In the town that still believes in magic…

I just had one of the highest experiences of my life, musical or otherwise.

Three weeks ago, Scott Guberman and I got together at his house in Fairfax to write a song. I had a line of lyric and three lines of music, and I said: “This song could be about Fairfax.” Three hours later, we had a new song.

“The Town That Still Believes in Magic” sounded like a folk song with a Pink Floyd bridge when I left Scott’s house with a rudimentary demo. We thought about it and conferred a little while later, and agreed that it should be speeded up some. Then we made a plan to record it. We recruited Greg Anton on drums and Robin Sylvester on bass, and we met on Saturday, March 16 at Megasonic Sound in Oakland.

This is one of the best rhythm sections I have ever worked with! I have played with Robin, onstage and in the studio, a lot in recent years, but Greg and I have not done much together. His playing on this session blew my mind.

I had suggested to Scott in a text the night before that we start with a keyboard-based groove. I had in mind a chunkier, more rock’n’roll rhythm than we had come up with on the day we wrote it. Scott showed us an intro that reminded me of Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender,” one of my role-model records for both composition and execution. That led us to an entirely new tempo and atmosphere – a most welcome one.

Our bridge had struck us as dangerously Pink Floyd-ish, and my initial impulse was to downplay that and alter the melody a bit. But we all arrived at the session ready to Go There, so we had a conversation about the arrangement and the vibe and then started playing, going from “The Pretender” to Pink Floyd.

On the second (?) take, the post-jam reprise had a nice bouncy “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” feel to it, and I loved the way that setting served the (decidedly self-serving, as you’ll hear in the song) lyrics of the last verse.

I think it was the third take that we kept. I had expected we would need one more, but we reviewed it over Beauty’s Bagels and cream cheese and determined that we had a keeper. The Neil Young feel was gone, but we were all very happy with what we had.

I was literally laughing out loud at the end of each take, from the pure joy of the experience. Robin is always magnificent, and Greg was just brilliant while bringing feels, textures and grooves unlike any other drummer I know. Scott and I discovered a nice way of playing instinctively together, sometimes doing very conscious conversation, other times just feeling our way along and trusting the synergy.

Some punch-ins, new vocals, some double-tracking – and then Greg suggested that instead of taking turns singing a solo verse in the first half, we do both verses as duets to match what had evolved in the rest of the song.

Once we had all the pieces we needed to complete the song, we set it aside and went back in the studio to jam. After a short throat-clearing thing that didn’t develop, we played a ten-minute jam, which came to an easy stop; without saying a word, we paused for a few seconds and then launched into another jam. That one was about six minutes, and then – again, with little to no discussion – we went into a third jam, which evolved into “Cassidy’s Cat”; we wound up with nine very satisfying minutes of that.

I’m going back in on Tuesday with engineer Jeremy Goody to finish the mixing of “Town,” and we’ll “release” the song and “Cat” on Bandcamp as a digital-only “single.”

The Town That Still Believes in Magic
Scott Guberman and David Gans
February 12, 2019; ©2019 Whispering Hallelujah Music (BMI)

In the town that still believes in magic
Children play and laughter fills the air
It’s a trip beyond imagination
A lovely place to have your soul repaired

In the town that still believes in magic
Music is the language of our peace
Every day is cause for celebration
Harmony, perspective, and release

Celebrate the ties that bind
Leave your fear and dread behind, and rise
You will see it and believe it
It’s revealed to you when you arrive

In the town that still believes in magic
People still buy records in the store
The concert hall is filled with people listening
You don’t find that too often anymore
You don’t find that too often anymore
You don’t find that too often anymore
You don’t find that too often anymore

Photo by Stuart Steinhardt

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