Walter Mencken 9:01 a.m., April 29
Award Controversy, Humphries VS Apple
Tiernan’s default victory, local Bowie book, synth collector, and Dave Humphries VS Apple Records
Tiernan’s default victory, local Bowie book, synth collector, and Dave Humphries VS Apple Records
TIERNAN WINS BY DEFAULT
“I recently won the 2007 Songwriter of the Year Award from the Pacific Songwriting Competition,” Michael Tiernan recently wrote me in an email. “I was actually the runner-up, but when the actual winner, from Nashville I think, got into a scuffle with the people who ran the competition, they offered it to me instead.”
Accusations of misrepresentation are swirling around the 2007 Competition. In previous years, PSC has offered cash prizes of $20,000 to $40 000. However, according to the contest website, “[The] 2007 competition has ended on a low. PSC has been accused of being a sham because PSC didn't post the prizes for the 2007 competition.” Those prizes turned out to be only $200 in cash and “presence” on the Competition website. PSC has admitted that only around 50 submissions were received for 2007. The entry fee was $35.
The original 2007 Songwriter of the Year winner, S.C. from Nashville, posted on the PSC site “For what we invested in fees and postage, we barely broke even. I feel duped. I would like you to pass the award on to the next [song]writer…I would like a full refund for all of my fees and postage. I want you to remove our song and my name from your website immediately. This smells like a scam…What you have done is not only unscrupulous and immoral, it’s borderline illegal.”
PSC replied “This years[sp] small prize pool was forced upon us because we are non profit and in fact run at such a loss we were going to rest the competition for a year… All information regarding you and your work has (or will shortly) be removed from the website as requested.”
S.C. then posted a challenge regarding that “non profit” claim. The Competition spokesperson replied “Just to clariify [sp], ‘non profit’ did not mean ‘not for profit organization.’ It meant we received no profit.”
The next grand prize runner-up, T.E. from Iowa, also declined the award, posting “I am already upset about this whole thing being misleading to us all…I feel like the whole thing is a fraud.” Local boy Michael Tiernan was then named this year’s PSC Songwriter of the Year.
Says Tiernan, “Sloppy seconds, but I'll take it!”
LOCAL ILLUSTRATES DAVID BOWIE STORYBOOK
“He may not even know about it…[David Bowie] hasn’t seen a copy yet but I sent one to his New York office,” says local author Jamilla Naji, whose children’s book “Musical Storyland” contains a ten song CD by Bowie.
While the press release for the book announces “music and lyrics written and performed by David Bowie,” Naji informs that the book was actually created without Bowie’s input or even his knowledge – the songs come from a 1973 LP “Images 1966-1967,” a compilation of B-sides and early recordings which Naji once owned as an 8-track. “I listened to those songs probably 8,000 times when I was growing up.”
After two and a half years of writing and doing canvas acrylic illustrations based on ten of the LP’s songs, Naji decided self publishing was her best option. Researching song rights, she found Bowie doesn’t own them – the initial masters were licensed to Deram Records by a former-manager Bowie has since sued and split from, creating a tangle of subsidiary owners.
“Licensing the music was really complicated, there are actually four different companies [three publishers and one owns the recording] which have the publishing rights and the mechanical rights [to press CDs]. I really didn’t know what I was doing at first and it was really intimidating.”
After negotiating deals with Universal, TRO Essex Music, Warner Bros and Embassy Music Corp, Naji was required to purchase a minimum of 10,000 CDs from Universal, who controls the audio masters with her ten chosen Bowie songs (25 minutes of music), intended – and in fact contractually required - to be packaged with copies of the book itself.
With mechanical rights costing her 8 cents per song pressed to CD, that’s $8,000 just to burn tracks, with Naji footing all the bills herself. The 32 page hardcover tome was printed in Hong Kong (“I couldn’t afford to do it here”), however she says “I don’t even have world rights to sell it overseas.”
Naji set up a shipping station in her Lakeside home and, on the book’s publication, took in an inventory of 10,000 books and CDs on “a palette that covers an area about 16 feet by 8 feet and 4 feet high.” She’s fills retail orders self, as well as distributing to bookstores. [musicalstoryland.com].
February 1964: the Beatles taught the world to play. “Do You Wanna Know A Secret” and “Love Me Do” dominated the U.S. charts in the wake of the group’s U.S. landing. British songwriter Dave Humphries remembers it well – he was there. Humphries moved to San Diego in 1996, but at one time the native of Durham City in northeast England was known as someone on the periphery of the Beatles story and as “the man rejected by Apple Records [four times] more than anyone else alive.”
Humphries’ appearance at the 2003 Beatlefair allowed him to meet and play with another figure from the Beatles’ past, Tony Sheridan, for whom the fab four played on their first-ever recording “My Bonnie,” credited to Tony Sheridan And the Silver Beetles. While Sheridan was at BeatleFair, Humphries talked him into co-writing and recording a song in Mission Hills, “38 Days,” which appears on a CD self-released by Humphries. This recording was made easier due to Sheridan’s longtime keyboard player Wolfgang Grasekamp living in La Mesa, another recent transplant to San Diego.
Humphries also tried to get one-time Beatles drummer Pete Best to participate in the “38 Days” recording, since Best was in town at the same time for a BeatleFair. Local rumor has reported Best’s reaction to the invitation to be “Show me the money.” Pete Best’s agent reports that he’s paid $4,000 to appear anywhere and upwards of $6,000 to $10,000 if he’s to actually perform. Being booted from the Beatles seems to finally be paying off.
Dave Humphries' album 38 Days earned him a nomination at the 2006 San Diego Music Awards. The disc includes two tracks featuring Tony Sheridan on guitar.
His newest record, And So It Goes..., from Blindspot Records, was produced by Mike Kamoo (the Stereotypes) and Wolfgang Grasekamp at Kamoo's Earthling Studios. Kamoo makes a guest appearance on the album, as do Bart Mendoza (the Shambles), Todd Hidden (ex-Rockola member), and Tony Sheridan on 5 of the 11 tracks.
Humphries' shares his recollection of the night John Lennon died, on December 8, 1980: "It was just like another normal December morning in Durham, northeast England, cloudy and a little cold. I heard my dad go off to work and before long would hear my mother shout up the stairs, 'Are you getting up?' But today she didn't do that, today it was 'John Lennon has been shot.'"
"A sick feeling consumed me. I didn't know how to handle this. Of course we'd had deaths in the family, but this was different, it felt as if my youth had been torn away. My hero was gone, a man whom I felt I had known personally since 1963, a man I admired, a man who together with his three mates inspired me, made me laugh out loud, made me pick up the guitar, a man murdered by a bastard with a gun. I recall the BBC showed Help! that night. I didn't watch, didn't see any of the news reports, couldn't; I don't know now how I got through the days or nights. I tried to avoid friends, couldn't discuss it -- just felt raw. It was months before I could listen to John's voice without filling up and breaking down. John, who gave so much to the world, murdered for what?"
HE COLLECTS OLD SYNTHS
"I've got eight Roland Bassline 303 synthesizers," says John Goff, guitarist for the space/prog electronic band the SSI and a collector of old tube amplifiers and vintage sythesizers. "Techno is pretty much all based on the sound from that keyboard. They basically built it wrong. It's got this weird built-in sequencer and a three pole filter and almost all the other synthesizers are four pole. It makes it have this really weird sound. You can't emulate it. The only thing that comes close is a [computer] program called Rebirth. The 303 was a flop when they made it, they couldn't give it away, and then when techno got big, they became really hard to find."
John Goff was originally in the late ‘90s band Physics, which later evolved into Aspects of Physics. He and his brother Will formed SSI and released the albums Pax Romana and E Pluribus Unum, on their own label Chlorophyll Records.
Physics played what he calls "kraut rock, like Can, like the European progressive stuff from the seventies." While studying music at Southwestern University, his interest in classic equipment was piqued. "They have this huge modular synthesizer. I had a teacher there named Burke McKelvey and he's got a Moog System 55, which is like the Rolls Royce of synthesizers, and I really got into that kind of thing for awhile. Just amazing sounds, but a lot of work to get out of it, not like now with a computer."
His collection has not cost him much, he says, though its value has increased immensely. Even though something like a Moog synthesizer represented the apex of technology in its day, subsequent advances caused them to be tossed aside. "Five years ago, old tube equipment and analog stuff was selling for next to nothing. I bought Vocoders, sequencers, analog synthesizers by Moog, Arp. I used to get them for fifty or seventy-five bucks. Now that people are trying to recreate that sound, they're like five or six hundred dollars! Everyone's trying to find them."
Among his favorite scores, he mentions "I've got a Juno 60 I use for live shows. I also just found an Echoplex I really like a lot, one of those old tape echos. I found a full modular sythesizer at the swap meet for a hundred bucks that's probably worth 14 or 15 hundred. It's got all kinds of plug-ins to route in signals."
Goff's musical interests aren't confined to classic keyboards and guitars. "My first instrument is the bagpipes," he says. Though he's never incorporated any highland howling into his synthesizer music, he did play the piper in the Sterling Bridge Pipe Band, along with his father, in and around Solana Beach. Another side project was a four piece "analog sythesizer band" called Contact. "That's when I get out the really vintage equipment," he says.
Not that a set of bagpipes isn't vintage.
OLD GUITAR’S NEW LIFE (NOW WITH MORE TONY SHERIDAN)
“It's kind of funny, but a bit of Shambles ‘magic’ is being included on a lot of local recordings - besides my usual studio stuff - via my old twelve string,” says Shambles singer/guitarist Bart "Big In Spain" Mendoza. “I exchanged it with Mike Kamoo for studio time, figuring it was staying in the family. Now a house guitar at Earthling Studios, it's shown up on lots of albums by local acts."
"Most recently, I was in studio when the Swedish Models borrowed it, mentioning it would be on a Prayers recording as well. The guitar’s main life has probably been on Stereotypes recordings…you know how people are about their guitars. I felt like a proud dad for a second! Considering it had sadly sat unused in a closet for a few years, a pretty good fate for a guitar.”
So why did Bart stop using the guitar himself? “It never made it further than #3 on my list of guitars,” he says. “It was/is a cool guitar, but I had a hard time tuning it, particularly live, so it became a backup, and then just got retired except for the occasional studio outing.”
Ever since Bart and I first met and worked together in the mid-to-late ‘80s at a local comic book distributorship, he’s been regaling me with tales of his Beatles collection. Recently, he wrote me “My coolest [recent] item isn't very valuable, but fun. I've been friends with a lot of Beatle people over the years and have Alistair Taylor, Tony Sheridan and Alf Bicknell's business cards and autographs/letters together in a frame, with a small print signed by Pauline Sutcliffe, and a picture sleeve for the unreleased Leave My Kitten Alone single, alongside a copy of My Bonnie signed by both Sheridan and Pete Best. Not exactly a signed copy of Sgt. Pepper's, but still fun!”
Bart informs that the new album by local Beatleholic Dave Humphries was recorded at Earthling and ALSO features a guest appearance by his old 12-string. Another guest, on five different songs, is none other than aforementioned Brit crooner Tony Sheridan, whose 1961 record “My Bonnie” was the first platter to feature the Beatles, playing behind him as his backup band.
“I don’t think he can stand Beatles fans,” says Blizzard singer/guitarist Chris Leyva of Tony Sheridan. “We met him when we played BeatleFair in 2001. We got the gig by sending them three songs from the Backbeat movie soundtrack that we claimed was us! We were surprised that such bigtime Beatles fans didn’t recognize the soundtrack, but then we had to learn some Beatles covers in order to play the gig.”
Leyva says it was a thrill meeting Sheridan, but notes “He had just gotten off the plane or something and he wasn’t too happy.”
After Sheridan watched his group (temporarily named the Backbeat Band) perform cuts like Long Tall Sally, Leyva says he came over and said “That sounded like a blizzard,” and a new band name was born.
So now you know.....................................................................the REST of the story.
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