Category Archives: debut

Scared of the Light [acoustic]

ScaredOfTheLight4

 

A quick rough draft of a song written for the RPM Challenge — on the last day. This is not that version — it was really, really, really bad, we are talking laughably so — but rather  this is an acoustic version I recorded for posting to the Internet Archive (the content home of AYoS). The lyrics are unchanged and the melody, or what passes for it, little so.

Backstory: I jotted down the title for this song while watching the “Swan Song” episode of the old Columbo TV show sometime last year. In it, Johnny Cash plays a gospel singer who is also a murderous sinner. The episode leads off with a rousing ‘live’ version of “I Saw the Light,” his character’s big hit of the moment. Many months later, while I was dragging a song out of a clever potential title on the last day of the RPM Challenge — having completely forgotten the inspiration — I took a break while recording to watch a little TV.

There aren’t a whole lot of the Columbo episodes, which were shot as ‘two hour’ specials for airing a few times a year. I’ve gone through them on Netflix twice now and that day, on the 28th of February, finishing “Scared of the Light,” up came Johnny Cash and I quickly realized that the episode had been the inspiration for the song sometime last year and… well, dang… the circle is unbroken…

Two more versions will follow shortly, each very different. Stay tuned.

Scared of the Light

more download and streaming options at Archive.org

From the very first zero
to the very last one
I can see what has happened
I can see what will come

Like a train in a tunnel
like a mole in a hole
like a bullet in a barrel
I know where to go

From the very first day
to the very last night
I’ve been through the darkness
but I’m scared of the light

From the very first zero
to the very last one
I can see what has happened
and I see what must come

From the very first day
to the very last night
I’ve been through the darkness
but I’m scared of the light

(C)2013, TK Major
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Pass the dust, I’m apparently under the gravely mistaken impression I’m Bowie…

sunrise-2011-09-07-smScared of the Light [Electric Version]

[special hi fi preview stream]

When he awoke, it was dark. His heart was pounding. He felt as though a giant hand was wrapped around him, squeezing the breath out of his lungs. He must have been dreaming but he remembered nothing. He forced air into his lungs, but his breath felt odd and shallow and each breath seemed to take tremendous effort.

He tried to shut out the panic but that seemed to make it more acute. He threw off the covers and turned on the light on the little table next to the bed… but its dim and yellow light seemed, if anything, to make his room just that much more oppressive and claustrophobic.

Steeling his grip on himself, he quickly got out of bed and threw on the clothes he’d been wearing the previous night, a pair of bluejeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Glancing at the clock, he saw the red glow of 4:43 a.m. He pulled on his boots and laced them, grabbed his phone and keys, and walked out into the crisp pre-dawn air.

As he often had decades earlier, running from the all-but-forgotten demons of his youth, he found himself walking toward the ocean through the empty, dark streets.

He walked past the lagoon, the shadowy trees looming above languid, almost black water, along the manicured sands of Mothers’ Beach, finally across the trendy little business strip to the bay. As he walked along the crescent of sand, still moving toward the ocean beyond the little bay, the tiniest sliver of golden sun appeared above the houses and trees across the bay.

Until that moment, he’d just been walking. Not thinking. Trying not to feel. Just trying to get away from whatever unknown fear had gripped him in dream so tightly that he feared it would crush the breath out of him.

He searched inside himself for the sense of relief he thought the sun should bring. But all he found was a veil of vague and uneasy dread, pierced by a slim, rosy crescent.

He walked a few steps down closer to the shore, the shift of perspective returning him to the moment just before sunrise. He surveyed the low line of houses, the mirror-like calm of the water. It was beautiful, he recognized numbly.

So beautiful that it seemed a shame to waste it on this moment of vague and free-floating dread.

He paused, pulled his phone out of his pocket, switched its camera on, held his breath just a moment and heard the simulated sound of a shutter snapping open and closed.

_______________________________

 

From the very first zero
to the very last one
I can see what has happened
I can see what will come

Like a train in a tunnel
like a mole in a hole
like a bullet in a barrel
I know where to go

From the very first day
to the very last night
I’ve been through the darkness
but I’m scared of the light

From the very first zero
to the very last one
I can see what has happened
and I see what must come

From the very first day
to the very last night
I’ve been through the darkness
but I’m scared of the light

(C)2013, TK Major

The third (and final?) version of “Scared of the Light”…

(The title of this post is a light-hearted lift from the late, lamented Black Randy — of infamous LA punk/funk provocateurs, Black Randy and the Metro Squad — whose first album was called, “Pass the Dust, I Think I’m Bowie.”)

I’d written out about three quarters of the lyrics and was settling into the chords and melody when I started roughing out the arrangement… something about the way it was going together really made me think of post-Berlin-era Bowie and, I dunno, I ran with it.

 

 

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Scared of the Gumbo

gumboThis is the second version of my latest song, “Scared of the Light.” Last week I posted the solo acoustic version. This one is dubbed, for lack of a better name, the swamp gumbo version. (You’ll see why.)

Coming next: the full, Pass the Dust, I’m Apparently Under the Profoundly Mistaken Belief I’m Bowie version.

Scared of the Light (swamp gumbo version)

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This Scene Is Dead

x-masque-seventy-nine-frank-gargani-460-85

No, not A Year of Songs… this scene is probably more like a fair beauty cast under a wicked spell waiting for her prince to plant a big fat smacker on her pale lips… or maybe more like an irascible old bear at the ragged end of hibernation, hearing the chirping of spring birds and putting his big old furry paws over his ears and trying to go back to sleep.

The scene to which the song refers is the virtualized songwriting workshop I participate in on a popular musician’s website which has became the victim of its own success when its once high search engine ratings increasingly made it a target of robotic spam assaults, assaults that ended up dragging down the servers and bringing the massive site to its virtual knees.

Dire portrait painted, however, let me rush to assure the reader that the reference is ironic. The first line of the song was taken from the title of a thread in the new forum, a result of a massive effort to move hundreds of millions of bulletin board posts, user reviews, and blog articles to new servers run by a shiny, big-player customer service outfit that runs customer support and social media bulletin board/forum software for a number of Fortune 500 joints.

The regulars in the Songwriting Workshop are sensitive artist types, for sure, but they’re also self-reliant. When the old forum software ground to a near halt, forum regulars set out on their own to create a temporary forum using free forum software.

Now we’re all more or less back at the old/new site… dazzled and occasionally bewildered by gleaming but unfamiliar virtual surroundings. But, you know, we’re resilient, too. We’ll make it.

But that Sad that it’s so dead in here thread title kept bouncing up in the listings as folks would comment, commiserate, or crack wise and — with the first days of the RPM Challenge weighing on me, desperation begat the slightest hint of inspiration. (And, yes, much perspiration was subsequently required.)

Oh, wait, I hear you gentle readers murmur. WTF is this RPM Challenge?

That would be this: Every February the RPM Challenge goes out to songwriters to try to create an album of music in 28 days, hopefully doing everything from writing to recording and mixing in time to pop a CD in the mail by noon on March 1st. (And, yes, you can jump in at any time in February. If you approach this stuff the way I approached term papers in my long lost academic life, you will probably be hitting the big red button about 9 am on the 28th of Feb.)
Anyhow, backstory laid out, excuses made, rationales aired, let’s move on to the song at hand…

Longtime readers of this blog may recall my nostalgic rhapsodizing on those magical years at the beginning of the punk rock era we like to call The Late Seventies. 

I first chopped off my hair — which had been nearly waist-length — back in ’73. I had been at a concert for one of my favorite bands, the arty, intelligent, jazzy Traffic. As I waited to get in, I looked around me. The others had long hair, freak clothes…  they didn’t look much different than me, really.

There had been a time in the late 60s when just having long hair seemed like a badge of being interesting, iconoclastic, outsider.

But by ’73, at least half of the people I saw with long hair I was running into appeared very much to be leaden brained dolts who couldn’t bother to try to find two neurons to rub together. Two days later, three feet of hair became two inches. Suddenly, cops had longer hair.  I felt a bit like I’d just arrived on the planet.

When Patty Smith’s Horses album came out, with the title song’s harrowingly visceral, yet poetically surreal account of a brutal high school attack, I knew it was finally on, the change was coming any day. The new era had arrived.

While the signs of new music were around in ’75 when I started prowling the new, small, sometimes underground clubs where music biz outsiders played, the LA punk scene didn’t really blow up until late ’77.

Blow up, perhaps, being a relativistic term.

By my count, there were maybe 50, full-on, hard-core, can’t walk down the street without folks staring and pointing punk rockers in LA — and maybe another 200 folks who were more like me, short haired, non-hippy, non-disco, somewhat disaffected types. A lot of that cohort probably looked a lot like rock writers of the era… glasses, dark sport coats, skinny jeans, dark t-shirts or white shirts buttoned to the collar and/or worn with the soon-to-be-totally annoying skinny ties that looked so cool for such a short time.

The scene was magical.

Really.

Okay, sure, some of the clubs stank. Literally. Toilets regularly overflowed at the divey venues and overburdened, blackmarket warehouses-turned-nightclubs.  Bouncers were often jocks or thugs who often appeared to think the clientele were sissies from Mars. And, for sure, it was an arty, boho, largely anti-macho crowd in those early days.

That would change as wannabe bands like The Cars, The Police, as well as bands that had once been part of the punk scene like Devo and the Dickies began to draw in new elements, specifically suburban dudes, jocks, and frat boys who turned the once-relatively friendly/benign ‘pogo pit’ into the ‘slam pit.’  Moshing, as it was originally known in the UK, took a particularly ugly turn in the 80s as that cohort met and didn’t always mix well with old school hardcore punks. And a half.

By late ’78, it seemed to me and my pals down in Long Beach that maybe the LA punk scene that had seemed so vibrant just a year before might be dying. I remember telling a bunch of pals from a couple of bands who were having a strategizing/commiserating jawbone session, “Let me be the first to say, punk rock is dead.”

I reminded them that the Haight-Ashbury hippies had held a “Funeral for the Hippie” in 1968 and that, though hippie attire and trappings grew in popularity with the mainstream, the real core of the hippie movement was pretty well dead by the 70s, even as the look became a costume for much of middle America.

Of course, punk rock didn’t die in ’78.

But something did.

Punk rock, the commercial genre, though, barreled on, going from the wildly divergent outsider music of the late 70s  to the highly formulaic, tightly conformist, cliche-driven  cookie cutter crap of the 80s and the pop punk pre-gurgitations of the 90s — in near perfect parallel to the emergence of mall rat chain stores filled with racks of identical “punk outfits” — just add glory spikes and purple hair dye.

That out of the way, here is my first recorded lyrical effort from my one-man assault on the RPM Challenge…

Sad that it’s so dead in here
sad to see the flocks have fled
sad to say its inevitable
but some things must be said

This scene is dead
the scene is dead
the reasons are many
excuses are few
this scene is dead
the scene is dead
God knows the scene is dead

We were so cool
so beautiful
so free so hip
the people to be
What we had is gone, what we did is done
the songs we sang as good as never sung

This scene is dead
the scene is dead
God knows the scene is dead

Came back to see what had become
of the place where so much was said and done
footprints in the dust
shadows in a mirror
was it yesterday
or a thousand years

This scene is dead
the scene is dead
the reasons are many
excuses are few
This scene is dead
the scene is dead
God knows the scene is dead

this scene is dead
the scene is dead
ooohoooh oohoooh
oohooh oohooh
this scene is dead
the scene is dead
God knows the scene is dead

 

 

 

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