It’s Friday night. It’s late. Very late.
I’m listening to music now. Lots of different music. I was tinkering with a melody for a lyric I found in my notebook earlier. Tried it out on the piano and on my Gibson jumbo. Before that I spent some quality time with my wife and my youngest daughter. Both of them are asleep now. The house is quiet. I can hear the wind trying to get in through the windows. It promises to get colder tomorrow and Sunday. It’s the end of a long week. I’m tired but I’m not sleepy. These are 2 different things, as us insomniacs know all too well. My dog is keeping me company now. Abbey is her name. She’s a member of the family. If there’s something going on, she’ll keep you company. I love her for that. My best friend. Never said a bad word about me.
Long gone Friday’s were spent in different places and in different ways. I’m not adverse to the occasional night out, mind you. Even at my advanced age. But mostly this it what I look forward to. Some quiet. Maybe a few late night sips from something cold. A good book. I’m in no danger of having my picture pasted on anybody’s post office wall. Those days are gone. A warm bed. Some music to dream to. My wife and kids tucked in. I long to be Ray Davies’s well respected man.
I write songs. I write plays. I write things such as this, for practice I suppose. Just to keep the fingers moving and to prove that I still have some sort of grasp on the English language. Whenever I write in the wee wee hours I think of my father and miss him terribly. All the good I have in me came from him. All the bad I have in me is from the times when I didn’t listen to what he had to say. If there is goodness in me, it’s from him. What a writer he was. Always playing with words. Sitting on the couch with a yellow legal pad….scribbling in an indecipherable scrawl that even my mother could never decode. Or sitting at the dining room table with his old black Underwood typewriter, using all 10 fingers like a concert pianist. Even in this day of computer geeks, I’ve never seen (or heard) anybody type faster.
I love these memories. They don’t make me sad anymore. They make me smile.
Some days are better than others. The days drive the nights. The nights are paid for with mornings. And so it goes. I’m back to being a 9 to 5’er these days. There’s a whole lotta “Office Space” in my weeks. I try to laugh off the absurdities and otherwise keep my head down. There’s a lot of good people around me. There’s comfort in numbers. Perspective is important. It’s not life and death when you sit in a cubicle.
*** I woke up this morning. Laptop was open next to me. I dropped off to sleep between thoughts….the nightly Ambien surely helping. Another Friday night in the books. And a fine one it was too.
Of course these days it’s considered cool to admit that you used to like something that wasn’t considered cool at the time….
There are a few things that have sounded so good for so long you don’t even notice how good they sound.
I tried to come up with better construction for that sentence but I can’t.
I’m talking about Daryl Hall’s voice.
Last night I heard two Hall and Oates songs. The two best. Sara Smile and She’s Gone (I do love One on One and Wait for Me too though….) Nobody sings these songs because nobody can sing these songs. They are perfectly constructed pop songs that only perfectly constructed pop singers can pull off. (for the record, my friend Paul Dudrich was the man singing them, solo acoustic, in a bar with maybe 5 people in it….and singing them so well I damn near cried).
Daryl Hall is a perfectly constructed pop singer. Or soul singer. Whatever you want to call him. For these two songs alone the man should be in the whatever you want to call it hall of fame. I never get tired of hearing them.
I think Hall was born at the perfect time to sell 60 million records….and the absolute worst time to be taken as seriously as, say, Smokey Robinson. Bad haircuts, cheesy 80s synth-riffs, and horrible music videos will do that to you every time. People may have snickered, but they sang along, at least to themselves. Nobody admitted to being a Hall and Oates fan, but everybody had a copy of Rock and Soul pt 1 in their closet. It was the Back in Black of pop music.
Of course these days it’s considered cool to admit that you used to like something that wasn’t considered cool at the time. That’s progress I guess. And explains lots of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entrants.
Far be it from me to say the Daryl Hall was the equal of Smokey Robinson or The Temptations, but I will say that neither act ever did anything better than She’s Gone and Sarah Smile. So maybe that’s me saying that Daryl Hall was the equal of Smokey Robinson or the Temptations. Shit, some days I think Angus Young was the equal of Joe Strummer too. I’m a weirdo that way.
Of course the man wrote and sang some horrifyingly bad songs too (Method of Modern Love anyone?). But he also saw his “I Can’t Go For That” blatantly ripped off by Micheal Jackson for “Billie Jean”….so, you know, maybe these things even out.
What I’m thinking now is that I miss the radio. I miss that songs as good as Sarah Smile and She’s Gone could be heard on the radio. Growing up in a CD-less and Ipod-less world, the radio, especially AM radio, was all we had. It wasn’t always pleasant, but the rewards were tremendous if you had the patience. Man….you’d listen all damn day to hear a song like ‘Takin’ It To the Streets’. Come to think of it….Michael McDonald wasn’t a bad pop-blue-eyed soul singer either, now was he?
I should probably now before I hurt myself.
In a bit..
JFK is in the news again. Has it really been 50 years? President gets his head blown off on national TV. Then, the man suspected of the crime is perp-walked in front of the press and, despite a sea of cops surrounding him, some rogue mini-mobster still manages to put a bullet in Oswald’s abdomen from about 6 inches away. Bye Bye open and shut case. Hello conspiracy theories….in which everybody with an ax to grind with a left leaning president they largely despised are possible suspects. From Cubans to the phone company to those pain in the ass Russian KGB agents shooting poison darts through a straw. Hell, Dallas then was a lot like Dallas now. As right wing as any John Birch Society meeting, where lefty progressives appear, through lenses of hate, like a horde of unwashed atheistic vandals, intent on tearing the whole thing down….and in its place turn Dealy Plaza into a collective of Gulags for the kulaks.
Of course it didn’t quite work out that way. But if I were Obama driving through Dallas I’d be sure to be in a covered limo, with un-maned drones ready to take out that pesky book building if even a puff of cigarette smoke drifted out of one of its windows. Can’t be too careful these days eh?
We’re fond of saying that we’ve come a long way, mostly because it’s always more fun to spout bullshit than the actual truth. Actually, we haven’t moved at all. All you need to do is look at a civil war map circa 1865, and compare it to the “red” and “blue” election maps of our times. If you think they look identical, you are correct. If you think that means we haven’t come very far over the last 50 years, you’d be right too. We’re divisive. We’re astoundingly dense. We seem incapable of any sort of compromise. The ones who hate the most are given the biggest platforms, this leading the sheep to slaughter as it were. Sure we have a black president. That was a first. We had a first 50 years ago too. A Catholic president. What happened to him again? Oh yes, he got his head blown off on national TV.
Our defining moment as a country. Because it was captured. No cameras were on Booth when he stuck that Derringer into Lincoln’s temple. We all heard about it. We read about it. But we didn’t see it.
Kennedy we saw. Impossibly young and handsome with a beautiful wife and gorgeous little kids and a family with enough money to buy anything, whether it was for sale or not. Like Pulitzer Prizes or Senate Seats. And now the top of the mountain. The President. And he was gonna clean up some of this mess…..which made the people who made the mess (and lots of money from it) very nervous. End the War? Race Relations? Playing “chicken” with the soviets over warheads aimed down our throat. There’s one thing about status quo. It’s good for business. Mess with it at your own peril. Like a bullet in the head on TV.
My generation has nothing like this. The closest was getting the news that Lennon had been shot and killed outside the Dakota. Like most others I learned it from Howard Cosell, who broke the news during a Monday Night Football game. Even dead Elvis could not compare. Elvis died while taking a shit. Not much fun I’d guess, and not an iconic way to go. Lennon was gunned down, Kennedy style. Lennon had rocked so many boats he was driving Hoover at the FBI batshit as the agency tried to stay abreast of national security issues like Lennon’s “Bed Ins for Peace”….which were ridiculed when the press expected an orgy and instead got preached to via “Give Peace a Change”…most likely an idea none of them had ever heard before. I cried when Lennon died. He was a pain in the ass and I loved him. And because he was a pain in the ass they killed him. And then came 8 years of Reagan, which was like rubbing salt into the wound. It’s a miracle that anybody in my generation remains a respectable member of society. We should have burned the entire shithouse down.
But no, that would be rude. So we just kept our heads down under the Gipper and hoped he didn’t notice that lots of folks were just as pissed off as them Air Traffic Controllers. But nobody wanted to be frog-marched into the desert and be dumped into a large pre-dug hole, never to be seen again. So we bent over and took it. We took it good.
And then Clinton and Seems Like Teen Spirit came along. You could walk the streets and not get caught up in bread lines. We had jobs. Guitars were on the radio. Cobain mumbled and screamed all the rage we’d been feeling but could not get out. We had a President who would say the word ‘AIDS’ without thinking it was somebody’s fault. And then Cobain got too close to the sun and…well….that was that. He put an REM record on, and used his foot to blow his own head off with a shotgun. I think they found him 2 days later. Reagan and his boys had surely put the zap on Cobain’s head….but there was more to this one. Alienation. The kid was broken from the start. Never felt whole for a variety of reasons. Wrong side of the tracks. Born at the perfect time for us. It was the worst time for him.
Should we be selfish and say the world is better because he was here? Or should we feel that what he left behind was not worth……what he left behind. Namely, himself.
I don’t know. I miss them all. The idea of JFK. I miss Lennon because he taught me about rock and roll, and that it was more than just 3 chords. It was singing about rebellion….and then rebelling yourself. The type that gets you noticed by the FBI. I miss Cobain because he could have been me. That scrawny shy kid who, today, wouldn’t get past the loading dock of “The Voice” TV studio….but changed everything. The Lennon of our time.
Lennon. Cobain. Our JFKs.
In a bit..
I wrote this song a few years ago. Sometimes one gets away. I brought it back for a batch of songs I’m putting together to record with my friend Mike Lambert. That’s Mike in the pic. Better than another pic of me.
From 2006. The bad ol’ days..
When George Met Cindy at WVIA studios
Rock and roll has reached the level of “Not Fade Away”, but never surpassed it.
Medley of Miner Boy/Song About a Train/Folson Prison Blues live from the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock
Medley of Miner Boy/Song About a Train/Folson Prison Blues live from the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock in 2011