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Cool Blue Sky was formed in 1988 by Andy (A. C.) Arnold and Jim Behrens. Andy is a poet and graduate of the University of New Hampshire while Jim is a guitarist with many years of experience in the Boston music scene with The Memos. Originally formed to write songs and see what direction it took them, CBS eventually became a live band with a set lineup.

The early stages of CBS found Andy and Jim writing and recording demos on an 8 track Tascam deck with the help of many friends and colleagues including former members of The Memos and Kangaroo Kourt. Most notably at this time was the contributions of Dana Schmitz, former lead singer of The Memos and Kangaroo Kourt who lent his voice to numerous tracks as well as his guitar skills. Another contributor in these early days was Glenn Aarlequew, drummer from Kangaroo Kourt who played on most of the earliest recordings. It was in this formative period that Andy and Jim decided that many of their songs required a female lead vocalist. Dana Schmitz brought in a singer that he and Jim had known from their early days together in The Memos. Dana Maguvero provided lead vocals on 3 tracks and also introduced them to Annie Smith, who would eventually become the full time lead singer for Cool Blue Sky.

After releasing a self titled cassette in 1989, CBS moved forward with Annie as the lead singer and recorded two new songs for radio release titled “You”/”Fire out of Control”. “You” was submitted to a songwriting “contest” being hosted by ASCAP and it was chosen as one of eight songs to be showcased at a live workshop in Boston. The song was warmly received by the audience and panelists. This led to an invitation to join ASCAP. “You” went on to receive airplay on WFNX in Boston. These earliest recordings were produced by Alex Rodriguez, former guitarist and bass player with The Memos.

It was at this time that CBS made a decision to also become a live band and begin playing clubs in the Boston area. The band was formed by using the current studio lineup of John Riccardi (formerly of Kangaroo Kourt and Slab & the Tablets) on bass, Mike Mears a veteran of many Merrimack Valley bands on drums and backing vocals and Aram Krausen a student at Berklee School of Music on keyboards. Their first gig was at “Grovers” in Beverly, MA to an enthusiastic crowd including many friends and family who had never heard the band play live.

CBS continued to record and went into Rick Asmega’s “Reel Adventures” studio and put down two tracks titled “Pitcher of Milk”/ (It isn’t) Fair for radio release. This was the first set of recordings done outside of the 8 Track unit all previous songs were recorded on. Rick was easy to work with and many other sessions were done throughout the years. During this time the band became a cohesive group and began collaborating together musically and lyrically with a combined vision for the future. One of these first collaborations was a song titled “Tomorrow” with lyrics by Annie and music by John and Jim and was recorded at a studio in Worcester, MA. Another piece of music created at this time was “Skin of the Flea” with music by Aram and lyrics by Andy. This was Aram’s first song written specifically for CBS.

Annie had to step away from CBS for a period of time to deal with medical issues affecting her voice. During that time Nancy Brock was brought in to take over the lead vocal spot. Nancy had been vocalist for a Boston band called “Agint 99”. She also wrote many of her own songs and the band tried to find the right niche but in the end the chemistry wasn’t right and they parted ways. It was during this time that Jim, John, Mike and Aram began to hit their stride as a band and were creating new interesting music for the future.

In 1993, Annie came back to the band but unfortunately Aram had moved on. Paul Palumbo joined the band as a second guitarist and 6 new songs were recorded as a demo. The reunion would be short lived as Jim and his family made a career decision to move to Sacramento in late 1993. CBS last gig was played at “The Grog” in Newburyport, MA. In the years since, the core members have kept in touch and have had a couple of reunion jams where many memories and songs were played again.


Playlist: Click on song titles to hear music by Cool Blue Sky

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that it is already 2018.  As I promised on Facebook a few weeks back, we are going to explore a few new remixes of some classic CBS songs. Some are complete songs and others are newly discovered demos that became songs we played in our set or simply served as ideas to help us as songwriters. I will try to fill in the blanks on some of them and bring them to light from my perspective where possible.


Good Girl- This song has been featured many times on the website. Originally written in late 1989 on a 4 track cassette player at my home in Lawrence, we recorded this twice. Once with Glenn Aarlequew on drums which was more of a guitar driven version and then again in 1991 with Mike Mears on drums and Aram Krausen on keyboards at Alex Rodriguez’s house. This is an alternate mix of the latter and the one most people would be familiar with. I’ve made a few changes in the mix but didn’t add any instruments or take any away.

Small, Good Things- For a long time I felt this was one of our crowning achievements as a song. Originally written in 1989, I wasn’t sure where this was going, but i knew I liked the feel. This song was presented to Annie in its rawest form and asked her to come back with a melody as sort of an audition. She blew us away and we knew we had found our vocalist. This version is from 1991 and was recorded at the same session as Good Girl. We stayed true to the original arrangement with added backing vocals.

Kissing- This too was written in 1989 and when I first saw the lyrics the only thing I could think of was the kid’s rhyme “So and So sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G”. That’s how the chorus/hook was born. I knew it had to be a catchy uptempo number that would make people dance. I didn’t want to lose out on this great lyric from Andy. We changed the feel from the first recorded version in 1989 to make it a little more R&B flavored with the rhythm section and Aram’s piano filled in the blanks.

Kissing (Alternate take)- This is a completely different take from the same session and not just a remix. There is only a ghost vocal in the background to keep the band in place including guitar breaks. You can really hear Aram, John and Mike and how they drove the song.

Aram1- I’m not sure what the title of this was, but it is all Aram creating on his own. I’m sure when I heard this back in 1991 or 1992 I wasn’t sure what to make of it but listening now it is him trying things out, really experimenting with sounds and style. We probably argued over this and how we needed him to bring us commercially viable songs to the group. In hindsight that probably felt like me stifling his creativity and he did bring a number of songs to the group that we could play. In fact, his avant garde tastes and styles helped make us unique.

Aram2- A little snippet of something else Aram was working on. Just very basic and never finished.

Instrumental 1- Something I found on the tapes that I don’t remember a whole lot about. Nothing that I ever took to the band as a potential song.

Experiment in Terror- I’m calling it this because of the lead in before I started playing. I have another version without Aram’s keyboards but don’t think I’ve ever shared this version. What he played really made this a different song.

In a different Light- This is one of the very first demos of this song. I wrote this song on a Sunday afternoon in 1991 when the Patriots were mired in a 1-15 season. I felt I was on to something but wasn’t sure where it was going. A little like “Small, Good Things” although this time I knew what I wanted the keyboards to do once I found the lyrics. The lyrics actually came from a section of “Good Girl” that we didn’t incorporate into that song. Somehow, that small piece was enough for a whole song to stand on its own. I knew I wanted the piano to be very sparse in the verses and during the bridge I wanted the deep bass chords. For the bass I was influenced by Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls” to some degree.

In a different Light (Studio)- We recorded this in a studio in 1992 with Nancy Brock but in 1993 Annie went in and recorded her lead vocal. Earlier I mentioned that at one time I thought “Small, Good Things” was our crowning achievement, but I believe “In a different Light” may be the best of the bunch in some ways. The band knocked it out of the park building up the song supporting the lyric up through Mike’s magnificent drum fill coming out of the bridge into the final chorus. This is no sappy ballad, it is power and elegance combined if I may say so myself.  I was always trying to write something like “Tinsletown in the Rain” by Blue Nile. This is as close as I got. “Do I love you, Yes I love You”


Click on the links below to see the documents

ASCAP Songrwiting workshop. The song “You’ was one of 8 chosen out of over 100 entries.

ASCAP Membership letter.

First band bio

Second band bio

Third band bio

Original draft bio 1

Original draft bio 2

Good Girl

Kissing

(It isn’t) Fair

Pearl Grey