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Dylan’s Ghost- We Made a Video :)

 

Thank you to my Producer, Jeff Severson, who shot and edited this humble little video. Here’s a You Tube link.   Jeff gets very fancy-pants as the video unfolds.  At the second verse, the production is in all its splendor!   The song is from my album, Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime, available on I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Amazon Music.  And the song is dedicated to my wonderful, deep, beautiful, musical and meditative son, Charlie Garcia. Notes on the writing of the tune can be found here.

 

 

 

Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime- Track 5- Through the Line

February 28, 2016 1 comment

Phone Booths

Through the Line

By Robert Garcia

 

Initially written as a salute to love and the communications devices used to express it, I wrote most of Through the Line almost 30 years ago and it is the happiest song I’ve ever composed.  In tempo and in the basic philosophical optimism, it is a thoroughly feel-good tune.

Producer, Jeff Severson, created a Motown-like instrumentation that adds to the positive energy. Through the Line is quite simply an expression of appreciation to those who love us and stick by us, despite life’s vagaries.

From a lyrical perspective there are two sets of phrases that I was particularly happy with.   There is a totally new 2nd verse that picks up from the theme of the 1st.

Don’t you now that life has a plan for you
Maybe not what you thought you were supposed to do
You won’t be given more than you can handle
Make a wish and light another candle

And the break has a simple set of words that captures what’s been a central philosophical strain that has run through my entire life- basically- life can be arbitrary- and so what?  Deal with it! With happiness and love in your heart.

The way it has unfurled
There is no reason to this world
Just chance and fate and a little bit of luck

Ride with the changes
And just take what life arranges
With love and faith and a little bit of fun

Phone-Movie.jpg

When I first wrote the song in 1987 and made a rudimentary recording of it, I played it for a friend of mine, Dave Arlington, who was, at the time, the morning-drive DJ for what was then WLTT-FM radio (Light Rock- Less Talk) in Washington, D.C.   He liked the tune and thought it was catchy but didn’t quite understand what I meant by “Through the Line.”   What “line?”  I meant the telephone.  And if I could have convinced AT&T to use the song in an ad, I’d still be collecting residuals.

And then the internet came along and “Through the Line” could be anything from Skype, to a land-line to WhatsApp to the Web itself.

Phone Internet

Yup that’s my style- accidentally ahead of the times.

Through the Line
By Robert Garcia

Don’t you know life’s full of surprises
Never turns out the way you surmised it
Villains can turn into allies
You can be at the bottom and still be on the rise

Sure bets can go down the drain
A day full of sunshine can turn into rain
Only sure thing I can depend on- is you baby
You send your love on
Through the Line
Right on time

Don’t you know that life has a plan for you
Maybe not what you thought you were supposed to do
You won’t be given more than you can handle
Make a wish and light another candle

Angels from heaven surround your head
Devils from hell pull you down instead
Only sure thing I can depend on- is you baby
You send your love on
Through the Line
Right on time

The way it has unfurled
There is no reason to this world
Just chance and fate and a little bit of luck

Ride with the changes and just
Take what life arranges
With love and faith and a little bit of fun

One thing I can always depend on- is you baby
You send your love on
Through the Line
Right on time

Don’t you know life’s full of surprises
Never turns out the way you surmised it
Villains can turn into allies
You can be at the bottom and still be on the rise

Sure bets can go down the drain
A day full of sunshine can turn into rain
Only sure thing I can depend on- is you baby
You end your love on
Through the Line
Right on time

By Robert Garcia- Copyright 2015

Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime is available for digital download at I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Amazon Music. Purists who would like a hard copy of the CD can contact me directly at robert.garcia.56@gmail.com and we’ll make arrangements to ship it out to you.

Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime- Track 4- One Sad Sunday

February 24, 2016 1 comment

 

Heart-hearts-26537377-497-367

One Sad Sunday- Robert Garcia, Copyright 2015

 

As that famous existential philosopher, Neil Sadaka, once wrote, “They say that breaking up is hard to do.”  Indeed.

A break-up song!  Oh, the angst!   Oh, the suffering!  Oh, the melodrama!  I was 19 years old when I wrote One Sad Sunday back in 1975.  Who is this guy from 40 years ago?

Pretty much the same guy except I was in the throes of a romantic victim’s complex.   I got it in my head that I would be doomed for my whole entire life when it came to relationships.  It would prove to be a silly notion.  I have actually been quite lucky with love, to tell the truth.  But it made for a dramatic, tragically sad inner narrative to go along with that whole “angry young man” thing that angry young men go through.

I’m not sure I wrote this for one person or about a specific situation as much as I think it was kind of an amalgamation of a bunch of break-ups.  There’s an intimation in the first break of the song (“Traveling around has got you down”) that the life of an itinerant musician was not making the young ladies particularly happy.  I can understand.  Hell, I was never that fond of playing for drunks in bars myself.  Imagine being the girlfriend of the musician who is sitting with the drunks.

By the way, there’s a tell-tale sign of how old this song is in the second line of the first break where there is a reference to “smoky cafes.”   Yeah, people used to smoke in cafes and bars and restaurants.  You didn’t even have to go outside- you just lit up, right then and there, blew smoke all over your food and everything.  This was also known as the Paleolithic Era and after going out, we would pay our tabs and ride our dinosaurs home.

As for One Sad Sunday, Producer, Jeff Severson’s mournful, distant, electric guitars set the mood throughout this break-up ballad.   At the start of the third round of “Rowdy fights, Saturday nights,” Jeff does this syncopated electric guitar thing that’s just really cool.   He is a hep cat, that Jeff.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who say they like One Sad Sunday.  There is a certain honesty and vulnerability to it, I guess.   And the music’s pretty good.  I do this song in Open E tuning which is always fun.

Zoom

My acoustic guitar on this track was not recorded in a studio.  The way Jeff and I worked, I would record to a beat into a ZOOM in my office at home, a microphone-looking device that does a pretty decent job and I’d  e-mail Jeff the digital audio files, then he would do the voodoo he does so by the time I actually was in the studio a few weeks later- all I had to do was put down my guitar and vocals- everything else would already have been completed.   One Sad Sunday was the only song where we used the actual ZOOM recording of my acoustic guitar for the final mix and I think it sounds loose and funky and that’s about right for the tenor of this tune.  The vocals were in-studio.

One Sad Sunday

By Robert Garcia

 

Rowdy fights, Saturday nights
Feeling low on Sundays
Baby baby baby baby baby
You don’t hold me like you used to
I guess we’re through
Nothing much to do
Anymore
Close the door
Forget the past
Move out fast
We’re on our way
On this Sad Sunday

Traveling around has got you down
It’s got your head spinning around
Smoky cafes, clubs and pubs
Were the many ways I let you down

Rowdy fights, Saturday nights
Feeling low on Sundays
Baby baby baby baby baby
You don’t hold me like you used to

Now we’re both blue
That much is true
Anymore
Close the door
Open your heart
Don’t fall apart
We’re on our way
On this Sunday

And as I look into your vacant eyes
I see no lies
Only one
Only one
Sad truth

Rowdy fights, Saturday nights
Feeling low on Sundays
Baby baby baby baby baby
You don’t hold me like you used to

Robert Garcia- Copyright 2015

Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime is available for digital download at I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Amazon Music. Purists who would like a hard copy of the CD can contact me directly at robert.garcia.56@gmail.com and we’ll make arrangements to ship it out to you.

Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime- Track 3- Hold Up

February 20, 2016 Leave a comment

West Bank Robbery.png
Scene from the movie, Dog Day Afternoon

Hold Up– By Robert Garcia, Copyright 2015

 

Hold Up is a pretty old tune, dating back to around 1975 or so.  The Al Pacino movie, Dog Day Afternoon, had come out and I don’t know if I was inspired by it or my concept came coincidentally around the same time the movie was released- but the song is a first-person account from the point of view of a nervous bank robber who is not exactly enamored with his “life of crime.”  In Dog Day Afternoon, a modern day Brooklyn bank robbery perpetrated by inexperienced criminals goes horribly awry.   Hold Up is set in the late 1800’s and the robbery goes better than Pacino’s- but it’s still a pretty stressful deal.

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One way to approach listening to this song is to treat the “Mexico” verses like dream sequences.  There are three of these verses and all of them feature almost a calypso quality, with Producer, Jeff Severson, adding classical guitar and his wife, Sally Swan joining my friend, Ben Mason in creating some smooth, easy, gentle harmonies.  When the song is describing the actual robbery, the music is much edgier- Jeff’s electric guitar doing its best rendition of the British rock band, Free.

The song went through significant changes and is actually a kind of odd-duck in its structure.    I think that’s what makes it interesting- kinda don’t know where it’s going next.  The final Mexico verse was all new and gave our bank robber a romantic motive for his crime and his burning desire to get across the border.

Hold Up begins quite purposely basic with just two acoustic guitars and a light conga-like drum.   On the album it is preceded by the highly produced We Miss You, so the contrast as the album transitions to Hold Up is very cool- a case of “less is more.”   And when the full compliment of bass and drums does kick in about 30 seconds later- it really packs a nice punch and escalates the drama of the lyrical narrative as the bank robbery begins to unfold.   Credit to my buddy, Ben Mason for the idea of letting the start of Hold Up be subtle and understated.

Hold Up

By Robert Garcia

Pulled into town about half past three
We were hungry for silver- we were gonna be free
Had a little whiskey to calm our nerves
Walked right past the Union reserves

Brother Luke turned to me and said “You’re the one”
Said “You’re the one who’s gonna have all the fun”
Tell that teller what you want and make it clear
We’re going to grab that silver and get out of here
Oh yeah

Mexico, oh Mexico
I’m headed down your way
I got pockets full of silver but I got no time
That sun-baked land gonna feel so fine
So fine
So fine
So fine

This hold-up’s taking such a long, long time
My legs are weak and I’m going blind
I can’t shoot straight- I got a worried mind
And I’m oh so tired of this life of crime

Tell that teller what you want and make it clear
We’re going to grab that silver and get out of here
Oh

Mexico, oh Mexico
I’m headed down your way
I got pockets full of silver but I got no time
That sun-baked land gonna feel so fine
So fine
So fine
So fine

Mexico, oh Mexico
There’s a lovely girl there I used to know
Never really wanted to say goodbye
Always really want to give it just another try
So fine
So fine, (bye, bye)
So fine, (bye, bye)

By Robert Garcia, Copyright 2015

Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime is available for digital download at I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Amazon Music. Purists who would like a hard copy of the CD can contact me directly at robert.garcia.56@gmail.com and we’ll make arrangements to ship it out to you.

Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime- Track 2- We Miss You

February 18, 2016 Leave a comment

near-death-experience

We Miss You- Robert Garcia, Copyright 2015

 

Well, one thing is for damn sure. The longer you live the more times you say goodbye. There must be a list of at least a dozen people who I think about regularly who are no longer with us. Like every, single damned day, I think of them. Though years and years in the past in some cases, their passing seems like just yesterday- and I still can’t believe- I am astounded- that they’re no longer here.

Where are they? Where did they go? Wherever they are, do they think of us? Will we see them again? And if it’s true that you die twice, once physically and then again when the last person dies who had memories of you- then, my goodness, how important is it for us to remember them and miss them and keep them in our hearts?

And that’s the meaning of the song titled, We Miss You.

I wrote it a little over 20 years ago after I lost my father, Alvaro. This scratched up old photo is probably the best shot ever taken of the two of us.
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And the photo below is a scan of the two-decades-old, water-stained piece of paper where I first put down the words, about a week after Alvaro had passed, about two years after the shot above.

The lyrics spilled out all at once. I remember the process as an emotionally intense experience. It’s amazing actually, how many of those words are in this final version. But they don’t quite add up to a complete song, so urged on by my Producer, Jeff Severson, I doubled the break in the song and wrote an entirely new final verse.  There’s a thread about new life at the very bottom of the water-stained page that I never followed up on. Which is good, because it kinda sucked.

img001.jpg

 

 

 

We Miss You
By Robert Garcia

These are the times that shake us all
These are the times in the fading light of the fall
When we recall
The spirits of our mothers and fathers
Sons and daughters and sisters and brothers

Sleds and trains and dolls and horses
Ride off in the night like invisible forces

And we miss you- yeah we miss you

These are the times when we breathe deep
These are the times when we’d really rather be asleep
When we keep
The memories of our mothers and fathers
Sons and daughters and sisters and brothers

Christmas trees and candy canes and laughter
Do you think of us in the great hereafter

Yeah we miss you

Shimmering sparkles they play in the ether
Dancing together the light is their keeper
The stars in the sky point the way for the dreamers
And heaven it seems is not only for believers

These are the times that pull us under
These are the times when we hear God’s roaring thunder
And let no man put asunder
The undying love of our mothers and fathers
Sons and daughters and sisters and brothers

Where you’ve gone we cannot follow
Sometimes our prayers they just seem hollow

Because we miss you
Yeah, we miss you

 

Robert Garcia Copyright 2015

 

Musically- this is Jeff’s baby. My unplugged version of this song is slower and sadder and played on one lonely acoustic guitar.

Jeff’s version is crazy good. I can’t even get into the layers and layers of guitar work, key boards, and harmonies that went into this. The guitar lines in this tune are incredibly strong- they make the tune, musically. The build-up to the bridge (Shimmering sparkles)- those electric guitar hammer-ons, I guess you call them, are just perfect. And, yes, those are Beatle-like harmonies in the break. Thank you Ben Mason for your Beatleness! And for your portion of the We Miss You voices.

Easily, the best and most extensively produced song on the album. Jeff once said he wanted the music to do justice to the lyrics. I appreciated the compliment, and, uh, yeah. I’m not used to functioning without “thumbs up” emoticons. Hundreds of ‘em. Thank you, buddy- nice work.

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Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime is available for digital download at I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Amazon Music. Purists who would like a hard copy of the CD can contact me directly at robert.garcia.56@gmail.com and we’ll make arrangements to ship it out to you.

Dylans’s Ghost- Track 1- Songs of a Lifetime

February 16, 2016 5 comments

Album2- R&G

I’m blogging some background on the songs on Dylan’s Ghost.  Here’s the story behind the title tune. The photo above is me and my son, Charlie, performing in Reston, Virginia about six years ago, just a couple of weeks after the song “Dylan’s Ghost” was written.

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The title song of the album is a tribute to my son and a recognition of what I’m sure happens with all parents when they have what I call the “full-circle moment.” That’s when all of a sudden you realize your child is all grown up and some of the things that used to inspire you, now inspire them too.

First of all…here’s Charlie:

Album16-Charlie

This song was written in early 2009 in New York City. I had the great fortune of living in a really nice apartment on the Upper West Side. Here is the approximate location:

W.60th APT.jpg

I woke up one Saturday morning and it was snowing hard. There are few more beautiful views in this world than the Manhattan skyline in a snowfall. From 18 stories up. Just gorgeous.

Anyway, I checked my e-mail, and my then 18-year-old son, Charlie, who was living in Atlanta, had sent me an audio attachment. It was him singing Wagon Wheel– a song started by Bob Dylan and finished up by Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, 40 years later and would become a country hit for Darius Rucker in 2013.

Charlie’s version, the Old Crow Medicine Show edition, was so sweet and sung with such passion. And I’m realizing as I’m hearing this, that my son has discovered Dylan and the whole genre with the “folk” pedigree now known as “Americana.”

So with Charlie’s voice echoing in the room and watching this beautiful snowstorm- a song was born.

Dylan’s Ghost
By Robert Garcia/Copyright 2015

 

It’s snowing sideways but I’m smiling on the inside
And I’ve got a warm heart thinking of you
Who knew?
It was a cold day like this when I brought you home
Wrapped in a blanket and a prayer
A lifetime to share

Now I’m listening to you sing
As the ghost of Dylan rings
From your soul
You make me whole

Someday you’ll know maybe sitting in a falling snow
What’s it’s like to watch something grow
So strong
So true
So you

The Southbound Train pulled into the station
Rocking like a Wagon Wheel
Anyway you feel
And I don’t know about the destination
I’m just along for the ride
Right by your side

Now I’m listening to you sing
As the ghost of Dylan rings
In your soul
You make me whole

Someday you’ll know maybe sitting in a falling snow
What’s it’s like to watch something grow
So strong
So true
So you

Producer, Jeff Severson’s guitar (and Dobro) work on this tune is just spectacular. The mix of the driving finger-picking that animates the song from the start is complimented perfectly by Jeff’s many guitar riffs weaving in and out like magic. It’s a small thing but I love the replication of the sound of a steam engine just as the line “The southbound train” starts the second verse coming out of Jeff’s ridiculously good guitar break.

The phrase “southbound train” has two origins. It’s the name of one of the best tunes Graham Nash ever wrote and it also symbolizes what would soon be Charlie’s trek south from Washington to Atlanta and finally, to Nashville, Tennessee where he currently resides.

You also now know why the train was rocking like a “Wagon Wheel.”

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Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime is available for digital download at I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Amazon Music. Purists who would like a hard copy of the CD can contact me directly at robert.garcia.56@gmail.com and we’ll make arrangements to ship it out to you.

The Making of an Album:  Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime

February 13, 2016 3 comments

dylansghostcvr2.jpg

The title tune in it’s entirety…and more to come in the days ahead..right here at Garcia Media Life!

 

But please buy the record!  Instructions  below…

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The Story Behind the Album

Music has been an important part of my life for a half-century- ever since I first picked up a guitar and my mom helped me figure out the lead line to the Beatle’s Day Tripper- at the age of 8.  But it is not until now, at the age of 59, that I have finally put together an actual record- an album- for the first time.   It’s just six songs.  But I hope folks will understand- a very special six songs, literally spanning one man’s lifetime.

This is ultimately a bid for immortality.  I’ve had a couple of close calls in recent years.  Having survived them, I became determined to create a musical work of some of the best tunes I’ve written- from 40 years ago to a few months ago- for posterity- in the hopes this musical part of my life lives in perpetuity somewhere in the digital cloud, long outliving my stay on this little blue planet.

Music Versus Journalism

I have always had a tortured relationship with music and the concept of being a singer/songwriter.  I have loved it as an art.  When it has devolved into work, like playing for drunks in assorted bars in my 20s, I found it could also be corrosive to the soul.  It’s also an absolutely brutal industry.   It chews people up and spits them out and humbles even the successful as staying at the top is as hard as getting there, and most never get to even a hint of the mountaintop and if they do it can be fleeting and elusive.

So I chose a career in journalism that I have now been engaged in for nearly 40 years.  It has been rewarding and important work.  I have worked for organizations like CBS, CNN, ABC and NPR.  I have seen history up close and personal.  I have worked with remarkable individuals whose courage and grace has helped the citizens of this country stay informed about their world, even at the risk of their very lives.  I made the right choice.

But music has always returned periodically in my life, tugging at my sleeve and reminding me that the art of the original song was always my first love.

It’s one thing to cover popular tunes, but when you write music and lyrics- when it becomes personal and you’re pouring your emotions and musings and thoughts and loves and fears into something to share with an audience- well, that’s art and that’s what I want to share now with my friends, my colleagues, my family and anyone who wants to give a listen.

When you come out with a record, your distributors want to know what kind of music it is.  Turns out after perusing through the various genres, that this is Folk-Folk Rock-Power Pop- Intellectual. But what it really is to your heart and your mind is a collection of songs with meaningful lyrics, music and melody that creates emotion and mood and is, hopefully, inspiring- and a performance and expression that is as honest as possible and executed with as much grace as one can muster.

With a Little Help from My Friends

It takes time to do this right.  Work began on this record in April of 2015.  About six weeks per song.  I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Jeff Severson who produced and arranged it with breathtaking skill and sensitivity.   Our collaboration was smooth and easy.

Jeff is a tremendous musician, a Master guitarist whose skills are in evidence all over this album. He has put out 11 instrumental albums, any one of which will knock your socks off.   He was a driving force behind 4 out of 5 Doctors on the CBS label many moons ago, a power-pop band whose music is still fondly remembered and loved by their many fans.   Last year, Jeff was inducted into the South Dakota Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

But there’s a knack to producing that is also one of Jeff’s strong suits.  It involves getting the most out of the artist.   It involves diplomacy, psychology, perseverance and of course, creativity. And then there’s his arranging skills- a whole other remarkable skill-set.

Turns out I had written a lot of songs that were actually only about 75% complete.  They were all, like, 2 minutes and 15 seconds long.  Though this is a highly artistic project, one does want to provide some semblance of commercial viability.   Jeff is a wonderful songwriter himself and his diagnosis of what each song needed was spot-on.   I wrote new lyrics.   I finished unfinished verses.  I added to breaks.  And it was Jeff who pushed me every step of the way.

Here are the album notes.  The artwork for this album was all done by Jeff’s brother, Scott, who is an old High School friend which is my good fortune, because he’s also one of the most talented graphic artists I have ever known.  Scott’s cover concept of the “just left” Bob Dylan sunglasses and coffee cup against an East Village backdrop is just brilliant for an album called Dylan’s Ghost,  don’t you think?    Please note that in the lower left hand corner of the album notes there is a subtle image of little Gracie,  a cat I rescued 15 years ago that I had to put down at the start of the year.  It was the last photo ever taken of her.  So this album is also a bid for Gracie’s immortality as well as my own 🙂

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Here’s How You Can Hear the Album

Over the next couple of weeks, I am reactivating this blog to share these six songs with you.   I will publish the lyrics, talk about their meaning and some of the textual and musical changes we made along the way.   I intend to embed each of the songs in their entirety into these blog posts so you can hear what it is I’m posting about.   I would still appreciate if you went to places like I-Tunes and CD Baby to plunk down a mere $6 for the whole album so you can hear it in its entirety and so your humble artist can recoup some of his production costs.

Purists who want the CD itself can drop me an e-mail at robert.garcia.56@gmail.com and we’ll arrange to have it shipped to you.

You can purchase a digital download at I-Tunes, CD Baby and Amazon Music.