My ¼" TEAC 4-track deck and Me
It was late in my junior year at U of M when my parents presented me with what was to be my graduation gift – a trip to Spain my senior year. This was very thoughtful and generous, but I had something else in mind. Politely, I asked if instead of taking that trip would they mind if I used the money to buy a 4-track TEAC tape recorder. So, for $500, the TEAC was purchased and utilized extensively during my remaining time at Michigan and later at Berklee College of Music. It allowed me to record my guitar and vocal tracks separately, which was a big improvement over my stereo cassette recorder. The TEAC got lugged from apt to apt, city-to-city, and finally driven cross-country to LA in my green Gran Torino. Presently it sits in in my studio, the capstan still intact, and a great set piece.
Might as Well, I Can’t Dance (Oak Park, MI, ’72)
One of the older songs on STAGES, this little ditty was written and recorded one afternoon as I was staying with my parents in our Harding Street home in Oak Park.
Speed Dating (Ann Arbor, ‘74)
There was a period during my days in Ann Arbor where I was coming up with a number of solo guitar instrumentals. Unfortunately, only a few of them were preserved on tape, this being one of them. It seems like I was trying to speed through most everything I was playing, either running to something or running away from something. Here’s a perfect example of the pace at which I was strumming back then. The song is actually twice as long as what’s presented here, with some slight variation, but this shorter length serves to give a great example of what appealed to me on an instrumental level during the mid to late ‘70’s.
With Friends to Drink (Ann Arbor, ‘74)
During my final two years at Michigan I was lucky enough to move into the Hill Street house, a large house on the edge of campus filled with highly creative and progressive people. During the roommate interview process, ‘we’ potential candidates sat in a circle in the house’s living room, and after it was my turn to explain who I was and what my interests were I fell asleep in one of their overly comfortable beanbag chairs. Needless to say, when someone awakened me saying the interviews were over and that I had been selected to become their new housemate, I was astounded and questioned their insight and decision-making skills. Embarrassed but appreciative, I accepted the offer and moved into what was a wholesome, nurturing environment filled with music, culture and social activism. I was the youngest adult in residence and the only undergrad amongst a group of professors and graduate medical students, which occasionally included 2-3 various young children running around. Every Thursday night we shared music and several of us ‘house musicians’ would perform our latest creations. The brilliant writing of Leo Kretzner still astounds me. These years were filled with a tremendous amount of joy and song exploration, reflecting the turmoil and challenges thrust upon us as a large group with varying interests, personalities and society at large … politics, justice for all, equality for the under-represented, fair and equal pay… I’m sure this song was written about something going on between ‘lovers’ in the house at that time. This is my guitar and vocal, recorded separately, back in the ‘70’s, sweetened now by harmonies and a rich mix.
Just Make Sure You Know (Ann Arbor, ’74)
This is just one of the many songs written during my junior year at Michigan while living in the Hill Street house. It’s one that has stayed with me all these years and thought it would be great to finally record it.
Every Time I Bend to Tie My Shoes My Back Itches (Ann Arbor, ’74)
It was late one afternoon, while several ‘on-duty’ dinner-preparers were gathering food in the kitchen, when 4-year old Eric started complaining to his mother about how difficult it was for him to tie his shoes. I was leaning back in a kitchen chair serenading everyone on guitar, while 6-year old Peter was sitting next to me strumming a dulcimer. Eric exclaimed suddenly, “Mom, every time I bend to tie my shoes my back itches”, and we all started laughing. Inspired immediately by his statement I headed upstairs, wrote this song and recorded it soon after.
This was a time in my life (junior year) when I needed to decide whether I was going to apply to med school or drop my pre-med classes and do something very risky – concentrate on a career in music. This was not an easy decision and the song reflects my state of mind during this critical period of uncertainty.
A Friend on Whom You Can Rely (Ann Arbor, ’75)
Without a doubt this is the one song on STAGES that I continued to play throughout the years. I remember never wanting to forget it; so practicing the song was a constant ritual every few months no matter where I was in life, in order to make sure this was always around. The odd meter changes seem so natural to me. It’s something I can’t quite explain, but I love to play it. I recorded these guitar and vocal tracks on Hill Street before heading to Boston. When we looked at the song for STAGES, Gary had this great idea of adding a Mellotron as well as detuned piano for the solo, both of which add a defining ‘period’ quality (think Beatles) and yet makes it more of a contemporary arrangement – I loved this approach.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice (Ann Arbor, ‘75)
Like many of the songs presented here, this stereo recording of an unfinished song was found on a cassette from the mid ‘70’s. I had totally forgotten about it. After reconstructing the chords so I could play it again, my intent now is to finish it and write complete lyrics…so the name may change.
Blue Moon Rising (Boston, ‘76)
When I moved to Boston to attend Berklee, my first apartment was in Central Square, Cambridge. One of the people I lived with was an avid Boston Globe astrology reader. His entire approach to the day, attitude and frame of mind, was based on what his horoscope predicted in the paper each morning. I remember thinking how strange his morning ritual was. I hadn’t met anyone so dependent on outside forces to determine their daily demeanor, whether they’d be happy, frustrated or confused. So I thought this might make for an interesting song. This was one of many songs written while attending Berklee.
It Might Have Been What You Needed (Boston, ‘76)
This entire project started when my wife suggested I take the time to transfer all the cassettes and ¼” tapes I’ve been storing for years into ProTools and see what’s there. To my amazement, much was discovered. This is the first song I found recorded on a cassette that I had sent to my sister in 1979 for her birthday. This discovery initiated the idea of relearning my songs and recording them for posterity. Since all I had was this recording and no lead sheet, George Naha, the brilliant NY studio guitarist stepped in and helped guide me through the song. With George’s help my fingers instantly found their place back on the strings, memory intact. Remarkable how that happened – like riding a bike. He has since assisted me on a number of other songs and I am so grateful.
This song, not written about anyone in particular that I can recall – is just light, breezy, and fun to play. It starts out as a simple progression on an E chord and then slowly adds some jazzy chords along the way, especially in the bridge. (Thank you, Berklee)
How Lucky Can a Lover Be? (Boston, ‘77)
In 1982 Gary Schreiner and I went to the Bronx River Park in Westchester, NY, near his parent’s home. I brought my Martin D28, and he, his chromatic harmonica. We spent a few hours playing songs, which I recorded for fun on my Sony Walkman recorder. The park was situated right next to train tracks heading in and out of Westchester so for many of the songs the sounds of commuter trains steamed by loudly snuffing out our performances. Some songs made it through the racket without much interference – and this was one of them. I thought it would be cool to start this song with that cassette track from 1982 and segue into an updated newly recorded studio version. So, the tempo for the new recording was dictated by what we did that afternoon. I love how the song grows from that lazy summer freedom into the new studio setting. The park-like ambience and birds are deliberate and I’m so glad I took my Walkman with me that day to document this musical history with Gary.
But Not With You (Oak Park, MI, 78)
I had just graduated from Berklee in Arranging, Composition, and Conducting and was at home for the summer in Michigan mowing lawns to earn enough money to buy a car for my road trip west to California. I was and still am a huge fan of Barbra Streisand. Her incredible voice inspired me to compose three ballads that I hoped one day she would sing. Until that opportunity presents itself, here is one of the three songs written during that summer. My guitar and vocal is presented here, recorded in my Oak Park bedroom before heading west.
Heaven Knows (LA, ‘80)
Having just moved to LA and finally settling in to my first apartment I decided to challenge myself musically and write something a little ‘outside-the-box’. Generally speaking, song verses and bridges lead UP to a satisfying chorus, landing on higher notes where one could belt out a sing-able and catchy hook. But on this day, I wanted to write a song where the chorus landed on lower notes than the verses, moving downward to the melodic hook instead of UP. This song was born out of that intent. Because I was new to the city this represents that happy, exploratory period in my life. Composing this upbeat, thankful song about my experiences meeting new people came very quickly.
Using the TEAC I recorded guitar as stereo and then overdubbed my vocal, but when prepping STAGES some spots on the guitar tracks were deemed unusable because the years had taken its toll on the tape – now a bit wobbly and stretched, pushing my guitar in and out of tune. Not so on my vocal track, though, so this is my original vocal from the early ‘80’s, recorded in my apartment on the corner of Overland and Rose Ave in West LA.
Headin’ Toward Loneliness (Los Angeles, ‘80)
Staying in similar tonal character on guitar (in the key of E) as Heaven Knows, this song was created. In fact, the melodies of the first line to each song are basically the same. As soon as I migrated in a different direction with the second line, the chords evolved quite rapidly and the two songs became brothers. I love Gary’s brass arranging and especially Jack Bashkow’s sax solo which always reminds me of what I’d hear on Saturday Night Live in the late ‘70’s. Here’s another use of my vocal from the early ‘80’s, supported by new tracks, when my original guitar could not be used because of tape deterioration.
To Be Without Your Love (Los Angeles ’82)
The first verse and chorus of this song were written in 1982, recorded quickly onto ¼” tape and forgotten about until recently. After relearning how to play it I completed the lyrics and wrote the bridge. The bossa-nova quality of the song is accentuated by a cool groove created by Doug Yowell and then overdubbed with drum patterns throughout.
Lullaby ’85 (LA, ‘85)
Written for bedtime to lull our 1st born son to sleep. Driving him around the block in his car seat would always work, but so did this soft lullaby. When our other two sons were born, it worked for them too.