Monthly Archives: December 2005





It was a Thursday night back in the mid 90s and I was playing a coffee house gig with a guitar and a couple of notebooks of songs. It was a tiny joint, so it was easy to fill it. That night, the only people I knew in the audience were sitting near the stage. In fact, I didn’t recognize the girl at first, a pretty brunette with green eyes in her late 20s. She was with an artist friend of mine. (Later I’d realize I met them both 4 or 5 years before at small party where I ended up talking to them for a couple hours. Sometimes I can be a bit oblivious.)

As I worked my way haphazardly through an impromptu set, I played my song, “Fell,” which is, pretty much, about suicide.

At the end of it, in the lull after the applause (which was thunderous, I gotta tell ya, especially since the whole place probably held a max of 14 or 15 people), this pretty girl looked straight at me and said, “Don’t you just feel like that sometimes?”

I said, yeah, you bet, then caught myself and muttered something about permanent solutions to a temporary problems.

After my set, I sat down at their table. After my friend introduced her as his ex-girlfriend, I all but ignored him, falling into her green eyes that seemed to dance with warmth and life. It’s safe to say I was captivated. I fabricated some way of giving her a business card and I felt like I’d hear from her.

Several days went by and I found myself at the computer, a guitar in my lap, writing this song. I came up with some moody synth cello lines and, tweaking sounds back and forth almost at random, came up with an eery gliss motif. (You can hear the ‘studio version’ at my one blue nine soundclick page.)

As I worked back and forth with the guitar and the computer, writing the MIDI arrangement, I came up with the words below, more or less a single stanza and chorus. It captured the feel and I figured I would come back in the next few days and finish the lyrics.

I didn’t know exactly where I thought the lyrics would go. It seemed clear to me that they were about a young girl, deep sadness, and maybe suicide.

Although the pretty brunette with the green eyes had been on my mind, the song wasn’t about her and I certainly hadn’t consciously decided to write another song about suicide. But in the back of my head, I know I was hoping I might get a chance to share the new song and recording with her. I really felt like something was around the corner.

But I didn’t hear from her.

Life presented other distractions and it wasn’t until later in the week that I bumped into my friend, the green-eyed girl’s ex. He was ashen, somber.

I asked him what was wrong and he said, remember the girl I brought to see you the other night? She’s dead.

My blood felt like icewater going through me. I looked at the coffeehouse table we were sitting at. I felt strange and cut off. All I could think was suicide. I didn’t say anything.

It was weird, my friend was saying. She was cooking dinner for friends the previous Sunday (the very afternoon I was writing “Jennifer”) and the friends came over a little after the appointed time — but she didn’t answer the door. This was before cell phones were prevalent and they walked down to a nearby liquor store to call but there was no answer. They walked back, thinking maybe she’d had to make a quick trip to the market to pick up a last minute ingredient.

When they got back, they thought they smelled food burning and pressed up against a window. They saw what looked like someone lying in the kitchen and called the police.

Do they know, I finally asked, do they know what killed her?

She’d had trouble with depression before, my friend said (and, of course, as I’d suspected from her comments after “Fell”) but she’d seemed so upbeat and positive lately. He didn’t want to think it was suicide but…

It was over a week later when I found out the results from the coroner’s inquest. It was her heart. She’d had a congenital defect no one knew about. There may have been complications from medication she’d been taking.

I’d been resisting the idea that my song might have played a part in a tragic dialectic and I finally was able to breathe a sigh of relief — but it trailed into a sigh of deep sadness. I’ll never forget those eyes… and how I thought — for a few moments — I’d be staring deep into them for eternity.

I never finished the song…


I swear it’s not your fault
It’s always been the same
It’ll always be this way
Jennifer youre not to blame

Jenifer you’re not to blame
Jennifer you’re not to blame
Jennifer you’re not to blame

Jenifer youre not to blame

(C)1996, TK Major


Devil’s Quicksand

Devil's Quicksand

Like anyone else who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, I saw my share of absurd and usually absurdly funny anti-drug movies and slide shows — as well as one jaw dropping “seniors only drug rap” at my high school hosted by a narcotics squad officer in his late 20s.

The officer was “really popular with the kids” according to the school official who introduced him.

Maybe it should have raised an eyebrow when Office Kool (we’ll call him) told the assembled seniors that when he tried marijuana “under a doctor’s supervision” it “scared him to death” because it was like “a thirty minute orgasm.” (I later read that this was a regular feature of his anti-drug speils as he toured area schools.)

Officer Kool was, a year or two later, himself arrested for taking indecent liberties with underage Explorer Scouts in his charge (aged 15 and 17, if I recall). He copped a plea and fell off my radar.

A number of years later, 6 of the 7 school board members running the district during that period were also indicted for a number of crimes ranging from embezzling and kickbacks to theft of district property and supplies.

But the good people of Orange, California, seemingly never learn. Only a few years ago the then-current school board was in the national news again, this time for canceling all afterschool activities and clubs in order to avoid allowing a student club called the “Gay-Straight Student Alliance,” which had been immediately banned but had prevailed in local courts. Rather than follow the court order and allow the club, the school board, dominated by, ahem, social conservatives, simply ceased all afterschool clubs and activities.

After they were turned out, local, er, social conservatives banded together to back a single candidate, hoping that by focusing all their promotional and organizational efforts all on one man, they could elect him.

And elect him, they did.

Unfortunately, they apparently didn’t do much homework on their man, who gives every indication of being very seriously mentally disturbed. He has accused local government and business leaders of trying to silence him; his allegations have included court papers accusing the management of a regional supermarket chain of trying to kill him.

Anyway, I go on at length to show you the cultural milieu (to stretch a phrase) I grew up in — and how easy it was to assume that every warning coming out of the mouths of the buffoons in charge was either the product of ignorance or delusion — or an outright lie.

When they were promoting marijuana by attempting to warn young people away from it, the harm was limited (if even measurable).

But when they got to the the part of their woefully laughable act that focused on heroin and cocaine… that’s where the damage really took hold. Because they’d already wasted all the good scare tactics on marijuana — there was nowhere left to go but “… and heroin’s even worse.”

I was lucky, in that in addition to being a voracious reader as a kid and reading first hand accounts of addiction from believable sources (Bill Burroughs comes to mind), my quest for the wink-and-nod contraban of alcohol* brought me into contact with decidedly unglamorous young junkies. I remember cleaning up drool in the back of my car after several liquor store runs with my buddy’s sister’s brother-in-law’s junkie cousin and his little brother, a 14 year old junkie. It stuck in my mind and always resurfaced when I found myself in a nihilistic and willful mood…

(* In those days, adults were usually glad to find out a kid drank, because a lot of hippies eschewed alcohol, and the adults apparently assumed drinking meant the kid didn’t smoke pot or use other drugs. Adults really were not street-smart back then. My generation brought that gritty knowledge to your popular culture, America. Think about that when you’re coming to visit us in the rest home.)

All that brings me to this disclaimer about today’s song: This is the kind of goofy, over-the top preachment that your hip uncle warned you about. It’s ripe with lurid exaggeration — or what would seem like it.

But — the thing is, kids — some of this shit is real. Worse than killing you, it can make you wish you’d never been born.

I’ve lost family and friends to drugs — the most recent was just a few months ago, a friend who had been sober for the better part a decade. 11 years ago, his example beating crack addiction had given me the courage to quit drinking.

But he started using again, on and off. It looked like ‘drug shame’ kept him away from some of his oldest friends at a time when maybe he really did need a friend. He was a very smart, savvy, and strong person. But he wasn’t strong enough to take that last load of junk.

So, laugh with me through this song — I was laughing out loud at some of the stupid stuff I pull in this song (I stepped out of my de facto format a little, here, and instead of adding a second guitar, added two back up vocal tracks that included a fair bit of ad libbed nonsense) — but while you follow our hapless hero on his hellbound descent, remember, it really could happen to you.

The Devil’s Quicksand

It’s your second chance for the very last time
with your head in your hands and your future behind
grab your life pull as hard as you can
cause your up to your neck in the devil’s quicksand

if she told you once it was good advice
but a thousand times now that’s just a slice
of some other reality you’d prefer to ignore
it’s just that easy you shut the door

on the love she gave it was just too good
and you always hated how she understood
and you walked away and you felt so free
in the park that day spinning under the trees

but now its cold and the darkness comes
and the drugs wear off and your chums are scum
and the cyst on your arm is turning green
and the one-eyeds guys sez it’s the worst he’s seen

so you drag your ass to the ER room
and you wait 12 hours while the TV booms
and the little kids and the sobbing man
and the angel of death is right at hand

you just cant wait and you run outside
in the streetlight night you stop and cry
“is this their pain–or is it mine?”
you ask yourself but you knew all the time

it’s your second chance for the very last time
with your head in your hands and your future behind
grab your life pull as hard as you can
cause your up to your neck in the devil’s quicksand

twenty cents is all it takes
but ya drop the dimes cause ya got the shakes
ya try again an ya get ’em in
but the the phone just rings and your gut caves in

your knees give out ya hit the ground
people walking by just step around
ya see the sky you see the rain
ya see your ashes in a bag in a paupers grave

but the phones in your hand and your hanging on
and just before the dark her voice comes on
and ya tell her “baby just one last time”
she doesn’t say nothing you hear her crying

her sobbing lasts for such a long time
you almost forget why you’re on the line
then it comes back like a drano slam
you got one last chance slip this jam

“come on baby i’m on the bricks”
you can almost hear her kitchen clock tick
“I ain’t done nothin’ in 36 hours
and I need a place to take a shower”

and then it comes and you know you’re dead
her hollow laugh fills up your head
she drops the phone and it hits the floor
you hear her walk away and laugh some more

it’s your second chance for the very last time
with your head in your hands and your future behind
grab your life pull as hard as you can
cause your up to your neck in the devil’s quicksand

(C)1997, TK Major

[A special note on the length of today’s post: Please… next holiday season… no coffee shop gift cards.]


Let’s Not Talk About Girls

Let's Not Talk About Girls

This was written during a break at a practice session for my old band Machine Dog in 1980.

We were just sitting down, no doubt opening up beers, in the back of the furniture store we practiced in. It was a long night — we had a bunch of new songs to learn and were getting ready to play a party, which would be our first time in public.

It was after the third practice set and we were feeling a little spun, I think.

Our 19 year old drummer had a a loud kit and was a hard hitter, so we all played loud. When you’re playing like that, and you stop, there’s a strange kind of silence.

On one hand it feels so good you don’t want to break it — but the sudden quiet produces a kind of tension, too — and makes the ringing in your ears that much louder.

Finally someone said, “What should we talk about?”

Our lead guitarist, Rick, who had a new GF (now wife — they’re still married folks! Where’s that bug-eyed emoticon when you need it?) said, “Let’s talk about girls.” (Which is the title of an old Chocolate Watchband song, I think.)

Knowing my role in the band (as in life, it would seem), I blurted: “Let’s not talk about girls.”

Someone said, “There’s a song there.”

I grabbed my notebook and got busy.

The original was nearly three times as long and had an elaborate call and response form that I must have been intentionally trying to make annoying.*

[* Someplace in the late ’80s I recorded a version of “Let’s Not Talk About Girls” on my old 4 track that cut around half the song’s 8 or 10 stanzas (as it had been originally written). This time, I changed the verses around and got rid of one more stanza I thought was superfluous and kind of distracting. And you thought these things started with just two verses and a chorus, huh?]

Machine Dog was a punk/new music band, to be certain, but we’d joked so often about putting together a side project to only play flower power hippy love-in music (which drove the drummer, a metal-punk, crazy) that we’d actually come up with a few songs in that style — this was a natural.

Rick the lead guitarist would bring flutes he’d made out of PVC pipe and play them into the PA with the reverb turned up all the way. He loved to ‘overblow’ (that mid-70s flute-freakout technique).

I’d typically string together a bunch of intentionally trite major 7th progressions on a guitar, James, the other primary singer-writer, would often play some bongos or another guitar, sometimes joined by the drummer, if he hadn’t stormed out to chain smoke out on the sidewalk.

Someplace in this sorry old world (maybe in my own garage), I hope there are still a few tapes with some of the hippy noodles we did while we were on the break timer. (No, I can’t remember if we had a break timer or not. Maybe one night. Everyone did have jobs. Strike that. Everyone over the age of 19 had a job. But our practices seemed to be sprawling, semi-social events, nonetheless. And the furniture store was our secret clubhouse.)

I remember one improvisation that ended up labeled “She Was a Flower Girl” (or something to that effect — not the Cowsills song)…

It started with fingerpicked, reverby Stratocaster and Rick’s lilting flute; a couple of us began improvising some appropriately sappy lyrical content, flower girl, sunny day, love, peace… and then someone picked up another guitar that had a fuzz pedal plugged in and punched on and someone started pounding a tribal rhythm on something and someone started screaming about the Manson family and… it was Machine Dog again.

Let’s Not Talk About Girls

let’s not talk about lonely nights
or waiting for her to come home
we all know what it’s like
don’t think that your’e all alone

let’s not talk about girls
let’s not talk about broken hearts
let’s not talk about love and
how love can tear you apart

let’s not talk about togetherness
hearth home or family
let’s not talk about how it all falls apart
for all the world to see

let’s not talk about girls
let’s not talk about broken hearts
let’s not talk about love and
how love can tear you apart

(C)1980, TK Major


They Own the Judges

They Own the Judges

Like several other early works from my ‘suitcase of songs’ this song bears sign of neither my discerning and subtle sociopolitical analysis — nor my often arch sense of humor. Making it, more or less, a screed. A rant. Not even a proper diatribe.

Back in ’75 or ’76 when I wrote this, I knew it wasn’t exactly a sophisticated, subtle rendering. It was not long after Gerald Ford took over the presidency from the disgraced Richard Nixon, immediately granting Nixon a pardon for any crimes he might have committed, no matter how grievous, even though Nixon hadn’t even been formally charged with any of the numerous violations of law that forced his resignation. Clearly, the fix was in, and the “loyal opposition” was busy toadying up to the powers that so evidently still were.

Now, I really was a political (and economic) naif back then — and was held that way, in part, by my own cynicism.

Today, as a businessman and longtime politics junky (other folks watch football), I have a considerably deeper understanding of how things really work. It has made me — in some ways — a bit more hopeful, and considerably more practical.

And the way I see it, I should end up more or less in the political center, on average.

I’m a firm believer in small government, fiscal responsibility, environmental responsibility, free, fair markets, clean government, and a strong and effective defense. Defense, mind you… I’ve always thought the US should be working to defend itself rather than embarking on foreign military misadventures in what are usually vainglorious attempts to “extend American power.”

Me, I think “empire” is geopoliticalese for “jumping the shark.”

I would think that those seemingly quite (small-c) conservative values should put me more or less in the center of the political spectrum — yet I find myself, along with a sizable, sometimes near-majority, number of my fellow US Americans, increasingly marginalized by both of the two major parties, whose policies increasingly flaunt the core values of a lot of responsible, thinking US citizens.

Yes, there are alternatives — but they are not moderate alternatives. They are, in some fundamental ways, more extreme. It’s not that I don’t have deep sympathies with, say, the Greens or agreement with a number of Libertarian principles.

But, if the US political system were truly responsive to the will of the governed, a mainstream, middle-of-the-road guy like me ought to find some sort of agreement with one or both of the “mainstream” parties. Instead of finding them to be closet brownshirts and neo-Know Nothings on the one hand and spineless, hypocritical toadies on the other.

You know, not to put too fine a point on my political malaise.

Oh… WTF… let’s dedicate this one to the one person majority on the Supreme Court that aborted the 2000 presidential election.

They Own the Judges

they own the judges
they own the congress
they own the papers
and the magazines

they own the cops
they own the armies and
they think that they own
you and me

they own the doctors
they get rich from our suffering
they own the churches
and the sinners inside

they own the colleges
the print-outs of knowledge
they own and use history
to their own ends

they own the farms
they own the farmers
they own the factories
and the workers lives

they own the gangsters
and they run the wores
they own Vegas
and the gamblers trapped inside

they move in the shadows
of presidents and corporations
the means of production
in a handful of hands

you can’t live without money
they enslave us with wages
they pull the strings
that make you and me dance

(C)1976, TK Major