Hiawatha

capeeliz2lightslobshack.jpg

This is the Lockhorns, in a rather expansive one-off configuration, with me singing and playing acoustic, Bob Ducharme on electric guitar, Marc Fagelson on bass, Eleanor Imster and Carrie Hamilton on vocals & percussion, and John Hamilton on drums. The occasion was a benefit for our friend John Scurti whose acting troupe needed money to go to (I think) the Edinburgh Festival.

I don’t remember much about the event — a vodka-soaked barn-burner held in the company’s theater space — though the evidence clearly shows that I was physically present. (My last crystalline memory of that day is actually puking out the side of a moving car on the West Side Highway in the afternoon as we were corralling equipment.) The nostalgic and summery “Hiawatha” is one of Bob’s songs, and it contains one of my all-time favorite couplets.

Hiawatha (Bob DuCharme)

By the shores of Gitchee Gumee
In the summer of ’79
Phyllis’s fast food seafood restaurant
I washed dishes with a friend of mine

Hiawatha, do you wanna
Get some beers and drive around?
You call Kate and I’ll call Donna
We’ll watch TV with the sound turned down

By the shining Big-Sea-Water
The tourist come just to eat fried fish
Me and Hiawatha out by the dumpster
Smoke a joint and make a wish

Two in the morning, close up the kitchen
Pies in the walk-in, Hiawatha sweeps then
Me and Hiawatha and the brand new waitress
Take her blood-red Pinto down to Woodmont Beach

woodmontbeachct.jpg

England Made Me

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a long, dreary entry about how Anglophilia has scarred my soul and warped my very existence.

I had meant to post this song earlier, to conclude the recent trio (good things come in threes!) of sloshed live cover songs, but it slipped my addled mind as the week devolved. So I’m just sticking it up now, quickly. Thankfully, there’s not much typing involved, as there’s no Devastationalist anecdote that this brings to mind. In fact, the whole thing is refreshingly (relatively speaking) angst-free.

This is The Lockhorns live at McGovern’s, one of the more improbable of our revolving-door line-ups — Ward Dotson guest-starring on guitar, and the almost farcically versatile David Terhune sitting in on the drums. Doing this song in the first place was almost certainly Joe Katz’s idea.

Ferry Cross the Mersey (Gerry Marsden)

The Lockhorns

Don’t Try

frandead.jpg

“I propose that we look at the past again, because it matters, and because it has so often been dealt with badly. I mean the past as a phenomenon has been dealt with badly. We have taken too high a hand with it. By definition it all the evidence we have about ourselves, to the extent that it is recoverable and interpretable, so surely its complexities should be scrupulously preserved. Evidence is always construed, and it is always liable to be misconstrued no matter how much care is exercised in collecting and evaluating it. At best, our understanding of any historical moment is significantly wrong, and this should come as no surprise, since we have little grasp of any present moment. The present is elusive for the same reasons as is the past. There are no true boundaries around it, no limit to the number of factors at work in it.”

That’s from Marilynne Robinson’s “The Death of Adam.” She’s furious, but I admire how her densely simmering prose always maintains a sort of relentless precision and civility. (Though, witness this vial of acid she threw in the face of that smug jackass, Richard Dawkins.) I would call her a Devastationalist, but it’s only because she refuses to settle for anything less than this:

“I want to overhear passionate arguments about what we are and what we are doing and what we ought to do. I want to feel that art is an utterance made in good faith by one human being to another. I want to believe there are geniuses scheming to astonish the rest of us, just for the pleasure of it. I miss civilization, and I want it back.”

How do we deal with the past? With memory, both collective and discrete? I don’t know the answer, of course. Sometimes I think I would take a pliers and hack out my brain if it would give me a moment’s peace. Time takes a cigarette, right?

This is “Lonely Planet Boy” performed by The Lockhorns, live and drummerless. Me and Tex on guitars, and I don’t know who, either Joe Katz or Marc Fagelson on bass. You can hear me introduce the song as being “written by David Johansen…and maybe Johnny Thunders.” Which provokes audibly derisive and condescending looks from the audience (and probably Tex and Joe-or-Marc). What had shamefully slipped my Jamesons-ized mind was that Johnny had taken the song’s signature guitar part with him when he left the Dolls and used it again later to write what is probably an even more famous (and exponentially more Devastationalist) song.

Lonely Planet Boy (Thunders/Johansen)

The Lockhorns

How Lonely Does It Get?

t3.jpg

I got to know Jeffrey Cobb from when I was working at a dysfunctional cappuccino hangout called Sufficient Grounds which was near the UC Berkeley campus, just off Telegraph Ave. We were both from “back east,” both Mets fans and both involved with music, Jeff being a DJ at KALX, the college radio station. But our friendship wasn’t sealed until one day someone told Jeff that I was driving down to LA and he called up to see if he could catch a ride — something about a girl down there he wanted to see. I said sure, and picked him up in my ’71 Comet very early the next morning. But Jeff didn’t look so hot, and we hadn’t even made it out of the Berkeley flats and onto the highway when he asked me to pull over, then puked his guts all over the street. I looked on in admiration. Apparently he’d had a rough one the night before.

It wasn’t long before I started crashing Jeff’s radio show, lounging around the studio, pulling records, and sometimes he’d let me sing a song on the air. This is an acoustic version of Zane Campbell’s “Post-Mortem Bar,” performed more or less the day I figured it out. It’s funny (for me, anyway) to compare this version to the All-Girl Band version which was both more accomplished and more rote in its Nirvanization of the song.

Stripped down to its bare essentials I am reminded of what was so obviously and fetchingly attractive to me about this song in the first place: ineradicable longing, sure, but that coupled with the idea that in the afterlife there’s actually a bar (!) where we can meet and drink and catch up with the loved ones we’ve lost in this life. I’ve never had any trouble picturing that scene when either playing or listening to “Post-Mortem Bar.” Such a simple, brilliant premise for a song.

Post-Mortem Bar (Live Acoustic on KALX) (Zane Campbell)

Cathedral Parkway

stjtd2.jpg

“Cathedral Parkway” was me pouncing on a readymade more than anything else. Just looking up at a street sign one day and thinking, “Wow! Is it really possible that no one has ever used that? How did I not see this before?” From there it wasn’t very hard to plug in the hottest spots from my own emotional guidebook to create a go-go anthem for the blissed-out glory of Morningside life.

This was the original version done at Josh Korda’s loft, possibly the day it was written. I think this was the first song I ever did over there, the scene-to-be of many future crimes. Josh liked to entertain, and the party never ended at his place. But that same inexhaustible good hostmanship served Josh well musically, too. He was always a positive spirit, up for trying anything, and he could wring music out of pretty much any instrument.

I think Josh plays everything but the guitars on this — though it’s entirely possible that that’s Bob DuCharme once again showing off his mad percussion chops. (Perhaps Bob will let us know?) And yes, somehow the tape is slightly speeded up (approximately one step, from C to D), but it’s always been that way, and I’ve gotten so used to it by now that I’m convinced it’s integral to the song’s overall trippiness — rather than a laughable side-effect of extreme retsina consumption.

106th Street
Duke Ellington Boulevard
108th Street, baby
I met you in Cannon’s bar

But 110th Street
Well that’s four lanes all the way
From the skating rink at Central Park North
To the majestic Hudson Bay

The lights are so much brighter
And the air is fresh and clean
The busses hurtle on by ya’
Do you know where I mean?

On Cathedral Parkway
Na na na na na na na na na

Outside the Cathedral
Of Saint John the Divine
We fed the peacocks
Underneath those hanging vines

I wiped my eyes on you
When everything started to blur
You said they weren’t real
But I knew they were

The lights are so much brighter
And the air is fresh and clear
The busses hurtle on by ya’
So come with me my dear

Down Cathedral Parkway
Na na na na na na na na na

catpark.jpg

Peace Bird

peacebird.gif

This song was finished at V&T’s, right before a gig somewhere on the Columbia campus. 3 or 4 of us passing around a bottle of red wine, trading off lines, scribbling on place-mats. I can’t remember how the term “Peace Bird” came into our lives, but in those days pretty much anything anyone said got memorialized in song by somebody. Guitars were always lying around everywhere you went for that express purpose.

You may ask how this particular song ever made it out of the living room, let alone had a life that lasted beyond that one gig. Er…Um…I couldn’t rightly say. I do have a very distinct memory of my very aged grandma asking me and Carrie Hamilton to play her a song, and us wracking our brains for something appropriate before digging up “Peace Bird,” thinking she’d enjoy the folkiness and the harmonies. (And I think she did.)

This version comes from a set we did live on WFMU, on Nick Hill’s Music Faucet show. Nick was friends with Antone, and Antone helped us out where he could. (He was even nice enough to drive us there.) Me, Carrie & Fagelson, who were the ragtag Lockhorns at that point. Bob came along at the last minute to play percussion, which turned out to include a (reasonably well-miked) WFMU garbage pail.

Peace Bird

The Lockhorns

vts.jpg

Yes, Spiritual Awakening

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 4.04.43 PM

Dear, sweet Mara, and dear, sweet St. Marks Place.

Yes, Spiritual Awakening

The Lockhorns

I saw a girl that I knew so long ago
She really seemed to have her act together, so I told her so
I said, Honey, how’d you do it in such a short, short time?
If you got the secret, I wish you’d make the secret mine

She said, No pot smoking
She said, No sitting on the steps
She said, No alcohol

She said, Yeah yeah, spiritual awakening
Yeah yeah, spiritual awakening

She said she’s living in West Roxbury with her mom and dad
She said her office job is quiet, but the quiet ain’t that bad
‘Cause there’s a couple of boys she likes and a life she wants to lead
She said there comes a point in life you have to ask for help to get the things you need

Line By Line

Opening lines stolen from a beer bottle, yes. And a drunken sloppy recording session I couldn’t remember if I you put a gun to my head. But heartfelt nonetheless. Marc Fagelson on bass, must be Reno on drums, and Josh Korda on various other instruments. The sax player was Julie. I forget her last name — I think she was a friend of Marc’s who wandered into our rehearsals sometimes.

Line By Line

The Lockhorns

From the glass-lined tanks of Old Latrobe
To the center of the heart god gave you
I surrender all my self-control
And it’s there I’ll put my trust and my faith in you

And when I’m strung out on a question
You know I wanna find the answer in your arms

And that’s the way things are and the way things were
In the world where things all work out fine
Where they draw you a picture or give you a show
Instead of writing it out for you line by line

The Lockhorns

This is the Lockhorns, “Sober Sessions.” Me, Tex, Joe Katz and Steve “Reno” Dansiger helping us out on the drums. Will Dial harmonizes throughout, Bob DuCharme solos on “I Want You Around.” Recorded by a guy named Ed Bair who had come up from Athens, GA and had a little studio on the Lower East Side.

I Want You Around

It’s the same old bar but different faces
Those were my last coherent thoughts before I drowned
Now at the bottom of my glass I can see traces
Of a guy I used to be back in another round

I may not know what I believe in
But there’s a lot of kings and queens that ain’t been crowned
All I can say as I get through each damn day
Is don’t you know that I want you around

Now I’ve been around to different places
And I ended up in a land that time forgot
If you ever looked into Neanderthal faces
You’d scream a panicked “why” and receive a blithe “why not?”

I may not know what I believe in
But there’s a lot of kids in Queens that ain’t been crowned
All I can say as I get through each damn day
Is don’t you know that I want you around
(You know I do)

Something Impossible

This is the original version, which I’ve always slightly preferred. It’s capo-ed, as it was written. In the All-Girl Band version I’m cheating, playing open chords because nobody remembered to bring a capo.

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

Pebbles on the Beach

Lots of real live girls in this one all mashed together. Not one of ’em named Pebbles, though. Back then I still believed in the California dream. And the Rolling Stones, clearly. (Well, actually, I still believe in the Stones.)

Pebbles called me from the airport
She said her flight had been delayed
I wasn’t home, but then I hardly ever was
I still wish that she had stayed

She’s just as warm as April’s showers
And just as sharp as Rose’s thorns
And just as sweet as Georgia’s luscious peach
My little Pebbles on the beach

When I met her she was working in a bar room
And I admit back then I wanted more
Than just to be her friend, from now until the end
But of course I don’t feel that way anymore

She never told a soul about her big escape plan
Saved up all her money cutting hair
The last time she cut mine we smoked hash and drank red wine
And I paid her thirty dollars which seemed fair

Now she’s bought a used LeSabre out in Oxnard
Guns it ’round those turns on Highway One
From Monterey to Santa Barbara
Looking for her acre in the sun

Phebe

Songs about dead friends — who doesn’t love this genre? This was a slow, depressed funeral song until Tex & Joe got ahold of it.

Started as a whim then it became a major proposition
Phebe said she had to find out, had to find out what came after wishin’
So she grabbed a bunch of clothes out of the trunk beside her bed
She tried an orange sequin thing but settled on a black silk dress instead

Summer clouds they gathered by the force of her command
A force that had begun to take its toll
It rained so hard I huddled with a friend I couldn’t stand
The night that Phebe sold her soul

Myself I was drinking in a bar way uptown
I mean 181st Street, way uptown
The Irish guy who shoved me knocked my whiskey on the bar
I turned to glare at him but just backed down

Later on in another bar in another part of town
My clothes were soaked and my eyes were buring red
Rain splashed on the window as the magic let her down
In her room a candle flickered then was dead

The End of the World

I don’t know what possessed me to cover this. I still get a little swoony at Tex’s guitar solo, though.