Dave Carlock: Career building moves off course

Published 7:41 am Friday, April 26, 2013

I first met Brian in the spring of my 23rd year. He thought he was getting free studio time, and I thought he might help me get my big break. We were both wrong, but we also both got a lot more. We became lifelong friends. Well, wait… he did get free studio time. So I guess I was the only one that was wrong.
Brian originally came from Bolton, England — “a northerner” he’d say — but had been living for a while on “Planet Los Angeles,” a mythical place I’d never been but always thought I‘d end up, and eventually did. At that moment, Brian was a few years past his most recent hit with his band Boys Don’t Cry. His main gig was that of a session and touring keyboard player who had worked with the Hollies and Meat Loaf and had been a member of The Warriors with Jon Anderson (pre-YES) and Flaming Youth with Phil Collins (pre-Genesis).
So what was he doing here on “Planet Midwest?” He did come complete with L.A. stereotypes: darkly tan, fit-to-thin build, perfect hair and he was quite an accomplished tennis player. At age 45, he was with a beautiful 27 year-old named Michelle from South Bend, Ind., who was always adorned with piercingly dark eyeliner and deep red lips as tempting as the proverbial apple.
And Brian’s sense of humor? Oh, the sense of humor! To call the Brit “charming” would be as much of an understatement as calling water “wet.” In the cultural vacuum of small town America, any man with a British accent and decent teeth could change the world, and Brian was about to change mine
Brian’s arrival in Southwest Michigan came about when another recording engineer called me looking for a recording studio. The first studio in Indiana where he was recording Brian was shut down for scheduled construction. When Brian arrived, he loved my guitar and bass playing and, when his budget ran short, he decided to continue working with me alone, having me act as engineer as well. This, well, pissed off the original engineer who was then out of a job, but I couldn’t see turning Brian away because he didn’t want to pay for another person, so I was stuck looking like a jerk. We moved forward, finishing two songs he had written with songwriter Terry Smith who had played drums with the Monkees, and seemed to be the more organized and business like of this “Odd Couple” songwriting team.
Following the mixing of the two songs’ demos, Brian and Michelle offered to cook some steaks for a nice lunch at a private beach across the street from my place on Lions Park Drive. My then-girlfriend and I turned Brian and Michelle onto a new drink at the time called Zima, and, when we all got a bit toasty, Brian offered me a piece of his project to get involved as a co-producer. I told him I’d think about it, and we continued having a great time till the rain came down. In the rush to get everything inside, Michelle’s Wusthof steak knives somehow got lost which broke her heart.
The month of June was spent on two more songs that went down as being decidedly some of the best work either of us had done. Unfortunately, Brian’s A&R contact at Warner Bros. didn’t bite, but a fax of encouragement from Phil Collins in my office was a bright moment. Brian went back to South Bend and continued to write while continuing to send our work around to his other contacts.
The clear next step was to keep moving. If Warner Bros. wouldn’t get involved, we had to keep working on the record, so pitches to investors came next. We got a break when the Michiana Executive Journal seemed keen on doing an interview. We felt it could get the word out about what we were trying to do independently in Michiana. The Journal wanted to have us come down to its offices in South Bend for a photo session to accompany the article, and I agreed to pick Brian up on the way. Little did I realize that I was making a grave mistake by letting him be the navigator.
It seemed for all of his tennis-playing skill, musical ability, appeal to the opposite sex and god-graced melonin under his command, this man had absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever. I had no idea where I was going. Before long, we found ourselves on the 80/90 toll road with Brian guessing which exit to take. When we finally emerged on the other side of the blind leading the blind, we discovered that our wandering in the wilderness could have only have been rivaled Moses’ desert disorientation. It took us an hour and fifteen minutes with some phone calls to arrive at the photo shoot. Returning home afterward? Just under 10 minutes.
When we arrived at the photoshoot, we met up with co-writer Terry and girlfriend Michelle, who had been there on time, an hour earlier. The photographer had just left frustrated. I would’ve loved to have heard what they were saying around the Journal’s office — “musician types… they’re probably stoned.” I wished we could’ve blamed our faux pas on substances. We had no choice but to offer up the far less cool and truthful explanation: We were both idiots. Brian couldn’t find his way out of a papersack, and I was naive enough to crawl in the sack with him.
Fortunately, with some pleading, they were able to convince the photographer to come back, so Michelle, shaking her head incredulously, started immediately on Brian’s makeup.
To be continued…


Dave Carlock is a 26-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, Words & 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.