I closed out 2018 and welcomed 2019 with a completely ridiculous sinus infection (as diagnosed, although I’m not entirely sure that was correct). That was quickly followed up by a stomach bug and now a slight cold. In the few hours of decent health I’ve had so far during this newborn year, I somehow managed to write my first real song in ages. Read on for more about that, and other odds and ends…
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Just wanted to share some year-end notes and share some things I’m looking forward to in 2019…and some other odds and ends.
Support me in the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge
Sorry to start this email out with a fundraising plea, but this is time-sensitive. Beginning today, Wednesday, December 19, the Eagles – thanks to the generosity of The Kelly Family (see graphic below) – will match, dollar for dollar, the first $15,000 in online donations raised by participants such as myself. So if you support my 5K run in the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge with a small donation now, it will be doubled for greater impact.
Visit to Morris Arboretum
Earlier this month, we reserved free tickets from our local library and made the trip to Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. While it’s obviously not the season for flora, the grounds are still interesting with sculptures and trees, etc. The big draw these days is the Holiday Gardens Railway, which can be seen in a couple of the pictures above and below.
My Ensoniq ESQ-1 Lives!
I recently reset my keyboard setup in our basement after it was moved around a bit as the result of some flooding a few months ago. In doing so, I decided to try to turn on my Ensoniq ESQ-1 synthesizer, which was the first pro-level keyboard I ever purchased back in 1987. The last time I did this a few years ago, the display showed a “low internal battery” message and went dark. But this time, after showing the “low battery” prompt, it took me to the screen showing the sound patch options and I was able to hear it again for the first time in about 20 years! Some keys don’t work, but there’s a place in North Jersey that specializes in vintage synth repairs so, someday, I may bring it there for a battery replacement and keyboard repair. But the fact that I now know for sure that it’s salvageable made me so happy.
Here’s a short video taken minutes after I realized the ESQ-1 still works.
And here is a photo of my keyboard rig, which consists mostly of instruments purchased between 1987 and 1989 (the only exception is the Alesis QS-6.1 in the foreground, which was purchased around 2004 or so). The ESQ-1 is at bottom left. (And, yes, they’ve gathered a bit of dust over the years.)
Remembering a Rider legend…and a reunion, of sorts
Longtime Rider University journalism professor, Willard E. Lally, passed away in November at the age of 96. I attended Rider long after Lally’s retirement in 1985, but his influence and presence within the department and at The Rider News, where I served as news editor (1995-96) and executive editor (1996-97), are still felt even today. As part of The Rider News legacy, I felt I should attend a memorial service held on campus December 15, and I’m glad I did. First of all, it was great to see some of my former professors for the first time in ages. Second of all, it is always great to hear the stories of so many journalism students who came before me.
After the service, there was a luncheon in one of the academic buildings, where I was reunited with the Frederick L. Ferris Award (see photo above), which is named after the “father” of Rider’s journalism program (Prof. Lally replaced Prof. Ferris) and awarded to the graduating senior for their accomplishments in the journalism program over their four years at Rider. I won it in 1997, even though I transferred after graduating from Ocean County College and only spent two years at Rider.
The Ferris Award used to sit in a display case in a hallway near the journalism faculty offices (and likely still does), but I had not seen it in years and it was nice to hold it again. And that’s when I realized something…21 years after winning it, I noticed my last name is spelled wrong. As it turned out, there was another former Ferris Award winner in the room that day who had the same problem. Of course, I complained about it, but it was mostly for comedic effect.
The cool thing was, because there were so many former Ferris Award winners in the room, including its first-ever recipient, Stuart Gellman ’57 (more on him later), and the most recent recipient, that all of us there gathered around the trophy, which somehow I wound up holding, for an epic and historic Rider journalism department photo. It was really an honor to be included in that. I’m not sure when or if I’ll see that photo online, but I’ll be sure to grab it when I do and share it in one of these updates.
OK, back to Stuart Gellman. I had communicated with him back in 2000, when I was working at Rider. Two of my former professors asked me to help them track down Rider News alumni for a homecoming event celebrating the newspaper’s 70th anniversary. I found Stuart in Arizona and talked to him, but he was unable to attend. He did, however, send a letter that I read at the event (I wound up serving as moderator for a panel of former Rider News editors). The following year, in early or mid 2001, Stuart was visiting campus with his son. He stopped by my workspace and introduced me to his son by saying “he writes for The Washington Post.” Of course, I didn’t realize at the time he was THIS BARTON GELLMAN!
Just a few months later, Barton Gellman became a household name (for those of us who follow journalists, anyway) for his reporting on 9/11. He later went on to report on the false intelligence regarding WMDs in Iraq, Dick Cheney (which turned into a book) and NSA overreach (he oversaw The Washington Post’scoverage after the newspaper received documents from Edward Snowden), winning multiple Pulitzer Awards for individual and group reporting for The Washington Post.
Even last week, when I re-introduced myself to Stuart after so many years, he remembered bringing his son to campus and, again, he just said “he was a reporter for The Washington Post.”
I left it at that.
Oh, one more story from this day. One of the Ferris Award winners not present was the late Herb Wolfe, who went on to be the president and CEO of Showboat Atlantic City. He is always listed as a ’64 grad, but I discovered years later when I was working at Rider and preparing to interview him that he left Rider a few credits short of a degree and that he was actually taking courses at the time – about 40 years later – to complete his degree requirements. But the university considered him an alumnus, most likely because he was a great success story and a benefactor. Anyway, he was the editor of The Rider News for the 1963-64 academic year, which meant he was overseeing production of the newspaper on Friday, November 22, 1963. Despite the grief and despair brought on by the assassination of President Kennedy, Wolfe rallied his staff to produce the paper as scheduled so it could be printed over the weekend and delivered on campus the following Monday, November 25. The bound volume of newspapers including this issue was also on hand so I took this photo…
Anyone see what’s missing on this front page…and in the rest of the paper (trust me, it’s not there)?
Yep, they were so focused on assembling the issue they had planned before Kennedy had been assassinated during its production, that they didn’t think to include any coverage of the assassination in the newspaper itself.
Amazingly, there is a photo in the Rider archives showing Dr. Lally critiquing this front page with Wolfe, but doesn’t mention this fact. And you really can’t see the date in the photo. When I interviewed Wolfe for a Rider University magazine feature 18 years ago, he let the cat out of the bag. I can’t remember his exact words, but he said to me, “This photo shows Professor Lally saying to me, ‘Herb, it’s great that you got the paper out, but you should have probably included something about Kennedy.'”
That particular photo accompanied the article I wrote, but I can’t seem to find that magazine among my archives. If I find it, I will post it somewhere. It’s a classic when you know the whole story behind it.
WXPN Best of 2018
Below is my contribution to WXPN’s Best of 2018 list. While most of what I listen to is popular on WXPN, there is still quite a bit that escapes even their attention. Young Gun Silver Fox’s first album from a couple of years ago got played a bit, but the station ignored their superior 2018 release, which was a shame. And even though I discovered the band Field Music through WXPN’s Indie Music Hit Parade on a Friday night in 2016, they have just never made it into regular rotation. In fact, that may have been the only time Field Music has ever been played on WXPN. But I loved the band because they sound like Talking Heads, XTC, Peter Gabriel/classic Genesis and Prince (yes, Prince…who posted then deleted a tweet approving of their song “The Noisy Days are Over” a few weeks before his death) all rolled up into one. So I doubt they’ll make the list, but I still wanted to acknowledge those acts as the Best of 2018.
China Crisis in Asbury Park
A very underrated and overlooked band from the 1980s is China Crisis. I first became aware of them when “Arizona Sky” from their 1986 album What Price Paradise received a bit of airplay on MTV. Oddly enough, when I first heard that song, a big attraction to me was that I felt they sounded like if Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had grown up in late 1970s/early 80s Liverpool. It wasn’t until much later that I learned CC’s Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon were, in fact, huge Steely Dan fans and that Becker had produced their previous album, 1985’s Flaunt the Imperfection, and was considered an official member of the band at that time.
To this day, I find myself humming “Arizona Sky” at random parts of the day.
Anyway, China Crisis just wrapped up a small tour of North America, which included a stop at Asbury Park, NJ’s The Saint on Sunday, December 9, that I attended (they also played at Randy Now’s Man Cave, a tiny record store/novelty shop just 15 minutes away from me in Bordentown, NJ, which I didn’t know about until after the fact). Below is a not-so-great video of China Crisis performing “Tragedy and Mystery” at The Saint. The person who took and posted the video added a somewhat offensive “death metal” intro to it and, for some reason, thought we would want to see periodic shots of him instead of the band. But it’s a taste of what I saw at The Saint. I configured the link to hopefully bypass the disturbing intro part, but I’ve found those configured links only work some of the time so who knows? Also, I think the guy who shot this video is the same one wrongly singing Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” when the band briefly goes into Chic’s classic “Good Times” during the bridge.
And here is the song that launched my China Crisis fandom in the late 1980s, “Arizona Sky.”
“Christmas Must Be Tonight”
My friend Christian Beach recorded this cover of The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” for a holiday compilation CD in 2009. It’s one of our favorites to listen to this time of the year.
“It’s Christmas Time Again” (Live, 2014)
So I shared my Christmas song last month. This month, I’m presenting this live version from a performance at the 2014 GSP Holiday Party. The video isn’t great and the audio was really weak, as were my vocals, so I added the audio from a rehearsal recording into the mix.
2019 Scheduled Races
I have already lined up my key races for 2019. They include another marathon, which will be my fourth (2 New Jersey Marathons, 2 Philadelphia Marathons), and my return to the Olympic-distance Atlantic City Triathlon (1-mile swim, 22-mile bike ride, 10K run). I did the Tri AC in 2014 and finished in 3:04:34, but that year’s edition included just a 20-mile bike ride and 5-mile run (although some that year believe they low-key added about a 1/4 mile to the swim portion).
New Jersey Marathon
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Broad Street Run
Sunday, May 5, 2019
Eagles Autism Challenge 5K
Saturday, May 18, 2019
Atlantic City Triathlon (Olympic distance)
Saturday, August 10, 2019
Philadelphia Half Marathon
Saturday, November 23, 2019
I am also interested in doing the Crest Best 10-Miler on October 13, but registration isn’t open for that yet. The same is true for the Broad Street Run on May 5, but by signing up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon using the “Philadelphia Challenge” option, I will be emailed a special registration link for a guaranteed spot in the Broad Street Run.
Of course, now that I’m also doing the Eagles Autism Challenge 5K on May 18, that means I’m doing two running events in the three weeks following the New Jersey Marathon. That should be interesting for my legs. So much for recovery time!
Other than these, there may be another 5K or two added to the race calendar. Barring any conflicts, I would like to do the WXPN Musicians On Call 5K in Philly in early October. I missed it this year because it was the same day as the inaugural Crest Best 10-Miler, which I opted to do instead. However, I think they will be a week apart in 2019.
If you search “TMC” or select the “TMC” category on this blog, you’ll find a bunch of posts about a music group I was part of back in 1988-90 called TMC + The New Generation (although, shortly before I left the group, we informally changed our name to Interläken Pröbe to reflect a shift to a more industrial hip-hop sound). The group consisted of me and my friend Christian Beach—who went on to become very talented singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist—on keyboards, samplers, sequencers and drum machines…and a rapper from Asbury Park, N.J., named Tariq Mohammed.
Christian’s father, Gorgo, also a musician, put us in touch with Tariq, who was a rapper looking to work with a band rather than using backing tracks or a DJ. Knowing that Christian and I had recently started working on electronic “new age” music together, Gorgo suggested to Tariq that the three of us should get together and see if we could combine rap with electronic music.
The full story of TMC + The New Generation can be read here, but the short story is we obviously didn’t get anywhere as a band.
Looking back, though, you could say that we were very ambitious—actually, TOO ambitious. But what we were trying to do—combine rap with electronic music AND multiple pop/rock genres—wasn’t very common in those days. And here we were, three teenagers along the Jersey Shore (and not one of us drunk or with a stupid nickname) to create this type of music with an array of electronic instruments we didn’t fully understand. As you would expect, we just were not experienced or mature enough to properly turn our musical visions into reality. But there were moments that still exist on old recordings and videos in which a glimpse of brilliance shines through. One such moment was a song that started out as something we nicknamed “Reggae Rap.” Tariq had the idea of rapping over a reggae-style song so we started playing a preset reggae rhythm pattern on Christian’s Roland R-8 drum machine and improvised some keyboard parts over it.
Eventually, we added a three-part harmony to the chorus and the song became known as “You’re That Kind of Girl.”
We performed the song a couple of times, including once at The Green Parrot—the long-gone rock club that used to be on Route 33 in Neptune, N.J. Someone videotaped that show for us so, despite the poor quality of the audio and video, it provided us with a recording of a lot of our material. Unfortunately, videotape doesn’t last forever and the quality continues to get worse over time. My copy of the tape, which I believe is the only one still around, actually broke near the beginning of “You’re That Kind of Girl” and I had to repair it to salvage a partial version of the song.
Anyway, I’m rambling so here’s the deal…after a few years of being in and out of touch with each other after our TMC days, Christian and I have been reconnected since 2005 and I have even performed and recorded with him a few times over the past few years. More recently, a virtual TMC reunion took place when Christian and I became friends with Tariq on Facebook.
Tariq and I have since exchanged messages via Facebook and an audio excerpt of the live version of “You’re That Kind of Girl” popped up unexpectedly on my iPod while driving a few days ago. It got me thinking that I should record a decent version of the song…so that’s what I did. Of course, since I never knew the lyrics rapped by Tariq in the verses (and the lone surviving recording is mostly unintelligible), I rewrote the verse lyrics while retaining the spirit and melody of the original version (and, yes, I rhymed “me” with itself at one point…I wasn’t spending THAT much time on this). I also tweaked the arrangement a bit.
But, overall, the 2012 version of “You’re That Kind of Girl” is pretty much just an updated version of the 1989/90 version…and I even included a some faux auto-tune as a nod to the song’s rap origins since I was not about to try rapping.
“You’re That Kind of Girl (2012)”
I will be playing accordion for my good friend, singer-songwriter Christian Beach, when he performs at Twisted Tree Cafe in Asbury Park, NJ, on Friday, June 19, at 9:45 p.m. The performance is part of the annual Wave Gathering Festival, which features more than 175 artists appearing at more than two dozen venues throughout Asbury Park.
Gorgo (mandolin) and Agency‘s Michael Scotto (percussion) will also be taking part in the ensemble.
So if you are in the area, please stop by and take in some great local music.
Summer is around the corner and that means it’s almost time to enjoy multi-day music festivals here in the northeastern United States, especially here in New Jersey.
The biggest summer music festival in these parts is All Points West, which returns to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., from Friday, July 31, through Sunday, August 2, 2009. The second-annual APW festival features 65 artists on three stages, including the Beastie Boys, Vampire Weekend, Tool, Neko Case, the Ting Tings, MGMT, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Coldplay. A lot of great acts will be there (although I’m not a fan of Coldplay at all), but APW is very pricey. Three-day tickets for APW cost $199 + applicable fees (for a limited time, so that rate will go higher as the date gets closer) and single-day passes are $89 plus fees (again, for a limited time). However, I did read on the APW web site that tickets can be purchased in installments. Not sure if that was the case last year, but that is a nice option if you really want to go.
For the third consecutive year, I plan on attending WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival at Wiggins Park on the waterfront in Camden, N.J. This year’s XPN festival takes place Friday, July 24, through Sunday, July 26, and features headlining acts like They Might Be Giants, Aimee Mann, Peter Bjorn & John, Robert Cray, Shemekia Copeland, Guster, and Steve Forbert on the main River Stage. In addition, many local and up-and-coming acts like Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles, Hoots & Hellmouth, John Gorka, and Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby will be showcased on the Marina Stage.
And because WXPN is the home to the weeknight kids program, Kids Corner, there is also a Kids Corner stage away from the main festival area that will include family-friendly acts like Skip Dennenberg and Miss Amy on the Saturday and Sunday of the event.
What’s especially nice about the XPN festival is that, if you buy your tickets before July 11, you get nearly three days of music for just $40. And if you are a member of the station (based at the University of Pennsylvania), the cost is just $30 for the three-day pass…PLUS, you get access to the ever-popular “members only” area where you can get free water, iced tea and lemonade AND meet the artists performing at the festival. After July 11, the three-day ticket prices go up to $40 for XPN members and $60 for the general public. Still a bargain for such a great music festival, but there is no reason not to buy your passes at the early-bird rate.
If you are more into the club-hopping type of festival, Asbury Park, N.J., offers the fourth-annual Wave Gathering Festival from June 19-21. Although the schedule and artists have not yet been announced for this year’s Wave Gathering Festival, last year’s event featured more than 180 artists at 23 venues throughout the city…so that should give you an idea of what to expect. The Wave Gathering Festival has been a big part of Asbury Park’s recent rebirth as both a city and a local music scene, and has featured the likes of Ingrid Michaelson, Ben Arnold, Val Emmich and Nicole Atkins & The Sea.
Three-day passes for the Wave Gathering Festival are also a very affordable $40.00, while single-day passes are $25. You may also purchase admission to individual shows at prices set by the venue (and many of those are typically just $5 or $10).
There are many other music festivals going on in New Jersey during the coming months, but these should be a good starting point before you go looking for others.
As mentioned earlier on this blog, I will be part of the backing band for my good friend, singer-songwriter Christian Beach, when he takes to the stage at The Saint (601 Main St.) in Asbury Park, NJ, this Friday night as he celebrates the recent release of his self-titled, solo CD.
Joining in the festivities will be Arlan Feiles and The Lone Howdys, as well as The Sunday Blues. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are just $10.
Christian’s band this time out includes John Pfeiffer (Well of Souls, In Between Dreams) on electric guitars, Michael Scotto (Agency) on drums and percussion, Gorgo (Private Sector) on mandolin and bass, Keith McCarthy (The Works, The Sunday Blues) on bass, and yours truly on organ, accordion and tambourine.
If you are in the area and are available that night, please feel free to come to the show. If you want to get a taste of Christian’s music, visit his new web site at ChristianBeach.net, or visit him on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/christianbeach. Plus, he is now on Facebook and Twitter.
Mark your calendars for April 10…not only is it my wonderful girlfriend’s birthday, but my friend Christian Beach will be celebrating the recent release of his self-titled CD with a show at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ.
I will once again be part of Christian’s backing band, helping out on organ and accordion, as he performs the entire 12-song CD in tracklist order. Christian will be hitting the stage around 10 p.m. and tickets are just $10.
If you are in the area and are available that night, please feel free to come to the show. If you want to get a taste of Christian’s music, visit his new web site at ChristianBeach.net, or visit him on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/christianbeach.
601 Main St.
Asbury Park, NJ