Columbia University, NYC, January to May, 1984
Tom Adelman – acoustic guitar, vocals
Mark Lerner – bass, vocals, some keyboards
Mike Marubio – drums
Dave Robinowitz – keyboards at one gig
Folks, I’m diving deep for this entry. Deep into the world of shame. Join me, won’t you? Let’s begin with a band introduction that sort of says it all:
By the middle of my second year at Columbia University, it became clear to me I wasn’t going to stay there. As I’ve already written, I had big plans with my pal Dan Eilenberg to become the next Difford and Tilbrook (or Taupin and John). My dear friend Tom Adelman was also planning on leaving Columbia. His future plans included a career in the lucrative world of poetry and an early marriage (because those always work out, right?)
So with one semester left, we decided to play some music together. We thought we could take Tom’s LA-punk/glam/poetry mess and combine it with my love for pop music and have something listenable. Tom had no electric guitar at the time, but we figured, hey: Violent Femmes! Turns out that’s hard to do well, and my approach (overplaying the bass, with utterly horrendous tone) didn’t help matters. In our defense, we didn’t have serious or high hopes for the band. It was a way to kill a semester before we both left for what we hoped would be greener pastures.
Bethesda, Maryland, 1981-1986
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.
Late 1981, 1982, Bethesda, MD
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.)
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.