Waitin’ for You
It’s a curious thing how different one’s voice sounds to one on a recording than it does at the moment of vocalizing. Perhaps you remember the first time you heard your own voice, recorded. I sure do. I was completely aghast! I think I was maybe 10. My friend Chuck Cirimeli was lucky enough to live in a house with a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and he learned to use it at an early age.
Chuck’s dad used to play the electric guitar; he played corny old ’30’s and ’40’s barroom, torch-type stuff, with a cigarette dangling from his lips, the smoke curling back into his nostrils, and up over his sculpted southern European face, pencil mustache, bare forehead, curly receding salt and pepper hair. He wasn’t particularly good, but he carried himself in a way that impressed me immensely. Last time I saw Chuck, back in ’85, he seemed to have become the spitting image of his father. He probably played the guitar a lot better, and when we were teenagers, he’d taught himself to play the drums quite well. He had a great collection of jazz Lps, focussed mainly on drummers: Krupa, Rich, Philly Joe Jones, Tony Williams, and so on.
I couldn’t wait to record my voice on Chuck’s dad’s machine, and to hear what I sounded like. It was the days of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Chuck Berry. I knew all the songs; sang them in the bathtub, on my bicycle. They always sounded good to me. I was sure I could be a star, too. Just listen… Sure, that is, until Chuck pushed “playback” on the machine, and my voice came through. Then, suddenly, I wanted to crawl into a closet and hide. If that’s what my voice sounded like to other people, why would anyone even talk to me? (Equally confounding, at the time, was how Chuck’s voice, both live and on tape, sounded pretty much the same to me.) My first encounter of Self as Other.
Singing, writing songs, making wine. All things that move me, and all, finally, require that move from self to other, before they can really come alive. I have the experience virtually every year of becoming really excited about certain wines I’m producing. It’s especially intense when the excitement arises around a wine I’ve never made before, from grapes I’ve just begun to work with. When it comes it’s usually not the least bit subtle. More like a full-blown REVELATION, with respect to which I can barely contain myself. It’s my strong impulse at that moment to take samples out immediately, and insist to whomever I can corral that they drop whatever it might be that they’re doing at that moment and pay attention, “for I have come bearing THE TRUTH, which shall OPEN YOUR EYES for all eternity,” or something like that.
Months later, after the wine is bottled and has begun to settle down in its new container, and I really can finally show it to people, there will gradually emerge a small group of tasters to whom the “revelation” makes itself known, who find my excitement in their own hearts; then I can finally exhale. I can say, with certainty that the excitement I felt arose from something real in the wine that had, as I was certain it would, the same effect on others. Something real, that, when the playback button is pushed, comes through as exciting as it had been in the “record” mode.
Amazingly, in spite of the shock and disappointment of that first recording session, so long ago, with my friend Chuck, I still feel the need to hear these songs I keep finding myself writing. To know what they sound like, out in the world. That’s how I ended up in left field at Villa Creek three weeks ago, with Jim Fiolek and Don Heistuman.
I spent last Sunday in a studio south of Market in San Francisco, sorting my way through the ADATs from the Villa Creek performance. It was nice — the recordings brought back for me a bit of the feel of that evening, the pleasure of playing with Jim and Don, and of the loyal ones who kept us company, and cheered us on. I’ve picked out a few of the tracks to share here; I hope you’ll find something in them that gets you going.
The Great Leftfielders, Live at Villa Creek, August 4, 2002
- Red Red Rose, Steve Edmunds
- Zsa Zsa, Jim Fiolek
- Someday, Dan Heistuman
- When Old Men Sing, Steve Edmunds