another $300, packed us up in his van, and took us all home. My mother was shitting kittens because I didn’t get home until almost 3:30 in the morning. I had to explain myself which included where I’d been all this time and… more kittens got shat out along with a couple of cows for good measure. I had showed her the $500 I had earned, and she said that she felt… a little better to know that I didn’t do it for nothing but, still. In a bar? Really? She then asked, “Well, how did y’all do?”

I told her about all the people dancing and grooving to what we were able to do. When I got to the “give the drummer some” part, I could see that she was… proud of me… now take your ass to bed before I decide to beat your ass for not telling me all of this before!

What a day that was for me and the four other guys. We “officially” became a band and one of the many bands that sprouted up in the city. We weren’t the best of them but we were good at what we did and we’d wind up playing… in bars and clubs in and out of the city and we got a chance to play at The Apollo in New York City as one of the “warm up” bands keeping the audience occupied before the main act took over. We had dreams of making records and hitting the big time and, indeed, we cut a record in a local studio and with our original song we’d created called… “Them Changes.” We played together for two and a half years before we just… kinda broke up due to other interests.

My mom had visions of me being a star – but not in what I’d call a selfish way; she wanted me to be the best musician I could be except I didn’t want to be a professional musician in that sense because the five of us had learned how… cutthroat the music business could be and we knew of other guys who took off for LA seeking fame and fortune… and never found it – and those guys were way better than we were. And after a weekend where we had played in three cities in two days, I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do with my music. This was… a love of mine. More than just a hobby but I just didn’t have any aspirations to be a “rock start.” I just wanted to create and play the music that came from my heart and soul.

While trying to avoid playing in church – but that’s another story for another day. I’d had my “fifteen minutes of fame.” I reveled in it and with our groupies and, yeah, sex. Lots of it. After that first night we played together, I don’t recall there ever being a time after that when, after we performed, we weren’t getting laid. Or I’d be in school and girls who wouldn’t give me the time of day wanted to fuck me and, yeah, guys who wanted to blow me and/or be fucked by me. That “drugs, sex and rock and roll” thing was very damned real… but despite all of this fun, it wasn’t the life I wanted to live.

And here I am, decades later… still playing the drums!

 
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Posted by on 2 September 2022 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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Life, Living and Loving: Mrs. Fever’s September Song Project 2022: “Sheep May Safely Graze (Cantata #208)”

I woke up thinking about this song and the first time I heard it and as performed by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos on an amazing instrument called a Moog synthesizer and on the album, “Switched-On Bach.” That album changed how I looked at music and, yeah, I wanted to learn this. I was already learning how to play both organ and piano but this Moog thing fascinated the shit out of me because it was an organ, piano, and a shitload of other instruments… and none of them.

On the album cover, there’s a picture of the Moog Walter performed on and the thing that blew my mind was that every piece of music performed was done one note at a time! Today’s keyboards are all polyphonic, meaning they can play more than one note at a time but the album was recorded in 1968 and I’d heard it not long after it came out and, again, it blew my mind. We were learning Bach’s music in music class and playing some things orchestrally – as well as going to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra play and I was already in love with Bach’s music but this, wow. This.

I’m in the shower and hearing the piece in my head and remembering my… feeble attempts to play it on conventional keyboards (organ and piano) and, whew; playing it as composed for organ pretty much made me insane and I’m lathering up and laughing at that younger version of myself and thinking, “Yeah, ya didn’t know about MIDI back then, did ya?” I was also laughing to remember how me playing that album over and over drove my mom batty because she hated the “tinny” sound of the Moog synth and compared to the more modern synths, yeah, it didn’t sound all that great…

But my mind was blown just the same. Bach’s music isn’t what I’d call… uncomplicated. Indeed, music of that period tended to be rather complex in composition but seriously expressive at the same time. One other piece on the album, “Air on a G String” stole my heart. I’d heard it played orchestrally but on the Moog? Masterful. Soulful. One frigging note at a time and even more mind blowing when I saw the score for this piece; mind forever blown to see the score for “Sheep May Safely Graze” and, again, I went through some shit learning to play it on organ… but I learned it.

But I wanted to learn synthesis. I wanted to play Bach this way. I would, one day, sit down at my keyboard rig and with some software and a mess of MIDI cables, I played “Air on a G String,” not exactly how Wendy did it in 1968 but close enough for government work. I never tried “Sheep” but I was sure I could have pulled it off. I’m still showering, and this piece is “on repeat” in my head and if you’ve never listened to “Switched-on Bach” – but have heard orchestras play it – it’s… the same but not really. It’s fucking amazing that Walter (before he was Wendy) was able to express Bach in the way he did… one frigging note at a time.

I would read about how the album was produced and the ground-breaking techniques that had to be created; I thought that I would have not wanted to be the recording engineer who had to put all of this together – and get it right.

I had, a long time ago, ripped the CD to my computer and while I’ve been typing all of this, I’ve been listening to the album and… it still stirs my heart and soul. I would get “Switched-on Bach II” and, later, get the “revised” version of “Switched-on Bach” that Wendy Carlos did using modern day synths and it was nice… but I still love the original recording. “Impossibly” done one note at a time. All those patch cords. Understanding that synths like Robert Moog’s had “kinda” been around for a while but no one had used one like this. It was brilliant. Genius. Took classical music and turned it on its head.

Ah, man. Sitting at my keyboard rig with my son who is also classically trained on piano, and we’re both taking turns playing it as written but accepting the challenge of using MIDI and Sonar – the software I used to “put it all together.” Doing some editing to, um, clean up the mistakes I made. Playing it back for the first time and my son and I looking at each other and grinning and as if to say, “Fuck yeah.” Making the challenge of it even harder because I could have just used my Korg workstation to do all of this but to use it and my Technics keyboard? To understand the music as well as the science behind MIDI that would allow me to take two different keyboards and make them work as one?

What a day that was. It tested everything I learned about music and instruments. How to shape sounds and between both keyboards and the Sonar software, it was comparatively easy to do and considering how Walter/Wendy did it back in 1968.

One note at a time. I had it easy since both keyboards were polyphonic and by default. Looking at the sheet music and recording it one piece at a time and with the different voices and as many of the nuances that I could manage, like pizzicato violins. Getting the soulful tones of the oboe just right. What a day. It took me almost a week to put it all together since I was doing it after a “hard day’s work” doing my job and in between my normal day-to-day-at-home stuff. Yeah, I had to explain to my wife and poly wife why I was bothering to do this when, duh, I could just play the CD and, yeah, maybe they couldn’t understand what it meant to me, as a musician, to be able to do this myself.

They thought I was crazy and maybe I was… but I did it. And now I’m trying to remember if I still have that recording. I might and might not. I’ll look for it but don’t hold me to it because it could have gotten lost somewhere along the line. I still have my Korg workstation and enough of the MIDI stuff for it. I’d have to get some software to really make it all work as well as getting my hands on the full score, but yeah, I think I can do the song that is now stuck in my head about sheep safely grazing.

To bring this first offering for Mrs. Fever’s September Song Project to a close, I can easily remember complaining my ass off about practicing when I could have been doing other stuff (like getting laid in particular); I can remember spending hours not only learning whatever music I was trying to learn but developing the proper techniques to get the best out of whatever instrument I was practicing on, like spending x-amount of time with trumpet, then more time with piano. Being reminded by my mother that the only way I can be better at this was to keep practicing and even when I didn’t feel like it or felt that it wasn’t even necessary.

And it paid off for me the day I took on Bach and Wendy Carlos. I remember how I felt to hear the playback once I got it into some kind of decent shape and… fuck yeah.

 
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Posted by on 1 September 2022 in Life, Living and Loving

 

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