top of page

Entry date: 3-22-2024 – Thoughts and Decisions – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

One of the plethora of cool things about writing about a different record every day is the many moods and memories brought to me by the albums (and CDs) themselves. It’s fun seeing what is available on the different streaming services, too. Spotify is pretty good, but lately I’ve been having a hard time finding a few of the records on there.

 

Write people problems.

 

*****

 

See what I did there?

 

*****

 

Happy Friday everyone. I concluded/decided/leap of faithed yesterday. Regardless of how you put it, I made a decision and I’m going to stick to it. I am going to devote more time each week to finishing The Bet and spend less time on day-to-day stuff. I need to finish this story and who knows, maybe when I’m done it will be my first book, at least in the fiction realm.

 

I’m going to continue with the records. I said I would do a record a day all year and I will. I’ve got almost 200 on my “to write about” list and I keep remembering more records that I really love. If I can come up with about 70 more, I’ll be damn close to the 366 I need. I also have an idea for some I want to start peppering in, too, that will hopefully be interesting on a different level.

 

The main thing, though, is that I need to finish this story so I can go on to others. I want to finish The Trees and I really thought that one was going to be my first book, but The Bet has got me in its grips. I also kind of know how the next 40,000 or so words are going to go. If I devote myself to it, I can probably be pretty close to being finished with the first draft by September or so.

 

This is the goal I am setting for myself, and I am putting it in writing and sharing it with all of you. Hold me to it. I appreciate the help,

 

For those of you who are behind in The Bet, I will be building a page for all the back “episodes” as I have been doling it out for almost a year now a little bit at a time. I really like the idea of a “Serial” novel.

 

*****

 

It sure has been nice having a week without the Cocaine Baby. I get to teach. If he does return next week, I’m not going to give him as much of my energy. He can get in line, or he can drift in the ether. The foot is coming down.

 

The amazing thing is how much more you can get done when you are not catering to crazy every five minutes. I know a lot of you can relate to this idea. Catering to crazy seems to be part of our general, “American Way” any more and that’s very sad. It also speaks volumes about how services are completely lacking for people, including children, who need mental health assistance.

 

Compassion isn’t impossible. Nor is Empathy. In fact, I would venture to say that everyone can learn how to be respectful and caring and, gasp, kind, if given the opportunity to be vulnerable to feeling good without having to attack or control to do it. Sadly, though, there are a lot of people who would consider me to be weak for writing that or question my sexual preference.

 

Ridiculous. Embrace the best version of yourself and help others find their best selves if you can. It’s free!

 

*****

 

There were lots of times I picked up cassettes, CDs, or records because I had heard good things about a band without ever hearing them. Sometimes you win this gamble and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you even think you lost at first, but really ended up winning. Music is always worth taking a chance on, though, in this book.

 

One of these “I’ll chance it” CDs is Dreamy by Beat Happening. Zia Records was having a big sale on Sub Pop stuff, and I got paid on Fridays in the early 90s. I would often go straight to Zia after I left Easy Street and spend $20 or so, but on this particular day, all the Sub Pop CDs were $5.99, so I bought a handful of them.

 

A lot of the more popular titles were already gone, but I got some good ones and every one of that haul is still in my collection and still gets played. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Beat Happening. It wasn’t my favorite from that particular day by far, but there was something about it. Dreamy stuck with me.

 

Over the years, I’ve gone back to Dreamy a lot. It can be quite inspirational when I need to remind myself that good music doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, stupid, is something that works in all facets of life. Dreamy keeps things pretty simple.

 

Beat Happening was a three-piece band in its simplest terms. Vocals, drums, guitar. Calvin Johnson of K Records notoriety played guitar and sang, Heather Lewis played drums, guitar, and sang, and Bret Lunsford played guitar and drums. On Dreamy, you get a chance to hear a bunch of songs sung by both Johnson and Lewis and it’s kind of cool how they go back and forth. Everything else is super simple.

 

Dreamy is one of those records where I think, “Hey, I could do that” but of course, I never have. It would be really fun to make a really stripped down lo-fi indie rock record, though. I know people who might be into it, too. You never know what will happen. If it does, I’ll thank Beat Happening in the liner notes.

 

The song that really stuck out to me at first was “Hot Chocolate Boy.” Something about Johnson’s limited baritone range has always been really cool to me. I guess baritone is pretty limited either way, but Johnson keeps his delivery all on the same page and the lyrics are clever and entertaining

 

I also really like the guitar sound on the song, too. In those early days of owning this CD, “Hot Chocolate Boy” found its way on to a lot of mix tapes and later, CD mixes, for friends. It kind of comes out of left field and I like that in a song.

 

“Me Untamed,” though, is a cool opener and it flows really well into “Left Behind” which is sung by Lewis. The stark difference between Johnson and Lewis’ vocal style really works for me now. I find myself being pretty stoked when the mood changes between their songs. In fact, “Left Behind” has become one of my favorite tracks on Dreamy. It’s just kind of cool, easy, and free.

 

“I’ve Lost You” has this big guitar sound that reminds a bit of early Velvet Underground demos when Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, and John Cale would just layer it on over Mo Tucker’s uber-simple drums (although she was a master at creating a complex rhythm). Now that I think of it, there are a lot of parallels between the Velvets and Beat Happening’s sound.

 

When Lewis comes back for the awesome “Collide,” the album kind of moves into another gear. I don’t know why I like the song so much, but I do. It’s got this interesting feedback thing going on in the back of the mix and has a bit of the Pixies “loud-quiet-loud” thing, too.

 

“Nancy Sin” is a fun one. It’s got this straightforward drum beat that is kind of in the front of the mix, so you kind of can’t help but pick up on the beat right away. Johnson’s delivery really sells it, too. “Good girl/bad birl/won’t you be my mentor tonight.”

 

“Fortune Cookie Prize” is another one of Lewis’ songs. I’m not sure what she’s singing about, to be honest. It might be about a dog or someone she’s got a nice memory of, I have no idea. I just know I like it and the chorus part (“Climb high, climb high/you’re my fortune cookie prize”) slays me.

 

As the album comes to a close, Beat Happening ends it with a wallop. I look back and wish I would have been in a headspace to appreciate it more when I first got it. “Revolution Come and Gone” sounds like a beat poem set to music. I bet Johnson read his fair share of Jack Kerouac.

 

“Red Head Walking” is a strong ender, too. It’s short and sweet, characteristically simple, and reminds me of a fully stripped-down Cramps’ song. Imagine the Cramps going lo-fi indie folk and you have “Red Head Walking.”

 

Who wants to play some stripped-down stuff with me?

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



I took this picture and I own this card. Someday my kids will find it in a box after I am dead and they will wonder who Cotton was and I hope they look him up. He was quite a character.

27 views0 comments

Comments


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page