For The Record

(Note: If you’re new to The Owl Journal, you may not know that elsewhere on this site is my memoir, I, Too, Heard The Owl, six chapters of which tell the story of the significant role that music played in my life. Those chapters can be found collected together at: Just Like Tantalus’ Blues.)


Record

noun — /rekərd/

1. a thing constituting a piece of evidence about the past, especially an account kept in writing or some other permanent form.

2. the sum of the past achievements or actions of a person or organization; a person or thing’s previous conduct or performance.


I’d wager quite liberally that for the majority of English-speakers of my generation, myself among them, the first type of “record” that we encountered in this life was a black vinyl disk — tiny grooves etched into it in a tight spiral — spinning around flat on a turntable, upon which a stylus was placed, resulting in the transmission of sound waves through some electronic thingamajigs, until these waves erupted as music from some kind of speaker or another.

vinyl-squareFor many of us, that which emerged from those speakers blew minds, expanded consciousness, triggered surges of adrenalin, endorphins, and dopamine, alternately filled or shattered hearts.

Despite a relatively recent, unlikely, and anachronistic vinyl record renaissance, the arrival of the Compact Disc (CD) in the early 1980s, followed by streaming music services approximately 20 years later, seemed, to many, to be a death sentence for referring to recording music as “making records.”

However, acquainted as I was with the dictionary definition of “record,” I wasn’t buying it.

Vinyl, reel-to-reel, cassette, CD, hard drive, server…they all contained a record of music performed, captured, and stored for posterity.

In today’s Owl Journal post, then, I humbly offer a small selection of records I’ve made as a musician, not one of which made it to vinyl or any record label, but records nonetheless. I thank you in advance for your indulgence. 🙏🏼


8/30/2018

By the time I was diagnosed with ALS in July 2018, I’d already started developing weakness in my hands. Consequently, playing the guitar was gradually becoming more and more difficult, and my last ever performance in a band took place that October 27th.

Heart. Broken.

That said, I had the great good fortune of not only meeting many simpatico musicians to play with in several bands over the years, but more importantly and to the point, these bandmates became friends, friends whom, upon learning that I’d contracted a degenerative neuromuscular disease that would eventually rob me of my ability to be in performing bands, conspired behind my back to schedule a recording session in a studio, at which members from three of the bands I’d been in — Bakertown, Landing Party, Sleepy Alligators — would back me up on two songs, intended as a memento of the all the many joyous hours of making music together.

Now, choosing just two songs out of thousands was challenging, to be sure, but I was ultimately quite pleased with the selections I made. On both tunes, I play rhythm electric guitar and sing lead vocals, and while the recordings are far from professional, I love them thoroughly, I’m very grateful that they exist, and I cherish the memory of making them.

(Note: All of the musicians who played on the following are noted at the bottom of this post.)


“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

by Neil Young

One of the two songs, unquestionably, HAD to be a balls-to-the-wall rocker, and this tune from Neil’s 1969 album of the same name was a favorite that my band Landing Party would make a glorious ruckus with, usually as the last song in a show. 


“Dear Prudence”

by The Beatles, arrangement by Jerry Garcia

For the second song, I wanted something with more finesse, as well as something the band could stretch out and jam on, and this John Lennon-penned Beatles tune from 1968’s White Album, which Jerry Garcia reimagined and rearranged sometime around 1979, was one that I particularly loved singing with the band Sleepy Alligators. (Sadly, I was just getting over a cold, and I could not access the upper end of my vocal range, so, you’ll just have to take my word for it…I could absolutely NAIL this song! 🤪)


Doin’ The Phoenix

After a period of deep mourning following my last gig as a performing musician, by the winter of 2018 I somehow summoned the will to channel my grief and my surviving desire to make music into learning a new way to play guitar.

IMG-5420

Me and my buddy Laura at my 55th birthday party.

With my fingers and hands weakened by ALS, the main thing I could no longer do was to arrange the fingers of my left hand in various positions while pressing the strings down onto the fretboard to form chords. After some research and consultation with other guitar players, I decided to try playing lap style slide: I had a luthier raise the strings on my beloved Martin 000-15s so that they were approximately 3/8″ above the fretboard, purchased a steel slide designed for this purpose, purchased special picks that are worn on the finger tips and thumb of the other hand, had the slide adapted by a friend with a little hood for my index finger made of athletic tape that helped my weak hands hold onto the non-trivial 5 ounces of steel.

Many hours of study and practice later, but still very unsure as to whether or not I could keep up with other musicians, I took a chance and showed up at the Friday night drop-in acoustic jam that I had attended for many years and had been missing dearly. Fortunate enough to count as friends most of the other usual attendees of this jam, friends who knew about my ALS and were deeply sympathetic, I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome back, nor a more patient reception for my still rudimentary slide guitar skills.

This welcome back gave me the gift of one more year engaging my passion: playing guitar, singing songs, making music with friends.

IMG_1851


2/9/2019

One day I was practicing at home and felt like mixing things up and having some fun doing so. My Martin guitar has a built in pickup that allows me to plug it in and play it through an amplifier or PA system, which I’d done many times before. But, there was something I’d never done and had always wanted to try just for kicks: I plugged a cable from my Martin into the effects pedal board that I used with my electric guitars, and then I ran a cable from the output of the pedal board to my 40-watt Fender tube amplifier…

Ooh Baby!


“Little Wing”

by Jimi Hendrix

After playing around for a while with effects like distortion, reverb, delay, vibrato, and wah-wah, I tapped on a pedal called the Deja’Vibe, which is a copy of the Univibe pedal made famous by Jimi Hendrix, and I was immediately captivated and thought of Jimi’s beautiful 1967 song Little Wing. No, the song didn’t come to mind because this Vibe tone sounded exactly like Jimi, but rather simply because it’s a favorite song of mine and I thought it might sound good played this way. So, I simply opened the voice recorder app on my iPhone, pressed Record, and played the following. (Sadly, I never had enough time to master the slide well enough to play a solo, so just engage your imagination and conjure up some magic Hendrix accompaniment!)


8/22/2014

For the one and only video record in this diminutive collection, I chose a clip of me and my band Landing Party.

(Note: I had a blast learning to use Photoshop and creating graphics for this band!)

Landing Party

The following is from one of our earliest gigs, selected partly because I love the song, but also because the venue — the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewery — is very special to me. As an audience member, I attended many music shows at Boundary Bay over quite a few years, and I dreamed of making it to that stage. After a lot of hard work, I eventually made it in several bands prior to this show, and I later had the pleasure of playing there several times as a member of Sleepy Alligators.

And now, without further ado, here’s Landing Party’s stripped down rendition of Wilco‘s War on War, from their 2001 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

(P.S. No, it doesn’t creep me out at all that four years before being diagnosed with a terminal illness I was singing the last words of this song: “You have to die. You have to die. You have to learn how to die, if you want to be alive.” 🤪)



Song Credits

“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

  • Me: lead vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Scott Gilbert (Landing Party): lead guitar, vocals
  • John Wilson (Bakertown, Sleepy Alligators): lead guitar
  • Dave Lyon (Bakertown): bass, vocals
  • Orion Lackey (Sleepy Alligators): keyboards, vocals
  • Tim Maloy (Bakertown, Sleepy Alligators): drums

“Dear Prudence”

  • Me: lead vocals, rhythm guitar
  • John Wilson (Bakertown, Sleepy Alligators): lead guitar, vocals
  • Bert Edkins (Sleepy Alligators): bass, vocals
  • Orion Lackey (Sleepy Alligators): keyboards, vocals
  • Tim Maloy (Bakertown, Sleepy Alligators): drums

(Note: “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and “Dear Prudence” were recorded by John Holmes (No, not THAT John Holmes! .🤣) at his home studio in beautiful Skagit Valley, Mount Vernon, Washington State.)

“Little Wing”

  • Me: lap slide guitar
  • Martin 000-15s
  • Fulltone Deja’Vibe pedal
  • Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amp

“War On War” – Landing Party

  • Me: lead vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Scott Gilbert, lead guitar, vocals
  • Chipps Monahan: bass
  • Burrell Jull: drums

4 thoughts on “For The Record

  1. I’m sure all of you are excellent players but you, Howard, take the band to another level! Your moves and gestures are rocker material as is your voice! Did the band continue on after you had to quit?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sweet of you to say, Julie, but what you see is a total team effort: Scott’s perfect harmony vocals and tasty guitar solo, Chipps’ funky thumpy bass, Burrell’s steady time and backbeat, all of that propels everything you see me doing. As for what the band is doing now, Landing Party is sadly no more, the three guys are all still making music, but they’re pursuing other projects.

      Like

  2. Love reading your posts, Uncle Howard. I’ve been following for a while but never commented. I love that we share a connection through music and will cherish these posts. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks SO much, Hanae, you wonderful songbird! ✌🏼🧡🎶

      Like

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