Saturday, March 31, 2012

Song #90. Can’t See Me in This Light

for RL

All needs be
Seen by me
Is lit by the light
Burning steady in your eyes

Ruby glowing coal
Bank the timbers of your soul
The strange strong light
Burning steady in your eyes

Shine on me
Let your light shine down
It don't matter you can't see me in this light
But let your light shine down

If there’s a point
To have a heart
It’s so I'll know
Just what it means to lose it

And man it's gone
I'll never find it in a night gone blind
From the white pure gleaming
Burning steady in your eyes

Shine on me
Let your light shine down
It don't matter you can't see me in this light
But let your light shine down

All love is
Is a door ajar
You're drawn through
After light falling from a star

Build me a cage
Out of your arms
I will be a perfect effigy
Burning steady in your eyes

Shine on me
Let your light shine down
It don't matter you can't see me in this light
But let your light shine down

-December 2008

Notes written on 3/30/12. I think this is a very strong pop love song.  A dear friend has made it very clear that I need to read then reread Chekov’s 'Uncle Vanya’.  so I have started. On the other hand, when a profoundly naive man finds himself lost in the wilderness, thinking that he will starve to death from a lack of affection (or do I mean attention),  a young woman’s mere kindnesses can easily misconstrued.  These is even more true when that young woman is beautiful, and an artist, and insists on sharing with you her fantasies of being raped by older men. I wish you could gather the points accrued for being a gentleman, and redeem them later for something useful. 

But these smallish pathetic sins are probably very common, at least as common as the natural lack of common sense.  Apparently although I cannot and will not be loved, at least I can still suffer injury at love’s hand.  For me, it’s the closest thing to knowing I am still alive. And I do manage to trasmute these woman into muses, and they do help get some songs written.  It leads to me to the conclusion that at my age, requited love is of less and less utility to me or to anyone else.  But then life is no more fair than a person is likely to get what he truly deserves.   There is an MP3 of the song here. 

Song #91. ‘77 /17

"[You] creep me was thirty years ago ...get over it" – Nancy H

'77 /17
It was fucking easy being green
And there, proudly on the movie screen
The rock and roll transvestite queen
Midnight lips
My first kiss
Susan Saradon’s lovely tits
John and Paul, Glen, Sid and Steve
Our brand new Elvis stops the TV
Harry Reems gets out of jail
William Jefferson Clinton still don’t inhale
But she let me put my fingers there
Then she slipped off her underwear
'77 /17
A couple hundred nights and
Christ, I really loved you Nancy

Was like a blur
The Pistols flipped off the whole fucking world
Steamed up car windows radio nights
Policemen and their long flash lights
Bee Gees under winter stars
Not all the way, but really far
I swore to her that my love was true
And God knows I longed to show her, too.

I walked hours to her house through streets of snow
Still, Nancy'd never tell me though
But if she had I would have died
What a fucking perfect way to go
'77 /17

Many many many many many nights and
Christ,  I really loved you Nancy


When eighteen hit
College-bound and dumb as shit

The music died at Winterland the fourteenth day
I prayed she wanted me to stay. But she wouldn’t say
God she really made me sad

But it looked to her like I got mad
So one day I just wouldn’t talk to her
And to this day, she ain't never said a word
Sid and his Nancy were a year away
But me, I think I really died that day
I want to go back and learn
How not to love someone in turn
Who lets you kiss 'em at a show
Where every punk that you know knows
'77 /17

Jesus Fucking Christ, I really loved you Nancy
Mary Holy Mother of Christ, I really loved you Nancy
-December 2008

Notes made on 3/29/12.  In the fall of 1977 I began my last year in high school.  It was also the year of the Sex Pistols and punk and new wave, none of which I got at the time.  That summer, I remember watching a story entitled “New Elizabethans” on Punk on Lloyd Dobyn’s hip TV news magazine “Weekend”, which substituted for SNL once a month.  I remember thinking that it was all a bit scary.  Weekend’s misleading premise was that punk  wasn’t so much about the music as it was about violence, and that the bands, despite their protestations, really saw punk as a ticket to get rich.  Elvis Presley died that summer too. 

Lloyd and the boys....

The “New Elvis” Elvis Costello stopped the 1977 Christmas episode on Saturday Night Live, the episode the Pistols were supposed to play on, but could not as they could not get US Visas due to their criminal records.  I drove my mother’s silver gremlin in those days, and in the fall 1977 the car radio played fantastic make-out music…Billy Joel’s The Stranger was out.  Saturday Night Fever was released.

Nancy was my first girlfriend.  She was an aspiring painter.  She worked on tech in the school shows, and I performed in those shows, which is how we met.  She was cool, and cool to me.  She was just about the first girl I ever got the nerve up to ask out.  Our first date was that fall.  I was invited to tag along with a group of her friends who were going to see the new wild film event in town, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, at the Theater for The Living Arts in Philadelphia which in the 1970’s was an art film/grind house, before becoming a concert venue called The Filmore at the TLA.    Interesting coincidence.  The Sex Pistols last show was at the Filmore in SF…

Dammit Janet....

I never did see the film that night, after the singing red lips, as Nancy and I made out the entire movie.  This was the first time anything that great had ever ever happened to me.  I was elated.  Through that fall and winter we went to many many movies with her over the next few months, and never really saw those either.  Man I was head over heels in love, but Nancy was more reticent, although she apparently enjoyed necking.  I wanted her to declare her undying love for me as I had for her (repeatedly), but for reasons which eluded me, but which still confirmed my worse feelings about myself, she would not use the L word.  Not once. So one day in Spring, profoundly hurt from unrequited love/requited lust,  I just stopped talking to her.  And she apparently seemed fine with this as far as I could tell, although later I did hear that she was hurt that I stopped talking to her.  Like me I know she is married and has near adult kids.  I have tried to reconnect with her, but she’ll have none of it.  Smart woman, certainly smarter than I’ll ever be.  I still don’t understand women to this day and probably never will.  As I have often said, “Por Que No Me Amas!!!!”.   Here is a video of a performance at the gallery.  There is an MP3 of the song here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Song #92. Versteht?, or Whose World and Whose Hands?

Did you know that Brecht used to sing songs with a guitar in coffeee bars?

Note: This song is written entirely in German, except for the words

Hey,  let's say we play this brand new game,
One where I make up all the rules.
And on your turn you follow all these rules to learn
That I've changed them all
And that it's always your turn.
And the game's called "Watch You Dangle"
From every bone you’re thrown
Do you know that all you know
Is just so very very very wrong.
C'mon Everybody, sing along!
Swing your hammer of a head and ring the bell.
All your dreams are dead as hell
'Cause I've got your whole world in my hand.
I've got your whole world in my hand.
And what part of "Fuck you!" don't you understand?
I remember when they used hold you up
Like a diamond against the sun
And I'd watch you as you caught the light
So that anyone who dared look at you would go blind.
But they say that what goes up
Sometimes needs a little help to land,
And that what goes 'round
Sometimes swings around
Wielding something shiny sharp and heavy in it's hand.
It’s so easy to fall for love with the ones one should avoid.
Look deep into my dark blue smile
And see what’s lying tightly coiled:
Hey I like you.
I do.
I even respect you, too.
Think of me as a faithful friend and fan.
Then watch as I wield your loyalty and trust
To turn every friend you ever had
Against you to a man.
The game‘s called “What’s the poison?”
That I've poured down in your well.
Spreading lies can satisfy
Near as much as pulling wings off writhing butterflies.
You’d never believe it if I told you
What the guy nailed up on that cross believes is true.
It's true.
And I’ve got your whole world in my hand.
I've got your whole world in my hand.
And what part of what you've heard don't you understand?
If you know "What Keeps Mankind Alive?"?
Sing it in the German if you can.
And what part of "Fuck you!" don't you understand?

-March 2009

“Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts!” – Brecht

"People who fight may lose. People who do not fight have already lost." - Bertolt Brecht

Notes were written on 3/12/2012.  I had the line “What part of 'fuck you' don’t you understand” for years.  Thought it be a good name for an album, too.  There is more than a little Elvis Costello in the song. There is a fair amount of vitriol as well.  Hopefully it doesn’t just spill out as whining. Who doesn’t feel that there are folks out there who gained your trust who relish fucking you over, for their own reasons.  Maybe good Buddhists don’t feel like this, but other then them, everyone. I haven’t recorded this one properly yet, although I did lay down a backing track once.

I would also strongly recommend that everyone become fully knowledgeable about Brecht’s Three Penny Opera, and especially the wonderful song “Dreigroschenfinale”.  There is a fantastic performance intranslation of this song by Tom Waits which he put on his brilliant album Orphans.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Song #93. In Between Kingfishers

Kingfisher's Sam M. Walton will ‘splain you from his grave
Just why he can’t be undersold
He's was where I bought this brand new tent
Run me less than one month's rent
Or a-tenth the mortgage I used to owe
‘Til that paper was worth more than the house and the bank said: “Go!"

Still, winter and Fresno won't meet up again until sometime late Halloween
But by then who knows just how bad things just might be
So for now, like the other families
In all those other tents
We’re just got caught up a little in between
A little in-between.

Folks say California’s a garden of Eden Abhez ‘Nature Boys’
Clever as their tans, and beach-stoned to a man
But here in this inland No-Town, lives remain
‘Bout as easy as fallin’ 'neath a train.
Gov’ner closed New Jack City, but said we can move on up to his state fair
Where his state cops can watch us closer there.

Summer and Sacramento bake you drier than a stone
200 miles north of all you had and all you’d known.
Strung out like a wire hung
From what your future was to where your future's gone,
And you’re left hanging in between and on your own
Forgotten and alone.

The Kingfish Huey P. Long sang there’s ‘nough for folks to share
And if you work hard ‘n play fair you can even be a millionaire
They called him a demagogue, communist, cracker and clown
He sang “Every man a king but no man wears a crown”
He built bridges and highways and the hospital at LSU
'Til a doctor shot him in 1935 and he bled to death at the age of 42.

Woody Guthrie and F.D.R.
Sit with Sam and Huey in an abandoned car
Behind a vacant Wal-Mart in a town like them that’s died.
Huey strums Woodrow’s guitar
And sings a song for working folks with kids who gotta live in their cars.
Franklin whispers sweetly, “In this light, Samuel, you look just like Eleanor.”
And Kingfisher’s Sam M. Walton can’t recall just what the hell his whole life was for,
Although he’s sure it was gold
Or maybe it was green
Or maybe something in between.

-April 2009

The notes were made on 3/11/2012.  I think there is a great deal here in this one.  I began thinking about this problem really once I became unemployed.  Like all doctors and a lot of other folks, I never thought I experience unemployment in my life.  While I was looking for a job in January of 2009, I thought I might be landing one in Fresno, California. I saw the pictures in the paper about the tent cities in Fresno, and in Sacramento behind the Blue Diamond Almond Factory (never knew almonds came from factories…go figure).  I heard about how Governor Schwarzenegger wanted to move all the tent cities from what the homeless had named “New Jack City” to the California State Fairgrounds. I thought about the old 1930's Hooverilles of sepia tone photographs, and about the New Hoovervilles, and where did those newish brightly colored tents came from.  I figured they came from Walmart, where they would have been cheap.  That led me to research on Sam M. Walton.  I learned he was born in Kingfisher, OK.  Then I thought about The Kingfish, Huey P. Long,  I don’t think one can come up with two more different views about Capitalism than these two men.  So all these ideas got rolled into this song.

Also here a link to something I wrote I posted on facebook called Folks Say California's a Garden of Eden (Abhez Nature Boys) - Loaves & Fishesand an earlier essay I had originally posted on myspace  called “All The News That Gives Me Fits...”

Sacramento California Tent City - The New Hooverville
I seem to remember that it was during the Reagan Administration that the homeless in this country unsubmerged from the netherworld of "stuff that we can safely ignore" to "a nuisance shame to reproach and annoy us". Folks stopped referring to those on the street as "bums", "winos", "beggars" or "hoboes", and began labeling them as "homeless" or "street people"...a Lamarckian approach to reclassifying these folks as a rather different sort of pest.
So this all brought up lots of thoughts:
Heading to work early one Sunday morning in 1986, driving past the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and watching a guy wake up on a park bench."
Jack", an old song of mine which came from that observation.
Thinking about William Carlos Williams' poem "The Young Housewife" and its important idea that as writers we "use" our subjects...his comparing the woman to a falling leaf and then later his grinding up leaves under the tires of his passing car.
Tearing that poem out of my copy of the Abridged Norton Anthology of English Poetry and giving the pages to Hugh Blumenfeld in the field in Kerrville,Texas where I first met him. Living in a tent in those fields myself, albeit voluntarily, for a week or so at the end of each May for about ten years in a row while so many new friends lived around me in other tents. Playing "Jack" at the ballad tree at Kerrville...although it wasn't the on the hill but in their little theater because of an incoming rain storm, how a bunch of other performers came over to me after asking after the song. Debuting "Jack" at Earl's. Chris Farrell's telling me that it really was something'.
Volunteering at The St. Martin de Porres homeless shelter run by Sister Connie and Sister Theresa and really how very little I contributed. 
Living with my wife's terror about our losing our home if my own unemployment continues.
Hearing Phil Ochs' song "There but for Fortune". The first time I remember ever hearing a Phil Ochs' song, "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends", performed by Todd Kelly with his twelve string at Earl's Pub open mike. Thinking how great I thought that song was and how much I enjoyed his version. How incredibly annoying Todd Kelly really was, and all those crap quality cassette tapes he would fob off of him and Dwain Story. Later hearing about his last job delivering pizzas and that one day he just sat down on an apartment stoop after delivering a pie and dropping dead.
Dwain Story
Thinking about the day he and Dwain Story coming over to my house to sell me Dwain's Guild for 200 bucks so he could get his Martin. Learning about Dwain's years with the Knob Lick Upper 10,000 and those old LPs on Mercury and his being managed by The Albert Grossman!
The Knob Lick Upper 10,000 two album covers on Mercury
- Pete Childs, Erik Jacobsen, and Dwain Story.
The back covers with original signatures from
Pete Childs, Erik Jacobsen, and Dwain Story - Produced by Al Grossman!
I still remember Dwain's songs “Wendigo” and of course "Good Pussy 4 Sale", whose heroine's seven-inch clitoris that could ball the jack. Dwain played great even after having been institutionalized for years for schizophrenia which turned out to be bipolar disorder. He needed a different medication. First time I hung out with Dwain at a short-lived open mike in Wicker Park (pre-Liz Phair, pre Urbus Orbus). I have loads of memories of this…my buying him and me a pizza while this really really awful comedian-cum-lately did about forty minutes laughing at his own pathetic jokes all about his wife…Dwain telling me about the transient hotel he lived in…Dwain complaining about how Detroit Junior got the gig the previous weekend at Earl's earning himself fifty bucks…Dwain telling me that if he had that fifty how he could afford to take a prostitute. How wide my eyes got listening to him talk. I also recall how the kitchen staff came out to hear me play that night. Did I play "Jack" that night? Naw...I couldn't have. Hadn't even written "She's Crazy on You (Shiela)" about Dwain and that conversation.The Dysfunctionells were playing "Sheila" with the great Peter Stampfel in Philly after Vence's car nearly caught fire.  When I mentioned that the song was about a songwriter in Chicago, and that the Guild I was playing I had bought off him, Peter asked who I was talking about. I told him it was Dwain and he jumps up…”I KNOW DWAIN STORY!” Wow. Dwain came to hear us play with Pete at the Lunar... a bit of a reunion. I even once had " to repair" that old Guild using a stick I found on the campground at The Kerrville Folk Festival. In 1998 I saw Dwain sitting on a Lincoln Park Zoo park bench case open for tips. Not much in his case. Dropped a twenty in as I left.
And Dwain is still with us, too.  He used to hang at The Gallery Cabaret, but apparently he got band.  I hope he is still doing okay.  In 2010 I made about 25 copies of the CD with his two old Mercury LPs on them, with covers and all, so he could sell them as he busked.  I hope he is still doing okay.
Wendigo was his big song. Remember studying way early one morning during my pysch rotation in 1989 and finding out that wendigo is an American Indian form of psychosis.
So now I have been thinking about tents and rents and mortgages and park benches and the weather and capital punishment and raising your own chickens and as it turned out I was writing another song at Winning's last night...
Kingfisher's Samuel M. Walton shouts from his grave "Won't be undersold". Got me this big brand new tent
At only 'bout one month's rent
Way less than half the old mortgage if truth be told
Sure, we loved that house but the roof was too old
Winter and Fresno won't meet up again until late Halloween
Like the other families in all the other tents we're just a little in between
Times just caught some us up a little too in between
California Eden Abe's nature boy has grown up insane
Living here's just about as easy as fallin 'neath a train
This morning's cops spread the word
Quick as Hollywood polishes turd
"Take your tent down you're off to the fair"
The Austrian's muscle made room for us there
The water there's safer and clean
For those here who found themselves caught up and in between
Times just caught some of us up a little too in between

Song #94. All Our Tomorrows

It’s a brand new me
Stoney broke 'n broken down
‘N so low down ‘n so let’s dive deep down in
Look, I took my wooden heart and carved me this gypsy violin
Listen while it laughs just like a mother's crying
Let its sorrow burrow into you
A brand new tattoo

We’re sailing cruelly random seas
The effluent of time and stupidity
On shore in rock crags pools evolve
Slippery as history
Here, the now and then squirm and throb and teem
Alive one ebbing tide
Just to drown again like stones
Like truths we’ve cast aside

Fallen seas always rise

So haul all your tomorrows along with you
Don’t ever let them go
Don’t let go

What we are
Bodies strewn up in the crowns of trees
(No better place for hiding leaves),
Pause in awkward dangle awaiting autumn coloring
Look, I really loved you
But you just can’t take it in
I really loved you
It’s so hard to know the one’s who’s true
From those put here to fuck with you

So you’d best haul all your tomorrows along with you
Don’t let them go too far
Tomorrow’s what we are

Haul all your tomorrows along with you
Don’t ever let them go
Don’t let go

-July 2009

The notes were made on 3/5/2012.  I wish I knew where this song came from or where it was going.  I like some of the language in it but I am not sure it hangs together really.   I know I was near rock bottom when I wrote this and was wondering how I would ascend again, and if and when I did what I would take with me. Tomorrow was all I could come up with…which is interesting in that the words “squirm and throb” were nicked from the boys who sang “There is no future”.  The references to tide pools came from one of my most wonderful days ever, tide pooling in Laguna Beach with the Peter Stampfel family back in the summer of 2001. I need to bring this song back from the dead just to see if there as anything really there.  I recorded a backing track for this one in 2009.  Should listen to it again maybe.  Maybe relearn the song.

Song #95. Ain’t It So Nice Outside Today?

"There but for fortune may go you or go I" - Phil Ochs

Ain’t it so nice outside today?
Ain’t it so nice outside today?
There’s so much you want to do.
Ain’t it so nice outside today?

Back's been broke a couple times.
Neck just won’t bend quite right.
Lost his left eye in some bar fight.
Her shoulder’s froze up tight.

They can’t mount a flight of stairs.
Can’t climb out of a chair.
He said, 'My head got busted with a 2 X 4,
And since that day doc, it’s like I got no soul no more.

And it hurts so bad,
And it’s hurt for so damn long now.
The pain won’t ever go away.
But I gotta live another day.'
We all wanna live another day.
'Cause there's just so much we gotta do
And it's so nice outside today'.

Sister been deaf since she was born.
Brother been blind since he was two
From something he got from momma when he got born.
Whatever it was carried momma off too.

The good hand keeps dropping things.
The foot feels like it’s made of wood.
Can’t walk. Can’t talk. Can’t stand. Can’t sit.
There’s blood everytime you take a shit.

And it hurts so bad,
And you ain’t worked for so damn long now.
Boss won't risk your coming back.
And if you don’t work, well you don’t get paid
So you can't live to work another day.
And there’s so much you still can do.
And ain’t it nice outside today?

The nurse, she said good luck
And give you these pills.
But you don't know what they do.
But these pills just don't see you through.
It's like helplessness is just another word for nothing left to lose.

There but for fortune

She said 'Doc, the meth ran out.,
And I crashed real hard
February. The cops found me down
Outside an E/R that'd been shut down.

Seems I’d slept too long
I slept too hard on my right arm.
Doctor said weren’t nothin’ he could do.
He told me he had to cut it off before time I’d come to.'

And the pain so bad sometimes.
And it’s hurt for too damn long now.
I can’t even feed myself.
Didn't Jesus even ask God himself?
Didn't Jesus ask
Why can’t I live another day?
You know that there’s so much I still have to do
And G-d ain't it so nice outside today.
Ain’t it so nice outside today?'

yet it's
don't cry don't cry don't cry

‘Cause there’s still so much that you can do
And ain’t it so nice outside today?

-November 2009

The notes were made on 3/5/2012.  I think there is a great deal here in this one.  Everything in this song happened, again and again, to folks whose greatest aspirations were to be relieved of some of their suffering and to not feel like they were throw away people.  And many would never meet those basic aspirations.  Wrote about the origins of this one in“Charlie Holley and The Cripples” found here.  Definitely got somehelp with this one from my dear brothers Jack Hardy and Andrew Calhoun.  They both said, “It’s go to be IN the song man…”. 

I made a rough home recording of this song linked here (along with many others) needs to be properly recorded as soon as I can get 5K that doesn’t need to pay bills.  Dream on….

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Song #96. Nine Is The Lucky Number (for Jeff and Emi on their wedding day)

Five hundred years after the war
(The one Thucydides retold)
Or about a hundred since
Julius C. had remade  
What Lucius M. had so well razed
A letter penned in Ephesus
Sailed across a wine-dark sea
180 miles west
To Corinth on the Peloponnese

It’s subject, immorality
And faith and hope and charity
The greatest being charity

But when we stow our children’s things
(Translations by an English King)
Charity is replaced by love
(Very much a marriage thing)
Horns of jealousy are veiled
Women’s teeth are painted black
One thousand and one paper cranes
Sail gold across pacific seas.
From another Island Nation-State
To an Eastern sea-board town
Two families fuse their two
Southwest mile high desert kin
Three times three (san-san-kudo)

Stand with your greatest human flaws
Hate and pride and ignorance
Behind a 14 welders lens
And you can look straight at the sun
And reread Paul’s 1C13

-June 2010

The notes were made on 3/4/2012.  Jeff asked me if I would like to write a song for their wedding.  I gathered ideas slowly and is often the case in these matters I didn’t complete the thing until the morning before the wedding.  In the research about weddings in Japan, I learned that certain traditions were incorporated from the west, particularly Paul’s First Corinthians 13, which is included in so many western weddings as well.  Since this wedding was also a melding of these traditions, Emi from Japan and Jeff from not Japan, this seemed worth exploring. And the references within 1C13 gave access to historical and image references to play on in the song...the reference to the welder's glass compared "through the glass, darkly".

In the photo above Jefff and Emi are perfroming the San-San-Kudo ceremony.  According to web, "Sansankudo no Sakazuki" generally called "sakazuki-goto," is the traditional custom at every wedding performed according to Shinto rites - Long ago in Japan, sake played an important role in tying together the gods and common people. Therefore, one would never drink alone, but always in groups. There are now many old customs which have lost their meaning or popularity, but the drinking of sake at wedding ceremonies, known as "Sansankudo no sakazuki", a major focus of the ceremony, continues to thrive even in modern culture. "Sansankudo no sakazuki" brings the gods in between humans to help them, through the sharing of sake, come closer together and create a bond of friendship.”  “San-san-kudo literally means "three, three, nine times." The cup used at san-san-kudo is a special one called "sakazuki," which is only used to drink sake and no other beverages. The bride and groom take turns taking three sips each of three different bowls of sake, each one larger than the next. One does not drink the sake like a 'shot' but rather tilting the cup up very gradually and sipping lightly. Three is an indivisible number, and it is considered a sacred number in Buddhism. Nine means triple happiness. But just as the san-san-kudo sake sips may not be altogether delicious, the couple's marriage life may not always be delightful, but they will have to overcome their hardships with the co-operative spirit of the san-san-kudo. By exchanging the nuptial sake sips—three times three—husband and wife are united.”  I liked the notion of three times three, and the three words in Paul 1C13, and the two different translations over time.

I have only played this song once at the wedding but hope to relearn it again, although the music will certainly be different than on that day.  I would also love to have this song translated properly into Japanese and then to try to learn it in.