Recording Revisited

Some of you may recall that a while back I wrote a blog post titled “Twelve Things Your Band Should Know Before Going into the Studio.”  Well, I’ve been doing some studio work lately, and I re-read that post.  I think that prior to any future projects, I’m going to re-draft that into more or less an ethical code of conduct that the band has to read and sign before they commit one note to tape (or disc…or whatever we use in The Future…).  It just seems like so many people don’t use common sense when it comes time to record.

I wanted to re-visit a couple of the points from that list.  These are what I consider the worst offenses you can commit in my home/studio.  I’m keeping some of the wording the same, but changing up some of it too…  So let’s go…

  1. Do your homework.
    • The time to decide on an arrangement and/or to write a new song is NOT when you’re paying an engineer to be there. I don’t want to sit there and listen to the band’s main songwriter say, “Don’t play it like that.”  Then the band member says, “That’s how I’ve been playing it since the first time!”  Then the main guys says, “Yeah, and you’ve been playing it wrong, but I haven’t told you.”  What?  Why is it just NOW coming up?  It’s not my job to sit there and listen to you fight, and it’s definitely not my place to offer an opinion on it when the emotions are running high—even though you’re definitely going to ask me to.  For the record, it is my opinion that the guy who wrote it is right.  It’s his song, and it’s his call.  Especially if it’s his BAND.  If it’s called the John Smith Experience, and you’re anyone other than John Smith…shut up and play what he tells you to.
    • Keep in mind though that sometimes you’ll hear a playback and realize that what you’re doing doesn’t work.  I’ve been in more than one situation where I’ve heard a take back and said, “Wow.  That’s WAY too busy.”  Recording reveals your weaknesses as well as your strengths.  Sometimes you end up re-writing a little in the studio…but in all, you should at least know the notes and structure, even if the specifics fluctuate a little bit out of necessity.
  2. Do everything you can to make it easy on the engineer.
    • Money isn’t enough.  It just isn’t.  It can buy you a LOT, but it isn’t everything.
    • I might not like your music.  Maybe it’s not my cup of tea.  Maybe you don’t play it well.  Maybe I started out liking it, but by take 19, I’m bored.  I’ve heard a lot of bands.  There’s a good chance that you’re going to play your epic would-be-hit and my response is going to be a hearty “meh.”  But even if I don’t like your music, I might still like YOU.  And if I like YOU, then I’m going to want to honor you by producing a project of which we can both be proud.  If you treat me as a friend and a colleague, I’m more likely to treat your music with the respect it deserves.  If you treat me as a piss-on, a yes-man, an employee, and/or a whipping-post, I’m not going to have a very high investment in your project.  I’m not at your beck-and-call…  I’m a person who has a day job and personal responsibilities and commitments…and who occasionally has a headache or a cold, or didn’t check his e-mail during the hours you sent me your notes about the project.  Treat me like I’m a person.
    • Remember, the engineer is the guy who has your music in his hands, and you DO NOT want to piss him off.  An engineer, no matter how well paid, can only do so much with something he feels bad about putting his name on.  If he doesn’t feel motivated to do a good job, or if he feels like he’s been treated with hostility, he may still do a professional job, but it won’t be as good as it would have been if he were happy and felt like, “those were nice guys—I want to do right by them.”  As I’ve always said, 99% of your success comes because there were people who you didn’t piss off.
    • In short…respect my time, especially if you’re in my home, and we’ll get along fine.
  3. It will never sound “as good as it did in the room.”
    • Want to get me to shelve your project and never touch it again?  Then wait until I’ve spent an average of three hours per song mixing, mastering, EQing, deleting pops and hisses, correcting missed beats, adjusting levels on the guitar solos, etc, etc, etc…  Then say, “It sounded better when we were recording it.”  First of all, no it didn’t.  You have a complicated relationship with your music.  You hear a symphony when you strum an acoustic guitar.  The rest of the world hears an acoustic guitar.  You THINK it sounded better, because you’re in love with your own performance.  And that’s cool.  You SHOULD be…  But let’s be honest here…what’s more likely?  That you created rich, full, layered, perfect music in the studio while you were in raw, unmixed, unadjusted form…or that your guitar tone is a little thinner than you realized?  Or your bass drum doesn’t echo like it’s in a castle?  Or that your vocals aren’t life-changingly beautiful?  What’s more likely to be skewed by personal perspective?  Your memory of the “amazing” sound you had on a Saturday morning three weeks ago, or the microphones that were in front of your speaker?
    • Now, don’t get me wrong…sometimes a mix is bad.  Sometimes an engineer cranks up the bass too high or doesn’t get the vocals right where they should be or adds too much reverb or or or or…  But the absolute WORST way you can deal with that is to say, “I know you spent 15 hours on this five-song demo…but it sounded better in the room.”  Maybe instead you say, “Hey, it’s a little boomy…can you kill the reverb and cut back the lows a little?”  That’s not offensive.  That doesn’t dismiss the hours of work I did.  That’s a request and a preference, and I’ll honor it.  But “it sounded better in the room” is insulting to all of the time and effort I’ve invested into your project.  It HURTS to hear that…and remember what I said about money not being enough?  Effectively saying, “This sounded better before you wasted your time on it” is a GREAT way to make me hand you your money back, press “delete” and send you on your way.  I’m not kidding.  I’ve done that.
  4. New Addition: Communicate Professionally
    • If you’re dealing with someone whose time you’re looking to take up, you need to be clear with them and not waste time with a lot of miscommunication and mixed messages.  Have ONE point of contact for your band.  Appoint ONE person to set the scheduling and offer notes and corrections to the engineer.  (Hint — It should probably be your most polite band member.)  I don’t want to have the guitar player call me and tell me it’s an awesome mix and not to change a note, then have the keyboard player call me and tell me they’re unhappy with all their performances and can we re-take their parts?  (That—specifically THAT—has happened to me.)  Get together as a band and present a united message.
    • If you’re the point person, it’s on YOU to have effective communication with the engineer.  Look…don’t send me a Facebook message.  I’m probably not going to see it.  Don’t text me.  I don’t know what “RU Stll on 4 2nite” means, and I don’t care.  Either send me a clear, concise e-mail with things I can check off a list, or give me a call.  But regardless of how you choose to contact me, if you don’t get me right away…give me a minute.  I might have gotten your voice-mail or email and I need to consult my calendar before calling you back.  I had a client recently send me three Facebook messages (sigh) in the same day.  I don’t check my Facebook messages very much, and I missed the first one until the second one came in a few hours later.  When I read the second one I realized I needed to look at the project before responding–it wasn’t an easy answer.  A couple of hours later, I received the third message which accused me of ignoring their prior two, when the truth is I just didn’t have an answer yet–it was the same DAY and I hadn’t reviewed their project in full yet.  I wasn’t wrist-deep in my recording program when I read their messages.  My first-draft of my response was less-than-courteous…but I cooled down and replied shortly, but reasonably.  In short…you don’t come into someone’s house, take up their free time, pay them less than they’re worth, then communicate with them through methods roughly akin to how a seventh-grader texts their boyfriend.  (“Whar RU? U diint reply yet! Dont U still like me?”) and expect an immediate, professional response.
    • I said before and I’ll say again…I’m a person.  This isn’t my full time job.  I have a day job.  I have personal commitments.  I am shy and want to know what I’m talking about before I respond to someone so I don’t get flustered.  I sometimes need a little bit before I dive into your project to handle the laundry list you’ve given me.  Sometimes I’m on Facebook because I want to bitch about my day or read the stupid statuses my friends posted…I don’t want to talk about work in that situation.  I’m there to ESCAPE work.  E-mail me.  I’ll print it out and deal with it as a checklist.  If you’re worried that I didn’t get your e-mail, give me a call THE NEXT DAY.  If you haven’t heard back from me right away, take a second to consider that I might be busy doing something that isn’t related to you.  I might be at a birthday party.  I might be working late.  I might be Christmas shopping.  I might be depressed and not want to talk to anyone.  I might be exhausted and not thinking straight, so I don’t want to give you poor information…  I might be drunk…  And so on…  When I’m working on your project, that doesn’t mean my every moment revolves around you.  It means that when I’m working on it, I’m working on it.  Be a professional and shoot me an e-mail or give me a call and wait for me to either reply or pick up.  (I will usually pick up my phone, unless you call me while I’m at work at my real job, or if I’m driving.)  Don’t hound me.  Don’t push me around.  Almost any business you contact sends you an auto-response of “we will reply within 24 hours.”  Please extend me the same courtesy.  I’ve probably got more going on than most businesses, and I can guarantee that my hours are weirder.

…and that’s it.  Just felt like throwing that out there.  Thanks for reading.  Sorry the last one got rambly.  🙂  (And if you’re the client referenced…don’t take it personally.  We’re good.)

————

Current Listening:

  • Lou Reed and Metallica – “Lulu”
  • Drive-By Truckers – “A Blessing and a Curse”

Top Ten of 2011

I often end up posting my Top Ten Records lists after the year has ended.  Usually that’s because I’m waiting on a late-release to fully sink in or I had to wait to get something on my Christmas list.  Or I’m just being lazy.  But this year, I’m ready to go early.  So with no further ado…here’s a picture of my Top Ten Records of 2011…with a disgustingly thorough write-up following.

You probably can’t quite see all that…so let’s break it down:

  1. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
    There was little if any doubt that this would be my number-one of the year from the first moment I popped it in the player.  (And yes, I still buy and use the PHYSICAL PRODUCT.)  This record just DELIVERS from moment one.  Every track is solid.  This is the record Foos fans have been waiting on since the days that “Learn to Fly” was the only song you heard all summer.  It’s like I’ve been waiting for someone to write “Walk” ever since the 90s ended.
  2. Flogging Molly – Speed of Darkness
    Definitely the band’s strongest release since “Drunken Lullabies,” and possibly better than that.  Less Irish than previous releases and more focused on the rock side of the group.  A strong record that serves not only as a great rock record, but also an excellent chronicle of the political, economic, and human state of our society (but never in a preachy way).  I’m not going to say that the fans who’ve been waiting for Dave King to call up Eddie Clark and reunite with Fastway would be happy with this one…but I am going to ask when the hell was the last time you heard someone talk about Fastway?
  3. The Black Keys – El Camino
    A shockingly late entry to the list, and it shot right to the top five.  Came out just a little while ago—and I wasn’t even aware it was coming until like a week or two before it dropped.  A true, worthy follow-up to “Brothers.”  Not only does it have catchy melodies, infectious grooves, and fun, witty lyrics; it’s also got all the fuzz you can ask for, all in one place.  Great record, from a great band.  Good to see them getting the attention and acclaim they deserve.
  4. Tom Waits – Bad As Me
    I love Tom Waits, but even as a fan this one knocked my socks off.  Popped it in for the first listen, and it immediately felt like it’d been in Waits’ catalog for a decade or so.  That’s how you know he did it right.  Waits seems to touch on all parts of his career on this one.  He has the bizarre “is he just stomping on stuff, and that’s supposed to be drums?” elements…but there are also grooves that, if you didn’t know better, you’d have thought were written for Elvis.  And Keith Richards plays guitar on about half the record.  So that’s kind of cool too.
  5. Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu
    If nothing else, this record belongs in the top five because it was by far the most controversial record of the year.  People (like myself) either stand by it as a bold, experimental, awesome statement, or they hate it for…reasons unknown.  Probably they just have no idea who Lou Reed is or what he does.  And I guess Metallica fans were expecting a Metallica record or something…because that seems to be how Metallica fans work these days.  Okay…granted…it sounds like Metallica got together and improvised to the rants of their crazy grandpa.  But I say what’s not to love about that???  The record would have been better billed as a solo Lou Reed record that just happened to have Metallica as his background band…I think that would’ve helped…but taken on its own merit instead of comparing it to what everyone assumed it would be, it’s a damn fine record that, though completely not catchy, will stick with you for a long time.  Probably the thing I’ve drifted back to the most this year, since buying it…and I think it’ll be a regular in my rotation for a long time.
  6. CAKE – Showroom of Compassion
    I missed the boat on CAKE in high school/college.  I was kind of aware of them, but not a big fan.  I think I was listening to Rush or something, probably…  Saw CAKE perform “Sick of You” on Conan at the end of last year and knew I’d be buying this record when it came out (at the start of 2011).  It’s a strong return for a band I didn’t know I liked all along.  It’s infectious and fun.  Nothing not to like…and at one point, it was much higher up on the list, before “Lulu” and “El Camino” came out.
  7. Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding
    The whole world wondered “What will happen to Oasis now that Noel has quit the band?!?”  The answer?  They stopped sucking and started kicking serious ass…and changed their name for some reason.  Beady Eye’s “debut” sounds like anything but, and delivers on every level.  If there were any justice, this would be what Brit-rock is all about…but unfortunately X Factor is a thing.
  8. Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO
    (KMAG YOYO is military shorthand for “Kiss My Ass Guys, You’re On Your Own!”)  Why Hayes Carll isn’t the biggest name in country music, I’ll never know.  Guess he doesn’t love America and beer and 9/11 enough or something.  This is an amazing record.  If the list were genre specific, this would be my number-one country record of the year.  It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s catchy, and he manages to deliver a couple of messages along the way, too.
  9. Imelda May – Mayhem
    My brother introduced me to Imelda’s music earlier in the year, and it’s a blast.  Kind of like if Reverend Horton Heat and Brian Setzer had a daughter…and she was a cartoon.  If nothing else, the cover of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” is worth the purchase price alone…but fortunately, there’s plenty else to dig into here, too.
  10. Deer Tick – Divine Providence
    VERY recent discovery for me.  Saw them on Conan about two weeks ago (maybe less?) performing “Funny Word” and they seemed like my cup of tea, so I picked up the record.  It’s got a few slow moments, but all in all they marry most of my favorite music styles into one super fun goulash.  Probably the best description I can come up with for them is that if you’ve ever wondered what it would’ve been like if the Clash had been an alt-country band…  Deer Tick.

And in case that wasn’t enough for you…  Here are the “runners-up” that I’ll probably re-listen to at some point in 2012 and wonder why they didn’t make the Top 10…

And since you can’t see those either…

  • Centro-Matic – Candidate Waltz
    This one was in the top 10 until very recently, and I really struggled to drop it.  It’s a strong release.  More rock based that some of their more recent records, but still laid back.  Worth checking out.
  • Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose
    Super fun band, and it was heartbreaking to cut them from the top 10.  Blame The Black Keys and Deer Tick for Those Darlins not making the cut.  Mostly girl group filled with both twang and rock at the same time.  You know that “Red Light Love” song from the Kia commercials?  That’s them!
  • …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead
    I love ToD more than most people love the Beatles…but this record, though it was good just didn’t grab me quite enough to make the top 10.  Part of the problem is a poor vocal mix (can’t understand a word except for “pure cosplay.”  But mostly, I just feel like the last three records were so strong, this one just doesn’t quite match up.  Their previous record (“Century of Self”) is a hard record to follow, and there’s not shame in releasing something good, but not AS good.  But it IS good.  Don’t think I’m saying it’s not good.  It’s just not in my top 10.
  • Wilco – The Whole Love
    This is another record that is hurt by the group’s previous record.  I loved “Wilco (the album)” and while I admire the fact that they released something that isn’t just a carbon copy of what I already liked…I just find myself listening to this one and saying, “It’s great…but where’s the rock?”  Still, taken on its own, a wonderful record, and it almost made the top 10.
  • Old 97’s – The Grand Theater Vol. 2
    I think I just need to spend more time with this record.  I like it a lot, but it just never would’ve made it to the top ten, especially on the heels of “The Grand Theater Vol 1” from last year.  I really think they should’ve just done a double-record, and it would’ve been perfect.  Still…good release.  I’ll probably regret not having it in the top ten by this time next year.

Biggest Disappointments (Which doesn’t necessarily mean they were bad records!):

  • Drive-By Truckers – Go Go Boots
    I love the Drive-By Truckers more than some Christians I know love Jesus.  (But I love Jesus more than I love DBT…so that works out.)  But this record just isn’t very strong.  The title track is probably the weakest on the record, and the whole thing just seems like they went in on the heels of “The Big To Do” and said, “Alright, that was fun…but let’s stop rocking and being so awesome all the time.”  Don’t get me wrong…there are some real highlights, and I don’t HATE it.  “Everybody Needs Love” and “Mercy Buckets” will be on my DBT playlist forever…but—with no disrespect intended—when Shonna’s couple of tunes don’t sound out of place, then your rock band just isn’t rocking.  (But recently Shonna announced that she is parting ways with the band in an amicable split.  Perhaps more rocking is in our future?  Or less?  Or what the hell?)
  • Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
    Good record…but only good.  This is the band’s first ever record without founding member Mike Portnoy at the drum-kit.  They needed to blow me away…and they didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong…it’s solid.  Mike Mangini is a good fit and the record sounds like a bunch of guys who’ve been playing together for a couple of decades…but I think that’s the problem.  There’s not a lot of FIRE here.  They had something to PROVE with this record, and it sounds like they went in thinking they had NOTHING to prove.  But my real criticism isn’t with the songwriting (except for the bizarre choice to include a throat-singer on one track), but rather with the mix/master.  Everything’s in the mix, I guess…but there’s just no BALLS to the master.  It just seems like they recorded it, played it back and someone said, “That’s too loud.  Make it sound weaker.”  Maybe a remaster is all it needs…but as it is, it’s okay, but it’s not exactly the one I’d put on to impress anybody.
  • Get Up Kids – There Are Rules
    I loved the Get Up Kids before they broke up.  I was excited to hear they were going to do a new record.  Then I bought it and wondered if I’d gotten the wrong CD in the right case.  The thing I loved about the Get Ups was their harsh, abrasive edge.  It’s just not there on this record.  Objectively, there are some really catchy songs here, and it’s a good record…but I’d rather it hadn’t been as polished and had a little more “fire” behind the sound.
  • My Morning Jacket – Circuital
    Huge disappointment for me.  I loved “Evil Urges” and this one just doesn’t follow it very well.  Then I realized that the riff to the standout song on the record (“Still Holding on the Black Metal”) was just “Paperback Writer” with the last couple of notes switched around a little…and I don’t know if I have much use for this one.  I recently re-listened to it in my car and actually forgot it was on while it was playing.  There’s just nothing to grab onto here.  It’s like one of those acoustic folk acts playing in a restaurant you’re patronizing.  It’s fine…but it’s background music.  You’re not likely to applaud.  But I’m not DONE with them or anything…I’m just hoping I like the next one better.  (I think this one was a response to their hardcore fans who thought “Evil Urges” got too experimental, and they just went too far in the other direction.)
  • Jayhawks – Mockingbird Time
    Just doesn’t measure up.  Everyone went apeshit about the fact that they got the classic lineup back together (as though any of us knew what the classic lineup was before we heard “Save it for a Rainy Day” in the first place), but I’ll be much more excited if they get the “Rainy Day Music” lineup back together.  I don’t know what’s missing from this album…but something is…and I miss it badly.
  • Over the Rhine – The Long Surrender
    I don’t know…  I like it better than the previous record (“The Trumpet Child”) and maybe I just need the benefit of time to get used to it…but it just seems like they took the parts of “Drunkard’s Prayer” and “Ohio” that I DIDN’T like as much and made a record out of that.  (And I liked the majority of those two records.)  Plus, I just feel like they tried too hard to be “cute” or “clever” on some of the lyrics and it just fell apart for me on that level.

Ineligible Releases:

  • Rush – Time Machine Tour
    Always good to hear from Rush, and it’s a fun release, but live records are ineligible.
  • Wanda Jackson – The Party Ain’t Over
    LOVED this release…but there’s no material written just for the record on it.  Just covers…and that’s ineligible too.
  • Ray Davies – See My Friends
    I love Ray Davies, and I love every song on this record.  But I can’t allow a covers record and I can’t allow a tribute record…and this is somehow both and neither and also a dude just playing his old songs…and I LOVE it, but it’s too confusing to make the top 10, ha ha.   (Seriously though…buy it.)

Other Stuff I Liked:

  • Steve Martin – Rare Bird Alert
    Yes, it’s that Steve Martin…and it’s a bluegrass record.  It’s not top 10 good, but it’s good.
  • Anthrax – Worship Music
    A respectable return for Joey Belladonna.  I’m a little tired of the Satan lovin’…but it’s a good record.
  • Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot III
    Lots of fun, but just not quite top 10 material…but Sammy’s in the best form he’s been in a long time on this record, and if you’re a fan of the Red Rocker, you should check it out.
  • Dropkick Murphys – Going Out in Style
    GREAT release.  Best one since “Sing Loud, Sing Proud.”  And I might regret not giving it more attention down the road…but for now, it’s great, but there was just other stuff that was greater.
  • Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
    It’s fine, and I like it a lot…but I kept forgetting that it came out this year, and that tells you all you need to know about why it didn’t make the top 10.
  • Mr. Big – What If?
    Eric Martin kinda seemed to phone in the lyric writing…but the performances were strong.

Stuff I’m Completely Overlooking—and this post is too damn long anyway!:

  • Mastodon
  • Social Distortion
  • Tori Amos
  • Pearl Jam
  • Hugh Laurie
  • Devin Townsend
  • Alice Cooper
  • Hank III

…and that was 2011.  So…whatcha’ got 2012?  Pressure’s on!

Traditional Post Where I Bum Out My Readers (if any) a Little Bit

It’s Christmas Eve, and this year I’m getting it out of the way BEFORE I drink a vat of wine.

A few years ago (I’ve lost count of how many, I’m afraid), my friend Paul died from Hodgkin’s Disease on Christmas Eve.  Paul was the bass player of a band I loved called Potter’s House.  He played bass and harmonica like his life depended on it.  He was kind enough to always let me play his bass for a while when I saw him—and at one gig (a New Year’s gig), I played a bluesy thing and he played harmonica on top of it.  It was a lot of fun, and a great memory.  The last time I saw Paul was at some Christian teen-convention that I was attending and he was playing at.  At that time, he was already sick, but I’m not sure if anyone including him knew how sick—and he didn’t mention it to me at the time; I didn’t know that until later.  He was very kind to me, joked around a little bit, and gave me his phone number, telling me to call him so we could hang out.  And I didn’t, because I was nervous about calling a cool, kind, wonderful person that I looked up to and respected.  And I still have that piece of paper with his phone number on it.  One of my great regrets.

Years later, while I was working at SLCC, a girl wandered into the Library and told me her name.  I recognized the last name immediately and asked if she was Paul’s sister.  Of course she was.  Why wouldn’t she be?  Funny how life provides resolution sometimes.  During the time I was there, I was able to give Helen a copy of “Potter’s House: Live,” a more-or-less bootleg tape they’d recorded and sold at gigs.  Somehow, she didn’t have a copy before then.  I got to give her something that had her brother playing bass and harmonica on it.  And that was kind of awesome.  Helen and I are still friends, and even this past week when she changed her Facebook profile pic, I commented, “Woah.  From the thumbnail, I thought you were a young Audrey Hepburn.”  (Which was meant as a compliment, of course…but it’s not like that—she’s married to a good guy and also way too young for me.)

So anyway…here’s the part where it gets a little sad and a little sweet.

Paul — I still miss you.  I think about you every time I plug in a bass, and I’m still working on trying to copy your tone.  I think I got closer to it this year.  Thank you for being who you were—who you are.  Thank you for making an awkward, geeky teenager feel like he was cool every time you saw him.  And someday, when you see me headed up there, get your harmonica ready.  We’ll need to jam.  And this time I’m DEFINITELY going to get in touch.  Merry Christmas, Paul.  Helen has turned out awesome, by the way.  You’d be proud of her.

————

Okay!  Now let’s all go Christmas our asses off!

A Love Letter to a Kinks Song

I posted the following on Facebook yesterday.  I’m putting it here too because I know not everyone who reads the blog reads every word I write on Facebook, and I want to share this for some reason.

In all of the world, there are only a handful of songs that have ever brought a tear to my eye.  Among them are the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul,” the Queen song “Who Wants to Live Forever?,” a couple songs by Rich Mullins, and Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”  I am mildly embarrassed by the last one.

But it seems chief among them these days is a song by the Kinks called “Celluloid Heroes.” Following are the lyrics…until SOPA passes and I have to take them down…

Everybody’s a dreamer and everybody’s a star,
And everybody’s in movies, it doesn’t matter who you are.
There are stars in every city,
In every house and on every street,
And if you walk down Hollywood Boulevard
Their names are written in concrete!

Don’t step on Greta Garbo as you walk down the Boulevard,
She looks so weak and fragile that’s why she tried to be so hard
But they turned her into a princess
And they sat her on a throne,
But she turned her back on stardom,
Because she wanted to be alone.

You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of,
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.

Rudolph Valentino, looks very much alive,
And he looks up ladies’ dresses as they sadly pass him by.
Avoid stepping on Bela Lugosi
‘Cos he’s liable to turn and bite,
But stand close by Bette Davis
Because hers was such a lonely life.
If you covered him with garbage,
George Sanders would still have style,
And if you stamped on Mickey Rooney
He would still turn round and smile,
But please don’t tread on dearest Marilyn
‘Cos she’s not very tough,
She should have been made of iron or steel,
But she was only made of flesh and blood.

You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of.
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.

Everybody’s a dreamer and everybody’s a star
And everybody’s in show biz, it doesn’t matter who you are.

And those who are successful,
Be always on your guard,
Success walks hand in hand with failure
Along Hollywood Boulevard.

I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show,
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes,
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die.

You can see all the stars as you walk along Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of,
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.

Oh celluloid heroes never feel any pain
Oh celluloid heroes never really die.

I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show,
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes,
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die.

It’s one of my favorite songs.  I listened to it on the way to work on Wednesday and was singing along…got all shaky-voiced and my eyes clouded up.  Kind of an intense way to drive down Highway 40 going into St. Louis.  I mentioned it on Facebook and described it as “one of the world’s few truly perfect songs.”  A friend asked what made it “perfect” to me, out of curiosity.  This was my response, with some minor edits for sense-making…

It’s kind of ineffable. I think anything or anyone you claim to love can’t ever have a specific thing to point to as the “why.” I’ve always said that if you can explain why you love someone or something, then you probably have to work too hard at loving it.

…but, I can point to some of the attributes I appreciate. First of all, the lyric is heartbreaking, but still inspiring. It speaks to the mortality of the body, and the eternal nature of the legacy. It allows us all to be dreamers and stars, but we all get to be tourists, accidentally dropping our food-wrappers on George Sanders, even while we’re weeping for Marilyn. But mostly, it expresses something that I needed someone else to express for me… “I wish my life were a non-stop Hollywood movie-show. A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes…because celluloid heroes never feel any pain, and celluloid heroes never really die.” And I guess sometimes I just wish a few more of the people I miss were still available on DVD.

And musically…Ray Davies is one of the best living songwriters out there. He can turn a pop song into poetry in the expanse of a sentence. In this song, you can hear the slight hint of sadness in his voice, and he’s got an almost ethereal quality as he lilts into the first verse. It’s almost a different voice from every other Kinks song. And the way the music starts with such a small, peaceful tone, then builds and builds until every instrument is giving its all… There’s a moment where the song is both mourning and celebrating at the same time and it just…rips into me.

But mostly it’s the ineffable thing. I have no idea why sometimes I barely notice it’s on and then other times I have to pull off the road and just listen to it. No idea at all.

And that’s it.  That’s my “I Love Ray Davies Because…” letter.  Just thought I’d share.

Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet making babies and I saw one of the babies and then the baby looked at me.

(Post title’s a Ralph Wiggum quote…for no good reason…)

Haven’t done a random post in a little bit…and my brain has lots of things in it, but is too tired to do full posts on anything…so this seems like a good time for it.  And hey look…Kaley Cuoco’s hosting the People’s Choice Awards this year…neat.

  1. Got to see my good friend Shara Lyn tonight.  She’s normally in Haiti, but is in St. Louis briefly before flying back out.  Good to see her.  Good evening.  Shara Lyn’s one of the handful of people in my life that I don’t mind sounding like an idiot in front of because I’ve known her for 20 years (and yet she hasn’t aged a freaking day since high school!) and she knows I meant well.  She’s still doing great things in Haiti.  I got to hear some of the non-support-letter version tonight (which doesn’t mean it’s like DIRT or anything…just got to hear about the day-to-day stuff—no major scandals or whatever), and her passion for what she does comes through even when she’s describing the challenges.  And it was fun to watch her playing with and mothering Moya as well.  (If you don’t know who Moya is, see Shara Lyn’s blog in my links.  And for those who aren’t going to click, just to clarify, I’m using the word “mothering” non-literally…even though it’s sort of literal in its way.)  Did my heart good to see Shara Lyn on a number of levels.  Always good to see an old (yet frustratingly ageless) friend.
  2. Briefly thought I was going to have food poisoning tonight.  Lunch at work was sitting kinda funny (and I’m not the only one who had that problem), and I’ve been avoiding food.  Don’t really want to eat even now, but I think I’m past thinking I might get ill.  Except for gettin’ ill on the MICROPHONE!!!  WHAT?!?!?  (Sorry.)
  3. Christmas is in freaking DAYS.  I have to buy wine for the meal, and I’d like to get my nephew something boy-ish to play with, so he has something that shouldn’t just as well belong to one of his sisters…but I haven’t sorted that out yet.  Also not quite sure what to get Grandma, because she doesn’t really ask for anything anymore.  I’m thinking a scarf and a handshake.
  4. What is that one Goo Goo Dolls song?  I was trying to reference it earlier tonight and I couldn’t remember it…the one really famous one from a few years ago?  I can’t believe I’m still blanking on this…
  5. I’m at the point that I think I’m ready to make a formal declaration…  It’s time I lost some weight.  As I mentioned on the blog (with some frequency, for which I apologize), my former college roommate recently died.  He was a heavy man and a lot of his health problems could be traced back to his weight…  And even though I’m the guy who said he planned to die by 25…I didn’t.  And Derrick’s death kinda scared the hell out of me, in that respect.  So borrowed time or not…maybe it’s time I made the most of it and got to the point that I can get up a flight of stairs without panting again.
  6. There’s potential for some exciting stuff at work.  I probably can’t and/or shouldn’t talk about it either for legal or just “don’t jinx it!” purposes…but y’know…throw some good thoughts our way if you think of it.
  7. The only TV shows I’ve been keeping up with this year have been Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, Deadliest Catch and Conan.  And two of those aren’t showing new episodes right now (but there’s a Doctor Who Christmas special on Christmas Day!!!) and Conan doesn’t really have a continuous plot.  I miss House and How I Met Your Mother…and I still miss LOST, come to think of it…but that one’s just over…and I’ve got to learn to accept that.
  8. I learned a great deal about Egg Nog today through a series of discussions.  Not really worth the time…but it was useless information I was lacking.  Way to go Google!
  9. Made a weird playlist of songs that mean a lot to me.  I like it…but others probably would find it deeply confusing…but nonetheless…how great is Aimee freaking Mann?!?  I’ll tell you how great…infinity.  She is infinity great.
  10. My friend Tara has resumed posting the insane things we say at the office on her Twitter page.  I’m “db,” of course.  Her page provides a fascinating window into my dementia.  Enjoy.
  11. Drove by the new Five Guys in town tonight…and it’s OPEN!  I was tempted to stop, and possible food-poisoning be damned…but decided to play it safe.  Still…early Christmas, man…  Early Christmas.

…and that’s it for now.  If I don’t blog before then, I’ll at least post my usual kinda-sad memorial post on Christmas Eve…so look forward to that.

Oh…and Happy Hanukkah, Jews!

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Me, regarding Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime:” That song makes me want to punch Paul McCartney in the face.  Repeatedly.  On Christmas Day, in the snow, while a choir of children sings the song faintly in the background.  He was a BEATLE, for God’s sake!

Phone Confessions

I’ve been missing for a little bit, haven’t I?  That was partially intentional, and partially just a result of not presently possessing my own laptop.  The “intentional” bit is that I’ve had a few things going on lately and I’ve been choosing to spend less time online and instead either spend it working on those things or sleeping…but mostly it’s that I just don’t own a laptop right now.

Since it’s been so long between posts, I thought I’d use this time we have together (whatever that time is for you) to share something about myself.  A confession, if you will…

I’m afraid of the telephone.

There.  I said it.  And before anyone says anything, it’s not a fear that the phone is somehow going to kill me or that I was raped by a telephone when I was in Middle School or something…I just don’t like talking on it.  I think I’m afraid that either I’m going to sound like an idiot or that the person on the other end is going to tell me something I don’t want to hear.  And unfortunately it is sometimes paralyzing.  I’m not kidding about that.

I am somewhat okay when the phone rings and I recognize the number on the caller ID.  I can pick it up and have a semi-reasonable conversation.  I think I figure that the person on the other end is a friend and/or acquaintance and they’re calling me with something in mind to talk about, so there’s no pressure on me to carry the conversation…  But if I’M the one who has to make the call…if I’M the one who is socially obligated to have things to say, situations to describe, and a back-story to support whatever I’m talking about…it’s a different story.

In any given situation where I am the one who has to pick up the phone and call someone, it takes me about 10 minutes to a half-hour to psyche myself into it.  And that’s with FRIENDS and FAMILY.  If it’s a stranger, it might take as much as an hour from the moment when I realize I need to call someone…

I can’t really pin-point why.  I’ve been shy my entire life…and I guess that just translates to the phone as well.  I can deal with printed mediums a lot better.  I can e-mail or Facebook or text within seconds/minutes of receiving something from you.  (In fact, I’m so quick on that sometimes that I end up putting it off a while, just so people won’t think I spend all my time sitting in front of a computer, desperately hoping they’ll e-mail me.)  But when it comes to the phone…to actual communication…  I suck.

As you can imagine, this problem has created some really awful circumstances in the past. For example…  My Grandma constantly accuses me of not calling her enough…  And she’s right.  I don’t…because I’m afraid of the phone.  Or another example…  My job requires that I call people frequently.  Tow lots…claimants…clients…whatever…  I make all of my phone calls at the same time during the day, because I have to physically and mentally prepare myself to do it.  And when something requires a phone call and I’m not in the time-frame I’ve already set aside for phone calls, I get sweaty, nervous, anxious…my heart rate increases, my confidence shrinks…  It’s really very miserable.

I think the only people I’m comfortable calling off-the-cuff are my brother and my dad…and that’s just because they already KNOW I’m an idiot and have somehow chosen not to judge me for it.

And I know there’s someone out there reading this right now screaming “FIRST WORLD PROBLEM!!!”  And yes, I know…  There are people starving in Africa or whatever…  But y’know what?  I LIVE in the freaking first-world, so the problems I have ARE real, and your sad attempt to minimize them by providing “perspective” doesn’t really matter…in fact, if that does anything, it just makes me feel like MORE of a jackass for the fact that I support missionaries in war-torn, impoverished areas, yet I can’t confidentially pick up a goddamn phone.  So you’re not helping.  Dick.

So…I guess what I’m getting at is that if you call me and I don’t answer…call again the next day, because I’m unlikely to call you back…because the phone is scary, and I don’t want to pick it up.

The end.

————

Current Listening:

  • Deer Tick – Divine Providence
  • Black Keys – El Camino
  • Lou Reed – Set the Twilight Reeling

It’s weird…I’m actually blogging MORE now that my laptop’s dead. I guess I feel like the pressure’s on.

On Thursday, I finally got the first mix of Mike Feldman’s new demo to him.  It was the FIRST mix.  The one you expect to change.  The one where something’s going to be too loud, something’s going to be too quiet, and some sound or noise is going to slip through that you didn’t realize was there.  Usually.

Apparently I did it right this time.  On Friday, I got a call from Mike.  No fixes.  No corrections.  Nailed it in one.

There’s still the Christmas song on there that might need some corrections.  I’m not sure.  The keyboard player for the band wrote that one.  I had to do some sound-effect selection on my own, and I’m not sure if she’ll like what I chose.  Plus, it’s one of her first solo outings as a writer, so she’ll probably be less willing to let some stuff slide as the rest of us are.  There’s a lot you’ll hear as the writer of a project that just plain doesn’t matter to anyone else, and after a while, most of us let it go.  I have a rule of thumb I follow myself—if I won’t notice it next year, I can forget about it now.  Conversely, if it will still bug me in FIVE years, I should do something about it right away.  So, jury’s out on how much stuff will bother the keyboard player five years from now, I guess…awaiting her notes, if any…

But for the most part, apparently I’ve gotten good at this nonsense!