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.

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 electronic, instrumental music

I have been pretty obsessed with the electronic, instrumental music featured during the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, especially the brilliant “And I Will Kiss” by Underworld (see video below), and it has rekindled my interest in the genre.

Back in the early 1990s, when I was part of a techno-industrial-rap project with my friend Christian Beach, we wrote something that I believe we were calling “Why Can’t We Live as One?” at the time. The original intent was to have rap vocals accompany the music, but what we got around to recording actually provides the foundation for a pretty cool instrumental track.

Anyway, here is the original instrumental version of “Why Can’t We Live as One?”

[audio http://tandemwiththerandom.com/misc/music/WhyCantWeLiveAsOne-Original.mp3]

And below is a new version of the track that I recorded last weekend with GarageBand on my Mac…

And here is the reason for my renewed interest in electronic, instrumental music…all 17 minutes, 16 seconds of it…

“And I Will Kiss” by Underworld (featuring Dame Evelyn Glennie on percussion)

My first Peter Gabriel concert…25 years ago today

Although I first saw Peter Gabriel live at the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope show at Giants Stadium in June 1986, it wasn’t until July 21, 1987, at the old Spectrum in Philadelphia that I got to enjoy the full PG concert experience.

And it was amazing. And in the 25 years since that show, I have seen Peter Gabriel in concert seven times* and each show blows me away.

* One of the seven shows was Peter Gabriel backed by his New Blood Orchestra in June 2011.

Peter Gabriel will be returning to the United States later this year for a tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the tour supporting his classic 1986 album, So. And it was 25 years ago today, that my sister and I sat in row 16 on the floor in the Spectrum and took in the spectacle that is Peter Gabriel—backed by Tony Levin on bass, David Rhodes on guitars, founding E Street band member David Sancious on keyboards and Manu Katché on drums/percussion—in concert.

At this point, I need to correct something I have misstated over the years on my various blogs. There is a lot of video on YouTube of a Peter Gabriel show at the Spectrum in July 1987 that I always thought was from the concert I was at. Well, I messed that up. The YouTube video is from the July 20, 1987, show in Philly…my sister and I went to the show the following night, July 21.

However, I recently discovered that a bootleg of the July 21, 1987, show I was at has been floating around for years, and I just happened to come into possession of it within the past few weeks. This means I can relive the experience of that show whenever I want to, which is kind of cool.

In any case, I will get to relive the experience when I see Peter Gabriel—with the same backing band—perform So in its entirety along with other PG classics at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly on September 21. With family commitments ever increasing, it will likely be my last opportunity to see Peter Gabriel in concert so I splurged for fourth-row tickets…can’t wait.

So…here are some videos from PG’s July 20, 1987, show at the Spectrum in Philly—the night before I attended my first Peter Gabriel concert.

Peter Gabriel – This Is The Picture (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Trivia: Manu Katché is using a guitar-shaped MIDI controller then called the Dynacord Rhythm Stick to trigger sounds from a drum machine…it was later renamed The JAMMA.

Peter Gabriel – Red Rain (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)

Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Always loved this arrangement.

Peter Gabriel – No Self Control (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
This basically kicks ass.

Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
A highlight of any Peter Gabriel show…such a great song.

Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer (Spectrum – July 20, 1987)
Even though this isn’t among my top 10 favorite Peter Gabriel songs…it always kicks ass live.

Peter Gabriel – Lay Your Hands on Me
This isn’t from the 7/20/87 show at the Spectrum. It is from the POV concert video, but back in his younger days, PG would do some crowdsurfing whenever he performed this song…the laying on of hands at the 5:44 mark of the clip. He did this at our show and it was awesome, so I had to include it here.

My close encounter with Doctor Who in NYC

Doctor Who's Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Matt Smith
Doctor Who's Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Matt Smith walk by me en route to a filming location in NYC's Central Park.

Note: This was originally published earlier on my podcast blog, Tandem With The Random.

When I heard my favorite television show of all time, “Doctor Who”—the greatest sci-fi series in television history (this is fact…deal with it, Trekkies)—was coming to New York City to film part of the episode that would serve as the finale for the characters of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), I immediately planned to take the train up to NYC and try to catch some of the filming.

In my younger days, I always dreamed about one day living in London and possibly catching some “Doctor Who” filming. Of course, the show went on a 16-year hiatus starting in 1989 (aside from the 1996 FOX/BBC television movie), so I thought that dream was dead. When the BBC finally brought the show back in 2005, I didn’t think it would ever achieve the kind of hip/cool status and worldwide popularity—particularly now in the United States—that would warrant filming in the U.S. But, amazingly, “Doctor Who” is more popular than it has ever been in its nearly 50-year history. And, after coming over to “this side of the pond” in November 2010 to shoot part of series six, the “Doctor Who” cast and crew returned to the U.S.—this time to a city just about 90 minutes away from me by train—for more filming.

I used Twitter and the fantastic (albeit “stalker-ish”) web site, OnLocationVactions.com (OLV) to track when and where they would be filming. After reports of “Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith (The Doctor) and Darvill being seen in NYC earlier this week, the OLV community worked its magic and reported that filming had started near the ice rink in Central Park yesterday morning. I immediately grabbed my work laptop (to continue working on the train) and my camera and rushed to the train station. While I was on the train, I kept thinking it was going to be a complete waste of time, money and energy…that it would be a big, ol’ wild goose chase.

And that’s the way it felt when I arrived at the filming location to find just a handful of crew members and equipment covered in tarps and plastic. I immediately went to OLV on my iPhone and saw that the cast and crew had broken for lunch and would be filming a few more hours in the park.

About 30-40 minutes after I arrived, the cast that was still at the filming location began moving to another area of the park. I, along with a small group of fellow Whovians, followed them. We were about to cross Terrace Drive as we approached Bethesda Fountain from the south, when I looked to my left…coming up the road from that direction were Gillan, Darvill and Smith—Amy, Rory and The Doctor! I said, “Look to your left*,” to the small group that was with me while I frantically searched my bag for my camera (my iPhone was at the ready, but I wanted a true camera for this shot). Fortunately, I found my camera and took a shot of them walking toward me.

*Only true “Doctor Who” fans will get this…but, when it comes to The Doctor, it is always wise to turn left.

But it was the picture above, the second photo I took, that is the real “money” shot for me…I totally lucked into it, but the current stars of my favorite show of all time walked right by me! It made the big, ol’ goose chase totally worth it. A childhood dream had been fulfilled…although I was hoping to see the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), the blue phone box that traverses through time and space. But I can always go use the restroom at the Who-themed Way Station bar in Brooklyn for that (time constraints prevented me from getting there yesterday).

Obviously, I then followed them to the new shooting location on Central Park’s Bow Bridge and watched with several other onlookers as Smith and Gillan filmed a conversation on the bridge, with The Doctor reading out of a book to Amy Pond. It appeared they were trying to find something the book was telling them should be there. Following that, the crew filmed a scene of The Doctor running across the bridge (see video below). Actually, the video seen here is of the second take of the run…Smith had a bit of difficulty stopping on the first take and seemed to be limping slightly after running into some of the crew and onlookers. But he looked OK enough on the second take.

That’s all I’ll say about the shoot. There was something else that took place during filming that may or may not play a crucial part in the final story of Amy and Rory—something I didn’t even think of until one of the girls next to me said she had a theory about what we were seeing. She didn’t expound on that theory, but I immediately came up with some of my own so I am purposely not posting those photos. I will add this, though…from the presence of the book The Doctor was reading and the way Amy was interacting with what he was saying, I think the prevailing storyline of “Amy’s life being a fairy tale” is coming full circle…but will it be a happy ending?

Video: The Doctor runs across Bow Bridge in NYC’s Central Park, 4/11/2012

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Putting a dream into action

Howard Jones
Howard Jones

This post started out as a recap of the notable moments from Thursday night’s Howard Jones show at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa…but evolved into something completely different.

So, yeah…I went to see Howard Jones perform this past Thursday night, marking the fourth time I’ve seen him live. The first time was a solo performance of “No One is to Blame” on a digital piano during the June 1986 Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope Tour finale at Giants Stadium (where he was introduced on stage by Michael J. Fox). I saw HoJo again in June 1989, this time in full electronic mode in Holmdel, N.J. (with the incredible Midge Ure from Ultravox and Visage as the opening act). Then, I had the chance to briefly meet and talk to HoJo after seeing him perform in an “acoustic duo” format (even though he was playing a digital piano) in Blackwood, N.J., in January 2008 (I would have had a picture, too, if my camera batteries hadn’t died).

Last night, HoJo was in full electronic mode and, for this tour, is playing all the songs from his first two albums, both of which I probably listened to thousands of times as a teenager.  The first half of the set included all the songs — although not in track-list order — from HoJo’s 1983 debut, Human’s Lib; the other portion of the show featured all the tracks (again, not in album sequence) from his 1985 follow-up album, Dream Into Action.

Personally, what was great about this show was that Howard Jones was the artist who really inspired my teenage love of electronic music and served as the catalyst for my purchasing two pro-grade synthesizers, a sampler, a sequencer and a drum machine by the time I was 17. I felt I had the skills to create songs even though my technical musical ability was — and is — extremely limited. This prevented me from really working with musicians in a traditional band setup so I felt this equipment gave me the means to do everything myself, as well as correct all the flubs due to my craptacular playing ability.

Eventually, I found a like-minded spirit (at that time) in the form of my friend Christian Beach, who was my bandmate from around 1988 until late summer 1990. He lived just across town from me and also owned an array of synths, samplers and drum machines. There were two other advantages working with Christian – 1) his gear was better, and 2) he is much more talented and gifted than I could ever hope to be.

While many people in the mainstream have this idea that electronic music is easy to execute, the reality is this is not the case. You still have to write the music and lyrics, and play all the backing parts into the sequencer…and this took forever back in the 1980s and early 90s. To prepare for playing live, you needed to do a lot of programming of your instruments and saving those settings into a MIDI file stored on a floppy disk in the sequencer. The song sequences (which include the drum and bass tracks, and any other parts not being played live) were also saved on floppy disks. Since the instrument and song data took up a lot of room on those old floppy disks, we needed several disks…that needed to be loaded (quite slowly, mind you)…in specific order during our shows.

As you might expect, this led to some embarrassing moments like having a saxophone coming in as a hi-hat part, or the wrong song sequence popping up, or a footswitch not set up to start a song when it was supposed to be…stuff like that.

And Thursday night’s HoJo show reminded me of all the joy and pain electronic music has brought to me over the years. As exciting it is to create all the parts of a song on your own, I remember all too well the difficulties of making the so-called “easy-to-use” technology work for you when you need it to.

Two such instances cropped up Thursday night for HoJo. During the Human’s Lib portion of the set, it seemed like the sound assignments for his keyboards on “Don’t Always Look at the Rain” weren’t set up right. That threw the whole song off after a few measures, resulting in a total restart of the song.

But that was a minor hiccup compared to what happened during the Dream Into Action half of the show, when “Assault and Battery” — a song I was really looking forward to hearing played live — had to be restarted…TWICE! On the first attempt to play the song, HoJo got through the piano intro only to have the sequence from the previous song kick in (been there, done that…a few times). On attempt No. 2, HoJo completed the piano intro and the right sequence started…and then stopped inexplicably about four measures in. The third time proved to be a charm, however, and the audience was treated to “Assault and Battery” in all its glory.

Anyway, I was just happy to see one of my earliest musical influences. Granted, aside from the more recent organ/accordion work I’ve contributed to some of Christian Beach’s live shows and recordings, I haven’t done anything musically significant in my life (although Christian did use lyrics I wrote for a chorus in the song “What Does It Mean to You?” by one of his old bands, Slave of Id, that received some airplay on long-departed 106.3 WHTG-FM around 1993…that was kind of cool). But I still write songs when I can and still do all the parts myself, thanks to Apple’s GarageBand application…and Howard Jones’ influence.

Here’s Howard Jones performing “Look Mama” from his Dream Into Action album at the Keswick Theatre on Oct. 20, 2011 (courtesy of YouTube user Nostalgicflashback)…