Behind Every Gold Record is an Average White Band: reminiscing about a gift of yesteryear on my birthday. / by Birdie Busch

When I finished my first official record my dear friends and helpers gave me a present for my birthday. It was my record, under glass in the official archival manner, shining with a plaque commemorating it. It looked much like the ones I'd seen in the studio we recorded at, where the house engineer, Shelly Yakus, had some of his gold records he'd done with Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks hanging on the wall. But don't think this was a very slick studio. This studio was a converted auto garage in the swamps of New Jersey behind Somer's Point. It was more like a musty outdated rancher-home coke-den of sorts. Mavis Staples had just recorded a record there the year before, and was playing to very under attended rooms before the Jeff Tweedy collaborations boosted her back into the public eye and people began appreciating again what she never stopped doing. The Dixie Hummingbirds had recorded one of their last albums their with Levon Helm on drums and Garth Hudson on organ. The place was an incubator of passionate people just as much as it was for mold.




And that gold record? I was informed by a belly laughing Devin, who produced my record, that my fancy LP under glass was actually an Average White Band record he spraypainted with metallic paint on the roof of his place.

This week my birthday came around and I sat down to collect some thoughts, I was extra aware this week, mostly because I really honed in and decided that for my birthday I was gonna appreciate, I was gonna try some new things, and I was going to make music, lots of music for people to take in and take along with them in spirit.

I reached out to Devin to check in and say hi, he's en route to Budapest to learn a mobile recording technique and work on a project of international musical collaboration. He mentioned the gold record. "Remember that thing?" Yeah, I did. Perhaps going to Budapest sounds very jet-set, but for Devin I'd say it's more a 1,000 ton wagon led by ants that got him to Turkey. He is one of the hardest working passionate people I know, and at his age, perhaps there are more expected milestones to be had, but in his own way he is carving out his own peculiar life.

Milestones. I think perhaps at some point I lined them up in a pyramid and kicked them all into the river.  I think that there are many ways to live and every one of them has beauty and balance. I hate sometimes that I have a hard time organizing for much more than playing music and ensuring I can continue to do so. Something that still makes my hands clam up is when I have to explain to relatives at a holiday party what I do, knowing I could never quite reveal to them truly how passionate and in love I am with my life, when all they may be seeing is that this 30 something year old women is working behind the counter of a tea shop. And I realize that this can be perhaps just as much self projection as relative inspection and I'm working on it.

Another birthday thing I did was list my current fears:

Fear One: That I will not be able to keep playing music.
Fear Two: That I will not live up to my potential.
Fear Three: That I will dissapoint my parents.

So I guess when one worries as such it is best to get into an old church van with no AC and head to play music for strangers? The somewhat assaulting breeze whipping about makes you feel like you are on the high seas and the sound of the engine is very much akin to a motorboat. All conversations become exaggerated over the noise. You still only end up hearing mostly reactions if you are a bench seat away, like whooping laughter or the sight of vibrating of shoulders. I sit in the back, lean into the window, and just let that soothe me. This is family. This feels the same to me as when I would be in the station wagon and my dad would play Willie Nelson cassettes. But see, I heard those cassettes in a certain way, a way that I couldn't shake.

And here I am. Here WE are, at 2pm on the Merritt Parkway with everyone else asleep but me and the driver, doing accounting in the notes section of my iPhone trying to justify how we can keep getting to these places to make this music. But then we get onto another stage, setup all our equipment (so much equipment!) and do something we feel so mysteriously compelled to do and I just can't imagine cutting this out of my life, I can't convince myself to extract what is perhaps to me my favorite thing. And I have alot of favorite things, like looking for shells on the beach, drinking tea alone, cooking soup. Songs are where I can gather all of them into the fold.

We played shows this week for many people. For a 15 year old girl who sat mesmerized by our feet and I knew the experience was perhaps effecting her whole path much in the way early experiences with music did for me. Other shows we had families out in the sunshine of a late summer afternoon, on blankets looking over their children dancing in front of us with peaceful eyes. Last night a woman who wrote poetry in tandem gave it to me at the end of the night on ripped out wire bound notepad paper and I tucked it into my jean jacket breast pocket. We were introduced with recitations of prose from Siddhartha and closed out shows with disintegrating melodies of songs that never existed before we made them ourselves.

But the record I was gifted about 8 years ago perhaps fortuitously let me know how hilarious and somewhat bastardized life was gonna get sometimes. It was gonna show me that yes, there are milestones, all kinds for all people, and while there is a grain of truth and honor to each one, there is also an average white band record underneath the veneer, metaphorically speaking of course. Or in my case, not. But the intention is real and it is loving. My friends made that for me as their way of saying, "Hey, we already believe in this, we are golden". We are musicians, we're a scrappy bunch. Resourceful.  Bound for strange times. Able to withstand long journeys both physically and spiritually with our ear always perked for the laughter amidst the roar of the wind. I think Mavis, Levon, Shelly, they all knew this. And I guess through my own living so have I and so I go....Love, bird

(the poem gifted to us at Mauchunk Opera House)