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Entry date: 4-22-2024 – Choose Your Own Adventure – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

If you are just here to read about today’s record, scroll down a bit. If you want to know what I learned yesterday and about my plans for today, keep reading here.

 

Rhondi and I had a really nice breakfast yesterday with Dorothy, Jake, Lauren, and Sean. It was nice to see them all and the conversation was both lively and lovely. We went to Otro, which we love, and I had the chilaquiles. They were delicious. It was so good to be amongst old friends who have known me since I was a pup.

 

Afterwards, we visited Granny and that was lovely, too. She’s hanging in there and seemed to be gearing up for a big day of visits. I love the fact that she is almost 98 years old and is still super sharp. She knows what everyone is up to and asks about each of the little details I share on my visits. Getting there early today allowed us to get her when she was fairly fresh, too, so she gave me a run for my money.

 

From there, we grabbed Teresa from Grandpa Doug’s and Rhondi chatted up my mom for a bit. I got to work with the last of my demolition in the front bathroom. It’s ready for the drywall now. I’ve got some research to do about attaching the drywall to block as it doesn’t seem like screws will to the trick. Might be time to rent a nail gun.

 

We had dinner back at Doug’s and then I went on my weekend Dad Taxi shift. I wonder if the people who live on the same street as Old Spaghetti Factory are starting to think I live on that street. I see them a lot.

 

It was a nice day. Got some stuff done and saw some people I love.

 

Today is another day of counting down the school year, I suppose. We are doing some review and working on building skills. It will be interesting to see what version of the kids show up. Many of them are starting to check out mentally. I can’t say that I blame them.

 

I have a lot on my plate, though, as I have to prep for my last music club tomorrow. I can’t say that I’m going to miss it. They are really too young to do music club, but a few of them really enjoy it, pay attention, and ask great questions. I just hope that exposing them to a bunch of different kinds of music and information about instruments and such sinks in a little bit. I do miss teaching music some days.

 

Tonight will be a bit more drywall prep and hopefully some drywall making it to the walls. We shall see.

 

*****

 

Admittedly, the cover of the Butthole Surfers record, Hairway to Steven, used to freak me the hell out. There’s a lot going on with it and while it is one of my favorite releases of theirs, at times, I couldn’t look at the cover without feeling a tiny bit nauseous. It’s a great cover.

 

As far as the record goes, I love it. Choosing a favorite Butthole Surfers album is like asking me to choose my favorite child. I love them all, but for a long time I would have probably told you that song for song, Hairway to Steven, is probably my favorite, especially when it comes to the lyrics.

 

This is also the record where they firmly cemented the idea, at least for some, that they might end up being some kind of “jam” band. I know I have certainly seen them play a few of these songs live where they got a little jammy. When you start off with a 12:38 long song, you are clearly sending a message to the audience to buckle in. Things are always a little bumpy and jumpy when it comes to the Surfers.

 

I bought this one at Zia Records when it was on 7th Avenue in the Melrose District of Phoenix. I probably used a credit slip from my buddy, Bob, who worked there and enjoyed stopping by my house for the occasional sack of the super summer seedy special. I remember seeing it in the bin for awhile before I took the leap. As previously mentioned, there was something about the cover that was unsettling to me.

 

When I finally did take the leap, I spent quite a long time with the record on my turntable in ol’ A112 at Lanai Apartments. I lived there with Malcolm X. Gotham. At least that’s what the phone company thought. I can’t remember exactly why I got my phone in fake name. It was really inconvenient in the long run, but it made me laugh at the time.

 

In those days, I could crank my records up pretty high. It was a studio apartment and the neighbor on one side of me was probably around 90 and couldn’t hear anything. The other lady was super mouse like and probably wouldn’t have complained about anything. She was very nice, and I wouldn’t have wanted to offend her, but whenever I asked if I was being too loud, she would say, “oh, no. Not at all. You have fun.”

 

She was probably up to a bunch of weirdness of her own over there.

 

There are about ten moods in the opening track alone. “Jimi” has the typical Buttholes’ noisiness, but it also wraps up with this long, super cool, barnyard & bowling alley weirdness. I’ve got a few other versions of “Jimi” on different things that are much shorter, for example, but I have always liked how this wraps up.

 

“Ricky” is just a bad ass song (and zero pun intended). Jeff Pinkus has this great opening bass line and it just gets better from there. Up next is one of my top 5 Surfers’ songs, “I Saw An X-Ray of a Girl Passing Gas.” I’ve just always loved that song. Some of Gibby Haynes best lyrics, for sure.

 

“10 foot tall and the nurse stuck a needle in my arm/well Uncle Doc’s nurse used a needle with ungodly charm/walking down the hall, the dentist loomed through the door/I saw an x-ray of a girl passing gas.”

 

I’ve sung those along with Gibby a thousand times or more. 

 

It’s also a great song. The middle of Hairway to Steven shows off some really strong songwriting chops. These guys were a lot more than just noise merchants. Guitarist Paul Leary often gives these “Aw, shucks” kind of answers in interviews and claims they didn’t have any talent, but they were damn good at writing catchy riffs. I mean, sure, they would fuck them up completely by doing all this weird stuff on top of them, but “I Saw an X-ray…” is a great song.

 

So is “John E. Smoke.” Thanks to my penchant for the demon weed and the Surfers, I earned the nickname “Johnny Smoke” from my buddy, Brian, and it stuck for a long time. I didn’t mind. The lyrics are right up there with anything else Gibby Haynes did. They are totally brilliant and hilarious. “John was a little, crippled, midget lesbian boy but he stood 10 foot tall with a knife.”

 

Definitely some similar themes running through a few songs on this record. Haynes must’ve liked the idea of someone being ten feet tall.

 

“Rocky” is another super catchy song that I love. It’s almost pretty, too, which is something the Butthole Surfers would occasionally surprise you with on their albums. Again, these guys could really write a good song.

 

“Julio Iglesias” is fast and fucked up and great and weird but then “Backass” and “Fast” both devolve into typical Surfers nonsense. If you love the Butthole Surfers, you’ll love them both. If you don’t, these songs might make you question my sanity or your own.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



AI's version of the Butthole Surfers lyrics from "John E. Smoke." I wanted a little, crippled, midget lesbian boy who stood ten foot tall with a knife.



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