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DOOR IN THE WATER was a "New Wave concept album" by "Singer at Large" Johnny J Blair. Given positive reviews in Canada, Europe, and the USA, this was his first full-length project after a string of singles, demos, EPs, and field recordings--including work with members of The Tubes and making a live recording of Nico (Velvet Underground).
Sounds of water and redolent choral themes run throughout the album, inspired by cornerstone "concept albums" such as PET SOUNDS (Beach Boys) and THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY (Genesis) and the PRESERVATION ACT series of The Kinks. Post-punk rock reverie flows next to visionary melodicism, urban satire, and bittersweet spirituality.
Blair recalls, "I started this album in San Francisco. Then, I got signed to my first record deal, but they didn't like the California tracks--said they were too experimental and ratty. So they sent me to the uber-cool town of Knoxville, Tennessee to work at a large studio that The Jacksons used as a rehearsal space for their 'Victory' tour. I got to borrow Michael Jackson's Yamaha DX7 keyboard (The Jacksons used seven DX7's on stage!). The session players were blues and country guys. I played them records by Big Country and The Clash so they'd 'get it,' and they nailed the parts in less than three takes.
"The original vinyl LP had two flaws: The track assignment was forced on me by the record company (they rejected "Locusts" and "Rebellion Comes On"), and their mastering was hasty and deficient in the midrange where the vocals sit (back then I was fairly ignorant on that subject). As a result, people repeatedly complained they couldn't hear my vocals. At last, these problems have been fixed! I now offer the songs in the order I originally intended, and Scott Francis (Mind's Eye Music Studios) remastered it. The fidelity is vastly improved and the vocals are more prominent.
"As a bonus, I've added some of the pre-studio demos from 1984 plus several tracks (demo, live, and rehearsal) from 1986 with the band October (named after the U2 album), and an a cappella rockabilly-doo wop-gospel tribute to Dion & the Belmonts, "Everybody Needs Jesus Instead"--the track the record company preferred over "Rebellion Comes On." I thought "ENJI" disrupted the flow of the album, but a lot of people thought it was catchy."
BAM magazine 10/85 (San Francisco): “…A surprisingly punchy and well-crafted effort…varied, very listenable…Blair proves himself an able melody writer and resourceful producer…combining pop simplicity and studio ingenuity…he knocks off several ear-grabbing, upbeat numbers…notably “One Planet—One Utopia—One Helmet”…a cheerfully, nasty-sounding stomper…” (Barry Alfonso)
Music & Art Magazine 2/89 (Rotterdam, Holland): “Let’s start with the cover. A nice picture of a door laying in the water. In or out? You decide…the music is rather experimental, with a lot of influences, from Dylan to Brian Wilson to The Kinks to Todd Rundgren…for all of us who want something different, a record to dive into.” (Wim Boluijt)
Rockbox magazine 3/86 (Toronto): “Raised on heavy doses of Motown, British Invasion, and The Beach Boys…Blair’s first full-length album neatly fuses his spiritual concerns and rock’n’roll base…”Welcome to the Open Door” is inviting, with a gorgeous guitar and keyboard mélange at the fade; “Ya Gotta Care” is a noisy but effective rallying call; “Seven Long Years” is an update on Dylan’s “With God on Our Side” with raunch from The Clash “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” The clincher is the funny “One Planet—One Utopia—One Helmet,” evoking confusion (“Buying psychedelics at the coal mine”) with tough humor over ex-Johnny Winter And member Darryl Puett’s compact, furious guitar snatches.” (JJ Syrja)
released April 23, 1985
All songs written & produced by Johnny J Blair except "Ya Gotta Care" co-written with Jeff Lloyd, and "Spirit" written by Mike Scott. All original songs published by Singnorbertmusic, Inc. BMI 1984 and Word2Soul Music BMI 2005, except "Spirit."
Tennessee studio musicians:
Johnny J Blair: bass, Simmons drums, drum programs, guitars, keyboards, percussion, vocals on all tracks
Daryll Puett: lead guitar
Billy Reynolds: drums
California studio musicians:
Cassie Blair: treated tambourine, vocals
Johnny J Blair: bass, drum programs, guitars, keyboards, percussion, vocals
Bridget Purifoy: vocals
Anna Yagashita Valdez: percussion, vocals
Victor Valverde: bass
Jonny Vee: drums, vocals
Johnny J Blair: bass, guitars, vocals
Ron Davis: drums
Chris Haggerty: guitar, saxophone, vocals
Bridget Purifoy & Anna Yagashita Valdez: percussion, vocals
Victor Valverde: bass, harmonica, vocals
Engineered by JJB, Daryl Hunley, & Michael Paul. Produced by Johnny J Blair and Johnny J Blair & October.
Recorded at Big Mama’s, Knoxville TN, 12/84 and various project studios in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1983-84, except for "Locusts" recorded 1980. Live tracks from Uncle Charlie's, Corte Madera CA 5/5/86. Rehearsal from The Farm, San Francisco CA, 3/86. Remastered by Scott Francis at Mind's Eye Studios, Williamsport PA 2005.
Original photos by Cassie Blair. LP cover art by Francis Vieira Souza.
Johnny J Blair "Singer at Large"San Francisco, California
"Singer at Large" Johnny J. Blair is known for his innovative brand of “pop music with a twist,” a fast-paced mix of old
school soul/rhythm and blues, psychedelia, punk/new wave, and a melodicism breathed by classical, gospel, jazz, and world beat. Goldmine Magazine said his music is “pop music with a conscience,” while Spotlight Magazine dubbed Blair “the Harry Houdini of rock and roll.”...more
Rebellion Comes On (Johnny J Blair Copyright 1985, 2005, Word2Soul Music BMI)
Dreaming I was in a restaurant
Where no one ate their food
The music played
But I can't say
The name of a single tune
Flowing past the words and discussions
None of which were used
So I asked my dream as a person would
Are you really as much as you learn?
The dream just turned his head as if he thought that I should die
I saw my voice ascend the rain and cut right through the sky
Rebellion comes on
Like the calm before the storm
Offering things we were told that we wanted
Till clouds bled and washed it all away, away...
Tears of joy reflecting rolling down my neck
Joyful miracles in every single breath
Because I've been redeemed from schemes and dreams I would consign
None of which we're in the will of he who can design
Before rebellion came on
Like the calm before the storm
Offering control that we can't handle
All to be taken away, away...
Track Name: Seven Long Years
Seven Long Years
(written by Johnny J Blair Copyright 1984 Singnorbertmusic, Inc. BMI)
I think there's something you should know
About your friends where did they go
Without a trace without a sign
All they had was left behind
You wanna know
Down in your soul
Faster you're going on to the unknown
It ain't no joke
When you can't vote for another
Seven long years of a sugar-coated usher
Smiling in a big new age
You heard the facts there once before
About the religious whore
She used to get out of the way
And now she finally got her day
Now just hold on
There's something wrong
When you can only sing a national song
You didn't care
Till there's no prayer
Seven long years of a religious lover
Bluffing you into a new age
You think you'll take another look
Into the forbidden Book
The cleanest one under your bed
Before that mark gets on your head
And now you're broken
There's not a token
That can redeem the word already spoken
It took the plagues and the wars to make you see that it's
Seven long years of a wide-eyed assumption
Spawning off a killer new age
Seven long years till the final crown is worn by the One who was supposed to
Wear it in the first place
Seven long years which you probably can't stand but your heart can start over
Track Name: Johnny J Blair & October - Apathy (live 1986)
Apathy (written by Johnny J Blair Copyright 1985, 2005 Word2Soul Music BMI)
(Chorus) There's not much you can say about apathy (3x)
It kind of wrecks you mind
It kind of wastes your time
It kind of leaves you blind
When you weren't even looking
(repeat chorus, fill in the blank with your own comic renditions of people with too much time on their hands and too little direction)
Track Name: Johnny J Blair & October - Desert Ruby (band rehearsal 1986)
For the full back story & lyrics, go to http://www.johnnyjblair.com/?page_id=834