BK Bulletin: I’m back…with news!

Yours truly in his new, makeshift home studio.

Hello there…it’s been awhile. I hope every one is doing as well as they can given the circumstances of these crazy past 16 months.

I come to you with some news…I have just officially released music for the first time ever, in the form of a five-song EP titled A Matter of Time, under the project name Ferocious Designs (see below for an explanation). It’s basically a collection of five songs I’ve written and recorded in GarageBand on my Mac over the past eight years or so, but I cleaned them up a bit to the point that I felt reasonably comfortable releasing them for potential commercial consumption.

The EP is currently available via Bandcamp and will soon be on streaming/download services like Spotify, Amazon, Apple and YouTube via DistroKid.

Visit ferociousdesigns.com for more information.

I released the first single, “Lay It on the Line,” a song co-written with John LeMasney during our old Technology and the Arts podcasting days, on June 18 to coincide with Bandcamp’s Juneteenth fundraiser.

Then, something completely unexpected happened. Longtime New Jersey music journalist Bob Makin reached out to me and said he was going to make “Lay It on the Line” his Makin Waves Song of the Week for when the EP was released, which was last Friday (July 16). So, yes…something I created is the current (for another couple of days, anyway) Makin Waves Song of the Week. Crazy, right?

It gets even crazier. Here is how Makin’s write-up appears.

As you might have guessed, that Peter Gabriel reference made my day. My entire worldview changed when I saw Gabriel’s powerful performance of “Biko” to close out his set at the Amnesty International concert at Giants Stadium on June 15, 1986. As the entire stadium echoed the closing chant of the song, Gabriel commanded “the rest is up to you” before walking offstage. The crowd kept the chant going for a few more minutes, but I took that call to action to heart, and seeing a seasoned music writer compare a specific element of the first song I ever release into the world to my all-time No. 1 music hero was incredible validation of this endeavor.

I have made two music videos so far for the EP, one for “Lay It on the Line” and another for the faux title track “Years Go By,” for which I decided to have fun with green screen and stock video footage from Videezy.com.

So…you may be asking “Why the name Ferocious Designs?”

Well, I never imagined ever releasing music under my own name, even when I was dreaming of being in a band in high school. Back then, I was obsessed with the name Omnium Gatherum, meaning a miscellaneous collection of things or a hodgepodge. But that name has since been taken by a European death-metal band, so that was out.

But the phrase “ferocious designs” — a lyric from Marillion’s 1991 song “Cover My Eyes (Pain and Heaven)” — had always stuck with me as a possible title or project name, so that’s what I went with. Listen for it in the first verse below.

Before I go, I should mention that a lot of this was spawned by working with my friend Christian Beach on his music since late March 2020. Christian released an EP called DoubleLife around that time and we worked on a couple of music videos remotely while under stay-at-home protocols, including this one for the amazing “Food on the Table.”

At the start of 2021, Christian released an album of mostly previously unreleased demos called Basement Noise and we again worked on a video remotely for the first single from the album, “Platte Cove Road.”

For the song “Missing Link,” I came up with a video idea that required us to shoot on location at a park just outside of Trenton, N.J., that once was the site of a popular amusement park in the early 1900s. The video’s centerpiece was the remnant of a grand staircase on the side of a hill that was a literal “missing link” to a bygone era. 

Also, this past winter, Christian assembled his live backing band — both in-studio and remotely — to record a new version of his song “Paper Ships” at Lakehouse Recording Studios in Asbury Park, N.J. I recorded an organ part at home and sent it in to be added to the mix. Christian released the standalone single in April, accompanied by another music video we shot at Huddy Park in Toms River, N.J. Oddly enough, a 2015 live performance of “Paper Ships” recorded at Huddy Park was included on the Basement Noise album. 

Oh yeah, I also learned how to make paper boats and used the dead roses left from the flowers I gave Alison for Valentine’s Day to create the single’s cover art.

So…this is what I’ve been up to during the pandemic. Honestly, releasing this EP was mostly a 50th birthday present to myself. But it’s been well-received and I am feeling a bit more confident about doing more of it. I don’t know when that will be, but I will always write songs every now and then. I’ve been doing it for over three decades so there’s no reason to stop now. I have some strong ideas in my head right now, so I guess Ferocious Designs will continue to exist exclusively as a studio project. It just might be a few years until the next release.

OK…that’s all from me. Again, I hope all is well with everyone.

Take care.

Making a music video while quarantined

hqdefaultMy longtime friend Christian Beach is a talented musician based in New Jersey who fronted a few industrial and alternative rock bands from the early 1990s into the early 2000s. Around 2006, he made the transition to a traditional singer-songwriter influenced by Hank Williams Sr., Bob Dylan, The Band and contemporary artists like Jeff Tweedy (Wilco). Continue reading “Making a music video while quarantined”

BK Bulletin – April 2019: Ten Years Ago…

Issue 9 (April 13, 2019)

Ten years ago on April 10, I asked Alison to marry me…on her birthday. Fortunately, she hadn’t had coffee yet and obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, so she said “Yes.” That very night, I backed my friend Christian Beach on organ, accordion percussion and vocals for his CD release party. Ten years ago on April 13, the Phillies lost their voice, Harry Kalas. Here is a look back April 2009, a recap of this year’s Phillies Opening Day with Graham, another new song from me, and a few more odds and ends…

Continue reading “BK Bulletin – April 2019: Ten Years Ago…”

Time Takes Over: 30th Anniversary Mix

Me at my keyboard rig around 1990. "Time Takes Over" features sounds from the Roland U-20 synth on the top tier of my Apex stand (over the Ensoniq ESQ-1 on which I have my right hand).
Me at my keyboard rig around 1990. “Time Takes Over” features sounds from the Roland U-20 synth on the top tier of my Apex stand (over the Ensoniq ESQ-1 on which I have my right hand).
“Time Takes Over” is the first complete song I ever wrote. I was 17 at the time and it was strangely inspired by a co-worker of mine at the time who was only a year older than me, but had the personality and outlook of Archie Bunker.

Anyway, we worked at what is now a long-gone Pizza Hut in Point Pleasant, N.J. It was summer 1988 — in between my junior and senior years of high school — and the older sister of one of my classmates got a summer job as a cook/server/hostess with us. I had known her brother for years and knew her a bit, and never would have imagined her wanting anything to do with my overtly racist, sexist co-worker. But they wound up hooking up that summer.

Of course, she went back to college in the fall and since our business dropped like a stone when the summer tourists left, that left a lot of downtime for my co-worker and I to talk. And, for the first time, he sounded human. He really did care for her.

Shortly after she returned to college, my co-worker went to visit her. He expressed to her how he wish they had more time together, and — this is what he told me — she said to him, “Well…time just takes over.” And, at that, she suggested to him they just stay friends.

So, that’s the story behind this song. And it’s weird that one of the most stoic people I have ever known opened up his heart to me and inspired what I think is a pretty emotional song.

Anyway, the following summer he hooked up with another summer Pizza Hut employee and wound up marrying her (even though my classmate’s sister also came back to work with us that summer…which was awkward). I’ve Googled the guy in the past — and just did before posting this — and it appears he’s living in central New Jersey and married to the woman he met at Pizza Hut in 1989. But I haven’t seen him since the early 90s…well, except for one time when I drove by him when he was a cop in a Jersey Shore town a few years later.

Regarding the song itself, most of the instrumentation you hear on this track is from a cassette of the original instrumental demo I recorded in October 1988 using sounds from my old Roland U-20 synthesizer. It wasn’t until a year or so later that I got around to recording the vocals, but by then the arrangement had changed a bit (so I spliced and rearranged this a bit to fit the finished version). I recently added the vocals, wind chimes/shaker track and augmented piano/bass parts to this version, so I would have a complete recording of the original version in time for the song’s 30th anniversary in October.

Now, obviously, this milestone means nothing to anyone but me. My music career went nowhere, and I’m not really a musician anymore except for when my friend Christian Beach* needs me to be one or when I’m inspired and motivated to compose/record something. But I’m still proud of this song. I’m not sure how many 17-year olds were writing songs like this in 1988, but it couldn’t have been many. I mean, at its base, it really is a bubble-gum song about young love that is ultimately unrequited. But it sounds and feels so much bigger than that.


*Speaking of Christian, during our time in a band together from 1989-91, we actually played “Time Takes Over” in one of our live shows. Here is video of that performance (from 1990?), which features my trying — and mostly failing — to sing with a terrible head cold.

And here is the most recent update of “Time Takes Over.” I recorded this version in 2016.

Christmas 2013 YouTube Video Playlist

A compilation of some of my favorite songs celebrating Christmas and the holiday season, in general. The playlist starts with the latest “demo” version of a Christmas song I originally wrote in 2011, “It’s Christmas Time Again.” Enjoy…

Christmas 2013 YouTube Video Playlist


  • “It’s Christmas Time Again” – Brian Kelley
  • “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love
  • “Christmas Time is Here” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” – John Lennon
  • “Thanks for Christmas” – Three Wise Men (aka XTC)
  • “The Closing of the Year” – Wendy & Lisa
  • “Fairytale of New York” – The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl
  • “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” – Band Aid (1984)
  • “3 Ships” – Jon Anderson
  • “This is Christmas” – Curt Smith
  • “Never Gonna Be Alone on Christmas” – Work Drugs
  • “Holiday Face” – Dent May
  • “Christmas Must Be Tonight” – Christian Beach (The Band cover)
  • “Holiday” – Mike Doughty with Rosanne Cash
  • “Little Drummer Boy” – Nicole Atkins
  • “Skating” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • “Matches for Sale/Say What?” – GrooveLily


Time Takes Over…25 years later

When I was a teenager in the late 1980s and still had dreams of becoming a professional songwriter/musician, I wrote and recorded a song I called “Time Takes Over” in October 1988.  It was probably the first complete song (with words and music) I ever wrote.

The subject matter was based on sentiments expressed by a former co-worker of mine who was describing how he visited a girl at college after having a summer fling with her. He thought it was more than that, but she didn’t see it that way. Anyway, that was the basis of the lyrics, which—for the first time in my musical life—flowed out practically simultaneously with the music.

The original 1988 version below, written when I was 17, does not include the vocals, but you will hear them later on in this post in other forms. Please note that I transferred this from an old cassette tape so that accounts for the audio artifacts.

In 1989/1990, I was in an ill-fated techno-rap outfit called TMC+The New Generation and—after a few arrangement tweaks by my friend and then-bandmate Christian Beach—we performed “Time Takes Over” during a very poorly structured live show at the ol’ Green Parrot Rock Club in Neptune, N.J., which you can see below.

Finally, a few years ago, I recorded an updated version in GarageBand on my MacBook that includes vocals. In 2012, I re-recorded the vocals and made some additional tweaks. That is the version you can hear below. Enjoy.

Revisiting my musical past…”How I Want to Embrace You”

I’ve gone ahead and updated another song from my old band days in the late 1980s/early 1990s. But this is a bit different because I didn’t write the music for “How I Want to Embrace You”…that was composed by my longtime friend/former bandmate/singer-songwriter Christian Beach. I only wrote the lyrics and I seem to recall playing the bass part into the sequencer. Actually, after I had written the words, Christian had a lyrical idea for the first chorus so that was swapped out. As usual, we managed to make a very rough cassette recording of the song, but that was about it. And since I never played any of the piano/keyboard parts, I basically had to do my best to reconstruct it all. This is about as close as I’ll get and I don’t really have the time to really go any further with it.

A little bit about the song itself…this was written somewhat in the early days of the techno/rap combo Christian and I were in with Asbury Park, NJ-based rapper TMC (Tariq Muhammad). Just prior to meeting Tariq, Christian and I had been working together on some electronic, instrumental music influenced by the so-called “new age” music of the time as well as progressive artists like Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Even though we were now working with a rapper, we still tried to work some ballads into our set. This actually wasn’t a good idea when you’re playing New Jersey bars like the greatly missed Green Parrot in Neptune, but we did it anyway because we were teenagers who didn’t know any better. It got even worse when we started adding elements of industrial music to our set…while still also performing ballads. That was just weird.

Anyway, I never really asked Christian about it, but I always thought of this as a pop song infused with some ideas he had from our new age/progressive days…and I always liked that about this song.

I also liked the idea for the harmonies we had back then and did my best to replicate those. I’m not the strongest vocalist in the world, but I do what I can.

So without further ado…here’s the 2013 version of “How I Want to Embrace You”

My attempt at a Christmas song

As an amateur songwriter*, I’ve always wanted to write a Christmas song. And since Christmas songs are usually filled with clichés and my songs seem to always have their fair share of them, I probably should have been able to write one prior to last year.

Anyway, “It’s Christmas Time Again” was originally written and recorded on my MacBook (with GarageBand) in late 2011. I posted it to Facebook, where it received some positive comments. I recently updated it a bit and uploaded it to Soundcloud. And, yes, it is obviously influenced by Christmas songs from the late 1970s and 1980s, including a nod to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with the closing segment. But I’m a huge Midge Ure fan and never feel he gets enough credit for his role as the primary writer of that song, so that’s my tip of the hat to Midge.

Since it’s now officially the 2012 Christmas season, here is my Christmas song…

It’s Christmas Time Again – Brian Kelley
©2011 Brian J. Kelley

(* While I really am an amateur songwriter, I always have to remind myself that my friend Christian Beach used lyrics I wrote for a song we worked on during our techno-industrial days in the early 1990s as the chorus for “What Does It Mean to You?” by his mid-1990s band Slave of Id. That song did receive a fair amount of airplay on WHTG 106.3 FM in New Jersey in 1993/94. So, thanks to Christian, I have been able to enjoy hearing lyrics I’ve written on the radio…and that’s pretty cool. I think that’s why my favorite scene in the movie That Thing You Do is when all the band members—The Oneders!—and Liv Tyler’s character get excited about hearing their song on the radio. I can totally relate to that.)

Great music for a great cause

A great event is happening this weekend on BlowUpRadio.com. It’s a benefit to raise awareness and funds to fight Spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory disease that causes pain in the back, neck and hips. “Banding Together” features an amazing number of performances streaming all weekend, and my longtime friend Christian Beach is one of the participating musicians. You can hear his set TONIGHT (Oct. 21) at around 6:05 p.m. ET.

Also, anyone who clicks on this link and makes a donation to the Spondylitis Association of America this weekend will receive a compilation CD that includes lots of great music, including the track “Platte Cove Road” from Christian’s upcoming EP.

So head on over to BlowUpRadio.com, listen to some great music from the state of New Jersey and try to make some kind of donation to this worthy cause.

Below, is a video of Christian performing his song “Taking It Real Slow” at Fergie’s Pub in Philadelphia in July 2009. That’s me on accordion and the drummer is Michael Scotto of the band Agency. Incidentally, a solo set by Scotto can be heard during Banding Together at around 7:15 p.m. ET tonight.