Mick da Slick: Or Vanities From My Past

JayTee Mick Himself — Mar 18 2007 22:37

Happening across an old ego poster, a montage from my earliest of twenties, prompted this nostalgic, if not otherwise unnnecessary, journey into life before parenthood, before marriage, before much sacrifice and enlightenment.

Mick at window

A photo my sister took of me before I began to slowly balloon into the future. Two or three pounds a year over a few decades can really add up.

For some time I pictured myself going into the music business, first as a songwriter, then as a producer/engineer. The closer I got (which never was very) the less enamored I became of the industry. Still, it can be the stuff in which dreams enroll and linger.

I think I penned my first full-length ditty at 14, not quite as brilliant a piece as Janis Ian’s work of the same maturity and vintage, "Society’s Child." I think mine was called "Love Me Now (And Don’t Get Rid O’ Yourself)." No, not even in the same league, although it was written spontaneously, at the prompting of the "Record" button.

During high school, I had a classmate or two join me in the family basement and accompany me on some of my less-noteworthy originals ("Kill It Before It Dies" and "Don’t Let It Pass Away" come immediately to mind). Over the years, I had my cousin, a bass player, also join me; a next door neighbor (the head of the And Band), and eventually even my TM instructor, who also wrote songs. Using a Teac® 2340 multitrack and a Tascam 3 board, along with the piano my mom used for teaching, I produced some of his tunes in exchange for him helping record a couple of mine.

Yet, undoubtedly, my most aching and real compositions came during and shortly after my tenure with that inevitable part in a young man’s life: his first serious girlfriend. It didn’t hurt, I suppose, that she also had similar dreams. She was a better keyboardist than I, and she also wrote songs. Gentle but slightly haunting melodies with lyrics that revealed how lost and disillusioned she truly was. Naive as I was, I entertained notions of marrying her someday, despite her assurances that she feared the institution of marriage altogether and even tended to misplace any durable notions of fidelity when it counted the most.

I guess it was only appropriate that, shortly before we broke up after little more than a year of dating, we finally collaborated on a song (she wrote the melody and I penned the lyrics), called "Since Love Has Left Me Again." We didn’t last long enough to record a finished set of tracks, just a rough piano track which helped me edit the meter of my wordsmithing as needed.

Over-Used and Joyful. A couple years after that, some material finally ended up on vinyl (yes, well before CDs and other digital forms of capturing audio).

Cool and terse?I remember producing the first solo single for Mark Fredrick a/k/a Mark Frederick before he formed The And and an almost deadly ulcer soon thereafter. Back in our basement, still on the 2340 (I don't think I moved to the better known 3340 deck until almost a year later), he and Dave Fleer recorded "Over-Used" as his flip side cut, "This Song of Love 'n' Me." I recall adding a lame organ track to the former and totally rearranging the latter for him, as well as singing the falsetto. That became memorable soon thereafter, as back-to-back bouts with laryngitis pretty much precluded my hopes of ever imitating Brian Wilson’s high-end tenor again.

Soon thereafter, I took an altar call at a Lowell Lundstrom rally that two friends dragged me to and began my journey into Christendom. This led me to write a spiritual song to perform at church, called "You In My Life." I remember writing the back-up vocal arrangment less than two hours before the three girls arrived, whom I recruited to sing the backup choruses. The sessions turned out perhaps more successfully than anything I recorded previous or since. It was well enough received that I ended up producing an album (Make A Joyful Noise) for the church I played it for. It really was an exciting time.

Then, curiously enough, I got interested in foreign-car repair (followed a decade later by digital design and computer geekdom) and, in surprisingly short order, I had virtually abandoned all vestiges of my musical dream.

It did not help, I suppose, that the Pepperhead sessions near the end of that decade helped me see some hints of the drugs, disease and death that accompanied too much of the recording industry. Yet, all I really saw was a glimpse. But the dream that held me for close to a decade gradually lost its glimmer.

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