Monthly Archives: August 2009

For Teddy

Those of us with Irish blood often let music speak for us….

“Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

[INTRO]
|F . . . | . Dm G . | Am . Am/B . | Am/C . Am/D Am|
|F . . . | . Dm G . | Am . . . |

[VERSE 1]
G Am
Oh, life is bigger
Em
It’s bigger than you
Am
And you are not me.
Em
The lengths that I will go to,
Am
The distance in your eyes,
Em Dm
Oh no, I’ve said too much,
G
I set it up.

[CHORUS]
Am
That’s me in the corner,
Em
That’s me in the spotlight
Am
Losing my religion.
Em
Trying to keep up with you.
Am
And I don’t know if I can do it.
Em Dm
Oh no, I’ve said too much,
G
I haven’t said enough.

[BRIDGE]
G F
I thought that I heard you laughing,
Dm G Am Am/B Am/C Am/D
I thought that I heard you sing.
Am F F Dm G Am
I think I thought I saw you try.

[VERSE 2]
G Am Em
Every Whisper of every waking hour
Am
I’m choosing my confessions,
Em
Trying to keep an eye of you
Am
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool
Em Dm
Oh no, I’ve said too much,
G
I set it up.

[VERSE 3]
Am
Consider this, consider this,
Em
The hint of a century,
Am
Consider this: the slip
Em
That brought me to my knees failed.
Am
What if all these fantasies
Em
Come flailing around?
Dm G
Now I’ve said too much.

[BRIDGE]
G F
I thought that I heard you laughing,
Dm G Am Am/B Am/C Am/D
I thought that I heard you sing.
Am F F Dm G Am G
I think I thought I saw you try.

[LINK]

Mandolin fill:

Am G
e| -12-12-12-10-10-10-10-10- 8- 8- 8- 5- 5- 5- 5- 5- |
B| ————————————————- |
G| ————————————————- |
D| ————————————————- |

F G
e| -12-12-12-10-10-10-10-10- 8- 8- 8- 5- 5- 5- 5- 5- |
B| ————————————————- |
G| ————————————————- |
D| ————————————————- |

C D
But that was just a dream,
C D
That was just a dream.

[CHORUS]
Am
That’s me in the corner,
Em
That’s me in the spotlight
Am
Losing my religion.
Em
Trying to keep up with you.
Am
And I don’t know if I can do it.
Em Dm
Oh no, I’ve said too much,
G
I haven’t said enough.

[BRIDGE]
G F
I thought that I heard you laughing,
Dm G Am Am/B Am/C Am/D
I thought that I heard you sing.
Am F F Dm G Am Am/B Am/C Am/D Am
I think I thought I saw you try.
F Dm G
But that was just a dream,
Am Am/B Am/C Am/D Am
Try, cry, why, try.
F Dm G Am G
That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream, dream.


More Weird Music

Here’s Blonde Redhead’s “23”…a new current fave. Who says psychedelia’s dead?


Talking to Myself and Others

The gracious and patient playwright Adam Szymkowicz (right) just did an interview with yours truly, which can be read here his blog:

I Interview Playwrights Part 40: Steve Patterson

And, as you may note, there are 39 other, preceding interviews with actually interesting playwrights to peruse, plus tales of Adam’s many adventures in the theatre. Great blog.

Steve


The Best Place in the World

I’m not entirely certain about this, but there’s a very good chance that this could be the best place in the world.

Coop’s Place


Target Sighted and Destroyed

So some typical Weekly World News type writes a bullshit column about Obama’s mother-in-law practicing voodoo in the White House (no racism there, no), and the Wonkette, doing what the Wonkette does best, slaughters her with snark. What does said wingnut do but write to Wonkette with a whining, wheedling cry for…well, it’s supposed to be a plea for understanding, but really comes across more as a cry for help. (Jump, Kristen! Jump!) Upon which the Wonkette and the blog’s commenters rise up en masse to swarm-sting her so mercilessly that you almost want to call out for them to stop, lest the deranged woman be blasted into tiny, jagged pieces.

In other words, it’s the funniest thing since the dismembered Black Knight kept taunting King Arthur. “It’s just a flesh wound!”

Kristen Atkinson in the Lion’s Den

Face it, Kristen. There’s a goat’s head out there with your name on it.


White Rabbit House

…and there nothing like kicking back and doing some shrooms to relieve the stress of dealing with dopey bastards at town halls. Crank up the Jefferson Airplane, Barack!

“But, if we think of existence as a continuum, past and present and future existing simultaneously, man.”
“Uh-huh, uh-huh.”
“Then we can postulate…ah…that…uh…. What was I sayin’?”
“Oneness. No duality.”
“Duality? Or, twoality?”
“Twoality?”
“‘Cause you said oneness.”
“I did? What were you sayin’?”
(Pause. Insane laughter breaks out.)


365 Days of Being Experienced


It was almost exactly a year ago that, on a whim, I wandered into a Portland music store, saw a Fiesta Red Stratocaster, and went: I want that guitar.

Since then, we’ve been through some ups and down, Red and I. Some buggy electronics had to be fixed. The cord jack has been replaced. A tuner broke and had to be replaced, and eventually I may have all the tuners upgraded. I’ve switched to the marvelous Ernie Ball Super Slinky strings, who have allowed me to play some things I just couldn’t manage on middle-weight Fender strings. I added an effects box and a wah-wah pedal, and I’m thinking of buying myself a looper for my birthday. And I’ve gone from barely being able to play A, D, and E chords and not being able to strum to some facility in strumming and finally being able to play the dreaded B chord and some barre chords. And even eke out a little bit of lead. It’s been a journey.

Beginning around 1980, actually. I was in Southern Oregon for summer vacation between my sophomore and junior years of college, and a buddy of mine wanted to take a look at a Strat a guy in Gold Hill had for a sale. I offered to drive because I thought it’d be interesting (and to help a friend), and when we got there, the Strat was sitting on a stand in front of Fender amp (a Twin Reverb, I believe). When the guy plugged in and played what I now recognize as a minor pentatonic scale, my heart just turned over. That sound. As I recall, my friend passed on the guitar, but I thought seriously–seriously–about it. But I was a poverty-stricken college student and I just couldn’t let myself go for it.

The fork not taken. Now, I wonder how my life might have been different. Not that I’d be in a band or anything, but all the friends I might have made and good (or bad) times I might have had, because having a guitar–especially an electric guitar–changes you. It’s like the door to a another society. I never knew how many of my friends play guitars until I bought one, and suddenly people were saying, hey, let’s get together, man. And not just guitars, but drums, basses, keyboards. Having an electric guitar in your life becomes an organizing principle. Inevitably in life, you realize some things too late (about eight years ago, I realized another fork I missed, which was foregoing photojournalism for straight reporting, a choice that might have let me stay in journliasm while leaving my head free to write fiction). But then, as Tom Stoppard wrote, every exit is an entrance somewhere else. Maybe one of those choices might have prevented me from becoming a playwright, which–as frustrating as that field is sometimes–I would very much regret not having experienced. The would-haves and could-have will only make you crazy, and there’s nothing you can do about them anyway.

As with any art, I’m finding that the learning process has slopes, plateaus, and downgrades. You work to achieve a certain facility, then you enjoy that awhile, and then you move on to the next step, only to find out the more you know, the more the complexity of your task increases. Next year this time, assuming I stick with it, I hope I’ll look back to now and shake my head at what little I knew. The current plan is to increase my facility in changing chords and learning some blues licks as to improve my meager lead vocabulary, along with the practicing required to actually play what I’m learning. Plus I’d like to spend more time playing with others because it exponentially jacks up the fun quotient (and makes you a better player, I think). Wisely, I think, I’m trying to keep my goals modest and attainable, because it’s failing to achieve those big leaps that can sometimes discourage you. Now, nearly every day I pick up the axe, I feel progress. That’s good for the soul

But the main thing is it’s still fun, despite some evening such as last night, when nothing worked and I was too tired to tune up properly, and it was just chaotic noise (as opposed to creative noise, which I’m rather fond of). And, unlike the kid who still kind of aches for that sunburst brown Strat with the white pickguard (I still see it in my mind’s eye), I have a lifetime of musical experience as a listener with broad and eclectic tastes to bring to the endeavor. Which is why I can have as much fun playing Tom Waits’ “Jockey Full of Bourbon” as I do playing the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”

So here’s to Leo Fender (and Les Paul, while we’re at it) and trying new (and old) things. I suppose this has been a year that’s changed my life, but, the truth is, they all do. Just some more than others. And thanks to the friends, family, teachers, and other compadres who have put up with my fumbling and stumbling and blown notes and excuses and apologies and who have graciously encouraged me, even when I was making noises that could cause small animals to shrivel and die.

S


Les Paul Lives


The headlines yesterday, of course, read that Les Paul passed away at 94–which is about 180 in musician years, so he had a good run. And what a lot of good he did. But even though the man has exited the stage, his ideas, in the form of some of the most beautiful guitars ever made, will live on and on and on, in guitar cases and on countless MP3s, CDs, vinyl LPs, singles, and live performances. (Not to mention minor contributions such as multi-track recording.) So Les Paul lives. More or less forever. (And that’s coming from a Fender guy.)

Les Paul Dies


Looking for the Heart of a Saturday Night

The initmatable Mead Hunter, who loves music as much (or maybe even more) than theatre–an obsession I, of course, share–recently posted some classic pieces from television shows on his blog (to wit: “They don’t make ’em like this anymore”), which prompted a bunch of folks to chime in (so to speak) regarding other memorable themes, and yours truly wondered who wrote the wonderful Saturday Night Closing theme song.

No one answered, so I took a quick tour through Googleland and found it was Howard Shore, SNL’s original musical director, and the tune is “Closing Theme (A Waltz In A).”

It never stuck me before as being in 3/4 time. What did strike me about it was the flood of memories it triggered, a lot of good times nights, probably a little bent, hanging with your friends…looking for heart of a Saturday Night. There was a time when Saturday Night was so much a part of the social fabric of my comrades that parties stopped when SNL came on…or at least shifted their emphasis. Saturday night kept going after the show was over, but it was part and parcel of the booze…and whatever…and laughs and tail chasing and whatnot that makes up life in your 20s. I can actually remember slow dancing to the tune with this utterly beautiful…but that’s another story, and a long time ago. And I can remember swaying arm in arm with friends as the cast often swayed arm in arm. It was kind of a time when you felt invincible and did everything you could to test it.

I still watch the show now and again, but it seems to have lost some of its magic. I was there at the beginning…I remember watching the first episode with George Carlin as the host and thinking: my God…what is this? How could something this good get on television? And for a kid living in the Northwest sticks, it was a window into a faraway hipdom that introduced me to musicians like Elvis Costello and Talking Heads. You spent Saturday Night in front of the TV for 90 minutes then spent two hours at the record store the next day. Like Rolling Stone magazine in its heyday, it sewed the tribe together.

Time passes on, as do Not Ready for Primetime Players and, more sadly, friends. But music remains, which is another reason we love it–because it can transport you to the deeply buried television or movie house or photo album in your mind. So here you go…raise a glass…and let your cynicism ebb a bit and the memories circle woozily: neon, tequila, cigarettes, and ratty couch full of ratty friends, who you love very much.

Nostalgia may be a trap, but, taken in small doses, it’s not the worst of drugs….


Music is My Mardi Gras


Lately, I’ve been going through one of my Missing New Orleans periods. It’s inevitable for anyone who’s lived there any time at all because, really, there’s no other place like it, and I think the hot weather stirs the memories (cue Louis Armstrong’s “(You Don’t What It Means) To Miss New Orleans” or Tom Waits’ “I wish I was in New Orleans (in the Ninth Ward)”).

Scratching the itch, I watched Les Blank’s documentary “All for Pleasure” about New Orleans and it’s year-round carnival mindset, including a lovely section on how cook crayfish during which the cook pours a shoebox full of cayenne pepper in the boiling pot, and there’s a brief bit where this all-American guy’s looking out his window at a bunch of happy drunks wearing green bowlers for St. Patrick’s Day, and he turns to the camera and says something like, “You know, there ain’t no place in the world where you can do that. Where you can just drink beer in the street and throw your cans in the gutter. It’s a place where you can feel a little bit free.” And he says it with such love that, even though it’s absurd, if you’ve lived there and seen pretty much, well, everything, and accepted it with a shrug, warts and all, you can’t help but feel your heart turn ever so slightly.

Also, nothing ever gets done down there. The place is falling apart. It’s a lousy place for ambition and worse for consistency (excepting certain traditions, for which there are no exceptions…like hangovers for Lent). So, for an ambitious artist who finds himself working harder and harder and sometimes wondering why and why, you have to have a Mardi Gras for the soul. And, coming up on my first-year anniversary of playing guitar, I think I’ve found a little Mardi Gras I can carry with me.

That is, when I play guitar–and granted I still don’t play and probably never will play well–the world just kind of goes away…and can just fuck off, man. The other day, a buddy came over, brought his Ibanez with a Gibson/humbucker set-up, and we tried a couple songs, had some laughs, told some stories (some of which we’d both told before but listened through again), and then at some point we tried playing “Police on My Back” by The Clash, and suddenly, when we hit that chorus (“Monday, Tuesday…”), we both fell into the same rhythm pattern automatically, and it was like…groove. And we both sat back and went, hey! Like good drugs, you immediately want more.

It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t have to be good. Nobody’s starting a band or looking to make money. I’m a professional writer and a semi-professional photographer, and, believe me, that’s enough pro art for anybody. But it’s nice to synch into that moment and feel the flow. Which really is what the blues is all about and what I bought the guitar to learn.

It’s one thing to have music in your ears. It’s another to have it in your hands. It’s your own little Mardi Gras, and it’s all for pleasure.