In celebration of barbershop quartet day, here’s a record of my midnight revelries with the North and South Carolinas District convention in Myrtle Beach 2013.
Blast from the Past Department
In 2004, I ended up in Osaka, Japan for two days. I spent one day meeting with a customer and the next touring the temples and the imperial palace in Kyoto. There’s a story about returning an umbrella in there, but that’s for another time.
In the intervening night I stayed in the smallest hotel room in the world. (I encountered the smallest elevator in the world in Geneva, Switzerland, but that is another story. Again.)
Before I crashed, I went out for dinner. As I walked across the pedestrian bridge over the tracks near the train station, I came upon a three-piece band rocking out. And when I say rocking out, I mean exactly that.
These guys were owning it like Bono on tour. Tight. Focused. Stylish like only the Japanese can do. I listened for several songs and then bought a CD. They found it very amusing when I asked for them to sign it.
My favorite cut from the album is titled Monkey Style. For all I know it could be obscene, but since I don’t speak Japanese, I’m spared that knowledge. Actually, I think it’s about Mylanta. Or maybe Sacagawea. But it’s the chorus that seals the deal for me.
Your mileage may vary, but you can hear it on this Japanese website and decide for yourself.
I stumbled on this performance in a Christmas collection of all things. This is one of those songs that challenges my equanimity, even from the woman who ripped up a photo of the pope on SNL 22 years ago.
But not as much as the original.
I finally got around to digitizing a box of old cassettes and found this little gem recorded with Julie and Buddy Miller. It’s not a great song. In fact, it’s unequivocally lame, but on this night 32 years ago it was my newest effort. I like to think my songwriting has improved since then.
Several months later, Buddy Miller came down to Texas looking for his lead singer and girlfriend. In January of 1982, Julie and Buddy invited my family over for dinner and afterward we broke out the guitars and swapped songs. I hit record on a jambox before we started.
I don’t have the rights to post the recordings of their material, which included How Could You Say No, but I can post one of the songs I wrote that they sat in on, Julie singing background vocals with my wife, and Buddy playing lead guitar.
And also the fun part—some interaction from the Number One Son on the front end.
All of the Fred books are full of references to music. For your dining and dancing pleasure, take a stroll past the Postcards from Fred playlist, a YouTube playlist of all the songs mentioned in the upcoming novel, Postcards from Fred.
This is what happens when you’re trying to sneak up on a writing session. You know it’s going to take a deep dive, a full plunge into the zone, and even though it’s the thing you really want to do, you’re dreading the energy it will take to get there. So you futz around reading your RSS feeds and such.
“The Great Gig in the Sky” is one of my favorite tunes, one of the few that can bring tears to my eyes. Because I’m not much of a fan-geek, I never knew the background of the tune. Turns out the vocal melody was completely improvised by Clare Torry, a singer they hired to come in and sing something over the track they had recorded. I had always assumed that the basic melody had been written, not made up on the spot while recording.
As a teen I was blown away by Dark Side of the Moon as an album, and “The Great Gig in the Sky” was the crown jewel for me. I played it for my Mom and she said, “How can you listen to all that screaming? That’s not music.” [Ed 10/7/2013: This just in from Mom. Her opinion remains unchanged 40 years later.]
You should listen to these with a good speaker system or headphones. Laptop or smartphone speakers just aren’t going to do the trick.
The studio version from Dark Side of the Moon.
The making of. Warning: The audio on this is twice as loud as all the others, so you might want to turn in down.
An interview with Clare Torry about the experience of recording it.
Here’s a killer live version with three vocalists, none of which are Clare Torry.
When are you going to cover it?Townes Van Zandt
Willie and Bobby
Seriously. Except it’s not just ukulele. The songs are arranged in various styles, including reggae, pop, blues, with the intruments appropriate to the style. Each is performed by a different artist, but arranged and produced by David Baratt and Roger Greenawalt with accompanying essays by various individuals. As of this post there are 70+ songs in the catalog, all available for free download.My picks for the playlist:
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- Here There and Everywhere
- Come Together
- Lady Madonna
- Don’t Pass Me By
- Getting Better
- Across The Universe
- Revolution (Live)
- I Am The Walrus
- The Word
- Mother Nature’s Son
- Day Tripper
- Love Me Do
- Hey Jude
- Get Back
- Honey Pie
- We Can Work It Out
- Back in the USSR
- You Can’t Do That
- Old Brown Shoe
- Golden Slumbers
- Love You Too
- Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
- Here Comes The Sun
- She Said She Said
- Nowhere Man