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September 29, 2009

Remember Bob and Ray? If Bob and Ray had served in the Air Force in Vietnam they might have sounded like this...


(warning- big file- about 18 minutes/12 meg worth)

If you download this file, and you haven't got an overall sense of what was going on in Vietnam, basically it's like this. Bombing missions were flown from airbases or from carriers at sea, supposedly to destroy enemy troops or supply lines. Well, if you are old enough to remember, practically no one really believed that the American forces were "winning" that war. Least of all the men fighting it.

Now, on a strictly nuts and bolts level, America had its war on. Amazingly high-tech airplanes and electronics were deployed against cabbage fields and cargo trucks. Millions of tons of explosives were "delivered". There was really no point- except to keep the war machine greased up and ready, I guess.

To understand the humor in this rather humorless situation, imagine being one of the people who was sucked into this vortex, out of feelings of duty, of patriotism, whatever. You've got your job to do- you'd like to believe that there's a purpose to it. You know that you're killing people, and that you may be killed yourself, but it isn't clear why.

There's a lot of technical lingo in this thing, so here are some clues. It purports to be a recording of the radio communications of Sharkbait 21, flight leader of four F4C fighter/bombers, from what I assume to be the Navy (hence Sharkbait), on just another mission over 'Nam. The flight leader is a bit like the character Major T. J. "King" Kong, played by Slim Pickens in the movie Dr. Strangelove, only without the genuine will to win. His main concern is keeping his valuable airplanes (and personal ass) out of danger. He assumes the lead position due to the fact that the original lead pilot has forgotten his flashlight, and therefore may have been unable to lead the flight home if the mission should somehow last into nighttime.

Another clue- an altitude of 29,000 feet is very high. The normal altitude for an F4 bomb release was about 7,000 feet. And another clue- the command of the flight is handed off from station to station as it progresses- remember, these guys are supposedly covering a lot of miles in the course of this mission. Eventually they get in touch with their forward air command, or FAC, Cubby 64, who is circling over the target in a small prop-driven plane. He is to direct their final approach to the target, in this case, a line of trucks parked under some trees.

Some more clues- when our flight leader refers to his "two", he's talking about the guy sitting behind him in his plane, the navigator. When he refers to Sharkbait 3 (a rather nervous fellow), he's talking to another plane in his group. Peacock seems to be the flight controller on his home carrier, and Hillsborough is an intermediate ground station somewhere along the flightpath.

A hold-down is when the FAC holds down the transmit switch on his radio, which is a way for the flight to find the target area electronically. Their failure to do so is due to the high altitude of the flight. Cubby 64 sees some contrails above him, an indication of how high Sharkbait is flying... Cubby 64 drops a smoke bomb to mark the target, but Sharkbait is above the "cirrus", some very high clouds, and really can't see the signal too well.

The lead pilot drops his bombs some two miles short of the target. Number two does even worse, taking out a FAC (Cubby 61) operating in a different zone alltogether. Sharkbait three sends his rockets off "in the pod", which I take to mean that they were not properly released. Number 4 drops his bombs directly on target, but had forgotten to arm them before the drop...

I don't know who made this recording, but it's very nicely done. Here's a link to a transcript (thanks, Wiley) which is a lot of help sorting this out- Sharkbait21 Transcript.

September 27, 2009

An unexpected find in the box of reel-to-reel tapes I got from my older brother was one with some recordings of conversations in an OC or at a party (NPK, Thailand) during the Vietnam war. Also on this tape are a bunch of songs he collected about the war, home-made for the most part, sung to traditional or pop melodies.

Mostly these songs are put-downs of military stupidity, or tales of narrow escapes, or odes to heroes (and odes to whores), and because they are Air Force, they are full of bravado. Air Force crewmen dealt with long periods of boredom and routine punctuated by moments facing screaming, instant death. They were three-pack-a-day guys.

Looking further into this, there seem to be many fewer songs out there written about or performed by grunts. No time! Six Clicks by Chuck Rosenberg is about the best I could find, but there's a lot of material in the Library of Congress that isn't readily available. For instance, a collection of 51 songs, recorded between 1965 and 1967 at the Saigon home of General Edward Lansdale, was sent to president Johnson and members of his cabinet (presumably including McNamera) "to impart a greater understanding of the war". Yeah, good luck with that.

What does this mean? Not much, except that it wasn't all The Ballad of the Green Beret or Sky Pilot. In fact, these guys referred to themselves as Yankee Sky Pirates, which may have displayed a greater understanding of the irony of their situation than we anti-war folks at home suspected.

Here's a little blast from the past... the first part of a 20 minute sequence of recordings of a bunch of drunken Yankee Sky Pirates.

War is Shit Hot!

September 25, 2009

hard at work

This is what it's like here in the studio...

September 22, 2009


The band without a name so far.

Ya know, they wanted Big Star. Well, I went for it tonight. The thing about that Big Star is, it was pretty damn intense for its time. They had big old multitrack tape machines that had a certain sound, and big old recording consoles that had a certain sound, and lots of weird outboard gear and amps and mics... well I suppose it would be possible to recreate the sound of that era if you were Todd the Runt.

But I ain't him. I might be able to get some of the feel of that era...

Sponsors, be warned...

September 20, 2009


Dave Secunda, the funky snake foot himself, was in the studio today, lighting up tracks for the Tom & Joe project, on the song The Bay Song. Here we see him playing his part in the drum annex off the main room at the studio.

I've got the mics circled and labeled here- this is one of the few chances I've had to record real drums in a while, and I'm using what's actually known as the Glyn Johns technique, or really, a modified Glyn Johns. I got this placement from an article by Chris Stamey in the magazine Tape Op, #66. Basically, as you can see, these mics are far away from the drums (other than the snare mic under the snare, and an AKG D 12E which is stuck in front of the kick drum. That's a simple, 4 mic setup, and it sounds really good. They say a lot of classic rock drums were recorded like this, and we are going for that sound here.

(this is really a terrible angle but the drum annex is a little bit small... both those mics are 5' from the center of the snare drum. The Solaris is almost directly over Dave's head, and the AT is lower and back aways to his right.)

September 19, 2009

I found a big old box of tapes that my bro gave me a couple years ago- reel to reel tapes, which I can play now, having repaired the Teac A-4010. This big old box of tapes goes back a ways- like, to the early 1970s. I saw each tape labeled with a number- but there was no index that I could find. Great, I thought- a big old box of unknown music to wade through.

So I pulled one reel out and then I noticed that it had some writing on the inside. This one started out "Cahoots". Well, how in the world did my brother get a recording of SanSoucie's band from Germany?

Turns out it was The Band's album Cahoots, not the band Cahoots. I never knew my brother had anything by The Band. He had the White Album and some other interesting stuff, like Nilson's The Point (which I am still looking for), but I didn't know he had anything by The Band. So I'm transferring Cahoots to my computer right now. He recorded this from somebody's LP record, onto tape, and here I am, 38 years later, transferring it to mp3. Despite the tape noise (and some crunchiness in the playback circuit in the left channel, which sounds like a transistor failing) it sounds good!

Cahoots is not a great Band album. The songs, mainly by Robertson, are mainly weak. But what it is, is that the sounds and the playing on it are great. And I believe that the engineer on this record, Mark Harmon, is still working- I wonder if he remembers making this record? I'd like to know how the piano was recorded for Where Do We Go From Here? It is huge. I must try to get ahold of Mr. Harmon and ask him if he remembers...

(on this same reel is Mud Slide Slim, Steppenwolf, the Moody Blues, and Bloodrock. "I remember... we were flying low- and hit something in the air...")

September 17, 2009

ass crack

Mug Norge

What is this? Besides being the pattern made by light reflected inside a mug or other round container... Geometrically, it's a cardioid, or heart-shape, I think, but I haven't been able to find this phenomena described anywhere on the net so far. Maybe it's one of those things that is so trivial that no one notices or mentions it. Hereby noticed, and mentioned. Wandering explorer of life's trivia I am, I hereby name it- mug norge.

While searching for some reference to this phenomena out there, I came across this guy's website. My videographer neighbor Sarah might be interested in taking his course in film sound- a topic he says is mostly neglected in film studies, overshadowed by the glamorous topics of photography and directing. However, it looks like he's done OK for himself, if you happen to like travel and dealing with interesting people and such...


Found it! Ya just gotta enter the right search terms, in this case, "optics" and "cardioid". The real name for the mug norge is a caustic, or perhaps a nephroid... depends on the direction of the light rays. I'm glad to know that someone has mapped this territory...

September 16, 2009


"When Mr. Stevenson was eight years old, he asked another little boy if he would like a Hertz donut."

September 13, 2009

There's a new featured song this evening. It's good ol' Dr Mo and his sideman Prof Pooleside playing a version of Candyman that drifted in out of the aether...

September 10, 2009

Sporting Hill Ramblers logo

September 08, 2009

Radical Jewelry Makeover

I remixed the soundtrack for a video for the Ethical Metalsmiths' Radical Jewelery Makeover project last night. I think the Ethical Metalsmiths is a good name for a band, but really they're a bunch of people who are interested in reducing the toxic load on the planet by returning old unwanted jewelry to the value stream.

Dana and Sarah have a blog!

September 05, 2009

Old Man Weldon's place

This had the potential to be the next Steam Powered. Looks great, doesn't it? It's a 46' by 28' building, divided up somewhat into four rooms, with a bathroom and heat (sort of). Unfortunately, the house that goes with it is tiny, so I don't think we'll be bidding...

One of my favorite movies was on last night- The Time Machine. When I was a kid I was fascinated with the speeded-up sequences depicting time travel. I'd fall asleep when he got to the land of Eloi and Morlocks, but I loved how the guy got covered up with lava and then traveled forward through time until it eroded away.

Now, travel back in time, to the Steam Powered website as it was in August, 2000.

I was looking to see just how long I've had a website running, and found these pages on the Wayback Machine. I had to polish them up a bit, fix some links, (and you'll find that some are still broken), but it was worth it because I found a song that Riley had played lead on that I had completely forgotten about- The Precious Thing. Sponsors? You know where to find it!

And speaking of sponsors... I also found this interesting article about some people's experiences with donationware, which is similar to what I'm attempting to do here. They offer some useful suggestions in that article, the main one being that soliciting for donations is as much a part of the job as actually doing the work (be that recording music or coding software). Yes, it's easier to go to work for someone else, and it would be easier to charge people to record here, but I don't like the tradeoffs. So I'll be spending more time reminding you about the wonderful music you'll help make possible with your generous contributions.

Just click on that PayPal button over to the right... go ahead, you'll get access to some great music!

September 03, 2009

Tom and Joe sing

There was music in the air tonight. Joe tracked a bass line for The Bay Song, and although Tom thought he'd have the night off, he got roped into singing some harmonies.

September 02, 2009

I've got that old September feeling again... must be these cold mornings, and the kids waitin' for the school busses.

If you sponsors check your catalogue page, you'll find a new Robert Bobby song that I re-discovered on one of the hard drives for my recorder that I had to install to work on the new Tom and Joe stuff. I added some accordion and tamborine and slide guitar to it last night, mixed it up for you. Sweet Jesus. One of Mr. B's finer efforts, I think.

Tom and Joe are back over tomorrow to continue work on their song, The Bay Song. Tonight I'm off for another rehearsal for the half-way-to-st-paddies-day gig with the Sporting Hill Ramblers.

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The Stable Jammers featuring the Honeycut Brothers
Nine Pound Hammer

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Repairing a Kurzweil piano key.

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the End of an Era.


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