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Entry date: 3-16-2024 – We Think of Each Other – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends

 

Those of you who wear glasses of some type, be they readers or sunglasses, or the kind you would be in big trouble if you didn’t have, you know the feeling of looking through lenses that are not quite clean. Sometimes they are borderline disgusting and sometimes it is just one little thing that is mucking up your view. Dirty glasses suck.

 

Thinking about this reminds me of how life works sometimes, too.

 

Do you ever feel like you are taking your life and rubbing it on your shirt to get it clean? It works for a while, but inevitably, you are rubbing the crap off of it again. Sometimes it takes forever just to get one little thing off and we realize that we need to ask for some help. Maybe someone else’s shirt will do a better job. Maybe they have some magic elixir.

 

Today will start off being a tough day for people I love. We say goodbye to Ina today in a formal way. Ina was my wife’s mother-in-law from her previous marriage, and she was my children’s grandmother. She was a lovely, kind, and loving woman, and she will be missed.

 

No matter how hard I try this morning, I won’t be able to clean their glasses with my shirt. All I can do is be there and do my best to help. I’m okay with this because this morning is one of those times when life’s smudges are just going to be there for a bit.

 

But they will fade, and the view will get clearer slowly over time. For the kids and for Rhondi, some things may not look the same, though, as they once did. Certain parts of life will never be as beautiful as they once were, but others will eventually bloom again.

 

It’s easy to write these things but not easy to feel them. Because of this, on this morning, I wish for peace. I wish for love to envelope us all and clean our lenses.

 

*****

 

This afternoon and evening, though, it should be fun. Steam will be blown off and celebrations will take place. We gather with family and celebrate. I’ll be eating some food, that’s for sure, and enjoying the company of people I love.

 

Nineteen years ago on this day, I had no idea that my life was about to change forever. On 3-16-2005, I went to work, probably at a school, and taught kids about sexual harassment. That was my usual Wednesday:  Sexual Harassment. The following day, I would meet Rhondi in person, and I have thought about her every day since then.

 

For 6,929 days, I have thought of her. Doesn’t seem like that long, really, in many ways. In other ways, it seems longer. Some days, she’s been all I can think about and tonight, at some point, I will give her a kiss knowing that she probably doesn’t know that I am looking forward to 6,929 more and many more after that, too.

 

I’m a very lucky guy on the eve of the day when Irishmen feel the luckiest.

 

***** 

 

Another gift from KJ, who I really owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for turning me on to so many bands that were outside of my narrow punk, post-punk, metal, and thrash teenage milieu. The Soft Boys’ Can of Bees has been one of my favorite records for about 35 years, give or take.

 

This is the record that made me a devout fan of one Robyn Hitchcock. I don’t know what it is about the guy that I love so much. His lyrics are brilliant and thoughtful and hilarious, yes, and his songs are clever and cool with just the right amount angst-y weirdness that I love, but also ultimately catchy as hell. He’s also just a genuinely good dude. I’ve interviewed him twice and I sincerely hope I get to speak to him again.

 

Hitchcock is the kind of guy that you can text out of the blue with a random question about Bob Dylan and 15 minutes later, you talk for an hour about Highway 61 Revisited and he’s sending you a picture of his wife holding the iconic record in a clever way. This is just another reason why I love him.

 

When KJ hipped me to Can of Bees, she had no idea what a gift she would be giving me. I thought the opening track, “Give It to the Soft Boys” was fucking brilliant. It’s snarky and cool and kind of hugs and chastised the Beatles at the same time. It always puts me in a good mood, too.

 

That’s the great thing about Can of Bees for me. It makes me happy. It also makes me want to write groovy, angular psychedelic riffs. Aside from Hitchcock, guitarist Kimberley Rew, percussionist/harmonica dude Jim Melton, violinist Gerry Hale, bassist Andy Metcalfe, and drummer Morris Windsor just play so well together. The songs on this album are so well crafted from a musical/sound standpoint.

 

Many of them, like “Pig Worker” are slightly lowbrow lyrically, until you really unwrap the Hitchcockian (I hope I am among the first to use that term for Robyn) wit. The thing about “Pig Worker,” though is that the band is just going off on this song. There is a part near the middle where they get locked in on a riff and then sort of take turns going nuts over top of the loop they have created. Crafty stuff for 1979.

 

Then you switch gears and “Human Music” is just so charming and lovely at its onset. This is another thing I love about Hitchcock. He crafts these songs that have so many different moods all within a few minutes and a handful of chords. “I know your lip was made for kissing/oh baby, when that human music plays, I don’t know why.” It’s romantic, too.

 

I love every song on Can of Bees unabashedly. One of my faves, though, is “Leppo and the Jooves.” I kick myself for not asking Hitchcock about the origins of this title. At almost 5 and a half minutes, it’s the longest song on the record, but it’s a mover. If Hitchcock demands one thing from his music, it’s groove. I need to steal this bassline and morph into my own. It’s sofa king groovy.

 

I love the way the band expands on the first or last word of many of the lyric lines. I hear this kind of creativity and fun with the song, and it makes me want to make music. As I mentioned in an earlier review, one of the tenants of many of the great records I love is that they make me want to make music.

 

“The Rat’s Prayer” feels a bit like the Soft Boys were channeling the Beatles again with a little post-punk feel. When I spoke to Hitchcock the first time, he talked about how he wasn’t much of a fan of punk rock in it’s early days and didn’t want people to see The Soft Boys as a punk band, but a song like “The Rat’s Prayer” is swimming in some of the same waters that a band like The Damned would eventually grow to swim in, too.

 

In fact, that’s probably one of the things that helped me gravitate to The Soft Boys early on. While they don’t sound alike in a lot of ways, there is a feel thing with them that was similar to The Damned after Brian James left the fold. If only Captain Sensible and Robyn Hitchcock would have made a record together.

 

“Do the Chisel” has that Captain Sensible thing going on, for sure. I love how the song opens and I could totally see The Damned covering this song. I forget how great this one is because I’m usually so pumped about “Sandra’s Having Her Brains Out” which comes next and is another of my all-time favorite songs. “Do the Chisel” is just solid pop, though, through and through, and while it is primarily instrumental, it’s still catchy as a cold.

 

“Sandra’s Having Her Brain Out” just slays me. Part of its staying power might be the fact I had a longtime co-worker at Casa named Sandra who I just adored (platonically, of course…we were buddies) and she would occasionally get wound up about something and this song would pop into my head. I played it for her once and I don’t think she saw it in the same way I did.

 

There is a line in there, “You don’t really need a brain if you’re a girl/they’re like tonsils…they’re more trouble than they’re worth” that probably sealed the deal for her. I don’t think Robyn Hitchcock was a misogynist, though. I think it is more about a specific person than a gender.

 

The bridge of “Sandra’s Having Her Brain Out” is pretty brilliant, though, and the outro is groovy and catchy and cool. “Larry’s having his mind repaired.” Yep.

 

“The Return of the Sacred Crab” is typical Hitchcock fun. It’s a little psychedelic, super upbeat, and funny. The band is scorching on this one, as usual, too. Up next is “Cold Turkey” which is a John Lennon cover. It’s a great version of the song and I’m sure Lennon would have approved. I hope he had a chance to listen to it.

 

The last two tracks are live recordings, “School Dinner Blues” and “Wading Through a Ventilator.” Both are solid and good, clean fun. They show how great these guys were live, even if the recording is not quite the same quality as the previous 9 tracks. The energy is there, though, and “Wading Through a Ventilator” is reminiscent of the same kind of energy that the Toy Dolls showed throughout their career.

 

It’s easy to see why some people may have wanted to lump The Soft Boys into the world of punk rock, but they weren’t there at all. They were something else completely and because of this, my perspective was allowed to see a much broader horizon.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



This Colin from Wire. He made me pull over when I interviewed him. I was driving to work and it made him nervous I was on the road, so I pulled over and sat in a Circle K parking lot on 32nd Street and talked to him. When they made it to Phoenix, he put Bobby, Michael, and I on the guest list and came out to talk with us for a bit at the Crescent before the show. He's a great guy.

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