Our experiment has flagged. We’ve fanned on the shot, so to speak. That is not to say we’ve not been busy creative fellows pursuing our dreams in the dark—making myths in obscurity, as my old pal Mike Wisti might say. But we’ve been dragging our feet on this here songwriting-slash-letter-exchange blog, and I hope to reverse that trend by sharing this video with you. Maybe breathe a little life into this here Duluth Experiment.
I am also excited to share with our readers here (who must be content to get content every six to nine months or so) that you have completed writing two (count ’em: TWO!) novels, and I’ve had the pleasure of reading the first one and doing some artwork for it. And it’s gonna be a best-seller once a publisher with the gonads to print the thing steps forward… So it’s not like we’re doing nothing! We are. You’ve got the novels as proof, and I’ve got this video; although this video is a little old already— it was made in April.
Henry actually initiated this recording one morning when his mom was out of town. The clock on the wall says it was about 10:05 a.m. when we filmed on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I was sitting on the couch playing “U R a Machine” (see or listen to my previous post), working out more lyrics etc., and Hank said “Dad, you should make a video of this song and put it on YouTube.” I said “Go grab your Chromebook son, and we’ll make some history.” Vivian immediately demanded that she would be the bassist. Chaos ensued. Watch the video (made by Henry with his Chromebook propped up on the La-Z Boy), and let me know what you think of the song as it has progressed from the version I shared with you in January, which was more or less an extemporaneous demo to capture the idea when it came to me (also in the morning with Henry and Vivian threatening to derail the proceedings at any moment).
I started a recording of this song in May, which sounds pretty great, methinks, but I can’t tell if I’m done with it. So for now, dig this version. It’s pretty hilarious.
Hey friend, did you see I changed the sidebar so that instead of seeing a “song of the day,” you see “Faux Jean interviews fellow Duluthian Robert Zimmerman?” It’s basically a silly sound collage that I did as an assignment for my audio class at Madtown Tech. I also changed the video in the sidebar to a silly piece I did for a 3D Animation course I took there. The premise is that Unsustainable Honey is the only cure for a new affliction striking people who consume excessive amounts of chia seeds— the disease is called “Chia Butt.” These are temporary things. Please know that I am aware that I am hogging the sidebar and am willing to cede the video to you at any moment that you create a lyric video for one of your songs—preferably done in your own, legendary handwriting.
Anywho, this tune that I am sharing with you today has the dubious honor of being 19 years old…maybe twenty. It is one of the first things I tried recording when I first got my hands on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. I made a handful of mixtapes of my first experiments with four-tracking and gave them to a couple people. My guy PAV from Steel Shank listened to the tape and said: “If you care about your musical career, never let anyone hear these.” I think he must have been referring to this song specifically, as it suggests a person who is not well. The chintzy Radio Shack mic that I employed was the least of our worries at this point.
This particular digitized version of the song came to me from Melissa D—, who had the tape I’d given her burned to CD by a friend, at a time when that technology was wildly impressive to me. I had given her this mixtape of my quirked out shirked out songs— I think because I wanted her to like me. Further proof that I might not have been well at that point. Do you remember sitting with me and her outside a coffee shop when I threw a cup of coffee at a truck driver who blew her a kiss and wound up just spilling coffee all over myself and looking like a jackass? Man, those were the days. Kinda like that time on Park Point when there was a turtle in the road and we were trying to save it and a car full of girls we knew was driving toward us as we frantically tried to get them to veer away from the turtle but they interpreted our wild gestures as waving hello in a weird way and splat, they killed the turtle that we had perhaps ultimately distracted them from seeing? It is so hard to do the right thing sometimes!
Oh yeah, back to the song. So the title includes both a Bob Dylan and a U2 reference. And in reality, I think I was trying to do a kind of dirty Prince slash Subterranean Homesick mash up on this cut— and show off the fact that I had purchased a Farfisa organ. Bob Dylan and Prince, of course, loom large for you and me, John Francis. Dylan grew up just a few blocks from where we grew up in Duluth, and Prnc (the lack of vowels are mine), grew up just down Highway 61 (now I35) in the emerald city of Minneapolis. I can’t necessarily gauge the aesthetic impression that these things made on me, but the fact that you dubbed “Bringing It All Back Home” and “The Freeweheelin’ Bob Dylan” for me around 1984, and then lent me “Dirty Mind” by Prince, which I dubbed myself (unfortunately on a crappy boombox)— I can’t tell you how many times I listened to these things. They are imprinted on my brain— they made me who I am. And they’re pretty brilliant for local music. (For the record, Parade is my favorite Prince record.)
I should add that you, John Francis, deserve critical/aesthetic kudos, as you were loudly proclaiming to anyone who would listen—long before Purple Rain was released— that this Prince guy from Minneapolis was a genius— that he was going to be the next big thing. I also remember you saying you were super into Joe Biden (who was challenging Walter Mondale et al in one of the primaries of that era, saying that he was going to be the next Jack Kennedy.) And I also remember the day Reagan was shot— not because I was freaked out about Reagan— but rather, because of the fact that you had to go home sick from school that day, the reason being that you had chewed so much tobacco during recess (6th grade) that you turned green. Am I right on this memory? Red Man was the brand of choice, no? And I also remember when you were airlifted out of Mongolia after your face seized up and you were flown to Hawaii to get better, you wrote me a letter about taking up chewing tobacco again to help alleviate the boredom and being hospital-bed bound. Does any of this ring a bell? I’m going to find those letters one of these days!
Man, I keep getting distracted from talking about this song. I’m actually going to hold off on transcribing the lyrics for a bit, as they are just kinda silly. Just go listen to the song, I guess. Tell me if you think it makes me seem “not well.” (cue smiley face and drone shot NOW!)
I remain your humble servant &c.
p.s. I know when you proposed that we write letters to each other as a blog about our songwriting, you were probably thinking of a more forward looking vibe (i.e. new songs), and I swear, I’ve got a bunch of new stuff, but I’ve got a hard drive full of ideas that are driving me insane, and until I can carve out more time when nobody is in the apartment so I can record, I might lean on old new stock. I hope this does not try your patience, my dear friend.