Last night I presented three new songs in the form of music videos at the first installment of the Hugo House 2012/13 Literary Series. The theme was ¡Viva la Revolucion! and as the musical guest I chose three tunes that reflect three revolutionary phases of my musical upbringing.
Elaina Ellis, Matthew Zapruder and Steve Almond were FANTASTIC! Many thanks to Brian and the Hugo House for inviting me along for the ride.
I have a vivid memory of a school assembly at Northern Lights Elementary in Anchorage, Alaska. Our school music teacher (a fella with a salt-and-pepper beard, recessive hairline and glasses) pulled together music instructors from other schools in the district to perform the song Popcorn by Gershon Kingsley. First off, it was a surprise performance: we had no idea the music teacher would be playing, let along bringing other music teachers (who at that age, I basically equated with a bus load of rock stars) to play for us kids. Secondly, they played Popcorn which I’d never heard and sounded like space music. But most impressively, they were playing what the adult me now knows to be Mini Moog synthesizers. My mind was officially blown. You could have rolled in R2D2 (who didn’t yet exist) and it wouldn’t have been as exciting to me. When they finished the final synth-laden moments of that tune, the crowd screamed with delight and I was officially sold on whatever those crazy keyboards from the future were up on stage.
Here’s the full version of the song with intro vocals:
2. LOUD, DISTORTED GUITAR
When I was about 14, my parents took a trip to Los Angeles, CA. To a kid born and raised in Anchorage, this seemed like an exotic trip. My dad asked if I wanted him to bring anything back to me and I told him an electric guitar, figuring he would NEVER actually deliver the goods. Upon their return, they presented me with a 1980 Fender Lead II. I couldn’t believe it. Someone I knew at the time gave me a 100watt Fender Bassman head and another friend gave me a 4×12 cabinet. I had no idea at the time that the Fender Bassman is one of the rockingest guitar amps on the planet. I wrote about this amp a while back. Over the coming weeks and months I turned that amp and guitar to 10 and began a livelong love affair with loud, distorted guitar. Welcome to the club, I suppose.
3. SOUL-ISH MUSIC
I say “soul-ish” because I’ve never been in a traditional soul band, but most of the bands I’ve been in have veered toward the soul end of the spectrum. A typo sent me off on my soul-ish musical adventures.