The new video is here--and on our You Tube Channel. Randy McKean--alto saxophonist in Goggle--rates the Wham-O bouncing wonder as the top toy of his early childhood. He'll take it from here:
"Looking back to when I was 4, 5, 6, many things are foggy in my memory, but I remember clearly the excitement of having a handful of these multicolored marvels, running out the front door and down the steps to the driveway, where I would slam them to the ground and see how high they would go. They would bounce so high they would get up and over our house--that in itself was amazing, and I think for me it was connected with that age-old dream of wanting to fly. Here was the closest way to do it!
The riff that opens the piece was the first material I had, a call and response between the bari and the other horns. It's a bit circus-like, the clown car pulling up into the center ring, but I keep going back to an image of unbridled glee, of little kids with new toys, the feeling that one can't wait a moment longer to throw, kick, bounce the disk, hoop, or ball, and really make it fly through the air.
I alternate this opener with the "bounce" rhythm, a short stop-time riff in 6/8:
There is then a bit of knocking about, these two motifs cross-pollinating, everyone's running around, the rhythms get a little more complicated, we're testing out what these things do, a bit of (notated) low-level chaos. Then the moment where it's time to give the real test, the balls fly into the air, the bounce into the air followed by a suspension of movement, as if we've all got our heads back and just watching to see how high they're going to get, and guessing when and where they will land:
This is the first improv in the piece, when we're playing these 6/8 riffs but we are free to intersperse our own lines above. As a player, it is very freeing after doing these intricate group passages that precede it.
This is then followed by what I think of as the freeze-frame passes. The music stops at each of the breath marks, and the next one is cued by the leader, as if the bounces have been filmed and we are stopping the result in mid-frame to see where exactly they are situated in space.
My favorite part of the piece is the group bounce:
We all start at the center "0", each playing our assigned pitch but with free repetition. The leader cues the switch to pitch "1" by stepping to the right. When the leaders steps back to the center, the group goes back to pitch "0." The leader steps to the left, everyone switches to pitch "-1." The leader steps back to the center, group plays pitch "0." The group progressively goes out wider and wider from the center, to 2, -2, 3, -3, etc., all the while the group is attempting to follow the visual cues of the leader stepping to the right and left from a designated center spot, but it gets all messy. I like to think we have a herd of superballs here that are flocking.
When we perform it live, we are literally stepping right and left, trying to follow cues from the leader (you see a bit of this action in Charles Smith a/k/a The Hermit Thrush's live footage that I used in the video, though it's speeded up and is NOT synced up with the bounce section, but instead occurs during an earlier part of the piece). Here's the original video, shot at Bows and Arrows in Sacramento in August of 2013. (When incorporating this into my video, I couldn't quite get the action synched up to this CD audio track, recorded many years later and at a different tempo, so I began experimenting with the speed, which produced its own interesting synchronicities and contrapuntal elements.)
We decided to try and imitate the bounce section physical movement by panning the group to the left and right as the music changes. Here's a bit of footage captured by our marvelous engineer/mixer/master-er and overall studio genius I don't know if this idea came from the band or from Myles Boisen, our marvelous engineer/mixer/master-er and all around studio genius Myles Boisen:
For the video itself, I have to thank Chris Jonas for giving me some pointers on how to do animation with Adobe After Effects. I took our original PR photo-composite that we put together back in 2013 and manipulated the individual frames, zooming in and out and adding the bounce effects.
For the other video components, besides Charles' footage, I had come across a posting of some old Wham-O commercials for Superballs, but it also contained an extended sequence with two kids playing with a game I'd never heard of, Bing Bang Boing, which footage fit perfectly against the opening improv section.
Finally, I was trying to find some other material to help spice up the piece. During this COVID year, I've been watching more than my share of movies and TV, and appropriately enough, when our son Callum told me the cult classic, Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner, was on Tubi, I checked out the entire 17-episode run. Among all the great moments and oddities in this avant-pop sci-fi classic, there is this sequence where Number 6 is roughhousing in the gym with another resident of the Village. They never explain what the heck they are doing, but apparently this martial art performed on trampolines, I believe created specifically for this sequence, is called Kosho. So hilarious and absurd in and of itself, it was perfect for this tune.
To tie it all up, The Prisoner once again came to the rescue--the ultimate bouncing ball, the Village's security guard Rover provides the ending sequence. (For the show, originally they wanted to have a robot dog to keep the peace, but they couldn't afford that so used a weather balloon! Thank goodness for budget restrictions.) I thought the victim's sunglasses were also an unintended homage to the Goggle aesthetic.
Please check out the video. If you dig it, take a listen to the original track here at Bandcamp. Thanks for reading!