Monthly Archives: March 2010

Idea: Smiths/Morrissey Rock Opera

30 March 2010

My ever-growing “to do” list is my neurotic burden to bear.  As I work through ways of letting it go and learning to live more in the moment, I am struck by some patterns I see.  Someday I may really cut the cord and delete my list altogether, but unless and until that happens, I’m looking for new ways to shorten the list… or at least combat it somehow… as it grows by like 10 lines a day.  So anyway, one of these patterns is that several items on this 3,500-line list are snippets of ideas that I know now I will never, ever get around to doing.  My options are to do something with them (which as I just said, I will probably never find time to), delete them and forget them (not a tragedy in most cases, but there would be the occasional lost bit of genius), or share them with the world (and thus let me delete them off my list).  So I’m starting a new category here of “Ideas I’ll Never Get Around To.”  Not because you will always find them interesting to read about, but because I think it will allow me to let them go and move on with my life.  Some will be big ideas, some tiny.  Some genius, some not so much.  So without further ado…

Who among us isn’t familiar with The Who’s “Tommy?”  And I know you’ve all seen “Moulin Rouge.”  A couple years ago, I myself watched “Across The Universe,” and though at the time I hadn’t yet immersed myself in The Beatles, I was moved by the overall presentation and the way those songs were woven together into a relatively coherent plot.

What I’m getting at is that I think the Smiths/Morrissey catalog is ripe for a similar musical film or rock opera.  I realize that compared to The Beatles, our beloved Smiths have a tiny — if devoted — following.  But I’m confident the mainstream could learn to love the music too if they were exposed to it in the right way.  The Smiths had what, 72 songs in their short five-year career?  And Morrissey’s been solo for over 20 years now, amassing another must be around 200 songs, right?  Now, I imagine most of you reading this are devout Smiths fans like I am.  And I’m sure if you’re on my wavelength right now, you can imagine vigintillions of possibilities.  So many songs about longing.  So many British and Italian landmarks referenced.  Every song is a story in itself, but also broad enough to be applied to nearly anyone.  I think this music lends itself extremely well to be meshed into a film.  Of plot, I’ve given almost no consideration.  And I lost my personal interest in screenwriting long ago.  I’ve envisioned much more the production and the presentation than the substance.  But someday, I hope someone with the interest and the talent will do a project like this.  At the very least, there would be a small army of Smiths cultists rallying for it.  And if it were ever performed live, I can think of a few musicians who might volunteer their services.

“Well they’re all playing lead aren’t they, all of them.  John Entwistle’s playing lead bass, Keith’s playing lead drums, Townshend’s playing lead guitar, and Roger’s fuckin’ the lead vocalist.  It’s insane.”

— Noel Gallagher on The Who

Down With The Sickness

28 March 2010

If you can believe it, I’m still sick as hell… but only a sore throat.  No other symptoms really.  And I’ve tried everything.  Every medicine and pain killer, lozenges, sprays, cold water, warm water, salt water, Listerine.  Nothing helps, and I’ve had no respite save for sleep.  I’ve been to the hospital and been tested.  They assure me it’s just a virus and there’s nothing to do but wait it out.  But this has to be the worst sore throat I’ve ever had, both in severity and duration.  And I’ve had many in my life.  The past couple of days it’s been excruciating just to eat.  Anything.  Even drinking water hurts.  Sucks big time.  So that’s been my focus the last couple of weeks.  It’s turned the volume down on everything else in my life, so you’ll have to pardon the lack of exciting content tonight.

Two interesting things I’ve learned from this experience though.  First, I’ve been told by two doctors in the last week that they’re surprised to see I have virtually no gag reflex.  That’s what you call “wasted talent.”  (Ha ha!)  More likely though, that’s just my faith in medicine and authority coming through.  Second thing, I’ve swished Listerine plenty in my life, and it’s unpleasant enough.  But have you ever tried to actually gargle Listerine?  Really let it get down in there?  Well I didn’t gag, but it almost brought me to tears.  Seriously, it’s awful.  Made me all emotional.

So while my sick days are being used up due to actual sickness, many of my good friends are travelling abroad at this very moment.  Big ups to my friends in Hawaii, Mexico, and the U.K.  Be safe!  Have fun!  Buy me stuff!

As I mentioned before, the next few months are going to be extremely busy for TCB.  Nick has been working overtime to book us a ton of new shows, and there are currently eight on the books for the next three months!  Check out the calendar… we’ve got Anaheim and L.A., Chicago and Milwaukee, Bakersfield and Fresno, Slim’s in S.F. and a return to Seattle.  We’re going to be up to our pompadours in flyers pretty soon, but that’s a luxury problem.  Looking forward to hitting some new places, playing a bunch of shows, and working up to the four-hour flight to Chicago!

“First there is a mountain,
then there is no mountain,
then there is.”

— Donovan

Bobby Vinton killed my stereo.

19 March 2010

As I drove home from the hospital today (yes, my froat still hurts), I was listening to a Bobby Vinton CD.  Stuck on the unusually congested Great Highway, I was chillaxin’ to hits like “Blue Velvet” and “Mr. Lonely,” just trying to get my weekend started right.  It was the last CD my car stereo would ever play.

You see, when I went to switch out CDs to put in The Pixies (yes, I finally bought a Pixies disc), it wouldn’t read.  And in fact I found that no CD would read.  I don’t know what Bobby did to my stereo, but apparently he rocked it so hard that now it’s ruined for all other discs.  Now, I listen to CDs almost exclusively in my car.  That’s the time when I am able to really pay attention to it.  I don’t have to tell you what an inconvenience it is to suddenly have no working CD player in my car, or how frustrating it is that my Saturday afternoon is now spoken for because I now have to go pick out and install a new stereo.  But it’s deeper than that.  This wasn’t just any car stereo.  This was the JVC KD-LH3100.

When I first got my car back in 2003, I was excited for the first time to have a nice enough car for it to be worth investing in.  I kept it clean.  I bought it nice things.  I upgraded it.  And I picked out the perfect stereo.  I first saw this model at some hole-in-the-wall audio place while on a project in Boulder, CO.  I did the research.  I put real thought into this.  And I knew this was my guy.  “The KD-LH3100 features a full-motion 3D graphics display with variable color backlight for easy operation and visual confirmation of status and completed operations.  PICT lets you create customized displays on your PC, and then transfer them to the head unit’s LCD display.  PICT allows you to upload 90 still images and 15 seconds of full-motion video.  It can all be captured, created, and personalized by you.”  This thing can display and even cycle through a whole range of colors.  You can upload your own pictures, album covers, videos, etc. to be displayed, even when certain songs or albums are playing.  It lets you play a disc of mp3s; a common feature now, but virtually unheard of at the time.  To top it all off, check out the Tron-like blue trim plate lighting.  Ladies and gentlemen, seven years later this stereo still turns heads.  It is truly unique among its peers.

But now it won’t play CDs.  And as much as it pains me to replace it with an inferior model, I don’t see what choice I have.  And believe me, any replacement will be inferior.  I’ve looked, and even the heinously expensive models out there today don’t have the swagger of the KD-LH3100’s 1728-color 3D dot-matrix.  It seems my choices are ugly digital clock type displays or full DVD type LCD displays that have no place in an automobile.  So whatever I end up with tomorrow, my days of impressing with my JVC are over.  To those of you fortunate enough to see it in its heyday, hold tight to those memories.

The good times are killing me.

18 March 2010

Three consecutive weekends of shows and long nights finally caught up with me this week.  I’m down with a killer sore throat.  I guess I should count myself lucky that that’s all it is?  So far anyway.  Hope it’s better tomorrow so I can get back to work.  You’d think a few days at home would be nice, but sadly I’ve been too fatigued to do anything but grow a beard.

Those three shows were great though.  Santa Rosa’s Chrome Lotus was a nice new club that has a lot of potential for becoming a regular stop for us.  Fresno was massive as always… a sell out well before Dead Souls even took the stage.  It continues to be among my absolute favorite places to play.  (And it doesn’t hurt that I get to hit a Claim Jumper on the way out of town!)  It’s even fun to drive out there, as long as it’s only once in a while.  The farmland is a nice change of scenery, and it gives me a great chance to zone out and catch up on music.  And then Sacramento was great too.  After two recent shows, we were a well-oiled machine for that show, and ended up with time to play what felt like a dozen encore songs.  It’s great that after hitting some of these venues and towns so many times, there are still hundreds of people that enjoy themselves enough to keep coming out.  We’ve got a ton of shows coming up in the next few months including trips to SoCal, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest (yikes!), and another massive Moz birthday show at Slim’s!  And do you know we’re only a few songs away from having performed every song the Smiths released?  I’ve only got three or four left to learn!  Then what will I do?

Recently, Sus sent me this picture from Disneyland, and amazingly Joyce sent me nearly the same picture a few weeks later.  I don’t know where exactly this place is, but I love everything about this picture.  I want to live inside of it.  Do they sell t-shirts?

If I can make a sartorial digression here, I wanted to point something out to all the girls I know.  I’m no fashionista, but I know picante when I see it.  There’s a store I pass on Sutter here in SF about once a week, and though the shirts and blouses in the window are different every time, they are — almost without exception — amazing!  It’s called Nara Camacie, and I gather it’s a chain?  I’ve never seen another one personally, but I recommend you check it out.  The guys clothes look alright too, but the girls shirts specifically are lovely.  But then, what do I know?

And while we’re on the subject of clothes, you may have noticed some of the gems I’ve been sporting on the runway this season (read: the t-shirts I’ve worn to shows lately).  I’ve received a lot of compliments on a couple of Day Of The Dead / country western themed tees I have, and while I’d love to keep my source a secret, the artist deserves the exposure.  These shirts were adorned with the artwork of none other than Mekons drummer Jon Langford.  You can see his art many places, but here’s a sample of some for sale.  Yet more beautiful things I would love to decorate my place with some day.  If only I weren’t so lazy.

Tonight, however, I can blame my laziness on this blasted cold.  *cough*cough*  Goodnight!

Aqüarium

8 March 2010

So, a friend of mine has a Stratocaster-esque guitar that he’s building.  He’s set on this particular body he bought long ago (has to do with the type of wood I think), but it’s routed to have three pickups and he only wants two.  So he’s got this hole routed in the middle of his guitar.  (For those of you who don’t know guitar anatomy and have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s the middle pickup indicated below.  Now I’m quite sure his guitar isn’t pink and probably looks nothing like this.  But if I’m going to show a Strat on my site, it’s gonna be pink, damn it.)

Because of the special type of wood and finish he’s planning, he can’t just fill in the hole and paint over it (which was my first thought).  So he needs to get creative.  Here were my ideas for what to put in that hole, in descending order of normalcy:

  1. Put a gold plate over it.  OK, so that was actually his idea.  Just fashion a shiny gold plate that covers the whole space between the two outer pickups.  Not bad.  Depending on the color scheme, could look cool.
  2. A “fake” pickup.  A facade, really.  Just because you have no use for that middle pickup doesn’t mean it can’t still be there.  Screw it in so it looks normal, but just don’t wire it to anything.  No one has to know it’s dead.  Presto!
  3. Smoke machine.  As much as I hate hate hate the band Kiss, they did have one good idea.  Ace’s smoking guitar.
  4. Lasers.  If there’s smoke, there’s gotta be lasers too, right?  Why not mount some laser pointer type things in there to shoot out into the crowd and blind anyone who looks directly at your guitar?  Alternatively, you could have a tiny flood light in there blasting your fans with your heavenly brilliance.
  5. LED.  You could have a little light board in there that displays messages to the crowd.  You could even set it up wirelessly to accept text messages from your audience, and their messages could scroll on it.
  6. Cubby hole.  Who says you have to put anything permanent in there?  Just leave it as is, and use it for on-the-go storage.  Keep some extra picks in there, maybe a rolled up set list.  Heck, what better place to store your doobage (if you’re into that sort of thing; I am not).  Of course if you’re going to go that route (ha!), you might combine with a version of #2 above and have some sort of fake pickup cover to hide your stash.
  7. Camera.  Check this out… put a live camera in there aimed at the crowd.  Then have the video image projected on the jumbotron!  Then the crowd can see themselves larger than life on the screen behind you while you’re playing, and I can only imagine the kind of interaction that would encourage.
  8. LCD screen.  Hell, this is 2010.  Just mount a whole LCD screen in the space between your pickups.  Then you could have some trippy swirling visuals running on it the whole time… a technicolor vortex hypnotizing the audience as you shred your ass off.
  9. A glass eye.  Ideally, this would be a large and active eye that would move around while you played.  The intended effect would be to not only make the guitar seem alive (and possessed), but also to creep the crowd out completely.  I feel like this is something Gwar would do.
  10. Fish tank.  OK, I know, it’s too small to hold a fish tank.  You’d have to settle for like… some sea monkeys.  And really, that’s not very rock and roll.  A goldfish would be better, but for that I think you’d need a full glass guitar.  Hey, there’s an idea!  Aquarium guitar!

Alrighty folks, that’s all for now.  Clearly, I should have been in a hair metal band.  Just look at that list.

See, this is why we can’t have nice things.

7 March 2010

You may be aware that there was a guitar fatality at a recent TCB show.  I am sad to report that both El Twango and my trusty Gibson 335 took a spill, simultaneously.  (It was a total accident of course, and the guilty party has made amends completely so that we’re square.)  Miraculously,  El Twango suffered only a scuff, which I was able to buff right out.  Such is the reputation of Telecasters being virtually indestructible I guess.  My beloved 335 however… was decapitated.  Words fail.  The grisly images appear below.  View at your own risk.

You can see, this is a pretty severe break.  Most would assume fatal.  I did.  I had already started writing his eulogy, including doing the math and figuring out that his short career was only 49 TCB shows and one Love Vigilantes guest spot.  In fact, he appeared at every single TCB show since I got him… because even the travelling shows where I only brought one, it was always him.  From the moment I got him, he’s been my number one go-to guitar.  This was all meant to be part of that tragic posthumous story, but as it turns out… he’s still on the operating table!  (Insert suspenseful soap opera organ flourish here.)  As bad as it looks, and as much as I’d be helpless trying to fix it myself, it seems there is hope!  You see, I’ve left him in the very capable hands of Gryphon (who does all my guitar work).  If he can be fixed, hope against hope, then they can do it.  He may never look as pretty, and his resale value will be shot, but he might still be functional.  Do you really think he’ll pull through?  I know it’s serious.

Independent of that though, a coupon has lured me into considering picking up a new guitar.  Now, I am a well-documented (though recovering) guitar addict.  These days though, I’m usually selling them rather than buying them.  But I do slip sometimes.  The quote of the week comes from Sus, as I was telling her about my latest guitar plans:

Benjamin: “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!  But as a testament to how good I’ve been about not buying guitars lately, a store I used to shop with sent me a 20% off coupon in an email titled ‘We miss you!'”

Sus: “Did the email start with ‘Dear Whore,’?”