Saturday, July 4, 2015

Scotch and Soda

This is one of my favorite old drinking songs by Dave Guard of the Kingston Trio. Remember them? I tarted it up quite a bit, giving it the kind of atmosphere that all the Viagra makers go for in their TV ads. But this song isn't about sex -- it's about booze.

I sent a link to this song to Ed Gorman and he said: "Wow, Fender, that's the best version of that song I've ever heard, Do you ever play clubs or anything? You should." Ed is the best horror/suspense writer I know (well, maybe along with Bill Pronzini) and it looks like he knows his way around a booze song too.


Do people really want to see 70-year-olds performing music in public? Skip Batchelor says yes and he should know. Here in Mississippi every solo act seems to be into blues and once I've played my two blues songs you've heard them all. Maybe if I lived in New Mexico again . . .? 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Let Me Tell Ya Bout My Linda

Back in 1964 and 65 the Torques got a lot of their songs from their heroes up in Durango, the Exotics. One of them was a song they'd never heard anywhere else called "My Linda" and its main charm was that it had a catchy three-chord riff running through it. E-D-A. We played the song at a few dances in 64 and early 65 and Wally Price, a fellow student from the class of 65, used to come up to the band and plead with us to let him sing the song because he knew a much better version with different words. Did we ever let him do it? I don't remember but we really should have because later in 1965 a song called "Gloria" came out by Them (and Shadows of Night), and it became the most popular dance song of the year. If we had only let Wally sing, we could have scooped the rest of the bands in the area by almost a year!


 In my high school yearbook Wally wrote a few paragraphs telling me how cool I am then ended with probably the most sincere words found in the book: "NOW can I sing Gloria???" That summer of 65 I have a vague memory of Wally coming up and singing "Gloria" at the etc Club on Animas St. close to El Cantaro. He did a great job. As I remember, the club only lasted a couple of weeks before the city fathers  shut it down for corrupting the youth of Farmington. Too late!

Monday, June 1, 2015

All Roads Lead to Tuba 2015

This is a remake of a song Knees wrote in 1972, after a trip to the Grand Canyon with an old army buddy and his wife. We found that on the south rim no matter where you wanted to go, Tuba City was the first place you went. Knees' buddy suggested he write a song about all roads leading to Tuba City and this is what resulted. I recorded it in the early 90s and this recent version is pretty similar.


It’s a sad road I’m travelin
Sad because my baby
Tole me that our love is dead
“Go on an beat your head against the wall,” she said
“I don’t think that I can take it any more.”

A man tries to make a livin
Doin what he does the best
For as much as he can get
But tell that to a woman
Without lowerin your head
When the life she needs
Is just outside your door.

An the raincloud up ahead is flashin like a sign
Motorcycle nightmare on the Utah line
Do you blame me brothers for changin my mind?
I turn around an head back home.

All roads lead to Tuba
Just like all roads lead to hell
If you’re headin for the Canyon
You’ll get to know it well.

Well I tried to leave my woman
Somethin I’ve attempted so many times before
But every time I come on back
A-beggin at the door
I wonder just what I’m tryin to do?

As I ride into Tuba
I get a kinda feelin
That things just ain’t the same
Like mebbe someone’s changed
All the rules to the game
I wonder if it’s me or if it’s you.

Then I see the note that’s lyin on the bed
Says “Now do you believe that our love is dead?”
Then I start to thinkin
Bout all the things she said
An I go an beat my head against the wall.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sailor of the Century

This is a song Knees wrote back in 1977 but never played - until 1992 or so when it was recorded in Shreveport along with most of his other songs at his Olive Street house. It's a science-fiction song about a dystopian future when some tectonic upheaval has caused the middle of North America to become an ocean. Believe it or not, Knees was sitting at the piano one day and played a lick and sang a gibberish line, "From the Colorado Islands to the shores of Tennessee..." The line surprised him with its pregnancy and the rest of the song just flowed out.


The 1993 version is already in this blog, back in June 2012. This new version has almost the same arrangement.


I’ve been a sailor for the past seven years
Sailin on the ocean of our country
I’ve seen the teachers, the preachers of fear
Who kept me from the woman who loved me

In the third year of the flood
We met at Mt Rainier
Where we helped build
The village of the mountain
We lived each others lives
Through the hunger and the tears
An drank the love that flowed like a fountain.

Now I’m known as the sailor of the century
The man who cheats the forces from above
From the Colorado Islands
To the shores of Tennessee
I’ll sail the American Ocean till I find my love

Then the teachers walked among us
And told us of the sea
That lay to the east of the desert
They told us there were places
Where people still were free
Where the teachers had control of the weather

She told me there would never
Be another in her life
But she had to see what happened to the east
Before she left we married
In the Night of the Knife
When I became a killer of the beast.

Now I’m known as the sailor of the century
The man who cheats the forces from above
From the Colorado Islands
To the shores of Tennessee
I’ll sail the American Ocean till I find my love

I’ve been everywhere that there’s left to be
And my lady may not want me when I find her
But my life has not been empty
As I sailed across the sea
I’m not just the man she left behind her.

Now I’m known as the sailor of the century
The man who cheats the forces from above
From the Colorado Islands
To the shores of Tennessee
I’ll sail the American Ocean till I find my love



Monday, April 20, 2015

Do It Again

When the guys from South Park were making a movie with stop-action puppets, I remember one of them remarking how difficult it was to get puppets to do even the littlest things, when a human actor could have simply been told what to do and he'd do it. I got the same feeling with this old nugget by Steely Dan. Playing every part all the way through a hypnotic 6-minute song is hard to do, especially when each verse is almost a minute long. If I only had a 4-piece band and we each could play at the same time . . .

         DO IT AGAIN

Modern music-makers would probably just do one verse and chorus, record it and then simply duplicate it six or seven times, but my mind doesn't work like that. When I learned guitar in the early 60s it was a rite of passage to be able to play a Chuck Berry song all the way through, without making too many mistakes.

What actually inspired me to do this song was my Fender G-Dec amp which plays the distinctive drumbeat so well I used 6 minutes of it as a click track. I also liked the understated guitar setting the G-Dec provided and used it for both guitars. I played the bass on my ES-335 using a bass-emulating setting on my Boss BR-600 effects device. A Casio WK-200 provided the keyboard sound and Gavin O'Keefe did an ethereal viola solo via the internet. The vocals were doubled and harmonized by the Vocalist Live 3 and I even turned on the Auto-Tune. I wish it had changed the voice even more.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

North to Alaska

I guess the Great White North has been on my mind lately and it reminded me of one of my favorite Johnny Horton songs. I was the marquee changer at the Allen Theater in Farmington NM when this song (and movie) came out. It may be the only John Wayne film I liked. I'm sorry, but I didn't like his acting. As for Johnny Horton, I liked everything he did.

 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ma Belle from Quebec

There were still a few provinces of Canada left so I volunteered for Quebec. I did my usual "what rhymes with Quebec?" then went to Google Images and saw what the place looks like. Beautiful. So I dusted off my two years of French in high school and threw together the first chords that occurred to me. The song is based on a simple I - IV - I - I chord pattern and the melody is the obvious one to use for it. But it bounces along nicely and if the "avec" gag ever catches on, the song could be a hit. If you know anyone from Quebec ask them if there's any chance that they would say, "Do you wanna go avec?" or even "Voulez-vous allons avec?" without adding the "moi"?


And here is the video on Youtube (with the original words).




Lemme tell you bout ma Belle from Quebec
She plays the blues like Mac Rebenneck
She ain’t as tall as Toulouse-Latrec
But when she goes out
I wanna go avec.
When Belle paints the town
We all wanna go avec.

I’m talking bout ma Belle from Quebec
She plays poker with Alex Trebek
In certain lights she looks like Max Shreck
But when she goes out
I wanna go avec.
When Belle paints the town
We all wanna go avec.

   Ma Belle from Quebec is a screamer
   You oughta hear her say “Voulez vous?”
   And when she lets me drive her Beemer
   We’re the biggest hippos in the zoo.

So if you’re thinking bout ma Belle from Quebec
She plays banjo like a drunk Bela Fleck
She might say Boo to Gregory Peck
But when she goes out
I wanna go avec.
When Belle paints the town
We all wanna go avec.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Yellowknife

What do you know? Another original Knees Calhoon tune, written in 2015, when for most of the 90s and 00s Knees thought his creative days were long past. It appears he still has a few notes and words left in him and it's thanks to his Canadian friends in a group called The Cover Album Project Band that they have been pulled out. The song is amazingly simple but maybe that fits the stark, beautiful expanse that the Northwest Territories cover. With average temperatures in the summer barely reaching the freezing point, it's doubtful Knees will ever visit Yellowknife, but for about 2 and a half minutes we can dream.


Knees made a video for the Project Band and here it is on Youtube.

YELLOWKNIFE VIDEO 


You can count all the trees in Ontario
Weigh the ice in the Arctic Dome
But if you’re miles away from Yellowknife
You’re not home.

You can walk from Vancouver to Labrador
And freeze in the Atlantic foam,
When you're a long way from Yellowknife
You’re not home.

In the Northwest Territories
Is where I wanna be
A place to find fortune
A place to be free
By the banks of the Great Slave Lake I wanna lie
When the last bus leaves town let me be
In Yellowknife
In Yellowknife

You can climb all the mountains of Canada
Sail the waters from St. John’s to Nome
But when you ride the bus back to Yellowknife
You’ll be home.

There’s a territory mind
That makes a man roam
Lookin for his fortune
Lookin for his home
But the Northwest Territories is where I wanna die
When the last bus leaves town let me be
In Yellowknife
In Yellowknife

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Someday

It was early 1967 and I was killing time before going in the army. I was at a party on Vine Street in Farmington NM and I heard a song on the hi-fi that I'd never heard before. It sounded like Buddy Holly and it had some very nifty chords. I looked at the 45 and sure enough it was by The Crickets, and called "Someday".

Years later in the 90s I was given a complete set of Buddy Holly records, which had numerous early rockabilly songs I'd never heard, but when I looked for the song I couldn't find it. I remained mystified until recently when I googled it and found that the song was indeed recorded by The Crickets, but the singer was Bobby Vee. It's still a damn good song for 1962.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, Skip Batchelor!

I realize this blog is to chronicle the recordings of Knees Calhoon but Knees was so much influenced in the 60s and 70s by his old guitar buddy, Skip Batchelor, that I think it's entirely appropriate to feature Skip on a trio of tunes. These were recorded at a recent gig in Albuquerque where he does a one-man show in return for enchiladas, beer and antacids. The engineer was Travis Hill and he did a great job of capturing the solid sound of Skip's guitar and vocals. Who'da thought that one of the 1965 Torques could sing and play like that?




Can you imagine anything better than sitting down to a meal of red cheese enchiladas, machaca tacos, refried beans, rice with guacamole, a chile relleno and sopapillas, and listening to a 70-year-old guy with unnaturally thick gray hair singing the various Proud Marys of the past half century? If you live anywhere near Albuquerque or Chama, you need to see Skip do his thing. 

You know all those songs that Knees Calhoon has glommed together in the annals of this blog? Songs I fumbled through multiple takes to get a decent blend of tracks? Well, Skip does his music LIVE and can do it almost anywhere. I am really proud of my fellow Torque for keeping the music real, just as he's always done since I met him in 1964.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Lawyers Guns and Money

I'm trying to stay away from anthems here at the Midnight Ramble because who wants to hear yet another version of a song you've heard a thousand times? I'd rather do a song that is completely new for you, or at least makes you happy to hear it again after all these decades. This song by Warren Zevon is almost an anthem but at least it's not on every Walmart muzak playlist. It was quite popular in the 80s at the bars in Las Cruces.


Never Make It Back

I needed a Christmas song for the holidays but of course my mind doesn't work that way. So I revived an old piano melody I made up decades back and added another verse to the dummy words I had used when playing the melody. I then changed the first line from "You came to me on a warm summer breeze" to "You came to me on a snowy Christmas eve." That's how Christmas songs are done at Ramble House. Then I asked Gavin O'Keefe to add some viola and I made a video of the song. But who could I get to sing this thing? I got it! Grogar!


If you dare, here is the video with Grogar singing in swaddling clothes. Some have called it "creepy".

http://youtu.be/AWnqt1pOJUo

You came to me on a warm summer breeze
Then I watched you blow away
But now I’m lost without your guiding light
To help me through the night to the day
You said love was all we had
And that’s not enough to make you stay
But what if love is all there is
And you never make it back
You never make it back
You never make it back this way.

We tell ourselves there’ll always come a day
When things will work out just as planned
And so we wait and sacrifice the time
While all our dreams are built on sand
You said love was all we had
And that’s not enough to make you stay
But what if love is all there is
And you never make it back
You never make it back
You never make it back this way.
 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sunshine Superman

I haven't recorded anything lately but I hope to get back into it soon. In the meantime here is one of my favorite Donovan songs, done up as an acoustic number, just guitar and vocals. A couple of years back when I was playing more acoustic guitar than electric I recorded this. I didn't have the harmonizer at the time so I did the harmony the old-fashioned way: I sang it on another track.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Old Country Waltz

Randy Miller was known as Ballz Calhoon and was the hippest of the Brothers, even though he grew up on a farm and was a rodeo cowboy before becoming a drummer. Most of the cool songs played by the Calhoon Brothers at the Las Cruces Inn back in 1976 - 1980 were suggested and sung by Randy, and The Old Country Waltz was one I remember him singing once or twice. Too bad we didn't record it. 


It was a perfect song for a band like ours, since we often played "in this empty bar echoing off the walls." I have a feeling Neil Young wrote this very early in his career, since I don't see him playing to an empty house after 1965. The line that hits home even more is "out the window the moon shines on the roofs of the cars." If the damn bar is empty, how come the parking lot is full? It was a mystery back then and it remains so today.

Randy sang a lot of cool, sophisticated-in-their-own-way songs with us back in the day and I have recordings of dozens of them. I'm dedicating this song to Randy Miller.

Here's a song from April of 1977 at the LCI with Randy singing and playing drums, Mark Coker on bass and harmony and Knees on guitar.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

G Chug

I haven't recorded much lately but this song sounded pretty good in the car. I probably recorded this 5 or 6 years ago. "G Chug" is a setting on my Fender G-DEC amp and I like its crunchiness. The default rhythm that comes with it is relentless and it seems to dictate what the guitar is doing.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Boston Trilogy 2014

Jimmy Webb wrote a book about songwriting back in 1998 called TUNESMITH and thanks to Gavin O'Keefe's recommending it to me, I finally read it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had taught myself many of the tricks he advocated. In fact, it reminded me that one of my old songs from the early 70s was written on the piano with Glen Campbell in mind, and it was Jimmy Webb songs that made Campbell into one of the biggest cross-over stars of that time. So I redid "Boston Trilogy" and asked Gavin to add some viola and voila! A Knees Calhoon Jimmy Webblike song.


Back in the 90s when I recorded just about all of my original songs on a Yamaha 4-track cassette recorder, I did this song for the first time. Is the 2014 version better? That's the question I ask myself every time I redo a song.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Maybe It's the Wind

In the future, which is now, when books are digitized and transmitted as a couple of million bytes of data, will there be any excuse for listing the words of a song in a book and NOT providing an mp3 (or whatever) so the reader can hear the song as he reads it?

Back in the mid-60s when Jim Thompson wrote SOUTH OF HEAVEN he may have had a melody and arrangement in mind for this song, but only the lyrics were included in the book. That was then. Here in 2014 when Knees Calhoon spied the lyrics, which conveniently rhymed and had rhythm, he decided to see how they sounded sung over the first chord pattern that occurred to him.


Knees' Disclaimer: I moved some of the lines around to get the song to fit a three-verse pattern. I have a feeling that the song, as imagined and maybe produced by Jim Thompson, was more sophisticated, and probably better, than my version. It's doubtful that Jim would have opted for two vocal lines, an octave apart, each run through a harmonizer that raised the bass one and lowered the high one. It's reminiscent of one of my favorite scenes from Get Smart. Max is getting some spy equipment from Carlson for an assignment where he'll be undercover as a reporter. He gets a camera (which Carlson explains is actually a tape recorder) and a tape recorder (which is a camera). Max asks Carlson why he didn't keep the camera a camera and the recorder a recorder and Carlson replies: "Because my mind doesn't work that way."

It's not easy to decipher my singing so here are the lyrics, copyright by Jim Thompson

A while ago as I sat there, counting the cracks in the floor,
Trying to blot out the future, to forget all that happened before,
I heard a baby crying, and I saw a face I’d known.
But the kid was dead and the face and head were crying there alone.
Wailing in infinite sorrow, sucking its finger tips
Till nothing was left but the marrow and the feebly gnawing lips,
But maybe it’s the wind, kid. Maybe it’s the wind.

The devil and a bearded saint peeked through the door at me.
The devil had a smoky taint, the saint a golden key.
The devil laughed, and he said to him, “I keep all whom I take.”
And he bound me there to that very chair with a ten-foot rattlesnake,
Then I heard the woman’s scream when the club came down on her back,
And the starving hounds on the grassy mounds where the dead fight off attack,
But maybe it’s the wind, kid. Maybe it’s the wind.

Maybe it’s the wind that aching hungry breeze
That blows all hell loose through the lid of one contagious sneeze?
Or the gasps for breath as the rope brings death while mob-fire turns bodies black,
Or the mad men, the bad men, and the sad and the glad men who rape and murder and sack,
Where the bombs explode and the shells erode where the sinned-against have sinned,
But maybe. Just Maybe. Maybe it’s the wind.
Maybe it's the wind.
Maybe it's the wind.