Sunday, July 15, 2012

Maurice's Song

Here we are with the first instrumental in the Midnight Rambles. There will be some more. 

I met Maurice Jones when I was the managing editor of LOADSTAR, a disk magazine for the Commodore computer back in the late 80s and 90s. He was a subscriber and wrote a few helpful letters to the editor and when I realized he lived about 100 miles away in a small East Texas town, Judi and I went to visit him and his wife Joann. They were retired schoolteachers and even without the computer connection we had a lot in common and we all became good friends.

In 1993 when I was on my recording kick I sent a few of the songs on a cassette tape to Maurice and he critiqued them. I asked him what kind of music he listened to and he liked jazz, so I decided to record him a jazz song. The only problem: I knew nothing about jazz. 

I ended up getting a nice clean tone for my Gibson ES-335 and playing the first jazzy chords that occurred to me. I threw in an augmented chord. I programmed the drummer to play tastefully (or so I thought) and then added an organ. I amazed myself by not playing any obviously bad notes and the song was done. I sent it to Maurice and he liked it but said it didn't really sound too jazzy to him. I told him it was Calhoon jazz as opposed to Coltrane jazz.

Maurice got into computers many decades ago, before home computers came about. He programmed some of the early mainframes and when he bought his first home computer, a Commodore 64, in the mid 80s he, like everybody else back then, learned a little BASIC programming. On LOADSTAR we had a card game simulation, probably the standard Klondike solitaire, and he felt that he could improve on it. So he wrote another card solitaire and it was pretty good. Then another. And another.

Soon Maurice had a card game simulation on every issue. He bought books of solitaire rules and did some obscure ones. Then he and I developed what we called ROTATO solitaires. These were solitaire card games that used a basic 52-card deck but for one reason or another were impossible to play with real cards. There would be a tableau of cards (as in Klondike) but when you pressed a button they'd fly around in ways that you really wouldn't want to hassle with if you were using real cards.

Maurice invented a dozen or more card solitaires for the Commodore. He ended up with 64 programs of them when LOADSTAR, under my editorship, sent out its last issue, #199. As far as I know, no one programmer has produced as many card games as he has.

Maurice died a decade ago and I wish he could have heard these songs done up right. The cassettes I made back then were pretty bad.


Pome of Yourself

Now you're in for it. I've finished with the Knees Calhoon songbook and am ready to tackle the recordings I have of Knees performing songs written by his friends. Some of them are quite strange, especially the ones by Jim Weiler. This is just a sample of what you have in store if you persist in following this blog. I'm afraid my recently realized recording power might inspire me to put more of his "pomes" to music.

This is the first of several that I already have in the can. May Gawd have mercy on your souls.

Originally called by me "Oh, Mommy" this song came about in February of 1999 when Jim Weiler handed me a printout of some e-mails he had with Ed, who, three years later, became one of America's first homegrown terrorists. Or victim. Poor Ed, he had to pick a day in which everybody and his dog was freaking out about anthrax letters to make a joke about it. He was in the mens bathroom at work and doing his thing when another guy, leaving the rest room, turned off the light. Ed yelled and left a note on the mirror telling the guy that if he did it again he'd have more than anthrax to worry about. That was enough for the authorities in Shreveport LA. They hauled Ed off to jail where he stayed for over a month. When America freaks out, duck! Unfortunately, we're now in a constant duck.

The e-mails were about a poem by Walt Whitman called "Song of Myself". You may have heard the line "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes)" which is taken from the the last, and 52nd, canto (or whatever they're called). It's a huge poem.

Weiler rephrased the last canto into modern TV-speak and gave me the printout as if it were a poem he had written, so naturally I took it home and laid down some Byrds-like drone tracks and using my best Dylan voice turned it into a song I called "Oh Mommy!" I didn't find out until much later that there was a Walt Whitman connection to the song. I figured it was just typical Weiler gibberish. 
Note: The words below are taken from the actual e-mail printouts. They're different from the ones I sing and don't even mention "Mommy". If I remember correctly, Ed had challenged Weiler to write a poem for Mother's Day, so he took his Whitman translation and threw in a few Moms and Mommies.  Those are the words I got from Weiler.

To aid you in seeing the translation, I am going to intersperse the two poems, with each being in a different color

Walt Whitman          Jim Weiler

The past and present wilt--I have fill'd them, emptied them, 
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Now and before they am - I'ze plumped 'em, dumped 'em, An' now I'm a-plumpin' the weave of tomorrow.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me? Look in
my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,

Yo! You up there! What up? Pay attention now, while I blow
off an entire evening,

(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a
minute longer.) 

(Tell the truth, you bore people to tears, and I am outta here.)

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

What lie then? All right -- the big lie. (Fatty me, I'm big
as a barn.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

I'm a-lookin' at the comin things, standin' in the door waitin.

Who has done his days work? Who will soonest be through with his supper? Who wishes to walk with me?

What guys finished as a day laborer? Who's wolfing down supper? Who wants to go for a hike?

Will you speak before I am gone? Will you prove already too late?

Won't you say something while I'm here? Don't wait?

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.

Damn pigeons flap down and crap on me, I make much noise and I wait.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable. I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

I'm such a wild man, nobody understands me, I run from housetop to housetop gibbering.

The last scud of day holds back for me, It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadowed wilds, It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

The setting clouds wait for me to see them, I see myself in the sun, and in the dark woods, How intriguing!

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun, I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I fart and poop, I waggle my bowels at the sun. My fat folds of flesh flap freely, my lacy clothes draped.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

Dig my grave. I've had it. If you want to see me, try six feet under.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, And filter and fibre your blood.

There's no way you'll figure me out, But what the hell--best wishes! Long life and prosper!

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.

If you don't find me, keep looking, I'm somewhere or other, Sitting in wait for you to stumble by . . .