Today is a day we honor our casualties of war. No parades this year, though. Just the usual ever-increasing count of those who have fallen. Perhaps 2020 can serve as a new stark reminder that it's stuff like this virus we ought to be fighting, not each other. As if. Don't get me started.
Here in Massachusetts, we've begun a cautious process of gradual reopening. My day job is in the sort of office that can start work again, in a limited fashion, and not be open to the public. I'm heading back in as of tomorrow morning. At first there will only be two or three of us on-site; most of the staff will continue to work from home.
It will not feel like getting back to normal. It will be strange. But as David Bowie once said, we must turn and face it.
ONE MORE THING:
I'd be remiss if I didn't wish all you hoopy froods a very happy Towel Day.
This latest Plague Pop song was produced as a fun collaborative
diversion during the Covid-19 shutdown.
Our friend Hannah came up with the name ages ago, and this seemed
like a good time to make the band happen, even if it had to be done remotely. Hannah used her iPad to record
herself playing drums, and then emailed
the file to me for editing. All other instruments and vocals were
recorded here at Makeshift Sound. Mixing and mastering was completed yesterday, so here you go: We Like Animals is available as of today.
And in case you're wondering, yes. Valdova is the cat.
Valdova's image was snipped from an original photo by Hannah Zahn.
Plenty of cool online shows happening nowadays. I've had folks ask me if I'm planning to do this as well, and so far the answer has been no. I've been concentrating my efforts on laying down tracks in the studio instead. But here is a live performance I did in the office of the Valley Advocate back in 2017, if you'd like to see me wearing a collared shirt and a jacket with real lapels. I'm also wearing a Gretsch acoustic that I don't own anymore.
This one is about golf. A
friend suggested that each of us in our regular foursome (we're all
musicians) ought to write a song about the game, so this is what I came up with. When we go out for a round, we try not to take ourselves too seriously. We don't even keep score. We do celebrate the occasional well-placed shot, or if we manage to make par (or even a birdie) on a given hole, but mostly it's about spending time in what is basically a park that happens to have a game built into it.
According to the calendar, I've been away from the daily workplace for a solid month as
of this past Tuesday. And while it's the right thing to do, and while I
have plenty of projects and diversions to occupy my hands and brain,
this sure doesn't feel like a vacation.
Sure, I enjoy time
off as much as the next person, but the reason behind these days at home
is deadly serious, and pokes holes in any attempt to be fully at ease
with the downtime. Each new case, and every loss of life affects each of
us to differing degrees, but there's a constant stream of
discomforting news that's impossible to ignore, at least for anyone with any shred of empathy. The sorrows that affect us directly are
always acutely felt, but even the cases that aren't on our doorstep are
still out there, and we can't help but be aware of them. We feel them,
like a soft and tragic undercurrent that won't go away. It's like a
tinnitus of the soul. It nags.
But then again,
it probably ought to. We need to take heart, stay strong, and hold onto
as much optimism as we can muster, but we also can't afford to ignore
the very present danger the daily numbers say is still very much
with us all. In doing so, we risk losing our humanity. Let's not
let that happen.
The only way through this is
out the other side. Together.
The phrase "Jesus and the Bud Girls" originated in a long-ago
conversation about items in our friends' garage. It has been a running
joke ever since, so I made it into a song for our private amusement
during the quarantine. The response was overwhelming, and it
was suggested that I make it available to the general public. So here you go.
And yes, the photo is of the actual Dodge Dart mentioned in the lyrics.
I say new, but it's actually a song I wrote quite a while ago, and first recorded with Group DeVille. I was playing around with it a couple of weeks ago, wondering if it would be a good one to bring back out and play in a solo set sometime, and what struck me was that the lyrics ring rather apropos to our current situation.
Then I thought it might be fun to record a new version, and make it available on my Bandcamp page. So I did. It's up as a "name your price" track, which means it's a free download, but if you're feeling extra nice today, a donation to the cause is always welcome.
On a less pleasant note, this past week was a tough one. Some people I know lost a bandmate and a friend. And the world lost a truly fine songwriter. I didn't know Adam Schlesinger well, but had spent a small amount of time in his general vicinity thanks to my friendship with his partner in Fountains of Wayne, Chris Collingwood. They were a favorite band long before I met Chris, and always will be.
But with Adam's death last Wednesday, the COVID-19 business really hit hit much closer to home than it had thus far. I was asked by journalist George Lenker for my thoughts, and here's what I said:
Adam was half of a truly great songwriting team, and although I didn't
know him as well as I do Chris, we shared few cordial backstage hellos
at their shows. I can recall a fun night hanging out with the two
of them here in the Valley before the last Fountains of Wayne album came
out. Wiseacre wit and a lot of laughter. And that's how I'm going to
All we songwriters can do is send our creations out into the world and see if they resonate with anyone. So here's another one of mine. It's called These Days. It'll probably never find as wide an audience as what Chris and Adam have given the world, but that's not the point, is it? This is what we do, and it makes us who we are. I hope you like it.
Just logged off the state unemployment site, where I requested my first UI check of the furlough. There's no joy in this, just a sense of very slight relief in the wallet department. I suppose this is the new Monday routine until we can return to work. All I know is that this isn't much fun; it definitely feels more like house arrest than playing hooky. There's a real weight of seriousness to all this, and our mortality is really quite sharply defined right now.
A lot of performers (many of my friends included) have been filling up social media with living room concerts now that none of us can get out to the venues. I'm not inclined to do this, but it's really odd to not be able to play for people in a real life gathering, and I hope these at-home broadcasts are enough of an outlet to help folks get through these strange days and nights. My musical efforts at staying sane are all studio based. I'm lucky to have a place here at home to record, and my focus is on that. It's a very comfortable, familiar thing; there's no immediacy that's missing, no absent rapport with an audience and other players. There's just the project at hand, like there would be if we weren't in shelter-in-place mode. So it feels normal, one of the few things that does. Whatever gets us through the night, right?
Once thing I'm wondering is how much people might be missing live shows. Not talking about artists. We know we miss playing out. But what about the folks that in the past might have given in to the idiot box instead of our gigs and just stayed home? My hope is that when this is all over, they'll have a renewed sense of participation. That they'll remember what this quarantine felt like when they had no place to go or weren't allowed to go there. I hope they'll get off the couch more often.
Be safe, be well. Make some music, even if no one can hear it yet but you.