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Behind the Music

Within the confines of my small, stone basement, the ‘Bow Street Runners’ met and rehearsed several times a week. It was here, in the early seventies, that the crafting of ‘Billy the Conqueror’ began. The project didn’t even have a name at the time. (A rough idea of part of the story line could already be found in the song, ‘Star Freighter’, a song that I had written. A starship pilot, on long ‘sleeper-ship’ voyages, finds himself leap-frogging into the future. Every round trip leaves a century behind.)

Basement bands came and went, in the next few years, and one of these bands brought Lou into the fold as our manager. We had discussed a rock opera project that I had started. (The plot of that rock opera was to be very different and only ‘We Don’t Want a War’ made it into ‘Billy’.) Starting a business eventually forced me to set aside the basement-bands and the music project. I had written early versions of several more of the songs that made it on to the CD: ‘Asteroid Miner’, ‘Sun Spots’, ‘Billy The Conqueror’, ‘Contact’, Earthbound/Pioneer’, ‘Getting it all in Gear’, and ‘End of the Universe’. Several other songs also had their humble beginnings scratched out in a notebook that I was using for lyrics at the time.

In the ‘nineties, Lou was busy recording several songs he had written. (Mostly at Tough Guy Studio, in McAfee NJ, with Larry DeBari.) A very early song of mine called “Little Brass Hammer” came to his mind and he called me to ask if he could record the a version of the work (it needed a few changes). I gave Lou the go ahead and was very impressed with the result. Lou had never sung around us and I had no idea what a set of pipes he had.

Lou inquired about a second song and, this time, I tagged along. With a few very nice changes, Lou re-arranged and recorded ‘Getting’ it all in Gear” with Larry doing much of the track.

On the way home, I asked Lou if he would be interested in doing ‘science fiction’ rock opera project together. I had started gathering my sci-fi songs and adding a plot, but had had to put it aside, due to lack of free time. Lou warmed up to the idea. We set about writing a story line that could connect the songs that I had written and to see where other songs were needed. Lou thought back to another song I had written (‘Billy The Conqueror’) and suggested that the character in that song would make a good central figure for the rock opera.

From that point, the project took on a life of its own. Lou and I rewrote, rearranged, and recorded the songs that I had started. Lou brought two original songs to the table: ‘Steel Ships’ and ‘A Thousand Years’. As the plot called for it, we collaborated on several new songs and recorded them.

Together, we crafted pieces of the work into an overture that sets the stage for the rest of the CD. Lou enjoyed midi-orchestration so much that he wrote and added the ‘Fanfare’ opening to ‘Billy the Conqueror’. Throughout the next years, we spent a lot of hours recording and mixing. We owe a lot to the playing skills and engineering of the amazing, ‘Tough Guy’, Larry DeBari who helped bring the work to life. (Larry passed away in July of 1999, due to cancer and is greatly missed.) The final ‘sci-fi rock opera’ was completed in 1999, with ‘Up to You’ being recorded at our small studio.

                                                                        Stan White