"Honestly, it’s like hearing your grandmother swear"

July 8, 2009 by  
Filed under A blast from my past

That’s how one blogger described his feelings when he discovered that the English edition of Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, contains the American slang term: “downsizing.”

I can kind of see his point about “downsizing” being an infelicitous translation of the Italian riduzione and the German reduzierung. But then, never having heard either of my grandmothers swear, I have nothing to compare it to.

What do you make of it?

Don’t Worry. I Won’t Quit My Day Job.

June 13, 2009 by  
Filed under A blast from my past

Alright, this may be kind of weird, but here goes. Those of you who know me (you know who you are) know that I was a wannabe rock star in my youth. That’s demented, I know. But it’s the honest truth about what I thought was important back then. Those of you who don’t know me can read about this, shall we say, “colorful” time of my life in my chapter, “Conclusions of a Guilty Bystander,” in my book Surprised by Truth 2.

Among the various bands I played bass for during the late 70s (and virtually all of them were just plain old garage bands), the tightest, most creative, and most successful (which, truth be told, was a very, very modest success, to be sure) was Geneva Brown — a four-man group featuring drums, keyboards, guitar, and bass.

In addition to two or three hours worth of eclectic but cool Top-40 and other songs that we played covers of, we also had about a dozen tasty original tunes written by our talented guitarist/vocalist Jim. At our peak, I can honestly say we were pretty good and had a devoted, if small, local following.

But in those days, there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of other bands, just like ours, who were scrapping for opportunities and schlepping their gear around Southern California, just like we were, in vans and station wagons, looking for that BIG break that never winds up materializing, except for those very few, very talented bands who happen to be at the right place at the right time. While it’s true that a tremendous amount of the success of the bands who make it is due to their genuine musical prowess, it’s also true that plain old “good luck” has a role in it, too.

As for us, we played a bunch of parties, any number of Elks lodges, parish festivals, honkie-tonks, some bar & grill-type gigs during happy hour, more than a few fiascos, and we even won first place in a Southern California battle of the bands, held in Temecula on Halloween night of 1980. Something like 70 or 80 bands from around the Southland entered the contest, we were told, by sending in demo tapes, just like we did. Of those entrants, maybe 15 or 20 were selected to perform live that night, including us.

And we won. 

Honestly, I’ll bet that few if any of the 1000 or so kids who were there that night even remember it now. But I do. We performed 4 songs in our 15-minute set and brought the house down (or so it seemed to us) with our final number, Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.”

I married my lovely wife Nancy on February 7th, 1981, and our first child, Jonathon, came along in utero a few weeks later. So . . . my dream of becoming the next Paul McCartney soon went out the window. (I had contemplated going to NYC to audition for the role of Paul in “Beatlemania,” but when a friend sensibly pointed out that I just didn’t have anywhere near the necessary vocal chops to pull off that monster role, I came to my senses).

My time playing with this band came to an end within a year or two after I got married, and I remember the bittersweet feeling I had then, unplugging my guitar for good and getting used to the idea that I would never be commercially successful in music. Of course, God had planned a far better, far more worthwhile, and far more fulfilling career to pursue.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the few years I had to mak show with the guys in this band. It was great fun. I recently came across a pretty beat up cassette tape of two of our original songs (neither of which I wrote or sang on).

These two songs are “Nothin’ Wrong, Nothin’ Right” and “Simple Man.” What you’ll hear is the four of us (after a few beers, if I recall) doing a very rough recording during a practice session in late 1979 or early 1980 (as best I can remember). We were slamming away with small cassette player on a stand in the middle of the room to record the sound. Nothing was mixed, nothing was miked, just a wall of sound.

The poor quality of the recording and the resulting audio anomalies you’ll hear were compounded by the bad condition of the 30-year old, dime-store cheap cassette tape that this music was stored on. The tech guy who transferred it to digital cleaned it up as best he could, but there are some gaps, here and there, because of breaks in the tape. Give it a listen and you’ll hear what I mean.

These songs bring back good memories of a fun time in my life, even though I wince a little at some of those memories, not to mention wincing when I think about how ridiculous my hair looked like back then.


Patrick Madrid