Saturday, April 12, 2014

"No Regrets" and "Christie Brown"


     1. "No Regrets." I recall recording this song in Trabuco Canyon, perhaps around 1990 or 1991; it was essentially another Ron/Roy effort, I think. I don't recall how it came about, though I do seem to remember "engineering" the last track, which, if memory serves, included both Ron's (somewhat off-key) lead guitar and the "backup singers," who were pretty raucous. A good time was had by all. Kathie's vocalizations are especially prominent among the Ronnettes.

Santa Monica, man
     The song was to a degree autobiographical: Ron was living in the Santa Monica area at the time and had struggled there.
     Once again, the "Fat Man" theme arises. In this instance, the singer is himself the "Fat Boy," and he's celebrating some sort of new start, unspecified, though it seems to involve the cancelling of checks! Ron was not overweight, I'm sure, and so this is again an appeal to the "Fat Man" saga, not to Ron's physical condition.
     Plus, he hopes that his former squeeze, to whom the song is addressed, is "happy with Fred."
     Sheesh.
This fat boy has got no regrets
Getting started again, making all new bets
Runnin’ around
Cancellin’ checks
Standing my ground
It’s as good as it gets 
This fat boy has got no regrets
I wrote my letter to you, hope you’re happy with Fred
I’m runnin’ around
What the heck
I’m standin’ my ground
It’s as good as it gets 
20th Street, Santa Monica, man
1963, that’s where I am 
Break 
20th Street, Santa Monica, man
1963, that’s where I am 
This fat boy has got no regrets
I’m getting started again, makin’ all new bets
Runnin’ around
Cancellin’ checks
Standin’ my ground
It’s as good as it gets 
20th Street, Santa Monica, man
1963, that’s where I am 
This fat boy has got no regrets….

     2. "Christie Brown." I did this one about the great cat "Christie Brown," aka "Buster." It was likely done in Anaheim in about 1989 or so.

Jerk Baby


     Is this song misogynistic? Well, no, but still, it's not something I'd come up with today.
     Over the years, I wrote all sorts of lyrics, but I generally wrote them quickly—as something to come up with asap to put over the music I’d created. There were some exceptions.
     “Jerk Baby” isn’t one of them. In this case, I had recorded some music—inspired by the cool guitar figure in Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”—and somehow came up with this yarn about a relationship with a female student: the eponymous Jerk Baby.
     I can’t say that that has ever happened, though I have had “relationships” of varying sorts with former students. Years ago, I socialized with and otherwise engaged in activities with female students—and (once or twice) that has inspired some to worry that I was in danger of  “crossing a line.” (I recall my older colleague, Rebecca, taking me aside and shaking her finger at me.) But, in truth, those folks were simply mistaken. Nope, I would not have gone there. (Given my age now, the question has become pretty academic. To students, I am very old indeed.)
     The lyrics of this song might suggest that I hold students, or female students, in low regard, but that has never really been so—I acknowledge that there was some loose talk back then, but I’m inclined to dismiss it. For what it’s worth, if anything, I’ve moved very much in the other direction over the years, viewing students increasingly like pups and kittens and other vulnerable and loveable things. It is very clear to me now that I like my students; their failings do not inspire me to judge them. I just want them to succeed, not merely in my course, but in general. They cannot disappoint me. 
     This kind of "generosity" is easy for me. I think it always has been, though maturity has allowed it to be expressed, finally, easily. I don’t confess this odd “generosity” as a boast. It strikes me now as much a vice as a virtue. I don’t hold grudges, don’t stay angry, don’t even scores. One can be free of these things to a fault, it seems. It can be a kind of infidelity to causes. 
     When I recorded this silly song, I seemed to think that speeding up the recording (playback) disguised the poverty of my singing and voice. That is not so. A mistake, that.
     I have no clear idea of when I recorded this. It might have been earlier: during the Anaheim years (c. 1989-1990).
What do you do
When you come to school?
Do you hang around
Leave your books on the ground?
I see you talk
Leanin’ over Bell-tower Clock
I see your face
When I lecture each day
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  Do you keep that look at the mall?
  Will you keep that look at the ball? (repeat)
What do you do
When you come home from school?
Give Scooter a call
Maybe hang around at the mall?
(You see) I see your face
You think I don’t see your face
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  Do you keep that look at the mall?
  Will you keep that look at the ball?
  You think I don’t see your face
  You think I don’t see your face
What do you do
When you come back to school?
You’re pushin’ your hair
Sayin’ I’m mean and unfair
I hear you fume
And then you stare some more in my room
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  I gotta know, Jerk Baby
  How’d we get together at all?
  Do you leave your brain in the hall?
  Are you countin’ specks on the wall?
  Must you return in the fall?
What do you do…

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Hey, I know you!" & "Fatty Boy's millions"

1. Hey, I know you!

Walkin’ down to the corner
Uh, hangin’ around the circle
Pickin’ up some pennies
Hey! I know you!

Starin’ at some of the natives
I say, “Hey! I know you!”
Smilin’ at the tourists
Not threatenin’ or nothin’
I say, “Hey, I know you!

Do you remember?
Do you remember?
Do you remember?
Do you remember?

I say, “Hey, I know you!”
Do you remember?
Do you remember?

Starin’ at the natives and their colorful dress
Not bein’ threatenin’ or nothin’

Do you remember?
Do you remember? 
Just walkin’ around
I say, “Hey, I know you!”
Recorded by Roy at the old house in Old Towne Orange, c. 1992 


     I got it into my head that I would play slide guitar. This was one of my few efforts. As I recall, Ron seemed to like my slide figure on this recording.
     The “circle” is the so-called “Orange Circle” in downtown Orange. We lived near there at the time. Lots of people call it "the circle," but that pisses off some of the locals, 'cause it’s officially the “Orange Plaza.” It's like they paid for that name or something.
     I was imagining being a homeless guy hangin’ around the circular park at the center of the plaza. It's usually a quiet place, but the city of O isn't exactly hospitable to homeless people.
     Suddenly (in the song), I recognize someone. I'm surprised. I say, “Hey, I know you!”
     He asks the person, "Do you remember?" —Remember what? Remember ME, I guess.
     He doesn't seem to. Or want to.
     Sad, that.

2. Fatty Boy's Millions

We want Fatty Boy’s millions
We throw ‘em around like a rama-lama-dingdong
We want Fatty Boy’s millions
We need ‘em, we want ‘em, you know we’ve gotta have ‘em
Fat Boy, huh, Fat Boy, huh
We love ‘im
Twist, uh, shake, uh
We need it

We want Fatty Boy’s millions
He throws ‘em around like a rama-lama-dingdong
We need Fatty Boy’s millions
He’s had ‘em long enough, we wanna have a good time
Hangin’ around the Fat Man’s corner
Pickin’ up a couple of dimes
Wishin’ and hopin’ for massive heart failure
You know it’s just a matter of time

Uh uh uh uh

We want Fatty Boy’s millions
We’ll throw ‘em around like a rama-lama-dingdong
We want Fatty Boy’s millions
We need ‘em, we want ‘em, you know we gotta have ‘em
Fat Boy, huh, Fat Boy, huh
We love ‘im
Twist, uh, shake, uh
We need it

Uh uh uh uh
Recorded at Verano Place, UCI, c. 1987

Roy: rhythm guitar, vocal
Ron: lead guitar

The Tascam PortaOne
     As I recall, I recorded this not long after we bought our first piece of decent recording equipment, namely, the Tascam four-track cassette recorder. I started with a drum track from our cheesy new multi-keyboard and then added the rhythm guitar (and bass?—don’t think I hear one). Then I wrote up the lyrics and recorded the vocal—likely I did many takes. Next (I think), I brought the equipment over to Trabuco Canyon one weekend when Ron was hangin’ around. I asked him to put a lead guitar on it, and so that’s what he did. We weren’t too particular in those days. He probably kept his first take.
     Once again, we encounter the “Fat Man” theme, which likely slightly predates this recording. I do recall borrowing my friend Richard’s camcorder at about that time or a little earlier, and Ron and I made some goofy film involving a fictional “Fat Man.” (As I recall, “Gilligan’s Peak” figured into the plot.) I’m pretty sure that I came up with the “Fatty Boy” variation on “Fat Man” just for this song. (He seems to be referred to in both ways in the song.)
     Who is he? I’m sure I had nobody in mind at all. Just some guy with too much money—money “we” want. Naturally, the voice/singer is a crass sort, waiting for his boss' death. You’ll note, however, that he somehow harbors some affection for the Fat Man. (“We love ‘im.”)
     What does it all mean? Not much. It’s important not to over-think these things.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Give us a smile

Give us a smile
Give us a smile
Feel good a while
Give us a smile

Baby you know that there’s
No need at all to be blue blue blue blue
Baby you know that there’s
Always a place just for you you you you
Yeah

Give us some time
Give us some time
Make us some rhymes
Give us some time

We’ve got a bed for you
A chair and a desk for you too
We’ve got a place you can
Be by yourself when you choose
Yeah
That’s right

Come home with us
Come home with us
We'll make a fuss
Come home with us

Ah——ah
Ah——ah
Yeah
Recorded by Roy likely at the Old House in Orange, c. early 90s

     I have a tendency to produce happy music with a batty, swirling carnival ride quality. Or at least I had that tendency back then.
     Obviously, this particular song is about welcoming someone—a person, a cat, a dog, whatever—to our home to be safe and happy. It's mighty simple. We did a lot of that—for stray cats—in those days: for Katie, Buster, Nikki, Spuddy, Suzie, Panda, Sunny, et al.
     Whatever anyone else might think of this music, I was happy with it. I really liked the crazy guitar sound, that repeated musical sentence, with all those guitar and keyboard elements coming together. It sure seemed like my music, to me.
     As usual, I did the vocal only because I had no one else to do it for me.

Friday, April 4, 2014

You've got some watery love/Hunk of Love

1. You've Got Some Watery Love:



     Kathie and I (mostly Kathie) got “into cats” when we moved to Anaheim (on the Imperial Highway @ the canyon railroad tracks) in the late 80s. It all started with “KT” the cat. Then we found (or were found by) Buster the cat (aka Christie; we didn’t realize he was male right away). Then we encountered Nikki—on the day of the opening of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, which was July 19, 1990 (I just looked it up). A couple of years later, in Orange, we had added young Snowy (aka Spuddy) to the brood, among others. Already back in Anaheim, I think, Kathie would refer to KT’s “watery” purrs. Eventually (as I recall), Kathie would routinely refer to Spuddy’s “watery love.” I took the phrase—vagueness included—and ran with it, Hence, this song.
You’ve got some watery love
You’ve got some watery love
And you know what I’m talkin’ about
And you know what I’m talkin’ about

I take a whole lotta guff
I take a whole lotta guff
While you’ve got that watery love
While you’ve got that watery love 
Oh where, oh where you from?
Oh where, oh where you from?
The land of watery love
The land of watery love
2. Hunk of Love:



     This song is clearly based on the screenplay for "Hunk of Love," which Ron wrote some time in the early 90s, I think. Sal, Bob, the Fat Man, the Fat Man's daughter—all are characters in that story.
     It sounds as though Ron is playing guitar and I'm playing keyboards, as usual. Ron does the vocal.
     I vaguely recall our being happy with this one.
     Given HOL's themes and nature, I used images of hard-boiled film classics for the video (Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity, both made by the great Billy Wilder)—plus pics of the great Jane Greer, a real fave (Into the Past, The Big Steal).

Sunday, March 30, 2014

End of the Summer


End of the Summer

It’s the end of the summer
Man what a bummer
It’s the end of summer
The end of me
It’s back to school
And back to fools
And back to enforcin’
Bullshit rules
And I’m feelin’ sad
And I’m going mad by degrees

It’s the end of September
I try to remember
What’s good about September
‘Cept baseball games
I face the new day
With little to say
'Cept “get the hell out of my way”
And I’m feelin’ sad
And I’m going mad by degrees

The new semester
Has begun to fester
Already students pester
The shit out of me
Perhaps I’ll take
A wooden stake
And expedite a certain fate
And I’m feelin’ sad
And I’m going mad by degrees

And I’m feelin' sad
And I’m going mad by degrees

Recorded by Ron, Roy, & Kathie in Trabuco Canyon, c. 1991  
Basic instrumental track: Roy 
Lead vocal: Kathie 
Elephantine guitar solo(s): Ron
     As I recall, I wrote this song—as a jokey, lighthearted thing, nothing serious—and laid down the basic tracks; then I invited Kathie and Ron to finish it, which they did. Naturally, the sentiments expressed in the song are exaggerations of our/my actual feelings. We generally like our students and are glad to have our jobs!

Midnight Worries



"Waldo"
Midnight Worries
There’s a qualifying exam* I need to pass
There’s a cowlick on Waldo’s** ass
Midnight worries
Bugging eyes
Midnight worries
Caffeine eyes

But I don’t really care (really!)
But I don’t really care

There’s an itch on my big toe (oh no)
My brain is working like Larry, Curly, and Moe
Midnight worries
Bugging eyes
Midnight worries
Caffeine eyes 
But I don’t really care (really!)
But I don’t really care
*Ah, grad school
**"Waldo" was Ron’s special name for Sepl (Zeppie the pup)

Recorded by Ron & Roy on a Friday night in Trabuco Canyon, c. 1990
Vocal: Roy
Background vocal: Ron

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Just can't seem to get enough" & "I walked with a zombie"


     1. JUST CAN'T SEEM TO GET ENOUGH. I'm not sure how the idea of a fictional "Fat Man"—one of several curious Bauer motifs—got started. He's referred to in the fictions presented in various videos and songs (e.g., Fatty Boy's Millions, Hunk of Love, Glib Glob) going back to the 80s.
     Here's one such song, one of my favorites from among Bauer recordings (see above video):

Just Can’t Seem to Get Enough
I went down to Trader Joe’s
Wandered up and down the rows
Got some Beck’s and Lucky Lager
And some Bud for the Fat Man’s daughter 
I just can’t seem to get enough
I just can’t seem to get enough 
I recall Main Beach
The Fat Man’s daughter was outa reach
I recall Paco’s Café
The Fat Man’s daughter was free that day 
I went down to Tijuana
Took a little dip in Paco’s sauna
Dos Equis, I bought four cases
Me and the Fat Man, we had shit faces 
Just can’t seem to get enough
Gimme gimme gimme more of that stuff
I just can’t seem to get enough
Without my chunk, life is tough
Recorded by Ron and Roy in Anaheim(?) or Orange, c. 1990(?)

Ron: lead vocal, guitar
Roy: falsetto vocal, guitar, etc.

     This song was, I think, loosely based on Ron’s screenplay for “Hunk of Love,” which the gang actually managed to film, though it sat in the can for many years before it was finally assembled (c. 2000?). It's now lost, I think.
     The notion of a mysterious “Fat Man” predated Ron’s screenplay, however. I don’t recall how all of this works. I did a very early recording (c. 1987, in Verano Place) about “Fatty Boy’s millions.” Also, a very early video movie (crude stuff called "Glib Glob") that Ron and I made c. 1987 refers to “the Fat Man,” I think, though I don't think the character ever appeared on screen. In a later video, the part of the Fat Man was played by Manny.
     We tended to do that: we'd create some character and exploit him/her in various ways in songs, stories, etc.—free floating, maleable fictional resources. The term "Chunk" has referred to many things over the years, too (e.g., for quite some time, I adopted the pseudonym "Chunk Wheeler" on my blog; I seemed to attribute the name to family frivolity involving Ray going way back to the early 70s, I think).
     I seem to recall that Ron and I were very pleased with this recording/song, though I suspect that Ron regretted encouraging me to sing, which produced that falsetto part alongside his lead vocal. Oh well. I guess we can rerecord the song some time. I hope so, cuz I like it!
     I seem to recall that, after we recorded the main guitar track (over drums), we really liked the way our two guitars came together, producing an odd strumming pattern. We were amazed. As always, Ron took the lead guitarwise, but I'm pretty sure we played guitar together (i.e., the two guitars could not later be separated since they were on one track) when we recorded. Our vocals were combined, too, unfortunately. They are forever wedded. 
     I think we liked the little story suggested by the lyrics. I especially liked the terminal suggestion that the singer has or might lose his loved one, “Chunk,” aka the Fat Man's daughter. Or is "chunk" the abominable object carried in the pocket of the protagonist in "Hunk of Love"? Golly, I just don't know.

The Tascam PortaOne
Notes:
  • I guess it’s obvious: Paco is some kind of underworld figure, evidently residing in Mexico.
  • “Shit faced” means drunk.
  • “Main Beach” refers, of course, to Laguna Beach’s famous central beach. Many an adventure was had there.
  • The Fat Man seems to be some kind of underworld boss, perhaps involved in the manufacture and sale of drugs. That's explicit in Ron's screenplay, "Hunk of Love." Not sure which came first, the screenplay or the song. Likely the former.
  • It’s a matter of speculation, of course, the set of things the singer just can’t seem to get enough of. He wants more beer and more of his “Chunk,” of course, but he seems to want more of everything.
  • I don’t often drink these days, but back then I preferred Becks beer. I think we all regarded Lucky Lager as the sort of beer you’d get if you were seriously short on funds: lousy but serviceable. Bud, of course, is a popular beer in the local Latino community, or at least it used to be. And Dos Equis is just a common Mexican beer of about average quality I guess. (Much better than Bud!)
  • The saga of the Fat Man (et al.) continues in the song “Hunk of Love” (2:49), though I doubt that we made any great effort to remain consistent. We were pretty happy with that one too.


     2. I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. As I recall, Ron and I had watched the old 1943 horror film--likely on AMC--and got inspired. 
     We wrote and recorded the song very quickly, I think. We started with a live track with Ron on the rhythm guitar and me on the drums. I then added the bass and Ron added the slide guitar(s). Ron did the vocal, of course. 
     As I recall, there was another guitar part, also by Ron, but it was out of tune with the rest of the song, so I deleted it in the mix we have here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bean and cheese burrito/Down to me


For instance, one of my faves:

1. Bean and cheese burrito  (c. 1988)
Bean and cheese burrito
For my microwave
Bean and cheese burrito
For [my] microwave
It’s my only friend
In my lonely cave 
In the bag it cooks
Never mind dirty looks
I got a Slurpee® too 
Earlier today
I went down to Osco Drugs
Earlier today
I got those two free mugs
I stunk, I could not cope
I saw some natural soap
I asked the lady, “Does it come on a rope?”
And she said, “No, no, no.” 
I contemplate my tub o' Coke®
The burrito into which I soak
I contemplate my tub o' Coke® 
The cashier turned to me
I stared out the door
The cashier seemed quite dead
My shoes stuck to the floor
The cashier didn’t get it
What it was for 
In the bag it cooks
Never mind dirty looks
In the bag it cooks
Never mind dirty looks 
I contemplate my tub o’ Coke®
The burrito into which I soak
I contemplate my tub o' Coke® 
Bean and cheese burrito
For my microwave
It’s my only friend
In my lonely cave
Recorded at Kathie & Roy’s Anaheim apartment (?), c. 1988.
Written and performed by Ron and Roy likely one Friday night.

Roy: vocal and keyboard
Ron: guitar

     This song portrays a lonely guy who seems to frequent convenience stores. Now, as far as I know, neither Ron nor I are that type. I think it’s best to see the singer/voice of this song as both a participant in and appreciator of the dismal absurdity of convenience store visits in the night. When I think of such stores, I think of crassly attractive but unhealthy foods, drinks, and magazines and the exploitation of travelers and busy people (and employees) who have few options. Convenience stores are unhappy places. The singer/voice is a depressive, and he is depressed in particular by his presence in that store. In part, with this song, Ron and I were mocking our own isolated, alienated, depressive natures, though we never explicitly voiced that idea. It goes without saying. I think this song is wonderfully gloomy and desperate. It's about us and it's about the world we seem to find ourselves in.

The Old House in Orange, where we recorded "Down to Me," among other things
2. Down to Me (c. 1990)
Bad news on my doorstep baby
Spillin’ to the floor
Rollin’ down the steps now baby
Seepin’ through the door 
Down to me
I can see it’s down to me
It’s down, down, down, down
It’s down to me 
Nighttime is for watchin’ baby
Moonlight hits the ground
Stars are movin’ fast now baby
And you don’t make a sound 
Down to me
I can see it’s down to me
It’s down, down, down, down
It’s down to me 
I’m runnin’ in my sleep now baby
I’m runnin’ through the night
I’m pushin’ with my left foot baby
I’m spinnin’ with my right 
Down to me
I can see it’s down to me
It’s down, down, down, down
It’s down to me 
They say you didn’t mean it baby
They say you wouldn’t go
They say you wouldn't do it baby
They say it, but I know 
Down to me
I can see it’s down to me
It’s down, down, down, down
It’s down to me 
Nighttime is for watchin’ baby
Moonlight hits the ground
Stars are movin’ fast now baby
And you don’t make a sound 
Down to me
I can see it’s down to me
It’s down, down, down, down
It’s down to me 
Down to me
I can see it’s down to me
It’s down, down, down, down
It’s down to me
Written and recorded by Ron and Roy in the Old House in Old Town Orange, c. 1990
Ron: vocals and guitars
Roy: drums, keyboards




     Ron and I were (and are) familiar with the tropes and conventions of early country blues recordings, including the unapologetic portrayal of homicidal intent and betrayal, expressions of rage or jealousy, and whatnot. (See Robert Nighthawk, Son House, Charley Patton, et al.) Naturally, our relationship to such tropes and devices isn’t quite what it was for the old bluesmen. Neither of us lives in their violent and boastful world; neither do we wish to join it. Still, one is attracted to playing with these tropes, if only because one's musical heroes did, despite one's moral sensibilities very much to the contrary of their routine sentiments.

     Especially early on, we tended to sing a lot about porches and doorways and cemeteries, just as the old bluesmen did—and, of course, about romantic Sturm und Drang and nighttime spookiness. (See Johnson’s “Come on in my kitchen,” "Hellhound on my Trail.") Ron and I each had a share in Sturm und Drang by the early nineties.
     Possibly we were inspired to use the expression “down to me” (meaning "it's my responsibility" or "it's up to me")—neither of us normally uses it—owing to Mick Jagger’s usage in the Stones’ notorious “Under My Thumb”:
Under my thumb
The girl who once had me down
Under my thumb
The girl who once pushed me around
It's down to me
The difference in the clothes she wears
Down to me, the change has come,
She's under my thumb
     I think that one can love a song despite being appalled by its sentiments, and this is a case in point. Part of appreciating the Stones is recognizing that, more often than not, they speak in the voice of the irresponsible, boorish "bad boy."
     It's hard to say quite what we had in mind with the singer's comment, in "Down to Me," about his girl not making a sound. Homicidal? Maybe. Dark and spooky? Definitely.