The Incidentals

August 1990, New York City


Frank Randall – guitar
Mark Lerner – mandolin, dulcimer

In 1990, WFMU radio host Nick Hill asked me if I could provide some incidental music for a talk show. I think the station folks had recently gotten a bunch of remote broadcast gear and were eager to put it to a test. The show was to be broadcast live from Caffe Reggio in New York City on August 22, 1990. As it happened, my friend Frank Randall was in town from Minneapolis, so I put him to work. Among his many other talents, Frank has a pleasing fingerpicking style on the guitar. I played mandolin with a dulcimer on my lap, and switched to the dulcimer for some parts of some tunes.

The host of the show was Glen Jones, and my memory is that one of the guests was NPR’s Terry Gross, or some other radio luminary. Nobody seems to be able to corroborate this, and no tape exists of the show. I do recall being very excited that we were playing in Caffe Reggio, because that’s where they hang out in Paul Mazursky’s Next Stop, Greenwich Village, and I’ve always loved that movie.

Next Stop Greenwich Village film still

Frank and I played right behind where Christopher Walken is in this still from Next Stop, Greenwich Village.

We wrote 2 tunes and arranged a few others for the occasion. Though we played the broadcast live, we also recorded some of our efforts at my apartment on my cassette 4-track, which enabled me to throw in backwards dulcimer (which is extra special, in a what-was-I-thinking sort of way). Frank reminds me in email that when we played at the broadcast, the breaks for our incidental music were so brief that we kept not getting beyond the first part of any of our pieces. Eventually we just started playing from the middle of each song.

“Welder’s Blowtorch” was either a co-write or Frank wrote it. “Fisher’s Hornpipe” is a traditional fiddle tune, but our slow and gentle version owes its tempo to Souled American’s cover. The third song was a co-write: main part by Frank. I supplied the bridge, which I later stole back to use in “Jerkwater” for Flat Old World. .

This stuff sounds sort of nice, doesn’t it?

I was having a devil of a time figuring out when this actually happened, when Frank suggested looking at old datebooks. Lo and behold, the exact date and time, along with instructions to come up with pieces 2 to 2-1/2 minutes long. Also note my then-girlfriend-now-wife had snuck into my datebook to suggest that the 23rd would be a good day to buy her a hat.
Pages from my 1990 datebook

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6 Comments on “The Incidentals”

  1. Sounds almost like a studio until that phone rings in the middle of our hornpipe! Gotta love real music by mostly humans. The third piece I always referred to as “Flat Old Waltz,” but I think I only did that after you started throwing Flat Old World around as your new band name. I tried it with the Sycamores a few times in rehearsal, but it was destied to remain… incidental.

  2. Brian Redman says:

    Hello. I dug up a tape from this show and put it at other breakfast-jones-08-22-90.mp3 for you. Enjoy! Thanks for triggering some good memories.


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