Song from a musical in progress about a dandy peeping Tom set in a dystopian Cold War alternate past.
This song is one of my favorites and holds a lot of personal significance so, naturally, I decided to butcher it. I’ve already written about my obsession with Warren Zevon and the importance of this composition, so I won’t repeat myself. If you feel so inclined, you can read all about it here.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for a virgin margarita…
Here’s a fun little number by The Forgetters, which is the current project of Blake Schwarzenbach (Jawbreaker/Jets To Brazil). I admire all of his work and he is one of few contemporary artists that continues to surprise and delight me. I’m very fond of this song and would recommend checking out the original, as well as the band’s full length release that came out last year.
Schwarzenbach is real good at incorporating a personal narrative into a larger commentary on human condition (particularly the American experience), which is a songwriting approach that is rarely done successfully in my opinion. He’s also got a knack for poetic (and sometimes cryptic) verbiage; my favorite line in the whole number has to be “I’m a straight up ghost in a tattered cape.” That’s just fantastic.
So here I am butchering his fine, fine work for the sake of “staying in practice.” Whatever the hell that means.
In 2011, I brought my life crashing down around me. It certainly wasn’t the first time and, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last. As a result of a few misunderstandings with the local police, I had been placed on felony probation. I had no job, no money, and no prospects. I was twenty-six years old and I was totally drowning.
I had miraculously managed to kick the two-gram-a-day heroin habit I had been operating on for the past two years prior, but I was still in rough shape physically, mentally, and emotionally. Simply put, I was fucking looney toons insane, and I couldn’t pull it together enough to formulate any real long-term plan that would get me out of trouble and get my life back on track. Somewhere along the line, I had lost the ability to think rationally and realistically about anything.
However, I was smart (or stupid) enough to figure out that I should probably seek employment. Aside from heroin hustling and street scams, I hadn’t worked in a year. Not to mention, my employment history was shaky at best and I was a convicted felon. It was irrelevant, or so I thought, that I had two degrees from UC Berkeley. I didn’t even attempt to find employment that would require any kind of skill or focus or talent; no, it would have been far too disappointing when I was surely turned down and, moreover, I knew that I wasn’t mentally capable of hacking it at a real big kid job.
So, at twenty-six years old, fresh off heroin and crazy as a fucking loon, I became a pizza delivery driver.
I suddenly find myself with the time and the urge to play more music. Unfortunately, I have this problem where I compose songs at a rate that surpasses my rate of recording (especially proper studio recording), so that I lose too much in the shuffle. As a way of keeping my fingers busy while preventing myself from composing any more before I finish the album I’m currently at work on, I’ve decided to make YouTube videos of me covering songs that I especially like and present them as a series on here, entitled “Cover Me Impressed.”*
I don’t know how long I will keep this up before I get bored or overwhelmed, but it seemed like a good idea this morning. The first one is “Dandy” by The Rockin’ Vicars, a little known British outfit that featured Ray Davies of Kinks fame and a then little-known bloke by the name of Lemmy Kilmister, who would go on to wreak havoc in Hawkind before founding one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest and longest running institutions: Motörhead.
I’m a punk kid—-always have been and always will be. I may dress a little nicer and hide my tattoos a little better, but at my core, I still hold the punk rock ethos dear. It molded me in my formative years and proved the launching pad for which I got into other schools of music, art, and literature.
When I got into punk rock as a teenager, there was an unhealthy dose of hero worship that came along with it. I wanted to be just like all of the cats that I listened to on wax, particularly the 1977 ones: Joe Strummer, Johnny Thunders, James Chance, et al were my teachers, and I was an apt pupil. Aesthetically, musically, and, most importantly, philosophically, I tried to follow suit as best as I could. In hindsight, I missed a few key things.
For one, most of these guys either died tragically or withered away into anti-prolific obscurity. For two, it wasn’t 1977 and I wasn’t in New York or London, man. That didn’t matter though: I was for all intents and purposes an honorary member of that time and place, at least as far as I was concerned.
I moved to Berkeley in the summer of 2006 to attend university. I had never been to the Bay Area before, but I somehow knew that I was meant to go there—whether I liked it or not. You see, Berkeley had been the stomping ground of a lot of my childhood heroes, and I desperately wanted to inject myself into that paradigm: Aaron Cometbus, Billie Joe Armstrong, Allen Ginsberg, Jeff Ott, and Gary Snyder all came out of the B-Town existence, and that’s where I wanted to be, man.
To me, Berkeley was where poets and punks came from or, if they weren’t from there, went to do some damage. And I aimed to do a lot of damage.
As a teenager, I collected records compulsively, especially ones by East Bay Punk bands like Crimpshrine, Operation Ivy, and a slew of lesser known Gilman Street regulars. I had hundreds of them, and I would even hunt down different pressings of the same release for completion’s sake. I would spend hours and hours listening to them and reading the inserts, fantasizing about how radical it would be to actually be a part of the whole scene and see all these bands play 924 Gilman Street, which was pretty much fucking Mecca as far as I was concerned. Later on, when I discovered Ginsberg and all those other beat cats, I felt the same wistful longing to be involved with that scene, despite the fact that it too was decades removed from me.
Summer of 2003 was not a good one for me: I had lost my first love, caught my first pair of handcuffs, and was just generally blowing it all around. I had been an adult (on paper, at least) for just a handful of months and I had already begun to muck things up pretty badly. In hindsight, however, it may have been one of my better summers out of the ensuing decade. Not to say that this one was good, because it totally fucking wasn’t, but the sad reality is that I was merely getting started with my misadventurous journey, the trend of which would be things growing ever worse (and never better).
I had turned eighteen with little fanfare, from others or myself. The only thing that seemed to change for me when I hit that dull milestone was that I became a little more aware of the fact that I was expected to figure out what I was to do with my life, or at the very least make the appearance of doing so. But I didn’t really want to get a haircut and I wasn’t really qualified for a real job, so I had to pick something that was more aligned with my lifestyle back then.
Basically, something that would complement the odd hours I kept and the bad habits I was into, but also had some semblance of respectability. The obvious choice was to become a writer. It seemed to me that writers were encouraged, perhaps even obligated, to live a reckless existence, and I, all of eighteen whole years, was already way ahead of the curve on this one. Yes, I thought to myself, I will make a fantastic fucking writer.