Looking for a gift for someone who isn’t quite sure what they want to be when they grow up? Or for someone who never grew up? Or for someone who might want to re-live the final Grateful Dead performance at the Fillmore West. Or for a student of social history of the 1960s and 1970s. Or for someone who taught themselves to play guitar. Or for someone who attended Kansas University in the late 60s/early 70s. Or for someone who could use a laugh. Take a cue from Santa. Hardly Working might be the answer. If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas gift for yourself, order a copy for yourself.
I wrote this song about a friend, a goodly hearted cat I grew up with in Clarendon Hills. We were Little League heroes together. Endless one-on-one hoops in the driveway. Lots of girl talk. During high school years, we would drive up to Lake Forest to woo exotic damsels—exotic because we were unknown to each other. He always had girlfriends who didn’t go to our high school.
A bit after high school he enlisted in the Army out of penance to his dad, who was President of a local American Legion chapter. He survived Vietnam and came back with good weed. A couple pounds of it. Back when it was easy to smuggle. We smoked, connecting the days of our youth with now, while fantasizing about some idyllic future that involved beach life. A couple of years later, he introduced me to my wife, Linda. While he explored Mexico for a spell, Linda and I watched his little mutt, Thunder. He was the best man at our wedding, As deep a friend as you could have. A goodly hearted cat.
Somewhere during this time he moved to Arizona and eventually started a business— packaging and selling mesquite charcoal sourced from the Yaqui tribe in northern Mexico. On a quest to outrun his suburban, Catholic upbringing, he had become entranced with the Teachings of Don Juan and the Yaqui ethos. At the same time, he was getting involved in medium to large scale weed trafficking. My Little League pal was now living the desperado-in-the-desert lifestyle. One time he escaped a raid by the feds, snuck through the desert and somehow ended up on our doorstep in Lawrence, where we were living at the time. With a chainsaw. He had hitchhiked from Arizona while cradling a chainsaw. You had to be there.
Take Your Pick
Maybe ten years later, when Linda and I had moved back to the Chicago area, he came through town on desperado business. When I met up with him he was holed up in a drab, city hotel with no view, chain smoking and absently watching TV reruns. He had changed since the last time I had seen him. You could feel he was in the midst of a stressful transaction. He didn’t give me the details and I preferred not to know. We grabbed cheeseburgers at the Billy Goat and within a year or two he died of heart failure. Speculation was that it was caused by too much stress—he also had a wife and two kids—the lingering effects of malaria from Vietnam, too many cheeseburgers, too much smoking, a ten year freebasing habit, a history of family heart disease, take your pick.
Back to The Song
I wrote most of the song decades ago but finished and recorded it with Geoff DeMuth maybe five-six years ago. This is not a literal depiction of something that happened to my friend. I took artistic leeway or poetic license or fool’s liberty, whatever. Sadly ironic when a goodly hearted cat dies of heart failure at a young age. Especially someone who was a Little League rival. We’ve missed him for 30 years.
Excerpts from the Hardly Working chapter titled Fried Pie and the Redneck Brothers…
My first Kansas summer found me at a crossroads. By now, it was easier for me to list the things I didn’t believe in than those that I did. I was skeptical of marriage, careers, the Vietnam War, government—in short, most of society’s institutions. That was for squares, man. I wanted no one to tell me what to do or to think. The choices I made had to be mine. All mine. In a notebook I scribbled, live as if your life depended on it.
I hatched a plan, a life map where I would “retire” at the beginning of adulthood. Of course, I would need to work, but as little as possible. And nothing career oriented. Hell, I had no idea what I might do.
Though I never referred to myself as a hippie, that was my stereotype. If you had long hair and wore threadbare clothes, you were a hippie. It was a look. Simple as that. You are how you look. In 1971, if you looked like a hippie, one could extrapolate that you smoked grass, were anti-war and laughed at the American Dream. Being a hippie made you feel like an outsider in a culture that you didn’t wish to fully participate in. And that made you feel kind of good, like it was your best chance to experience the heroic status of the minority. Minority heroes were the hip heroes. Rosa Parks, Caesar Chavez, Huey Newton, the New York rabble rouser, Abbie Hoffman, and Jerry Garcia, the acid guitar shaman with the Latino last name.
I didn’t believe in society’s institutions, but I did have my beliefs. Very strong ones. I believed in the magic of existence; the magic around every corner; the magic of the moment. And now, the magic of guitar playing. During that melting summer of 1970, alongside teaching myself to seem crazy, I taught myself to play the guitar. I wanted to write songs. My inner voice needed an outlet. Because I hadn’t begun playing during the typical teenage timeframe, I had a lot of ground to make up. A girlfriend bought me a cheap acoustic, I picked up a few songbooks—one by Donovan, I remember—had guitarist friends show me chord changes, and I was hooked. Nothing has had a more profound effect on my life.
Where previously our gaze may have been out the window or across the alley or at a newspaper or book or scroll, it is now fixed upon a screen. Not all of the time, of course, but very frequently. I hope this turns out to be a good thing.
Television has been a gateway to our new path. It entranced us.
Then along came communication satellites….
…which opened the door for cable TV.
In the year I was born, few citizens could have envisioned computers, the web, smartphones or twitter. But those born during the past 30 years could not imagine life without these little screens.
Imagination has changed. The pathway to personal identity has changed. The way we interact with life has changed. The use of the word “friend” has changed.
I hope this is a good thing, don’t you?
The nature of screens will change.
What now requires a screen may one day require no screen, but this ever expanding connection to all humans, all information, is irreversible.
In the third grade I combed my hair like Elvis. Is it still my duty to keep up? Do I have a societal obligation, as well as a personal one, to remain current?
It can be a lot of work but I think that the answer is yes.
Now let’s go out there and provoke each other.
Much of what I create has a Limey sensibility—at least it amuses my English cousins. She Stoops To Conquer is a farcical British play of manners written in the 18th century by Oliver Goldsmith. After attending a performance of the play at London’s National Theater, I was inspired to write a song using the same catchy title. Literature and history are great sources for songwriting.
Disclaimer: I did not attempt to mimic the plot of the play but instead made an attempt at capturing a feminine archetype. This song has not been previewed by any members of the National Theater Company but they are welcome to do so.
No doubt the song could have used a lute but because there was not a lute in his house, Geoff DeMuth provided mandolin accompaniment. He also engineered.
The flue season of early 2013 has been big news but will be soon forgotten. For now, there are endless warnings of how to avoid germs. The only solution seems to be to avoid people. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman tells us that we should all stay at least 6 feet apart from each other until April.
Fact Alert: Microbiology pioneer, Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek, is generally credited with being the first human to see germs using his 17th century microscope. (He reportedly became romantically involved with several germs.)
But what about germs? They have lives too. And they enjoy a good frolic. And once you get to know them, they’re a lot like we are. They just want a good piece of cheese.
Have a listen to the song below. From the collection, My Mailman Has a Tail.
(copr. R. Bain, 2010)
One of the more annoying personalities on the planet is the yes man.
This creature lacks imagination and self-respect. Riddled with the fear of what others might think of his ideas—especially the boss—he cowers behind a torrent of “yes-es.” He doesn’t want to rock the boat. And he definitely doesn’t wish to steer the boat. He just wants to remain in the good graces of the captain.
(A creature who is more annoying—even despicable—is the leader who surrounds him or her self with yes-spouting sycophants.)
In the workplace and the marketplace of ideas, a balance must be achieved between the notion that you are always right and the notion that your opinion is not worthy. Many unworthy opinions reach fruition. And many brilliant ideas remain caged within the minds of the timid.
Play this tune for your boss or co-workers. If you are the boss, share it with the board. Make a Powerpoint. If you’re simply bored, play it for thyself.
Wealth is aspirational. For every 1,000,000 who dream of becoming wealthy (hitting the lottery), only a tiny fraction can succeed. After all, how much room can there be at the top? The aspirants tend to overlook this statistic.
I penned “I’d Love To Be Rich” as a spoof from the viewpoint of a regular sap with daydreams of dough. Recorded in Lawrence, Ks. in 1981 or 82. The Geckettes provide the oooh wahh ooohs.
In the 70s, nothing was more anti-bohemian than the polyester leisure suit. It stood for all that was crass and square in modern, clueless, adult pop culture— disco style replacing freakwear.
Leisure suits are now considered costumes but in 1978 they were worn in a serious way. Fashion ugliness had reached a zenith. By about 1980 they had lost their luster.
In 1980, when the barking Geckos were re-forming, I put a classified ad in the Lawrence Daily Journal World asking for the donation of unwanted leisure suits, needed as a performance prop for a song of mine, Leisure Suit. Two women answered the ad. I obtained one exceedingly bright yellow number and one of a dull shade of green. Could not locate the Holy Grail color: lime green, the suit mentioned in the song. Dull, colorless green would have to do.
My son borrowed the bright yellow suit for his culturally upending dance performance with S. Hack at the South Junior High Variet Show circa 1996 or 97.
Here’s the only recorded version of the song from 1980 Barking Gecko performance at The Lawrence Opera House.
This is the place….
The Gallery Cabaret is a corner bar with live music 7 nights a week. And never a cover charge. It’s the best place to catch UTK, aka Under The Kitchen. Next Show: April 13, 2013.
The meaningful paint job puts you in the mood before you even enter.
Stay tuned for our next performance here. You are most welcome.
The interior lighting adds to the atmosphere. We are in a laboratory— a petri dish of existentialism.
The place is anti-pop. You know you’re not in the suburbs anymore when you’re in the GalCab. You’re far from the boondocks, too. The nearest wild animal is a rat.
The walls are littered with art done by folks.The bar staff handles the action with a style that ranges from wacky to nonchalant. Kenny is the owner. In the next photo he’s way at the end of the bar, though looking away from the camera.
The patrons are music aficionados, hipsters, daily drinkers, musicians, out of work comedians, and assorted misfits who may or may not have a reason to get off their barstool. Everyone is out to have a good time.
UTK has played about 10 gigs at the Gallery Cabaret. It makes for an entertaining night out.
Here’s a verite video that will allow you to experience the flagrant relevance of this corner bar. Our cover of Champagne and Reefer.
For more UTK vids: http://www.youtube.com/user/UnderTheKitchen?feature=watch