Dan Eilenberg and Me (the B-Sides, the Rave-Ups, the Imposters, etc)

Bethesda, Maryland, 1981-1986

Personnel

Dan Eilenberg – guitar, vocals
Mark Lerner – bass
Ken “Bidjje” Kavanaugh – drums
Jonathan Lipson – drums
Adam Gibbons – drums
Stephen Lewis – guitar
Billy Simms – guitar
Sam Jannotta – keyboards
Dave Robinowitz – keyboards
Jim Levy – keyboards

I’m going to get so much wrong here. For a variety of reasons many of the details in this entry are very foggy for me. So let me get a few things right, here at the beginning.

Dan Eilenberg taught me more about listening to and playing music than anyone else I’ve ever known. It’s like he’s the imaginary listener for just about any piece of music I write or record. Listening back now to the music we made together as kids I hear a frightening amount of what I think of as me, and realize it came from him. He pushed tons of classic sixties pop music on me (anyone who knows Dan will know that “pushed” is an apt description): The Kinks, the Beatles, the Band, the Byrds, the Temptations, the Supremes, Creedence Clearwater Revival. All stuff that’s pretty much the basis of my musical vocabulary now.

This entry covers 3 or 4 “bands,” but I honestly can’t tell the difference between them. Dan and I started writing songs together in 11th or 12th grade, and we’d play and record them with various folks. None of the bands really played many shows. We just wanted to be world-famous songwriters. So this entry is about our songwriting partnership more than any band.

yearbook photo

Tilbrook and Difford in high school. Dan’s inscription in my yearbook. Between us, standing, is Dave Robinowitz. Adam Gibbons is next to him. Between us and below us is Sam Jannotta. Second from left is Billy Simms.

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Take Five

Late 1981, 1982, Bethesda, MD

Personnel

David Robinowitz – piano
Adam Gibbons – drums
Chris Armacost (probably) – alto sax
Some other dude – tenor sax  (update: Comments reveal this to be Joey Gannon)
Mark Lerner – bass

It would be a huge understatement to say that jazz is not my strong suit. I’ve spent much of my life avoiding it and occasionally openly scorning it. The past 5 or 6 years, however, have found me delving into jazz a little bit more (as a listener, not a player). I like the dense, unexpected chords, and I like jazz-like compositions: Alec Wilder, Charles Mingus, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite, Astor Piazzolla. I do have problems with long solos (and a bunch of folks basically soloing at the same time) and I’m not a fan of the saxophone. But I try not to parade the limits of my taste as some sort of virtue. It’s good to like things, and trying to find your way into someone’s art is a noble effort, infinitely more valuable than kneejerk dismissal.

All of that said, I’m a little perplexed by this entry in EVERY BAND I’VE EVER BEEN IN. If the cassette tape I have is to be believed (along with some corroboration via email from pianist David Robinowitz), I spent much of my senior year in high school playing in a jazz quintet with the almost supernaturally cliched name Take Five. With the possible exception of the tenor sax player, of whom I have no recollection whatsoever, all of the guys in this group were younger than me. [Ed: see comments] David and Adam were juniors, and Chris was a sophomore. (There’s also a slight chance I’m wrong and Chris wasn’t in this band at all, but I’m 99% sure it was him.)

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The Nitz!

Bethesda, Maryland, 1980-1982

Personnel

Craig Lapine – guitar, vocals, saxophone *
Jon Lipson – drums **
Stephen Lewis – lead guitar ***
Mark Lerner
– bass

* Only once for the saxophone. Bad idea.
** And marimba on a couple of songs
***And drums when Jon played marimba

As I’ve mentioned to in an earlier post, in 10th grade I exchanged my Led Zeppelin and Cream records for the Stiff Records catalog and early records by the likes of Joe Jackson and the Police. I also started playing in the Nitz, formed by Craig Lapine, who was a year ahead of me in school. He seemed very grown up. He’d make a joke I wouldn’t understand and I’d nod and laugh and then look up the words in a dictionary later. Most importantly, Craig wrote his own songs. This required that I figure out something to do on bass, since there was no Bill Wyman or John Paul Jones bass line to copy.

Rounding out the band was my closest friend, Stephen Lewis (also newly escaped from Atlantis), on guitar, and Jon Lipson on drums.

We named ourselves after knit shirts, I don’t know why. But with a Z, because it was more new wave. Usually the band name was rendered with an exclamation mark. Stephen’s mother made us band t-shirts and for some reason made the exclamation mark a star of David. I don’t have the shirt anymore, but I’ve mocked it up here, in all its ITC American Typewriter glory.

We all chipped in and bought a sparkly blue “tuck and roll” Kustom PA system and parked it in Jon’s parents’ basement where we rehearsed.

Left to right: ML, Jon Lipson, Craig Lapine, Stephen Lewis. This photo and those below are by Betsy Norwood, or so it says in the high school yearbook I grabbed them from.

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Atlantis

Spring 1978 until Spring 1980, Bethesda, Maryland

Personnel

Stephen Lewis – electric guitar, vocals
John Wilson – electric guitar
Ron Benbassat – drums
Mark Lerner – bass, vocals

We briefly added:

Matthew Laur – keyboards
Two girls I can’t recall – vocals

After a year or so, we added:

Dana Hinton – electric guitar
KC Kolvereid – vocals

Folks, this is where I will no doubt lose a few readers. The last post saw me playing catchy odd pop on national TV. Now we’ve got my first band as a bassist, formed when I was 14 and was just learning to play.

Some folks out there may have been cool when they were 14. They may have been talented instrumentalists and singers. They may have had good taste. Not me.

I had: Atlantis.

Atlantis

From left: John Wilson, Ron Benbassat, Mark Lerner, Stephen Lewis, Dana Hinton.

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Walt Whitman High School Stage Band

1979 to 1982, Bethesda, Maryland

Every band means: Every. Band. So let’s go back to 1979.

I had been playing bass for about 2 years when I got to high school. Since third grade, I’d played trumpet in the school band, but when I entered high school in tenth grade, I gave up the trumpet. We returned it to the place we’d rented it from for seven years.

The jazz band at our school, or stage band, as it was called, was a class. I think it was pretty early in the day, like 2nd period. I remember eating my bag lunch in the class and then buying another lunch at lunchtime nearly every day.

A piano player named Sam Jannotta and I were allowed in as tenth graders, and for that first year we stuck to each other closely, since everyone else was older and seemed better than us. There was another piano player and two other bass players, so we’d both get the last choice of songs to play on.

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