Thursday, April 08, 2010

Freedom (To Me)

You never know what you're going to find when you clean out a closet. For instance, I found a time machine.

Well, OK, not literally a device that could send me back into the past, but most definitely a way to revisit it. What I found was a cassette tape containing a performance of Live Wire. Until I found that tape, I assumed that I already had the complete Live Wire collection in my possession, i.e., one live performance tape and one studio session tape. I assumed there were no other recordings of us. As you might imagine, I was thrilled to find another live recording. Increasing your stockpile of aural memories by 50% in one fell swoop is exciting stuff.

Anyway, I found the tape a few months ago. Subsequently, four of our five met at a Chinese restaurant in preparation for the birthday party of the fifth. It then occurred to me that it would be really cool to digitize everything I had, from all three tapes, and throw the results onto a couple of CDs as a birthday present for the celebrant. And, since I was making the CDs anyway, why not make copies for the other guys? So, I've been busy doing that, during my spare time, over the past week or so.

The major problem in doing so has been cleaning up the recordings as much as possible. As I said, these things were recorded onto cassettes close to 30 years back. The tapes have degraded quite a bit, and some songs needed major overhauls, sonically speaking. Luckily, sound technology has advanced quite a bit since 1981, so I was able - in most instances - to resurrect at least a listenable version of the performances. Of course, since we were the ones playing the songs, our listening experiences will be both better and worse than someone coming upon these things fresh. Our memories will fill in some gaps, while simultaneously remembering some things that weren't salvageable.

For what I hope is your listening pleasure, here's another song from the Live Wire catalog. It's called Freedom To Me and I'm the guy responsible for it. I wrote it. Again, sound quality from 30 years ago isn't as good as it would be if recorded last week, but you should have heard it before I worked on it! Be kind. This one was performed at that club, McCarthy's, that I've talked about in the posts about the group. Thus the sound is intimate and separate audience members get picked up on the tape.


Marty "Sucks" Murphy - Lead Vocal, Flute
Ronnie Bower - Backing Vocal, Lead Guitar
Ron Frattasio - Rhythm Guitar
Jimi LaRue (yes, me) - Bass
Steve Giusti - Drums

Since I wrote it, you fans of bass will hear distinct bass on it (the opening and ending are me, with only accompaniment being Ronnie Bower playing harmonics on his guitar, and Steve Giusti with small cymbal flourishes at the end.) It's a softer tune than most of our repertoire - a ballad, really. Here's the lyric:

Freedom (To Me) (LaRue)

Made me
What I am
And what I am is what I wanted to be
So you are freedom to me

Gave me
What I need
And what I need is to have you near to me
So you are freedom to me

(bass solo)

Can see
What you are
And I believe in what you're trying to be
And that is freedom to me

Can be
Something more
And the more you are the more I can be
So you are freedom to me

(guitar solo)

(repeat first verse, etc., then flute solo out to bass ending)


When MY WIFE and I were married, in 1992, I actually wrote out the sheet music to this and had the choir/band play it during the ceremony. Being self-taught, and having worked exclusively in bands that used nothing but head arrangements, it was the first time I had ever written music for someone else to play. I'm still not sure I got it absolutely correct. I ended up showing the leader/organist the basic structure by playing it myself on his keyboard. He took it from there and the ensemble did a fine job with it. There was some slight consternation on his part when we began, as music played at a Catholic wedding ceremony should rightly not be secular music, but I got him to buy into the entirely plausible rationalization that the lyrics referred to God and not to MY (future) WIFE. If you re-read them, you'll see that this could very well be the case, at least for the first two verses, so he suspended his disbelief and the song was used.

Hope you enjoyed it. The birthday party is Saturday. I'll try to get a few photos so you can compare and contrast us, then and now.

Soon, with more better stuff.

[My thanks to buddy Kevin Fitzpatrick for his work restoring the photo seen on this piece. The original was faded as hell, but - with no prodding from me - he took many of the photos I published here previously and did some work on them in Photoshop. He's one of the good ones, for sure.]


Michelle H. said...

The memories that must come flooding back whenever you hear that music played: sights, smells, the audience's reaction. I can only imagine the thrill you must have felt in finding that long-lost recording.

The music is too cool for school!

(Okay, I'll buy into the first two verses as referring to the big man upstairs... upon rereading them from a different angle.)

Your music repertoire is amazing, though. You sing. You write. You play. Now all you need to do is all three while driving a motorcycle over some flaming buses. I can see your name up in lights now... "The Amazing Flaming LaRue."

lime said...

i have no doubt your former bandmates will be delighted with the CDs. what a special thing to do and share with them. i'm sure it was no small amount of work.

love that yo uwere able to convince the church that this qualified as liturgical music. rock on, most righteously!

Anonymous said...

I can clearly hear the influences of Velvet Underground and Jethro Tull in there (and I don't know that I ever would have put those two together in my head if I hadn't heard it) I know it wasn't the bands usual hard driving style, but I like it!

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

How propitious [I love that word] that you have access to the tools necessary to "fix" the time damaged works.
Also, I see absolutely nothing wrong with your music being played at a Catholic wedding. I can remember attending mass at the Newman Center in Palo Alto during the 60s. The limits were really stretched then.

CiCi said...

I think you are having fun with this and rightly so. I played the tune for hubby and he could relate to the good ol' days with the band.

Brian Miller said...

very nice suldog. cool that you can share this with your buddies as well...its definitely liturgical. smiles.

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

I had absolutely nothing to add to this conversation until I saw the verification word is bushleug. I even put it up on my blog right below the header. I will have to change the caption.
Anyway, Suldog, keep it up with the good stuff (music, stories, pictures and sports). Sorry your Sox didn't do better with the Yanks.

Jazz said...

How utterly cool.

The Good Cook said...

Hey, that sounded good. Cool.

Saz said...

a touch of the jethro tull's in that intro JIm!! of course a great bass line there too!!!


saz x

Maggie May said...

Music is always the source of memories. Music and smells bring memories shooting to the surface.
I am glad it was good memories for you.

Nuts in May

Anonymous said...

jim - nice tune, great message, and an awesome bass solo! yak

Hilary said...

Cool.. sweet.. thoughtful... wonderful.

That's so cool that you found that tape. It's sweet that you used this song for your wedding ceremony. It's thoughtful of you to prepare copies for your band mates. And it's wonderful that you're sharing with us.

Have a great time at the party. :)

Land of shimp said...

First of all, your friend did an amazing job brightening up the photo, Jim! I did a double-take when I saw it, great work!

Everyone keeps saying Jethro Tull, but I actually thought of Styx immediately. I fully admit to not being cool at any point in my life, and yes, I listened to Styx, and liked them too. So it's a compliment :-)

You have a wonderful time at your party, and I'm sure everyone will appreciate the CD.

By the way, your flautist was really impressive! Yup, never been cool, never going to be.

Congratulations on convincing the organist to pretend it was possible you were referring to God. Presumably he hit the confessional and it went something like this, "I willing believed deceit, Father, but it was in the name of true love."

Ananda girl said...

I enjoyed that very much. I've said it before and I say it again now... ucky WIFE! I like the bluesy flavor and the Tull tones. I have been a sucker for flutes.
But the soul of it all are the lyrics. You are a true romantic Suldog. I admire that. Thanks for the trip down your time machine.

Chris said...

First of all, I would be remiss if I didn't start this comment by saying, "How 'bout that Curtis Granderson!"

Okay, that's out of the way.

How great it must've been for you to find the "lost sessions" tape of Live Wire. Every so often I break out the old college jazz ensemble albums and listen to how I used to sound. It's weird to realize that I was way better at something 25 years ago than I am now.

Sandra said...

I think it's wonderful that you have recordings of that memorable time in your life, and I enjoyed getting to hear a song you wrote.

This is also one of the times when I'm so glad I read the other comments. I absolutely love Michelle's. It will be hard from now on not to think of you as "The Amazing Flaming LaRue"! :)

Buck said...

Good work on restoring the tune. Like others here, every time I hear flute in a pop/rock tune I think of Ian Anderson. It's amazing how programmed we are, innit? That said, "Freedom (To Me)" has some good hooks in it and is eminently hummable. I'm impressed.

wv: reigaudo. I think that's Latin for "Hey! Look at that!"

Anonymous said...

I love that you found that tape and were able to clean it up for the guys...and how cool to have it played at your wedding. For a rocking dude you really are an old softie.

i beati said...

highly impressed here and that band must have been the ultimate freedom and softball and I
'd say you are a free spirit Jim and it takes another to

Angela Christensen said...

Suldog, I loved reading this, but I have to tell you I had a weird overlapping memory, triggered by your recollection. All those years as a cantor at the Cathedral in St. Augustine (under the previously-discussed strict oversight of a certain Dominican music director) gave me a nose for the secular, as defined by liturgists...I have often tried to articulate the sacred value of music perceived to be "secular" in an effort to get certain music approved...and I agree with Michelle. The Amazing Flaming (Catholic) LaRue. Perfect.
Love, love,
Angie at Eat Here

Lisa Johnson said...

Have a great time at the party! I'm sure everyone will appreciate the CDs! : )

Unspoken said...

What a find! I would love something like this to happen to me. I liked the song.

25BAR said...

must be a gr8 band.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

By now, Jim, you have begun the party! I hope that your trip down memory lane was wonderful! I certainly thoroughly enjoyed this! You guys were terrific musicians...and probably still are! What a wonderful find! I'm so glad I got to hear never cease to amaze me with your talents...Hugs, Janine

Unknown said...

The discs must have been such a fantastic surprise for the guys this past Saturday, how sweet of you to do that! Freedom (to Me) is great, the addition of the flute is a twist I wouldn't have seen coming if you hadn't mentioned it but it was quite a welcome surprise. A little bit of extra flair in a pretty rockin groove. Beautiful lyrics too, perfect for a wedding! So when's the reunion tour?