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In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: The Swinging Doors

We’re bad. But we’re not just nationwide. We’re global now.

We are legion. And we are determined to make Wichita Lineman the song that’s played by the band in the corner at the dive bar, on the juke box at the pizzeria, and played during time outs at football games and water polo matches alike. I want it tastefully arranged with strings and French horn, murmuring from crummy overhead speakers in elevators in Kuala Lumpur, even though I hate French horn and I’m glad they make them shove their hand in there to try to smother the sound.  I want gas pumps to play Wichita Lineman. High School marching bands. I want it to become the opening riff of a Windows start, and an Apple shutdown. I want Lady Gaga to cover it because she’s afraid not to. 

And be warned: I’m gonna come looking for first person that makes a “Rineman” joke, and not with binoculars, either.

Aforetimes: In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: Optiganally Yours 

Previously: In
Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It
The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: Glenn Tilbrook 

Also Sprach Sippican: Another In The Long List Of Songs I Don’t Like That I Like

In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: Optiganally Yours

Fonkee. Better bass playing than most versions. I get the impression from all the audio spackle that the vocalist couldn’t sing at gunpoint, or perhaps is singing at gunpoint, but a song with legs carries one along with it, doesn’t it?

Previously: In Furtherance Of My Evil Plan To Resurrect Wichita Lineman And Make It The Official Cover Song Of The Twenty-Teens: Glenn Tilbrook 

Also Sprach Sippican: Another In The Long List Of Songs I Don’t Like That I Like

A Painting In A Museum Hears More Foolish Remarks Than Anyone Else In The World

Faithful reader, commenter, furniture buyer, and friend Leslie from Arizona painted watercolors of the two ugly roomers we keep here in the house and call Unorganized Hancock. My gosh, they’re marvelous. 

I understand that many people paint in watercolors, but of course we know that it’s impossible to paint in watercolors. Can’t be done. I don’t know how Leslie does it. I always stuck to acrylics and oil paint, so I could paint the trim on the house when the daubs on the canvas went south. I’d only paint a rental property with watercolors, and I don’t have any rental property, so I’d never even attempt a watercolor painting.

I’m profoundly grateful to everyone that reads, and comments, and links here, and hits our tip jars, and uses our Amazon links, and purchases furniture from my little online shop, and sends us the occasional treasure. The Sippicans love you all!

Brother’s Day

Nice people are nice.

Every day is Brother’s Day around our house, of course. Our two sons are very far apart in age, so the fact that they can do something together, every day, in earnest, is a blessing. I remember desperately trying to grow up in time to hang around with my much older brother, and seeing him disappear over the maturity horizon over and over. Heartbreaking, it was. The kids in the video have great fun knocking around together, and I bet they will when they’re men, too.

I worry what will happen to our younger son if The Heir lights out for adult life anytime soon. We live in western Maine, and it’s a cross between a nursing home and a mausoleum around here. There are, essentially, no small children. Most of the children that are here are borderline feral. The brothers need each other more than I wish they did. My older son has lots of nice friends because he can cast a wider net than the little feller, but the Spare Heir is lonesome sometimes. Without his brother — egad.

I used to make a joke when our first son was born: I was dissatisfied with the quality of humans available on this planet, so I made my own.  It doesn’t seem like much of a joke to me anymore. I encourage everyone to make your own humans. Making a human involves much, much more than fifteen minutes in the back seat of a car. You’ve got to raise ’em up. Like the charming kids in the video, they’ll help you raise themselves properly, if you’ll just let them. Micromanagement won’t produce a viable adult. Don’t forget to sprinkle some  Laissez faire in there, dudes and dudettes.

A year ago and more, my older son was disappointed for the umpteenth time when the other children his own age failed to show up to play music. He tried over and over again to find anyone that he could do it with. No dice. I suggested he try his little brother. I told him his brother would never let him down like that. You can trust your brother. Make sure he can trust you, too, and you’ll never falter.

On the odd, occasional day, spaced out quite a bit, I’ll grant you, and interspersed with plenty of bad dadding, I’m a half-decent father to those children:

(Thanks to reader and commenter Leon for sending Brother’s Day along)

[Update: Our friend Gerard at American Digest mashed the boys’ musical education PayPal button to remind us of how swell he his. That’s because he is. Many Thanks!]
[Update, More so: Many thanks to Charles F. from Florida for his contribution to the kids’ music fund]

Dwight Twilley And A Very Confused Bass Player Play “I’m On Fire”

Right around 1975 or so, this was a minor hit. Top twenty or so.

Like most hit songs, there’s nothing to it, really. If you quizzed fans of the song, and asked them to tell you the lyrics, they’d be able to sing-song the “hook,” you ain’t you ain’t you ain’t got no lover, which doesn’t sound like Shakespeare to my ear, and the three-word title, but the rest is basically unintelligible, and unintelligent, if you look it up. It’s the sort of song you could sing anything in if you were covering it, and no one would notice it. But pop songs aren’t often worth studying overmuch. It was raucous fun, and any four people could bang it out in the garage if you got the notion.

Of course Dwight and his friends got the idea of banging things out in their Tulsa garage by seeing A Hard Day’s Night, and figgering, “How hard can this be?” This song made it to the charts out of nowhere, while the band was trying to get famous doing something else, and then they started paying attention to it again, and the something else never materialized.

It’s not hard to have a hit song, really.  It’s almost impossible to have a hit song, but it’s not hard. There is no way to tell what the public will like, or even what they’re willing to have shoved in their ear. Payola got bad songs played on the radio back in the day, but it wasn’t a slam-dunk way to make things popular. The record companies just tried everything to see what worked, and were satisfied with one million-seller out of a thousand tries. It wasn’t that difficult to get thrown at the wall thirty years ago. Deuced difficult to stick, though. I’m not sure exactly what alchemy is used now, although fake Twitter followers and bot-driven YouTube views seem to have supplanted having members of the band and their families calling the radio stations non-stop and requesting their own songs with a hankie over the receiver to disguise their voice. Time marches on.

This song was about the first thing Dwight Twilley ever did, and it’s the only thing that might even merit a trivia question about him. You could perhaps tease a second trivia question about the drummer and female singer in the video. They’re castaway Cowsills. You can hear the drummer playing and singing on other recordings that made the charts, too; that’s him on Tommy Tutone’s Jenny (867-5309),  another one-hit wonder in the same guitar/bass/drums vein.

The rock and roll machine has always been the musical version of The Million Monkey Theorem. It explains probability theory by positing that if a monkey hits keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time, it will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare, eventually.

So I offer the Dwight Twilley Theorem to you, my readers. Here goes:

If an infinite number of garage bands are formed after watching a Beatles movie, and they hit notes at random on Telecasters and sing doggerel for an infinite amount of time, they’ll eventually get Casey Kasem to utter their name on AM radio after midnight on Sunday, even if their bass player doesn’t know what to do with his hands.

The corollary to this theorem is: Only the music store and Yoko Ono will end up with any money.

The Sparkletones Is The Second Greatest Rockabilly Band Name Ever

I was in the Superfonics. That’s the greatest Rockabilly band name ever. We stunk, but man, could we name things.

The drummer was an ancient old dude, probably ten years younger than I am now, and he didn’t have a car or front teeth. I’m not sure if those two details are related. He got rid of most of his toms and cymbals, welded the remaining drums together, and bolted a big handle to the resultant apparatus. He’d ride the subway with it. He’d come in, plop the thing down, sit on a milk crate, and start playing. He was either a genius or a dullard.  The two guitar players were roommates, attending MIT. They were either geniuses, or very smart, I can’t remember which. They played everything  exactly like the records we copied. The singer — couldn’t.

[Oh, dear; look what I found in my junk drawer:]

I remember Chet’s. If I owned Hell and Chet’s Last Call, I’d live in Hell and rent out Chet’s.

Inside Baseball And The Beatles

We’re visiting the Hope and Anchor bar again, that magical nightspot where you can wander in and find Glenn Tilbrook, formerly of Squeeze, and a motley assortment of whoever’s handy banging out whatever tune comes to mind. Can’t Buy Me Love is a great tune to come to mind. It’s a hardy perennial.

Here’s the inside baseball for you. In the past I played music for money, often on short notice, sometimes among total strangers, so I notice such things: About eight bars into the song, Glenn realizes that the bass player doesn’t know the song. You can see him turn his torso towards the laggard, and his eyes recognize the mild sort of panic in the other musician’s eyes. He stays turned through one verse, making very deliberate chord shapes way down the neck, so that the bass player can see them. A good bass player knows something about the guitar, and by looking at the position of the fingers and the spot on the neck, he can sort out the chord changes. Once around should do it, and does. If you want to know what being a bandleader is like, Glenn is trying to sing like Paul McCartney, play like John Lennon, and coax George Harrison through playing the bass at the same time. If he’s like me, or most any other human, he’s desperately trying to remember the words at the same time.

I learned the knack of watching the guitar player’s hands out of self-defense, mostly. Many guitar players can’t tell you what they’re playing. They learn things by rote, or by ear, but they can’t tell you beforehand what they’re about to do. They often don’t know the correct key of the song, they can only tell you the first chord, and if the first chord of the song isn’t based on the tonic note of the scale, they’ll misidentify the key to you, and you’ll end up chasing them around and playing majors and minors wrong because of it.

A very long time ago, I wanted to play the drums. The public school wouldn’t let me. When I was a man, I could do what I pleased, so I went to the drum shop, and bought the set of drums you see my ten-year-old son playing in Unorganized Hancock music videos. I took a few lessons, and then got a job playing drums in an open mike night at a disreputable Irish bar. The impresario that ran the show paid me fifty dollars a night to come, on two conditions: I had to bring the drums; I had to keep the fact I was the only one being paid a secret — no one else got paid except him. I played the drums for the first few songs, and then I played the bass, which was my natural instrument, and then when more people came in I’d just play darts all night and drink Black and Tans for free. It was a great job for a Monday night, which is a graveyard in the music business. My liver and hearing might have other opinions.

The impresario, who I’ll call “J,” had a very fine Irish tenor voice, could play nearly any instrument you could produce, and was some form of an insane person. He liked taking drugs, drinking, and having sex with lots of ugly women. He was as reliable as phone service in a tunnel. But he could sing, and run things, and he got work. He started hiring me for all sorts of jobs, after he found out I could more or less follow along with him on the bass by watching his left hand on the guitar neck.

I was broke at the time, had no regular music jobs, and would play with anybody for a few bucks, so I was game. But man, some of those jobs beggar description. I started doing an Irish duo thing with him. It was in another, much more disreputable Irish bar, and there were glasses and tables and fists flying around the joint with a regularity that bordered on boredom. He would sing and play busker tunes on the guitar, and I’d follow along as best I could, which wasn’t very well, partly because he would turn away from me mostly. It was every man for himself with that dude, morning, noon, and night. I couldn’t sing harmony with him on a good day, and there were no good days, because it was all I could do to just follow along with him. It was like chasing a moving musical bus.

When the crowd got really unruly, which is really saying something, he’d sing Carrickfergus, or Danny Boy, in a lilting operatic tenor voice he owned, but hoarded, mostly, and it was so compelling that he’d stop traffic outside and everyone would weep and sway in each other’s arms for a bit. Then he’d tell the audience if they had a request to write in on a twenty and send it on up, and it was right back in the mosh.

One day, I showed up to the job, and he wasn’t there. There was another fellow holding a guitar, and staring at me. “J couldn’t make it, so he sent me.” I set up my equipment, hung the bass around my neck, and looked at the other fellow. And he said, “J said you know all the tunes, and all I’ve got to do is watch your hand on the bass neck and follow along.”

It was a very long night, and I never laid eyes on J again.

If You Make Things, You Are My Brother. Or Sister. My Chinese Brother Or Sister, Apparently

I scour the Intertunnel looking for videos of craftsmen of any sort that I can feature on this blog. I make furniture. But you should understand: I don’t LOVINGLY CRAFT anything.

That term is a running, inside joke between my wife and me. It’s shorthand for someone doing handwork as slow as possible, in order that the (sometimes imaginary) customer can tell all their friends they bought something that’s LOVINGLY CRAFTED. Most American craftsman featured on the Intertunnel are running little personality cults. They don’t make enough stuff to reach a threshold I keep in my head to be called a true maker of things. They are  performance artists; or wish they were, anyway. They LOVINGLY CRAFT.

As I said, I don’t LOVINGLY CRAFT anything. I make things with all the intelligence and effort I can bring to bear, as fast as I can, and sell it for as little as I think is necessary and as much as I can get at the same time. Finding that financial fulcrum is deuced difficult. If you charge too little you starve. Conversely, if you charge too much, you starve.

Why do I have to travel the Intertunnel to China to find people like me? These people are exactly like me. They are clean. They are “well-turned-out.” They are not slovenly in their appearance or demeanor. They are all sober. Believe me, I’ve managed hundreds of people at a time. I can tell at a hundred yards if you’re lit. They smile at work. They work really, really hard, and someone else ends up with almost all the money, but they make enough to keep body and soul together. I noticed, in the background, a young woman returning to work from outside, and she appears to be holding a better phone than I possess. There is a child hanging around the workshop. My workshop often has one of those.

That workshop has nothing that I don’t understand going on it it. It’s a very safe place to work, although the State of California would tell you that every single thing in it is known to give you cancer. But they say that about a glass of tapwater. The finish that the woman’s applying is shellac, which you can eat after is dries, and the glue pot is filled with hide glue, which is just horses that came in last, and most of the tools make wood shavings, not sawdust, and the sanding is done by hand, so the sawdust isn’t copious or particularly dangerous. No one in the video is missing a digit, or has any visible scars from working with their hands all day. They all have fans pointed at them, but that’s no doubt because it’s too warm for comfort wherever they are. That place is not full of toxic fumes. You’d pay money to smell the smells in there. Shellac and hide glue and wood shavings smell wonderful. I hear laughter in there, and people smile when a camera is pointed at them. It’s a sheepish smile I understand. They are not used to people being interested in their mundane life. No one is wearing safety glasses or ear protection, and no one needs them, either.

No one is LOVINGLY CRAFTING anything in the video, although the violins they make will be sold for huge money in Europe, and the customers will be told that their violins were… LOVINGLY CRAFTED. But then again, no one I’ve seen in five thousand LOVINGLY CRAFTED videos have one-tenth the hand skills I see demonstrated by everyone in the video. It’s important work to them, so they do it to the best of their ability. People that do things over and over get really good at them. I wish them all well — and hope on my best day, I’m as good as they are on their worst.

Ladies And Gentlemen, I Give You: The Intertunnel

It is a silly place.

The light at the end of the Intertunnel is a dumpster fire. An Intertunnel in the hand is worth two in Kate Bush. I think that I shall never see, an Intertunnel take an arrow to the knee. The Intertunnel is the place where, when you have to go there, you’re likely to be taken in. Do not go gentle into that Intertunnel. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing but look at the Intertunnel. There’s a sucker born every refresh. And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your Intertunnel can do for you—ask if you can upload a mariachi band serenading a beluga whale.

Pure Pop For Then People — Crowded House

Neil Finn’s entry in the “Men that look like old lesbians” sweepstakes. He’s been going to the beauty parlor with Ron Wood and Jeff Beck, I see. Neil’s fronting the current iteration of Crowded House in the video. They were semi-big in the eighties. Big enough to still be working, at any rate. They’re from New Zealand and Australia and other upside-down places.

He can still sing, I also see. Before Auto-Tune, if you wanted to make money in pop music, you sort of had to be able to sing. It wasn’t absolutely necessary, of course. You used to be able to mumble into a microphone, then the producer would put all sorts of sturm und drang all around it, and you could have a hit; see: Don’t You Want Me Baby, by Human League. But crooners have an easier time of it, and have less trouble having more than one bite of the top forty apple.

Crowded House was one of those eighties bands — A Flock of Seagulls;  ABC, The Bangles; Thompson Twins; Duran Duran; Escape Club; The Fixx; Simple Minds; Simply Red;  Howard Jones; XTC; Dan Hartman; Icehouse; Level 42; Psychedelic Furs;  Hair Cut 100; Tears for Fears;  Wang Chung; World Party — bands that are growing interchangeable with the decades slipping by. If you put them all on the same bill, and they all wore matching suits, they could all play each other’s tunes and not many people would notice. But you always notice when people sing well.

Month: September 2013

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