Transition

From the Alleged Artist:

After “End of the Line” in early 1984, Velvet Cockroach began exploring all kinds of different ways to improve its sound, probably devoting more effort to that than to the actual music itself. I was able to crank out over a hundred songs over the course of just a few years, overwhelmingly with silly and uncomplicated lyrics. In the summer of 1986, I generated four albums in four months. This should give you some idea how saturated my social calendar was. While some of my friends were undoubtedly experimenting with mind-altering substances, I was experimenting with different keyboards, different boom boxes for bouncing tracks, different microphones and contraptions for creating the illusion of reverb, and eventually even a couple of dedicated drum machines. There was a lot more failure than success in finding a sound I liked. Along the way, my life changed irreversibly in early 1987. My father passed away far too young, leaving my mom and me reeling for quite some time. I graduated high school that spring, and got to play a song I wrote for my graduating class at the rehearsal. One of my teachers, Sharon Babb, had a truck with two pianos rolled onto the football field so my friend Tony and I could play it. As one classmate noted, “don’t quit your day job.”

As I restarted life a bit with college, living close enough that I could stay at home with mom for a few more years, I began to lean on music more than ever as an emotional release, and in so doing realized I wanted to get a bit more serious than Velvet Cockroach had been to that point. I even decided for a short while to just do instrumental work, so I put together an album called “Beyond Words”, under the new name of “Tastiera”. What is “Tastiera”? I had a little music dictionary, which I believe my piano teacher had originally given me, and one day I fumbled across a page that told me “tastiera” is Italian for “keyboard”. Coincidentally, in the summer of 1987, I had a job at an IBM warehouse processing returns, and sure enough the boxes with keyboards in them had the word in several languages, “tastiera” included. The little dictionary was right! I really liked the way “Beyond Words” turned out, but somehow I managed to lose the original tape, which I regret to this day. I did remember enough from a few of the songs that they became the basis for future Tastiera songs many years later, and in fact one of those is on “Origin Story Volume 2”.

In the fall of 1987, I switched back to Velvet Cockroach, and generated three more albums plus the first half of “A Velvet Cockroach Christmas”. Earlier that year, I had used my savings to buy a Roland TR-505 drum machine, which would remain through the rest of the songs you’ll hear on “Origin Story Volume 1”. Couple that with a Yamaha keyboard I borrowed from my friend Matt, and a really cool effects box I borrowed from my friend Eric, and I went to town on the new experimentation. The pinnacle all of that is embodied in the last non-holiday-related Velvet Cockroach album, “Is Anyone Listening?”, from the spring of 1988. “Echo of the Rockies” was the lead track:

Echo of the Rockies, originally recorded in early 1988, remastered in 2024.

There is way too much delay on the vocals, but somehow it fits with the delay on some of the instrumentation, the completely out-of-place sitar, and the overly punchy drums. There are two drawn-out vocal notes where I cranked the delay to maximum during the note, e.g., “don’t cry” before the final chorus sequence. This was a stretch of albums where I was woefully limited on the microphones and effects I could afford, so the vocals had a really muffled feel to them overall. I tried using the tools I talked about in the last post to isolate and improve the EQ on the vocals, but it just introduced too many artifacts, probably due in large part to my original overuse of the delay effect. So other than Logic’s Mastering Assistant/EQ and Audacity compression, you’re hearing something pretty close to the original on this one.

A toast, to Velvet Cockroach. <clink!>

LYRICS

A mile high in the angel white snow, there’s place where all the fresh winds blow
And a deep green tree seems out of place, and the faded sunlight brushes your face
And the people go on living like there’s nothing wrong, and they laugh and cry all day long

And here I am in my sanctuary, treating myself like I’m in solitary
And the words and the music won’t come to me – I look out my window, do you know what I see
I see all of the beauty in all of the world, shrouded in white like a beautiful girl

And I see you, but I can’t hear you
‘Cause I’m lost in the clouds around that mountaintop

Oh, listen to the angels singing – listen to the falling snow
And when I close my eyes, I listen even closer ’til I know
It’s the silent singing of all the beauty in the world

And you can love me, you can leave me alone, never call me up on the telephone
And you can forget me and take a piece of my heart, shatter my dreams, tear me apart
And then I’ll crawl away to the top of that peak, and I’ll listen

And do you know what I hear – I hear a voice telling me, don’t cry – don’t cry

Oh, listen to the angels singing – listen to my heart
And when you close your eyes, you’ll know it’s not so far to heaven
No, we’re gonna touch the sky – listen to my heart
And when you close your eyes, we’ll never be apart

But I think I’m gonna go there with or without you
Oh yeah, well, baby make up your mind
‘Cause I wanna hear the echo of the Rockies

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