Hiawatha

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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

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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

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“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?

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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)

Peace Bird

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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

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