Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mr. Silverstone and the Foregone Conclusions Show Show Tonight at 6:30-8:00 @ the Yellow Sofa

I had booked a spot at the Yellow Sofa for tonight (Sat. July, 16tth @ 6:30 p.m.-8:00) but my usual backing band, the Silvertone Horns, could not make it due to mandatory vacation time they had to take to recover from the rigors of our incessant and punishing rehearsal and recording schedule.

So like they say at discount fire sales, "Our setback is a bonus for you, the customer." Instead of putting an ad in the paper in the slim hopes of finding and rehearsing with a new schoolteacher/bass player and attorney/lead guitarist in time, I called in some favors and got the very best unattached rock and roll wrecking crew in the valley, The Foregone Conclusions, with Ray Yelle on Percussion, and the Moushabeck brothers, Ramzi and Simone who take turns playing killer bass, guitar and more as the situation requires. They are hands down the most talented musicians young, old or in-between to be found anywhere, or, more to the point, in my rolodex. In case you suspect this whole referring to myself as Mr. Silverstone thing is a spoof, I first met two of the three members of the crew, like, for real, dude, when I was their 2nd grade teacher, a fact that you will quickly find surrealistic when you hear how seriously, precisely and assuredly they rock, like well-brought up, considerate, assassins.

Why just yesterday we were in the studio recording tracks for the next Mr. Silverstone album. In the video above, and you can see a glimpse of the monster talent Ramzi commands as he adds lead guitar licks to the outro of our climate change balad "The Ice Age Hotel" while our studio producer Jim Matus oversees the recording at the Old Schoolhouse Recording Studio in Hadley, our home away from home. There will be an advance 3-song EPs will be available at the gig tonight for the lo-lo price of $5.00. You can also listen for free, or download for a fee, at the URLs included below for thee:

Proceeds to go to The Foregone Conclusions who were never in it for the money, but wouldn't mind it if their fans showed the love.

But wait, there's more! This concert will feature massive audience participation as a parade of beloved Yellow Sofa frequent performers will join me for duets on our favorite cover songs, many of which we've actually rehearsed harmony parts for.

Don't miss:

Christopher Goudreau -- Eight Days a Week
Christa Joy -- Love Hurts
Dave Franklin--These Days (Jackson Browne wrote it when he was 17)
Jeremy Anderson -- Time (beautiful Tom Waits song, reminding us once again that Tahm waits for no one)
Tom Neal (From West Hartford, CT) and his blue ukelele -- Old Paint (Loudon Wainright III version we used to sing at the dorm in Oberlin)
Frank Cable -- Daniel (Elton John song we both liked in our separate elementary school days)
Chris Griffin -- Pony Ride (You haven't heard of it--yet--it's a Mr. Silverstone song)
Plus the Sofa's good friend, the always delightful, Manny Menimore

Just to give you a flavor of the show, we now include and conclude this blogcast with a video recorded back on Thursday. Hope to see you there, or that you can experience the groove virtually or actually. Wishing harmonious vibrations and dissolution of limitations across all superfluous boundaries from all of us (all one of us at the moment) here at Mr. Silverstone's music funhouse.

For more videos of recently written and performed songs, see the MrSilverstoneMusic channel on YouTube:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tempting Fate (Plenty of)

Wrote this imagining Robbie Robertson/Rick Danko/Garth Hudson/Levon Helm playing it in the style of The Band. Playing it on a guitar, that's how it seemed. A kind of ragged band of heartbroke guys with their Civil War era hearts on their sleeves feeling. . .
Here's the original. My friend Tom says the shadow obscuring the singers' face makes it look like he's (I'm) "in the songwriter-witness protection program."

But it took a much different turn in the "studio" (our converted garage, literally). In the world of synthesized virtual music reality, there are orchestral string sections, horn parts and such, and it became a major production that is much more R & B, if you can call anything with a string section from the Hollywood Bowl R & B. The lead singer is me, and the back up singer is--me. That kind of affects the authentic context for the song. It's the me-brothers, laying it all out on the line for you, baby.

I shouldn't tell this to any of you, but Randy Newman has this song "Marie" which features a string section and a really vulnerable and sincere lyric. I always loved that song. I'm gong to erase all this information soon, so I'm going to pretend I never said any of this if anyone asks me. It's bad form to box in the interpretation of a song, because then it always has to be linked to the facts that leak out about it, which are interesting but often less relevant and interesting than what gets evoked in people because of what they bring to it.

What's especially interesting to me is that as the song went from the backyard guitar to the orchestral production I kept changing the words and what the song was about. Just now, when I reviewed the video and the studio recording that are in this post, I made changes again. I didn't like my third verse because I didn't think people would know what the word "imprimatur" means. I am not sure I even know how to pronounce it correctly. At the time I made the video, I didn't actually have words for the third verse, so I just sang, "This is the third verse/and we're going to the home stretch" etc. It turns out, I decided to ditch the third verse on the studio version and actually go with a new verse based on that messing around, which I found a way to make fit. The latest and probably final version of the lyrics are printed below. To hear the studio version,

click the line above to listen to the song (at my site on bandcamp:):

Lyrics printed below. . .


Plenty of
Music and Lyrics by Michael Alan Silverstone
©2011 Mr. Silverstone Music Publishing/ASCAP

I’m probably tempting fate
I shouldn’t attempt to get so high up on a ladder
I can imagine you talking with me
Saying o.k. but right now
that just doesn’t matter

‘cause all we once had
may be gone to us now
and all we have is what we love
and what I never presumed before to know

Not good to deny ourselves
We just live once and may not get another chance here
Desire may call to you
Never knew how to choose the ones that really need an answer

But all we have now may be lost in the end
What we find is what we love
And what I never presumed,
in my life, to know

The only one
I ever knew
To care enough
So real and true
So beautiful
Though opposites
All I could do
was to delight in it

The way it is
The way we were
Before anything
Had yet occurred
I knew the place
I had to be
Where you are
Is where I want to be. . .

We’ll probably never know
Why we’re unsure
Maybe that’s just how we want it
Maybe didn’t take first last time
But I can feel in my bones
We’ve got no cause to act sardonic

All we have
May be gone anytime
And all we can give is our love
Which I know our life has always had
Plenty of
Which I know our life has always had
Plenty of

Plenty of
Plenty of
Plenty of

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ain't Summer Great?

Ran into a friend in the library. I live in a company town and a lot of us all seem to be working for the same company, public education. Len is a wise school psychologist. He noted, "I was reading that we actually need stress, but there's a range that makes it healthy--too little, you get unfocused, too much, and you get run down. Right now, it's great to just take it easy." I smile inwardly and outwardly even now just recalling how sweet that moment was to share with a comrade, enjoying our earned temporary rest with our armloads of genius held against our hips under the skylight of the beautiful Jones Library reading room. He had a stack of videos and books like mine, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds" (However that is supposed to be misspelled--it seems overly fastidious to actually look it up), Vipassana meditation books, and Landowska recordings of Bach. In short, a rich trove of rare and special things that your most wonderful adult self might want for soul and mind nourishment apart from its direct utility in making you more skilled at your vocation.

Teachers liberated from daily concerns for the next day, the next week, let alone Monday morning its own bad self are decompressed, stressless, refreshed in ways they may not even remember they had in 'em. It's rich in itself to re-discover what we hunger for, and what we have been skipping: Nutritious food, naps in the afternoon, sunlight, whole days writing and recording music from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. In other words, exactly the stuff that doesn't fit in with a demanding 9 1/2 month long job around working with and for young people. I freshly realized how I am fitting myself into a shape that come to think of it, is not actually natural to me as is mine in this freedom. This week, I had a beer, I've grown a beard, I stay in the house. I do Yoga for an hour like I got all the time in the world in the morning.

If anyone who doesn't work in a classroom for a living tells you the answer to improving education is extending the school year or the school day, I say:

Maybe for you. Not for me, thanks. I think I'm going to be a better teacher next year because I got to stop being a teacher for long enough to find out what the part of me is like that isn't necessarily one:

studio version

Of course, when I am a teacher, I don't have to wait for summer. When it gets to be something I need to not do 24 hours, I am drawn to music.  I get my most inspired connection to music when I simply need a place to go where things assume the quality of who I am apart from what I have to be to meet my responsibilities. A songwriters' songwriter, the heroically great Ron Sexsmith (Check his new release "Long Player Late Bloomer") calls that kind of discontent, often caused by pressures or inevitable times of human unhappiness, "songwriting gold." You don't need special dire circumstances to experience this, ordinary life dishes it out pretty routinely, really. I know without songwriting, I would have dealt with it in a milllion ways I'd wish I could take back but wouldn't have been able to.  Neuroscientists have discovered that we humans have a bias toward current pleasure that makes us more or less incapable of imagining the benefits of disciplined self-control. (I suspect that self-control is more often than not, a matter of being locked into habits fueled by anxieties that steer us around pleasure-seeking impulses.) Wouldn't a hamburger taste great right now so easily overpowers all the benefits of a zesty the garden salad. But wouldn't music be great right now can usually overpower most other choices I might make. There's a lot to be said for that, even if it also keep me from stuff some better version of me would manage to get done.

Here's the live version of the song I linked a few paragraphs back. . .

So, to wrap up this meander. . .musical escape ain't perfect, because sometimes it works a little too well, and I don't face what I've put off. Still, it's good to have a realm available to you where your mind and being can be transported to something fabulous, outside the usual outer and inner grind.  The late, but immortal Gregory Corso said that when things got really bad and he was completely sick of everything he would "go to the movies/it hasn't failed yet".

One last note on this song:  I made up this riff a long time ago and forgot it, then it came up again when I was messing around at the piano a few days ago. There was a funny process for writing this. I  made a little in camera video of me playing this riff, then took it to the kitchen table with a white sheet of paper and a pen and listened to it. I started to list phrases that I felt or heard, but then after I got the first line: "They're playing winner take all sometimes/but before they know what they have won". . .I kept taking the lyrics into the other room to play them at the piano, then I'd come back to write.  I must have done this about 9 times, back and forth. I don't know why I didn't just write in the room where the piano was. It's like I wasn't admitting that this wasn't all a paper and pen time. Each time changed rooms, I acted as if it were the last time I was doing it, and that I was the writer visiting the music side of me, this morning.

What I like about the song is that there are a lot of American conversation idiomatic phrases embedded in it that also fit with the rhythm of the music. In fact, the whole thing is made of these phrases, practically. This makes the voice  not me, but not-not me either. I love it when writers do that. My heros of this are Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello and the late comic novelist (and writer's writer) Stanley Elkin. I hope it has some of that flavor for listeners, 'cause I want it so bad that I'm hoping to take it on naturally it the way a little kid will walk just like his daddy until that is the kids actual walk.

That's all I got to say. Gotta take it easy, its summer. You know why else I like this summer? My team is in first place going into the All Star game. Maybe that's not a big deal a lot of teams, but when your team is the Cleveland Indians, its time to take a deep easy breath and let it out in gratefulness for a world with compensations so sweet to help us survive the necessary difficulties.

Live version, pushed out on stage the day after it was written: