the orchestra.

I was frustrated because Footstone was recording Schmeckle City Rubdown very slowly, and Blenderette didn’t even have plans to go into the studio any time soon.  I had nothing to release.

I thought that the My Grandfather’s Orchestra project would be much easier for me to navigate.  I just needed to reserve some studio time, get my hands on the master tapes, and make some tweaks to the tapes.  I was going to have to sort through a few dozen songs to cull out the best ten or twelve.  From listening to a few of the tapes, I remembered that there were three or four different versions of “The Girl From Ipanema” and I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to include them all, as outtakes or something at the end of the CD.  It was going to be a fun, corny, goofy record and at the same time, pay homage to some of my own musical roots.

I asked my dad if he could get the tapes for me, and started calling local studios to see whether they could handle my requirements – convert these old tapes into a format that could be manipulated somehow to beef up some frequencies, remove some of the hiss, turn them into stereo recordings somehow, and do whatever else I could do to tweak their fidelity.

A couple of weeks went by and I hadn’t heard from my dad, so I called him again to remind him.

Then I asked Rich if he’d be interested in doing the artwork for the project.  He and I talked at length about what sort of art I was looking for – a clear ripoff of the album art of the 1950s swanky lounge records.  I gave him a bunch of cool cha-cha and loungy records so that he could immerse himself in the typography and the imagery – that’s exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

He seemed really enthusiastic about it.  And he even offered to output the artwork to film.

“You said you weren’t going to do that for me anymore,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but I don’t want someone else to fuck up my artwork,” he said.

“Someone like you?” I asked.

He didn’t find that funny.

Rich was fascinated by the concept of us having a baby.  “You’re not that good at taking care of your dog,” he’d say.  “You know, you can’t just put the kid in a cage when you want to go to Maxwell’s.”

He was goofing around, but he had a point.  Getting out to shows was really, really hard.  We had begun talking with Kid With Man Head, a surf punky kind of poppish band from the Jersey Shore area.  They had released their own CD and it was pretty good; they had also become friends with the guys in Footstone, and I wanted to catch them live.  They had played out fairly frequently at clubs down the shore, and even up north, and we just couldn’t find a way to get out to see them.  Meanwhile, I’m sort of trying to woo them as a possible Dromedary band, or as a potential inclusion in the Baker’s Dozen series.  I wasn’t making a good impression by missing all their shows.

Since my dayjob was new, and I was so busy, I found myself working insane hours.  I’d leave home at 6:30 in the morning in hopes of beating the rush hour traffic and getting over the Tappan Zee Bridge before things got really crazy.  I’d get to work around 8 or 8:30, and then I’d work through my daily schedule, responding to emails and voice mails, and getting things rolling each day.  Fred would arrive at the office around noon each day and start his day by eating lunch.  Then, he’d return all his phone calls and spend some time on the factory floor, and invariably he’d call me around 4:00.  I’d head into his office and he’d start pontificating about one thing or another, smoking cigarettes and drinking vodka with ice out of his tall mug, and I’d sit there, listening to him, for hours.  Finally, around seven or eight o’clock, I’d remind him about my commute.

“You really need to relocate,” he would say.

“I don’t need to relocate,” I’d reply, “you need to get to work earlier.”

He’d smile.

One day – a particularly difficult day, with lots of problems – I walked into his office, frustrated, and needing some guidance.  I had a handful of papers that I needed him to review, so I walked around his side of the desk and leaned over.  He had an impish grin on his face when I got there, and as I was leaning over his desk, he reached over and grabbed my balls.

He just grabbed my balls, I thought, as I jumped.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.  “Ants in your pants?

Then he started laughing.

My boss had just grabbed my balls.  Not in a sexual way, but in a frat boy way.

I did not find it amusing.  “Never again,” I said.

“I was just fucking around,” he said.

“Never again,” I repeated.  Then I walked out of his office and went home.

Around that time, I finally pinned my dad down about my grandfather’s tapes.

“I don’t think that’s gonna happen,” he said.


“Nobody’s being particularly receptive to the idea.  I can’t get the tapes from your uncle.”

“Dad,” I explained.  ” If it would make you feel better, I’ll do a complete accounting of every sale, and all my costs, and then split the profits four ways – a quarter for you and each of your brothers.  I won’t take a dime.”

“It’s not gonna happen,” he said.  “Get it out of your head.”

And with that, My Grandfather’s Orchestra became my grandfather’s weekend jam band again, a bunch of reel-to-reel tapes in my uncle’s house that would never see the light of day.  I wasn’t devastated, because the lounge thing was very trendy and it was never my original intention to follow trends with Dromedary.  It would have been nice to have my grandfather’s music on CD, but I wasn’t about to beg anyone for it.

For a guy trying to tie things down, I sure had a lot of things up in the air.

~ by Al on October 12, 2009.

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