MY DESERT ISLAND ALBUM: LONNIE RICHARD (THE SPACE SHARKS)

I HAVE to face it—by human standards I’m getting to be a bit long in the tooth. But as a Space Shark I’m just getting started. I still feel like I did when I was 20—creative and inspired by the wonders of the world. When I was sent to Earth as a pup, my mission was to find intelligent life (mildly successful) and to create Human/Space Shark hybrid offspring (very successful).

As I write this, I’m stranded on a desert island. Should this be found by my wife or fellow Space Sharks it will serve as an After-Action Report. As anyone who knows me can attest to, I am not one for maintenance, so it should’ve come as no surprise to me when the engines on my spaceship failed. I was preoccupied, recording guitar in my onboard studio. Earthly flora smoke filled the air, and I failed to notice the warning light.

At the last moment (sometime during the final chorus) I realized my predicament and managed to plot a course to the only landmass I could see—a small island in the middle of nowhere. You would think that being a Space Shark I could land in the water and be fine but living on Earth has prevented me from developing my gills.

As the ensuing plasma leak consumed the ship I had only moments to grab what I could. Since I already had my guitar on, that was a no brainer. I gathered my beverages and the only food I had. I grabbed my solar-powered record player. I wasn’t sure how long I would be here, so I figured music would help me pass my time. I thought, “Damn, why are my records in so many places spread across the ship?” I would have time to get only one.

Music has filled my life since an early age. I love listening to it. I love creating it. I thought about making a dash for my Zeppelin II album. That album had been part of my life since high school—riding around in my friend’s car, trying to pick up girls. Then I thought of my OK Computer and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath albums, and quickly realized that if I spent a long time on the island, I would need something to cheer me up. ELO’s Greatest Hits? Hmmmmm, that’s a good one for happy thoughts. Mr. Blue Sky was voted, ‘Happiest Song Ever Written.’

Then it hit me—the one record which had been with me through all the most important parts of my life. I ran to the opposite side of the ship and grabbed my copy of Boston’s self-titled first album. I was 11 when my aunt gave it to me as a birthday present. I had no idea who Boston were. I knew the city, of course. That’s where I lived my whole life. I had never heard anything like it before. My human Dad’s Grand Funk and Jimi Hendrix albums were awesome. I used to pretend to play guitar to Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ and to The Guess Who’s ‘American Woman’ with a tennis racquet constantly. I had all the moves and could make all of the right faces. I loved my human Mom’s Beatles albums. But none of these artists had a guitar tone anything like the ones on Boston’s album. When I placed the needle on the record for the first time and ‘More Than a Feeling’ faded in (yes, faded in!) I thought, “This is nice, kinda mellow. Great vocals.”

And then those harmony guitars kicked in. Oh, those guitars!! I didn’t know what sustain was at the time, but I knew that the guitarist could play a note and let it ring for ages. He could pluck a note, go make a sandwich, and come back to it still ringing out.  The sonic blast of ‘Foreplay/Long Time’ hit me like a ton of bricks. The solo at the top of ‘Long Time’ blew my mind. Staring at the album cover I realized that those spaceships were actually guitars!

I was hooked. I wanted to play guitar. I added it to my Earthly mission. Tennis racquets are fun, but I wanted to learn the real thing. Kevin, a friend of mine who lived down the street, gave a Stratocaster knock-off to me when I was 12. It wasn’t working, but I had just taken a soldering class in middle school (Junior High as it was known back then) and decided to give it a whirl, rewiring the whole thing. It buzzed and crackled, but it was electric! I was getting sounds out of my recently purchased little amp made in Canada called a Ram. I still have that amp. ‘Rock and Roll Band’ made me want to start a band. I started writing my own songs.

As cool as it was jamming along to my Boston record with my buzzy guitar and tiny amp, I knew something was missing. First of all, I had no lessons. I had to figure out everything by ear. There was no internet back then. I had a book with chord shapes, so with a lot of trial and error I could figure out the songs. I was no Tom Scholz obviously. But it was more than that. It didn’t sound quite right. My friend Dave introduced me to distortion boxes, and things immediately clicked! That’s it! That’s the sound I’ve been looking for! I went out and bought an MXR Super Distortion Plus, and even though it didn’t sound quite like the Boston album I knew it was infinitely better than the guitar straight into the amp. I spent hours and hours (and years) jamming along to that album. I started a band when I was 14 and have never looked back!

Later I learned that Tom Scholz recorded most of that album in his basement. I knew I wanted to do that. I bought a Tascam 4-track when I was 15 and started recording. I met other Space Sharks stationed on Earth and we’ve been recording our own music ever since. We upgraded to an Akai 12-track for many years and then to Pro Tools. We’re almost done with our new EP. I love this planet!

As I blast the final chords of ‘Let Me Take You Home Tonight,’ I can feel a rumble. I recognize the sound. It looks like the homing beacon on what’s left of my ship survived after all, because the rest of the band have just touched down. They have eased my ‘Peace of Mind’ and I know we’ll be ‘Smokin’’ soon!

It’s been a hell of a ride so far. Rock on!!

The Space Sharks: The Space Sharks (@TheSpaceSharks) / Twitter

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