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December 27, 2012

            One of my web site followers, Jordanna East @ in her article, “What Turns You On” asked her readers what kind of environment they write in. In other words, do they have the television blaring, does it have to be quiet, do they have music playing?

            My answer was that I could have total chaos going on around me and it wouldn’t matter.

            I write.

            However, I prefer music. If I can’t play it physically, it’s the soundtrack playing in my head.

            What do I listen to? This same question came up in the horror forum (okay, I won’t call it icky bug here because it’s not called that there) on the Absolute Write Water Cooler web site @ and everyone listed their favorite bands to play while writing icky bug (there now I can say it).

            Music has been a huge part of my life since I first got into that Disney Music of Zorro album when I was a little kid in Lompoc, since my parents made me take piano and organ lessons, since I heard my Grandma Teel play the piano. Then there was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Yeah, I saw them live, not to date myself! Rock and roll changed it all for me. The British invasion happened. Though I liked the first few Beatles albums, I liked The Kinks better because they had a harder edge. The Stones were better too, uglier, rougher. There was also The Hullabaloos, which almost nobody ever heard of. They not only gave me inspiration, but became personal friends later in life.

            As a musician, I joined band at school. I started with the clarinet but once I saw a bassoon, that big orange bazooka looking thing was da bomb. Though I appreciated and learned classical and contemporary music, my love was still rock and roll. Outside of band class, I learned drums, bass and guitar and throughout most of my teen and adult years, played in many rock bands along with a country band, a Latino band and a few other genres.

            After the British invasion, when the late 60’s and the psychedelic era came along, things changed again. My favorite band of all time, Clear Light came out around the same time as the Doors but never made more than one album. There were other odd bands I gravitated toward that few have ever heard of like Bubble Puppy, Lothar and the Hand People, The Seeds, Blues Magoos, Spirit, and Fever Tree. Then there were the San Francisco bands like Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jefferson Airplane.

            On the local, Antelope Valley front,  my musical tastes became corrupted by none other than Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Though these guys were both older than me by almost a decade, several of their bandmates went to Palmdale High School or hung with the same people at our neighboring Antelope Valley High where both Frank and Don (Captain Beefheart) attended.

            It was around this time that my taste for heavy music became forever corrupted. In 1967, three seemingly little guys stood in front of a wall of Marshall amplifiers and they were so loud, they turned the air into cottage cheese. This band, Blue Cheer, came out with an album called Vincebus Eruptum. There was nothing else like it. It was heavy metal before there was such a term. I’ve never been the same since.

            Over the decades, my favorite bands have gone from The Frost, the original Alice Cooper Band, Grand Funk Railroad (before they sucked), Lucifer’s Friend, Uriah Heep, The Groundhogs, Sir Lord Baltimore, Three Man Army, Dust, The Rods, Picture, Deep Purple, Collosseum and so many others I can’t possibly name them all.

            In the 80’s, a new type of heavy rock came along called death metal. Back then, it was pretty good, though the vocals took a bit to get used to, those “cookie monster” vocals for the most part. Bands like Celtic Frost, Bolt Thrower, Venom, Slayer, Bathory, Cannibal Corpse and so on.

            As the new millennium came along, a new style of metal entered the mix called symphonic metal with bands like Nightwish and Ensiferum. Nightwish, especially, seems to nail the style very well.

            I’ve only listed a fraction of the bands I listen to and as you may have noticed, I have mentioned few that any of you have likely heard on the radio. I hate to leave so many out (and I’ll guarantee you’ve NEVER heard them on the radio) but I didn’t want to leave a list and bore you all. It’s in the thousands. Every chance I get, I plug one or two or ten in my novels, except for the fantasy, of course. These bands not only provide my soundtrack, but in their own way, have spurred my creative vibe. The journeys they take me on inspire my imagination.

            That’s what plays in my head when I write. It’s either on the stereo or in my head, no matter what I’m writing. Maybe because I’m a musician, music plays a much more important role in my creativity.

            Thanks to Jordanna East for giving me the inspiration for this essay.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2012 4:16 am

    No comments on this article. Fred. I never heard 95% of the groups you mentioned. I learned about Captain Beefheart when I met John French. I could never write and listen at the same time because I found it impossible to concentrate on both at the same time, and that’s what I would try to do.

    • December 28, 2012 2:20 am


      I quite understand. Definitely not your type of music! Also, you don’t listen when you write. So, what do you have going on when you DO write? Silence? The TV? Are you outside on the porch? Everyone is different and I’m curious what drives your writing engine.

      Would love to hear how you do it.

      Thanks for the feedback!


  2. Peggy West permalink
    January 2, 2013 5:23 am

    Imagine my surprise when the person driving the car last week landed on a classic rock station, Led Zeppelin came on, and I remembered all of the words to the 1970s song, “Ramble On”.

    • January 3, 2013 3:07 am


      Funny, talking about classic rock, I can tell any song by Pink Floyd, Led Zappelin, Boston or the Eagles in one note, on any classic rock station because they play them so much and always play the same four songs over and over again. One note.

      I’m not surprised you know all the lyrics!

      I know the lyrics to just about every Mothers song from the first eight or ten classic albums before Zappa broke the up the original Mothers.

      I really missed the characters the musicians were, though apparently Zappa wasn’t too fond of their musicianship. He always looked at them as merely creative tools/hired hands.

      I know smatterings of words to tons of songs but even then, I still don’t know the meanings to most of those songs unless the songwriter or some “expert” tells me what it’s really about.

      Articulated vocal noises.

      Glad you remembered those lyrics!

      Rock on!


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