Shorty's Portion (Updated Repost Now With Whole Album)
The following is a repost from 2005. Originally I put up only 1 song from the album, so I'm correcting that here. Also corrected are a few "facts" that I had wrong the first time around. Enjoy...
Shorty's Portion was centered around singer/composer Steve Salazar. Steve was born with a hole in his heart, and underwent 2 corrective surgeries by the time he was 10. Unfortunately both surgeries went awry and doctors gave him only a couple of years to live. Steve beat the odds and stayed alive despite the dire predictions of his doctors, but was not able to enjoy physical activities like other kids. He was brilliant though. He excelled in school and proved to have near genius intelligence. He was the oldest of 5 kids in a very tight half Hispanic, half Armenian family. The Salazars lived in a big old Craftsman style house in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, and despite Steve's pessimistic prognosis, they were a very positive, happy bunch. Steve's siblings all looked up to their big brother, even though by the time he was fully grown he stood about 5'3", and weighed about 90 lbs.
Steve took piano lessons at an early age. Of course he discovered rock music by the time he reached puberty, and he admired artists like Neil Young and Todd Rundgren. But when he discovered Frank Zappa, he went into hyper-drive and began writing not only pop songs, but also complex, near symphonic musical pieces with sardonic, self depreciating lyrics. In high school, he soaked up music theory classes, and was quite popular with the other "music geeks".
Later he attended USC, and eventually got a degree in musical composition. The Shorty's Portion album was recorded during his USC stint, and the band was comprised mainly of other music majors. Steve had high hopes for a career in music. He had an almost equal passion for film, and especially loved film music. About half of his massive record collection was comprised of soundtrack albums, so if given the opportunity, I'm sure he could have easily segued into composing film music ala Danny Elfman or Randy Newman. True to his quirky nature, he often said that if he made some money, he'd like to open a liquor store in Beverly Hills, and sell booze to rich people.
Shorty's Portion did occasional shows, but it was mostly his many friends and supporters that showed up. Andy Gonzalez was Shorty's drummer and a good friend of Steve's. I knew Andy from high school and we were in our early 20s, we were hanging out during a time when Shorty's Portion was inactive. Along with a couple of other high school buddies, we came up with a concept for a band, based on our recent exposure to the Sex Pistols and Devo. None of us were song writers though, so Andy thought of Salazar. Steve was a bit reluctant at first, but after we loaned him "Nevermind The Bollocks", he came up with a song called Long May She Wave, intended as an answer song to God Save The Queen. We loved it and he was in. The band was called The Skabbs.
Salazar was the perfect addition to the band. His bizarre physical appearance, and outrageous stage presence, combined with his high, fragile voice made for a strange mix with this aggressive, stupid band blazing behind him.
When Salazar began writing songs for The Skabbs, he realized that being forced to write in a simpler style was good for him, and the years of absorbing music theory had filled his head with too many musical rules. Writing and performing with The Skabbs freed his mind, and in his mid-20s he finally started doing a lot of things he was afraid to do before because of health concerns. He had a steady girlfriend for the first time, had a warrant out for his arrest (mostly for parking violations, but he bragged about it none the less), and moved away from home to the South Bay hamlet of Lomita (home of the Alley Cats). Life was good, but unfortunately short. His bad heart finally got the best of him and he passed away just short of his 27th birthday.
In our brief moment in the smog, The Skabbs recorded some demos, played a few shows (enraging and confusing hippies and punks alike) and at various times performed as many as 40 Salazar originals, but never cut any wax during our year + run (my biggest personal regret). Thus, the Shorty's Portion album is the only slab of Salazar vinyl in existence. So, without further adieu, here it is, in all it's glory.
I'm loathe to say anything about the album. I feel too close to it, even though I had nothing to do with it. Listening to it now, it's better than I thought it was. I love Gonzalez's drumming. Andy's told me about the sessions at Jerry Shirar's studio in the O.C., and how he insisted on recording each instrument separately, one at a time. So they'd do a take with Steve's piano, and go from there without the use of a click track or anything like that. It's fun to listen to Andy try to catch up, then slow down again (on Cliche especially, featuring Steve on "Half-assed" lead guitar and "tough guy licks"). On all 7 of Salazar's songs though, the songwriting comes right through.
Steve was torn between writing songs with hooks and songs with substance, but he always managed to combine the two anyway. He was mindful of his audience (his family, fellow USC students, etc.), and you could tell he was eager to please, to prove he was good, and this record does indeed prove that.
From Steve's liner notes: Bear in mind that most of this was done in our spare time and under not-so-opportune conditions. I'm sure that under the proper conditions with access to better facilities, it would still sound the same.
Tracks 7,8 & 9 are not by Salazar nor Shorty's Portion, and although he performs on two of the songs (guitar and bass on Terence d'Balboa's "I Had To Practice My Smile" and Steve Laughlin's "Lonely Leah". The other song is "Fantasy Child" by D. Layne), it's a weird left turn for the album to take a little better than halfway through it. Somehow in the end though, it all comes together.
Also from Steve's liner notes: The first four numbers on side two were written by four U.S.C. music comp majors (known to some as the USCateers). They were originally entered into the American Song Festival, 1975. We chose them from songs we thought had the most commercial potential. Unfortunately, the ASF judges disagreed! So, we thought we'd put these rejected entries on plastic and let you, the listeners, decide for yourselves.
One final note from 2009: The four surviving members of The Skabbs reformed in '08 and have been performing Steve Salazar's music at various watering holes around the L.A./Orange County area (we even played a couple of shows in Vegas. Steve would've loved that!). And like every other band these days, we have a myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/wearetheskabbs
One thing we knew when we got back together and that still holds true today: There's no way to fill Steve Salazar's shoes, but at least we can show you the shoes.