Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Loop de Loop

Here we go and back again. This is actually a copy of the material I thought I had lost, due to an injudicious use of a post-a-note directly onto the disk. So glad to have found the material again! Scot called these pieces--Loop de Loops. They were recorded here in Bloomington, at home, in the early days of the new milineum. Sorry about the abrupt start and stop!

You could almost say that Scot started out more as an electronic art musician than a straight-to-it Rock and Roll guy. One of his early favorite bands was “Soft Machine” and Robert Wyatt remained a life-long creative model. “Soft Machine” was very artsy—more jazz-like--definitely an improvisational group. If you don’t know Robert Wyatt’s music, I urge you to check it out. My particular favorite album: “Old Rotten Hat.”

When Scot and I first met at City College, he was also doing electronic music. I will try and track down their names, but there was this married couple on the faculty who got it together to have installed an electronic music studio in the music department there on the campus. It was sort of built into a closet behind some stairs, but at the time, the equipment was all state of the art--but definitely all pre-digital. Everything had to be done with patch cords. There was even a Moog Synthesizer--all the single note musical technology you could want! I have a few recordings from that time, which I will be bringing out in the by-and-by.

Art for today, wanted something trance like. Brow this one up.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Open Items

The reality of the responsibility of a daily memorial blog is coming into focus for me. Can’t let your guard down. Got a lot of holes to plug tonight, so I am putting up literally the first song and the first piece of artwork I could grab (as a time saving measure) and I am delighted with the outcome.

When I saw the title, “Hey Good Looking”, I thought it would be a track of Scot singing this song with the BC (Basement Collaboration) because it’s one from his long-time repertoire. I was happy to find such a wonderful track—full-on Basement Collaboration—Jerry(guitar)/Kenny(drums)/Scot(bass)—but instead with featured “Blue Jazz” vocalist (in our dreams), Irene.

The art for tonight is a piece called ‘Side-by-Side.” It has been brought to my attention that I have been spending a lot more time talking about the music than the artwork. Here’s the deal. I tend to think that talking about visual artwork verges on the pompous. Similar to talking about poetry. It’s why I’m glad I never went to art school. Only a few creative souls I know survived that process. Scot always wanted people to see what THEY saw in his artwork.

However, for the sake of critique, I will tell you, today’s piece started out as a drawing--brown fine point Sharpie on Bristol board. The acrylic wash he next applied is obvious if you look at the pooling of pigment going on in certain places. (Remember, you can blow up these pieces, by clicking on the image--after the music.) Isn’t that always the way—a pooling of pigments?

Speaking of plugging holes, I wanted to tell you another story, and so I will. Before Scot died, we started to read a book that had been in my family’s library for as long as I can remember, “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates.” This is a good one for all you kids who want to travel to Amsterdam—my point being, in the story there was this dad, and he was sick in the corner. For a big part of the book, this was a big mystery. We were in a similar situation. Despite everything he was doing, Scot was the sick dad in the corner. We never finished the book. Too bad, I’m guessing it has a happy ending.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Just got in from Illinois (and Iowa)—big old story there, but not for tonight. Tonight’s story has to do with going down to the water. For the last several years of Scot’s life, balance was a big issue. Trusting terra firma was in doubt for him. He’d have these things that felt like a trap door was falling out from under him--just as he was walking along.

Turns out he loved being in the water. There were no trap doors in the water. For the last couple summers of his life, almost everyday, we would go down to Lake Monroe, the local resevoir, for a swim. We’d squeeze in to the cab of our 1994 Toyota truck (which we bought when James was two and was a tight squeeze then). I used to liken it to squeezing into a space capsule--one of the early ones.

ARTWORK: One of my favorites. Love the multi-dimensionalism. Love the world below, the world above, and the wobbly world in between. Another art by the ream piece—sorry Steve, what more can I say?

MUSIC: “Wade in the Water.” I ran into my friend Dan Witherd (twin brother to Dave Witherd of many a previous blog entry) last week at a Snake Doctor gig. Dan played a lot with Scot. (Scot loved it because Dan could play trombome!) Dan told me, “Scot used to want to play these songs (like “Wade in the Water”) and I didn’t take him seriously. I thought he was teasing me. Now I know. He REALLY wanted to play them.” Yes indeed. He really did. Toward the end Scot took his spirituals very seriously.

Remember what I said about the Basement Collaboration doing their own bad thing? Here is another example. Jerry Farnsworth takes the lead, both on vocals and guitar, Kenny slips in and out of sonic picture on drums and then there's Scot playing the bass.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

On the Road

I'm on the road, sorry no story yesterday, no story or music today. Will revisit.

I rented a brand new car to zoom over to Iowa for the weekend. Around town I drive my own cars, the newest of which is a 1996. I was on my way to Muscatine, Iowa to work with my friend and new business partner, Steve Teraberry—Scot’s friend from kindergarten, on our major international launch of Scot’s artwork at the Surtex licensing show in NYC this coming May! Long story short, we got some good stuff, which I will soon share.

Music: “In a Brand New Car,” solo demo of a Scot Halpin original, written shortly after we met. I have some time frame on the recording because I recognize Mark Houseal’s Fender Rhodes keyboard; must have been made in 1981. To me, this song is a nice hybrid of new wave and country.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Takes One and Two

Journey with me now back to 1980, and the basement of the Roosevelt. From the beginning, The Sponges always practiced at the Roosevelt. At first, it was in an attached vacant store, where we also stored our stage during the regular businessman’s lunch on Monday through Friday. On Friday afternoon, we would drag the stage in and screw it all together. I shouldn’t say "we" on the screwing the stage together part. That was Scot. I remember him snaking around on the floor under the stage. That would also imply the reverse. Unscrewing the thing on Sunday and schlepping it back to the storefront. That brings to mind my favorite Woody Allen quote, “To be is to schlep.”

I remember one time we had the Dead Kennedys and Perry was sure Jell-o Biafra was going to start swinging from the chandelier. Later, after we stopped booking shows at the Roosevelt, The Sponges were still happening. I remember the night we recorded this session. We had to go down into the basement space (which had been a speak-easy in the 1920’s) and through a loose plank in the wall. That was our rehearsal space.

This song, “I Never Knew Your Name” was brought to the band by Joe Belche, the band’s guitar player. Joe has a great rock voice. Today, he does a lot of charity work in the Seattle area as the Rock and Roll Clown. I love this song. I think you get a little more sense of the Sponges on this track, the out of tune guitar, as Scot would say-- “That quality Peavey sound,” Leland Monagle's mighty rolls, Scot’s thumping Yamaha bass (which he was just learning). He actually had had trouble with stringed instruments as a kid. He was excited about finally being able to make he fingers form a chord. We were all kind of just learning, just having fun. That's what made punk so great. The field was open. Musical talent and training were optional.

The artwork for today is a wonderful hand colored etching Scot did in the late 1980’s. I think you’ll see threads out from here to the newer work I’ve been dishing out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Rockabilly Funhouse

I’ve got a big old story to go along with today’s track, but I’ve got to go help my kid with his homework. I’ve written so much lately, and frankly, it’s hard to tell if anyone is out there...but anyway, I promise, a big juicy story about T. Scot Bottom & the Rockabilly Funhouse soon. Suffice to say, the band was an amalgam of all that was happening in Iowa City in 1982. The line up was as follow: Mark Houseal on keyboards, Tom Drew on drums, Todd (help me here) on bass and Scot Halpin—guitar and vocals. This recording is from the THIRD set of a gig at Gabe’s, one of the main clubs for live music in Iowa City, at the time. Might still be there. Last time I was there, The Deadwood was still there, and they I think they had the same carpet.

There are so many great stories about The Rockabilly Funhouse, and how it happened, I’ll just leave you with this. I had actually booked the first gig for this band before it even existed. I went into the Rosebud, a large industrial space in the bottoms of Iowa City that had been converted to a nightclub sometime in the late seventies, judging by the disco lighting set-up they had. I went in with one of Scot’s solo demo’s—lied—something I rarely do, and told the guy it was a recording of Scot and I, in Europe. He bought it, and so we then had the problem of coming up with a real band.

I remember Scot went down into the basement of our little house on G Street. We had a toy drum set Scot had bought for me at the Salvation Army down there. I remember thinking; he’s going to go down there to drum up a band: which he did. He drummed his heart out on that little toy kit. Starting the next day, he went out, and one, two, three, turned up his players.

The artwork for tonight, a cheap shot. Honey don’t. Honey do.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Who Influences Who

“Flow into motion, there is no remorse at Heaven’s door.” So began a leap through his glass window. In other words, a definite sojourn of Scot’s into the world of surrealism. He had been just been named Composer in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts over in an ex-war zone with a Sausalito address. No kidding. Huge tracts of the Marin headlands area was held by the U.S. military, definitely from WWI, but probably even earlier. There is a Civil War era fort just under the Golden Gate Bridge.

This was 1986, the first year of residencies at the Headlands. Scot had just finished his Masters at San Francisco State University. He had hooked up with David Ireland, a kind of famous installation-type artist, who was the initial visionary brought in to carve out The Headlands Center for the Arts. The center took over several wonderful baricks buildings built at the turn of the 20th century, which were all quite derelict. Scot got the residency for his performance-type improvisational space music, but they gave him access to huge work space, and shortly thereafter, that came to mean paintings too.

This track comes from a Folklore demo. Folklore was the next band morph after Funhouse. Scot had begun to bring a lot more original material to Funhouse, but…things change. He wanted to do some music that had a more complicated lyrical structure. Folklore was a trio, although on this tract we hear Scot lay down a keyboard track. Ultimately, he hoped to bring in a violin player. Notice how string-like this keyboard part is. Ed Bachmann moved over on bass from Funhouse. New to the mix was drummer Johnny Law, a phenomenol drummer. Scot was of course doing vocal. This is when he had that amazing Kay guitar. It's further back in the mix than I'd like, but you get still hear it. Wow!

Folklore was awesome. We left San Francisco shortly after we put this demo together. It was some of the coolest, most sophisticated, kick ass music Scot had ever come up with, and when I took it around to the clubs, no one would give us a gig. People who might have known better, didn’t pay attention.

That was super hard. We felt like were part of THE scene? We had certainly lent our stage to The Bunks and back again. It was hard, but guess what? We ended up here in Bloomington, which has been a good thing. For example, I own my own home, I educated my son in public school and my property tax is under $1,000. Ha!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hold on Me

I’m afraid this entry may start sounding like a twelve-step meeting. OK, today’s musical track was the opening song for The Sponges—the new wave/punk rock bank Scot started ‘round about 1979. The song, “Alcohol,” was a soundtrack for the days.

Certainly at the time, Scot and I were imbibing regularly. This song brings the blog around to The Roosevelt, and the amazing, crazy-assed time we had trying to run a nightclub during the height of the San Francisco Punk scene. Just like the real hippies, the real punk scene consisted of about 300 people who would support the various events and venues that came and went. The Roosevelt was one of those venues.

I was working as a waitress at The Roosevelt—a Civic Center bar and grill owned by a Greek angel named Perry. The place closed down every Friday at 3:00 PM and didn’t reopen until 11:00 Monday morning. Scot and I convinced Perry to let us book Punk and New Wave acts in her place over the weekends while she was closed anyway. She had her own story going on, and so for her own reasons, let us do it. Her Greek friends used to call the shows, “Perry’s Rock Parties.”

Back to “Alcohol.” I honestly find this song heartbreaking, despite the fact that at the time it was this sort of joyous opening statement. Substitute the word alcohol with ‘addiction’ or how about ‘attachment’, and the word ‘pain’ suddenly comes sharply into focus. We had a lot of fun back then. I’m glad we survived. For now, I find myself seeking a more moderate path. Truth be told, I still am faced with both addiction and attachment.

A quick word about The Sponges. The Sponges line up went like this: Scot Halpin-bass and vocals, Joe Belch-guitar and vocals, Leland Monagle-drums, and Robin Young-featured vocalist (this meant I came on in the middle of the set, did three songs--and left). I don’t blame Scot for this. I had a terrible time with things like coming in on time. I’ve seen some pictures lately of me around this time in some very short, shorts. I may get up the courage to play one of my songs, but looking back at this picture, I think my appeal may have had more to do with my legs than my voice. This was our first official studio recording. The studio was in the garage of a San Francisco Victorian. We were all in different rooms. You can hear Joe counting things down, way off in another room.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Feet Do the Talkin'

Here’s another of Scot’s solo demo’s made in the mid-1980’s-- “Dancin’ Shoes Laced.” Once again, Scot is playing all the instruments on this original track, proving for those with a slower learning curve that, in fact—undeniably so--Scot could rock his ass off. Talk about someone with the funky thing?

The art speaks for itself. Here are quite a few of Scot’s symbols: the bird in the tree, the treble clef, funny four-leggeds, magical wands, boxes full of surprises, flying figures and pompadours.

Thanks to Carlyn Lindsey and Snakedoctor for giving me the opportunity to let my feet do the talkin' last night.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Seventy-fifth Wedding Anniversary Today!

Today’s entry is dedicated to Doc and Pauline Truelove, who celebrate their seventy-fifth wedding anniversary TODAY!!!! They are on different sides of the great veil right now. Like Scot, Doc Truelove crossed over early, but observing things in Pauline’s day-to-day, it’s pretty clear that at least Pauline’s love has not diminished, and I suspect that neither has Doc’s. As Pauline cautioned me about the suitors who are likely to congregate, “What if you pick the wrong one?” “What, indeed?” Like Pauline, I feel like I’ve already made my choice, and now it’s just a short wait. I’m hopin’ so hard too.

Scot and John came up with this song, after doing a couple of gigs at the nursing home where Pauline lives, which has recently gotten a bad rap and shouldn’t. The people there are wonderful. I’m there a lot, and so I see the devotion to care (for the most part) going on there. Pauline is 96 now. She’s a lovely, spry lady, who gives comfort to the afflicted and is fodder for the jealous, because she moves about the world in this breezy, upbeat, practical, consistent and compassionate way. She’s bright and funny, and so very alive. I think this is sometimes perceived as a challenge to the people living around her.

This song, “Hopin’ So Hard,” was co-written by Scot Halpin and John Williams, and was inspired by Doc and Pauline’s story, but also by Scot and my own. You might notice that there is no bass part on this track. This is one of the “new songs” that John and Scot did not get to record before… I think there is one track with Scot on it somewhere, but I couldn’t find it today. This is a cut from “Gravity,” the album that John recorded a couple weeks after Scot passed. He went on to release it and once again, it is available at CD Baby (can't find it right now, will get).

About the artwork, just heard an interesting comparison between blue-ray and cellulose analog—meaning, viewing a film like Casa Blanca on hi-def blue-ray is CLOSE to the experience viewing a fresh print of a black and white movie, projected in 32mm. I didn’t like blue ray. I kept seeing too many pores. Scot could have done a lot with this, but in today’s search, this B& W image told the story best.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In This Big Old World

Saved this one for today—the first day of spring. “Big Old World” is a children’s’ song that Scot wrote in 1981, shortly after we got back from Europe. We had stopped in on our way home, to visit our friends in the beautiful Ocean State of Rhode Island. Rhode Island is a small state, just 55 miles long. Everything in the state is on a small scale. Our friends took us to “The Great Swamp,” which consisted of about an acre and a half of land, with a walkway around it.

I am a Western gal. I was born on the prairie (Denver, Colorado). My family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona when I was fourteen, so went to high school out in the desert. When I was nineteen, I moved to San Francisco, where I Ivied for the next twenty years. The East was a strange and foreign place to me, full of people who’d never left home (unlike the West, where we’d all left home). The accent was familiar. I had a lot of friends who were from New York, but at the time, we were all newly baptized Californians.

Our friend Tim McFate had (somehow?) been made the caretaker (?) of this old New England woolens family, summer/hunting lodge. There were five bedrooms, a loft for the orchestra to set up in the living room, and a fireplace big enough to drive a forklift into. We ended up spending the summer, helping Tim care take (?).

I love the sweetness of this song, and the sureness of its message. Surely, on this beautiful first day of spring, we see that every little thing, indeed, has its place somehow--in this big old world. On this track, Scot is playing all the parts. The organ part is actually the Hammond B-3 we had in our living room. I remember the day Scot cut this track. I was standing outside admiring my tulups when a bird flew down. It stood there and cocked its head, listening to Scot lay down this track. I draw special attention to Scot's snare work on this song.

The artwork is an example of an important lesson I've learned in this life--that it does indeed take all kinds to make this world go round.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Argh! Revisited

I just got back from what is euphemistically called a Fig Gig, in our circles. Every month or two, we all drive out to the little town of Helmsberg, Indiana for a gig at the Fig Tree Café; a most unique business concept. Downstairs is the African Art Gallery. Upstairs is the Collectibles Collection. (This means millions of Star War figurines and the like.) The couple that run the place are as sweet as the day is short/long.

Playing this Fig Gig was Jerry Farnsworth and his now regular bunch of Kids. Jerry did an arrangement of 16 Tons that had three different styles. I came home really wanting to play a version of 16 Tons. Frankly, Scot used to complain about always doing 16 Tons. Do you know when I got home, and started looking for 16 Tons, do you think I could find one track with Jerry’s wonderful Burl Ives vocals on it? If you said no, you are right, hence the Argh! Revisited.

What I settled on is a short, sweet, simple version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot—a song that instantly slapped some balm on my weary soul as, I was frantically flipping through CD’s. This is once again, Jamula (Jerry Farnsworth-guitar, Scot Halpin-bass Tom Smith on mouth organ).

Looking for artwork tonight, these flying hearts struck me as little chariots of love, coming in for, at least a low pass.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Having the “It Worked For Two Days, But Not Today” blues. I had a killer track, picked out and converted to an MP3, but I can’t find it. Sorry. So tonight I have to rely once again on one of my old steadies. This is Plank Road doing, “Wild About My Lovin’.” This song is listed as traditional in some places and in others, I saw a guy named Jim Jackson(1928) attributed as the author. It was covered by the Lovin’ Spoonful, which is I’m sure where Scot heard it first, and also by Linda Ronstadt and Stone Pony.

The artwork for today started out as a graphite drawing. Scot then laid down some acrylic washes on the drawing (the elements, not the background). The piece was then scanned and more digital information layered on the piece (the background). Scot often drew men in ties, although he personally rarely wore one.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guess What?

Happy St. Paddy’s Day. How could I resist? Scot was Irish thorough and through, except for the 1/32 of him that is Iriquois. The “Guess What ?” is that we are back at Pat O’Shea’s for our celebration of the green.

Scot drives Funhouse over to the Chuck Berry subdivision of Rock and Roll real estate. I picked this song because it is a good demonstration of moving past the one note guitar solo.

Yes, there is a moment when Scot is singing, “Ma ba ba ba ba,” but does it matter? Him and John Lennon with the lyrics. Watch Scot switch back and forth between lead and rhythm guitar. Again, him and John Lennon.

I used to joke that living with Scot was like living with a combination of Pablo Picasso and John Lennon—two real low-key egos. What does that say about me?

This isn’t about me. It’s about Scot, and I think by now, anyone following this blog is beginning to realize how blessed we were to have this incredible human being in our midst. Notice how Scot ends the number by commenting on how good the audience sounds.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pat O'Shea's

Topically I should have saved this one for tomorrow night (St. Paddy’s Day), but I can’t wait. New capacities here. Morphed again--alleluyah!

Tonight we hear Funhouse, recorded November 1, 1985, playing live at Pat O’Shea’s--a strictly Irish bar out on Geary Street, in the city of San Francisco. Scot had lived in San Francisco for three or four years before he ever made it to North Beach. (I took him there.) He frequented the beach, the Sunset district, the Richmond district, Golden Gate Park; the furthest he came into the City was the Haight. Definitely all the fog belt. He mistrusted being too close to the City.

This gig was at the new Pat O’Shea’s, moved up Geary Street, some ten or fifteen blocks. The original Pat O’Shea’s was a cave of a landmark, where they’d line up the Guiness’ twelve at a time at the bar, so there'd be time for the foam to go down. The former guitar player from the Beau Brummels had a regular weekly gig there. To hear him tell it, that's where Scot spent many a Friday night.

Funhouse was Scot's citified Rockabilly outfit. When we returned to San Francisco, late in the summer of 1981, Scot immediately reconnected with our friends Ed Bachmann and Judy Tampa (a million stories here). For these purposes, they were making their own move from art/new wave to roots. When we got back into town, Ed and Judy were busy orchestrating eight-part harmony for a gig they’d booked for Hank Ballard (of “Work with Me Annie” fame--and so many more…) Hank came out and did his first gig in many years at the Mabuhey Gardens--a key venue of the San Francisco punk rock scene and former Phillipeno night clu--just down from the strip clubs on Broadway. This concert was exquisite. I have a tape. The key bit of info here is that Judy could really harmonize, and her voice slotted right in with Scot’s.

The regular Funhouse drummer, Leland Monagle, was not available for this gig. He was probably off looking at some European cathedrals, or something. Playing here tonight is the drummer from Translater, a successful (at the time) San Francisco band . They had a record deal and a hit! Scot enjoyed playing with this guy (I’ll track down his name). Scot thought he was versatile, tasteful and solid. Plus, he played this well without a rehearsal!

I’m way over-long tonight, but let me just direct your attention to the guitar work here. WOW. Scot was playing this beautiful, amazing Kay hollow-body guitar we’d bought in Iowa City. I kick myself for letting him give that guitar to someone to sell when we moved to Indiana. Scot didn't have to put a lot of notes into his solos to make them dynamic. When he first started fronting T. Scot Bottom and the Rockabilly Funhouse, he did a lot of one note solos.

There were a lot of friends in the audience the night this recording was made. I ask you, do you hear yourself? Do you remember rocking this hard? Sorry about the fidelity issues on this track. It was recorded on a $15 tape player and a .25 tape. I’ll I can say is I’m glad I brought it along. Funhouse line-up: Judy Tampa-rhythm guitar and harmony, Edward Bachmann-bass, Scot Halpin-guitar and lead vocals. Drummer yet to be determined. Song: "All Over Now," written by Bobby and Shirley Womack, for recorded by The Valentines--featuring Bobby Womack. The song was also The Rolling Stones first #1 hit, released in 1964.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Just To Go With You

Almost done. Going back and cleaning up old messes is so time consuming. It behooves one to stick to the program. I have got to start making some assumptions about what people know—stuff that has been previously spelled out in the blog. Otherwise I’m tempted to always start at the beginning.

The song “Careless Love” is another song with a long and peppered history as both a blues and jazz standard, the first known recording is by Buddy Bolden, a New Orleans jazz musician, around the turn of the 20th century. Careless Love, is I guess, a love that doesn’t look forward—doesn’t look out for consequences.

Wearing an apron, way down low, reminds me of a joke my grandmother once told me. She said as how there was this girl who claimed she’d do anything for a mink coat, but when she got it, she couldn’t button it! I don’t know if my grandmother was trying to be funny or strictly cautionary? Come to think of it, it is a lesson that’s stuck.

This is once again, the old Plank Road—John Williams and Scot Halpin--wearing their aprons way down low. Artwork--a couple who’ve decided to stay and see what happens, the mythical lovers on shore, the arc sailing away?

I’ve got some good news for tomorrow. I’ve got my little problem fixed.



In this case, missing in action, on the sofa. We’d had a fun day and had just settled in on the sofa for a long winter’s movie night. Thinking back on how much of the movie I saw (I knew because I's seen it before, I must have fallen asleep somewhere within the first fifteen minutes. I had planned to slip in and make my entry right before going to bed.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up and discovered I’d missed my window for a March 14, 2009 post! Wasn’t too happy, I can tell you that. Apparently I’d told James, a time in the past, not to wake me up. It’s hard to know what to tell our children.

I really feel bad about being missing in action for my post. I will try not to let that happen, plus I remember--I owe you one.

Another black and white drawing. Another track from the Basement Collaberation (Jerry Farnsworth on gutair, Kenny Wright on drums, Scot Halpin on bass), backing up John Mead (vocals and acoustic guitar)-- doing Dylan’s so true, “It Takes a Lot To Laugh It Takes a Train.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

Afganistan Again?

I remember when this song was written. We (?) had just invaded Afganistan the first time—to settle our wrongs. Tim, Carolyn, Scot and I would just shake our heads. This song started out as a sketch. I’ve got a good example of what I mean by a sketch coming up. In this case of this song, I don’t think Scot gave Tim and Carolyn any lyrics. In this sketch I’ll play for you down the line, there is a lyric structure, but no detail.

Tim, Carolyn and Scot were all fired up to work together. We had lots of plans (still do). Unfortunately we don’t have Scot here to boss us around. I like how the words and the melody and the imagery are so suggestive in this song, yet so open-ended. I can imagine just such a lonely soldier, wrapped up in an Army blanket wondering, “What happens next?”

The artwork--another sepia treatment. Scot loved this effect because it resembles aquatinting--an intaglio technique that requires swimming around in vast quantities of toxic material, like acid and lacquer thinner. These things were not good for Scot. I remember in the early days at City College, him fishing his etching plates out of the acid bath with his bare hands. And we wonder why he got a brain tumor?

Wonderful bass work on this song although it’s a bit back in the mix. I picked this version over another more polished studio version, which I can also play. I liked the rougher quality of this track, which features Carlyn Lindsey on vocals, and founding Snakedoctor members: Tim Haas on drums, Larry Vessily on keyboards, Dave Witherd on flute and Scot Halpin on bass.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Something's Happening Here

What it is, ain’t exactly clear. Finally getting back to this. I thought that at least I had the music and art together; if not the story. Wrong. The music is now a go. Got a lot to write, and not much to say. Ironic.

OK. This is Plank Road, back at the Farm Fresh studios. I remember the night Scot came home from this session. We listened to the tracks. It was clear that John was in fine voice, but Scot was dissatisfied at first, feeling like the tracks were a little cold and sterile. To tell the truth, he never liked any track right away, but days, sometime weeks and maybe even months later, the merit of the track would kind of come up and slap us in the face. Weird.

The song for today is KC Moan, a jug band standard. This was one of Scot’s favorite songs Plank Road songs.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Birth of a Genre

The story I’m about to tell you is true. I was driving my kid to school tonight for a play rehearsal. I was thinking about the blog entry I wanted to make when I got back home. All of a sudden, James starts humming the very melody. I didn’t remember humming the song, but I thought, “I must have.” I asked him, “Did I just hum that song?” He turned to me and asked, “What song?” No. It turns out I had not hummed any song. My guess is that he had just snatched it off the morpho-resonant field.

What I think is interesting on this tape, a solo jam recording, made by Scot in the late 1980’s, is that we hear him apologize for something on the track--when I know for a fact that he was the only person in the room! He had just bought this $75 drum machine. He played it like a typewriter. Just like C & W was a natural step from Rockabilly, so was folk music. This track represents the birth of the Folk Punk genre.

I’m going to cut it short tonight because my entries of late have been a little over long. The artwork for tonight is another piece done for the art fair circuit. This piece started out as a painting, was photographed and then re-worked inside the digital matrix. It reminded me of sailors, which reminded me of a song I will play you soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cuts from the Killing Floor

You might be wondering--what’s going on here—in terms of the artwork? This might help. I’ve been showing you work from two very distinct periods. I started the blog with some of Scot’s last work. He was very protective of this stuff. This work is something else. Personal. Anyone who ever saw it, loved it, and encouraged Scot to somehow show it, but he never did. He made his last great body of work a personal healing statement.

In 1992, our son was born. Scot had just gotten his Master’s of Interdisciplinary Art from San Francisco State University. Scot came into that department at the same time as Francis Ford Coppola’s brother came in as the new Chair of the Creative Arts Department. I think if you’ll check that out, you find that was an exciting time for SF State.

OK, so from the moment James was born, Scot’s work was transformed. In graduate school, he'd spent years on a series of sepia etchings. You’ll see these etchings before we are through, but in a word, they were—darker. Elegant. If the little etchings we were doing for the art fairs were $40 bills, these were $10,000 bills, but—darker.

When our kid was born, Scot was reborn. Everything inside him that was innocent and sweet--sprang forth. He was all about color and simplicity and connection with the brightness of being made eternal--via parenthood. We'd started doing the art fairs around the same time James was born. There was this window of time during the 1990's when people were sunny--pushing their strollers along art fair row. We all connected out there in this really sweet undertaking.

AD (After Diagnosis 9-03), Scot adopted this last style. It was full of all that he was experiencing--right down to the brains and acupuncture needles--his mood harkening back to the $10,000 bill sepia etchings--but fundamentally transformed by the depth of that innocence and sweetness. Today’s piece is a ballpoint pen drawing, done on typing paper (imported as a PDF). As I told you before, he did these drawings by the ream. I don't think this drawing ever got a color digital treatment.

Musical notes - a la Basement Collaboration - on this track we hear the rock and roll demeanor of Mike Stiglitz (lead vocals and guitar), previously mentioned on the blog (Got Me So Blind 2/09). I once had the chance to talk to Graham Nash on the phone. At the time, I was director of the Northern California field office of The Christic Institute. I’ll let you Google that to save time. Graham Nash and all of Crosby, Stills and Nash and Young, were supporters of the Institute. One day I picked up the phone, and there was Graham Nash. What a kick! Mike’s voice reminds me of Graham’s, and he looks a little like him too. This is a striped down track, but so pure. For the record, the BC is doing their back-up thing: Jerry Farnsworth on guitar, Kenny Wright on drums and Scot Halpin on bass.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lost in the Rhythms

Going Down to "Big Mary’s House", by the Paladins. I love the swing of this song, and the mid-groove tempo shifts. Whenever Carlyn Lindsey & Snakedoctor got around to doing this number, I was always grateful for the chance to get lost in its rhythms. This recording was made at an early Encore Café gig--the Snakedoctor line up: Tim Hass on drums, Larry Vessily on keyboards, Dave Witherd on sax, Scot Halpin on bass, and Carlyn Lindsey providing the vocals.

This is a song that wasn’t on everyone in town's set list. Snakedoctor has a lot of material like that. Scot had turned he focus back and was really enjoying looking through a lot of older material that he hadn’t previously encountered. He really had to work at learning some of the 'standards' that the band set out to tackle—“Stormy Monday”, “Elevator Boogie”, “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”. He would be certain to complain if a song had more than four chords.

Once again on this track you are going to hear some phenomenal sax--courtesy of Dave Witherd. Dave has some handle on his music--full of grace and ease. Larry Vessily is another one. He knows. Tim brings his own unique style. Scot used to liken his rolls to the same effect you’d get throwing the drums down the stairs. Carlyn’s voice—pure pleasure, wrapped up in velvet, with a little prickle thrown in for interest.

The other day I closed feeling like I was talking about all these other people, and that really this is supposed to be the T. Scot Halpin Memorial Blog, and so I ask you to hone in and take a really good listen to Scot’s bass work in this piece, especially around 2:31 on the player. I can still see his hands move across the frets.

Today’s artwork--yes, another moon. I had to go with this piece because of all the fun, colorful blast coming out of the sax. This is another Claris works piece, drawn with the mouse, done circa 1997?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Moth to a Fire

I wanted to bring this song out, but hadn’t because the story didn’t turn out great for everyone involved. I blew that cover last night. We tried. We were art buddies. We went to museums. We cruised the art supply stores. I showed him a paint store in the Mission that had millions of gallons of mis-mixed paint--sold cheap. I couldn't help it--things like showing him this paint store mesmerized him.

This recording was done in our little barn house in Iowa City in 1981, where we'd ended up for family reasons. Scot wrote this song, "Moth to a Fire", within the first year of our meeting. It is an example of some of the truly amazing stuff I've been chomping at the bite to bring out, but haven’t yet got the means to do (except for these few tracks (Unknown Artist/Unknown Album). We lived in Iowa City for just short of a year. The keyboards in this recording belonged to our dear friend and colleague, Mark Houseal. If you ever want an endorsement of Scot Halpin, call this guy.

Mark became the keyboard man for “T. Scot Bottom and the Rockabilly Funhouse.” Scot and I brought the idea for this band to Iowa City, when we were just fresh home for Europe—and all fired up. It was a little bit punk and a little bite wild-man Rockabilly. On this particular track, Scot is once again playing all the instruments, among which is a Fender Rhodes organ. This wasn't T. Scot Bottom and the Rockabilly Funhouse material, it was stuff Scot recorded and sent to Nashville, hoping to find an agent to rep the material, which didn't happen.

Both Scot and I some how found the sound of the Fender Rhodes keyboard a little limited by its sound. On the other hand, Mark also brought in a Hammond B-6, complete with its Leslie speakers and all; which we set-up in our living room. Now there is a keyboard whose only limits are the person astride it. Hopefully, we are going to hear some of that soon.

The artwork, once again, is a drawing introduced into the digital word and redefined.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pow Wow

So many stories. The first time I heard Scot do this song was back in 1979. We had just convinced my boss, the lovely San Francisco Greek lady, who owned the Civic Center restaurant I worked at, to let us book musical acts over the weekend in her place; which she otherwise closed down at 3:00 on Friday afternoon and re-opened Monday morning at 11:00. Little did she know, what that meant in 1979…

Scot and I had just come out as a couple. This is one of the few situations in Scot’s life that I know he had regrets about. I’m not proud about this either, as it hurt a good person, but I think, as it turned out, Scot and I just couldn’t help it.

The debut "opening band" of our newly dubbed punk rock, poetry, and any thing else we felt like club, was “The Double Cross Band.” This band was fronted by a dear friend of ours, Dave Kinney, who was born in those very Oklahoma hills the song talks about, and is himself a part of the Indian Nation. I do believe Dave “taught” Scot this song. John has his own relationship with the Indian Nation, the story of which we’ll save for another day.

Right before Scot and I came “out,” we went on a house-boating trip with my family on Lake Powell, in Arizona/Utah--a float out in the desert? (I had dreams about this trip for years.) Scot did not fit in well there. For one thing, he did not own a bathing suit. He arrived with some flesh colored pajamas and a pair Viet Nam-Ira combat boats. He stowed his gear in a bag, expropriated from the U.S. Postal Service. However unlikely, my family embraced him.

Dave tells the story best, but I can relate because I dropped Scot off on the originating end of the trip--there was this tornado, not uncommon for Oklahoma. I LOL, remembering Dave describe waiting there for Scot--and then Scot emerging from the tornado, decked out in his newly acquired cowboy hat and boots, and a postal bag with all his belongings draped over one shoulder. Some how Paul Bunyan comes to mind.

Getting too long here. Art work, something I couldn’t resist dishing out.

One more little story--John’s beautiful little daughter, loves this song too, and has been known to accompany Plank Road on this song playing the tamborine. I love Scot’s tamborine stomp on this track. I seems to strike the beat of a real Salvation Army.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another Round?

“Gods and Communists” is another example of Scot and John—stripping it down for us on the Plank Road. I could start complaining about how I am behind here at Station TSCOT. Where are all those oldies you promised, you might complain.

It’s true. I’m sitting on another technical problem. I’m waiting for a break-through so I can start playing all that great old stuff. I’m thinking you might be getting kind of used to hearing the absolutely breath-taking music I've been featuring. I know, here at TSCOT, I’ve been leaning heavily on Carlyn Lindsey & Snakedoctor, Jerry Farnsworth's Basement Collaboration, Jamula and John Williams, but I’m guessing you’re getting kind of used to hearing these remarkable voices.

“Gods and Communists” is another example of John’s gracious poetry, set to music, and then "interpreted." I talked to him the other day and he told me he has, something like fourteen new songs!

The artwork,also very stripped down, has nothing much to do with the music, except maybe the mood. The music reminds me of trips I’ve made, traveling the distances of this vast country—out there on the long miles of Texas or the Great Plains--seeing classical cloud landscapes form up across the sky.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I’m a Libra. All right, I’m a triple Libra. Balance loams large in my value scale. Back to the Blues. I was wanting some Jamula, and this is what I came up with. Blues again. I think anyone listening will admit that this is some pretty tasteful %$#&ing Blues.

Pure, power trio Jamula. I told you Jerry knew his room. You can hear Tom suck his air in. Jerry truly kicks ass on guitar and Scot, now a true side-man has stepped back--and up to the plate of making sure that no one forgets to feel the beat.

The artwork for today is a favorite of mine, called, “Life’s Delicate Balance.” It is a hand-colored (remember I mentioned the airbrush) dry-point engraving. Dry-point means drawn with a needle, in this case into plexi-glass, in Rembrant’s case--copper, and then printed on an etching press. In this image, we see the essence of what life on this planet is all about: balance, precariousness, work, home, spirituality.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Angels' Sigh

I really wanted to play this song for you, “Come on People.” I had trouble every step of the way. Usually, for me, this kind of struggle can indicate a troubled ending. I like plans that unfold, but I got to thinking about the message of the song--peace is within our reach. It’s a struggle to stand for peace in any meaningful way. Obama seems open. How about we put all the money we were going to spend on waging the war, and instead, build wells, and schools, and public halls, and clinics all over the region? I think that might be the one true way to stamp out the influence of the extremists.

In my cursory search, I was unable to turn up the name of the guy who wrote this song, but I know he sold it for something like, $75? I can remember going to hear Jessie Collin Yong play for free in Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park—must have been sometime in the eighties. We parked way up in the Richmond and came walking down the wide sidewalks; we could just hear the band. As we entered the park, and turned into the meadow, they started playing this song. The sun had burned off most of the fog, but wafts of it were still drifting here and there. The smell of eucalyptus FILLED the air. Magical. Scot could tell us the name of the guy who wrote the song.

This is a studio recording of Plank Road, with a very striped-down Scot and John. I chose today’s artwork to reflect that struggle mentioned above, which reminds me of something I wanted to add to a previously posed reflection (Unknown Artist, Unknown Recording 2/09). I did not mean to imply that Scot’s life was without struggle. Believe me, there was a lot of grit there. The condition he left this world in was his own hard won victory.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dancin' Shoes

Found it! O.K. I realize I was looking for rock and roll. Is this rock and roll? Let’s test your musical chops. It’s Louis Jordan—1946. Scot was always in search of these bridge-way musics: jug-band, Kansas-City Jump—like that. This is Carlyn Lindsey & Snakedoctor in another gear. There’s a soul gear I’m just mentioning now, but for the moment, put on your dancin’ shoes. And did I have the rinky-tink part nailed, or what?

You can hear how appreciative the audience was that night; and this was the first number. I’m talkin’ about a BEAR’S Snakedoctor gig—a much different venue than the Encore Cafe. At Bear’s, we brought in the brass. For the record, on this track it’s: sax-Dave Witherd, keyboards-Larry Vessily, drums-Tim Haas, Carlyn Lindsey-vocals, Scot Halpin-bass. This is a live recording—all these people playing their asses off—together, and this recording is here to prove it.

The artwork is another generation of the Claris Works approach. Shapes and forms, blown up three-dimensionally, and placed in a two dimensional world.-looks like a stage. This piece is called “Busy Day.”

Monday, March 2, 2009


I’m feeling like a little blues today. Pretty sure this is the same line-up as “Mystery Track.” That means (I think) Tom Smith-living and breathing the blues on harp, Jerry Farnsworth-taking it easy (but not too easy) with the blues on guitar, Kenny Wright-on the drums and in the pocket, and Scot Halpin-diving into a champagne bath of the blues, on bass. Scot really came to live and breathe roots music.

The artwork for today is another hand-colored etching, called “Imagination.” It was done in the mid-1990’s, I’d say. When I saw it today, it reminded me of another lifetime, sitting in a San Francisco café—writing way back then.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Always Has Been

Here’s another $40 bill. This image, “A Balanced Approach” (a hand colored etching) is an image that seemed to speak to both men and women. The mayor of our town bid it up to $175 at a local fundraiser. He didn’t know Scot. I guess he simply connected with the message--he was just starting his administration when he bought it. Any kind of vote for Scot, has always commended me to that person.

Sunday on the Plank Road seems right. Today’s track, “Liberty Bell” is another John Williams original. Things are coming into focus and I now know that this session was produced by Evan Copelly (plus he added so many of the actual musical highlights to the track, although the kazoo is all John). At lot of times, we end up looking at things through a rear view mirror. Good job, Evan!

Wrote a lot last night, so I’ll make it short today. Scot and John had planned to record some new material, and twice the recording session was cancelled. Scot died before they got another chance. Shortly after he passed, John went into the studio and recorded this material--solo (or so we might have thought).

Thinking of it as a scratch track, John let it all hang out. John said he clearly felt Scot that night in the studio with him when he recorded it. The rest is history. John went ahead with friends and family (with special kudos to the photographer) and produced a CD, "Gravity"—which is nothing short of inspired. Get it at: cdbaby/cd/nwjohnny.

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