Borrowed Time font logo

This band became a bit more and a bit less than it originally bargained for, and really drove the point home about how being in a band is much more than just personal expression, but also defines its’ own unique kind of relationship.

Not just any casual relationship, mind you – consider the symbiosis of Sisyphus and his boulder, or the bandits in John Cale’s “Cable Hogue”. Or perhaps, Prometheus and his eagle, the phoenix rising from the ashes, or the snake eating its’ own tail. Ahhh, so many cliches, so little – errr, time…

phase one (1982)

Melne Murphy: guitar, vocals
Phil “Zel From Hell” Schuster: vocals, guitar
David Hartman: bass
Ginger Kaufman: drums

with special guest, J. Free: live sound

In the beginning, Borrowed Time was a spin-off of a band called The Difference.

Largely unheard of, it was a clever enough band in so many ways – perhaps in too many ways for the Mpls music scene, however.

The members of that band were Melne Murphy (guit/vox), Zel (nee Phil Schuster – guit/vox), David Hartman (bass), Tim Sexton (keys), and Ginger Kaufman (drums). Zel, Ginger, and I had previously worked together in The Sacred Version; and I was recruited as a sound engineer for The Difference. During this time, I was working with Win Patrick in the first version of Dancing In The Dark , which Melne occasionally accompanied on stage.

Tim Sexton, who would be remembered for his synth-smashing reinterpretation of Pere Ubu’s “Final Solution”, eventually left The Difference to pursue his own direction (which led to the formation of his long-running project, Gotterdammerung) and the remaining members of band rechristened themselves as the first incarnation of Borrowed Time – keeping me on as a sound engineer.

Toward the end of 1982, Melne was returning on a flight to Minneapolis, and noticed an interesting sign at the Mpls Airport. Construction at the airport had interrupted normal public transit routes, and a sign for MTC – the Twin Cities public transit – had been posted to inform patrons of a temporary detour. One such sign, which stated “MTC Buses are running on….” had been cleverly filled in by some prankster, with the words “Borrowed Time”. Melne took one look at that sign, and was immediately convinced that the search for a new band name was over. It seems she was right about that!

In January 1983, I mixed and mastered the first Borrowed Time cassette album, with the help of Colin Mansfield, who had produced the first Hüsker Dü single, “Statues”.

Featuring cover art by Melne, the group’s self-titled 12-song debut featured cover versions of “Books”, by Echo and the Bunnymen, and “The Ocean”, by U2. The songwriting credits for the group’s own original material were evenly split between Melne and Zel, each contributing five of their own compositions.

In January 1983, I mixed and mastered the first Borrowed Time cassette album, with the help of Colin Mansfield, who had produced the first Hüsker Dü single, “Statues”.

Featuring cover art by Melne, the group’s self-titled 12-song debut featured cover versions of “Books”, by Echo and the Bunnymen, and “The Ocean”, by U2. The songwriting credits for the group’s own original material were evenly split between Melne and Zel, each contributing five of their own compositions.

During this time, Melne and I worked together on a number of projects outside the group, many of which would have a long-lasting impact in terms of redefining the group’s direction. A brief glimpse of this occurred at a Mpls. loft party, when I left the soundboard to join the band for an encore, an improvised song called “Jerry’s Kids”. I had found the lyrics scrawled on a napkin at the bar (credited to “The Creamettes”), Melne had a bombastic guitar theme just dying to become a song*, and since the crowd wanted an encore after the group had played their entire repertoire… we figured we’d have a bit of fun. We had no idea it would become indicative of the group’s future sound – or just what exactly that would entail.

[* that particular theme would eventually become known as “Law Of The Land”, which became a staple of latter-day sets, and something of a theme for the final incarnation of Borrowed Time.]

In less than two years, the group produced no less than seven cassette albums (and an eighth label release featuring solo material from the individual members and their friends), boasting almost as many personnel changes; among them Zel – guitar & vocal; Dave Hartman [who went on to join Machinery Hill, where he has remained through the millennium] – bass; Joe Casual [previously with The Vendettas – – and we never did learn his real name] – bass; Jim Meyer – drums; Win Patrick – bass; and various other friends who joined us on stage. And of course, our trusty Dr. Rhythm drum machine.

Chalk it up to a combination of overzealous ambitions and imaginations …

… with a good dose of soap-opera melodrama, too many cooks in the cauldron, and a name cribbed from a bus stop shelter, and you still wouldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of a band this was. Even we didn’t know. Suffice it to say that it was more of a lifestyle choice than entertainment – the phrase “art for art’s sake” never rang so true.

phase two (1983)

Melne Murphy: guitar, vocals
Phil “Zel From Hell” Schuster: vocals, guitar
J. Free: vocals, guitar, acoustic percussion, tape loops
Joe Casual: bass
Roland: percussion

For one reason or another, it soon became clear that Melne and I were bound to be the nucleus of whatever Borrowed Time would become next. The growing pains of this unruly child which we had created reaffirmed not only our inspiration, but also our determination and resourcefulness. We performed several shows as a duo, incorporating tape loops and percussion backing tracks into our live performances, and I would often double on congas and various African and Latin percussion instruments. On more than one occasion, we were joined onstage by various local figures, including Robert Wilkinson of Flamin’ Ohs, and the late Jay McHale of 2i.

In a small kind of way, the band was catching on. We got gigs opening for other “up-and-coming” bands like DA!, Bohemia, Blind Dog Stares, 2i and INSOC. People came out to see us, our tapes and t-shirts were selling in stores and in clubs, we were played on the local radio stations, but we eventually came to realize that we were sort of stuck in what seemed like a holding pattern, and we weren’t getting any headline slots.

We had become pigeonholed in a sense, but no one was exactly sure how that worked. On one occasion, we practically begged for the opening slot on a bill with Pere Ubu, but were turned down because the club thought our band was “too political”. Another time, we asked if we could open for Gang Of Four, but that time we were described as “too artsy” – not political enough, apparently. The booking agent at First Avenue/7th St Entry once confided in me that she knew we could draw a good-sized crowd at our shows, but our audiences weren’t drinking (unless, she surmised, they were sneaking in their own booze), and the bar needed to sell drinks in order to make a profit. That was a political concept we hadn’t reckoned on.

Evolution ain’t as easy as some folks might think. Although Melne and I were quite willing to perform in whatever context was available, we auditioned numerous “professional musicians” for months, hoping to assemble an actual band. My personal favorite was the bassist who called in response to our ad in City Pages, asking to speak to “Mel”. Upon learning that Melne was a woman, he blurted out, “I ain’t playin’ with no chick!!” To which I concurred, blurting out a suggestion that he probably hadn’t expected to hear.

Unfortunately, that was a sentiment we heard far too often among some of the local rockers. A lot of male guitarists – most of whom struck me as being fairly derivative and uninteresting themselves – were often eager to offer their opinions to the effect that “girls couldn’t rock”, or that we needed to “get someone with some balls”, if we hoped to succeed as a band. Not that we were soliciting opinions, of course. I don’t recall ever hearing anyone complain about the fact that I wasn’t really a “singer”, but merely a poetic writer who preferred a musical backdrop to the stuffiness of certain local writers workshops, but I digress.

After playing musical chairs for about a year …

… by 1984 it seemed at last we had a definitive four-person line-up: Melne, Ward, Bill, and myself. Together, we channeled a plethora of indulgences and influences that blurred the lines between each of our individual fascinations with sound. In the collective mode, it almost seemed …cohesive, if not just a wee bit cathartic.

phase three
(1984 – 1985)

Melne Murphy:
guitar, vocals, bass, keys
J. Free:
vocals, guitar, keys, bass
Bill Wilson:
drums
Ward Harper (aka idb):
bass, guitar, keys

Borrowed Time in The Whole
Borrowed Time - the final show The Whole • Mpls MN 10 Feb 1985 © Sean Smuda

After playing musical chairs for about a year, by 1984 it seemed at last we had a definitive four-person line-up: Melne, Ward, Bill, and myself. Together, we channeled a plethora of indulgences and influences that blurred the lines between each of our individual fascinations with sound. In the collective mode, it almost seemed …cohesive, if not just a wee bit cathartic.

The impression we left on people seemed to be largely favorable – which in retrospect is kind of amusing, as the attitude we projected might have appeared to be a mix of utter hopelessness and angry frustration.

After a show during our three-night stand at the former Yukon Club in Mpls, a woman told Ward and I that our music made her question her own existence – that it made her feel primal, like she wanted to tear off her clothes and live in the wild, and feel the sensation of her teeth tearing into the flesh of another animal. Umm …really, I’m not making that up.

A couple of young kids with big mohawks who used to come to all of our shows – dutifully purchasing every new release – once told Melne and I that they had been planning to start a punk band, until they saw us. They said our music made them realize they could express themselves in more creative ways then simply following a trend. (I just hope they didn’t start a band that sounded like us!)

1985 Whole Music Club flyer featuring Borrowed Time
1985 Whole Music Club flyer featuring Borrowed Time

It was fun for a while, then all the usual pitfalls presented themselves before us: relationship dramas, misguided ambitions, and the ever-popular creative conflict: artistic differences. We were young. Some of us didn’t really know what we believed in, some of us weren’t sure of what we really wanted, but some of us were sure at least some of the time that we had something to to say, and that it might be important.

All of those ideas gave birth to some pretty innovative music, while at the same time, slowly shoved the proverbial nails into the lid of the coffin. It couldn’t have lasted forever, and I think everyone involved might have been more than a little grateful when it came to an end. Fortunately – considering the era during which all of this took place – we all came out in relatively good health, and some of us actually still talk to one another from time to time, although the prospect of a post-20-year reunion seems rather unlikely.

In early 1985, we recorded a couple of albums’ worth of material at Pax Studios in Apple Valley. On 10 February 1985, we performed our final show at Whole Music Club on the The University of Minnesota campus. Our friends Technique Niquee shared the bill. Even as we began drifting away from each other, we somehow managed to assemble and produce one solid album, titled In A New Land. I’m told that the finished studio reels fell prey to the ravages of time, but a clean cassette master from the original reels survived, and was carefully mastered to CD, as well as a couple of albums’ worth of outtakes, so the ones and zeros of our brief but prolific past can outlive us all.

epilogue:

So where are they now, one might wonder? All things being relative, one might suppose still more or less following the logical extent of the same urges which brought us all together in the first place. Melne (aka The World Famous Melne) has presided over the worldwide fan club of the Blue Oyster Cult for as long as I can remember, and has illustrated at least one of their album covers. At the time this was written, she was last seen in a Bay Area group called Cover Grrlz.

IDB has played with the cremé de cremé of the Mpls avant-garde music scene, including such notables as Exploding Head Trick], and is reported to be happily married, and raising a couple of sons. He is also to be blamed for the existence of a Borrowed Time MySpace page, as well as about one-third of the band pages on MySpace (seriously, I counted twenty pages of projects he has been involved with, and that’s not even counting the fan pages…!).

I’m not entirely certain, but I could have sworn I once saw our former drummer Bill working in a local Realtor agency in Minneapolis. I refrained from stopping in, if only because I couldn’t think of any previously unfinished conversations waiting to be picked up. Delving into the past can be like that at times, eh?

Me, I’ve traveled around the country for a number of years, along the way, carving out a niche as a music writer for publications in several states. In recent years, I’ve played and recorded with some of the sleaziest rock bands in the Twin Cities, (including The Pushrods, Panel Of Experts, The Summer People, and Demolition Factor, to name a few). I’ve also become happily married, and work alternately as a web designer and an audio engineer, but I still find time to continue recording and making music in some fashion or another. In a parallel universe, it seems I have also become a four-time grandfather – how that happened, no one can really be sure.

Looking back, it was one hell of a roller-coaster ride, but a good deal of the music we made together is something I can be proud to have contributed to – even if everyone may have entertained serious doubts about my sanity at times. I may lived a little more for my so-called “art” than some folks might have considered healthy on occasion, but I wouldn’t have been setting any precedents there. At any rate, the more people speculate about such things, the more interesting my life story seems to become.

So, there you have it. Fifteen minutes of history that left a much-longer-lasting impression on a handful of people than any of us might have expected at the time. Not bad in the long run, I suppose.

addendum:

On Tuesday, 2 December 2008, idb / Ward Harper lost a long-term battle with a chronic condition.
He was loved by many, and will be deeply missed.

2010 Update:

Four tracks from In A Free Land were given to Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult to work with in his own home studio. For the first time in 25 years, I became aware that the reels were not destroyed, as I had been previously led to believe.

2011 Update:

Out of the blue, four reels’ worth of 16-track digital files found their way to my Portland home, which means that I can finally continue the work I started all those years ago, now that everyone else has had their fun. You know what they say, some kids never grow up …

These recordings exist:

Borrowed Time
[BT-1; cassette album]
(1983)

Phil Schuster [aka “Zel From Hell”]:
vocals, guitar
Melne Murphy:
vocals, guitar
Ginger Kaufman:
drums, percussion
David Hartman:
bass

The debut cassette album from Borrowed Time, documenting the first recordings of the post-Difference line-up with Ginger Kaufman and David Hartman.

cassette A-side:
1. Dream In Light (2:50)
2. What I Can Have (4:15)
3. Empty Crowd (2:51)
4. For Those Who Never Sleep [instrumental] (4:15)
5. Information (3:41)
6. The Ocean [U2] (2:27)

cassette B-side:
7. Love Junkie (4:51)
8. Annie Isn’t Normal Anymore (4:15)
9. Interlude [instrumental] (2:50)
10. Jimmy’s Germs (2:43)
11. Here To There (4:09)
12. Books [Echo + the Bunnymen] (1:30)

All songs recorded 7-8 January 1983 by Melne on 4-track reel in the Borrowed Time practice space

What I Can Have; Empty Crowd; Information; Love Junkie;
Annie Isn’t Normal Anymore; Jimmy’s Germs: words & music by Phil Schuster

For Those Who Never Sleep: music by Phil Schuster

Dream In Light; Here To There: words & music by Melne Murphy

Interlude: music by Melne Murphy

The Ocean: words & music by U2

Books: words & music by Echo & the Bunnymen

All songs included in this sound recording © 1983; Borrowed Time / Forth World Ltd.

This sound recording was engineered and edited by Melne Murphy; and mastered by Colin Mansfield and J.Free.

Living On Borrowed Time
[BT-2; cassette album]
(1983)
The last studio & live recordings of the original line-up; live at Goofy’s Upper Deck

Phil Schuster [aka “Zel From Hell”]:
vocals, guitar
Melne Murphy:
vocals, guitar
Ginger Kaufman:
drums, percussion
David Hartman:
bass

The second cassette album from Borrowed Time, documenting the final recordings of the post-Difference line-up with Ginger Kaufman and David Hartman.

cassette A-side:
1. Kill Yourself Slowly (6:24)
2. Everybody Leaves This Town (3:01)
3. Anorexia Nervosa (2:38)
4. Finger Touching (4:43)
5. Reproduction (3:05)

cassette B-side:
6. Runaway Car (2:52)
7. Don’t Call It Love (2:40)
8. Love On Mars (5:59)
9. Nothing’s Forever (3:25)
10. Americana (2:59)

1: Mixed & engineered by J.Free; Borrowed Time practice space 14 February 1983

2, 5, 6, 7, 9: Live mix by J.Free; Upper Deck 24 March 1983

3, 10: Live mix by J.Free; Upper Deck 15 February 1983

4, 8: Recorded at D.K. Studios 27 May 1983

Kill Yourself Slowly; Everybody Leaves This Town; Anorexia Nervosa; Finger Touching; Reproduction;
Runaway Car; Don’t Call It Love; Love On Mars; Nothing’s Forever: words & music by Phil Schuster

Americana: words & music by Melne Murphy

All songs included in this sound recording © 1983; Borrowed Time / Forth World Ltd.

This sound recording was engineered, edited and mastered by J. Free.

Fair Warning
[BT-3; cassette album]
(1983)

cassette A-side:
1. Kill Yourself Slowly (6:41)
2. The Window (7:48)
3. Finger Touching (4:43)

cassette B-side:
4. Strangers (4:43)
5. Law Of The Land (5:55)
6. Americana (3:29)
7. Streetwise (4:55)
8. drum jam [J.Free: congas and Dr. Rhythm] (3:19)

Phil Schuster [aka “Zel From Hell”]:
vocals, guitar (Les Paul Jr.)
Melne Murphy:
vocals, guitar (Les Paul)
J. Free [aka “Free”]:
vocals, conga, percussion (Dr. Rhythm)
Joe Casual:
bass

The third cassette album from Borrowed Time, representing a marked shift in both the sound and the songwriting direction the group would embark upon.

Zel contributes a live rendition of “Kill Yourself Slowly”, and a studio version of “Finger Touching”.

Melne’s “Americana” is revisited here, and also undergoes a complete transformation as “Law Of The Land”, featuring J.Free on vocals, and which would go on to become a staple of the group’s live sets for the rest of their existence.

J.Free is presented here for the first time as a songwriter as well as a vocalist; offering two of his own original songs, in addition to providing acoustic percussion.

2, 5, 7: 20 August 1983

3: August 1983; recorded in Joe’s basement; mixed & engineered by J.Free

4, 6: Seventh Street Entry, 16 September 1983

1, 8: either 20 August 1983 or 16 September 1983

Kill Yourself Slowly; Finger Touching: words & music by Phil Schuster
The Window: words: J.Free / music: Melne Murphy
Strangers: words & music by J.Free
Americana: words & music by Melne Murphy
Law Of The Land: words & music by Melne Murphy; arr. J.Free

All songs included in this sound recording © 1983-1984; Borrowed Time / Forth World Ltd.

This sound recording was engineered, edited and mastered by J.Free.

Songs That Come True
[BT-4; cassette album]
(1983)

cassette A-side:
1. Practicality (6:16)
2. “rock and roll minneapolis” (00:02)
3. All My Friends (3:26) >
4. Contradictions (4:09)
5. Perfection (5:19)
6. Logistix (poem) [from a different performance (1)] (1:13)

cassette B-side:
7. Logistix (3:58)
8. Stay Ahead (7:56)
9. Law Of The Land (6:42)
10. Death Camp [from a different performance (2)] (6:55)

J. Free:
vocals, conga
Melne Murphy:
guitar
Jim Meyer:
drums
Joe Casual:
bass
Wendell “Win” Patrick:
bass
Reggie:
additional percussion

The fourth cassette album from The Borrowed Time Big Band & Trio, featuring an expanded line-up and an equally expanded musical direction; recorded live at 7th St. Entry

1-5, 7-9: 22 November 1983:
J. Free: vocals, conga
Melne Murphy: guitar
Jim Meyer: drums
Joe Casual: bass
Wendell “Win” Patrick: bass
Reggie: additional percussion

6: 7 October 1983:
10: 2 December 1983:
J.Free: vocals, conga
Melne Murphy: guitar
Joe Casual: bass
Dr. Rhythm: percussion

Practicality; All My Friends; Contradictions; Perfection; Logistix: words & music: J.Free

Stay Ahead: words: J.Free / music: Wendell Patrick

Death Camp: words: J.Free / music: Melne Murphy

Law Of The Land: words & music: Melne Murphy; arr. J Free

All songs included in this sound recording © 1983; Borrowed Time / Forth World Ltd.

This sound recording was engineered, edited and mastered by J.Free.

I.C.B. [AKA Ian Clearly Breathes]
[BT-5; free “bonus” cassette album]
(1984)

1. Komakino (3:51)
2. The Sound of Music (5:15)
3. The Only Mistake (4:29)
4. Shadowplay (3:30)
5. New Dawn Fades (5:55)
6. Transmission (3:29)
7. Dead Souls (4:55)
8. Digital (3:19)
9. Ceremony (3:19)
10. Decades (6:14)

Melne Murphy:
guitar, vocals, bass, keys
J. Free:
vocals, guitar, keys, bass
Bill Wilson:
drums
Ward Harper (aka idb):
bass, guitar, keys

A tribute to Joy Division; live in the studio
[original drawing of Ian Curtis © Ward Harper / idb ; 1984]

One early project we put together as part of a cassette release was a tribute to the late Ian Curtis, of the band Joy Division. The title for this 10-song tape was I.C.B., which was itself the name of a song by the band which succeeded Joy Division – New Order. Ward suggested that the initials might stand for “Ian Clearly Breathes”. This understated little cassette was recorded live in our practice space, on a boom-box, in two breakneck sessions, with only a few minor edits made to the tracks themselves.

We never sold a single copy, due to the material being copyrighted, but in the days of our cassette albums, we simply included it as bonus tracks on the B-side of one of our other releases. So, I know that one or two people out there might actually still own a copy – it even received some local press when it was released, something along the lines of how yet another local band had decided to “jump on the doom-and-gloom bandwagon”. Ah, God bless music critics everywhere. The ironic thing about a criticism like that was that Ian Curtis’ death – which, presumably, affected the impression many people formed of Joy Division – hadn’t really made an impact on me at the time. On a personal level, I was responding to what I perceived as a profound, triumphant, energy in the music itself.

2007 UPDATE: In the spirit of the recent film about Ian Curtis – “Control”, directed by the renowned photographer Anton Corbijn, I was inspired to dust off a copy of our humble tribute, and make them available through this site as downloadable .mp3s. As a bonus, I’ve included two additional tracks that were not on the original release: a 4-track version of “Atmosphere”, which I recorded with a miniature Casio and some backing tapes, and a live version of “New Dawn Fades” from the Seventh Street Entry, circa 1983. Both of these tracks can also be found on the double-album-length compilation cassette “From The Forth World, vols. 1 + 2”, which was released in 1985 on Borrowed Time’s own Forth World Ltd. label.

2014 UPDATE:
In the interests of not being sued – or at the very least, being served with one of those cease and desist type legal documents – I’m holding off on posting the Joy Division tracks until I can clear the rights for mechanical royalties, so I can legally host the tracks on Soundcloud, at the very least. Sorry about that. They are definitely worth hearing, in my humble opinion, but I don’t want to risk having my hosting pulled. Hopefully I can get this cleared up sooner than later, but for all my diligence, I’m coming up empty-handed with regards as to how to clear up licensing, etc., and at least two music lawyers I spoken to have been no help whatsoever. Anyone who has any serious advice on this, please get in touch! Wish me luck.

all songs © 1979-1980; Fractured Music.
words & music by Ian Curtis / Joy Division.

Performed by Borrowed Time; 27 June & 1 July 1984.
Recorded, edited, and mastered by J.Free.

Anarchy In The Yukon
[BT-6; cassette album]
(1984)

cassette A-side:
1. Instrumental T (4:26)
2. Slang For Father [instrumental] (3:07)
3. Logistix (4:05)
4. Ceremony [New Order] (3:30)
5. Stay Ahead (4:52)
6. Saviour (4:15)
7. Dark Ages (2:54)
8. Practicality (5:56)
9. Villiers Terrace [Echo + the Bunnymen] (3:47)

cassette B-side:
10. Prisoner (5:20)
11. New Dawn Fades [Joy Division] (6:30)
12. Law Of The Land (5:51)
13. Missionaries (6:40)
14. The Window (8:53)
15. Strangers (5:26)

Ward:
bass, guitar, keys
Melne Murphy:
guitar, bass, keyboards
J.Free:
vocals, guitar, bass
Bill:
drums

Three-night stand, live at The Yukon Club.

The sixth cassette album from Borrowed Time, featuring what turned out to be the definitive line-up; recorded on a boombox, and compiled from the three original master tapes of the three-night stand at The Yukon Club.

1 – 5: 2 September 1984

6 – 8: 3 September 1984

9 – 15: 4 September 1984

Instrumental T; Slang For Father [instrumental]: music: Melne Murphy / Ward Harper

Logistix; Strangers: words & music: J.Free

Ceremony: words & music: New Order

Stay Ahead: words: J.Free / music: Wendell Patrick

Saviour; Dark Ages; Prisoner; Missionaries: words: J.Free / music: Melne Murphy / Ward Harper

Practicality; The Window: words: J.Free / music: Melne Murphy

Villiers Terrace: words & music: Echo & the Bunnymen

New Dawn Fades: words & music: Joy Division

Law Of The Land: words & music: Melne Murphy; arr.: J.Free

All songs included in this sound recording © 1984; Borrowed Time / Forth World Ltd.

This sound recording was engineered, edited and mastered by J.Free.

The Last Dance
[BT-7; cassette album]
(1985)

cassette A-side:
1. Stick My Neck Out (3:00)
2. Saviour (3:59)
3. Wrath Of The Quails (2:14)
4. Prisoner (5:19)
5. Slang For Father (4:05)
6. Instrumental “A” (2:23)

cassette B-side:
7. Ascension (6:38)
8. noise (1:45)
9. Pulse (4:44)
10. Dark Ages (3:03)
11. Aftermath (4:54)

J. Free:
vocals, keyboards, guitar
Melne Murphy:
guitar, bass, keyboards
J.:
vocals, guitar, bass
Ward Harper:
bass, guitar, keyboards
Bill Wilson:
drums

The final performance of Borrowed Time, recorded live at The Whole Music Club 10 February 1985.

This is a re-mix of the the original soundboard recording, which was transferred to 4-track reel, and to which various overdubs were added, to correct deficiencies in the original tape. No parts were deleted or replaced in the tape transfer process.

Wrath Of The Quails; Instrumental “A”; Pulse: music: Melne Murphy / Ward Harper

Stick My Neck Out; Saviour; Prisoner; Slang For Father; Dark Ages: words: J.Free / music: Melne Murphy / Ward Harper

Ascension; Aftermath: words: J.Free / music: Ward Harper; arr. Borrowed Time

All songs included in this sound recording © 1985; Borrowed Time / Forth World Ltd.

This sound recording was engineered, edited by Melne Murphy / Ward Harper / J.Free; mastered by J.Free.

Various Artists
From The Forth World Volumes 1 & 2:
A Forth World Sampler
[BT-8; cassette album]
(1985)

Featuring:

Borrowed Time
Melne Murphy
J.Free
Gash/Dead Fists
Blacki
SS/Sloth
Sloth
Lost Spring Quartet
SS/Free

Double-length compilation; solo and collaborative works from the members of Borrowed Time, and their musical extended family.

cassette A-side:
Borrowed Time:
[previously unreleased works; recorded between 1984-1985]
1. Theme From A Western (5:21)
[4-track recording]
2. Pulse (4:22)
[4-track recording][J.: feedback sustain guitar; Ward: bass; Melne: chorus guitar; Bill: drums]
3. West Meets East (2:55)
[4-track reel of Pulse played backwards and re-mixed as a new track]
4. New Dawn Fades (5:41)
[Joy Division cover][live from the Seventh Street Entry]
5. Ascension (6:12)
[live recording; possibly Seventh Street Entry]
6. Wrath Of The Quails (2:19)
[live recording; possibly the re-worked soundboard-to-4-track version from The Whole]
7. Instrumental “A” (2:22)
[4-track recording]

Melne Murphy:
[previously unreleased solo works; recorded between 1982-1984]
8. Theme 1 (4:26)
[4-track solo recording]
9. Steep Incline (2:41)
[4-track solo recording; themes which would re-surface later in Saviour]
10. Theme 2 (4:01)
[4-track solo recording]
11. Streetwise (2:44)
[4-track solo recording]
12. Interlude (1:07)
[4-track reel of Interlude played backwards and re-mixed as a new track]

cassette B-side:
Free:
[previously unreleased solo works; recorded between 1982-1984]
13. Atmosphere (4:31)
[Joy Division cover][solo 4-track recording; vox, Casio, drum machine w/live percussion mixed to 4-track reel]
14. Jazz Enterprise (2:42)
[drum machine, bass, guitar]
15. Trembly (3:10)
[drum machine, two guitars]
16. Carousel (1:39)
[bass, two guitars]
17. Riding The Dusty Trail (2:53)
[drum machine, two guitars]

Gash/Dead Fists:
18. Jesus Train (5:33)

Blacki:
19. Bird Party (1:45)
20. Excerpt from “Muted” (7:31)

SS/Sloth:
21. Nurembourg Waltz (3:36)
[vocal: SS; music: Sloth]

Sloth:
22. Tin Soon (3:08)
23. Saladin Sky (2:23)

Lost Spring Quartet:
24. The Sitting Room (2:32)
[J. Free: solo 4-track Casio recording;
[ – This track also appears on: Free: Facades cassette album; 1985]

SS/Free:
25. Signs For Demand (3:05)
[vocal: SS (first segment: written by J.Free; second segment: words by SS);
music: “The Birth Of The Terrible Infant”, by J.Free (very first 4-track recording; circa 1982; previously unreleased)]
[ – This track also appears on: SS/Free: Conversations In The Subatrium cassette album; 1985]

All tracks included in this sound recording © 1985; Forth World Ltd.;
individual tracks belong to the respective artists.

This sound recording was engineered and edited by Melne Murphy / Ward Harper / J.Free; mastered by J.Free.

In A New Land [CD-R (1985)]
The swan song studio album

Borrowed Time
The Last Dance / Live at The Whole [concert video]
[DVD-R (2008)]

Melne Murphy:
guitar, vocals, bass, keys
J.Free:
vocals, guitar, keys, bass
Bill Wilson:
drums
Ward Harper (aka idb):
bass, guitar, keys

I think we knew ahead of time that this was going to be the last show. As those those things go, it may have been our best one. We managed to represent a little bit of every phase of our development, including some songs each of us had created before this was even a band.


VIDEO CLIPS:
Borrowed Time
The Last Dance / The Complete Final Concert
live at The Whole Music Club in Minneapolis, MN
10 February 1985

*** These video clips are currently not available online, as I’m trying to find a suitable replacement for video hosting,
other than vimeo or youtube; neither of which are acceptable.
I’m open to suggestions; please get in touch if you have any ideas!! ***

Thanks to Michelle Strauss for booking us, and thanks to everyone who showed up and gave us a fond farewell.


words: J. Free; music and arrangements: Melne Muphy + Ward Harper, except:
Ascension; Aftermath based on original themes by Ward Harper; © 1981.
Streetwise: words & music © Melne Murphy; 1982.
Prisoner; Strangers: words & music © J.Free; 1982.
The Wrath of the Quails: music & arrangement © Borrowed Time; 1984.
Law Of The Land: based on an original theme + poem by Melne Murphy; additional lyrics by J.Free.

Original video recorded by Sean Smuda.
Original 4-track/soundboard audio mix by J.Free + Melne Murphy; 1985
3-source video/audio matrix; re-worked by J. Free.
Slide show projections: Nick Leonard.
Analog-digital transfer & editing by J.Free.

DVD menu photo of Borrowed Time © Sean Smuda; 1984

The Buck Dharma 21st Century Re-mix Project
Four tracks from the 1985 In A New Land sessions
re-mixed by Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser of Blue Oyster Cult
(2010)

For the first time in 25 years, I became aware that the reels from our 1985 recording sessions were not destroyed, as I had been previously led to believe. These four tracks came to me in 2011; the story seems to be that Buck Dharma was building a home studio, and was given these tracks to experiment with.


Seriously. Completely out of the blue, one day I found these .mp3s attached to an e-mail. It was the first indication I had in over two decades, that the masters we had recorded back in 1985 still actually existed, and that they had been offered to the Blue Oyster Cult guitarist as a home studio project. Considering the number of old bandmates who had already taken their leave of this mortal coil, I suppose I felt (among other things) fortunate to have remained alive long enough to hear this. C’est la vie, I reckon …

When the tracks were sent to me, these notes were are the info that was included:

The Last Danse (2)
Practicality
Process (1)
Streetwise (4)

Are the parenthetical numbers takes? Versions? I don’t know. That’s all the information I was given.

Here are my initial reactions to hearing these re-worked tracks for the first time, along with whatever else popped into my head while listening to them.


The Last Danse:

It sounds like Buck really picked up on what I was trying to do with the call / response vocal overlay thing. It was more of a poem than a song per se, at least my input. This version sounds more cohesive than the original, and pretty accessible, although it suggests to my ears some other ideas that could easily veer off into early Fall / Pere Ubu territory.The “left” or first vocal part could be processed as though through a slightly reedy bullhorn, more like radio static, less echo-ey voice and more compressed or strained sounding. There is some room for an almost ambient kind of crowd noise, to offset the vocal – not like applause, but the sounds of a crowd – shouting, like at a dance, or some public function. The “right” or second vocal part might also be less echo-ey, sounding more like it’s coming from right inside your own head.

I think this one was put together in the studio, and was never performed. I wrote the lyrics to the music the others created. The words were my response to the painting we had purchased a few years earlier from Kevin Johnson, which had provided the band with a logo – along with the title of this song. He had tried to tell a story about an event in his painting. If it’s true that a picture paints a thousand words, then I was trying to take those words and put them into their own context.

When this song was originally recorded, I whistled a little tune at the beginning. Though it wasn’t an essential part of the piece, it somehow seemed appropriate at the time. It was actually a bar from “The Love You Save”, by the Jackson 5. I don’t think anyone else appreciated that bit being there, and it is completely absent from this version. So it goes.

Practicality:

Whoa. Okay, when I first opened the file and looked at it in a waveform, I knew it was going to hit hard. The levels blow the top and bottom away at the same time [re: loudness wars]. The benefit is that the reedy keyboard sound is sufficiently squashed, and the guitar slashes its’ way through the entire song, building a steadily increasing intensity, like the anthem I wanted it to be when I wrote it. The bass line is as funky as a rubber band, and the drums are tight like buttoned-down trousers. The vocal harmonies are glorious. There is nothing wrong with this. Why didn’t we think of doing it this way?

Streetwise:

This seems straightforward enough – essentially, a poem given a framework for a righteous bit of guitar harmolodics. Did it really come together that effortlessly, or did the production save it? I seem to remember this one being a bit difficult, more often than not.I can’t help being super-self-conscious about trying to find my “voice”, while singing someone else’s words – particularly if that person is right there in the same room, playing guitar, and hearing my efforts at translating their creation. In some ways, I had to work harder at a collaboration like this than with my own compositions, because I want to do justice to the other person’s contribution. I think I pulled it off here, at least.

The vocal started out fairly “normal”, and lapsed into something a bit more contrived by the last verse. That kind of affectation was something I was always undecided about at the time. I thought that the effect added something vital in situations like this, but I also wondered if it was too “fake”. I guess I thought the approach was appropriate at the time. Hearing it in this context, it still seems appropriate.

The guitar certainly sounds fluid all the way through to my ears. There is a particularly nice bit of interplay at the beginning, as the bass line weaves around the introductory guitar melody. This becomes something of a recurring signature later in the song, and the arrangement is solid.

What is there to be critical about with this one? Well, okay…there is a surprise burst of what sounds like coil reverb applied to the vocal near the very end, and while it provides an interesting effect, I’m not sure that it adds anything vital. Did we put that there, back in the ‘80s? Also, I think it would be effective if the final repeated vocal actually faded incrementally, into the distance, considering the lyric alludes to this.

Process:

Ahhh, the Glenn Branca style approach to anthemic rock. I loved this song, even though it never existed outside out the studio. If memory serves, it was actually constructed entirely within the studio walls, and never even performed live once. This recording certainly sounds bigger and more lifelike than I remember it, but I think that most of the tweaking here is fairly subtle. The arrangement itself had an escalating intensity built into it from the start.I’m divided on the application of delay, on the drum track at the beginning, as well as the vocal interim, just prior to the last verse. The effect is cool, although I think about half as much might be even more cool. I think I envisioned the vocals having less of an echo effect, and having more of the kind of presence you hear when you hold your hand in front of your face, and talk into into it. I love the way the guitar harmonics come off like church bells during the midsection, though. It’s really a shame we never got to play this one live.


All in all, this could make a fine vinyl EP.
My suggested sequence would be the same as the running order on this page:

Side A – big anthemic rock side
Process (3:14)
Practicality (6:04)

Side B – introspective poetic side
Streetwise (3:13)
The Last Danse (4:02)

Then again, since we’re living in a digital age, they would probably just end up being “bonus” tracks tagged on the end of the album.

But then… I keep wondering if the digital era supersedes the notion of an “album” – meaning that unless a group of compositions were intended to be compiled as a singular body of work, each piece of music stands independently on its’ own.

Perhaps?


BORROWED TIME

Buck Dharma 2011 re-mixes

Process & The Last Danse © 1985; Borrowed Time
words: J. Free / music: Borrowed Time

Practicality (words & music) © 1983; J.Free

Streetwise (words & music) © 1981; Melne Murphy

All songs performed by Borrowed Time;
originally recorded in 1985 by Jeff Labelle at Pax Studios; Apple Valley, MN
re-mixed in 2010 by Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser

Various other live recordings, rehearsal tapes, and studio outtakes also exist, and may or may not ever see the light of day.
We are, however, registered in The Library Of Congress.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum
(Say nothing but good of the dead)

Borrowed Time In A New Land inlay photo
Borrowed Time from the In A New Land photo session: Melne, Bill, Ward, J. [photo © Sean Smuda]