Sunday, June 26, 2005

Past & present Phillies

Pat & Curt @ CBP

Monday, June 20, 2005

"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" passes away?

A woman named Lucy Richardson, a former schoolmate of Julian Lennon, died recently at the age of 47. Supposedly, this is the Lucy who Julian -- John Lennon's son -- included in a painting he had done in school as a 4-year old called "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" that influenced the popular Beatles song on their classic album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The pieces seem to fit, but you can read everything for yourself at Lucy In The Sky - the real woman.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Doctor Who and a "Parting of the Ways"

Well, this Saturday marks the season finale of the legendary BBC science fiction series, Doctor Who.

After running on the BBC as a series from 1963-1989 and returning with a one-shot, "Americanized" TV movie co-produced by the BBC and FOX in 1996, Doctor Who came back to the BBC as a regular series earlier this year.

I first started watching Doctor Who probably around 1984 when I just happened to catch the episode called "Robot" starring Tom Baker as the scarf-wearing -- and most popular -- Fourth Doctor (for the uninitiated, the time-traveling character is called "The Doctor" -- NOT Doctor Who -- and he can regenerate his physical form 12 times for a total of 13 lives) on WOR Channel 9 on a Saturday afternoon. I soon learned that it aired every Saturday night at 9 p.m. on New Jersey Network/PBS and became a huge fan.

I was so excited last year when the BBC made the announcement that Doctor Who was coming back in 2005. Unfortunately, Sci-Fi Channel turned down an offer to air it in the United States and no other broadcaster stepped up to the plate. The original Doctor Who series was known for its clever science fiction and plot twists, but it was also known for cheap sets and cheesy special effects. The 2005 update still has some campiness, but the production values are state of the art, making it a bit more expensive to produce.

Obviously, that means it would have taken a decent amount of money to buy the U.S. television rights...and any buyer could wind up looking foolish if American Doctor Who fans turned their backs on the updated version of the show.

So I have been downloading the episodes via BitTorrent...yeah, I'm admitting it. But I don't see what is wrong with that. It's the only thing I use BitTorrent for and it most likely would have been on a cable channel for which I am already paying. Plus, I have every intention of buying the DVD set when it is released in the United States later this year.

Anyway, I have thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Doctor No. 9 (Christopher Eccleston) and his time-traveling companion, Rose (Billie Piper) through the first 12 episodes of this new season of Doctor Who.

Unfortunately, time is running out for The Doctor as he tries to save Rose and the Earth from the menace of the dreaded Daleks (since Eccleston only signed on for one season, he is leaving the show and will be replaced by Doctor No. 10 to be played by David Tennant...Piper also will be leaving the show at some point next season).

[EDIT: Actually, since this posting, Piper has agreed to return for all 13 episodes in 2006.]

As I mentioned earlier on this site, the season finale is called "The Parting of the Ways." In tribute to this fine season of Doctor Who, I would like to dedicate my latest song, "Parting of the Ways."

I had known the title of the season finale for weeks when I wrote the lyrics to the song, which I did by singing into the microphone and keeping whatever sounded decent. When I blurted out "...and doing that means we have to part ways" in the chorus, I knew I had my title.

It's actually quite appropriate, too. Doctor Who had been off the air practically the entire time I stopped doing music (although it got a year or so of a head-start on me) and had a one-off reappearance that came about the time I wrote my only song of the mid 90s, "The Greatest Love." And now, I write my first new song in ages and it comes the same year Doctor Who returns to the BBC.

Maybe The Doctor and I are in the same time stream?

Bush finally telling the truth?

Well, maybe he isn't "telling" the truth, but I think it is rather apparent in this Reuters picture of Ol' Dubya...strangely, this picture isn't all that shocking...I mean, I think we all saw this coming...

Like the song says, "Time takes over"

All this looking back at my music "career" that I have been doing lately made realize something...I'm getting old.

I was watching the full TMC + The New Generation video and our performance of "Time Takes Over" came on. Now, TTO was the first, complete song I ever wrote (and, yes, Christian Beach is responsible for the "shoe" sound that was added around 1990). I recorded the earliest version of it on my own in October 1988, and brought it to TMC+TNG shortly thereafter.

When I started thinking about when I wrote TTO, it hit me...THAT WAS 17 FREAKIN' YEARS AGO. The song is just as old now as I was when I wrote the darn thing.

Man, that is depressing.

Time Takes Over (7.1 MB)

P.S. I lied when I said a few days ago that I would stop posting new TMC+TNG videos...there is a new one up on my .Mac site. The clip titled "Domination...right!" shows me a) forgetting the words to a song I wrote, and b) pulling out the microphone cable with my foot...I wouldn't exactly call that a "dominating" performance.

I have Spinal Tap air conditioning!

It goes to 11!

With it being so hot in the Bucks County, PA, area the past couple of days, I have become very familiar with the two air conditioners in my apartment.

I noticed that the temperature controls on both units go up to 11...just like Nigel Tufnel's amps in the mock/rockumentary "This is Spinal Tap!"

Now, I just have to figure out how to make the AC units produce cold air AND play "Big Bottom" at the same time. That would be freakin' sweet!

These go to 11!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A mobile blog test!

Mike & I in the office.

OK...this is me and Mike Scott, our graphic designer here in Rider's office of publications. I was just showing him how mobile blogging works by sending this pic from my cell phone to my blog. This is going to be so cool for road trips!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

When microphones...and dancers...attack!

OK...I promise this is going to be the last TMC + The New Generation least for awhile. But I keep finding things that make me laugh and here is another...

As I mentioned in the post titled Remember TMC + The New Generation, we played at this local cable MDA telethon in the summer of 1989 and hilarity ensued.

In this video clip, you can see things I discussed in the previous post...our rapper's brothers dancing away and the crack in the door that allowed the clowns who were present to look into the studio just as we started to play.

But this video also includes the tail end of our variant (I wouldn't even call it a cover version) of Elvis Presley's "Teddy Bear," a close up of me -- with the look of a serial killer -- and my scraggly quasi-mullet, and my microphone boom swinging wildly towards host Johnny Cal at the end of the song (but note my excellent recovery!).


What's that noise?

I found another TMC + The New Generation moment that made me fall down laughing.

For one reason or another, it seems that at least once during each of our shows a sound came out of one of our keyboards that wasn't supposed to be there. One time, a menacing bass line in a song called "Death Row" came out as bells.

But on one occasion, which was captured on video and can be seen at the link below (or by clicking on this post's headline), a saxophone started playing wildly at the end of a song called "Don't Die Poor."

Now, I'm not 100-percent sure of this, but I think this is what "Don't Die Poor" was coming to an end, Christian wanted to load his sampler with the sounds he needed for the next song -- and that included a sax.

Unfortunately, when the sax sound loaded, it was on the same MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) channel as a percussion sound that was still playing. I don't want to get into a explanation of how MIDI works, so I'll just say that because the two sounds were on the same channel, the sax sound came out as the percussion part (which was still playing underneath the sax sound in the mix).

Now, it may not be as funny to somebody who doesn't know the song, but -- to me -- it sounds pretty obvious that the sax part was not supposed to be there.

As Homer Simpson would say, "Bring on the saxamaphone!"

More TMC + The New Generation memories

Well, I came across another classic comedy moment of the comprehensive video history of TMC + The New Generation...

...we were playing a show at the ol' Green Parrot Rock Club in Neptune, NJ, and -- as usual -- we had a sequencer malfunction. Well, actually, this was more a BK brain you will see in the video, we were starting a song called "Stop the Violence!" (featuring a few notes borrowed from the "Hawaii Five-0" theme) and after Christian played some samples and TMC yelled "Stop," I was supposed to step on a foot switch and start the sequencer to play the background tracks of the song.

One problem...I forgot to switch songs on my Kawai Q-80 sequencer and had to make a quick lunge over to turn the Q-80's "alpha wheel" to the correct song. As you can see, it took a little bit of time to accomplish that and it resulted in an awkward silence...if you listen hard enough, I think you can hear crickets chirping.

Here is that comedy nugget for all to enjoy...

Stop the Violence...and start the sequencer!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Remembering TMC + The New Generation

Since I took some time off to take care of some things, I am going back to Ocean County to spend some time at the Jersey Shore (and I picked a great weather week to do it, apparently).

I am hoping to get together with an old friend and music collaborator, Christian Beach, to reminisce about the old days in what may have been the most oddly constructed musical group in history (and that's including the Polyphonic Spree)...TMC + The New Generation.

Now, TMC+TNG's execution was pitiful, but what we were trying to do was pretty ambitious at the time, especially for two kids from New Jersey in their mid-to-late teens.

Here's the story...Christian and I first met around the mid-80s when a one-time mutual friend named Andy Benton invited me to join them in their project, White Noise. But after Andy disappeared following the infamous "Swiss Miss" incident, Christian and I went our separate ways for awhile until I found out that somebody I worked with was in a high school class with Christian. We regained contact and tried doing some synth-based, new age you can tell, that went nowhere. However, we soon were told about an Asbury Park-based rapper who went by the name of TMC (and whose real name we were never 100 percent sure of because we couldn't understand him half the time) and was looking for real musicians to back him up instead of using samples and a DJ.

With a background that was mostly in jazz, new age, and progressive and alternative rock, Christian and I started working on some songs we thought could be considered rap. We did this by "borrowing" pieces of mainstream rap songs of the time, but we inevitably added some advanced layers to the rap foundations. Some of the first stuff we worked on actually sounded pretty cool, but the only time we used any of it was at an open mic night at the now-departed Green Parrot Rock Club in Neptune, NJ.

We played behind TMC that night as kind of an audition and we wound up sticking together despite the fact that the performance was one of several in a series of Spinal Tap-like disasters that would plague us during TMC+TNG's existence. We were using the basic, 8-track sequencer in my Ensoniq ESQ-1 at the time and when I turned it on at the club, somehow every sequence except for one had been deleted. Now, this was one sequence of a song, so it was basically just a verse. Instead of playing two or three songs, we were reduced to playing over the same eight bars or so for what seemed like 10 minutes...with TMC rapping the whole time and waiting for the music to change. It was a nightmare, but it pales in comparison to things that would happen to us later.

That being said, as Christian and I discussed recently, some of the things we tried doing back then were ahead of their time. It's just that we weren't experienced or focused enough, perhaps, to pull it off. After a couple of years, I started doubting myself and my place in the music world and decided to leave TMC+TNG, giving Christian the rights to everything we had worked on together. I also felt like I was holding Christian back because he was the musical force behind the band with tons of talent and creativity, but I could tell it wasn't all coming out. A couple of years later, Christian started getting airplay on WHTG 106.3 with his band, Slave of Id. I was listening to G 106.3 one day in late '92, I believe, when they ran a promo for a benefit show in Long Branch, NJ. Instead of just saying "Slave of Id" was playing, the promo said "Christian Beach's Slave of Id." I always felt that was some cosmic signal to try to get back in touch with Christian, which I did by showing up at the gig.

Anyway, Slave of Id's first single was "What Does It Mean to You?" -- a song that featured a few lines of lyrics I had written during the waning days of TMC+TNG (actually, by that time, Christian and I started getting into industrial music and we changed the name of the band to Interläken Pröbe, since nearby Interlaken, NJ, had a European-looking name and I was driving a Ford Probe at the, it sounded somewhat experimental).

So, thanks to Christian and Slave of Id, I was able to hear words that I wrote on the radio, which I still find rather cool. the purpose of this post. Well, one of the funnier moments in TMC+TNG history was a local cable TV appearance during a Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon. When I set up the gig, I thought it would be cool to get on television...boy, was I wrong! First of all, TMC had his numerous brothers and sisters dance on stage during our performances. I had told him that we were going to be in a small room and that we should probably leave the TV gig to just the three of us. He seemed to acknowledge that fact, but we get to the studio and he tells us that his brothers and sisters are on the way. Fortunately, only his brothers made it because the car the sisters were in broke down and didn't get there until after we performed.

Anyway, here is the funny sequence of events leading up to our actual performance...the production guys in the room were under the impression that we were going on after the hosts finished up something in the lobby of the studios. I seem to recall they even started a countdown, but instead of cutting to us we heard one of the hosts on a nearby monitor say, "We have two clowns." As the production guys tell us to relax, Christian's dad -- hiding behind a keyboard case on the floor to take care of any musical problems for us -- says to me and Christian, "That must be you two!"

OK...that's phase 1 of the sequence of events...after the clowns do their thing in the lobby, the host -- a guy named Johnny Cal -- comes into the room to introduce us and finally get the show on the road. Well, he left the door open a bit and when I went to hit the sequencer to start the first song, I notice out of the corner of my eye the two freakin' clowns peeking through the crack of the door...clown hair, clown face, clown shoes and all. I almost lost it right there. The look on these clowns faces was priceless and I think they felt threatened by us, thinking we would be funnier than they were.

Well, they had every reason to fear us because we were damned funny. I took a short clip of our intro onto my .Mac site for all to enjoy. I edited the intro to give it more comedic value, but it gives you the sense of how ridiculous the whole thing was.

Enjoy...Send in the clowns...and TMC + The New Generation