NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, 1983 – Here is the thing about Gurls. They are never alone. They can sense each other, even in the deepest darkness. Luminescent, they somehow manage to bind, combine and tether to each other in ways unforeseen and incomprehensible to the rest of us.
They effortlessly it seems, make our lives glorious despite our best efforts to descend into madness.
If you are lucky, you get to watch them do it.
When certain things are performed live, right there in front of you, a choice is instantly made. A decision, made correctly and with eyes wide open, can determine destiny.
Your Humble Narrator’s (YHN) life was changed forever (again) after hanging up the phone with Gurl Nineteen.
Without knowing it, his life would be irrevocably altered, indelibly imprinted, and improbably inspired while doing sound for his next tour.
Gina Birch and Ana da Silva are Gurl(s) Twenty Nine. Of course, they have wobbled in and out of orbit with other Gurls, on other planets, but for YHN they are 29, they are The Raincoats.
In numerology, every number has an inherent meaning, a certain essence. A number’s meaning in a numerology chart depends on its position in the chart and is derived from the number’s inherent meaning.
The number 29 represents a composition containing the ideas of relationships, teamwork, compassion, companionship and diplomacy. Oh, and soul sounds, sweet nothings and sublime subversion.
Of course, YHN had been a fan of their earlier work but he was totally unprepared for the music they would be making and uncannily ignorant of the stereotypes they would be breaking as we all got in the van.
There were seven of us bound together by fate, by fortune, mostly by mistake. In a scene, on a scheme, in a dream rolling across the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
The Gurls, Vicki Aspinall, three fellas (including the drummer for Joe Strummer’s old band, the 101’ers) and YHN all crammed into a 1974 Dodge Sportsman.
It was the middle of winter and the heater wasn’t working.
There were the usual stops in Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore and New Haven. They were warm-ups for what was to be the crowning event of the tour, a show at the Kitchen in NYC that would be recorded live with a highly touted, new mobile recording operation for release as an album on R.O.I.R.
First however, we had to get out of Philadelphia. Touring in winter is nothing but a hassle. Slippery spills down frozen stairs, unexpected delays when commuting and jittery drivers in jalopys trying to aim three tons of steel in the appropriate direction were the usual problems one could expect and never seem to avoid in old Ben’s city.
For some reason, everything is always worse in Philly.
During the show a huge, blowing blizzard had parked itself over the mid-Atlantic while the band was blowing minds onstage.
Leaving the club to load gear into a van covered in more than a foot of snow with British people, slightly glowing at 3 in the morning, can be a challenge at best and the 10th circle of Hell at the worst. That night was somewhere in-between.
Desperately under-dressed, decidedly unmotivated and despising every choice that we’d made that had led us to this point, we threw the gear and our frozen bodies into the van and started the engine. We were so cold. The snow was so heavy.
Impassioned pleas for an immediate removal to a warm NYC hotel room were lobbed like grenades at Dien Ben Phu.
As soon as the door closed, the van was started, put into immediate gear and we began to slide on snow-slicked streets as quickly out of the City of Brotherly Love as we could.
Until the head gasket blew on the turnpike somewhere around Holmesburg.
Who knew you had to let the engine warm-up? Not the Brits. Not YHN, who learned to drive in Texas. No one except the equipment rental company and they were pissed.
Despite being condemned to this cold hell we somehow we made it back to NYC and began preparations for the show. It turned out to be even more complicated than our mechanically-challenged exit.
Every microphone cable was split so that YHN could have a sound feed to do his regular mix for the audience and the producer could have the same sounds to mix for the live album.
This is common practice. Mixing live sound requires enhancing sounds that don’t have amplifiers on stage. Usually, if you have a recording of a live show from the soundboard, it is mostly drums and vocals because the guitars and bass have their own amplifiers.
Essentially, if you are trying to capture a great live recording you need two mixes. One so the audience can hear everything and another mix so people enjoying the recording can hear everything. It is an extremely difficult thing to pull off.
The producer, sadly, didn’t pull it off. When we gathered in the recording studio to listen to the playback of the performance a problem quickly became evident. There was a low hum, probably due to a variable voltage in the electrical circuit rendering the live recording unusable.
YHN offered a cassette of his live mix from the evening. Somehow, magically, it captured perfectly the performance that night. It is the recording heard on the album that was released.
YHN first LP credit! Thank you Gurls.
No vans were destroyed while writing this article.
YHN is the character from “Funes The Memorious” and is known for receiving a horrendous head injury that afterward allowed him to remember absolutely everything that had ever happened to him, leading to complications of the finest kind.
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