The Nu Spiritualism: Indie Music Marketing

The thought came to mind while watching the apple music commercial. Clarity. I am being marketed too as a creative artist with something to say, even in this glut of like minded folks.

Like you. And you.

And why shouldn’t I be marketed too? I spend money (or consider at least ) on books and websites to connect me to the largest audience possible to hear my songs.

And I realize that my decision making on where to put myself virtually is knitted together texts of faith and angle, something that gives a small advantage. Cause it’s the wild west out there. No one has a clue and the maze reconfigures monthly.

And it brings me to the spiritualist movement of the late 1800s all of knocking tables and ectoplasm. People went crazy for trying to reach across the veil and commune with the dead. And for every request, new technologies of bad science and melodrama were devised to refine ones access to the beyond.

I won’t be so cynical as to use the idea 9f snake oil salesmen. I do believe every new online music platform or least starts with real belief. It’s simply were cynical creatures. When some one sees a need, someone else needs profit from it.

Consider how we got here. The desire to share music among friends via Napster. In it’s design, it wasn’t created to upset the apple cart. It just did.

So pick your poison: seance or EPK? Spirit photos or the dream of going viral on YouTube? Tarot cards or download cards? Ancient texts or Twitter?

Whatever your choices, pack an extra thing in your ole’ kit bag: Belief.

Belief confounds the Improbable.

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The Nu Spiritualism: Indie Music Marketing

Your Parents Did It To Aerosmith

…And of course that makes sense, now. Here in the future (where you and I will spend the rest of our lives…). Cause look at them. Your parents, I mean.

Older and out of touch. With a ton of stories you will never hear from their lips. Good ones. Maybe a bit too much eye liner to combat the clock. Maybe Dad releases a country themed single to capture the market that he never knew existed till some Desmond Child’ish creation said ‘Hey Dad! Cornpone is the new black!’.

You listen to this decades Aerosmith and consider your folks and think ‘sure. I can see that. My parents are lame. Of course they would copulate to soundtrack music’.

And sometimes it takes a dude on a coffee buzz to adopt the Lester Bangs style of ‘wise’nd old coot’ to tell you the truth. And it may make you a bit uncomfortable hearing it. But that’s my job ….. no, jobs pay something….my calling. Yeah.

Here’s the truth: Aerosmith was once the coolest band on the planet. And your mom ran around like a tramp. And your dad followed her like a dog. God Bless America.

It’s is easy to forget….no…it is IMPOSSIBLE to remember how great 70’s Azimuth was. Not simply as ‘The USA’s Rolling Stones’ but the real skill, the real composition of a great Rock and Roll band, in every form. Live, studio, drug fueled exploits, models, childish inter-band turmoil (cause to be a Rock Star is to adopt teen hood as a lifestyle. And teens is dumb).

(Except you. Your special).

They wrote big hits, even then. ‘Dream On’ right out of the gate. ‘Mama Kin’ on that same debut record. But they really got interesting with their sophomore ‘Get Your Wings’. I suggest you go to the library (just kidding, kid)….I mean hit YouTube and find it and listen all the way down from tip to tail.

What you will note is that in the space of 2 records, they went from the blues based Boston band done good to something that started a whole new page in the Book Of Rock and Roll. ‘Lord Of The Thighs’ is page 1. I always wondered if this was Steven’s lil’ jab at the darker more Sabbath’y band of the era with that title, substituting ‘Your Thighs’ for ‘Of This World’. Alas, we will never know since Steven has clearly gone mad with syphilis and the drugs to treat syphilis (I’d like to direct the court attention to exhibit A, American Idol’…).

Aerosmith was firing on all cylinders at this point and continued with ‘Toys In The Attic’ and ‘Rocks’ and, in my opinion, deserve every blood red penny they make and throw at their butlers now based on this work.

The key to Aerosmith to me personally was always Steven Tyler and his incredible, indecipherable, single entendre lyrics and delivery of them. Tongue twisting, brilliant use of phrasing and rhyme. Really, the very first white rapper.

And his focus, which was always sex, girls, sex with girls, drugged sex with girls, sex with druggy girls. He elevated what could be considered a marginal (though fun sounding) life into real degenerate poetry. And had the voice, the linguist genius to wrap these images into unconscious on the beat jags that you find yourself singing at the most inappropriate times.

And why? Because they were young and did it like they wanted.

Like your parents. Who did it standing up. Listening to ‘Seasons Of Whither’.

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Your Parents Did It To Aerosmith

See The Boss Pedal, Be The Boss Pedal: An Argument For Digital Effects In Normal Conversation

As a clear sign that I have been driven mad, I have permanently effected the affects of this particular medulla oblogata with my recording within Dante’s digital pit, I have come to the realization that digital effects are not just for music.

Furthermore, I need to make a miracle machine (which is tricky as the dog ate my engineering degree) that puts digital effects where they belong: conversations. This may require we all walk around with permanent earphones on to get the effect (big and fat), but what are words worth? They are worthless unless you can EQ them to a listenable form and then blast them through BIG reverbs.

Effects will be the new punctuation. They will say. When I create the machine. I will be hailed as yet another distraction (like iphones and Instagram and insulin) that is keeping us from becoming the species we should be, in our most perfect and docile form.

Dull. Dullllllll. Im So Bored with your plain, simply heard speeches. Do me a favor…ask me that in Flanger. Phase me, baby.

Consider how it can really emphasize the conversations you are already having?

Don’t you feel cheated when you are angry and yell at someone and it simply dissipates? Try that with a big hall reverb. Now THATS angry and impossible to ignore.

What about ordinary dull conversations with people in the grocery line? Slip in some Digital Delay…and slowly build it, so your words leave your mouth and are suddenly bouncing, bouncing everywhere, every direction, every corner and crevice of the subconcious till theres no option for anyone but to turn away and look at the Star or People Magazine.

Late night and early morning? Need to talk to people but your too wasted to form words? Compression. Everything you say will have more impact, even if that statement is ‘I’m sorry I dropped the ball on the Perkins account.’. Your manager can only admire your honesty, forthrightness and deep sonorous tones. And this is how you get a promotion.

Tryin to explain away a prior bad act? Speak clearly through a Heavy Metal distortion. Raise the gain. Speak slowly and stare directly into their eyes and watch as they get confused, a little sad and go away.

Need a lil pickup in the bedroom? Ladies love a good Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, brother. Get all Issac Hayes and shit and lay it down.

My point being that we short change ourselves in terms of appropriate dramatics. Sometimes it takes a bit o’ science.

The REAL point being this record is killing me.

(dictated but not read in Vibrato)

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See The Boss Pedal, Be The Boss Pedal: An Argument For Digital Effects In Normal Conversation

Cock Rock Cage Match: Jonathan Richman VS Bad Company

It is a too rare treat to discover something unknown that completely confounds and compels you. Not something that you understand, not something that is reminiscent of some greater Universal work that you have loved all your known life. Not a genre or movement or draw on your hipster gland (‘this was made for US. THEY don’t get it’).

Something that steps into your head, pops the top and rearranges the contents until it fits. And starts subtly changing the definitions, the limits, of an art form. Personally, if not globally.

Something beamed in from some alternate dimension that was watered and fed on the culture your part of. But the zipper shows up the rubber monsters back. That’s not a regular monster. Not the monsters we’ve come to expect.

And where others get these particular kicks in deeper, darker LSD infused fugues, I opt for a more simplistic mind blowing. Make mine a Jonathan.

I never saw ‘There’s Something About Mary’. I never invested time in discovering The Modern Lovers. So I was completely unprepared.

With my first listen to Jonathan Richman, via a single dollar find at a flea, I was….uncomfortable. It’s hard to describe why. It’s almost felt like I shouldn’t be listening to this as a heterosexual male. It was effeminate. It was light and spare and the singing sounded like a joke. And the songs were simple and dumb.

Problem is I couldn’t stop listening. Morning, noon and night, that record became my constant companion. I wasn’t aware how much I was enjoying it; it was more akin to liturgical study. There’ was a great mystery within these songs. A personal X File.

I understood why I liked it. He is a walking history of Pop music as art form. Whether accurately describing, influence and actual sound of the ‘Fender Stratocaster’, or liberally borrowing everything in the American Rock and Roll canon for ‘Parties in The USA’, I recognized him as someone whose simplicity belied a truth, maybe a nostalgic truth, but still a truth.

And the arrangements he chose to work in were pure JpK bait. Spare, fat electric or thin electric, snare drum, maybe a bass. Some grand doo wop harmonies. I like my listening music to have lots of space for interpretation; let me make the melodies in my head, whether lyrical or musical. That way it’s a shared sport.

It is a universal truth and not one I’m the first to mention: the awesomeness of a rock and roll song is directly related to the number of instruments on it. Too many instruments, you are left to ride along. Too few instruments is like a Chinese fire drill. Everyone drives. Interactive and anonymous kicks. Good for everyone.

But….it took me a while to get here. Cause at first listen to Jonathan Richman, I could only think of Fred Schneider. In time, I came to love and admire the B-52’s, but that was not my first reaction. No. My first reaction to hearing the B-52’s was to take the tape out of the player (not my tape, nor my car) and whip it out the speeding cars’ window. But I was a kid. One expects to have such knee jerk reactions to alternative lifestyles at that age. Kids are dumb.

Which made my reaction to Jonathan Richman more….concerning. Cause I have evolved far beyond teens (I tell myself) and an adult isn’t allowed to have such juvenile reactions to things different. Not if they are NOT an asshole.

If you still believe all the things you did at 14 in the decade of 40’s, you may be an asshole. Ask someone you know. They will likely be honest, asshole.

And as usually happens, my immediate, visceral reaction revealed far more about me than the work of Jonathan Richman. Cause Jonathan is a man who loves woman. I would say he is right there with Paul Rodgers in terms of He Man chick slaying. Except in place of the scads of ex Zep groupies Paul dropped his bell bottoms for, I imagine that Jonathan had one woman he wrapped his twisting libido around.

Lets take Bad Company’s ‘Feel Like Making Love’. Demanding. In the vocal, you don’t get the sense that Paul doesn’t mean ‘making love’. I picture poses and literal fireworks. He sounds demanding. The girl may want to fake it and not upset the Tarzan of Love.

Now compare that too ‘Closer’ by Richman. A song about sharing a marital bed. With Jonathan proclaiming ‘closer…closer…’. He’s not discussing a close feeling or close deep talk. He wants in. He describes the dynamic with much grinding. Perhaps some frustration on his wife’s part cause the dude never stops needing to be ‘closer’. It’s erotic and truly identifiable for any guy whose ever been married.

Compare ‘Can’t Get Enough’ from Bad Co to ‘Every Day Clothes’. Now despite Paul’s insistent ‘I take what I want. And baby, I want you.’ I’m not convinced there’s much in it for said groupie aside from a night of telling Paul ‘It’s OK. it happens to lots of Cock Rock Stars.’ It’s not that it’s unbelievable. Its just a really authentic cartoon from a hack writer.

Jonathan digs his girl in her sweats and those unimaginable over sized sweatshirts. He’s likes that jussst fine. Jonathan is a realist. He loves his woman. He doesn’t need sheer fabric to remember whats beneath those figure flattening threads. It’s on his mind con-stant-ly. Closer. Below the clothes. Closer. Between the sheets, the clothes removed. Closer.

Take ‘Rock and Roll Fantasy’ and match to ‘Monologue About Bermuda’ for a real taste of fame and life on the road. Maybe it’s cause the concepts, the ideas that Bad Company existed in became so outdated so quickly that they couldn’t see….or just didn’t care….how cute they would be some day. Limousines and record companies covering the bar bills is so quaint it might as well have an ‘Olde’ before it. And sell Maple candy.

Where in the talk piece that is ‘Monologue About Bermuda’, you get the real sense of life in a traveling band: shifting sands, new influences, frustration, boredom, anxiety. A sense you are constantly repeating yourself. Plus it’s much funnier.

But…. boys love Bad Company. Everybody loves Bad Company. They are the waffle of Rock. Who doesn’t like waffles?

Richman is more of a crepe. Even I don’t like crepes.

But…I like Jonathan. I’m OK with that.

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Cock Rock Cage Match: Jonathan Richman VS Bad Company

The Indestructible Charm Of John Prine

Even when considering the wide world of Singer-Songwriters….and for the sake of clarity let’s focus on the ones that come with a possibly authentic ‘folksy’ charm (Will Oldham is not Will Rogers), John Prine is unusual.

It’s not that he can’t out ‘folksy’ most of these folksters, but this, in like everything he does, is seemingly effortless.

This came to me with a listening to ‘Live and On Stage’ where me charmingly mumbled his way through a story about Billy Bob Thornton in the introduction to the brilliant tribute to modern, real and ugly love ‘In Spite Of Ourselves’.

Thornton suggested to John he should write a song to close out the credits, something in line with the characters and John’s typecast ‘brother in law with low self esteem’ acting gigs. And in this song, with its references to panty sniffing and the erotic appeal of prison movies, he weaves a real and perfect argument that love is not a cosmic notion, that we don’t all feel and share love the same way.

And that is why John Prine is different. He understands the idea that there is no universal sense of happiness. We must hardscrabble and work too long days at pointless jobs. And pan for gold for our joy. He doesn’t sell a bill of goods that your bliss is anything but fleeting. But fleeting bliss beats no bliss.

The genre Americana was invented to describe John Prine. Not simply due to his knowledge of trad folk and blues forms, and a lyrical sense that can get timeless when focused on the social or political. Or when combining the two. As much as I love ‘Sam Stone’ from the first record, a perfect protest to post war malaise, its ‘Donald and Lydia’ that sticks with me.

A love story…maybe….but a love story for monsters. I don’t mean the fun mutated type, I mean people you wouldn’t elect to spend even a single second considering if not for the masterful pen and POV of Prine. And clearly he’s got some psychic in him, cause this is the Internet’s first real love song, though the Internet was decades away. It’s about longing and loneliness and desire to be desired by something, someone, somewhere.

Watching John’s career trajectory through his 70’s work is a lesson in Record Company History. Within his small simple songs, the infection of excess wormed in and horn sections and too many strings, too much studio. But his direction never wavered. He took this ‘being in the right place at the wrong time’ vibe and folded it right into the songs and kept writing them. In a sense, raising a mirror to the industry that they wouldn’t even recognize in 20 years time.

And now, an elder statesman, but not one with the mass appeal of a Willie Nelson, who everyone loves and generally gets. John operates in the shadow of the Music Industry buildings, with a faithful and true connection to his many fans that will have him only grow into deeper colors as he goes on and keeps writing.

In a perfect world, Prine would be Springsteen. But in a perfect world, we would have no need for the surgeon steady perception’s of John Prine.

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The Indestructible Charm Of John Prine

African Money

She swirled her wine in the glass, watched it spin.  When she could divine a direction in the rich burgundy, she drifted that way… this time, to the living room.  She did this most days, a random order game; a play at being involved, interested … it was what she did to pass the hours.

She flowed though the quiet house, raised her hands above her head, spun like a gypsy and laughed, a splash of wine kissed her cheek, all languorous movement, all slow motion beauty, staggered steps.  She wore the wine like a mink stole wrapped around her thoughts;  she recognized that thinking too much these days was a sure path to reasoning, and reasoning meant recognizing what her thoughts told her.  She couldn’t have that.

She made her own music as she stepped lively; there was no music in this place, nothing to dance to … she had alien radio stations that ran in her head; they kept the music pumping 24/7.

She slipped in the hall, her wine kissing the edge of the glass.  That made her nervous. There could be no evidence of what she did with her days.  There could be no wine stain, no red on the expensive foyer carpet; those were the rules.  She made the rules. She was the only player.

Using the wall for support, she focused on the couch and on the glass in her hand.  She walked like she was in a silent movie, exaggerated moves to convey that she was being careful, very careful.  She felt like Lucy, almost heard the live studio audience titter and erupt.  She laughed again, and almost stumbled.  That made her laugh too.

She placed the glass on the expensive High boy, off of the coaster, but still on the glass. ’That’s gonna leave a ring’ she said out loud … and the sound of her own voice startled her.  It was the first sound she heard in hours.  And collapsed on the couch, one foot dangled above the floor, swinging lazily.  She looked at the clock on the fireplace … Christ, hours left to go.

This was the calm.  He was the storm.  When he came home, it wouldn’t be her throwing herself in his arms.  No more of the heat, as it was, the period where clothes were just distraction, locations a matter of taste.  It wasn’t that now.  It was cold…and never so cold as it was come summer.  He kept the AC on, even on the mildest days. He didn’t like to see a tan on her ivory skin; she stayed inside.

She let her eyes walk around the room, at the historical furniture, that state-of- the-art entertainment center, the beautiful period touches.  It was a beautiful house.  It was something to be proud of.  It felt like an albatross to her now, it weighed heavy on her.  It was her abuser.  It stood in judgment of her.  The house witnessed how he broke her down, and had no sympathies.

She was drunk enough to consider it, but not drunk enough to actually burn it down.

Hours to go.  Then the Storm.  Then more hours.  She looked at the bowl on her coffee table, and the glass beads it contained, perfectly arranged.  It used to be an ashtray, back when they smoked, back when they did anything together.

She remembered her history.  Slave beads.  That’s what they looked like: tiny, pretty, used to attract people moved by tiny pretty things.  Completely worthless in a world real economy.

That seemed significant … she took a deeper swallow of wine and stopped that errant thought cold.

She wasn’t Cinderella. Cinderella was at least family.

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African Money

Heartbreak in Three Acts (The Vineyard Trip)

1

It was me and you (then)
And The Vineyard
Week before Valentine’s Day

I waited for this since late November…though honestly, much longer than that. You were worth waiting for (then).

On the ferry from Falmouth, I held you against the icy winds
You kept me from the rocking waves.

When we were close to each other there was always heat, though seldom warmth.

When we hit the Island, we drove to all four points, giddy, giggling

We hit Tisbury, stopped by the beach….you wrapped your scarf around my eyes
When it was revealed, the blue, blue water crashed into my soul.

I loved you at that moment…though honestly, much longer than that.

And back to the room.
Come dark, we went out for supplies
And I drove to the water….moon illuminated the rolling waves, rocks, the horizon that showed the sensual curve of the earth

And I asked you to dance with me in the sand. You laughed.
But I meant it.

And we did, radio up loud, headlights shining on us, we spun and laughed and kissed….

We said things we could never live up to (well, one of us did)

We were in love (then)

2.

My screen saver watches over me.
While I rest. While I play.
My screensaver watches over me.
A slideshow, filled with the digital pictures from this trailing year, all post Collinsville.

Pictures I receive, of anything, ultimately pop up in random order and strange juxtapositions align: a picture of four drunk girls in Mexican hats doing the can-can next to a smoky picture of myself, haggard looking, lighting a cigarette with the Meriden sky behind….hot red writers and the cool blue water of the New England Coast….assorted nude pix of a hot blonde mixed with measured, precise pictures of a dilapidated tower in East Hampton…pix of Mary Lou Lord melt into my dog, Wyatt, who met a young couple and moved to the country (the dog American Dream)…

But even random things have themes, at least in my definition of random.

It’s ivory and deep blue (waters and skies), green soft cotton lingerie, sand and muted reds. It’s all her; It’s always her. Damn it. Damn it.
Knowing her for a bit, I was shocked when she told me she had a tattoo. Actually, she didn’t tell me, it was one of those online surveys that asked a million small questions to divine the larger answers…and the question was: ‘Do You Have A Tattoo?’

‘Can I see it?!?’
‘Eventually….’ And the way she said it, I believed her.

And when I did, when I slid her jeans down for the first time, her hip wore a flower, faded, of many colors, each petal a mood in her, each petal a soft place to fall or jagged rock to throw myself on. I followed her jeans down to the floor and kissed it, stared at it, tasted it, ran my fingers across…

That was the first time I saw it, but not the last. I saw it in many ways, many angles, I rested my head there some nights.

And once, in the bed with an ivory cover and steel frame, with the soft noon light falling in the skylight, I took a picture….

Blue petals, red petals (all faded)…impossible to tell what it is, without the knowledge of it.

Impossible to forget.

My Screensaver Is My God. But it’s a cruel God sometimes.

3.

I look outside today, this 28th of May, the lush greens, the blues, the air sensual to the taste, and remember 9 years ago to the day.

Nine Years.

I bought you the perfect present (at a time I could scarcely afford food, but priorities…); I plucked it from my soul: Van Morrison ‘Astral Weeks’. I sent a note flirting with the idea of whether this was a romantic gift (this was not a romance, you reminded me, you always reminded me….but the way you smiled as you said it, it was a lovely contradiction. And one that came close to breaking me).

But it was a romantic gift, even without the oversized valentine style heart attached…it was the distillation of my heart and soul in that record….it was more personal than anything else I could give.

And I gave it to you willingly, happily…because I wanted you to know me. I wanted you to know when my heart beat and skipped, when my body creaked and moaned. Where my soul took its summer residency. I wrapped it with paper and a bow (something I never do).

And met you at the picnic tables, a brief 10 minutes before the show began. It was a beautiful Yankee spring day, before the humidity started to dot our clothes, before the sun turned much green to brown. The tables were in the shade, and I got there first, looked at the scene, and posed my self appropriately.

I didn’t think you would come, which says more about me than you.

But you did, work clothes on, and beaming. You always were a dark little character. When I made you smile, I felt like I was moving mountains, drinking oceans.

And you opened it, confused, but smiled just the same. And looked me deep into my eyes…and we kissed for the first time: sweet and yielding, hot…I felt every emotion in me flame up at your touch. I felt the day collaborating with my heart, painting perfection in only the way love and good New England weather could do.

I wrapped my arms around you; I felt your body advance into mine, hungry…

That was before that terrible summer. That was before we brought in November together. That was before the weekend in Tisbury.

And now, nine years later….a note sent: ‘Happy Birthday ______, I hope it turned out like you wanted’

I don’t expect a reply. Which says more about you than me.

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Heartbreak in Three Acts (The Vineyard Trip)