MUSIC FOR AUGUST 2022

‘OH, WHAT A FEELING’

The song dates from 1974, one of my most prolific years. There’s nothing like being unemployed and sponging off your parents to free up time for songwriting.

Forty-eight years later, though, “Oh, What A Feeling” is the sole keeper. Though I was 20 and this has a melodrama suitable to that time of life, it still holds up (so say I, anyway).

I made the 1974 recording in the upstairs hall of the family home, in South Portland, Maine, because it had a nice little natural reverb. But I made this recording in 1978 to submit to a songwriting contest held by WBLM-FM, which at the time still embraced the free-form college-radio aesthetic.

A difference in my songwriting between then and now is that I was much less suspicious of my musical ideas — thinking of possible plagiarism, for example. I could use what came along without needing to see ID and perform background checks. Ignorance isn’t good but it’s not all bad, either. (That being said, “Oh, What A Feeling” is not to be confused with the Everly Brothers song of the same title!)

Hear “Oh, What A Feeling” below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (“Oh, What A Feeling” copyright © 2010 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Banner photo by Canon self-timer.)

Doug with the brand-new Fender Telecaster in 1976. Later I had a black pickguard made for it. Way cool! (Hubley Family photo)

 

 

MUSIC FOR JUNE 2022

‘END OF THE AFFAIR’

A year ago, in summer 2021, I dedicated four successive Songs of the Month! to the 40th anniversary of my band the Fashion Jungle, which spent some time in the spotlight in Greater Portland, Maine, during the 1980s.

A 41st anniversary doesn’t have quite the cachet of a 40th, but I’ll nevertheless devote another Song of the Month! for June — the month in 1981 that the FJ was founded — to the band.

And in fact “End of the Affair” was written that year, but in September, over Labor Day weekend in an inn in Georgetown, Maine. Another of the angst-ridden tales of love gone wrong that I can’t seem to help writing, the song draws on the emotions of a breakup the year prior. But the lyrics are more interesting than the real thing. If you’re going to dwell on it, why not snazz it up?

The original FJ, which parted ways about a month after I finished “End of the Affair” (now that’s some persuasive songwriting!) learned but never recorded the song. Instead, from the commercially released audiocassette Six Songs, this recording was made in January 1984 by the best-known FJ lineup: bassist Steve Chapman, drummer Ken Reynolds, keyboardist Kathren Torraca, and me on guitar and vocal. (Hear a live version at Geno’s rock club in Portland by the same personnel. Always a passionate number, “End of the Affair” was particularly poignant for me during that October 1984 show, which I wrongly figured was the FJ’s last hurrah.)

And yes, this composition shares a title with Graham Greene’s novel published 30 years earlier, which I’d read during a 1970s Greene binge that made a literary impression of singular depth on me.

Hear “End of the Affair” below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (“End of the Affair” copyright © 1984 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Banner photo by Jeffery Stanton: the Fashion Jungle at the Maine Festival, August 1984. From left: Steve Chapman, Doug Hubley, Kathren Torraca, Ken Reynolds)

 

 

MUSIC FOR JULY 2022

‘LAST CALL WALTZ’

Here’s a plain country song for a sultry summer night. It’s also a nod to an old country-music tradition, as exemplified by “Tennessee Waltz” and “New Partner Waltz”: the waltz of romantic betrayal. This time around, though, the situation is experienced not by the betrayed, but by the betrayers, who are suddenly facing both closing time and a big decision.

This version of “Last Call Waltz” is performed by Doug Hubley and Gretchen Schaefer, aka Day for Night, at Quill, Westbrook, Maine, in June 2018.

Hear “Last Call Waltz” below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (“Last Call Waltz” copyright © 2015 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Photo by Minolta self-timer.)

Doug Hubley and Gretchen Schaefer are Day for Night.

 

 

 

MUSIC FOR MAY 2022

‘LET THE SINGER’

This early original is a paean to the live fast–die young lifestyle, which seems like a swell idea when one is 23, idolizes Gram Parsons and Hank Williams, and enjoys the robust constitution of youth. Singing about burning the candle at both ends seemed right and romantic back then, even as musicians like Parsons, who died of hard living in 1973, continued to helpfully offer object lessons in why it isn’t such a good idea.

Submitted to my bandmates in April or May of 1977, “Let the Singer” was the one original song that the Curley Howard Band ever played. Formed that year, CHB was a hard-rehearsing, hard-drinking, hardly-ever performing foursome that tried to blend country music, Sixties hits, California dreams and British pub rock.

CHB had a short life but a long tail. CHB begat the Mirrors, which begat the Fashion Jungle, which begat the Cowlix, which begat the Boarders, which begat Howling Turbines, which begat my current band, Day for Night. Ergo, a musical lineage spanning 45 years and counting.

Here, “Let the Singer” is performed by the Mirrors — that is, three-quarters of CHB: drummer Ken Reynolds, bassist-guitarist Mike Piscopo and me. It was recorded on the Sony two-track at Jim’s Night Club, 144 Middle St., Portland, Maine, March 3, 1979, early in the Mirrors’ run. I had a cheap piezo pickup plastered onto my Silvertone acoustic with putty, hence the distinctive guitar timbre. (Personnel notes: The fourth member of CHB was Andrew Ingalls. The Mirrors’ fourth member was singer Chris Hanson, not heard here, and multi-instrumentalist Jim Sullivan joined the Mirrors soon after this gig.)

Hear it below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (“Let the Singer” copyright © 2010 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.)

The Mirrors, 1980, clockwise from left: Jim Sullivan, Ken Reynolds, Christine Hanson, D. Hubley, Mike Piscopo. (Photo by Minolta self-timer)

 

MUSIC FOR APRIL 2022

‘WHY THIS PASSION’

This depiction of a lovers’ quarrel shifted shape dramatically over the years. (The links will take you to different versions.) I wrote “Why This Passion” in 1984 for my band the Fashion Jungle, an ensemble distinguished by its high romanticism. But my original arrangement was too utterly utterly even for me, so in 1985, after keyboardist Kathren Torraca had departed and bassist Dan Knight succeeded Steve Chapman, I turned the song into a musical hot rod, stripped down and sped up. (We kept that chopped, channeled and turbocharged format when Steve returned to the band in 1987.)

But “Why This Passion” received its final arrangement 10 years later with the Boarders, consisting of bassist Gretchen Schaefer, drummer Jonathan Nichols-Pethick and me. I switched from six to 12 strings and we worked out a rolling tom-tom beat with vaguely Middle Eastern overtones that was exotic (for us) and wicked propulsive.

Just to complicate matters, the version showcased here features that same galloping rhythm in a different pair of hands: those of Fashion Jungle drummer Ken Reynolds, who joined Gretchen and me in 1997 to form Howling Turbines (pictured below). Ken’s tom-tom work was a distinctive feature of that band, as you can hear in this rehearsal tape from 1998 or 1999.

Hear it below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (“Why This Passion” copyright © 1985 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.)

Howling Turbines on a blistering hot day at the Free Street Taverna, Aug. 1, 1999. From left, drummer Ken Reynolds, bassist Gretchen Schaefer and me — guitarist and singer Doug Hubley. (Jeff Stanton photo)

 

MUSIC FOR MARCH 2022

‘TROUBLE TRAIN’

There are signs along the Androscoggin River in Brunswick and Topsham, Maine, warning that operations at a nearby dam could cause the water to rise suddenly.  A good metaphor for the often unpredictable nature of problems, the signs got me going on “Trouble Train.” (The train simile came later and seemed to work better as the prevailing theme.) This was one of two songs I wrote for my band the Cowlix (1989–1994) — but the theme is better suited by the more ominous treatment heard here, performed by the Boarders, the band that came after the ’Lix.

And while that theme is never irrelevant, “Trouble Train” seems especially pertinent in these months of climate crisis, civic derangement and shooting war.

The Boarders: Doug Hubley, guitar and vocals. Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, drums. Gretchen Schaefer, bass. Recorded in 1995. “Trouble Train” copyright © 1994 by Douglas L. Hubley. Photos by Doug Hubley (above) and Jeff Stanton (below). Hear “Trouble Train” below, buy it on Bandcamp!

Toothy Boarders in 1994. From left: Jonathan Nichols-Pethick, Doug Hubley, Gretchen Schaefer. (Jeff Stanton photo)

MUSIC FOR FEBRUARY 2022

‘WHERE WAS I’

One day, sitting in the now-defunct Algiers café in Cambridge, Mass., I got the Grass Roots’ hit “Where Were You When I Needed You” in my head. I was captivated by the thematic potential of swapping the pronouns around: “Where was I when you needed me?” Finished some months later, the resulting lyric is cross-listed in the Themes of Country Songs index under both Cheating and Mid-life Crisis, making it a natch for our band, Day for Night, a country duo specializing in songs of love gone wrong. In this 2013 recording, Gretchen Schaefer sings and plays guitar, and I sing and play mandolin. Hear it below! Buy it on Bandcamp! (“Where Was I” copyright © 2014 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved. Photos by Doug Hubley.)

Writing “Where Was I” at the Senator Inn and Spa, Augusta, Maine, November 2012.

MUSIC FOR JANUARY 2022

‘SOMEPLACE ELSE’

Back when there were chilly sea breezes that could derange one’s springtime planting schedule in Portland, Maine, I once mentioned to my mother that my wife and I would like to move inland in hopes of getting reliable warmth earlier in the gardening season.

Hattie didn’t like that at all. “Oh, go ahead! Just move inland!” she said, peevishly.

In fact, perhaps more than many parents, our mother hated the idea that any of us kids would ever relocate any distance away — and we never did, though I don’t know how influential she was in that matter. (There are still good reasons to remain in Maine’s largest city.)

Like Hattie, I too am unreasonably bothered by the bugging out of people I’m close to. It’s exponentially worse when the escapee is both a good friend and a valued musical partner, which has happened a number of times, as if getting tenure at a prestigious Midwestern university, say, could in any way be better than working a crap job in Portland and playing in a dead-end band. It’s harsh to lose both a friendship and a fine musical chemistry. Both are hard to replace.

But “Someplace Else” deals with neither parental cling nor broken musical ties. Instead, I have transplanted my distaste for abandonment to the romantic sphere: This song, written and recorded in 2021, is the lament of a lover left behind.

“Someplace Else” copyright © 2021 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.  Hear it below, buy it on Bandcamp!

Someplace Else

MUSIC FOR DECEMBER 2021

‘SCARY CHRISTMAS POLKA’

Late in 1990, I was barely employed and pretty worried about that and all kinds of other things. All the anxiety coalesced into “Scary Christmas Polka,” which I released as a solo performance on that year’s Christmas Greeting Tape, distributed to friends and family.

I was playing with a band called the Cowlix in those days and our repertoire, along with classic country and tunes by X, Neil Young and Nick Lowe, included a dollop of folk dances, among them a few polkas. Hence this musical setting.

Yet the Cowlix never played this polka. Instead, the version here was recorded five years later by another band, which comprised three-fifths of the Cowlix: Gretchen Schaefer on bass, Jonathan Nichols-Pethick on drums, and yours truly singing and operating the accordion. We were the Boarders, and the recording was made during a rehearsal as the trio prepared for a December gig at the Free Street Taverna in Portland, Maine. (See Gretchen’s poster for that gig below.)

In 1995, a song like this seemed an appropriately ironic ornament to hang on the tree of the American consumerist Christmas. I can’t imagine, though, what kind of song would serve the same function in the circumstances of 2021.

The Boarders perform “Scary Christmas Polka” in December 1995. “Scary Christmas Polka” copyright © 2010 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.  Hear it below, buy it on Bandcamp!

Scary Christmas Polka

MUSIC FOR NOVEMBER 2021

The Nevada desert from the eastbound Amtrak California Zephyr, June 2016.

‘WHAT THE TRAIN CAN DO FOR YOU’

I’m lucky in that Gretchen Schaefer, my partner in life and in the Americana duet Day for Night, loves to ride trains as much as I do. Even in coach, they are reasonably comfortable, the sightseeing is pleasant and a person has no responsibilities other than showing a ticket and not being a jerk. Non-train people complain about trains’ slowness and lateness, but for us time is not an issue because the train, unlike the car, plane or bus, is as much destination as it is transportation.

Taking a sleeping accommodation, as we often do, provides still another benefit that, similar to the way caffeine enhances the effects of aspirin, heightens all the pleasures of the train: privacy. Gretchen and I are a reclusive and introverted couple who, it seems, travel through the world at all times in a virtual train compartment of mutual interests and fascinations, not least with one another. The Amtrak roomette is not just our conveyance of choice, but a perfect metaphor for us. — Adapted from Notes From A Basement, “Love Of Train,” by Doug Hubley

Here, Day for Night performs “What the Train Can Do For You” in a September 2019 rehearsal. “What the Train Can Do For You” copyright © 2018 by Douglas L. Hubley. All rights reserved.  Hear it below, buy it on Bandcamp!

What the Train Can Do For You