Monthly Archives: September 2005

Looking for Trouble

Looking for Trouble

It was a rainy Saturday in the early summer of 1981. I was sitting on a wooden chair at the edge of a storm-roiled sea outside a little, rundown motel a half hour north of Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico. The sea spray mixed with a drizzle that left a thick salt film on the new $20 guitar resting across my leg. I stared out across the choppy sea and thought about the last three years…


Some people say
Love is a game
but I’m telling you now that I wasn’t playing
when I fell in love with you

Here I go again
Looking for reasons where there aren’t any reasons
Here I go again
looking for trouble… I’m already in trouble

That day in my car
don’t say you don’t know
You held me so close
begging me to let go
I told myself you were just confused

Here I go again . . .
You always said
that it was fate
I’m telling you now
that I was framed
when I fell in love with you

Here I go again . . .

A dog barks
the wind howls through the night
I whisper your name and
stare in the fire
I can’ keep myself from calling out to you

Here I go again
Looking for reasons where there aren’t any reasons
Here I go again
looking for trouble… I’m already in trouble

Copyright 1981
T.K. Major

I recorded this about 2:45 am last night. And I’m afraid it shows in the beyond-world-weary vocals. What should come off as, oh, I dunno, muted anguish, or something, instead suggests a zombie on ‘ludes. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating.

This is one of the tunes I was planning on revisiting a time or two, anyhow, so I guess that’s for sure, now. But, of course, this project/blog/indulgence is not at all about vanity in that sense, but rather soul-baring, which, no doubt is its own form of vanity. And, to that end, here’s the story behind the song…

It was a rainy weekend in the early summer of 1981. I’d got out of the hospital a few months before, a two months stay in the aftermath of a nasty motorcycle wreck, and just that Thursday had broken up with my girlfriend of 3 years.

Through most of the 70’s I’d spent a lot of time in the Mexican harbor city of Ensenada. In those days it was a scruffy town with wonderfully rundown bars. 98% of the gringos (and they were, they really were) hung out in one bar — which could, indeed, be a great bar, when it wasn’t full of N. Americans. That was a big, battered cantina with an ornate, carved 19th century bar and a huge mirror that had been broken so many times they supposedly had a glazier on retainer who kept spares in a warehouse just outside down. That was Hussong’s.

But if you stayed away from Hussong’s it was possible to do some serious drinking in a commodious environment (deep and shady old tuck and roll booths, Mexican music on the jukebox and nobody paying much attention to you) without hearing any English or rock music. I favored a bar in a seedy district on the outskirts of the tourist area called the Club Del Mar. It was the bar where many of the street mariachis parked their guitar and violin cases during their business hours and, in the late afternoon or early evening it was possible to hear some pretty great playing as bands warmed up. And some pretty crumby playing, too. You had to love it.

It was not so much with a broken heart as the need to just dull some existential pain that I headed down to Mexico that weekend. I may have loved my girlfriend but it was clear neither of us was in love. The breakup had been coming since before my motorcycle wreck and was, frankly, long overdue. In fact, it was probably delayed by the wreck. My g.f., God bless her, stuck by me during the dark months in the hospital (actually they weren’t that bad… it was worse after I got out, since I’d developed a nice little morphine/demerol jones) and we both tried to make it work, I think, for a while after I got out. But the breakup was inevitable.

Still, the g.f. had been overtaken by some odd jag of regret, prompting a very brief and tumultuous re-ignition of emotions that saw us get oh, so, briefly back together and then — in contrast to our original, polite and adult breakup — to break up all over again, this time with a noisy finality that left no room for doubt.

So, I found myself in a party town but not in a party mood. I got there late Friday night but, by then, my favorite place to stay, a little, nearly abandoned motor court built right on the beach had closed for the night and I ended up far north of town at a much newer but still rundown motel, built on a rocky beach below a choppy, storm-whipped inlet. My room was the northernmost on the little strip of rock.

The next day, rain spattered the large and filmy sliding glass door that opened from my room onto a small, exposed concrete patio. I drove into town but couldn’t get in the groove in any of my favorite haunts. I got a late breakfast, bought a $20 guitar in tourist ‘music’ shop, had a beer — and bought a case of Bohemia — and drove back to my motel north of town.

In late afternoon the drizzling rain mostly stopped and a few fingers of sun opened out onto the distant sea. I took my $20 guitar out onto the patio. There was no furniture so I brought one of the straight-backed wooden chairs from the room out and put it near the edge of the concrete patio. The storm driven waves were breaking on the rocks just beyond, and within minutes the guitar and I were coated in a thick salty film. The choppy sea mirrored the dark gray of the clouds and smacked the rocks with fitful fury, often drowning out the sound of the cheap, plywood guitar.

But it felt great.

I started playing a kind of Am to Dm7 vamp with the one flatpick I luckily found in my car. A light drizzle mixed with the ocean spray and I thought for a moment about going inside… but then I thought if you can’t play a $20 guitar in the rain, what can you play. And before I knew it this song was spilling out…

I actually wrote two more songs out there, that evening. If anyone else was around, they must have thought I was nuts. But it was a magical few hours.

Sometimes it makes a certain sense to not come in out of the rain…


Kingdom of Fools

Kingdom of Fools

T his is my latest finished song. Recently, I saw a bumper sticker with big, bold letters on a patriotic red, white, and blue background that read “THE POWER OF PRIDE“…

… and I thought to myself: What about the power of humility?

There are those who wrap themselves in flag and holy verse to justify what looks to all the world like pride, greed and foolishness. You can’t help but wonder if many of those folks have actually read the scriptures they so enthusiastically and frequently bang.

The Kingdom of Fools

Ain’t no such thing
as too high to fall
aint no place so low
you can’t get there
if you crawl

Ain’t no bro’
so close you can’t play him down
’cause in the kingdom of Fools
only one can wear the crown

Ain’t no truth so pure
you can’t turn it to a lie
ain’t no love so deep
you can’t drain it ’til it’s dry

ain’t no flower so pretty
you can’t crush it to the ground
in the Kingdom of Fools
only one can wear the crown

Ain’t no lie
that can ever make you see the truth
and your whole life ’til now
is just so much living proof

Ain’t no one but you
can keep you from where you’re bound
‘Cause in the Kingdom of Fools
Only one can wear the crown


blog within a blog…

B ack in the 80’s a friend of mine gave me the old upright grand piano she’d bought for $100 some years before. It was beat to heck, had some broken keys, and was pretty out of tune, but a sensitive piano tuner who loved old pianos was able to bring it more or less into fighting trim and for 15 years it had a central place in my living room.

When I traded the sprawling space of my former mid-urban home for a small, beachside flat, I wrestled with a way to fit the big ol’ thing into my living room — but it ended up in the garage, as I had always suspected it would. If I move things around, I can play it down there — and I promise that at least one AYoS recording will feature it — but it’s not something I can do everyday. And, in this tightly packed neighborhood, it’s not something I could probably get away, anyway.

So that left me with what keyboardists call plastic ‘boards: my two synthesizers that are also “controllers” that can control virtual synthesizers on my computer, or other hardware synthesizers via the MIDI music communication protocol.

Plastic ‘boards have that somewhat derisive name because, while they may offer many of the control parameters needed to communicate with various synthesizers, digital pianos, and so on — they mimic the light plastic keyboard of the eletric organs of the 60’s and 70’s. They have a feel to match: light and fast, to be sure, but completely unlike the mechanical hammer action of a real piano. And, while hammer action MIDI keyboards have been around for many years — ‘real’ pianists seldom feel comfortable with anything else — they’ve been quite expensive in the past, usually running into the thousands of dollars.

For that reason, I’ve soldiered on with my platic boards, ignoring the surreal disconnect between the rich, big piano sounds coming out of the speakers and the tinky, downright squirrelly feel of the keyboards.

Now, however, our future benevolent overlords, the (formerly “Red”) Chinese, have applied their justly famous production skills to knocking the bottom out of the hammer-weighted keyboard market. Small furry, rodent-like mamal that I am, I decided to scurry among the falling bodies of the dinosaurs and snag up a new Chinese-made ‘board from the company CME. While my old keyboard controllers were 60 key ‘boards, this is a full scale 88 key range, with the most “piano-like” action I’ve played in a MIDI controller ‘board.

Only the Dance

There are no onboard sounds — but the action is so good that, with my favorite grand piano samples running in my computer, I can play and, at least for brief, idyllic periods, forget that I’m not playing a real piano.

No digital sample set, of course, will ever replace or completely replicate the sound of a real piano — especially not one like my 110 year old upright. I could lose myself for hours on that old box, letting my hands go where the muses led, hearing the echoes of a century of sounds — and emotions — seemingly stored in its wood-ivory-and-iron frame. By contrast, the muses would barely give me a a few fleeting moments with my hands on my old synthesizers, leaving just me and my puny brain to try to figure out how to make music.

But, now, I can feel them starting to come back around after almost two years. They’re skeptical, I can tell. It’s easy to scare them off. But, if I close my eyes and try to lose myself in their music, sometimes I can coax them to stick around. And the music they give me is so much better than the music I make…


Only the Dance

Only the Dance

This song has always escaped my grasp in the past and this time is no exception.

Let’s call this recorded version a sketch and I’ll promise to come back to this song and get a proper version — say, one with all the lyrics — posted a ways down the road.

It was the first waltz I wrote. And that wildly exotic time signature used to flummox this poor, ignorant ex-punk rocker… you may hear some echoes of that discomfiture in this… sketch.

Only the Dance

Partners will come, partners will go
waltzing off into the past
the music goes on, long after we’re gone
in the end there is only the dance

Music plays from far away
let’s give it one more chance
why should we stumble, why should we fall
you know you know how to dance

I stand in the middle of the everything
and I’m hooked up to it all
I tried so long to be everything
and now I’m nothing at all

Music plays from far away
let’s give it one more chance
why should we stumble, why should we fall
you know you know how to dance

The echo of that music box
the one that you got in Spain
I hear it at the river’s edge
and I hear it in the rain
I hear it in the whisper of
the evening wind in the trees
I sing it in the thunderstorms
and I scream it down on my knees

music plays from far away
let’s give it one more chance
why should we stumble, why should we fall
you know you know how to dance


blog within a blog…

I found out yesterday that my favorite DJ, Sam Fields of KKJZ, my hometown radio station (formerly known as KLON to jazz aficionadi around the world) passed away midweek. Sam’s voice was big and cool and calm. His knowledge was deep and nuanced. He wasn’t a flashy hipster like his (equally beloved) late colleague Chuck Niles — but he was quietly hip and very cool. I miss the heck out him, already.



A Star Is Bored

EmptyHotelHallwayThis recording of this song aspires to what I believe the music press likes to call “amiable sloppiness.”

I thought it was important to deflate any unreasonable expectations of slickness — or even competence — early on.

A Star Is Bored was a frequent part of my sets back when I was doing the acoustic post-punker thing in the late 80s and early 90s. I virtually never read the rock press but I was stuck in an airport or train station on a backpack tour through Europe back in ’86 and picked up a Spin magazine. In it was some kind of article about some rocker. The writer couldn’t seem to get over the burden of this rock star’s crushing boredom. The rock scribbler was pouring out empathy for this multimillionaire.

Now, I’m as compassionate as the next jaded old cynic, but somehow I was having a rough time wrapping myself around this rich rock star’s life dilemma…

Anyhow, this is what spilled out…


A star is bored
prowling empty hotel hallways
He’s never alone
so how come he’s always lonely

Nothing gets him down
it’s all just the same
saying “If you think you’re bored,
then you should see me!”

Down in the bar
leaning into a smokey corner
trying not to catch her eye:
“Say, cowboy, why you dressed like that?”

And it always seems to
go down about the same
It kills a couple of hours
but it don’t kill the pain

Tell him a story
make it long, make it lonely
Lots of starstruck summer nights
and the moon’s reflection on the river that runs through

Nothing makes much sense
but he guesses that’s just life
Ya play a few songs
and then they turn out the lights

Yeah, nothing makes much sense
and he guesses that’s just life
You have a couple of laughs
and then you call it a night