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 team 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 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 so were selected to perform live that night, including Geneva Brown.
And we won. No big whoop.
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 or 5 songs in our 15-minute set, and we 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 about 2 weeks later. So . . . my grandiose fantasies of becoming the next Paul McCartney soon went out the window. (I had seriously contemplated going to NYC to audition for the role of Paul in Beatlemania, but when a good 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 Geneva Brown came to an end within a year or so of my getting married, and I remember the bittersweet feeling I had then, having to unplug my guitar for good and get used to the idea that I would never be commercially successful in music. But I knew that a far better, far more worthwhile, and far more fulfilling career as a husband and father was what God wanted me to pursue.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the few years I had to mak show with the guys in Geneva Brown. It was great fun. I recently came across a pretty beat up cassette tape of some of our original songs (none of them written or sung by me).
These two songs here (click the picture to play them) were some early originals called “Nothin’ Wrong, Nothin’ Right” and “Simple Man.” What you’ll hear is the four of us playing and Jim, our guitarist, singing in a rough recording we made during a practice session in late 1979 or early 1980 (as best I can remember). We were slamming away with what I recall was just a single microphone in the middle of the room capturing 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.
Some of you might well find this kind of music unlistenable (my kids do), and that’s okay. For me, it brings 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 what my hair looked like back then.
Click the pic to listen! (MP3 file)