I’ve always loved scary stories. So maybe it’s fitting that Johnny Smith and I once recorded an album full of them.
In November of 1994 we were renting a Yamaha PSS-190 keyboard. You don’t want to know what kind of detective work I had to do to figure that out more than two decades after the fact. It was third in the sequence of four keyboards we rented before Johnny Smith bought me a Yamaha PSR-210 as a Christmas present at the end of the year, and it was the one I liked least out of all the rentals. There weren’t a lot of sounds under the hood that got me excited. The drum sounds were what really killed it for me. They had no balls. It didn’t help that the PSS-190 had the bad luck of coming right after the huge-sounding Kawai X40-D. It did at least have some fun demo songs built in — chief among them a quirky version of the Shocking Blue hit “Venus”.
We didn’t record much music with that keyboard, but we did use it to create sound effects and incidental music for an album of improvised stories. Inside the tape jacket I wrote the date of the first recording session and a provisional title: Not for the Nervous!
The night we started recording, my grandfather was visiting. So was the lady the Smithster was dating at the time. You can hear their voices in the background from time to time. The way we worked it out, we took turns ducking out from the get-together. First I went in the bedroom, put the keyboard and tape recorder on the bed, sat down, and recorded a story. When I was finished, Johnny Smith took my place. He listened to what I’d done and recorded a story of his own.
It was a lot of fun. Nothing was written down beforehand, so we didn’t know where our stories were headed even as we were telling them. We recorded three stories that night and two more the next day. Over the next three years we added another story or two to the tape whenever inspiration struck. The subject matter darted all over the place. There was typical spooky stuff like vampires and monsters, but we also made room for an ambitious squirrel with dreams of a musical career, a girl’s dangerous obsession with rain, and a vindictive sea captain trying to hunt down his aquatic nemesis. By the time we were recording the last few stories in late 1997, I came up with a much better title: A Glimpse of Horrific Pleasure.
Since it’s Halloween, here’s my favourite story from that first night of recording in 1994. What can I say? Even when I was eleven years old, I already had a pretty sunny outlook on life.