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There is a scene in High Fidelity that is really interesting to me. Not because it’s a particularly well-done scene, or really a particularly memorable movie overall, but because it completely encapsulates what music means to me. The main character, Rob Gordon, is at an all-time low, and a friend comes over and he explains that he’s been re-organizing his record collection. He explains that he’s been organizing his music collection autobiographically, according to the connection and effects on his life. This is exactly how I view music in my life. It is not so much the music, but the influence, the connection of the music, to every other part of my life experience. Let me start with a truth. I know nothing about music. That’s not to say I know nothing about Music History, I have a general idea about the progression of popular music in America over the last hundred or so years. I know a fair bit about how the Music Industry grew, about the rise of Jazz out of New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Kansas City, St. Louis. I am pretty knowlegdable about the birth, branding, and conquest that is Rock ‘n Roll, and am a Curator-level expert on a few sub-genres (Ska, Lounge, being the two big ones) and while I’m usually at least a year behind nowadays, I try to keep up. But I really know nothing about MUSIC. Have no clue about how music is made, what certain things mean, about terminology, about tone and mood and scales and modes and on and on and on. I just don’t understand that stuff. I get the songs, I get albums, I get the effect that music has on me, on my personal history and philosophy, but I don’t actually get the music. It is probably a side-effect of being completely tone-deaf. Now, a part of this has to do with a fellow BArean named Janice Whaley. She’s actually from San Jose, the city I spend a lot of my time in. She stopped singing for a while, but then decided to go back and do a one-year project where she recorded versions of every song in The Smiths songbook. She called it The Smiths Project, www.thesmithsproject.com. Every one, and she did it in a year. She also used no instruments other than her voice and tape loops.Well, that’s what they would have been back in the day, but the idea is the same. So, she recorded these amazing, deeply layered, beautifully produced renditions of every song The Smiths ever produced. It’s incredible, and it inspired me to do this issue, where I look at how every Smiths track on their 4 canonical records (and a few singles-only releases) and explain how it collides with my life, sometimes literally, sometimes with a layer or two of distance, and sometimes in ways that kinda scare me. As an example of the way coincidence in my life works, I present how I learned of The Smiths Project. I had just finished watching Evelyn, had made lasagna for her and her mom, and left, but wanted to be out of the house for a while, so I went to Streetlight records. While I was at Evelyn’s, we had watched an episode of Psych, starring James Roday and Dule Hill. It was the episode where there is a “Killer in the House” mystery that featured folks
Letters & Stuff?
from the movie Clue, as well as Curt Smith, from Tears for Fears. I got in a bit of a foam, because it’s been a long time since I listened to any T4F, so I slid it into the CD player in my car and was rocking out to Mad World on the way to Streetlight. On the seat next to me was the Psych tie-in novel A Fatal Frame of Mind. I walked into the store, and while looking for some more Tears for Fears, I saw a plastic divider labeled The Smiths Project. I’ve always loved the Smiths, so I took a look and noticed that on one of them was a blurb from Curt Smith! That was awesome! I bought it and took it into the car. As always, when I’ve bought a CD, I open it up and take a look at any liner notes. I noticed that in the list of Producers was the name James Roday. James Roday who plays Shawn Spencer on Psych. I would later discover that Janice and James had even recorded a version of Ideas as Opiates for Curt Smith’s 50th birthday. Weird... I love those old Smiths covers, so often a wash over-top of an image from a 1950s or 60s movie. I decided for this one, to give the treatment to Kenneth Anger, a former LASFSan, a friend of Forry, a filmmaker whose documentaries are so significant to the development of not only Queer Cinema, but to Festival Cinema and the New American film of the 1960s and 70s. Plus, I just like that color. I would have loved to have been the guy who did the covers for the originals. First off, it would have meant going through a lot of film stills from a period when they knew how to do stills. Of course, there is a question that has to be asked, and possibly answered. Why The Smiths? They never had a Number One Hit anywhere, never had a Top Ten in the US.Yeah, they became a massively important part of the musical landscape, influenced two generations of musical acts. There is a tradition in the UK, it’s lasted every since The Smiths broke up, where the media is looking for The Next Smiths. This issue isn’t normal. It’s not a look at the music of the Smiths, though there’s a little of that in these pages, and it’s not about their influence. It’s about what The Smiths mean to me, how the songs did what they did. in my head, and some where the song is only there. PLUS, there are a couple of things that just came to my mind. And so, now the random connections, tangential stories, amusing implications and whatnot of The Smiths’ music on the life and times of Christopher J Garcia
Artist Credits Ditmar - Pages 10, 15, 17, 33, 39, 44, 61, 72 Michele Wilson - 19, 22, 34, 35, 54, 58, 59 Linda Wenzelburger - 30
The Smiths - Released February 20th, 1984 by Rough Trade (Sire Records in the US)
Track 1 - Reel Around the Fountain (5:58) The sad thing is sometimes, these songs become quantum entangled with moments of deep sadness. I can name you a hundred songs that are permanently attached with death for me, including several that will be included here, but this one, this one is almost darker. SaBean’s not had it easy, between certain familiarities with certain substances, certain people, certain activities. She always kept her head about her, in a completely reckless way, but she was always guiding herself, even if it was towards destruction. “Reel Around the Fountain” is perhaps one of The Smiths’ darkest songs. Read one way, it’s a story of a chicken hawk and the young victim his hawking who is convinced that he’s in love with him. Another reading, that it is a young gay man who doesn’t truly come to the discovery of his sexuality until an older man takes him. So, when I walked into SaBean’s apartment one evening and saw her sitting on the floor, wearing only a slightly too large tank top. She was expecting me. She’d known I was coming for almost a week. The movie was in an hour. She was sitting there, completely un-done. I’d seen her in this state many, many times before, but never with that look on her face. That look that had nothing behind it. She was just staring, without emotion or connection. She hadn’t ever seemed to recognise that I opened the door. “Hey.” I said, already worried. She didn’t answer. “Hey, we still going to see Leaving Las Vegas?” I said. She finally definitively looked at me. “It’s stronger than I am.” SaBean said. “What is?” “All of it.” When a junky says something like that to you, you have to take the conversation a certain direction. “That your first step? You wanna make 11 more?” I said. “That’s not what I’m saying. It’s stronger than me. I can’t fucking play in that field anymore. It’s gonna kill me.” “Still soundin’ like the start of a trip to NarcoNon.” “I’ve done serious shit to my body. Serious shit.” “Ballet’s a gateway drug, darlin’.” “It really is, Chris.” For a moment, her eyes got dark and clear. “You want to stop using?” I stupidly asked. “No, I just want to be stronger.” And with that, she stood up, walked over to me, wrapped her arms around me, and just sorta hung there. She didn’t fall to her knees, in fact she transferred 0 weight to me. She just lightly put her arms me, still staring into the area by the door. It was as if she wasn’t there. It was as if she were made of air. I hadn’t noticed that she was listening to The Smiths, and in particular, “Reel Around the Fountain” was on repeat, it seemed. We stood there for ages, her just touching me as if she were trying to keep as little of us in contact as possible while still being able to claim we were embracing. “Morrissey? Are things so bad?” “The Smiths.” “That Smiths.” I said. “Yeah, things are that bad.” She still had a long way to go until she cleaned up. We still have many long nights wondering if she’d live or die, but that was the only time I really worried that she had lost her will to fight.
Track 2 - You’ve Got Everything Now (3:59) Three feet of snow. That’s how much had fallen in the week we were there. It was Yosemite and the week of Winter Break was always a good time to visit the Yosemite Valley, especially with a young lady friend.The cabin we’d gotten for the week was warm, comfortable, small, perfect for two people who had brought in only the essentials: a CD player, a few days’ change of clothes, and case of good whiskey, a few bottles of wine. Days - out in the valley, hiking and trudging through the snow and taking hundreds of pictures of ice formations on the Merced River and meadows full of snow with deer peaking around. We walked all over the place, spent a lovely afternoon nestled under one of the bridges, out of the snowflakes the size of small children that fell for hours and hours and hours. Two young people, a couple for only a month or so, with a picnic basket full of cured meats, fruits, and most importantly, wine wine wine. By night, we’d snuggle up in the lodge, by the fireplace with the families fresh from dinner, passing around hot chocolate to the young ones, flasks back and forth between moms and dads and rangers and Germans all enjoying the sights. Then, usually by 9, we’d retire to the room, cuddle up, enjoy personal time with one another’s gentle kisses, and not so gentle, all while listening to the stack of CDs I’d insisted on bringing.The Smiths was the third night’s gentle playing while the two of us were… playing. After a while, we settled into comfy cuddling, the cold only slightly bothering me, and for the first time, I think, she was listening to the lyrics. “What’s it mean?” she asked. “The song?” I asked, getting out of the bed to get us each a tumbler of Bushmills. “He said “But I don’t want a lover. I just want to be seen...oh...in the back of your car.” Why?” “Well, it’s about two friends from school who either were or are or could have been lovers, I think. One’s made it, the other hasn’t and he wants a part of that.” “Or is he just riding his coattails?” “It’s always safest to assume every lyric Morrissey writes is about a guy trying to come to grips with being gay.” She paused, bit on her lower lip in that adorable way she always did when she had a thought that was much smarter than anything I could come up with. “Turn it off, come back to bed.” Like I said, a much smarter thought.
Track 3 - Miserable Lie (4:29) In a way, “Miserable Lie” is the most interesting song on the album. Why? Well, it starts off one way, then it turns, bites the listener, and gives us something we were not expecting, then it turns again. It features Morrissey going all falsetto, it features the hyper-jangle of Marr’s guitar at rates we had yet to encounter, and all of that adds up to the kind of song that defines The Smiths for me. More than anything, it is a song made for mix tapes. You remember mix tapes, no? They were big in the 80s and 90s, faded away, then were huge for a while a few years back. I used to make one every couple of weeks, give ‘em to my friends, girls I had things for, or just to listen to my beat-up Volvo. “Miserable Lie” was on a lot of those. Why? Because it wasn’t a single song, it was a collage. It was two tones of a song, pushed into one frame, like an old drawing done by two markedly different artists. It opens so sweet, then changes to what is best thought of as a freight train run fast and straight ahead and unyielding. It wasn’t something hobbled together from two completely different ideas, the kind that Wings seemed to always do (and that I hate!). It’s a turn, and one that fits with the lyrics, the tone of the song, the mood of the singer. it’s one of the best pieces of work in the entire Smiths ouvre! And it works as a transitioner piece. You might have something like “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (Taco, not the annoying original) and you want to go to something like “I Need You Around” by The Smoking Popes. You can’t just slip them right up against one another. That would be awful! Instead, you need something to go between the two that plays in both fields. “Miserable Lie” works wonderfully in that field. I never said these would all be deeply personal meditations.
Track 4 - Pretty Girls Make Graves (3:24) She was pretty once. Hell, even now, twenty years down the line, four kids, beatings beyond belief, heavy nights dragging herself to her car, sleeping with a gearstick jabbing her kidney, she still had the look of that girl I first noticed in eighth grade. Still the girl who had that smile that led to the crush from across the Typing classroom. She was the first cutter I ever knew. I don’t know how we started talking, but I know it was in the library at Buscher Junior High. I think she was a TA in there one period and I often got to go and find books for various classes. pretty much every time I’d go in, we’d chat, mostly about TV. She was big into One Life to Live, just like I was. One day, I saw a long scarf-like thing on her arm, tied tight. She was leaning against the counter on the business side. You could see that there was a stain that seemed awful fresh. She made no attempt to cover or hide it. “What’d you do to your arm?” She upwrapped it, showed three inch-long cuts, still kinda oozing. “You do that to yourself?” “I did.” “Why?” “Sometimes you just gotta do something to yourself, you know.” I didn’t. I had no idea. None. Why would you cut yourself? What sort of relief could that possibly bring? No ideas floated up to me. “You do that a lot?” “Once in a while.” “They ever get infected?” “I take care of ‘em.” Miss Manoukian, the Librarian, came into sight. She grabbed the scarf, wrapped it back around her arm, tied it tight. She looked me in the eyes briefly, as if she was trying to tell me I could never tell, which I would never have anyhow.I had no idea what to say. It was surreal, and at that point, I hadn’t watched enough David Lynch films to really understand how to deal with surreal situations. Or real situations, really. I had no way of dealing with the heavy feelings of others and what to do about them in the light of day. I sorta stood there, and then I looked down and written on her binder, in the sort of floral flowing handscript that you can only find on the binders of 8th Grade girls. Upon the sand, upon the bay There is a quick and easy way, you say Before you illustrate I’d rather state I’m not the man you think I am I’m not the man you think I am And sorrow’s native son He will not smile for anyone And pretty girls make graves
Track 5 - The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (4:38) It was finals week at Emerson. I had pretty much nailed it so far. I was almost certain to graduate. Almost. You see, I had plenty of credits, and great grades, in my history classes, in the electives, in my art history classes, in my science and speech and so on and so on. I was a Writing, Literature & Publishing Major, emphasis on Creative Writing, and there was only one thing I didn’t get very good grades in. Creative Writing. You may see this as a start of a pattern. I wasn’t very good at the thing I was doing the most. In fact, I was pretty damn terrible at it, especially the re-writing part. The most frequent note I got on my re-writes was ‘Considerably weaker than the first pass’. Every damn time.Typically it was that I would either go too bare-bones in my re-writing, or I would go all the way to the other side and be way too verbose. I was never happy with a single piece I wrote for any class I had at Emerson, save for one; my senior project. Now, as a Creative Writing kid, I had chosen to focus on Children’s Writing, mostly taking classes on Children’s Lit and Writing with Lisa Jaughn-Clough, a fine published children’s author herself. I wrote a lot of stuff that was no good, but I had an idea that I love, that I still love, and once in a while I toy with going back into fiction just to finish it. It was a YA-ish novel called… LOS RUDOS, LOS RUDOS, LOS RUDOS!!! The basic premise was it was 1995 in an unnamed school named after the city of Santa Clara, California, and a Biology class team that is put together for an assignment and ends up with all sorts of personal and romantic entanglements. It had everything, wrestling, a long-con, science fiction talk, goth parties, swings, a fourway love triangle, sexuality being discovered, and most importantly, it had music running all through it. That’s right, all through the book music was a major component, each chapter opened with a quote from a song that had been important to the story that chapter was telling. My suitemates, good guys one and all, mocked me mercilessly every time I sat down to write in my room, my door open, Alt Rock tunes floating out, often on repeat. The chapter I was working on in those last days of April, the 7th as I remember it, was crucial to the plight of the Character Steve. Steve was the pillar of the team; solidly in the realm of reality, a lot of fun, wanted nothing more than to watch wrestling, make variations on meatloaf, play cards, talk books. In other words, he was me, only with some talent at those things I mentioned above. He was struck with a lightning bolt in the first chapter. The lightning bolt’s name was Marcy, the loveliest young woman Steve had ever seen. A tall raven-haired girl who apparently loved nothing more than the sight of floortiles, as that’s what she so thoroughly investigated while walking from class to class. He fell hard for her, in much the same way I had with several young ladies at Santa Clara High when I was there. She was exactly my type, and if the young lady who I based her on ever found out I had written of her, I am certain she’d have taken her eyes off the floor long enough to deck me hard as she could. The Chapter focused on Steve and Marcy walking back from their evening watching wrestling at the San Jose Arena. He, crushing hard on her, trying to draw her out, and as they cross the Guadalupe River, he mentions that once, there were beaver in the river, hundreds of them, so many that even the Ohlone that lived in the area prior to the Missionaries arrival complained about their number. That lit her up! “They’re never coming back! I mean, look at the river! Trash and garbage and refuse and you can here the homeless bums humping from here! We’ve killed this river. Killed it like a bullet from a gun! It makes me sick!” I’d always loved exclamation points… The pair of them keep walking, and talking, and things got kinda dark at times, as she had secrets, in this chapter only hinted at.
I do remember the intro lyrics that I introduced with the chapter. Ceiling shadows shimmy by And when the wardrobe towers like a beast of prey There’s sadness in your beautiful eyes Oh, your untouched, unsoiled, wonderous eyes My life down I shall lie Should restless spirits try To play tricks on your sacred mind
Of course, that doesn’t really say much, but it hints at something I’ve felt over the years when I hear the words. Someone so enraptured by the merely physical presence of someone they’re attracted to. Those wondrous eyes, and I spent far too much time in description of those wondrous eyes and whatever thoughts live behind them, are what he would more than anything like to drown in, and if that means fighting to the death with the imaginary monsters of a bedroom, so be it. Of course, the chapter ends with her giving him a hug that he might, in fact, have misinterpreted.The next chapter the group gets back together and the Goth Girl, Amelia, who has an even larger crush on Steve, catches his admiration of Marcy. Of course, Marcy also ends up being a lesbian and there are many layers of confusion and awkwardness to deal with when Steve finds out.The group ends up fighting, then regrouping, and coming together when there’s a greater problem facign them all. I would have put out a Spoiler Alert, but the odds of me ever finishing it are pretty much 0.
Track 6 (Mark 1) - Still Ill (3:23) Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body? I don’t know. There won’t be a lot of meta-physics in this piece. Not much at all, but THAT lyric messed me up for life, perhaps more than anything other than the day I realised that we weren’t all headed for Riverworld when was proved that our spouse’s arms could not keep death from us. I’m a coward. Maybe you didn’t know that. I think you did, though… I am terrified of death, of that cold, cruel moment when it all shuts down and we’re left to see who was right - Christopher Hitchens or St. Augustine or Buddha or the raving homeless guy I would see every day I lived in Hollywood. I’m scared, still am, and watching Jay Lake go through his illness, get that ‘The Party’s Over’ diagnosis, has hurt and made me all the more frightened of every ache, every sign of a slip towards a future which I know holds a rest in the cold, cold ground. But there’s that lyric, again. Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body? I don’t know. I believe in God. That’s something that I can say for certain. It’s hard for me to conceive of a world where anything exists without something behind it. I’m not sure God hears me when I beg for that Jack to finish my straight, or even if God has a form, but I know that there’s never been a painting or a person or a religious conceptual over-lay that looks or thinks or feels like God would. And I believe in the Soul. This is where Atheists and I have it completely out for each other. Too many times I’ve had them say ‘there’s no proof’ or ‘it’s all just chemical reactions’ and I just shudder and say ‘have you ever felt magic?’ and they say ‘and THAT’s just a chemical reaction’ and I always leave it there, because I can’t imagine anything like a real piece of magic not being from Somewhere Else, or being something unbelieveable. If you’ve never had a moment like the morning I woke up after the saddest day of my life, with Golden Light shining off of every surface, then you might not understand. I can’t find a way to explain it being anything other than something we could never understand, could never really approach. I don’t know if the body rules the mind or if the mind rules the body, but it scares me. Truly terrifies me, to think about it. If all we are is our minds, what happens when it stops? What happens if I slip into dementia, into a coma, into death? What’s that going to mean? To all of us it’s going to happen, at some point, and then what? And what if it’s the body? What does it mean when our bodies break down? Do our minds go? Every time I wake up with my feet aching and knees cracking with each step, is my mind going along with the body? My super power is that I can be scared of anything. It truly is, and this simple phrase, this lyric, Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body? I don’t know helps to prove that. It just sends my mind off in directions that tear me apart. In all directions. Trees falling in the woods, I’m fine with that, but Maybe I’m still just a kid who wishes he could just put his head under the covers and everything’ll be fine as long as I stay tucked in. Maybe, but there’s never been a philosophical position I’ve ever heard that answers the question Morrissey poses with such bravado.
Track 6 (Mark 2) - This Charming Man In the US, this was Track 6, but not on the original Rough Trade record. Also, this is the song that told me that my Dad hated The Smiths. Pops drove a limo. Off and on throughout my childhood, and while I was in college, and while he was undergoing chemotherapy, Dad drove for various limo companies. He was pretty good at it. Imagine me, but charming and that was Dad. He would sometimes pick me up and take me out for lunch.Well, he’d drive, I’d buy. That was how it worked. Pops, John Paul Garcia, and I went to a place in Palo Alto one afternoon, him picking me up at the museum, me sitting in the back in comfort, and Dad just drivin’ us around, the divider between the passenger compartment (in the industry, they call it the Splash Guard, or so Dad claimed, because it separated the moister endeavors performed by some passengers from the cockpit of the vehicle) was all the way down so I could talk to Dad. He had the sound system on, and he moved around the dial. He went through the stations and stopped on Live 105. It was playing “Epic” by Faith No More, in both my father and my estimation, the greatest band ever to come out of San Francisco. We listened to it, singing ‘WHAT IS IT?’ at the peak of our voices. It was a joy, one of those moments when my Dad and I, so eternally similar in all of our differences, actually interacted with the world together. Or at least with the radio. And then the next song came up. It was “This Charming Man”, one of my favorites. It’s a great song, a wonderful piece, it was probably the first Smiths song I ever heard, and that intro riff is the perfect starting point for The Smiths. Pops turned down the radio. “Turn it back up!” I said. “No, I can’t stand these guys.” And Dad pressed a button and we were on a new station, country, as I remember it. And thus, I discovered that my Dad did not like The Smiths.
Track 7 - Hand in Glove (3:25) The first single from The Smiths. The introduction to the world, a harsh screeching harmonica riff over the guitars giving way to Moz’s voice. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. The song, I think, is a mystery. And that is why it’s remained so strong a song, why it latched on so strong, why it remains The Smiths most interesting song. I’ve got a couple of different readings of it, wrote a paper about it in a poetry class once, and the professor said “you’re digging deep, but in the wrong spots.” I swore to myself that I wouldn’t just throw myself into tearing down the lyrics to give the songs an interpretation, but it’s Morrissey, and his lyrics are really ready to be torn apart. And I had a line on the meaning of this one that no one else has ever touched on. There are two popular readings of this song. Allow me to give you the lyrics. Hand in glove The sun shines out of our behinds No, it’s not like any other love This one is different - because it’s us Hand in glove We can go wherever we please And everything depends upon How near you stand to me And if the people stare Then the people stare Oh, I really don’t know and I really don’t care There’s no shame, ohhh no... Ohhh no... Hand in glove The Good People laugh Yes, we may be hidden by rags But we’ve something they’ll never have Hand in glove The sun shines out of our behinds Yes, we may be hidden by rags But we’ve something they’ll never have And if the people stare Then the people stare Oh, I really don’t know and I really don’t care There’s no shame, ohhh no... Ohhh no... So, hand in glove I stake my claim I’ll fight to the last breath
If they dare touch a hair on your head I’ll fight to the last breath For the Good Life is out there somewhere So stay on my arm, you little charmer But I know my luck too well Yes, I know my luck too well And I’ll probably never see you again I’ll probably never see you again I’ll probably never see you again Oh ... And now, the possible readings - Two lies, one truth! #1 - The New Lover This is a song about a first date that goes very, very well. They sleep together on their first date. It’s most likely that they’re two males.Why? Well, there are hints in the text.The sun shines out of our behinds. I think that one is at least somewhat self evident.Yes, we may be hidden by rags might be a reverence to hanky code, the use of bandanas as a sort of short hand for various positions (Top, Bottom, Switch) or other scenes. Even the phrase Hand in glove has sexual connection as a glove has been used as a term for a condom for a long time. So, this couple gets together and they have a good time, and one of them is thinking about the night they had, and he’s now thinking ‘That’s as good as it’s gonna get. It ain’t gonna last.” I find this to be the most plausible. ‘I’ll probably never see you again.’ That seems cut and dry, no? And then there’s #2 - Let’s Play Master and Servant This one is a bit more of a stretch. Two men, again, but the relationship between the two of them is a master and servant sort of sexual one. The clues are in text, and in some interesting forms. ‘No, it’s not like any other love/this one is different because it’s us.’ Well, that might be a clue, and that’s followed by ‘We can go wherever we please/and everything depends upon/How near you stand to me.’ This can be an important note because the physical positioning in a Master/Servant relationship scenario can be incredibly significant. ‘Kiss my shades.’ That’s the sort of ridiculous statement and action that might be found in these situations. ‘If they dare touch a hair on your head I’ll fight to the last breath’ OK, this is an idea that is important. In exchange for a servant’s loyalty, the master must provide cover, safety, security.That’s a nice thought, and that safety and security is spoken of in that lyric. Where it does fall apart at the end is that last phrase. Why would a Master worth his salt feel like he’d never see his servant again? Masters in these sort of relationships, at least so far as I’ve known, are always the kind to think of their servants as endlessly attached to them. Maybe it’s a change to the servant side of it, getting his view that he feels as if he couldn’t be so lucky. I admit, there’s a bit of a stretch. #3 - The Super Thief Team Stick with me, it’s worth it. Now, you’ve got the phrase “Hand in Glove” to open things up. What Thief would ever go out bare-handed? It’s the most basic part of the Cat Burglar outfit.You got to have gloves on. Hand in glove, the sun shines out of our behinds The difference between a common criminal and a World Class Thief is that sort of narcissism. They believe that they are better, that what they do is an art, not merely a way to make some money. They elevate a theft to a masterwork, a piece of art. Not to mention that Morrissey grew up in the era of the Heist movie. ‘It’s not like any other love/This one is different because it’s us.’ They’re faking it. It’s not like any other kind of love, because they’re not really in love, or at least not in love with each other; they’re in love with taking other people’s stuff.
‘Hand in glove/We can go wherever we please/and everything depends upon/How near you stand to me’ This one is the very basis for what thieves can do. They are able to make their way wherever they want to go by the use of distractions. If he’s in a tuxedo, but she’s in a low-cut, high-slit dress, she can easily make it possible for him to get where he needs to go by drawing the eyes away. This is what got me thinking about this being what the song was actually about. OR, they could both be dressed extremely low-class, which makes sense with a couple of other lines in the song, and that allows for them to blend in. ‘And if the people stare/Then the people stare/Oh, I really don’t know and I really don’t care’ This one is one of two ways. Either the people are staring at her, or I guess his partner could be either male or female, but I think it works best as a male-female team, and a traditional form of thieving teams. He doesn’t care that they’re staring because it’s allowing him to rob the people blind. OR… it might be that the partner is dressed like a bum, and making a scene, which allows him to get into wherever it is that he’s gotta get. And then he comes back, maybe dressed in rags this time. ‘The good people laugh/Yes, we may be hidden by rags/but we’ve something they’ll never have The ‘hidden by rags’? Well, if they’re in low class, or perhaps even hoboish clothes. The ‘something you’ll never have’ is obvious whatever it is they’ve stolen. It’s so simple, no? This is about a team that is playing a pair of roles, and they’re very good at it. So, hand in glove I stake my claim /I’ll fight to the last breath /If they dare touch a hair on your head /I’ll fight to the last breath A thief, if they’re one of the good ones, really doesn’t want to get physical.They want to get away as easily as possible, but if there’s a problem, and especially if one’s partner is in trouble, that will call down the thunder of a beating. Staking his claim, he’s claiming his goods, and he’s gonna hold on to them. And his partner. He’s willing to fight to protect his partner, and his steal. For the Good Life is out there somewhere / So stay on my arm, you little charmer This is the sell, and what crooks in old heist movies call The Turn. He’s trying to convince his partner to stick with him, that they’ll get to the Promised Land. It’s unquestionably a lie. He’s trying to sell his partner on the
idea that it’s all a path to glory and fame and wonder and champagne. He’s playing his partner, turnign them into Lenny with the promise of the fuzzy bunny. ‘but I know my luck too well/I know my luck too well/and I’ll probably never see you again/I’ll probably never see you again/I’ll probably never see you again So, think about this one. He knows he’s gonna get caught. The dumb thieves, they’re the ones that think they’re too smart, they’ll never get pinched. The smart ones, they know that it’s only a matter of time, that they’ll be stuck at some point, and it’s more important to get things settled so that when you get pinned against the wall, you’ve got something to send back to ‘em instead of doing time. You turn over whoever you can, and they go into the pen, and you never see them again. He knows that his luck is about to run out, and he’ll roll on his partner, and that will be that. It’s all a part of the sun sun shining out of their behinds. And that is why this is real meaning of “Hand in Glove”. How did I not get an A on that?
Track 8 - What Difference Does it Make? (3:51) This is a song about someone who can not move on.The narrator is tied to whoever he is talking to, and he’s trying to keep them tied together, though he was the one being abused, and he’s completely unable to move along. I had one of those. It sucked. Jenn. She was The One when I was in High School. I was terrible to her. Just terrible. Thinking back, I was the kind of boyfriend that shouldn’t be a boyfriend. I was young, I was stupid, and it doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t have dated anyone, I think. I was hormones and inexperience and over-emotion and on and on. Terrible. I was awful, and at the time, I knew I was. If I had stayed that stupid, if I had been that guy any longer, I don’t know how I would have lived with myself. Sadly, she was the woman who had to deal with it, and I’ve apologized, knowing it can’t mean much, but I had to say it, at least for me. She dumped me. Damn right to, too, and I understood why, and I understood that she wanted something new, and then she started dating another guy. This was bad. Terrible. The worst thing of all. There was nothing worse than not being with Jenn, unless it was Jenn being with someone else. And then she was. I actually pulled her aside while class was about to start and sat her down on one of the Senior benches. I sat her down and I kept talking. And talking. And talking. I said that she was making a mistake. A giant mistake. She was not thinking things through. I didn’t need to be with her, but she shouldn’t be with him. From the song, the line ‘but still I’d leap in front of a flying bullet for you’ is probably EXACTLY what I said. I was trying to keep her from moving on, because I couldn’t move on, because I had been so bad, so wrong, and I had to live with the fact of what I had put her through and deal with not having her around, which was terrible because she had always been my rock. There were times, when I needed Jenn to be my balance, and she was excellent at it, but I know it must have been tiring. I can tell sometimes that Linda is exhausted dealing with my inability to manage myself in some situations. I get scared, often when I’m in a crowd where I don’t know anyone, or even worse, where I can’t make myself understood (like in Montreal or London), and I need a rock, and when I don’t have that, I kinda melt away. It’s gotta be rough to deal with that. And I did that that day at Santa Clara High, at the top of the Quad, right on the Senior benches. I look back at that moment as one of the lowest of my life. Not a moment when I felt the lowest, but when I felt as if I was actively trying to wreck someone’s happiness. That is the worst I could feel.
Cast photo from Scared Scriptless, one of very few surviving Chris Garcia in High School Photos
Track 9 - I Don’t Owe You Anything (4:05) This might be my least favorite Smiths song, largely because it feels like MozMarr trying the Adult Contemporary thing. It just bugs me. And maybe that’s the point. The Boys weren’t even through one album all the way and they’re already saying “Hey, we don’t just do one thing!” I actually remember the first time I heard this one. It was in my old Volvo. My Volvo which I loved second-best of all my cars. I had popped over to Streetlight Records for a while after school. It was my Senior year, I had a car, got gas money once a week, and could make my way around town. I went and had just enough money on me to buy a tape. There was a HUGE used tape selection at Streetlight by that point. Probably equal to the Records section. I had three Smiths album at that point, two Greatest Hits, and Meat is Murder. So, while I dug through the tapes, I saw The Smiths. It had “This Charming Man”, one of my faves, and a few songs I didn’t know. I bought it, and as I recall, a Jazz Butcher CD. Driving home, I popped out the demo from Clubber Lang, an excellent local Funk act, and popped in The Smiths. Whoever owned it prior to me had not been kind and did not rewind, so it started right in the middle of “This Charming Man”. I just kept playing, loving how the album felt like it hung together. I kept listening until “I Don’t Own You Anything” came on. I listened for about 30 second, and though I am a guy who will almost always listen to an album in its entirety, I fast forwarded. Luckily, I had a thing that stopped as soon as the next song started. Do not try and use it on Sgt. Pepper’s. It don’t work! I miss that car. It was a good car, needed fixing every few weeks, the door wouldn’t close unless you held this little piece of metal while you were closing it, which put your fingers in danger of being closed on. I had it for less than a full year, but it was a good car, and I missed it for years. Sadly, I’ll always associate it with this song, and I’m hearing it right now in my head as I type these words, and it’s making me grumble! So, this is my least favorite, which I guess means at least one person who reads this will have it as their favorite!
Track 10 - Suffer Little Children (5:28) The Moors Murders.That’s what this song is about, and it was controversial at the time. I am, sadly, a Murder fan. That sounds bad, but it’s true that tales of murder have always had a great sway over me. Partly because I grew up in the Bay Area. Channel 2 had a lot of coverage of tserial killers back in the day, every year at least one story about The Zodiac Killer. My friend Jackson Garland was fascinated by the murders, started one of the best early websites on the crimes in the 90s. It was also near the 100th anniversary of the Jack the Ripper murders, which I read up on. Then there was William Desmond Tanner, The Black Dahlia, and on and on and on. I studied up, read and read when I was a kid. I loved True Crime books, loved Detective novels, the grittier the better!It’s a thing. When I was at Steamcon last October, we did two panels: one on the Ripper and one on other murders of the 19th century. They were both very well-attended, and my co-panelist, a criminal pathologist, was amazing and had the same black sense of humor as I did. The Moors Murders. In one sense, they were what the Zodiac murders were here in the BArea, but with the notable exception that they caught the perps.The two killers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, were young, 21 and 25, and they were a strange couple indeed.They’d read Nazi propaganda and laugh their heads off, as an example. There were signs all over the place, and yet, they managed five murders. Would this happen today? Maybe. Brady was the leader. It was his idea and he was the one who performed the actual murders and sexual assaults. Most, it seems. Hindley said that she was so far under the spell of Brady that she did whatever he said. Or so she claimed. He was weird, dark, twisted. I think evil would just about cover it. There were five murders. The first was Pauline Reade, 16, walking alone, picked up by Hindley while they were followed by Brady on his motorcycle. They told her that they had to find an expensive glove on the Moor. Brady took her in, sexually assaulted her, slit her throat, then had Hindley help him bury the body. Brady said he’d wanted to commit the perfect crime. No one knew that they had killed her until after the pair confessed in the 1980s. Second, it was John Kilbride. Brady convinced him to let her drive him home because it was getting late. He was only 12. They took him to the Moor, again telling him that they were trying to find a glove. He tried to slit his throat after Brady sexually assaulted Kilbride. In the end, he strangled him with a shoestring. Next it was another twelve year old, Keith Bennett. This time, Hindley lured the kid into a hired van, then the Glove Search again. Once they were on the Moor, the same thing that happened to Kilbride happened to Bennett. Hindley stood watch in the car. Fourth was Lesley Ann Downey. It was the portion of the trial that featured a portion of audio tape of Hindley and Brady making Downey prepare herself for them. They took pornographic pictures of her, then she was strangled, buried on the Moor the next day. I read the transcript of that tape, the audio of
it will never be released, and it was chilling and terrifying. Just the transcript is difficult, powerful and it tells the of the ugliest side of human activity. Edward Evans was the last of them. He was 17, and Brady beat him to death with an Axe. It was a much different way of killing. The MO had changed. Killers don’t do that often, but they did. It was the last of the murders they committed. They were arrested, they had been suspected, but the cops only had them for three. They confessed to two others. To this day, the body of Keith Bennet has never been found. It is difficult for me to explain what it is about researching murder that attracts me, and so many others. Part of it has to be the fear-mongering. Zodiac was a huge deal to the generation of kids right before my time, and there are LOTS of folks who found deep connections, who read into it, who looked for answers. Here are a few folks’ thoughts on why there were so interested in serial killers. On the Zodiac, there is this It was a long story, but mostly he made his antics public and dared the public to try to catch him with his (usually incoherent) codes. Once you involve the public he became a phenom. Finally, there was that live TV interview with Melvin Belli (almost certainly NOT the actual killer) and that was the “go viral” moment. - Christopher Carbone All of that goes double for me. I’ve I’ve studied several, some very deeply (like Zodiac) and some only browsing popular accounts, which includes things like The Nightstalker and The Green River Killer. My reason for the Zodiac is that I grew up in the aftermath, there was still that feeling that he was out there, so much so that there were still letters and hints that, while probably not legit, could have been.
Interview with Janice Whaley - PART ONE
So, let’s start at the beginning.When’d you start singing? I’ve been singing all my life from even further back than I have memories of singing. My parents knew I liked to sing so they encouraged it by having me sing at church from a very early age. I can remember being about 3-4 years old and standing on a chair to reach the podium microphone to sing a song that I liked from Sunday School for the entire congregation. When did you first encounter The Smiths’ music? It was before high school, probably somewhere around 8th grade or so. My band director would take me to the high school jazz band rehearsals after school so that I could sit in and play music with them. I remember hanging out in the band room with some of the musicians and they were all sitting around a portable stereo listening to The Smiths. I didn’t know who it was, but I immediately liked it. That’s what you call analog-style file sharing. I learned of all my favorite bands via tapes passed around between friends. What led you to consider doing the kind of work that led to The Smiths Project? I honestly had no experience doing a cappella music at all. I knew I liked it when I heard it, but beyond that, I would sometimes record layers of my voice for fun and didn’t really know what the modern world of a cappella music was up to at all. The real catalyst for The Smiths Project was the death of two close friends and the realization that life is very, very short. I realized I’d rather leave behind music when I die, than to leave the regret of giving up. I made a promise to myself that I’d spend all of the following year singing and I chose to do covers of my favorite band as a way of keeping me on track. I didn’t have instruments around, so I just sang the songs as single-voice recordings and posted them to my blog. Once I started gaining attention, I wanted to keep the momentum going so I added more layers, more instrument sounds, learned how to beatbox, figured out how to make my voice sound like violins, synths, etc… With 71 songs to get through, I wanted to make sure each song was unique so I pushed myself to try new ideas with every song. Listening to The Smiths Project, there are some songs where you seem to hoe close to the original, others spin a bit further out into new territory. When you were considering each song, what factors determined the direction of them. Can you walk us through your process for those decisions? Nothing was pre-planned. I would put the original track in ProTools recording software and sing a few tracks (usually a bass line and drums) over that and then turn off the original song and keep singing. It was literally what ever struck me in the moment. I’d sing something and the next track would build off that, and so on. Once I had the song going in a direction I liked, I’d start editing tracks down to just the parts I liked, add volume, panning and then really get into the fine tuning of turning my voice into samples for drum sequences, synths, loops, etc. I never knew how a song would turn out and that was always very exciting for me. I was just as curious about each song as the fans were. There were only a few times I had an idea beforehand such as “What She Said”. That song always needed to be a My Bloody Valentine version, and it turned out exactly as what I heard in my head. For “How Soon As Now”, I knew I wanted to use a similar technique to Johnny Marr for getting that signature wah-wah sound and it was a fun challenge to see if I could come close to the original sound, but I was curious how different it would end up simply because it’s voice, not guitar. I love how it turned out, but I still have flashbacks to the many weeks I spent listening to that wah-wah sound in my headphones. It made me feel motion-sick every day!
Meat is Murder - Released by Rough Trade Records February 11, 1985 (Sire Records in the US)
Track 1 - The Headmaster Ritual (4:52) The Heads, the Masters, and Their Rituals By Christopher J Garcia “Belligerent ghouls.” Hap Sir looked over the now smoldering ruins of the city, his cigar, an affectation in honor of the hundreds of Marines-landing movies found on the ship’s servers. Ship-shade-grown tobacco is good enough, Hap thought. “Simulation London Falling computer.” Tech commander Fer Jauro, the four-eyed runt of the Space Marine litter, called, the walls falling away, and turning back into the slate-grey flatness with light raised faint grid-lines marking every square inch. “New simulation. Run Manchester schools.” And a new set of walls appeared. A school of the 21st Century, early, when shootings were all the rage in the days of California Wines and Ruin. And one of those shooters appeared at the end of the long hall in front of them. Hap, Fer, and Jos dove behind opposite walls as simulated bullets dove into the simulated walls nearest them. “We’ve come for the children!” One of the three masked men at the end of the hall called. “Spineless swines.” Hap said, tapping his ash onto the floor. Jos knew he’d be sweeping that up when they were done. “Cemented minds, one and all, completely weighed down in the world of hate that once was. You read much on 2016, Jos?” “Enough to know the protocals.” The young man answered. “Sir leads the troops!” Hap called as he turned and jogged forward, the younger men on wither side providing cover fire, the three bad masked men falling behind the vertical supports, though as soon as Hap fired, one of them fell to his knews, a second shot dispatching him first to a grid-outline, finally to nothingness. “He’s just jealous of youth, wants all the glory for himself.You seen what he’s wearing? Same old Suit since 1962.” “The Irish monastery simulation?” Jos asked. “Yup.” At that moment, Hap pulled tow guns out from holsters on his hips, leapt up, took a pair of steps, spinning between them, firing and taking them both out. “He does the military two-step.” Jos said, standing up fully, and then slow clapping. “Well done, Hap. Admiration sweat runs down the nape of my neck, old man.” Fer said, standing. “End simulations, store records, distribute renumerations, 40, 30, 30.” “50, 25, 25. I earned that.” Hap said. Jos rubbed his head, aching from 16 hours of training simulations. Fer was about to raise his voice to argue, but Jos shook his head. “I want to go home. I don’t want to stay. No more today, please.” Jos said quietly to Fer. “Give up education? ‘as a bad mistake, kid.” Hap answered. “We’ll take it back up mid-week on the playing field. PvP instead of against Sims?” “Sir thwacks you on the knees! Wednesday it is!” Hap said, packing up his gear, the SimGuns back into their holsters, then took a couple of steps towards the hall to the quarters, then turned, made fast-playful throwing every chop, knee, slice, trip and kick he knew without ever getting closer than 6 inches from either of his young partners. “Knees you in the Groin! Elbow in the face! Bruises bigger than dinner plates! I MUST BE THE GREATEST!” Hap said, then turned, his young men seeming stunned into statues. Hap left.
“I want to go home. I don’t want to stay.” “Da, da, da…” Fer said as he made talky-talky hand motion, then turned and walked into the hall.
Fer was doing his review of all the tapes. Berraz-wa “-Belligerent ghouls-” Berraz-wa “-Run Manchester Schools.” Fer had examined all the angles, all the movements. “Spineless bastards all.” Fer had counted no less than 16 times that, had they happened in real time real fire would have led to a couple of bodybags. Berraz-wa “-Sir leads the troops.” Berraz-wa “jealous of youth.” Berraz-wa Fer had always gone over and pulled audio of Hap’s zingers. Seldome were there any but the same old jokes from 19-2, their first sim. He turned it off, marked all the times, did his save, pinched the bridge of his nose. “Now I want to go home. I don’t want to stay.” Fer said to no one in particular. “Give up life? ‘as a bad mistake, Fer.” Hap called out from the shadows. “Must you always repeat yourself so thoroughly, Hap?” Ha stood up, walked towards the door. “It’s Wednesday.” “Please excuse me from gym,” Fer called, “I’ve got this terrible cold coming on.” “Sad to hear that. Jos is game, though.You willing to at least shot it?” “Doesn’t take much to shoot that kind thing.” Training room, and Hap is on a roll. Jos tries a kick, Hap reacts, he grabs and devours, toss him so he slides into the lockerroom, Jos scrambles, ducks behind a wall across from the shower room. “Money says I walk in there and he kicks me in the showers.” He makes like he’s about to duck into the shower, but then he turns, as he he had been staring directly at Jos, and he grabs and devours, lifts him and slams him onto the floor, driving the air out of him. “I want to go home. I don’t want to stay.” Jos says. “I AM THE GREATEST FIGHTER OF ALL TIME!” Hap yells “Da, Da, Da” Fer says from behing the camera controls, again making those familiar talky-talky motions.
Track 2 - Rushholme Ruffians (4:20) This is the last night of the fair And the grease in the hair Of a speedway operator Is all a tremulous heart requires A schoolgirl is denied She said : “How quickly would I die If I jumped from the top of the parachutes?” There is little on this Earth I love more than a good fair. Pops was a carny. Not for a lot of his life, but for a while, mostly while I was in High School and College. He’d tour the Western US with one of the outfits that did rides and games at County, State, and other regional fairs. That was his life, for a while. He had stories about the other folks with him that were dark and sad and silly and strange. He refused to do games that were totally fixed, they had to be ones that he could win. Whenever I saw him, he was on Milk Bottle Toss, which he was good at because he had a helluva arm. I was never very good at that game, but anything that resembled a penny pitch I was like Nolan Ryan starting a Little League game. I visited Dad a few times, mostly when he was at the Santa Clara County Fair, but I never got to go on The Circle, as he called it. Leave San Jose, to go Fresno, Bakersfield, Paso Robles, Solvang, Hawaiian Gardens, Culver CIty, San Diego, San Bernadino, Kingman, Las Cruces, Albuquerque,Taos, Salt Lake City, Ogden,Winnemuca, Reno, Boise, Spokane,Tacoma,Vancouver, WA, Portland, Medford, Grants Pass, Redding, Sacramento, Stockton, and then back home.The Spring and Summer sleeping in his truck, sharing tiny hotel rooms, battling thieves, trying to keep the junkies out of his stuff, the hookers at bay, giving what he could, telling stories, making friends. In other words, my Father would spend half the year as a nomad. Once, at a School Fair in San Jose, Dad got me two unlimited rides passes. He was good like that. It was easily the most crowded fair I’ve ever been to. It was what ComicCon must feel like on Saturday afternoon. And it was hot. These mid-Summer fundraisers were never at the right time of year. They’d do so much better in the dark and rainy time of year, when everyone is stuck inside! To get anywhere, you had to fight upstream, both ways, through a river of sweating patrons.The unusual thing was they took a lot of steps to make the lines on the rides move. This makes sense because if you don’t get as many people through as possible, you’re leaving money on the table, right? So, for the only time I can think of in history, they were forcing full compliments on the rides at a school fair. And the one ride I was really psyched for was The Ferris Wheel. I love getting to see the view from higher up, and this school was located right on the edge of a lovely parkland. It had a 20 minute or so line, and it was just about closing time. I hopped in line, they had these cattle-corral-type gated lines, and as soon as I was in line, they closed the gate behind me. “Last rider!” the guy called across the mid-summer crowd, and the other rides were doing the same, despite there still being a few thousand people still mixing and mingling. I waited in the line, turn after turn going and going, listening to the couple in front of my discuss some movie they saw on TV the night before (I think it was The Boy Who Could Fly) and then segue directly into Kids in the Hall. It was a fun conversation, and when there were only a few couples between me and entering the ride itself, the operator called out “I NEED A SINGLE!” Everyone turned and looked, I raised my hand. “Come on up!” And I did. Already sitting in the small rocking car was a young lady, probably 16 or so, but dressing in clothes the size of a ten year old. She had two huge pony tails out the back of her head, secured by neon scrunchies.This might have just been the style of some point in time, but in 1991, it was a bit weird. She was wearing a t-shirt, and this will speak volumes to the ways my life is a series of strange coincidences, with the cover of Meat is Murder on it. It would have been quite a nice shirt had she not cropped it just below the bottom two images of the soldier, tied it tight, baring her midriff, and the lower portion of her bra. A bra that was doing quite a bit of work, I must point out. She had square-cut the neckline of the shirt too, and it was probably a size or three too small.This was all a bit distracting
to me; at first I didn’t even notice that she was wearing a long, side-slit skirt of a shiny material. It did double-duty, adding a bit of color and still allowing her to show off rather spectacular legs. I didn’t notice any of those features at first, because of her eyes. Green. No, not emerald, or Forest, or Kelly, but R = 0, G = 255, B = 0 green. They were amazing. And she smiled when I stepped in. It was magnetic. I sat down next to her. “Hi.” I said with all the charm I could ooze, which at 16 was probably less than zero. “I love your hair.” she steamed, actually reaching and and running her fingers through it. Also, just those words were enough to get my contact drunk. “Thanks. I work hard on it.” I said. “Awesome.” And we moved forward and they loaded the next people on. And then the next, and they made it all the way through the line. Everyone who was gonna ride was ridin’. We started up and sorta lolled over my way, leaning her head on my shoulder. “I’m Sam.” “Chris. I like your shirt.” “No you don’t; you like my boobs.” I actually chuckled a bit. “Well, yeah, that, too.” “You mean these two.” She said, sliding the arm not fully pinned to me under them, performing a sort lift. This HAD to be a set-up. “Yeah, but I also dig The Smiths.” I said, tryign to work a little less blue. “Really? They’re…” She seemed to stare off into space. “What’s your favorite song?” I asked, several moments later. “Nowhere Fast.” She sorta twisted so her back was against me, and the only thing to do, obviously, was place one of my arms around her, and when I started to do so, she reached for it, took it and wrapped it around her torso firmly, and then she sang, “and if the day came when I felt a natural emotion, I’d get such a shock I’d probably jump in the ocean. i” I smiled at that. “And what about you, baby? What’s yours?” she said in a voice every bit drunkensexmagick. She somehow managed to put my hand on right hand square on her left breast, somehow between her shirt and bra, all without my active participation. “Rush Home Ruffians.” ““Rusholme Ruffians”, you mean,” she said, her hand now on top of mine, only also on top of her shirt. “Yeah, I like the rockabilly feel.”
Pause. She was nuzzling her back against me in a pleasant, distracting way. “So, you like his solo stuff.” She said, massaging my hand through her shirt. “I do.” “Good, then I don’t have to throw you out.” “How quickly would I die if I jumped from the tip of the parachute?” She laughed. We sat there, like that, motionless for a couple of minutes. Well, as still as you can on a moving ferris wheel. She sat up, forgetting that my hand was still under her shirt, almost tearing her structurally compromised shirt or breaking my wrist. “I’m kinda drunk.” She said, slurring a bit for the first time. “I kinda noticed.” “Good,” She leaned over and kissed my cheek, then whispered “you’re adorable.” “Thanks.’ This is one of those situations where everything is wrong and strange and weird, and you want it to be wonderful, but it’s too Twilight Zone for it to be anything but weird. “You’ll walk me out to my van when we get off here?” She said. “I can do that.” She snuggled back into me again. I wrapped my arm around her and we sat like that for the extra-long last ride of the night. It seemed like the sea had parted while we were on the ride. There were still people lurking around, but you could see strips of the trampled grass and blacktop now; islands of popcorn and dropped soda lake among them. We stepped off, the second group to unload, and she walked shockingly steadily, taking me by the hand as she passed me, dragging me along. “You shouldn’t drive.” I said. “I’m a few blocks from here,” She pulled me through the games area, ‘Hi, John!” she said, waving across to the guy at the Milk Bottle throw. “Hey, Sam! Hey Crittyfer!” My Dad called across to us. Yes, that’s what my Dad’s side of the family called me. Still do, too. Sam drunkenly waved at him, and Pops gave me a You Had Better Do Better Than I Would In The Same Situation look. I walked with Sam through a few streets, where there were a bunch of trucks, beat-up dusty cars, old, duct tape and bungie-dependent RVs. “How do you know my Dad?” I asked, finally able to speak after many many thoughts of many many possible futures. “He’s my Dad’s best friend.” She said.
CRAP I seldom saw my Dad, but I had heard of his friend Mike. He was... slow. Not developmentally, but he lived life at a much more deliberate pace than the rest of us. Dad had mentioned something about his daughter being around to help him out, to keep the two of them out of trouble, it seemed. We kept walking until we came to a Van, HUGE van, the kind that families of 12 rent to go to the mountains. It had seen better days, beaten and probably a gross polluter. Along the side was a painting of a circus scene. “Nice van.” I said, stupidly. “I painted that. My Dad was pissed when I did it. That’s me, on the trapeze.” She said, pointing to a girl in a tutu who was obviously Sam, her green eyes GIANT even when compared to her giant greens eyes in reality. There was a ringmaster, tigers, a flaming hoop, a man on a high wire. It was more folk art than fine art, but it was the kind of image I could have lost myself in for a few hours. “You’re good.” I said. “I do what I can.” Those words, perhaps more than anything else, stuck with me. I use that phrase all the time, constantly, and she’s the one I got it from, on that strangest of all possible nights. “My Dad and your Dad’ll probably up tearing down and talking until dawn. Pops’d be pissed if he knew I got into Freddy’s booze.” “My Pops or your’s?” I asked. “My Dad’s Mike, your dad’s Pops. To everyone around here.” “No wonder you didn’t stop to chat.” I said. She leaned up against the van, reached out and took the edge of my Hawaiian shirt between her fingers, which had nails the color of tropical birds singing in the trees. “So, this is it? Will you at least come in; tuck me in?” I swallowed in a cartoon-ish fashion. “Sure.” She slid open the door to the van and, somehow, what greeted me was almost an apartment. Length-wise up against the front seats was a bed, a small night stand by the head of it with an alarm clock. It was fully made, with a seatbelt strapped across the middle, and one right down by the feet. Then there was a chair built into the wall where three wooden folding tables hung above. A sliding curtain, red velvet, the kind you’d see at a movie theatre in front of the screen, separated the action in the back section. “Welcome to my humble van.” She said. She crawled in, pushed the curtain revealing her bedroom. A bed, seatbelts at the waist and feet again, posters of Morrissey and Joy Division on the wall, a small dresser. “Come in, I wanna show you a few things.” And I slid my way in as she hopped onto her bed. She patted it and I took a seat. She pulled off her shirt, revealing highly-taxed bra beneath, bent over and slid a box from beneath her bed, opened it revealing a great many t-shirts, all cut and ripped and safety-pinned. She started to lay them out, some on the bed, some on the floor, some she managed to attach to the walls and get them to stay. “I do these all summer.You like ‘em.” They were concert t-shirts, The Cure, They Might Be Giants, Elvis Costello, The Specials, Madness. They were amazing. I spent so much time examining them, searching out how she did it that I was buying no attention to the largely air-exposed body next to me.
“Which one do you want me to put on?” She asked. I reached across her, pulled the Madness shirt off the wall, brushing my body against her fully. It was completely unsuave. She had cut it into strips, then re-sewn it into a single garment, though one that allowed much to show through. “OK, and it good, because that’s a night-shirt!” She said, taking the shirt and scampering to the other side of the curtain, though not at all closing it. She popped her bra off, almost comically, I diverted my eyes best I could, but I’ll admit, I briefly got the eyeful she intended. She put the shirt on, then took off the skirt, and walked on her knees back to the bed, undid the seatbelts, motioned me to stand-up, so I slid off the bed to the floor, and she crawled under the covers. “OK, tuck-in time.” She said, her voice having a strange come-hither tone to it. I froze, I admit it. Completely and totally, It took a bit, but finally, I tucked the blankets around her, starting with her toes and working upwards. She was giving me Those Eyes. You know the ones, if you’ve ever had a significant other who is suitably sensually intelligent. I tried to keep my mind on the business at hand, which was keeping my hands off of her business, which I managed for the most part. “And the belts.” she said. I reached around and grabbed the seatbelts and buckled her in. Her arms were free, so she reached up and put her arms around my neck, pulled me down for a hug with her “No goodnight kiss?” She cooed. COOED!, directly into my ear. I pulled my head away slightly, tendered her a gentle kiss on the cheek. “You’re sweet.” She said, putting her hand to my cheek as I slightly withdrew. “Sweet dreams.” I said. “Nothing but.” She responded. I paused, looked at the young lady in the bed, smiling incredibly sweetly, and only now showing a slight drunkenness in those eyes.Those green eyes. I crawled backwards, out of the van, closing the door and walking back to the Fair area. I was thinking only of her, of those eyes, of the way her cheek felt against my lips, her body against mine on the Ferris Wheel. I took the long way, more time to live in those dreams. I got there, and the gate had a huge gentleman, a friend of my Dad’s named Tiny, standing guard. “Hey, kid, you got five minutes. I saw Johnny over at the Fryer.” “Thanks.” I said, not really appreciating anything but the surrealism of the last hour or so. I got to the fryer and Dad was there, a few other guys sitting around, enjoying corndogs and paper bags of popcorn, the guy I figured for Freddy handing a huge flask around. “Hey, Kid.” Pops said as I walked over. “That’s your son?” The guy sitting across from Dad said. “Yep, and I’ll even admit it.” I said. “Then you must not be as smart as your Dad says you are,” the guy said, standing and laughing, “I’m Mike.” “Heard a lot about you. Nice to meet you finally.” “He’s the kid who walked Samantha back to the car?” Mike asked my Dad. “That’s him, my kid.” “Kinda shocked your back this soon.” Mike said, a little chuckle on his voice. “Just had to make sure she was save and sound.” I said, defense against any coming accusations. “He’s a good kid,” Dad said, “but once in a while, he’ll do something stupid.” Pops said, giving me the You Totally Misread That Last Look I Gave You look.
Sometimes, my Dad was a difficult guy to read. Every time I saw Dad for the rest of his life, he’d say ‘Sam says Hi.’ and tell me some tale of how he ran into Mike or Sam or her Husband or some such. When we had Dad’s memorial, I gave a short speech. if you thought I cried a lot when I won the Hugo, this would convince you that it was not an isolated incident. I hadn’t noticed her at the back of the church until the end. “Pops was a good guy,” Sam said, pulling me aside by my sleeve, “Johnny was so proud of you. So was my Dad. When I was taking care of Dad, Johnny’d come over, they’d talk about you every time. They loved your little magazines.” I hugged her quickly. She looked so very different. She wore a blue blouse, her curves still there, only a couple of new ones added. The eyes were still The Eyes, even if they were placed in slightly wrinkled settings. She looked decent for thirty-five. “Thanks, I whispered. Hows your Dad?” I said, taking a step back. “He passed last year. Same thing, colon cancer.” “I’m so sorry.” “It’s OK. It was easier on him than on your Dad. Mike died after eighteen months. Took your Dad twice that long.” We hugged again. “It’s my fortieth birthday party in a couple of weeks, if you wanna come.” “I’d love to,” I said. She walked with me and my sister for a while, and while that was happening, I did some math. “You were twenty-four when we met that night?” I asked as we exited the church into the court across from San Jose State. “What can I say? I age well, and you were the most darling guy I’d ever met that night.” Dad would have loved this story. Maybe that’s what bothers me the most about losing Dad when I did. He’d have loved hearing about my adventures in fandom, about my time playing with Evelyn, about being the Man of the House, about all the things I’ve managed in that last few years. He’d have loved Linda. I’d have loved to tell him all about the wild ride it’s been, all in the highly embellished forms that he preferred. Alas, it never happened. And sadly, I never made it to that birthday party.
Track 3 - I Want the One I Can’t Have (3:14) On the day that your mentality Catches up to your biology. I’ve written about my young, stupider days. Jenn was one. Rochelle is another. It was Kelie what taught me that I was an idiot, and snapped me out of it, mostly. Time did the rest. That’s one read: you should wait until you are no longer a mess of hormones and lack of life experience before you go playing in the fields of Eros. What most think the song is about is someone who is coming to grips with the fact that their desires are lagging behind the clear message of their being. One way to look at it is a gay man, obviously either in denial or just unsure, who either can’t or won’t come to grips with that fact, and the other guy who is willing and waiting for him to come to that decision. Or it’s about a guy who thinks he’s gay and the woman who is waiting for him to realise that he’s not. I’ve seen that exactly twice in my life, during college. He was a tall, well-dressed playboy type. He had run through every out, and several formerly straight, guys in the dorm by the end of orientation week, or so it seemed. Tommy was a good-lookin’ guy, jaw like you wouldn’t believe, but he had a friend. Carrin, as I remember it. She wasn’t much to look at, at least not to me. She was a sweetheart to him, always doting on him, and she was rather brusque to the rest of us. We weren’t overly-friendly, but sometimes we’d work on stuff together for classes. She was always with with him, when we watched things in the Lounge, she was leaned up against him. Of course, they’d talk for hours and hours, spend so long in the dining hall for lunch that us early eaters would sit down with ‘em after having left them there before classes. Tommy grew up in the South, Raleigh, and had wonderful stories of stalking the underground Gay community, working his way through guy after guy. So, how strange was it the night, wrecked with insomnia, that I walked by the door to the lounge about four am and saw the two of them making out through the cut-out. This wasn’t that rare a happening, if you lived in one of the triples of quads, you often took a date to the lounge, and when it was late enough, you’d have almost perfect privacy. I decided it would be better to go out walking in the Boston night, up Beacon Street, out to towards the State Capital. I was never hassled, largely because I never owned a jacket and still walked in the cold night air. I was gone for at least an hour, walking past the Lounge door again, I could see that they were still at it, now snuggled up together underneath a blanket I don’t remember being there before. I went back to bed. I slept through the day, and well into the night. The talk of the dining hall at dinner was that someone else had walked by, had seen and now the tongues were wagging. I retired to the lounge that evening, and Carrin was in there, working on her Math work away from the roommates she hated. “Hey.” “Hi the’.” She had one of those Boston accents. I wanted so badly to bring it up, but she did. “Yes, it happened.” I was rather stunned by this. “Thanks for confirmation.” I said. “It’s just, I’ve been gettin’ so much shit from eva’body about it ‘cause they thing I’m just a fag hag who got ha’ boy drunk and fucked ‘em.” I nodded, because honestly, the thought had crossed my mind. “I just love ‘em, and he finally figa’ed out he loves me.” “Good.” I said, the only word that I thought would work.
And it was good.They dated, though as I understand it not exactly monogamously, the rest of their days at school, and at least into the Friendster years, the last time I had either of them on my Friends List. They seemed happy, or as happy as a couple who you only see through occasional updates and photos can seem. I met a guy a couple of years ago through Cinequest who had gone through Sexual Re-Programming. He mentioned it after a screening of a documentary while we were at an after party. I was curious, and as I often do, I asked why he’d decided to go that direction. “I don’t like being gay. I just don’t. Too much baggage.” He said. He’d met a girl who had ben through the program, and they’d hit it off, and they seemed to be having a great time at the festival when I saw ‘em together. “You ever get the urge to go back?” “Sure, I don’t watch a lot of Tom Cruise movies anymore,” he joked, but then added “but really, I love Cindy and she’s just wonderful. That’s far more important to me than some lust-fueled fantasy.” Who knows if it stuck, I didn’t see him this year at the fest, but I often wonder if some folks are waiting for their mentality to catch-up with their biology well-beyond those early years.
Track 4 – What She Said (2:42) What she said “I smoke ‘cause I’m hoping for an Early death And I need to cling to something!” I was never really a smoker. I enjoyed a good cigar from time to time, but not for almost a decade, now. I loved them once, and proudly, though cigarettes, never my thing. I actually programmed myself not to smoke, and it was a smart way. I was 19 or so, back from from Emerson for the summer, and relaxing, enjoying myself and my friends, though many of them were far more busy that to have time to hang out. Several of my friends were smokers, and hanging out, I found that once in a while I would want to join in on the smoking fun. I knew this was a bad idea, so I came up with a plan. I went to Mission City Pipe & Tobacco, bought a Hemingway Classic, an AMAZING cigar, and at 20 1994 bucks it better have been, and then to the 7-11. There – a pack of Blacks, clove cigarettes, and a pack of Marlborough Reds. I went to my favorite park, the one where there were never any cops, and brought a blanket, a portable CD player, a gallon bottle of water, and a lighter. Oh, and gum. Always have gum. So, I walked into the park, found a lovely spot between two small hills where no homeless folks were within eyeshot, and spread the blanket, set-up the CD player, lit the cigar, savored its amazing scent, complicated smoke that rose in blue-grey ironwork to the sky. The taste did burn a bit, but you’d roll it in your mouth and it would somehow react, and you’d get that buzz where the chemicals worked their way in, and the flavors of the Dominican Republic and of experts working magic on what once was medicine. I loved smoking Hemingways. After that, I lit a Marlborough. Smoked it fast, took a couple of puffs into the lungs, but mostly I smoked it like a cigar.Then, a clove.Than another cigarette, a clove, another cigarette. I had made it ½ way through the pack of Marlboroughs, and actually finished the pack of blacks, as I recall, and then I got up, walked over to a patch of dirt with a massive redwood growing out of it, and threw up. Heavily. Loudly. I walked back to the blanket, took a mouthful of water, swished it around, spit it out on the grass, then repeated the process over by the tree, then I found a stick, used it to bury the evidence as best I could. I rinsed at least five more times. I went back to the blanket, laid down, closed my eyes, woke up to a dead CD player, having played as long as I had slept. I should lie and say that I woke up to those very lyrics I printed, but, in fact, I think it was a Skankin’ Pickle CD that I had left on. Still, at some point in the process, I must have put on my Best of The Smiths CD. Hardly a day went by when I didn’t. And, to this day, I’ve never touched another cogarette. Or a clove. And Cigars became rarer and rarer.
Track 5 – That Jokes Isn’t Funny Anymore (4:59) Ah, the overdose suicide song. That’s the best reading of it I’ve heard. I’ve had my time under the thrall of stinging liquids and pointed powders, and I’ve talked about about my time using extensively, though often ambiguously. Recently, a friend of mine who’s never tried anything stiffed than an un-watered drink asked me about what it was like to use coke. “Well, people don’t throw their lives away over the stuff because it sucks.” was my answer. I was never as big a user as those around me. I couldn’t have been, wouldn’t have been. They were older, smarter, less terrified of the world than I was. When you fear nothing more than death, you don’t find yourself in situations where it might happen. You don’t walk too near the Valley of Death, either on purpose or by accident. I always kept one foot on the floor, as it were, and when it was time to kick, I did. It wasn’t that hard, but there were cravings in certain situations for years and years. I’ve not fallen backwards into them, and now they are gone gone gone. She, on the other hand, let them take her, probably invited them to. One evening, I got a call from a mutual friend. “She died, Chris.” was the first thing Monica said. Only she used the name. “She’s dead.” I said, specifically not using the name. “Yeah. She’d dead.” Just like that. It’s hard on me to think of her, and nothing brings her back as strongly as hearing ‘I just might die with a smile on my face after all’ in Morrissey’s most lovingly dark-humor. She loved Morrissey, go figure. Suicidal teenaged girl who no one could help because she would go out of her way to destroy those of us who tried, into Morrissey? Who’d have considerer that a possibility? When she’d call, we’d talk and she’d be perky, jazzed about some new thing or another. Then we’d hang out, and she’d mope, sometimes tears would silently leak from her eyes for seemingly no reason.We’d talk, she’d say that she was thinking dark thoughts, she’d go and get some help, but they’d always return. She was released from Safe less than a month before she finally managed it after four or five variouslyhearted attempts over the years. She had acquired a deficiency back in the days when that was a death sentence. I guess it still is, as is life, but it was not like it is today, when you might not even see the end of the tunnel for long days. She saw it very near, and she decided to speed into it, through it, on a fast fast horse. She knew she had been lucky to be alive after playing in so many poppy fields. In earlier days, she would disappear for hours, days; now, she never left the house, afraid of the sun, she’d say. In The Desert, who isn’t? According to the report, she shot up three times that day, that hour. She’d spent the early morning around the house, playing with the the neighbor’s little girl. She’d brought her over, played with her all morning. They watched cartoons, they played with her dolls. When her parents came to pick the little girl up, they said they’d never seen their neighbor so happy. They thought she had turned a corner, that her well-known problems were finally gone, or at least swept far behind the curtain. They found her that night, in the back, on the porch. They found her kit at her feet, all of it closed up, everything where it belonged., neatly packed and tucked away. She was wearing a bikini, hat, sunglasses, a Dr Pepper on the table next to her. It had been three or four when she died, the sun shining down on her pale skin; the warmth and the cold probably fighting it out in her last minutes. Her Mom said she was smiling, probably happy to finally be back in the sun. I thought it was because she’d finally touched that highest of highs; the one that every junkie knows exists, but refuse to believe leads only to death. I got the call that night, nine-ish. It was one of the first calls I ever got on a cell phone. I cried, of course, and I got angry, I denied, I bargained, I accepted. Except in my stupidest daydreams, when I saw her and I running away together and starting a family of tall thin blonde girls and stocky brown-haired boys, I never thought she would grow old. Never. She wanted off the merry-go-’round for no reason more than it hurt to ride along with
everyone else for so long. She packed a lot of living in, though. A whole lot. More than I’ve managed so far, and I’ll probably be playing catch-up for another decade or so, but she went out on the porch and took in the sun, the H, the final moments. I didn’t go to the funeral. I still hate myself for not being strong enough to do it, but it hurt too much to think that this woman who’d brought me so much joy had not received even a tenth of that from me, from the world. If she had, she’d never have done it. And to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever uttered her name aloud...
Track 6 a – Nowhere Fast (2:37) I was listening to “Nowhere Fast” in my room when I got an idea. It was a book idea. I have those a lot; sometimes good ideas, usually terrible ideas. The song’s most interesting lyric is, of course ‘The poor and the needy are selfish and greedy’ which has always appealed to me, and that day, laying on my bed reading Starman and Hitman comics, I had a lightning bolt strike. The novel would have been written in three parts. The first part would be called Running Away. It would be the story of Julian, a beautiful young man, beautiful was the most important word in there, who meets a girl called Julia, who he falls for instantly, then goes with her on a roadtrip the first night they meet to go to a Hippie Hangout, a Grateful Dead analogue gathering, and they have wild, weird, creepy sex on the way there; well, until he murders her, buries her in a field outside the concert, then goes in and is all debaucherous and stuff. That’s part one. Part Two – The Kid. While Julian is at the Hippie Hangout, he meets Juliet, a too-young girl of 15, who convinces him to drive her to Washington to see the Star-Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian. They’re both excessively messed-up, so he does it, and they talk the entire way there, twenty-one hours of driving, with neither of them taking as much as a wink of sleep. They actually get there, and she jumps in and grabs the flag, gnaws at it tryign to eat it. He pulls her off of it, but then he sees Julia staring at him from the crowd that has gathered and runs away into Washington. Part Three – Wishlist. Julian is older now, much older; a weathered man of 80. He has been haunted by Julia for the last sixty years. She has shown up every time there is a significant moment in his life, saying things that only he can hear, though she’s able to move things and constantly rearranges his tiny Georgetown apartment. He’s now dying of cancer, and she comes to him and they have a rowdy conversation about what he did to her, why he did it, and he blasts back that she’s hanging on too long, but then things change and twist and you’re kinda left wondering which one is the bad guy. See, you already do not want to read it!
Track 6b – How Soon is Now (Track Six on post-1992 versions of the album) (6:46) In polls on various Modern Rock stations in the 90s, this was chosen as the greatest Modern Rock song of all-time. I can’t argue. It’s everywhere. Literally, after having written the last sentence, I walked to 7-11 to get cash, a PT Cruiser was blaring it with its windows down. Without my mentioning it, JC Arkham, BASFAn in goodstanding, mentioned it at the meeting this week. It really is everywhere, from the opening of Charmed, to a dozen movies over the years. It’s a favorite of mine, but I have no idea what it means. Let me talk a bit about the impact of the song. The first is that guitar. Incredibly well-processed, lots of feedback, reverb, doubled sounds. It’s fuzzy enough to draw us into a world of its own, somewhere that is not here, that is not exactly a settling place to stand; the ground might give away at any moment. This is the setting. It’s nothing from the lyrics that sets that scene, it’s Johnny Marr’s guitbox and the peddles. It’s impressive. Then Morrissey comes in with “I am the son, and the heir...” and his voice, ethereal at it’s best, is afloat on top of the raging sea. The lyrics are a bit vague, even for Morrissey, but they are beautiful. Truly beautiful. You’ve got a perfect pairing: the strident and the velvet. The cutting and the soothing. It’s amazing. My all-time favorite conversation about “How Soon Is Now” went as follows “What’s your favorite Smiths song?” I asked. “They did more than just “How Soon Is Now?” “Yeah, they had a bunch of albums.” “I think you’re thinking of The Stone Roses.” “They only had two albums. The Smiths had 4.” “Sure they did...” My Mom always complained when I would put The Smiths into the tape player in the car. Mom and Dad agreed on one thing! She said that they were boring, simple lyrics, and awful music. She would often pop the tape out after one song, but on a radio station, inevitably playing Fleetwood Mac. It was the 80s in the Bay Area, afterall. Then, one day, “How Soon is Now” came on the radio, and I fully expected my Mom to change the channel. But she didn’t. Instead, we listened to the entire song, Mom actually SINGING ALONG! She knew the lyrics! My Mom knew the lyrics to THE Modern Rock classic of all classics! I don’t know where she would have heard it, but she damn sure knew it. Sometimes, and it’s rare, I can connect with my Mom. My Dad and I had a lot more in common than me and my Mom do, but it was moments like that in the car, on the way to school, we shared one thing: we both KNEW the lyrics to a Smiths song! To me, often it’s the little things...
Track 7 – Well I Wonder (4:00) I held her hand, long ago, and still remember that she smelled like apples. That’s always how these things start, right? There’s a hand-holding and the smells of the moment that jump back at you. It’s significantly more complicated as you pull back from the close-up. In that moment, as I see it in my fonder memories, it’s her blue eyes staring at mine on that couch in her family’s house in Belmont, our hands gripping one another tenderly, and neither of us saying much, just me enjoying her scent. It’s July 4th, more accurately, early July 5th, and I haven’t slept since I was in the air, somewhere over the Midwest, very late on July 3rd.
The frame slides back a bit. Now you can see a very tired, and kinda stocky, young man, clearly in the thrall of a beautiful young woman, sitting on a couch in the living room of an old house, maybe a hundred-and-fifty years, but made up softer, the place giving off the wooden, Earth-toned comfort of a library, but the blanketed softness afforded only to private homes of the late 1990s. Next to the pair, a Simpsons book, The Simpsons’ Family Album, and a book on the Armenian Genocide. The shelf full of LaserDiscs on the lower portion of the unit; a shelf of gaming systems above them. He desperately wants to kiss her, but he can not. She desperately wants him to stay, but that kiss he wants has never been considered. She just wants to hold him there, to talk until dawn, through morning, into the afternoon. She says so, but quietly. She wants her friend here, within the circle of her arms. The camera slides back, the walls that surround the un-doored doorway showing pictures: family in the old country, family in the New World, little girls, blonde then and brunette as she cuddles on the couch now, and young boys looking at the camera unhappily. There is a painting, Abstract Expressionist-styled but by a 4 year old. The edge of a cabinet with The Good China is visible.The two on the couch are so still, they don’t realize that the TV is still on, that the video he insisted on is still playing, the volume down low enough so the family upstairs can not hear it. The Smiths LIVE, a bootleg video purchased at Mystery Train for all the rest of the money he had brought with him from California. She doesn’t move, as if this were a Daguerreotype and her required exposure time long, longer than she hoped, shorter than she desired. He moves, from this distance almost inperceptibly, to find comfort in what should be the dream of his comfort. They sit there, the song audible barely over their greater silence – Well I wonder, well I wonder, please keep me in mind. Keep me in mind. Keep me in mind. And finally, the camera drives, the image cross dissolves to a different couch, a California futon, ugly green, and crumb-dusted. The two are there, though not touching. She has cried, he has fumed. She is still, still, he fusses, continuously.There is nowhere for the camera to slide back towards; this is a single set-up, the only camera position possible in this tiny, expensive apartment. Dutch-tilt on a pair that have drifted so far from the time when he could not kiss her; drifted into a time when he could not even look at her, at the woman he had finally seen in all her glory, light and dark. He had finally found the breaking point, when she was no longer that woman on the couch in that Belmont living room. Officially, they were 3 years, 2 months coupled, now thirty seconds un-coupled. There is a bitterness on both sides. His joy died, long before this quiet extinction, and she will not wilt in shadow of a mountain un-moving she says, soft-angrily. He is broke, broken. How could he still be the man who brought her over the wall in his arms, in delicious light and joyous celebrations? The next meal might be the last he could afford, the rent comes due every month and every month he prays a check happens to cross its path to provide coverage. It is ugly, and instead of exploding at each other, they simply drift; him into depression, her into a blonde-blued comedian. It is over long before they took up the couch this December night. His car is already packed. They walk out together. They’ll talk arrangements later. She kisses him one last time. How’s that for cinema? He leaves, the camera follows him. He pulls out, the frame following him, onto Younger, turns with him onto First Street, goes a block and parks along the street, turns off the car, and cries. The camera dawdles on him a moment, just enough to catch the tears and the lights going off, then drifts over, flies over the overpass, over the airport, up into space. What we hear is a phone call. She calls her blonde-blue, her voice as smooth as if she sang Billie Holiday. She asks him over: they’re sleeping in HER bed tonight. They say good-bye, see you soon, and then the music starts up. Well I wonder, do you hear me when you sleep? I hoarsely cry, “Oh...”
Track 8 – Barbarism Begins at Home (6:57) Let’s not have this be Chris Mourns His Mistakes! Let us bring some levity here, which is kinda funny when you consider the Smiths aren’t exactly the most ‘up’ band you’ll ever hear. I mean seriously, if you think I’m glum, look at what they’re singing! So, “Barbarism Begins at Home”. This is one of my favorite Smiths songs. It’s not quite the rollicking joy that is “Rusholme Ruffians”, but it’s so great. There’s a touch of disco to that bass groove. The music plays long after we lose the lyrics, which always kinda felt like an afterthought. This was always meant to be a groove. The lyrics are interesting, but this song is often just about a single day day to me: Christmas Day 1992. I kinda need to set the scene, because without it, it hardly makes sense. My Grandmother was a wonderful lady. She was born roughly on the Armistice Day. I can only narrow it down to roughly because I’m not 100% sure when she was born... or when Armistice Day is. I just know it’s close. Like all Grandparents, well most I’d venture, she was lovely and sweet, opinionated, and just a step out of touch with her own children’s generation, and that amount squared with her grandchildren’s. I introduced her to some television, and a few movies that I thought she might like, but she preferred her Hank The Elder and Slim and movies from the thirties and forties. It makes sense, I guess. So, one year, my Grandmother got very enthused. She wanted to get me a Christmas present that she would show how in touch with her Grandson she was. She went to the WalMart ON HER OWN! I capitalize that because she never went anywhere on her own, by her own insistence! If she wanted to go to the store, she’d call one of us, we’d come over and she’d drive us there, NEVER ask to drive her yourself, that’s a foolish move, but she had never gone to the store alone as long as I had been around. So, this was the business. Somethin’ was happenin’ here, and it was going to be strange. It was going to be so strange, that my Mom ventured into my room one night. I was wearing my headphones, probably reading American Flagg, my favorite comic at the time. Or maybe I was re-reading The Pope of Greenwich Village. I do know what I was listening to, though. That was Barbarism Begins At Home, for sure. At that point, I was on my first, and until 2000 only, facial hair experiment. I had a goatee. It looked weird, and I had done lemon juice streaks at my temples. I was trying to get the idea of a House of Mysteries narrator across with my appearance, it seemed. I so could not pull it off. Mom actually did the unplugging the headphones to get my attention. I tapped on the left ear-cup a few times, then turned and found Mom standing in the doorway. “OK Chris, you’re Grandmother has been out shopping.” “I heard.” I said, trying to drip teenaged indifference along with the phrase. “She’s very excited. I don’t know what she bought, but she says you’re going to love it, and you could really hurt her feelings if you don’t at least try to pretend that it’s the best gift you’ve ever got.” Now, my mother seldom talked to me about family stuff, unless it was in a yelling fashion, so I know, I knew this was serious. No one could figure out what it was, but she called almost every day and she kept mentioning that it was going to be the best present of all-time. Christmas came around, and in California, it’s usually cold, but sunny. It worked. It had been really cold the rest of the week leading up, which was rare, but it did make it kinda Christmas-y. We all gathered early in the morning, I always woke up about 6:30, but the rest of the family wasn’t awake until at least 8:30, and Susie didn’t bring Gramma over until 9ish. It’s awful to wait when you’re the one who has been promised the best present ever! And gramma walked in carrying large square something wrapped in shiny metallic wrapping paper. I had no idea what it was going to be, but when she let Susie carry her oxygen tank while she carries the present, you knew it was something important to her. “Merry Christmas!” She called walking through the door. Susie was sorta hurrying along, best as she could, with Gramma’s O2 and her own presents and food stuffs. Gramma hurried up to me, handed off the
present. “And this is your’s, Christopher!” she said, as excited as I’ve seen her in years. She dropped the fluffy-light present on my lap. “Well, go on and open it.” My Mom said in a hinting voice. I grabbed a corner and ripped across, the rip revealing neon and pink beneath. My Grandmother’s face was as happy as I’d ever seen her. I finished the unwrapping. I didn’t figure it out until I had it completely opened. It was a clear plastic square filled with a comforter. I spun it around and looked at the thing. It was an Official New Kids On The Block comforter. In 1992. Not the top boy band of the day any longer, also not at all what I’d be listening to at the time. I was a senior in High School, after all, and while I had twice seen them after 8th grade at the beautiful Redwood Amphitheater, they were way behind me. I had a series of thoughts. First was that this was the proof Gramma wasn’t in touch with the day. Second, it was bright neon in a world that was far more Pearl Jam than Lisa-Lisa & The Cult Jam. And third, and possibly most importantly, it looked warm. I unzipped the thing, pulled the comforter out and wrapped it around myself. It was warm. Warm and toasty and lovely wonderful. “Do you like it?” Gramma asked. “It’s perfect!” I said, enjoying the fact that I was getting warmer and warmer with the second. I took that comforter with me to college. It came home with me after school. Sadly, Gramma didn’t make it that long, we shared only one more Christmas, but very time I got under the covers in those cold Boston winters, or brought a girl back to the suite and she giggled at the comforter, I thought of Gramma and the happiness that played on her face that Christmas.
Track 9 – Meat is Murder (6:06) Yeah, so this whole album was a good bit more political than The Smiths. It’s a
good album, really good, and it ends with Morrissey’s plea to everyone: Meat is Murder. I get it, he loves animals. So do I. He says we shouldn’t eat them. I disagree. It happens. We gotta treat animals well along the way, but I don’t share his opinion. But this song so completely reminds me of a great argument I witnessed once in High School. Meadow must have been the daughter of Hippies. Well, former Hippies and her Mom was then a Librarian as I remember it. She was, without doubt, the hottest girl in her class at Santa Clara High. She was two years older than me, and we were both drama folks. Jessica was the girlfriend of a friend of mine, Christian. She was a lot of fun, a silly sort who might be called adorkable these days. She was a lot of fun, and could pull off Chuck Taylor Converse with a slinky prom dress. They were, at one time, the two most notable vegetarians at Santa Clara. Meadow faltered, or more accurately, found that she enjoyed BBQ. Jessica was probably the closest to Morrissey when it came to MEAT IS MURDER! We all tended to eat lunch around the Band Tables. Your school probably had them too, and it’s highly possible you sat at them yourselves. These folks were my friends, and we passed around Stephen King novels, and Dune, and Monty Python tapes. One day, we were all sitting around, and someone had brought a steak. Not left-over steak, but they had Foods the period before lunch and they brought it out for lunch. Eating it, sitting across from Jessica, he was enjoying it mightily, while Jessica was enjoying only a handful of Altoids. “You know, some poor animal DIED so you could eat that! You don’t have to take so much joy out of their murder!” She said. “You know you’re eating meat just like he is, right?” Meadow said. “What are you talking about?” Jessica said. “Gelatin. In those Altoids.” was the response from Meadow. Jessica looked around, then stood up, walked over to the garbage can, stuck her fingers in her mouth, and threw up. She straightened up, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand like a Black Hat Cowboy in an old Western, and walked away.
Interview with Janice Whaley - PART TWO
OK, I’ve got to geek for a moment. I am the world’s BIGGEST mark for The State, and Psych is one of the best TV detective shows ever created, and Thomas Lennon (of The State) and James Roday (of Psych) and Cirt Smith (of Tears for Fears) were important parts of the project How did they find out about it? What roles did they play (I see Roday and Smith as two of the Producers, for example)? What’s come of those connections so far and in the Future? Tom Lennon is a huge Smiths/Morrissey fan and he heard about my project very early on. He was the first famous person to tweet about it and he really helped get the ball rolling. We’ve since become friends and have even done a few impromptu Smiths covers together. James Roday saw an article about me in The Guardian UK and flipped out when he realized he knew me from 1997 when we were both on an internet mailing list for fans of The Sundays. A bunch of fans got together and did a tribute album to The Sundays and we both had songs on it. This was WAY before facebook- everything was text based so there were no picture icons to know each other by. He also wasn’t going by the last name Roday yet, so I never made the connection that he was the same person from the mailing list, but he remembered my name and contacted me after reading the Guardian article. He has been a huge supporter ever since. He also is responsible for introducing me to Curt Smith. James and I did a TFF cover song of Ideas as Opiates for Curt’s birthday a few years ago Because of my connection with James, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting Curt Smith. He asked me to collaborate with him on the song Trees from his re-released album, Mayfield. The song is here: http://curtsmith.bandcamp.com/track/trees-feat-janice-whaley Curt Smith might just be the nicest human on the planet. I’m constantly amazed that I’ve had this chance to get to know him. Both James and Curt are so amazingly supportive, I don’t know where I’d be without them. I’m an a cappella fan from way back (The Flips are one of my all-time favorite acts!) and the current Vocal Music scene is kind of exploding due to YouTube.What drew you to going all Vocal on The Smiths Project? Simply put: I didn’t have instruments and I knew if I tried, it would take longer and I wouldn’t reach my goal of completing every song within the year. Softball questions- What’s your favorite Smiths song? Which one did you have the most fun performing? Outside of the Smiths, what are some of your faves? What do you think of Morrissey’s solo work? My favorite Smiths song changes every day, but I always love “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”, “Rubber Ring,” “A Rush and a Push and the Land We Stand On is Ours” to name a few… I loved doing my live-loop version of The Queen is Dead. It takes a while to work up all those layers but I like the end result. I am a huge fan of Thom Yorke and would absolutely love to work with him on something ANYTHING someday. Next time you see him, let him know, wouldya? I love Morrissey’s solo work. If his catalog had been less extensive, I might have considered it for my project…
The Queen is Dead - Released by Rough Trade Records June 16th, 1986 (Sire Records in the US)
Track 1 – The Queen is Dead (6:24) There is an affinity between bookstores and music, in particular The Smiths. I go to Recycle Bookstore in San Jose a lot, and there’s always music going to. They’ve always playing something at a low volume and more often than not, it’s The Smiths. And in particular, it’s The Queen is Dead. I bought a book at Recycle Bookstore once, well, I’ve bought HUNDREDS of books from Recycle over the years, but there was one that really turned me around, made me take interest, and most importantly, brought me to choose the cover of this zine. Hollywood Babylon Kenneth Anger was, perhaps, a Child Actor, perhaps having played the role of the Changeling Prince. There’s been a lot of discussion as to whether or not it’s actually Anger, there’s records that say it was Sheila Brown. EIther way, he was around Hollywood forever, and has been making movies, largely documentaries, and he changed the world of Queer Cinema, making movies that are probably best described as Homoerotic in the age when It was still illegal to be gay. GO figure. Now, Anger himself wrote a book in the 1950s. It told stories of Hollywood. It was all about the dark side of Hollywood. The murders, the drugs, the seedy underbelly. There are stories that are almost certainly untrue (for example, that Ramon Navvaro was found with a dildo in his mouth that had been given to him by Rudolf Valentino. Such a thing never happened, nor the object existed. The Clara Bow And The USC Football Team is often claimed to be a lit, though I remember talking to an old-timer at the Rooseveldt during on of those Hollywood History Weekends in the 1990s, who lived in Hollywood from about 1900 to 1950 and worked catering, and when she found out I was interested in Hollywood history, I said yes and she asked if I’d read Hollywood Babylon. I said yes, and she mentioned that she knew that Anger was full of shit. I laughed at that, then she said, “Except that Clara Bow line. She would have had to take time out of her busy schedule whoring about town to service a whole team!” The kind of book that Hollywood Babylon is could be debated. I’d say it’s a slambook, the kind of thing that is created to keep track of the chatter, and that’s important. So very important. I know, I know, you say it’s the worst kind of rumor-mongering, and it is; it also records the whisoers, and even if they’re not true, they have value. Did Hearst kill Thomas Ince? It’s hard to say for sure, but it was circulating around the world of the Servants of LA for years because Chaplin’s driver saw Ince coming off the boat with bulletwound in his head. Or did he? Does it matter if it’s true? In 1956, when it was first published, it probably did. Hearst was dead, Marion Davies and Chaplin were both alive, but now? Is it anything more than a curio of the 1950s? Crystalized whispers of what may-or-may-not have been the truth once, and perhaps forever. There is some relevatory material in Hollywood Babylon that makes it worthwhile. He takes some leaps, like saying that Fatty Arbuckle (and I’m STILL the same height and weight as him!) was broke and broken, despite having just signed a deal shortly before he died. He had a few other things that are impressive, including some photos, such as the after-math of the Arbuckle Party, post-accident Jayne Mansfield, post-suicide Thelma Todd.They’re rare and valuable, if controversial, and they are a part of the history of Hollywood, for better or worse.
Track 2 – Frankly, Mr. Shankly (2:17) Movies. Morrissey was obsessed with the 1960s era of British film. Hell, I think it’s fair to say that he was obsessed with the 1960s in general, but the films of that era are an obvious choice for influence-stating because of the record covers he often designed and the lyrics. In Frankly, Mr. Shankly he simply says “Frankly, Mr. Shankly, I’m a sickening wreck. I’ve got the twenty-first century breathing down my neck. I must move fast, you understand me, I want to go down in celluloid history, Mr. Shankly.” I love British Cinema. It’s one of the more under-rated cinema histories out there. Hollywood, France, Japan, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, these are the countries one thinks of when considering Film History. Maybe Russia, too. Not England. Yeah, there are a lot of great English films of the Classic Era, from Hitchcock’s Blackmail, to the Private Life of Henry VIII to Snatch, British cinema has been really significant, even if we think of Hitch’s American movies before his British ones. Hell, a lot of movies that are actually British, like The Third Man or The African Queen, are considered American movies. Go figure. Now, when the 1960s started, English Cinema was in the middle of two movements. The first, actually nearing a point where it was dying, was the Dark Genre movement. Hammer Films, often with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, coupled with the BBC films in the Quatermass series, had spent much of the 1950s as a significant part of the mainstream of British cinema. In 1960, what I still think is the best film in the history of the British Thriller, Peeping Tom, was released. It murdered the career of Mr. Michael Powell, one of the most visionary directors of all-time. You still got a lot of British Horror and Science Fiction, but it was never again at the level it was. It was a significant part of the scene that Moz was around when he was a kid. TV latched on to the films, often because the cost to show them was pretty darn low. The other movement was the British New Wave, aka Kitchen Sink Realism. It’s funny, because this was a reaction to the French New Wave, but with an attitude that certainly worked well with the division of British society. IN British Realism, one of the key ideals was that you’d see all stratus, especially the working class. The concept of ‘it’s grim up North’ is a key one, and you can see it, or more accurately hear it, in Morrissey’s work. Hell, in the song We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful from his solo work, he says ‘...and if they’re Northern, that makes it even worse’, which I think says a good deal about the attitude, no? The British New Wave was brought about by two things that I love: Film Criticism and Short Films. It was a series of short docs and narrative films that got a lot of exposure that led to the movement. To this day, I’d argue that Britain does some of the best Social Realist films there are in the world. Every year, Cinequest gets to look at many, and every year at least a few get in. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job. Like in France, where some of the early film theory writers made the leap from the front rows where the critics sit to the lobby where directors wait for the screening to let out, in England, that first generation of folks writing about English film theory jumped behind the camera and produced some great films. This is the period that gave us a generation of English filmmakers that defines English cinema for me. John Boorman, Jack Clayton, Richard Lester, Ken Loach, and most importantly to me, Peter Yates. It’s a group that certainly shifted away from their roots and into Blockbusters. And it was the English Blockbuster that killed off the British New Wave. Films like Lawrence of Arabia, and especially Dr. No and Kubrick’s big movies. There were still important docs and social commentary films happening, like Michael Apted’s UP series, but really, the party was over. It’s obvious that this was an era that interested Morrissey, and you can simply tell from his hairstyle!
Track 3 – I Know It’s Over (5:48) There’s a movie called 24 Hour Party People by the amazing Michael Winterbottom. It’s the story of Manchester’s greatest citizen – Tony Wilson. Well, it’s really about Factory Records and the bands that grew up in the scene: New Order, A Certain Ratio,Vini Reilly, New Order, and especially The Happy Mondays. It’s a great movie, quite possibly the masterpiece of English Post-Modernist cinema. It’s so post-modern that at one point Steve Coogan, as Wilson, says “I was being post-modern before it was fashionable’ directly to the camera. In it, there’s a scene of Wilson and most of the other main characters of the film attending a famous Sex Pistols show in Manchester. About forty people were there in Lesser Free Trade Hall, listening to the Sex Pistols play. There were so many amazing folks there, including Morrissey (though none of the other Smiths, so far as I can tell). Also, Tony Wilson, the Buzzcocks (who put the show together), members of what would become Joy Division, the lead singers of Simply Red and The Fall. Also, John the Postman. It changed the world of music, launched a wave of Manchester punk, and later Alt Rock, that would change everything. Factory Records came out of that gig, according to some. There’s actual footage from the gig, they used it in 24 Hour Party People, mixed in with new footage. It’s impressive that it still exists, even if without sound. I’ve been lucky enough to be in places where Amazing Music is being played before small groups, often much smaller than the Lesser Free Trade Hall’s audience that June night. The first time two that come to me are when Steven Brust would invite a few folks into his room to drink Tullamore Dew while he’d play guitar before a dozen or so increasingly drunkened fans. The two times I happened to infiltrate those gatherings, I was a happy, happy man. The second was more entertaining. There was the time after I won the Hugo where I ran into Bill Mills, a fine musician who had writena song where I was the butt of a joke about not being able to edit a proper fanzine, and he sang it to me as I sat in the middle of a Peppermill hallway on Saturday night.That’s a memory I’ll have for a long, long time. Now, Unwoman is an amazing performer. She’s best-known for her cello music, but when she gets hold on a piano, she can rock it with the best of ‘em.Westercon is a small convention, and I was running the Fanzine Lounge there. I convinced her to play the Lounge one day, and it was a packed house, maybe 25 people and all. I caught it on video, it’s on my YouTube. After the show, I wandered off, did my thing, and then that evening, Uwoman was still hanging around and had found a piano. I still had my camera, and I shot two of her songs. There were four of us: Eric “In The Elevator” Zuckerman, his wife Beth, an unknown fellow, and me. She still performed as if we were the Tuxedos at the Met, the mob at the Mad Mab, a packed Madison Square Garden. Sitting there at the piano, she was amazing. I shot two songs, both covers, first of Careless Whisper by Wham!, and the second? Well, that was I Know It’s Over. To say that this performance was amazing would be under-statement. You too can watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkGHnffvAAI She gives both songs hell! It’s amazing what she manages to do with Careless Whisper, which would be easily slipped into the mode of Camp. I’d never heard her do that one before and if there was ever a song to first hear live with her on piano, I’d say that is it. There there’s I Know It’s Over. Watch the video and come back. We’ll still be here. It’s the second song, about 5:35 in to the video. Se actually has to fiddle a bit to get it right, she reminds herself of the key and beat, then starts in on it. Now, The Smiths version is a sorta ballad, a acoustic guitar-heavy presentation that breaks into straight rock ‘n roll at one point, and it never really bi-directionally gels. Unwoman makes it an angry ballad, the piano dripping much more venom than a guitar, her voice every bit the croon that Moz imbues his music with, and with a crisper delivery. This combination is impossible to defeat. She sways to the feeling, to the hammer and beat of her playing, throws the lyrics at us cleanly, powerfully. I’ve seen Unwoman play at least a dozen times, in small venues (as small as a BayCon Fanzine Lounge where she did Big Business selling 300 bucks worth of merch to all 9 people in the room!) to a show at WorldCon on the edges of the Convention’s Grand Hall. She’s always delivering amazing stuff, but in this case, she went above and beyond for four people, and those folks who walked by. It’s one of those moments I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Track 4 – Never Had No One Ever (3:36) I’ve known a few folks who have killed themselves. It’s the saddest thing I could imagine, believing that life was less attractive than the alternative. I could never do it, agony still trumps the End, I say. We’ll see, all of us, shant we? One that hits home still wasn’t of a friend, but was of a person I knew through friends. His name was Carl. I don’t think I ever picked up on the last name. He was a punk, a loud, somewhat obnoxious, punk.We floated around the same circles, I think we had maybe two conversations. He had a black leather jacket with all sorts of patches on it.The Damned,The Exploited, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, a particularly nice Celtic Frost patch. I was in awe of it, and it wasn’t until one night, hot summer outdoors beach gathering I think, that I got a close look and saw that there was, written in what I assume was White-Out, a message along the bottom of the jacket. ‘I had a really bad dream. It lasted twenty years, seven months, and twenty seven days” Now, Punks who dig The Smiths? They’re not that rare. It’s like Mexicans who dig Morrissey; an unexpected cadre, but one that solidly exists. But still, why that lyric? He had to have been over twenty by that point, and it’s not even one of the take-aways from the song. The hand that wrote those words was clear, clean, almost as if he had been using a guide to keep it all straight and tidy. Not much later that summer, he jumped. Not from the Golden Gate Bridge, as so many others have done, but from a bridge in Gold Country. There was a party that night, at the Beach on the San Mateo County coast, and I got there early, before the word had been carried there by mascara-running young ladies with stories to tell and the need for some distraction of a chemical variety.There was crying, there was drinking, there was smoking, there was tearful sexual shenannigans, and there were stories. So many stories. The guy walked through a plateglass window just to beat-up a rival for the affections of his girlfriend. He’d jumped out of a moving truck just because he wanted to grab some cigarettes from a 7-11. He was the first one of the group to try huffing paint; the first to jump out of a perfectly good plane. And he was thirty, far older than any of the other folks. He’d been around in the days of The Avengers and Crime. He’d drank with Rollins, with Penenlope Houston, had actually seen the final Sex Pistols show himself. He was a guy who had been around and around, and he decided, ‘hey, now’s as good a time as any’, drove up north, jumped off a bridge. And, as always at these gatherings, I remember there being music, this time blasting from a car system, and the one song that stuck turned out to be what his friends said was his favorite – Never Had No One. Even though I hardly knew him, even I teared up at the final lyrics, I never had no, no one ever, had no one never, largely because from this gathering of mourners, it was obvious that he had.
Track 5 – Cemetry Gates (2:39) Of all The Smiths songs, this one might be the most peppy. One thing I always thought about The Smiths is that the length of their songs was a reaction to the tendency of songs that played on the radio led to insignificant, simple, shallow songs, and this is almost the model on which a radio hit could be built on. Jangly guitar, pop-y lyrics, Morrissey seeming like he’s having a good time. The Perky Goth is the most wonderful of all Goth archetypes. I have a friend who has a daughter, Alisa, who is the definition of Perky Goth. She’s also 5. OK, so we were hanging out at Mini Gourmet, a fine... well, a decent, diner in San Jose which used to be a favorite of friends of mine in High School. I believe that the enjoyment of Mini-Gourmet is directly proportional to how close it is to 4am.We were there around 1pm, so think about that! It was four of us, me, Mara, Arthur, and Alisa. She was adorable, and she was wearing a Smiths t-shirt. Or maybe a Morrissey t-shirt. It had a photo of Moz on it, looking all tragic and pale and stuff. Go figure. We were enjoying pancakes, save for Alisa who was snacking on wheat toast smeared with jelly. Mara and I were talking about movies, while Arthur coloured and Alisa was staring at her toast. “So, what’d you think of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?” I asked. “Swedes did it better.” “I dunno. Music and sound design was better with Fincher.” “Sure, but the acting.” “You’ll take that slack-faced Swede over Danny Cray-Cray?” Mara paused, made a strangely cute you got a point face, then went back into her pancakes. “I liked the American one.” Little Alisa said. “What?” I asked. “It was scarier. Lisbeth was tougher.” “I left it in the Blu-Ray player and she watched it.” “Twice,” little Alisa said, smiling, but also sighing. “Don’t call Child Protective Services,” Mara said, “she also loves that Bydlow movie.” “The Bulgarian animation?” I said, trying to remember it from the animation program at Cinequest. “It’s so pretty. All that dirt and the way the maggots rise up. It’s precious.” Alisa said, smiling off dreamily. “She made us watch it five times.” Arthur said. “It was a strange evening.” “My birthday!” Alisa said. “I bought her Cinderella.” “The Danish TV version!” Alisa exclaimed. I got her Corpse Bride for her next birthday, which she watched with me once. “It’s so lovingly vile the way they designed them.” She said. She is going to crush the hearts of quite a few geek boys in a few years.
Track 6 – Bigmouth Strikes Again (3:12) I studied poetry. I did, bless me. I had dreams of being a poet once. I wanted to read in coffee shops, to publish chapbooks, to be read by other poets. Was I good at it? Nope, not at all. That should sound familiar. I just enjoyed writing poems, and reading them at times, but it passes. I had a professor, Mr. Shippey, in my second Poetry class in college, who HATED rock. That’s not true. He hated rock LYRICS. He would go on and on about how there had never been a good rock lyricist. Except for that guy in The Smiths. “Ever heard that song “Big Mouth Strikes Again”? It’s brilliant. He’s a poet, a real poet. He’s a surrealist poet, too.” He said. “as the flames rose to roman nose and her Walkman started to melt.” We all sorta paused, which was rare for that clan of us creeps that inhabited our class. “It’s straight out of Dali, and Buñuel, too! He’s taking imagery that is straight out of Reubens, Boutet de Monvel and Stilke! Then he mixes that with Dali’s melting commodity item, a Walkman or a hearing aid, and then he throws it into the middle of this candy-cane, Mickey Mouse voice screaming ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ in a song that’s supposed to be about the band being hounded on the red carpet or something. He’s completely re-worked the imagery and the expectations of the listener. He’s complaining about the state of media interaction with stars by combining Surrealist imagery, within a classical setting and pop music. It’s a masterpiece.” In 24 Hour Party People,Tony Wilson keeps insisting that addict Shawn Ryder of Happy Mondays, on a good day, is equal to Yeats on an average day. I kinda doubt that, but Morrissey can turn an English prof into a believer. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” is one of my favorite Smiths songs, and the covers of it are among the best, especially the Wonderful version that The Ukrainians do. It’s joyous and fast and awesome! The version on the Last Concert video that’s on YouTube is really incredible! But more on that later!
Track 7 – The Boy With the Thorn In His Side (3:15) Coincidence is something I’ve almost built my life around. I’ve had moments where I said a word, like ‘Charmed’, and then suddenly a TV turns on and Charmed is on. It happens. Or I’ll run into someone I haven’t seen in years and we’ll start a conversation where we both find out that we were doing the same thing in the same place at almost exactly the same time. It’s coincidences that often pop up that keeps me and The Smiths connected.Whether it’s at a fair in the 90s, a 7-11 parking lot today, or, in the case of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, a date for a walk along the water in Santa Cruz. Natural Bridges is one of the most beautiful places within an hour of my hometown of Santa Clara. It’s on the water, there are tide pools, a lovely beach, a rock formation that is fun to swim out to, and millions and millions of Monarch Butterflies. I tried to go every year to see them gathered. It’s a ritual and it’s beautiful! Now, I hung out with a lot of Cranola munchers back in the day. That’s not true, they were folks who loved nature, just flat-out loved it. Morrissey would have fully appreciated it. And I had a massive crush on Hannah. She was tall, she was hilarious, she was smarter than any other human I knew. Moz would also have loved her. She was a vegan, a PETAn in good standing, though she had no problem enjoying a gluten-soy-tofu-corn-based meal while her companion was chomping on a burger. And that was the promise of the after-beach, a trip to my favorite restaurant in Santa Cruz. I met her there, she lived in Santa Cruz, and I was driving in from Silicon Valley. When I got there, it was exactly the kind of day I expect from Santa Cruz prior to noon. It was overcast and COLD. Not the kind of cold that you get in the Midwest, pshaw!, it was San Francisco in middle July cold! REALLY cold! She was wearing, Hand to God, a Smiths t-shirt, the cover of Rank, and tiny black jean shorts. She didn’t look cold at all, probably accustomed to the temperature of the frigid tundra of Santa Cruz. I was wearing a t-shirt and a Hawaiian shirt and was freezing. “Hey, baby.” She said, walking over, giving me a kiss on the cheek and a crushing hug. That was her thing. “How ya doin’?” I said. “Great, you gotta see these flutterbys! They’re EVERY-WHERE!” She had that sort of wide-eyed wonder that we might associate with Zoey Deschanel today. She dragged me by my arm towards the trees, which I could already tell were the color of Boston in October; only not of trees, but of Monarch Butterflies. She pulled me up to one of them, a huge eucalyptus, which loomed a bit down the path from the parking lot. She got us right below them, staring up! “Look at how they blow in the wind.” She was straight up, her mouth gaping in wonder, “they’re like living leaves!” I was far more interested in the wonder of her being in such wonder than I was about the wonder itself. “They’re scared of us, you know?” I say. “Why do you think that?” She asked. “Because they can see that you’re a vegan, and it they look like leaves, you’re liable to eat them!” “No, they know I wouldn’t eat them! They’re smart.” “Smart enough to see that look in your eyes, Hannah.You’re gonna munch-munch-munch!” “How could they look into my eyes, and still they don’t believe me.” She said. “How can they hear me say those words, and still they don’t believe me.” I responded. And at that, she started singing the entire song. The girl had the kind of voice that I hated – nuanced, lovely, and most of all, loud. In other words, perfect. Unachievable by common humans perfect! She could even dance like Morrissey, which she did in that grove of trees covered in butterflies. It was pretty amazing, and she wasn’t shy, either. She spun, she threw her arms up, she scared all of the families, though a couple of little kids started dancing with her. It was one of those scenes that happen only in movies, or to people who try and live their lives like they’re in movies. I’ve been accused of such myself, you know?
And then something strange happened. Yes, all of it was a bit strange, but a bird, a fairly large one, swung down, then swooped upwards, plowing through a pile of butterflies, a couple of them in its beak as it went down to the ground, chomping on ‘em. That stopped Hannah’s performance, right at the line “and when you want to live, how do you start.” One of the little girls screamed, and the bird did a little jump forward, frightened, and then jumped up again, dove into the butterflyleaves, came back down a with few, and a bunch fluttering down upon Hannah’s head. Dead. Needless to say, Hannah came over all sad and while she didn’t cry, the rest of the date was somber and quiet. And there was no second one.
Track 8 – Vicar in a Tutu (2:21) This is the Morrissey that has captured the hearts of all Mexicans. My family, well the Mexican side, adores Morrissey, so much so that when I finally got to hang out with my little second cousin over at her Dad’s place, she was put in her crib with Viva Hate playing for her. She was adorable dancing around! Vicar in a Tutu is pretty much straight Rockabilly. It doesn’t deserve any thought about the lyrics, largely because I think they don’t have much meaning at all (I understand that Morrissey wrote it about a cross-dressing comedian he knew who used to be a vicar) and that’s OK. They can’t all be Hand in Glove now, can they? Here’ Marr’s at some of his best, but really, it’s more of a flash-forward to what Moz will be doing with Boz Boorer in his solo times. In fact, this song would fit beautifully on Your Arsenal, which I consider to be Morrissey’s best solo work. It’s the album that shows the stretch that Morrissey’s voice has, playing well with Rockabilly tunes like Certain People I Know to the Glam Rock National Front Disco. It’s an amazing album to listen to, and of all Morrissey’s work, including his stuff with The Smiths, it’s the one I think holds up best. There is a documentary, made by a friend of a friend of mine from work, called Viva Morrissey, about why Mexicans have latched on to his image and music so thoroughly. One explanation, and one I first heard from a cousin of mine, was that he’s Irish, the Mexicans of England. An interesting thought, and not one without merit. Personally, I think it’s the hair.
Track 9 - There is a Light That Never Goes Out (4:02) FADE IN: “Take me out, tonight. Where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive.” She, 20ish, sits on her bed; she is wearing heavy flannel pajamas. Hollywood and music magazines cover the floor at the foot of the bed, a small table with an ashtray full of cigarettes and empty minis of whiskey. She looks as if she hasn’t slept for several days. He walks through the door and offers her hand. She takes it and the rooms morphs into a 1963 Impala, fully decked out. “Driving in your car, I never never want to go home, because I haven’t got one, anymore.” The pair is in the car, she strips off her pajama top, revealing a sparkly tank top, shimmies out of her pajama pants, revealing leggings with party-time images playing out across them. He is wearing a sequined shirt, open to his navel, and his hair is up in a Quiff style. A cigarette dangles from his mouth, which she reaches out and grabs, takes a drag off of, then tosses out the window. “Take me out tonight, because I want to see people and I want to see life.” The car falls away and the pair are walking into a discotheque.There is a wild party going on, and she drags him into the dancing crowd by the arm and they mix in and start dancing. The camera spins, showing the party going on, people drinking and smoking and sweating and making sexydance with one another. The pair end up in the center of a circle of dancers, who clear to allow them to be the only ones dancing in their area. “Driving in your car. Oh, please don’t drop me home, because it’s not my home it’s their home and I’m welcome no more.” The two of them start dancing closer and closer, getting more and more intimate in their dancing, slowing down for a moment, then she grabs him and they burst out of the scene, which dissolves into a London street scene. “And if a double decker bus, crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.” The pair run into the street as a giant bus barrels down the road.The two stop in the middle of the street and she pulls him into her, kissing him as the bus crashes into them, then bursts into a smokey mist as the pair stand, unharmed, then she pulls him back into the road. “and if a ten ton truck, kills the both of us, to die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.” She pulls him along a little further into another lane, then he pulls her back and grabs her and kisses her as a giant truck flies towards them, and then crumples as if hitting a brick wall. They part and then they run off across the street again, and the cars slammign on their brakes to avoid hitting them. “Take me out tonight. Take me anywhere, I don’t care I don’t care, I don’t care.” Younger Woman sits in her living room reading Annie on My Mind as her parents disinterestedly watch the Eurovision Song Contest. She and Him burst into the room, unnoticed by the parents, and She grabs her book and tosses it away, he takes her hand and pulls them both out to a darkened overpass where there are hobos and a group of younger kids playing dice. “And in the darkened underpass, I thought ‘Oh God, my chance has come at last.” Younger Woman grabs She and kisses her deeply and passionately, and She gives into the kiss completely. “But then a strange fear gripped me and I just couldn’t ask.” He then turns to kiss the Younger Woman, but she turns her head the moment he comes close enough
to make contact. “Take me out tonight, Oh, take me anywhere, I don’t care I don’t care, I don’t care.” A Young Man, slovenly and sad-looking, is sitting at a diner table next to the window, an old waitress watching him chew his steak sandwich from behind the cash register. The Yong Girl’s arm reaches through the glass of the window, pulls him out and onto the sidewalk. HE runs with them in a daisy chain. “Driving in your car, I never never want to go home, because I haven’t got one, da, oh I haven’t got one.” They run into the street, jumping into His car; She and The Younger Woman in the back, making out, He and The Young Man in the front. They pull out from the curb, into traffic going the opposite direction. “And if a double-decker bus, crashes into us, to die by your side, is such a heavenly way to die.” The women in the back keep kissing, The Younger Woman pulling off Her shirt. He keeps driving calmly into the traffic, right towards the headlights of a bus in the night of London. The Young Man panics as he sees the bus coming towards them, and at impact, they end up in the daylight, on a countryside road, a huge truck in front of them. The Young Man looks around happy to be alive, then sees a huge truck coming at them. “and if a ten truck truck kills the both of us, to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine.” The Young Man panics again seeing the truck coming, but the moment when it impacts, the truck bounces off the Impala, skittering off to one side, going through the camera. “Oh, there is a light that never goes out. There is a light that never goes out. There is a light that never goes out. There is a light that never goes out.” The car speeds down the road, then slides to a stop. The Young Man tears open the door and stumbles to the ground, the girls still at it in the backseat. He opens the door, comes along the side of the car to where The Young Man is sitting, picks him up, dusts him off, then stares at him. The Young Man smiles back at him after a moment. The two then start to dance, slowly at first, then faster. “There is a light that never goes out. There is a light that never goes out. There is a light that never goes out. There is a light that never goes out.” She and the Younger Woman come out from the back seat in a state of undress, and dance over to where He and The Young Man are dancing and they start to dance with them, then people start to run over to where they dance and dance with them, ending up with dozens of people running in to dance with them as the music fades out. Yes, I am aware this would make a better Ke$ha video than one for The Smiths!
Track 10 – Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (3:16) The last Smiths concept ever. I wish I could have been there, not only because The Smiths were an awesome back, and this one arguably the most historic show they ever played, but because of where it was held. The 02 Academy, Brixton started life as The Astoria, then became The Sundown Center, and the Fair Deal, and finally the Brixton Academy, though the official name is the O2 Academy now. Go figure. This is a hugely important movie theatre when it started. It opened in1929 with the Al Jolson film The Singing Fool.They followed it up with a variety act that was broadcast on the BBC. This was the way many films were shown back in the day.You’d get a film and a floor show. Many theatres were build as multi-use, or were simply converted old live theatres turned to show films once in a while. It was the way things were done. There was also an Organ, as most theatres had in those days, even though the Silent era was about to come to an end. They stopped showing movies in 1972. Several UK premieres were held here, though it was never the BIG London Premiere Theatre. The place was briefly a discotheque in the 70s. Luckily, it was a Listed Historical Building by that point, or it may well have been knocked down. It’s a Grade II Listed Building now. It’s still gorgeous. It reopened as the Brixton Academy and started running live shows. It’s done some great ones over the last 30 years or so, even after they made a deal with cell phone company O2. This was the site of the Final Smiths concert. The first Smiths concert was significant, but from the standpoint of the song Sone Girls Are Bigger Than Others, there is no show that was more important. And no show that more surely announced that they had come to an end. The show was supposed to be at the Royal Albert Hall, but instead it was moved to The Academy because Johnny Marr had been in a car accident. I’m not sure if that was a legit reason, or a cover for some money issue, as had happened previously with The Smiths as I understand it. The show was a big deal, they recorded it audio only as far as I can tell, but at least one amateur video of the show exists. It’s got terrible audio, fading in and out, the bass almost non-existent much of the time, and the scene shaky as hell from the handheld nature of the shooting. It’s still a HUGELY awesome video you can find at http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=S23YwjYMWz8. Go and watch it, it’s pretty awesome to see the Smiths live after all these years. It completely reminds me of the legendary Tokyo Dome Weekly Pro Wrestling show which wasn’t taped for television and exists only as a fancam shot of the JumboTron. It’s awesome, though like this vid, it’s got issues. The fourth song in is Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others. Johnny Marr’s guitar sounds vaguely reminiscent of Sultans of Swing by Dire Straights. It’s got the trademark jangle, and it plays so well with Morrissey’s live performance.At times, Moz gives it a growl and an almost surrender at one point.This is the only time they played the song live in concert, and it’s very effective, but it’s also not the closing number, it’s not that different, except that they add a verse to it. “On the shopfloor, there’s a calendar, as obvious as snow... As if we didn’t know” This was the only time those lyrics got sung with the song, apparently an original version included it, but it was cut for the album. It’s as amazing a performance as you’ll find, and easily the most significant Smiths song performed in any concert. The fact that decent video from the concert exists only makes it better. Of course, the two best things from the show are the versions of Bigmouth Strikes Again and The Boy With The Thorn in His Side. Both of them really break through and left a last impression with me. It’s incredible, and the last song, Hand in Glove, is the best way they could have ended things as a band. It gives Morrissey his chance to go out with his finest lyrics (about Cat Burglers...) and Marr the chance to play his smartest guiter riffs. The show was amazing, and well worth the effort to seek it out. And the version of Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others is really great. It’s also a great song with which to end a great album.
Interview with Janice Whaley - PART THREE
Can you tell me a tale of how a Smiths song interacted with your life in an unexpected way? I was 16 and working for Walmart in the hideous snack bar. The grossest food imaginable. I ate my (homemade!) lunch in the car and listened to music and Morrissey sang, “why do I give valuable time to people who don’t care if I live or die…” and I went back to the snack bar and quit. There’s a great YouTube clip of you walking viewers through hinder/focus your work on the project? My studio is basically a closet with the doors taken so I just kept at it. I do think singing in a closet for practice. A test of willpower and endurance. your studio. How did the space you have to work in help/ off. There’s not much in the way of distractions 1300 hours change me. It was almost a meditative A spreading of wings I didn’t know I even had.
And finally, what’s next for you? I just released a Duran Duran cover song requested by Simon Le Bon, called We Need You. Simon tweeted that it’s “probably the best cover of a Duran Duran song ever.” That’s pretty much my equivalent to winning a gold medal. The song is here: http://janice.bandcamp.com/album/we-need-you-flexi-vinyl
Strangeways, Here We Come - Released by Rough Trade Records September 28th, 1987 Track 1 – A Rush And a Push And The Land is Ours (3:00) The perfect three minute radio song. That sounds a bit weird to say about The Smiths, but here they prove that they can do it! This is pretty much as close to a Ska song as you’ll ever get out of The Smiths. It’s bouncy, the kind of thing that the Skinheads of Brixton or Manchester would pogo along to. It’s absolutely infectious, bouncy piano being the highlight to me. Morrissey’s vocals go perfectly with this one, and it feels like a song that might have gotten a lot of UK Radio play at an earlier part of the 1980s. As opposed to 1987. It feels like the kind of thing you were getting out of Two Tone in 1981 and no so much Rough Trade in 1987. Maybe that’s kinda the point, in fact. They’re not late to the party: they just seen what goes on there and played that for a new crowd. And it’s exactly 3 minutes. Radio requires songs that are short, zesty, digestible, and length is a key component for providing that. In the 1950s and 60s, the three minute song was an art. Look at the Beatles and you’ll see a lot of their success was from being able to deliver that. On to the 70s and you’ll see bands like Fleetwood Mac making it big with long, near symphonies! It wasn’t until Punk rose up that we started to see the return to songs of a reasonable length. New Wave went a little bit into longer songs, though many of the New Wave acts that started out as Punk combos never left that idea. It made a lot of sense to play it the way they did, and while The Smiths often went in for songs that went five, six minutes, some getting significant airplay. What’s hilarious to me is that this is not the way to start an album. It sets a tone that is hard to live up to!
Track 2 – I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish (3:47) The problem with me is I’m a great starter. Like the legendary Walt Daugherty, I can come up with a project, a new zine, anything, and start down the road with it in all great enthusiasm and wonder and energy and almost always get a bit into it, and then... Well, let me give you the example of Peggy Rae Sapienza’s disappointment in me. Back in 2007, Jay Lake and I were talking. Peggy Rae, as close to a Saint as we’ve got in American Fandom, and Jay had been talking and what they wanted was something to elevate the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. There weren’t any traditions or anything that gave the Campbell any extra cache. The Hugos have all sorts of things, but but the Campbell. So, we talked about doin’ a thing. Now, I had stuff I was doin’; Jay had stuff goin’ on, and it sorta sat there. For years. And years. Now, at ChiCon, where Peggy Rae was Fan Guest of Honor, there was a small piece of fake grass with a bench next to it and a toy lawn mower. If you pushed the lawn mower around, you could get a ribbon tha read ‘I Mowed Peggy Rae’s Lawn’. It was SO COOL! I wanted one, and while Peggy Rae was there, I did the motions required. “Can I have a ribbon now?” I asked. “You’ll get your ribbon as soon as I get my Campbell exhibit!” She said. Sadgasm! SO, since I’m Curator for LoneStarCon, I figured it was time to put together an exhibit because, typical me, it would allow me some small reward for a ton of work! I thought the best way to do it was to show off a few physical artefacts, in this case one of the plaques given to winners, a copy of the pin each winner got, which was designed by my friend Spring Schoenhuth, and perhaps the most important thing, the Campbell Tiara. Jay Lake and Elizabeth Bear had come up with the idea in 2006, and John Scalzi was the first Campbell winner to be given the Tiara when they won. The present holder of the Campbell Award, the wonderful and incredibly young and talented E. Lily Yu, wasn’t going to WorldCon, and since she had the Tiara, she shipped it to me so I could get a mount for it and have it at the convention. The day it arrived, I took it around and had pictures taken with it, but NO ONE was allowed to wear it. These are the rules! Now, there’s also the recurring problems of the TWO zines that people actually want to see. The first is called Actual Bedhead, and is dedicated to the television programme Community. It’s my favorite show, it’s a great show, and it’s full of stuff that I can write about. I mentioned it to the creator of the show, Dan Harmon. “People still do zines?” He said when I mentioned it to him. “That’s cool! Here’s my card. Send me a couple of copies.” I laughed, took the card and said “Will do.” That was August. Still haven’t managed more than the one article I’d written for it. The second I’ve mentioned at times is called DANGERZONE! and is about Archer. It’s a Spy Comedy Cartoon show on FX! And it’s amazing. I’ve written a few pieces for it, but haven’t gotten any art or anything. A LOT of my folks on Facebook who have heard about it are clamoring for it, and I got an eMail from a Zine Distribution group that they wanted to carry it. But I still haven’t managed it. Typical me, typical me, typical me, I started something, that I’m not too sure of.
Track 3 – Death of a Disco Dancer (5:26) Another of my least favorite Smiths tunes. It’s just stuck in the middle, nowheresville, man! It’s a down-tempo near-ballad where the lyrics are not a part of the song, it seems. They’re just both there. I used to be a raver. That’s not quite true. I used to hang around with folks who would hold raves and beach parties and other fun all the time, largely accompanied to a throbbing beat. If you have seen the film GROOVE, I knew some of those folks from the Day. I miss those times, they were good times, but “Death of a Disco Dancer” in many ways relates. It was three or four times a year when you’d hear about the guy you used to drop with went in over his head and checked out on ya, or the girl you spent ten hours trying to keep up with dancing at the house party in Daly City was found dead in her bed, cold and blue and starved. It always happens. A scene is built around people, and some scenes are harder on people than others.You don’t hear about a lot of GeoCachers turning up dead. Road Rally enthusiasts once in a while. In fandom, we get our fair share, but folks tend to be older and very few die of bad choices. Well, some do, but not too many. In party scenes, it’s all too frequent. I had a few folks pass who I knew to one degree or another, mostly from drugs, some from suicide, a couple of just being dead broke and not knowing how to take care of themselves. That last is the hardest. I’ll recount the saddest story I was ever told as it was told to me, in a bar, by a friend, a couple of years later. It might be best to think of it as if it had been filmed by Jim Jarmusch. “Ray, what are you doing here? Haven’t seen you in, what, two years?” “At least.” He raises his glass, drains it, places the glass on the bar. “Two, Laphroig. Neat. I remember that right?” “Yeah, Ray. Dead on. “ “You’ve been in London, right?” “Manchester. Well, mostly. Did a little stretch in Bombay.” “You mean Mumbai?” He chuckled. “Always the smart-ass.” “Ever the smart-ass.” We pause as the bartender sets two glasses down in front of us. Mine, I note, is filled a touch shorter than Ray’s. “To returning ships.” He said. “Back to home port.” I added. Clink. I sip; he slams. “I finally heard the whole story.” “About?” “Maya.” “Oh. I never heard the whole story.” “You go to the funeral?” “No.” “No one else did either. Never was one. Part of the problem.” Ray said. “What do you mean?” I sipped again. “She didn’t have anybody.” “That’s... I guess...” I sorta thought about
my interactions with Maya outside of parties.We’d meet up, hang out, she’d throw her arms around my neck from behind and sort settle onto me like a backpack, but then I wouldn’t see her for weeks, months, and usually, she’d come back thinner, and sometimes she looked like she hadn’t seen sun for weeks. “She had us, she had the gang, Greg, sometimes. But what happened to all of us? You were always South Bay, Greg was in Santa Cruz, Terry, James, Shaka aren’t the kind to stick around when there’s anything else good goin’ on.” I saw his point. “And I fuck off for England, and I stop buying her groceries. I stop talking her out on Thursdays for Zims, or Sundays for Dim Sum. “ “She was never...” “She never had two shits to her name., and every one of us knew it and every one of us let her down.” I’ll never forget how he said it. It was at the same volume as every other word he delivered, but it was so pained and angry in so many directions. “What happened?.” “I went to see Greg today. He’s... he’s in bad shape. He’s still not over it. He found her, went to see her at that apartment in the warehouse on Arrow.” “She was there again?” I asked. “Yeah. Remember when we got all those pallets and pillows and blankets from Salvation Army, made her that huge bed for her.” Ray said. “Happiest I ever saw her.” “Me too.” I said, smiling at the mere memory of her smile as she climbed on to it for the first time. “So, Greg went to see her one day. Actually, first thing one morning. He said that he didn’t go to sleep the night before, instead went to see her because he realised it was solstice, and he hadn’t seen her. So he went over.” Ray paused. I thought slamming my whiskey would be the best course of action at that moment. “He got there and, you know it was cold, it was fucking December, and he walked in and saw that she was laying on the floor, on top of a few blankets and pillows. The bed was gone. “ Ray said. “Gone?” “Greg found a fire ring. Looked like it she’d been burning ‘em a few hours before, but there were a couple of partially burned parts of those pallets left in the ring. She must have been burning ‘em to stay warm. It’d been cold.” “Man. She loved that bed.” I said. “She did.” “Greg called and called her name, so he walked over to the bed and saw that she was basically skin and bones, not that there was ever much meat on her.” “She weighed less than the kid I babysit now.” “Someone trusts you with their kid?” “Someone trusts me with their kid.” I answered with a touch of pride, rare for me. “Common sense. That’s what the world is missing today.” We both kinda chuckle. “She had been surviving on crackers and Coke. And probably coke, but where’d she ever have gotten the money?” “Always ways, Ray. There are always ways.” “Ain’t that the fucking truth. How many eightballs did I get comped for one shitty thing or another?” “We’ve all got stories.” “We’ve all got stories.” He signaled to the bartender again. “You want another, Chris?” “Yeah.” He made the universal sign for two more.
“She was alive, but she was burning up. She was incoherent, and he was scared. He told her he’d get her help, call an ambulance, but he couldn’t find a phone. He ran out and found a payphone, called her an ambulance. He got back, and she was gone.” “Gone?” “She’d left. Greg figures she was afraid that if the ambulance came, the cops would find her, and since she was squatting, they’d kick her out. Greg and the paramedics started looking for her, couldn’t find her. They looked for an hour. Couldn’t find her.” “Where did she go?” “Less than three feet away. The boards beneath where her bed had been were loose, remember?” “Kinda, yeah.” “She called it her smuggler’s hold.” “But it was barely big enough to get a finger through.” I said, confused. “She must have pulled up more boards, probably paranoid that they were going to come and arrest her. She slid into the hidey-hole, pulled the covers back over her. “ The drinks came, but neither of us reached for ‘em. “Terry went over, about a week later. Everything was exactly the same, but it smelled to high holy hell. He looked around, lifted up the covers, and there she was, dead, probably the same night Greg found her.” “Fuck.” It seemed the only word that fit. “Yeah. Fuck.” Neither of us made for our drinks. “I landed at Heathrow and there was an eMail waiting for me. Maya’s dead. Helluva way to start a new life.” “You think you could have saved her?” I asked, knowing it was the stupidest question I had ever thought about. “Of course I could have, we all could have, but she never made it easy, did she? After a while, you just have to stop and hope she flies, preferably away, into the future.” Ray made a move for the rink, and he had drained it before I recognised what he was doing. “Fuck.” I said. “Technically, she was married.You know that?” “Married?” “Yeah. Marco, that tall Australian fuck.” “Shit. I had no idea.” “Yeah, I found out about a month before I left.” I picked up my glass. “That why you moved to LA all of a sudden?” I asked. “No, that was a plan. I’d been waiting, finally saved enough. No, her being married was why she wouldn’t come with me.” I sipped my drink.
“He let her live like that.” “She fucking chose to live there, man. She fucking chose it. Marco tried and tried, apparently, and she wanted her freedom, married him because she wanted her kid to have a father, then she lost it. That’s why she moved back to the warehouse, I think.” “Fuck.” “Yeah, fuck.” Ray answered. “Marco. Man, I never would have suspected.” “Was the kid yours?” Ray asked. “I never slept with her.” I answered. “Didn’t think so.” “Was it yours?” I asked Ray. “Well, it’s just moved from possible to probable, I guess.” I drank my drink, set it down. “You ever think about trying to help her?” Ray asked. “I did, at one point. ‘bout a year before she died. We had a difference of opinion.” “You loved her; she didn’t love you?” Ray asked, lifting up his empty glass as if there was another shot in it. “Worse. I loved her, she didn’t love herself.” I said. “Seen that movie.” “So have we all.” I answered. “I think it was her favorite. She was-” Ray stopped, “I just wanna sit down and either drink myself into a stupor or cry for hours and hours.” I said.” “Why not both? That’s what I’m about to start doin’.” I saw the wisdom in it, settled in and waited for the rest of the evening.
Track 4 – Girlfriend In A Come (2:03) The sun had set, my second BayCon in a decade had just ended. I’d gone to several in the years before 2000, but 2000 was the one that brought me back into fandom full force. The second one was the first of the cons after my return where I stayed at the hotel. It was a very different con than the year before. A lot of fun. I met Frank Wu, set what was then the Auction Record for a piece of Frank Wu art, and I enjoyed liberal amounts of libations, ran into old friends, and just had a good time. As I was leaving, a buddy of mine from High School, Joyce, was sitting out on the curb, an unhappy little critter, she was. She was wearing those cute little fuzzy ears and a fake tail, had a busted suitcase that was threatening to burst the pieces of tape holding it together, and she looked as if she’d been crying. “Hey Joyce, need some help?” “Ummmm... yeah, but not...” She stammered. “You sure? Looks like you could use a hand.” She brightened up quite a bit. “Sweet of you to ask, but it’s under control.” She said, smiling, looking far less down than just a moment prior. I pulled up a piece of sidewalk and we had a lovely conversation for a few minutes. We talked about her suitcase (I just got it last week) and her furry accoutrements (Ain’t they cute?) and were about to start in on why she had looked so down when something caught her eye down the way, just coming out of the hotel. “Sorry, but you kinda need to clear out.” She said, suddenly becoming much sadder and darker. “What?” I asked. “Move! Now!” she said, whispering with exclamation points. I took the hint and backed off a good bit, about fifty feet or so, where another group of people were gathered smoking. I chatted with them for a bit, as the person she had seen walking out of the hotel came over to her. She was back to quietly crying, and he had come and they were talking in hushed tones. She was getting slightly more angry, talking faster and faster, and getting deeper and deeper into her crying. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash, handed it to her and she exploded upwards, hugging her mark, and he hurried off. She stayed sitting, seemed a bit more happy-slappy. I walked back over. “What was that?” I asked. “Making the hotel costs for this weekend,” she said, looking towards the door again at someone walking out, “sorry, but I gotta get you out of here. I got rent to make.” I thought it over as I was walking across the parking lot, as I saw the mark walk over and Joyce start her routine. I had to say that she’s good at it, had no doubt that she’d make her rent. And I remember getting into the car and hearing Girlfriend is a Coma playing on my radio as I drove away. Joyce got herself arrested a year or so later. She managed to make herself something like a quarter-million dollars pretty sneakily. She was apparently a helluva actress. Now, the only reason this is included is because the song was on the radio as I drove away. Thin, yes, but it’s there!
Track 5 – Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before (3:32) I learned to ride a bike on a downhill grade in Lake Isabella. It’s not an easy thing to learn to ride a bike without a training wheels, and especially when you’re going down a hill that is gravel-covered and sided by sticker bushes! There were five or six kids, all roughly 7 or so, and we stood at the top of the hill, looking down at the wide area that was open to the large field at the bottom. I was visiting my Great Aunt Bethel, and I went out for a walk. The kids were kind enough to let me take a turn with the bike, so every five runs I’d got to go. And it hurt! The first half-dozen passes, I wiped out massively. I mean, it was painful, painful, painful to skid across the gravel-covered ground. It sucked, but after that, I made it through to the bottom without wiping out. I did about 5 or 6 without falling at all, and it was great! I felt like I was flying down that hill every time. Then, it happened. I was up at the top, and most of the time going dow, I wasn’t peddling. Didn’t need to, really. It was a long hill and it was plenty fast if you just coasted down. I decided I should peddle and go really fast. So I started at the top and peddled even before I started down. I was going fast, but I hit a rock or something and ended up diverted, heading to the sticker bushes, but I put on the coaster brakes, but something happened and I ended up in the air somehow, and I seemed to pause there for a moment. It was kinda ool, like flying, but only for a moment, because like all pauses, it had to end, and in this case, head back to Earth. Well, back to the crossbar of the bike. The Smiths said it very well in Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before – An emergency stop I smelt the life ten seconds of life. I crashed down on the crossbar and the pain was enough to make a shy, bald, buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder. reg , came out and found me, still laying there on the ground. I was OK, I had fallen on the crossbar, pushed all the air out me, and might have peed myself a little. Can’t say for sure, it was a long time ago. So, this one little bit was a moment in my life where I felt like I had accomplished something on my own, but as always happens when I teach myself something, I end up not being particularly good at it. Go figure.
Track 6 – Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me (5:02) At times, both Johnny Marr and Morrissey have said that this is the best of all possible Smiths songs. I think there’s about a half-dozen songs they’ve each said that about over the years, and I’ve done the same thing. The soundscape to this one is what most impresses me, and the way that it breaks through into a song that is powerful and beautiful and more than a bit haunting. One of my favorites, too. And so it was with Judith. I met her through M and Jay, who I met through Mike and Manny. Judith and SaBean, the sisters who were, at that point, in the first stages of an all-out campaign of anger and rage and bitterness that only the deHavilan-Fontaine Sisters would understand. And, of course, I fell for both the sisters. SaBean was broken. So very broken, and Judith was, and is, a charming, beautiful, intelligent, cunning woman; as well as being broken in her own way. Where SaBean went in for deadening the world around her, to stop the feeling, Judith piled on the sensations, the touching, the hands and fingers and mouths and eyes and tongues and on and on. The sisters were, for almost 15 years, a bitter disagreement over nothing in particular. A Cold War, occasionally turned hot. The pair of ‘em moved to LA for a while. I was down there once in a while. I wrote about one visit, a tough one on all involved, actually, and it was hard when I’d actually be with both of them, though one of the first times I saw the two of them being civil to each other was on one of those trips. I wrote it up for a Claims Department years ago, but I can’t seem to find it. I cared for both of ‘em, and at times I did play them off of one another. I was a jerk, I’ve said that before. And I hope I’m never that guy again. But even in sad-dark memories, there are shining moments, and one of them was dancing. To some of you who know me well, you know I don’t dance much/dance all the time. I’m silly, I am, but I can not dance without irony. It was the opening of one of the Cinequest movies this year (Almost Man) which opened with exactly that thought. A guy who could only dance with irony, which is an affliction I suffer from, save for one thing: the simple slowdance. Now, I love to pull a lady of awesome up to me and dance close and slow, it’s something beautiful, if you ask me, and while I seldom get the chance, I do love it. I was out in LA visiting Judith (SaBean had recently R-UN-N-O-F-T with someone (as I recall, it was a gentleman from New Orleans) and we were enjoying each other’s company for what would turn out to be the final time in that attempt to connect ourselves. And oddly, when I got to her place, she was already a sheet-and-a-half to the wind. OK, so we wouldn’t be going out to the Egyptian, which was sad, but at least we were getting the chance to hang out together. “Hi, babe-ee” she said. I had often wished I had a camera whenever I was around Drunk Judith, but the Smart Phone was still half-a-decade away. “How ya doin’, Judith?” “I’m into the Gin, darling!” “That bad?” “Worse, darling! Absolutely terribly much worse!” She was channeling Zelda Fitzgerald, it seemed, sans the accent. She walked over to the small table where she had two of every type of glass I’d ever seen. She pulled a highball glass, and from somewhere produced a shirt of Ginger Ale. “You don’t like gin,” she said, “you like rye.” “You’re right on that count.” I said. She poured a bit of rye in with the Ginger Ale and we were off to the races. Maybe an hour later, she had in the course of serving me my drinks managed to catch me up with her, now slowly sobering up. We chattered and chimed in on the goings-on of our friends and family. It was the drunken good times of a part-time couple who had gone from ‘frozen’ to ‘mildly active’.
“Music!” she said suddenly. And she put on Strangeways Here We Come. I think she started with side two, because I remember that it was ‘Last Night I Dreamt’ as the first song played. I wasn’t very steady on my feet, but neither was she. She pulls me up and brought me close, and we started the simple back and forth. We were close, we were drunk and we were dancing and she was singing along. “Last night I dreamt, somebody loved me. No hope, no harm, just another false alarm.” I don’t know why she stopped singing, but she actually moved in closer and put her head on my shoulder, and we slowed our dance down a little more. And the song changed, and then again, and we never changed, and at some point, we stopped dancing and just stood there holding each other. For ages, well beyond the length of the side of the record. This would have been an ideal time for us to start kissing. And yet, we did not. Not at all. We just stood there, in her beautiful house, among her hundreds of collectibles, her movie posters, her stacks of movies and CDs and tapes and more everywhere. All except her Vinyl. That was all in a cabinet. I think we broke apart when I had to catch a swooning Judith, took her to the fainting couch (yes, she had a Fainting Couch!) and I took a seat on the floor next to her and the morning came following the night, neither of which we noticed, unless she had woken up in the middle of the night. We went for breakfast, and we hardly talked. The booze’s after-effects still there, but more importantly, I don’t either of us understood what the night before had actually been. It was a silent, unspoken break-up kiss for a relationship neither of us were actually in. And all without our lips touching. If I ever did an album of Smiths covers myself, the front cover would be me and Judith in that embrace, a wash of light yellow over us. Of course, I’d be played by Michael Fassbinder, and Judith could be Judith. She’d still show him up in the looks department.
Track 7 – Unhappy Birthday (2:46) Now I should talk about Janice Whaley’s covers of The Smiths. Yes, you’ve read the interview, which I am so grateful to have in these pages, but more important than that is the music itself. Unhappy Birthday might be my favorite of her versions. Rubber Ring is right up there. It’s pretty darn similar to the original, which is in my Top Ten, but so importantly, it shows why she is the perfect person, and perhaps more importantly, the PERFECT voice for this project. Morrissey is a balladeer. His voice comes from a place inside him that is often darker than sackcloth, at the same time, he gives a sort of visceral growl to much of the music he produces. Janice’s voice is feminine in a way that gives everything she sings a touch of pearl. Her voice shines, silky all over the place, especially in songs like Unhappy Birthday. On Unhappy Birthday, she plays with what Morrissey had given to the world and takes it in a slightly different direction, which works so well. The Smiths Project (thesmithsproject.com) is so incredible because of how she plays with each tune, bending some wildly, and tweaking a few others. Looking at Unhappy Birthday, I feel like she recognised not only the meaning of the song, and playing reverence to Moz, but she also found a latch in the lyrics that allowed her to give the best of her voice to it. It’s an amazing performance, and this is a song where you could easily go into deep water and never be found. Janice plays it perfectly. In a song like Panic, she takes what The Smiths did as a sort of tongue-in-cheek anthem and turns it into a far more haunting piece. Listening to her sing the line “Burn down the disco, hang the blessed DJ” is less a condemnation of the UK Club scene, and more a slightly terrifying reminder of the power of that scene. She pulled the ideas out, left them on the floor, but she infused the words with something new and equally powerful by removing the tongue from the cheek. I love her take on Unhappy Birthday. It’s got everything that The Smiths Project promised in spades. She actually makes a bit brighter, though that conflict is still there. There’s also a bit of British 1980s electronica to it, and she has a downshift at a couple of points that gives the song a bit more gravitas. I love that. Track 8 – Paint a Vulgar Picture (5:35) This is the song that defines The Smiths from within. Morrissey seems to hate the industry part of the Music industry. This is the song that probably told the story of the end, of what was going to lead to the end of the road. But, imagine what would have happened if this was 2007 instead of 1987. Morrissey and Marr would have been all over Twitter, airing their grievances, Roarke and that other guy would have had Facebook updates that were constantly being updated and pulled down equally as fast. They’d have let Rough Trade (or Sire) and gone indy, Amanda Palmered it up, gone completely indy, released albums through their website, produced albums and directly released them to the masses, have dominated iTunes sales charts, have put out YouTube videos, and then broken up and their bitterness would have flooded blogs and Tweets and so on and on and on. It would have been a much different moment in time. I remember the first Smiths zine I saw, You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, and then I came to Morri’zine, which was probably the best-known of all the all the Morrissey zines that have ever appeared. Still my favorite, and the publisher was amazing, keeping it runnign from 1987 to 1995, when I think the role of the top zine in the Moziological arts become Sing Your Life, well, at least that was the one I could get at Tower Records. I read these, and while I was doing stuff with Jay and M and the like, Stacked Decks for example. These were important zines in my life, and they were as close as we had to the Web Presence as you’l find today. It was how you looked behind the curtain, more so than Rolling Stone or BAM, it was the way we saw the other side of the Boys, and it was often Dark. Imagine today, imagine the furor...
Track 9 – Death At One’s Elbow (2:01) Maybe as I approach the end of this little effort I should reflect on something that has happened over the years of my Smiths listening. Every song has morphed, two or three times, in meaning. Sometimes, they were simply love songs, mostly in those days when I was all the love and the joy and the pain of love and its attachments. Sometimes, they were cynical calls to my darker, less personable, angrier side. And as I’ve aged, they’ve become stories, almost all of them, of what my life has been. At times, the songs hurt to hear, memories and dreams brought up that have faded greatly in the sunshine of passing time. Others are memories sweet and beautiful, a peach’s sweetness nestled in my mouth. I will admit, this has, at times, been painful, and i’ve written a few things I’ve been waiting to deal with since I started doing The Drink Tank, since they happened. I had to pause at times, and at others highlight blocks of text, hit the delete key, and start over with something new, something less volatile inside of me. Though it did feel good to put one or two of these hard ones away, pack them in velvet, move them to deep storage in words on a screen. That’s how I come to grips. This may all be said to delay this one, this song’s memory. I spent an evening surfing AOL chatrooms, the best in the world at the time. IRC had nothing on the frolic that was AOL open chatroom. The invite-only ones were even more racous, but I met a lot of folks in Wrestling Chat and various Locals Only rooms that would change the course of my life. And there was the night I saw a room called Death At One’s Elbow. I knew the Smiths, completely at that point, and I thought it would be nice to get to know some more fans of the band. It was also possible that one of them was a lass who would find her way to IMing me, starting one of those torrid on-line affairs that seemed to be so popular. I entered, even though I saw that there was only other person in there. I should note all names are approximate, though certainly NOT the actual screennames involved. Also, of course, I don’t have total recall, so this is, at best, an approximation of what was said. MozStar SKA666: Hey. MozStar: hi SKA666: ASL? MozStar: 19 f newark MozStar: same SKA666: 22 M Santa Clara MozStar used to live in sunnyvale SKA666: Sweet! MozStar: I hated it MozStar: went to homestead SKA666: Awesome! I went to Santa Clara. MozStar: used to hang out with kristy suddens MozStar: you know her? SKA666: Rad! I knew her brother SKA666: Wait, Newark NJ or CA? MozStar: ca SKA666: Ah, that makes sense. At that point, I started checking some of the other rooms I was logged into. I’ve always been a multitasker. I popped back in to find a long string of MozStar’s posts.
MozStar: why you come in here? MozStar: no one else has come in for hours MozStar: been alone. MozStar: waiting for someone to talk to MozStar: just need someone to talk to MozStar: want someone to talk to
I returned. SKA666: Sounds like lyrics SKA666:You write songs? MozStar: your back SKA666:Yeah. MozStar: used to write a lot of song but stopped MozStar: no one wanted to hear them SKA666: Really? Why? MozStar: dunno MozStar: people dont like me anymore SKA666: They don’t? MozStar: not anymore. MozStar: they used to but not now MozStar: messed up really bad MozStar: super bad. MozStar: everyone stopped talking to me senior year MozStar: almost dropped out SKA666: That sucks. At that moment, a new user, HangarMutt, came into the room. MozStar: shit HangarMutt: What’s up, slut? MozStar: fuck you HangarMutt:You tried HangarMutt: Whore. SKA666: Whoa. WTF? MozStar has left room: DeathAtOnesElbow I sent her an IM SKA666:You OK? MozStar: thats the guy SKA666: Oh.You want to report him to Mods? MozStar: no. MozStar: hes just a dick MozStar: can i dump on you for a sec MozStar: ? SKA666: Sure. MozStar: i used to go out with this guy named jason MozStar: he was my first boyfriend MozStar: he went to foohill MozStar: he was a senior at homestead my freshmen year MozStar: and we dated until my senior year
MozStar: but we never had sex MozStar: and at a party after one of the shows MozStar: I got drunk and had sex with two guys SKA666: Wow. MozStar: and mike, the guy who came into the room earlier, was one of them MozStar: and he started saying that he’d tell jason if I didn’t keep doing it with him SKA666: Shit, that sucks. MozStar: so we had sex every day after school MozStar: either at my house or backstage or whatever MozStar: and one day I said no and he told jason that night MozStar: and jason came over and we got in a big fight MozStar: and he hit me MozStar: and then mike started telling everyone at school MozStar: and then i went to another party MozStar: my cousins birthday MozStar: and there was this guy there MozStar: and we drank and got drunk MozStar: and he raped me SKA666: Did you report it? MozStar: yeah MozStar: he was arrested MozStar: and he was jasons best friend MozStar: and he said I asked for it MozStar: they let him off MozStar: jason found out MozStar: he came over one night MozStar: and he hit me again MozStar: he tore all my clothes off MozStar: but my mom came home and he ran away MozStar: and i didn’t want to see my mom so I hid MozStar: ran to kristys house MozStar: but she was mad at me because she liked mike and took his side MozStar: she hasnt talked to me since I had no idea how to react, and I recall it being forever before I responded SKA666: So, you didn’t mess up. SKA666: Everyone else just fucked you over. MozStar: no i messed up MozStar: i let it all happen. SKA666: Now, THEY did it, it was their choice. SKA666: Not your fault. MozStar: i’m a piece of shit MozStar: everyone tells me that SKA666: No, you’re wrong there. MozStar: im a whore and slut because I let them do it to me SKA666: ? MozStar: no one loves me SKA666: That’s probably not true. MozStar: it feels like it.
SKA666: That happens. SKA666: But it’s almost never true SKA666: Even Aa loved Hitler at the end. MozStar: lol That little three-letter string helped lighten things. We slid off the darker topics and into other stuff, eventually coming to The Smiths SKA666: Why you hanging out in a Smiths room? MozStar: love morrissey MozStar: best band ever MozStar: best song ever SKA666: I love ‘em! Have all their records. MozStar: me too MozStar: thanks SKA666: ? MozStar: thank you for chatting with me MozStar: means a lot to have someone to talk to SKA666: Happy to talk with a Smiths fan, always! And we talked a bit more, maybe an hour MozStar: im feeling better SKA666: Good. MozStar: tried to kill myself MozStar: last week MozStar: havent laughed since MozStar: until tonight MozStar: thanks SKA666: I’ve got news for you, it’s pretty much morning now! MozStar: funny. SKA666: Sorry things suck. It’ll get better, but you’re gonna have to fight through it. SKA666: And don’t kill yourself. SKA666: because if Morrissey has taught us anything, it’s that pain = Pop Stardom. MozStar: lol SKA666: I gotta get to bed. MozStar: me too MozStar: talk tomorrow MozStar: ? SKA666: Absolutely MozStar: thanks MozStar: night SKA666: And a Goodnight to you! And sadly, the world turned, and time passed, and I never messaged her again. And she never messaged me.
Track 10 – I Won’t Share You (2:48) The last song. The last song on a Smiths studio album, and the last song in this project. It’s been crazy in my head, I’ve written parts of this at my desk, on my bed, my couch, in the Hilton where the Nebulas were held, sitting right next to Robert Silverberg, across from John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal, in the ConSuite with fans and David Hartwell, in Denny’s, at Evelyn’s, in the car, everywhere. It is a project that while nowhere near as impressive as Janice Whaley’s, has it’s place in my heart. 32K+ words put to paper, as it were, and then laid out, presented, mailed to a few, put on the web. It’s been fun. It’s been real. It’s all over. And the song that ends it is not my favorite, though the video of Janice singing it with Thomas Lennon on Guitar, is awesome. They’re obviously having a lot of fun. This isn’t a great song, it’s not one of those that people who love the Smiths call one of the greatest, but it does what it’s supposed to do. It turns out the light, it tucks you in, it tells you ‘it’s time for bed, and this is your bedtime story’. This is as closest to a lullaby as The Smiths got. Morrissey’s voice is echoing, as if it’s bouncing off the bedroom walls, and the mandolin every bit as jangly as you’d expect, but it’s also the kind of thing that you only put on an album if you’re saying goodbye. I’m sure they weren’t thinking that when they recorded it, but that’s what time does: it gives significance to the minor; makes liars of all creators. And here it was over, and sung gently to sleep. Not in the way that “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” did, but in a way where I’m not sure if I’m going to wake up, but I’ll know that what’s gone by is special and beautiful and if there is a tomorrow, it will be infused with all the pain and beauty of the world. And in the end, isn’t that always the case?
A Few of the Singles ...
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want (1:50) The theme of our Prom was There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, and yet, they never played that song. I was one of the main people pushing that we do that theme, and we did! Getting them to play any Smiths songs, not easy. Except for a slow dance. You see, there is no better slow song than “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” because it’s short, it’s slow and it’s EVERYWHERE! It’s got to be The Smiths most covered song, and it touches the heartstrings, zing zing zing! And, I imagine, every guy my age must have a story about slow dancing to it. I know I do. It was my Senior Prom and I was there and having a good time, because I had a girlfriend, Kelly. She was the single most adorable woman at Santa Clara, cute and sweet and funny and just that kind of strange. She did have a niavite that worked lovely against my semi-cynical/sardonicism. Yeah, I tried that method in High School, it didn’t work for me. So, I had two dates to my Senior Prom. We had planned on attending the Prom with our friend Christy and her date, but he got ill, so I ended up with two dates. My life is as close to a sit-com as possible without being taped in front of a Live Studio Audience. So, we take a lovely car to dinner in Coyote Point, overlooking the Bay and the SF Airport, and then we headed to the dance at the Fairmont, and it was beautifully decorated and the music was awful, and we danced a bit, and hung out a bit, and Kelly looked amazing and I looked as good as I possibly could in a Tux, and then the night started to wind down and we were on teh edge of the dance floor and then I heard “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” start up, and Kelly and I jumped onto the floor, and I pulled her close and she came in even closer, and she put her head on my collarbone, and I leaned my head down and I kissed the tip of her ear and we danced for a bit. “You look beautiful tonight.” I said. “Shh,” she said, “I’ve got to hold this memory. It’s all I’ll have of you after you go away.” “It’s only college.” I said, knowing that I had the Washington internship for 8 weeks, then Emerson coming up. “No,” She said, looking up at me, “you’re going on to somewhere better.” And we danced, and then the lights came on, and we left, and I dropped her at home, and I sat in the car for a while afterwards, listening to The Smiths: The Singles and I remember I was thinking that timing sucks, and if I had met her a couple of years before, well, it would just be delaying the inevitable, that time would flow, and no matter what I’d hit the road, find a new territory, move a little further down the line. I type these words less that a mile from where I sat in that car. My life has not led me as far as I would have hoped, and others might have expected...
William, It Was Really Nothing (2:10) Would you like to marry me? And if you like you can buy the ring. I’ve talked about marriage with a couple of women over the years. It’s not something I’m opposed to, it’s just not what I’m able to do, largely because financially, it’s a mess in my world. I lived with a woman once, and I had a serious financial crash, terrible, deposited a paycheck that left me with two bucks left after clearing the negative. I ended up draining her bank account two just to keep our apartment, and then things got worse, she lost her car, I had to sell a ton of things that had been very precious to me (including my Motherwell!) just to stay indoors. It kinda soured me on the whole experience of marriage and so on, since I’m not really much more stable financially now then I was then. It happens. The story here is about the ne time I almost actually got married. Summer, hot, 100+. I hate the heat. It is not condusive with my unique, panda bear-like body type. I was hanging with my friend Jenny and we ere lazing around, watching Twin Peaks. I love Twin Peaks. We were hot, and we had two oscillating fans so there was one always blowing on one of us. We were not having a great time, I think I’d been through two full pitchers of Brita Water that day. I’m not sure what led up to it, but Jenny looked over at me. “You wanna get married?” she asked. “Yeah, someday.” “No, I mean right now, tonight.” I sorta cocked my head to one side. Jenny and I weren’t dating, though I’ll admit to having had a crush on her. She was a very cute girl, and equally talky as I am. “Why you wanna get married now? We’re not even graduated?” “That’s the best reason!” She said. “They’ll give us more financial aid! Plus, we’ll be the only married couple at school!” I thought about it for a few minutes. It was almost unnaturally quiet, even with Twin Peaks playing in the background. “Yeah, leet’s go get married.” I said. And we got up, got in her car, and started our drive to Lake Tahoe. It’s a four hour drive, and we were talking about stuff and listeneing to ska and The Smiths and Ultravox and we stopped along the way so I could call my Mom and tell her not to expect me at home, and get some burgers in us. We were sitting there in Placerville, an hour or so outside of Tahoe, and Jenny finally got a little quiet for a bit. Rare for her. “What’s up?” I asked, takign a sip of my Dr. Pepper. “Let’s not do this.” “You don’t wanna get married mow?” “No, not any more.” I took the last bite of my burger. “OK, but that’s no reason for us not to go and have a good time in Tahoe, right?” She took another bite of her burger, a drink of her Coke. “Yeah, but only if we get a good room, high floor at Harvey’s?” “Sure, but why a high floor?” She got this wonderfully mischievious smile on her face. “Well, I wanna be able to see something of Tahoe if we’re not going to be leaving the room.” I took over driving from there. We made record time.
Shakespeare’s Sister (2:09) This is what Johnny Cash would have been recording if he had Johnny Marr as his guitarist. The way the song rolls out is incredible, powerful, and even if it’s not their best work, and lyrically it’s not, it’s memorable. The opening bit - Young bones groan and the below say ‘throw your skinny body down, son’, but I’m going ot meet the one I love, at last at last at last. Romeo & Juliet, much? Here’s the thing, when I was younger, I knew exactly what this song was about - loving someone so much that you’re willing to give up the ghost to even have the barest of chances to be with them again. It’s not that I don’t believe that sort of love exists, hell I feel it now, but, well, you’ve read about my fears so far. It’s something that just wouldn’t happen for me. Enough of that, because I knew what I’d be writing about for this song before I started the project. Shakespears Sister - The Band, which took the name from the song (and somethign Virginia Woolf once wrote, but who’s ever heard of her?) So, Siobhan Fahey was a member of a little band called Bananarama. They had a few hits, and they were really on the cutting edge of pop music at the time they came around. Siobhan left Bananarama and started performing under the name Shakespears Sister in 1988. Eventually, she brought on Marcella Detroit, a musician from New York who was an excellent background singer and had been recording some of her own stuff.Together, they had a great sound, though they didn’t get along all that well. The big deal for them was the song “Stay” which was a hit in the UK and in the US. In the UK, it spent 8 weeks at #1. THat’s something the Smiths never managed. And the funny thing is, they were as far from The Smiths as you could be.They depneded on towering and complex vocals and electronic beats. “Stay”’s power is within the combination of soaring vocals of Detroit, mixed with the gritty, almost growl, of Fahey. That’s not what you saw in The Smiths work, but still, it was an awesome song!