April 11, 2018

Minor Secrets of "Cingular Wireless (Worse than Hitler)" Revealed!!!

It's Woden's day, and the sched calls for video so... "Cingular Wireless (Worse than Hitler)" - what a song. It was never officially recorded or released, but it proved weirdly popular when I played it solo and remains one of the most requested songs. The live version included on The Way It Sounds Like was recorded during an author appearance at Moe's Books in Berkeley. (This video, taken by Marisa, is of a different Moe's "show" I believe -- there is video of the Moe's show that is on the tape, but this song seems to have been cut off. Thank God for Marisa anyhow.)

Cingular Wireless is a now-defunct cell phone company, and the conceit of the song is more or less what really happened: I had a lengthy dispute with them over a mysterious charge that appeared on my bill and I felt they were being unreasonable. The dispute stretched over several calls and many weeks, and in the midst of it, I informed the customer service rep that I was in fact an internationally famous singer-songwriter, that I was writing a song about this experience, and that how that song came out was pretty much up to her. Singer-songwriter blackmail, basically, a tactic with a long history in the protest-song tradition.

She chose the way of pain, the song "Cingular Wireless (Worse than Hitler)" emerged, and the company went out of business, in that order. (Actually it got absorbed by AT&T and the charge disappeared just as mysteriously as it had appeared. There are no coincidences.)

And yes, I actually did sing it to her over the phone: she hung up during the bridge.

When I play it, I always introduce it with a lengthy, shaggy dog style story along the lines above, which Marisa's video doesn't include. It's tolerably amusing. If you'd like to hear a version of it, you can get the Sounds Rad cassette RAD-007-3 Dr Frank - The Way It Sounds Like, or request it at a show. I'll probably do it, because you know, why not?

A ways back I was a guest at some English classes at Berkeley High (I just showed up with my guitar and talked about King Dork.) After I'd played a song or two, one of the kids raised his hand and said "are all your songs about Hitler?" Well, no, they're not, obviously, but that was the first time I'd realized that there was indeed a two-song Hitler sub-theme in my oeuvre, if oeuvre means what I think it does, and that if I wasn't careful I could get a reputation as some kind of "Hitler guy." This concern proved well-founded when, a couple of weeks later on my way to the Berkeley Post Office, I passed a scrum of kids on lunch break and one of them said "hey it's that guy with the book and the guitar and the Hitler stuff, that was hella tight." Lesson learned. (Tight is good, right?)

Putting this on the "official and semi-official music videos" list, because it's all I've got for this release, which is semi-official enough in my book.

(Final note: I'm told -- and I've noticed from past post behavior -- that the word "Hitler" anywhere in any post automatically triggers an algorithmic daemon that de-prioritizes, hides, shadow-bans, or otherwise abuses the content. In fact, it is possible that this whole thing may never get seen by anyone. Well, in this situation, it can't be helped. But you can help by sharing, liking, subscribing and commenting. If you like jokes that are funny, that is. If you don't just, you know, stay there. At ease.)

Praise Odin and head over to Sounds Rad for the cassette and/or a whole mess of other Dr Frank and MTX stuff. Till next time.

Posted by Dr. Frank at April 11, 2018 11:04 PM