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Guitar Tapping at the Tennessee, Ghost Tapping at the Galway

August 10, 2010

I had to think of some kind of headline that would sum up two different experiences at two different open mics that I have already written about before on this blog. That weird thing above is all I could come up with. It’s a stretch….

But this is the story: At the Tennessee bar open mic last night – thank goodness it is still running in August – during the short time that I was there the best guitarist was clearly the guy whose video I have pasted in below. He had a very agreeable tapping style on the guitar, and an agreeable timbre to his voice as well. And to top it off, the guitar was not even his own, but the one most people shared at the open mic.

I got called up suddenly to play after one or two other performers and when another guitarist tapped the strings of the same guitar so hard that he broke two of them…. Since I had my own guitar, it was a good moment for me to go and play. But I had not played on stage for what felt like a million years – was it a full week? Can’t remember…. So I started off a little cold, then built it up with each song and received a resounding applause for the final one – my own, “Let Me Know,” which I played a little differently than I have in the past, as I have now been influenced by my own studio version of the song!!!

Anyway, I left soon after my own performance to go to the Galway Bar, just down the Seine, near the Place St. Michel. Stepping outside of the Tennessee I met up with two friends from the open mic circuit, Lord Prosser and LadiesDi. The former is an Englishman who talks like he comes from Birmingham, and as it turns out, he does. He has lived in Paris for more than a decade, though, and plays at all the open mics. LadiesDi – not sure where he got that name – is from Argentina, and he has been hanging around Paris for a while. Anyway, they told me to tell the man at the Galway that they would soon join me along with a woman from Sweden (I think it was).

So off I went to the Galway. When I arrived out front I found Steven, the Australian MC, had changed his bush hat of the last time I was there for a Mohawk haircut.

“You picked a great night to come back,” he said to me, recognizing me immediately and telling me he had seen the video I did of him on this blog the last time.

I looked inside to see there was practically no one there. Just an American man singing and playing behind the mic and a few people in the bar.

“There are going to be three others coming soon to play, too,” I said, referring to Lord Prosser, LadiesDi and the Swedish woman.

“This guy will play, then I will play, then you can play,” said Steven.

Yes, I had picked the right night. Just the time to tune my guitar and then go and play my four songs, no waiting. And as it turned out, an audience would build up quickly, even during the time I played. And more and more of the musicians from the Tennessee showed up as well, so the even went on quite late after midnight.

So back to the main narrative thrust of this post. The tapping….

I played three songs and by then LadiesDi was there and taking photos of me and he made a request for the last song. He asked for “Cat’s in the Cradle,” the song I do by Harry Chapin. Then I think he said, “Cat Stevens” and it may be he wanted “Father and Son,” but as I had already sung that at the Tennessee, I leapt at the opportunity to do the Chapin song.

I also took this as an opportunity to talk about how I had met Chapin while doing a television show in Ottawa in 1976. And I recounted what a great guy he was. We spoke while waiting for him to be called on stage to play for the TV audience. We learned we were born on the same day, December 7, and that we both wanted to go to acting school. He was, of course, 15 years older than I was – and I was just a teenager. When he was called to play he grabbed his Ovation guitar quickly, dropped it, and broke a rib in the guitar. He laughed uproariously and shrugged it off, running out to play with the broken guitar. It was the way he was, I thought, it best summed up his personality – from the little I had seen.

It was also sad that he had this hit song about growing up and working as a father and never really seeing his son grow up. But in the end, it was even more tragic in Chapin’s life, as he died in a car crash on 16 July 1981 at around 37 years old – so saw even less of his kids’ lives….

I sang the song at the Galway, it went down well. Then right after me, Steven decided to go up to sing a song before the next invited guest. And the song he sang, of all things, was the old 1970s hit, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” This is really not a very common song these days in open mics. But it woke up my sense of the past, the supernatural, and the tappings of voices from the past…for it was the song on which during that same music program in the 1970s with Chapin that I appeared in a music video of the song. Sorry for that mangled sentence. Too lazy to fix it. In other words, my biggest, starring role on the music show was that of a kid going off on a jet plane and leaving his girlfriend behind. It was a music video, style 1976, and I had the main role, acting out the “Leaving on a Jet Plane” story. (It helped that the woman who played the woman was the TV show’s cute blonde secretary, and I had a crush on her and got to kiss her during the filming….)

Anyway, so there we are. It was as if the spirit of Harry Chapin and that TV show had come back for moment to animate the Galway Pub in Paris. (Or as if I had nothing better to write about today, especially after finishing the re-reading of The Occult, by Colin Wilson…!)

As I was leaving the Galway I just had to stop and whip out the video recorder to get a few seconds of the act consisting of a reggae kind of guy and a woman from New York. She later told me that she had seen me at the Tennessee, and I had, in fact, noticed her there too – as she was noticeable. But her singing was magnificent, it turned out, and it was too bad I didn’t see her at the Tennessee. I managed to catch a little of the song she did at the Galway, and I’m pasting it in below, although it is far from good enough as an expression of her sound….

Jac Holzman of Elektra Records

April 7, 2010

I didn’t do any open mics tonight, but I had my mind on another article I wanted to put up, because this guy was so influential in the pop music world. I interviewed him in Amsterdam for the International Herald Tribune, and he’s a very cool guy, with a philosophy I find inspirational: Jac Holzman, the founder of Elektra Records. Holzman signed The Doors, Tim Buckley (father of Jeff), and many others, including Harry Chapin, who I later met and who’s song “Cat’s In the Cradle” I like to sing, as I did in a post below.

The Amateur Musical Video Revolution, and a Harry Chapin Anecdote

March 16, 2010

It may be a pretty simple, straightforward musical video, but I’m putting it up on my site today simply because I’m so excited about the broader implications of what it all means for my upcoming open mic adventure….

Today I went to the Pigalle district of Paris, the city where I live. Pigalle is known mostly for two things: Sex shops/sex shows, and, for musicians it’s a gold mine of an area with guitar stores, music stores, home studio stores, musicians’ gadgets shops, etc. All contained in the same few streets. Literally, I musician’s candy shop.

I went there for a couple of things, one of which was a new bag to carry my Seagull S6 guitar with me on my adventure around the world, since last year’s worldwide adventure nearly killed the bag I have. As I sauntered along looking in one store after another I suddenly saw an object in a store window that had also been on my agenda, or wish-list, of gadgets for this blog.

I’m talking about the new Zoom Q3 “Handy Video Recorder.” I own a fabulous Canon HDV video recorder and some excellent video editing software, zith Adobe Premiere Pro. But is there anything more dissuasive than the idea of setting up a camera, capturing the video, processing and editing it – when you’re just talking about grabbing some cool musician on the fly at an open mic or jam in Kuala Lumpur or London or Sao Paulo?

As you might have seen on this blog, over the last weekend when I was in Bahrain I tried to avoid using my camera and instead used my iPhone to record music at the Bahrain venues. And produced absolute crap with sound like as if you were hearing something going on in a rhinoceros’s stomach.

I had read several great reviews about this Zoom Q3, and I also own one of the original Zoom H4 recording devices so I iknew that Zoom made very good products for cheap prices. And I thought, this is the thing that I need in order to bring another dimension to my blog and give full reports of my musical adventure around the world this coming year. I can carry the recorder in my guitar bag and just whip it out and do a video of some cool musician, or maybe even me with a band in some jam in Barcelona or Istanbul. And then, I can upload the file to the blog in minutes.

Yes, this Zoom Q3 is so easy to use it is disgusting. Press a button and it records in better than CD quality sound, with a very good image and the capability of uploading directly to YouTube and my blog. It runs on AA batteries and can hold many many hours of video if you put a 32 gig SD card in it. (It comes with a 2 gig card which holds 39 minutes of the best quality video and sound, but more than that with lower quality.)

So there we go, no more sideways videos, and no more sound overload. This is going to be very cool, and very much fun. And the thing only cost around 240 euros or so.  It will take a little work before I realize how to get the right sound and light.

Good hearted Harry Chapin

Above, is the first video of me using the Q3 and singing Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.”  Chapin was a wonderful singer-songwriter who had huge success in the ’70s, notably with “Taxi” and “Cat’s in the Cradle,” which was a No. 1 hit and was later covered by Ugly Kid Joe in the 1990s.  Chapin died in a car crash in 1981 – although there was some evidence to suggest he might have had a heart attack in the car, causing the crash, if I remember correctly.

I had the good fortune to have met Harry Chapin in 1976, when I was a teenager working on a TV show in Ottawa.  I spoke with him in his dressing room and I will always remember not just how kind he was, but also the nature of his easy-going character.  We learned we both had the same birthday, and we were talking about wanting to go to acting school – he said he wanted to do that in future – and suddenly he was called out to perform in front of the cameras.  He lept up from his chair and grabbed his guitar, but the guitar slipped out of his grasp, fell to the floor and a rib broke inside the guitar.  He looked in it, shook it, saw it was broken, and he broke out laughing and said, “Well, I’ll just have to play with it like that!”  As he ran off, I thought about how I would have been so angry had the same thing happened to me.

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