After recording two albums of his earliest material, HI-TECH HILLBILLY and HEARTLAND, J.J. Vicars continued to tinker at his home studio. Over the course of several years song ideas would present themselves, he would lay down the outline, and from time to time he go back and work on different parts.
HOT CANDY was originally written for adult actress Teri Weigel. After it was revealed that she also played guitar and the subsequent conversation heard her say, "Write something for me to sing," this Leslie West (Mountain) inspired riff found a new home. The song was constructed for the two of them to take alternating solos. When she failed to pick up on the project he added guitar parts where hers would have been and recut the vocals.
CLIMB A HIGHER MOUNTAIN began life as an R&B riff. A fan of Prince during his 'glory years', J.J. had long wanted to dip into some funky R&B. After laying down the rhythm guitar he finally got to indulge himself in some thumb-slapping bass. The extended jam at the end marks his recording debut on keyboards and further shows the Prince influence. Suzi V makes her recording debut playing keys on the first half, which was added later. Tipping his hat to another Minneapolis legend, the blazing guitar solo evokes Jesse Johnson with The Time.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE was written around '97. Not knowing if it should have a Mellencamp or Aerosmith groove the backing tracks sat untouched for several years. Several attempts at adding keys were aborted until singer/songwriter/advice columnist/faux celebrity Jeremy Gloff flew in a piano track that in J.J.s words, "made the song happen." J.J. added an organ part and slide guitar and at long last the song was complete.
SEVEN DAYS A WEEK was an online collaboration that started as a bad joke. Written with Jeremy Gloff during a Facebook chat one rainy afternoon and recorded later. After LONGHAIRED LEFTOVERS was revised this warped little ditty found its home.
INDIAN SUMMER is the oldest song on the album, originally intended for HI-TECH HILLBILLY which was going to be a double album. During that time J.J. was a budding guitarist expanding his musical horizons beyond the Blues, Boogie & Rock 'n' Roll he started on. Guitarists Jimi Hendrix, Tommy Bolin, Carlos Santana, Duane Allman and Dickey Betts were role models in taking Blues-based guitar and placing it other musical contexts that relied heavily on Jazz, Latin and even Classical. INDIAN SUMMER borrows heavily from PRAYLUDE, a Tommy Bolin track form the James Gang album BANG. The "horror movie guitars" during the intro were added later when the original arrangement was forgotten. Once again J.J. plays keyboards, both the piano part as originally written and the sound effects that resulted from, "getting lost playing with the keyboard."
RAIN KEEPS FALLING was written shortly after seeing L.A. Jones play a burning rendition of FEVER that left the crowd speechless. Lyrics were added a few days later on a rainy September evening. A little Prince influence in the guitar solo (Question of U) and some laid back, tinkling keys add the final touches. A live rendition is available on YouTube.
HI-TECH BOOGIE was written for a car chase in a video game. The client went with another piece and J.J. kept this double-time, turbo-charged boogie for himself.
ANASTASIA is the crowning achievement of the album. It started out as a guitar line over a Middle Eastern drum beat. Needing a good 'push' the throbbing bass line that propels it was soon added. Lyrics of a fictional lady were worked out over several months, drawing their inspiration from various locales. Keyboards were added but recorded at too low a volume; during mixing they buzzed and had to be recut. An early mix with the original keyboard tracks was posted on LastFM by a fan. After everything was finished, and much of it rerecorded, a drum track was discovered that extended beyond the original and extended the song to double length. Various keyboards were added, then a guitar solo, and ANASTASIA took on a life of her own, a definitive example of the writing and recording process that became LONGHAIRED LEFTOVERS.
SECOND TIME AROUND was the last song written, after work had already begun on the album jacket. Reminiscent of the Pop music of his youth, the early days of MTV when they actually showed videos, the song was inspired in part by Vanity 6's HE'S SO DULL. Though he was proud of the instrumental work, especially the keyboard hooks, he later admitted,"the lyrics aren't my best. I had a hard time fitting the ideas I wanted into rhyming words that fit the melody, and I finished it in a rush." Nonetheless, it's a catchy, hook-filled song that shows him adding his own twist to musical motifs from the Pop music of his youth.
1987 is the album's bonus track, available on the CD only for publishing reasons. Written on guitar by Jeremy Gloff, who plays piano on TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, the song was intended to be "a Jackson Browne type narrative" according to its author. When Gloff cut his album that included this title track he decided to make an Electro/Dance album to capture the feel of the 80's. J.J., who also grew up in the 80's but was more into the Roots Rock revival than mainstream Pop, heard the song, "went ape shit over it" and bought the album. He heard the song as a guitar-driven rocker with Mellencamp-type vocals before knowing about its origins and added it to the song list at his gigs. Since the backing band only heard the original and couldn't understand what he trying to do with it, or why, he recorded it while finishing SECOND TIME AROUND. The feedback was so overwhelmingly positive, especially from Gloff himself, that it was decided to include it on the album. Publishing loopholes made it a headache to release a download so it became a CD only bonus track.
The front cover also took on a life of its own. Mark Schwarz, bassist with J.J. on LONG WAY FROM HOME (the shelved album) and many of the demos and live recordings on his website, is known for playing the Rocket Revenger, a distinctive looking and sounding bass that he built himself. Mark frequently buys unplayable guitars and basses and rebuilds them into his own mad creations under the moniker Broken Guitars. J.J. asked Mark to build him a custom guitar and the photo on the front of the album jacket was taken in Mark's workshop during a 'fitting', where they work out where the pickups and knobs will go. When J.J. asked Mark about doing a jacket for the album Mark went to town adding all sorts of objects that he regarded as "bits and pieces of J.J.'s world. Everything on there is something I became familiar with through him." Musical references past and present appear alongside pets and condiments while Fred and Aunt Esther go at it on the tube. Other object are discernible only to those in the know. The wood in the background is a closeup shot of the custom guitar.
LONG WAY FROM HOME was to be the 4th album, a return to the Roots rockin' boogie that J.J. Vicars in known for. These tracks were going to have to wait until after that album, and a couple other 'serious' albums, came out. When LWFH got shelved halfway through the recording sessions LONGHAIRED LEFTOVERS, a completed album just sitting there, got moved up the list. It's a fun album, written and recorded for the sheer joy of making music. There was no agenda, no marketing plan, no concession to certain audiences or cliques. These songs were done because it was fun to do them; it was fun to play with other different style and different musical motifs. And when you crank up these tracks you get to share in that fun.