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Long before Bobby was able to extract and isolate his Isotopes, I was busy learning about the wonders of playing music live and in unexpected places throughout the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. For many years, Nicolas Anzalone (a wicked violinist) and David Lapham (a thrashing guitarist) played alongside me in a nameless ensemble most famous for playing the Annual Rubber Ducky Derby at Ben’s Mill and the Genuine Jamaican Barbecues every summer Sunday at the West Barnet Quick Stop. We didn’t bother having a name for our band until early in 2011, when certain unfortunate news from the southern region of our state inspired this roguish trio. Then, as if the world was waiting for us to acquire a moniker, the gigs started rolling in! (Perhaps getting savvy to the likes and tweets helped a bit!)
Back in April, we were invited to play a dinner session at the gastronomically fantastic Elements Food and Spirit where we found a happy and appreciative crowd! We also realized that the din of fork on plate and laughter on lips necessitated a significant augmentation of our sound. Despite needless hesitation, we wound up buying an excellent P.A. system from our friends Dan and Mooch at Northern Lights Music. Then in a most fortuitous double-strike of luck this August, we were joined by the musicians Linda Warnaar (an unbeatable drummer) and Kevin Colosa (a brilliant bassist and Theremin pilot) who forged the sound that kept folks dancing at our second Elements show! You may see us playing in various configurations of three to five players, depending on the occasion and the location of our gig.
When people ask me as to what kind of music we play, I find it hard to sum up in just one word. My answer’s always been “Roots, Rock, and Reggae!” just to satisfy the need for brevity. We are proud of our varied and uncommon repertoire, which includes songs made famous by Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams, Buena Vista Social Club, Leadbelly, Cesaria Evora, Willie Nelson, Grateful Dead, Old Crow Medicine Show, Deep Purple, among others… With the addition of the accomplished virtuosos Kevin and Linda, fans can also expect to hear a lot more original music including Tritium Well’s take on the Isotopes’ “Root” and “Hurricane Warning” at our future shows. We hope to see y’all there!
In my role as an Educator at the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, I regularly have to come up with new topics to teach to the thousands of kids that visit our museum every year. One of the most fun classes I’ve ever taught was called “What’s the Matter?” and it was about the Periodic Table of the Elements. I’m not going to pretend that this was a subject that I was already well prepared to teach: I didn’t care much for chemistry until I read Larry Gonick’s Cartoon Guide to Chemistry. I highly recommend anything by Larry Gonick! In addition to all the Mr. Wizard-style demos I would perform with liquid nitrogen or hydrogen explosions, my students really loved hearing Tom Lehrer‘s song as part of the video that Theo Gray used to promote his amazing book The Elements.
The only problem is that Mr. Lehrer’s cadence is so fast that many kids couldn’t understand the names of the elements. That’s one of the reasons why I recorded this song at a slower tempo (79 golden BPMs!) with a Roots Reggae flavor. Arranging and recording this song was my first step into the world of Do-it-Yourself multi-track music recording. I recorded all of the instruments during the same October night in 2010. The sun was rising by the time I tried laying down the the vocal tracks! Needless to say, my voice was in terrible shape. I went back a few days later and laid down the much better vocals that you can hear now, and then months later I added the intro riff and wrote and recorded the backing vocals:
Nature makes elements one through 92
93 and up come from me and you
Many more have been found since Tom wrote this song
But to make any of them you need a cyclotron!
Mr. Lehrer didn’t come up with the music underlying his cleverly constructed patter, though. Some may recognize the melody of this song as that of “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” from the 19th-century Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Pirates of Penzance!
Finally, there’s something for folks to listen to! For now, all of my songs are free 285+bps mp3 downloads and streaming through ReverbNation. Soon, I will be on iTunes! I’m working on at least two more songs so that I can complete a full album! I’m even gonna put it on vinyl! Please enjoy the original artwork I created for each song I’ve recorded so far:
Howdy Friends and Family! Bobby’s opening up shop and I will soon have some music available for your enjoyment! Bobby and the Isotopes is a band with only one member: me! Just wait until you hear what we’ve been up to!