Lewin, Philip John
I started life in the town of Cortland, New York. I wrote a lot of lyric poetry about what I saw around me, particularly about girls! I took piano lessons and played the clarinet. I was lucky enough to be sent to school at age 15 to Windsor Mountain School in Lenox, Massachusetts. This was a somewhat radical educational experience with a dramatic level of integration and open minded philosophical traditions. I was more of an observer than a participant in school life with no access to a decent piano, so I played guitar.
I went to University in Rochester, New York, where I spent too much time sitting in the Student Union. I was an observer of life around me and began to write lots of songs, mostly on guitar, although I purchased a small Ace Tone organ for $50 from a friend.
A fluke circumstance resulted in a move to Toronto, where I ended up in the middle of a music and comic art community and where I made my first record, “Am I Really Here All Alone”. It was recorded in cover artist Robert MacIntyre’s home, on a decent two track machine. Afterwards, I began to take it around to record companies, primarily to get my songs published. When I sat down with an agent, he said, “Let’s hear the product.” I realized that I don’t do “product”. I never went back to the “music industry” again.
I began plans for a second album. A fellow from down the street knocked on the door and said he heard my first record and was told I was going to make another. He offered to play lead guitar. Brian Gauci and I started rehearsing and we decided we needed a bass player, then a drummer. I was going out with a woman who shared a house with a woman who was a very good singer. There were some tracks where I could hear her voice, not mine, so I invited Toni to join us. This album was recorded at Barry McVicker’s Montclair Sound, on a 4 track machine which had some limitations for the instrumentation. All vocals had to be sung simultaneously on one track and the organ (yes, the Ace Tone) was played into the final mix as a 5th track.
A few years later, Brian and I talked about a third album and I had some ideas for some more complex arrangements. We decided, with Brian’s friend Uli Bonnet on bass, to make a demo to give to the other musician’s that would be involved. We went back to Barry’s studio and made an eight song demo in a couple of hours, rough mixed down to mono. I took home a few cassette tapes. For a variety of reasons, mostly financial, this project died. However, I believe that the demo has some wonderful playing and, in spite of glitches, it has a musical ambience we wouldn’t want to try to redo now. After many hours at Erinwood Studio working with Sal Noguera, dealing with glitches and the bad mono mix, drums were added, mostly by my son Andrew who did his recording at the same age I was when we did the base track. The last few technical issues and mastering were done by Sandro Perri in his studio. The result is the album “Real Classic”, released in 2020 as a limited edition, signed and numbered LP.
I finally decided to take advantage of the unlimited track possibilities of digital recording and put together 17 songs spanning my writing from the 60s to the present. “In Twilight’s Quiet Hour” utilizes two drummers, two bass players, Brian played up to six guitars, I played piano and a 1957 Hammond organ, two flutists, two violinists, a sax players and lead vocals by my wife Janice on the song “An Old Motown Tune” and my daughter Erica on “Buried Alive”. For the Chorus of “The Drinking Song”, I got every friend I had ever played with to sing!
I still have enough even earlier material for another album, even if I never write another song. This album titled “(Songs escaped from) The Well of Despair” may see the light of day in a year or two. (I’m sure I will write more, but it won’t matter if it takes a week or a decade. I write for me, not for any other reason.)
Sometimes I like to sit at my grand piano and doodle musically. Janice calls this my Sunday morning music and wanted me to record it. This is kind of tricky as there is no musical score. So Sal Noguera brought a recorder to my home and I doodled! No significant editing except one spot where the phone rang! Not really jazz…. not exactly rock…. hints of classical…..
The sixth album “One Night in NYC” was recorded live at the Union Pool club in Brooklyn, New York. It features Jeremy Aaron on violin and Janice on backup vocal. Jeremy and I are… I can’t say old friends since I’m old and Jeremy is not, however I can say we’ve jammed on and off for most of his life. After the concert, the sound engineer told me the entire concert had been recorded for me in multi-tracks and high quality. I jumped at the chance to get it. The album is true to this rare live performance.
“Am I Really Here All Alone” was re-released as a CD ripped from the LP in Asia by Big Pink Music Korea. Josh Rosenthal convinced me to re-release it again on his Tompkins Square label, however this time Josh went back to the original reel to reel tape and did a magnificent job cleaning it up technically.
I live in Glen Williams, Ontario. I play live occasionally locally. In addition to the “Union Pool” Concert, I appeared at “Voices in the Heights”, also in Brooklyn, The Hillbrook Concert in Rochester, NY and did a multi-hour radio show at WFMU, which is still out there on line. In the past I have run song writing workshops for teens at a wonderful camp named Unirondack. I enjoy hearing from people who have found and appreciate my music.