During the the most recent COVID shutdown, I started playing around with some of the mastering software that’s out there. For those of you that don’t speak audio geek, mastering is the final tweak of a recording that gives it that nice sheen. Previously the domain of mystical audio wizards, mastering is now a one-button (mostly) software plug-in. So I tried it on a couple of recordings from my old bands. And, gosh darn, it did make the tunes sound even better.
Then I got inspired and made a video to go along with this particular tune – Back to the Sun. Seemed relevant to our world’s current troubles. Hope we all can get back to the sun soon.
You can also listen to just the audio below or download the files for your digital collection.
I can feel my heart pounding And the engines open wide As we fly out of darkness And across the great divide Back to the Sun, Back to the Sun we go When I see you at the station I will kiss you at the gate I will hold you in the morning In a long cold, sweet embrace Back to the Sun, Back to the Sun we go We are dancing over mountains We are floating on the rain We are drifting in the slipstream Out of loneliness and pain Back to the Sun, Back to the Sun we go
If you happened to be in San Diego on May 14, 1955, you might have felt the earth move. It wasn’t an earthquake however. It was the residual shockwave from the U.S. Navy’s underwater atomic bomb test, officially known as Operation Wigwam. The test took place in the Pacific Ocean 500 miles west/southwest of our fair city.
The location was selected by scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who identified an area that would have the least affect on shipping channels and fisheries, a “biological desert far from seat lanes”. The test was designed to assess the lethal range of underwater nuclear explosions on submarines. You can see the Navy’s official film report below (skip to the 21-minute mark if you just want to watch stuff blow up).
Oceanography was a relatively new science at the time and Scripps Institute began its rise to prominence in the field shortly after the Second World War. Some of the earliest experiments confirming the possibility of global climate change were conducted at the institute in the 1950s (and continue to this day). I’m including the institute and two of its employees (one real, one fictional) in my work-in-progress historical novel, set in the 1950s. Fascinating stuff.
The “radio drama” podcast version of Desert City Diva has come and gone, but I’m making it available here for anyone’s who’s interested in listening. Play from this page or download the MP3 files for later. Includes all four episodes plus a roundtable discussion with some of the creative folks involved. Enjoy!
I recently discovered this bit of treasure for anyone interested in the history of San Diego’s music scene. It’s a CD Compilation called Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958 – 1973 Rock & Roll, Garage, Psych and Soul From America’s Finest City.
Released in October 2020, this is a top-notch assemblage, put together with respect and loving care by San Diego musician and local music historian Andy Rasmussen. The generous 33 cuts showcase a wide range of pop styles from the era. A 36 page booklet of liner notes by Mike Stax provides short histories on each of artists as well as a cornucopia of band photos, record labels and other promotional items.
Most of these bands remained local, though some members went on to bigger careers, most notably The Outcasts’ Gary Puckett who had several national hits in the 1960s when he formed Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Jerry Raney, who later went on to success with another well known San Diego band, the Beat Farmers, is represented here with his songwriting, singing and lead guitar work for the band Glory. A band called The Survivors featured the mysteriously disappearing singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan, who released two well-received major label albums in the 1960s. Joel Scott Hill of The Strangers and The Invaders later played with both Canned Heat and The Flying Burrito Brothers. And I’m personally intrigued by Willie Kellogg, who seems to have been the most valuable drummer in town, showing up in many of the recordings.
Aside from the famous names, what’s really fun about the CD is learning more about the local music scene during this era, when Ozzie’s Music Store (which I do remember) used to hold a Battle of the Bands concert once a month in their parking lot. Clubs where bands played had names like Shangri-La, Cinnamon Cinder, Circe’s Cup, Funky Quarters, Halo Hop and the Candy Company, to name a few.
Much of the material here is of its time, but the performances are top-notch and, given the recording tech of the time, well recorded, all honorably restored and re-mastered by Mike Kamoo. Find Me a Moment by The Brain Police could easily have been a big pop hit in the psychedelic era. The Caterpillar Crawl by The Strangers is an aggresive Dick Dale/Ventures-style guitar instrumental. Ervin Rucker brings Stax Records soul to She’s Alright while Hootchie Part 1 from the Ray-Nears provides some nifty sax-fueled funkiness. And the doo-wop Unemployment from Steve and the Holidays is a real hoot. In short, the CD is a lot of fun and a great bit of San Diego musical history as well. Kudos to all involved.
I’m working on a new historical crime novel that takes place in La Jolla, CA in the mid-1950s. As part of my research, I’ve been going through some old family documents and photographs. I’ve always been fascinated by one photograph, in particular, that I’d found in my father’s collection. It’s the house my father lived in after he moved here from Kansas with his first wife, Ruth.
This first book takes place in the mid-1950s. I’m planning two subsequent novels that will take place in the 1960s and 1970s respectively, following different members of one fictional family and their interactions with a number of real-life characters who either lived in or passed through La Jolla during that time. It is not autobiographical but some echoes of my family’s experiences will no doubt come through.
I was born in 1958 so by the time I was a kid riding my bicycle in and around the Shores Beach area, it had changed substantially. As you’ll see from the picture below, the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club in the foreground and Scripps Institute and Pier were the only buildings there in the mid-fifties, though a few scattered houses had started to creep in.
The two biggest changes that led to real estate development in the Shores neighborhood were the establishment of UCSD on the mesa above Scripps Institute and completion of the La Jolla Parkway (originally Ardath Road) cutover from Interstate 5, which allowed easy automobile access to town. But in the early 1950s, there was still plenty of room to park your boat on the beach.
Needless to say, it was a different world then. There were also stables nearby and folks could ride horses down to the beach. I’m trying to capture some of that atmosphere in the first book. More to come in future posts.