“Minor Secrets” of the MTX, part XII
Welcome to the Twelfth Installment of Minor Secrets of Songs for Odin Aggregated, in which I have once again collected the past few weeks’ worth of video song posts to preserve them from disappearing into the vast chaos of clutter and skullduggery that is our current Internet. Maybe you missed some of them at the time, or maybe you’re from the future and are searching for something posted long ago, or maybe you’re me and you just want to have a reliable place to go to look for what you might have already typed out concerning these matters…. Well, you’re not me. But I do it as much for me as anybody. It’s basically a work-around to deal with the fact that this internet of ours, for one reason or another, has no reliable index. So I’m making my own.
In case you’re new to this whole thing, I’ve been posting a song, usually a live video, each Wednesday for the past year with a little write-up. I have styled these “songs for Odin” because of it being scheduled for Wodnesdæg, hence the cute Odin references throughout.
There’s more detail about how and why I started doing this 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.
[links in preceding paragraph updated, 12.29.2020 — ed.]
A note on the first song and the Live at the Court Tavern limited flexi release: “dibs” is closed and the ordering emails went out yesterday (Monday, Feb. 25.) The associated stuff (shirt, sticker, pin) is also up on the Sounds Rad site. The digital version, after some unfortunate but predictable delays now appears to be up on all the “services” if you want to check it out or buy it that way.
1 Dr Frank — “The Grooviest Girl in the World”
Welcome to yet another Wodnesdæg and yet another Song for Odin. Things are soggy here at Songs for Odin™ today, which is just how we like it. Reservoirs overflowing amid drought warnings, water rationing soon to be announced and strictly enforced by guys in yellow rainsuits. Meanwhile, my street is a lake. That’s California.
Anyway, as you may have noted if you follow me on all the things, the new Dr Frank LIVE AT THE COURT TAVERN flexi officially “comes out” on Valentine’s Day, tomorrow. And here’s a song from it.
As I explained in the explainer on Medium, this record exists solely because I was fortunate enough to have Lauren Banjo doing the sound for this one random show in New Jersey last year. She recorded the whole thing, and kept telling me it was good… but I shied away from it, as is my wont with such things — I kind of cringe in advance at everything I’m involved in, and sometimes that means I never actually wind up working up the nerve to face the thing in question. (For instance, I still haven’t been able to summon the gumption to see that Turn It Around doc… too shy, you see.)
But in fact, when I did finally investigate, this proved to be a great recording of a pretty memorable night. I shared it with Chris from Sounds Rad, and we came up with the idea of choosing three Valetine-y songs for a VD release. The timeline from then to now was fraught with various delays and mishaps and necessary changes of plan, as so often tends to happen, but essentially it happened. Or rather, it’s happening tomorrow. You can read more about it all here if you want. [As I mentioned above, the “dibs” emails went out yesterday — Monday 2/25 and ordering for the flexi etc. has begun. The digital version had some issues, but is now up on all the services as far as I can tell — ed.]
Anyway, it was a great night and it’s cool we have a record of it. I’m sure we’ll find more uses for this material in future. (At one point we’d considered doing a whole Live at the Court Tavern LP, which, well, probably not, but you never know.)
Anyway as for this song: this is a cover of a very important Bubblegum tune that very few people seem to know about. It’s no exaggeration to say that had I not stumbled on to this song as a kid, I would not have grown into the person I became. It encompasses so much of what I love in songs, and, you know, just generally. The original was elaborately produced by writer/producer/auteur Gary Zekley in 1969. It’s the perfect pop recording of what may well be the catchiest melody ever conceived, and I still love it to distraction after all these years. I’ve performed it as a solo thing only a couple of times, including this. And by necessity as well as design it’s stripped down to the bare essentials and slightly jumbled up here. Still, I like to think it works in this form. Anyway, it was great fun doing it, as maybe you can tell. I hadn’t planned to play it that night, but just got caught up in the moment.
(I’m putting this on the “official and semi-official music videos” playlist because it doesn’t get more official / semi-official than this, especially on the internet where nothing is fully real… I mean, it’s the actual recording innit. ) So cheers to Lauren for recording it and talking me into listening to the tape, cheers to Sounds Rad for taking the tape and turning it into a sweet-lookin’ artifact, cheers to the Court Tavern crowd for humoring me by singing along. And cheers to you, whoever you are, and to Odin, the shaggy coat wearer, who sacrificed an eye for knowledge and hanged himself from Yggdrasil for nine days and nine nights, whereon he was fertilized and made wise, and gave the world the gift of poetry. Impeccable taste ah. Happy Valentimes.
(Original post on minds is here.)
2 “Dumb Little Band”
Minor Secrets of “Dumb Little Band” Revealed!!!!
Whoa, it’s Wednesday. It happens every week, but this one took my surprise, a bit. Not that anyone cares, but as today is Wednesday, that is Wodnesdæg, my schedule calls for a Song for Odin™. However, we’re in the midst of the Noir City film noir festival in San Francisco, seeing all the films this time because the program is just so good, which is great but it’s also disorienting. I got my weekdays mixed up and thought it was Thunresdæg instead. Nevertheless the show must go on, mustn’t it? So here goes…
This is “Dumb Little Band” from our recent show at the Melody Inn in Indianapolis. I don’t know if you can tell from the video, but it was a wild night, a sold out small club with a very enthusiastic and warm-hearted crowd. The stage at that place is a little odd, placed off-kilter in the corner and oriented such that the frontman only has a tiny sliver of stage real estate to stand in. The cymbals were at my back and my toes had to extend over the lip of the stage, and I had to place myself very carefully and avoid any sudden movements. It was a bit awkward (and I say that as a guy who pretty much sprang from the womb awkward.)
I’m not saying it wasn’t fun and I’m not complaining. I’m just congratulating myself on not tumbling off the stage into the audience, which could have happened at any point. You work with what you’ve got, and at that moment what I had was less than a square foot of solid ground. Show business success.
As for the song, I believe this is the first time “Dumb Little Band” has come up in this series. I’m finding now that I don’t have much to say about it in the way of “minor secrets.” In a way, it was a song that was waiting to be written, and I happened to be the guy to write it. I think the germ of it was an actual incident, depicted in the song, the first time anyone ever said “you guys kind of remind me of Green Day” rather than the other way around (which up till a certain point had been the more usual construction.) People used to say they were like our “little brothers.” Anyway, we don’t remind me of each other, much, however you slice it. But the rest is history.
One fun little gimmick in the recording is that in the verse referring to past band members we put in little arrangement “sound bites” that were kind of like impressions. Joel did a quite effective, characteristic Aaron-style bass run at the appropriate line (which feature remains in the live arrangement all these years later.) And we actually had to go out and rent a china cymbal to evoke Alex. I mean, it’s sort of funny, and maybe was even worth it. (Drummers, don’t get a china. Just don’t. No band or audience ever likes it.)
Anyway, there it is. Maybe I’ll be better prepared for Wednesday when it next rolls around. Then again, maybe I won’t.
(Original post on minds is here.)
3 “…and I Will Be with You”
Minor Secrets of “…and I Will Be with You” ca. ’03 Revealed!
Last week seems like only yesterday, but here we are with another Wodnesdæg upon us, and now I must, in my capacity as the host of Songs for Odin™ present you with a song for Odin.
And I have reached into the song hoard and now hold aloft this clip, which someone sent my way quite some time ago.
I believe this is from the Chain Reaction in Anaheim, ca. 2002–3. This is an era of MTX, just after we had disintegrated yet again and regrouped with Bobby and Ted before recording Yesterday Rules, that isn’t very well documented as far as video and photos go. But those were exciting times, and despite the limited view here (hi, Bobby), I think, maybe, you can feel it.
I’ve always liked this unassuming little song, but I’m a bit surprised at how popular it is. (Maybe it’s because of the nutty video?) The recording, as with many songs on Revenge Is Sweet but possibly most of all, feels quite “unfinished” to me. I’d had some pretty grandiose arrangement ideas that never got a chance to happen because we just ran out of time and money. A slight vestige of the thwarted plan can still be noted: I went so far as to rent a baritone sax, meant to “bump” with the bass on the choruses and the main figure — just the foundation of something meant to be bigger, you understand. The track wasn’t used, but Kevin allowed one of the “badump badump badump” sax figures to pop up (in the spirit of ridicule, I’ve always half-suspected.) We did however, spend many, many hours on the drum sound, particularly the kick drum, which Kevin created by placing a mic forty feet away and turning the hallway at Toast Recorders into a big reverb: that worked.
Of course I am not unaware that our public, such as it was, would have (and did) prefer the “unfinished” version. The people have spoken, the bastards. Such is life….
This was one of the few songs from that era that came “music first,” that is, we had the basic guitar figure and structure and were fooling around with it for a stretch before I decided it what it was going to be about and stuck in lyrics to that effect. Usually I come up with the song (and the music and lyrics develop together “organically” on the couch) and present it to the band, saying, okay guys, do your worst. Before the lyric-sticking happened, we had been playing it at sound checks, and the title we knew it by was “A Rat on a Bun” — sung like a-rat, a-on, a bun — because the T shirt I was wearing when I introduced it had that phrase and a picture of a girl with a rat in a hot dog bun. (Don’t ask, no idea.) The name stuck. So that’s why the set lists of that era always list the song as “RAT.” If you were wondering about that, now you know.
‘When Chris Appelgren and I did the layout of the lyric sheet for Revenge Is Sweet, we did it in prose form rather than as verse, as though each song were a chapter of a little novel that happened to rhyme and scan, and I always got a kick of how that looked with the bridge here: Going all the way, kid. No need to fake it. Half-drunk. Half-naked. Half-awake’ll make it all right.
And you know, this album is a bit novel-y as much as it’s anything. Eat your heart out, Mr. Bukowski.
To that I’ll only add that this song really does rock and roll when played at the right tempo. As here. But playing things at the right tempo to “groove” in the heat of the moment at a show is probably the most difficult thing for a band to achieve. (And when a band manages it, it’s the most impressive thing in the world.) The reflex is to speed everything up to create the impression of energy and excitement. It’s just a thing that happens. You feel you’re losing the audience (as you always do, whether you actually are or not) and the speeding up instinct kicks in, even when it’s against your will. And it kind of works, short term. By the end of a whole set of songs played too fast, though, you’ve reached a point of diminished returns. How come your songs all sound the same? Well, they don’t *really*, that’s just the way we play ’em. You see this with most rock bands, especially semi-professional ones, not just us. Rock and roll is elusive. You’ve just gotta try really hard and grab the rock and roll where you can, and if that sounds contradictory, well, you’re right.
Still, there it is. We do what we can and sometimes it clicks. Like, subscribe, comment, share, etc. Please.
(Original post on minds is here.)
4 “The Girl Who Still Lives at Home”
Song for Odin™, Song for Odin™… Song for Odin™ begins now! As I’ve already said (scroll down to post immediately below for details) my original plan for today had been to post a second song from the DR FRANK LIVE AT THE COURT TAVERN e.p., but I decided to delay a week because of internet skullduggery, or buffoonery, or tomfoolery… We’ll get back on the Live at the Court Tavern train soon enough I’m sure, and I bet you can’t wait.
In the meantime, here’s something from the remote past, i.e., 1988, Gilman Street, an early rendition of “The Girl Who Still Lives at Home.” This song was on the Making Things with Light album that came out in 1990. It’s only two years, but a whole lot happened between those two dates, including our second and final Rough Trade release, Big Black Bugs Bleed Blue Blood. I believe this is one of the first times we ever played it live, but I know we recorded a demo of it in the batch of demos from which the BBBBBB songs were culled, if culled means what I think it does.
It’s obviously a “work in progress” at this point, as it arguably still is as it appears on the album. It’s got a great title. Its heart is in the right place. But it could have done with some editing and a better focus. “Slice of life” character studies can result in great songs, but, as I gradually realized, this type, the narrative and description being told from “outside” as it were, was not really my strong suit. The thing I turned out to be good at was the character study from the inside, either that of a limited-point-of-view narrator or at least a direct participant, the “you” addressed by the narrator (even if they are sometimes really, one and the same.)
I’m still rather fond of it, nonetheless, warts and all, though I’d like to think I’d do it better if I did it now. And I’m not sure I don’t prefer the rather shambolic attempt to get it across here to any of the (slightly) more polished executions. Not much more to say about it than that.
In other Song for Odin™ news, my effective begging for people to look at my youtube channel last week did cause a bump in views and subscribers, though it remains miniscule. So I figure why not try again? Go the channel and subscribe, watch a bunch of stuff and like it and comment. Share stuff that you like. I beg of you, sort of.
I’ve been posting a song a week, with commentary, for over a year now. It’s turning into a pretty cool, weird little archive. Nonetheless, though you’d think I’d be used to it by now, doing something that no one pays attention to can wear on a person, and make him question the wisdom of devoting so much energy to the care and feeding of an invisible animal. And when YouTube changed its suggested videos policy to emphasize big channels and hide small ones the visibility and traffic went way down: the animal screamed into the void, inaudibly. I’m still going to do it regardless but it’ll all be so much better if people were to watch the invisible animal and help me sustain the fantasy that it, and I, genuinely exist. The bird is in your hands. Odin and I will be back next week with another song. Go now, you are dismissed, and peace be with you.
(Original post on minds is here.)
5 “Sex Offender”
Steve from Montreal put the MTX “Sex Offender” 7" on his jukebox and provided this documentation. Everything about that is super cool.
This is, if you don’t know, a Blondie cover. (Some people are surprised when they learn this, despite the sample at the beginning.) I’ve heard more than one person describe it as “the mother of all Blondie covers” which is very gratifying because it remains one of my favorite things we’ve ever done. Something about the over-the-top, in-your-face-ness of it, those double leads… it’s just a great big dumb sonic assault. And it’s a great song, obviously.
“Sex Offender” was the original title of the Blondie track, but it was released as “X-Offender” because of record company objections. That’s the sort of thing that, at one point in time, seemed so silly and quaint — like Rob and Laura Petri having to sleep in separate beds or only showing the top half of Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show or Spiro Agnew being mad at the Beatles for getting high with a little help from their friends.
But nowadways… well, it’s not so quaint. Things get banned and suppressed for far less than that. And though we live in a cultural world awash with sleaze and gross-outs and mandatory vulgarity, we are squeamish about the least little thing as well, in a way that makes the old style of squeamishness look positively libertine. Different rhetorical pretexts, same basic result, which is literal or de facto censorship. The more things change the more they stay the same. I genuinely thought we got over that hump long enough ago to laugh at it, but I guess I laughed too soon.
To wit, as I pointed out a ways back, Amazon silently deleted this title and its b side from the MTX digital music catalog published through The Orchard. It’s the only such deleted title. It doesn’t seem like it could be coincidence, though maybe it is. (That’s a really annoying hallmark of the kinder gentler censorship of our internet age: they never, ever tell you why something is being removed, if they say anything about it all — which they didn’t here.)
It must be that the words “sex” and “offender”, put together, are too much for Amazon of 2019 just as they were to much for an over-reacting music biz in 1976. I wrote about it at the time I noticed it, and I just checked and it’s still deleted. I’m not mad about this, just amused. It’s so stupid. There are way “worse” things in this world than the appearance of impropriety supposedly created by covering a Blondie song under it’s original title. The censorship was probably done by a robot. But it’s still just as gone. And there’s no one to contact to inquire about it. It’s just the way it is.
Here’s that original essay.
To quote myself from it:
We recorded and released the song under the original title for no other reason than it seemed like a cool thing to do, and also because there was no one there to censor us, no one whose skittishness could have any influence on us. We just thought it was cool, so we did it. That’s the way punk bands used to do things way back when.
I know many people think I’m nuts. Relax, man, most of the stuff is still out there. Just go with it. It is, by definition, the best of all possible digital worlds. Praise Google.
But I’m an anxious person. I like things to be clear and straightforward and I’d prefer not to have to check up on every little thing to make sure it’s okay. I’m a bit OCD and doing so typically takes up my whole day. I would prefer a world where the platforms and services (if we have to have them) would have the integrity of whatever corpus is at hand as a major priority so I wouldn’t have to wonder if I should launch an investigation every time I want to listen to a song, check out a band, or read a book. But that’s (probably literally) just me.
There are, of course, worse things to worry about. Rest assured, I’m worrying about them too, quietly to myself mostly.
I also note that our release, via The Orchard, of Dr Frank Live at the Court Tavern has finally made its way on to Youtube, except that instead of the artist being listed as Dr Frank it is listed as Various Artists. Now, that’s probably a mistake, I’ll grant, more an example of “nothing works” than of “they’re out to get me.” But on the other hand, what are they trying to say? I’m not plural, nor am I in any way “various.” I am paranoid though, as you should be as well. Cheers.
I didn’t mean to write an essay here. I just wanted to post Steve’s cool video. I guess this wound up being an extra Song for Odin, accidentally. (Or I suppose it’s Thunder’s Day… Thor.) Anyway, the Aesir happen, when you least expect them yet on a predictable schedule. It’s a funny old world.
(Original post on minds is here.)