What the hell have I been up to, you wonder?
Just kidding, I didn’t expect my recent absence to be noted. But nonetheless, I’ve been involved with three sort of big projects:
1) Survival – a few doctors thought I was out of here earlier this year, after a nasty bit of C. Diff (Clostridioides difficile) picked up in the hospital – one of the possible side effects of cancer. But – I didn’t check out, leading to:
2) Rebuilding the front of the house, a major reconstruction of the front of our property after 50 years. Trees lifted off the house, beehive removed, front deck pulled up, entryway rebuilt, larger part of our pond restored.
3) And then, finally, what this is really about. Two months ago, I got a call from someone who I’d had almost no contact with in 20 years – a surprise because for most of 1999 we worked very closely together.
I’m talking about Susanna Hoffs, notable as the guitarist and singer of the post-punk girl group, the Bangles.
I met Sue playing bass on her second solo release,1998’s Susanna Hoffs, on which I collaborated in writing a song with her and drummer Jim Keltner (that’s how Keltner and I re-met, which is another story). Various pals and members of the Tuesday Night Music Club were on the record, along with a few others and too many producers. A major-label release, it suffered (in my opinion) from a lack of proper guidance and shifting direction, despite having the great Susanna and tons of potential.
We all went our separate ways, the album was handed off to remix, and that was that. We had a year-old baby, Susanna and her recent husband Jay had a year-old baby – you know, life. But I kept hearing her voice in my head over the next couple years – accessible, easy, a natural vocalist. She just opens and out it comes like you’d want a singer to sing. No alcohol, no lots-of-cigarettes to get that smoky voice.
So a couple years later – we’ve recently tried to figure out a timeline, and we figure December of 1998 – I called her, to see what she was up to, to maybe suggest collaborating. I can’t remember having much of an agenda, although I almost certainly envisioned what turned out to take place – me producing her.
She remembers lying in bed with her new baby on the afternoon that I called, but she was game, and (I think she) suggested February. I set up my spare bedroom as a studio: racks of EAR professional equipment, old Lexicon processors, a plethora of old Neumann and AKG mics.
Come February, we began, along with my close friend and brilliant guitarist, Gregg Arreguin. Again, I can’t remember who’s idea it was to begin with covers, but we started with an absolutely gorgeous version of Shawn Colvin’s “I Don’t Know Why.” (I still haven’t heard the original of that.) That came out so good that…well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
We also did a version of Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach’s “God Give Me Strength,” although less successfully.
And then, having taken the measure of each other, we set to work in earnest. And you can guess where this leads.
Part Two: where it leads – to come…
Header image of the Bangles courtesy of Wikipedia/Tabercil.