London Homesick Blues

I’m not even there yet, and I’m not homesick (yet), but I still love this song. I grew up listening to Jerry Jeff Walker, David Allan Coe and the like—all those from Armadillo World Headquarters—so I can’t help but think of this one by Gary P. Nunn whenever I go over.

Well, when you’re down on your luck,
and you ain’t got a buck,
in London you’re a goner.
Even London Bridge has fallen down,
and moved to Arizona,
now I know why.
And I’ll substantiate the rumor
that the English sense of humor
is drier than the Texas sand.
You can put up your dukes,
and you can bet your boots,
that I’m leavin’ just as fast as I can.*

Chorus:
I wanna go home with the armadillo.
Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene.
The friendliest people and the prettiest women
you’ve ever seen.

Well it’s cold over here, and I swear,
I wish they’d turn the heat on.
And where in the world is that English girl,
I promised I would meet on the third floor.
And of the whole damn lot, the only friend I got,
is a smoke and a cheap guitar.
My mind keeps roamin’, my heart keeps longin’
to be home in a Texas bar.

Chorus

Well, I decided that, I’d get my cowboy hat
and go down to Marble Arch Station.
‘Cause when a Texan fancies, he’ll take his chances,
chances will be takin, now that’s for sure.
And them Limey eyes, they were eyein’ the prize,
some people call manly footwear.
And they said you’re from down South,
and when you open your mouth,
you always seem to put your foot there.

Chorus
Chorus

Whenever I’m in London, conversations inevitably go something like:

Local: You’re American? Really? Where from?
Me: Texas. [Though sometimes I say New Orleans, and sometimes I just ask, “Originally or most recently?”]
Local: But you don’t have an accent. [beat] Do you have a horse? [Sometimes they say “ranch” instead of “horse.” And sometimes they ask where my hat and/or boots are.]

They make up for this by always saying I’m much nicer than most Americans. I don’t know what most Americans must get up to when they travel, but it sounds like a whole lot of no good.

_____________________________
*I wouldn’t say “I’m leavin’ just as fast as I can,” however. I rather like London. Why else would I keep going back?

Teaser Tuesday: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Should Be Reading. The idea is to pick up your current read, go to a page at random, and post two teaser sentences. I’ve had Mindy Kaling’s book on my nightstand for ages now and am finally getting around to reading it because I need something funny to relieve the stress of this huge move. And it is a cute and funny book that makes me feel better about not being the only dorky kid who watched Monty Python and didn’t love sports (though I was GREAT at Frisbee, thanks, even won ribbons).

The tease is from Page 57 and seems apropos considering I have myself just finished a spec script:

My Will & Grace spec was a disaster. In an attempt to achieve the cheeky, gay-centric tone of the show, I had written a sample so over-the-top offensively gay that it actually reads like a propaganda sketch to incite antigay sentiment.

I like to think my Sherlock spec is not that bad. Though it may be, in fact, almost as gay. In that roundabout way of giving viewers what they want without ever really giving them what they want.

And I do have to say, as an aside, that while I totally dig the “Nguyen and Ari” song idea, I didn’t love Kaling dissing on my Johnny Cougar. I’m giving her a pass this time (because while I like “Jack and Diane” I do think JCM has done better work, and I myself don’t entirely understand the people who identify so deeply with that song), but no one ever gets more than one. Tread carefully, Mindy, tread carefully.

Letter to Rob

Dear Rob,

Okay, I feel awful because I saw you play back on 30 December and am only now getting around to writing you a letter. Usually I’m much more timely. But with New Year’s and all, and then I was sick, you see, so . . .

Also, not a lot to say about the concert. You did great. How’s that? You know how I tend to pick things apart, criticize your clothing, &c. But it was all lovely. I mean, I had to endure “Ever the Same” again, but I’ve come to consider that the price of admission so to speak. And no, we’re not having that discussion again, even though your intro to the song attempted to justify my past rails against it. Let’s just agree to disagree.

What I especially enjoyed about the show was that it was different from a typical concert. Back in the day, people went to concerts to see a band live and have a sort of experience, something that differed from simply listening to the music on the radio or LP or whatever. But nowadays so many bands and artists play the songs more or less exactly like the recorded versions. It’s kind of this weird negotiation; musicians know the fans love the songs and want to be able to sing along (oh God, the guy on my right, but that’s another story), but at the same time, it’s got to be mind numbing to have to sing the same things over and over in just the right way.

Anyway, I enjoy hearing the songs changed up a bit. Though, yes, I thought there’d be drums. But it was nice, a real treat, to hear the songs differently. And I never would have thought I’d hear “Dear Joan” live. Ever. It is, as you said, a pretty song but very dark, and I used to love it until I sort of, I don’t know, outgrew it somehow. But it’s still lovely in a “Scarborough Fair” kind of way. I wish you’d played “Dizzy,” though.

Not every song benefitted from reduction; “Streetcorner Symphony” is better when uptempo. But still, interesting to hear the piano version.

Oh, and I love “Save the Last Dance,” and you were so endearingly human and earnest in forgetting how to, well, sing it. If I hadn’t been sitting quite so far back, I’d have gone up and done it for you.

What was truly marvelous, too, was how you made a large arena full of people feel like an intimate group. That takes talent.

You’re a good guy, Rob, a genuinely good person, and there are so few of those in the world. Never stop rockin’, Sweetie. Keep putting your shine out there; the dark places will absorb it, and the light places will reflect it back and out and around the world like a halo. It’s the most any of us can hope to achieve in this lifetime.

Sincerely,
~M

P.S. So looking forward to the matchbox twenty album later this year!

_______________
Rob Thomas played a solo show at Mohegan Sun Arena on 30 December 2011

“Uncle Rob”

Tomorrow night, my husband and I will go see Rob Thomas in concert. My children refer to him as “Uncle Rob,” though none of them have met him.

I’ve seen Rob play more than any other musician (this is if you count matchbox twenty concerts as well as solo performances). This will be #7. I last saw him in November 2009, when he was touring for Cradlesong. Back when I still had my Letters to Rob site, this is what I wrote about that show:

Dear Rob,

Yes, yes, I know you’ve been waiting to hear what I thought, etc. etc. Well, let’s see . . . I missed Carolina Liar’s set due to the rabid inefficiencies of the merchandise table coupled with herd mentality bent around today’s ego-centric mindset. Sigh. But I did really enjoy OneRepublic’s set. I’d heard a couple of their songs on the radio, but after hearing them last night I think I will definitely need to buy the album when it drops next week. (Why do albums “drop” anyway?)

As for you. Good work opening with “Fire on the Mountain” as per one of my previous suggestions. But your clothes, dah-ling, tsk tsk. You were trying to provoke me with that jacket, but I knew better because it gets hot enough fast enough up there that you were sure to shed it quickly (and you did). The jeans weren’t flattering, though, hon. Part of the problem being where your t-shirt fell; it made an uncomely sight line. And we just won’t even talk about the muddy mix of colors involved.

Well, on to the show itself. I did especially like “Getting Late,” which is one of my favorites off the new album. (Aside: Alexander likes to ask what songs are about, and when he asked about that one, I softened it a bit and told him it was about getting old. “And dying?” he asked. Christ. If he’s this smart at four, what will he be like at six? Or sixteen?) Nice segue into the Elvis bit, and I admit to having a particular liking for steel guitar, so . . . Also loved that you performed “Little Wonders,” which makes me think of my kids and so I always tear up when I hear it. (Aside: Alex calls it “the umbrella song” because of the video.) Just as you talked about being frustrated with Tyler, I’ve had my share of frustrations with being up with the baby at night, etc. “Little Wonders” is a nice reminder that they won’t be little forever, so I should savor the moments while I can.

“Not Just a Woman” is another song I really like. And how did you know “Dancing in the Dark” is my favorite Boss song?

Oh, but “Sunday Morning New York Blue” (that’s a long title, should I shorten it to “SMNYB”?)—really nice little song. There was something about it that reminded me of Jimmy Buffett for some reason. Not the sound necessarily, but maybe the sentiment? Jimmy has made a career of capturing moments like that, for making people feel like they’ve lived those moments, even if they haven’t really. That takes talent—which you have in spades—but also careful crafting, which you are clearly capable of.

I was also pleased to hear “Ever the Same” back in acoustic form. I know I’ve given you a hard time about that song in the past (and boy did your fans rake me over the coals for it!), but I still cannot love it. As I’ve said before, it requires too much understanding of the author’s situation to completely appreciate it. It’s really too personal to be universal. It’s pretty—and much, much better when done in acoustic style (which is how I first heard it back in 2004 at the China Club)—but it doesn’t resonate as much. It requires too much vicarious sentiment from the listener.

Now, I had wondered how you would handle the brass on “Wonderful,” and it seems you chose to do it by cutting the song down to brass tacks. While I still prefer the album version, I could totally see Sheryl Crow doing a cover of the one you played last night.

Finally, we need to talk about the lame animations that go on behind you during the show. They all look like bad Microsoft screen savers. Excepting, perhaps, the one that plays while you sing “Cradlesong,” they’re just awful. Go find something better and post it online somewhere so I can see it and stop thinking badly of your stage aesthetics.

Anyway, unrelated but tacked on nonetheless: you’d mentioned on your site something about whether “Give Me the Meltdown,” “Mockingbird” or “Real World ’09” should be the next single. Well, fans will choose “Meltdown,” surely, and I really like it, too. But I’m partial to “Mockingbird” myself. Although I have one bone to pick with it: the first couple lines about standing “somewhere in between this moment and the end.” That’s not true. You don’t stand between the moment you’re in and the future. You stand IN the moment you’re in. Unless you’re somehow inhabiting a space that is slightly ahead of the current moment in time?

Okay, well, good show. I was sitting by Maison and his friend, btw. Had no idea who they were, of course, but felt bad when the event staff guy came and said, “Come with me, boys.” I was like, Hey! They weren’t causing any trouble! But then, as it turned out, they weren’t being removed for having caused any trouble. They were, in fact, very well-mannered boys.

Speaking of which, I must go take care of my littlest one now. Best of luck on the remainder of your tour.

I’m hardest on the ones I love most, no question. Hardest on myself, actually, but nearly as tough on the ones who mean a lot to me. I was a reviewer for online magazines for a while, and the books and music and movies and shows that weren’t worth the effort were many. But the diamonds in the coal . . . They just sometimes need a little polishing, a little nicer cut. I don’t do it to be mean. I do it because there are things and people I admire, things and people who are at least as good as I am if not better, but their being told all that doesn’t help them. Their being told where the problems are so they can fix them—that’s useful. Or at least allows for interesting talking points and discussion. Telling someone they’re wonderful is a sure way to end a conversation, after all.

Not that we don’t all like to hear that once in a while. But only when it means something. Because of inflation, a yes man’s “yes” carries no weight. And since I work in words, I like to make mine worth something.

Today: The Noughties Blogfest

This is the blogfest in which you list your favorite movies, music, books and so forth for each year from 2000 to 2009. Ah, a bygone era! (Visit Dave for more info.)

2000

This seems like so long ago. It was the year matchbox twenty’s Mad Season came out, and I remember the first time I listened to it thinking, What the hell is this? Because it didn’t sound anything like their first album. But I continued to listen to it; it fact, it was on almost constant rotation as I wrote my thesis. I also got to see them play in Amherst that year.

Also the movie State and Main. To this day it’s one of my favorites.

2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Right? Came out just before my birthday, and what a treat. I grew up listening to my dad tell the stories of the Hobbit and Middle Earth (I had only read The Hobbit, never the others), so this was special to me, to see it come to life in such a wonderful way.

Also: Alias. Loved that show. I want Victor Garber for an honorary uncle.

2002

Okay, I’ll go for something less obvious here. The Mothman Prophecies. That movie was seriously creepy. Oh, and the book Batavia’s Graveyard. More mainstream: The Two Towers, which is my favorite of the trilogy, and matchbox twenty’s More Than You Think You Are.

2003

Runaway Jury. I really enjoyed that movie (and not only because I was in New Orleans for some of the filming of it–more that I love John Cusack). And of course, in television, this is the year Arrested Development debuted.

Notable concert: matchbox twenty with opening acts Sugar Ray and Maroon 5.

2004

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2. The Other Boylen Girl by Philippa Gregory. Also saw Rob Thomas play a special charity concert at the China Club in NYC, along with Jewel and Darryl Hall. Saw Jimmy Buffett play at Fenway Park. And got some of my first written works published.

2005

Rob Thomas’s . . . Something to Be. I saw him live again at Avalon in Boston and also saw U2 live in concert for the first time. Jude Morgan’s Indiscretion. Robert Downey Jr’s rising star with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And the return of Doctor Who to the television schedule, as well as the premiere of Bones.

2006

At this point I had an infant and did not have much time to watch or read or do much of anything, but I did go see V for Vendetta. And I read Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story.

2007

Hot Fuzz is a classic, is it not? And I loved Alison Weir’s book Innocent Traitor as well as Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman.

2008

Cloverfield. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Weir’s The Lady Elizabeth and Stephen King’s Duma Key.

2009

A year for books: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, One Day by David Nicholls, and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.

Also, Sherlock Holmes. And Rob Thomas’s Cradlesong (saw him in concert again). And OneRepublic’s Waking Up.

Sparkfest – Day 3

I’ve mentioned this before, but in terms of inspiration–or “spark”–I find a lot of mine in music.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve linked songs to story. Maybe it’s because my favorite songs as a child told a story; I especially liked “Chanson Pour Les Petits Enfants” and “Band on the Run” and “The Gambler.” So somewhere in the back of my mind, every song became a story (and I guess in a way they all are), and I just began to fill in the missing bits.

When I got to that age where one begins to make mix tapes (CDs and playlists now, I suppose), I would pick a character or TV show or movie and put together songs that I felt were connected to them in some way. My cassettes were stories of a sort, and my friends would come to me, bewildered, and say, “I never would have thought . . . But I absolutely see now how these things fit.”

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember not everyone sees and hears things the way I do. Being a writer means living somewhere in your head, and the words are the open door when you invite someone in.

I was working on a major motion picture at one point, and they let me help put together the soundtrack. And while the movie itself was only so-so–it was never big at the box office and only rarely ends up on a movie channel late at night–the soundtrack became a bestseller. Too bad as a lowly PA I didn’t receive any credit! But I can look at the track list and know I was the one to suggest the Rolling Stones.

So yes, sometimes when a song comes on the radio and I start to really listen–because for me lyrics are just as important as beat or rhythm or melody–something will spring to mind. The song sparks my imagination, and I find I must go play with whatever idea has been ignited.