Tim Motzer discusses his vast range of musical tastes and how the music of his youth has influenced him. Though difficult to point to only one album as his top pick, The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” album deserves a deeper exploration.
Pinpointing my favorite or most inspirational album is quite an impossible task for me, as I love hundreds of records that are in that realm. My listening has been very wide-ranging from the early days of radio, pop and rock, progressive rock, moving into R&B, Motown, funk, jazz, via Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk; electronic music via early Tangerine Dream, Tomita, Vangelis; and English progressive rock into classical, minimalism (Riley, Reich), world music, the avant-garde, and free jazz! As I sit here and think I have to wonder where it all began and if I can actually pinpoint an album that may have been the genesis of my listening. Where and when did I say “Wow, what’s this?”
I grew up in a musical household. My mom sang in big bands around 1939/1940’s when she was just in her early 20’s. I came around a few decades later, music was always present in our house, and I remember her playing lots of records—Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday were all favorites. My two older sisters were both singers too, and they had loads of records sitting on the floor of my parents’ living room: folk, pop, Motown, rock of the day, acoustic guitars in cases, and there was a piano, too. That was all part of my sound-world as a kid. My sisters’ records held the mystery. I learned early how to put records on the turntable. I remember four albums that I listened to at that time—Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Peppers, and Magical Mystery Tour. Who are the Beatles? John, Paul, George, and Ringo? Thinking back, I really do believe Magical Mystery Tour was my way in, (although I’m sure they all had an effect) and I realize now that it informed the musical multiverse I’m still into studio experiments, great pop writing, the psychedelic mellotron of Strawberry Fields Forever, John Lennon’s surreal wordplay and the avant-garde arrangement of I Am The Walrus. Psychedelic, modern classical, orchestral, fuzz guitars, warbly keyboards, even the origins of progressive rock can be found in those two songs.
But also Blue Jay Way, by George, was so ambient, trippy, and Eastern. I spent a lot of time listening to this record and looking at the LP gatefold’s 24-page book with all the photos inside, cartoons, lyrics, and trying to figure it out. Where’s England? It really was a movie of songs and sounds to me … a multimedia of sorts, and it was a soundtrack for their film, of the same name, but I never got to see it. Perhaps it was better to use your own imagination. Well, that’s what I did. The opening—”Roll up to the magical mystery tour … roll up …”—with the sound of the tour bus speeding by, the vibrato tape effects, and the stereo panning. Such a cinematic album.
This was all coming after Sgt. Peppers which contained A Day in the Life, and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds…Within You, Without You…pretty heady stuff for a seven-year-old listening to his big sisters’ records.
By now, I look at Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Peppers as a double album. They fit together. London had style and sounds that stoked my imagination. Those two albums definitely Informed my listening going forward, and I’m sure every musician and band thereafter. I was turned onto many English bands from the late ’60s through the late ’70s onward into the 80’s—Beatles, Stones, Jimi Hendrix (because he came out in England), Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Cream, Soft Machine, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, Gong, Gentle Giant, Led Zeppelin, Brian Eno, Bowie, Jeff Beck, Black Sabbath, giving way to eventually ‘80s Kate Bush, XTC, Talk Talk, Japan, David Sylvian, and onward to 4 Hero, Massive Attack, Portishead, The Orb, Radiohead, and onward. This was only one slice of what I was listening to, but a lot of English music has always been magical to my ears, and it’s endless. Of course, during this same time the Delta and Chicago/Detroit blues were hijacked from America, filtered through that English prism, and marketed back to the world, but with a very different twist. That in itself changed everything too. Thinking back to my seven-year-old self, wow! It was only the beginning; little did I know.
After 20 years of world touring, five solo albums, and stunning collaborations including over 80 albums of credits, TIM MOTZER (timmotzer.com — he/him/his) continues to “traverse manifold territories in music (Guitar Player Magazine).” Tim is widely known for his distinct textural acoustic-electro guitar voice utilizing looping, bowing, electronics, and prepared techniques. From 2016-18, Tim toured the world playing prestigious venues and jazz festivals with Bandit65, an improvising trio he co-leads with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and drummer Gintas Janusonis. He has collaborated with musical luminaries David Sylvian, Burnt Friedman, Jaki Liebezeit, King Britt, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Vernon Reid, David Torn, Markus Reuter, Pat Mastelotto and poet Ursula Rucker. Tim’s work has appeared in the HBO series True Blood as well as films by Michael Mann. As an in-demand, solo live composer/improviser in the world of modern dance, Tim most recently played to sold-out houses in Tokyo, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; Oujda, Morocco; Philadelphia, PA; and Toronto, Canada. He serves as a live accompanist for master choreographers at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Tim brings his dynamic, eclectic array of musical projects together under his own 1k Recordings imprint, which has over 40 releases.