Pat's View: New Depression Blues
In 1971, Seattle was in a bad way. The Boeing Company had laid off some 60,000 workers over the previous four years and it was not looking any better. A famous billboard near the airport asked "Will the last person leaving Seattle, turn out the lights?"
That spring and fall, I was living in an apartment in north Highline, not working, struggling to pay the rent. The previous couple of years I had gone to college but I enjoyed writing poetry and song lyrics. My friend Carl V. Larson Jr. was a guitarist and had an absolutely beautiful Martin D-12-20 guitar. He and I had written a few songs and while they were not recorded, we played them a few times for family and friends and everyone enjoyed them enough to encourage us. We had even gone into the jingle business doing radio jingles for an electronics store called Stereoland in Burien, and a catchy one for Continental Bank..."Everybody wants to live a different lifestyle, Continental Banking makes it worthwhile, We're the Thank you Bank, Continental Bank" It ran on radio for about a year.
As we transitioned into 1972 the economy was struggling. Carl and I came up with a blues song that drew on the woes of the great depression, even though we had zero idea what that was really like and the lyrics I wrote didn't actually make sense.
New Depression Blues was just a simple song about bad times. We wrote it, and forgot about it. But ten years later...
My brother Scott (whom we called Beau) had come of age, and was a good singer and guitarist by then. and he was fooling around with the song and made a recording of it. 1982 was in many ways worse than 1972. Interest rates literally went over 21%. We were in a genuine, deep recession. We played the recording for my Dad and he loved it. The original home demo WAS pretty good to be honest. He said, "I think you should record it. How much does that cost?" We told him it would be around $1000 to $1500. He began a series of sales pitch phone calls, sometimes playing the song over the phone and asked his friends for $100 each until he found 15 of them. What a guy.
We booked the recording session at The Music Source on Capitol Hill where we had done our jingle work with the brilliant Dave Raynor who was and is a great engineer, singer, and guitarist. We hired a session drummer and we made both sides of a single in the same day. The B Side was a song Carl and I wrote about lost love and horses called Riding the Ridge. In the transition from the original home demo the song got sped up and turned into more of a rock song, which frankly took out the heart of it, making more of a pure novelty record but hey, we had very little idea about what we were doing.
But then came the rest.
We formed our own record label, Nickel Records (featuring a Buffalo head nickel) and had it mastered at Allen Zentz in Los Angeles, then had 1500 45 rpm copies pressed. Our pal Greg Carter took the photo for the dust jacket of Beau, with a 1932 Ford parked outside the Darth Vader building on 4th Ave on the sidewalk (we didn't ask permission).We printed a full size single page newspaper page about the record, got stories about it on KING TV and KIRO plus a story on KiRO radio, got the record into Tower Records and sent out copies to a wide variety of people. It did get on the radio.
Famous radio personality, Doctor Demento played it and oddly enough we got a royalty check for $15 from Denmark. We got a review of it on some music magazine and Beau appeared in a group shot for the cover of the Rocket tabloid. We posed for a photo with the Governor of Washington Mike Lowry and that was about it.
The New Depression Blues, not a very good song, DID have one more remake however! in 2009 we shot a music video but this time we rewrote it and Carl was the performer with Beau playing the lead guitar. It's still on youtube and has about 9600 views. You can even FIND a copy out there! Here.
We set up a website for the label too because by then the internet was up and running. That site is now gone of course.
I did a lot more songwriting and recording with my brother such as this song.
The best thing to come out of it (aside from time with my brother) maybe was that I joined ASCAP and later (again with Dave Raynor) I wrote a jingle melody for a software company that got a lot of airplay on the radio and made me a lot of money in royalties.
That's a sure cure for the new depression.
Riding the Ridge
Riding the ridge I was thinking of you,
the wind blowing back to the sky turning blue.
My horse needed water I found him a stream,
and while he was drinking I started to dream.
Maybe the maybes you gave me before
were just a woman's promise when she's not really sure.
I woke up that morning to tell you much more
and I saw you leaving going out through the door.
The chances you gave me returned with the pain
the clouds started moving I rode through the rain.
Inside my cabin the coffee was black
I wrote you a letter, you never wrote back.
copyright 2009 Patrick Robinson