My good friend Sean Galliher passed away last week, of kidney failure. He had been in pain and was suffering for quite some time. He had been in and out of hospitals for the past twenty years, going for check-ups and dialysis. I’ll miss him dearly. He was a really talented artist – the self-portrait I’ve posted here is one of his originals. I thought I was pretty good at sketching, but his drwaings just blew me away.
I met Sean in 1991. We were both working at a home-improvement store called Rickel. It was low-wage drudgery, but it helped with my student-loan payments and left me with a bit of pocket money (luckily, I was still living rent-free at home at the time). I mentioned to someone that worked there that I played guitar (badly) and they mentioned Sean and said he played as well. I found Sean and introduced myself – we hit it off right away and soon we were hanging out, mainly at his folks’ place. We jammed out on his guitars, came up with trippy collaboration drawings and listened to loads of music.
He introduced me to a lot of bands, particularly hip-hop groups and metal bands. He really got into the Seattle scene bands and he turned me on to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam. For my part, I listened to a lot of weird 60s psychedelia, particularly UK psych stuff, and early 70s progressive rock. I tried to get him into progressive rock, but he didn’t really take to it. I remember we bought each other cassettes once – he bought me a Bob Dylan tape (I think it was “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan“) and I bought him Genesis‘ “Selling England By The Pound“. After about a week, he asked if we could swap tapes. I said “sure”, since I didn’t have that Genesis album on cassette. He really enjoyed the Dylan tape, so I figured it all worked out in the end.
We were constantly hanging out for most of the 90s, along with his friend Andrew P. and my friend Dave M. Eventually, in the mid-90s, I moved out of my parents’ house and into a series of apartments. I started to see Sean a bit less, as he was more comfortable in his own space and I was enjoying having the freedom of my own place.
Sometime in 1999 or 2000, he moved to Florida with his family, after both of his parents retired. I think I tried to get him to stay in Connecticut, but it was probably for the best. His kidney problems (stemming from a childhood operation) had reared up by then and he needed constant dialysis and attention. His parents were better equipped to help him than I or his other friends could have been. I phoned him a few times and we talked for awhile each time, about what was happening in our lives and of course, music. He made me a mix CD on a computer in 2000, with spoken-word samples from films and cartoons between the tracks. I was impresssed, as I was still making mix tapes at the time. I think he got fed up with computers, though, with all of the software updates they require and he never used social media at all. I wish he had, because I could’ve kept up with his music tastes and other stuff he was into. I moved to the UK in 2004 and I think I phoned him once or twice, but then lost contact with him. Luckily, his sister Kathy joined Facebook, so I caught glimpses of his life. I regret not phoning him more often in the past ten years – I suspect we both would’ve appreciated those conversations.
Here’s the mix – it’s a snapshot of some of the tunes we were listening to in the 1990s. Memory being faulty, this is what I can remember of the time. I hope you enjoy it. There’s a track-by-track listing below:
Percy Bysshe Shelley – Excerpt from “Adonais” (read by Vincent Price): I borrowed the idea for this from Michael Philip Jagger, who read it out at the Stones’ free concert in Hyde Park in 1969, for Brian Jones. I like this excerpt. Initially, I was going to use Jagger’s reading, but I found this version online and thought it more suitable.
Pearl Jam – Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town (taken from the Vs. album – released in 1993 on Epic Records): Sean got into Pearl Jam though his friend Andrew. I didn’t really groove on them at first, but eventually liked some of their tunes. I was working at Strawberries, a small chain record store, when this was released and got a promo CD of the “Vs” album. Sean bought his own copy and we listened to it quite a bit. He worked out the chords to this song and used to play it. I remember once being in the kitchen of his folks’ place, with his mother there, and he had his acoustic guitar. He started to play this – I tried to sing along, but couldn’t think of all the lyrics, so just mumbled through the song. Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
Bob Dylan – She Belongs To Me (live in 1966 – taken from The Bootleg Series – Vol. 4 – released in 1998 on Columbia Legacy Records): I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but Sean seemed to suddenly got really into Dylan. I remember he bought the “Bootleg Series – Vol. 1” set and listened to it constantly. Right before this set was released, he had gone into hospital for an operation on his kidneys. I dropped by his folks’ place to see how he was. I had just purchased it and walked in his house to show him and he took it from me, saying “Oh thanks dude!”, thinking I’d bought it for him. What could I say – he’d just had a major operation. I just said “No problem, dude, hope you like it!”…and bought myself another copy the following week.
The Incredible String Band – First Girl I Loved (taken from the 5,000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion album – released in 1967 on Elektra Records): I discovered the I.S.B. from the “Acid Trip” book by Vernon Joynson. I started buying their LPs from a used record shop in Vernon, CT. called Records Recycled (sadly no longer trading). Sean, Phil (Andrew’s nick-name – his surname is Phillips) and I went to the Hartford Record Fair in 1992 and I was psyched to find “The 5,000 Spirits..” and “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter” on CD. I think I put this on a mix tape for Sean. He really liked it, especially the bit where Robin Williamson says “She is pretty”. Once he was having a tough day at his job as a security guard for an office building in Hartford. He phoned me from work and asked if I’d play this over the phone to him, so I got my CD boom box and did just that. I think it made him feel a bit better.
Nick Drake – River Man (taken from the Five Leaves Left album – released in 1969 on Island Records): I can’t recall exactly when we both got into Nick Drake – it might have been independently of each other as well. I know I had the “Pink Moon” CD and played it for Sean, but I can’t remember if he already knew about it. I also remember reading an article about Nick Drake in one of the music mags (maybe MOJO) and the writer said something about this song, how most guitarists have no idea what’s happening in it. It starts in C and then no-one’s quite sure from there. Sean and I were talking about that on the phone and I think he had his acoustic with him and played the beginning part perfectly, but then we couldn’t work out the rest. This is still one of my favourite Nick Drake songs.
Pink Floyd – The Narrow Way (Part 1) (taken from the Ummagumma album – released in 1969 on Harvest/EMI Records): Sean was never as much of a Floyd-head as me, but I just remember one gorgeous late spring day we were in his car (“The Space Ghost”) going to the mall. I had the day off and he was between jobs. We were sitting at a stop light and we were….uh…’medicated’. This was playing on the mix tape – I’ll never forget that feeling of just not having to be anywhere, or do anything – just listening to Gilmour’s UFO sounds skittering between the speakers. It was pure bliss in that moment. I don’t think he’d be-grudge me having this on his mix.
Ravi Shankar – Dhun (taken from the Portrait Of Genius album – released in 1964 on World Pacific Records): I got into Ravi Shankar through The Beatles (natch!) and wanted to buy a sitar from my late teens, but never had enough spare cash. Finally, in the mid-90s, I had enough bread to buy one. I bought it from a compamy called Lark In The Morning (which is still around) and had it shipped to Conn. I took it over to Sean’s and we both started messing around on it, coming up with really basic melody lines. I still can’t play it properly. Sean bought one of his own a couple of years later. I wish we could’ve jammed together, but he’d moved to Florida by then. I was fortunate enough to see Ravi in concert twice – I don’t think Sean was with me either time, though.
The Who – Love Ain’t For Keeping (taken from the Who’s Next album – released in 1971 on Track Records): Phil loved The Who and listened to them all the time. I like The Who as well, but sometimes it got a bit much, especially when Phil was hanging out. Sean worked out the chords to this one, too and used to play it occasionally. I remember he had the lyrics written in one of his notebooks, so he could have them handy when playing it.
Radiohead – Subterranean Homesick Alien (taken from the OK Computer album – released in 1997 on Parlophone Records): I really got into Radiohead after “The Bends” was released in 1995. I can’t remember when Sean did – it may have been the same time. By the time “OK Computer” was released, we were both fans. I recall one afternoon when we tried to work out the chords to “Airbag”, another song on the album. Sean liked “Karma Police”, too, especially the video for it. I chose this one because it’s my fave on the album and the title is a nod to Bob Dylan.
Pantera – Planet Caravan (taken from the Far Beyond Driven album – released in 1994 on Eastwest Records): I was never into Pantera that much – I like Dimebag Darrell’s guitar-playing, but I find Phil Anselmo annoying. Sean liked them, however, and he had a couple of their albums. I do remember him buying “Far Beyond Driven” on CD. I really liked this one, a cover of the Black Sabbath tune. I seem to recall Sean liked early Sabbath as well, so two birds/one stone with this choice.
Beck – Beercan (taken from the Mellow Gold album – released in 1994 on DGC Records): I had got a promo of the “Loser” single CD, which has a track called “Fume”, which Sean really liked. I bought the “Mellow Gold” CD sometime in 1995, I think. “Beercan” was one of our favourite tracks – we used to chuckle at the “I’m sad and unhappy…..ASSSS” bit of it. I bought “Odelay” the first week it was released and that album was a fave of Sean’s as well.
Led Zeppelin – What Is And What Should Never Be (taken from the Led Zeppelin II album – released in 1969 on Atlantic Records): We ended up listening to a lot of Led Zep when Phil was around – they were another of his favourite bands. At the time, I’d listened to so much Zep in high school and my brief time at uni, that I was bit bored of them. Sean was pretty egalitarian with his stereo, so we’d listen to Phil’s stuff, then some of mine. I still love this song and put it on more than a few mixes.
Run-DMC – King Of Rock (taken from the King Of Rock album – released in 1985 on Profile Records): Sean used to do a little rhyme, he’d say “Goin’ to college ’till I retire/Sucka MC’s be callin’ me sire”. It made me laugh and it took me a long time to work out it was a take-off from the opening lyrics to this track. I can’t remember if Sean had this album, but I’m sure he liked Run-DMC.
Metallica – Stone Cold Crazy (taken from the Garage Inc compilation album – released in 1998 on Elektra Records): Sean tried to turn me on to Metallica, but I never really liked them that much, despite going to see them with Sean and Phil in Hartford in 1992. The concert was O.K., lots of energy and they played for over two hours. He lent me the “Garage Days” cassette, which I listened to a couple of times, but again, couldn’t really get into it back then. I think I remember him having “And Justice For All” on cassette and maybe the self-titled one (“The Black Album”), too. I do like this cover of the Queen song, so I’ve used it for the mix.
Geto Boys – Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta (taken from the Uncut Dope: Geto Boys Best (1992) and the Office Space soundtrack (1999)): Sean and I used to watch “Beavis & Butthead” and I think he watched “King Of The Hill”, so I’m sure he knew about Mike Judge’s “Office Space”. I love that film and the soundtrack is brilliant, so I thought I’d add this one.
Nirvana – Breed (taken from the Nevermind album – released in 1991 on DGC Records): I don’t remember how Sean got into Nirvana. One day he said, “you should check this band out, they sound like Pink Floyd” – which was clever, ‘cos it got me curious. To be fair, “Something In The Way” does sound a little like Floyd. When I finally heard the whole album, I thought it was O.K. I was mainly listening to 60s psych and 70s prog, so it took me a little while to really hear their appeal. By the time “Incesticide” was released, I was on board and then it seemed only a moment and Kurt Cobain had died. Sean showed me the chords for “Polly” and “Something In The Way”, so I used to play them when we jammed.
Oasis – She’s Electric (taken from the (What’s The Story) Morning Glory album – released in 1995 on Creation Records): In the summer of 1995, Sean was mostly hanging out with a guy named Kevin, who we worked with at Rickel. Kevin and I didn’t get on well at all (putting it mildly), so I didn’t go along. Kevin had moved into his girlfriend’s parent’s place out in the sticks and apparently there was an out-building that could serve as a jam room. There was an idea to form a band with Sean on guitar, Phil on drums and Kevin on bass. My friend Dave also joined them, taking photos of the jam sessions. I didn’t mind – I was getting into electronic music. I even lent Sean my Strat to play. Towards the autumn, Sean and Kevin fell out and he visited my apartment. He asked me if I had anything new to listen to, as he was “tired of Rush and Zeppelin and The Police” (Phil’s three fave bands). I had the Oasis album (I thought Aphex Twin might not really be his thing), so I played a bit for him. He liked it, despite it being very retro and Beatles-y. I chose this track, ‘cos it’s not played much, compared to “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”
MC Serch – Here It Comes (taken from the Return Of The Product album – released in 1992 on Def Jam Records): Sean was into 3rd Bass – his friend Rick had turned him onto them in high school. I think I had checked them out while working in a record store (Record Express) in 1990. I was working at Strawberries in 1992, when I got a promo of “Return Of The Product”. We listened to it a lot over the winter of ’92/’93. “Back To The Grill” and this track were faves, along with “Social Narcotics”. Sadly, Serch never released anything else and Sean got more into the Beastie Boys newer albums, like “Check Your Head” and “Ill Communication”, after I bought them.
N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton (from the Straight Outta Compton album – released in 1988 on Ruthless Records): Sean definitely had the “Efil4zaggin” album from N.W.A. on cassette, but I thought I’d return to the original stuff, as it’s the better record. I seem to recall watching Chris Rock’s hip-hop parody film, “CB4”, with Sean. In it, there’s a spoof N.W.A. video, called “Straight Outta Locash”.
Slayer – Circle Of Beliefs (taken from the Divine Intervention album – released in 1994 on American Recordings): I was visiting Sean one day at his folks’ place and he was playing this album. Slayer were another band I had trouble really grooving on. I used to imitate Tom Araya’s vocals and it made Sean chuckle. I can appreciate them more now – especially the skill of playing that fast and still being able to hear individual notes. I suspect this song is anti-religion – that should come as no surprise to you. I was going to choose “Dittohead”, but I couldn’t in good conscience add a song that had anything to do with Rush Limbaugh.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Porterville (taken from the Creedence Clearwater Revival album – released in 1968 on Fantasy Records): Sean and I both liked CCR – I had got into them in the late 80s when my brother bought the “Chronicles” album on CD and I think Sean did through his dad. I think he was talking about this song, from the first CCR album, one day – but now I can’t recall the conversation. It’s a killer tune and one of the few CCR tunes that sounds like some of their San Francisco peers, instead of the usual swamp rock they did.
Van Morrison – And It Stoned Me (taken from the Moondance album – released in 1970 on Warner Bros Records): I seem to recall Sean having the “Best Of Van Morrison” CD and I do remember listening to “Astral Weeks” with him. He particularly liked the title track from that album. I thought this one, from “Moondance”, would be a nice mellow one to add to the mix.
Remember Shakti – Lotus Feet (live in 1998 – taken from the Remember Shakti 2-CD live album – released in 1999 on Verve Records): I suspect Sean was turned onto Shakti, John McLaughlin’s post-Mahavishnu Orchestra band, by his friend Jim Fillmore. They went to see Remember Shakti in 1998, if I recall correctly, in New Haven. I think the show was at one of the Yale buildings. I can’t seem to find any info on the show at all – but it was in the summer, ‘cos I remember Sean saying how hot it was in the venue. I was jealous, ‘cos I had never seen (and still haven’t) John McLaughlin. I can’t remember why I didn’t go with them. Maybe I was away in Ireland at that time. In any case, I suppose a recording’s the next best thing and this is from one of the UK concerts in 1998.