856 Green Street
We didn't know it yet, but it was also the end of almost-affordable housing in San Francisco, and the last time a group like ours, made up of the imaginatively-employed, could occupy such charming buildings in that several-blocks-long swoop between Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill.
The City was still small enough to be accessible and big enough to accommodate the dreams of our North Beach mixture of artists and capitalists, rogues and realists, the truly talented and the pretenders, living shoulder to shoulder in neighborhoods that would soon become inaccessible.
Sounds Of The City is based on real people and real events. It weaves together several stories, enhanced with authentic sounds of the city.
©Mathew Bamberg | Dreamstime.com
North Beach at Night
In a penthouse on Russian Hill, a certified City Celebrity (San Francisco treasures its characters, so no one disagreed when he named himself World’s Greatest Disc Jockey) fights his demons, waging a battle against failing health, hoping to continue life as he knew it at his old haunts on Broadway.
A few blocks below, on the same street and worlds away, we learned of his odd relationship with someone related to us, a gospel singer with her own demons, and their unlikely alliance began to connect the two of them to us.
One wanted desperately to stay in The City and one couldn’t seem to get there. Or, put another way, courtesy of Mr. Sondheim,
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move.
Everyone came to San Francisco that year. We crossed the bridges in a steady stream, in various stages of anticipation, trepidation, jubilation, or disrepair. We immediately declared it Paradise.
1101 Green Street
Sounds Of The City takes us up and down the hills, with stops at iconic locations. Contrasting the darker threads of personal drama are days and nights of pure adventure and sheer enchantment.
We begin our story in a perfect Victorian at 856 Green Street, a few steps away from Macondray Lane, where Armistead Maupin’s famous characters carried on. Those of us with addresses below Taylor Street were the North Beach rowdies. Three blocks and a steep staircase climb away was Russian Hill. When we reached the 1100 block, where the World's Greatest Disc Jockey resided, Green Street changed attitude as it changed altitude.
The sound of the foghorn in the afternoon was often our signal to gather with various and sundry other City characters at the Washington Square Bar & Grill, renamed the Washbag by Herb Caen. We met for cocktails and flirtations and job interviews and to tell each other our stories.
It was a year of shifting circumstances, startling revelations and changes, shaking us up to see where we'd land. It was an unusual year that couldn't happen again. That’s why some of us still talk about it. This isn't meant to be an elegy, but if it was, it would have one heck of a soundtrack.
Sounds Of The City will soon be available as an enhanced eBook and an audio download.
Click to hear an excerpt.
Written by Hoagy Carmichael & Johnny Mercer
Arranged by Todd Homme
Performed by BeBauchery
Trombone: Bruce Fowler
Acoustic piano: Harry Garfield
Guitar/All other instruments: Todd Homme
Voice and band recorded at Gigatory, Los Angeles
"Sounds of the City" post-production/editing/mixing by Steve Bradford, Steve Bradford Creative Services