Sunday, August 12, 2012

Probyn Gregory - The Collected Demos

I'm extremely pleased to offer a guest post today by reader Larry Graykin. Larry is a friend of Probyn Gregory and read last months' post on the Wondermints. He checked with Probyn, who gave his permission to share his collection of demos with us. Listen carefully to these gems. A peek into the creative process of a musical genius. Thanks much Larry!

"I feel like I was a witness to history, and it was all built on happenestance.

It had happened that, one day in 1985, my father had extra frequent flyer miles he had no need for, and offered them to me. It had happened that my friend George, when we were sharing an apartment in LA, had befriended a coworker at the bookstore where he worked. It had happened that that friend was Probyn Gregory, and that he was more than happy to let me crash at his pad for a couple of nights.

And it had happened that, on the first full day I was at Probyn's small home on Las Palmas, that he had a new acquaintance swing over to visit. A guy named Darian Sahanaja.

Now, I don't know how they had met, but when Darian came over, it was clear that they had previously shared a conversation about their common musical interests. Beatles. Monkees. Obscure 60s bands, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, and on...

...but mostly the Beach Boys.

I had only a passing familiarity with the Beach Boys hits. I knew nothing of Pet Sounds, Sunflower, Wild Honey, Surf's Up, Carl and the Passions, or Smile. And this was, in a sense, great news for Probyn and Darian, for they realized that they had a neophyte to indoctrinate.

It was a long day that flew by much too fast, full of the eager conversation of true fans and the hasty cuing of a certain song on a certain LP or the impatient fastforwarding of a tape to a choice moment. I absorbed, and quickly grew to understand just what made the Brian Wilson and Beach Boys so amazing.

Who'd have guessed these guys would be backing them up one day?

They also shared recording that they each made. Of all the memories I carry from that bull session, the most precious is hearing Probyn's solo version of "Our Prayer"--he had recorded all the parts, bouncing back and forth from one tape deck to another, adding a single voice at a time--followed by Darian's--done the same way, and a virtual match to Probyn's version. They marveled. I marveled.

And thus began a long friendship with Probyn, who must be about the kindest person I've ever met, in or out of show business. He proved to be a great letter writer (this was pre-internet, folks), and we stayed in touch consistently. It helped that he grew up in Keene, NH, not 2 hours from where I live in eastern NH, and so we have sometimes been able to visit in person.

In this collection, you'll hear digitized incarnations of songs Probyn sent me, usually 2 at a time, on generic-looking, 7(?)-minutes-per-side cassettes. Each cassette was accompanied with a letter, and most of the time he gave some history about the song. The backwards cymbal sounds on "Twinkies are Drugs" is really just him sucking air inwards. "Storyteller" was written and recorded in one night, after he met and was entertained by the title character, and a copy was delivered as a present the next day. "How'd You Get to be 60?" was a birthday gift to his (sadly, now deceased) mother; it features vocal snippets from some (or maybe all?) of his siblings. (His mom, by the way, was one of the first five women to be arrested in a protest against the building of a nuclear power plant in Seabrook, NH.) You'll hear a broad range of genres, styles, and instrumentation. The vast majority of these cuts are just Probyn, solo, doing it all without the "benefit" of auto-tuning, multitracks, or assistance.

Probyn is always happy to meet his fans, and fans of the band he is touring with. He is still a fan of many bands and performers himself--in fact. he was so excited after playing a gig with Micky Dolenz last November that he had to call me and tell me some of the many stories he'd collected. He knows (and still enjoys) the excitement of meeting a musical hero.

So if you go to a show where he'll be playing, show up early, and loiter around out back. If you see him, say hi, and enjoy a conversation with one of the nicest (and most talented) multi-instrumentalists/vocalists you're likely to meet.

Larry Graykin
August 12, '12
New Hampshire"

1 No More Small Talk
2 Twinkies Are Drugs
3 Let All Mortal Flesh
4 I Don't Want to See You Go
5 No More Small Talk (Instrumental)
6 Valentine 85
7 I Send Up My Prayer
8 Storyteller
9 Valentine 86
10 Bangkok Prunes
11 Valentine 87
12 Hands of Time
13 Heal This Broken Heart
14 Valentine 88
15 O Sacrum Convivium
16 Valentine 89
17 October
18 Valentine 90
19 How'd You Get To Be 60?
20 Dreamfuse
21 Valentine 91
22 Peace on Earth
23 Midnight

24 55 Gallon Drum