"Life is but a mere collection of what a man perceives it is he sees.
 Not really his intention, these Invented Memories."

(Invented Memories J card, 1992)Ellen in 1990 tour t-shirt

It didn't take long for the album bug to bite in Florida. Bugs are bigger and nastier down here, and that included the music bug. But I needed a band.

I have always been a night owl. I go to sleep well after midnight and sleep as late as I can. I completely get Jimmy Buffett's line about sleeping late and writing songs. The problem is, I was living in a nice riverfront apartment with a neighbor who locked his dog on his balcony with no water. That dog barked, and it faced my bedroom patio, and between us were concrete building sides. It was like an echo chamber. Finally I had had enough, and I went and pounded on the idiot's door. He wasn't home, but I didn't let that stop me. I was angry, and I kept on pounding. The next thing I know another door flew open, and a rather intimidating dude who I just woke up stormed right up to my face and screamed, "He's not home!" The guy who wanted to punch me in the face was named Nolan Thorsteinson, and I thought he was going to kill me, and I think he thought the same thing. I quickly explained why I was pounding, and Nolan looked up and saw the thirsty dog. It turned out he was an animal lover, and his anger was redirected to the idiot who locked out his dog. We talked, and I discovered Nolan was also a musician. He played harmonica and drums. We quickly became friends.

One day Nolan came to visit, and I was in the middle of writing a song called The Woman In The Portrait. There was something about the emerging song that touched him. He told me that I just had to meet one of his friends who hosted frequent jams. That guy turned out to be Dale Keppley, and we quickly discovered that we came from close towns and had actually been in State College just a couple of years apart, playing that same coffeehouse circuit. Before I knew it I had a guitarist and a drummer and dreams of dancing tape reels in my head. We didn't have a bass player, and Richard made the extraordinary offer to come to Florida to record bass and some guitar work. Keppley wasn't completely indoctrinated into the G. E. Sassani way of doing things yet, so they shared lead guitar duties. Now I needed a studio, and that turned out to be a search from the depths of Hell itself.

Our first stop was a guy named Gary Griffith. I don't even remember where we found Gary, but he had a home studio that he offered for very little money. I also found a keyboard player who went by the strange stage name of Ilian. Dale, Ilian and Nolan joined me as we started to piece a new album together. The tapes started to fly back and forth between Florida and Pennsylvania, where Richard and Kim worked hard to prepare. It even included a trip for me to Pennsylvania to do a final rehearsal with them before they made the trip. Time was short, and I had to make the drive as quickly as possible, so I popped those caffeine pills the truckers use and got there in record time. Richard offered me a pull of whiskey, which I don't normally drink. The combination was bad for me. Literally the next thing I remember, I was in downtown York, Pennsylvania looking for my van and without the knowledge of my hosts that I had left. Somehow I called home, and Ellen called Richard, and they worked out how to find me. Never did that combination again. Now we were ready to record. Richard and Kim arrived. We headed to the studio, which turned out to be a small room in a trailer. Gary didn't really know what he was doing, and the time was wasted. Ilian also let me down. He had sequenced his keyboard parts but ended up not being able to make the recording dates. He wouldn't lend me the sequencer with all of our work in it. Ellen ended up trying to nail some keyboard parts, but the days at Gary's studio left us with little to show for our time and a disappointing trip for the Jensen family.

Then I was introduced to Dallas Upton, who also had a home studio and an actual home that went with it. Dallas bragged a lot about working with acts like The Moody Blues, and he was better than Gary, but not by much. Richard came to Florida a second time, and we worked a week at Upton's studio. I thought it was an omen, because Upton's place was on Elliott Street. Again we ended up with pieces that weren't going to work, and we hadn't even gotten any drums started.

It was at a coffeehouse in St. Pete named CAMS where Ellen and I had started to make a reputation for ourselves. One of the common regulars was a guy named Russ Birch. He was working with CAMS owner Billie Noakes to create a CAMS sampler of the headline artists from CAMS. Of course I was included and went to Russ's studio to work on three songs for Billie to pick one for her release. Russ and I developed a good relationship, and we soon had a deal to record Invented Memories at Southern Sound Music. It looked like the Florida curse was ended, and it almost was. We could salvage Richard's bass work and some of Ellen's keyboards. But when Nolan tried to play drums, we all made a discovery. Nolan didn't suffer stage fright. He was fine on stage, but it turned out playing in a studio messed him up to a point he could not play drums on the album. Fortunately, Russ, as it happened, was a drummer, and was actually very good. He picked up the music ,and Invented Memories finally became a reality.

The title was taken from a line in a Dire Straits song that hit me as the perfect description of a song. It's still my favorite album title. I ended up writing the title track just days before recording started in Gary's studio, and it has become one of Ellen's favorite songs to play.

Invented Memories featured 14 songs: Invented Memories, Phantom In The Night, Is Everything All Right (Faster Than The Speed Of Light), Shoot Down The Sun, Haven't Got A Clue, Too Many Rules, Admiral, Separate Times, Galliant Breeze, Law Of The Jungle, The Wheel, The Woman In The Portrait, The Nightlight, and Invented Memories (reprise).

The band was a hybrid of old and new. Richard Jensen on bass and lead guitar, Kim Jensen violin and vocals, Ellen Sassani on cello, keyboards and recorder, Dale Keppley on lead guitar and vocals, and Russ Birch on drums. Nolan would still become a part of the album on harmonica. There were also a ton of guests on this album, and I'll address them in the songs below.

Phantom In The Night was my favorite song going in. Richard and I thought it was a nice power ballad and could have been a hit. The two acoustic leads he did were a happy mistake. He had two ideas, and we couldn't decide which one to keep, so we kept both with the idea I would decide when I mixed the album. I ended up finding these really cool places where they crossed, and I blended them. It was also one I liked enough to keep on the next album, because it would be my first on CD.

In Is Everything All Right (Faster Than The Speed Of Light), Dale ended up with the same problem of liking two leads. Once again I ended up finding that they crossed to create a wonderfully haunting sound that nailed the song. It was written about a real UFO encounter I had years earlier in State College. I was friends with another disc jokey that happened to be named Willie Nelson for real. We went fishing one night at this secluded mountaintop lake he had discovered. It was midnight on my birthday, and we were fishing for bass with frogs. That's when these bright lights in formation passed over us. They were completely silent with something solid and black between them to indicate it was a huge single craft. We ended up calling the military and local airports but never got a handle on what we saw. It was rather scary and still a vivid memory. I lost touch with Willie when he moved to L.A., and even with the internet, it's hard to find a guy named Willie Nelson. He never heard the song, and I often think about what he would say about it. Willie, if you're out there, call me, dude.

Shoot Down The Sun featured a local vocalist named Mark Blanton. His back vocals are very haunting. I don't know where Mark is today, but he did at least get to hear the finished album.

Haven't Got A Clue is a song I am no longer able to play. One of my friends on the coffeehouse circuit was a guy who used the stage name of Mad Anthony Wayne. Tony played sarcastic stuff that was tongue-in-cheek and wink-of-an-eye. He also had this wickedly fast strum. I've never seen anyone strum a guitar with such speed and furiousness as Tony. I asked him to join me on this one, and he created such an incredible strum pattern that I haven't been able to reproduce it ever. It's just not human.

The Woman In The Portrait was the song Nolan heard being written that got me the introduction to Dale. It also took the grand prize at the Festival Of States songwriting contest in 1986. People often ask me if there was a certain painting I had in mind. It was actually the museum that sits behind a park in West Reading that inspired the song. It also led to the greatest compliment anyone ever paid me about my music. Years later, I was playing in an ice cream store when I played this song. An older woman came up to me and told me she had waited 25 years to hear that song again. It turns out she heard me play it at a place called The Garden Restaurant in St. Pete. The song was a favorite of Billie and many of the regulars at CAMS. I ended up playing it on television interview shows, and it became almost as requested as Elliott, but without the airplay. Admiral would take first place (which was one down from grand prize) the next year at the Festival Of States songwriting contest.

The Wheel would become Ellen's favorite song, but I wouldn't know that for years. This version featured local singer Dan Joslyn on duel vocals with me. He had a wonderful voice, but couldn't quite learn the words, so there are some awkward moments in the song. If we had rehearsed more, this could have been a standout recording. Dan passed away of AIDS just a handful of years later, so we'll never have the chance to try again.

Separate Times contains one of Ellen's best cello runs. She was struggling with the song right up until the recording date, and she was nervous. I honestly hadn't heard what she finally came up with. When I heard this from the control room, I was floored. I still remember jumping on the studio intercom to tell her that someone has been into my ELO records. I think that brought the biggest smile she ever gave me in a recording studio. It's still one of her best.

Ron Adams, the radio program director who helped push Elliott, provided an on-tape contribution to the album. I had written a monologue to open and close the album. I had this idea that the album would start with sounds of wind and a storm with backward speech. A thunderclap would reverse the voice to forward speech and say the lines at the top of the page. We reversed the effect at the end of the album. He spoke the words I had written: "And now a chapter closes, and for countless centuries, what a quandary this all poses, these Invented Memories." A thunderclap, and now the voice returned to the backward speech of those final lines. He recorded it for me at his radio station. It was intended as a nod to the backward masking craze of my childhood.

The cover was also painted by Ron Adams. John DeHart and I had been involved in a rather interesting adventure that featured centaurs on a place called Neversink Mountain. I thought it would be a nice nod to the old days to feature a centaur, and Ron painted the cover for me.

One of the folks I met here in Florida who also lived in State College was Greg Lachs. He was a DJ at the same station where I had many friends in the 80's. We knew some of the same people and even discovered we were once at the same party, but we met through another friend when I moved to Tampa. He has a pretty huge passion for music and wanted to be a part of that world but didn't sing or play an instrument. He started out as a kind of advisor and ended up working as a sound guy for the future Florida band that was just still forming as Invented Memories was taking shape. He would journey back to State College with me in the summer of 1988, where I would reunite one more time with the original band. We'd take the stage at the Central Pennsylvania Festival Of The Arts with Jake Hain back on the soundboard. Another friend, Mark Schreader, took some wonderful photographs of the landmark concert for me. Ellen's father would videotape it, and Greg would introduce the band. He would serve as a transition from one phase of my career to another, and the ride just got crazier from there.

1988 Arts Festival, Richard, Gino, and John

1988 Arts Festival, Richard, Kim, and Gino

1988 Arts Festival, Richard, Kim, and Gino

1988 Arts Festival, Lorelei, Richard, Gino, and Charlie

1988 Arts Festival, Lorelei and Richard

1988 Arts Festival, Kim and Gino

1988 Arts Festival, Charlie and Lorelei

Invented Memories review, Players Magazine