Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Rerun

If the sky that we look upon...
[Originally posted August 22, 2011]

In the early 1970s, Paul McCartney was vilified for recording and releasing a series of wimpy songs (and insanely uneven albums).

During that same period, John Lennon struggled to find his own voice, careening from the stark primal scream of Plastic Ono Band to hopeful hippie anthems ("Happy Xmas"), unashamed rockers ("Instant Karma"), odd anthems ("Imagine"), and sappy mystic anthems ("#9 Dream"). Not to mention Sometime in New York City, about which the less said the better.

When the Beatles broke up, Lennon was freed from the need to compete with Paul McCartney for leadership of the biggest band in history. But he drifted, trying to find his voice (which, he famously tried to disguise in whatever way he could because he didn't like the sound of it).

So tonight, with wispy clouds passing overhead and a cool breeze blowing in off the water, I find myself thinking about a John Lennon song. It's not his best song, not his biggest hit, and not even a song he wrote.

But, somehow, while recording an album of oldies with Phil Spector, Lennon was able to shrug off the need to be the voice of his generation long enough to deliver his most relaxed and confident vocal performance since the Beatles broke up.

New Leap Day Bonus: This is the second song I'm learning to play on guitar, and I love the distinct sound of the strings being muted -- which counterbalances the difficulty I have playing a song with more than 3 chords.

If you're keeping track at home, the first song I learned is John Lennon's "Working Class Hero," which only has 2 chords.

Why? Because sometimes 2 chords is enough.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tears on My Pillow and Ave Maria

Guilty Pleasure Saturday

Not a great song, but a goofy and catchy one.

The song is filled with place-specific lyrics that underscore a point in time when the zeitgeist was stretching and seemed like it could go in any of a number of directions (the waterfall at Paramus Park, "I said hi, she said 'yeah, I guess I am,'" a sax solo that sounds like it's channeling a Big Bopper song, and the idea that TV stations sign off at night after playing the National Anthem).

And while it's certainly all over the place, it has its charms... and in today's fragile world, sometimes that's enough.

This would be Dean Friedman's only hit -- and it appeared on Cashman & West's Lifesong label (which also had a huge hit with Henry Gross's "Shannon," possibly the best and sappiest ode to a lost dog ever).

Also, according to Wikipedia (which must be right cuz it's on the internet), this is the only song ever to appear on Billboard's Top 40 singles chart that contains the word "Paramus."

And, thanks to the interwebs, here's a little ditty from Half-Man Half-Biscuit, 1987's "The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman":

And Dean Friedman's answer, "The Biscuit Song":

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Big Birds Flying Across the Sky

There is a Town in North Ontario... or North Jersey

I forget which...

(They're not booing, they're yelling "Neillllllll.")

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life Stretches Before Me Like An Endless Mystery

I feel the heartbeat of the world...

She slid around the corner like she was gliding across a pond.

"There's a softness in the world tonight," she said. "A power and a smell. A glistening sense of possibility."

I looked around, unable to sense anything. "Is there?"

"Yes. Definitely. Right here."

And she pointed. So I looked.

And saw nothing.

But I didn't say that. I didn't want to annoy her.

Later, she glided away. Back to her car.

And I sat in the diner. Listening for the glistening.

Still hearing nothing.

But somehow sensing it was there.

And... wanting to believe.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

She is Benediction

Here I go and I don't know why...

What if you could go back in time?

I'd choose never to have met you.

I wouldn't. I'd still choose to have met you.

I want to believe that.

It doesn't matter if you believe it. It's true. And I know it.

These are words. They're just words.

I don't know what to say to you.

Nothing. Say nothing.

Oh God...

I can't listen to you anymore.

I'm not saying anything.

No. You're not. And I can't listen.

I don't know what you mean when you talk like that.

I know. And that's the problem.

That's made up. Now you're doing it. It's just words.

But they mean something. The words.

Tell me.

Oh God...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

But Did You Miss Her Much? Well, Hey...

CA is where everybody falls off the wagon under the wheels...

Heidi denied she had a problem.

Which was fine at first.

But eventually people started to notice.

Little things.

Like the fact that she couldn't go an entire week without drinking. (And, in fact, couldn't go more than two days.)

And the fact that she went from getting drunk with one person at lunch to getting drunk with another person at dinner to getting drunk with another group of people late at night.

Her boyfriend told her it wasn't a problem. He told her he's stay with her. No matter what.

But he realized he was making excuses for her.

So he stopped.

And she shipped herself off to rehab. Three times.

But it didn't take.

And then her boyfriend fought with her.

And she broke off contact with him.

Rumor had it she got sober. And started selling crystals.

Another rumor said she went sailing and drowned.

I ran into her ex-boyfriend the other day. And he told me he dreamed about her the night before.

But he had no idea if she's still alive.

And years later he admitted he had trouble remembering what she looked like.

And when he said he never gave her too much thought, he looked away quickly.

And I knew it was a lie.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Counting Down

Best Elevator Song Ever

Nicholson Baker wrote a book called The Mezzanine, which all takes place during an escalator ride an office worker takes one afternoon.

And yet, it's about so much more. It's the thoughts. It's the ideas. It's everything that expands and contracts in the course of a simple action.

Similarly, Keren Ann's song "101" seems to a simple list counting down from 101, inspired by thoughts during an elevator ride down from a large building.

And yet... it also contracts and expands. Until it finally becomes something much, much more.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And You're Not So Big

There is no point explaining...

"I was gonna say something. I was gonna write it down."

Nothing. No sound. No response.

"I was about to do it. I was looking for the words."

And yet.


The words don't come.

The words are somewhere else. Doing something fun.

They don't want to come in here and hear me torture them.

"I thought --"

Waiting. Thinking. Wondering how the sentence ends.

And then. And yet. And still.


Life is unfair.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Long Blue Shadows of the Jackals

And eyes like ice don't move...

Sheila stands with a chainsaw in her hand.

I walk up to her. “How do you know where to cut?”

She stares at the block of ice before her.

“It’s easy,” she says. “I take away everything that doesn’t remind me of a man.”

She fires up the chainsaw and quickly cuts the heart out of the block of ice.

I want to tell her she’s made a mistake, but I hold back.

Let her discover it herself.

She turns off the chainsaw. Turns with a smile. Pronounces it done.

I raise an eyebrow, questioningly.

“I’ve never met a man who actually had a heart,” she says.

And she walks away, leaving the heartless block of ice in her wake.