I’m up to 1975 in my chronological covers of popular music: That must mean it’s time for Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. I chose the heart-felt, guitar-oriented ballad called “If You See Her, Say Hello” but decided to perform it on piano instead. the harmonica I play at the beginning and end does not appear in Dylan’s recording, nor does the alarm on my watch which went off somewhere in the middle of the song. But, hey, it’s a live recording, and the alarm was more or less in tune.
More of my covers and original songs can be found here.
I began writing this song in February, 2018, and finished it (and recorded it) in November, 2018. The tracks are done separately and sequentially, although the guitar and piano tracks were videotaped live. Aside from the guitar and piano, and of course my vocals and background vocals, I added drums, bass, and strings using Logic Pro X “software instruments” played live on my midi keyboard, and also a live harmonica track for the instrumental solos.
The song lyrics refer to my father and his early death at the age of 53; and also my journey with my brother and our wives to find his grave many years later, near the border of Queens and Brooklyn. I made a video six years ago (October 2012) about that trip, which can be found here. In a way, this song is a belated soundtrack for the earlier video.
Speaking of videos, I made this one using Final Cut Pro, incorporating numerous clips from the 2012 video (which was shot with a Flip low-res camcorder) and a few family photos. The new clips of me singing, and playing harmonica, guitar, and keyboards, are all shot at home with my refurbished iPod Touch mounted on a tripod.
When my father was my age
He’d been dead for thirteen years
So he never held my daughter and never saw my son
It was cigarettes and rage
That were gumming up the gears
With a final stroke the motor broke there was nothing to be done
I still hear my brother saying
That the body can be found
Just south of Myrtle Avenue near the Glendale CVS
Well it must have been decaying
Thirty years beneath the ground
Where grass conceals but stone reveals his posthumous address
Try your best to find him
If there’s something that might bind him to you
Just lock it up and walk away
Sing a song about him
But live your life without him
Better save it for a rainy day
There’s a man gesticulating
On a trail that finally ended
At a marker for grave twelve out in lot eleven
And we all were speculating
That his soul was still suspended
Twisting turning if not burning between hell and heaven
At the time it was no bother
When we waited three more days
For another spot to be prepared for his second wife
“Beloved husband and father”
Is that all they found to praise?
No pain no laugh no epitaph can summarize his life. [Chorus]
I just recorded a cover of “Ticonderoga Moon,” written by John and Johanna Hall, and recorded by Orleans in 1973. The song title appears in the lyrics of a song that I wrote recently called If I Could Sing Like That: “Sometimes we’d walk down to the inlet just to hear our favorite tune / I can still remember Orleans playing ‘Ticonderoga Moon’ / You’d get me dancing on that dusty floor a bit out of control / We’d leave A Salty Dog but not before / The sound was etched into our soul.”
I recorded and videotaped this cover of Ticonderoga Moon totally live (guitar and lead vocal); then the piano was recorded and videotaped live; and finally I played software drums and bass live on my midi keyboard, without any click track. I then added the harmonica, but did not actually videotape that performance live, so what you see on the video is just a simulation. And same for the backup/background/backing vocals: the twin Jonathans in the video are just lip-syncing the two tracks of vocals that I added to the chorus.
I recorded this cover of Eminem’s 2002 classic “Lose yourself” in October 2018. Up until now, I have been recording covers chronologically, starting with 1963’s “Surfer Girl.” But I’m not confident that I’ll ever get to the twenty-first century at the rate I’ve been recording songs, so it feels necessary to step out of order, especially with a song like “Lose Yourself” which has, well, lots of words to learn. I like the idea of playing the song live with just vocal and acoustic guitar (and yes, a bit of piano, bass, and backing/back-up/background vocals were added later).
Harry Chapin was, briefly in the early 1960s, an architecture student at Cornell University. Thankfully, that career choice short-circuited and, after several other initiatives (including an Academy Award-nominated boxing documentary that he wrote and directed in 1968), he ended up as a rather successful singer-songwriter in the 1970s. I arranged and recorded this version of his hit song from 1972, “Taxi,” at home in Ithaca, NY.
I actually went to see Chapin play a benefit concert at Cornell, when I was an architecture student there, perhaps around 1973 or 1974. He was an excellent performer and it was a memorable concert which, in addition to Taxi, included a song he wrote when he was a student at Cornell, about taking the Greyhound bus back to NYC: “Take the Greyhound/ It’s a dog of a way to get around/ Take the Greyhound/ It’s a dog gone easy way to get you down.” If my memory serves me well, the benefit event also featured Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.
More of my covers, as well as original songs, can be found here.
I wrote and recorded a new song: This Is What You Get.
As usual, there are several listening/viewing choices: check out the video embedded above; watch the video as it appears directly on its YouTube page; examine the video together with lyrics and commentary on my music website; or — for those of you who prefer audio only — listen on SoundCloud.
I recorded James Taylor’s 1971 classic, “You Can Close Your Eyes” and made a quick video using the new Final Cut Pro video editing software that I got with my new iMac.
Between writing and recording new songs, I’ve been recording covers that were somehow meaningful to me, in chronological order starting with 1963’s Surfer Girl (Beach Boys). All my music, with links to additional videos, can be found here.
I saw James Taylor at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester during my senior year in high school, in 1970. I had already been playing guitar for about 6 years; seeing him perform solo (just voice and guitar) was unforgettable and I’ve been a fan ever since. “You Can Close Your Eyes” came out the following year and became one of my favorites. Beginning about 20 years after that, I starting singing it as a bedtime lullaby for my children.
I’ve been recording cover versions of songs that were, in some way, influential in my musical development. Beginning with Surfer Girl from 1963, I’ve picked a different recording artist for each succeeding year, and now find myself in 1970, the year I started the B. Arch program at Cornell University, and the year that Psychedelic Shack became a hit for the Temptations.
Strangely, 1970 was also the year that Peter Eisenman’s “House II” was completed in Hardwick, Vermont. That this house shows up as the “psychedelic shack” in my music video has something to do with current research I am conducting into the question of architectural “function” and, specifically, the suggestion by some architectural theorists that one of the functions of architecture is to express the spirit of the age. Since this idea of a Zeitgeist has always struck me as rather peculiar, I took this opportunity to expose its fraudulent nature by juxtaposing two antagonistic sensibilities from the same time and the same place: on the one hand, Eisenman’s hyper-conceptual tightly-scripted architecture and, on the other hand, the rhetorically psychedelic and “anti-establishment” work from contemporary architects like Archigram (whose “Walking City” appears briefly in the video). The Temptations, of course, is not a “psychedelic” group, so their recording of Psychedelic Shack, written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, can be taken more as a commentary on late 1960s hippie culture than as an example of it. Even so, the song lyrics adequately capture the cultural ambiance:
They got a cat there shoutin’ the blues, talkin’ ’bout payin’ some dues
People walkin’ round reciting poetry, yeah
Screaming guitars and a thousand colored lights
People, I’m telling you this place is really out of sight
Contrast these lyrics with the description of House II by Eisenman (Iman Ansari, “Interview: Peter Eisenman,” The Architectural Review, April 26, 2013 accessed here):
So I achieved what I wanted to achieve, which was to lessen the difference between the built form and the model. I was always trying to say ‘built model’ as the conceptual reality of architecture. So when you see these houses and you visit them you realize that they were very didactic and very important exercises — each one had a different thematic — but they were concerned not with meaning in the social sense of the word or the cultural sense, but in the ‘architectural meaning,’ what meaning they had and what role they played in the critical culture of architecture as it evolved over time. So while the work was interested in syntax and grammar, it was interested to see what the analogical relationships were between language and architecture.
Some notes on the recording and video production:
Music arranged and produced by Jonathan Ochshorn.
Recorded with Logic Pro 9 software.
Vocals: Jonathan Ochshorn.
Real instruments: Jonathan Ochshorn (electric guitar, harmonica).
Software instruments played live on midi keyboard: Jonathan Ochshorn (drums, bass, organ, piano).
Recorded at home in Ithaca, NY, April, 2017.
Video shot by Jonathan Ochshorn with a refurbished iPod Touch in selfie mode, and edited with Final Cut Express.
Still images were mostly found on the internet and edited using Adobe Photoshop, except that one photo is of me at Cornell in 1970 (appearing on a backwards clock while the Temptations are singing “There ain’t no such thing as time”).
Video was shot and edited at home in Ithaca, NY, April, 2017.