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Devo Cat Listening Party

Glenn and Ray of the “weekly nerdout” known as the GAR! Podcast have a rule: They don’t discuss the podcast beforehand.  They just show up and hit record.  Glenn told me they bent that rule a little to prepare to be a stop along this week’s Robin Renée Blog Tour.   Luckily, whatever they talked about beforehand this time around took nothing away from the spontaneous, freewheeling conversation full of music geekery and beyond that ensued.  Here is the list of topics they compiled:

Robin Renee introduction / cat listeners / DEVO / Devo Dan / making music in the digital age / live music / cover songs / Elvis Costello / BeeGees / David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust / Fishbone / more DEVO / songwriting process / Kate Bush and revisions / deadlines / productivity / Cerebus by Dave Sim / distractions / the tree question / musical instruments / Prince covers / album covers / All I Am / The You Will Rise Project / the music / – See more at: http://www.garpodcast.com/#sthash.u3om7WrE.n7ibL7BP.dpuf

Listen in to the conversation here: GAR! Podcast Episode 16: Performing Artist Robin Renee.  I’ll be listening along with you to remember how we wound around to all these topics.  The standard interview this was not! – and that is a lot of fun and refreshing.  I’d love to be back on their show again soon.

Next up on the blog tour:  a comprehensive interview on the excellent pop culture site, Biff Bam Pop!

Robin Renée @ Empire Haven.  Photo by Joel Simpson.

Today’s blog tour stop takes me to the website of Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey.

Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey is a collection of short stories and slice-of-life tales from members of the South Jersey Writers’ Group.

But today, Marie Gilbert’s interview with me is featured on the site.  We cover a lot of ground in this one, including serious topics like the career pitfall of feeling less than enough and advice for young performers in a shaky, changing music business world. There are also fun references to my (very) early bands Solar Explosion and The Half Mann Band, J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, and The Barry Gibb Talk Show.  Balance in all things, yes?

Here’s the interview!   Super G Interviews the Very Talented Robin Renée

Check it out today.  Tomorrow I’ll be a guest on the GAR! Podcast with hosts Ray Cornwall and Glenn Walker.

Thanks for reading & listening.

 

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I used to spend a lot of time on the sunny indoor porch of our house when I was a kid.  Sometimes I’d be reading or attempting to draw something.  Most of the time I’d find myself immersed in music.  One particular day when I was 10, I was checking out The Bee Gees’ Main Course album.  The first song is “Nights on Broadway,” and naturally, I started singing along.  The next thing I knew, my mom was freaking out.

“Robin can sing!  Come listen, Robin can SING!”  “Of course, I can sing,” I thought.  I always sang!  I was puzzled and fairly startled by the flurry this caused.  I didn’t particularly enjoy my mom’s insistence that I perform my vocal rendition of “Nights on Broadway” for nearly everyone who came to the house for some time after, but now I find it an amusing memory.  I’m glad now that I know the exact moment when I began to realize that there is such a thing as a “singing voice” and that by some, this is considered a gift.  I was blessed to discover I had something someone thought worth developing, and blessed also that this was encouraged.

It is really too bad that the whole disco thing made The Bee Gees the group so many people loved to hate.  I am not a disco hater personally, and can have fun with the Saturday Night Fever stuff.  I also admire Barry, Maurice, and Robin as songwriters and performers who had the magic touch during that era to basically take over the world.  But it is their pre-disco, and some of the post-disco era music that I really love.  Many of the early songs are pieces of pop joy forever embedded in my brain, so much so that I rarely need to actually listen to them – they are just there somewhere in the deep psyche, part of me that can be called up anytime.  It is especially wonderful, then, when I do revisit tunes like “Holiday,” “First of May,” and “Massachusetts.”

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 It has taken the better part of this week for me to face writing this blog.  I was driving last Sunday, turned on the radio, and heard the beautiful harmonies on tail end of “Run to Me.”  I hoped against hope, but knew the truth.  The DJ was about to come back on the air and announce that Robin Gibb had died.  All week I’ve been avoiding typing those words.  I can think about it now, at least a little, without crying.  It is still hard for me to comprehend how his strangely gorgeous, haunting vibrato could really be gone.  One of my mother’s absolute favorite songs was “I Started a Joke,” which she thought was about Jesus.  Mom is gone, too, and I suspect that is a lot of what is coming up for me now.  Parents gone.  One Bee Gee left.  The passing of everything.  The wheel turns.

I love how Robin always seemed like the odd Bee Gee out – a little more of an introvert, sometimes seeming a bit off-time with the stage movements, usually with the hand over the ear thing, which I found both practical and endearing.  Andy was my major pre-teen heartthrob, but it was still fun to idly wonder once in a while what it would be like to one day become Mr. & Mrs. Robin & Robin Gibb.  That according to various gossipy sources his long and successful open marriage was with a bisexual Druid Priestess makes me imagine perhaps he & I would have gotten along very well.      I have been moved to tears many times over this past month as I read stories of Robin’s deep connection with his wife Dwina, as she and the rest of the family stayed by his bedside.  I send love and healing to the family.  Blessings on your journey, RG.

I’m fairly certain it was the same year as the “singing voice” discovery that two friends and I sat on the stadium gate at Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ.  We were determined to be first in line to get in to see the Andy Gibb show – our first concert ever.  Things went wrong when screaming girls rushed the gate and we got swallowed up by the mayhem.  It wasn’t until I was among the many thousands in Washington, D.C. for Barack Obama’s inauguration and felt the momentary wave of a densely packed crowd that I really realized how much potential danger we were in that day when we were kids.  In that moment, I grew incredibly grateful that we’d survived.

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There are many more Gibb musings where these came from.  I have a lot more processing to do over Robin’s passing.  Actual acceptance feels a bit far off.  Meanwhile so much about Robin in particular, his work, and his life inspire me daily. I have been working on a piece called Brothers, but it remains unwieldy.  I am finding that it is not easy to capture all the complexities that these guys and their music apparently call up for me. So for now, I will leave you with a poem fragment inspired by the little bro.

When the crowd began to swallow us
there was no time for comparison.
No angry ocean.
No Beatlemania.
The Who had yet to bear witness to death in Cincinnati.

Doors open.
In seconds, it is
a human autoclave,
heat, pressure
teenage giggle-screams,
full circles around us, we are
squeezed
blanketed by panic
and passion
many bodies, one drunk giant
Wallet, shoe tugging, then tumbling
beyond the swells and gone
Denise losing breath, slipping, a lost doll down.

Rollercoaster and Rotunda, we’d thought –
another day  –
as we’d waited, determined, in oppression of afternoon sun
on Six Flags stadium gate
first in line, first concert, for our collective first love
Now guards’ hands lift us straight up by thin child’s wrists
Somehow, up and over the death crush
to where there is air for ten-year-olds.

Later when we met back up with Dad and Uncle Lou
I wobbled and hopped, a shoeless pelican.
Between wet-faced sobs, I managed,
“Dad!  We saw him!  I LOVE him!”
Not only did we survive.
Andy, we had lived glory.

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