It Ain’t Easy

It’s been a long period of woe. I’ve been keeping myself busy in some projects (plug here for Sensation Guitars) and getting caught up in another school semester. But I just can’t shake the feeling of being overwhelmed, angered, and perplexed by the precarious place that my country projects to its citizens and the world.

I’ve been thinking of David Bowie quite a bit in the past couple of months. It started up again on a drive a few weeks ago as I passed by a cemetery returning a 4-channel wireless microphone system to a friend who rented it to me for a workshop. I started thinking about Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars as I watched the sky roll across my window as I drove to my destination watching headstones pass by with the blue sky beyond. The lyrics for “It Ain’t Easy” came to mind as did “Life On Mars.” The Ziggy Stardust album was recorded during the time of November 8, 1971 through February 4, 1972 (says the Wiki linked in the title). It was released June 16, 1972. It’s particularly important to me for many reasons but most currently important: we own a Trident 88 console in our studios in the Broadcast Electronic Media Arts department at City College of San Francisco. I specked this board because of my love of all things Trident for many years in my 31-years audio career. I once partnered with a local recording studio to form a new company together. He brought a Trident 65 to the partnership in his studio. I fell in love then when I had an opportunity to work on one besides knowing of favorite albums recorded at Trident Studios in England from where the console (and its design) hails from.  Years later, I have a Trident 88 (since last summer when it was installed by our awesome technical crew in the BEMA department at the college) to teach on, record on, mix on. It’s a bit of heaven in a life-long career in audio.  Interesting side about recording back then:  “Life On Mars” is a recording on both Hunky Dory (the album preceding Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and also ON the album ZS&TSFM). Why? One might wonder as this is quite unusual. Well, it turns out that the band for touring was found to have not a lot of “touring rock n roll material” in the Hunky Dory songs which are far more singer-songwriter, so the Ziggy album put them in a more rockin’ vein for Bowie to hit the road with an amazing entourage of Mick Ronson on guitars, Mick “Woody” Woodmansey on drums, Trevor Bolder on bass, and a series of fellows on keyboard for the tour, but none other than Rick Wakeman on harpsicord for “It Ain’t Easy” on the record.

Why am I name-dropping various musicians on these recordings? Because it is WHAT we did to pass the time as kids/teens listening to new music. This research is utterly LOST on the new generations of music listeners who only see/hear the name of the lead artist. There are OTHER amazing HUMANS who help to make the songs whole and those humans need to be given proper credit. There seems to be no easy way to give credit to the people who contributed to a great recording in this age of streaming. SO sad. SO wrong. Today’s rant over.  And now for some lyrics.

David Bowie – “It Ain’t Easy” (lyrics by Ron Davies)

When you climb to the top of the mountain
Look out over the sea
Think about the places perhaps, where a young man could be
Then you jump back down to the rooftops
Look out over the town
Think about all of the strange things circulating round

It ain’t easy, it ain’t easy
It ain’t easy to get to heaven when you’re going down

Well all the people have got their problems
That ain’t nothing new
With the help of the good Lord
We can all pull on through
We can all pull on through
Get there in the end
Sometimes it’ll take you right up and sometimes down again

It ain’t easy, it ain’t easy
It ain’t easy to get to heaven when you’re going down

Satisfaction, satisfaction
Keep me satisfied
I’ve got the love of a hoochie koochie woman
She calling from inside
She’s a-calling from inside
Trying to get to you
All the woman really wants you can give her something too

It ain’t easy, it ain’t easy
It ain’t easy to get to heaven when you’re going down
It ain’t easy, it ain’t easy
It ain’t easy to get to heaven when you’re going down

Life On Mars – lyrics

“Life On Mars?”

It’s a god-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mummy is yelling, “No!”
And her daddy has told her to go
But her friend is nowhere to be seen
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screenBut the film is a saddening bore
For she’s lived it ten times or more
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on

Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show
Take a look at the Lawman
Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?

It’s on America’s tortured brow
That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow
Now the workers have struck for fame
‘Cause Lennon’s on sale again
See the mice in their million hordes
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads
Rule Britannia is out of bounds
To my mother, my dog, and clowns

But the film is a saddening bore
‘Cause I wrote it ten times or more
It’s about to be writ again
As I ask you to focus on

(Mind the phone)

David Bowie ” Five Years” – lyrics
Pushing thru the market Square
So many mothers sighing
News had just come over,
We had five years left to cry inNews guy wept and told us
Earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet
Then I knew he was not lying

I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
I saw boys, toys electric irons and T. V. ‘s
My brain hurt like a warehouse
It had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things
To store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need so many people

A girl my age went off her head
Hit some tiny children
If the black hadn’t a-pulled her off, I think she would have killed them

A soldier with a broken arm, fixed his stare to the wheel of a Cadillac
A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest
And a queer threw up at the sight of that
I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlour
Drinking milk shakes cold and long
Smiling and waving and looking so fine
Don’t think you knew you were in this song

And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor
And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there
Your face, your race, the way that you talk
I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
We’ve got five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
We’ve got five years, that’s all we’ve got

Songwriters: DAVID BOWIE

About danaj33

I have been teaching in the Broadcast Electronic Media Art department at City College of San Francisco since 2001. I started teaching full-time in 2009 and am tenured. My career as an audio engineer spans 32-years since the first day I began to record and mix songs on my Tascam PortaStudio (cassette 4-track) in the early 80's while attending college at UC Berkeley. I formed a couple of bands and sang lead (sometimes playing rhythm guitar) until 1988 when I discovered that the "behind-the-scenes" tech realm was much more to my liking. I love how an audio engineer controls the ENTIRE sound mix, and not just one's own instrument. I then began a career as a live sound engineer in earnest and have toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe as front-of-house sound engineer for a multitude of bands on various record labels (most notably "Medicine" on American Recordings) and have been a staff engineer at the venerable Bottom of the Hill nightclub since their inception in 1991 leaving a regular shift there in 2010 due to the teaching schedule. The club and its staff are like family. I owned and operated a live sound production company since 1989 (ending officially in 2017) called dcj Productions that has provided sound to the Bay Area community (mostly in the non-profit sector) in both large outdoor sound events as well as nightclubs and music halls. In 1991, I started recording bands on an 8-track Tascam TSR-8 analog tape recorder and moved into the digital realm in 1993 to 16-tracks of Alesis ADAT connected to a Soundcraft Ghost console in my home studio. In 1995, I advanced to Pro Tools and have been recording exclusively digital ever since, combining audio skills in sound for film as a location recordist as well as an engineer in post-production sound design and mixing. I remained "strictly analog" in my live sound mixing until just this past year (2012). Now that one can obtain a decent, live sound digital mixer at an affordable price, it was high time to check out digital for live. I now have a Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 to work on with my students to give them much needed hands-on experience with a digital console. I co-owned and ran APG Records & APG Studios, an SF record label and recording studio, from 1999 - 2004 which had a distribution deal through EMI. The company folded in 2004. I continue to record music and engineer live performances at many Bay Area venues in addition to full-time teaching at CCSF. In 2001, I was hired to the part-time faculty at City College of San Francisco in the Broadcast Electronics Media Arts department where I have taught many of the classes including Digital Media Skills (BCST119), Basic Audio Production (BCST120), Digital Audio Production (BCST124), Sound Recording Studio (BCST125), Sound For Visual Media (BCST126), Advanced Sound Recording (BCST127), Sound Reinforcement (BCST128), Audio for the Web (BCST135), Video for the Web (BCST136), and Field Video Production (BCST141). I have also taught classes in sound design, audio for animation and games, music video, and computer applications at Art Institute of California-San Francisco, Globe Recording Institute, and Laney College in Oakland, CA. Outside Affiliations: - Co-Director of SoundGirls - current member of Audio Engineering Society and on the SF Chapter Planning Committee - past Vice President and Interim President Board of Directors - Bay Area Girls Rock Camp - past volunteer/contributor to Women's Audio Mission - past member Bay Area Women in Media and Film - past Board of Directors for Camp Reel Stories
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