We Should Do Videos!

Another rock and roll dad with great riffs was Bill Hoover. He was a bass player, the father of my friend, Amy, who lived across the street from my great friend Christian Rock. I was only up in that neighborhood sometimes on weekends or maybe a weekday night here and there. It was just slightly too far to be rollin up that way on my bike, and my parents and Chris’ parents hung out a lot, so I’d just wait until my mom went and I’d go with her. Bill Hoover was way into soul music and funk and white soul and he loved horns. I think he was a trumpet player too.  His very favorite though, seemed to be Chicago, who I think are fucking dreadful. I have maybe occasionally tapped my foot to, or sang along with some 80s soft rock Cetera shit from Chicago 17, or maybe mockingly sang 25 or 6 to 4, but I think Chicago kind of stink.  Bill Hoover loved them, so I often took what he said with a grain of salt. Looking back, he was pretty much on the money in the things he told us. “Your band’s only gonna be as good as your drummer is”, I think he was the first to tell me that. I have found that to be absolutely true. Bill Hoover was always talking to us rock and roll kids about the horns and now I get what he was sayin’, but at the time, I couldn’t connect, I thought that horn sections were some corny necessity for bands of a certain size. That, if a rock and roll band wanted to “show off”, they would get a bunch of horn players. I now think that’s a very caucasian, blue collar assessment. I think the problem was that I had no real understanding of funk or soul music at that time. Jazz hadn’t even shown up for me yet. I mean, I heard it, and took it in to some degree, but I had no real visceral appreciation of non rock music like I have now, which is weird, considering I was raised in the bosom of Disco. I think he really liked Steely Dan as well. At that time, I was convinced that anybody who was REALLY into Steely Dan was some kind of adult pervert. So again with the grain of salt.

Bill had a great set up in his finished basement. A very comfortable family area up front and a dedicated music area in the back. It was bright and dry and carpeted and comfortable. He didn’t have a ton of gear, he had a small bass amp and a big bass amp and a beautiful white Ibanez bass. I think there was probably a nice acoustic guitar in the mix too, maybe not. Then there was some synthesizer as well. Like something state of the art for the time, like a Roland D-50 or something like it. Something with loads of “real” and fantasy sounds. Bill played enough piano to muck about, but bass was his instrument.  He had a killer stereo system with a turntable, tuner, cassette, 10 band stereo graphic equalizer, and probably during the time I knew him, he obtained a (hot new technology) Compact Disc player. He’s the person who taught me about graphic equalization. He explained to me that all the sounds of a recording could be divided up by frequency, and that you could adjust the relative volumes of those frequencies. I don’t think he broke it down so far that he told me that frequency refers to the intervals and speed of the vibrations, but I think I knew that intuitively, like how frequently is this vibrating back and forth? He explained to me that most musical instruments spanned many frequencies, but that certain ones like the bass, bass drum, and cymbals could be radically altered in volume by selecting the right frequency faders on the EQ unit. Low to the left, high to the right. When I equalize something now, it’s always the voice of The Hoov in my head.

That’s what we came to call him, The Hoov. and man did The Hoov have mad riffs.  He was like Doug Mapp from my high school, it just looked like he was rollin his fingers randomly and magical music drifted out seemingly effortlessly from the amplifier below.  In fact, he was so friggin advanced, I never even asked him to teach me anything. I knew that anything he had for me was master class shit, far beyond my skill level. When The Hoov had his bass in his hands, all I ever wanted to do was listen. Crazy good tone. The first bass I ever heard with a crisp, good sounding high end. He was slapping and poppin, but in the most graceful way. I could tell he was playing right in his perfect sonic space, not ever stepping on the toes of the rest of the band in his head. Cool, tight and tasteful. He had pure mastery over the instrument and was usually happy to be sharing his musical knowledge with us. A Good Dude.

He showed us the synth one night, while all the other adults were getting box wine wasted. He showed Chris and I all the pre-set sounds. He showed us that you could have something that sounded like a real piano, or an electric piano, or a single violin, or a group of violins, or a trumpet or a spaceship just with the turn of a dial. “That’s MIDI!” he shouted. I had no fuckin idea what MIDI meant. He also showed us, that through the use of data cards and programming techniques, you could create your own sounds. He turned the dial and the word “Muti” came up on the screen. “Muti!” he shouted. “You know who Muti is! Right?!” ” No”, I shook my head. I looked at Christian, he had no idea either.  “Ricardo Muti! He’s the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. That’s his piano sound!”  Chris and I nodded blankly.

The Hoover family also had a piece of equipment that would propel us forward into the 3rd dimension of 80s teendom-A VHS Video Camcorder and tripod. I’m pretty sure that the kids weren’t allowed to mess with that one. I think that was only to be handled by The Hoov, but a few times a year, they were having these elaborate “video days”. I would come up for a visit and they would put a tape in the VCR and we’d watch like 7-8 full length songs, replicated in a sort of live in studio appearance style, as if the band was singing their latest hit on Saturday Night Live or Letterman’s show. You know what I mean? like no editing. Just the whole song straight through, so it had to be well rehearsed. You’d have to know all the words and moves to whatever dance you were gonna do to it. There was a lot of Hall & Oates in the rotation. We all loved Hall and Oates, The Hoov included. They had a legacy of Big Beat, Blue Eyed Soul hits and they were still in the game. This time period I’m talking about is mostly around the time Hall & Oates were having their last two hits with videos on MTV; Everything Your Heart Desires and Missed Opportunities. If those guys made any music after that, I don’t know about it. MTV was in all of the homes up Chris & Amy’s way, but not in my neighborhood yet, but almost (sooooooooooooooooooooon…………). I think the biggest reason though, that we did so many H&O numbers was that Chris and Amy looked exactly like Hall & Oates.

Chris did an awesome Sting, so there were lots of Police and Sting tunes.  Amy’s younger sisters did excellent versions of Debbie Gibson tunes and Klymaxx and John Waite and Richard Marx(?!?!?!) and Janet Jackson and Let’s Hear It For The Boy! and Atlantic Starr and The Jets and DeBarge. Chris did a stunning rendition as a solo Daryl Hall of the little known August Day, a haunting, perhaps Tom Waits inspired song from the very uneven, not so hot, Along The Red Ledge LP. Eventually they had a video day when I happened to be around and I got to be in some of them. I “play” the sax solo in Chris’ take on Sting’s Russians and I got to be Kirk Pengilly for an INXS tune and I got to be Iggy for I’m Bored and it was one of the funnest days of my life.

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