Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

All of me

Posted by ilbebe on March 17, 2012

Top of the morning to yas. I was talking to a guy from Virginia at the bar last night who asked me about my pins, and after I informed they represented New Hampshire and Tom Waits, we started talking about The Wolf Man Himself. This led quickly to discovering we were both writers, and naturally he asked me what I wrote. When I told him I was working on my memoirs, he seemed skeptical, so I told him about The Big Fellow. He seemed non-plussed, and didn’t write down any notes. Whatever.

I looked over the most recent ‘dialed calls’ in my phone this morning, and remembered that I called the KALX DJ at 1:26am, right after I got home last night, to tell them that the song was awesome. The miracle of the internet informs me that the song was Kissin’ and Cussin’, by Justin Robinson and the Mary Annettes, from the album Bones For Tinder. Huh. Musta been a banger. I love music. If you don’t, start. It’s easy.

Here are the liner notes I wrote for an autobiographical mix CD I made a few years ago. Slainte.

Nineteen Elements of Landon (Now Twenty)

 

I. Formative Years

 

1. The Allman Brothers – Jessica This mix starts slightly out of chronological order, because a seven-minutes-plus instrumental is always tricky to place in an unobtrusive spot that doesn’t disrupt the momentum. Putting it first is the easiest place to put it so that you can skip if you want to get straight to songs you can sing along with, although it is an excellent song to whistle along to. I first heard this when I started investigating my parent’s record collection around the age of thirteen, and it really struck me the first time I heard it. A few years later I got a guitar transcription and, after lots of practice, would play through the entire song, reading it off of the page. I never memorized it, though I can still play the main riff. It remains one of those songs that makes me smile every time I hear it.

 

2. The Big Bopper – Chantilly Lace Getting chronological, this was my favorite song off of the first tape I ever owned, ‘Rockin’ 50’s’. Other songs on that compilation included Sea Cruise, Blue Suede Shoes, Maybelline, Be Bop A Lula, Blueberry Hill and Summertime Blues, and though Sea Cruise was a close second, Chantilly Lace was the one I would rewind and play again the most often. Also cool is that it was a birthday gift from my first best friend in the world Benji, who had heard of the Big Bopper somehow and was making it his mission to introduce him to everyone in second grade. My eighth birthday party was a swimming party at the Concord, NH YMCA, and I remember listening to this song for the first time on a boombox in the party room, Benji had considerately unwrapped the tape and  fast forwarded it to the right spot. This may be the first instance of being judged on the spot for my musical hipness, because frankly the first time I heard Chantilly Lace I thought it was fucking weird and lied to agree with Benji when he asked Isn’t This The Coolest Song Ever? Yet another benefit of growing up in rural New Hampshire: I was born in 1981, but my first tape wasn’t Tiffany or Debbie Gibson.

 

3. “Weird” Al Yankovich – Lasagna   The first two tapes I ever bought with my own money were Weird Al’s ‘Even Worse’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Dangerous’. Believe me, it was hard to decide between this song and Will You Be There, especially because of the latter’s inclusion in Free Willy, a movie that made me cry with joy. I decided to go with Weird Al because it follows Chantilly Lace a little better, and because I was much more obsessive about him. I actually wrote out all the lyrics to the album, and it drove me nuts because there was one word in ‘Those Were The Good Old Days’ that I couldn’t understand. Another early indication of my obsessive analytic tendencies was that for probably the first fifty tapes I ever owned I would write down the time on the tape counter on my parents’ stereo that each song came at. When I ran out of the uniquely shaped pieces of paper on the tablet I used for this purpose it was a serious crisis, but I eventually decided that I didn’t actually use the information I was collecting very often, so I stopped writing lists for new tapes. The next decision, which took me months to make, was whether or not to throw out the lists I’d already made for purposes of uniformity in my collection. I finally decided that throwing out the lists would be a good step towards not being a nerd, and it was a triumphant moment when I removed them, ripped them all neatly into eight pieces, and trashed ‘em. I must also add that my Mom’s lasagna is my favorite food in the world, though she didn’t ever appreciate me listening to Weird Al…

 

4. Simon and Garfunkel – Cecilia  This I also first heard on an LP that my Mom owned, and to show that my OCD tendencies haven’t been fully abandoned, I like that including this song makes it one song from my Mom’s collection and one from my Dad’s (Jessica). It is noteworthy that when they combined their record collections in 1977, they only had one album in common, Loggins and Messina’s ‘Full Sail’. Why it took them twenty years to get divorced remains a mystery. FULL SAIL? Christ, what does this mean about ME?? I share your GENES!! Anyhow, I’ve always liked this song, and it’s one of the four songs I sing for karaoke unless there are extenuating circumstances, the others being Livin’ On A Prayer, Angel Of The Morning, and Islands In The Stream. In a strange parallel to my story, I copied Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits on CD from my friend Matt. One day I was going through his CDs and remarked on how surprised I was that he had it, since he mostly listens to old Metallica, emo rap, and electronic music. He said with a sigh that both his parents loved Simon and Garfunkel and listening to them always makes him that pleasant sort of melancholy. His parents divorced when he was two and have hated each other ever since. But back to my story…

 

5. R.E.M. – Fall On Me This makes the list because it was the first song on the first mixtape I ever made, which I labeled “Good Shit, Man.” I put it on there twice in a row. Can you tell I was fourteen when I made it? It’s still a tape I listen to every once in a while (i.e. most recently seven years ago), and other artists include Tom Petty, Blues Traveler and Counting Crows. I still think Tom Petty rules and that the Counting Crows’ first two albums are still good. Blues Traveler I don’t think is so hot anymore, though I still know ninety percent of the lyrics to Runaround- out of order. During middle school, though, Blues Traveler was one of my favorite bands, and I desperately wanted to see them live, but sadly, this was years before my parents would let me go to shows. Thus I was pretty intrigued when I did get to see them at the Oakland Art and Soul festival in September 2005. It was five bucks, and although I mainly went to see Aimee Mann, I figured I’d stick around and see what Blues Traveler was all about. Though I definitely enjoyed Runaround and Hook, their guitarist was unforgivably wanky, and the verdict is not to bother doings things you really wanted to ten years ago but never did. Some things never happen for sound reasons.

           

6. Weezer – The World Has Turned And Left Me Here The first Weezer song I heard was of course Undone (The Sweater Song), and it changed my life. The first concert I ever went to was Weezer at the Fillmore in SF on the Pinkerton tour, July 1997. I’d had a driver’s license for four months, and since I’d bought my Studebaker three months earlier, I had been dying for a good show to go to. Automobile ownership had freed me from my parents’ stodgy dictums against “being safe”. The night of the Weezer concert was the first time I’d ever driven into San Francisco, and holy fuck I was not prepared for that. I cut off busses, nearly flattened scores of pedestrians, and almost got into an accident in a parking garage. For some reason I hadn’t gotten directions to the venue, so as me and four friends crossed the Bay Bridge, I handed my map of SF to Danny and told him to navigate us towards the intersection of Fillmore and Geary. Forty terrifying and frustrated minutes and a dozen reassurances from Danny that “it should be here!” later, I pulled over to see what the fuck was going on. Apparently Danny had been navigating us towards the large, red FILLMORE on the map that denoted the Fillmore district and stretched over six city blocks. I was incensed, but we righted our course and got there. The show was mind-bogglingly awesome, and will forever remain a show that all others must be judged against. The reason I decided to put this song on to represent the Blue Album is because it’s the first song I ever remember associating with a girl, fuckin’ Andrea H. I asked her out freshman year of high school and she said no, and this song came into mind as I was walking home from school later that day. Sigh.

 

7. Everclear – Heartspark Dollarsign  I bought Everclear’s ‘Sparkle and Fade’ at the Pittsburg Target because I really liked Santa Monica, and damn, as it turned out, I really liked the whole album. There was one song about leaving town with no destination in mind, Summerland, that I really took to when I was a mopey teenager thinking about running away. More than once I made a list of things to do before running away, which generally included selling stuff for money, returning things I had borrowed, and collecting debts from my friends, some of which were as small as fifty cents. I want to say that the last such list I made had more than twenty-six entries, and when I got labeling some petty chore ‘BB’, I realized that I had no real desire to run away. Anyhow, my favorite song on the album was and is Heartspark Dollarsign. Besides the fact that it rocks, I always thought I was cool for liking a song about interracial relationships, and in retrospect it’s funny to think that I felt this way even though I still used ‘gay’ as a derogatory term at the time. This might be specious proof of people’s capacity to change, but more likely it’s just proof that teenagers are really good at two things: being self-righteous, and being mean.

 

8. The Mr. T Experience – Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba I have fond memories of seeing MTX several times in their heydey and being part of a huge crowd of kids in a synchronized pogo during the chorus of this song. Worth mentioning is that my friend Ryan always used to come away from shows claiming that some hot chick had crowd surfed over him and “her ass was right in my face!” Of course there was never any hard proof of this…also, another time we were leaving an MTX show at a venue that was next door to a whomp-whomp dance club, and as we walked past a row of parked cars on the street, another friend of mine Garrett blurted out OH MY GOD! When we said What? he said He Was Sucking On Her Thing! Ryan got really excited and said Woah, We Just Walked Past Oral Sex!, but then Garrett clarified that by ‘thing’ he meant ‘boob’, and we teased him mercilessly for being too square to say ‘boob’ the first time around. In a carefully calculated move to get girls to understand that I was cool, my senior yearbook quote was Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba. I didn’t factor in that the yearbook is published after school gets out, however, so whether or not the ladies of the Liberty High Class of ‘99 were impressed by this may never be known.

 

II. Sexually Active (i.e. post-high school) Years

 

9. Bob Dylan – Meet Me In The Morning My Mom bought me a three-disc set of Bob Dylan’s second, third, and fourth albums the month I graduated high school, and I slowly grew to love them while playing SimCity 2000 on the house computer that sat on a desk in my parent’s bedroom during a typical roasting Brentwood summer. Outside of those albums I had heard Like A Rolling Stone because it is fucking great and should find its way into everyone’s life, Rainy Day Women # 12 and 35 courtesy of the Forrest Gump soundtrack, and Mr. Tambourine Man because I attended Humboldt State. I first heard the album Blood on the Tracks thanks to my friend Jake, who loaned it to me in December 2004 when I was desperately looking for a new bible that explained everything. The album came to represent a somehow concrete view I adopted that almost nothing can be explained, and it ushered in a serious study/worship of Dylan that many people never come out on the other side of. Different songs from the album stand out to me for different reasons, but if pressed, I must say that Meet Me In The Morning is my favorite song from the album, perhaps my favorite song of all time. It, well, it sounds like morning to me, and it’s a fantastic song to play air drums to. I imagine myself with a gigantic mustache, leaning away from the drums as if I haven’t a care in the world. It sounds like the world, as Dr. Frank said in Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba, is our oyster…

 

10. Neutral Milk Hotel – Ghost In an odd coincidence, I started going through songs my freshman roommate Garrett had downloaded onto my computer via Napster that I had never listened to towards the middle of my Sophomore year of college and heard Two Headed Boy from the album that remains my favorite of all time, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”. Days later, my friend and Garrett’s ex-girlfriend (who he was still really bummed about), Stephanie, made the questionable move of putting NMH on at a party late at night, when people may have already be getting emotional for self-contained reasons. I heard Two Headed Boy and it occurred to me that I should get the rest of the album. I chose Ghost to represent it here because I had a dream about it a few years ago that remains one of those most awesomely vivid dreams I’ve ever had, and because I used to play it when I was in a living room guitar-and-violin duo for a year. We always played Ghost last because it wore out her hands and my voice, and it sufficiently motivated me to drink to our impending fame almost every time. As it turns out, our ambitions wound up in a hole from which nothing could escape, and hearing the song now is bittersweet, which of course makes me love it all the more.

 

11. The Sleeze – Do You Wanna Dance? The Sleeze was a band I was in in Arcata that went through two different periods of activity. The first was not particularly fruitful, as we only wrote five songs and never mastered the one cover we attempted, Molly’s Lips by Nirvana. That song has two chords, if that gives any sense of our overall proficiency as a unit. That first era came to an end when our drummer Danny did a semester abroad in China, and right when he came back, I moved away for six months. In February of 2003 I moved back, and the second, golden era began. We tightened up the old songs, including Motha’s New Lover (sample lyric: “I-I’m, you-our, mu-ther’s, bra-and, new-ew, lover, yeah-ah, whaddya think about that?), and wrote several new ones, including this little novelty. We recorded our album “Aim To Sleeze” at the practice space on south H a week before our guitarist Jeff moved away, and it was because of this time crunch that we couldn’t wait for our singer Travis to get over the sore throat he was battling at the time. The Sleeze’s last performance was our “reunion show” a year after the ‘album’ was made at the last show at the I street Derail house. I drank two Mad Dogs and fell over backwards onto Danny’s hi-hat in the middle of our set, bending it in half. While I was telling my panda joke to allow time for repairs, the cops came to end the suaree, putting a beautifully anti-climactic epitaph on the Sleeze.

 

12. The Strokes – What Ever Happened?  When I left Arcata in December 2004, I spent a month slumbering around Seattle, a month at my Mom’s, and then three months at my Dad’s apartment in Alameda. This time was spent drinking malt liquor, eating pretzels, and slowly sleeping the clock around. The CDs I listened to most during this era were “Blood on the Tracks”, “Blonde on Blonde”, and the second disc of “Live ‘66″ by Bob Dylan, “Room on Fire” by the Strokes, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” by Wilco, and the title track of “Fear and Whiskey” by the Mekons, mostly while playing Freecell. To illustrate the unbelievable amount of time I spent on the game, you should probably know that I achieved 200 consecutive wins towards the end of my time in Alameda. After finally getting a job as a law-office file clerk, I sublet a room in a basement and made a mix called ‘Drinking Alone’, and this was the first song on it. It remains the only mix I’ve made where I broke the self-imposed rule of never putting the first song from an album first on a mix, lest there be any confusion, but I had to; both lyrically and musically this tune sums up the awful ennui and self-loathing of the first half of 2005 for me. I believe the second song was Badlands by the Boss, and it was a tricky deciding which song to include here, but I guess that this song will always be associated with this time of my life, whereas Badlands is a little more timeless for me; it makes me think about driving fast while singing along and getting half of the words wrong.

 

13. The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down  During that time in the basement sublet, I watched “The Last Waltz” nearly every night while working on a case of assorted wines my yuppie friend Craig had given me. After the wine ran out, it was back to malt liquor, and on one memorable night I finished most of a fifth of tequila after I met my lesbian roommate’s new girlfriend, one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. She was Romanian, she had the fucking wackiest accent…sigh. Anyhow, every night I’d at least try to stay lucid until this song, chapter 14 on the DVD, before passing out, and one night I looked up the chords for guitar and played it nearly every day for the rest of the summer. In the summer of 2007, I was driving home from Arcata and stopped at the banks of the Eel River south of Garberville for a while to relax. I played guitar for a while, and as I was packing up to leave, this guy who’d been playing around on inner tubes with his family came over and asked me to play a song for them. I went with this one, and after polite applause and a short conversation, he handed me his business card and said to give him a call if I was ever in trouble in Sonoma. He was a Sonoma County sheriff! Wow.

 

14. Jolie Holland – Damn Shame My best friend’s Mom died on February 1, 2006, and it really fucked me up. I started acting out at work, and eventually got sent to a few sessions of anger management therapy, though not much was accomplished because the dude they sent me to was actually a hard-drug addiction specialist, and we mainly talked about jazz. I didn’t hear this song until the following summer, but I came to associate it with the slow, hard feelings I had around the time that Casey’s mom passed. On the first anniversary of her death, I wrote “2-1-07 – Nothing but a damn shame” on the white board at the house where I lived with nine other people, and several of them asked me if I was okay. I explained that yeah, I was fine; the damn shame was someone else who had passed. Then six days later I wound up in a mental hospital, thinking I wanted to kill myself, and the next round of explanations about my condition to my roommates was not quite so easy. Now I associate the song with both events, and the first line always makes me stop what I’m doing and get sad- “Tonight I fell asleep in my haunted little room”. Top that, Congress, I dare you.

 

15. The Flaming Lips – Waiting For A Superman The album “The Soft Bulletin” had been recommended to me by several different people over the years, and I liked it instantly when I finally picked it up in the summer of 2006. I listened to it a lot at my desk at the law office where I worked when I had those suicidal thoughts in the winter of 2006-07, and both this song and the first track, Race For The Prize, really struck me as brilliant encapsulations of the impossibility of life. I chose Waiting For A Superman for this mix because it became a personal anthem in the months following my stay in the crazy house about finding something within yourself to keep on keepin’ on. There are no supermen anymore, if there ever were. I think of this song whenever I’m trying to lift something too heavy, be it theoretically or actually. Thus I thought of it frequently while working as a mover at the end of the summer of 2007. Have you ever tried moving a piano? Mothers are heavy.

 

16. Wilco – I’m Always In Love The beginning of this song is my idea of the musical counterweight to Ghost; the sound of a happy explosion versus a painful one. This music plays in my head a lot, whether because I’m in a really good mood or because I’m miserable and want to feel better. I’ve included this song on countless mixes over the past few years, but my favorite placement was on the mix I made my friend Shawn to celebrate his graduation from art grad school, ‘Urine Asshole In Debt’. This was the first song, meant to be a subtle jab about the habit of serial monogamy that had caused him so much grief up to that point. It was followed by That’s Not Me by the Beach Boys, and then Hang Down Your Head by Tom Waits and Absolutely Sweet Marie by Bob Dylan, because the most recent relationship that had gone awry was with a girl named Marie who I was convinced was going to murder him over his refusal to be with her. She didn’t though, and I’m glad, because I hate being right about people’s murderous intents all the time.

 

17. The Hold Steady – Hot Soft Light The Hold Steady have become one of my favorite bands over the last few years, and this song stands out in particular because the final line was a revelation, pun intended?, about the appeal of becoming a born-again Christian. I’ve dwelt quite a bit on the unique appeal of Christianity, and was never able to come up with a satisfactory answer until I heard this, which I think is a remarkable achievement for a song, especially by a non-Christian band that actually spends a lot of lyrical time talking shit about the church. It’s funny though, I’ve seen the Hold Steady twice now, and their concerts definitely inspire a rapturous ecstasy a la religious fervor, maybe they know more than they’re letting on…

 

18. Fpodbpod – Plucked Fpodbpod holds a special place in my heart because they were a band I came across by pure chance. I had gone to see a band my friend Chops recommended in San Francisco*, and FpodBpod were one of the opening acts. They were on stage when my ex-girlfriend and I walked in the door, in the middle of this bizarre song called Puppies and Kittens that has a falsetto chorus that goes “La la-la la la la-la la- la la la”…fuck, there’s no way you could get an idea of what a strange impression this song makes without hearing it. Anyway, I became friends with the guys over the course of time and I’ve seen ‘em lots of times. I chose Plucked off of their only CD “The Egg” because the lyrics so accurately speak to where I’ve been at in life for, shit, how long has it been since I graduated? Almost seven years? Sheesh.

 

19. Tom Waits – Anywhere I Lay My Head This song represents so many nights lying on my living room floor drunk in Arcata to me it’s ridiculous. Out of sequence chronologically, but lying on the floor drunk and listening to Tom Waits is always a good place to end.

 

20. The New Pornographers – Go Places These notes were originally written in October 2008, and the album this song comes from, Challengers, was released in October 2007. Thus it seems to respect the non-linear nature of this writing to make this the song that I have actually added after the initial fact as I sit here typing on this Saturday morning, St. Patrick’s Day 2012. Stay with me…I say it to myself.

 

 

*Strange footnote: The main act that night, The Moanin’ Dove, was also cool, and the singer later dated a roommate of mine, and the two of them moved in two doors down from my girlfriend sat the time who was with me that night, proving that other places can have Arcata-esque characteristics.

 

**Bonus story about a song that didn’t make the final cut:

-I wanted to include a song by a band from Vancouver, BC called The Saddlesores, but eventually decided that the story about them was better than the music, which hasn’t stood up all that well over time. I saw them at the Plaza Grill my third week of college after a guy at People’s Records who had recommended a great band called Cringer (members of whom later became J Church) to my roommate Garrett also recommended the show these guys were playing. The opening band was from LA and really weird and I didn’t really like them, but the Saddlesores were a blast, and this made me think that college was going to expose me to all kinds of awesome music. Then the following week I heard the new Live single, The Dolphin’s Cry, on KRFH while eating dinner in the dorm cafeteria, and my illusions were shattered. Also, the lead singer of the Saddlesores hit on my then-girlfriend Kaydee the second time I saw them, couldn’t for the life of himself stop staring at her boobs. This was at the Vista, and it clued me in to the fact that life is not always all that it’s cracked up to be.

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7 Responses to “All of me”

  1. beltdrive said

    hi Landon,

    Bgp/paul from helloakland. Link me please.

    beltdrive.wordpress.com

    Thank you.

  2. beltdrive said

    I’ll start checking out your pages…
    paul

    • ilbebe said

      Right on man. There is a cool voodoo going down at the Rockridge Five Points…I’m really looking forward to getting into yr archives as well, and unlike my correspondence with some of my “e”-friends, it’ll be great to be able to chat in person about this stuff. I’m especially looking forward to picking yr brain on the technical aspects; a friend of mine has a turntable I’ve been wanting to refurbish for a couple of YEARS. It’s gonna be a great spring:)

      • beltdrive said

        No problem. Looking forward to chatting. Rockridge Five Points? Never heard of it. Is it a gallery? Happy to to chat about audio anytime, it’s my main hobby. I’m at Devin’s most saturdays.

        Same here. You’ve been writing for a while. Should i start in 08 or just go backwards in time?
        paul

      • ilbebe said

        Rockridge Five Points is the moniker I’ve given to the intersection of Claremont, Forest and Colby in homage to brutal neighborhoods that have been so referred to in other cities in past eras. What makes it Rockridge is that it’s actually a very pleasant little area with friendly businesses, as opposed to a confluence of all sorts of criminal interests as described in The Gangs Of New York. Just a little in-joke I’m trying to spread.

      • beltdrive said

        ps: don’t be put off by my shortish answers..writing is difficult for me. Part of the reason I started a blog in the first place was to try and bring my writing up to modern standards. Talk…I can talk your ears off..ha!.
        Paul.

      • ilbebe said

        Hey, I’m here to set a good example. A rising tide lifts all writing boats. And as far where to start, it’s all very non-linear, but starting with the first twelve chapters will give a more comprehensive explanation of what I’m hoping to convey amidst all of this madness.

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