Down the Rabbit Hole, Musically

Little Vampire Boy stopped by the homestead on a Sunday Night.  As with most LVB conversations it went everywhere and nowhere simulatenously.  At one point while we were discussing wine he said, “you know, ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange‘ was the perfect song for the time.”  For the record, noone mentioned ZZ Top, Blues, Texas or whore houses prior to this.  I looked at him quizzically, looking  clues of where the hell this came from.

“I don’t know the song,” Lambchop said while washing wineglasses.

“Of course you do!  You make me change the channel everytime time it comes on the radio!”  And that is often. She still shook her head in disagreement.

So I decided to sing.  As most of us know, there is a lot of word  slurring  between the hot guitar licks in that song. I didn’t pretend to know all the words.  I just wailed – I mean we had consumed a few bottles by this point.

‘must been roww, tha’ Texas toww
‘Bout that shack outsi’  legrange

rrrr rrr rrr rr
ruff ruff ruff
Hmmm Hmm Hmm
‘Know what I’m talking ’bout
They got a lot a nice gurrrls.. .HUH!


“I still don’t know the song,” she said as if her case was settled.

“Seriously?”  I was flumoxed.

LVB decided it was time to chime in.  “You’ve nailed it. You were right on key. You have perfect pitch.”

Two things:  I dont’t have perfect pitch. It is well known I need a bucket to carry a tune.   Second, these are the lyrics to the song, even though my interpretation is far closer to the recording than these words read in the King’s English.

Rumour spreadin’ a-’round in that Texas town
’bout that shack outside La Grange
And you know what I’m talkin’ about. 

Just let me know if you wanna go 
To that home out on the range. 
They gotta lotta nice girls ah

Have mercy. 
A pow, pow, pow, pow, a pow. 
A pow, pow, pow. 

Once I got over my shock of the lunancy that someone thought I had good pitch or could carry a tune, my mind went in 100 different directions.  Nah, writing about brothels is too easy.  And so is the curiosity that the only guy without a beard in ZZ Top is Frank Beard.    I’ll even ignore LVB’s amusement and amazement that I DO NOT shave my legs.  My near hairless extremities is a direct contrast the beautiful head of hair I’ve been graced with.

Lyrics, the last frontier.  How many singers mangle the pronounciation of words and leave listeners wondering what the song was really about?  Not everyone can ennounciate like William Shatner.  His voice is clear and strong.  Listen to Rocket Man or Mr. Tambourine Man.  On a similar note, you listen to Leonard Nimoy sing of Bilbo Baggins.  No instead let’s focus on the war crimes of singers that butcher lyrics.

Who can forget John Fogerty looking for a bathroom on the right?

Or Jimi Hendrix appologizing for kissing this guy.

Sometimes its the listener’s ears that mishear the lyrics.  One person I know always heard Radar Love (why hello Golden Earing) as Red Hot Love.  I have always wondered why Jeff Lynne is always asking Bruce not to bring him down?  No clue.  Wrong lyrics

Nope. But my favorite has to be of a more religious nature.  Years ago, 1982 to be precise (or close enough), I was hanging out with an acquaintance from the comic shop.  Yeah, think Stuart from Big Bang Theory.  I wasn’t working there yet.  We were walking to see the fabulous new movie “Swamp Thing” when he starts talking about this new song.  He tells me that “it’s really weird and has some trippy religous allagory.”

Fuck.  I sure hope we are not going to talk abous C.S. Lewis or why my being Jewish was consigning me to a future in hell.  Normally I screen people better than this.  Nope I was wrong.  Whew. Big concilatory sigh.  He just wanted help analyzing the lyrics from that new song “Sweet Jesus the Maitre De.” I about died.  That was the funniest thing I had heard in a long time.  I have no idea how he got to those words. It was so out of let field.  When I finished laughing I explained to him what the song was really called.  If you haven’t figured it out, I’ll tell you later.**  If you get it now, you get extra Stuff and Things points, redeemable for just about nothing.

I have always loved music, but if you are familar with my home here in the interwebs, you knew that.  I try not to pretend that  I know more than I do, especially about music.  I know what I like and have tons of useless, arcane info floating in my hard drive.  That “Whipping Post” starts in 11/4 time or that the theme from “That 70s show” is a Big Star classic (and redone by Cheap Trick).  So much in there. Stuff. And things.

Like that The Tubes album “Remote Control” is and incredible, complete album.  I’d classify it as power pop, a far cry from the over the top theatrics of  “White Punks on Dope.”  I played side one to death for 10 years or so..  A lot that is because Todd Rundgren produced it.  Don’t worry, I’m still saving my prime time for you.

And that everyone should know about the origin of the name Led Zeppelin and The Cry of the Mudshark (urban legend or not.)

And then there are the songs that are lost in translation.  Driving this morning I heard the members of Night Ranger (what the hell, they are local) talking about the meaning of “Sister Christian.”  I’ve heard the story several time that the lyrics were about his sister Christie, but they way he sang it, it sound like Christian.  In Minnesota, a waitress once asked them, in her full local accent, if the song was about “a nun selling drugs to school kids.”  Yah. Sure. Yu Betcha!  Where did that come from?  Of course they afirmed her analysis.  Why crush her dreams as a music critic?

More topical is the revelation I heard (somewhere I don’t recall) about Nine Inch Nails.   Someone claimed that Trent Reznor wrote “Closer” as a priest’s love song to an alterboy.  Seriously?

I want to fuck you like an animal
I want to feel you from the inside
I want to fuck you like an animal
My whole existence is flawed
You get me closer to g-d

It could be, but I’m voting urban legend on this one.  You know like when we were kids and we thought Bubbleicious bubble gum was made from spider eggs.  And it was still scarce.  I’m going to go with “closer to g-d” as a metaphor for le petite morte or turning Japanese (you knew that song was about masturbation right? (I still need to write that critical essay) with those orgasmic eyes.

While we can debate what various lyrics mean, sometime times, if you don’t actually look at the lyrics, it can be impossible to tell what’s going on (cue Marving Gaye.)  One of my favorite bands is Genesis ( pre 1980.)   And if you were the typical prog rock fan, you’d be thinking does he prefer the Lamb or Selling England by the  Pound?  It doesn’t matter.  I’d like to discuss my favorite Genesis song. Harold the Barrel.  Many other songs are more beloved – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Musical Box, Dancing with the Moonlit Knight, but few are more theatric.  Harold provides a glimpse into the the theatrics that Peter Gabriel will later infuse into his music.

But you wouldn’t know it from listening.  Harold the Barrel is a powerful and catchy pop tune that is confusing.  One needs to look at the lyrics to see it is really a 2:59 one act play.  While Gabriel uses his various voices to imbue the characters, its not apparently obvious on an initial listen.  But then you read the lyrics — there were NONE on the initial US release — and realize there are 8 separate characters and 2 different choruses.  Such joyful noise.  All in a song about a man about to jump from a ledge to his death.  This predates “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by 5 years.  Who thought Genesis has a suicide song, masquarading as a pop tune in its catalog?

Harold the Barrel

A well-known Bognor restaurant-owner disappeared
early this morning.
Last seen in a mouse-brown overcoat,
suitably camouflaged,
they saw him catch a train.Man-in-the-street:
“Father of three its disgusting””Such a horrible thing to do”
Harold the Barrel cut off his toes and he served them all
for tea
“Can’t go far”, “He can’t go far”.
“Hasn’t got a leg to stand on”
“He can’t go far”.Man-on-the-spot:
I’m standing in a doorway on the main square

tension is mounting
There’s a restless crowd of angry people

“More than we’ve ever seen.

– had to tighten up security”

Over to the scene at the town hall
The Lord Mayor’s ready to speak

Lord Mayor:
“Man of suspicion, you can’t last long, the British Public

is on our side”

British Public:
“Can’t last long”, “You can’t last long”.

“Said you couldn’t trust him, his brother was just the same”
“You can’t last long”.

If I was many miles from here,

I’d be sailing in an open boat on the sea
Instead I’m on this window ledge,
With the whole world below
Up at the window
Look at the window…

“We can help you”

Plod’s Chorus:
“We can help you”

Mr. Plod:
“We’re all your friends, if you come on down
and talk to us son”

You must be joking
Take a running jump

The crowd was getting stronger and our Harold
getting weaker;
Forwards, backwards, swaying side to side
Fearing the very worst
They called his mother to the sight
Upon the ledge beside him
His mother made a last request.

67-yr-old Mrs Barrel:
“Come off the ledge if your father were alive he’d be very,
very, very upset.
“Just can’t jump, you just can’t jump”
“Your shirt’s all dirty, there’s a man here from
the B.B.C.”
“You just can’t jump”

Mr. Plod:
“We can help you”

Plod’s Chorus:
“We can help you”

Mr. Plod:
“We’re all your friends, if you come on down
and talk to us Harry”

You must be joking.
Take a running jump……

Perhaps I just needed a reason to listen to Harold the Barrel today.  I’m still looking for that perfect song with just the right amount of cowebell.  There never really is enough is there? I wonder what lies deeper down the rabbit hole….

** It was “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)” by The Eurythmics

As the Garbage Can Turns, a Drama in Several Scenes

Opening Scene:  

A middle-aged man in frayed purple robe stumbles toward his much-needed coffee.  He is tired from a long night, needing caffeine to push his energy level towards acceptable.  He has a horrid case of bed hair and  a  hard time looking above the floor.

Its near 6am and the sunlight is just starting to invade the dark house.  A noise catches his attention as he emerges from the long hall.  He detours from the coffee to see which truck is stopping to pick up from the cans he put out 6 hours before.  But he sees no truck.  Confused, he reroutes to the coffee.  Something is wrong, but he’s not sure what.

As he pours his coffee, a message from the sponsor, Peet’s Coffee, is displayed subtly.  He looks over his coffee.  It is dark, black and rich.  The camera studies it, making sure the audience knows it is from Peet’s.  It is not Folgers.  Taking the first sip, a smile can almost be seen taking shape on his face.  Almost.  On the second sip, there is a spark of intelligence in his eyes.  He walks back to the front window to look out at the street.  An white obelisk can be seen taking shape where the coffee pot had been.

Looking through the sheers that pretend to obscure the view of passer bys, the obvious hits his waking brain cells. “My Garbage Cans are not there.  THEY ARE GONE!”

End  Scene 1

Scene 2:

Our hero stands on his doorstep, in wonder.  A typical SUV, white, approaches.  The soccer mom driving it shields her kids from the fright on the stoop.  It appears that she is pushing down the gas pedal to avoid some unseen demon chasing her down the street. He takes another sip of his coffee.  To his right he sees his neighbors cans.  The neighbor always puts them on his property, not that it is a big deal.  Maybe they are his.  The sun is just starting to warm the day.  He walks across the dry grass to the cans he sees.  They aren’t cans; they are really large containers that he calls cans. When he was a child they were cans and difficult to take to the street.  These have wheels.  If they had been wheeled in the 70’s he would have never complained about taking the cans out and in.  Or in and out, but that topic is for another day he thinks.

He walks over to the neighbor’s containers.  He looks at them while he sips his coffee.  Coffee is like a cigarette in many ways.  A hard habit to break.  Something to keep his hand busy.  Back to the purpose at hand.   The address scrawled on the front is similar to his, but not his.  These are not the cans he is looking for.  Looking down the street he sees lots of cans, but there does not seem to be any duplicates in front of the houses he sees.  There is no sidewalk, so he wanders back across the lawn to the doorstep and walks back in.  Looking perplexed, he closes the door.

End Scene 2

Scene 3:

He stands  in the foyer.  Looking in the mirror he realizes he looks like shit.  Setting down his coffee, he tightens his robe, thankful he’s not on a Megan’s Law website.  Picking up his coffee he calls down the hall.

“The Garbage Cans are gone.”


“Gone. Stolen. Adios.”

“Did you take them out last night?”

“You saw me  do it.”

“oh.”  Pause   “Are they in the driveway?”

“No. And not within 50 yards of the house.  Nothing in front of the church either.”

“You should call the police on the non-911 number.”

He shrugs.  It wasn’t a suggestion.  Time for more coffee he thinks and wanders back to the coffee pot.

End Scene 3

Scene 4:

He sits in front of a computer.  The city police department website is up.  The camera shows how ridiculous it is.  It has lists of reasons why and why not to call 911.  But there is not a “non-emergency” number to call.  Except for community service.  “Do garbage cans that wander away fall under community service,” he wonders.

A screen appears above his head to the right, like thought balloon in a comic strip or book.  Little Nemo and King Morpheus appear for 2 seconds and blink out.

Music plays, with a very short violent cut in:

I can walk down the street, there’s no one there
Though the pavements are one huge crowd. 
I can drive down the road; my eyes don’t see, 
Though my mind wants to cry out loud, 
Though my mind wants to cry out loud. 
Dance floor is like the sea, 
Ceiling is the sky. 
You’re the sun and as you shine on me,
I feel free, I feel free, I feel free.

On the screen a large burly brown refuse container dances down the street with a lithe blue recycling container .  They match the beat and the brown container twirls the blue one then stops and does a Michael Jackson Lean/point in time with the first “cries out loud.”   He continues.

The blue container stops locking and popping in time to opens to the sky and her spread her arms to the suns warmth with the last few lines.

The cans wander down the road, bopping to the rhythm, getting smaller and fading into the distance.

From off stage to the left comes a voice.  “This is ridiculous.  Cartoon garbage cans dancing throws off the noir vibe that is going on. Stupid.”

From the right comes another, more nervous voice. “It’s what the kids want these days. It’s his Wilfred moment. It’s Burroughs. Wait till we bring in the Steely Dan and the bugs in the scene 6.”

“He can dream about being Burroughs all he wants.  This is more Pat the Bunny than Naked Lunch.  Maybe we should shoot for Goodnight Moon.”

There is laughter from both directions

“We both know Noir was a pipedream anyway.”


Our hero  looks up quizzically as the makeshift thought balloon fades away and the voices go back to their hidey holes.

He looks at the website, realizing he’s reporting a theft.  Amazingly enough he found the right page.  Under items stolen, garbage cans are on option.  There are so many fields to fill in.  Clearly some bureaucrat realized that all this information was needed, but no one thought through the user experience.  Each can needed to be described and valued.  $5k seemed like a realistic number.  And the timeline of the event?  separately for each can?  He had no idea exactly when this horrid event happened.  No wonder there was no number to call. No one in the PD wanted to write down or input this information.

He sips his coffee and ponders a new fact.  Not only does this on-line report require his driver’s license, it requires it twice. On separate screens.  Really? it couldn’t auto populate since it already was input?  No wonder people have such low opinion of many government workers.  If industry turned out crap like this, they’d be ridiculed openly.  Wait.  Never mind.

Yelling down the hall semi sarcastically, “Police Report filed.”

“Thank you.”

Fade to blue, like the recycle bin.

End Scene 3

Scene 4

Black fades to gray.  A shape is in the left side of the screen.  It slowly resolves to our hero, though not completely.  If HD is 1080 this is 272 pixels.

Ethereally:   “You are the third caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

Fade in.  The shape has moved left.

“You are the <pause> second <pause> caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

Fade in.  The shape appears to be sitting. He might be drinking coffee.

“You are the <pause> first <pause> caller in the queue.”

Fade out.

A very long pause.

Fade in.  The shape appears to be a huge blog.

“Hi! This Cathy how may I help you?”

Fade to black

Slow fade in.  Our hero is putting the telephone back in its dock.

“Well that was easy.  They are delivering new cans tomorrow.”


Fade to black.

End Scene 4

Scene 5

A silver car approaches our hero’s house.  It pulls into the driveway.  It stops.  The audience can hear the emergency brake being set.  The door opens and our hero emerges.  He’s dressed in casual, but very stylish business attire. It is clear it has been a long day by the wrinkles in his shirt.

He looks out and the camera pans right.    There centered in front of the house in the street is the blue recycling bin.

He stands there astonished.  Only one?  He would have understood two or none. But one?  Why?

In his mind’s eye, or in this case the ridiculous thought balloon screen,  he sees a giant green dumpster.  The dumpster taps on a large box.  His brown refuse bin emerges from the box wrapped in chains, his lid covered in black plastic.  The opening beneath the lid appears to have been shot through with nails.  As it steps out…

From the left, offstage: “And no fucking Tarantino either!”

Roll Credits:

Special thanks to:

Concord California Police Department
Concord Disposal
Nameless Neighbors
Film Students Everywhere


Bart Strikes and the Entire Bay Feels

July 1st, the beginning of short week; the run up to Independence day.  And the beginning of a BART strike.  You might think a transit strike only effects the people on the transit system.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, over 400,000 people a day take BART somewhere, many of them to San Francisco.  The buses and the ferries can’t add that many more riders.    The morning back up at the Bay Bridge went from 20 minutes to over an hour.  The Oakland Ferry holds 310 people. They didn’t add 1000 more trips. They added 6 or so.

But it wasn’t just the toll plaza that was effected; those cars backed on to the approaching freeways, creating roadblocks and traffic jams.  I ran into a lot of it.  I generally ride BART into Oakland each day.  It is a 31 minute ride, part of an 60-70 minute commute – I have to walk a mile from the station to the office.  Each day I drove in to the office it took at least 90 minutes.  A normal drive is 45-50 minutes, or 60 when something goes wrong.  But that is just me. What of everyone else, stuck in different directions and longer rides?  It was a miserable week.

On my first day driving to work , and in retrospect I was glad it was only 3 days, the horror of the driving dead started on the city streets I took to avoid the freeway.  I was on an “expressway” like road.  The speed limit was 50 mph and the lights were spread out.  When we hit a light, there would be 4 or 5 cars stacked in each of the two lanes.  I was always second in the fast lane.   Normally, this was no big deal.  Not today.  As the cars to my right moved and begun to speed up, I had to believe the driver in the car in front of me was caught in the throes of a death curse or self love.  3 cars from the other lane would  speed by and cross the street before he got across the intersection.  And then, he’d pace the car next to him so I couldn’t get around.  Once, was driver error.  4 times was madenning.  I offered my soul to Cthulhu to get out of this madness.  There was no luck.    Cursed to endure this madness for eternity, misery for my commuting soul.

When I finally got around this idiot, I ran into a new problem. If the previous driver was the driving dead, this next driver had a death wish.  In traffic, we often follow cars closer than we might otherwise. I was about 2 car lengths behind the car infront of me, with 2 cars behind me acting similarly.  There were plenty of cars to my right as well.  We were moving at a reasonable speed.  Not too fast, not too slow.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the car in the back of my lane dart to the right.  He sped forward. Faster. Faster. With no where to go he cut in front of me, using the extra 6 inches that were there.  Thank god he was daring enough to risk a few lives to move 40 feet forward in traffic.  Me? I’m too timid. I’m sure if he and I were timing our commutes, he’d beat me by a good 90 seconds every day.  What’s the down side in that?  Perhaps my timidity was the curse of the old ones.

Who needs a horror film?  I had plenty of scares from the new drivers on the road.  I watched one car completely misuse the merge into the center bore of the tunnel and cut of a car completely unawere that danger lurked in front of him. And behind him as he slammed on the brakes that no one expected.  Cars went everywhere; I merely shook my head.  Transit strike or no, some people should not be allowed to drive.  Period.

Since I normally ride BART most days, I got to listen to the radio. A lot of radio. Sports talk. Baseball. Music.  On the first day, The DiVinyls came on.  Everyone loves “I Touch Myself” don’t they?  I quickly remembered that I have half a post – a critical analysis of love songs  versus masturbation songs – in my head.  I will work on that another time.  There was too much time in the car last week.  Too much time to think.

At one point I passed a bus, parked on the street in front of the Lafayette BART station.  The driver stood in front of the bus, in the street.   It had a great scrolling marquee.  It read:

“Try Transit!”

“Ride a Bus”

“Out of Service”

I am pretty sure the irony was lost on most everyone involved with that bus.