Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Flashback: 1987

  • This Is One Of The Longest Posts In History Of Blog
  • I Set The Smoke Alarm Off By Burning Rice
  • I Get Hustled On A Sack Of Weed
  • 22 Dollar Monday
  • 2 Dollar Tuesday After Very Late Start
  • First Song That Might Go On CD Released
  • Days Sober: 86
  • 30 Dollar Thursday, 10:40 PM - 12:30 AM
"Unlike Like A Rolling Stone" -Street Musician Daniel (click here to hear)

The above link should take one to the mp3 which is the first in a series that I plan upon posting here, all part of my project of salvaging songs that I recorded one year prior. Since it is just over a year that I have had the Snowball Microphone, I can just re-trace my footsteps and give all the songs the benefit of whatever I have learned in the year since.
The above song is pretty representative of what one might hear if they walked up to me at the Lilly Pad and requested some Dylan.
It automatically becomes eligible to be chosen to go on the CD, which I will compile after I have about a dozen songs done, by choosing the best 7 or so out of them.
I'm still kicking around the idea of doing a concept album using a mock "rockumentary" format, whereby a narrator will tell the story of this fictitious artist to include interviews of the people around him and short clips of his music, from the different periods of his "life." 

Saturday Night, The 19th

It's a subtle form of incarceration, accepting a ride from anyone.

I mean, they can basically tote you around at their will, at that point. 
Forcing someone of a size equal to your own to stop a car they are driving so that you can get out without crashing that same car in the process can be a challenge.

I accepted a ride from someone whom I deemed a friendly figure, whom I have seen a few times before and who had treated me generously on a sack of weed before.

I was standing in front of the Banks Meat Market with 5 dollars in cash on me; with a 2 dollar bill making up 40% of it.
The Banks Meat Market

I had debated upon whether or not I even wanted to spend the 2 dollar bill on weed. They appear rarely enough to make it easy to fancy them lucky.

2 Dollar Bills, In Practice

To me they are like that one cigarette in a pack that a lot of smokers will invert, so that its white end shows. 
I think this practice has its roots in skeezerhood. The inverted one is intended to be the last one smoked.

As such, when a skeezer approaches just as the mark is taking his pack out; as skeezers do; and if he only has a few smokes left, the inverted one will make it look like even fewer, because people are used to the number of filters visible as being the number of cigarettes left.

To extend the analogy to my 2 dollar bill; I could likewise tell a skeezer: "All I got left's my 2 dollar bill; and I ain' giving nobody my 2 dollar bill!" and the skeezer might just fold his tent at that point.

I had two 20's sitting uselessly in a jar at the apartment.

It was Saturday evening.

I was kind of kicking myself over only having left the apartment with only about 6 dollars, to get cat food, and an energy drink.

I heard several people talking about weed in front of the store.

Out walked the guy who drove the white truck that I had gotten a nice sack from a couple weeks ago.

He offered me a ride to my place, after I told him that I was only trying to get a 5 dollar bud, telling me that he was on his way to see his guy, and that he would "break me off" a 5 out of it.

He is a 20 something black guy about my dimentions.

I got in; being careful not to sit on the Styrofoam container which he pointed out on the front seat.

It contained food, which he described as being "crabs" and, after pointing it out to me, asked me to just try to guess where it had come from.
Featuring the hit: "My Cousin Sells Weed"

I took a couple of guesses, but was unable to nail Aaron Neville, the singer from The Neville Brothers, who also collaborated with Linda Ronstadt on the very same CD that I had rushed to the library with a couple days ago; as having been the provider of the crab dish.

He said that Mr. Neville was his cousin.
To make a long story short, I wound up paying a premium price for some herb and, in hindsight he had used the fact that I was in his truck as some kind of leverage.

34 More Cents To The "One Percent" Jar
I got to the Lilly Pad at about 10:45 and played for almost 3 hours, and netted 34 bucks.

Friday night had been rained out, and it had rained into early Saturday morning, when I lay down to catch some sleep; setting my alarm so that I could make it to the library in time to return the Linda Ronstadt CD, along with the Elton John DVD which is costing me 1 dollar per day, as an overdue item.

I will have to joke to the librarian who checks them in: "Gee, for 84 bucks more, I could see him live every night, yuk, yuk.." I thought to myself as I headed towards the library on Thursday evening, only to discover that it was closed.

Sports: Track And Field
I had gotten a 24 hour bus pass, planning upon returning the discs and then returning to the apartment to perhaps do my quarter mile,† feed the cat and then go out to busk on that St. Patrick's Day.

†An additional pacing off of the course yielded 461 yards as the distance that I have been running regularly.

This also jives with an attempt that I made using Google Maps© to try to measure it using a ruler, along with the "scale of miles" indicator on the screen. This seemed to give me 455 yards.

In both cases, I am running more than the 440 yards which is a standard quarter mile, which is good, because the time that I am running (1:50 being my best) would have me travelling at the rate of 7 minutes and 20 seconds per mile.

I remember when I was in high school and on the track team, running a 6:45 mile as the first one of the season, after having not run all winter, but then remember getting that time down to around 6:24 after just a week or so of training.

My best mile ever was 5:03.

Granted, I was 16 years old then, but; should I be actually running 15 to 20 yards further than a quarter mile each day; I could adjust my projected mile time down by between 20 and 30 seconds, which would have me running, on my best day now, at the rate that I did as a sophmore in high school, coming out for the first run of the spring.

I think that is not bad.

First Songs For CD Nearing Completion
I continue to work on the CD, approaching it from different angles; but definitely benefitting from the recording techniques that I have taught myself in the past year.

Unlike Like A Rolling Stone
Just about a year ago, I had done a version of "Like A Rolling Stone," by Bob Dylan.

I remember it, because I had just moved into the apartment and was using a closet, stuffed to the ceiling with blankets and comforters and lined with pillows and sheets, as a recording "chamber."

I also remember having just discovered that by using a capo to raise the pitch of the song, it was possible to sound more like Bob Dylan.

This idea came after a couple young guys had stopped in front of me at the Lilly Pad, wanting to sing that song, but then complaining that the song wasn't being yelled out, "loudly" enough, as one of them put it.

I figured out that the guy must have just meant not in a high enough key. An analogy would be that it is likewise easier to cut through the mix with the higher notes on a clarinet, but not so much the low ones, which hum more than pierce.

The recording that I made a year ago, causes me to wince, because I overdid the whole "belting out" of the notes thing and kind of lost the

sardonic tone that is supposed to be in the delivery of the vocals. Plus, I was new in the apartment and testing out the limits of the volume that I could reach in the late night hours before drawing a knock on the wall from a neighbor.

But, it dawned upon me that I could always just sing a new vocal track, then delete last year's, and then do the same for the guitars, etc. It really is possible to replace every track, kind of like the way the human body supposedly replicates every cell every 7 years, or so.

On this version, done last week, I had no capo, and thus did it in a lower register. The song didn't really do much for me, after it was "done," and so I kind of mulled over what it might be missing.

I decided to focus upon what the listener would be focusing upon and give emphasis to the little repeating melodies in between verses, for example. Then, I was able to make the song more of an example of what I do on the street and, hence, better fodder for the in-the-works CD, by changing the lyrics ala Weird Al Yankovic. This further subjugates the accompanying music to the role of "background" as the listener is drawn to the words being sung, instead.

The next song, which is actually the first one that I wrote as soon as I had gotten the new Snowball "Ice" microphone and had plugged it in and set it in front of myself and my guitar, is the next song that is "complete."

I lifted the trademark snare drum rolls that begin the 20th Century Fox (I think it is) theme song; when the lion roars, to begin this newest "Snowball Song."

One of the problems with that recording was that the very first take, which was "inspired" by the joy I felt over having a high quality microphone at my disposal came out so well in spots, due to the freshness (some might call it "rawness") of the version, and the fact that you can feel the excitement that I had over having a new Snowball microphone.

The other factor was that I recorded it at Leslie Thompson's house on a night when he had gone into the quarter and I was there alone, in a back room which was empty, except for myself, my guitar and laptop and the microphone.

Catching Lightning In An Empty Room
The sensitivity that I had set the microphone at; the distance that I placed it in front of me; along with the natural reverberation of that empty room, was like a stroke of luck, or like catching lightning in a bottle; and it has taken me the whole past year of tweaking and tinkering with levels and settings and microphone placements to be able to approximate those acoustics of an empty room, about 18 cubic feet large, with a shiny hard wood floor.

I have dubbed parts of the original, done at Leslie's house into this "one year later" version; chiefly the spoken interlude about 3/4 of the way through.

I am going to re-sing the vocals; and should have the finished version posted within a few days.
Seeds; The Broughey Song
The third song of the 5 that I had already in the can at this point of last year, is the song "Seeds," by a high school friend of mine, Ted Broughey, who lives in Boston and works for one of the local TV stations there, as a cameraman, I think.

He has a pretty nice studio setup at his apartment, which he said was right across the street from where the Boston Celtics play.
Ted, 2nd from right; 1982

About 4 years ago, he e-mailed me 2 songs that he had recorded "in his living room," one of which was "Seeds."

He is a drummer, who played in some of the same bands as myself, when we were starry-eyed teenagers.

Thus, I was surprised that the song had practically no drums at all in it. It is kind of a slow, keyboard based thing, where the only percussion is a tambourine clap on the off beat, and cymbal "swells," throughout.

The cymbals are played using rubber mallets the way drummers do who want them to smoothly crescendo, and they sound pretty "professional."

The arrangement reminds me of "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," by Carly Simon? where the drums only come in at the high points.

The other problem with the song is that Ted played more than one guitar, each playing single note melodies. There is a slide guitar in there. It could be described as having "a lot of notes going on in the background," on top of a solid bass; and it has been hard for me to distill it down to one basic rhythm guitar part. It's one of those deals where a sheet music publication would just indicate like a Dsus4add9 chord, along with the grid illustrating, since the transcriber was probably a keyboard player, the most common fingering for that chord, culled from a guitar "chord finder" type book.

I'm not going to give up on it, though. Its release is overdue; I should have had it finished a week ago, if I am to keep pace with last year's recording output.

I am tempted (now that I own a snare drum) to make it an almost "overboard" drum heavy arrangement, with all kinds of snare drum rolls and accents -kind of like the Carly Simon song on steroids. The irony would lie in the fact that we would be sending each other versions of the song with ourselves prominently playing the other guy's main instrument.

I have been disciplining myself to work "exclusively" upon it, pursuant to my 2015 rate of productivity.
Ted; "Seeds" Era, circa 2011

Is It A Good Song, In The First Place?

When I have doubts over whether or not this particular song is "good" enough to merit the usurping of my time over it; I am reminded of the band that I once sang in, back in 1987, called "Warp Five," at least one of whose members idolized the band "Guns And Roses."

Flashback 1987, "Warp Five"
The story goes that, in the summer of 1987, I proposed that the band introduce a version of "Knocking On Heaven's Door," by Bob Dylan; and I know that a lot of you are going to add, and Guns And Roses, but...

This was before G.N.R. released their rockin' version of the tune...

The band members concluded that the song was lame and they projected that into their performance of it ( Their opinion that the song was lame became grounded in reality, upon the stage of Bill's Ringside Bar, in Athol, Ma.

Leaning nonchalantly on his amp, the guitarist played as if as bored as a musician can be with any group of chords on the neck of a guitar; for example.

The band quickly broke up because the combination of a funk bass player, who idolized the late "Flea," from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, a jazz guitar player, a heavy metal drummer and a whatever I am, just didn't work in this particular instance.

Also, the repertoire that they had already cemented into their memories seemed to hint that they had high hopes surrounding the vocal abilities of whatever singer they eventually acquired. Not only did they do Sting songs; they did the ones that Sting himself would probably bump off his set list if his voice was feeling a bit froggy that day...

Plus, they were three brothers who had meticulously put together their material, and it was incumbent upon the singer to learn their songs, rather than the other way around, as this anecdote in progress might illustrate.

Shawn, the guitarist had studied at The Grove Institute in Los Angelos.*

Unlike the type of jazz musician who would consider it a fun challenge to take a simple song, (like maybe "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star") and at least try to create a jazz masterpiece out of it; Shawn seemed to want to ridicule the song.

Perhaps that was because of its slow tempo -a rare phenomenon in our 3 hour set, of mostly tightly arranged, carefully measured out "uptempo" stuff.

In hindsight, I think that it was because such a slow song was an invitation to the patrons to embrace and dance slowly to it.

The Pattersons, as that was their last name, had a remarkable attitude towards the people of their little town of Athol, Massachusetts; almost like: Nothing good is ever going to come out of this inbred shit hole town except US, and we hate you, Athol, for making us from here.

They were constantly relaying to each other, in tones of the greatest disdain, whom they might have come across while out and about. "Oh, you know who I saw at Krispy Kreme?" one would ask, the disgust at the mere thought of the person or persons already evident on his face.

Then, upon the naming of the individuals, a groan would ensue from the siblings, who would then either ask derisive questions, such as: "Yuck, how many dozen doughnuts did SHE order?" or "Is she still dating [any name here as long as it is uttered with derision.]?" or make derisive comments, such as: "Oh, Mr. future NFL star who dropped out of college!," "Oh, was he hitting his crack pipe?" and such.

The funk bass player, Tim, said that, when on stage, he would pretend that his bass guitar was a very long spear of some kind, and that he was stabbing the audience members with it.

The third brother, and yes, the Pattersons were brothers (another brick in the wall so to speak of myself having an equal voice in the matters of the band, such as whether or not to play "Knocking On Heaven's Door") Chris Patterson, was a heavyset heavy metal sort of drummer. My most vivid memory of him was of sitting in my car in front of their house, ready to drop him off, after we had ridden around, drank beer and listened to a lot of Elvis Costello music, through the hospitality of my Sony amplifiers.

Chris had been very gung-ho about drumming to almost any one of the songs on the "Get Happy" album by Elvis, an album which, to this day, I would hold up as an example of just how good a drum kit can sound in a musical role.

Ted Broughey, my high school friend drummer, was an 18 year old fervent drum student in 1981 or so, when the album came out; studying paradiddles and polyrhythmic stuff, to include such devices as hitting the high hat when it is "usually" closed but is open, and "He's breaking all the rules," according to Ted at the time.

So, Chris was duly blown away by the drummer on the album, Pete Thomas, and since I occupied a lot of my time riding around and singing at the top of my lungs along with that album, I was very excited over the prospect of the band doing some of the songs, with Chris saying that it was his kind of drumming, as we sat there in front of the house.

Chris' Parable

Before he went in the house, he had the chance to touch on the subject of God, and he used sort of a parable, which went something like:

"You see that street light across the street and down a ways? That's the Lord. It comes on every night when it gets dark, and goes out every morning before the sun comes up. That's the Lord."

"And one of these days, I'm gonna come out here with my pellet gun, and I'm gonna put that light out; and that will be the end of the Lord on Anzio Road." They lived on Anzio Road, by the way.

What came out of that all was that Shawn, who had been away in California while I was hanging out with his brothers; came back and basically vetoed (shit canned) all of the Costello songs which Tim and Chris and I had rehearsed while he was away and which were ready to be added to the set list.

His complaint about one of them, "B Movie" he voiced as: "I don't know, I just feel like we should be kicking our legs like the Rockettes" (kicks his legs left and right while singing chorus to "B Movie").

When people ask me if I am in a band, which happens every so often when I play my guitar in the street, I don't have a pat answer, beyond telling them "no."

I might think about just memorizing: "Because when you're in a band there's always like one other member who doesn't want to do one of your favorite songs that you have sang a million times because it makes him feel (vaguely) like he should be kicking his legs from side to side, like the Rockettes, while performing it. That's basically why I'm not in a band. If it is not that, then it is something else which is 'basically the same thing.'"

To bring the point back to the Broughey song, should I have forebodings about recording the thing over doubts that is a very good song to begin with, I am reminded to think like the band Warp 5 could have thought, should they have decided to approach the "lame" song as a fixer-upper and try to inject some of their own spirit into it and transmogrify it into something, hell, almost as good as a Guns And Roses work.

Instead, they injected their attitude -a bit of group rebellion against the ostensibly "spiritual" aspect of Dylan's lyrics, a bit of wanting to stab the audience with an imaginary spear but finding the beat two slow and mellow to get any kind of real thrust at all, and a bit of not wanting the people of Athol to dance slowly because the thought that it might lead to them reproducing is repulsive.

Being the prima donna that I was then, at 25, I left the bar, got in my car and took off, back to my apartment, while they played on; through the chords of "Knocking On Heavens Door" God knows how many times (excuse the pun) and then finally wound down after perhaps figuring that their singer had "left the building."

I had just walked into the dark half of a duplex that I cohabitated with Dave, a fellow college student.

Dave was majoring in physics and biology, and had the pot plants in his aluminum foil-lined closet to prove it.

Dave was on the couch in the dark living room, along with his very sultry voiced, exotic, hippie girlfriend (whose name I can't recall, but it was something like "Earth") and they had dropped acid.

I was actually glad that Dave had dropped acid because I had earlier plucked some leaves off of one of his prized specimens in the closet, in violation of the one and only rule laid down, when I moved in, by Dave, who is so laid back that he only has one rule, which was: "Don't touch my plants."

And then I had done some bonehead thing like leaving it sitting on a tray where I had dried it under a high intensity lamp.

If he hadn't been tripping, then I would most likely would have been bagged; but, as it was; if he had looked at the tray, maybe he saw frogs sitting on a lily pad, instead of his prized bud, or maybe he had a conversation with the lamp, which covered for me by changing the subject when he asked why it was on...

I mention the quality of Earth's voice because I hadn't been there 2 minutes when the phone rang.

It was one of the band members asking for me with the sounds of the bar in the background.

They were probably wondering how long I had been gone from the place, and if I was at my apartment 20 minutes away, already, that would give them a clue.

They probably wondered just how long they had played (like idiots?) waiting for a singer who would never return. I can picture Shawn telling the other two to just keep the beat going, while he went and looked around for me, then came back with: "No, his car's gone..." Who knows, maybe they were calling to fire me.

Instead they got a velvety and leathery voice telling them things like: "Yes, Daniel is here. He was so not here; I mean not like not here at all because now that he is so totally here, it makes me realize how not here he was....I mean, have you ever like, like looked at a star and realised that your retinas were absorbing energy from something that might not be there now; it's like we are the memory of things...but, yes, the molecules and energies that make up Daniel are manifest; I'm interacting with him on the physical plane right now..."

And by the time I was passed the phone, I think I had become like a god in their eyes and they didn't fire me. You shouldn't fire a musician who has someone like Earth going on in his apartment.

The harpoonist/bass player, Tim and I became instant friends. He was the tallest of the brothers, the middle one in age, with Shawn being the youngest; and the one with the best sense of humor, He once said that he envisioned jumping off of the stage at Scampi's Restaurant/Lounge into the crowded pit, along with the upright bass that he envisioned that he would be playing.

Scampi's band riser was up there at about shoulder level to the dancers, by the way.
Tim Patterson, 25 years later...

Tim and I rode around smoking weed, listening to music, a lot of which we both thought it would be cool to do, and which we both figured would be vetoed by Shawn, and laughing our asses off, over such notions.

Shawn was the youngest of the brothers, but he was the one who had gone to Grove Institute, and for that, and maybe the fact that he was the alpha male of the bunch; he seemed to have the final say among them.

I wanted to do a song with lyrics like: "Oh, my God, it's sod!!" sung over a burst of chords, and then while rest of the band fills in, squares of sod could be tossed into the audience, then maybe a next verse of: "Oh, my God, it's cod!!" you know, and then flinging whole, raw cod fish out there. Off the riser at Scampi's. Into the pit.

So, Tim and I were of kindred spirit there; and I think that diving into the audience along with an upright bass is a step up from gouging them; and so we were therapeutic for each other there.

One interesting aspect of my life at this time involved the fact that I was gigging with Warp 5 in clubs and bars on weekend nights, but, on Wednesday nights, and on Sunday mornings, I was bedecked in a robe and singing alongside the rest of the Bethany Baptist Choir.

This was probably cause for equal consternation between both groups, with the later trying to lovingly steer me towards more scriptural based music and out of bars; and the former prone to launch into a soliloquy upon the Lord of Anzio Road.

I had written a song about a girl whom I had met who had a certain dog that was very singular in appearance. It was definitely of a curious mix and might have looked like one particular breed if it weren't for the snout that comes off of another breed, etc.

I was driving along one afternoon, nearby the back yard of my friends which is where I had met her, when my friends were having a yard sale of sorts. And, tied up in front of a certain house was the unmistakable visage of Tara's (as that was the girl's name) dog.

I had invited Tim over to my place where I was working on a song of that very name, "Tara's Dog" to see if he might add some background vocals. We smoked some weed and messed around with the song, and then we went off to a lecture hall which was packed with concerned parents and their kids and where was to be given a lecture by some church affiliated group concerning satanic evil in modern music.

The event had gotten a lot of publicity, was well attended, and the "satanic" angle of it was enough to peak Tim's curiosity enough so that he had come along with me. There were representatives from Bethany Baptist Church there, of course.

Well, amongst the highlights of the event was the lector telling us that avoiding satanic music didn't always require rocket science.

No, the group AC/DC, the lector said, comes right out and states that they are on the highway to hell. No pussyfooting around, there.

She had kind of a "wake up; this stuff is right in front of your face!" attitude. If Jesus said that you will never perish but will have eternal life, then why are the dead grateful to be dead? etc.

And, she didn't disappoint when it came to giving us some bona fide backwardly recorded things, along with their subliminal messages. Of course we heard Jimmy Page singing an ode to satan, heard by playing a certain section of "Stairway To Heaven" (Highway To Hell is a no brainer, kids, but just because a song has "heaven" in the title doesn't mean that it's safe either) backwards.

Tim and I had left, rolling our eyes and saying things like: "Give me a break; Lionel Ritchie, a Satanist?!?" and were riding along in my Pinto, when he burst out laughing.

"What?" I asked.

"Spell 'Tara's Dog' backwards."

That's just how life was, back in '87.

Would 'Ave, Could 'Ave
Looks to be Shawn Patterson circa. "Warp 5" era
A year or so after the band had broken up, I ran into Shawn somewhere, who told me: "I guess we could have done something with that song..." referring to the fact that every rock station had Axel Rose screaching: "Knock knock knockin' on heaven's door" over its airwaves.

"Yeah, and we could have kicked our legs like the Rockettes while performing it," I was thinking, but didn't say.

So that is what I wrestle with while working on the Broughey song.

I can't cop out and say: "It's kind of a lame song...not much I can do with it."

*Shawn Patterson now holds a job with Warner Brothers, supplying music to go along with the likes of a show called "Robot Chicken," I recall, no small thanks to that tattered document from the Grove Institute, stating that he is qualified in that regard; and was even nominated for a Grammy Award, in 2015, in the best music for animated movies, or something, category; for writing a song which was part of the Leggo(sp?) Movie; though they spelled his name wrong at some place setting at one of the Grammy related functions (It's not Sean).
Excuse me, it was OSCAR nominated, not Grammy

2 Bucks

Last (Tuesday) night, I got a terribly late start. I had woken up, I thought, at 8:30 PM, and, after a cup of coffee, decided to go out and busk. Then I noticed that the time I had woken up at, I had read off of my old cellphone which never adjusted itself for Daylight Savings Time, and that I was actually leaving at 10:30 PM rather than 9:30, which would have been late enough on a Tuesday.

I took an excursion to get some weed, and didn't arrive at the Lilly Pad until about 1:30 AM.

I made a couple bucks rather quickly, and then decided not to play for a very sparse crowd at that hour. If the residents have to tolerate hearing me at such a late hour, then it should at least be on a weekend night when they might not have to get up early the next day.

I didn't play again until Thursday, the 24th, and made 30 bucks in 110 minutes...

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