Song Of The Day 3/26/2017: Robyn Hitchcock – “Viva! Sea-Tac”
The (other) Final 4
Just thought I’d warn you.
Road TripsA couple of weeks after I left Zune my sister Cathy died. We hadn’t been in very close touch. Like I said before, her relationship with the rest of her family was somewhat volatile.
My parents and other sister Linda were devastated. I didn’t know how serious Cathy’s health problems were, but she’d been touch and go for a while. She left behind two kids and their father, who was ill himself. He died last year.
My grieving process was not quite as obvious. Just being stunned, mainly. And at the end of the night playing Tony Bennett’s recording of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” because it’s ironically one of the saddest tracks I’ve ever heard.
The first thing I did was get a Spotify subscription, since my Zune Pass was no longer on the house. Have you tried Spotify yet? What a great idea!
The second thing I did was get this MacBook here. Four and a half years, still in tip-top shape (except for the battery, but I’m never far away from a plug).
The next thing I did was some field work on a new business idea I had based directly on the Green Room experience, since that was what I did at Zune that I was best at. I wanted to do that more or less full-time. I took a road trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, meeting with a lot of my Zune label contacts about the feasibility of running a business that focused on music acts, but was really for any artist that wanted a more three-dimensional way to present themselves online. I’d take the approach I developed for my writing and production work and adapt it for other situations and art forms.
I didn’t end up pursuing it because I had no way to raise immediate capital, and I needed to find a more constant gig to take care of the family and the mortgage.
Technically I suppose it’s not a totally dead idea, since the Facebook page is still up and it’s still getting hits. And, heh, I guess I’ll have more time now once this leafleting campaign is almost done.
In San Francisco I met up with my parents and my sister for lunch at Macy’s. I also met my half-sister Jeannette for the first time. My mom had given her up for adoption after she was born. They had reconnected a couple of years ago. I remember the moment well because Mom and Linda called me after their initial meeting. I had never heard my mom sound so happy.
Where You Can Find My Writing With Longer WordsFor a few months in 2013 I worked on spec for another music app that was being built. I’d met up with the founder, whose story was pretty astonishing, in Portland. I was going to be their app editor and relocate to L.A. It didn’t work out but there weren’t any hard feelings. If I’d packed up and moved to L.A. right then it might have turned out differently, but it was too soon to move. Moving back to L.A. was no longer a prospect I feared. I was kind of up for it, actually.
One thing I did in my work for these guys was research a ton of music news sites—I forget exactly why. I filled my news feed with every music news source I came upon, familiar or otherwise.
There was one site that captured my interest I’d never come across before. I was getting a lot of my news from them. The thing that struck me most was that they didn’t give their album reviews any kind of numerical rating system. They just wrote their opinions down.
I liked that a lot. I felt that star rating systems were okay if one was keeping them for themselves. But I didn’t like them as much as I did when I was learning about modern music. It’s almost like a way to excuse one’s self from reading the review in the first place. I wasn’t so much about giving albums a quantification. I liked reviews that focused on the interaction between the writer and the music they were listening to. The site’s called Treble.
So I wrote ‘em and asked if they wouldn’t mind taking on a new contributor. They said sure. They don’t pay, but at the time I was looking to put my name in more places.
At a little less than four years, it’s now officially the longest continuous relationship I’ve had as a writer to a specific media property. I’m really taken with them as people and as a group. They’re generating new ideas and ways to contribute.
I write record reviews—not my favorite medium for expression, but I’m getting better at it—for Treble. Long, long record reviews. I give them more than enough to whittle down into a more compact chunk, but honestly they don’t touch my work as much as others have. I work on other special features and interviews as well. Two of the best long-form things I’ve done were career retrospectives for Hall & Oates and the first decade and a half of Van Morrison’s solo career. They’ve been great about it. I’m habitually late with my submissions to them and they’re very patient.
Now that I’ll have more time I’ll hopefully be more efficient with Treble, or at least come up with better excuses for turning things in late.
Down With KPPI’ve also joined a gang.
My high school friend Saundrah—one of the most radiant souls I know—moved to Seattle and joined a few bands. After a few years here she fell in love and moved to Europe.
A few years ago she came back to visit, and invited me out to karaoke at the Twilight. I met up with her and her friend Dana, one of the creators of the Seattle music blog Three Imaginary Girls. We had a great time. I cranked out my version of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” for the and their remarks were quite kind, even though my Freddie range is not what it used to be at Thekla.
Not long after that Dana started a Facebook group called Karaoke Party People, and put my name among the members. Their group mission was to go to a different karaoke club in Seattle once a month, and perform songs that related to some sort of chosen theme. It was nice of them to invite me, but I didn’t see myself doing karaoke at regular intervals again.
But in the fourth month of their being the KPP announced that they were going to a session of the Seattle branch of Baby Ketten karaoke, a sort of traveling karaoke sound system that originated in Portland. Baby Ketten’s catalog is so fucking amazing that even the New York Times did an article on them. I had to see it for myself, so I cleared it with my wife and met up with the KPP in Queen Anne that month.
They were really, really nice to me right off the beam, these KPP folks. The first song I sang for KPP was Tom Waits’ “Step Right Up.” (I sure pick Tom Waits songs to kick things off a lot.) They were suitably impressed with how I did. I still had it, motherfuckers.
I bargained with myself that perhaps a once-monthly karaoke session wasn’t going to get in the way of my infrastructure rebuilding program.
A couple of months later we had a theme called “Nasty!” at the Rickshaw Lounge in north Seattle. I decided to bring the theatricality angle that I’d beaten to the ground at Thekla. I chose Madonna’s “Erotica” to sing. Instead of rapping in a half-awake state of arousal like Madonna did on the original, I presented the lyrics in the form of a sales pitch. I went looking for a gold jacket like the ones Century 21 real estate salespeople used to wear, but I settled for a tacky blazer. I also printed brochures and passed them out as the song wound down. Closed the deal.
I’ve been going ever since. Next month it’ll mark four years since I started my musical torture campaign anew. The KPP is my main conduit of Seattle social life these days. When things were terrible (and things were pretty terrible in 2013) I’ve always had at least one night a month to look forward to with some truly magnificent people. They’re great friends to me. But I’ve always had great friends.
Where You Can Find My Wasted Time With More Sound EffectsSince mixtapes are in line to be this blog’s primary unit of consumption after Wednesday has come and gone, I thought I’d give you an orientation session and scratchpad history on ‘em before too much work gets done.
I’ve been using Mixcloud to post my mixtapes since late 2013. There’s no upload limit on Mixcloud, at least not yet. And, most critically for me, they dole out royalties to the artists that are featured on the mixes they receive. I don’t think the royalties amount to that much, of course, but I feel better that there’s some revenue generation happening instead of none.
The first 15 mixes, which go through the end of 2015, were generally uncomplicated. With a couple of exceptions they were straight playlists. The exceptions included #6: The Tellus Mixes and #9: Solve the Solvents, both of which had some editing exercises. The first 15 mixtapes also included a four-part series called The Hidden ‘60s, which resuscitated a playlist concept I first developed at Zune.
There is a definitive before-and-after point in the Mixcloud series, and that’s #16: Disco Doubt. That was when I started playing around with the idea of using the mixtape to form some sort of narrative and break the playlist wall, so to speak. On Disco Doubt my KPP philosophical twin Jennifer was the first special guest to appear on a mixtape.
From that point on I was just as apt to use Mixcloud to generate fully-themed productions as straight song presentations. #20: Veritas Animus was a personal work that I’ve given up trying to explain, settling for the tagline “Mulholland Drive for record nerds.” Then there was #23: Sincerely Yours, Sunbrite, which featured contributions from 24 different people and remains the most popular of all the mixtapes. (I’m pleased to announce I’ve started work on the sequel.)
And work continues apace on the mixtapes. We’re up to 50 now, not including the Star Time mixes. Speaking of…
Ahead to the PastI finally made good on my ambition to have an R&B oldies radio show. It came through the efforts of Rainier Valley Radio, a group that was awarded stewardship of one of the “microstations” the FCC gave to small non-profit groups a few years ago.
I’ve made 12 episodes so far. And once SOTD goes off the grid, I’ll be doing these shows weekly. ’Til then you can hear all the episodes on the Star Time Mixcloud page.
Everyone I’ve worked with at RVR—especially helmsman Tony B, former host of Street Beat on former station KUBE—has been utterly great to work with, supportive of everything I’ve done, and generous in the opportunities they’ve offered me.
I was going to spend more time discussing this particular aspect of my life, but there are some situational changes in structure that I’m not privy to enough to discuss, and probably wouldn’t interest you that much at the moment anyway. Well, maybe they would, but I still don’t know enough. And it doesn’t really matter where Star Time is concerned. Just know that Star Time is going weekly and you’ll have more information very soon.
The Final Subheading of the Final 50And that brings you to the present.
As usual, there’s a lot in flux right now.
Some things have worked out, other things haven’t. There are a few things I’m looking forward to, and a couple of possibilities I dread. It’s been that way for most of my time here in Seattle. I suspect it’s been that way for everyone except the pathological and the dead.
Where will this blog go after Wednesday? I have some ideas. I think it’s better if I just throw them at you once they’re ready to happen, though.
The focus on music won’t change.
Now that I’ve spent almost 50 days talking about myself, I don’t feel I have to go back to my that well anymore. It’s been fun to talk about but I’m talked out now.
The blog design will change. I have some new templates to check out. The redesign will happen within a month.
And let’s face it, I’ll still post songs up here. It just won’t be every day.
I do know this: When I first started thinking about retiring Song Of The Day—almost two years ago—my objective for doing so was to advance my writing. It has to grow. This isn’t a change I’m trying to force upon myself. If it was I would have forced it two years ago. I’ve had all that time to figure out my next move.
Really, I’ll figure it out. I promise. Soon. You’ll be the first to know.
Until then, there are three songs left, and it’s time to get all Capra-esque on your ass.
I know I said "Spielberg-esque" but I changed my mind. We're going full-on Capra.