It began in north Dayton, a depressed but furtively creative corner of Ohio in the early 1980’s. Now, more than thirty years on since those first awkward musical steps in an empty, drafty, and surely haunted house on Marcella Avenue, the hot breath of 2016 is steaming at my neck — and has me feeling quite mortal.
Pleasures Pale drummer Jeff Keating died near the end of 2013, his liver in full surrender. In August 2014, mainstay bassist Chris Green (Darke County, Myself a Living Torch and Sunshine Boys) left us. Again, the liver in revolt. My own musical life ground to a halt in late 1999, withering in San Francisco’s damp ocean air like so many other abandoned dreams at the far edge of the continent. The music made with Keating, Green and numerous other talented players has since lain dormant, languishing in formats now obsolete, mummies in a shoebox mausoleum.
But music pushes on…
Beyond this mortal coil, music is life. And life is immortal in song, a force undeniable. So it is — despite my now-all-but-evaporated musical career, having survived over a half-century on this spinning rock, and suspecting my filter organs could also suddenly wave the white flag — I could no more ignore the urge to liberate from their ferrous oxide graves the songs now in these electronic pages than I could instruct my heart to stop beating. Here, in this virtual, nebulous otherworld, the ghosts will be free to murmur and shout. The past will pretend it is forever the present — still arcane, ludicrous, full of terror, insecurity, blind anger and stolen joy. Fifteen years of furious writing and kicking against the strictures of my own inhibited, midwestern self will be on exhibit for enjoyment, derision, amusement or indifference, come what may.
We all wonder what mark we will have made when at last we are gone; what contribution to the wheel of humanity will come of our time and toil? At the risk of vanity, and in sincere tribute to those I’ve shared the fits and pleasures of collaboration, I aim to make this a vessel for the musical seeds we’ve cast into the wind. And though the vessel here assumes my name, that is only a ruse. The payload is what matters — the need and will to make these sonic expressions and the love each maker contributed. And to those who were there to bear witness and suffer the tribulations of support, yours is the generosity of saints. Thank you.
For Jeff Keating
In rehearsals, in the dank basement of the Marcella house, Keating frequently contributed songwriting suggestions, shaping their mood and ultimately their captured form. On “Love Bites Back Sorely,” a staple of the Pale’s live performances, Jeff insisted on the organ padding and bit into the drum parts intent on creating a dramatic and dynamic 4-minute opera. On my memory reel, in the dim fluorescent light, I still see the rehearsal where it all came together… Mitchell Swann laying out a brilliant, rhythmic guitar sequence… Luis Lerma, simultaneously on the same wave, throwing down a tense, monster bass line, the style all his own… Keating finessing the trap set, kindling a fire, foreshadowing, then exploding… The four of us in trance, actors in a peculiar noir, swept into the moment…
For Chris (Troy) Green
And, Chris Green… His contributions to this song catalog are too great to distill. An example, however, should I try, carries the namesake of this outpost in the ether, “The Days of Suede.” Chris’s double bass steers the piece as it drifts and bobs in the rolling waters of those bohemian years — those dusty days when all that mattered was the spark, the feel, the taste, the headlong rush to get lost in the promise of night.
“And we say we’ve got it made”