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Fences

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Looking out my window. I see trees moving for a change. Not just standing there sweltering, but giving off what I think is called a “breeze”. I may have forgotten the exact word. Gallons of sweat dripping from the tip of your nose and making your glasses slip down your face can create such memory cramps. I hear we’re back to hell weather come friday, just in time for July 4th, which I despise because it reminds me that this heat shit is really just getting started. And fireworks that don’t light up the sky piss me off. You know, the kind teens hoard and cops allow anybody that doesn’t have a limb growing out of the middle of their head to sell in tents on the side of the road even though they’re blatantly illegal. All they do is go “boom”.  Nothing else. Anybody who gets a bang out of something that just goes “boom” is one of 2 things. Either 10 years old, or mentally retarded. Come 9:30pm on the 4th this place sounds like Sarajevo during the 90s. I asked a kid I saw last year what it is we were “celebrating”. “Independence” he said. “From what?” I said. “Germany” was his answer. I decided to let it go. He seemed annoyed that I was interrupting. He was in the process of searching for frogs so, as he so eloquently put it,  “I can put an M-80 up his ass”. Sometimes I’m not sure if Washington outlasted the Brits or if they just said “fuck it, these people are too dumb to govern” and pissed off back to England.

I’m just cranky is all. Insomnia makes sure I’m never alone, which is kinda annoying ’cause I enjoy solitude.

Fingertips built back up after hours of playing over the last few days. It’s the voice that needs to be reminded of where it’s supposed to go. It’s cracking in places it never used to crack before, which is kinda funny when I’m singing alone but mortifying if I have an audience. “Dad, was it supposed to sound like that?” When you hit a bum guitar note you can just say you’re playing jazz. Off-key voice? Harder to explain away….especially to an 8 year old used to listening to singers on the radio who stay on pitch courtesy of computers and desperate engineers. Give them a Gibson Jumbo and have them try out the middle eight of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in front of my little girl. We’ll see how dead-on they are.

How’d I get there? I was just looking out the window. Lots of fences around here. The kind that make good neighbors. All of them white and 6 feet tall. I’d prefer something 3 times the size made of brick but it’s cost prohibitive. Grass is all brown but nobody really cares because everybody’s grass is brown except for the guy who stands in the middle of his yard with a hose all day, looking forlorn. I’d rather have brown grass.

Can just see the tips of cars as they drive by. They look like toys from here. Can’t hear anything ’cause I’ve got a John Gorka CD playing at a volume louder than a car driving down a busy street. And he’s singing mostly ballads. If I had Jason and the Scorchers on instead it might break windows.

Why are fences white? Why not magenta? How about green? Or brown, like the grass they keep people from looking at?

Songs are coming. I just know it.

In a bit…

–tf

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I wish I had a Mike Campbell

June 27, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s 9:3o at night and I’m finally able to step foot outside without feeling like I’m being cooked. No rain but at least the sun has pissed off for a few hours. This heat is unbearable to a football fan like myself. And it’s not even July yet. I wish I could take a pill and wake up in September.

I’m going to be playing a benefit show on July 9th. It’ll be made up mostly of cover tunes so I’ve been spending the last few days brushing up on the chord changes of 45 year old Beatle songs, which is great fun. The odd Who tune and Van Morrison vamp as well. I haven’t played much lately so my fingertips feel like they’re on fire. But the pain is exquisite. I’ve been bashing away so hard that my strings feel like worn rope. Time to break the bank and pick up some light gauges.

Odd sitting out here now. I live on a fairly busy street but now minutes go by with nothing. And with traffic lighter, speeds increase dramatically. It’s more like a racing strip when it gets dark actually. One time a guy with too much money, too much car, and too much cocaine lost control and drove into our backyard, obliterating much of our fencing in the process. I don’t expect such activity tonight……surely lightning won’t hit the same place twice no?…but I’ll try not to think of such things as I sit here and cars weave down the road doing more than double the speed limit. If the cops ever decided to pull out the radar gun the town would be back in the black in a week.

Been listening to the new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers record “Mojo” a lot lately. The old dudes can still shake the walls. Some great songs. Most of them are driven by Mike Campbell’s sterling guitar playing. Petty is a lucky bastard. I wish I had a Mike Campbell. Things might have turned out differently. Petty would not be Tom Petty without Mike Campbell. Their’s is the most underrated partnership in rock history.

Just finished reading a book about the making of the Woodstock festival. Great fun. The concert itself seemed the least interesting part of the entire spectacle. Hippies may have dressed and smelled differently and had better taste in drugs than their elders, but they shared the same entrepreneurial greed. It’s been 40+ years now, and I’m not sure how I feel about the whole thing. Granted I was only 3 at the time, but just thinking about half a million people willingly sitting in their own shit for 3 days to be entertained by Country Joe McDonald and Melanie and Mountain and Grace Slick makes me feel sorta superior. I’m not sure this makes me a better person….but I may hold the Michael Lang’s of the world to a higher standard. I don’t know.

Funny too how many of the Woodstock acts are still out there wearing the same clothes. Richie Havens. Santana. The Jefferson Whatever They’re Legally Able to Call Themselves This Year. Outside of the ones who killed themselves, just about everybody who played a note at the festival is still pumping out the nostalgia. Interestingly enough, the ones who killed themselves are the only ones anybody still takes seriously. Something to be said for that, although I’m not sure what.

Well, I just got my cue to go inside. Some teen in Daddy’s car just drove up the road pumping out the rap music at a volume even I find offensive….which is hard to believe. Middle class white kids listening to rap music always depresses me and makes me feel old. Like Max Yasgur or something, only much less tolerant.

In a bit…

–tf

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Sign ‘O’ the Times

June 21, 2010 Leave a comment

For reasons too byzantine to relate without sounding really really strange, I’ve spent much of the day listening to Prince’s 1987 “Sign ‘O’ the Times”….a sprawling mixture of pop, soul, funk, and hip-hop that serves as a reminder of how much better Prince is than just about anybody else when he decides to use his talents instead of taunting us with them. “Purple Rain” was of course his commercial peak, but Sign ‘O’ the Times”, which came 3 years later, is undeniably his artistic masterpiece, even if it sold only a fraction and has largely been forgotten.

It’s easy to focus on how weird Prince is instead of how disgustingly and indeed insanely talented the man is. Plays guitar like Hendrix. A peerless bandleader like James Brown. Can out-funk Rick James. Make women forget Marvin Gaye. Can dance Michael Jackson under the rug. A fearless innovator like Stevie Wonder. In the 80s Prince set the bar so high that when he was merely a little better than everybody else critics got mad at him and haven’t really forgiven him since. It took a recent sighting of him playing an incandescent solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony (Prince made it in his first year of eligibility) to remind everyone that the guy was still around. Lurking. Who knows what he might do next. He’s still a freak.

Prince music is not generally the sound booming out of my car speakers. Indeed, when I picked up my daughter tonight with “Housequake” playing so loud that the parked car was still moving, she seemed appalled. She then said it sounded like “Michael Jackson really really drunk”, which I thought was pretty cool. She then told me she never heard of Prince. Not cool. I tried to get her into it….but when she asked how old he was and I told her (52), she groaned and said listening to someone that old was “really really creepy”. Frankly, after a few minutes I think she was sorta digging it but would never let on because that would be really really creepy.

Music is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. You can never reach the bottom of the well. A lifetime is not nearly enough to sample the treasures out there, no matter how big your Ipod is. I largely missed this record the first time around because music was a diversion at the time. Now it’s air…..and I’m determined to gulp all the good stuff I can before I’m poisoned to death by the radio. No more putting things in neat little boxes. There’s a record store in Houston that refuses to segregate records by “style”. It simply throws everything in one huge alphabetical lump, with Prince and the Pixies and Pavarotti and Planxty all within an arms length of each other. It seems such a simple concept. It’s all music. Tying yourself down to one sub-section is like wearing the same clothes everyday. Eventually, you’re gonna start to attract attention for the wrong reasons.

Anyway, I’m rambling a bit now. But you get the idea. Give Peace a Chance and all that, you know? Try something a bit different. Turn down that side-street even if you’re not sure where it’s gonna take you. With a good soundtrack at our fingertips, we’ll always find our way home again.

In a bit…

–tf

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Failure is not an option

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Love can break your heart. But music can rip the heart out of your chest and leave it lying on the ground just out of reach, where you can still seeing it bouncing around like a decapitated chicken. It’s very much a one on one thing. There’s a handful of artists I always wait on….expecting to be uplifted and to approach something as close to spiritual healing as an aging agnostic can handle. That may be asking a bit much of some guys bashing away on guitars and singing songs about girls. But if in my eyes you’ve reached a certain plateau, failure is not an option. I don’t just expect to be lightly entertained by these people. I want my life changed.

Martin Sexton is one who must deliver. To hear his solo verion of “Purple Rain” is one of those monents that gets stamped behind the eyes. If Prince were white and weighed about 100 more pounds and sported some double v-neck sideburns, he’d be Martin Sexton and wouldn’t have to wear his high heeled boots anymore. He might get laid way less, but he might learn how to live and love by bus. And be less of a weirdo.

Anyway, it’s late and I can’t sleep, which is becoming increasingly normal. I should stop now before I start sounding even more incoherent.

In a bit..

–tf

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People Who Died

June 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Moving around lots lately. Lots of nights alone in hotel rooms and mornings surrounded by desperate looking airport junkies dragging bags way too big to fit in the overhead compartments.

Writing whenever possible, and what’s possible is never enough. Listening and reading just about anything I can get my shaky hands on. Everything from Buddy and Julie Miller to Jason and the Scorchers and the Jim Carroll Band. “People Who Died”…one of the all-time great rock and roll songs that manages to rock your balls off and totally creep you out at the same time. When you’re spending lots of time alone songs like “People Who Died” are damn near indispensible. They’re like intravenous caffeine injections and when you sing along to them with your Ipod on people generally stay out of your way.

In the Jim Carroll vein, for reasons known to insomniacs only I sat up until 3:30 am last night watching Leonardo DiCaprio portray a drooling junkie in “The Basketball Diaries” and didn’t turn it off until it was over. Like most New York City artists who can afford to live in Manhattan, Carroll was a bit of a pretentious wanker but was smart enough to make a decent living being a heroin addict and Rimbaud wannabe….no small feat in a town swarming with both. But he had that little bit of Keith Richards in him that made junk seem fashionable….plus he screwed Patti Smith, which in NYC buys you a lifetime of credibility. So he gets to write a book about jabbing himself with needles and knocking over old ladies for drug money….and gets the Hollywood treatment to boot. “People Who Died” said in 4 minutes what the movie tried to say in 110, which is sorta why rock will always be cooler than celluloid. If you don’t believe me imagine “Tommy” without the songs.

Anyway, that’s the way it is. I’m going to try to check in more often. Got many songs in various forms, and always reaching for more. Sleep won’t come, so what else can a poor boy do?

In a bit…

–tf

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My latest shenanigans

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Still writing. Jotting down lyrics whenever I get the chance. If an idea comes I’m reaching for the legal pad.

All songs in some way about my father. But that’s just to me. Looking from the outside, they could be about anything. Love gone wrong, yearning for what you can’t have. The usual staples of popular song. Trying to avoid the pitfalls of mawkishness, and I may be overcompensating, but better to bite than to kiss somebody’s ass. That’s my take on it anyway.

Got 7 songs now. Need 3 more, 10 being my magic number for a release. Nine seems like you just said “ah sod it all” and packed up the guitars ’cause you’d rather be doing something else. Eleven seems like you had some bit you weren’t sure of and just tacked it on to the end that hardly anybody ever gets to anyway. So, 3 more.

One song is 3 pages long with crazy rhymes and a fucked up meter, and of course it all makes perfect sense to me but will surely baffle everybody else, which is fine by me. If Dylan can make a career out of it surely I can rave on for 5 or 6 minutes playing musical word/mind games. It’s fun to peek inside and find things that make sense in a way that you never intended them to. That’s why 45 years on a song like “Visions of Johanna” is still forcing dudes to turn to pharmaceuticals. I knew a guy one time who knew all the lyrics to that song…and could sing the whole thing day or night. He was kinda creepy. Not sure where he is now. He must be dead.

Anyway, that’s the latest update for those of you interested in my shenanigans. My boys from “Slobberbone” are working on a new record this year, so all is not lost.

In a bit…

–tf

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