Roadside Dog

The Music of

Steve Watkins

Songs 2 (1976-1986)

Songs 2
Most of the songs in this section were written while I was on the road in Europe and Asia in
1976 and 1977. I began recording them in the early 1980's at Fox Studio in Felton, California.
I continued recording at various small studios in Southern California during the 1990's and 2000's.
Most of the songs feature live musicians, but some songs were created with Band In A Box software.
I was still living the life of a pilgrim.
I left Minnesota in the summer of 1976 and spent a few weeks hanging out with my family in Dayton.
Then I took a train to New York and caught a flight to Luxembourg.
I headed for Amsterdam, and then continued hitch hiking around France, England and Scotland.
During the first few months I thought that European culture was much more
advanced than US culture. But then I began to see that it wasn't really.
I had seen advertisements in Amsterdam for bus tickets to India for as little as $150.
After a few days of thinking it over, I bought a bus ticket to Istanbul
and figured I would follow my nose from there.
It took about 3 months to reach India, slowly winding my way East. I passed through France,
Switzerland, Italy,Yugoslavia (the old name), Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
My bus bypassed Germany because there was a warrant out for our driver in Germany.
I spent most of the winter traveling around India and Nepal, and then headed overland back
to Holland in the Spring. I took buses and trains and even hitch hiked with long haul truckers.
I was looking for something really different, and I found it. That road trip was an education.
I have pages of journals from these travels, and maybe someday I'll publish them.
When I returned to Amsterdam I found some young Dutch musicians to play with.
They invited me to live in an attic flat in their cracked (squatted) apartment building.
We played in small folk clubs and in some bigger clubs like the Melkweg.
Our apartment was a fine old pre-WWII building, sitting on a canal, not far from Central Station.
The other occupants were Dutch kids on welfare, Israeli drug dealers and sex-show performers.
Few of the flats had bathtubs or showers, so most of us used the public bath down the street.
I was living a comfortable life, but I began to long to return to the US.
I could see a possible future of playing small clubs and being broke for the next 20 years.
The life of the bohemian artist was beginning to grow stale.
I got a letter from one of my Caltech buddies urging me to join him at a startup in Silicon Valley.
I was able to live on my musical earnings, but wasn't making enought to save anything.
One of my friends told me that if I went to a certain B-girl bar in the Redlight District, the manager
would teach me how to bypass the European Union work permit and hook me up with a job.
I went to the bar and the manager found me a job working in an Albert Heijn bakery.
It was boring, hot work; I was part of an assembly line, moving trays from a conveyer belt to the
scorching ovens. But it wasn't very demanding, and I was able to read every time the line went
down, mostly books about Africa and the tropics where heat was an important part of the setting.
In 2 weeks I had saved enough to buy a plane ticket home.
In 1978 I started working in high-tech and music became part time.
In the summer of 1978 I attended 2 computer music classes, one at MIT and one at UCSD.
These classes exposed me to several new things: computers and music, Artificial Intelligence
and Marvin Minsky and the music of Philip Glass and Bill Evans with Scott LaFaro.
In the 1980's I mostly played with the Nabobs, a local Santa Cruz band.
The Nabobs were: Maggie Wing on vocals, Grant Maher on guitar, Dirk Andrews on bass,
Mitch Schrift on keyboards, Steve Battelle on congas and Elaine Beggelman on sax.
I played drums. For a short while I was also playing guitar in two other bands,
but that became too much music to fit into a high-tech career.
The Nabobs and other Bay Area musicians played on many of these recordings.
Some of these songs are instrumentals and some are songs with lyrics.
Highway Song Instrumental
Michael Manring on fretless bass from Windham Hill Records
I've been drawn to travel since I was sixteen.
Somehow, my Dad let me take the family car for a trip to Florida; just me and my friend Dave.
That was the beginning of the adventure of travel for me.
Almost nothing gets my heart pumping like travel experiences:
waiting on the station platform as a train rumbles in to take me somewhere new,
pullling away from the dock on the ferrry and watching the land shrink and fade into the distance,
looking out the window of a 747 as we rise into the clouds while mountains and shorelines take shape,
hearing the exotic call to prayer of the muezzin from the minerets, as a distorted "Lal ilaha" blasts out
over the loudspeakers, wafting over a hot dusty dry brown desert or a humid lush green tropical jungle.
I traveled to California for the first time to attend college.
Then I dropped out of college for a year to travel the US,
after being hypnotized by all the wide open spaces West of the Mississippi.
Paul, another Techer, and I converted an old Ford Econoline van into a poor man's RV.
We explored the US coast-to-coast and probably put about 30,000 miles on that van.
We camped on the beaches in California, South Texas and Florida, we visited national parks,
and we played hide and seek with the cops as we tried to find deserted places to park
the van at night. We worked odd jobs when we ran out of money.
I took along a guitar and taught myself new chords.
We both read a lot of stuff, including fiction, Jung, Freud and Feynman.
For nearly four years I traveled the US playing music, mostly in the West and Midwest.
Next I traveled in Europe and Asia for a year (described above).
I have never stopped traveling.
My most recent trip was to South Korea in 2011. In the 1990's and the early 2000's I visited:
Europe (multiple times), China (three times), Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Thailand, Viet Nam, Taiwan, Mexico, Central America and Canada.
Places I really want to go next:
Australia, New Zealand, Africa (especially Egypt) and South America.
LA Train Instrumental
Jim Fox drums, Rick Shrum percussion, Gary Regina sax
This was originally called New York Train because I wrote parts of it while 
riding the Amtrak train from Dayton to NYC to catch the plane to Europe.
But now I want to use it with some video footage I shot while riding from San Diego to LA,
so I changed the name. It's still about riding an Amtrak train, except now on the left coast.
I love trains and ride them every chance I get. A couple differnent times I have even hopped freights.
Once Jeff (a college roommate) and I hopped freights from LA to San Jose and then back again.
We rode the same tracks that Jack Kerouac rode when he was a brakeman on the Southern Pacific.
Luxembourg Landing
Steve Abrams flute, Don Lax violin
My first time to Europe.
I had a one-way ticket on Luxembourg Airlines.
Maybe I would never return to the US.
I'm searching for something, but I don't know its name.
Breakaway Instrumental
Jim Fox drums, Rick Shrum percussion, Gary Regina sax

I wanted to breakaway from the past.
Amsterdam Place
Maggie Wing vocals, Gary Regina and the Santa Cruz Horns (sax, trumpet, trombone)
This is for my attic flat in Amersterdam. If walls could talk . . .
Dutch and invited foreigners could crack these apartments (squat) and live for free
until they were to be torn down, maybe in 2 to 5 years.
Street Singing Songs iTunes
The Railheads: Bill Gardner, Carol Gardner, Luke Barrington, Chris Nesbet,
Murray Officer, Bob Higgins and Ken Lazarus
I played in small folk clubs in Amsterdam,
but I also spent some time street singing (busking) to earn a few extra guilders.
I usually played in the alcove of the Opera House.
Sometimes the police were friendly and let me sing, sometimes they made me move on.
Take Me to Paris Sketch
I wrote this song while hitch hiking from the South of France to Paris.

I was starting to think I no longer wanted to be a starving artist.


Hometown Friends Sketch


I wrote this for my friends Paul and Becky who let me stay at their farmhouse outside of

Dayton around Christmas. I stayed there about two months before moving out to California

to start working in Silicon Valley.


Forest Avenue Instrumental
Michael Manring on fretless bass from Windham Hill Records, Jenny Battelle flute
This is for my house in Santa Cruz where I moved after returning from Europe
and living in Silicon Valley for a while.
       Athens                                                London                                        Istanbul
       Dal Lake Kashmir                                Tehran                                         Afghanistan
       Taj Mahal                                            Mumbai                                       Nepal