A Word from Michael Tarbox

michaeltarboxresizedRecorded at the Pharmacy: My Primitive Joy 2009


Waiting for morning coffee, I’ll tell you something about the music we’ve recorded for the new CD. First of all, though, you must know someting about The Fry Pharmacy, the studio the songs were recorded in. It’s in Nashville, or more specifically in Old Hickory, just outside Nashville, out by the lake that Johnny Cash made his home on. (Parenthetically: Johnny’s old house burnt to the ground last month. We in the Ramblers have theorized that it committed suicide upon learning that it had been recently acquired by one of the Gibb Brothers, of Bee Gees fame.)

Anyway, back to The Fry Pharmacy Recording. It’s owned and operated by Scott McEwen, the Ramblers bass player, the place was indeed a Pharmacy, built in the 1920s (or was it the 30s?), and operating for thirty-odd years until closing its doors in the early 60s.

It remained dusty and shuttered until its doors were reopened into a ghosted time capsule… Tin ceilings. Cryptic graffitti scrawl on the walls in childlike hand. Walls the weird institutional pale green that was everywhere in the 50s and 60s but is rarely seen today (needless to say we think of that ghastly green as one of the colors of a lost childhood and so, perhaps perversely, it evokes pleasant memories).

The Fry Pharmacy Studio graces the hills of Old Hickory with a certain dusty primitive splendor. It’s a grimy gem whoses essence was sensed and only enhanced when Scott filled it with the tape machines whose acquisition has, over the years, become a life pursuit. These tape recorders are the faithful relics of the pre-digital; their whirring, mechanical personalities have largely disappeared from the studio scene as computers replaced them.

But who can deny the beauty of the sounds captured by these creaky beasts? The Fry Pharmacy’s crazy treasures include a machine that has recorded the pride of Michigan – The Stooges, The White Stripes and The Detroit Cobras… machines like it also recorded masterpieces like “Sticky Fingers.” Tucked away in a corner is an old machine of the sort used to capture the exquisite genius of “Kind of Blue.”

And when these machines are turned on, they produce smells – the slightest scent of dust burnt off as tubes warm up – and heat. Like all living animals do.

– Michael Tarbox