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.

Remembering my Ensoniq ESQ-1 and early musical experiments

BK_c1990_keybdrig001It dawned on me recently that this year (most likely, back in February) marked the 25th anniversary of my first purchase of a professional synthesizer…an Ensoniq ESQ-1 workstation (the image accompanying this post was taken around 1989 and includes the ESQ-1 and some later purchases: an Ensoniq Mirage sampling keyboard, a Roland U-20 synth, a Kawai Q-80 sequencer and an Alesis HR-16 drum machine).

The track below is a very rough recording of a song that was one of the first things I created using the sounds and sequencing capability of the ESQ-1…so the sound quality is poor and the song is pretty terrible. It just represents a trip down memory lane…when I thought music would be my life and I wanted to be the next Howard Jones.

By the way, I still have the ESQ-1 and all the other equipment, too…PLUS, an Alesis QS6.1 synth that I bought about eight years ago and is my main keyboard these days. However, the ESQ-1 has been dormant since it needs a new lithium battery installed. I found a place in northern New Jersey that does this for about $90, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I would really love to see that thing come to life again, though.

Untitled Early ESQ-1 Song

Midge Ure at World Cafe Live in Philly, 1-10-2013

Midge Ure  – “Vienna” (World Cafe Live, Philly – 1/10/2013

Thanks to my wife for allowing me to get a night to myself, I was able to go down to Philly to see the legendary Midge Ure, backed by Los Angeles-based band Right the Stars (who also served as opening act), perform at World Cafe Live last night.

What an amazing show and it was really special seeing an artist with such a lengthy pop/rock music pedigree performing in such an intimate venue. For those who don’t know, Midge Ure is best known as the lead singer and driving force behind the best-known iteration of 80s synth-pop heroes Ultravox and as the man who was essentially ordered by Bob Geldof to write what became “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”—the charity track recorded by Band Aid and produced by Ure in 1984.

However, Ure also spent time in groups like Visage, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy and Slik. He even reportedly turned down an invitation to become lead singer of the Sex Pistols in 1975. In short, the guy has been around for a long time and has done an awful lot with his immense talent.

This was only my second time seeing Ure in concert. The other time was when he opened for Howard Jones at what was then called the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., on June 16, 1989. But, damn…Midge still brings it.

The video above is Midge Ure—with Right the Stars—performing Ultravox’s classic 80s hit, “Vienna,” at World Cafe Live last night. The clip comes from YouTube user vwall10411, who I’ve turned to a lot for videos from Philly-area concerts, and there are a few more videos after the jump.

From Setlist.fm, here is the set list from last night’s show…

I See Hope in the Morning Light (missing on Setlist.fm)
Love’s Great Adventure (Ultravox)
Call of the Wild
Breathe
Fade To Grey (Visage)
Cold Cold Heart
Answers To Nothing
Just For You
No Regrets (Tom Rush cover that was a No. 9 UK hit for Midge Ure in 1982)
Vienna (Ultravox)
Dear God
One Small Day (Ultravox)
Hymn (Ultravox)
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes (Ultravox)
If I Was

Encore:
Do They Know It’s Christmas?* (Band Aid, written by Midge Ure & Bob Geldof; produced by Midge Ure)

* – solo acoustic performance

Continue reading “Midge Ure at World Cafe Live in Philly, 1-10-2013”

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.)

A musical ode to the Jersey Shore

I grew up at the Jersey Shore and—admittedly—I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life trying to leave it behind. But even though I never really thought of myself as a “shore person,” it was where I was raised…and it will always be a part of me. Seeing the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy last week drove this point home to me—and I regret that it took something so horrible to make me see that.

Anyway, I felt a need to express some appreciation for the REAL Jersey Shore—not the manufactured crap produced by MTV—in song. Yeah, it kind of took on the form of a cliché-filled anthem, but that’s always been my Achilles’ heel as a songwriter…I start out with an interesting idea and immediately turn it into commercialized cheese. But I assure you, my heart was in the right place with this.

Then again, I guess when you are a subpar keyboardist constructing songs entirely in GarageBand on a MacBook, it’s going to sound like cheese regardless…so there’s that.

OK, back on topic…this is for the people who lost their homes…as well as for those like me who may have lost our sense of home. Whether it’s physically or emotionally, the Jersey Shore will be our home again.

(This Will Be Our) Home Again
Words & music by Brian J. Kelley
© 2012 Brian J. Kelley

Growing up in Jersey
just minutes from the shore
Summers on the boardwalk,
a kid couldn’t ask for more
Cruising with my music on,
feeling so alive
From Point Pleasant to Seaside Heights
right down Route 35

These are memories I hold dear,
but the future’s so unclear
We will sweep the sand away
and build up to a brighter day
Lives are shattered, some are lost
and we have paid a heavy cost
To honor them, we will rebuild
We have the strength, we have the will

Chorus
This will be our home again
We’ll rebuild, we will restore
This will be our home again
’cause you can’t beat the Jersey Shore
This will be our home again
Our resolve will never fade
This will be our home again
We’re Jersey born, we’re Jersey made

Our days we spent on beaches,
our nights along the boards
Playing games of chance
and getting lucky afterwards
Our summers rites of passage
for every boy and girl
Before we had to grow up
and get out into the world

Some of us have moved away,
but a part of us still stays
In every dream and memory
of our playground by the sea
We will claim this land again
and give our all until the end
We will restore, we will revive
In Jersey, only the strong survive

Repeat Chorus

This will be our home again
This will be our home again

We will claim this land again
and give our all until the end
We will restore, we will revive
In Jersey, only the strong survive

This will be our home again
We’ll rebuild, we will restore
This will be our home again
’cause you can’t beat the Jersey Shore
This will be our home again
Our resolve will never fade
This will be our home again
We’re Jersey strong, we’re Jersey made

This will be our home again
We’ll rebuild, we will restore
This will be our home again
’cause you can’t beat the Jersey Shore
This will be our home again
Our resolve will never fade
This will be our home again
We’re Jersey born, we’re Jersey made

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.