Dave Carlock: Tribute to shooting victims takes on a life

Published 8:19 am Friday, December 28, 2012

A Day in the Life

By Dave Carlock

To honor the community of Newtown, Conn., after the horrific tragedy that claimed the lives of 26 elementary students and adults, I decided to produce a music video in the Benton Harbor Arts District for Christmas. This task fell right in the middle of the holiday’s prep, but I pushed forward anyway with a goal to have the project recorded, mixed, shot, edited and posted for everyone on Christmas morning.

The song choice that entered my mind immediately was a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over).’ Genius producer Phil Spector delivered Lennon’s original with full treatment of his signature ‘Wall Of Sound,’ which has been a production style I’ve been refining over the past few years through the vehicle of Dave Carlock’s Funkin’ Rock Orchestra. ‘Happy Xmas’ seemed like the perfect choice emotionally and topically. Lennon’s writing with Spector’s production made the Christmas classic uplifting and dramatic.

Bullet of destruction

On another level, Lennon and Spector had both their lives destroyed by gun violence: Lennon as the victim of a fatal shooting in 1980 and Spector as whom the court deemed the shooter in the accidental death of actress Lana Clarkson in Spector’s home in 2003. Spector’s first trial ended in hung jury and a retrial convicted him.

A club promoter acquaintance of mine in L.A. known as “Punkin’ Pie” was best friends with Clarkson and testified for Spector’s defense team that Clarkson had been suicidal before her death. This supported Spector’s claims that she pulled the trigger herself. In any case, the genius producer has had his life destroyed in a horrific accident after a storied history of brandishing pistols recklessly in Los Angeles that would make any responsible gun owner furious. Knowing all this backstory kept driving me back to the song as the right choice.

For a day or so, I struggled with the “War Is Over” concept and how it could make sense in regards to the Newtown tragedy. Then in a lunch meeting, someone expressed outrage over the idea that U.S. teachers should be forced to be armed like teachers in the war zones in Israel, and it all clicked. The change necessary is the one that turns around America’s path from becoming a war zone. In that regard, “War Is Over, If You Want It” rang just as true and strong in a new perspective as it did during Lennon’s protests to the Vietnam War in 1971, when the original single was released.

Colliding schedules

At that point, I had seven days to get the recording and associated video done, all the while knowing that “rebuilding the Wall of Sound without guns” was going to take some time, so my original plans to have it feature the Funkin’ Rock Orchestra were scrapped because of everyone’s logistics and schedules leading up to Christmas. Early responses showed 26 musicians at the last minute was just too complicated. So I set out to play it all myself with the exception of the kid’s choir and the string section. Charts would have to drafted, session coordination would have to be launched and people would have to be willing to give of their hearts and squeeze in one more thing during the already jammed holiday season. I had no idea who could join me but I started.

On Tuesday, I began tracking the base rhythm guitar track and a scratch vocal, then moved to drums and laid down bass. I thought my friend, Dawn Burns, would be a great addition to update Yoko Ono’s chorus singing, and being she recently relocated to the Arts District, she was a neighbor, too, and a great tie-in to the idea of my community sending a love letter to Newtown. On Wednesday afternoon, she came by and knocked it out of the park, reinforcing the melody’s strength in its simplicity.

While prepping for Dawn, I got a text from Funkin’ Rock Orchestra bassist Buddy Pearson saying he would be in town from Valparaiso on Wednesday night and invited me to crash his Christmas party gig with his band, The Unit.

Hmmmm … you don’t say…

So I conspired to break him out of the club during his 20-minute break and rush him to the studio to replace my bass track. Any chance to make music with Buddy is a treat. He’s fast, funny and always up for adventure. He told me he’d be ready a little after 10 p.m. and it had to be quick. No problem!

At 9:50, he texted me that they were on break early. I uttered a few expletives and grabbed my coat, bounding down the studio stairs. I told him that the way I drove, I’d be there in three minutes. When I pulled down the cobble street in a rush, I saw Buddy on side street illuminated by headlights with gig bag on shoulder and cigarette on lips.

“Wow! You weren’t kidding about the driving thing,” he said as he hurriedly threw his bass in the backseat.


Dave Carlock is a 25-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable. His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District. www.davecarlock.com