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Saturday, February 28, 2009

∏ Party + We're Getting the Band Back Together!

I used to work for a guy who'd been in a progressive rock band that was mainly notable for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Pavlov's Dog got a huge advance, if I have the story straight, the biggest advance a debut album had ever gotten at that time for just signing, some $600,000 back in 1974 or so.

And besides being stoned out of their minds and basically a bunch of kids, they had a manager who was a former union organizer who had served time for fraud (and I think may have also been a disbarred attorney). I think Rich said he got $80 a week for awhile, but as far as the big advance went, nobody really knew.

I tracked down the LP Rich played on (under the stage name Sigfried Carver), and they had all the elements of a successful prog rock band. Rich played violin, and I thought, well, Kansas made good money off that sound about five years later. The vocalist sounded a lot like Geddy Lee, if you maybe put Geddy's nuts in a vice or had him breathing helium.

That first album, Pampered Menial was the only one with the full band. The manager had managed to pit one stoned kid against another for personal gain so effectively that by the second (and final) album, Pavlov's Dog was a trio. I've tried a few times over the years to find a CD reissue of the LP I'd borrowed a few years back, but naturally there is none. The band members apparently can't agree on enough to even successfully sew the label for royalties due when the album was released in Australia, outside the terms of their contract, and went platinum there. Getting clean rights for a CD release, you might as well look for an honest politician from Chicago.

Which is not what I started to post about. I went to my friend's pie party with the girls. But I had my guitar in the trunk. My amp, Real Book and whatnot, too. I'm way rusty, maybe getting the axe out on a monthly basis the past couple years. I love to play, but life happens. I feel the worse for it for owning my dream guitar, a handmade archtop built just for me by my Uncle Kenny who has forgotten more about working miracles with wood than I'm likely to know about anything.

Anyway, the pie party is always great. Melissa even made a couple of quiches for anyone who wanted supper, apparently to keep the entrees in line with the theme. I had three kinds of pie in addition to two quiches, all of which were exquisite. Love the shrimp quiche and the Butterfinger pie, particularly.

Anyway, then we hauled equipment to the basement for a good old fashioned jam session. Sort of. I worried about leaving Mo upstairs, though there were plenty of people around who knew her and the worst offenses she was generally committing where to bite pieces off of toys. Well, she ate some crayons but it's not the first time.

We lost our bass player after one and a half tunes because there was a dirty diaper to attend to. And I found out how much I've lost in the way of repertoire.

Never mind the jazz stuff, my band mates didn't know much of that stuff to begin with. Most of what we tried to do was rock & roll, but while I remember the opening riff for a variety of tunes from Smoke on the Water to Crazy Train, I don't think there's a single one I actually remember through. I came close on Purple Haze and Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love.'

For perspective, back in high school when I got into jazz, it was partly because rock & roll had ceased to offer enough challenge. Van Halen released 1984 and two weeks later I had it down, all the tunes including the guitar solos. And it was their magnum opus, by far their most sophisticated album (it still is, IMHO), and I remember thinking, Eddie, I worship you. Is this all there is??

Of course, Eddie was listening to Alan Holdsworth and Holdsworth was listening to jazz. And I met Karl, and Karl was listening to Coltrane, Miles, Wes, etc.

I've always felt like a bit of a poseur as a jazz guitarist because there are elements of the art that I struggle with even when I'm practicing like crazy. Things pros have tried to work with me on and I just don't get it.

But humbling to find that I'm so out of practice I'm a poseur even when we're talking about China Grove.

I even ended up on bass for awhile. Which in some respects was comforting. It's been twenty-one years since I played bass. The simplicity side is appealing and comforting, but the bass is really the engine and time keeper in rock, blues, and jazz, much more than the drums. Everybody always thinks its the drummer who keeps the time, and he has a role but that role is mainly as color. And my sense of time is one of my big weaknesses.

I did have fun, though. And I came home tired in a way I haven't been in awhile. I haven't sucked this hard at a jam session since I was fourteen, but I used muscles both mental and physical that were glad to be sore. As were my fingertips.

Oh, by the way, this 'band' was never together, so there was no getting back together. I just remember when I worked for Nadler, Rich would get at least one call a year from one of his former bandmates in Pavlov's Dog, Mike Saffron usually I think. 'We're getting the band back together,' they'd say. And he'd always respond, 'Not with me, you're not.'


Glenn McMillan - AUSTRALIA said...

I'm a big Pavlov's Dog fan and was fascinated to read that you know the legendary Sigfried Carver (aka) Rich. I was just looking on the internet and was wondering about the title of their recently rereleased 3rd cd "Has Anyone Seen Sigfried?". Well i guess someone has then!!

Glenn - Oz said...

Oh I forgot to mention that the 1st Pavlov's Dog album "Pampered Menial" as well as the 2nd one have always been available readily on cd here in Oz. The whole 4 are now out through Rockville Music in Germany.