RARWRITER PUBLISHING GROUP PRESENTS

CREATIVE CULTURE JOURNAL

at www.RARWRITER.com      

--------------------"The best source on the web for what's real in arts and entertainment" ---------------------------

Volume 1-2016

MUSIC    BOOKS    FINE ARTS   FILM   THE WORLD

ARTIST NEWS    THIS EDITION   ABOUT   MUSIC   MUSIC REVIEWS  BOOKS  CINEMA   FASHION   FINE ARTS  FEATURES   SERIES  MEDIA  ESSAY  RESOURCES  WRITTEN ARTS POETRY  CONTACT  ARCHIVES  MUSIC LINKS

                                 

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Use this link to add your email address to the RARWRITER Publishing Group mailing list for updates on activities associated with the Creative Culture and Revolution Culture journals, and other RARWRITER Publishing Group interests.

 

ABOUT RAR: For those of you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites. Use this link to visit the RAR music page, which features original music compositions and other.

Use this link to visit Rick Alan Rice's publications page, which features excerpts from novels and other.

RARADIO

(Click here)

Currently on RARadio:

"On to the Next One" by Jacqueline Van Bierk

"I See You Tiger" by Via Tania

"Lost the Plot" by Amoureux"

Bright Eyes, Black Soul" by The Lovers Key

"Cool Thing" by Sassparilla

"These Halls I Dwell" by Michael Butler

"St. Francis"by Tom Russell & Gretchen Peters, performance by Gretchen Peters and Barry Walsh; 

"Who Do You Love?"by Elizabeth Kay; 

"Rebirth"by Caterpillars; 

"Monica's Frock" by Signel-Z; 

"Natural Disasters" by Corey Landis; 

"1,000 Leather Tassels" by The Blank Tapes; 

"We Are All Stone" and "Those Machines" by Outer Minds; 

"Another Dream" by MMOSS; "Susannah" by Woolen Kits; 

Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and other dead celebrities / news by A SECRET PARTY;

"I Miss the Day" by My Secret Island,  

"Carriers of Light" by Brendan James;

"The Last Time" by Model Stranger;

"Last Call" by Jay;

"Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; 

"Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" fromActress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; 

"Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; 

Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; 

Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio;

Apteka "Striking Violet"; 

Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along";

Dana deChaby's progressive rock

 

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MUSIC LINKS

"Music Hot Spots"

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INTERNATIONAL LINKS

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Rick Alan Rice (RAR) Literature Page

ATWOOD - "A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance" -AVAILABLE NOW FOR KINDLE (INCLUDING KINDLE COMPUTER APPS) FROM AMAZON.COM. Use this link.

CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects the building of America in a trilogy of novels collectively calledATWOOD. Book One explores the development of the American West through the lens of public policy, land planning, municipal development, and governance as it played out in one of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious and cultural traditions that imbued the American Midwest with a special character that continues to have a profound effect on American politics to this day. Book One creates an understanding about America's cultural foundations that is further explored in books two and three that further trace the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as an icon in the development of a certain brand of American character. That's the serious stuff viewed from high altitude. The story itself gets down and dirty with the supernatural, which in ATWOOD - A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliveranceis the outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the monumental to the sublime. The book features the epic poem "The Toiler" as well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard Padilla.

Elmore Leonard Meets Larry McMurtry

Western Crime Novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am offering another novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado, 1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.

It is a ripping good yarn, filled with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950, when the story is set. Richard Padilla has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns. Use this link.

 

EXPLORE THE KINDLE BOOK LIBRARY

If you have not explored the books available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You will find classic literature there, as well as tons of privately published books of every kind. A lot of it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published books are awful, but some are truly classics. You can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works for two bucks.

You do not need to buy a Kindle to take advantage of this low-cost library. Use this link to go to an Amazon.com page from which you can download for free a Kindle App for your computer, tablet, or phone.

Amazon is the largest, but far from the only digital publisher. You can find similar treasure troves atNOOK Press (the Barnes & Noble site), Lulu, and others.


 

 

 

 

MUSIC  by RAR 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This page is the primary outlet for RAR tunes. Here 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.

 

 

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RAR Tribute to Classic Country

Something about the Winter months seems to put yours truly (RAR) in the mood for the slower tempos and sweet ruminations of what we now call "Classic Country". I grew up with this schmaltz, with particular exposure to the songs of Hank Williams, Jim Reeves, Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, and others who were likely to be played on AM radio in America's heartland. My first record, given to me by my paternal grandparents, who were first generation Nebraska homesteaders, was Reeves' version of "Billy Bayou", the story of a Louisiana boy whose fate seemed inextricably intertwined with quicksand. Check out the video below for a taste of what it was like back in the '50s. (And for the record, I was a dedicated Boy Scout, as were "we" all.) And then after you have recalibrated your silly meter with "Billy Bayou", please continue this journey through Classic Country right on into heartbreak land, with Willie Nelson covers and a RAR original.

 

Click on the covers shown above to hear the individual tracks.

My little tribute above includes two covers of classic Willie Nelson tunes leading to a RAR original, the last provided as an example of how the influences of my formative years have expressed themselves in my later creative life, which is most certainly an arc experienced by many of the readers of the site.

"Something to Think About" is an attempt to capture that strange feel of a Willie Nelson performance, with its scratch and jab guitar playing so free of technique and artifice that it feels inspired. I'm not sure that I achieved that, but the song achieves something poetic and great, as does "Hello Walls", a paean to abandonment and loneliness. I have an Arkansas cousin who as a kid used to go around singing "hewwo wahs", which speaks to the influence of this soundtrack on my very DNA and among my native kin (rather like Kenneth, of "30 Rock", and his brethren the "Hill People"). The "Hello Walls" cover is unadorned, just the bald honesty of the lyric against that beautiful, simple but dramatic melodic structure; beautiful even with me singing it. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I was rejected by TAXI when submitting this song regarding a request for classic country cover tunes. They didn't find the vocal up to snuff.)

"Hoping that You're Lonely" is the output side of my own personal sausage factory, an original composition that owes everything to those early County influences. The guitar playing, however lame, owes much to my appreciation for the far-more legitimate playing talents of a certain "Ghosty McToasty". (You know who you are.)

For me personally, "Hoping that You're Lonely" taps into the same well of loneliness and introspection that I feel from "Something to Think About" and "Hello Walls" - bittersweet reminiscences suitable for a cold and lonely winter's night. - RAR

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Various Covers - More at Bottom of Page

 

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RAR Originals                                                              

The songs listed below are complete demo recordings of original material.

This site is updated frequently as new material or new recordings of older material are added. Most are recorded using Sonar Producer 5 digital software, more recent ones Producer 6. Some may be digitized 4-track audio tape recordings, and you will recognize the difference in sound quality. I may post mixes of old 16- and 24-track recordings at some point. All are in a state of constant development and redevelopment. 

You are welcome to download these songs for your own entertainment, though of course all copyright protections apply regarding reproduction or distribution for sale.

 

Click on the graphics or links provided to listen to the following originals from the RAR catalog.

Donald's House came into being as an exercise in chord substitution, ala the kind of thing that Donald Fagen does with his "fake jazz" (his words). The song "Donald's House" is nothing like a Steely Dan or Donald Fagen song, it's just that I think of the compositional technique as being "in Donald's house".

And while I was there I thought I would steal some stuff. As a song, "Donald's House" turns out to be about social mobility, or lack thereof, unobtainable dreams, and grand larceny.
 
Phrygian Dominatrix - On another compositional track, the tune "Phrygian Dominatrix" is an exercise in writing in the Phrygian mode. This is one of those modes that the likes of Dream Theater get lost in because it is just inherently spooky and dark. I used it to build a really lovely story about somebody in a dead relationship who can't find anything on his car radio so would just prefer to die.

You read about that kind of stuff all the time.

No Matter What She Said

We have this cat, a Snowshoe Siamese, who my wife named "Magnolia Thunder Pussy" after a '60s San Francisco radio spot, and who came to us as a replacement for our dear deceased cat "Gary Gilmore", also named by my wife. (One can imagine the psychological damage or purr enlightenment the children have endured.) Anyway, "Maggie" was a rescue cat, plucked from the Stanford University campus by a student who found her injured, starving, alone; a refugee from God knows what. Maggie grew to the size of a house living in the student's apartment, but upon graduating Maggie's student-savior had to give her up to move wherever Stanford graduates move to, so she put Maggie on Craigslist and my wife brought this fat cat home. She slimmed down, given some room to roam, and is now a much different cat from that which she was when she came to us - accept for her monotonic meow. I have no idea what this cat is saying. It may be "hello"; it may be "there is a tarantula on your head", I don't know, it all sounds the same. I assume her issues in this song.

 

"Mine Yours & Ours"

No one ever achieved wealth by themselves. It is time we began emphasizing that fundamental truth and treating all of those who contribute with their due respect.

Rock Rap

 

"Suicide More Less"

Feeling a little down? Sometimes a little perspective may be in order. A lot of silliness here to help with that.

Rabble Rock

"Dark Matter"

"Dark Matter" re-envisions the Apollo moon landing as an end of life voyage culminating in the touch down at Tranquility Base.

Rock

"Another Day in Cali"

Knockoff tune depicts a day in the downward spiral that is California in 2012.

Folk Rock

 

"A Simple Explanation"

Yours truly is offering up a little Jazz-Pop confection, with all admiration for the ancient Romans, like the playwright Plautus, who inspired the tile below and knew a thing or two about winging it philosophically and comically.

Pop Jazz

"That Thing That Sets Me Free (Remix)"

Oh perversity at the county fair! I'm sure involvement with the Future Farmers of America has ruined more than a few young boys, what with all the glamour and all, and the exposure to breeding stock... This song is just stupid, which is a part of my personal cathartic process based on the assumption that no one is listening anyway. Surprise be mine, I have had this song referenced by others as a RAR favorite. I have never understood these things.

Uptempo Country

"Betty from Memphis"

"Betty from Memphis", a tribute to stable types such as my actual Aunt Betty (Olita) in Memphis (not shown here), as well as to all those weary road warriors out there playing the soundtracks to everybody else's movies.

Blues-Rock

 

"Brideshead Suite"

This is one of those songs that started as a guitar exercise a little along the lines of "Little Wing" and then just kept morphing into something bigger, more operatic in structure, if not vocal arrangement. I have no idea where the song came from or why this particular one made it this far. I write 10, record a couple, and this one moved quickly from idea to finished demo. It is derivative, to be sure, referencing everyone from Pink Floyd to The Beatles to Tears for Fears and Tom Petty. In that, it breaks a cardinal rule against imitation. On the other hand, I feel this tune personally so it can't be all bad.

Blues-Rock

"Until Sam Walty's Dead" (Remix)

"Until Sam Walty's Dead" is a cowboy yarn about a villain - portrayed by the late and wonderful Warren Oates (below) - who has left an unfortunate legacy for himself (see chorus...). Walty is my metaphor for early 21st Century predatory capitalism, a force that must be dealt with so that honest souls can carry on.

Alternative Country

 

"Hoping That You're Lonely"

I can't seem to get my country roots out of my system - I hear Marty Robbins in my sleep - and yet can't do a country tune without turning it into a joke. I love those sappy background vocals of 1950s-era classic country and I tried to replicate some of that with this tune, which, by the way, I love. I hope you do too.

Classic Country

 

"Glow of Your Dark Eyes"

Glory be unto Angie Omaha, whoever she is, pictured below on the cover to my re-recording of "The Glow of Your Dark Eyes" introduced several years back as a tune about "the dark side of loving a dark soul". Our girl Angie may not let me exploit her in this way for long, but as long as she does isn't she perfect? I mean, for this song?

Country 2-Step

 

"The Clues"

Sometimes songs just arrive unannounced and this is one that did so with great impact for me. The whole feeling of the piece is helped along by the great photo above, the photographer of which I am trying to find. Click on the picture (left) to hear the RAR original, "The Clues," a new personal favorite.

Alternative Folk

 

"Just Eleven Minutes (Nashville)"

"Just Eleven Minutes" comes from a few years back, and from the same box as "The Glow of Your Dark Eyes", but the versions provided below come much closer to my ambitions for this story of a cuckold speeding toward a crime of passion and revenge. Almost the entire song is the single chord of E, with brief passes through A-B, for those keeping score. The "psycho" version was the original inspiration, but the Nashville chicken-pickin' version has some nice qualities. Unfortunately it probably also shows that as a guitar player I am no Randy Barker, though I hope to be when I grow up.

Country Boogie

 

"Laughing (Nuke'em From Orbit)"

DOWN FOR REPAIRS

The line "nuke them from orbit, it's the only way to be sure" resonated both comically and viscerally. It came from the film Aliens, and carries such broad metaphorical potential for social commentary and self hatred that I sang this song for years before finally getting around to this draft.

Folk-Rock

 

"Just Eleven Minutes (Psycho)"

 

Hard Rock

 

"Gates"

How many ways interesting was the Gates/Crowley incident of President Obama's first year in office? And does anyone ever do anything right where "race" is concerned?

Folk-Rock

 

"Start A Fire"

Inspired by the demonstrations in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy Wall Street locations around the country, "Start A Fire" explores the motivations of those who aren't quite ready to make the commitment that those people living outside in the cold are making. Click on the cover shot above to listen to "Start A Fire", a RAR casual. And thanks to whomever is pictured in the shot above, taken recently in Zuccotti Park.

Acoustic Pop

 

"Early Beatles"

Other than for a few musical devices common to earlier Beatles recordings, this song doesn't really have anything to do with that band. It has more to do with a desire to capture a certain feeling of youth and of the redemptive power of love that really typified later Beatles recordings. Mostly, it is about the energy of dreams yet to be explored, a gift exclusive to the young.

Pop-Rock

"Ooh Baby (The Jolly Cuckold)"

Accepting resignation on the playing field of...well, you know... an appreciative tip of the hat to the New Orleans sound of Dr. John...

New Orleans Pop

"Para Conquistarle"

More silliness with sound clips from "Sexy Spanish" and some other source I need to re-find and properly credit. I'll get back to you with this info.

Alternative Pop

 

"Porn International"

"Porn International" is a tune of mine from the ’80s previously known as "If We Get Buzz." I recently revisioned it around some of the great sound samples available at freesound.com. I grabbed a variety of sounds and mixed them, hopefully to humorous effect, to create the appropriate ambience for my tale of temptation, pornography and free market capitalism. I felt compelled to rename the song because the voices in the freesound samples seemed obviously Asian, so my bump on the American porn industry morphed into a riff on porn international. I don’t really know anything about the porn industry, but I like this tale of this older guy who gets into the company of impressionable nubiles, "understands" and ultimately exploits them.

Pop Rock

"Down These Stairs"

For when being under wrought just isn't enough

Pop/Adult Contemporary

 

 

"Reason I Wrote"

Lay it light on Uncle Bob: This one was written for the 2006 election cycle and I may bring it back every two years just to remind myself why we vote...or don't. (That's my Aunt Lillian on the left, my Uncle Chas in the center, my Dad Phil on the right.)

Alternative Country

"Ralph Nader"

Remember back to having a soul? (My Bechtel song): This one is resurrected from five years back, a good election cycle offering, an opus of the common man.

Pop Rock

 

 

"Bobby's Sister"

A neighborhood tragedy -- in Spanish

Alt-Folk

Oh help me my father, for I have dissembled

From beauty and grace and from passion and fear

The love of a maiden so pure and so precious

Lord what have I done to a heart that’s so dear

"Not Perfect"

Evidence of understatement...

Rock

 

"The Essential Me"

"Essential Me" is just Eros rising. It portrays inner character that is universal, though not revealed in the same way with everybody. This guy’s a little much for my own comfort level. (You sense split self?) Interesting to me is that this song, which I did as a knock off, is one I get the most positive comments on. Weird, huh

Rock

"Vicodin"

Woh! Look what I found in the medicine cabinet!

Folk-Rock

 

"On the Brink of Happiness"

Sometimes all that's left is to throw one's self into the flames

Pop

"Wake of Your Whiskey Blues"

Saying goodbye to the alcoholic in your life. "Wake of Your Whiskey Blues" is a folk anthem for the fed up.

Pop

 

"Dime Bag Darryl"

A film directed in my mind, infer nothing, apologies to the great guitarist

"Dime Bag Darryl" could be considered a racist slapper-doodle (thanks Ricky) if it weren’t so silly. It is a soundtrack for a video I have been trying to get produced and it would be helpful to scroll through story boards to get the actual nature of the piece. It is a joint on the weird schizophrenic yet symbiotic relationship that many white people have with a certain segment of the black community. The visuals are all about poking fun at white insecurity and need, and an Alice In Wonderland cast of ghetto community representatives climaxing in the image of Dime Bag Darryl himself, who I have always seen as Samuel Jackson.

Pop Rock

"Riding On A Zephyr"

Autobiography -- what has happened to America?

Rock

 

"Overloaded"

Marriage dissolution (not autobiographical)

Rock

"RATZ"

Pain at the pump.  "RATZ" is a personal favorite about a vulnerable older man who does things he shouldn’t and whithers in the blast of youth.

Rock

 

So What #4

 

"So What #4"

Port in a storm, situation dire

Pop Rock

6:30 Ferry

"6:30 Ferry"

Unrequited love on the Vallejo to San Francisco ferry

Pop

"Death Trip Taxi"

Tibetan way of death played out in a taxi

Pop Rock

"Dancing With Angels"

Disappointment on a spiritual plain

Pop Country

 

Your High

"Your High"

What will you make of your life?

Alt-Rock

She Is the Queen

"She Is the Queen"

From 20 years ago. I've known some awful women

Blues-Rock

When We First Met

"When We First Met"

From 20 years ago, noisy garage jam

Blues-Rock

Republican

"Republican"

A corrupted soul

Rock

"Frankenstein"

Riot Grrrl of my twisted dreams

Alternative

Cold Moths

"Cold Moths"

Unrequited love among the homeless

Alt-Pop

Warrior for Love

"Warrior for Love"

Daddy

Rock

The Cove

"The Cove"

Instrumental theme

Pop

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVER COMPILATION CD: 

I am sure that everyone who reads this site - primarily musicians - can relate when I talk about the influence that commercial radio had on me as a kid. Memories of songs from about 1957 to 1965 imprinted on my brain in a way that influenced the rest of my life. Today when I hear songs of the period it is as if I am flashed back to a certain moment in time, riding in a car with my parents, or listening to the radio that sat on the counter in our kitchen in Englewood, Colorado.

From time to time, in recent years, I have done home recordings of some of my favorites from the era, mostly for my own amusement and memory archive. Singing these songs is emotionally satisfying to me, a connection to an earlier, less complicated version of myself, more about the future than the past. Now that's irony given the era these tunes come from, and yet they are timeless, capturing a certain feeling or narrative that for some reason resonates still (at least in me).

My feelings for and performance of some of these tunes will doubtless leave some shaking their heads, but not caring is a blessing. They are un-disputably "Karaoke Rick" in nature and not intended to be more than that, recorded primarily for family. I am committed to leaving behind for my kids some record of who their dad was and what sort of cultural DNA they've been issued.

Somewhere On A Horse In Colorado is the caption of the photograph on the CD jacket. The photograph of my brother and I on horseback was taken around 1960. I was about eight years old. That caption implies to me an indeterminate existence in a remote realm, which sounds like what I remember of those first musical stirrings and life at that age: romantic, mysterious, awe inspiring. I had no context to place the music within. I could not have known at the time that pop music was morphing from surface innocence to a sadness that would be the unintended outfall from a social revolution that in other ways was quite uplifting. But change is hard. Much is lost as much is gained. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" sentiments were morphing into "I Am A Rock" solemnity.

Here are sample tracks from the CD, which is available for handling and production charges only. This is a personal, not a for-profit venture.

  • "Can't Get Used to Losing You" (Re-Master) - A 1963 hit for Andy Williams (Words & Music by Jerome "Doc" Pomus & Mort Shuman), it was a kitchen counter favorite. Pieced together from midi in my own arrangement, not intended to be an exact cover.

  • "Crying" - Roy Orbison classic, a singer's minefield but a tune I have enjoyed performing when the opportunity has presented. Midi cover from infi.com.

  • "Come A Little Bit Closer" (Re-Master) - The Jay and the Americans classic (Words & Music by Boyce/Hart/Farrell), midi sequenced by Chuck Duklis. I love the not-too-serious story of seduction, danger and cowardly escape.

 

From the 1969 Broadway hit Hair. First posted along with a feature on composer Galt MacDermot, this current version has a little better vocal than did the previously posted  version.

 

 

I will rotate these tunes and offer different ones for a listen from time-to-time.

This covers project referenced above is part of a larger "Influences" collection I am putting together that includes CDs of my originals presented in each of the genres I write in, as well as additional cover compilations, including "Jazz Vocal Standards" and "Classic Rock." - RAR

 

PROJECT FILES

From time to time I will use this space to post "project files" for sharing with various musical collaborators. Current files include:

"Ooh Las Vegas" This is the Cowboy Junkies' arrangement of the Gram Parsons tune. It includes all parts, either played via midi notation or live guitar. Also included are backing vocals. All that is missing is the lead vocal.
Click here to listen to the track.

Click here to download the track.

Click here for a lyric and chord sheet.

Additional options: This file was produced using Cakewalk's Sonar Producer digital software. Individual tracks are available as .wav files (preserving their timing), which can be imported into your digital production environment. This would allow you to replace tracks per your own design, while preserving other parts of the performance. Contact Rick@rarwriter.com for additional information or details.

 

 

Photographs © Gillian Rice 2006-2007

Equipment used in these recordings:

Gibson ES-335

1967 Fender Deluxe Reverb Amplifier

Fender "Jeff Beck" Stratocaster

Cakewalk - Sonar Producer 4, 5 and 6 Digital Recording Software and Plug-Ins

Rickenbacker 330-12

Yamaha MG16/6FX Mixer

Gibson J-150 Jumbo

Digitech RP200 Effects

Martin D12-20

TubePac Pre-Amp/ Compressor

Epiphone Broadway

Tascam US-122 Interface

Epiphone Viola Bass

Behringer B-1 Condenser Mic

Nylon String Guitar

 

 

 

RAR Background 

 

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.

My musical aspirations took a hit when my parents moved our family away from Denver and to a small Kansas farming community. I did my best to export it as best I could, though I hadn't exactly moved into a hot bed of rock culture. I did find some guys with guitars and drums, most notably my high school classmate David Domsch. We would get together on weekends, usually at his house, and practice. I remember playing Gloria by Van Morrison's band Them, and The Animals' version of House of the Rising Sun, Paint It Black by the Stones, You Really Got Me by the Kinks, and I'm a Man by The Yardbirds. Sometimes somebody's parents would be out of town overnight and we would play at their spur of the moment house parties, sometimes with an older guy named Skip McCain who played the drums. We weren't magic. In fact, a common rejoinder from my local detractors, when I would opine on which popular bands were good and which weren't. was -- "Well they're better than the Rice-Domsch band!" You can imagine our prospects.

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.

* * * * *

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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NOTE: The tribute below was posted in 2011.

   

 

 

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