Aloha, Bobby and Rose

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This is the All-Girl Band live, another negative-fi audience cassette. This song was always a good showcase for what was so lovely and personal about Tex’s guitar playing. Well, not always. The arrangement had a lot of tricky (for me) two-guitar stuff and hazardous transitions, and sometimes it fell apart completely, but when we pulled it off, it sounded really beautiful.

“Aloha, Bobby and Rose” was a 1975 movie about a pair of young lovers on the run, starring Paul LeMat (who had just played Milner, the cool drag racer who kicks Harrison Ford’s ass in “American Graffiti,” and who would go on to play Melvin in the rather incredible “Melvin and Howard,” among other intermittent dead-on bulls-eyes over a long and inexplicably erratic career).

When “Aloha, Bobby and Rose” first came out, it’s relentless “four-wall” ad campaign fired the aspirational imaginations of pre-teens across the country (most of whom, like me, probably never even saw the movie), a shining beacon of grown-up romance and rebellion. Someday, someday, we would be as cool and free and sexy as Bobby and Rose.

Like the rest of America, I then forgot all about it, though it must have still been lodged in the depths of my adult memory, when Beth McGroarty made a random “Aloha, Bobby and Rose” reference one day while we were drunk-driving around in Palo Alto. And I realized that I had not been the only 13-year-old whose philosophy of life was indelibly warped watching TV commercials for a cheap-o teen-sploitation flick.

Which is not to say that I either wrote or ever sang this song through a prism of irony or with condescension. The anger and sadness that fuel this song were –are– very real to me. Sometimes people can be so fucking brave, it’s devastating. I don’t how we do it — any of us.

Aloha, Bobby & Rose

Amazing All-Girl Band

He took me by the elbow
And he steered me around and round and round
Over by the water
Where the piers are falling down, down, down

We had a pint of tequila
And a bottle of champagne
We watched the faces in the clouds
As the sunset turned to rain

I tried so hard to learn the things
That everybody knows
You want things a certain way
Well, that’s not how it goes

You might call me bad
But that’s the path I chose
I’ve been waiting all my life to say
Aloha, Bobby and Rose

I could feel his hands
As we hurried to a bar
I start to lose my legs
We hadn’t gotten very far

Paean, Payin’, Pain

A much-bandied analogy, and one I subscribe to, is that arrangements of songs are the clothes in which you send them out into the world, from the solo-acoustic fig leaf to a fully orchestrated ball-gown ensemble (complete with horn-section clutch, back-up singer brooch and other accessories). But the skeletal structures of songs can also be used to support the expression of more immediate Devastationalist abstractions, right there on the spot. Which is to say, bands are not machines for playing songs or executing arrangements — they are organic entities who make music, hopefully.

With the All-Girl Band, we left a lot of trap-doors throughout our songs, places where we could “play on” if inspiration, mood or the situation called for it. Or sometimes just out of pure contrariness. 7-minute versions of “Margaret Smith” or “Post-Mortem Bar” were not unheard of. This version of “Maggie” is particularly mean & noisy and the introduction includes an impromptu spelling lesson and an audience re-enactment of a car commercial that was on TV at the time.

Margaret Smith (Live)

Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band

I Don’t Wanna Be Down

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Real Live Girls via someone’s bar-top cassette recorder. Not sure of the venue or date. For
better or worse I think this is pretty true to what we actually sounded like on a decent night.
A Devastationalist love song — i.e., terror, alcohol and the feeling that there’s something very
wrong with this picture.

Du mußt dein Leben ändern.

Everyone simply referred to this song as “Ophelia,” and it was Evon Handras from The Fresh Kills who gave me a postcard of the Sir John Everett Millais painting which I think she saw at The Tate. (I should really post some of her songs here someday.)

I Don’t Wanna Be Down

Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band

I got a friend named Ophelia
And she’s always down
And it’s starting to scare me
To have her around

She doesn’t like this time
She doesn’t like this place
And I’m starting to wonder
If I could ever face…

I refuse to be down
I don’t wanna be down

Getting drunk with Ophelia
It’s the afternoon
And she closes the curtains
We’re alone in her room

Then she brushes against me
And I start to fade
And I don’t even wonder
Because I’m so afraid

I refuse to be down
I don’t wanna be down

Did I happen to mention to you that I love her?
Did I mention that I really, really wanna help her out?
But I’m scared, I’m scared she’ll drag me under
I’m scared, I’m scared she’s gonna drag me down

And I don’t wanna be down

Nothing You Can Say

Despite what you may have heard, being a Devastionalist is not all ducks and bunnies.

Nothing You Can Say

Amazing All-Girl Band

I see the marble that you keep up on the shelf
All buffed and polished in the image of yourself
I see the care with which you chiseled in the features
Your final offering to god and all his creatures

It’s time the neighbors came and got me
Nothing you can say will bring me down
It shouldn’t have to be this way
But it can’t be overcome

You strung the lizard lights around your bedroom doorway
You said we’d do it, we just have to do it your way
I saw Mercurochrome and cotton on the table
Picked up the bottle, saw the scratch marks on the label

I watched with interest as you went through your convulsions
More time invested understanding your compulsions
A lamp, a vase, an ashtray, smashed to pieces on the floor
Lots of things around this place that don’t work anymore

More Songs to Dead Friends

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Cake on a Rake

Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band

My ex-girlfriend Jan sometimes worked for a friend of hers who did balloon-animal shows at children’s birhtday parties, and one day they needed a third hand to help out carrying stuff, driving, etc. The party was at a big, rich house on Long Island. About 50 little kids. After setting up, there wasn’t much for me to do but drink Heinekens in the corner and watch the show. When they brought out this big, humongous cake for the bratty little brithday boy, he burst into tears! “I didn’t want cake,” he bawled, “I wanted Cake on a Rake!” I had no idea what he meant, but for the first time all day I sympathized with him.

Hey Caroline, is it simply divine
Or is it lonely where you are?
I know it’s hard to judge the distance
But it’s really not that far

And in a way I’m glad you never had to see
All of the things you love collapse so easily
Like tissue paper huts in a monsoon

Caroline, don’t apologize
You gave a good fight
You dared to meet their eyes
You didn’t want cake
You wanted cake on a rake

Out in the yard I play your tape
And I think about that spring
I should be sad, but I’m all right
‘Cause I love to hear you sing

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Post-Mortem Bar

Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band

An All-Girl Band staple. This was the amazing, heartbreaking acoustic song that played over the final scene of the movie “Longtime Companion.” The movie credits said it was by someone called Zane Campbell. This was in pre-Internet Stone Age, and Mr. Campbell proved impossible to track down. Nor could we find any CDs. We asked everybody, scoured little record stores, nothing. We ended up learning the song by renting the video of the movie and holding up a cassette recorder to the TV. Later, it turned out Zane Campbell was alive and very well, right here in New York. He had a brilliant band called The Dry Drunks, and was playing around everywhere. He had heard that there was this other band out there (us) doing his song and showed up at one of our gigs, so we corralled him onstage to sing it. I’m sure he’s still around, though I haven’t seen him in years. I do know that his original version of the song has many more verses and doesn’t go to the bridge directly after the first chorus — the movie people had taken a few liberties with his recording. But it was the only version we knew.

When I cleaned out your room
I painted the walls to cover any memories
But still it seemed like you were hovering over
Still out there keeping an eye on me

We’ll go down to the post-mortem bar
And catch up on the years that have passed between us
And we’ll tell our stories
Do you remember when the world was just like a carnival opening up

If I could have just one more day with you the way it used to be
All the things I should have said would pour out of me

I took a walk I didn’t know which way I was going
But somehow or other I ended up here
Where we said we’d meet again and I guess I was hoping
But the place had been closed down awhile
It was all dark in there

Margaret Smith

Margaret Smith

What a name, right? The real Margaret Smith was a semi-famous comedienne with a devastational, deadpan delivery. I really did have a crush on her. The All-Girl Band, with The Great McGinty playing a Hammond B-3 with his elbows.

Margaret Smith

Well she’s older and smarter than me
That’s why I love her
And when she’s dolled up, it’s something to see
That’s why I love her

And when she walks out in the spotlight
I fall out of my head
Cause I want her
And there’s no doubt to me now
Of who I’ll be with

Margaret Smith
Margaret Smith

Well she’s older and smarter than me
That’s why I love her
And she’s a star child, you better believe
That’s why I love her

And when she walks out in the spotlight
I fall out of my head
Cause I want her
And there’s no doubt to me now
Of who I’ll be with

Margaret Smith
Margaret Smith

A Couple of Lesbians

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The All-Girl Band’s signature song. Two chords, or at least I wanted it to be. In the end I cheated, I caved and threw in two extra passing chords. They appear briefly in sequence, only once each time through. Conceived in a Berkeley cafe. I have opened every set with this song ever since.

Patty was cleaning up the dozens of spent beer bottles from the studio while we were doing vocals, and you don’t have to listen at all carefully to hear the clinking of glass in the background of the song — an accidental but appropriate effect that I always loved, of course.

A Couple of Lesbians

A couple of lesbians sitting around talking
Talking ’bout the state of the world
Into the room, well I come walking
Sucking on a Ricola Pearl

Soon the conversation leaps and bounds
And we’re talking ’bout a thing called love
Lightbulbs bursting over my head
Don’t know what I was thinking of

I can give her laughter
I can give her flowers
We can talk on the telephone for hours and hours

I’m the Rockefellers, Fords and the DuPonts
And I can give her anything she wants
I’m the Rockefellers, Fords and the DuPonts
And I can give her anything she wants

Whatever’s in my wallet, or my closet, or my hand
What little in this world that I can understand
I can give her anything she wants
But a genuine emotional response

A couple of lesbians sitting around talking
Talking ’bout the fate of the world
Into the room well I come walking
Sucking on a Ricola Pearl

What’s the matter with Western Culture?
Is there really such a thing as love?
Lightbulb bursting over my head
Don’t know what I was thinking of

Drunk Pride Day

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The amazing true adventures of the All-Girl Band. The second verse is all true, me, Lori and Tex completely wasted after some gig, crawling through the wreckage of the Gay Pride Parade. It was very likely Lori who said something like we were the “Drunk Pride Parade.” The first verse, well, I don’t know what Neil Young had to do with anything, but I do kind of hate him.

The riff, fittingly enough, was a bastardization of AC/DC’s “Have a Drink On Me.” The “we’re coming off of our barstools” is a nod to Lou Reed’s glamthem, “Make Up.” And if you don’t know where the “My my, hey hey” chorus was hijacked from, you probably are at the wrong blog — but anyhow, by that weird internal logic songs sometimes have, it somehow tied it all back neatly to the first verse.

Drunk Pride Day

Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band

I have always hated Neil Young
Let me tell you why
‘Cause he supported Ronald Reagan
And he beat his wife

And I don’t like “Southern Man”
Or that Johnny Rotten stuff
And he sang with David Crosby and Stephen Stills
Now isn’t that enough?

We’re coming off of our barstools
We’re coming out in the streets

My my, hey hey
It’s Drunk Pride Day
My my, hey hey
It’s Drunk Pride Day

We were lounging on the sidewalk
Drinking Irish Rose
Tex was picking out some music
I took off all of my clothes

And some passers-by from the parade
Well, they didn’t bat an eye
But my neighbor tried to kill me
He said I looked at his wife
And Lori saved my life

Something Impossible

This one’s pretty self-explanatory.

Something Impossible

Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band

There is nothing you can say I won’t believe
I know you think I’m so naïve
But I could list the things that bring me down
It just won’t mean a thing without you

How we end up is no concern
Sometimes you teach, sometimes you learn
And even in a case where I succeed
It just won’t mean a thing without you

I got something in my head today
And I can’t believe it’s true
Though we have to move ahead
I can’t help but think of what I left behind
Something impossible on my mind

I try to take comfort in living hell
It really gets bad when things go well
And let’s not even talk about the upper hand
It just won’t mean a thing without you

Got no big plans, no grand designs
Just wanna stabilize my vital signs
And even in a case where I succeed
It just won’t mean a thing without you

Delta Burke

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A quintessential 90s song. The lyrics were cribbed from a newspaper gossip column reporting on Delta Burke’s much publicized troubles on the Designing Women set. After Delta’s return to the show following a prolonged absence, the show’s creator and producer/writer, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (who later turned out to be a powerful Hollywood friend of the Clintons) put the following words in another character’s mouth (was it Dixie Carter’s character? — I actually never watched the show, but I do remember Delta Burke crying on Barbara Walters) who spoke them to Delta Burke’s character — a comment on the real-life strife on the show:

When it’s all said and done
All that counts is what was true
And truly said
And how we treated one another.

I still have the clipping in some notebook full of such clippings. I thought I would just use it for inspiration, but I ended up not changing a word.

Delta Burke

Amazing All-Girl Band