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Sending Out Signals LP label.
Sending Out Signals LP label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

eric bergman: sending out signals
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When last we left the group Garrison, here's where things stood: despite a fair amount of radio airplay and promotion, a rising fan base and music industry interest, immediate success wasn't to be. Our last live gig was at the end of January, 1980; things weren't moving quite quickly enough for Kevin, who soon left the band and eventually migrated to Las Vegas, NV, where he still works as an extremely in-demand drummer. Dan followed suit, and moved out to Seattle, WA.

Sending Out Signals LP package collage.

Well, there was only one thing left for me to do. You guessed it: record another solo album! Is there a pattern forming here?  Like Fohhoh Bohob and Modern Phonography, a number of international collector catalogs have listed Signals over the years, so I've listed some of the reviews here. But here's how it came to exist:

Ward Bennett, at the board during the recording of Sending Out Signals.
Ward Bennett, at the board during the recording of Sending Out Signals.

As mentioned elsewhere, in April of 1978, to defray the costs of producing Modern Phonography, I had put an ad in the paper selling some of the recording gear I no longer needed. I ended up selling much of it to Ward Bennett (right), a top audio engineer at WNEW-TV (now Fox WYNW-TV). He and I hit it off right away; he was very interested in my recording projects, and was buying my stuff to use in the studio he was about to set up in his house. As he acquired equipment, he would try it out by recording demos with the reunited Garrison as his test subjects. As soon as the group disbanded, I approached Ward with the concept of doing a solo project together. He had already been knocking around the idea of converting  his garage to a full-fledged studio, so he came up with an incredibly generous bargain: if I helped him build the studio, he would help me record the album. Ward was (and is) remarkably adept at all-things handy, and had planned everything down to the last piece of molding. Since I was working as a carpenter/musician at that time, the two of us were a great team. So, in the Spring of 1980, we started construction on a lovely wood and rug 8-track facility, which took months to finish. In the meantime, I was finishing off and fine-tuning various songs that I had chosen for inclusion on the LP. I had also enlisted Kevin and Roy to perform with me when the sessions began. Kevin (who had been playing locally before his big move to Las Vegas) and I, in particular, practiced a lot of the guitar/drum arrangements in his garage during this period.

Roy Ellingsen, Kevin Brennan and me during the recording of Sending Out Signals.
Roy Ellingsen, Kevin Brennan and me during the recording of Sending Out Signals.

Dan Brown

Roy Ellingsen

Kevin Brennan
Dan, Roy and Kevin, as depicted in the artwork for the Sending Out Signals LP.

By December, we were ready to rock...sort of. As I recall, the first song Ward and I began working on was Back Then (I also believe that it was the last to be completed; I just kept going back to it to get it just the way I wanted). We hadn't quite finished the drum booth yet, and since it required no drums, it was the obvious choice to start off with. For me, this song has an added poignancy; during the recording of it, John Lennon was murdered. I immediately wrote Love Is The Answer for John. It had started out as a song called No Escape about an entirely different subject; as soon as John died, the song took a new direction and the pieces fell easily into place. The references are purposely obvious: "starting over," "revolution," "imagining," the Day Tripper musical quote, the name of the song itself (from John's Mind Games)...I threw everything in.

When our drum booth was finally completed, we started recording the "band" stuff in earnest. Going from a four-track to an eight-track setup was much more liberating, but of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone. All of the non-acoustic songs had the bottom tracks, usually drums (using four of eight tracks), guitars and maybe percussion and/or bass, mixed from eight tracks down to stereo on a half-track mastering deck, then back over to two tracks (4 and 5) on a brand new eight-track reel. This afforded me the ability to add six more tracks to this mix; it was essentially a poor-man's fourteen-track studio! Since the eight-track deck had dbx noise reduction, the generational "bouncing" wasn't too noticeable. Kevin and I put down all of the bottom tracks first, and after the procedure described above, we were ready for Roy and overdubbing. Above, you can see Roy, Kevin and me in the control room of the studio with the eight-track deck to my right, taken sometime in late 1981 or early 1982.

We had recorded the Garrison standards Sending Out Signals and Ace In The Hole and I was getting ready to emulate Dan's bass parts (as he had moved to Seattle, WA) when fate interceded in a fairly tragic manner. His father, Dan Sr., was killed in a senseless motorcycle accident, and Dan (right) came back East for the funeral. While he was here, he told me that he would really like to play and sing his old parts for the album, which I was more than willing to have him do. I'm sure it was quite therapeutic for him. So those two songs are really full Garrison performances. Unfortunately, Dan went back West before we had recorded Dead Battery On The L.I.E., so I was left to parrot his original bass part exactly. A number of people have asked about the faded-up "take two" beginning of The Last Laugh; yes it's real, and yes it's unedited, happening exactly as it appeared. I'm the first "take two," Kevin's the second and Ward's the third. Slowly but surely, Signals was taking shape.

Sending Out Signals cover prototype.
Sending Out Signals cover prototype.

It was time to start thinking about the album's cover. After flirting with the title Common Ground, I had finally decided on the title Sending Out Signals. I thought that this time, I would to try my hand at  designing the package myself. To that end, I came up with this rather lame prototype (at left), which actually had the seeds of what was to become the final cover; it had musical notes and electronic icons on it. I wasn't exactly sure where I was going with this concept, but I did know that I should probably come up with an alternate way of creating it...some way that didn't involve me actually drawing anything! I don't really recall how I hit upon the idea of using computer cards. I had nothing to do with computers in those days and had never used one of those "do not bend, fold or mutilate" cards for any purpose. It must have been because of Kathy Elting.
Kathy Elting, with son Gregory.
Kathy Elting, with son Gregory.

Kathy (at left, with son Gregory) was a dear friend of mine (I met her while photographing former Patron Saint drummer Paul D'Alton's wedding). At that time, she worked for Texaco Corp. and dealt with computers a good deal of the time. I must have seen some cards at her house one day and the creative seeds germinated from there. I asked Kathy if she would like to help with the design of the album package; she was thrilled to do so, but would not take any money whatsoever for her work...typically generous of her. The way we set it up was this; I would bring her the typed version of what I had designed and she would transform them into the appropriate computer facsimile, complete with the "digital" looking font I had chosen. For everything else (icons, main titles, etc.), I used press-on letters...one by one! I have fond memories of sitting on Kathy's living room floor with computer cards and lyric sheets spread out as far as the eye could see. An immense amount of time went into gluing everything together. I think it's fair to say that easily as much time was spent on the package as was spent on recording and mixing the album itself...

Sadly, in August, 1985, Kathy was killed in a freak automobile accident at the age of 29. I was  blessed to be able to share a portion of her life...I still miss her terribly.

  Two serious Erics...Two of the common questions raised about the cover of Sending Out Signals are "Why do you look so serious in the photo on the back?" and "Why does that that picture look so familiar?". Well, if you look to the right, you'll see why. Being a huge Eric Clapton freak, I thought it might be "cool" to emulate the cover stance on his 1980 Just One Night release. So, to the best of our abilities (old pal Bill Owens helped me set up the photograph), we copied everything as closely as we could, substituting my custom-designed tele-strat-Les Paul hybrid for Clapton's favorite Fender Stratocaster, Blackie. Now I'll probably get sued. Other fascinating factoids: the morse code at the bottom of black title card on the cover spells out "L-O-V-E," while the sideways morse code at the bottom right of the card spells out "E-J-B," my initials. On both lyric sheets, each line of music in the center is real; one "hook" from each of the songs on that side. Also, each of the computer cards underneath a song lyric is the correctly-punched card for that song. No obsessive stone was left unturned!

Me, from the Sending Out Signals LP.
Me, in photo for the Sending Out Signals LP.

P(atti) Lynn Radok took the inside photo of me (standing in a barn filled with horse manure, hence the wise-ass smirk) and I had already taken photos of Garrison, so all of the various parts were ready. With the graphics under control, I was able to concentrate on finishing the album itself. There was a lot of jumping around from song to song during the process, and Kevin and Roy responded whenever I needed them. P. Lynn Radok and Joann Dibello lent their voices to the harmonies on You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too and Love Is The Answer, their parts being learned, practiced and recorded in one afternoon/evening session.

At various points during the album's creation, I ran into an interesting (and potentially disastrous) dilemma. Ward had originally planned to have some form of heating put into the studio/control room, but since we had started construction during the warm weather, it hardly seemed necessary (the problem has since been rectified). By the time we actually started recording in December, it was a little late to worry about it...we just cranked up an electric heater and pre-warmed everything before we started to work. Unfortunately, the master tapes sat in the cold until we needed them. One day, I went to work on the song Sending Out Signals and discovered that the cold temperature had caused a large amount of tape oxide to build up on much of the eight-track reel and the recording heads. I spent many hours painstakingly hand-wiping and cleaning every inch of all of the master tapes to remove it. How it didn't destroy the sound, I'll never know! I really lucked out. Needless to say, the tapes were subsequently stored in a safer location.

Gene Sayet mastering the Sending Out Signals LP in NYC, 1982.
Gene Sayet mastering the Sending Out Signals LP in NYC, 1982.

In May of 1982, I finally finished recording and mixing down the album, which I then brought down to Gene Sayet of Executive Recording in New York City for mastering. After updating final timings on the cover, I sent the artwork to DeSalvo-Wayne, Inc., the printers that had printed the Fohhoh Bohob and Modern Phonography covers. Soon after that, I went through the oh-so-familiar job of  hand-assembling all 500 albums, just as I had done for Bohob and Phonography. And again, I was left with that nagging, ever-popular enigmatic decision...what the hell do you do with 500 albums? As I had in the past, I gave away a lot, sent some to record companies and radio stations, sold a number in local record stores, saved some...the usual procedure. Due to the incredible leg (and phone) work of my then girlfriend (now wife) Cindy, seminal New York rock radio station WNEW-FM was going to play some of Signals on their "Prisoners of Rock and Roll" program, a popular venue for unsigned bands...that is until they stopped airing the show that very week! Interesting karma, eh?

 
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In March of 1983, I put together a quick 30-second Sending Out Signals spot (at right, in QuickTime format) to be shown on various cable channels in Westchester County. Since I was in charge of commercial insertion at a local cable company at the time, I was able to air it where and when I chose...for free! I ran it on MTV as often as I thought I could get away with it. The spot's pretty basic; I had no access to a particularly sophisticated editing facility, so it's about as bare-bones as you can get ( I put it together in about an hour)! I had met a young English woman with a perfect "British Invasion" voice for the ad and paid her a nominal fee to do it. If you want a chuckle and you have some time on your hands, check it out..

Sending Out Signals, like it's sonic siblings, Fohhoh Bohob and Modern Phonography, managed to find it's way to various corners of the globe. Not as many are out there because not as many were "seeded." Despite the heroic efforts of my wife Cindy and friends like Connie Baird, Abby Simon and Roberta Synal, among others, who worked incredibly hard to promote and distribute it, there was no band to promote the album and I eventually just lost interest in the cause and ran out of steam. It's nice to know that there are fans out there still eager to hear it!

Sending Out Signals, as part of the CD reissue set.
Sending Out Signals, as part of the CD reissue set.

The CD reissue of Sending Out Signals is now available. The set, which also contains the CD debut of my first solo album, Modern Phonography, contains all of the original tracks from both LPs, as well as a number of selected bonus tracks. These include original and early demo versions of a number of the songs on both albums, unreleased demos, studio and live tracks, with some featuring The Patron Saints and Garrison. The package contains all of the original artwork for both albums, and all of the cuts were digitally transferred directly from the original master tapes, so at last, everything finally sounds the way it was supposed to without any vinyl-induced hiss, pops or clicks.

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