I’ll try to keep this summary and update as short as possible without leaving out the really important parts.
It certainly has been a long, strange trip. And the strangeness shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. In what can only be described as yet another string of thoroughly bizarre and highly improbable not to mention completely out of the blue coincidences I have now been asked to be the Program Director, General Manager, and occasional DJ at Paradise 102.3 FM radio in Sosúa, on the north shore of the Dominican Republic.
Ironically enough I had decided to cease all things music (other than writing about it) a mere five months ago – vaguely sometime in January – to more fully focus on journalistic writing. Writing has always been a love of mine from an early age, but I got sidetracked by music as music jobs came in much more readily than writing jobs and masses of songs came into my mind and refused to let go.
As a result, I ended up playing with at least four bands all over Orange County, the beach cities, and the Los Angeles and Hollywood club scenes of late 1970 and early ’80s – at the twilight of punk and dawn of the New Wave era. Sharing stages with everyone from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Go-Gos, the Plimsouls, the Beat, and 20/20 to Great Buildings (later the Rembrandts.) I eventually ended up in Norway signed to CBS/SONY and managed to parlay an existence from that deal for the next thirty years.
There was a brief five year return to Arizona and Colorado with a slight run of Nashville where I ended up working with some true musical legends from Snuff Garrett, Richard Bennett, Bill Halverson, and Billy Williams at the producers end of things to John Hobbs, Al Casey, and Paul Franklin at the musician’s end. I was also lucky enough to have had the full support of Arizona radio legend Dwight Tindle. Dwight became a great friend as well and I’ll always remember the times spent eating incredible meals cooked by Dwight at his house on Camelback Mountain overlooking the Valley of the Sun from his pool deck with a warm fondness.
Somehow through all the disorienting chaos, I managed to make some contacts and connections that would help out all along the rest of the way – to this day.
Arizona and Colorado also marked a spiritual return to the land itself as I absorbed the vast sweeping red-and-coral-tinged Sonoran Desert panoramas and emerald river-strewn granite-spired splendor of the Rocky Mountain vistas into my heart and soul. The overall landscape of California and the Mojave Desert had also always been a powerful influence on me throughout my life as well – appearing as an ethereal sonic aspect of my songs: There’s always a wisp of California – sea breezes, mountains, and desert dust – in the atmosphere of my songs:
“I remember California – Sunny golden land of opportunity – But I was only five-years-old It didn’t seem that way to me – California, well now, I love you.”
After one too many conflicts of interest with a manager, I went to work for a clean room tech agency maintaining clean room environments in all the technology industry giants such as Motorola, Sony, Philips, and other multi-acre technical labs in the Valley of the Sun.
Although I had always been keenly aware of all aspects of the desert’s otherworldly beauty, it seemed to become even more noticeable in the last few months that I worked in the megalithic structures of the tech industry. Perhaps because the time allotted to watching the ever-changing patterns, hues, and conditions of the sky was now reduced to lunch hours and coffee break snippets. The formerly panoramic desert view perspectives were reduced to what could be glimpsed from benches or the smooth concrete edges of planter beds lying low in the high-walled expansive square-ish spaces of courtyards and course ways within these vast industrial superstructures.
Strangely, I have fond flashes of scenes of parking lots sat in the golden glow of the shimmering late afternoon heat of Phoenix gazing at the outer fortresslike walls and fences of those monoliths from the air-conditioned shelter of my white Chevy S-10 long bed pickup.
Even something as seemingly mundane and ordinary as a parking lot takes on magical qualities in the mythological mystery of the desert.
A few indeterminable months later, it was back to Norway where I would go on to record with all kinds of successful local and International artists as well as record a few more of my own records. I had a few chart hits, lots of airplay, interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, and live sessions on national and regional radio stations back in the days when FM terrestrial radio still mattered: In other words – five years ago. How quickly things change in this modern technology-driven world.
One of the unanticipated highlights was the time I had a starring role as the chief’s son (my father was played by the great First Nation actor Frank Sotonoma Salsedo. He played Uncle Anku) in a movie with Christopher Lambert, Catherine McCormick, James Caan, and Burt Young. It was called Tashunga/North Star, and I was in such a state of disbelief at the rampant absurdity of it all that I forgot to discuss Frank’s part in Northern Exposure to the degree that I would have done had I been less dumbstruck by the overall situation. It was 1995, and the series had just ended a few months before. Frank and I did get to spend a lot of quality time together discussing many things – mainly about life in general, his past, different movies, TV shows, and projects Frank was involved with, and what it means to be and how it is to be people of the First Nation. We did talk a little bit about Northern Exposure just nowhere near as much as I wished I’d done when I think about it in the calm, considered clarity of hindsight.
Frank was the kind of guy who was always fun to be around. He would regale you with endlessly entertaining stories, quips, and bits of wisdom all indicating strongly that when they cast Frank Sotonoma Salsedo as Uncle Anku, they actually found Uncle Anku himself.
It was a whole new level of fun, highly fascinating, and life-enriching to have had the experience of acting in and making a movie. But the real reward and treasure of it all were as it is also with all memorably significant recording projects – the stories and getting to know the people who told them.
Another bout with the absurd and the improbable came about when New Zealand producer Nick Abbott (Crowded House, the Finn Brothers, the Datsuns, the Thrills…) came up to Norway in hopes of recording some of my music as he waited out his VISA for his planned move to London.
Abbott and my band The Simpletons decamped to the lighthouse compound on the wind-powered North Sea island of Utsira where Abbott quickly set up a mobile recording studio and we got to work recording some of my garage rock songs that I’d always wanted to record. The funniest thing was that when Abbott first got to Norway I was completely uninterested in recording or having anything to do with my songs or music as I was in the grip of a profoundly powerful lounge jazz and American standards phase. I wanted to record only the most legendarily iconic songs written by the best writers in history. I was only interested in recording songs by composers such as Cole Porter, Guy Clark, Jimmy Webb, Gershwin, Weil, Rogers and Hammerstein, Mancini, Antonio Carlos Jobim etc.
Somewhere around 2008, I recorded an updated version of my infamous Roadrunners album with my newly christened band The Topangas.