SPLIT-SECOND BEATLES (1980)
Manipulated phonogragh on Magentic Tape - 30:49
(divided in two parts for technical reasons)
for Lee Hyla
As my kindergarten report stated, “Little Frankie likes to tease the other children.” Case in point: The late Lee Hyla and I were pals during grad school at SUNY Stony Brook (aka Stony Brook University). We had a lot of good times with several of the other grad students, Michael Bushnell, Tom Flaherty, Alan Nagel, Jimmy Bill Kohn, Tim Smith, Christopher Butterfield, and “Bat” Carpenter. Everyone seemed to be pretty serious about music, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t have some fun. We had an original garage band, the Academics, except that it was in Lee and Alan’s basement. And we had a regular golf foursome (Lee, Jimmy Bill, Michael, and myself). But most evenings were spend at Lee and Alan’s, drinking Ballantine Ale and listening to the Rolling Stones, among other things. Hyla really liked the Stones. He’s often sing along. I, myself, was more of a Beatle guy. I mean, if I had to choose. I’d argue the point with Lee, who was skeptical about their Rock n Roll relevance, or some hog-wash. Somewhere in ther I got married. All the guys like my wife Nancy. She definitely fit into our gang - even has a few spots in the Academic recordings. And of course Lee called her Yoko!
After we all became Masters of Music, we of course went our separate ways – but for a long time we kept in touch. Michael stayed at Stony Brook, got another degree or two, met a girl and got married. Tom sort of followed me out to California a couple of years later to take a job outside of LA - where he now seems to be one of the primary new music instigators of Southern California. Congratulations Tom, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Jimmy Bill went back to the midwest and found true happiness, and all of us were really happy for him. Tim Smith went into NYC and became the go-to bass clarinetist for modern music. What a great player he is. Bat Carpenter, well, nobody really knows what happened to him. Probably went back to Canada. Lee, Christopher, and Alan moved to Toronto for a while to play some Rock n Roll music. It didn’t last. I went off to get a PhD at UC-Berkeley. Lee tried to talk me out of it, ranting about the dangers of “Academia” on art. I said, I just want to get a job, man. Unlike most of my artist colleagues, I wanted a family, and that demanded something less, or is it more, than the Bohemian life-style.
My first summer in California, Michael and Lee drove across the country and visited "Yoko" and I for a couple of weeks. The three of us had a great time, then they headed for NYC, where they stayed for a long time. While Lee was visiting, I asked him what he was going to do next. He said that he was going to try to become famous. Then he and Michael drove back. Over the next 20 years Lee did a pretty good job of becoming famous. Not sensationally famous, but pretty good – a lot better than the rest of us anyway. I think he would have done a lot better, but he probably just couldn’t stomach it, really. The things he must have had to do to get as far as he did.
But we remained pals til his death – gradually getting more and more faded, I guess. I retired from teaching on July 1, 2014. One of the reasons I did so was because I wanted to make music outside of academia for a while, which I am currently doing. A couple of weeks or so before that, I was teaching my last class – really my last class, in summer session. The students were quietly taking their final exam, and I got an email from Tim telling me that Lee had just died, of complications from pneumonia. It was shockingly sad news.
SPLIT-SECOND BEATLES is a little ditty I made just for Lee, back when I was a grad student at Berkeley. It’s a series of excerpts from all the Beatle records in a half-hour – every single album, every single song of theirs. I had them all. I did it by just placing the phonograph needle on the record for a few seconds, then picking it up and placing it someplace else. (Very low-tech, which I knew Lee would appreciate.) In a few spots I screwed around with the speed by leaning on the turntable. If you’re a Beatle fan, it will drive you nuts, which is what I meant to do to Lee. (“Little Frankie likes to tease the other children.”) This was meant to aggravate the great Hyla, Hyla the Stones fan. And that debate was taken care of in the intro, which is by Fred Astaire.
RIP my friend.
22 Jan 2018