Posts Tagged ‘guitar’

Can a lunar eclipse make you crazy?

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Because I’ve been feeling a little bit crazy.

Thank god it’s over – although Mercury is still in retrograde until the end of the week, or so I’ve been told – and hopefully I’ll feel increasingly less reflective and straight up funky (funky in an ‘off’ more than a cool George Clinton kind of way) in the days and weeks to come.

lunar eclipse red

I slept through the one last night. I blame the rain.

Until then, it’s been good for me and my guitar. I still haven’t quite gotten into the groove of the electric yet – mostly because I don’t want to make a bunch of cacophonous noise and piss off my neighbors – so I am still mainly focused on and working out my ‘stuff’ on the acoustic. On the upside, my ferocious calluses are back, and I get better every day. Case in point: last night I decided to come home and figure out a new song, and I can play it pretty expertly today. It’s not terribly complicated, but still.

Did I ever tell you why I took up the guitar?

Melissa Etheridge.

Well, Melissa Etheridge and a bad breakup with someone who had introduced me to Melissa Etheridge’s music: to this day, nearly two decades later, the Brave and Crazy album still hits me where it hurts. Certain songs knock me straight back to being a  20-year old girl standing in the snow in Switzerland.

Specifically, there is a particular song “Royal Station 4/16″ on that album, and it’s all about a painful breakup…and trains. I lived in Europe at the time, and I had met this person on a train. A lot of our history took place on or around trains, and his remaining life was greatly shaped by them as well. This insight and irony is all in hindsight of course.

Anyway, I came back to The States and these lyrics were in my head, “I got this whiskey to take care of my lips. And I’ve got these long, cool, steel strings at my fingertips. But I ain’t got nothing to soothe my aching soul, except this screeching and screaming iron to tell me where I got to go.”

I’m not much of one for whiskey, and there aren’t many trains in South Central Pennsylvania, so I tried to convince my dad to buy me the long, cool, steel strings and the guitar they were attached to…and he did. Perhaps justifying that gracious and generous gesture on his part, I still have that guitar (although the neck is bowed and it’s tough to play), and I actually turned out a half-decent player in the end.

Here’s the inspiration, as played live much more recently:

My old love would have appreciated her hair in this performance. It irritated him they had tried to “pretty her up” in the subsequent albums. This is all before she came out of the closet, of course, and her label was no doubt hoping to water down her inherent dyke-iness. But I digress…

headgear

Even a beautiful girl looks like a total loser with headgear on.

I completely admire her live performances (some of the best I’ve ever seen. As the same man once summed it up, “She doesn’t talk much. She just rocks.”), there is no denying that harmonica contraption is not flattering. Kind of reminds me of that big orthodontia thing – what is it called? – headgear?

Lord, to have to wear head gear. The only fate worse was the giant metal exoskeleton if you had scoliosis. Do they still do that? I remember being checked annually in gym (we had to bend over and touch our toes and they would study our spines), and the gripping fear that – on top of every other adolescent challenge I was choking on already – I would be chosen by scoliosis as well. Happily – and thank god – that was never the case or I might have just given up the ghost altogether and jumped off a bridge or something.  I’m kidding…mostly.

Anyway, I don’t quite have her pipes or talent (at all), but maybe I’ll work on this song all the same…minus the harmonica, of course.

 

 

 

quit smoking maui

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Songwriting 101

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I’ve been playing my guitar obsessively lately.

Obsessively as in six and seven hours a day.

Obsessively in that I can’t even feel the keys under my left hand right now because my fingertips are so numb.

Obsessively in that I wake up and hear the words and lyrics in my head and it starts to make me feel crazy to the extent that I have to get up and actually play it out loud.

That kind of obsessive.

And it’s super weird because I really haven’t been playing much at all before this…or for ages.

Dozer wanting something. This wasn't the picture I meant to upload, but I'm going with it anyway.

But like any good addiction, it’s easy to get back on the horse. Or fall off the horse? Is ‘horse’ slang for heroin? Why do I think that? Anyway, I’ve mismanaged my attempt at metaphor, so let me simply say that I am easily obsessed and this is yet another in a long string of compulsions.

Meanwhile, the thing of it is the music I’m inescapably hearing and playing is other people’s – Patty Griffin and Ani DiFranco mostly. And that’s because I love their music. And I sing in the same range. And because I don’t know how to write music. Or songs. Or melody. Or tunes.

And that’s what I tell myself.

And so it’s true.

At the same time, I have a friend who has insisted it’s easy. All you need are words and a hook. And it’s going to be extra easy for me because I’m already a writer. Pay no attention to the music part, because apparently that’s easy too.

And last night in a particular sweep of absurd bravado, my same friend insisted that I get on the songwriting immediately. “Write a song tonight or I will never speak to you again” was, I believe, the exact statement.

The triplets. On the left is the Martin, the middle is one is my first guitar, and the one on the right was gifted from a friend when he moved to the Virgin Islands. That's the one going to Mexico.

This is not Dozer, but it could be.

Of course I ignored this because, again, I can’t write songs.

But then this morning I started thinking about it, and I figured everybody’s got to start somewhere.

So why not?

Maybe try?
And see what happens?

And begin with simple inspiration, something right in front of my face. Like someone who browbeats me into writing a song and goes out of their way to try to irritate me just to laugh at the reaction and drops f-bombs like it’s Hiroshima (ooh! That’s good! That’s going in the song!) and…

That’s right.

My bully has become my muse.

And with that stated, I bring you the title and a few lines from  my very first song (no music yet, as I just dreamed this stupidity up about five minutes ago) entitled

What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?

Collaboration welcome.

Anything good that rhymes with “Someone must have dropped you on your head as a baby”?

Maybe something about lazy?

How about “I’m not sure they’ve invented the drug that can fix what you’ve got.”?

Wow! This songwriting stuff is easy!

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