Bobb Trimble | Interview | Harvest of Dreams
Bobb Trimble is a psychedelic folk/outsider musician from Marlborough, Massachusetts. ‘Harvest of Dreams’ is rated by most as the best psych LP of the 1980s.
“There’s a void that music fills for me from all of life’s experiences that takes me out of the black hole in space”
Would you like to talk a bit about your background?
Bobb Trimble: I grew up in a little town in Massachusetts called Northborough — sandwiched in between the big city of Worcester and the city of Malborough. The earliest influences I can remember were played on a portable stereo record player that my grandmother Helen gave me, and on the family’s stereo console was the only three Rock’n’Roll records that I had: ‘The Beatles’ Second Album’, ‘More of the Monkees’ and a Dot [label] oldies collection with ‘The Sea of Love’ by Phil Phillips.
Were you in any bands as a teenager?
My friends from Algonquin Regional High school started a band and asked me to join. I had a folk guitar and my friend Carl diagrammed some chords for the guitar so I could learn. I learned the chord structures for the songs we were going to play and joined them shortly thereafter. The band was called The Past, and we were mainly a folk guitar band doing songs like ‘Coming in to Los Angeles’ by Arlo Guthrie, Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’, etc.
What’s the story behind your debut album, ‘Iron Curtain Innocence’?
I wanted to record a song that I had written called ‘One Mile from Heaven’ and found a small but quaint and homey studio called ‘Country Thunder Sound’. Since it was a country folk song I felt that they might know best how to record the song properly – and they did.
We made a couple of different versions of the song with a couple of different drummers and both a long version and a short single version.
Originally I planned to release ‘Killed by the Hands of an Unknown Rock Starr’ and ‘One Mile From Heaven’ as a single. I had it pressed as a 45rpm but it sounded tinny and flat, so I didn’t release it. I ended up using the ‘Killed by the Hands of an Unknown Rock Starr’ photo with the rifle for the cover of ‘Iron Curtain’ instead.
I recorded the first side in Malborough, Massachusetts at a studio called Object Sound and at a studio in Worcester, Massachusetts called MCM Studios. The first two tracks in Worcester and the second two tracks in Malborough. Side two was recorded at a separate studio in Worcester called Country Thunder Sound. We reversed the sides in order to present the new material first.
The first album pressed was pressed in a quantity of 500. I bought the first 300, and when I was going to pick up the remaining 200 I was informed there was a fire at the enterprise company and they couldn’t send the last 200 out due to the fire at the company. I believe they possibly survived the fire and were later sold as cut-outs.
The cover artwork for ‘Iron Curtain Innocence’ was originally going to be the picture sleeve for the 45 single of ‘Killed by the Hands of an Unknown Rock Starr’ and ‘One Mile From Heaven’. Fortunately, both songs appeared on the LP.
Your follow-up, ‘Harvest of Dreams’ is considered as one of the best psych albums of the 1980s.
Yeah that album would have been released a lot sooner had there not been an ink blotch on all of the album jacket covers. I shelved the final version for several months, not wanting to release the LP because it had the ink blotch, but changed my mind when Kris Thompson’s band The Prefab Messiahs had a Christmas show and I gave them out as presents there.
Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?
‘Iron Curtain Innocence’: Originally titled ‘World of Lies’, it was changed to ‘Iron Curtain Innocence’ because I wanted to make a comment not only about the cold war still being in existence on the Berlin wall and that indeed until the Berlin wall was torn down that in fact the cold war was still a present matter and was still to be resolved.
‘Glass Menagerie Fantasies’: This song was my version of what the book Glass Menagerie might be about without actually reading the book itself. Kind of a concept of second guessing what might be considered to be hunch at guesswork. The book was a required reading at school at Worcester Academy. Some assigned required reading books I read, some I did not. This was one of the ones I did not read. I can guess, can’t I? How hard could it be?
‘Night at the Asylum’: Just a playful looney tune joke song that we threw together with a track of tape collages and a kind of musical tapestry of sound bites. More like we made the song to fit the spoken voice bits, but the song itself without the spoken words holds its own ground. But I think I like it better with all the surprise voices.
‘When the Raven Calls’: A song that I now do with my new band The Flying Spiders [aka Bobb Trimble’s Flying Spiders]. Was an attempt to do a song like ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie. Originally conceived as a concept taken from a story by Edgar Allan Poe called ‘The Raven’ that was also used in a Wild Wild West [1960s TV show] two-part episode called ‘Night of the Raven’. My version of a song depicting Bowie still trying to make a ‘Space Oddity, Part II’.
‘Your Little Pawn’: The funny thing about this songs besides that it’s an obsessive-compulsive infatuation song about myself and my obsessive-compulsive personality is that the lovey-dovey allusions of grandeur still shine through in a romantic way. Of course, I would say that because I still would like to consider myself romantic in a sort of twisted, topsy turvy kind of way, even though this song indicates otherwise. Go figure.
‘One Mile From Heaven’: Both the single version (“short version”, intended for the 45 rpm as a “side one”) and “long version” are included on side two so people could hear both the intended single and LP version, since the single never came out. I got a few test pressings of the song and they hadn’t used right noise reduction system (DBX), because they didn’t have the system there.
‘Killed by the Hands of an Unknown Rock Starr’: Going back over this song I’d have to say I really don’t think the song’s much more than a country rock song with strong folk roots and some villainous lyrics that would only separate it from most country songs, especially ballads because of the lyrical content. Perhaps had there been a more “love song” ballad lyrical content, the song would have been more pleasant. One can assume as much.
‘Through My Eyes (Hopeless as Hell: D.O.A.)’: After recording ‘One Mile from Heaven’ and ‘Killed by the Hands of an Unknown Rock Starr’, we proceeded to record ‘Through My Eyes’ – a song I had just written that I thought was the greatest song I had ever written and wanted to record it right away. Looking back in retrospect, I would have to say the only thing I like about that song now is the catchy chorus that goes “Will I ever get / to the end of the rainbow yet?”, etc.
‘One Mile from Heaven’: ‘One Mile from Heaven’, being the first song I recorded, started as a rather psychedelic song of a lot of guitars picking and gently strumming. After listening to the original, we felt that a more straightforward version in a more country folk way would make the song better and we recorded the song again. I changed my strings for the version on the album to silver strings that sound good, but squeaked.
‘Harvest of Dreams’: The album originally called ‘Armour of the Shroud’ from the song of the same name was changed when I was talking to Siblay Geer (the producer of the next album ‘The Crippled Dog Band’) and I asked him if he thought ‘Harvest of Dreams’ or ‘Armour of the Shroud’ was better. He said “definitely ‘Harvest of Dreams’”, so he was kind of pre-producing the second album. I’m glad we chosen that name.
‘Premonitions – The Fantasy’: There were so many overdubs of different instrumentation over the very basic folk song ‘Premonitions – The Reality’ that by the time all overdubs were added – flute and all – it took on a whole different sound that sounded more whimsical and breezy, in a dreamy sort of way. So, we released both versions of the song in case someone wanted hearing the original with no overdubs.
‘If Words Were All I Had’: It’s a song that I wrote for my boyfriend Ronnie who was killed in a car accident. The song was recorded early on, when were recorded the material for the first side of ‘Iron Curtain Innocence’, and I always felt it wasn’t strong enough to release, because it was always missing something. That something was a double-track of the vocals that I added.
The World I Left Behind’: It’s actually a song I wrote that does exist, that The Kidds who recorded ‘Take Me Home Vienna’ were going to record as a follow-up to that song. The guys at the new studio we went to weren’t very happy about a group of kids coming in to record. They didn’t want to record us, and asked to leave – so we did – unfortunately, never recording the song…but on the record, we left the silent track in its place.
‘Armour of the Shroud’: ‘Armour of the Shroud’ was kind of one of those songs I wrote just to have a song to record. I invited friends into the studio and enjoyed recording together, that’s all.
‘Premonitions Boy—The Reality’: As I was saying, this is the basic folk guitar version of the song that folk guitar enthusiasts might enjoy. As it turns out, ‘Premonitions—The Fantasy’ got a ton of airplay and ‘The Premonitions–The Reality’ got little to none – even though you’d think that the original version would gain as much, if not more. Few people preferred the version with the wood flute, including myself – go figure.
‘Take Me Home Vienna’: The Kidds and I recorded this song at MCM, a recording studio in Worcester. The song was finished except for the Kidds recording their vocals; we went in and in one take, they got it. We practiced the night and day before. Took the bass guitar and it sounded great.
‘Selling Me Short While Stringing Me Long’: ‘Selling Me Short’ was a song I locked or should I say shut myself in my room to write and I wouldn’t come out of my room until the song was done. I spent nearly all day in my room as literal complete shut-in until it was finished. I was thinking how well-written Elton John and Bernie Taupin songs were, and wanted one like theirs.
‘Oh Baby’: Because The Kidds were so great and willing to come in and add their vocals on ‘Take Me Home Vienna’, I told them that I would record one of their songs for them for doing that, and put that song on the same album as ‘Vienna’. They recorded their songs at my request so we would have a couple to choose from and the better of the two, ‘Oh Baby’, we put on the album, the other one being a fast car song.
‘Paralyzed’: This song was one of my favorites, and still is. I practiced the bass guitar endlessly in my room, doing take after take with different bass lines going in and out of the different bass takes, until finally all the bass parts were in the right place, and the playing was right.
‘Another Lonely Angel’: ‘Another Lonely Angel’ was a song that I wanted to experiment with vocally in the most operatic way. Just as kind of joke, but not in a funny way – just to have a different sound.
What about gigs? Did you play any gigs at the time?
To start with, the answer to your question would be a simple “yes”! But knowing that you probably want more than just a simple “yes”, here goes. Originally, playing out generally started out small, like in small bars and cafes. After the first album came out, a friend of mine & I played a few shows in Malborough, Massachusetts. Donny Melvin was on guitar and I was playing folk guitar too at the time. We played in a bar in Malborough caled “The Ranch” — kind of a rough-and-tumble place that you might expect a bar room brawl to break out in at any time.
We mainly played the songs from side two of ‘Iron Curtain Innocence’, like ‘One Mile From Heaven’ and ‘Killed by the Hands of an Unknown Rock Starr’, and ‘Through My Eyes’, just to name a few.
After playing there and at an outdoor party, we stopped playing because Donny had moved away from Malborough. I started playing solo around Worcester after that — playing one show at Clark University in their cafe there, and another show at the Garden of Delights — a small cafe/speakeasy kind of quaint little place, with a lot of music enthusiasts coming in to hear new music.
It was fun and I had a great time, but eventually the solo folk guitar stuff had kind of run its course, and I began to look for another musician to add to the overall sound of the music I was playing.
About that time trying working on the second album ‘Harvest of Dreams’, we were looking for a violinist to play on the song ‘Selling Me Short While Stringing Me Long’.
We recorded a violin track with Mihran Aroian that was quite spectacular, and then proceeded to add violin on ‘Vienna’ and ‘Another Lonely Angel’. So we had such a great time working together on all the studio songs that we decided to do some gigs as a duo with folk guitar and violin. We played the place called The Hitchin’ Post and also did play together quite a bit for a while in Worcester.
At some point Mihran moved to Texas, and we weren’t able to play together after that. But, possibly hopefully will again someday. Anyways, after that time I was done recording the second album and looking for another band, since Bobb and the Kidds played just one show at SAC Park in Shrewsbury doing the song from the album called ‘Take Me Home Vienna’, and we disbanded shortly after that. It’s the only song we knew together, and the only song we played. We played it live one time and it sounded exactly like the record. The single of ‘Take Me Home Vienna’ was out then and we had a lot of fun. A re-issue of that is out now (June 2012) on the Mighty Mouth Music label in Brooklyn NY. Next came the Crippled Dog Band, a local band from Northborough. Already together as a group who had heard the recordings of the the albums and through a mutual friend Karl Kaiser asked if I wanted to sit in with the band some time and just jam on some tunes. So I did, and to my surprise and delight we played together great, and got along equally as well. So at the end of the jam session they asked me to join the band. Upon which I did, immediately and without hesitation, knowing how well we worked together and got along so well personally and had such great fun playing together, plus, I was looking for a band to play with at the time, too. We practiced in Bill White’s (the bass players) living room first. Then as we played together more often, we started playing in the cellar. We stayed in the basement playing and practising our material for about a year before we started playing out. We ended up playing a ton of places all over the Worcester Area including a few concerts at “E.M. Loew’s Theatre” (now The Palladium) the first of the shows being the one where the ‘Galilean Boy’ and ‘You Should See My Girl’ videos came from. It was great fun; we loved it. Good times. After the third concert in Worcester, the band broke up — but Bill and I continued as “Crippled Dog” for several more years. The band being now just Bill and I and a drummer — a kind of a power trio. We played a few bars and clubs and had a regular spot at Chet’s Diner. Every couple of weeks we would open for The Style Monsters at their shows there – plus, we’d play a few of our own gigs there too. Anyhow, after playing there for quite a few years, we broke up and I moved out of town.
Since I was moving anyway, the break up didn’t really come as too much of a shock since we probably would have broken up after I moved anyway, or we just would have played less and less together anyways. So after almost 10 years, the Crippled Dog Band and Crippled Dog finally reached its end. I thought we lasted quite a while; all things considered, it was a good nine years of playing some great music of both Bill’s and mine, and I did miss playing Bill’s music after that — like ‘Generation Gap’, ‘Legends of the Past’, ‘Only Human’ and ‘Speak No Evil’, just to name a few. Those are some fine, great songs right there.
Now during that time the recording of the first concert was sent to me by a friend of mine, Bob Peters, who was doing the sound that night. He gave it to Brian Gaslow our mutual friend at (radio station) WCUW, and Brian gave it to me. I used some of the live recordings from the first show like ‘Galilean Boy’ and ‘You Should See My Girl’ on The Crippled Dog Band album. We had been working in the studio on all the other songs on the album like ‘Live Wire’, ‘Angel Eyes’, etc. — and I had put together a roster of songs culled from both the first live show and the sessions in the studio originally titled ‘Life Beyond The Doghouse’ (the title later used for the Denmark release). One side of the Denmark LP is from the original ‘Life Beyond The Doghouse’, but there were other songs not used for it .
A lot of the songs not used on the Denmark release later appeared on The Crippled Dog Band album. Some weren’t. Between the two albums, there were only a couple of songs not released from the live show – ‘You’re Not the One for Me’, and one from the studio session, ‘Speak No Evil’. Both great songs, and if it was up to me, they both would have been released either on the Denmark LP or on the American LP from Yoga Records. But it wasn’t, and both songs kind of got lost in the shuffle between the two albums. They’d make for a great single though. Hopefully someday they will be released as a double A-side 45RPM record, so that people would be able to hear both songs missing from the two LPs. That would be cool.
Anyway, before I write a novel on The Crippled Dog Band, I hope I have answered some of your questions about our live shows. To get a good idea of how the original Crippled Dog Band sounded, you can check out ‘The Crippled Dog Band’ LP on Yoga Records — especially the tracks ‘Galilean Boy’ and ‘Angel Eyes’. That’s pretty much how we sounded exactly when we played out live, one of them (‘Galilean’) being a live version anyway. So, goes without saying.
But, check out ‘Live Wire’ with a studio drummer Bill Brahm, who joined Crippled Dog after (his previous band) The Prefab Messiahs broke up. It will definitely give you more than a clue as to how we sounded then as a band.
‘Life Beyond the Doghouse’ was a compilation of unreleased songs released in 2002. What can you tell me about it?
The Crippled Dog Band had recorded a double-album’s worth of material. Unfortunately, nobody wants to release a double album from an unknown band, especially one called ‘The Crippled Dog Band’. So with that in mind, we released half of the album in Denmark and half of the album in the US. And only one song omitted ‘Speak No Evil’, a great Rock’n’Roll tune by Bill White.
Where did you get the inspiration to write such a unique songs?
I can tell by the way you phrased that question that you want a heartfelt honest answer and will accept nothing less, so here goes. There’s a void that music fills for me from all of life’s experiences that takes me out of the black hole in space that’s sometimes surrounded by black clouds, into a happier, more peaceful place.
Thank you. Last word is yours.
Yes, my new band The Flying Spiders [aka Bobb Trimble’s Flying Spiders] have been together now for four years, and we’re playing tons of songs from the first three releases at shows up and down the East Coast. Check your local listings for a concert by the Flying Spiders in your area. We’ve had a great time doing our mini-tours in New York City, Philly, Baltimore, Boston, DC and other big cities. Were about to embark on another fun filled excursion up and down the East Coast soon. We hope our fans will have a ball as much as we do. Or should I say, “have as much of a ball as we do.”
Well, Psychedelic Babies: keep listening to the music and enjoying it. You don’t need drugs to get high when you have so much great music from a million bands to choose from. Get high on life with great music! We hope to be putting more music out soon. There’s a mini-EP that [my new duo Snidely & Whiplash] did called ‘Delicate Snow Bunnies’, and hopefully the unreleased fourth album Liberty night be a possibility for sometime this summer or next. Love, Bobb.