When I was in high school, I wanted to be a rock star. And even if I had given up that dream by 1992, I still kept writing songs just for fun. By 1993, I decided that I wanted to record some of them for posterity. So I went over to my friend Lyle’s house and laid down tracks in his home studio which I then mixed with my 8-track mixer. All the songs were originals except for a cover of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”.
The songs span multiple genres. A few of the oldest ones dating back to high school are dreadfully earnest, though most were written and recorded with tongue firmly in cheek. We didn’t invest much time in recording: most songs were done in one or two takes. As such, there are many mistakes. But I didn’t care: I just wanted a record (that is, an account, not a music record!) of this time in my life.
I thought those songs were lost forever, but I couple of weeks ago, I found the sole cassette recording in a box. Unfortunately, most of the songs were just boring, but I have decided to include a few in this blog article as a testimony to Randal thirty years ago. Each selection represents a particular style/genre.
One more thing: this is a thirty-year old cassette recording which I then recorded with my phone. So don’t expect studio quality!
Glam Metal: “Marrying Man”
First up, we have “Marrying Man”. This one is gloriously tongue-in-cheek. Written and performed in the glam metal style that dominated the charts in the late 1980s, it plays off the well-worn cliche of the guy who just cannot commit to a single woman, preferring to party all night. I used Lyle’s drum machine in this and most other songs and that yields a very wooden percussion sound. Lyle also played lead guitar on the solos while I handled rhythm and bass and doing my best to caterwaul as the genre required. Alas, the bass is way too loud in the mix. Not sure who is to blame for that: Lyle or me. Anyway, this is my tribute to the music I grew up with: Bon Jovi, Stryper, Kiss, Poison, and the rest.
Heartland Rock: “Indigo Row”
This is one of those earnest songs from high school. “Indigo Row” plumbs well-worn cliches about growing up and that melancholy phrase you can never go home again. Back in 1990, I thought this could be a radio hit alongside John Mellencamp. Good grief, what was I thinking?
Reggae: “Caribbean Nights”
I love Bob Marley and he will always be the master. But with “Caribbean Nights” I was aiming more for radio friendly Maxi Priest. I wrote this in 1992 as an ode to my silly high school wish to become a “radio DJ in Jamaica.” I wrote the bridge and chorus but the verses are extemporaneous nonsense. I’m not sure why. Anyway, the fake keyboard flute is a nice touch.
Folk Canadiana: “The Trapper’s Daughter”
This is my sentimental favorite. In the early 1990s I was reading a lot of Canadiana such as Pierre Burton and Farley Mowat. But my favorite book of Canadian lore was probably Denison’s Ice Road. This inspired me to write several Canadiana folk songs and “Trapper’s Daughter” is probably the best as it relays the story of an old trapper longing to be reunited with the daughter who abandoned the great and severe open spaces of the Arctic for life in the south. Listen for Lyle’s accordian and mandolin playing in the background: excellent touches!
Soft Rock: “Young and In Love”
This is the oldest song in the bunch and it is awful, indeed, nauseating. Cloying and saturated with cliches though without the beneft of self-aware irony, “Young and In Love” dates to 1989/1990. In addition to the obscene saccharine quality, it is boring, slow, and with a bizarre bridge. I appreciate most of these old recordings for what they are, but this one makes me want to punch a wall.
Novelty: “The Counting Song”
From “Shaving Cream” to “Werewolves in London” I’ve always enjoyed novelty songs. This 50 second meander is not much of a novelty but the flat and off-beat tone certainly achieves the general irritability for which I was aiming.