“mikelewismusic” – the song

I have my own theme song

Yes I do.  It’s a catchy little number (if I do say so myself) called “mikelewismusic”.  Why it’s spelled in lower case and all one word, I can’t really say.  I guess you could say that it looked kind of cool all bunched together like that, and maybe sort of trendy with the lower case spelling.  I’m not exactly sure, I guess it just came about sort of like it had a mind of it’s own, it kind of birthed itself to be honest.

I was just messing around on my guitar one night, rehearsing and writing, when I noticed my name “Mike Lewis” spelled out perfectly over several measures of a riff I was working on.  It was kind of neat, the riff coupled with the perfectly placed spelling of my name was too irresistible to set aside, so I spent the next hour or so composing the song.  It came that quickly.

The lyrics revolved around my musical life up until that point in 2004. I thought long and hard of all the people that had touched my life musically.  Surprisingly, it was very easy to tell that story through verse within the confines of the riff.  As mentioned before, it seemed to have a mind of it’s own – when writing I have found that the better ones that “I” write are often the ones that seem to flow through me supernaturally, as if I were the vessel that guided the force from the pen to paper.

Breakdown of the song 

I was born with a song in my head, under the clouds and the skies were red

Played my guitar til’ my fingers bled, never worrying what the neighbors said…

I always loved music.  I always saw myself doing something in music.  I didn’t start with any talent, hell, I don’t really have much talent anyway, my lot in music has always come down to ambition and luck.  But even as I struggled to improve as a musician I kept at it.  And I always admired the songwriters.  Elton John/Bernie Taupin, Pete Townshend, Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Bob Dylan, that’s what really drew me to music.  The song.  Learning the guitar – a means to an end to attain the ability to create “the song” –  was hard for me.  Although I was lacking in ability, I never stopped working at it, and I never stopped hoping.  The line, under the clouds and the skies were red, signified the struggles I had trying to become a musician – it seemed dark and maddening sometimes, but I knew there was a payoff down that winding road.

…Traveling down this winding road, it started with my friend Joe Mode

He gave me a start that I really need, don’t forget ol’ Thomas Sneed…

Joe Mode is Cliff Jomuad.

My first foray into any kind of an organized musical situation was with my good friend Clifford M. Jomuad, aka Joe Mode. We started a group called The Radical Molesters and I was allowed to bring my ham-fisted talents into a band situation for the first time as a bass player.  So, it started out with him.  Here we are at our first gig on May 22, 1982:

RADICAL MOLESTERS - 1st gig 5/22/82

Cliff Jomuad on guitar, Mike Lewis on bass. 1982, Radical Molesters.

I played bass with Cliff in The Radical Molesters (two stints in the 80s), The USSR, NEIN, and in 2011 Cliff and I were part of The Magic Montgomery Brothers, the all-star band that consisted of ex-Montgomery High School musicians.  On top of his extraordinary musical talents (Cliff is a prolific multi-instrumentalist and songwriter), Cliff is also a great artist, easily the best I’ve ever known.  Without Cliff Jomuad leading the way for me, there is no mikelewismusic.  Without him giving me the chance to actually be a part of a band, I’m not here writing this little blog – it is really that simple.

Thomas Sneed is my lifelong friend Tom Sneed.

Started with my friend Joe Mode (left)...don't forget ol' Thomas Sneed (right)...

Started with my friend Joe Mode (left)…don’t forget ol’ Thomas Sneed (right)…

Tom and I grew up together on Blackwood Drive in San Diego, CA, and although he has moved around to various places around this country, we remain friends to this day.  Tom was there both with the Radical Molesters and the subsequent power trio Cliff formed called NEIN.  Tom served as a photographer, videographer, aide-de-camp, and inspiration; he was virtually a fourth member in both the Radical Molesters and NEIN.

…Fred and Roger and Steve and Jim…

Fred is Fred Allee.

Fred Allee - with the Magic Montgomery Brothers

Fred Allee – with the Magic Montgomery Brothers

A master drummer, he kept the backbeat in The USSR, the follow-on band to the Radical Molesters.  Fred is an accomplished musician who plays all over San Diego – he is a former member of N-E-1, best known for their local hit “1-2-3”, a staple of 91x radio back in the early 80s.  Today Fred plays for the Dixieland Jazz group The South Bay Jazz Ramblers, as well as a performs for the San Diego Concert Band.  Fred also plays all over town in thematic groups that celebrate Oktoberfest, commemorate the Civil War, and as an alumnus of Montgomery High School, Fred also played in our little “all-star” rock band The Magic Montgomery Brothers.

Roger is Roger DeLong.

Roger DeLong of The USSR

Roger DeLong of The USSR

Roger was the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist (and occasional drummer) of The USSR.  Roger served as the main songwriter with The USSR, and he was quite prolific – his songs often had a dark humorous side.  After The USSR, Roger became a full-time drummer and ended up playing drums for the L.A. rock band Pet Piranha, and these days he pounds the skins with the popular L.A. rock band Death on the Radio.

Steve is Steve Kelly, hailing from the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan.  He played drums for The USSR for several months before Fred Allee joined the band.  Steve started out as a fan, he would attend our shows and eventually joined in on the fun.  Steve got us a gig in Cardiff opening for the infamous Claude Coma and the IVs – this gig occurred on the same night in 1984 that Steve Garvey hit the home run for the San Diego Padres against the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the NLCS.

Jim is James Apodaca, guitar virtuoso.

James Apodaca performing with The Magic Montgomery Brothers

James Apodaca performing with The Magic Montgomery Brothers

James is also a Montgomery High School alumnus and has been a virtuoso as long as I’ve known him – though I have no firsthand knowledge of this, I would venture to say he’s been a virtuoso his entire life.  James served in The USSR, and later on performed with the L.A. rock band Pet Piranha with Roger DeLong.  James was also a member of our all-star band The Magic Montgomery Brothers.  There’s so much I can say about this man’s talent, but I’ll just sum it up this way – being in a band with James provided me with a musical education that is immeasurable.  I learned a lot from him just by osmosis.

…Lloyd Ladrillono and my friend Chris Crim…

Lloyd Ladrillono was the drummer for The Radical Molesters.

Lloyd Ladrillono - "The Lad"

Lloyd Ladrillono – “The Lad”

The Radical Molesters were essentially a power trio which also included Cliff Jomuad and myself (although there were times we expanded to a foursome with both Roger DeLong and James Apodaca).  An accomplished musician and singer also hailing from Montgomery High School, Lloyd had an intangible feel for the music  – the innate feel for music he possesses seems to run through his veins.  They say a drummer will make or break a band, and Lloyd most definitely made us; as Cliff once confided to me, “Lad knew just what to do in every song” – indeed he did!  Lloyd also briefly drummed for The USSR, and was also one of the lead vocalists for The Magic Montgomery Brothers.

My friend Chris Crim was our drummer in NEIN.

Chris Crim pounds the drums for NEIN

Chris Crim pounds the drums for NEIN

NEIN was also a power trio which also included Cliff and myself.  Chris was an energetic power drummer that also possessed a great feel for the music and an ability to apply finesse when necessary.  Chris was also an accomplished artist, one that Cliff respected so much that he allowed Chris to design the artwork for the sleeve to NEIN’s 45 of “Upside Down”/”Who Breaks a Wheel of a Butterfly”.

…Radicals and The USSR, just say NEIN we never went far…

A nod to the bands and the shared experiences we had.  One thing that was common to these bands is we never got far.  Music is a tough business.  You not only have to have talent and vision, but you need thick skin (to fight off both external and internal pressures) and the wherewithal to actually move forward.  It was hard to move ahead in the 80s, but we had our share of successes too – there were recording sessions and gigs in prominent venues.  We had a lot of fun, but we never really got on the map in the music scene, which was a shame because each of these bands were fantastic, each had their own unique sound and vision.

…CenterAisle and With Intent, those were precious moments spent

Harry and Brian and my good friend Ed…

In 1989 I took an extended hiatus from music.  In 2001 I resumed my musical career and joined a band called CenterAisle.  CenterAisle consisted of four musicians who worked together at the same company.  Harry was Harry Brandon (lead guitar), Brian was Brian Baxter (rhythm guitar), and my good friend Ed was Ed De Caro (drums).  We started out as four guys who wanted to get together and jam, but as we made music we found that we had good chemistry and had a desire to go out and play some gigs.  For three years we played around town, mostly covers but we added some original music as well.  At the beginning of 2004, CenterAisle broke up.  Harry and Brian left to join another covers band, and Ed formed his own group called With Intent.

CenterAisle, live at The Rhythm Lounge.  L-R: Brian Baxter, Ed De Caro, Harry Brandon, Mike Lewis

CenterAisle, live at The Rhythm Lounge. L-R: Brian Baxter, Ed De Caro, Harry Brandon, Mike Lewis

With Intent at The Metaphor Cafe - L-R: Mark Schlaefli, Ed De Caro, Mike Lewis, Dan Stuart

With Intent at The Metaphor Cafe – L-R: Mark Schlaefli, Ed De Caro, Mike Lewis, Dan Stuart

Ed, who made the switch from drums to lead vocals/rhythm guitar, recruited me to be his bass player in With Intent.  We started out as a duo and in time we added two more members, lead guitarist Dan Stuart and drummer Mark Schlaefli.  With Intent lasted for about six months before both Dan and Mark left the band.  We had several substitute drummers and guitarists in the band after that, but it wasn’t too long thereafter that I left the band too.  I had three young kids and I needed to scale back my band time to tend to their needs.

…some things are better left unsaid…

Well, I was never completely satisfied that I was able to present my original material.  I was allowed to submit a few songs in both CenterAisle and With Intent, but I had a pretty decent backlog that I never thought would fully see the light of day.  So it was just as well that the band thing ended and…

…Now I’m standing here alone, I find myself here on my own, look around this empty stage, now’s the time to turn the page…

The final lines signified my transition into a solo artist.  Something I never really thought I’d pursue although I did play a few open mics in the late 80s.  I resigned myself to forever be a bass player in a band with no real outlet to share my songs.  My whole life’s situation sort of shoehorned me into the situation that I always dreamed of having – an outlet to write and perform my original compositions.  I not only was able to write, I performed publicly and recorded two albums.

"mikelewismusic" - the album.  Released in 2006.

“mikelewismusic” – the album. Released in 2006.

I became very adept in playing guitar in the Vestapol tuning – essentially the Open D tuning, though I often tuned up to Open E.  “mikelewismusic” was written in Open E, which allowed me to play those bluegrassy fiddle-inspired licks throughout the song.

"m...i...k...e..."

“m…i…k…e…”

Yes, turning the page turned out to be a fortuitous thing for me.  It also taught me a pretty valuable lesson – sometimes if you just go with the flow of life, the things you want will come right to you.  Stepping back away from life in a band allowed me a situation that I really wanted – to write, record, and perform my own original songs.

“mikelewismusic” is a very personal song, but the theme is universal – we live our lives, we reach out for the stars to attain our dreams, and it doesn’t occur on an island – there is a fabric called life and the material that weaves it together are the people you encounter in your life.  Whether they remain or move on, they are always present in the fabric.  And life flows like a river, and if you allow yourself to bask in the mighty flow, just floating along downstream in beautiful harmony, you do indeed end up with the fruits of life – good friends, good experiences, and a full and satisfying life.  

And the song in question?  Well, here it is:

m-i-k-e-l-e-w-i-s….music…mikelewismusic…mikelewismusic…

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