& Next Week's News
Tom Pacheco Returns To The Colony Cafe
Saturday, September 1, 2007
by Irv Yarg
Let’s take a poll... How many of you are familiar with the Raggare subculture? Raise your hands... No, there’s no skank-beat tempo here; no clear associations with reggae. It predates that emergence. It started, in fact, when televised images of American culture in the 1950s hit Scandinavia like a meteor and left a dent that was colonized by local inhabitants and boasts a valley population to this day...
No jive, hoards of people in pockets of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Finland and even Austria are still vamping the 50s in polished fintail cars, bouffant hairdos and ageless penny loafers. Even some of these terms are sci-fi to you johnny-come-latelys born after Rod Taylor appeared in a movie about H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, but performing songwriter Tom Pacheco, who will materialize on stage at The Colony on Saturday night, swears that he’s seen Raggare with his own eyes.
"There’s a huge area of southern Norway and western Sweden where everyone lives in the American 1950s, driving cars that look like they just came out of a 1954 or 1959 showroom," Pacheco declares without a twinkle, explaining that he had seen it first hand while recording his 2004 Long Walk cd in Halden, Norway... I ran to the atlas and, yes, there is a Halden, Norway! But it gets even eerier... "They dress like 50s greasers; there’s drive-ins with roller skating car hops. These people are riding around there all the time."
The topic came up because Pacheco had just finished work on the soundtracks for two films, one of them a drama set in the Raggare subculture which had already taken a Pacheco-written song as an audio theme. The tune, "I’ve Got Wheels," had been popularized by Norwegian pop star Steinar (pronounced ‘Stainer’)Albrigtsen and filming had already started when the film makers met Tom and enlisted his input for the soundtrack.
Meanwhile, Albrigtsen, whose latest album Moment of Peace has been topping the charts over there (with a cover of Tom’s "A Million Stars" doing very nicely as a single), was recently asked to perform at the 70th birthday party of Queen Sonja of Norway. One of Steinar’s early hits, "She Belongs To the Rain," from his 1993 Troubadour album, happened to be the Queen’s all-time favorite song and the singer graciously gifted the monarch with a custom-model guitar issued in his honor after his performance. The song was written, of course, by Tom Pacheco, who declined an all-expenses-paid invitation due to previous commitments. Okay, raise your hands- how many of you have had occasion to snub royalty? Thought so. But I can feel Tom’s wince from miles away.
While all of this is going on, Albrigtsen, who beautifully co-produced his going-to-gold Moment Of Peace, is working on the production of Tom’s next release- which takes its title from one of Pacheco’s most popular songs, "Shadow of A Seagull." Working from 14 or so tracks Tom recorded in Oslo this Spring, Steinar has recruited some of Europe’s finest musicians to augment the tunes for a European release date early next year- possibly around the time Tom will be appearing at the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis during February. Since American distribution options are still open, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for it here but advance copies of The Secret Hits of Tom Pacheco-Volume One two-disk, mind-boggling 31 song collection- which contains a splendid acoustic version of "Seagull"- will be available at the concert.
With the exception of the title track and a newly embellished version of Tom’s adieu to the current chief executive, "When You’re Back On Your Ranch In Texas," all of the songs of Seagull will be new ones. Recently, the free MP3 download of the original "Ranch In Texas" at the TomPacheco.com website has been linked to by popular websites like Topplebush.com, 911Truth.org and others.
An unusual e-mail to Tom’s website earlier this year flirts with another subculture. A young woman named Maryleigh wrote "My boyfriend, Kody, has a t-shirt of yours and I would like to know if there is anywhere I can obtain more. On the front there is a picture of you and on the back it says ‘we are the people, we have the power/one day we will rise up and take back what is ours."
Maryleigh, a music major with an English/creative writing focus at a sizable university, refers to a song on Tom’s 2006 Bloodlines album which addresses itself to contemporary politicians shredding the Constitution, violating the public trust and aiding the corporate plunder of national resources. She asks where a growing presence of Pacheco fans on her campus in a southern state can get a bunch of the t-shirts she mentions but also brings in the strange loop that her boyfriend was fired from his job in the medical division of a state institution for wearing the shirt under his uniform. Seems there was some discussion about tattoos and skinheads and Kody, not long out of active military life had been mistaken as "some kind of white rights activist" skinhead and Tom as a white supremacist leader. Those of you who know of Tom’s long devotion to the cause of human rights are blinking in disbelief but, through an intelligent and descriptive email I received from Kody himself when I decided to look into the matter, I learned that there are even human rights proponents within the skinhead subculture and that’s where the strange loop really turns itself around.
Kody related a conversation at work which "mentioned the ‘88' tattoo which people labeled ‘skinheads’ would have on their forearm. I then made mention (of) the ‘Sharp Skin Heads’- an organization against racial prejudice... funny thing- founded in 1987 by Marcus Pacheco (no relation) in New York City..."
Indeed, Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) opposes neo-nazi extremist elements within the multiracial skinhead subculture- apparently without the overt violence of the FSU fighting brotherhood described by Rolling Stone in their current issue. (See http://www.punknews.org/article/25159 ) SHARP has an international presence with a number of their own regional websites (including Glasgow) and Marcus Pacheco is a superstar tattoo artist now living in California. When last heard from, Kody said his former supervisor was working toward reversing the decision to dismiss him and return him the position he lost in the bizarre misunderstanding and Maryleigh wants still more t-shirts to press the point. Also, as of this moment, there have been no signs of concern from Maryanne at The Colony Cafe about where to put the mosh pit for Tom’s appearance Saturday night.
The show will kick off Tom’s season-turning schedule- to be followed by appearances at the famous Club Passim in Cambridge; New York City’s People’s Voice Cafe and Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs before he heads for already sold-out bookings all over Scotland and England.
"The first show in Scotland will be at a reputedly haunted castle in Kilmarnock, in ‘Robbie Burns country’, who lived nearby and is to Scotland what Yeats is to Ireland," Pacheco chuckled as he added that, after entertaining the crowd and a presumably spooky subculture glimpsed only on occasion, he would be sleeping at the thousand-year-old castle. Then, it’s on for a two-week grind of land travel between widely separated daily gigs. Grog willing.
Among new songs Tom plans to debut at the Colony concert will be his song about a chance encounter with Hunter Thompson in the 1970s.
"I didn’t write it until after he died," Pacheco commented of the song, "because I knew if I didn’t write it then, I’d never have told the story."
Another song on the playlist he’s never performed live before is "People of Conscience," which was inspired by a drive-by kiss he felt mystically as he passed a Women In Black anti-war protest on the Village Green near the end of the last century and which was covered by Rick Danko on his posthumously issued Times like These CD. A song eulogizing our old friend Rick, "Light In the Window," will also be publicly premiered as well a powerful tune from the upcoming album called "Horses."
What more do you need to know? Be on time.
Irv Yarg is an internationally published observer on cultural and political events who resides in the Hudson Valley area. His analysis of the recent and ongoing musical history of the region will be featured as a part of our coverage of the local scene.