Turn the Page: Eulogy for a Journal

13 Years. That’s a lot of page turning.

It’s a worn out cliché, but it’s worn out because it’s good. If you’re going to ask, I prefer the original Bob Seger version to Metallica’s cover, but to each his own.

For the past 25+ years I’ve been journalling on and off with various levels of consistency. I have all manner of journals from high bling models to the lowly, pedestrian, spiral notebook and find that the construction itself or the price tag isn’t any guarantee of success (whatever your particular idea of ‘journal success’ may be) or satisfaction. I’ve written consistently every day for weeks at a time and alternately not written a word for months. Often I have (and still do have) several journals on the go or ‘unfinished’. I learned some time ago that filling one before starting another is not necessarily a requirement – or my forté.

I’ve bought my own journals and had people gift me some. I have some that started with entirely blank pages, some have inspirational quotes as footers, some lined, some not. I’ve always been – and continue to be – a fan of the tactile feel of writing on paper vs. the computer. Pens/Pencils are an entirely different issue as well, meriting their own post and discussion. I’ve never really ‘journaled’ on the computer. To me the blog is different – it’s a different kind of writing, so I don’t count it. Indeed, many blog entries have started out as handwritten sketches or ideas.

That said, for the past year or two, I’ve had one go-to journal that I’ve been at regularly. In fact, I have become so fond of its particular format, size, and construction that a year or so back, I tracked its maker down on the internet and ordered 4 more. Ambitious and optimistic for sure.

This particular sexy black number is actually much older than 2 years. I’ve been carting it around, seems like forever. Road trips, bike rides, metros, vacations, camping, everyday carry. It too, has seen ebbs and flows in consistency of writing. Large gaps. Sections of just notes, furniture plans, shopping lists, phone numbers. One large chunk of nothing but a catalogue of townhouse rental contact info I copied off the internet when looking for a new family HQ. It was my smart phone before smartphones. There are all manner of loose sheets of paper stuck in various spots and inside the front and back cover. Ticket stubs, notes, receipts – some I no longer even have any idea why I was saving. Looking back at the early entries is like reading something by an entirely different person yet the sensation of time and place hits right in the gut. At the time of this journal’s inception, I was living in an entirely different country, 3 jobs ago, and 2 of my kids had yet to be born.

Sometime around April of last year [2016] as part of a process of trying to increase the amount of reading and writing I do, I decided to try to make a point of writing every day – something, even if just a sentence or a note about what I was reading – an endeavor that I’ve attempted and failed many times before. I haven’t been 100% consistent, but close, and particularly the past 5-6 months or so have been pretty steady. I’m finding that if I place no other expectations on it with regards to subject matter, length, etc, only that there be something every day, it’s become easier to be consistent and the process is one that I’ve come to look forward to.

As I started to draw closer to the end of this particular journal and look back through its entries and the times and places I’ve carried it through, it was a very nostalgic process, due I’m sure to the chronological distance it has covered owing to my stops, starts and many periods of inactivity. Strange how inanimate objects can become vessels of such emotion, feeling, and memory. I mean, it’s just a thing, right?

In addition to the prospect of parting with what had become a daily companion, I was also faced with a tough decision. The 4 new ones I’d ordered were all different colors – how to decide which one was next? I would be spending serious time with this thing investing hard-earned emotional currency – the wrong color at the wrong time could mean certain doom.

The timing was right though, it would seem. The spine on this black one has separated, the page marker is heavily frayed, the pages filling up. The leather cover is soft and peeling in spots, supple and loose. As if that wasn’t sign enough, today, when I opened it up and looked back to the very first entry, there it was – March 17, 2004 – exactly 13 years ago this Friday. The gods had spoken.

It’s only Tuesday now, but there’s still about a page and a half left blank. I’ll pace myself to finish it up on Friday and roll right into the new, blue model. My current pen – one that’s been with the black journal for at least 3 years – will be making the transfer to the new journal. The leather cover is so clean, so pristine, its pages so crisp and vacant.

I’m looking forward to seeing how much I can pack into the new one – and – occasionally visiting with the old one as well.

The Sound of Sound City Studios

When it comes to music recording and studios I’m a total geek. Half the reason I read liner notes is to find out where, how and by whom something was recorded. I wanna know how things were miked. Where the instruments were set up. What gear was used. Who pushed the faders. All that. I wanna know what video games the band played in the lounge and what sub shop next door they ordered take out from. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about everything from legendary studios to personal artists’ basement setups. I still couldn’t record my way out a paper bag mind you – I have no actual technical skills – but I get off on reading about the process and am a huge believer in the notion that the character, physical characteristics, vibe – and the ghosts – that imbue a place can have a huge influence on the recording undertaken therein.

Dave Grohl is in the process of making a documentary about the legendary but unsung Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA. Tucked away in an unassuming warehouse park, Sound City has hosted Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Nirvana (yes, for THAT record), Metallica, Tom Petty, Elton John, Cheap Trick, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Crowes, Tool, and even more artists that will have you saying, “No way, THEM too?”

I’m eager to see this movie. VERY eager.

From what I’ve seen and heard via press, promotion and teaser clips of the movie, the one resonating thread that runs through what all the artists have said is that there was a special combination of The Room at Sound City and The Board that made the magic.

The Room is the A Room. The stories go that even derelict floor tiles have never been replaced for fear that the overall sound would be effected. From the Sound City Website:

World Famous Drum Sound. Many stories in our archives revolve around the drummers. Wrecking Crew studio drummer, Hal Blaine, drove his Rolls Royce into the studio through the roll-up doors. Studio drummer and Toto member, Jeff Pocaro, insisted that you only had to set up the drums in order to get a good drum sound. When asked to guest drum on a Nine Inch Nails recording, Dave Grohl’s replied: “I’ll do it if you record at Sound City.” Recording engineer (and Sound City Alum), Greg Fidelman, recorded kick drum sounds at each of the large recording studios in Los Angeles. Based on a side-by-side, blind taste test of the drum samples, the members of Metallica chose Sound City to record their 2007 Death Magnetic album.

The Board is a custom Neve 8028 Console – considered to be one of the finest recording consoles ever constructed, by anyone, anywhere. From rollingstone.com:

…Tom Petty, Mick Fleetwood, Butch Vig and Trent Reznor discuss the studio, which was built 1972, and its pièce de résistance: the Neve 8028, one of the best analog recording consoles on the market.

“It’s tube driven, it’s analog,” explains John Fogerty. “The bass sounds better, the human voice sounds better.”

Adds producer and Garbage drummer Butch Vig, “The Neve has incredible character, probably too much character.”

Dave was obviously taken with his experiences at Sound City as well as it’s storied lineage to such extent that he’s embarked on an ambitious project to – in essence – pay tribute – to this veritable ‘Church of Rock’ via his documentary. He was so taken in fact that some years back, he bought the hallowed Neve console.

And moved it to his Studio 606.

Does that make sense?

I don’t know the whole story of the sale and the studio (perhaps it will be in the movie, perhaps there is a reason for the sale happening the way it did) but isn’t that only half the piece to the puzzle? Isn’t that like peanut butter with no jelly? Tater with no tots? Captain with no Tennille?

I’ve got nothing but respect for Dave, but I just gotta wonder. Breaking up those two elements – doesn’t that just run sort of counter to everything that the movie project is about?