That’s How You Made Me Love You

So, the show last night was pretty good. Not a bad turn-out either for a Monday night in a hazardous post-apocalyptic atmosphere where the government advises everyone to Remain Indoors.

It was one of those singer-songwriter “round robin” programs, but thankfully not with everyone onstage at the same time (most awkward thing ever, as far as stage acts go, for performer and audience.) This happens every month at the Make Out Room, and my old pal Bradley Skaught was filling in for the regular host Tom Heyman and invited me, Will Georgantas (of the band Thunderegg) and Silvie Simmons. I don’t get out much, so this was my first taste of Silvie and Will. She played the ukelele and sang beautiful surpassingly delicate songs. Will’s songs are great, deceptively simple constructions but actually quite complex, a lot of “day in the life of an ordinary man” type stuff that can often go a bit wrong but in fact didn’t here, and he’s a great singer. Gonna have to check out his band. Bradley Skaught’s songs have a notably… “literary” quality, I guess you’d say, and are just classic American songwriting. I wish I could manage to play guitar so deftly while I accompany myself on stage but… it was not to be.

We were talking about this before the show, how all your carefully prepared flourishes and such, that sound so great on the couch the night before, just completely fall apart and are forgotten on stage. I can play pretty good when no one is there watching. Then I step on stage and suddenly turn retarded, or my fingers do. I abandon all the grand, pretty, special ideas simply out of fear of choking, feeling lucky if I can just get the chords mostly right in a heavy-handed Neanderthal strum. I should practice more, I’m sure, but I don’t know if that’ll do it. I’ve been at this for well over thirty years. I’ve put in the hours. I do do better when I’m not so amped up and can play a few tics below max volume and intensity. I should maybe try to train myself to do this. But once I’m up there, I’m just bashing away as hard as I can, no subtlety or finesse at all. Nature of the beast maybe (the beast being me.) And I curse my great big dumb clumsy frozen brisket hands.

Anyway, Bradley was full of crap with all that pre-game guitar commiseration. His fingers danced over the fretboard like well-ordered dancers at a masque in the court of the Sun King. Man I wish mine could do that.

So I was the least accomplished of the performers that night, the most heavy-handed, the least musician-y. I did one (very) old song and four new (that is, not yet recorded) songs including one very new one. The old one was “I’d Do Anything for You”, which I’d mostly forgotten all about till Beppe reminded me of it last week over beers at the Fairmont. We never used to play it that often because it was in an awkward key for me to sing. (This is something that often happened because we’d practice and perform with marginal PAs and monitors that usually couldn’t be heard above our unholy racket. One cheap trick to address that issue is to raise the register of the of the vocal line, as higher notes are more audible. That’s why we have Robert Plant. But I’m no Robert Plant, and it was just too high for me.) I had to re-learn it from the ground up, consulting the internet for the lyrics and puzzling long and hard over some of the chords. Lot of weird stuff going on with those descending and ascending progressions which you probably never noticed, those of you who know this song. It’s a pretty good one though, if I say so myself, with a great melody and chorus and simple yet effective conceit: I’d do anything for you, but I can never think of anything to do, so just tell me something you want done… seems like someone should have done that before, but I don’t think anyone did. So that’s an old one resurrected.

The others were “Blood on the Strings”, “You Have Won Second Prize in a Beauty Contest,” and “She’s Good at Jobs” (which you’ve probably heard if you’ve seen me play solo recently), as well as one I did for the first time called “That’s How You Made Me Love You.” It’s a work in progress, not quite all the way done. I joked in the intro that that the chorus in the song was kicking around in my head unconsumated for years but then it all came together and turned into a song last week when I saw a picture of a naked lady on the internet. But, it’s kind of almost true. I’m a weirdo. It is a love song, a kind of mystical adolescent erotic-poetic fantasy in more or less “classical” Bubblegum form. Kind of hard to explain, you just have to hear it. I was nervous about it: sometimes you never know till you do it out loud if something sucks. But in fact it went over great, which was really gratifying.

Bradley remarked afterward that many people do Bubblegum references and ironic Bubblegum-esque bits which are funny but don’t really have much staying power in themselves, but that mine are actually good, which is a very generous assessment and kind compliment. (I think that’s what he said. I was just slightly hammered, admittedly.) I would say there’s a bit of irony about everything I do, as with anyone, but that said, for Bubblegum to work, you have to really mean it. And I mean really really. Maybe that’s the case with everything.

Anyway, at the rate things are going, maybe you’ll be able to hear “That’s How You Made Me Love You” on record in about… oh, ten years maybe, if I live that long. Or come to a show, where I may awkwardly bash it out with my Neanderthal hands and sheepishly shout it into a microphone. Show business is my life…




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

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Frank Portman

Frank Portman

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

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