Limited by lockdowns here in Victoria for much of this year, The Stereo Stories Band (like thousands of other performers) has not been able to meet to rehearse. With a gig coming up at The Memo Music Hall in Melbourne in January we started sending music files to each other, which our bass player David Barton has been engineering and mixing.
David notes that the recording, pleased as we are with it, has its limitations: mobile phones and laptops are very handy tools but they’re not quite recording studios.
There was a further challenge: the author of the story, Cher Finver, lives not in Victoria, or even Australia, but Las Vegas.
For our show at The Memo, band member Martina Medica will narrate Cher Finver’s story: our budget doesn’t quite stretch to flying in writers from afar!
New York to Nevada, 1985
Between drags of her Kent cigarettes, I grew up with my mother’s baritone voice singing along to every Billy Joel song. Innocent Man was a song that, with her deep voice, sounded ridiculous.
With stops at the cheapest hotels and diners we could find along the way, Billy’s music helped to pass the time as me, my little brother, and our mother took a road trip from New York to Nevada. Are we there yet?
I can still remember my brother in the backseat: “Uptown ‘gurl,’ she’s my uptown ‘gurl,’ you know I’m in love with an uptown ‘gurl.’ My brother had a speech impediment when he was younger, and no one sang that song as cute as he did.
I wish a few Billy Joel songs did not torture my soul, but songs are a time machine. Easter of 1985, when I was nine years old, my mother took off to Nevada after a judge ordered her to let my dad spend more time with me. I wouldn’t discover all the truths about that time in my life until thirty years later. I grew up being told we left New York because my dad was a “bad man” who did “bad things” to me. Court documents and medical records would later prove otherwise.
Our mother-daughter relationship had deteriorated by this time but knowing what she had done was the final nail in the coffin. Perhaps that nail could be removed if she admitted to or took responsibility for her actions back then.
Families fight and sometimes they pick sides. My brother picked our mother’s. You would have to ask him why, but I went from his best friend to a complete stranger.
Billy Joel once said to “Leave A Tender Moment Alone,” and I could not agree more. I can’t listen to Uptown Girl. At all. As for Innocent Man, I can still hear Mom’s voice as Billy hits notes higher and higher. A smirk sometimes appears as I sing along, in the right register.
Stereo Story #631
This story will be part of our show at The Memo Music Hall in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, 9 January 2022.
The Stereo Stories Band plays in the key of versatility. For Innocent Man, the line-up is:
Chris Phillips (vocals)
Martina Medica (vocals)
David Barton (bass guitar)
Matt McGrath (drums)
Julie Merritt (accordion)
Laura Sheridan (cello)
Peter Maskell (guitars)
Cher Finver (narration)