Saturday, August 9, 2014

Blackbird

In keeping with my tradition of doing songs I should not do, may I present a Paul McCartney song. I've always been fascinated by the chords he plays in this song and when I got the Beatle book with all of the scores written accurately, I finally had a chance to learn the song properly. Unfortunately, though I learned how to form the chords, I never have been able to play them rhythmically. Only three strings are played at a time -- the rest are muted -- and I never could get it right. So I used Band in a Box for the drums and bass, and played the rhythm using standard chords. Then I added the real chords as "stings". To make the stings more accurate, I actually recorded the drums, bass, rhythm and stings at about half speed, then sped the song up with Audacity's Tempo Change (which doesn't change the key of the song) to add the vocals.

 
As you may or may not know, I've been on a Beatle kick since reading Volume One of Mark Lewisohn's trilogy of Beatle history, TUNE IN. Then I got the huge book he wrote in the 90s listing technical data on all of the Abbey Road sessions. I'm still mired in it. Fascinating!

My fantasy: What if Paul were to spend an hour speed-listening to my 60 original songs and picking out the 18 that he thinks we could do the best. Then we spend a week at Abbey Road with him producing the album, playing drums, bass and whatever else he might want, and maybe adding some harmonies. At the end of the week we'd have a super album of originals that otherwise would never be heard outside of a few people I know. Surely it would be better than what's played on the airwaves now.

I imagine every state has several old songwriters like me who scribbled some sketchy songs in the past 50 years that have gone relatively unheard and unrecorded. Instead of hunting for the next perky video star, maybe it might be more fruitful for music moguls to find a trove of almost-forgotten masterpieces? I bet there are thousands of them out there.

Finally, everything about this song is shoddy compared to the McCartney version. I should be shot. Gavin O'Keefe added a viola solo to the instrumental verse and I outscreeched it with my ES-335 set at Blues House distortion. Here's an earlier take of the song without the ill-advised guitar and viola.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Long Black Veil

One of my favorite songs with a plot, Long Black Veil is a lot more modern than you might think. It was written in 1959 by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkins and it's so well done that it sounds like a classic 19th century hillbilly anthem. Thanks to Gavin O'Keefe's haunting viola chops this version seems to have banshees flying through the trees above the lonely graveyard.

 

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Family Values Polka

I don't really know what to call this song. It might have been called "Hooray, My Father's Going to Be Hung". Back in the 70s when the Calhoon Brothers used to play it at the Las Cruces Inn we called it "The Perverse Polka". I found the song in a 25 cent paperback book back in the early 60s when I was just learning folk guitar and was always looking for chord books. I wish I still had the book, (something like "Fifty Famous Folk Songs") since it might have had more tunes with lyrics like these. It had simple piano notation and chords so I think the melody I'm using is close to what the actual folk song's was. 


I think there were four verses in the book but felt I needed to flesh out the family a bit and added the ones for the sister and family. Then I apparently abducted the Chipmunks and forced them to sing it for me.



Hooray! Hooray! My father’s gonna be hung
Hooray! Hooray! The dirty lyin bum.
He was oh so mean to me when I was very young.
Hooray! Hooray! They’re gonna hang my father.

Hooray! Hooray! My mother’s gonna be shot.
Hooray! Hooray! The filthy drunken sot.
She was oh so mean to me when I was just a tot.
Hooray! Hooray! They’re gonna shoot my mother.

Hooray! Hooray! My brother’s gonna be destroyed.
Hooray! Hooray! That nasty little boy.
He always used to try on me the things he read in Freud
Hooray! Hooray! They’re gonna wreck my brother.

Hooray! Hooray! My sister’s gonna be maimed.
Hooray! Hooray! That stuck-up vicious dame.
She would torture all our pets and make me take the blame.
Hooray! Hooray! They’re gonna maim my sister.

Hooray! Hooray! My uncle’s gonna be hurt.
Hooray! Hooray! That creepy sex pervert.
He was oh so free with me when I was just a squirt.
Hooray! Hooray! They’re gonna hurt my uncle.

Hooray! Hooray! My family’s gonna be wiped out
Hooray! Hooray! We deserve it all, no doubt
It’s a wonder we didn’t kill each other when I was just a sprout
Hooray! Hooray! They’re gonna wipe out my family.
 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Talking All-Knowing Dude

At the same time I made Pomp and Circumflex I did another tune like it, but this time in a C&W mood. I called it "The All-knowing Dude" and it contains the obligatory guitars in the background with dialog over it that was captured from Jim Weiler's trip to Utah or some other tedious state. The words made sense when Jim spoke them into a microphone as he drove, but by the time they had been transferred to a computer and analyzed and deciphered by software, they came out a little different. But maybe they still make sense to some of us?


 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Talking Pomp and Circumflex

I'm sorry to subject you to this but this song has been on my hard drive for a few years and it's time it made it up into the cloud. Here's the Pomp and Circumflex story.

Back in 1999 or so I wanted to play some over-the-top guitar on top of a slow, soulful background -- sort of like Roy Buchanan used to do -- so I laid down a dozen or more verses of the first "Hotel California"-like chord progression that occurred to me. Drums, bass and organ. Then I played over it twice with what I considered consenting guitars. To me it sounded like the perfect music for a porn film and I called the song "Pomp and Circumflex".

But I wasn't satisfied. I needed some lyrics -- 9 minutes' worth. Luckily, at that time my friend Jim Weiler just returned from a solo road trip out Utah way and while driving in his Toyota Tacoma he recorded his impressions. And he probably added some homespun philosophy. It's hard to tell because he played the mini-cassette recording of his trip, which had plenty of truck noise behind his voice, on cheap speakers and used the prevailing voice recognition software of the time to come up with a transcription for me. 

I believe there is some underlying truth to the lyrics, but perhaps not the truth that Jim meant. What do you say?


  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Altar Boy Blues

For some reason I felt inspired last Saturday and wrote the lyrics of a song, then recorded the song today. As is my habit, I picked the first melody that occurred to me and since it's a blues song, it's probably the first melody that would occur to anyone. The lyrics were easy to write since I was writing about something I used to know something about: being an altar boy and having to get up at 6 a.m. to serve 6:30 mass. I never had any problems with the priests back in the 50s -- the nuns were the ones I had to watch out for -- but the current zeitgeist dictates that I suggest a bit of debauchery in the priest/altar boy relationship, so I did.


To provide a bit of 1950ish Catholic ambience I decided to add, as a roving chorus, a lone voice intoning the Latin responses that altar boys of the pre-1960s era had to say in response to the priest's ejaculations. After almost 60 years I still remember most of them by heart, sad to say. 

Okay, because of popular demand, here are two more versions of the song.



ALTAR BOY BLUES


Well you wake up inna mornin
Gotta serve that early mass
If you don’t make it by 5:30,
Father Damien will have yo ass,
You got the altar boys blues
Ain’t no joy for you today
Till dat priest done said his piece
You his prisoner and his slave.

Well you put on a grimy cassock
And a surplice with big sleeves
Then you light up all the candles
And get down upon your knees,
You got the altar boys blues
Ain’t no joy for you today
Till dat priest done had his fill
You his prisoner and his slave.

Well you answerin all his questions
In some crazy ancient tongue
When all you wanna say is
“Lemme outta here while I’m young,”
You got the altar boys blues
Ain’t no joy for you today
Till dat priest has done his deed
You his prisoner and his slave.

The time rolls by so slow
And you keep watchin yo behind,
The priest’s got Latin on his lips
But Greek is on his mind.
You got the altar boys blues
Ain’t no joy for you today
Till that priest done seen his god
You his prisoner and his slave.

Well de mass is finally over
You stop feeling like a fool
You just got one more year of this
Den you can go to public school
You got the altar boys blues
Ain’t no joy for you today
Till that priest done say Amen
You his partner and his slave.
Let em get you when you young
You’ll be servin to your grave
If you let em have their way with you
You gonna serve your life away.
  


The LATIN LOW MASS — Altar Boy’s Responses

Ad Deum qui laetificat, juventutem meam.
Quia tu es, Deus, fortitude mea: quare me repulisti, et quare tristis incedo, dum affligit me inimicus?
Et introibo ad altare Dei: Ad Deam qui laetificat juventutem meam.
Spera in Deos quoniam adhuc confetibor illi: salutare vultus mei, et Deus meus.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper: et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Ad Deum qui laetificat, juventutem meam.
Qui fecit caelum et terram.
Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tuis, perducat te ad vitam aeternam. Amen.
Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, beate Mariae semper Virgini, beato Michaeli Archangelo, beato Joanni Baptistae, sanctis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, omnibus Sanctis, et tibi, Pater: quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, et opera mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, beatum Michaelem Archangelum, beatum Joannem Baptistam, sanctos Apostolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos et te, Pater, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.
Amen. Amen.
Et plebs tua laetabitur in te.
Et salutare tuum da nobis.
Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
Et cum spiritu tuo.
Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.
Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostrum, totsiusque Ecclesiae suae sanctae.
Habemus ad Dominum.
Dignum et justum est.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus, Deus Sabbaoth. Pleni sunt caeli et terra Gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domine. Hosanna in excelsis.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Standing

I've been concentrating on books lately and neglecting my music but I managed to squeeze out a song over the weekend before my computer started giving me fits. So this is the final version of this song written by Joss Whedon and sung by Anthony Head in "Once More with Feeling", the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I need to do every track over, but with my computer injecting audible glitches at random times I'm pretty sure I'm retiring this song and probably looking into getting another computer.


As I approach my 70s I find that I have to lower every song a few keys because I can't sing as high as I used to. So even though I knew the song was in F (I have the chord book for the episode) I tried it in D and found that there are no high notes in the melody. The song sounded quite dull and lifeless with me singing so low. So I did it again in F and it has a bit more zest to it now. It made me feel young again, singing a song in its original key.