“Malcolm writes and performs folk-based rock and pop music on acoustic and electric guitar, in groups and solo. Having emerged from the diverse New Haven, CT punk/DIY music scene of the late 1970s, he takes inspiration from mixing musical genres to reveal new avenues of expression. Folk ballads, country and pop art song, rockabilly, R&B and gospel roots music are his ingredients, that blend into a distinctly 21st century American groove.”
At 16, I began teaching myself how to play on an old beat guitar with rusty strings my uncle gave me when he worked at Magnus Organs. My method involved listening to the radio and trying to pick out a single note that sounded like it fit. I started making good progress the next year, when my fingertips got frostbitten on a school ski trip, so I had ready-made calluses – but please don’t try this at home.
I put in major time my 1st year at college picking out single notes of melody while listening to Nils Lofgren and Neil Young records. I took a class in music theory that year too. It involved a lot of listening to Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”.
The only other class I took in music was a seminar on orchestration, which was risky, because I had such a limited background in both performance and theory, but my final project came out well. (Check back here for more about this later.)
Along the line, as I dropped in and out of school, my musician friends, notably and foremost my lovely and talented friend Virginia Wagner, felt sorry for me and took the time to show me some chords. I warily adopted them.
A few fine acoustic instruments came my way in those years, notably a Guild D25. I loved that thing. I think I sold it for rent money. I regret that. I bought an Aria Elecord in 1981. It was an early model from a small Japanese maker who later became quite large and successful, mostly by making guitars by subcontract for other brands. It’s seasoned nicely over the years.
Last year, I tried my first full hollowbody archtop guitar, and fell in love with the sound and the feel. Today, I play a 2009 Eastman AR810C. It has a handcarved spruce top, and a Kent Armstrong floating pickup. I think it suits me just fine.
Around 1976 I picked up my first electric guitar in a trade. It was my sweet ’66 Fender Strat, which I still own and have come to depend on.
After a few years of woodshedding, I started playing in local coffeehouses and bars in New Haven, CT. But the solo scene just got me ignored, and I wasn’t writing many songs of my own. I answered an ad in the local paper, placed by Cleveland transplant and unsung rock legend Craig Bell, who was looking to start a band playing what was then called “Punk” for lack of a better name. Firmly rooted in the first generation of what became known as New Wave, then Grunge, then Indie, with ears and attitude influenced by the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, the early Who, Hawkwind and Syd Barrett, our band called Saucers helped inspire a huge wave of talent and loud fun, mostly through our adoption of a downtown bar called Ron’s Place. Saucers contained a huge amount of talent, including Craig, whose previous band “Rocket From The Tombs” had split in two, to become Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys; Mark Mulcahy, who, after Saucers disbanded, formed Miracle Legion, and Seth Tiven, a post-Saucers cofounder of Dumptruck. In addition to Saucers, other bands came through Ron’s Place and New Haven in those days, influencing and being influenced by the scene, including the B-52s, REM and U2. Homegrown products of the Southern Connecticut scene of that era include Jon Brion, The Reducers, and Moby. Saucers opened shows for John Cale, Richard Lloyd, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Cheetah Chrome, Human Switchboard, and other rock innovators.
Saucers recorded and performed a number of songs I wrote (What We Do is up on YouTube). We played CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City before I left the band in 1979. I formed another original band called The Fixations, later known as The Sapphires when we moved to New York and played numerous gigs at CBGBs, Max’s and other Manhattan venues.
In 1981, I hung up my guitar and lived another life for a time…
But now, I’m back. I gig constantly, and write songs when I can steal the time. I love to play for new audiences and tell stories about the music. Come see me, we’ll have a real good time together.
Jack Halpin said:
Please put me on your mailing list, Malcolm!
Malcolm Marsden said:
Thanks, Jack, will do
Virginia Wagner Galfo said:
I would love to sit in with you, one day, Malcolm. We always had a great time making music together… and then the tempest intruded. So, till then, keep the faith!!
Malcolm Marsden said:
Lets do that, Virginia!