Thursday, July 14, 2011

The King of Rock and Roll

(reposted from Life in the Land of the Rising Sun)

Dave already played trumpet and a bit of piano when I first met him. Almost from the start, when we combined our interest in sci-fi and cartooning and started creating our own, joint story/art universe, we toyed around with the idea of making our own background music. We came up with themes, mainly on the piano, for different races and characters. At one point, we even experimented with recording ourselves playing trumpet and clarinet together with a taped piano accompaniment. However, the biggest leap forward came with Dave's announcement in the 8th grade that he had started to learn bass guitar.

Talented as he was, Dave took to the bass very quickly. It also wasn't long before he became dissatisfied with his first instrument, a rather cheap, used model, and rebuilt it. He also made his own amplifiers. I already played guitar, so it was only natural that we wanted to try playing together, but the only instrument I had available at the time was my dad's classical guitar. Dave was never one to let such things stop him, however, and he made a sort of pickup for me to attach to the guitar so I could amp it. Thus began our first jam sessions (so to speak).

At first our repertoire consisted mainly of Kiss and Judas Priest plus a few various songs we plucked off the radio, but I didn't waste any time before I started making my own tunes. Most of those old songs (thankfully) disappeared along with my first song notebook years ago, but the whole idea of being able to write songs appealed to Dave, and it wasn't long before he started coming up with his own.

His first offering was a song called "King of Rock and Roll". Actually, it wasn't a "song" so much as a tune with the possibility of adding lyrics later. I have to admit I wasn't all that impressed at first. For one thing, I thought the title sounded like something a band on a Saturday morning kids' show would play. It was also a very simple, repetitive number with no musical development. Still, I really liked its main hook, and there were lots of possibilities. While we played around with it, I started coming up with various ideas for expanding the arrangement, and Dave answered with some adjustments of his own. In the end, it wound up becoming a song that was probably two-thirds his and one-third mine with lyrics that were wholly his. I finally got my first electric guitar and amp (a Drifter Les Paul copy and a tiny but potent Guyatone practice amp) the following year, and "King of Rock and Roll" became a staple of our jam sessions. As much as we liked the tune, however, we never got the chance to perform it for an audience.

Before we finished high school, musical and ideological differences together with frustration with our "band's" lack of progress led me to end my partnership with Dave and join a different group. That led to some complications, since we had a few songs we'd written jointly that we still wanted to use. In the end, we wound up accepting joint ownership of almost the entire pot. However, "King of Rock and Roll" was the only song that Dave insisted I not use unless we could do it together. I figured I could give him that much, especially since we were still friends, and we still got together to jam once in a while.

Dave actually got into the field of studio recording before I did, first taking a studio engineering class in college and then getting a multitrack recording setup of his own. At his urging, I started making my own home studio soon after coming to Japan. But again, once I started churning out my own, homegrown albums, he asked me not to touch "King of Rock and Roll" until we got a chance to work on it together. I honored that request. In fact, tempted though I was to do something with the song, I left it on the "pending" list for twenty years. I was even about to suggest we try e-mailing tracks back and forth as a sort of internet studio recording.

But then Dave passed away suddenly in his sleep in September of 2010. Any chance of fulfilling his hope of recording "King of Rock and Roll" together died with him. However, I was determined to make some kind of musical tribute to my friend, something to acknowledge his tremendous influence on my own musical endeavors. "King of Rock and Roll" seemed like the only logical choice. We could never work on it together, at least not in body, but perhaps his spirit could help me as I did the project.

It was definitely a labor of love, one which combined "how it was", "how it might have been", and "how it would be". There were a couple of small but troubling problems with the equipment that popped up; I was able to work around them, but it made production perhaps it bit rougher than it could have been. On the other hand, though my voice was stubbornly hoarse and hard to keep on pitch (mainly thanks to the season), my guitar chops were in far better shape than I'd expected. I also got the opportunity to break in a few newly-purchased pedals. But anyway, from the garage experiments of a couple of naive but eager 14-year-olds to the home studio project of a moody minstrel, with a salute to Dave, I bring you:

The King of Rock and Roll

Listen, and help me keep the memory of Dave alive.

PS: I should probably point out that no written copy of Dave's original lyrics to this song remains, or at least has yet to be found. I was fortunate to remember most of the second verse plus the last, slow part, but I had no recollection of the first verse at all. Therefore, I made my own based on the original theme as best I could recall.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Parent Remarks

(Contributed by Dave's parents)

Jim and Sandy want to thank all the good folks who have responded with additions to this blogspot, and to Don L for putting it together. Reading the entries brought back lots of memories for us as well. We wish all of you a good future, and blessings, and thank you for all the good thoughts about Dave.

(Contributed by Jim, Dave's father)

I have been remembering lots of the old gang activities. One that sticks out in my mind is the Friday or Saturday evening that a bunch of you had a jam session and sleepover. What I remember about the music is that we had the back porch door wide open, and Sandy and I were out by the fence talking with our neighbor, and it was still LOUD! Sounded pretty good too. I know you all shared a number of interests, but music is the one I remember most.

Memorial Pictures

(Contributed by Jim R., David's father)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Goon yet. I mean, this cartoon character was definitely one of Dave's favorites pastimes when I knew him, and for me was an extension of his personality, both happy and fun.

Who was Goon? I don't have any pictures (maybe Kevin or Don do?), and I certainly don't have enough skill to draw him (yeah, I suck that bad), but he was this green cucumber shaped alien with yellow lips, who was always the source of some bizarre antics in comic strips coming from Kevin or Dave. Goon had a song ("doopy-doopy-doopy doo, doopy-doopy-doopy doo!" - got a link for that one?) and even hosted a web site for a short time.

Thanks for Goon, Dave!

Update by Kevin:

Here's a (old and therefore really bad) recording of Goon's theme song, written by Dave and myself: Goon's Circus

Monday, October 4, 2010

At Rest

(Submitted by Susan Jendryka)

David's urn is now in its final resting place. Picture a green hill, small autumn trees nearby, the flag off in the distance, buried with his homemade ark and golden angels on top, his flower cross marking the spot and the sun shining. Psalm 23 and the Lord's prayer, and a few personal blessings.

Large Program