The creativity of one Travis Edward Pike is off the charts. Musician, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and writer of poetry and prose, Mr. Pike will have you appreciating the prolific path of his art. Read on!
By Harvey Kubernik
Goldmine: There’s acomment on your “The Way That I Need You” YouTube page, asking if you are the European rock star named Travis Pike who lived in the big house near the lake (in Newton Centre, MA), that was considered haunted.
Travis Pike: Well, to be fair, my father’s house on Lake Avenue in Newton Centre, Massachusetts was reputed to be haunted. As for me being a European rock star, that’s not really as far-fetched as it sounds. Although I’m an American, born in Boston, my first shot at rock “stardom” came while I was stationed in Germany, where I was billed as Teddy Pike, Twist and Show Sensation (shown belowt). So, being discovered in Europe, if I was a rock star, I was, geographically, a European rock star, long before I ever approached anything like that status stateside.
Goldmine: And now it’s happening again, this time, in Britain, where they’ve been playing songs on the radio that you recorded and performed for the 1966 movie, “Feelin’ Good,” never before heard outside of movie theaters and drive-ins until you restored and posted clips from that movie on YouTube, in October 2016. Did you ever imagine that you’d get the online reactions you did, or that a record deal would come from it?
TRAVIS PIKE: No, I didn’t. I wrote 10 songs for that movie, and recorded and performed eight of them on screen, backed by Oedipus and His Mothers, renamed The Brattle Street East in the movie, a band of three college students from Harvard and one from Boston University. So, on Monday, November 7, 2016, when the Canadian-based Perlich Post blog reported “The Best music video of 2016 was actually shot in 1966,” — that, in reference to “Watch Out Woman” — I was flabbergasted! As for it being the best rock video of 2016, I suppose that’s a matter of opinion, but given what’s been happening lately, it may just be that my northern neighbor has impeccable taste.
Goldmine: Your YouTube “Watch Out Woman” (video above) page got raves, and has now been viewed more than 5,000 times, which is pretty good for a tune that was hitherto only heard in theaters and drive-ins some half-a-century ago.
TP: Yes. That’s all changed now. That film clip led to me being contacted by State Records, in the U.K., and now they’ve released a vinyl 45 rpm version of the restored “Watch Out Woman” mono optical soundtrack from “Feelin’ Good,” featuring “The Way That I Need You” on the flip side. Both are songs I sang in the movie, on the Charles River Esplanade, in Boston.
Goldmine: What sort of memories and initial reactions did you feel when you first were approached for re-releases from U.K. record producers?
TP: It was very gratifying to learn that my 50-year-plan to become an overnight sensation was working. (laughs)
Goldmine: What sort of feelings emerged when you were in the process of negotiating new deals for some of your catalog?
TP: Well, the piece that initially caught the U.K. market’s attention was the only Travis Pike’s Tea Party 1967 single, “If I Didn’t Love You Girl,” released in German and British compilation albums, dating back to the early ‘90s. Being asked for a mechanical license for that performance, a half-century after its initial release, was a most pleasant surprise. As for the songs from the 1966 movie, to the best of my knowledge, they are the only video clips of me performing from my entire early career, so when “Watch Out Woman” began to rock the internet, and I got the offer from State Records, everything began falling into place.
However, as exciting as it all is, both of these deals are based on recordings I made back in the mid-’60s, so I’m still waiting to see if their popularity will validate my current efforts, and get collectors to consider the new albums of my ‘60’s songs, recorded with my brother, Adam, between 2013 and 2016.
Goldmine: In all, you and Adam have now released six albums from your back catalog.
TP: Eight, counting the two spoken word albums, but not all of them go back to the ‘60s. I wrote many of the songs in my new album, “Mystical Encounter (Song’s from Changeling’s Return),” in 1974, when I composed my first attempt at a rock opera, then called “Changeling.” I revisited it in 1987, renamed it “Morningstone,” and “Morningstone” it remained, until this year, when I gave up trying to turn it into a novel, renamed it and released the screenplay in my book, “Changeling’s Return.”
Goldmine: We discussed “Changeling’s Return” in an interview that serves as an introduction to that fascinating property.
TP: We discussed its history, but since then, I’ve remembered more about its origins. I told you that the songs “Witchy Stew” and “The Stranger” predated Changeling, and that’s true.I wrote both of them, (along with “Witch,” finally released in my “Outside the Box” album), for my original rock musical storyline about a 20th Century Faust, which I believed would be popular because of the pervading interest in everything occult reflected in all the astrology-based articles of the day. The property evolved into its current form as a result of my multi-disciplinary studies at CalPoly, Pomona, which were, in turn, inspired by my childhood discoveries of Rachael Carson’s works, years earlier.
Goldmine: It will happen. We’re now talking about this year’s release of “Mystical Encounter (Songs from Changeling’s Return),” and as conscious as I am of the depths you fearlessly explore in your works, I’ll admit I was floored by “The Fool.” I know enough about the Kabbalah to be aware that symbolism and secret knowledge are common in the more esoteric writings of the past, but your detailed explanation of the lyrics to “The Fool” was my introduction to the bardic symbolism and hidden meanings found in Celtic myth and poetry — and in “Changeling’s Return.”
When I first heard “The Fool,” I enjoyed it as a bit of theatrical nonsense, a clever showtune, exuberant and entertaining, but in the section of “Changeling’s Return” titled “His Secrets All Revealed,” you really do explore the mysteries, and when I read what those lyrics conceal, except to someone versed in bardic folklore or, as Robert Graves called it, “the historical grammar of poetic myth,” I realized that was not a course offered where I went to school.
I thought your placement of the otherworldly “Dog, Roebuck and Lapwing” was intended as counterpoint to the bombastic “Fool,” but when you explained the bardic symbolism of those creatures, concealing and revealing their significance at the same time in an ethereal piece of music, itself, an invitation to an out-of-body experience, I realized that in “Mystical Encounter,” you really have woven spells into the music.
TP: Thank you, Harvey. I think that’s the most you’ve ever said, all in one breath, about any of my works. And thank you for the time you took to explore “Changeling’s Return” so thoroughly.
Goldmine: It’s all good, but I have to ask why you cut “Peepin’ Tom” from the album?
TP: In the screenplay, it’s cut from the album for being too suggestive, but in order to be cut, it has to have been included as an option in the screenplay, and that suggests that if ever there is a soundtrack album, “Peeping Tom” will be on it. Meanwhile, for readers following the screeenplay, or for that matter, anyone who simply wants to hear the song, I’ve released “Peeping Tom” as a downloadable single, and it is also posted on YouTube so “Changeling’s Return” fans can hear it there, free.
Goldmine: If there is any sense of fairness left in our universe (or loonyverse), I hope to see “Changeling’s Return” on the big screen one day.
TP: That’s why I put it out there. Now, if we can just get some of Hollywood’s movers and shakers to look at it...
Goldmine: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a British filmmaker steps forward.You’re liable to get a lot of attention over there with your 20th anniversary DVD release of your critically acclaimed, award-winning, live bardic performance of your 99-minute epic narrative rhyme “Grumpuss” (shown above).
TP: Absolutely! The Dual CD “Grumpuss” 15th Anniversary Audio Theater Edition's already in release, and as of now, my 1997, live, world premiere performance has been transferred from the original PAL Digi-beta at Deluxe Labs in Burbank, and we’ve authored it for DVD. We’re calling it “Travis Edward Pike’s Grumpuss 20th Anniversary Platinum Edition,” not based on unit sales — at least, not yet — but on the traditional association of platinum with 20th anniversaries.
Goldmine: You grew up in a world where movies were on film and 45 rpm recordings were the popular configuration. Now, the same sounds and images are conveyed on CD, DVD or streamed online. How do you feel about the digital domain?
TP: Actually, when I started collecting records, they were still running at 78 rpm, my record player wound up with a crank and I had to change the phonograph needle about once a week. But to answer your question, I think the digital domain is wonderful, especially for movie collectors like myself. I’m on YouTube now, so even though I haven’t broken through on broadcast radio, new fans are discovering me, hearing my songs for the first time and that’s fantastic as far as it goes. But I’m still trying to work out how to earn a living from my collected performances in the digital domain.
Goldmine: At the rate you’re going, I’ve no doubt that you will.