Odin XVIII: New Adventures of the Minor Secrets of the Mr T Experience
This is the eighteenth collation of Songs for Odin™, if you can believe that and for those keeping count that brings the total number of Songs for Odin thus far including to (I believe) 94. That’s a whole lotta Wodnesdægs and whole lotta songs. There’s still a hundred or so to go, and I plan to make more, so there’s still a long road ahead, if we can keep it up. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with any single thing consistently for quite that many weeks so we’ll see what happens.
That’s Patrick’s broken Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You flyswatter in the pic. Seems like it got some heavy use, swatting flies or what have you. This was one of the brilliantest/dumbest promo items we ever did. I can’t remember how it materialized but, like the “do your part” comb, it has Paige O’Donoghue’s fingerprints all over it, so to speak. We had fun in those days. Anyway, in view of the “Hell of Dumb” Song for Odin debacle, it seemed like an apt illustration.
Because as you’ll know if you were following along, or if you read on below, my post on the song “Hell of Dumb” was banned from Facebook when originally posted. I also had an unrelated post baselessly banned as “hate speech” that same week, a ban that was rescinded on appeal. It seems like the Banning Machine just went haywire and it seems it has calmed down now.
But it could well go haywire again. And the idea that essays about songs can get banned and the bans must be appealed to some robot bureacracy… I know it’s a private company and all that, but that ain’t right. In fact, it’s downright dystopic, even if I do manage the fancy footwork to dance my way around the brain-dead machine-learned parameters to avoid future trouble. I know it’s how we live now, but I’m not a fan.
Still, the show must go on, and Odin shall remain ever unvanquished, even if one must bust a few promotional items swatting away the flies of censorship.
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.
[links in preceding paragraph updated, 12.29.2020 — ed.]
As in the past few editions, I’ve included an “etc” section at the end, featuring stuff about songs that, while not technically “songs for Odin” per se, still reveal “minor secrets.”
“Minor secrets” table of contents: “Hell of Dumb”; “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”; “High School Is the Penalty for Transgressions Yet to Be Specified”; “Swallow Everything”; Making Things with Light and punk rock UPC codes; “Institutionalized Misogyny”; MTX / Sicko split 7"; “Together Tonight”; “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful”, in MTX and Jimmy Buffett form.
1 “Hell of Dumb”
Hell of dumb hell of dumb hell of dumb…: Every time I do an Odin aggregate like I did yesterday it feels like Wodnesdæg already happened, but, on Tiwesdæg like. I am easily confused. Nevertheless, the schedule calls for a Miðviku song for Odin, so I must reach into my bag of lēoþcræft and grab one, seemingly at random. One second… ah, here we are. It’s “Hell of Dumb,” performed by the Mr T Experience of 1997 at the Rivoli in Toronto:
As I mentioned the last time I posted a song from this set (“Swiss Army Girlfriend”) I am clearly rather ill here and relatively subdued, kind of just struggling to make it through the set I think. And as the gently mumbled intro indicates, the Revenge Is Sweet… album had just come out and we were still working through the kinks of the songs. This is a fairly straightforward, if a little stiff, execution, much as it was done on the record, sans pedal steel solo of course. My attempted solo swims around but basically hovers in the right place and has a certain unaffected charm. (If you’ve seen my band lately, you’ve probably seen and heard Ted Angel do a remarkably accurate pedal-steely sort of simulation on the guitar — it kills me every time I hear it; in 1997, of course, such subtleties were beyond us.)
This is one of the staple songs of the catalog, and still very well loved from what I can tell, in whatever context it is presented in. It’s one of those songs where when I play it solo the whole room tends to sing along to the whole thing. (I’m always impressed when a room full of people puts some effort into knowing all the words, something I often find rather difficult myself.) We’ve played it consistently through the various line-ups through the years, yet this is the only “native” 1997 rendition that I’ve come across on video.
The idea of basing the lyrics and concept of a “country” song around the East Bay-associated teen slang locution “hell of” / “hella” is one of those stupid/clever ideas that pretty much no one else but me would have been foolish enough to undertake. And maybe it should have been strangled in its crib, like many such. Kevin Army used to admonish me regularly on this score: I would always mess up my best musical ideas with quirky lyrics and conceits, and vice versa, taking them unnecessarily into “novelty song” territory when they didn’t need to be there. “Stop trying so hard,” was the mantra. I’m sure he was right, and that some of my songs might have fared better out in the world if presented “straight.” But I’ve got a sort of block: I’ve never been able to see the problem with “novelty” or indeed the difference between novelty and “good straight.” To me, many, if not most, good, well-written, well-conceived songs are indistinguishable from novelty songs. It has to do with establishing an interesting conceit and riding it, sticking to it all the way to the end and teasing out each last implication. I know a lot of people see that as “corny” or contrived or something, and that’s fair enough. A song is, after all, a contrivance. But as with most things, 50,0000 novelty song haters can’t be wrong. I’m the wrong one, here, no doubt.
It’s possible that my love of country music songwriting placed this inclination in my soul, though there was a punk rock version of that dynamic which also placed something in my soul. (cf. “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” — there was never a better song on the UK hit parade, and it was “novelty” through and through: well, back then punk rock was itself a novelty, for a year or so anyway. Regardless, when I think back to my 13 year old self in 1977: that’s what I liked about punk rock, the same thing I liked about country music, songs that focused on a conceit and turned your expectations inside out and took you somewhere unexpected. That’s what I still like.)
But “Hell of Dumb” is not, of course, an actual country song, nor does it claim to be. It’s more a country-ish pastiche — though I suppose country rock itself is necessarily pastiche. The pedal steel in the recording is one of the few elements of sonic diversity allowed to remain in the collection of songs that was eventually squashed into what became the RISaSAY album. It was played by Joe Goldmark, who is a great player. Kevin brought him in for an afternoon at Toast Recorders in San Francisco and created a special, less “punk,” headphone mix for him so “the song wouldn’t scare him.” I wish that mix had been preserved, just for novelty’s sake, so to speak. I know the acoustic guitars on the track were left completely out of the final mix (or if they’re there they’re so subliminal I can’t detect them.) And most of those tapes are lost so we’ll never know what a mix that included them might have been like. I’d have liked it more, the “public” probably a good deal less. So it goes. Anyway, the pedal steel was meant to wake you up, and it still does that after all these years.
One final note: because of this song, I’ve become known as a sort of authority on the linguistic construction in the title, and every so often I’ll be consulted on the matter or mentioned as an example in the never-quite-answered question of its precise origin. Here are a couple of links of that sort: one; two.
The KQED article misquotes me slightly: I don’t claim the “debate”, such as it is/was, dates to 1983, only that that is when I first encountered people saying it, when I moved to Berkeley to go to college, and started coming into contact with young East Bay natives. But that thing of people sternly yet casually correcting the improper usage when people said “hella” (just a quick correction “hell of” inserted into the conversation, or sometimes: “you mean, hell of”) — that really used to happen, and very frequently. No idea when it “goes back to.” It’s really “hell of,” anyhow, to the extent that anything can really be anything. Even when pronounced in such a way as to sound like “hella” there was always the ghost of an “F” in there: this is reflected in the song itself, though not with any conscious attempt to address the tension. The tension is just there. Either way, it doesn’t make my song less funny I don’t think.
And that’s… enough words to type on “Hell of Dumb” for now I’d say. And so another Song for Odin™ comes to a close. Like, subscribe, share, comment, all that stuff, if you please.
— studio recording, 1997 on YouTube; — MTX in the park doing “Hell of Dumb”, 2015; — Joe Goldmark; More Joe Goldmark; — As before, the video was shot by Rick Scullion of Punk Rick’s Videos; original post on minds.com.
2 “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”
Welcome, friends, to another Wodnesdæg and another Song for Odin. If you’ll remember, Facebook killed my last Song for Odin for violating unspecified “community standards.” This, by the way, is one reason I… er, was going to say a word that rhymes with “skate” here, but instead I’ll say: I have a severe aversion to “communities” of any kind. They talk a good game, sometimes, but they’re always out to get you in the end. People are terr… I mean, not the word that rhymes with “arable” (though I do mean that)… let’s just say, people, as such, leave a lot to be desired, and in groups they’re even worse. So, I just don’t trust them…
Anyhow, I will try, this time around, as above, to choose my words carefully and see if this post will manage to drip through the Facebook Speech Colander. There seems to be some indication that I am on some kind of “list” where my stuff gets scrutinized more intensely, strained more finely, than the usual. But maybe, with carefully chosen words, I can evade the censors and their accursed colander.
Let’s find out.
I had a different song queued up to present today, but Ryan left this comment last night:
Could you please share some memories of when you recorded “Don’t Go Breakin My Heart” with Kim Shattuck? How did that come to pass? I love that recording big time. Good chemistry there, I wonder if Elton has heard it.
Well we aim to please here at Song for Odin™. What he’s talking about is a cover of the Elton John / Kiki Dee duet “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” that we recorded during the Revenge Is Sweet sessions with the great Kim Shattuck of the Muffs playing Kiki to my Elton. It wound up as a B-side on the “…and I Will Be with You” 7", along with “You Alone” (another fine song that there just wasn’t room for on the album.) And it just so happens that I have video of the MTX doing this song, though with Joel in the Kiki role, as Kim did not happen to be present at the Rivoli in Toronto on October 5, 1997.
Here it is:
I’m not aware of another document of a live performance of this song, though I do remember doing it from time to time for a brief period. It’s funny with Joel doing the girl part, and that may have been how it was originally planned, though if so I doubt it would have been recorded. But the idea of roping Kim in to be Kiki was even better, and when she agreed to do it, well, it was too good to pass up. She flew up to SFO and Joel picked her up from the airport and brought her to Toast Recorders where we had everything set up.
I’d like to paint a picture of the two of us, Kim and I, huddled round a great big microphone in a sound booth, I in my huge-lapeled sportcoat, she in her pink overalls, dancing weirdly separate ’70s dances while exchanging the occasional smoldering glance. But in fact, I’d already done my parts. Kevin Army cued up the tape and let it roll and she plugged in her parts. I believe she and I are about the same age, which meant, fortunately, that we both knew the words of this song by heart, so it was pretty easy. Though it is weirdly difficult to sing a duet with missing parts to be filled in later as I learned. Anyway that’s how it happened.
After the vocal track was done, as you can hear on the recording, Kim let out one of her famous rock and roll screams, which was great to get on tape. Someone asked, how do you DO that? (Which is an apt question — that scream is like a force of nature, the summoning of which must take some doing.) Kim said, “oh I just imagine I’m being…”
Okay, hang on here. There was a time when I’d have told this anecdote without batting an eyelid, that is, without thinking twice. But these are different times. One must choose one’s words very carefully. What she said was that in order to summon the otherwordly rock and roll scream for which she is justly famous, she would imagine a situation in which she was involved in a certain… intimate activity, involving an element of considerable size. If you want it in plain English, Facebook and Social Media is not the place to look: check the Weakly Reader on Friday, maybe. [And, in the event, I chickened out — ed.]
Anyway, this shocked the pants off Kevin Army, who went silent and remained so for quite some tine, not knowing where to look. For the rest of us, the reaction was more like, “this girl’s alright.” I mean, it was hilarious, if not necessarily literally true. But maybe it was. Literally true, I mean. We had fun.
As you can see, she was a good sport. She also added some backups to “Love Is Dead” and possibly another song or two. And a good time was had by all.
(And for those keeping track, this is one of two sort of duets in the MTX corpus, the other featuring Penelope Houston of the Avengers on the Ramones song “Questioningly”. And it’s one of three where we managed to rope in a famous punk rock girl to do vox, the third being Kim Warnick of the Fastbacks on “Book of Revelation.” Maybe I’m the only one keeping track, but, well someone’s gotta do it.)
As for the song itself, it’s one I’d always wanted to do, since I was a kid, though I’m not quite sure why. I think it’s the half-unfinished-seeming lyrics that fire off in the general direction of the topic but don’t seem to have been thought out too carefully creating inadvertently interesting questions. What does “I couldn’t [break your heart] if I tried” mean exactly? Why does she knock on his door in order to inform him that she has given him her key? The result, probably not intended, is a script in which two romantic partners, one of them… well, let’s not “go there” on that, let’s just say two rather flamboyant persons… these characters trade misfired clichés with one another, convincing no one but reaching the no doubt delusional conclusion that no one’s going to go breaking anybody’s heart.
Maybe that’s the essence of the romantic relationship writ large, and maybe that’s what was intended, but I kind of doubt Bernie Taupin was that “meta.” But maybe he was. (And no, Ryan, I very much doubt Sir Elton has heard it.)
At any rate, that’s the extent of the “minor secrets” I have for this one. Thanks for the question, Ryan. And thanks Kim Shattuck for making it all possible all those years ago. Thanks to Punk Rick’s Videos for the video. And thanks to you, the reader, of course.
Now, let’s see if we get through the colander! Fingers crossed.
3 “High School Is the Penalty for Transgressions Yet to Be Specified”
We’ll have each other, all they’ve got is them…: Well, friends, it is Wodnesdæg and time for another Song for Odin. I am a bit swamped and slammed and staggering under the weight a million things, real and imagined. Or, as the status legend reads: “Stressed: you can barely move a handspan with this load!” Nevertheless, the show must go on…
But first, a word on Song for Odin. The “series” exists for its own sake with no specific aims, ends, or stratagems. It started spontaneously and abruptly when I received a live video from 1998, and it could end just as abruptly when I run out of material or… interest. But one unofficial goal has been to see if I could manage to stick with it long enough write up the minor secrets of every single song in the MTX / Dr Frank catalog. One limiting factor is, I have to have some video resource to bounce off of. Some songs just haven’t got those in easy reach (though I keep finding some here and there and could contrive to create more to order when needed, at least in theory.)
Anyhow, I recently did some work inspecting and cleaning up my BMI catalog (just to make sure all was in order in view of the YouTube copyright shenanigans I’ve written of here and there) and it looks like there are around 200 published songs in it. The total number of released songs will be a bit higher, since it includes covers and Jon von’s songs, all of which are fair game for this. So far, if my count is right, this will be the 93rd song, including duplicate entries, of which there have been a few. 93 down, one hundred something to go. We’ll see how far we get.
While I was doing this, I realized that I hadn’t yet done a write-up for this one, “High School Is the Penalty for Transgressions Yet to Be Specified,” from 2016’s King Dork Approximately the Album. I think it’s one of my best, and weirdest, songs, and there happens to be a music video for it, so here it is:
As you know, KDATA consists of 12 songs from the two King Dork books. Ten of them literally appear in the books, written by the narrator Tom Henderson, the conceit being that my band is kind of covering “his” songs. Of the remaining two, one is “King Dork,” a theme song which preceded its book by a decade, and the other is this one, which is more of a zoom-out, stepping off from the books’ themes. The title is a subtitle heading in King Dork, and the song, alone among the songs on the “balbum,” is narrated by a Tom-like character who has grown up and is looking back on the high school experience, concluding that “high school never really ever ends.” Which is quite true, it doesn’t.
How it came about was, I wanted six songs from each book for the album and I only had five from King Dork, so I had to come up with one to balance the sides. I’d considered doing a Bubblegum cover (“Yummy Yummy Yummy…” or something) but instead I resorted to the time-honored expedient, often done with the Bible, where you open the book at random, point to a “verse,” and do whatever it says. (Hoping you don’t get something from Leviticus, I sometimes add when I tell this story, getting a laugh, usually, if often a confused one.) And in this case, “High School Is the Penalty…” is what I landed on.
It’s a great title, but hard to construe as a lyric, much less a chorus. It didn’t rhyme and it didn’t scan. (I certainly wasn’t going to do one of those songs where the lyrics never mention the title. I tend to hate that.) I had set myself a dilemma, but I like assignments because I like the field of operations being limited by imposed parameters rather than comprising everything there is in the world, i.e., the blank page of eternity. So I took some lessons I learned from W. S. Gilbert and Irving Berlin: if it doesn’t fit, make it fit. Almost anything can be done with enough determination and a willingness to look a little foolish.
Now I’m going to quote the great and very MTX-friendly rock journalist Ed Masley here:
This is the second single from the Mr. T Experience’s first release in 12 long years, and it perfectly filters the essence of the great Ray Davies’ most inspired moments of the very early ’70s through Dr. Frank’s distinctive lyrical and vocal style.
He sets the tone with a wistful delivery of “To anyone with eyes, it’s plain to see / That high school is the penalty / for transgressions yet to be specified / The sentence begins as soon as they’ve got you inside” to the tune of what sounds like it could be an actual school song.
But the sentence doesn’t end there. As Dr. Frank notes in the following verse, “One day you’ll graduate, but you will find, my friends / That high school never really ever ends / The haves will still be hounding the have nots / Though they smile at you while they’re hatching their plots.
It’s a brilliant arrangement, effortlessly navigating several different musical motifs with unerring pop sensibilities… What really needs to happen now is for someone to take this album and this book and build a big-screen musical around the two.
Well, I second that emotion, Ed, and if you think I’m not gonna quote a blurb that compares me to Ray Davies whenever the chance arises, you don’t know me very well.
The first melody (in the single verse) is indeed meant to evoke a school song. The chorus is a Gilbert & Sullivan-aping “patter song,” which also borrows the Gilbert “classical” poesy technique of liberal rhyming of Es and Is. The romantic, robot-and-me-against-the-world bridge features some country guitar pop up licks and a gentle preacher-style hymnal leader recitation (thanks Bobby), touching on one of the book’s main themes of the “Sex Alliance against Society.”
My favorite bit is probably this line: “we’ll have each other, all they’ve got is them.” If there’s one distinctive, characteristic Dr Frank line, I imagine that’d be it.
But a close second at least in my capacity as a pedant, is the King Dork-ified cribbed line from the 1963 Peter Weiss play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (usually known as Marat/Sade) featured in the Bonzo Dog Band song (and also appearing in Love’s “The Red Telephone”): they are normal and they want your freedom. (Bet ya didn’t know that!)
Our friend and celebrated film guy Jonathan London generously volunteered his time, expertise, and resources to produce the music video, which he did as a terrific short film inspired by the song, and which is obviously far, far beyond our usual production values. When we have them at all, that is. Later, after the smoke cleared, he gave me, as a souvenir the briefcase carried by the protagonist, whom I met at our last show in LA, which was a bit surreal. I still use the briefcase to carry my cords.
Boy, that was longer than I expected. And I should stop now. There will most likely be another Song for Odin next week. Till then, be good to each other, because, well you know, each other is all you’ve got.
(Original post on minds.)
4 “Swallow Everything”
You know you’ll never walk alone cause you can’t control your legs…:Odin! Let’s go… When I was tentatively elbowing my way back on to the internet after a few days away yesterday, and knowing Wodnesdæg and Song for Odin™ were coming right up, I asked which “minor secrets” would be preferred among: “On the Team,” “Swallow Everything,” and “Hello Kitty Menendez”. People “voted”.
So here’s “Swallow Everything” from the MTX of 1997, at the Rivoli in Toronto:
I mean, yeah, to no one’s surprise, this song was the favorite by a huge margin. I’ve been doing this voting thing long enough to know that this song is always up near the top of any list.
And I get why. It’s succinct and catchy and pretty well-composed and well-conceived (in that it is about something, you can tell what that something is, and, while it flirts with a few abstruse metaphors, it never loses focus.) Moreover, it echoes some familiar sonic and conceptual tropes without being completely derivative of them, which is kind of a neat trick if you can manage it, the best of all worlds, really. “I… liked the Clash cover,” some people said doubtfully the first time we attempted a clumsy rendition of it… I think maybe they thought it was a very, very inept “Safe European Home” or something, the chord structure and the E-B jangle-drone and the “oh oh-oh”s. I don’t know, in the circumstances we used to play in it’s a wonder anyone could tell anything at all about whatever song we were trying to play.
Anyway, back to the song qua song: it’s a nice little character study, with an inadvertently light and non-over-written touch, that I stumbled into not quite knowing what I was doing. It is, that is to say, accidentally deft. Also, like many of the most popular songs it is ever so slightly risqué, at least from a certain angle. I remember Jim actually being rather shocked by it when he first started playing with us, to our amazement.
The slight risqué-ness has come in handy at literary school visits, where… well, the story is that when I was starting to explore the idea of writing a novel I was kind of at a loss at where to start. My editor said many good novels step off from song titles and suggested I look at my songs to see if any might be a good starting point. In my mind, this translated to looking at my song titles and deciding which one would look best on a book jacket. The two top contenders were “Swallow Everything” and “King Dork” — “King Dork” obviously won and the rest is history there. “Swallow Everything” might have produced quite a different sort of book. Maybe a “problem novel,” a Go Ask Alice for our age.
The world will never know. But high school kids love that story. Or rather, they love the word “swallow,” as they love anything a bit rude, especially in the confines of a mandatory assembly or English class. They even sing along sometimes, with a lot of enthusiasm. (Same with “Hitler,” too, by the way.)
“Swallow Everything” materialized during a rather strange time in my life: my band had imploded and I was at a loss, but I had recently acquired a new old guitar (the white one, a ’57 Les Paul Jr) and a new old amp. I would just sit there in this almost completely bare room containing only the amp and myself, back against the wall strumming these songs staring off into space wondering what, if anything, to do with my life.
And now I’ll quote from an old blog post on the subject of that guitar:
I credit this guitar (and the Marshall half stack I acquired around the same time) with sparking the songs that were to start a pretty productive run of writing and recording. You know how that happens? You get new gear and it “takes you somewhere”?
I wrote “More than Toast,” “Swallow Everything”, “Dustbin of History,” the instrumental that became “Bridge to Taribithia”, “Martyr” etc. in that smelly Oakland apartment with this crazy guitar and that amp, the downstairs neighbors banging on the ceiling with a broom handle and the hippie down in the back garden yelling “play the blues motherfucker!” (I think he was yelling that at me, but it could have been just something he yelled, generally.) And me thinking, well, probably that’s the extent of the audience that will ever hear this stuff, glad I’m annoying them at least. Like I said, some things don’t change that much.
In the event, we did pull things together for long enough to record this song for the “Gun Crazy” 7" and to do the subsequent album Our Bodies Our Selves before disintegrating again. That line up (Doctor-Aaron-Alex) didn’t play all that many shows and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen any video of that “era” ever. Later when we reconfigured and started playing more, “Swallow Everything” was a staple of the live set, as it remains this day. (We play it best now, I’d say.)
Once again, I wasn’t sure I’d have much to say about this, but wound up typing a lot.
I have one further note though: the ending climax of the recorded song, in which a descending suite of two-note chords on the first and second string are overlaid on top of the main guitar figure, is the first time, and maybe one of the only such, where a thing I heard and planned in my head actually got realized in real life. (This was before multi-track demos in my world, where these things could be tested out — you just had to imagine, guess, and hope it worked.) The result was this swimmy, liquid, kind of almost “baroque” elaboration on the main figure that still has a kind of magic for me. I still can’t quite believe it worked.
Well, folks. We did it. “Swallow Everything” ftw, if ftw means what I think it does. See ya next week, I suppose.
(Original post on minds.com is here.)
Scan It and See: via Todd, the Lookout re-issue of the first MTX album on cassette (“Lookout Classix presents…”) This was issued when Making Things with Light, the first MTX LP on Lookout, came out in 1990.
Todd says: “Originally released in 1986 on Disorder Records, this was re-released by Lookout Records. Discogs says 1990, which is probably true for the LP, but I suspect the tape was 2–4 years later judging by the presence of a barcode.”
It’s possible that this particular cassette was indeed manufactured 2–4 years later, but I wouldn’t necessarily take the bar code as an indication and allow me to explain why.
Even though UPC codes had been in use for some time by 1990, their inclusion on record artwork was weirdly controversial, especially in punk rock circles. It is really hard to re-conjure or to understand fully the angst and outrage caused by what was really just a cataloguing and inventory tool, but people tended to get really upset about the barcode, calling it a “fascist flag” and invoking Biblical “mark of the beast” rhetoric. I’d guess it was because the “punks” were really all hippies underneath, striving against capitalism and questing for the purity of authenticity, an all-rice diet, a single cool glass of water and other far out outta sight stuff. “Down with commercialism,” we’d say (in the context of this commercial product we were trying to sell you that you were trying to buy with your filthy lucre.) It’s a funny old world and it was funny and old back then too, maybe even moreso.
Anyway, anti-capitalist ideals aside, the exigencies commercialism on the little pseudo-record business level weren’t really relevant to the sort of business that had need of such tools, and it’s true they didn’t come into genuine use in that context till a bit later. These records weren’t generally being sold in situations where scanning UPC codes tended to happen. Making Things with Light and the first LP re-issue were on the pre-UPC code side of that barrier.
However… well, my memory here may be a little fuzzy but as I remember it: Jon von was a trickster. And when he was doing the MTwL artwork he had the mischievous idea of including in it a phony UPC code swiped from a box of tampons (if I remember correctly.) The idea was that someone might accidentally scan one some time and hijinks would ensue. I never heard that any such hijinks ensued. But maybe they did ensue. I just looked at a copy of MTwL that I have lying around and there is no code on it, so either the tampon plan didn’t happen, or it actually was removed in later editions when UPC codes started to be used in earnest on punk rock records and not just as stunts. I know Lookout and distributors used to put stickers on the records with no printed-on codes (which again provoked un-imaginable angst and rage… for some, it was a hill worth dying on, apparently.)
Whichever it was, it is possible that Todd is right and that this barcode means a later date for the manufacture of this cassette. But it could just as well be the result of a Jon von gag, a code for some other, potentially hilarious, product. Preparation H? Underoos? The possibilities are limitless. You’ll just have to scan it and see.
(Original post on minds.com is here.)
On the subject of “Institutionalized Misogyny” (the song), sparked by this cover:
It’s funny, when I wrote this song (in the aftermath of a conversation with a drunk girl who kept repeating the title phrase over and over and saying “oh you gotta read Foucault”) I genuinely thought that sort of rhetoric was long gone, a relic of the past, and was surprised to encounter it in (what was then) the present. But it has come roaring back now, possibly in part because that girl and others like her became adjunct professors of something at Columbia or somesuch and revived it in their classrooms. The song has always been pretty popular among fans who are or have been academics, and when anyone requests it, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be somebody who has, at minimum, been to grad school. (Who knows, maybe at Columbia in that girl’s class. I wonder if she’d request it if we ever happen to find ourselves in the same club again: probably!)
They’d crucify me for it now, and I suppose it’s not too late. Probably shouldn’t even post it but I’m in a reckless mood. I can’t add it to my YouTube covers playlist, obviously, but more such covers may be found there nonetheless, should you wish to encounter them.
Mr. T Experience / Sicko split: from Josh the Vegan’s record collection:
originally released in 1992 this is the 1998 reissue on Empty Records. Classic songs from two great bands, Sicko is seeing their back catalog come back to (digital) life on Red Scare and MTX has a compilation coming through Sounds Rad. So glad that great 90s punk is not fading away into out of print obscurity and that people are working to keep it alive.
I spilled some “minor secrets” on the MTX song here (“Together Tonight”) last year, talking about this live video from ’92:
The song itself is a nice little pump-and-pummel pop song, and the slightly clumsy lyrical construction serves to enhance rather than degrade the wistful, pleading, confessional spirit of ingenuous romance-cum-regret-cum-horniness that makes it work. Or so I keep telling myself. I bet I could write the lyrics better now, but I doubt it’d be an improvement. So let’s just leave it as it is, shall we?
By the way, in the spirit of getting a bit ahead of ourselves: in the grand scheme of re-issuing everything on vinyl, this version of this song may struggle to find a place, since the version on the subsequent “Gun Crazy” 7" isn’t on any album proper. (It is on the CD of Our Bodies Our Selves, but won’t be on any LP re-issue.) My idea is to gather the remaining singles and B sides that aren’t on LPs into another comp. (essentially a Shards vol. 3), but in that case, if it happens, one of these “Together Tonights” will have to go, destined to be the last remaining vinyl “orphan.” Well, it’s early days yet to fret about it. Maybe the solution would be to re-issue Strum und Bang?! if it wouldn’t break the bank.
(Original post is here.)
Every time you miss the boat you try to kiss the boat one more time…Duncan said, on twitter:
Two of my favorite bands, Jimmy Buffett and The Mr. T Experience, both have a song called “The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful”
I doubt many people out there number both MTX and JB among their favorite artists. I imagine whose “Weather Is Here…” song you prefer would depend on which “band” you prefer.
And here’s Jimmy’s:
I like the Jimmy Buffett song, a tale of carefree debauchery and ditching the conventional corporate life for easy, drunken living on the islands. It’s characteristic of his stuff, and is well done, a nice funny story. I admire the boldness and sheer gormlessness of rhyming “beautiful” with “dutiful” and “fruitiful” — I didn’t even try to “go there.”
I suppose my song is pretty characteristic too. Of me, I mean, obviously. It’s trying to do some trickier things, I guess, like I always try to do with hardly anyone noticing. The title is, in both songs, a well-known joke switching the terms of a conventional phrase people write on postcards.
And the conceit of my song is that the lyrics are the actual message written on the a postcard, reflecting, in effect, a darker, lonelier reality beneath the cliché. There is a narrative, of a wistful love-gone-wrong scenario, that can be filled in around the edges, a backstory. By the end, it’s the actual postcard speaking (“I’m a message you won’t return…”) with an air of finality that has developed during the course of the actual writing of it. The narrator, by then, has left the building, so to speak.
Lookout continued things by printing up actual postcards for a promo item when the song was actually released.
In fact I wrote these lyrics in my head while wandering the streets of… some Italian city, Rome possibly, during that tour with Green Day in 1996. I was in a kind of a state at the time, thinking about writing a letter back home, then thinking better of it and writing the song instead. (I was unaware of the Jimmy Buffett song at the time, not that that means anything, though maybe if I had known about it I’d have been deterred from doing my own.)
Like many songs on the Revenge Is Sweet… album, but maybe a bit more so than some, this song has always felt rather unfinished in its recorded version. It works okay as is, but I had some grander ambitions for it, sonically and arrangement-wise. Particularly the guitar lead stuff. That was meant as a placeholder, to be filled in later with the real part, only to turn out that there was no time or money to do the real part in the end. So we just used the scratch guitar and let it all just go off as is. I guess that is kind of, you know, thematically fitting, too.
Anyway, this is an inadvertent “minor secrets” post I suppose. It’s very unlikely a live video of this song will turn up so I doubt it’ll ever be a “Song for Odin.”
It’s got some great lines and I think it’s one of my solid-est, most well-conceived lyrics, for what that’s worth.
You are out of sight, but you’re not out of mind.
I am out of everything, this much I have divined.
You’re not all that far away.
Still and all you are away.
I’ve got a lot to say.
There’s nothing not to say anymore.
Listen my dear, this says it all —
the weather is here, wish you were beautiful.
Here’s one more invitation that I must extend to one more
disengagement party that you won’t attend,
though you may spend some time coming back again sometime,
cause every time you miss the boat you try to kiss the boat one
You’re cold and unclear, that’s true to form —
the weather is here, wish you were warm.
You’ll soon have other hearts to leave a stain on,
more parades to rain on.
It’s hopeless. I guess I’m hopeless now, too:
things to express, but no way how to.
To whom this may concern: I’m a message you won’t return.
You’re a lesson that I may never learn. But never fear,
let this suffice — the weather is here, wish you were nice.
The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.
(Original post on minds.com is here.)