Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tacky Neon Blood! A Comedy of Manners

Back in the far off days of my heavenly youth, there existed a simple technology called a tape deck. Kids with wit and humor seized upon these devices to record themselves goofing around. We had all heard Firesign Theater and the records of the Bonzo Dog Band and knew that we could make a comedy tape as easily as they did. It was a kind of punk comedy, but without the narrow cultural focus that punk came to represent.

Slash Brannon was the name I coined for Patrick Udell for this very comedy tape, and Rico D. Bool was the name I coined for Joe Ramsey. Later I also came up with Fo Jammi's name, since it seemed to be my job to invent nicknames for the entire band. Of us all, I think only Joe and Fo Jammi have kept their teen nicknames, which is amazing to me.

After a considerable amount of crude editing I have smacked this chaotic sketch into something worth listening to. I just had to take out some of the long, drawn-out scenes of torture that we resorted to all too frequently, since we just did it because we couldn't think of anything funny to do, and cruelty is the natural refuge of the amateur comic.

Personally, I find these comedy tapes to be hilarious, but I realize that my humor is spawned of affection for the knuckleheaded kids who tapes it together.

This was recorded in 1977 or 1978 in the South Saint Louis Funk Lab. The female voice was supplied by Lisa, Slash's girlfriend.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just a Moment

Another song I played at my 50th birthday party was one very important to me: Just a Moment. The very reason I went to so much trouble and expense to have such a big party was because I wanted to have a moment in time where everyone who loved me would be with me in one room, and I got as close as I possibly could to having it.

I have a theory of time that orders my life and provides me with the faith to endure as much as I can the passing of time and helps me to fill even moments of tedium and impatience with a spark of the eternal. This theory is based on the idea that time begins in the present moment, rather than in the past.

Time begins, as it does in actual experience,
in the present moment,
and on this I have chosen to rely

It’s not some antique philosophical conception
a bang before all time
that you can measure like a simple length of string

If you switch the ideas about all time beginning
From past to present moment
You'll understand the bang is nowhere but our now

Time… Is nothing but a moment
It’s what’s going down
And it’s happening to you

Time… Going backwards going forwards
Infinitely outward
From an omnipresent now

We can’t get any closer
To the current state of time
We listen to impressions
Of the bang of now behind
Sooner or later
Our conceptions of linear time
Become a strong illusion
Called the arrow of time

Time… Like a wasp stuck in amber
Is a fossilized fragment
of a moment called now

Time… Existing solely in the present
We’re all presently recording
Every memory of now

If you disconnect the dots you
Might lose yourself in time
Our construct is our lifeline
The timeline is our mind
But regarding pure physics
It could happen at any time
The consensus will be shifting
To this moment in time

It's more than just a moment, really. It's every moment all at once in one. My very faith in existence stems from nothing more than the knowledge that there is a now, and there was a now, and now is all we'll ever see.

After reading an incredible book called "Time: The Familiar Stranger" I became very interested in time, and set aside my former cock-assed theory (all of my theories are arguably cock-assed, of course) that you couldn't go faster than the speed of light forwards but you could go faster than the speed of light backwards, which I made up because I thought it was really funny on a trip with my friends in 1978.

The patient and digestible way the author presented the concept of time is actually a mental construct that is extremely hard to verify using anything other than another mental construct became quite real to me, even though I continued to order my life around the idea that there are three states of time: past, present and future. You can't really get a thing done without using these concepts to order your life, and I'm a practical person.

But a great deal of thinking on the subject over the years led me to reject the idea of the future existing. Even if you were able to see all time outside of time, much like we can see incredibly far into the past by simply glancing up at starlight. I decided that the future can't exist, even outside of time, because it hasn't been created yet. Time begins in the present moment, and persists in the past, or else we wouldn't get to see starlight from millions of years ago.

This song was recorded at Soft Sound Studios by Fo Jammi, who also played piano and mixed it. I played the guitar and bass, Bill Morris played the drums, and Mark Gray played the incredible, otherworldly guitar solo that snakes throughout the piece.

Download Just a Moment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm Not Old

I'm in the now, just like you and all of us. In a solipsistic mood due to the increasing weight of my accumulated past moments, I had to write a song of defiance.

You call it age, I call it a large collection of past moments I personally witnessed. The envelope carrying my consciousness, if compared to the body of ten years ago, is aged. Everything inside feels the same.

This was one of the four rock songs I chose to sing at my 50th birthday party. It seemed ridiculously appropriate, and when Bill Morris said he dug it, that clinched the choice for me, since he is one of the few people to have ever heard it and I wasn't really expecting him to dig anything I wrote at all.

When I sang the song, a small group of middle-aged women friends of mine gathered together in front of the band. When I got to the big dramatic ending, they all swooned and screamed on cue, even though none of them had ever heard the song before, and it cracked my ass up. I had to laugh right in the middle of trying to sound earnest and sincere. It was the best moment of an unforgettable night.

I'm going to dedicate this song to the lovable rock god Steve Scariano, who has been playing bass in a variety of great bands for a long time. Listening to one of the bands he plays in, Prisonshake, I became inspired by the mix of casual ability and sloppy precision they put across in all their best songs. To put it simply, I became excited again by rock, because Prisonshake has it both ways, complexity and simplicity, rawness and refinement. It helped me to remember that a good song should have both.

So I put together a delicate melody and a hard chorus and made it work as best I could, trying to show both sides of music that I love. I sang in the way I usually do, smooth and controlled, and then sang in the way I ought to more often, contrived and exciting. Like Doug Enkler or some other rock god.

After composing the guitar part and sung melody, I took it to Fo Jammi's studio to record it. After laying down the basic tracks, I took it home and wrote a nice bass part for it, hoping it would be the kind of bass part Steve Scariano would like.

Here are the words:
The time has come, and I just don't know how
To sing of when it wouldn't ever be now
Go back against our wills in time
Remember when you were mine

'Cause if you gaze deep into my dark brown eyes
You're gonna see back behind a thousand lies:

I'm not old

I'm still a rock'n'roll star
I'm back in love with you
The fans are going wild
There's only one thing to do

Now that I'm not old

You say you're in a fit
You're getting ready to cry
You're such a nervous girl
There's only one thing to try

And that's the very same thing
I once did with you
Download "I'm Not Old"