Zodiac Concept Album Of The Day 8/29/2015: Harvey Sid Fisher – “Astrology Songs”

Hitch your wagon to a star, blog aficionados, ’cause this one’s personal.

When I was a DJ at KAOS Olympia the first time, back in 1994–95, there was a crate in the studio with the music director’s “picks” for easy access to airplay. (Full disclosure: I’m one of three people who claim to have been “music directors” during that time. It was a mutual agreement. That way, if one of the other music directors wasn’t around, then the other two could hide under the desk. This one’s for you, Ian and Jim.) I believe Harvey Sid Fisher’s Astrology Songs was in that pick box the entire time I was there, and almost every DJ who didn’t have a specialty show played it to death. I certainly did in all my free-form ecstasy.

Then I graduated from college, and moved down to Los Angeles because they had employment down there. Other things happened. Suffice to say that one Sunday afternoon in 1996 I was hanging out at my usual joint, the Chimneysweep Lounge in Sherman Oaks, where a local musician named Hal ran an acoustic music show every weekend. Occasionally he had guests come by to sit in and play with him.*

So this night Hal’s doing his usual set, and comes to his take-fifteen break. “All right,” Hal says, “we’re going to take a break for a bit, and when we come back we’ll have my special guest Harvey Sid Fisher.”

My head snapped to attention, and in my shock I asked Millie, the waitress at the ’Sweep who I was seeing at the time, what Hal had just said. “Did he say Harvey Sid Fisher is here?? Did he??” I believe she regarded me with a curious smile. I think everybody in the bar looked at me like I was a little bit crazy. I’m pretty sure – yeah, actually, I’m positive – I was the only person in the Chimneysweep who was geeking out that Harvey Sid Fisher had come into our little place.

Harvey walked in with his guitar and did a set. I think I called out songs. He’d just released Astrology Songs on CD, with four additional bonus songs about golf. I was big on Harvey’s golf songs, especially “The God of Golf.” I believe, though again my recollection’s hazy, that I kept calling that particular song out. “Play ‘The God of Golf’! ‘God of Golf’!” Harvey placated me, saying “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world… he walks into mine.”

We talked a little bit after I’d calmed down. I told him I was a piano player, and either gave him my number or my email address, one of the two. At some point the next year he got in touch with me and said he was putting a band together to play some Astrology Songs shows in Long Beach and Los Angeles, and invited me to join in. In the years that followed, I’m estimating I played piano for Harvey about six or seven times. (We played Taix on Sunset Boulevard once and Matthew Broderick showed up. I didn’t see him because I was a professional.)

After I moved back to Seattle ten years ago Harvey came calling again and we played a house party on Lake Union. Then in the spring of 2013 Harvey called me up and asked me to play with a local pickup band he’d fashioned, primarily made up of members of the local band Something In The Trees. We played one show in Olympia (not that great) and another at the High Dive in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle (really, really great). Out of all the amalgamations of Harvey Sid-ness that I’ve played with, this backing band is the best, no question.

Matt Hopper, the freakishly great bassist for Something In The Trees and the Seattle Rock Orchestra who gives private lessons so call me if you’re interested, contacted me last year with the idea of playing one last show with Harvey Sid sometime in 2015. Well, you can’t definitely say it’s going to be our last show with him. You never know what might happen. Casino tours, cultural reappraisals, gigantic money offers to tour Europe. But I’ve been on this part-time Harvey Sid wagon for almost 20 years now, and one has to think about settling down.

So, the upshot is – if you’re in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood tonight, you have a couple of pesos to blow, and you want a tuneful summary of the ways your zodiac sign has consigned you to be, come by and see the Harvey Sid Fisher show around 9pm. Mention this blog and you’ll get a gracious, totally SFW hand gesture from the pianist.

Thanks for everything, Harvey. See you tonight.

*(One night Terry Reid showed up at Hal’s music night. Just played a couple songs on guitar and, of course, sang them beautifully. I didn’t realize at the time exactly who I was talking to: Jimmy Page’s first choice to sing for Led Zeppelin, and the person who suggested Robert Plant instead when he politely declined the offer. God! Why didn't I know this then?)

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