Monday, September 25, 2006

Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)

Click Button to Play: Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)--Looking Glass

Click Button to Play: Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)--Red Hot Chili Peppers

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This stranger comes to town and he is skulking around the bordellos and the pool halls. He is half Black and a quarter German and part Mexican and part American Indian. He is a sailor, and he comes from the sea.

He was literally born in the sea. There is no verifiable proof of this, but most stories indicate that he was born in the belly of a whale. His parents were both ingested by the whale, but he was spouted from its blowhole onto the deck of a pirate ship, wearing a chest-plate and a cape.

After he killed half of the pirates, including the captain, the surviving members of the crew agreed to give him command of the ship. He was 4 months old.

By the age of one and a half years, he was 6 feet tall. He wore a whale bone on a lanyard around his neck. Carved into the bone was the word "Mama" and the image of a creature with the body of a woman and the head of a sperm whale.

He comes to town and he skulks around the blind alleys and the docks, and kills a longshoreman during a game of craps. He is caught. He goes to prison willingly, because he is interested to see what life on the land is like. He finds that life on land is like living in a cage accompanied by an old drunk with a wooden leg. He picks the lock of his cell with the whale bone, grabs a bull whip from one of the guards, and kicks down the door to outside. He is laughing. He is a manic, endorphin-loaded giant with the brain of a 3 year old.

He gets on his ship and sails off to Japan, where he is bathed by geishas and learns how to cook dumplings. He gets a tattoo of a girl's face on his bicep. The girl has red hair, grey-green eyes, strong cheekbones, white skin with golden freckles.

Four years later, he returns to the town that imprisoned him. He is greeted by all as a figure of almost regal stature. They have erected a statue in his absence, showing his oversized baby face on a multi-tentacled, winged body wielding seven knives and four swords and a shield. The statue stands on a cloud and is covered in fresh flowers.

He walks over to the tavern and finds a table in the corner. The bar is crowded with people singing and dancing wildly. He leans back in his chair and exhales a plume of smoke from nowhere--he hadn't been smoking, but the smoke billows out of his lungs and up to the ceiling. The ceiling fans get caught up in it and slow down.

He feels two beams of jade-green light upon him, and then he sees her face. She is wearing a faded peasant dress with her red hair tied up in black ribbon. She is carrying two very large, whole, poached salmons covered in dill sauce. Her face goes slack as she approaches him and drops the platter on the table. She stays there as he eats. He glances up at her periodically. When he's done, he smashes the table into bits and makes violent love to her. After several hours of this, he leaves.

He sails to Morocco, where he takes over the royal palace with a force of ten men and three wooden spears. When he leaves the country, he installs his cat as the new King. The cat enjoys a successful and properous reign for three years but then gets distracted by an errant shoelace and is run over by a rickshaw.

He travels to Iceland, where he builds gigantic pyramids out of mud bricks transported from the Nile. He walks across Northern Europe, planting man-eating flora and excavating the cave-dwellings of prehistoric man/dinosaur hybrid creatures. He meditates for three years, and becomes unsure of whether he is a man dreaming he is a two-brained, translucent space creature that derives its strength from the electromagnetic field, or a two-brained, translucent space creature that derives its strength from the electromagnetic field dreaming it is a man. When he is finished meditiating, he builds a telescope and sails to Antarctica, where he can better study and name all the seas of the moon.

Around the Cape Horn, his ship catches fire and most of his men are burned alive. He catches fire several times himself, but continues to steer the ship and maintain the sails. The ship, still burning, wrecks on the Hermite Islands. He walks over the 40 dead, charred bodies and begins construction of a small hut from the wreckage and bones. Months later, he is rafting up the Amazon Basin.

On a beach in Peru, he looks up at the moon. Having looked at it so often, it appears to him to have not just one, but many faces. He looks upon the many faces of the moon, the many glowing seas that he's studied and dreamed of. He remembers his names for them, names he invented so that he could know them by heart.

In the moon, her face is white and golden.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Click Button to Play: Mona--The Beach Boys

Click Button to Play: Mona--The Beach Boys Problem

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The Cocaine Sessions

For Brian Wilson, it was over now. He had to admit it. For so long he couldn't let go. It had hurt so bad. And now it hurt a little less.

"Tell me, do you miss me?" he sang, to no one in particular.

"Yeah, bro," Dennis said, coming in from kitchen. "I've missed you, man." He was carrying a tray with hamburgers, cocaine, and milkshakes on it. Brian was sitting at the piano, the 8-track was rolling.

It was 1975. Neither of them cared about the Beach Boys. They wanted to get high, eat burgers, waste away into the California sunset. They wanted to bury themselves in the sand.

Brian was overweight. He wore his giant velour track-suit, bushy beard, and long hair as protection from the world. But he was still afraid all the time. He still cried a lot. He wished he could be more like his brother Dennis, who didn't give a shit, who just wanted to live fast and drunk and all that. But he knew he wasn't like that. His special talent came from a very strange place... it allowed him to create beautiful music but it also took an enormous amount of focus and control. And he'd lost it... lost it years ago, during the Smile sessions. And it wasn't coming back.

So he had nothing to lose anymore. He didn't care.

"Let it come down," he sang. "Let it all come doo-oown." Dennis chimed in with some gruff harmony from his smoke damaged throat.

"Hey man," Dennis said cheerily, as he rummaged around the makeshift recording studio for packets of ketchup. "Hey!" he said.

Brian looked up from his burger.

"Yeah, let's write a song. Let's do a song about this chick, right?"

Brian was listening.

"OK? So its just this chick, and this guy is singing to her because he wants her to come over... and fuck, you know? So he's like, 'Hey, why don't you come over, and we'll go out and have a good time and everything, and then we'll mess around'."

Brian nodded. This was basically the same idea Dennis always came up with.

"Yeah," Brian said. We are the Beach Boys, after all, he thought. We write about girls, the beach, and cars. We are the churning, self-immolating husks of the California Dream. It's the mid-70's, and the country is all burned out. The 60's crashed and left us here like shards of sodden shipwreck, all broken up and busted.

"Hey, how about this? Brian said, and sang:

"Saturn has rings all around it--
I searched around and I found it!"

"Yeah--that's alright, bro," Dennis said. "Those are really, like, smart lyrics. But let's get back to the chick song. Sing it like you want to fuck her, you know?"

"Right," Brian said. "Okay, what's her name?"

"Oh she's really sexy. Like a Mona. You know what I mean?"

"Right, Mona," Brian said. He played a boogie-woogie tune, then abruptly changed to a cartoon theme song, and then changed that up until it was a simple, classic rock beat.

Dennis looked over at him, nodding and grinning.

Brian played the same for 15 minutes, over and over again... tears and sweat started to mix on his face.

"Brian!" Dennis shouted.

Brian slowly moved his bloodshot eyes until he was peering at his brother from the corners.

"Sing!" Dennis shouted.

"Okay," Brian said.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Walk Away Renee

Click Button to Play: Walk Away Renee--The Left Banke

Click Button to Play: Walk Away Renee--Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy

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Renee Fladen was a flaxen-haired 16-year-old in 1964, the daughter of noted Columbia University professor Lars Grinmoat-Fladen and his wife, Nettie James--an illiterate, quadrapalegic librarian who was herself the daughter of staunchly right-wing, anti-immigrant activists. Young Renee spent much of her childhood honing her skills as a dancer and amateur beekeeper. As her new femininity flowered in the mid-sixties, Renee found herself changing with the times. By September of '64, she was likely to be seen on the sidewalks of Park Slope, Brooklyn, weaving gracefully in between the raindrops, wearing a sheer bodysuit and full clown makeup.

And that was how he'd first seen her. It was September 12th, 1964, during a light rainshower. Mike Lookofsky, the fifteen-year-old son of a violinist and music store owner, was closing his father's shop for the day. As the warm, early-Autumn rain trickled beneath his collar, out of the corner of his eye he spotted the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. For the first time in his young life, a gush of hormones flooded his body, and he exhaled a cloud of vapor and ennui.

The graceful, long-legged blonde dipped and sashayed from the sidewalk to the pavement and back again. Thick greasepaint, bright red, white and black, smeared her face and ran down her neck and clothing. The sidewalk seemed to bow beneath her feet like a trampoline as young Lookofsky panted in the rain, eyes dreamily blue and then gray, and then blue again.

He approached her, introduced himself. That was all he could muster. She laughed and shook his hand. He wanted to walk her home, but she couldn't walk with him because she had a boyfriend. It was Tom Finn, the sixteen-year-old bassist in Lookofsky's band. Didn't that just make sense. But Mike could tell that even if she weren't Tom's girlfriend, she would never be his. He knew it immediately, could feel the bittersweet realization as it crested over the fuzzy wave of his hormonal high. Renee and Tom would break up eventually... but she' d just go on to someone else--it would never be him.

That feeling of failure, longing and hoplessness locked him up. His insides felt light and weightless, all flimsy and crumpled, like a dirty and discarded tissue. His head buzzed intermittently. It would buzz for a while and then become silent, as if it housed just one lonely honeybee. The silences were awful. The silences were what had to stop.

He knew he had to forget Renee. But it was hard to forget her. It was that she didn't care. It pained him. She wasn't thinking about him, would go her whole life without ever thinking of him. Where was she right now? Not alone. She would never be alone like him. There would always be someone else.

So, to forget her was key. But how do you stop caring about someone without losing them forever?

Lookofsky poured himself some Tang and tapped his 3 minute egg with a spoon. His mother was out walking the Rottweiler that she kept as a pet, but also as a way to terrify her children. The dog would snarl at them in their sleep, causing all three of the Lookofsky children to be inveterate bedwetters until the ages of 12-13. He put his head down on the table.

He woke up in the middle of a song. It was as if a voice was coming in from very far away:

“… and when I see the sign

that points one-way

the lot we used to pass by

every day...”

Later on, Lookofsky went for a walk. It could have been raining, just like that day. He couldn’t tell. It was still September, still warm, but it didn’t feel the same. Had he ever really felt that way, the way it felt when he first saw her?

He remembered it, the feeling of it dripping down inside of him slowly, and sweet… like honey. And the buzzing of the honeybee. And when the buzzing had to stop.