Waiting, from the concert DVD “Pleasure & Relief”. A rare song, written quickly on a Korg piano in the second floor apartment of Lynn Simmons, recorded first with The Stickpeople and then again years later with a beautiful string arrangement by Jon Goldsmith, accompanied by Gary Craig and George Koller, with Jon on piano, and The Beggars String Ensemble in front of a live audience.
I don’t dance. Which is to say I don’t dance well, so I tend not to dance. If life or love is on the line I will rise to the occasion but its an entirely self-conscious affair. Which is why I’ve decided that 2015 is the Year of The Dance— kind of a solemn vow to lubricate whatever psychological joints need loosening, and tend to the physical ones, too.
Truth is, I’ve been thinking about this for a while. In the summer of last year, Suzette Sherman ( Senior Artist, Founding Company Member, Associate Artistic Director at Dancetheatre David Earl) choreographed and performed a dance piece to “To Be Open”. I’d never seen a song of mine interpreted in movement. It was humbling, moving, and inspiring. In the early fall of last year, on a whim before heading to the city, I set up a camera here at the shop and danced around like a fool, to no music, just whatever was in my imagination. I was curious to see what I’d look like. I thought of it the same way as I view recording my voice to see what I sound like singing a particular song. To ease the shock, I filmed it in slow motion…much like smothering a voice in reverb and echo to make the performance more palatable. The pics up at the top are from that video. In slow mo, it looked…probably better than it did in real time. Everything looks better in slow mo, though.
Then this New Year’s Eve I danced with my daughter after playing a set with The Dogs. I’d tried to move while playing, but the most I could put together was a pogo of sorts. Now my daughter, she could move, as several patrons noted. As for me, a voice in my head tried to assert calm when I realized people might see me dance— “Honestly, Fuckhead: no one cares.” I’d have preferred a more benign approach, the gentle assurance of a quiet farmer saying, “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”
So here’s to the Year of The Dance. It’s a beginning.
I’ve never had a plan, really, when it came to music. The only plan—and this, by definition, is not a plan, per se—was “I’ll just keep going.” This meant write more, record more, try more, dig more…see? Not a plan. I realized I lacked foresight while making Moon Come Up, my first real recording. I had vision, but no foresight. After the first day recording, I stayed alone in the control room while the rest of the band was in the residential part of the studio. I was listening to a song called Neighbourhood, looking around the control room at all the gear, all the lights a flashin’, listening to the song off the two-inch machine, and that’s when it hit me: beyond this point in time, exactly, I had no clue how to proceed.
I was 26 years old and had been quietly working toward the day I could make a real record, with real musicians, in a real studio, for a real record company, with a real producer. I had lived the best life I could, learned the best lessons I could, wrote the best songs I could, played with the best musicians I could, tried the best I could…and here I was doing the thing with no idea about all the other stuff that would come along with putting out a record: what I would dress like; what I would talk like; what I would say, what I wouldn’t say; what my “persona” would be; how I would act…
I thought about this while watching an old music video a friend had reminded me of, cringing my way through it, mocking what I was wearing (except the cool do-it-yourself-superhero outfit), how I was lip-synching, how I moved, how I mugged…how utterly uncool I looked.
Lynn Simmons, for the record, looked amazing, like she was beamed down directly from heaven or a very pious spaceship. I’ve never really gotten a grip on feeling comfortable in front of a camera or in an interview and I haven’t quite learned how to just not give a shit. Maybe that’s what the punk band is for.
Its only now, all this time later, that I’m beginning to pay attention to the theater of it all—trying to find that place where humble genuine mingles with off-planet alchemy. I’m looking forward to the next year.
The facts are clear. So “Passenger” didn’t come out until ’77 and that’d have made me 13. It still means it took me 37 years to hear that song. Thirty-seven years! That is just so…wrong. While I am ever grateful to The Monks of Weston Priory and the editors of The Greatest Pop Hits of The 40’s, 50’s And 60’s for my musical education, I have to wonder what might have happened had I not been so afraid of music. Actually, I wonder what might have happened had I not been so afraid. Period.
Seeing as most of my stage time down through the years has been spent with a guitar slung across my shoulder, the experience of being free to move about is cool and a little unnerving. So far, doing the stuff with The Art of Time Ensemble is the only chance I get to eat up some real estate without the distinct possibilty of falling over a monitor wedge or unplugging my guitar. One has an idea in one’s head how cool one might look, only to be confronted with the awkward truth: one has no fucking clue how to feel comfortable with all that freedom, let alone look even remotely cool.
So imagine my surprise when during a song at a recent performance I went down on a knee. The good thing is that I did it. The weird thing is that I was almost mime-ing the lyrics: Bewildered by your beauty there/ I knelt to dry your feet. In the world of dance and movement, I’m just going to assume that mime-ing in a play-by-play fashion the lyrics of a song is just really, really bad form.
I could have stopped myself. I mean, I remember thinking to myself, wow…you’re really gonna do this. But I think the response was something like, dont be a pussy and just have some fun, for fuck sakes, and stop thinking or you’ll forget the next line…
So I could have stopped myself, but I didn’t. And here’s the pic to prove it. It’s a good thing the stage was high because I think I remember having the inclination to remove the shoes of the person in the front row and pretend to attend to his/her feet in a Christ like fashion. Yeah…I have a ways to go before cool.
Late to the Bling Party: An Evening of Poetry, Music, and Shiny Things with The Art of Time Ensemble
So, that was fun. From left to right: Thom Allsion, Margaret Atwood, Me, Karla Huhtanen. Shots were taken during the dress rehearsal on Friday, so I’m not wearing my bling…not like Thom is wearing his bling. Learned a lot about bling. Made up some rhymes backstage with Margaret about bling. Bling was a real focal point for the concerts. Bling for the ears, bling for the eyes. Amazing performance from Andrew Burashko, and incredible playing from the band: Barry Shiffman, violin; Rachel Mercer, cello; Andrew Downing, bass; Rob Piltch, guitar; and John Johnson, Sax. All “A” players in a 2-night performance that explored the intersection of music and poetry. And bling.
Rock Couture. Or Blue Steel? Thom lent me some bling from his Big Box of Bling stashed in the dressing room. I never knew how hard it was to get just the right amount of bling to peek just so over the shirt. Holy shit…it drove me to distraction. Still, I’ve got my eye out now for some bling to call my own. I’m always late to the party.
Earlier in the day, when Thom wasn’t in the dressing room we shared, I tried his jacket on and snuck a couple selfies. I dont know what to say about these except that I said on stage I would put them up here. I fessed up before the show Friday night, and that’s when he took pity on me and opened his Bling Box…in a manner of speaking.
The Henrys are a critically lauded band led by Don Rooke. Too many “lauds” to go into here…Google them. They are well lauded.