|Retro Recordings Live Tonight (posters) Men of Harlech Beams of Light Oak Creek Home
All items written & copyright by John Good
Over more years than I care to enumerate, I have lived and played/written music in many a town, city and two countries. In that time Iíve been something of a sonic gypsy, traveling musically from genre to genre, style to style, culture to culture as I followed the piper, or was I piping as the muse led on? People ask me why I left such a beautiful country as Wales, and my stock answer is that it was "a slow Wednesday." They say thereís an element of truth in every joke, but I regret nothing at all about my wanderings, and along the wayside, some of the music I was involved with found its way to tape; some floated off on the night air and is the other side of the Andromeda Galaxy by now. What follows is an illustrated digest of what survived and, with apologies for variable recording quality, a couple of things I thought you might be interested in. Please enjoy my musical scrapbook!
After leaving university in Hull, Yorkshire, then Cardiff, Wales, I tried my luck at teaching in Brixton Hill, London, trying to put together musical projects after school. But the piper played his alluring tune, and I found myself in Brighton, England, part of an experimental, mainly acoustic band called Sta Jo Jo. The first track is called Parrots and was written and sung by Mark Broad, arranged by myself, on which I play the flute. It was recorded around 1973 I believe.
That band was one of a host of almost-made-its, and when the lineup changed we turned into an instrumental unit. Rocket Motors was a piece I wrote reflecting my passion for Science Fiction and odd time signatures. I play saxophones and flutes. Around 1979, the recording was made at Funky Features recording studio, Haight Ashbury, San Francisco.
At the same session, the track Come on Let Me was cut along with Side Effect, on which I both wrote and played flute and sax. There were great jazz players in the Bay Area, and I learnt a lot about how to listen and unlock the trove of music thatís in everyoneís head.
Come on Let Me
Hearing the piper leading the way over the hill, I followed down to L.A., where there was a raging New Wave/Punk scene, as well as a song writing hub and song publishing Mecca. Iím not your Satellite/Let Sleeping Dogs Lie from the mid 1980ís represents my sincere attempt to write contemporary pop music. As writer, sax player and vocalist, they almost bought me a house in the Hollywood Hills, or at least Pasadena! (Do you notice a close-but-no-cigar trend developing here?)
Iím Not Your Satellite / Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Returning somewhat to a more experimental style, No More Centuries is an apocalyptic vision that many people experience after living in L.A. Itís a tough city that produces radical art. This track, as well as the two previous ones, were recorded, engineered and produced by multi-talented Curt Wilson in around 1989. He also did some backing vocals and lead guitar. We recently got back in touch. Seemed like no time at all had passed. Some friendships last a lifetime, even if you neglect them.
No More Centuries
Moving to Phoenix, Arizona to avoid the traffic, impending L.A. apocalypse, possible earthquakes, and the music business rat race, I cast about for a while in the desert and ran into English Cathy. After managing a band I was part of in L.A., that, by the way, imploded at Madam Wongís West one boozy night, she moved to Tucson, where we reconnected. I wrote and recorded Sisters of Mercy in the early 1990ís to thank her and her sister for being good friends to me and many another sofa-surfing musician.
Sisters of Mercy
Around the same time, my rocky marriage finally fell apart under the stresses and strains of modern life, and a little too much of the high life. I stayed in Phoenix amongst the debris, but changed everything else I was doing. In retrospect, the divorce probably saved my sanity and life.
Why for Yesterday
As all this drama began to subside, I gave up music just about completely and started driving a commercial truck over all of America. How did I like it? Well as I used to say "Truck driving is interesting for the first 10 minutes." The person who steered me back onto the piperís trail was my dear friend, compatriot and partner in sonic crime over many many years, in both Brighton and San Francisco, guitarist and composer Anthony Hindson. He wanted me to play on his upcoming album, Itís A Curious Life. I also wrote the charts for the sessions, which amounted to a glittering array of world greats: Jack Bruce, Shankar, Tony Williams, Zakir Hussain, Gary Husband, Scott Thunes, Vikku Vinayakram, Mark Robertson and Anthony himself. I play flute on a couple of the tracks, including the title track, Itís A Curious Life. I got some pretty curious looks, practicing my flute, sitting in the driverís seat after the dayís run, in many a truck stop across the nation. I showed up at the live session at Tarpan Studios in Marin CountyÖ a minnow in a sea of sleek and glittering, leaping salmon. Scared as I was, a little meditation and a great deal of luck pulled me through!
Its a Curious Life
Iíll end this brief excursion on the piperís trail by leaving you with my musical homecoming. Iím still living in Arizona (the Prescott area now), but Wales and Welsh culture have become a passion of mine. I learnt the language of my mother and grandmother and am fully invested in the music and culture, from a distance of 6,000 miles. The piper still plays from time to time, but Iíve learnt to smile and wish him well as he travels on.
Can Merthyr (Song of Merthyr)
English Cathy ("EC")
See Curt's recent interview of John
YouTube: Part 1 Part 2
Vintage Posters, Handbills and Fliers
This sad, crumpled little poster--a remnant of a band far far away in a far-off galaxy-- is all that is left of a different time, in a different world, with different expectations and now, known outcomes. Brighton, England in the early 70s, was very much alive with every kind of music known to a youthful and hopeful generation. There are no videos to illustrate the poster, just a couple of semi-professionally recorded audio tracks. Below is a composition of Mark Broad, played and embellished by the band, sta jo jo: Victoria Sackville, vocal; Andy Coe, bass; Anthony Hindson, electric guitar; Mark Broad, vocal, acoustic guitar; and myself on flute and sax.
Since the War
Down the worm hole we go to the early 2000s and the Welsh/American band Afan (a Welsh river). The home town was now Phoenix, Arizona, which was, you might find surreal, a vibrant center of live Celtic music, replete with Irish pubs, Scottish Games and Welsh language classes! It was fertile soil--or in this case desert sands--for growing an acoustic band playing traditional music from The Isles. Afanís charm was in embracing music from Ireland, Scotland, America and Wales, even in the same medley. Some years later, something of a reunion took place in Portland, Oregon at an event organized by Ceri Shaw of AmeriCymru. Kevin King, bodhran and spoons; Billy Parker, and myself on whistle, modesty protected by a Daviesí kilt.
|Afan member reunion, Portland Oregon
University of Washington
After Afan succumbed to the internal and external pressures of modern living, I linked up with Steve Colby, and we formed the touring band Oceans Apart. We made 8 albums and played hundreds of concerts and festivals all over America. This video was shot by my long-time collaborator, web guru and great good friend, Mark Foshee, on the deck of the Star of India. The occasion was the Shanty Festival in San Diego. Imagine playing the music you love to an appreciative audience, on the deck of a hundred-year-old sailing ship, on a balmy day in San Diego Bay. With your clothes on, itís about as good as it gets!
|Oceans Apart playing on the Star of India||YouTube
A different avatar of Afan was the band--still active from time to time--Tramor (Overseas). The video below was captured a number of years ago, by someone in the audience at the North American Festival of Wales in Minneapolis. John Piggott is on harp, Billy Parker on mandolin and guitar, myself on flute. The tunes are Cressandra, Johnís Late Again and Vi; originals by yours truly.
|Tramor live in Minnesota
North American Festival of Wales
Iíve been involved with many extraordinary performers as a free lance musician. One person who stands out in my mind is Larry Loeber, keyboardist with the Phoenix Symphony. He himself is a virtuoso of the first water and introduced me to musicians of the same caliber, including harpist Stephen Hartman. Unfortunately, no audio recordings or videos have survived that I know of, but getting to collaborate with classical musicians after so many years in the Folk/Rock/Jazz worlds was refreshing to say the least..
|Phoenix Symphony - Musicians
Phoenix Harp Center - About Us
As Iíve said before, my mother used to call me a romancer, someone fond of elaborating on the basic plot or sub plot, either to raise a smile or avoid consequences or both. Well, thatís my story and Iím sticking to it, until I find a better narrative! In Mythic Crew I was again very lucky to collaborate for a while with storyteller extraordinaire Liz Warren. For once in my life, embellishing on the truth was actually encouraged, and I felt quite at home. The clip was shot by Mark Foshee, in Fountain Hills Library, Arizona.
|Mythic Crew in Fountain Hills Library
This final poster was for a concert up in McMinnville, Oregon for my good friend and spiritual powerhouse Kathleen Galvin. It features me playing one of my favorite instruments, the Welsh Bagpipes, as well as showcasing the other instruments I've picked up over the years.
To finish this look back at some of the posters, handbills and fliers Iíve hung onto over the years, Iíll ask your indulgence to watch and listen to a digest of words and music I have considered worth keeping. Itís a long way and time since sta jo jo in Brighton, but hopefully thereís some kind of thread that runs through it all.
|Tramor Gallery - The Best of Tramor
|Men of Harlech
As the two languages have, in many ways, fundamental differences, Welsh to English translation present difficult choices to the translator, especially of poetry and lyrics.
Do you keep the naws (mood) and sacrifice the narrative detail, sacrifice the naws and keep to the detail, look for a verbal compromise, invent something completely different and so on. Then there's the technical issues: form, rhyme, alliteration, stress, metaphor, idiom, etc.
The reason I mention this is that for some time I've been disappointed by the numerous translations and approximations of John Ceiriog Hughes' Rhyfelgyrch Gwyr Harlech (Men of Harlech). Not that they don't work on their own merits, but that they seem distant from the glorious Welsh of Ceiriog.
As a result, what follows is my own attempt at the impossible,;a translation that is close in naws and faithful to the detail. If you feel the same as me and like my efforts, please feel free to use the translation at your gatherings.
An early example of the melody, very similar to modern day versions. John Ceiriog Hughs (known simply as Ceiriog) would compose the most famous lyrics, as translated below.
| Listen to a musical sketch of my new translation of Rhyfelgyrch Gwyr Harlech.
|Beams of Light
AmeriCymru - A Short Interview With John Good
AmeriCymru: Bridges, from which Beams of Light is taken, is a work in progress. When can we expect to hear more? Will there be a CD?
John: I'm hoping to add another installment before Nadolig/Christmas. but I'm trying to keep the energy up without rushing. I'm looking at adding "moving" graphics for a YouTube kind of job, possibly ending up as a multimedia CD.
AmeriCymru: I know many of our members will be keen to hear this work performed at the WCE (West Coast Eiisteddfod). Will it be in your repertoire?
John: Some parts but other similar and dissimilar things (got to keep you and me on our toes). Anyway, Welsh culture of the more traditional kind is extremely broad-based and routinely neglected. I try to adjust that wherever I go. Everything is on the table.
AmeriCymru: How would you describe Beams of Light/Bridges? Is it perhaps a song cycle or a series of connected poems set to music? Does it have an overall theme?
John: I think it's a first installment of a 20 year scrapbook of song, verse, instrumental with story and legend to be added in future linked episodes ...sort of an alphabet 'cawl' with musical croutons. The theme is a loose narrative created by longtime traveling, learning, laughing, forgetting, regretting and loving.
AmeriCymru: Is it possible to detect many influences at work in Beams of Light. Has the writing been influenced by any one particular poet/songwriter would you say?
John: Many: Viv Stanshall, both Dylans, rock salmon and 6, Gareth Edwards, Strongbow, Owain Glyndwr, choc ices, Port Talbot steel works...
AmeriCymru: Any final message for our readers?
John: Y mae Cymru ar fin o adennill ei hunan hyder. Byddwch yn falch.
Wales is on the point of regaining her self confidence. Be proud.
Listen to a performance.
See our video on YouTube,
integrating Beams of Light into
the opening, at 2:37 and 9:28.
See the full lyrics.
Beams of Light
And I will build bridges, night and day;
Lay strong beams of light.
And I will read from the book of dreams;
Walk Wisdom's well traveled causeway.
Groceries put away, paper bags discarded,
the daylong dreamer gratefully sleeps.
From abstract patterns traced on fitful sheets
a macabre black cat leaps from its dream,
clears a blouse caressing a chair,
scattered skirt, shoes, tap dancing to the moon;
lands, spills a perfectly still glass of wine
left standing overnight on piano's polished lid.
Silent, red, slow, Beaujolais flows
past a rosewood reflected Waterford vase;
seeps over sheet music's opened page:
five easy pieces anyone can play!
Even "Five Easy Pieces" requires concentration
and peace, though simple, is a practiced thing.
To be continued...
Bob Schaffner was father-in-law and friend to me. Twice a year the whole family, Maryanne, Kelly, Scott, Kevin, Joyce, Rich, nephews, nieces and significant others would meet in Sedona, along Oak Creek and spend a week amongst the quiet glory of the red rocks, sleeping within sound of that magical flowing stream. We would go trout fishing, hiking along the creek for hours on end, bird book in the back pocket, binoculars in the back pack and even if we came back empty-handed, the beer and barbeque and company were catch enough. It was Bob's favorite place in the world, and when he passed, we all gathered again and scattered his ashes in the welcoming stream. By now he is appropriately inseparable from this deep blue-green planet.
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