This was my third production. Or was it the fourth. I’ll have to look. It was done in the little cabin on the lake just outside Kalamazoo where I was living in rustic splendor in two rooms with a wood cook stove, electricity, no running water, and an outhouse with a lakeside view.
I was still working on the Yamaha four-track cassette deck. I’d gotten over the kitchen sink syndrome (as in everything but) and was being a little more economical with the number of tracks I was putting on the songs. Instead of wondering what I could do to fill up any unused space I was figuring out what I wanted for an arrangement and doing that. But for the most part it was still three to the fourth track, two to the first track, then bass and harmonies/solos on the middle two tracks.
Drums made their way onto a recording for the first time (I think) in the form of a snare drum and the cheapest imaginable high-hat that doubled as a crash: all buried pretty deep in the mix in some ways to hide the truth of their sparcity. The acoustic guitar is as ever my beloved vintage sunburst Gibson B-25 which I bought new in 1971 and is still my acoustic guitar. The other guitar is my Stratocaster (maple neck—also vintage sunburst). It’s a poor relation Strat, being from the much bemoaned mid-seventies CBS owned spare parts Fender era. I bought it used at a store in Lansing. The pickups had been changed and a different whammy mechanism put in (that I think is made from condensed bowling balls—very heavy) that pulls the strings out of tune just as well as the original one. I put Seymour Duncan reproductions of the original pickups back on it. I use twelves for strings and play it through a Fender Princeton tube amp. When recording, I mike the amp. The bass is a Hagstrom that had a lot of switches on it that didn’t work so you didn’t want to mess with those. I bought it used as well and it gave good service for a number of years before I moved on. When recording bass, always a hard sound to record, especially with the Yamaha four track because it only ran at the normal 1 7/8 ips tape speed, I play it through an effects generator straight into the tape deck. The keyboard is a Yamaha Portasound 450, one of those medium sized all-purpose keyboards with a rhythm box and a number of pre-programmed keyboard sounds. Some of them sound quite good. This is also recorded straight into the board.
The real instrument innovation on this album was the accordion. I come from Bay City, Michigan where there is a large Polish community. Polka bands were de rigor at weddings there until the eighties (I still don’t think it’s a real wedding reception without a polka band), so I’d seen my share of accordions, but I didn’t become interested in it until I’d heard Buckwheat Zydeco perform at Club Soda in Kalamazoo in the mid 80’s. That opened my ears. Shortly after, in Kismet fashion, as things are apt to mysteriously and inexplicably happen in this world where God is amused by giving with one hand and taking back with the other, I walked into a Goodwill store where I often shopped for clothes (khaki pants, Hawaiian shirts, and old three piece suits) and strange objects of idle interest (Light Brites and Moon Globe Banks and Pink Big Daddy Roth Figures by Marx) and found a whole pile of accordions. A whole pile. In a pile on the floor. A big pile on the floor. I went through them and picked out two to choose from, a gray pearl Hohner, and a black Giulietti. Both were small accordions. The Hohner cost $25.00. The Giulietti $80. Money being what it was and usually still is, I bought the Hohner, but I kept going back to the Goodwill to see if the Giulietti had been sold or marked down and after many weeks it hadn’t and was so I bought it for $40. The Hohner had a more raucous sound. The Giulietti sweeter. I still have the Giulietti. I used the Hohner more and eventually it started breaking down. Some notes stopped playing and others went sour. I should have had it repaired but I didn’t. I studied up a little on fixing accordions and, being a curious and somewhat handy fellow, took it apart to see what I could do but never got beyond that. Accordians are not that easy to repair. It’s a sad story of neglect and abandonment so let’s move on.
The songs. This album was made back in the days when there were two sides to a thing. There are twelve songs. The first six are side one and the other six are side two and the two sides are very different. CDs only have one side. You’ll have to decide for yourself what to do about this. Also, downloading tracks is all the rage these days and I cherry pick albums mercilessly myself, but I also think downloading tracks is ruining the art of making an album and if you cherry pick this one and don’t listen to the whole thing, I will have failed.
There are many other things I could talk about, like influences and who the songs are about, but I won’t. Well, okay, “Like June” is a kind of Drifters song, and doesn’t that harmony guitar run in “Prisoner of Love” sound like Duane Allman and Dickie Betts (all harmony guitar solos sound like Duane Allman and Dickie Betts). Now that I think about it, “I’m in Love” is pretty Everly Brothers. Well, as they say, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. Whenever I come up with the music for a song, the first thing I do is try to figure out what song I’m ripping off. Not somebody I’ve been influenced by, but an actual song. And sometimes I find it. So I don’t write that song, although I once wrote a song called “Pretending” that was done by a band I was in and it wasn’t until a long time later that I realized my song was mostly the Electric Prunes “I Had Too Much to Dream”. Well, I won’t mention George Harrison, but David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” is actually “Judy in Disguise” by John Fred and His Playboy Band, so, you know, it happens.
And I will tell you who inspired “They Meet”. I met a woman at a wedding reception (is this a theme?) and spent a long time talking to her because she was good looking and interesting and willing to talk to me. She told me she’d been married to a man she loved very much in her wild youth but he died and now she was engaged mostly because she liked the guy and wanted the security. I believed in her sincerity and that she knew what she was doing and it was good. We drank wedding punch and danced and had a very nice time. It was a flirtation for me and I think it was a little fling for her and perhaps a short walk down memory lane, but that’s all. Seduced and abandoned. As I say, she knew what she was doing. And that inspired the song.
“Northern Lights” is just how it happened. I was driving out of Bay City late one night on my way to Munger, the Potato Festival place, and there they were, up in the sky.
“I’m in Love” is about my girlfriend Val, who I’m still in love with. And where was she while I was at that reception? Come to think of it, our first real date was going to a wedding reception. We got married too, eventually (it is a theme).
Is this long enough?
If you like the album, I hope you’ll buy the poster. Do we have a poster Mark?
released June 1, 1986
Written, Performed, and Produced by DWR except Love Makes the World Go Round is written by Bob Merrill
Que Sera Sera is written by Jay Livingstone and Ray Evans.
The soul wailing in hell on sax is John Deroo. Dante's Inferno owes much in the way of arrangement to that little known but much loved Kalamazoo band, The New Beatles, and is dedicated to Charles Glen. The flaws here, there, and everywhere are for Budd. The rest of everything is for Val.
A special thank you, as opposed to the vast sums of money he deserves, goes to Mark Paul who not only did the graphics for this release (thanks Mark) but did the work of setting this page up. Without him it wouldn't be here. Generous is the word that comes to mind.