SONG OF THE WEEK: "Somedays" (1992, from Headful Of Words, and Sight & Sound):
It’s said you have your whole life to make your first album. I suppose it took about four years, actually, making demos and writing, eventually putting all the “demos” together as Sight & Sound, my debut CD. It started in a rented flat in SF with my buddies from Syracuse, recording on a TEAC 4-track, then in 1991 I found an affordable Deadhead house in the Castro district. I set up a primitive studio in the spare room I had in the basement, the departing roommate was a personal trainer and stored his vitamins in there. The house was a foreclosure bargain and my landlord was invisible. I found out later that the previous owner or his boyfriend had hanged himself from the furnace exhaust pipe near the ceiling.
I’d first heard Pet Clark records when I was in high school, but didn’t really get into those songs until about 1989, when I bought a double LP of her hits. At the time, I’d read an Option magazine interview with Tom Verlaine who had read Glenn Gould’s book. Paraphrasing, Gould claimed that while it was fashionable for classical scholars to give The Beatles a thumbs-up, he felt that George Martin wasn’t reaching that heights that Tony Hatch (Petula Clark’s writer and producer) was with her music. Better than Beatles? I must hear this! So began my studies of her music.
I lived in Seattle from August 2002 to Feb 2004, and while I had a token closet full of stuff in San Francisco, I had my recording gear in Seattle, in a moldy basement. Monthly visits to SF were for getting a handful of basic tracks with Derek Ritchie in my recently-relinquished studio at Hyde St. Studios. Derek was always magical in getting a tasty drum track in two or three takes, even though he could get fussy and say, “No, Chris, that’s just not a good enough song, you must have something else.”
Symphony of Love was written with the song “Happy Heart” in mind, the idea that feelings can be heard as sound and music. Literally?
“Holden Caulfield, is that you?”
You’ve probably already read The Catcher In The Rye, and so you know the story of the kid who drops out of prep school and at one point secretly returns home to speak with his little sister. Of course, that’s not the whole story, and I haven't got time to tell you the whole thing. I’m busy now, I really am. It’d be pretty silly for me to do that now anyway, a real phony might try to sell you a messed up version of it here on the Internet. I just wanted to get the ideas into the lyrics.
When I lived in New York with Paul Collins, I’d sit at our oak kitchen table and play guitar, write songs, then go over it and over it until it was like stone in my brain. Paul taught me that method; just do it again and again until it solidified. “Gemini” started out so simple compared to my other pop songs, just four chords and a riff, but friends said, “I like that one.” The song had a few ideas that went into the lyrics: Blowfly had his ZODIAC album, and I took some ideas from that, and then made Gemini a character in my mind like some serial killer or mysterious man in the subway.
Chris von Sneidern is a musical artist living in San Francisco.