Further Adventures of the Mr T Experience
i.e., ODIN XXIX
Well, it’s time for another collation of songs ’n’ minor secrets, drawn from the five most recent posts in the Songs for Odin series I’ve been doing for the past three years. And here it is, the twenty-ninth such collation. For those who care, this brings us to 161 entries, covering 125 different songs. (The numbers are different because some songs have multiple entries.)
If you’re confused because you haven’t been following along for the past three years (and why would you?): this is something I’ve been doing each Wednesday, more or less, 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 wind up 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.
Yes, yes, I’m well aware that it’s a pretty dumb thing to do, but, like most such things, I do it anyway for some reason.
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; twenty-eight.
[Editor’s note: just realized that Medium’s recent change to vanity urls appears to have nuked all their previous links. Which should have been entirely predictable. I have corrected them in the oft-pasted paragraph above, but correcting all of them throughout this account will be a huge job that I probably won’t get all the way through. Shades of blogspot. And all for the sake of being cute. That’s the biggest problem with our deformed information system: no one cares all that much whether it works or not. No one even ever notices, all that much, whether it works or not. However, it’s all we’ve got at the moment, so…]
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.
I’ve also included a couple of songs at the end under the heading “etc,” as I sometimes do. These are songs that didn’t get written up as part of the series per se, but did pop up in the “flow” over the past few weeks.
Table of contents: “Don’t Know What I’ll Do if You Don’t”; Thank You (for Not Being One of Them); “Mr Ramones”; “Crash”; “Merry Fucking Christmas”… plus etc.“Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba” and “There’s Something Wrong with Me”
1 “Don’t Know What I’ll Do if You Don’t”
Art and what-have-you: Well, ladles and dongle men, another Wodnesdæg has dawned, and it’s time for another Song for Odin. I missed it last week because of some internet troubles, but now I’m back on the horse, if “horse” means what I think it does.
Anyhow, here it is, the MTX of April 26, 1998 doing “Don’t Know What I’ll Do if You Don’t” at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago.
I was a bit surprised to come across this mouldering tune in the middle of a 1998 set, and even surprised-er to find it, well, not half-bad.
It was first recorded, rather clumsily, ten years earlier for the Night Shift album in 1987. As a song it’s even a bit older, I believe, as maybe you can tell from the pure, if understated, high school romantic angst, largely unmediated by any “art” or irony or what-have-you. Well, there’s perhaps a hint of what-have-you in there, some gormless, ambiguously ironic scene-setting, but it’s mostly unexploited. In those days, you just turned everything up as loud as you could and bashed away, and if the what-have-you popped up you went with it, and if it didn’t you went with it anyway.
This sort of material is usually pretty confused and inarticulate, wherein, it could be argued, lies the charm along with the cringe. It could also be argued that they’re inextricable. If nothing else, as I’ve said before, it can be a matter of inadvertent “show not tell,” making inarticulateness work for you, if inarticulateness is what you’re trying to express. Which you often are, because inarticulateness and confusion is a part of life. The biggest part, in my experience, even after all these years.
But in fact this one is quite plain and straightforward. And there are, at least, the bones of a good, plaintive “power pop” love song under there somewhere. If it were just a little bit better it could even have been kind of great. It’s a fine line.
I learned how to do this whole thing quite a bit better as time went on, or so I like to think, and a lot more could probably have been done with this one. Even as is, though, there’s something there anyway. It’s got a sort of groove I guess, and that slightly unusual seventh chord voicing with the harmonics is the kind of happy accident that might have been hard to plan if you tried to plan it.
Had we recorded it for, say, Revenge Is Sweet… I think we could have maybe made it into something halfway decent. Still seems weird that we were playing it all those years later, though. I find something that doesn’t work, I stick with it, that’s probably why. But it’s also true that around this time my songs had begun to wind themselves up so tightly with so much what-have-you that I was actively trying to loosen them up and simplify them, so there’s maybe a certain symmetry.
“I call out your name. You look at me like I’m insane, but I’m not.” I still find that “scene” rather funny, and, er, “real.”
There are worse ways to grow up in public, I suppose.
Or maybe I’m insane after all, it’s hard to tell from the inside.
Either way, that’ll bring this Song for Odin episode to a close, I reckon. Till next time.
— 1988 studio recording on YouTube.
— Night Shift… on discogs.
— Original post on minds.
2 “Thank You (for Not Being One of Them)
Later that night we hold each other tight and plot their destruction…:Hello, friends, Happy Thanksgiving Eve, and welcome to another Wodnesdæg, which is the day on which, when I’m not slacking off, I post a song and type something about it. Song for Odin, we call it, a tradition that stretches back many, many years, that is, three.
Today it’s “Thank You (for Not Being One of Them)” live at Emo’s in Austin, November 1995.
Pretty blown-up soundwise but it captures something. (*What*, I have no idea…)
The album that that song is on, Love Is Dead, had been recorded but not yet released. In my mock apology for playing something other than the earlier funny ones I say: “we’re gonna play another one from the new thing, because we know how to play these songs.” But in fact we hadn’t done them live all that much at that point and we were to get quite a bit better at doing them as time went on. Also, the audience would eventually learn to do its part with that “ay ay ay” bit. Basically, at this point in time, no one knew what they were doing. Faults on both sides.
This song has popped up on Song for Odin twice before. The first entry is about finding new angles on “you and me against the world” and the roots of King Dork’s “sex alliance against society.” The second is on songs with “problematic” words and how weird it is that our culture just decided to pretend not to grasp the “use/mention dichotomy” and transform ourselves into infants where art is concerned.
Here’s a snip from the first, something you may not know:
There was originally a third verse that looked toward a future of growing old together and cultivating an insular life of splendid isolation and loving misanthropy. I can no longer remember how it went, though it’s written down somewhere no doubt, but “Population: Us” was in effect an elaboration on it.
I chose the song today, I suppose, because of Thanksgiving. Because both have the word “thank” in the title, you see. I know that’s just a coincidence, and that the “thank you” in the song isn’t the same sort of thanking referred to by the holiday. Nevertheless, I do thank you for not being one of them. Unless, of course you are being one of them. In which case you’ll get no thanks from me. But I’ll pray for you, that you’ll realize the error of your ways and start being a nicer person, refrain from preying upon the weak, etc.
One more thing: a good chunk of this video has the camera on “the pit”, i.e. that weird part of the audience where people run around mindlessly in a circle bumping into each other (rather than just hopping up and down mindlessly in one place like we used to do when I was a kid.) I’ve never much cared for “the pit,” if I’m honest. In this one, there seems to be some sort of altercation, which was often the case at these shows. “The pit” was, in fact, an ideal environment for the behavior lamented in the song, the strong abusing the weak planting the seeds of a murderous thirst for revenge in the victims, the survival of the cruelest and the dumbest, high school writ stupid. It wasn’t in every “pit,” of course, just in enough of them that it could be noticed.
I used to see this play out at shows all the time, often during this song, and noted the irony at the time as I’m doing now. I draw no conclusion from this beyond there being nothing new under the sun and it being a funny old world.
But one more more thing: remember when Christina Aguilera tried to claim she wrote this song because a song of hers contained the words “thank” and “you” and another phrase in parentheses? I mean, sort of?
That was funny.
Happy Thanksgiving one and all.
— studio recording from Love Is Dead.
— YouTube playlist of songs previously posted from this set.
— YouTube and Its Discontents.
— original post on minds.com.
3 Dr Frank — “Mr Ramones”
I should get a medal just for being me: Well, friends, the calendar is still relentless and another Wodnesdæg has rolled along, meaning another Song for Odin™, and for you, should you be interested. So I have reached into my old bag of tricks, that is to say songs, not to say lēoþcræft, and got hold of the following.
That’s me doing “Mr Ramones,” from a solo acoustic set at Autonomes Zentrum (AZ) Aachen (Germany), October 3, 2012.
It was the last night of the Kepi & Dr. Frank European “Art” Tour of 2012, about which I’ve written quite a bit about in this “series.” If it isn’t clear, that meandering, drink-fogged intro refers to Kepi, who talked me into coming to Europe and playing music again. Against my better judgment, it must be said, but it wound up being a good time. And more than anything else, it got me back into playing and singing songs again in public, something I wasn’t sure I’d ever do.
You can read more about that here if you want, but I’ll pull out the relevant bit now:
[This tour] was a real catalyst to rekindling my interest in doing music again: I’d largely given up on it at the time. When I think of it, Kepi has played that role several times over the course of the years, breaking down my skepticism about the prospect and egging me on to give it all another go. In a way it’s like how Bowie searched Berlin for Iggy, found him, pulled him out of his squalid hole, and brought him and his career back to life, except, of course, I’m no Iggy and what I was being pulled out of was nothing like Romantic rock n roll dissolution but mere lethargy and pessimism.
It’s not a coincidence that 2012 marks the time when I started investigating the old records, listening to them for the first time in years and years and trying to assess the validity and worth of the songs and such. This was the beginning of the “rescue and reissue” project I’m now engaged in, and it’s possible that without that Euro tour I’d have let the “legacy” lie and stopped the songwriting etc. altogether. So, thanks be to Kepi. Songs are important, I see that now.
They are indeed. Or, they can be.
And while I’m not sure “Mr Ramones” is one of the super important ones, it’s… pretty darn good. Though it wasn’t recorded and released till AD 2000 on the Miracle of Shame EP, this song had been kicking around for many, many years previously. It was one of those tunes I’d pull out when the drums broke or something, just turning down the volume knob on the guitar and singing it folk song style in lieu of just standing around awkwardly trying to think of things to say to draw attention away from the fact that the set had ground to a halt yet again.
It worked great for that purpose, a brief bit of comic relief in a bad situation.
Some might say it performs a similar function on the record it’s in the center of. But not me, I’d never say that.
The song is self-explanatory, I hope. We’ve all met loads and loads of Mr Ramoneses, I’m sure, and some of us may actually be a Mr Ramones ourselves. It is a vague attempt at social satire, I suppose, meaningful only within the tiniest sliver of society. Yet another joke of the way inside type. At worst, and most, it’s a gentle lampoon. I have, however, encountered a fair few who don’t take it as a lampoon at all, but rather as a kind of personal anthem, a celebration, in fact. “You wrote a song about me! Ramones ARE God! You’re not the only one who knows! I know it too!”
And then they want me to give them “five” or do that handshake where you grab each other’s thumb and hit each other on the back with the other hand.
Admittedly, many of these are people for whom English is not a first language. I’m glad they like the song, or if they don’t, that they’ve taken back the night on it, if you know what I mean.
One final “minor secret”: “Ramones are God” is an inscription on the dead wax run out grooves of Side 2 of Everybody’s Entitled to Their Own Opinion. Not a lot of people know that.
— studio recording from The Miracle of Shame.
— the poster for that European “art tour”.
— original post on minds.com.
Saucerful of Assignments: As you may have noticed, I do this thing each Wednesday where I post a video of a song and type out some comments. The comments are styled “minor secrets” and the whole thing is called Song for Odin because it’s, you know, Woden’s day. I’ve been doing this for three years now, for no articulable reason, when I don’t flake.
And in the spirit of not flaking, here we go again.
It’s the MTX of 1998, covering the Primitives’ song “Crash” at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago.
And now here’s some typing about it.
It’s a pretty great song, and the Primitives were a pretty great band, one of very few bright spots in the generally execrable 1980s. Our version is rather crude, I suppose, and deliberately so, pop minimalism, just the barest bones underlying the original, much more beautiful, “text.”
People really seem to like it, so thanks.
Like many of the covers we recorded, it wasn’t motivated by a burning desire to interpret it anew or anything like that. It was simply, someone was putting out a compilation and gave us $200 to record a track for it. It was an assignment. We took the money, booked studio time, recorded it, and turned it in. Then if it was easy enough to play and remember it was in the repertoire and turned up on set lists, as here.
In this case it was the 1997 Vagrant Records CD compilation called Before You Were Punk, subtitled “a punk rock tribute to ’80s New Wave.” As I said before in the Shards vol. 2 liner notes, I find the title and concept rather baffling, but it’s basically a collection of semi-ironic covers and people love those. (Ours wasn’t ironic at all, even though it was made-to-order and not particularly passionate.) According to wikipedia it sold 70,000 copies, which is huge for that type of thing.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure they gave us a list of songs to choose from and we chose “Crash” because it seemed like one we could pull off quickly and uncomplicatedly. An easy A. We used to stack these compilation project assignments up so we could record several songs in one go and possibly slip in one of our own while we were at it for future use. For this “stacked” session we did “Crash,” “Is There Something I Should Know?” for the very similar Duran Duran covers compilation…
… and “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah.”
(That last was one my songs, for an even more baffling compilation called Generations I: a Punk Look at Human Rights. I think what we were doing there is disputing the premise of the assignment, which is what you do when you haven’t done the reading. And I think we scored a solid B, maybe even a B+ on that one. Never fails.)
As for “Crash,” I’m glad we phoned it in. Smart things come in stupid packages, and it wouldn’t have been any better if we’d tried any harder. We did precisely what was required, no less, and certainly no more. Long live rock and roll.
— that studio recording.
— original song by the Primitives.
— original post on minds.com.
5 “Merry Fucking Christmas”
Without Pedals: Hello, friends, and a Merry Christmas to you. Or since it’s Wodnesdæg, I guess that should be gesælige cristesmæsse to eow… I suppose it’s a bit weird to mix up the Odin with the Christ, but that’s what’s going to happen here at Song for Odin. It’s what we do.
So here we go, and since I’m pretty sure we’re going to take next week off (as it’s Christmas eve eve) we might as well go with the only MTX song that has the word “Christmas” in the title, “Merry Fucking Christmas”:
That’s live in Hamburg, Germany, July 13th 1992, near the end of our first attempt to tour Europe as a rock and roll band. I’ve posted several songs from that show before in this “series” (playlist here.) We were basically in what would prove to be the final stages of disintegration as a band at this point, something that tended to happen by the end of most tours, but perhaps most especially this one. As usual, we’d bitten off a bit more than we could manage to chew. Still, we squeezed out the songs in a way that still has a certain something, somehow. I doubt we ever looked or sounded more “punk” for what that’s worth.
And this song’s deadpan but rather dark, sardonic tone (which I’ve always loved) feels… appropriate. It’s an ornery kiss-off, in the grand tradition of rock and roll kiss-offs, almost like it had been written for the occasion. Everything you love becomes everything you hate. You’re not getting thinner, the world is getting fat, and nothing’s meant to last. How we spent our European vacation, Christmas in July. Happy Holidays, you miserable clowns.
We did it with a good deal more exuberance just a week earlier in Southampton UK. (“Minor secrets” here.)
But a week is a long time in rock and roll, and it can be even longer in Europe. As you probably know, the band was to rise from the ashes soon enough, and this cycle of disintegration / recombobulation was to repeat itself over and over.
Anyway, it’s one of my favorite of Jon von’s songs and one of my favorite tunes of that era. I feel I should apologize for wanking all over it — on guitar I mean, you know. The crude wah-wah, soloing over the vocals all that. But what can I say, boys just want to have fun. And as I explained in that previous write-up (link below) some German kid soon solved the problem by stealing the pedal off the stage one night. My wanking days were over. But rock and roll, like Christmas, couldn’t be killed off so easily.
So: Merry Christmas, for real. It’s gonna be a weird one, with everything closed down, visiting family and friends prohibited, shops closed, pubs shuttered, cheer forbidden, etc. But if I could keep the Mr T Experience, of all things, going without pedals, surely we can manage to pull off a no frills, underground, clandestine Christmas from time to time, yeah? Join hands and sing our Who songs? May the Lord bless the governor, and keep the governor… far away from us. Utan we blissian and gefeon, and all that. Here’s hoping, anyway.
— released recording, from the Strum und Bang seven inch.
— original post on minds.com.
— 1996 baby: so, I called a lid, you know, on the Dr Frank Show yesterday because of internet troubles, which meant calling a lid on Song for Odin as well. Now it’s Þunresdæg and Wodnesdæg no longer, which is just as well as I don’t have time to write anything up at the moment. But I do happen to have this lying around, and I reckon I’ve written enough “minor secrets” about this particular tune already so…
— Something’s Wrong: No new Song for Odin today at is Christmas Eve eve (and we hope you’re having a good one.) But since this song recently came up on the social medias, here’s an old one, “There’s Something Wrong with Me” from 1992, Southampton, UK (originally posted November 2018.)
From the “minor secrets” of that post:
This was one of those tracks largely put together in the studio, not played live repeatedly beforehand, which partly explains the slight awkwardness of this performance. We were still trying to learn it. Fitting for the song, in a way, but then that’s an excuse I could always use (and have.) I had had some rather grand ambitions for this studio track, including a horn section part all figured out in my head and more sound effects — the studio recording begins with a baby crying, but trust me there was much more of that nature that would have been included had we had more than a shoestring budget. Despite / because of, that, it didn’t come out too badly. The guitar solo happens to be one of my favorites that I’ve ever managed, with the “pentatonics” just slightly in enough of an unusual place to make it interesting. I don’t quite pull it off all the way here, but it’s mostly there.