Brush Your Death 100 Times A Day

After a brief period of death and resurrection (I should note that I neither died nor was resurrected. I do tend to be dramatic ) I have come out the other side of this mortality wormhole with knowledge. Well….not knowledge. ….let’s call them paranoia based lessons to live by. Or die by. Whatevs.

1) when we get sick, we go into Safe Mode. All higher functions miss the Start menu and you lose all ability to color your world or place your self in the frame. It’s hard to consider the Great American Novel when your your thoughts go into rogue survival mode. It’s ok.

2) freedom of choice drives everybody crazy…..to paraphrase X. And without the ability to appropriately focus on my entertainment choices, I let go and listened to satellite radio. That’s my version of giving up. And though I understand the appeal of new music discovery, I found the content was too light, too repetitive. It was good for my distracted state, but what does that say? Is the fear that if we get overly engaged we will drive into the ocean over and over?

3) life is precious. But precious things are by their nature dull. Live agressive.

4) if you survive, show off. Go public. Maybe plan a date to show off how alive you are with a dear cello playing friend. (Klekolo, August 18th @ 7:00 pm)

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Brush Your Death 100 Times A Day

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

The Fifth Horseman: Playlists

What is an album?

For the sake of clarity, Ill put a definition on it: approximately 45 minutes of a single artist or group of artists (or ‘band’ as the kids call them today)whose intent is to capture your attention, imagination and share some personal POV’s….or big comic book epic’s about Norse Mythology, whatever.

The expectation was that if you can create a ‘single’, a pop length taste with hooks and ‘legs’ (thats Hollywood talk I’m just misappropriating) then that would serve as bait for you to buy a Long Player. And take a trip inside the mind of the artist.

There’s a certain level of bait and switch in 85% of these releases. We have all bought a record based on a single and came away disappointed. I don’t believe there’s any guile attached to this. It’s only natural to lead with your strongest move, and if you could dance to it, all’s the better.

It’s craft. It’s musicians giving you what you want….but adding in their own acts of personal exploration and musework. And all it costs is 45 minutes of your time. A worthy investment…if the album doesn’t suck.

What is a playlist?

A playlist is a bait buffet. All killer, no filler. No single artist, songs based on moods or holidays or just for kicks. Some playlists capture a time they were created and always bring you to that point. The songs act as photographs reminding you that you of forlorn summer or that you once loved Terrence Trent Darby.

In a sense, you become the artist. You create the moods, call the causes and use your own sense of what works using others work. You mix era’s and genre’s, speeds and volumes based on whatever you feel like. Why make ‘Blood On The Tracks’ when you can create ‘Divorce Playlist Volume 1′?

When we discuss whats destroying the Music Business, let’s call it for what it is: Freedom. The freedom of the listener to cull through the history or recorded music and pick the particular tastes they savor. It is creation. It’s imaginary radio where you are the DJ, the sponsor and audience.

As a recording artist, it is a frustration. As someone angling for that 45 minutes of your time, it’s another obstacle. Another distraction in an increasingly distractable world.

What happened is music making moved beyond the music makers and became the trade of anyone inclined. This is progress. This is new.

And the one thing Playlists offer is discovery. You can find sounds you never heard before but love as much as your ole’ Ian Hunter records. Carefully cultivated and collected in a thematic list.

Spotify is not the problem. Nor Apple Music. YouTube. It’s freedom of choice that buggers us. So we must stop freedom of choice at all costs. Individuals deciding for themselves has made this world sick and shallow.

Do I believe that? Sometimes, yes. Is it true? Yup. The war between being a fan and an artist too is harrrrrd.

As for me….well, I write singles.

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The Fifth Horseman: Playlists

Free To Be Freaky: In Praise Of They Might Be Giants

My Fellow Americans.

I’ve come to you today to discuss the meaning of true Independence. In its most effective form. I am here to praise the American Weirdo.

For I have known them. I have sang their songs, eyes closed, every lyric accurate.

I have clapped and stomped for returning weirdo heroes. I have waved flags and pledged allegiance with simple slogans like ‘Everybody dies frustrated and sad and THAT is beautiful’ or ‘I’ve built a little empire out of some crazy garbage called the blood of the exploited working-class’.

I have seen great mobs of people from every conceivable age, race, religion come together and jump at once to the sound of accordion and large, miked stomping stick.

The uniform they wore was a huge giddy smile. Everyone of them.

For I have been to a They Might Be Giants show.

If you create something that is completely original, wholly unique, a true extension of your weirdo nature, a couple of actions are expected.

1) you alienate everyone
2) the few you don’t freak out are your audience. Cater to them. Water them, watch them grow.

And as you challenge the existing system we call The Music Business, you don’t settle for acceptance. You aspire to more. You create free phone songs and truly groundbreaking videos that quietly kickstart ‘alternative music’ a decade before the term was coined.

And you keep your eyes on the prize. Be good to your audience, give to them fully, freely. Let your enthusiasm, your absolute freak-muse, infect the people.

And keep working. Let the land rise to meet you. These connections will gain there own space and invite you in. And these shoulders will carry you into the wider culture.

But the culture is fleeting. To attempt to capture the culture is to bore the culture. The culture only desires the things that no longer need it.

So be not distracted. And start touring with a horn section cause the opportunity allows.

And you succeed. You become that invaluable element in so many lives. You do it well, and your odd peeps will teach their children using your words, your sounds, your bizarre character.

It’s a truly American story in it’s purity and hope. And how hard work and weird ideas can be a commodity. And it is as true now as ever.

This 4th of July, celebrate appropriately. Put on a big fake prosthetic fore head to cover up your real head. And grab a guitar and sing a verse of ‘Alienation Is For The Rich’ and see who sings along.

Weirdo.

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Free To Be Freaky: In Praise Of They Might Be Giants

Cool Cousins Bring You YesSongs

The winds raises the dandelion seeds, a perfect marriage of force and natural aerodynamics. And brings you a yard full of weeds. The rain brings you mud and deepening soil and you check the radio which brings you the weather. And you bring your boots out today.

And cool older cousins bring you YesSongs and let your adolescent self play among the covers, the Roger Dean Universe, let you wonder at the 8 foot by 6 foot poster that could only fit on the ceiling of a suburban cool cousin bedroom. They let you borrow this record while they go about with their cool friends, tasting all the fruit the decade of the 70’s had to offer. Things I came to recognize as that decade was reconstituted and re-imagnined into ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘That 70’s Show’. And Stoner Rock.

Cool Cousins who took the time to treat you nicely, like family, and share with you. Whose natural excitement and nature would have them talk to you like an adult though you were far from one? And you appreciated it.

Cool cousins who drop the needle on side one and introduce you to your first real taste of classical music ‘Firebird Suite’ as it evolves / dissolves into ‘Siberian Khatru,’ a multilayered bit of beauty that leads into what first really nailed me about Yes. It wasn’t the musicians expertise and resume. It wasn’t the lyrics which (and I know every one) but are at best vague.

It was…and is…that incredible ability to create melodies via counter point vocals. The harmonies, the arrangements, still confound me. And thrill me, drive me.And make me try harder.

This moment:

Even Siberia goes through the motions
Hold out and hold up
Hold down the window
(Outbound, river)
Hold out the mornin’ that comes into view
(Blue tail, tail fly)
River runnin’ right on over my head

Vocals completely counter to each other start a conversation, a word art piece. Though the words themselves becomes sounds, notes. Playing between counter points and true strong harmony, sometimes within a single line. As I have grown old, I recognize others used these games methods, first that comes to mind is Simon and Garfunkel. I don’t believe anyone arranged their vocal harmonies as carefully as Yes did, and it’s something that I think went over looked in the list of reasons why Yes was genuinely an important band.

And this style, these vocals ….. This whole Universe…… started with Chris. Find some old bit of YesStory or YesShows on YouTube and watch that motherfucker work.

And the carefree friends of Cool Cousins come to bad ends. And Cool Cousins did too.

And Yes takes on a greater personal significance. It’s no longer a band on a label, during a time you were barely alive for. It becomes the stuff of personal folklore. There’s lessons within each side, memories trapped within each song,

So I mourn this day. I don’t mourn Chris Squire, though he was a true hero of mine.

I mourn my cool cousin David Santone. RIP.

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Cool Cousins Bring You YesSongs

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