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MUSIC by RAR
This is the landing page and a starting place to browse through RAR tunes. Biographical information is provided on this page, as are links to additional pages where you will find original compositions, mostly recorded in my PC-based home studio on Cakewalk's Sonar Producer software. In addition to RAR originals, you will find information on special projects, such as the CD presented below, as well as biographical information.
Like many people my age, I started playing music in 1964 - about a week after first seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
I was eleven years old. My dad rented an electric guitar from a downtown Denver music store as part of a package deal that included lessons. So, I spent one summer in a little practice room with a couple amplifiers and a country western lounge lizard learning the basics of pick and strum, before trading in the rental (and the lessons) for a guitar of my own. (For the record, the guitar my dad bought for me was a Les Paul Junior, 1959-60 vintage, the finest playing guitar I have ever been stupid enough to eventually part with.)
I started playing around the neighborhood with similarly inspired guys, a practice that would continue through high school and college and on into my adult life, and I started writing songs.
My parents were in their early 20s when I was born and the radio was on a lot in our house as I was growing up. I recall hearing Jimmy Rogers, The Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Roger Miller and Skeeter Davis. There was a sparse but eclectic collection of LPs around the house, ranging from Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and The Platters to Marty Robbins and Burl Ives. The first LP I ever owned was "Meet the Beatles," the stateside analog to their "With the Beatles" U.K. debut album. (My grandparents gifted me with a 45 RPM of Jim Reeves' 1958 recording of "Billy Billy Bayou," which was probably my first adult record.) Denver radio went through the folk era playing The Kingston Trio, then Leslie Gore, Gene Pitney, Roy Orbison, and The Beach Boys crowded them out and The Beatles made them disappear altogether.
My backdoor neighbor Mike Miller started playing the drums around the time I started on the guitar and we very quickly established ourselves as "rock'n roll stars" in the neighborhood. The two of us would do shows in his back yard, and most especially in the back yard of a neighborhood girl named Jeannie Gregg. Her family happened to have a back yard that had the shape of a natural outdoor theatre, with seating on the grass hillside overlooking the stage area below. We would charge neighborhood kids a quarter, dime, nickel -- anything they had. And we would play Beatles songs or any simple thing we could manage. Then we would sign autographs. We were in the sixth grade at the time, still able to make believe and sweep our younger neighbors right along with us in our fantasy stardom.
The first rock concert I ever attended was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, at the coliseum in Denver in 1970. They were awful, but they had an effect on me. During my college years I was overtaken by an unfortunate fixation with acoustic folk-rock. I had been quite a Dylan and Simon & Garfunkle fan already -- in fact had lived in that Bookends album after being parted from my first crush, the burgeoning artist Elizabeth Kay (at left, see the links page.).
By the time I went off to college in the fall of 1970, The Beatles had broken up, Hendrix and Joplin died in September and October of that year, and Jim Morrison was within months of joining them and The Doors had waned anyway. As far as I was concerned rock music was dead. I was no fan of Led Zeppelin and the heavy metal that was starting to surface, and wasn't even aware of the avant garde Velvet Underground and other such acts on the east coast (who might have saved me). I had drifted into a neo-hippie bliss, which was easy because Lawrence, Kansas in the early 1970s was a very hippie-trippie place, even if the last vestiges of the "movement" were a little suffused with wistfulness. There was still a lot of "love" and "brotherhood" in the air. I fell in with a large group of hippie musicians, and we would get high, listen to Joni Mitchell's Blue album and think in sweetly poetic ways. Those were wonderful days. Cat Stevens became a personal favorite, as did James Taylor. I was drifting dangerously close to the mellow shoals. I was also drifting dangerously close to people who had more talent than I did. There was one guy, in particular, who had mastered a note-by-note cover of Jimi Hendrix' classic Star Spangled Banner solo, complete with descending bombs and explosions, and he had this big Marshall amp, which I wasn't likely to get, and I got scared and went acoustic.
At Richard's Music, in Lawrence, I traded a 1959 or 1960 Gibson Les Paul Junior, plus cash, for a 1969 Martin D12-20, to the gentleman pictured on the right -- Richard Petrovits, known primarily as "The Stomper." "Stomp," as we called him for short, owned this local guitar shop where all the local players would get equipment. He was a teddy bear of a guy who lavished attention on me whenever I would go in there, usually with my girlfriend at the time, Valerie Hale (pictured on the left), who was a knockout along the lines of Tuesday Weld. Oh did Stomp love to see me.
Anyway, we "partnered" on what was surely one of the most short-sighted (on my part) transactions ever known to man. You cannot now get even a hammered 1959 or 1960 Gibson Les Paul Junior for less than $3,700, but you can get a stinking D12-20 for...oh never mind. Let me just say that I didn't even get the girl.
I didn't have a guitar other than that stupid 12-string for the remainder of the 1970s, which seriously hampered my development as a guitarist. It was rekindled in the 1980s when I purchased a Gibson ES-335, with a neck that recalled (but was not as good as) that of my beloved LP Junior. During the 1970s I played in public rarely and almost always as a solo or in acoustic duos. Music, like everything else about the '70s, was holding little appeal for me. I was veering more toward being a writer and was working on publications anyway. I recognized that there was a crossover between my musical and literary ambitions -- I had always been more of a songwriter than a musician -- but the life style of a solitary writer suited my introverted nature more than being a musician. Musicians are often extroverted, and I tended to go unnoticed in that company. While there is a part of me who enjoys showing off in front of people, I am not a natural performer. I'm not even a big fan of live music, more of a "record man."
Being a record man has kept me a part of the music community, and my enthusiasm for songwriting and for playing instruments, especially the guitar, have kept me in to music. It is a huge part of my life. Some guys fish, some golf, some garden, and I write and record music. I am, by temperament, a producer.
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In my music I strive to build songs around melody, though some of my most effective are "dumber" than that. I strive to avoid cliché musically and lyrically, even knowing that cliché is really at the heart of making things "radio friendly." I endeavor to paint a sonic landscape, to the extent that my technical skills allow. I attempt to create a mood, to tell a story, usually with humor, and I can't help but be ironic.
A NOTE ON THE BEATLES
To me The Beatles remain in a class of their own. Everything about them was just cool, from their wide musical range to the graphic design of their logo to their dark early look.
They seemed so comfortable within themselves that it elevated their music. Critically, I believe they have suffered a bit with the Fred Astaire syndrome, which is to say that they made it look too easy. By the time we in the states saw them they had been playing together professionally for years, and doing it in hard places. I always thought it ironic that between The Beatles, who sort of played the clean cut rockers, and the Rolling Stones, who portrayed the bad boy image, it was The Beatles who were the true working class heroes. (I don't think, for instance, that either Mick Jagger or Keith Richards would have fared well in a street fight with John Lennon.)
For those who doubted the individual Beatles' musical virtuosity, Paul McCartney probably didn't do the band any favors by mounting the Let It Be movie, which has scenes of them struggling through the process of birthing new material. As a musician, I found it inspirational, but detractors could get stuck on the parts where they struggle. It is in McCartney's amazing hubris to expose the innards of his music machine.
As songwriters, I think both Lennon and McCartney paid tribute to legacy and tradition, which I think was key to their charm. Lennon was musically responsive to R&B and rock'n roll, but equally powerful were his connections to Lewis Carroll and Salvadore Dali. So, you got songs like Lucy In the Sky, To the Benefit of Mr. Kite and I Am the Walrus along with Revolution and Happiness Is A Warm Gun. McCartney always seemed in homage to musical theatre and to the tradition of the variety show. So, you got songs like Good Day Sunshine and When I'm Sixty-Four along with I'm Down and Oh Darling. George Harrison, on the other hand, wrote like a guitar student, driven by romantic progressions and, in every song, some signature voicing of a principle chord. Pick any Harrison song. The resulting Beatles' songbook is so rich it is staggering. There are other great oeuvres, but to me none match The Beatles' in range and general likeability.
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Copyright © November, 2018 Rick Alan Rice (RARWRITER)