February 21, 2018

Minor Secrets of "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" Revealed!

"The kind of girl I dig, some of her was big, but part of her was petite..."

Mikill Wotan!

Here I am doing "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" with the Smugglers at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on July 26, 2003. As you can see, the front bit is missing, but as it's the sole document (as I must assume) of something that happened only once, that is, me singing this song with the Smugglers it seems worth a post, praise Odin.

This occurred during a week-long Lookout Records festival. We were in the midst of recording Yesterday Rules and took time off to play that show. (I also did a solo set that week at Thee Parkside, leaving the rest of the band to do tracking without me, which felt very weird, though also kind of rock star-y if you know what I mean.) I was a bit pre-occupied with recording stuff on both nights, and remember nothing at all about them except doing this song, but the memory is glorious.

This was one of two of my songs that the Smugglers recorded on the Rosie album. Both date from the Revenge I Sweet - Show Business is My Life era, part of a large batch of songs that included Revenge rejects and also formed the basis of Alcatraz. ("You're My Hostess Cupcake", recorded under the title "Bombay" by the Go-Nuts, was also part of that aggregate.)

As originally conceived, "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" was from the stewardess's point of view,, but then I hit on the idea of going all high-concept on it and making the entire composition from beginning to end a literal Penthouse forum letter and I couldn't resist doing it that way. I love stuff like that, and several of my best/favorite songs are in that category: "Concept of the Soul" (term paper); "Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful" (postcard); "Jill" (message left on voice mail.)

I'm sure a lot of "young people," if any there be reading this, have no clue what "Dear Penthouse, I am just a regular guy..." is meant to invoke but for people of a certain age the Penthouse Forum loomed fairly large as an icon, as cultural currency. If it is now mysterious and confusing rather than clever, well that's the way these things go, isn't it?

Of course, "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" originally was a 1967 semi-fictional faux-memoir about the swingin' antics of some risqué airline stewardesses. That's another dead reference, probably, but it was also pretty obscure when I wrote the song to be honest. My parents had that book and it made a big impression on me, though I remember very little of it now. The 1973 TV movie starring Karen Valentine feels like it should have had a theme song but as far as I can tell, though it had songs in it, I don't think it did. Anyway, even if it did, I bet mine is better and if there's ever a Coffee, Tea, or Me? "reboot" it'll be here waiting for them. (Not bloody likely, I know.)

Anyway, the Smugglers are one of the greatest rock and roll combos in the history of rock and roll combos, despite being Canadian, and it was a great honor that they did one of my songs, let alone two. I do like my original, quite rudimentary demo of the song, and I may release it in some form one day.

In the meantime, here's what it's like when I do it solo:

And here's the Smuggler's version, from the record:

Here's a bit of the 1973 TV movie to give you the flavor of that:

And here's a girl who wrote another "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" playing it on the internet:

Thanks to the Smugglers, Karen Valentine, semi-fictional faux-memoir sexy stewardesses, Xaviera Hollander, and most especially to Marisa for capturing the event on video and sharing it.
You know, it's funny but I always begin these little write-ups thinking I won't have much to say and I end up typing loads. Praise Odin, share, like, subscribe, etc.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:46 PM


The subject is "dirty jokes" through a child's eyes, and it's a story I've told before. But here I am telling it again, so that if everything here disappears it will still be there.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:41 PM

February 18, 2018

Blog maintenance

You may have noticed this blog has been ailing and limping along for some time, and a bit more than previously since December 2017.

A lack of allocated disk space, that apparently cannot be increased, has recently prevented me from posting any new images. I can still post text, and links that load resources and previews from other sources, like youtube and twitter. But the front end tends to load incompletely and intermittently and the archives, when their links are visible, are unstable. (They're still there, it's just that searching and accessing them is unreliable.)

It's not a solution to the long term problems, some of which are fundamental and go back many. many years, but I've deleted a bunch of images to clear up enough space to allow the front end and indexing to function a bit better. It seems to have worked, at least a little, as far as I can tell.

When I've deleted an image, I have left a link to the image (e.g. as in this post.) I probably won't be posting new images here unless something big changes, but I may well delete more. Sorry about that, if you care. And if so, it sucks for me too.

The images I would have posted here are currently being posted on social media and on my minds.com page. I'm not going to post links to every image here (though in the case of significant things I may.) If you're interested in that kind of thing (saints, whimsical pictures of various kinds, MTX memorabilia) that is the place to go to find them.

Still working on a better solution, but we'll see.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:03 PM

February 15, 2018

Minor Secrets of "Love American Style" Revealed!

Gesælig æsc Wodensdaeg to þe!

Gonna shift away from Southampton '92 to Hamburg '92, because it's Valentine's Day and "Love American Style" is an appropriate song for the occasion. Sort of. (LAS was in that Southampton set but the video has lots of glitches during it.) This was just a few days after that Southampton gig, back on the continent, and near the end of the tour if I'm remembering right. It's a rough performance, as they always were, but it does manage to put the song across and it's the best we've got as far as live renditions of it in that era.

To paraphrase something once said in reference to Leppo, the fifth Rutle, the Reeperbahn is one of the naughtiest streets in the world: we couldn't play our instruments but we knew how to have a good time, and in Hamburg, that was more important. I remember that night very fondly, and recall that show as one of the great ones despite what appears in the video to be a distinct too-cool-for-showmanship distance on our part and a sparse, only mildly interested crowd. Well, we were certainly used to those.

The song "Love American Style" was recorded for a 1991 single on Lookout Records, and it is the first recording where I was genuinely satisfied with the way it came out. I think the hot guitar leads way up front were a bit shocking to the tiny, quite conservative, developing "pop punk" crowd, and the cover of the single was controversial in that little world, too. I do think, though I say it myself, that it has held up pretty well nearly thirty years on, as a recording and as a song.

But, it's a pretty weird song. The idea of forming a love song by mashing up and combining bits and pieces of de- and re-contextualized, unexplained bits of ancient pop culture is strange in itself; it was something I liked to do, and it came naturally for better or worse, but this is arguably the first time it really worked. "I will defend your right to cry" (the original theme song of the TV show said "try") is maybe one of the best things of its kind I've ever managed. I doubt further explication would be useful. I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you. Either you get it or you don't, and if you don't you won't.

There are a few other songs from that set that may be worth pulling out and commenting on, but I'm not done with Southampton yet, believe me.

Have a great time on your mandatory dates tonight. Þu eart dust and to duste gewendst.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:51 AM

I wrote a thing about fan art...

... and posted it, sharing many examples.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:48 AM

February 08, 2018

Minor secrets of "Let's Be Together Tonight" revealed!

Another song (for Odin) from that 1992 show in Southampton.

Rich Levene was there and says his diary indicates there were 60 people at the show, which sounds/looks about right. They really were a wild, exuberant bunch. They shouted incomprehensibly at us throughout the set. It was a good time, as you might be able to tell.

"Let's Be Together Tonight" was our typical show opener in this era (succeeding "What Went Wrong"), written during, but not recorded in, the Milk Milk Lemonade sessions, late '91.

Just before heading to Europe the following summer, we threw together a recording of it along with two other songs for a 7" called Strum und Bang, Live?! to be released by Munster Records in Spain, on the theory that it would be a good idea to have some release in Europe when we went there. That record was presented as "live at the Regal Beagle" -- the Regal Beagle being the bar frequently mentioned on the TV show Three's Company -- but it was actually recorded in a Berkeley 8 track garage studio called Smooth Papa's Greasy Groove Hut, though I'm not sure it had that name yet at the time. (I believe that this and Alex Sergay's Recording Emporium were same place, but the timeline eludes me, and I could well be wrong about that.)

The crowd noise between the songs was taken from KISS Alive II, Blue Oyster Cult's On Your Feet or On Your Knees, the record of JFK's inaugural address, and a jazz record whose title I can no longer recall.
We recorded another version almost as soon as we got back from Europe, in the same room (which had, in the meantime, acquired a 16 track deck -- I think) as a three piece since Jon von had left the band by that time. The Gun Crazy songs were recorded there in those same hurried session, as well as chunks of Our Bodies Ourselves a bit later. This version came out under the title "Together Tonight" on the Gun Crazy 7" and was tacked on to the end of the Our Bodies... CD.

The song itself is a nice little pump-and-pummel pop song, and the slightly clumsy lyrical construction serves to enhance rather than degrade the wistful, pleading, confessional spirit of ingenuous romance-cum-regret-cum-horniness that makes it work. Or so I keep telling myself. I bet I could write the lyrics better now, but I doubt it'd be an improvement. So let's just leave it as it is, shall we?

Praise Odin, share/like/comment/subscribe/follow, bang your face into your laptop till the blood voids your warranty, and check back next week for something new.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:58 AM

February 06, 2018

How College Radio, Dr Demento, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus Turned Me into a Punk Rock Antiquarian

New post with pictures and such over at Medium.

One day I'll sort things out here, but till then farming them out and linking is how it must be done.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:16 PM