Music

Almost decided to drop this one altogether, but something about it stuck with me:

(Chewing On a Stale) Stick of Gum

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I put this one on the shelf when I left for Thailand a couple weeks back, thinking it was all done except for a title. (These are scraps, after all, nothing grand, and I risked tweaking this to death.)

When I played it for my son Ben (pictured) his assessment was supportive but blunt. It needs a bass track, he said. He has a great set of ears and he was right; I even knew it before he said it, but had avoided doing so because it had been a couple years since I’d picked up a bass and even though it’s the first instrument I taught myself 35 years ago, I feel clumsy playing.

But I added a simple bass track when I got home, and it really added some heft. That, along with one of my favorite parts of the trip, inspired a title:

Riding a Pachyderm

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Another cinema-inspired title:

M. Tati Visits Tijuana

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This one feels like it has sort of an Ennio Morricone vibe going:

Spaghettini Western

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(I’ll get back to photos eventually.)

OK, I haven’t posted anything in awhile. I’d like to say I’ve been busy, but that isn’t really true; preoccupied has been more like it. Distracted, at the very least, from the photography that has dominated my posts for most of 2009.

Last fall I finished a looooong project – years in the making, really – transforming my basement from a turn-of-the-last century dungeon to a…well, I guess it’s kind of a middle-of-last-century warehouse. It’s never going to be anything fancy, not a rec room, home theater, wet bar or anything like that. Just a place for the utilities, laundry and work bench.

But I did carve out a space for a glorified closet where I can play guitars and other music machines without bothering my wife too much. I’ve got a little ProTools set up there for playing around.

I haven’t composed a full-on verse-chorus-verse song in years. And I might never again. But the new basement set-up is conducive to creating song fragments, which I’ve done a bit of for the last couple months. None of them are very polished. In fact, the flaws make me cringe. But what the hell, I figured I’d post some of them here.

The first I’ve called

Hong Kong Hip Hop Shop

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You might recognize the title from a photo I posted earlier from a place I saw at a Hong Kong night market.

With the first few entries in this WIHAN series, I’ve managed to wallow in my glory days of the late 1970s. Time for something a little more current, I say.

This birthday present of a show came courtesy of my son, Ben. He decided he wanted to take me to a club show where he could legally buy me a beer for the first time, having turned 21 a few months earlier. Truth be told, The Polyphonic Spree wasn’t his first choice, but a conflict forced him to pick this one, so it would have to do.

And do it did.

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or The night I thought I’d end up with a hunting knife in my belly

OK, before I tell the story behind that subtitle, check out the ticket price! Ten bucks to see the Stones. Tax included. No TicketMaster or venue fees. What a freakin’ deal!!!

Former Wailer Peter Tosh opened, supporting his Legalize It album. Most likely a decent set, but the only thing I remember all these years later is the size of the joint the band fired up toward the end. Looking like a medium-sized cigar, I imagine it took them a couple hours to smoke down to a roach.

It was a general admission show, a year and a half before the tragedy at The Who’s Cincinnati concert put an end to such things. So, after the Tosh set my friends and I made our way toward the stage. Getting to the front was never the hardest part of this maneuver; jump into the sea of humanity and the undertow would carry you in the desired direction. Holding your own up front, surviving the combination of mid-summer temps and body heat when personal space extended no further than your own layer of sweat, that was the tricky part.

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My son Ben blogged last week about a moment of pure joy he got from one in-tune note he coaxed out of his student band. He described the sensation in cruder terms, but I know exactly what he’s talking about.

I have some musical ability, although very little talent.  Still, I’ve played enough to have shared in those moments of bliss when everyone in the band is “on” and the music takes on a life apart from the musicians. It’s like riding down a steep hill on a bike and taking your hands off the handle bars.

And it doesn’t matter what kind of group you’re playing in – I remember that sensation back in junior high band, in the pre-punk band I played in during high school and the band of work buddies I played with in my 30s.

The whole notion of capturing those perfect musical moments was the theme of my favorite episode of the best “kids” program ever, The Adventures of Pete and Pete. In Hard Day’s Pete, Little Pete hears a garage band (featuring Marshall Crenshaw and Syd Straw) playing what instantly becomes his favorite song and he spends the episode searching for it before the memory of it disappears. The conclusion is predictable, but for me, at least, that doesn’t detract from it’s impact: