So…I talk on social media a lot about how I don’t like the Eagles. Or rather, I don’t talk ABOUT it, but I tend to mention it a lot.
Some people really, REALLY like the Eagles and can’t for the life of them understand why I don’t. That’s fine; some people don’t like the Beatles and I don’t really understand why they don’t. I have had people tell me that I have “shitty taste in music” and argue until they are blue in the face about the greatness of Henley, Frey et al. I usually try to explain…
…that I did like them at one time. When I was 14, “classic rock” emerged as a new radio format, and suddenly swathes of bands/artists from the 60s and 70s that were too new for oldies radio but too old for pop radio had a renaissance. Many of these artists had barely been gone 10 years or less…some of them were still making records. A lot of them had (and continue to have) a legacy and influence that is undeniable, and the Eagles certainly fit into that category.
I didn’t take as immediate a shine to them as I did a lot of other classic rock bands, though. The Beatles and Led Zeppelin were my bedrock; I came into the “classic rock radio era” having loved the Beatles since early childhood, with my love experiencing a resurgence in middle school. My love for Zeppelin was newer, but still predated my entrance into the broader world of “classic rock” by a year or two. From there, the next handful of classic artists I felt drawn to once I heard their songs on the radio were mostly British: Pink Floyd, The Who, The Kinks, Jethro Tull. I did not, at this time, possess any particular dislike for American classic rock, but it was not the stuff that I got most excited about. I didn’t turn the radio off when the Eagles or Lynyrd Skynyrd or Steve Miller came on, but if I’m truly honest, sometimes I was just waiting for the next Who song. It should be noted also that I spent the school year of 1989-1990 in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., and that the classic rock radio station there tended to favor a lot of the British stuff that I really liked.
This era of my musical development coincided with an effort on my part (and eventually my brother’s) to use music as a way to connect with my dad. I don’t know that either of us ever felt particularly DISconnected from him, but it was definitely around this time that we started giving him music as gifts for Christmas and birthdays, and that we started making him the occasional mixtape.
To be fair, music had been a place we’d connected with our dad when we were younger children as well. We spent a lot of time on long car trips when we were very young listening to a mixtape he had made of his old 45s from the 50s and early 60s. This was always our template for “music Dad liked.” If a song or artist could somehow be traced back to the material on that mixtape, it probably would float his boat. Mind you, not ALL the 45s he had were from the aforementioned era; he had several that he had obtained throughout the 70s, including “Two More Bottles Of Wine” by Emmylou Harris, “Let Me Be There” by Olivia Newton-John, and “American Pie” by Don McLean (where the original 9 minute track was split over the 2 sides of the record). So there were other stylistic elements we knew he gravitated towards besides just early rock n’ roll.
The first music I ever remember giving my dad was a cassette single of “Jealous Again” by the Black Crowes, whose debut album had just been released. It was clear when he heard it the first time that I had hit the mark. Soon after that, some sort of mixtape followed; I believe I put “Jealous Again” on it for good measure. I also remember putting “The Apartment Song” by Tom Petty on it, and by doing so introduced my dad to Tom Petty’s music for the first time (he would obtain his own CD copies of the Wildflowers and She’s the One albums a few years later and become quite the fan).
I had intended to purchase some music by the Eagles for a while when I finally obtained both volumes of their Greatest Hits from the Columbia House CD club some time in the fall of 1990. I had finally “gotten around to it.” I enjoyed those CDs quite a bit for a while…at least 6-8 months. I loved “Hotel California” and a number of the other songs. Also, some time that year (maybe for Christmas at the end of 1990? Maybe 1991? I don’t recall) I made my dad another mixtape and included “Already Gone”, thinking it was probably a track he would appreciate.
And then, at some point in the next two to three years, I got tired of the Eagles. I’m not sure what the exact catalyst was…it could have been how beloved they were by people in my high school whose opinions I desired to run contrary to. It could have been that the classic rock radio station in Oklahoma City (where we had returned to in the summer of 1990) tended to favor American stuff over British stuff, possibly due to the tastes of Oklahomans, and this cultivated a dislike for the Eagles and other American classic rock. Or, it could have just been that the music of the Eagles didn’t (and doesn’t) have the staying power for me that the music of other bands of their era does. I am not sure.
Funny thing, though…The song “Already Gone” didn’t fall out of my graces the way their other stuff did. And I can’t help but think this is because of my dad, somehow. I have positive memories of hearing it with him, of being happy that I had once again correctly identified a song that my dad would like. I mean, it has always made me happy to share music with people that they turned out to really enjoy, and I think it makes me even happier when that person is someone in my immediate family.
Many of you know that my dad passed away suddenly a little over three weeks ago. At least twice since then, “Already Gone” has come on the radio and I have changed the station quickly both times, because it’s a song that I’m not ready to hear yet. I’ve heard other ones that my dad liked and I’ve been okay, but for some reason that one has to wait.
My dad loved how much I love music. I remember one Christmas in high school, I had received a new stereo system from my folks. He came upstairs to my room and we stood there as “Everyday Sunshine” by Fishbone played over the speakers, while I grinned from ear to ear at how great my gift sounded. He said something to the effect of, “I am just so glad I have a son that truly loves music.”
I feel lucky that he felt this way. Being that he was a scientist, I was always glad he wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t truly love science (or if he was disappointed about that to any degree at all, he never expressed it. I think it’s likely he wasn’t disappointed at all). I think he was just proud that I had a passion that was on par with his, and that my drive to do the work I felt was important was also equal to his.
He kept his Eagles’ Greatest Hits CD, and probably listened to it regularly. I sold mine long, long ago. It’s okay, though. Through our determined and regular contributions to my dad’s CD collection throughout the early 90s, we spurred in him a desire to start buying music for himself again, and he did. He would discover a number of records on his own that he ended up truly loving, some of which my brother and I still sort of shake our heads at (Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks At 40, anyone?). Despite that, though, it has become clear to me in the last few weeks how grateful I truly am to have shared things like this with my dad.
I miss you, Dad. Wherever you are, I hope there’s a tailor-made jukebox full of 45s there just for you.
I am hoping to say more things…blog about more things. Spending the last few years (mostly) away from rock music things and away from a world where I felt I had a broad enough avenue to express myself has left me feeling quite bottled up…and so words are coming. Words are coming.
Meanwhile, the re-entry into regular performance has begun, I think. It certainly appears that way. Here are the things that are coming up. Before I tell you about each one, I want to emphasize that each of these performances is different and even though the webcast is pay-what-you-want and Heard on Hurd is free, the intimate acoustic house concert on 11/1 with my friend Marian Call is going to be a unique experience that simply cannot be had at either of these other performances.
Sunday, 10/15: Return Of The Dr. Pants Solo Acoustic Webcast!
I did a solo webcast on Concert Window back in June. It was a blast and enabled a lot of the folks elsewhere in the US and Canada to see/hear a performance. We may figure out a way to webcast a full-band show some time in the future, since those are a thing again, but for now I think this format is working well. I anticipate continuing to do acoustic performances as well as electric ones, and this will be a way to bring both kinds to people who don’t live in Oklahoma. (Perhaps someday I/we can bring some shows to you live in person. Someday.)
Heard on Hurd is Edmond, OK’s once a month, food truck-a-riffic, entertainment extravaganza! They pride themselves on booking the best of the best of Oklahoma music, so I am really grateful I was asked to bring the full electric Dr. Pants experience back to life for this event. This is the last Heard on Hurd of the season, and two other great bands (The Ivy and The So Help Me’s, both featuring students of mine! God, I’m old) will be sharing the stage with us.
Wednesday, 11/1: Acoustic House Concert w/ Marian Call
Man, am I excited about this show. I met Marian over Twitter a number of years ago, and after having hung out when she was passing through OKC once, we decided to do a gig together here in 2013. In fact, we played the inaugural show of my friend Sheri’s house concert series, which went on to host a ton of great artists over the last few years. Marian is a great songwriter and singer who brings nerdery and heartfelt experience forth in her songs in a truly unique and beautiful way. You do not want to miss this, especially if you lean more towards the acoustic side of things in your musical taste.
Seating is limited, so reserve your seat by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org! I will give you the address of the house when you make your reservation. It is in the vicinity of NW 36th & Classen. The show will start at 7:00pm and there is a (highly) suggested donation of $15.
Again…more to come. So much more to come. More shows, new songs, new fancy, composer-y pieces, new videos, and lots of love for everyone who has supported me through the years. If you come to a show, you best come let me hug you.
10 years ago this month, the Gardening In a Tornado album was released. My relationship with said album has become more complicated in the ensuing years, but I can say with great certainty I did my damnedest at the time to make it the best album I possibly could. Joshua Banner and Brian Bergman engineered it, Kendall Combes mixed it, Chris Freels mastered it, and Dean Brown, Dustin Ragland, Quint Anderson, K.C. Clifford and Jason Bondy played/sang/clapped on it.
A large portion of the years between releasing Feezle Day in 2000 and starting Gardening in 2005 had seen me “wandering in the wilderness,” so to speak. The final permutation of the “original” Dr. Pants lineup had splintered at the end of 2001, and barring a rare occasion where I managed to cobble together a one-off 4 piece band, I was playing a lot of solo shows/sets. Kenneth Murray did enter the picture in 2002, though, and having at least two thirds of a band that I could mostly count on (Dean Brown lent his drumming skills whenever he was available) meant that the idea of Dr. Pants as a “band” managed to stay alive. I did a lot of soul-searching, though, uncertain as to how I might make another record, who would play on it, who would record it, how I would pay them, what songs from my growing backlog would be on it, and whether, ultimately, anyone would care. Most people I spent time with socially during those years, quite frankly, seemed uninterested in my music, to the point that (especially given my spiritual bent at that time In my life) I felt led to question if music was even something I was supposed to be doing.
Some time in 2003 or 2004, though, I was at a coffeeshop with a friend who was helping me get a resume together to think about possibly switching jobs. She was one who had dreams, and who assigned meaning to the dreams she had. And she had a dream about me making music, and said that she thought I should feel okay about making music that was different from those around me. And hearing that was a big deal to me at the time.
Subsequently, in 2004 I finished the Werks 2 album (currently available on the Weird Files Bandcamp page) and set about trying to make a new “rock” record…cobbling little piles of money together wherever I could, having extremely intermittent recording sessions at (first) Josh’s house and (second) Brian’s house. They lived across the street from each other at the time, so in some ways it was like doing the whole album at one studio. It took a looooong time to actually get it finished, but we did. True story: “Donuts” was not recorded during the sessions for the album, but was recorded on 4-track cassette at my house. It is officially the last 4-track cassette recording I ever released. To this day, there’s probably a strong argument that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the record at all…but it was getting such a good response at the shows I was doing at the time that I knew NOT releasing it would be unwise. We were still a number of years away from the practical reality of “digital singles.” So there it sits: track 13 on Gardening In A Tornado.
I worked hard to promote the record. I put up songs anywhere and everywhere online that I could. This is ultimately what led to the album being licensed by MTV/Viacom; the music supervisor who licensed it heard the songs on Unsigned.com.
It’s still a good-sounding record. Everyone involved worked hard and put their heart into it, even if they weren’t getting paid enough. Kendall mixed in the wee hours of the morning because he could get the studio for free during that time.
And the songs? Well…I played them live a lot of times, some more than others. Some are a bit more obvious in their makeup (lyrically more than musically) for my taste sometimes these days, but in terms of what I wanted the record to be at the time, I succeeded. It’s the most straightforward record I’ve ever made in terms of songwriting and style.
Here’s the Bandcamp link. Go take a listen, especially if you’ve never heard it or haven’t heard it in a while.
Some of you may be unaware that I have been pursuing a Masters degree in Music Composition at the University of Central Oklahoma for the last two years. Finishing a Masters while teaching full time and raising two small children is not easy; it is my hope that I can complete the degree by this coming May.
I think there are a number of misconceptions floating around about what I am doing…I am NOT pursuing this degree through the Academy of Contemporary Music (UCO’s contemporary music program that I teach in). We do not offer any such thing and so that was not an option. There is really no world where the work I am doing now could be classified as “rock” or “pop” music…there are no electric guitars in it, no instruments to speak of that found their advent post-1900. No, this work I am doing now is for orchestral instruments, or piano, or classical voices.
That said, it is intended to be “modern” music…just not the kind of “modern” we make down at ACM, or that I have historically made under the name Dr. Pants.
The use of the word “classical” to describe the music that I am writing now (or to describe the music being made at the UCO School of Music in general) is really a misnomer, since the actual “classical” period only lasted for a brief time in the 1700s. It is a term of convenience…Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any other good term that is convenient at all.
Anyway, the point is that I have been keeping this music hidden away…keeping my process very private, basically only telling people when they ask. It’s not shame that has caused me to do this; I am certain of that. It’s possible that it’s a fear of others not understanding, or maybe a fear of some weird judgment, but I really don’t know. I can’t say for sure. I do know, however, that when I suddenly had the idea this week of starting to share more about it online, it is fair to say that some sort of figurative dark cloud was lifted from my consciousness.
That means you can look forward to hearing a lot more about the things I’m doing.
I don’t have any professional recordings of these pieces. Only one of them has even been performed yet in any context. I am sharing a recording of that performance here. I hope to share all the pieces I’ve composed during this process in a recital this coming spring. Work has begun on trying to put that together. It is a challenging undertaking. I need upwards of 15 different musicians who all play different instruments, and my ability to network in the UCO School of Music is extremely limited by the fact that I can only be there a few hours a week. If you have resources or are a “classical” musician of any kind and you feel you would like to offer help, please let me know.
This piece is called Celestial Event #1 and is written for piano. It took me almost an entire semester to compose. I had a lot of work to do in terms of figuring out what my process with writing this kind of thing should look like, as well as finding a world where I was integrating some of the ideas I had but also being a willing student and engaging some of the ideas my teacher wanted me to absorb. What eventually emerged is a challenging piece of music to play; Shiqi Li is the pianist here and she did an excellent job. She was brave to do the work and I truly, truly appreciate her efforts.
If you click over to YouTube you can read the program notes I wrote about the piece.