This weekend I had the pleasure of being the first featured author on a great new Blog: “Slaves to the Muse” created by my writing buddy Tami Snow. The following is an interview we conducted and an excerpt from Chapter Twenty-five of “Seven-Inch Vinyl: A Rock and Roll Novel.” - Genius At Work. My thanks go out to Tami. It’s an honor to be associated with you and your cast of talented writers, artists and poets. You can visit “Slaves to the Muse” by clicking the new link feature "Other Blogs that dig Rock and Roll." On the right side of the scroll.
“The Torture Chamber would like to announce the capture and detainment of Donald Riggio our resident Rock and Roll fiction writer. “
Donald Riggio is the published author of several short works of fiction as well as some magazine and newspaper articles dealing with his favorite topic, rock and roll music. “Seven-Inch Vinyl: A Rock and Roll Novel,” is his first novel. He is currently working on the sequel, Beyond Vinyl.”
Q: Seven Inch Vinyl is a work of fiction that carries the reader into the real world of music history. What gave you the idea to write it?
A: I’ve always had a great love for the music of the 50’s and 60’s and I’ve always had the dream of writing a novel, so it seemed natural to combine the two. I began researching the book and creating the characters some ten years ago. I finally settled on the time period between the years 1953 and 1969 and completed the book last year.
Q: What is your musical back ground?
A: like most guys my age The British Invasion inspired me to learn to play guitar and form a rock and roll band. We got to be pretty good and played school dances, parties and local clubs. Our drummer was a guy who loved the R&B and street-corner harmonies of the mid-fifties so we incorporated those into the act. The more I learned the more I grew to love it as well.
Q: What are you hoping your readers will experience through the eyes of your main characters?
A: Well, Tami, beyond the love story between Joseph and Janet, the novel is a journey through history. The teenagers of the 50’s were the first generation to really have “their own” music. Through the development of the 45-RPM record and the transistor radio, music became a big part of their lives. The teens of the 50’s became the college kids of the 60’s. They became more socially relevant and brought about great changes like integration of the races, the woman’s movement and protesting what they felt was an unfair war. They developed technology that made the world a smaller place and put a man on the moon. I like to think Seven-Inch Vinyl takes the reader along on that journey.
Q: How much of Donald Riggio is in Seven Inch Vinyl?
A: Wow. A lot I think. Like I said, I had a band. I lived in a Housing Project like my later characters. Many of those later characters are based on friends and people I knew. Certainly, like any author, the motivations and attitudes of the characters are rooted in my psyche. My first girlfriends’ name WAS Janet but that’s where the similarity ends. I am NOT Joseph (lol) more, Johnny Seracino MAYBE. Let’s just say the names have been changed to protect the innocent and leave it at that.
Q: What’s your writing space and routine?
A: Now, it’s fabulous. Think Elton John in concert behind his keyboards, monitors and such and that’s me. Years back I’d write at work, hidden behind tall partitions with my desk chair facing the opening so I wouldn’t get caught dawdling. I used to use pen and legal pad then transpose to computer. The book was NOT written in continuity, but short snippets of ideas and dialogue exchanges that were pieced together later. Some dialogue was written as conversation (script style) with tags and narrative added later. But, I must say, the first page has changed very little from the first draft.
My routine: first thing everyday is my daily Rock and Roll trivia post on FB, sometimes the same post on as many as 20 pages for optimum exposure to get the name “Donald Riggio” out here. I then check and answer e-mails. In a couple of weeks I’ll have the edits from my editor and I’ll be busy with that and through the publishing process.
Q: What is your opinion about music today?
A: That’s an interesting question. In the late 50’s and early 60’s much of rock and roll came out of the urban centers of New York, New Jersey, Philly and L.A. just to name a few. Groups of all ethnic backgrounds would gather on street corners to sing. Back then they called it DooWop or Street Corner Vocal Harmony. Today it’s known as Rap or Hip Hop. But it’s still just a younger generation kids singing about life in the city. It may not be pleasing to MY ears, but it’s valid and representative of what they are experiencing.
Thank you so much Donald for being our very first Featured Author. We were thrilled to have you.
-Tami Snow & Joann Buchanan
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Twenty-Seven “Genius At Work:”
On the morning the Du-Kanes joined the orchestra in the studio there was a real sense of excitement and anticipation. Many of those associated with the sessions realized something magical was happening. Joseph positioned Kenny and Hector behind a baffle at one end of the studio, alongside The Pixies and several other background singers to form a vocal choir. A large GE microphone on a boom extended above their heads. He then took Johnny and Bobby to the opposite end of the studio where they too stood behind a baffle, each of them on either side of an RCA 77-A multi-directional microphone. There, Joseph gave them last minute instructions.
“Just remember everything I told you, soft and slow at first and then you begin to build. Heading into the middle section you alternate the lyrics, Bobby first and then you Johnny, point, counterpoint sometimes only one word each…got it?”
“Yeah, Mr. Rabin, we won’t let you down.” Bobby told him.
“I know you won’t, fellas, just give it all you’ve got no matter how long it takes.”
Despite the assurances, when the session began there were flaws and re-takes made necessary by the young vocalists or the musicians.
Finally, Bobby got them soulfully through the first verse. His voice, rich in tone and timbre, traversed the lowest end of his vocal register intoning the woeful lyric that lamented the male lover’s situation. The song was borne along by a strong, throbbing backbeat of drums and percussion. A choral whisper moved them into the first chorus.
Kenny, Hector, and the other background singers blended with the string section that was now, note perfect. They provided an underlying musical wave that propelled them crashing forward. Then, like the ebb tide, the choir drifted into the background for a second verse. Johnny took over the lead as the wave once again gained momentum, to repeat the chorus.
Now came the middle section. This was more than just the standard musical bridge linking the verses. This was Joseph’s masterstroke of an idea. As Curtis called for quiet from all except the bass guitarist playing a single note pattern of ‘C, Am F, and G,’ Bobby and Johnny prepared themselves for the point-counterpoint exchange of lyrics Joseph had pounded into their heads. They fed off one another’s energy. Bobby’s growling tenor answered by Johnny’s wailing falsetto. The intensity of the music increased.
Violinists finger plucked eighth notes while percussionists used tambourines, cowbells, sleigh bells or simply drumsticks on wooden blocks to accentuate the beat. Kettledrums rolled like thunder while rim shots on snare drums or tom-tom riffs punctuated every line as cymbals crashed.
Curtis unmercifully drove the orchestra to an extreme frenzy. Joseph was on his feet in the control room completely immersed in the magnitude of what he was hearing. He bounced on his tiptoes, hands raised above his head like a cheerleader at a football game.
Mickey’s eyes darted back and forth across the soundboard watching the needles of the level meters. He hurried to adjust any that seemed dangerously close to crossing over into the red, which could distort the sound and ruin the take.
Things in the studio rose to a fever pitch. Voices strained to hold notes, fingers ached on strings, breath grew short while playing horns. Curtis glanced over his shoulder looking for direction from inside the booth. Joseph nodded his head and the musical director froze his arms high in the air signaling the musicians and singers to hold for one last note. When the crescendo was reached, the studio fell into a stunned silence save for the audible release of tension felt by many.
“I assume you don’t want another take?” Curtis asked Joseph who stood on the other side of the glass looking at him.
Joseph keyed his mike, “No. That’ll do it.”