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Entry date: 2-19-2024 – Have a President, Today – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

I took a look back at last year’s blog on this day. It was a Sunday, and I was talking about the excellent TV show, Better Things.  I do miss that show.

 

As I reflect on this particular day, President’s Day 2024, I have to say that I am not particularly jazzed about the upcoming election. I don’t want to be an ageist, but I think both guys are too damn old. One is repugnant, in my eyes, because he is a convicted rapist (Civil court is still court). The other is a warmonger and while he has done a fair amount of good, our country is still divided.

 

It's time for some new blood. It’s time for some honesty and accountability. It’s time for real change.

 

I wish I could have the opportunity to “Being John Malkovich” a Trump supporters’ brain. I want to understand the motivation. I want to understand what they see in him. I can see how some people might think he is good for the country because of his memorable sloganeering, sure. When he first decided to run in 2015 or so, he was saying a lot of interesting things.

 

His idea of draining the swamp was certainly intriguing and part of me hoped he could do it. What I soon realized, though, was what he was calling a swamp and what I was hoping he meant were two different things. Then he started with the blatantly racist stuff, and I was definitely looking elsewhere.

 

The United States is a melting pot. Civil rights are a thing that we need. That’s just that.

 

On this President’s Day, here is what I wish we had. I wish we had a country where we valued everyone and respected opinions that were different than our own. I wish people understood what it meant to be Christ-like instead of just calling themselves a “Christian” and judging everyone in the name of a man who wasn’t interested in judging others. I wish we had safe borders and policies in place to build everyone up rather than tearing some down, ignoring others, and exploiting even more.

 

We do live in a land of plenty. The evidence supports this notion, and we throw away more things than we should, including people and ideas and, dare I say it, love. We take a lot for granted in the United States. I wish we had reasonable gun laws and support for renewable energy. I wish we had reasonable drug laws and limited access to tobacco and alcohol as much as we limit access to Marijuana.

 

I wish we supported critical thinking and we able to teach problem solving in schools in a useful way. I wish we had empathy for each other, and it was not considered a sign of weakness. I wish we had access to quality healthcare for everyone.

 

In a near perfect world, we could figure this out and figure out how to pay for it, too. We could do it. We can do it, but will we?

 

I hope you all enjoy your day off, if you have one, and if you’re working, I hope it’s not too hard.

 

*****

 

At some point in the later 90s, King Missile came to town to play at the Mason Jar. By that point, Franco, the legendary owner of the Jar, and I had become pretty good at working with each other. I asked for and received the opening slot for the show. Hillbilly Devilspeak was definitely not the best match in town for King Missile’s quirky rock/folk/post-punk/alternative pop hybrid, but I loved them and wanted the show.

 

I was stoked. I had gotten hip to them after watching Sunday Night Music on channel 12 one night when Bongwater was on the show. Dave Rick played guitar in Bongwater, and I learned that he had another band, King Missile (as well as many others). This was well before the song “Detachable Penis” came out.

 

When King Missile’s The Way To Salvation came out in 1991, I was all over it. I was super keen on all the weirdo New York poppy bands thanks to seeing Bongwater and I scarfed up everything I could find for a while.  A lot of it was not so great, but The Way To Salvation really pushed the right buttons.

 

So, we play our set that night at the Jar for about forty or so people. Not a great turnout for the “Detachable Penis” band who didn’t tour often, but I noticed that John S. Hall, the King Missile guy, watched our whole set. He was very nice and said he enjoyed it a lot. They played and were great, doing a few of the songs off of The Way To Salvation that I loved and afterwards, I talked with Hall for a while.

 

He was a very strange guy. To this day, I don’t know if he was fucking with me or thought I was fucking with him. I did heap a fair amount of praise on him and talked his ear off about how much I love The Way To Salvation, but he got really intense and seemed to want to be very close when talking. I was weirded out by it and made an excuse about having to get up early and bailed.

 

Later on, though, I realized that many musicians want to be right there with you when they talk. My theory is that hearing damage and being used to being in a van with four or five other people kind of destroys the idea of personal space. I probably should have hung out a little longer and talked with him.

 

Either way, though, The Way To Salvation is another one of these records that I just thoroughly love. It is filled with humor and irony, but also just has moments that rock the fuck out. Hall wrote some great lyrics, too.

 

It’s actually a very wordy record which makes a lot of since because Hall had gained some renown as a poet in New York City before the band got going. “You’ll never make it/no need to fake it/giggled the antichrist/just put on an Otis Redding record and dance,” is one of the great lines in the opener/title track “The Way to Salvation.”

 

Rick’s guitar work is pretty darn stellar on this record, too. He’s got a nice, crunchy thing going on for the rhythm of “The Way to Salvation” but drops in all these tasty little licks to punctuate it. Think backwards, what the fuck, poppy stuff. The partnership between Rick and Hall is really fantastic as both seem to enjoy taking the piss out of the rock and roll establishment.

 

“Life” has some really great guitar, too. “This is life/the one you get/so go and have a ball/This is life/don’t worry it will kill you/don’t worry it’s delicious/don’t worry it will be over sooner than Shiva can open an eye.” Dude definitely has the words at his disposal and uses them like a charm on the entirety of The Way To Salvation.

 

As a Bongwater and Harry Nilsson fan, there was something about “The Boy Who Ate Lasagna and Could Jump over a Church.” It is very much an ode (intentional or not) to Nilsson’s The Point record, which I love.  The song also has a very Bongwater-ish feel to it. It’s only about 90 seconds long, but it’s great.

 

As the music swells to crescendo early in “The Story of Willy,” you can’t help but get sucked into it. I love the drama of King Missiles work. This is another one that just shows how well Hall and Rick played off each other. As I listen to the song, I can just see them having a fucking blast in the studio recording this stuff then listening back and laughing their asses off. I really hope they were doing this with the sense of humor I feel in it.

 

There is a lot of silliness in The Way To Salvation. As much as I love a serious, heartfelt piece of work from a band, I am also very down with the silly. “Dinosaurs” is a perfect example. The words are a pretty radical little diatribe about dinosaurs, but the band behind Hall is playing the sort of dark, psychedelic rock riffage behind him replete with some excellent organ/keyboard.

 

“I Wish” is another charmer about story telling. “I wish I knew the one about the dog that dressed like a cat,” is just one of the great things Hall wishes during the song. Another, “I wish I could eat the corn of joy and sorrow” is truly inspiring. “The Indians” would probably the band ridiculed this day for the use of the tom-tom sound, but the words are actually some pretty interesting commentaries on human nature, specifically those that colonize.

 

As the middle of the record hits, there are some really great and rockin’ moments. “It’s” starts out with more interesting work from Rick that drives the song. By this point in The Way To Salvation, Hall’s words are just washing over you in waves. I love that you have to listen closely to King Missile to really get it. If you don’t, you still might really enjoy it because the songs are well-crafted and there is enough ‘clever’ in them to make you smile a lot.

 

Pay attention, though, people. This record is worth LISTENING if you are willing to give it ¾ of an hour.

 

The only single off this record is the song “My Heart Is a Flower.” It’s some nice 60s inspired pop/folk/psychedelia with a ton of groovy organ in it. I’m certain it was meant to comment on the aforementioned genres with Hall’s signature razor-tipped alacrity, but for me, it’s just a lead in to my favorite song on the record.

 

“Pickaxe” is a rock and roll gem about love and the loss of said love. It may be one of the best songs I’ve ever heard about how it feels to have your heart ripped out by someone you love. Hall’s choice of words is perfect. And, again, Rick just shines on this one.

 

I haven’t mentioned the excellent work of drummer David Ramirez and multi-instrumentalist Chris Xefos. The band that rocked this album is fucking great. I think The Way To Salvation is the only record the four of them did together. It’s a shame they couldn’t have kept it together, but each of the guys were playing in a bunch of cool bands at the time.

 

The album is far from over after “Pickaxe” but for me, that’s the apex of the record. “Sex With You” has a cool heavy funk riff in it that is reminiscent of the Cheech and Chong song, “Earache In My Eye,” to me. “Part two” takes up where “The Boy Who Ate Lasagna and Could Jump Over a Church” left off. It’s so random and great.

 

“Betrayal Takes Two” is a fun cover of Richard Hell and the Voidoids done sort of whiny and countrified. “Listen to Me” seems like a holdover from the earlier days of the band, but I dig it. “Come Closer” is another set of great irony-filled lyrics set over some cool instrumentation.

 

The album closes “Scotland” which is just silly and “To Walk Among the Pigs.” The latter is a very nice bookend to the opener/title track “The Way to Salvation.” Xefos really makes this song work providing a cool organ riff for Hall to talk over. Perfect, really, as a last song.

 

Let’s weed out all the “non-piggish” things, shall we? Hours of entertainment for the price of one CD in 1991. That’s a winner.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Remember these guys?

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1 Comment


I like your wishlist. I really like your wishlist. Maybe because I've traveled to Europe twice now since May 2022 I want those same things you discussed for our country even more now. I'm so cynical though, I don't ever see it happening. I would like to be wrong. I'm not familiar with that album but do know the band.


Now I can get ready for work since I caught up. Thanks Tom

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