In mid-1997, I put out my first record under my own name, The Bathroom Mirror. I’ve remastered it from its original tapes and reprinted it with its original booklet. It can be had as either download or cassette (CD-R upon request without an extra charge) through Bandcamp only.
The physical product, as it was in 1997, is a cassette in ziploc bag with booklet. If anyone would prefer a CD-R, just ask for it and you’ll have it at no extra charge.
Anyone who knows me knows the story of how this record came to be. The band I was in, the House Carpenters, collapsed while recording a second record. I had thought to write “combusted,” but reconsidered. The band collapsed; I combusted. I cared deeply about the band and felt we at some kind of creative peak. In many senses we were, but one reason for this is that we had two writers with two sensibilities, and by 1997 what had been a balance became unsustainable. I was stressed and disappointed and left the sessions in what for me was a surprisingly dramatic huff. The only genuinely solid recording (of my tunes) from the sessions is the version of “St. Louis” that I put on “Funeral Hymns and Outlaw Ballads,” unquestionably one of a handful of best recordings I’ve done to date.
Miserable, I retreated to San Diego, and there on the morning and early afternoon of April 11 recorded a series of songs to a walkman recorder. About half of the tunes had been in the House Carpenters’ repertoire and the balance were things of mine either unsuitable for the band or cover tunes that meant a lot to me. I didn’t have any conscious agenda including Richard Thompson‘s “Beat the Retreat,” for example, but it’s clear to me in hindsight why I connected with the song so well on that morning.
After a week convalescence I returned to Riverside and after a short time culled together, bookending the stuff from San Diego with two older recordings, what became the first piece of work I put out entirely under my own name. Somehow I imagined doing a little ‘zine-like booklet to include with a cassette. I feel like my sense that I could put it in a ziploc bag came from the memory of Scott Adams text adventures my folks got me, on cassette because a floppy drive seemed a frivolous expense, for our Atari 800 when I was a kid. I could be wrong about the precise connection, but the memory was real and, as seen above, ended up working nicely for the project. I cut photographs out of the New York Times for artwork, and hand-wrote the text. I have a clear memory of the deeply therapeutic effect of gluing the images to the paper of the booklet as it came together.
I sent the finished product out to several ‘zines friendly to the “hometaper scene,” and received an unexpectedly good response. 20 years later, the record strikes me as totally out of step with anything current musically. I’m really proud of it.