Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ten Years

<a href="http://sparkygrinstead.bandcamp.com/track/ten-years">Ten Years by Sparky Grinstead</a>
I had a guitarist friend named Richard back in the early part of the 70's. Richard came from a fairly wealthy family that lived in the Oakland hills. His dad, an engineer of some kind, had made his fortune by inventing a little electronic gizmo, a model of which he kept on a counter in the family room of their spacious home. I was never sure what it was for - it just looked like a bunch of twisted wires. I never asked him about it because on the few occasions that we crossed paths he would glower at me and retreat to another part of the house. Richard explained that he thought we were "scruffy musicians" who only wanted to eat and drink at his expense.  Richard was a decent enough guitarist and we played in a few bands together when I was learning to play drums. We played covers of the popular songs of the day, usually at local house parties (we were too young to play clubs) and snuck in an original now and then. Richard had a car (of course) - a souped up Volkswagen Beetle that his girlfriend wrecked at one point. He later got summer work as a carpenter and accidentally knocked his front teeth out with a hammer. Richard's parents were from one of the Scandinavian countries - I was never sure which - and they spoke this impenetrable language whenever they were together. There was an electric fence surrounding their property.

Richard Lundquist, 1973
The chords for "Ten Years" are based on a riff that Richard played when he was just fooling around on the guitar. The band's singer at the time, a good friend named Dupree, and I used to fool around with lyrics to Richard's little creation. In fact, Dupree had concocted this pretty horrible story-song about two kids named Fred and Sue who were in love - let's see....Fred's mother was a teacher and Sue's father was a preacher....I think the gist of was that Fred went off to war and got killed. The chorus was "look at all the love we lose in war". It was pretty noble in sentiment but frankly hilarious in execution. The few times we actually tried to make it work as a song it sounded...well, terrible. No real melody was ever worked out so Dupree would just bellow his lyrics while Richard played his chords. Whoever was playing bass - I remember a blonde kid from Hayward named Dave - would plonk along and I would try to keep up on drums. It never really gelled into a song.

The Bonkeenies, 1974
What I did for "Ten Years" was take Richard's noodlings and strip them down to the basic chords, write some simple love-gone-wrong lyrics based on some of Dupree's extemporizing and give the whole thing a funky, rolling beat. This was one of the songs I pulled out and finished up for the Mills College show. The Bonkeenies continued to perform it through the next year. In fact, in the picture at left you see the actual Bonkeenies performing the actual "Ten Years" in some horrible little club - Central Pool Hall in Point Richmond, to be exact. Earlier that day we had played a wedding reception out in Pleasanton) in 1974. Left to right: Jeff Busby, Rick Johnson, Greg Reznick, me, Arlene Lee, Olga Grinstead.

The burglary that ended the initial recording sessions left me with no guitar of any kind for nearly a year while we hassled with the insurance company. This was actually the second time we had had a break-in. The first was shortly after the Mills College show in '73 - I lost 3 guitars, but the insurance came through quickly and I was able to resume playing - in fact that's when I bought my first big semi-hollow body, an Epiphone Casino. The second time, though, the mighty insurance giant dragged their mighty insurance feet. I guess they thought I was making it up. Finally they came through and I went out and bought my Martin (which I still own). The result of all this insurance company foot-dragging was that I did no recording for the rest of '75 and all of '76. But in '77, when I had my Martin and a couple of real fab cassette decks - A TEAC A-360 and an A-170 - I recorded EVERYTHING.

The recording of "Ten Years" that wound on the Won Out album was not, however, recorded on one of my decks. Greg Reznick showed up one evening with his new cassette deck - I think it was a Marantz - and we set it up and started playing with it. It could record in stereo like mine but it had pan pots that allowed us to move the sound around. We had our guitars - Greg owned a Martin very similar to mine - and started running through the Bonkeenie songbook. That evening there were several other friends and relatives visiting - you can hear them talking in the background. While we were running through "Ten Years" - and not taking it seriously at all - Steve Hanamura walked into the room, commented on the "sharpness" of Greg's machine, noticed we were recording, apologized with a laugh, and left. We finished the song leaving out a verse because we were laughing. That's why, on the LP the song is listed as "Ten Years (Abortive)".

Am     Dm                  Am    Dm
Now, now that you're gone
Am                   Dm                       Am    Dm
Gotta find, gotta find someone who cares
Am   Dm                    Am   Dm
Now, now that you're gone
Am                    Dm                        Am Dm       F G Am
Arlene, Greg, Sparky, and Olga, 1978
Gotta find, gotta find somewhere to go

We traveled all around
We soared above the ground
Then you let me down

Oh, ten years went by so fast
I never thought I would last

We traveled all around
And then you let me down
But we soared above the ground........

("Ten Years" was released in 1979 on the album Won Out)

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