Three unrelated smotches.
1) I keep seeing Scarlett Johansson on TV, promoting that movie with John Travolta. I met her at the first celeb 24 Hour Plays, in 2001. I was backstage tuning an acoustic guitar, she was waiting for her entrance. I was talking to her in that kind of nervous, inadvertantly hostile way that you speak to a crushable someone. I said, in an attempt at being flirty that I think came out sounding just ambiguous, “I could just whip out ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on you right now.”
Scarlett Johansson said: “So do it. Play ‘Stairway to Heaven’.”
And I then had to admit, mortified, that I was among the tiny minority of acoustic guitar owners in the world who did not know how to play “Stairway to Heaven.”
Have you ever met a celebrity, maybe had a moment’s casual chat with them, and from then on you feel a warm bond of friendship with them when you see them being interviewed on the Today show? That’s how I feel about Scarlett Johansson. Also Griffin Dunne.
2) John Munson’s adopted Chinese daughter is named Jing-Jing. Jing-Jing Munson. I told Munson that rock stardom is inevitable for his daughter.
He must not stand in the way of the imminent, irresistable rise of Jing-Jing Munson’s star.
3) People keep emailing me about potentially re-releasing Smofe and Smang. The last time I was out on tour, people in the CD line would ask if I was re-releasing it, and I told them I was planning on putting it out, along with the souped-up Skittish/Rockity in the Autumn. I feel like a tool now, as having signed to ATO prevents me from putting it out at the moment.
But yes, I plan to re-release Smofe. Eventually.
I feel slightly weird about re-releasing something that originally was a limited edition thing, that folks scrambled to buy before it evaporated. But I get so many emails about it. And it’s selling for, what, about four hundred thousand bucks on eBay now?
I don’t think Smofe is the kind of record you can listen to over and over again–the stage patter becomes tiresome, doesn’t it? Then again, I’ve played multiple shows where people put buckets of shoes onstage, or yell out for jokes. Jokes!
One of my favorite albums of all time is James Brown’s Revolution of the Mind. It’s rife with stage patter–charming the first time, especially in Mr. Brown’s distinguished and inimitable voice, but tiresome on the 508th spin–which I just skip on the old iPod, and revel in that fantastic snare sound.
And a special wish of joyous moviegoing for my Judaic homies.
Personally, before going out to Bushwick to spend Christmas eating ham and playing boardgames with friends, I’ll be eating a pastrami reuben roughly the size of my head, from Katz’s.
Eliminating the comments portion of this blog, I tend to believe that nobody’s really reading this thing.
Mason Jennings came over for a dinner party while I was at Dan’s, mixing; he told me that while he was on tour, people kept coming up to him and asking him about things I’d said on this blog. His bass player, Chris, asked him, at one point, “Are you having to field questions about stuff Doughty wrote on his blog?”
Apparently, one fan asked him about something she’d heard secondhand: a friend in Finland had read the blog and told her about it.
I was embarrassed: I wondered if I had revealed something he didn’t want revealed publicly. The fact is, I tend to think of this blog as a personal piece that few actually read. I guess not, huh?
I naturally tend towards candid self-revelation; maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I apologized to Mason, and he said, “No, man; I think it can be beautiful. I just wanted to know your take on it.”
Mason Jennings is my secret pretend spiritual boyfriend. Despite his the severity of his sound–the unadorned acoustic guitar and rhythm section, eschewing all ornaments–a sound that I myself adore, and I go through obsessive periods of listening to “Century Spring” and “Use Your Voice (in fact, whenever I’m in his presence, I can barely avoid humming “Lemon Grove Avenue,” much to my embarrassment)–Mason is firmly in the transcendentally-minded, spiritually aware camp.
He’s the second most surprising covert hippie friend of mine, after David Johansen, who, despite inventing punk rock, quotes the Upanishads, followed the Dead around in the early 70s, and in this modern day and age actually wears patchouli.
I think perhaps I should put out some more secret-message questions that will filter through Finnish fans and reach him thirdhand: “Mason, is it true that Chris has a peg-leg, and that you are the inventor of the clothespin?”
Miss Sonia is a renowned patty vendor in Negril.
We went to Sonia’s almost every day. Fantastic chicken patties, ackee, callaloo, lobster.
I’ve been going there since the second time I ever went to Negril, in 1994. At the time she had basically a lean-to and a fire on the beach, close to where I was staying at Roots Bamboo. Roots Bamboo is cut-rate assemblage of shacks, an institution down there. I wrote “Sleepless” on the porch of cabin E-5.
(I wouldn’t stay there today–the bar is full of beach hustlers and Rastitutes, or Rent-a-Dreads–the young gigolos who provide boyfriend services to middle-aged European women. What a haunting sight to see some plump German matron walking the beach, hand-in-hand with a scraggly, nineteen-year-old Jamaican guy. Roots Bamboo was the same way ten years ago, and indeed the first time I went to Negril and stayed there, in 1990, but now I’m fortunate to be able to lay out a little more dosh for my accomodations. Still–it’s not a bad place if you’re young and looking to get sunburnt and stoned.)
Anyway. Sonia, too, is a Negril institution–she moved from her lean-to to a shack across the road, and now, ten years on, she’s got an actual sort of restaurant, with tables. She’s a round, grey-haired lady, friendly and dignified. She runs the place herself, with help from a ten-year old grandchild and (one evening, when she was out at a funeral) her mustachioed cab-driver husband.
I’d never really spoken to her, on my numerous visits to Jamaica in the past 14 years. I was always too high. Wobbly, paranoid, and basically incapacitated. Another benefit of not being fucked up half the time.
“I’m the only one on the Tourist Board who wants to stay in Negril,” she told me. “Everyone else, they want to move to the States. A man came down here and told me he had to take me to the States, to cook in his restaurants. But I told him I couldn’t go. Because anyone who knows me, all those people around the world who know my patties, they know that they will find me here. If I’m alive, Sonia will be in Negril.”
I was amazed to find two buskers I had seen ten years ago on the beach in Negril.
We were walking down the beach, and ran across this duo playing for a bunch of scowling, reddened Germans. They played a phenomenal, skeletal reggae, with fantastic, booming, slippery basslines over hypnotic, spare beats. A master class in Jamaican rhythms disguised as busking for tourists’ change.
I had seen these guys play when I was in Negril in 1994–a father and son named Dervin and Joseph. At the time, Dervin was an eight or nine year old boy, singing in a ghostly boyish voice. They played a haunting tune called “When I Fall in Love”–I don’t know who the original artist was–that I later would try to emulate when I wrote “How Many Cans?”
(I later referenced the two of them in “Disseminated”–sadly, my absolute least favorite of all the Soul Coughing songs I’m fully responsible for–having hooked up both the Raymond Scott loop and the lyric/melody–Lord how I loathe that tune–“Like Genius/like Dervin/like Joseph/like Jason.” Jason and Genius were Negril beach hustlers from that 1994 trip)
I was astonished to reencounter them. I asked them to play “When I Fall in Love,” which took them a little head-scratching, but eventually they did play, after a few interminable Bob Marley songs and a cover of “Under the Boardwalk.”
“We should tip them exorbitantly not to play Bob Marley,” I said to my companion. I’m tortured in Negril by the bland omnipresence of the 14 songs on Legend, a cherrypicking of the most syrupy, least fiery tunes of his career. Daily, we were asking some waitress to switch off the Bob and put on the infinitely weirder and off-kilter tunes on Jamaican pop radio.
They must’ve heard us. We were laying on the beach the next day, and they came strolling by, as they moved from tourist-cluster to tourist-cluster, and they recognized us and stopped, and played not a single Bob tune, or boring lite-soul cover. At the end of one tune, Dervin transitioned into Biggie’s “Ten Crack Commandments,” modestly omitting the “I heard he let her sniff a whole cake up/’cause she knew how to suck a dick and cook a good steak up” verse in the presence of sandcastle-building toddlers.
We made them play “When I Fall in Love” a couple times that week–each time we bumped into them. What a scary, eerie tune–I have such a clear recollection of the nine-year-old, supernaturally wise voice of Dervin singing: When I fall in love…it will be forever…
Hi. I’m back. I landed at JFK last night and emerged, sunburnt, and with traces of the Caribbean still on my skin, into frigid New York air. 18 degrees! Cruel!
I’m shutting down the comments situation for the time being. For a discussion scene, I recommend TheOnlyAnswer.org.
No, actually, I’m going to Negril. Because in my heart I am a sorority girl on Spring Break.
Be good, all, and I’ll speak to you next week.
I’m jonesing to be done at last.
My ears are getting tired. I sit around reading, websurfing, journalling, as the tracks spool past, hearing my own vocal endlessly, and I’ve become desensitized to it.
After dinner I can plug my iPod into this pair of little speakers, and listen to it in the kitchen, and at that point in the day, listening to it in that lo-fi format, it sounds good to me. Great, in fact. It’s unbelievable how Dan has become such a formidable mixer–he’s gained so much skill and knowledge just in the two years we’ve been working on this recording.
We’re a little behind schedule. We’re going to need another week to wrap it up. So, we’re doing the tracks that need arrangement work–trombone enters here, drums drop out here, use this backing vocal and not that one, that kind of thing–and then, when I split on Saturday, Dan will finish up the mixing in my absence.
I’m going to Jamaica the day after we finish the recording. I booked this vacation over the strenuous objections of my manager, who thought I should be around for this–but, I really don’t need to be. Dan is the brilliant balancer of tracks–I’m good with instruments entering and exiting, texture and combination, but the fact is that when Dan fattens up a sound with one of the many lovely boxes with flashing lights, it just sounds unchallengably great. I could come up with some opinion just to have one, but it’d be superfluous. I trust Dan.
So, it’s warm sun and blue water for me.
Skittish/Rockity came out yesterday.
How weird and thrilling–I’ve been labelless for nearly five years. Still being in the Twin Cities, I wanted to go to Electric Fetus and see if they had it in the racks there. But I didn’t go–maybe I’m scared of something?
It was fun being an utterly independant artist–it was romantic, and, frankly, I made more money than I did when I was in Soul Coughing–but I felt kind of illegitimate. It’s good to have a label. It’s good to be associated with a fun coterie of artists–to include my new boss.
I looked at it on the iTunes store, which was very satisfying. I want to see, after people have bought a few, what shows up under the “Listeners also bought” column.
I’ve been reading Jake Slichter’s So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star–ooh, that title pains me, Jake deserves better!–while Dan mixes. Jake was Dan’s drummer, and it’s a fantastic tale, a better take on life in the music business than anything else I’ve read. And hilarious.
But to read all that music biz stuff, the radio people, the boneheaded marketing moves, the sorry attempts to force a group of talented men in their 30s to pretend they’re kids–it sucked the energy out of me.
“Dan,” I said from the couch. “I have an idea–how about we not make an album?”