I’d like to tell you a story about a musician you’ve never heard of.
I think my peculiar tastes come from my parents. When we were growing up, music was always on around the house. All kinds of music. For most of my life, I’ve had very similar musical tastes to my parents. I grew up on Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Chicago, and so many others. I still love them to this day. Nevertheless, there were a couple years when I was in my early teens where my tastes were dramatically different than those of my parents.
I’ll claim this as the pinnacle of my teenage revolt. I suspect my parents would disagree.
One day, Dad put on something new and interesting: Toy Matinee. Specifically, Last Plane Out:
All of a sudden, things changed. My Dad and I loved this song, and in fact, this entire album.
Immediately we wanted to see what else was available by Toy Matinee. Unfortunately, this was their only album. Luckily not all hope was lost: there was a duo that were the driving force behind the album — Patrick Leonard and Kevin Gilbert.
Patrick Leonard is, among other things, a producer; his most notable collaboration is with Madonna.
Kevin Gilbert was a prolific songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He had written songs for many artists, and produced for some of the best, including Michael Jackson. By the time Dad and I discovered him, he had already passed away, in a peculiar way. We immediately embarked on a joint mission to collect any of Kevin’s work. A grade schooler with nothing but time on my hands, I was the chief researcher. An adult with a job, Dad was the bankroll.
As we dug deeper, and we found more of Kevin’s material, we loved his work more and more. We also found our musical tastes merging again.
But more than anything else, we found a fascinating story.
Kevin Gilbert initially caught a modicum of fame by winning a music competition with a progressive rock group he fronted. By winning that competition he caught the attention of the aforementioned Patrick Leonard, and Toy Matinee was born.
Toy Matinee was effectively ignored by the record label, and as such, never really got a lot of airplay. Kevin toured with a handful of musicians — without Leonard — in order to try to support it.
Among those musicians was his girlfriend, Sheryl, on keyboards.
Around that time, Kevin was meeting with a collective of other musicians in Los Angeles on Tuesday nights to talk shop and mess around. This collective, self-titled the Tuesday Night Music Club, met every week to goof off and write songs. Kevin brought Sheryl to these meetings as well.
Over time, the club started working on songs with Sheryl. This resulted in an entire album, which Sheryl released. When choosing the title, she looked back to the club for inspiration. Sheryl named her album Tuesday Night Music Club.
Once Sheryl Crow’s album was released, it was extremely well-received and got tremendous airplay in the mid 1990s. Her single, All I Wanna Do, won Grammies in 1995 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year. Sheryl herself won Best New Artist.
Since Kevin was listed along with several other members of the Tuesday Night Music Club as songwriters for All I Wanna Do, Kevin won a Grammy thanks to Sheryl Crow.
However, over time, Sheryl downplayed the influence of the Tuesday Night Music Club. She
presented herself as effectively the creative tour de
behind the album. This naturally deeply bothered the members of the Tuesday Night Music
Club; all of whom were left to wonder where things went so wrong for them.
Soon after, Kevin and Sheryl broke up.
The way Sheryl Crow treated Kevin and the rest of the Tuesday Night Music Club unsurprisingly led to some hurt feelings. The easiest way to describe how Kevin felt is to use his words:
And I know that you believe each new invention of the truth
And I know the next five minutes are what you’re trying to get through
The man who really loved you and believed you all along
Has seen the truth and shuddered and is singing you this song…
I saw you on my TV taking credit for my work
And I knew if I said anything that I would be the jerk
There’s always some ex-boyfriend, some jealous has-been clown
Trying to muscle in the spotlight, trying to keep the lady down
As someone who doesn’t usually pay attention to lyrics of songs, I’m surprised to see myself quoting them. And this isn’t the only song of Kevin’s with lyrics I really love.
One of my favorite songs of his is Tea for One. As a lonely high schooler who fancied girls, but didn’t receive much attention from them, Tea For One’s lyrics spoke to me. Kevin’s lyrics hit home in a way that most lyrics didn’t, and don’t.
Standing amidst the subway
He spies the lady of his dreams
And catches her stare, long enough to make him care
"Oh my Lord, if beauty has a name,
then hers must be the same . . . "
Kevin was taken from the world at just 29 years old. I am nearly four years older than he was when he passed away. It makes me sad to think of all the amazing music that he would have made if he were still here.
I still listen to Toy Matinee, Thud, The Shaming of the True, and his live albums regularly. Kevin’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir is haunting and powerful. I have had it in heavy rotation for nearly 20 years.
Though I’m sad that I’ll never get any new music from Kevin, I’ll always be thankful for his music bringing the tastes of my father and me back together again.