‘KEEP ON SMILING’
I’ve dedicated the Song of the Month feature during summer 2021 to my band the Fashion Jungle, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the band’s founding. And I’m ending that salute with a song the original FJ learned during that exciting summer of 1981 — but which I wrote eight years earlier. We launched the FJ, in part, to put our original material front and center. But because none of us was too prolific, I revived this old number.
I wrote “Keep on Smiling,” in 1973, simply because I was mad at one of my friends, although I was never so articulate in actual conversations with that person. The lyrics are melodramatic — I was 19 — but the overall sense of angst still works. And the big anthemic ending turned into something of an FJ characteristic. Moreover, the song turned out to be a fine showcase for the Farfisa rock organ, played here by the multitalented Jim Sullivan. Personnel: Doug Hubley, guitar and vocal. Mike Piscopo, backing vocal and bass. Jim Sullivan, backing vocal and organ. Ken Reynolds, drums. Recorded on the Sony TC-540 in summer 1981 in Ben and Hattie Hubley’s basement, near Red’s ice cream stand in South Portland, Maine. (Photo by Jeffery Stanton: The Fashion Jungle at Kayo’s, Portland, Maine, in September or October 1981.)
“Keep on Smiling” copyright © 2010 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Hear it below, buy it on Bandcamp !
The summer of the Fashion Jungle’s 40th anniversary year continues on Songs with the first number I wrote for the band — a hard charger marked by vitriolic lyrics about bedroom dishonesty and by extremely restless chords.
Both characteristics seem more clever than meaningful now, which explains the absence of the piece from the standing playlists on the Songs site. But “Little Cries” is another entry from the original FJ that stayed with the band throughout its eight years.
It was exciting onstage, where the brittle lyrics got some protective cover from decibels and Ken Reynolds’ hot-yet-precise drumming kept hearts and hormones pumping. And that’s the case in this recording from April 1, 1983.
Our second performance with keyboardist Kathren Torraca took place at a Portland, Maine, nightspot called It’s Magic at the corner of Market and Middle streets. (That was the fourth of my five gigs in that building, but the businesses were different nearly every time and so were my bands. Such is Portland nightlife.)
We were a ways down the billing order, which I think was headed by Lou Miami and The Kozmetix — I’d like to think it was them, anyway, because Kozmetix and Fashion, no? The mix comes off the soundboard and is quite good — I wish I knew whom to credit for it. Personnel: Steve Chapman, bass and backing vocal; Doug Hubley, 12-string guitar and vocal; Ken Reynolds, drums and backing vocal; Kathren Torraca, keyboards. (Photos: The Fashion Jungle at the 1984 Maine Festival in Brunswick, Maine. Courtesy of Rhonda Farnham/Sweet Potato magazine)
“Little Cries” copyright © 1981 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Hear it below, buy it on Bandcamp !
‘Nothing to Say’
“Nothing to Say,” but I still need five minutes to say it. At this late date I don’t love the lyrics, which aim to explore both my own insecurities and the New Wave sellout of the go-go ’80s. But the song’s inherent drama holds up, enhanced by the elaborate production of this recording made in January 1984 at the Outlook, in Bethel, Maine. Steve Chapman, bass and backing vocals; DH, guitars and lead vocal; Ken Reynolds, drums and backing vocals; Kathren Torraca, keyboards. Remastered from the commercially released audiocassette Six Songs. (Photo by Gretchen Schaefer, August 1984)
Written and recorded in summer 1981, in the earliest days of the Fashion Jungle, this is yet another interpretation of the old saw, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I started writing the lyrics in an art history class and finished the song over a gin gimlet, sitting at the round red table in my sister’s living room, on a sunny summer evening, with Bob Newhart on the TV, volume muted. “Shortwave” stayed in the repertoire for more than 20 years, from the FJ through the Howling Turbines. But in keeping with this 40th anniversary year of the FJ’s founding, this performance features the original foursome: In addition to yours truly on guitar and vocal, the players are Mike Piscopo on bass, Ken Reynolds on drums and Jim Sullivan on the Farfisa rock organ. “Shortwave Radio” copyright © 1981 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. (Photo by Jeff Stanton: The Fashion Jungle at Kayo’s, September or October 1981)
Written in 2011, this sad tale was the first song I wrote for mandolin, which I’d taken up the year before, and my second composition of the 21st century after a years-long songwriting drought. Perhaps most significantly, it’s my first contribution to country music’s illustrious catalog of songs that are about parts of a room (“Walking the Floor Over You,” “Hello Walls,” etc.). Performed here in October 2011 by Day for Night: Doug Hubley and Gretchen Schaefer. “The Ceiling” copyright © 2012 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.
Ah, Paris in the spring — what better garden to grow romance? But the real-life romance that inspired this song took place, instead, in Vienna and Stockholm during a long-ago July, which may say something about the prevailing mood. In short, “Je t’aime” is an interpretation, somewhat unfair, of an affair I had with a Swedish girl in 1976. I wrote the song in 1982, the early days of the Steve Chapman–era Fashion Jungle; revived it for the Boarders; and retained it for Howling Turbines, heard here rehearsing it on Aug. 8, 1999. Bass, Gretchen Schaefer; drums, Ken Reynolds. ”Je t’aime” copyright © 1983 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.
‘YOU WORE IT WELL’
In one of the less usual concepts for a country song, “You Wore It Well” traces the course of a relationship through things applied to the skin. Written in 2013 in New Hampshire and Colorado, it also stands out in my catalog because it’s taciturn. And no minor chords! Recorded by Doug Hubley and Gretchen Schaefer — aka Day for Night, of Portland, Maine — in a September 2016 rehearsal. “You Wore It Well” copyright © 2014 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.
‘DON’T SELL THE CONDO’
We knew a woman whose charismatic lover was rumored to be a coke dealer, woman beater, demon in the flesh, etc. This is their story as I imagined it. Sometime during the 1987–88 winter I wrote the lyric over gimlets in the lobby of the Eastland Hotel on a snowy afternoon while waiting for my girlfriend, Gretchen Schaefer, to get out of class. One of my favorite songs I’ve written and, I think, one of the Fashion Jungle’s best. Too bad few people ever heard it. I recorded the first part of this track in The Basement in August 2020, and the coda is extracted from a videotape that Gretchen made of the FJ in Steve and Jeri Chapman’s basement early in 1988. Steve, bass; DH, guitar; Ken Reynolds, drums.
Don't Sell The Condo
For years I’d wanted to write a song about three sounds that catch my heart’s notice: a train horn in the distance, pedal steel guitar playing especially by Sneaky Pete Kleinow, and the voice of my wife and musical partner, Gretchen Schaefer. But attempts that hewed close to that literal theme went nowhere — too much plan, not enough song. Finally, in 2015, I found a way to let the words go where they wanted. This song was the result. Gretchen, steel, and train are all still there, but now as prominent elements in a larger tapestry depicting the pleasures and pains of passing time.
Here’s a 2012 recording of a song I wrote in 1978. I premiered it during the talent portion of the holiday party held that year by my employer, the Jordan Marsh department store in South Portland, Maine. I won a poinsettia, but the plant didn’t make it out of the party alive. The angelic choir idea here came from the Mirrors’ short-lived 1980 version of the song.