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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Week 3 – Halfway Home

Halfway Home - Mojave
Welcome back to Week 3 of the “hey, check out the new music” blog marathon! This week, it’s
Halfway Home, the third song from Radio Nowhere’s debut EP, Days Between Stations.
[audio:halfwayhome.mp3]
One particularly quotable friend of mine thinks this song “sounds like Elton John on a cough syrup bender”. I’m not sure about that, but you can click on that blue play button there to see for yourself…

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Catherine Wheel – Notes

Catherine Wheel
Here’s Catherine Wheel one more time to round out the week:

[audio:catherinewheel.mp3]

If you want to know a little bit about where this song came from, check this out (SB – this is for you):

Catherine Wheel was written on a late, lamented Baby Taylor acoustic, which is a guitar built for the little people that has a very distinctive sound. Not the best for jam sessions or singalongs, but excellent for recording. Mine traveled to multiple continents and endured drenchings with the indigenous alcohol of several different countries before being flattened in a tragic rafting accident involving naked plus-sized graphic designers (all true!).
However, the instrument that was really responsible for this song is the Rhodes electric piano. Catherine Wheel was just a song snippet that I had banging around for years until I came up with a basic but propulsive Rhodes riff, which led directly to the “roll on, sister roll on” section of the chorus, which unlocked the whole song.
Of course, that riff didn’t even make the final recording. Songwriters are ruthless.
So are engineers. At one point in this song’s development, I took it to a studio run by a friend of a friend in Manhattan, near Union Square, intending to get some advice and maybe even a final mix out of the session. The mix engineer got about half an hour into cleaning up all my archetypal home recordist mistakes – muddy low end, clicks and pops, ham-handed bass edits – stopped the playback, and in his inimitably sensitive and encouraging way said, “This sucks. Go home and fix it.” Words to grow on.

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Catherine Wheel

Catherine Wheel
Wednesday is story day – click to hear the music…

[audio:catherinewheel.mp3]

And here’s the story behind the song:
In 1993, I was a cub reporter for a magazine called Guitar Player. No prizes for guessing what the mag was about. In many ways, it was a dream job – I got paid to work in an office full of musicians, listen to crusty old backstage war stories from older writers during long, not-fully-sober lunches, and meet the occasional shredder who wandered into our thoroughly un-rock’n’roll cube farm of an office.
About 3 months after I started working there, I talked the editors into running an interview of Neil Finn. Conducted by, omg, me! I was very excited, especially when Neil’s Capitol Records publicist and I hatched a plan for Neil to call me (me!) direct from his house (him!) in the middle of the night, PST, from his house in New Zealand.
When the appointed hour arrived, I was keyed up like a ritalin-addled wolverine, determined to get my first-ever interview off to a good start. I am afraid I did indeed begin by saying how huge a fan I was, and then let slip that I had listened to the new album 37 times (all true). Neil said “whoa”. Ecstasy.
The rest of the interview is lost to history, though I do have a clear memory of Mr. Finn’s answer to my question regarding the source of his inspiration (“Drugs, mostly.”)
Anyway, this is all an extremely long-winded way of explaining that Catherine Wheels – plural – is a great song from the Crowded House album I was interviewing him about, and it inspired me to hit the dictionary (no Internet back then, boyz’n’girlz) to find out what Catherine Wheels were, viz:
Catherine Wheel: a spiked wheel symbolizing the instrument of torture involved in the martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (died ad 1307).
Zow! What a great band name! (Taken.)
Okay, song title then!
Ten years later, at an Arroyo Seco campfire during a solo roadtrip to Mission San Antonio, the other shoe finally dropped. I was aimlessly strumming chords while trying to guess the species belonging to the eyes in the bushes beyond the fire when the words “my world turns on Catherine Wheels / whenever you’re around” came out of my mouth (with a melody utterly unrelated to the one that finally made the record).
Two days later, safely ensconced within Radio Nowhere HQ, I played around with the song for seven hours or so on the guitar, getting nowhere. So I burned it.
Then I switched to Rhodes electric piano, played for about 5 minutes…and the entire riff, melody and arrangement for the chorus came out. Funny how often it works that way.

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Catherine Wheel – Lyrics

Catherine Wheel
Here’s the song:

[audio:catherinewheel.mp3]

Annnnd, here are the lyrics – instant sing-along! (You’ll have to imagine the bouncing ball yourself…)

Backseat driver with something to prove
she was runnin some daytime night moves
she said to leave the radio on
rolled out for a cigarette
don’t you stay too long/gonna play our song
but you know that song never came on
and I don’t think I’ll make it to the next turn of the screw
’cause the only thing that keeps me here is you
so roll on/sister roll on
hold on to the wheel
roll away forever/roll away from what you feel
take the car ’cause you come this far
who am I to keep you down?
’cause my world turns on Catherine Wheels
whenever you’re around
well I guess we bought what they sold us
believed in what they told us
that we’d be safe here on this holy ground
well I guess ain’t no one to blame
stood and watched it go up in flames
couldn’t even feel it burning down
and every night I have this dream where I’m sinking like a stone
just praying I’ll be waking up alone
so roll on/sister roll on
hold on to the wheel
roll away forever/roll away from what you feel
take the car ’cause you come this far
who am I to keep you down?
’cause my world turns on Catherine Wheels
whenever you’re around
who am I to keep you?
I just tried to reach you
with you it’s always on with the show
so I’m letting you go
whenever you want to roll

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: Week 2 – Catherine Wheel

Catherine Wheel
Hey, welcome back to Radio Nowhere HQ! Today I’m letting the second song from the new EP out of the cage.
Click the big play button down there to the left to hear Catherine Wheel, the “loud guitar song” from Days Between Stations.
[audio:catherinewheel.mp3]

Cruise around and check out the rest of the site. You might want to:

  • listen to/download/buy music
  • read lyrics and stories about all the songs on the EP (as well as several other tunes)
  • read and comment on this blog to join the conversation about these songs, other music, and related issues

You can also subscribe to the Radio Nowhere email list or rss feed to get automatic notification about new music, live shows, etc.
Thanks for coming by – check back tomorrow for song lyrics, and to find out exactly what a Catherine Wheel is!

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– 30 Days of Nowhere:London Calling

London Phone Booth close-up by mezzoblue - click for flickr page!
Excellent week, everybody – thanks for making it so much fun! What a great kickoff for the EP launch (which is what “30 Days of Nowhere” refers to, if you were wondering).
Next week we’ll be doing “5 Days of Catherine Wheel” and finding out what loud Marshall amps and medieval torture devices have in common…answer on Monday!
Here’s this week’s song, London Calling, one more time for your weekend:
[audio:londoncalling.mp3]
(And if you missed any of the lyrics, song stories or other notes posted this week, click here for the full rundown.)

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: London Calling – Notes

London Phone Booth close-up by mezzoblue - click for flickr page!
Click to hear the song:
[audio:londoncalling.mp3]
Thursday is geek day! If you want to know exactly how London Calling was gently coaxed out of my acoustic guitar to its glorious many-instrumented, multitracked, shiny pop destiny, the next nine paragraphs are for you.

Like most of the rest of the songs from the Days Between Stations EP, London Calling is really a one man band production – tracked and mixed in my modestly-appointed home studio.
Upside: you can work on music whenever you want! At midnight, even!
Downside: ability to converse with other humans slowly deteriorates.
Anyway, here’s the gear/methodology breakdown:
I have a dual 2.0Ghz G5 Mac, running LogicPro 8.1, which I use for all my recording. Everything on the track which actually went through the air before heading into the Dantean digital vortex of the computer (vocals, acoustic guitars) was tracked with a Rode NT-1 mic through a Presonus Eureka channel strip, with a Presonus Firebox handling the A/D conversion.
Electric guitars (1987 Fender Strat Plus) and bass (2005 OLP Music Man knockoff) were recorded direct, going through the Eureka to warm them up a bit (it actually makes a very nice direct box). Once inside the computer, I used Logic’s Guitar Amp Pro and Bass Amp amp simulators.
All of the keyboard parts were done with Logic’s included virtual keyboards, except for the piano, which I got from Garritan’s Personal Orchestra plugin – great piano! The drums were supplied by FXpansion’s BFD, which I really cannot say enough good things about.
Finally, the song was mixed entirely in the box, using Logic’s plugins when unavoidable, and a bunch of 3rd party stuff when available. These included:
– Universal Audio’s Pultec, LA-2A, Plate 140, and Fairchild emulations
– PSP Audio’s Vintage Warmer and Nitro (crazy monster plugin!)
If you made it this far, congratulations! You’re a production geek! But you probably already knew that. If you have any other questions about how this song was put together, email me.

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– 30 Days of Nowhere: London Calling – Lyrics

London Phone Booth close-up by mezzoblue - click for flickr page!
Here’s the song:
[audio:londoncalling.mp3]
Annnnd, here are the lyrics – instant sing-along! (You’ll have to imagine the bouncing ball yourself…)

I been waiting in the airport bar for hours
I been wondering if they’re gonna make me drink all day
Last call calling on a non-stop back to the heartland
Calling on your getaway
Every day I’m trying to slide by on kodachrome kisses and headlines
Did I tell you that I wish you were here?
invisible man, catch me stumbling out of the underground
I just want to disappear
London is calling/everybody cut & run
come see what drink and the devil have done
somebody’s falling/did they make you give up your gun?
and I might not reach you in time
midnight rider on the Jubilee down to the high street
rule brittannia/show you how to rise and fall
and I remember the 4th of July up on Hampstead Heath alone
ain’t no rocket’s red glare/don’t you know that nobody cares about
another lost ugly American in this town
London is calling/everybody cut & run
come see what drink and the devil have done
somebody’s falling/did they make you give up your gun?
and I might not reach you in time
and from the corner of the Marble Arch back home to your rolling fields
a soapbox preacher is reaching out
and you’ve been lonely and you’ve been lost/I know it’s true
but every american girl thinks she’s run out of time
London is calling/everybody cut & run
come see what drink and the devil have done
somebody’s falling/did they make you give up your gun?
and I might not reach you in time

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-30 Days of Nowhere: London Calling – Story

London Phone Booth close-up by mezzoblue - click for flickr page!
Click to hear the song:
[audio:londoncalling.mp3]
Here’s the story behind the music:

“London Calling”, like a lot of my songs, started from personal experience and then spun off into something else (I guess most creative experiences are probably a little like that). A few years ago, I went to visit a friend of mine who was living in San Sebastian, Spain – the Basque Riviera. I decided to take the scenic route, which included 3 days in New York City and a week in London and Paris before showing up in Northern Spain.
I was really impressed by all of these places, but the time I spent in London was far and away the most inspirational, from a songwriting point of view (I actually got several songs out of this trip, some of which showed up on my first album, “Interstate Medicine”). I didn’t know anyone there, so I basically spent all my time just walking around and actually seeing all these celebrated landmarks, neighborhoods and locations – Oxford High Street, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, etc. – which I knew from reading about English history.
Or from listening to rock’n’roll. I was hoofing it through the London of the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, Mark Knopfler, Leonard Cohen and a zillion others, and it was great!
It was also pretty lonely – did I mention that it was a solo trip? With no one to talk to, and with all this amazing sensory input flooding in, the ideas came pretty quickly when I hit the pubs at the end of the day with my notebook, especially on the afternoon of July 4th, towards the end of my trip.
For some reason, the Brits aren’t too excited about celebrating Independence Day – who knew? – and the fact that I couldn’t find anyone to eat watermelon and light off M-80’s with really brought me down. Plus it was foggy. And rainy. I wrote the second verse of this song right then and there, drinking warm Boddington’s and looking out the window at Hampstead Heath. Then I caught a plane and got the hell out of there.

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30 Days of Nowhere: Week 1 – London Calling

London Phone Booth close-up by mezzoblue - click for flickr page!Welcome to the secret underground lair of Radio Nowhere, a rock/pop band from Oakland, California!
The band (which is fronted by singer/songwriter/guy-who-writes-the-blog Mike Baker, formerly of Slim) is releasing its debut EP, Days Between Stations, right here on this blog, starting…now!
Here’s the first single, London Calling.

[audio:londoncalling.mp3]
Click the big play button to listen.
Cruise around and check out the rest of the site. You might want to:

  • listen to/download/buy music
  • read lyrics and stories about all the songs on the EP (as well as several other tunes)
  • read and comment on this blog to join the conversation about these songs, other music, related issues, and the occasional totally irrelevant but juicy news item

You can also subscribe to the Radio Nowhere email list or rss feed to get automatic notification about new music, live shows, etc.
Thanks for coming by – check back tomorrow for song lyrics, and please feel free to leave a comment, or shoot me an email if you’ve got something to say!