My brother Kurt and I have created a new music production entity called Rollover.2 (it’s a derivative of the rock group, Rollo; hence the name, which is a contraction of “Rollo Version 2.” Our first production is a new song called Honeymoon Phase. Lyrics and production notes can be found here; the video is embedded below or can be watched directly on YouTube.
I’ve been recording songs by other artists in chronological order — one for each year beginning in the early 1960s — and have now reached the end of the decade with “Sunlight,” a song written by Jesse Colin Young for the Youngbloods that was released in 1969 on their Elephant Mountain album.
I was an early fan of the Youngbloods because my uncle, who worked at RCA records, made sure we had all of their albums from the 1960s. “Sunlight” was always one of my favorite songs. I recorded this cover version live using one mic (well, I only have one mic) for the guitar and vocal. Live piano and bass (both Logic Pro software instruments, actually) were added later; all performances were captured live with my refurbished iPod Touch and edited in Final Cut Express.
I’ve written another song. Not much backstory, except to remark on the obvious — that it’s one more examination of aging — and except that I had been struggling with the lyrics for months. At a certain point, I felt the need to say it’s done, and to move on. Even the video betrays evidence of that impatience: I didn’t want to deal with audio-video syncing problems I’ve been experiencing using Final Cut Express (Apple’s old video editing platform), and so there are some noticeable time lags between voice and image, especially in the final verse. You can find lyrics and production notes here along with a thank you to brother Kurt for helping with the final mix in his Brooklyn basement studio.
Well, I finally got my 15 minutes of fame, playing piano at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on May 29, 2015.
Actually, the piano was a remnant of the “Play Me, I’m Yours” traveling piano art installation; and I had to perform one-handed, as my left hand was holding the low-resolution Flip camcorder with which I documented this short performance.
I went to see three sets at Bound for Glory yesterday, WVBR’s long-running live (and free) Sunday evening radio concert program at Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell. Guy Davis performed, and also took this selfie.
The two of us were in the same class at New Rochelle High School, but our paths never really intersected there. Guy is an amazing singer, songwriter, musician, and performer — something I was not entirely aware of until I saw him play yesterday. You should definitely check out his web site and buy one or more of his CDs.
While we’re on this subject, it turns out that there were a number of other students from that same class from New Rochelle who went on to have professional careers as musicians. Amy Madden is a singer, songwriter, bassist, writer, and poet (recently inducted into the NYC Blues Hall of Fame). Andy Tuck “worked throughout the 70’s and 80’s as a professional jazz pianist and composer” (some of his amazing music can be heard here).
And then there were two other former friends who started out with me in the New Rochelle school system, but presumably finished their secondary education elsewhere:
I met Rob Kapilow in Junior High School where he impressed me, not necessarily with his piano playing, but with his impassioned interest and advocacy for entering into relationships with 15-year-old girls. But that was then. From his current web site, we read: “Kapilow’s range of activities is astonishingly broad, including his What Makes It Great?® presentations (now for over fifteen seasons in New York and Boston), his family compositions and Family Musik® events, his “Citypieces”, and residencies with institutions as diverse as the National Gallery of Canada and Stanford University.”
Bob Mintzer actually went to elementary school with me. I remember a “den” in his house — at that time, having grown up living only in apartments, I had been to very few actual single-family houses, and I’m pretty sure this was my first experience with a real den. Such things can make a big impression on a ten- or eleven-year-old boy. Bob is now “a twenty year member of the Grammy award winning Yellowjackets who also leads a Grammy winning Big Band, travels with his own Quartet, and plays with numerous bands globally.”
Am I leaving anyone out?
I allow myself the pleasure of recording one “cover”* only after writing an original song. So here’s my take on the Bee Gees from 1968:
* I’ve been recording these covers sequentially (i.e., one from each year), starting with 1963’s Surfer Girl. Each year features a different song and a different artist that were important to me in some way. Eventually, I hope to reach the current year, or at least the twenty-first century, but — with my somewhat arbitrary recording rules (see above) — I will need to write quite a few original songs, and I tend to struggle with those…
I’ve been working on this new song for a while. After struggling with both the words and music for months, I recorded the song at home in December 2014, then brought it to Brooklyn so that brother Kurt could help me with the mix (I tend to use Logic Pro’s default settings for everything, whereas Kurt actually knows what he’s doing), and finally tweaked the relative volumes of the vocal, background vocals, and guitar by myself at home just a few days ago.
I shot the video in about 15 minutes using my black background cloth and my low-resolution Flip camcorder, and edited it with Final Cut Express yesterday.
Between the Lines
Words and music © 2014 J. Ochshorn
verse 1. i thought i knew a lot about you
what you’re wishing and how you move in space
where your phone is when it’s missing
from its normal resting place
verse 2. i guess it’s really not that simple
the plot’s not unraveled and much remains unsaid
like a road that’s rarely traveled
like a story half unread
(no no no) don’t make me guess
(whoa whoa whoa) what’s on your mind
i can’t find the meaning in your symbols and your signs
don’t make me read between the lines
verse 3. what’s the point of this interrogation
when nothing’s been proven with your third degree
you just seem to keep on moving
in and out of misery [chorus]
please don’t make me jump to these conclusions
or search for sense in your allusions
it’s hard for me to deal with these confusions
verse 4. so i’m looking for a point of entry
unencumbered to a different mode
show me how your password’s numbered
tell me how to break the code [chorus]
Well, thirty years sure goes fast. This being the 30th anniversary of a song that I wrote in 1984 and recorded with the rock group, ROLLO, I figured a tribute of sorts was in order. So here is a new, acoustic, live version of Last Night.
“Crucified” was written by Dan Smullyan in 1980; our rock group, Rollo, used to perform it at various venues in New York City, and we recorded it in our basement studio in New Rochelle sometime in the early 1980s. I finally got around to creating this video for the song, which has never before been released in any form. I’m playing keyboards and doing the vocals; brother Kurt plays guitar. As I write in the YouTube description, the visual imagery in the video consists of an animated romp through “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” a triptych painted in oil on oak by Hieronymus Bosch around 1500.
Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (from 1967) is one of the great rock’n’roll classics of all time. Per Wikipedia: “As of 2009, it was the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the United Kingdom, and the UK performing rights group Phonographic Performance Limited in 2004 recognised it as the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years. Also in 2004, Rolling Stone placed ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ No. 57 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” I recorded this “live” cover using Logic Pro 9, and simultaneously shot the low-resolution video with my Flip camcorder (I layered multiple copies of the low-resolution video, some of them enlarged up to 500% of their original resolution, to make the HD video in Final Cut Express). [Updated 5/19/14: this is a newer mix of the original recording done in Brooklyn by brother Kurt.]