Bob Gebelein interview
Bob Gebelein released Uncle Bobby’s Record in 1974. It’s a wonderful private press.
Where and when did you grow up? Who were your major influences?
I grew up in Taunton, Massachusetts, where my father was a factory owner and later a bank president. We were “rich people” by the standards of a small manufacturing city. My mother’s family owned 3 houses in Provincetown, and we spent summers there. I also went to camp some summers in New Hampshire. I graduated from Milton Academy and Harvard. From the artists in Provincetown to the very rich at Milton to the intellectuals at Harvard, I had many influences, and never identified with any one social group. Later, when I wanted to withdraw from the culture and build my own philosophy, I found the solitude of Cape Cod winters to be the perfect environment and made Provincetown my year-round home — except when I had to go somewhere for a computer programming job to earn a living.
My main cultural influences were Henry David Thoreau, T.S. Eliot, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Edgar Cayce, and Richard Kieninger aka Eklal Kueshana.
“I turned my back on the culture and set out to design a new civilization.”
When did you start writing songs?
First of all, I was totally uncreative in my teenage years. I was psychologically 4 years old, and a jock, and voted “Most Modest” in my prep-school class. In 1955, at age 21, I saw the threat of nuclear annihilation as proof of total systems failure, so I turned my back on the culture and set out to design a new civilization. One of my first steps in that quest was to go through psychotherapy. I started writing songs at age 26, as one of the results of psychotherapy, as I began to develop my creativity. It seemed that I could get a better audience for my thoughts if I could sing them in a song, as Bob Dylan did. I can’t really express all my philosophy in songs, but at least you are getting a glimpse of it.
What are some of the strongest memories from recording Uncle Bobby’s Record?
Well, after I paid the total amount upfront to Southern Plastics in Nashville to manufacture the record, they went bankrupt. Meanwhile Jim Deans, a retired Navy man who was the owner of Rockland Recording Studio in Rockland, Maine, who had made this arrangement, was in a Naval hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, with a serious operation. I was trying to reach him through his son, to get the master tape, to deliver it to another manufacturer he had recommended. The first time his son went to him, he was delirious, and said, “No, don’t give Bob the master tape.” But the second time he was OK and said, “Of course give Bob the master tape.”
So I got 500 records out of the Allentown Record Company, and when Jim recovered, he managed to get the 500 I had ordered from Southern Plastics — except that half of them were bad. Because of the oil crisis, some plastic was bad, and there were pops in the records. So I had about 750 records — many more than I had wanted in the first place. And since I hadn’t performed much in Provincetown since 1966, I had lost my audience, and sold only 2 copies in Provincetown.
Where did you record it?
My girlfriend Ailene Wright discovered the Rockland Recording Studio in Rockland, Maine, and I did my recording on weekends with her, coming from Derry, New Hampshire, and a job at Wang Laboratories in Massachusetts.
Was it meant to be a private release?
It was not meant to be a private release, but having lost my audience, it turned out that way. My nieces learned some of my songs and gave my music some publicity. People I worked with at Wang bought a few copies, including a boss I didn’t like who surprised me by giving it a rave review. 1000 copies were made, about 250 were bad, and then I threw 275 in the dumpster in 1992, thinking that was 275 pounds I wouldn’t have to carry around with me every time I moved, and leaving myself with a “lifetime supply” of what I thought was 100 copies but was actually 140. Now in the past few years I have been surprised by orders from all over the world, and I have no idea how all these people heard about my music — I guess from the Internet — I read a nice review in French.
Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?
“Provincetown Girls” — This is an 1890s song written in 1966, about “the old Provincetown.”
“John Henry 1962” — The labor unions bankrupted the railroads in 1962. I just rearranged the words of this old song to bring it up to date.
“Touch My Soul” — “Touch my lips, my fingertips …” The song-contest judge rejected this song as “Cliche” before even waiting for the next line, “I’ll leave you in a while,” and then, “TOUCH MY SOUL / I’ll stay ‘til I die.”
“The Dark Days” — Congressman John F. Kennedy came to Milton when I was 15, when Ted was a Senior, to speak on “Politics as a Career.” He made a great impression on me. It took me 3 years to write a song that I felt was worthy of him. Ted liked it.
“In Search of Something” — I spent a lot of my life searching. The 4 notes B C A G came to me as I began my journey from Sunnyvale, California (Computer Sciences Corporation and Computer Usage Company) to Provincetown in 1964.
“Hymn to Karma” — My answer to “Blowin’ in the Wind:” No, the answers aren’t just blowing in the wind, and wars and such are part of the earth environment.
“Running Down the Road” — Love and marriage DON’T go together like a horse and carriage.
“Civilized Blues” — My impression of Sunnyvale, California, and suburbia in general.
“Backwards World” — I had the chords to this song in the fall of 1964, before the Beatles came out with the song about the “red dress,” which uses the same chords, but the words didn’t come until New Year’s Day 1966, when I was walking the beach at Race Point in a snowstorm and trying to answer a letter from a girlfriend in the city telling me I had to face “reality.” Some of the words are now obsolete, but it was my most popular song at the time. The line, “One and one makes one,” was once plagiarized for a poster.
“Who Needs It” — The New York promoter called this one “sour grapes.” I thought I was offering the world “wisdom.” You decide.
“Seven Seasons” — This is a resolution of the theme B C A G, and the theme of love and family “until death do us part.”
Did you play any shows?
In Provincetown in the years 1964-67, I was one of a number of talented musicians, each with our own separate act — Moe Van Dereck, the best guitar picker I have ever heard, Dennis Jones, flamenco guitar player, who composed the music as he was playing it, Marcia Szabo, the best female voice I have ever heard, Ray Rizk, artist and saz (similar to the bazouki) player, Victor Jorrin, Arab drummer, and others. We would perform about twice a year at “Music Nights” at the Provincetown Art Association. Also in the summer of 1966, the Act IV theatrical coffeehouse would have an open mike Monday nights, where Dennis and I would perform, passing the hat and splitting the proceeds.
In 1985, you self-published Re-Educating Myself: An Introduction to a New Civilization. You also released another book called The Mental Environment.
Psychotherapy brought me from psychological-age-4 to psychological-age-10. (First of all, the field of psychology doesn’t know about psychological age. It is my discovery.) The psychiatrist said I was OK, and it was OK to stop “treatment.” I thought I was psychologically an adult. But a dream in 1966 showed me I was psychologically 10 years old, and that psychological-age-10 was actually normal for the culture. The field of psychology doesn’t know this, and if you have your PhD in psychology, you don’t know this — in fact, you have probably been steered far away from knowing this. But anyway, in the winter of 1966-67, influenced by “The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung,” I analyzed my own dreams, looking for Jung’s evidence of archetypes, and also trying to reach psychological maturity, to improve my relationships with women. After 3 months of intensive (24/7) dreaming and analysis, I reached what I call “the psychological age of puberty,” psychological-age-14, a transition point where “human nature” itself changes, from the natural self-interest of the child, to and equally natural desire to give and share and sacrifice oneself for others, which is more appropriate for the adult with children of one’s own to nurture and protect. (The psychologists don’t know about this, either, and their caste system forbids them from learning it from me, because I don’t have a PhD.) I estimate that in the present culture 5% of the adults have reached this level of psychological development. If a majority were to reach this level, we would have a new civilization.
“Psychiatrists are tools of the Establishment.”
I think people on drugs have reached this level of altruism while in the drug state. The only trouble with that is, as Baba Ram Dass has pointed out, you would have to stay high all the time. And in the real world, if you were high all the time, I wouldn’t want you to be coming down the road the other way.
Freud and Jung have been trashed. Since 1960, there has been the hypnotic implant, “Psychiatrists are tools of the Establishment.” (This is true only when the Establishment is paying them.) The psychologists themselves have been steered away from the study of the mind and dreams. That’s too bad, because psychotherapy is the way to a new civilization. It is hard work, it is painful, it is humiliating, and it is expensive. There must be a better way. No, there isn’t — not in the present culture, and not even in the present culture, which seems to be moving away from the tradition of Freud and Jung, which led me to where I am now. Read my books, if any of this interests you. There is also other stuff in my books that you didn’t learn in school.
Would you like to comment “The New Age Movement”?
I bought half a dozen books from IONS in 1995, and every single one of them rejected logic, science, ego, and psychotherapy, and trashed the words “truth” and “reality,” making them “your truth” and “your reality.” Since these are all foundations of my philosophy, we have a basic incompatibility here, with no explanation of why they reject all these things. On the other hand, one interviewer was saying to me, “You believe in reincarnation and karma. Aren’t these New Age beliefs?”
“The New Age Movement” is a big subject. Some of it I agree with, and some I don’t. Mostly, I am very suspicious of any information which comes from spirit entities, because some of them may be Black Mentalists, who are devoted to doing the world harm. Are there such entities? I don’t see New Age people even asking the question, or questioning the truth of any of the platitudes they are taking into their hearts and souls. I don’t see people using their minds. Edgar Cayce said, many times, “Mind is the builder.” Now, if you read the A.R.E. Catalogs, that statement has become totally twisted from what Edgar Cayce meant in his day: Use your mind to develop yourself spiritually.
Thanks for the interview. This has been a pleasure. — Bob Gebelein
P.S. If people are interested, I have a CD-R called “Most of Uncle Bobby” on CD Baby, which contains all the songs from the record plus 3 more that were home-recorded.
– Klemen Breznikar