Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Crack The Sky: Mr. President

Over the course of my career as an editor, I have had the pleasure to work on a number of rock videos.  The highest profile artist I worked with was rapper Big Pun at the height of his career, but my favorites were recording artists with ties to my native State of Maryland.  During college I had some peripheral involvement with Timothy Ratajczak's videos for The Ravyns and Growing Up Different.  Later I had the good fortune to work with Greg Kihn, who had a couple of Top 5 hits in the 80s, and Nils Lofgren, who is now a member of the E Street Band.  However, I started at the top.  My first real video was for Baltimore's biggest rock heroes:  Crack The Sky.

I grew up musically ignorant.  I was obsessed with the movies, but my musical taste was very limited.  It ran from BA - the Bach keyboard pieces I learned on the piano - to BE - The Beatles.  Still, I definitely knew who Crack The Sky were.  The rock stations played their music incessantly.  My sisters had some of their albums, too.  What I didn't realize was that the band was essentially a regional phenomenon despite the fact that their first album was declared the debut of the year by Rolling Stone magazine.  It would be no exaggeration to say that, in Baltimore, Crack The Sky was as popular as The Rolling Stones.

I first got to know John Palumbo, the chief singer and songwriter of Crack The Sky, when he opened a recording studio in Baltimore.  My friend Victor Giordano started working there as an engineer and, in my capacity as a broadcast producer for Smith Burke & Azzam, I started doing some radio spots there.  I must admit I was a little nervous when I first met John.  To a Baltimorean, it was like meeting Mick Jagger.

We got to know each other pretty well.  He called me his "mortgage payment."  I hung out quite a bit at his studio flirting endlessly with Terri, his sexy secretary.  One boring afternoon at the advertising agency, I edited a video to The Beatles' song "The End" which illustrated the story of America's involvement in Vietnam in two minutes.  John was one of the first people to see the video.  He immediately hired me to edit a video for a local band he was producing.  It was my first step on a career that has enriched and sustained me for over twenty years.

When I first met John, the Crack The Sky had just released "From The Greenhouse," an album that got some pretty good airplay all around the country.  I remember when I went one of my winding, driving vacations that summer, I dutifully made note of every place and every time I heard the title song on the radio.  When it came time to release the follow-up album, "Dog City," my friend David Butler was slated to direct the video and I was slated to edit it.  Here it is:

It was a great experience.  It is always great working with David Butler, and we were fortunate to work with one of my favorite cinematographers, the late Tom Loizeaux.  I was also delighted to get my niece Natalie in the video, and Joel, the son of my friends David and Teresa Miller.

I only have one regret when I think about my work with John Palumbo and Crack The Sky, and it has nothing to do with the video.  When I did that first video for John Palumbo, I asked him how much he charged to produce a song.  He asked why.  I said I wanted to record a song with my band The Atomic Enema.  He immediately volunteered to do it for free.  Then the strangest thing happened.  I got cold feet, which was odd, because I was always willing to play my songs for anyone -- especially the darker, more sarcastic ones.  (Like this one.)  I offered up an excuse.  I said, "I don't know, my band is so out of practice.  We haven't played in a while."  John said, "That's okay.  We'll play all the instruments ourselves."  Here it was.  What I always wanted:  To have one of my songs played by a real recording artist that I respected.  But I chickened out*....

Oh well.

At least I got to work with all the local musical heroes of my youth.

Except Face Dancer.....

*Interestingly, although I was afraid to play my songs for John, we ended up playing on the same stage at a party.  John was scheduled to close the show -- backed up by some members of Bootcamp, another popular local band.  I was supposed to do my Elvis impersonation right before him.  However, after John saw me in my custom-made jumpsuit, he suggested that we change places.  And we did.  So, technically-speaking, John opened for me. (Big Al Anderson, of NRBQ, also "opened" for me that night.)

Check out my book:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God

Some other fun videos I edited:
Face Dancer: Red Shoes
Greg Kihn: Horror Show
Nils Lofgren: Alone


  1. Thanks for the story Sean Paul. The names of the bands you mention were soundtracks of my Severna Park youth, Face Dancer, Bootcamp, NRBQ. Trolling the Anne Arundel weekend evenings looking for a chance to see any number of great bands in the area. Of course Crack the Sky still is like the Rolling Stones to me. I live in Tampa now and surprisingly enough have dug up several Crack LPs in used record stores here, including a cassette tape of Dog City. Thanks for sharing the story and video.

  2. Rock Roll, We probably stood in the same crowd at the same time watching bands! I'm glad I was able to bring back some memories of your Severna Park youth!