Friday, August 10, 2012

I'm Happy Now: Lyrics From A New Song

I had this little bit of music in my head that had evolved around the rhythm of singing aloud a lyric: "I'm happy now." Oh, a "happy" song? Okay: uh...then what? Well, I came up with a chord progression, and a song's gotta have verses (and a bridge). Well, for me, presently, that's how I think so that's how I built the song. I went for alliterative, imagistic stretch-narrative and came up with this. The Late Joys will debut it at The Carousel Lounge on Thursday. Come out and give it a hearing!

I'm Happy Now

When sour dour super-power furies ground me down
Uncertain closed the curtain chose a furtive path unfound
A fledgling how I floundered now I hurdle yonder cloud
I’m happy now
I’m happy now
I’m happy now
I’m happy now

They’re flying drones and throwing sticks and stones in the glass house
Those whining dopes no hopers pricks and moaning gadabouts
But I have poured cold water on their smoking bad-ass row
I’m happy now
I’m happy now
I’m happy now
I’m happy now

Oh how I’d weep
The nights I couldn’t sleep
And how I’d cry
The days it went awry
But it all came good
In every way it should
And my long list of all the things I thought had passed me by
I tore it out and balled it up and threw it on the fire

Formerly confused my features furrowed frowning brow
I callously flogged horse and ass and unicorn and plow
Aye, I was volatile seldom smiled madding crowd
I’m happy now
I’m happy now
I’m happy now
I’m happy now

Friday, April 6, 2012

So: Did The Late Joys Survive Their Gig At The Baker Street Pub?

Spoilers: Okay, if I’m writing this then obviously one of us made it through the night!*
Patrick warms up.

About three-quarters of the way into last night’s performance at The Baker Street Pub & Grill (this would be around 1:00 in the morning) Shane turned to me and asked, “Have you ever run a marathon?” Which was his way of comparing last night’s four-hour gig with what, in comparison, might not seem so daunting a run now. Shane has run marathons, so he should know.

Mr. P and, uh, Mr. P perform.
Our well intentioned plan to play four 40-minute sets with generous recuperative breaks quickly came a cropper as, after our first two sets, we had played much more than we thought we had. It was getting on for midnight, so we had a decision to make: either play two mini-sets in order to give ourselves a break or just go for it and play from 12:15 until the kitchen shut down at 1:45. Being the gung-ho lot we are, we went for it and charged headlong into a most blistering extended set of uptempo covers and originals until the bitter end...and beyond.

Scottie shreds.
As we came to the last of the songs on the list, the Buzzcock’s “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With”), I turned to Matt to get this punchy little number rolling. He, like the rest of us, had put in a valiant physical effort and was breathing perhaps a little harder than when we’d begun way back on Thursday night. “Guys, I don’t have any Buzzcocks in me,” he said. Given it was almost time for the pub to shut down, we agreed to call it a night and closed with the much more sedate “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” to bring the high-octane gig in for a gentle landing. Matt took out his brushes, I turned down my guitar, Shane leaned against the wall until the song’s horn-inspired end. As we played I saw Scottie just standing there, guitar in hand, staring at the rest of us. He played not a single note of the Beatles’ tune.

The black stuff
becomes you, Shane.
I asked him afterwards what happened: Had he forgotten the song (it’s new to our repertoire; we played it for the first time a couple of nights ago)? No, it turned out that four hours of guitar-hero shredding had left him with a cramp in his hand, a cramp so intense it had immobilized his entire being. That’s what a marathon will do you.

Cheering crowds, folks dancing, appreciative whistles (and occasional shrieks) for Scottie and Shane’s solo forays and an overall good vibe throughout the night left us feeling tired but really pleased with ourselves. We did it. I think we knew we would.

We can’t wait to play our next marathon!

(Just some of last night's moving van's worth of) gear.
*Yes, we all made it through the night!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Late Joys Troll For New Songs

For Our (Impending) Baker Street Pub Gig: What More Is On The List?

I wrote recently about three of the songs we are (hastily? hmmmm…efficiently: yes, that’s better...) adding to our set list so we can fill up the whopping four sets worth of stage time at our gig at The Baker Street Pub & Grill next Thursday (April 5). Here's some guff about another trio of tunes we're adding to the mix.

"Middle Of The Road," by the Pretenders
We've been kicking this song around rehearsals for quite a while. Or we had been and then it slipped off the radar about a year or so ago. It's another big sonic number, with Scottie getting to unleash his inner Pretender on a pair of wicked solos. For me it's another wordy number, but I love it: the rhythmic cascade of lyrics; and "baby" and "yeah" never sounded as good in a song. I've had a soft spot for the Pretenders ever since "Brass In Pocket," and I fell in love with Chrissie Hynde's voice in "Talk Of The Town." (the way she purrs, "...I want you..."; oh, baby! The teenage mind explodes!) It's a song I would urge us to play but I'm not sure I could do it sensual justice. Okay: Here is a link to the original video of "Talk of the Town" just because because because because. (You can skip past the annoying ad "in five seconds." It is so worth it...including that final frame glamour shot, featuring leather-clad Ms. Hynde sporting a 1980 come-hither look.)

Whew! Where was I? Oh, yes: Of course, "Middle Of The Road" came later in the Pretenders discography; it's political, it's parenting, it's in your face. It's a rocker. And I can't wait to give it a run out.

"You Don't Know Me," by Mr. P
So this one is not, strictly speaking, a new song. If you were present at the 7th Street Working Men's Club* for The Road To Wigan Pier back in 2004 you'll have heard this song I composed as one of the evening's musical diversions. For those of you unaware of "Wigan" (pronounced WIG-un), it was a play wot I wrote based on a book of the same name by a certain George Orwell, with which I...uh...took a lovin' spoonful of liberties. Among the liberties was the onstage musical combo, The Late Joys, introduced to the world via this very drama.

But let's go back even further. Two years before those halcyon performance-tinged evenings, the LJs sputtered to life and featured me sitting in David Jones' kitchen during the fall of 2002 teaching him the handful of songs I'd written; the man has the patience of a saint; Cyndi must be a double-saint for allowing me to infiltrate her abode with song. My memory grows hazy but when I first got the idea for the play I recall that it was the songs that came almost immediately; they practically leapt out of my imagination, demanding to be written, learned and performed. So it was that Mr. Jones and I came to grips with them and then unleashed a few at someone else's gig at Ego's on S. Congress back in the days before karaoke swallowed the room. By summer the band personnel had swelled to twice its original size, with the addition of the young Gordon Gunn on bass and grizzled Matt Patterson on drums. At a fundraiser for the play (Orwell's 100th Birthday Party) we performed a set that included most of the songs from the upcoming production and a few choice extras penned by Mr. Jones and yours truly. I have a couple of recordings of rehearsals we did pre- and post-fundraiser and you can hear Matt singing harmonies. I shared the recordings with the current LJ lineup and Matt asked me if that was indeed him singing. Oh, yes. Indeed.

Of course, Matt then left the band to pursue his real life (the bastard), first at graduate school in NC and then in New York, and then he got married and all that adult stuff. But he's back and we're delighted and the whole LJ experience has come something of full circle and half Nelson and hence I dredged up "You Won’t Know Me" from the vault because at least two of us (should) know how to play it.

The song refers to the dismal turn for the worse for British communities founded on the coal mining industry once Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (spit!) began her wholesale eradication of that particular way of life. All those folks who’d known only coal mining for generation after generation were left with nowt. A year-long miners' strike failed to do more than antagonize the Conservative government, which ratcheted up its anti-union, anti-miner stance; the industry fairly collapsed and disappeared from Britain's shores in the years that followed. Despite this grim prĂ©cis, I gotta say, "You Don't Know Me" is a sweet pop tune that starts all introspective then takes off at the bridge, only to settle down for a gentle landing. Au revoir, les mineurs.

Extra credit: Can you name all the "mineurs" in the photo from the Chronicle review?

*The Off Center, natch!

"Song Number Three," by the...Hmmmm...
Strangely, I've had a hard time deciding on which other song to make note of here, to whet your appetite for our (cough) extended gig. There are a couple that are so new we're still poring over the charts. One is "Catherine Marshall," penned by Scottie with his typical flair for a great hook. It's sort of Housemartins-esque with a dollop of Billy Bragg in there and features a California-bound law schooler. Speaking of the Bard of Barking, we're bringing back "She's Got A New Spell," a song we play from time to time then set free only for it to squeeze back under the crack in the door, the little Dickens. We've resuscitated some old LJ rockers ("Weight of the World," "Fascinated" and Shane's fave, "PopMusicSuperRockStar"), great to perform, and remote enough in our collective consciousness to keep us humble. There's another Kink's cover, some Motown madness ("Heatwave," sadly sans all-girl backup singers...any volunteers?) and a bright, Sex Pistols' sounding song by Big Drag (from San Antonio): "Uneven." And we're padding it all out with a couple of Beatles tunes we have yet to perform live in our current lineup. And much, much more!

I reckon there's something for everyone here. We're on from about 9:45pm Thursday night until 1:45am on what promises to be a really Good Friday morning. Baker Street has food and more taps of draught beer than we have songs on our set list. And we have a lot of songs. Hope you can make it!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Faster, Late Joys! Learn! Learn!

How (and What) The Late Joys Are Adding to Our List of Songs for our Baker St. Pub Gig

I reckon we’ve got a good two hours of songs under our belts. And that’s great, because when we divide all that into sets it makes for a nice trio of 45-minute blasts — if you include banter, sips of “favorite beverage” and Scottie’s occasional 64-bar foray into solo-land, anyway.

The thing is, when we play the Baker Street Pub & Grill on April 5 we’re going to need a fourth 45-minute set, as the gig goes from around 9:30 p.m. until 1:45 a.m. That’s four hours of entertainment with breaks. So we have been in song-acquisition mode.

Here, then, are a few of the songs we’re working on to augment our current lot, with a little bit on why we chose them.

“Love Her Madly” by The Doors
I heard this one on a Jody Denberg-hosted Eklektikos on KUT a few weeks ago and the jaunty guitars and the blast of horns and the sweet melody had me thinking how Beatles-y this particular number is. Plus the workload is nicely divided with parts for Scottie on lead guitar, Shane on lead trumpet and there’s that nice thrashy rhythm guitar kicking things off (uh, that’d be me). It’s got a nifty dynamic that shifts from almost reggae to a Byrds/Beatles sounding transition that culminates in a typical Doors-y “under the big top” kaleidoscope of happy-sounding keys. With lyrics that make no sense but are fun to sing (thank you, Jim Morrison).

When I brought it into rehearsal later that evening Matt knew the lyrics already, so he sings the lead on this one; I try to pipe up with occasional harmonies cos it sounds nice.

“All My Loving” by The Beatles
When Patrick and I first started playing music together (cough) in 2006 (cough) one of the songs on that initial list was “All My Loving” and I cannot for the life of me remember why, except I think I had recently learned it and was (and still am) in love with that A to F#m to D to B7 bit (F, Dm, Bb, G7 if you capo it up 4, oh, ye guitarists out there); it’s like a juicy secret just sitting out in the open.

This song disappeared from the Late Joys songbook years ago, and through all our personnel changes we never returned it — or any other Beatles number — to our list of songs. Considering our Brit-Pop/British Invasion upbringing, this was scandalous. I’ve managed to squeeze it in among songs played by my acoustic-duet alter-ego outfit, The Study Session, and it works quite nicely, thank you very much. But there was never an overwhelming interest among erstwhile Late Joys to give it a whirl. At least until recently.

So I was pleased as punch when Patrick suggested we bring it back. Shane’s taken on the solo for this under-two-minute gem, which, I’m grateful to say, is not the only Fab Four number we play nowadays.

“Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)” by Squeeze
If there’s a band, and a song, that takes me back to high school, this is it. I remember buying Squeeze’s third album, Argybargy (“AR - jee BAR - jee”) because that particular single and “Another Nail For My Heart” were on it. My god, those are two amazing songs. I can almost smell the Marks and Spencer’s grey school-uniform v-neck sweater pulled over my starched white shirt and school tie when I think about either number. I can’t believe “Pulling Mussels” only placed as high as 44 on the UK charts; I remember that Top of the Pops took a shine to the song and played it a lot while it charted. Or maybe that’s wishful remembering.

I once saw Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford play a show in Boston as an acoustic duet and they played “Pulling Mussels.” Tilbrook took off on the solo and his fingers were just flying up and down the fret board. Amazing.

Scottie proposed this one, largely because he’d figured out Tilbrook’s tricks; and I didn’t have to go too deep into my subconscious to dredge up the lyrics — writing songs with high word counts apparently has an upside. We’re saddling Shane with the Jools Holland keyboard part, cos as we all know, trumpet and keys sound like long-lost brethren.

* * *

I’ll weigh in next week with some more about our progress as we gear up for our Baker Street Pub shindig, to which, of course, you are most cordially invited!