ad nauseam: more “minor secrets” of the mr t experience

MTX, first trio version, ca. 1992 at the Berkeley Square

ell, now. This is the twenty-seventh illustrated collation of Songs for Odin posts, covering the past seven weeks. For those keeping track, we’ve reached the 146th entry covering 118 songs so far. (They’re different numbers because several songs have had more than one entry.) The first one was posted in November 2017, meaning I’ve been doing this for pretty close to three years now, which strikes me as absolutely crazy. Still, I keep doing it, for some reason.

There’s a YouTube playlist of all the Songs for Odin posted so far, with their write-ups linked in the description space of each respective video.

If you’re confused because you haven’t been following along for the past couple of years (and why would you?): this is something I’ve been doing each Wednesday, posting a video of a song and writing up some commentary on it. Then every month or so I’ll compile them into an edited illustrated compilation so they don’t get lost and unfindable in the great big pile of trash that is our internet. And it’s called Song for Odin because it occurs on Wednesday, the day dedicated to Woden, the Anglo-Saxon cognate of the Norse god Odin.

Details about how and why I started doing this can be found in the intro to the first installment; and the Odin conceit is explained, somewhat, in the intro to the second. The subsequent installments may be found here: three; four; five; six; seven; eight; nine; ten; eleven; twelve; thirteen; fourteen; fifteen; sixteen; seventeen; eighteen; nineteen; twenty; twenty-one; twenty-two; twenty-three; twenty-four; twenty-five; twenty-six; twenty-seven.

[links in preceding paragraph updated, 12.29.2020 — ed.]

Table of contents: “She Turned Out to Be Crazy”; “How’d the Date End?”; “Now that You Are Gone”; “Velveeta”; “When I Lost You”; “The One that Got Away”; “You’re the Only One”.

And now…

Dr Frank — “She Turned Out to Be Crazy”

Sometimes ya gotta: Heya friends and foes, I hope your Wednesday thing is going alright. As for my Wednesday thing — posting a song with a comment and calling it Odin — I’m just getting to it now.

And what it is is me doing “She Turned Out to Be Crazy” in an old cemetery in Bergamo, Italy, in 2006.

I’ve posted a few tunes from this event already and you can read all about how this unlikely event came about (see this playlist — links to the “minor secrets” posts are in their respective descriptions.) This particular one is a bit of a wild ride visually, sonically, and performance-ly (I think because it was because it was at the beginning when kinks were being worked out) but it has a certain something, and gets the song across even if I can’t always manage to find where the C is on the guitar and each and every time. It’s loose, baby, but loose can be good.

I often begin these entries saying I don’t have the time and the mental equilibrium to write much, after which I wind up with a thousand words of babble, but today I really genuinely must keep it rushed, so just a couple of quick “minor secrets” and them I’m out.

— My hero Mike Batt, of Wombles fame, recently tweeted about lyrics that rhyme a word to itself, citing “Do You Want to Know a Secret” calling it a careless “songwriting nightmare.”

Of course I agree, and I responded:

Really regret rhyming “stand” with “understand” in “Sackcloth and Ashes” (though at the time it didn’t seem that important to me.) “It turns out that to knock a guy out” however — that one was intentional.

It was indeed intentional, or rather deliberate, to rhyme “out” with “out”, in that when it came out that way and I wondered how much to fret about it I decided to let it stand rather than try to fix it because it was a good line fully in character with the narrator’s voice and because because of that it was funny on a whole other sort of meta level simultaneously. As I always say, real rhymes are always going to be better than non-rhymes masquerading as real rhymes and you should try to avoid the bad ones but… sometimes ya gotta. (It helped in this case that it was an internal rhyme in the line, more or less an optional flourish, rather an end rhyme, which would have been terrible and ultimately self-defeating which is an awful thing to do to a self.)

Point being, sometimes you do bad things for a good reason. If you must, that’s the way to do them. But I can’t defend “understand” and “stand,” which was pure, slovenly carelessness.

— The recording that leads off Show Business Is My Life is one of those cases of everything coming together in the studio perfectly with very little effort or struggle, and it still works great after all these years. (Link below.) That’s Aaron Cometbus on the drums, Kepi on bass, and Joe King doing backup vox. I’d wanted Joe to do more but he was just stopping by real quick before a show and had to rush off after just a couple of tracks. I thought of filling in with my own tracks the big back-up arrangement I had in mind but found that the stark, minimal, bare-bones track worked just fine on its own. I wish we’d done more songs with this “band” it would have been great.

And… gotta run. That was more typing than I should have done, which always happens somehow. Till next time.

Original post on minds is here.

“How’d the Date End?”

Actually at that point that whole discotheque idea was pretty much off…: Since the The Mr T Experience… and the Women Who Love Them orders have begun as of today, it seems appropriate to feature another track from the new master / test press for today’s Song for Odin, so here we go.

It’s “How’d the Date End?”

This was included as an unlisted track on the B side of the “Tapin Up My Heart” / “My Stupid Life” seven inch and not on the original CD ep, and it happened in a rather haphazard, unplanned way. We had to sneak on to somebody else’s session at Dancing Dog last-minute to do it really quickly.

I’m going to quote from the Shards vol. 2 liner notes here:

As originally conceived, the … and the Women Who Love Them CD EP was supposed to have six tracks, and the 7" would have two of them, plus an extra song that wasn’t on the CD. The song slated for this slot was “Checkers Speech,” but new drummer Jim was really fond of that track and insisted that it be on the CD. I had to come up with an additional track, and this was it…

At that time we were already way, way over our tiny budget for this project, so the song had to be dashed off really quickly. When it came time to do the vox over the guitar track I realized that I’d missed out a whole chunk of the song (the bit where the narrator describes being picked up where he’d fallen down, read his rights, and brought downtown.) There was no time to correct the error, and we just went with it. The song was included on the 7" but not listed in any way.

I always meant to do a proper version with all the lyrics. This one was recorded in my bedroom, and appeared on the Women Who Love Them “Special Addition” compilation.

(Note: the current digital catalog has the bedroom version and not the original on the “Tapin’ Up My Heart” digital “seven inch” because we didn’t have a digital file of this song at hand when we put those songs up. It was meant to be a place-holder till we got a file of the original one, but that never wound up happening. At least we’ll be able to update the digital now. )

And despite the missing bit, there’s something raw and immediate about this recording that the other one doesn’t have. It’s funny how tension and angst can animate a recording, for good or ill, quite apart from the actual content. It’s a silly little song, though a pretty good silly little song, I’d say, fueled nevertheless by tension, anxiety, a sense of hopelessness, and a… vague thirst for revenge, somehow? A “goodbye cruel world” vibe, I suppose I’m getting at, doing my silly little song nobody wanted to hear just to spite them. Or something.

This is another example, I suppose, of a song built around an obsolete reference that still manages to work under its own steam. “So, Chuck, I don’t care who the audience picked…” The Love Connection TV show no longer has any cultural currency, and I know from experience that even at the time a whole lot of people just didn’t understand what’s going on there. It’s this: the narrator of the song is telling host Chuck Woolery about his TV-arranged date and announcing his disinclination to go on a date with the contestant voted for by the audience.

And now, I imagine, most people reading this won’t understand that sentence I just typed. Still, dating woes are eternal, I expect. “I’ll be on my own, it’s my natural state, whether or not I have a date.” If you deliver well enough on a good conceit, it can happen that you don’t even need the conceit anymore. Which is a mercy, “legacy”-wise.

That’s all I got to say on this now. Place your orders if you’re on the dibs list [long gone now, thanks — ed.] because this deluxe edition is the best yet and if you’re at all interested in this stuff you’re going to want one. Good luck, and see you next time.

notes:

The Mr T Experience… and the Women Who Love Them reissue from Sounds Radical, second pressing on 150 gram vinyl.

Shards vol. 2 version on youtube.

Shards vol. 2 liner notes.

— original post on minds.

“Now that You Are Gone”

A shadow of my former self (which wasn’t all that great): Well, my brothers and sisters, and cousins, and aunts, and what have you, another Wednesday has dawned. Which means Song for Odin, that thing I do where I post a video resource and comment on the song therein. And because of all this …and the Women Who Love Them action going on lately, I figure it’s worth doing another one of these:

It’s the re-mastered “Now that You Are Gone”, test press pre-release, and here’s “Now that You Are Gone,” minor secrets thereof.

This has long been one of my go-to acoustic interlude songs, and to this day I do it pretty much the way it is on the recording and everyone’s used to it that way. But as so often, my original idea for it was much more grandiloquent. I imagined it as a big-production full-band number, with, believe it or not, ironic strings and a C note drone that started out inaudible and got louder and louder till the end when the dial would be on “pain.” This was in my head as I lay on my back in a druken stupor on a grubby futon I hadn’t gotten up from in days, strumming and staring at the cracks in the ceiling, “writing” it. (Spoiler alert: I eventually got up from the grubby futon, though I subsequently got back down on it, as is the nature such futons.)

Of course, as even I knew at the time, that was not in the cards. I didn’t have the budget, nor the talent, nor the support of my label and comrades, to pull anything like that off. Plus, we would have played it too fast and it’d have ended up as just another generic “Ramones core” thing, distinguished from all other generic “Ramones core” things only by virtue of its lyrics, which very few would hear or pay attention to.

It matters very little either way in the scheme of things, but pretending for a second that it does, it’s a good thing it was done the way it was, basically demo style, with me bellowing the words over a hastily laid-down acoustic guitar track. It was, like everything on this record, a rush job. I like the song a lot, but I recognize now that it’s likely not substantial enough to support full grandiloquence, even of the ironic sort about which I was fantasizing. It’s its best self as is, raw and direct, the narration deadpan but also on the verge of … losig its grip, I suppose you’d say.

I spent the few years afterwards wishing I’d at least managed to perform it with a bit more subtlety and finesse, and maybe I still wish that, sort of, but as I say, in the end it matters not. Just glad the song got out there in any form, as its existence outside my dumb head was all along unlikely in the extreme, like so many of the things bouncing around in there.

If nothing else, that macramé line makes it all worthwhile; and the “na na na” bit works as well, and often sparks a crowd sing-along when I do it live, which is gratifying. The third verse is arguably superfluous and could have been left out without detracting overmuch; though “another chance to screw it up once more” is a fitting end, if a bit clichéd in an overall “text” that otherwise manages to treat of an entirely trope-y topic without so resorting.

Them’s my thoughts, anyhow.

I didn’t realize how good the melody was till I went through the painstaking process of organizing a finger-picked solo guitar arrangement for it a ways back.

It’s a pretty consistent rule that the tunes that work as instrumentals tend to be the most popular in original form as sung songs. Which is, I suppose, not all that surprising, but it’s something I never thought of before I started finger-picking them. (Good melody is something I usually stumbled into rather than deliberately engineered, and fortunately I got lucky more than I had any right to expect.)

Anyhow, that’ll wrap it up for this installment. We’ll meet again one day. It’ll be strange and outré. And I won’t know what to say. Except for hit it hard down there, smash that like button, murder that subscribe button, ring the stupid bell, swamp the comments… and, you know, order the record. If you want one.

notes:

The Mr T Experience… and the Women Who Love Them reissue from Sounds Radical, second pressing on 150 gram vinyl.

— original post on minds.com is here.

“Velveeta”

If this is Wednesday it must be Italy… Yes, friends, it is Wednesday, and according to my self-imposed schedule, I must post a song in video form and add some commentary, with a cutesy introductory nod the Odin / Wodnesdæg conceit.

So hail Odin and here ya go:

It’s the MTX of 1996 doing “Velveeta” at the Nessun Dorma club in Genoa, Italy. You can read more about the background of this tour and shows in the “minor secrets” write-ups to the songs previously posted from this set on this playlist if you like — links are in the video descriptions.

This was our return to Europe after the truncated tour with Green Day earlier that year. Whatever else went wrong in our world (and quite a lot did) Italy always came through.

This song is almost unique, I believe, in being a regular part of the live set of each and every MTX era and line-up — the other one being “Danny Partridge.” We still play it now, in fact, and people still seem to like it. I (still) like it okay, but I’ve always winced at the recorded version, which falls short of the song’s potential in practically every way I can think of. (That’s what made the decision to leave it off the Mtx forever compilation in favor of “The History of the Concept of the Soul” somewhat easier — in that sense it came in handy.)

Though this performance is a bit rough, like everything else we ever did, this is more like the way it should have been done, mostly because of the drums. I guess after ten years of doing a song you figure some stuff out. Anyway, this is what it sounded like when we pulled out a decade-old “standard” when touring Europe in the nineties, for better or worse.

As for the song itself, I wrote it up in an earlier Song for Odin write-up concerning an earlier (1988) performance and I can’t think of anything to add right now so I’ll quote myself:

The song, per se, is an early attempt to take a conceit, run it in to the ground, beat it to death, burn it to a crisp, and scatter the ashes — something I was to learn to do better as time went on. But considering how aimless and all-over-the-place I was in this period (as a writer and just, you know, generally) it does stay remarkably in focus. I still like it, I don’t care what you all say.

And I’m all Odin’d out, for the moment anyhow. Keep on coping by whatever mechanisms you have at your disposal, and I shall try to do the same. Cheers. And I’ll be back next week, with something new perhaps. Till then, bottoms up and here’s to crime.

Original post on minds.com is here.

“When I Lost You”

Freedom, freedom, you’re just gonna be dumb…: Hey hey — it’s Wodnesdæg, and time for Song for Odin to do it’s little Song for Odin thing. And so…

Here’s “When I Lost You” live in Forlì, Italy on the Euro-tour with the Groovie Ghoulies ca. November, 1997.

This is the only live performance of this song I’ve come across on video, and that squares with my impression that we didn’t play it all that much. There’s no particular reason for that, other than the fact that there were so many other songs to fill the limited number of slots — once you’ve included the obligatory ones that people expect to hear and get mad if they don’t hear, that leaves very little space for all the others, including some pretty good ones. And then the fact that these others don’t get played that often means you’re not as good at playing them so they’re even less likely to be included as time goes on. It’s challenging enough to make it through a whole set without sucking — not need to make it harder on yourself by risking the less well-trodden avenues. This is how bands wind up playing essentially the same set after they’ve been touring for awhile, even when they don’t really mean to. It’s a logical winnowing process.

Anyhow, this song is one of the good ones. I wrote it mostly in my head while standing off in the side stage area at one of those big Green Day Euro-shows. Then I went to the dining area and ate fried flowers. True story. “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful” was also conceived and “written” during that tour in the seemingly endless hurry-up-and-wait down time. The basic procedure was leaning against the wall in a sort of fugue state mutter-singing under my breath and humming bass lines. I must have looked like a crazy person. But there was quite literally nothing else to do in that situation but that.

Despite that, the results were good in both cases. I hate a lot of my own stuff, as one does, but this is one that one still works. I even like the weird, super-distorted recording, though I didn’t always. The guitar was done through a way overloaded pre-amp and plugged direct into the board (which probably did some damage.) The vocals were fried in a similar way I can only assume. I do remember a more rational mix (and it may be lurking on an extant reel) — it’d be all but unrecognizable I’m sure. And the people who hated it at the time are so used to it now they’d probably hate the alternate even more. So it goes. I will say that the pre-mastering direct tape transfer of this song sounds quite a bit better, though it’s still over-compressed; it’s almost beautiful, in its way.

And, well, that’ll have to do it for today. Be well and good, if you can and we’ll take this up again next week.

notes:

— studio version on YouTube.

previously posted songs from that Green Day tour Roma show.

— original post on minds.

“The One that Got Away”

The one that got away…: Well now, it’s Wodnesdæg and time for another song, “for Odin” as it’s styled, usually a live video plus some typing. You may have noticed me doing this before, or if not, you’re noticing it for the first time now. Either way, welcome to my dumb little world.

So, that’s the intro done.

What we’ve got today is a true rarity, “The One that Got Away” from that August 6, 1988 show at Gilman from which I’ve posted several songs over the past year.

Here’s why: yesterday Aaron posted a photo of the cassette he was given when he joined the band so he could learn the songs, and this was one of the songs on it. So it seemed an apt time to pull this one out, as I imagine at least a couple three people might be curious about it.

As I mentioned at the time, the source of these recordings was probably what became known as “the Lowdown Demo” recorded at Greg Freeman’s Lowdown Studios in September, 1988, 8 track, Byron on bass. (I know because the masters survive and are clearly labelled and dated — good job, Greg.) I remember some of this stuff sounding kind of okay, but it was a low priority for tape transfer and we let it lie in the first round, so I haven’t heard it in entirety in over 30 years so…

Several of these tracks wound up as bonus tracks, all of which appeared on subsequent comps, and most recently were incorporated into the Shards compilations. “Gilman Street,” “Time for Your Medicine,” and “Kenny Smokes Cloves” were included on the Night Shift CD, along with “Boredom Zone” which first appeared on the 1988 Lookout compilation The Thing that Ate Floyd.

There were many more songs than this on that tape, though none of the are unreleased songs other than this as far as I can tell. It’s bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, I suppose, but I am curious about it, maybe enough to investigate further to see if any of it’s worth releasing in some form one day. We’ll see.

As for “The One that Got Away”: I seem to recollect trying to record it “for real” at least once, but if so it’s not on any of the tapes I have in the inventory. Possibly it was on the list of songs we practiced that didn’t make it to that stage. There were many such — ones that got away, so to speak. But had we done it, the most likely place for it would have been Making Things with Light, so maybe it and some of this other material could augment a MTwL re-issue, if we ever get there. (I think the Kevin Army treatment on that guitar stuff in the middle would have been pretty epic — I can hear it in my head, anyhow.)

Boy, that was a long time ago. This the thirteenth (out of fifteen) songs in this set posted so far. And, if you care, this is the 145th Song for Odin entry, covering 118 different songs. Crazy. See you next time, I suppose.

notes:

songs posted so far from that 1988 Gilman show:

Shards vol. 1, in playlist form; Shards vol. 2 in playlist form

— original post on minds.

Dr Frank — “You’re the Only One”

You’re the only one I want to get screwed over by: Well now, Wodnesdæg is here, and that means I’m about to do that thing where I posts a video of a song and type some words and call it a Song for Odin. Been at this for over two years if you can believe that. Crazy.

Anyhow, it’s me, playing “You’re the Only One” slightly out of sync at the Rotterdam Rumble, August 27, 2004.

This was during an acoustic interlude during the regular set, an act billed as Dr Frank and His Shiny Robot Monkeys but really just me being backed 7up by London’s Zatopeks wearing sliver jumpsuits and monkey masks. I recently re-posted a photo of one of the rehearsals — during which they were actually wearing the masks, God bless ’em — so that’s why I thought of looking to see if there was any video of the set.

This is the closest I could come, the only document I’ve come across of that night, which is unfortunate as I’d like to have seen what the Shiny Robot Monkeys looked like from the stage. I understand it was dangerously hot in all that gear, but I bet it looked pretty great.

I honestly don’t remember all that much about the show, other than the fact that pretty much everyone there was fairly drunken, including me. Still, there’s nothing more fun than rock and roll in my experience, so I’m pretty sure it was. Fun, I mean.

As for the song, it’s one of those that still “works” even 25 years later. A lot of people are familiar with it because it closes a very popular album, and I know it is loved dearly by many of them. But in a way the true test of a song’s vitality isn’t how well it holds up over time among those predisposed to like it, but rather how it fares to an audience with no context for it. “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend” reliably “lands” with pretty much any audience, but so does this one, almost without fail. At least, “you’re the only one I want to get screwed over by” always gets a laugh. It’s great playing these songs to people who love them already, but it can be kind of like a ritual: everyone knows the punchlines so well that they’re not really punchlines and you don’t generally get laughs.

This was a Song for Odin way back in Jan. 2018 when this “series” was just getting going, and in that write-up I told the story of the most memorable time I played it, at Coney Island High, ‘96-ish, where a great big drunk galunk who interrupted the song got disciplined with extreme prejudice by a bunch of “You’re the Only One” loving girls. Best security detail ever.

And that’ll wrap her up. And by “her” I mean this entry. Be good to each other as much and as often as you can, I’ll be back again next week most likely.

notes:

— studio recording on YouTube

— Rotterdam Rumble show poster (plus a little bit of writing about it.)

— original post on minds.

I am Dr. Frank. I write books and songs. Mtx Forever.