Volume 17, 2023 Winter Edition

Buenos Dias, buckaroos and buckarettes!

I'm Bob - welcome to the bunker! You may know me from the band Big Medicine Head or daytime television.  This seasonal 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 and beyond 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

Rex Hotel: The Lost Tapes of Tribeca (Part II)

(In Part I we described the genesis and tracking for Rex Hotel. You can find it here)

Slumming in Tribeca  

If you pick up a rock on the sidewalk in New York, polish it vigorously with spit and cigarette ashes, wipe it with a handkerchief and hold it up to the light, it's still a rock. It is what it is. 

The recording of Rex Hotel was complete. We fell out of the studio, we fell out of Richmond, and we fell out of California. Jared and Brian decided that the album's mixing should take place in New York. I had never been to New York, and I wanted to be a part of the mix process. I was all in. 

I landed at JFK and took a Kerry bus into the city. I had a room at the West Side YMCA. As I recall it was dank, and the slippery mold-tinged floor of the shared bathroom was down the hall. Whoever runs it currently must've cleaned it up a bit, because on the website the rooms are sparkling. I think they even have a small domestic petting zoo now where you can check out a puppy for the night if the concrete canyons of Gotham get a little lonely.

This was a phase in my life when my favorite thing to do was get lost. Often when socializing with the band or friends of the band, or friends, or anyone at all, I would surreptitiously step outside and disappear into the night. Sometimes I would step out of a bar, wander into another bar, latch onto a few people, and return to the original bar with my new friends. I liked to collect people.

I connected with Jared and Brian and we headed to the studio. We mixed at Gramavision in the old American Thread building in Tribeca.  We were sharing the space on alternate nights with Bernie Worrell (P-Funk, Talking Heads) who was recording a solo album, "Funk of Ages". Guest musicians included David Byrne, Herbie Hancock, Keith Richards, Vernon Reid and Phoebe Snow, as well fellow P-Funk band mates Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, and others. 

I will now beg the reader for forgiveness as I make this confession: we found some of Bernie's lyrics, and accidentally re-wrote them. If Bernie were still with us I'm not sure he would volunteer to play on our next album. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't sign my yearbook. I never checked to see if any of our lyrics made it on to Bernie's record.

The building was cool. Cyndi Lauper lived there. So did Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz. Jared claims that we discovered an apartment that wasn't locked and that we took a shower in it. I do not remember this, but Lisa and Lenny, if this is true, and you found towels you don't recall using piled on the floor, I apologize.

The mixing and mastering for the album was happening. I was in and out of the studio. It was my first time in New York, so I would disappear at times and go out to walk the streets. One evening I found a club with black walls where Jamaican music throbbed so hard through the floor that the vibration of the bass notes tickled my feet. On another night I stumbled into a club and found Adrian Belew and his band tearing it up. Big thrill for me, because I love Adrian Belew. For my money Matte Kudasai is the most achingly beautiful song King Crimson ever recorded.  The club was small, and I probably could have maneuvered my way backstage to meet Adrian Belew, but what would I have said? "Hi - I'm Bob - love your music - I just fucked up Bernie Worrell's lyrics". 

Jared was great company. He was cut from East Coast fabric, and great fun to pal around with. Jared recalls that we "went for drinks a few times in a scary bar across the street whose principal patrons were postal workers at a giant post office a block away - some very weird people". 

We finished working on the mix (I'm not sure how much help I was) and hit the street. I had a morning flight. Rather than get a hotel room I walked  Manhattan.

I don't know what neighborhood I was in when I sat down next to a guy with a shoe shine box and struck up a conversation. I was so much in Alice in Wonderland mode that I didn't bother to ask him why anyone would want their shoes shined at 2am on a rummy New York street. The sub-text of the situation became clear as people stopped by occasionally and offered him cash, in exchange for small packets of white powder that he would pull out of his shoe shine box.  I thought it was kind of him to let me hang out. 

As dawn broke I made it to Grand Central Station, where I caught transit out to JFK.

Worth noting for the purpose of our tale is that - for all the New York mojo we labored to conjure - we didn't use the Tribeca mixes. Jared wanted to go another way with the sound. So, it was back to California for another round of mixing.

We hunkered down in a studio in San Francisco. The office phone was ringing incessantly so Jared, annoyed, answered it. It was someone named Neil looking for Kay, the studio manager. Jared doesn't remember what he said but he's sure he was pretty snotty to “Neil.”  Later the mix engineer, Steve Counter, asked who Jared was talking to and he said “some dick named Neil.”  At which point Steve informed Jared that the caller was likely Neil Young, who evidently was a part owner of the studio.

I love Neil Young - I've spun up quite a few of his songs on my guitar when I needed the perfect cover. I may have even borrowed the chord structure from Revolution Blues for the Big Medicine Head song 10 Mile South of Nowhere. I freely confess that this may be true. It may also be true that we left some spent beer cans and empty food containers in his studio, and we may have forgotten to empty the ashtrays. However, I can say with a clear conscious that we did not re-write any of Neil's lyrics.

Next issue: A call from the East coast, a mysterious box, and the past comes to life.



America, After the War is blowing up the Internet - the highest views and likes we've ever received on YouTube and Instagram. Check it out here.

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 newsletter.

Slowtown appeared on the first Big Medicine Head album, Rex Hotel. While the Lost Tapes of Tribeca series is running, we're going to feature songs from that album. I describe the genesis of the song fairly well in the Songs From The Bunker section (below) so I won't go on and on about it, but I should mention that it is my nephew Marcel's favorite Big Medicine Head song.

To listen, follow the download instructions at the bottom of this message. Or click here.

Seasonal Hobo Recipe

Biscuits and Gravy

When I was a boy my dad used to take me to his favorite diner for biscuits and gravy. In fact, that's where I was abandoned. He was down the road in a cloud of dust, and after that it was the hobo life for me!


Powdered coffee creamer
Reconstituted croutons


  1. Obtain croutons and baco'bits from the salad bar at someone else's office Christmas party
  2. Obtain powdered coffee creamer from condiment tray at convenience store
  3. Pour powdered coffee creamer into a cup and add water
  4. Stir to a thick paste
  5. Mix in Baco-bits
  6. Crush croutons in your palms
  7. Allow moisture from palm sweat to bind crushed croutons
  8. Mold into biscuit
  9. Spread coffee creamer paste over crouton biscuit 
  10. Heat over engine manifold
  11. Voila!

Bon appetit!

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. 

Slowtown (Directors Cut)

Keeping with the Rex Hotel theme, here's a song from the album that I reworked for fun. I wanted to hear what it would sound like if REM had recorded Slowtown. I was compelled to create the video because AEA (the ribbon microphone manufacturer) had a contest in which one could receive a free preamp by tagging their company in social media posts. I must have tagged them 400 times, and I didn't get a free preamp. I suppose I haven't reached the level of notoriety whereby they just give me free stuff so that their product can be elevated by the mere fact that I was seen using it. 

The original track was written after a gig we played in San Luis Obispo, otherwise known as Slotown, or Slowtown for our purposes.

That night was particularly crazy. There was a street party outside, with people revelling up and down the sidewalks, in the fountain in the city square, in the middle of the avenue, and in the branches of trees. Naturally we dove right in and got lost in this scene. We pushed the boundary of celebratory excess, and compared notes over breakfast the next day.

The lyrics took a solemn turn, but the actual events they were based on were marked by libation and great levity. 

Listen here, or click the photo of me and Rex, below.

Slowtown (Directors Cut)

This is not my television
and I’ve never seen a room like this
the calendar pages fly off the wall
and the doubt on my face must read like a list
I get this feeling the world is in motion
and I hope I don’t forget how to trust
and pinch me so I know I’m real
‘cause I just saw my life go by on the bus

in Slowtown
clock hands spinning round and round
I’m going down

Riot in a bar on 4th street
cops all over town
they get their kicks deploying nightsticks
chasing folks like me around
I stumbled to the street
and fell in love with the sound
it caressed me ‘til I didn’t know
where I was bound
I stumbled into somebody else’s parade
then the medicine hit
and someone lowered the shade

in Slowtown
clock hands spinning round and round
I’m going down

Montgomery Clift arm wrestled Monet
in a mobile home in East L.A.
in a love and hate symposium
through the corridors of my thought museum
I always miss the bus on days like this
someone put my name 
on a government list
and the shadow on the wall next to mine
laughs whenever I start crying

in Slowtown
clock hands spinning round and round
I’m going down

When you no longer hear the music
When you’ve got faith
but you can’t use it
when you can’t hear your voice anymore
and every conversation sounds like a war
when you can’t hear your voice anymore
and every conversation sounds like a war
when their guns are bigger than yours
I'll be around
meet me down in...

clock hands spinning round and round
I’m going down


Me and Rex