Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seven-Inch Vinyl excerpt - Chapter Thrity-One: Guided MIssles

(From the soon-to-be published novel Copyright Donald Riggio 2010).

In the summer of 1962, The United States, Great Britain and France financed a multi-national project commissioning NASA to launch a satellite into permanent elliptical orbit around the earth. It was designed to transmit telephone calls and live television broadcasts around the world. It was called Telstar…
… Not long after Telstar became operational, an avid space buff and record producer in London, England named Joe Meeks came up with an infectious melody line and hard driving beat that he transformed into a song he called The Theme From Telstar.” He gave the song to an instrumental group he’d formed The Tornadoes. After the initial session, Meek shortened the name to “Telstar.” He also added several special effects to further fill out the sound. By overdubbing the melody track using a Clavioline, an electronic keyboard, the song took on an eerie, spaced out sound. The record zoomed to the top of the U.K. record charts. In December 1962, The Tornadoes became the first English Rock and Roll group to top the American charts. “Telstar” went to number one remaining there for three consecutive weeks.
A huge pop music market had emerged in Great Britain, greatly influenced by radio broadcasts, records and films imported from America. British teens became familiar with the work of Teddy Boyette, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and Chuck Berry.
Unlike their more affluent American cousins, aspiring musicians couldn’t afford musical instruments so they formed “skiffle” bands. Skiffle was a term that dated back to the early 1900’s defined as “good time” music utilizing simple, homemade instruments like a washboard; whistle jug or kazoo to create its unique sound. If a guitar or banjo were added to the razzle-dazzle mixture, you had the makings of a real skiffle band. The most successful artist of the genre was a Scotsman named Lonnie Donegan who’d scored a huge skiffle hit with an old blues song, “Rock Island Line,” about an engineer on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad who smuggles a load of pig iron ore passed a tollgate.
One such Liverpool skiffle band called themselves The Quarrymen. The group honed its craft playing long hours in raunchy strip clubs and beer halls of Hamburg, Germany. There they were signed as back up band for singer Tony Sheridan, using the name of The Beat Brothers. They performed behind Sheridan in many appearances and in the summer of 1961 they recorded a song called “My Bonnie,” released on the Polydor Record label in October attaining some moderate success both in Germany and back home in England.
The record came to the attention of Brian Epstein, the twenty- seven-year-old proprietor of the North East Music Store, a business venture his family owned. He discovered that the band no longer provided back up for Sheridan and had changed their name to The Beatles.
They played to packed houses of frantic fans at the Cavern Club, a dank subterranean Jazz Club that had become a haven for the local pop music scene. On seeing them there, Epstein recognized their raw talent gave them the potential to become something special. He signed them to a five-year contract as personal manager. Under Epstein, The Beatles were given a new and refined look and style, wearing matching suits and adopting uniform pageboy style haircuts.
After being rejected by several major record labels, Epstein had the group audition for George Martin, the head of EMI’s Polyphone Records. Martin signed them to a one-year contract with a royalty payment of one farthing per record, amounting to one quarter of a penny for each of them. Martin made some further refinements and a personnel change at drummer. He guided them as producer to three hit singles and an album, which hurled them to star status as they toured all over England.
Vee-Jay Records, a popular R&B label based in Chicago acquired the U.S. rights to early Beatles songs as part of a licensing agreement they had with several other EMI performers. They released the Beatle’s single, “Please, Please Me” and placed the record into the rotation at the City’s top radio station WLS in February 1963. It failed to impress anyone. When Dick Clark featured another of their singles, “She Loves You” on American Bandstand later that summer, the audience laughed and ridiculed the act because of their offbeat hairstyle. In New York City, popular radio deejay, Murray the K played the song on his 1010 WINS record revue in October. Once again it garnered little response.
It appeared American audience had little interest in these four “mop top,” “faggy looking” performers from Liverpool, England.

Rock and Roll Quote of the day: "Oh there you are, high above. Oh, God, send me a love. Oh there you are high above the sky. I need your love oh me oh me oh my." From Little Star by The Elegants.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rock and Roll meets The Muse:

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.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seven-Inch Vinyl: A Rock and Roll Novel Excerpt - Chapter Four: Memphis.

(From the soon-to-be-published novel Cpyright 2010 Donald Riggio)

The place was filled with the daily lunch crowd. Teddy sat at one of the last remaining seats at the counter. The waitress, Dee, approached him.
“I’m afraid your toast got cold, sweetie,” she said.
“I’m real sorry about that ma’am.”
“And I told you about that ma’am business too, didn’t I?
The sullen young man didn’t respond. Just one look told her he was stewing over some crisis. Dee slipped back into the kitchen and when she returned she was carrying his guitar case. She gave it to him over the counter.
“I put this in the back for safekeeping.”
“I appreciate that…Dee.”
The waitress smiled that he used her name this time. “You look a might on the used side. Would a burger help maybe?”
“I’m afraid I’m a little off my feed.”
“Well, sugar you can’t be sittin’ there during the lunch rush without ordering something. How about a coke at least?”
“That’d be fine.”
“And don’t you go runnin’ off on me again, its bad manners. You nurse that pop for as long as you like. When things thin out in here later, you and me are gonna’ have a little talk and you can tell me all your problems, okay?”
“Alright.” He managed a smile that made the waitress quite happy.
As she walked toward the soda fountain, a tall, balding, badly overweight gentleman came into the luncheonette. He wore an outrageously colored sports jacket and matching trousers. He took the last counter seat, next to Teddy. He looked to be in his forties and smoked a cheap, fat cigar that sent lines of smoke right passed Teddy’s nose. The boy fanned the air around his head, but the heavyset man took no notice.
“What’s your pleasure, Cap?” Dee asked the man when she returned and placed Teddy’s Coke in front of him.
“How’s the meatloaf today, little darlin’?”
“Same as usual,” she replied with a shrug.
“Well, I’ll have it anyway with mashed potatoes, peas and iced tea…extra gravy for the potatoes.”
“Coming right up.”
At about the same time two other men entered the luncheonette and sat in a booth not far from the counter. They were the two yes men from Artie Franklin’s office. When they recognized Teddy they let out a hearty laugh. The sound caused both Cap and Teddy to look around. Seeing the men made Teddy squirm. Cap offered no reaction, probably because Dee placed a heaping plateful of food in front of him. He looked around for some ketchup, and noticed a bottle just beyond his reach on the other side of Teddy.
“Excuse me, son, would you pass me that there ketchup?”
Teddy picked up the bottle and handed it to him.
“Better watch out how you talk to that boy, Cap.” One of the record company men called out from his booth.
“How’s that Billy?” Cap seemed more intent with tapping the bottom of the ketchup bottle until the contents flowed out over his meatloaf.
“He’s the cat that told Artie Franklin that if he took his head out of his ass he’d learn something about the music business.” He and his lunch mate enjoyed another laugh.
“That right, son?” Cap asked so that only Teddy could hear him.
“Afraid so.”
“No need to put yourself on a cross over it. Fact is, there’s plenty of people in this town wish they had the stones to tell Artie Franklin off. That includes them two hyenas over yonder.”
“Well, all the same, I wish it hadn’t been me that done it.”
“Can you play that thing?” Cap asked pointing his fork at the guitar case on the floor.
“I can if I ever get the chance. Are you in the record business?”
“Records? No, I’m not a record man. My name’s Cap Stewart. I put on road shows. The Cap Stewart Cavalcade. You ever hear of it?”
“No, I can’t say as I have. I’m Teddy Boyette from Kentucky.”
“Pleasure to meet you Teddy.” Cap put his fork down long enough to shake the boy’s hand. “We do a lot of local shows hereabouts, sock hops, stock car rallies and such. I got one getting ready to go out next week. You looking for work?”
“Me?” The question stunned Teddy.
“I got a feelin’ I could use a looker like you to draw in all the teeny boppers on the road.”
“Well, if this don’t beat all? Less than an hour ago I got thrown out of Artie Franklin’s office and now you offer me a singing job and ain’t neither one of you heard me sing or play a single note”
“Oh, I’ll hear you sing soon enough. You interested?”
“Heck yeah I’m interested. I’d be crazy to turn down a paying job!”
“Well, son, let me explain a few things about that.”
Cap went on to detail how his shows worked. The Cavalcade would be out touring for several weeks. They’d play small towns in Tennessee doing one show per night, perhaps two on weekends. Several acts were on the bill, each act performed onstage for about twenty minutes. The artists all began the tour on equal footing with the more experienced of their number at the top of the lineup. However, that could easily change once the show was out on the road. Audience reaction would determine future billing on the next stop on the tour. This way Cap ensured the performers wouldn’t become complacent. They’d work harder and do their best in the hope of moving up in the pecking order.
It was all geared for the big final show at The Regency Theatre in downtown Memphis when the Cavalcade got back to town. The performers would be paid for that show depending on where they appeared on that final bill.
“I know it ain’t the big time you been dreaming about,” Cap wrapped up his sales pitch as he finished his lunch. He took one last gulp of his iced tea. “But a lot of young performers starting out look at it as a good way to get some experience, polish up an act. It might stand you in good stead for the next time you went to see one of them record company fellas.”
It made good sense, but Teddy had reservations.
“I understand that, Mr. Stewart. It’s just… I was counting on making some money.”
“We’ll pay for your food and lodging and such while we’re out. If you do real good there’ll be some cash in it for you when we get back here to Memphis. You might even make enough to buy yourself a car.”
“I already got me a car.” Teddy informed him.
“You do? Why didn’t you say so in the first place, son? If you’d be willing to haul some of the gear, I’ll pay you three dollars a day and gas money.”
“So, I don’t get paid for singing but you’ll pay me for the use of my car?”
“That’s right.” Cap said.
“This music business is sure nothing like I expected. Mr. Stewart, you got yourself a singer and a driver.”

Rock and Roll quote of the day: "I wake up in the morning and I wonder. Why everything's the same as it was? I can't understand, no I can't understand, why life goes on the way it does." From: The End of the World, by: Skeeter Davis.