Volume 8, December 2020

Buenos Dias, buckaroos and buckarettes!

I'm Bob. You may know me from the band Big Medicine Head or daytime television.  This monthly missive from the land of tumbleweeds and the lonesome six string guitar features news from the frontier, music and prose.  Each issue will have a downloadable track and lyrics, along with the backstory of the song. For the duration of the pandemic we'll also feature live songs from the bunker. Call me crazy, but I'm giving all this away for free.

If you'd like to revisit past issues of Tales of the Western Hemisphere you can find them at bobgemmell.com

S O N G  o f  t h e  M O N T H
Sit back and relax as we explore the Bob Gemmell and Big Medicine Head song catalog. The download instructions are at the bottom of this message.

Every month about this time I settle in to pick a song for Tales of the Western Hemisphere, and I've been thinking about what masterpiece from the catalog would be appropriate for the holiday season. It's not as though followers of Big Medicine Head have been hanging onto the hope that we would one day release a Christmas album. There is one song, however, that has a connection to this holiday.

Last Night in the World is from The Handsome Years album. It came into existence because of a story that I was told by my daughter, Isabella. When she worked on Cannery Row in Monterey she  befriended a homeless man named Jimbo. He made jewelry from beach glass and things that he found by the ocean, and offered his creations in exchange for donations on the street. Isabella would buy his jewelry because she knew that would keep him fed.

One day just before the new year she came to the place he could usually be found and asked his friends where he was. She was told that he had saved enough money for a motel room. He checked in on Christmas day, and ended his life. 

I'm not sure what I find most compelling about this story. It could be that someone would target a specific calendar day and, having summarized his life, decided that this was the time it should come to an end. Had he processed everything and decided that this was the time for reckoning? Was the act of of termination the most poetic final punctuation to his story that he could imagine?

I've pondered this. Beyond the contemplation of Jimbo's life, however, I am moved by the beautiful sentiment of one young woman who had thought that her kindness could save the world, one person at a time.

Last Night in the World tells this story, to the best of my ability. To Jimbo, Isabella and everyone: may this season be filled with grace, and may you find peace in the knowledge that we are all connected to one another.

Last Night in the World  

(Listen here)

Add up all the days in this life 
choose your favorite one 
With these hands I string these beads
and soon I will be done 
I started out somewhere and now I’m here, now I’m here 

I’ve been thrown out of bars in all 50 states,
I rode the boxcars with Bill and Melinda Gates  
I was the last to leave Times Beach 
Homeless dogs and movie stars
now I’m sleeping in the back of my brother’s car 
I heard the bells of St. Angela ring 

I will stay until Christmas Day
I will stay 
Then I’ll fly away 
So light a candle for me on my last night in the world 

Can you take the wheel 
we’re almost there, almost there 
Take me to the Rex Hotel
and I will disappear 

Broke down trucks and fancy cars 
now I’m sipping champagne from a Mason jar  
With the boys from Cannery Row 
Sterno bums and blue highways 
from the Iron Range down to Santa Fe  
Tonight I’ll close this city down 
I’ll give the last string of beads that I have got
to two young lovers on the Esplanade 
Then I'll say goodnight 

I will stay until Christmas Day
I will stay 
Then I’ll fly away 
So light a candle for me on my last night in the world 

Add up all the days in this life choose your favorite one


America, After the War was just released - it's blowing up the internet - the highest views and likes we've ever received on YouTube and Instagram - check it out here.

C A M P E R  V A N  M O R R I S O N

You're going to dig this: my next album will be recorded in my Volkswagen bus, Camper Van Morrison. With the help of The Sonic Lord JeffyD I'm putting together a mobile recording unit. The vision behind this is that I will be deployable anywhere in the world by the State Department - even to hostile foreign theaters - and be provisioned to crank out hit records. As one would imagine, this will require some effort. So far we've put together a team that includes industrial custom fabricators and a retiree from the Army Corps of Engineers. 

So, what's under the hood? Let's start with Camper Van Morrison itself. We modified the vehicle with a Subaru EJ22/25 Frankenmotor and modified transaxle. Future enhancements will include a "transformer" capability that will allow it to convert into a submarine on the fly. 

The  recording rig currently consists of a bus powered Apollo audio interface, the Soyuz Launcher (a phantom powered Russian preamp/mic activator), Shure, Neumann and Jared Williams King Hell Destroyer hot-rodded ribbon microphones, and a laptop running Logic Pro. One item under consideration for this project is the Cranborne 500R8. It's an audio interface, 500 series module rack, monitor controller, and discrete analogue summing mixer. The question before us: will Bill Dwyer and the fine team of engineers at Cranborne be interested in custom fitting their superior audio equipment into a Volkswagen bus?

Another question: where do we put the drum kit? JeffyD is currently working at the Sterno Bums International Industrial Light and Magic fabrication center crafting a drum set that creates space efficiencies through a system of gears, pulleys, rods and levers. He's managed to fit a set with the functionality of Neil Peart's rig into a space the size of suitcase. 

Here's a chance for you to provide input: we're looking for solutions for soundproofing. At this point JeffyD's plan is to pressure inject 400 bags of Stay-Puft Marshmallows into the door panels and body cavities.  If you have your own ideas on how we can create sonic isolation in the VW please reach out to us.

Another consideration which would benefit from your input is recording locations.The album will consist of twelve songs, and the plan is to record them at various locations throughout the United States. Sites under consideration are freeway rest areas, WalMart parking lots, and evangelical tent revivals. Perhaps you have a suggestion? Perhaps we could come to your house and record in your driveway? Thank you in advance for your invitation! We will clean up after ourselves, and JeffyD promises not to use your toothbrush.

We 're pretty sure we can pull this off. JeffyD has set aside some other projects and prioritized this effort.  We think that we'll be able to find space for the acoustic guitar, banjo, resonator, mandolin, fiddle and some percussion instruments, as well as a small dance floor. The most important aspect of this - which remains unresolved - is where in this rolling calliope of sonic mirth will I fit our collies, Rex and Lulu? 

More on this story as it develops.

S O N G  f r o m  t h e  B U N K E R
Each month we spin up a new song from the foxhole we find ourselves in. 

Darling One

Big Medicine Head recorded a trio of songs about my daughter Isabella and my god-daughter Nediva (pictured). Invincible was written for Isabella, and Darling One was written for Nediva. The Twilight Barking Chain was written for both of them - a song to send them out into the world. All three songs appeared on the Queen of the Western Hemisphere album. If you have time check them out at bobgemmell.com.

This month's Song From the Bunker is a solo version of Darling One. On Saturdays I would scoop up the girls in Pacific Grove and we would have adventures; that is the starting place for this song. We took hikes in the mountains, went horseback riding on the beach, wandered around Yosemite, and pretty much ranged up and down the west coast. The three of us started our own organization to formalize our activities, The Monterey Explorers Club. Also, Isabella and Nediva have formed a singing group, The Pacific Grove Soul Sisters, and have performed with me on KPIG radio.

I tried to capture in this song the deep well of affection I have for Nediva. I hope I was successful.

Just click here to listen, or anywhere on the photo of me and Rex!

Me and Rex