Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Joy of Sax

Song 227: 7 weeks since posting a song by a personal friend, this week's song is Carrie by my 1980s Berkeley housemate Bob Nichols, who also wrote the song, and sadly, since he died back in 2005, you probably won't catch any videos of Bob songs on YouTube any time soon, but you can hear this tune from a link on my home page, at In the early '80s Bob did a handful of 8-track recordings, and then in '83 his band Moo put together a full-length cassette with 6 of Bob's recordings on side 1 and 5 songs by his band mates on side 2. Bob gave copies to everyone in my band, and I remember our drummer Darrell Heithecker saying that he liked the cassette so well, he thought it was the best tape he'd ever heard of original songs by people he knew personally. I just about agreed with him, though I had a couple of other friend recordings at the time that I liked quite well, and I found that I listened to that Moo tape a lot. These days I still do, though now I often listen to the recordings in digital form. When Bob first played the Carrie mix for me, I told him I really liked the solo. He laughed and said I was just impressed with it because it was a sax (instead of the usual guitar break), and that was at least partly true, but having heard it as many times as I have over the last 3 decades, I think that sax player came up with some pretty good riffs to fit this tune. Though I'm not a sax player, I would guess that this particular solo didn't require any fancy finger or lip work, but the worth of a solo is measured in how good it sounds, and how well it fits the song, so on both counts, I would say this sax break easily makes the grade. The one other part of this track that really appeals to me is the interplay between Bob's lead vocal lines and the backup singers, especially on lines like (Bob) "(You've) got your babies in beakers" / (backup) "still creepin' along" / (Bob) "You can't hide from the bomb" / (backup) "So long, so long". When I first heard the mix, I didn't get a few of the lines, and I asked Bob about them, but I now think that anyone could probably figure out what he's singing, and what he really means, by listening to the track enough times, and sounding as good as this song does, whatever you don't get the first time, you'll more than likely piece together before too long.

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