By Mike Faloon
By Mike Faloon
Are You Receiving Me? — The Annotated Boris (Day 6)
By Mike Faloon
Finished The Annotated Boris today. It gets surprisingly dark down the home stretch. The post-Boris the Sprinkler Suck days were marked by internal turmoil and external decline (in terms of recorded output). I was aware of the latter. I assumed the former but had no clue as to the extent of how unpleasant life within one of my favorite Clinton era bands became. (I can’t believe there was a period in which Paul #1, the band’s guitarist — Boris’s Keith Richards — wasn’t in the band. That was messed up. That remains messed up.)
The band's final days weren’t that decadent—not compared to the nonsense I’ve read about in band biographies and recall from the days of VH1’s Behind the Music — but the “creative differences” depicted are ripe with awfulness. I noticed, however, that as Boris's internal workings became less fun and less productive that the following things occurred in the book: a) the lyrics lost their “nation of the weird” luster, provided less bounce, more thud, b) those same lyrics sparked fewer footnotes, c) the narrative/memoir sections became longer and more compelling (except for the exhaustive play-by-play of the band’s attempt to record a Devil Dogs cover for a European compilation. Who would have thought that such a small ripple in the pond would induce such duress?). By then it was clear that everyone had lost sight of the prime directive, if indeed a prime directive still existed.
Where does that place The Annotated Boris? It's one of the most enjoyable music books of the past decade. Much as I've dug music bios in the past I've had my fill of what came along before I was dipping my toes in the punk rock waters. I'd rather read about what other people were doing in the '90s and beyond. In that regard The Annotated Boris belongs right next to Todd Taylor’s Born to Rock (and just above Eric Davidson’s The Gunk Punk Undergut).
Next in line: a collection of Norb’s best zine columns followed by a round up of Boris the Sprinkler’s finest non-LP sides. I'll wait patiently.
Patches Of Blue
Another veteran, long-lasting Canucklehead, Edgar spent his own Zuma years flying the proto-legendary Simply Saucer, landing today with precisely the kind of funk blue folk amalgam which continues to elude, for one, Robbie Robertson. Instead, Edgar’s textural Patches swirl steadily up and down the roadways and railways of North America via Michael J. Birthelmer’s nuanced yet nutty production/arrangement, managing even to take 3:17 out for a reasonably alt. bossa nova along the way.
Lane Steinberg = was one of “three teenage Jews attempting to remake With The Beatles in Miami in 1982” with his band The Wind (according to Victim Of Time dot com)
David = has opened for Elvis Costello and The Pretenders
Lane = has covered Henry Mancini and The Mothers of Invention
David = co-wrote “To Be With You” with Mister Big
Lane = co-wrote – and recorded! – an entire album with R. Stevie Moore
David = some of his songs have been on “Party of Five,” “Ed,” “Providence” and “Dawson’s Creek”
Lane = some of his songs have been on Maria Bartiromo, Condoleezza Rice, Lindsey Buckingham’s beard and Puffy’s handgun
David = once turned down a deal with Atlantic Records (who wanted to make him “another David Cassidy”)
Lane = once recorded the definitive version of “I Think I Love You”
Grahame Steinberg = one of the undoubtedly twelve best of 2012 I have heard...and the same will go for you.
THE BEACH BOYS
That’s Why God Made The Radio
Wherein the Universe's oldest boys reunite atop an old Bond theme (and some state-of-the-audio/visual slight-of-ear).
...which reminds me,
Be Sure to check out These guys as well: http://surfschooldropouts.bandcamp.com
CHRIS RICHARDS AND THE SUBTRACTIONS
Get Yer La La’s Out
And speaking of Brian’s Boys, two of those other much-revered retro-“B” icons (as in Big Star via Badfinger) are instantly conjured as Chris’ latest and greatest kicks straight up into a solid half-hour of beaty, BIG, and bouncy P-pop. A special Gary Pig tip-o-the-virtual-snout must go as well to GYLLsO producer David Feeny, who records the Subtractions’ six-strings with a raw stinging power unheard since the storied days of Tim Boykin’s Lolas …not to mention Steve Jones’ Bollock-ing of yore.
BIG BOY PETE
Of the song “Cold Turkey” (no, not the fine Plastic Ono 45) (or even the Dick Van Dyke movie), may I quote this disc’s liner notes: “Cold Turkey was recorded in 1968 at Pete Miller’s home-studio on Margetson Avenue in Norwich, England on a Bang & Olufsen Beocord 2000 tape-recorder running at a tape speed of 3 3/4 i.p.s. The dominating snare reverb came from the reverb unit for a Farfisa organ. Vocals were sung through a Shure 726 ‘Elvis mic’ and also a Reslo ribbon mic. The WW2 air-raid shelter in Pete’s garden served as the echo chamber”...and that’s just ONE of the dozen vintage Big Boy beauts you should hear herein!
Turn It Down, Richard Lee!
Meanwhile, bravely home-recording on the other side of the planet, here’s yet another slyly sonic, all-singing, sometimes stinging self-confessional from the One and Only Rickenharper; a friendly Ghost on the Canvas...along with a thin wild "We're In The Money" that even hearing isn't quite believing!
One Dover Soul
One terrific sonic stew of Syd, Eric’s SanFran Animals, indelible String Band, eclectic Prunes, prehistoric Unit Four + 2, Love ‘n’ Fugs, Gainsbourg and Hazlewood, some Varèse even, all beautifully buoyed by Alan’s never-fearing lyrical-slash-melodic munificence. P.S.: and guitarist/engineer/producer Wreckless Eric herein has never sounded so… well, wreckless!
Shakin’ Our Souls
The don’t-ever-be-fooled-by-imitations New Jersey Doughboys resolutely enter their second half-century making the kind of utterly joyous noise even Raider rough-houser Mark Lindsay can’t help but contribute liner notes (not to mention sax!) to.
Boy King Of Tokyo
Honestly, after an entire year spent listening — and listening — to this latest Best Record Ever by Nashville's greatest, the only thing I could possibly fault, if pressed, would be the misspelling of Marcia Brady's given name on the enclosed press sheet. But, by 2013, I'll be ready to forgive even that.
Who I Am (the audio book) (unabridged, I'll have you know)
Are You Receiving Me? — The Annotated Boris (Day 5)
By Mike Faloon
I paid off the last of my grad school loans today. I celebrated by running errands and cleaning the house. Productive? Sure. Satisfying? Indeed. Time to read? No. When I had time for a break I watched a couple episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold with my kids. My son calls it "Batman and His Friends Who Help."
I forsaw some version of this taking place and emailed Norb a question yesterday. Prepare to get your comic book geek on! (Although that phrase reminds of when my teachers used to say "get your thinking caps" on--why wasn't it assumed that such lids were always in place?)
Part 1 – The lyrics to Boris the Sprinkler's "113th Man"
"She Cola Cool like Fury's eyepatch"
Part 2 – Footnote #563 from The Annotated Boris
“As we all now know, thanks to Samuel L. Jackson, the Marvel Comics character Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., wears an eyepatch, and is the coolest, most stubbly-ass mofo in the Marvel Universe ((i was actually awarded a No-Prize for pointing out a discrepancy involving Nick Fury's eyepatch being used in a story set in 1959, when had been previously established that Fury didn't wear the eyepatch until 1963, Marvel time. Ask me about it sometime if you've got about an hour to kill)).”
Part 3 – I take Norb on that offer
As I said above I expected today to be light on the “reading and responding” time. I emailed Norb and asked for album version of the Nick Fury/No Prize story.
Part 4 – Norb’s response to my request
Norb: After New Avengers Vol. 2, #10 ((May 2011)), i dashed off an epistle of the following tenor to the magazine's editorial offices:
Ay yi yi yi yi...you've got Nick Fury wearing an eyepatch in 1959? That, i'm afraid, is wrong as wrong can be! According to the events of SGT. FURY & HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #27 ((Feb. 1966)), a delayed result of Fury's refusal to undergo an eye operation during WWII led to his finally losing the vision in his right eye in 1963. This was, presumably, intended to explain why Fury wore no eyepatch in his first "present-day" appearance ((FANTASTIC FOUR #21, Dec. 1963)), but did wear an eyepatch starting with the onset of the "Agent of SHIELD" strip starting with STRANGE TALES #135 ((Aug. 1965)). In other words, in 1959, when this story takes place, Fury's eye won't fail for four more years. My solution to this deathless quandary is that, in the years leading up to 1963, Fury's eye -- as the doctor warned him might happen -- began failing intermittently, causing him to wear an eyepatch off and on from 1959 thru 1963, when his injured eye failed completely, and he began wearing the eyepatch full-time. I'll take my vintage 1959 no-prize with extra tailfins, s'il vous plait.
...to which (Marvel Editor) Tom Brevoort replied...
I'm well aware of that issue of SGT FURY, but I made the conscious decision at this point to not be handcuffed by a limitation to explain a single off-handed story published close to 50 years ago. Had Stan and Jack known that they would soon thereafter be doing Agent of SHIELD, they would have given Nick the eyepatch in FF#21. And to me, in 2011, it was more important that readers of today be able to easily recognize Nick in 1959 than it was to be faithful to that one slightly-absurd story.
That all having been said, you fulfilled the criteria, so if you want to send me along an address, I will send you a No-Prize.
...and that's the short and long of it! Thanks for caring!
Are You Receiving Me? — The Annotated Boris (Day 4)
By Mike Faloon
Ever since I had an allowance I’ve been a steady book buyer. But from my teens through my early thirties I didn’t read much fiction. That part of the bookstore gave me headaches--I didn't know what to look for and felt stupid as a result. I kept trying different writers, kept trying to find a novel I enjoyed as much as To Kill a Mockingbird, which I'd read in high school, but I kept running aground. Finding non-fiction titles, on the other hand, was easy. First, sports books, then musician biographies. I’d read about virtually any one. Most of the time I wanted to read about the bands I was trying to figure out. (Thank you Nicholas Schaffner for writing The British Invasion and Ira Robbins for those Trouser Press books!) But prior knowledge has hardly a prerequisite. (I had no interest in buying George Jones records but I couldn’t put down I Lived to Tell It All.)
Then about ten years ago I did a 180—I’d finally found writers I could rely on and dove into the fiction stacks. It started with zine writers-turned-novelists such as Jim Munroe, Sean Carswell, and Todd Taylor. Their books boosted my fiction-buying confidence and led me to Lewis Nordan, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Steinbeck, among others. Good times indeed.
It wasn’t until yesterday, reading The Annotated Boris, that I realized the extent to which I've done another half circle in recent months, most of which has been music books. First there was Pete Seeger’s In His Own Words. Then Ed Sanders's Fug You. Then Steve Wishnia’s When the Drumming Stops (well, this is framed as fiction but draws heavily on his days with the False Prophets). Each altered the way I think of the respective era but for the most part they didn't send me back to the music on which the tomes were based. Pete Seeger inspires like few others but his tunes are best consumed in small doses. Ed Sanders helped me chip away at a long held sense that the sixties generation can’t let go and move, but didn’t propel to seeking out his former band, the Fugs. Wishnia’s book is highly recommended—it’s a warts and all look at the punk scene in ‘80s New York, written with a surprising amount of heart—but I’m not about to reopen the False Prophets case file. (Wishnia’s participation in the short lived, criminally overlooked Iron Prostate is a whole other matter. Loud, Fast, and Aging Rapidly!)
With all of these books, though, I'm reading about someone else's era, things that had come and gone while I was still in school or earlier. The Annotated Boris is one of the few music books whose events overlap chronologically with my own--playing pop punk in the '90s, self-releasing 7" records, going to MRR columnist night at Coney Island High. Is there the risk of excessive sentimentality or "you should have been there" nostalgia? Sure thing. To what extent that's a problem is someone else's call. But I'd argue that time period, overlapping or otherwise, isn't the glue that binds with The Annotated Boris. It's this: being an oddball in the U.S. is all right. Children's literature is dense with "You're weird? Party on!" tales, but not so much for adults. It took me awhile to find a subculture that felt right. I agreed with the hippies' politics but not their manner of dress or choice of intoxicants (not to mention the often relaxed approach to personal hygiene.) I was on board for a lot of '80s punk sonically but didn't share the anger nor was I that strident about what others were imbibing (aka the straight edge movement). It wasn't until the pop punk scene of the early '90s that it came into focus--a strong sense of building things yourself, a healthy skepticism for mainstream culture, along with great melodies and a sense of humor.
Boris the Sprinkler were the best of the bunch and The Annoated Boris is a smart, funny, kick in the trousers reminder that walking your own path is a far more interesting way to spend a life.
Are You Receiving Me? — The Annotated Boris (Day 3)
By Mike Faloon
On Parenthesis – A Special Christmas Edition Go Metric Mini-Interview (aka Rev. Norb on Certain Aspects of Grammatical Choices in )
Go Metric: One of my favorite aspects of your writing is the high volume of parenthetical clauses. When they build up to four or five in a sentence I’ll re-read said sentence verify that it checks out. To what do you attribute this habit? A particular writer? Genre?
Rev. Norb: I cannot actually attribute this to anything other than eighth-grade algebra, and learning about the order of operations and parentheses and brackets and curly braces and the what-not, as well as my own practically pathological compulsion to say every single thing i know about a subject, when i am talking about said subject. It just sort of became the best way to corral my various tangents while sort of keeping the main narrative moving in one direction ((or so i try to imagine)).
GM: Recently I’ve noticed that you use double parenthesis for the initial parenthetical clause. Where/why did this change occur?
RN: This parenthetical double-bagging started when i was working in the video game industry, and was sending out lots of typed communications to team members that involved discussing sections of script or code which included parenthetical expressions. The double parentheses was meant to signify that it was me talking in parentheses, as opposed to the single parentheses, which were part of the code. For example: "Please add 'Play3DSound (snd_Explosion1);' to the end of the particle effect function call ((unless it breaks something))." My boss said he liked the double parentheses so i started doing it all the time.
GM: I also noticed that the parenthetical clause on the book’s cover reverts to the single parenthesis? As they say in Spanish, por que?
RN: I was being wishy-washy and thought it was too hard to read for a front cover blurb that way. If you look at how the type is organized for that subtitle, the first graf ((as i believe such a thing is called)) only consists of two words, "AND OTHER." Eight letters and a space. If you add one parenthese, so the first graf is "(AND OTHER", ten percent of the characters in the first line are parentheses, which seems okay. If you add a second parenthese, the graf becomes "((AND OTHER", and now 18.2% of the characters in the first graf are parentheses, which seems like too much. Basically, double parentheses just didn't look good with the type stacked up like that in that particular section, and my graphic designer instincts trumped my literary instincts. For which i apologize.
Are You Receiving Me? — The Annotated Boris (Day 2)
By Mike Faloon
Day 2, part 1:
This from Norb:
Mike: You're a saint. I think the upper case "I" was just a typo -- autocorrect forced me to go back and change all the upper case I's to lower case i's one by one. However, my rule is that, if the "I" in question is part of me quoting someone else, then it's upper case, because it's them saying the "I," which is different than me saying the "i." I just do it because i like how the dot looks. Huzzah!
This from me:
The purpose of a book such as The Annotated Boris is to clarify the underlying meanings, remove doubt as to what was intended with the various lyrical offerings of Boris the Sprinkler. I’d just like to point out that I...
a) managed to come away with a misunderstanding, however brief,
b) managed to pull off said feat on the back of the title page
c) managed to accomplish a and b on the basis of a typo!
Day 2, part 2:
We were at our neighbor’s yesterday. Their daughter asked if she could “watch one TV.” This struck me as a new way of asking to watch television, thinking of tube time in specific units. She’s used to watching shows on DVD, one episode at a time. It is in that spirit of digital age “quantitative thinking is go!” that I focus on the footnotes in The Annotated Boris.
There are 982 footnotes in The Annotated Boris. When I first saw a draft of the book a few months ago I was hoping that the need could be found for 18 additional footnotes. The prospect of a mini “1000” at the base of the page was pretty cool. Kind of like watching my car’s odometer flick to 150,000 a couple months ago—certain numbers in certain contexts are, to my mind, cool.
And it’s on that basis alone—the accumulation of 982 footnotes that I could declare Rev. Norb the King of the Footnote. Most people would argue that this title should be bestowed upon David Foster Wallace. I’ve never finished a David Foster Wallace book. I read bits of Consider the Lobster but couldn’t finish it. I liked it fine but another, newer book came along and I’ve yet to return to The Lobster. Wallace’s essays were fine and his use of the footnote impressive but at no point did he depose the previous King of the Footnote, Nicholson Baker. A number of pages in Baker’s book The Mezzanine are more footnote that body text — check out p. 27, for example. It could be taken as a parlor trick—That lengthy footnote looks cool! Such lengthy footnotes are certainly not easy to replicate! What’s the purpose again?—but I think it worked to pretty great effect.
One gripe, however, and it’s a gripe I wasn’t aware of until diving into The Annotated Boris. It’s this: Baker resets the footnote count on each page. As a result of this seemingly innocuous decision the book’s first footnote, on page three, is labeled “1,” and the book’s second footnote, on page four — about watching a straw rise in a can of soda — is also labeled “1.” Norb, on the other hand, yields to the quantitative fun — makes the wiser choice — and lets the footnote count accumulate.
What’s the point of having the all footnotes if you don’t keep track of them for the reader? Surely the sheer number of footnotes in The Mezzanine was intended as part of the book’s appeal, why not keep a running tally? Someone must have kept track, either Baker or his editor, but they kept the results to themselves. So it’s not just the total number of footnotes that moves Norb to the top of the AP and UPI “King of Footnotes” polls. That is but one factor. The other is simply keeping track. And this is the next reason I highly recommend The Annotated Boris.
Are You Receiving Me? — The Annotated Boris (Day 1)
By Mike Faloon
The Annotated Boris arrived today. Happy days. Not jumping the shark, slamming the side of the jukebox, “Howard!” Happy Days, but rather celebratory days, and what could be more apropos? It’s December 23. The holiday season is in full gear. No work for ten days. Good times with the family. Consuming an inordinate amount of salty snacks and malty beverages. Plus, I’ve got gobs of good music lined up for the coming days (the new Treasure Fleet should arrive any day, just got the new Evens record). The only thing missing from my holiday landscape is a good book. I just finished Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? It was wonderful and left me longing for an equally great read. I’ve picked up and put down three or four books in recent days. None of them stuck. A couple days ago I read the first chapter of Philip K. Dick’s The Simulacra. Pretty good. Most likely it’ll blossom into a compelling read, but it hasn’t crossed that line yet; I’m still thinking as I turn page to page. But I’ve got The Annotated Boris in hand. 130,000+ words from Rev. Norb, complete with 982 footnotes.
The Annotated Boris is subtitled Deconstructing the Lyrical Majesty of Boris the Sprinkler (And Other Tales As the Need Arises). As the title implies it’s a thorough break down of the 70 some odd song lyrics that Norb wrote while a member of Boris the Sprinkler, one of the best bands of the ‘90s.
I didn’t expect this book for several months. Back in September I found myself the lucky recipient of an email from Norb in which he’d emailed me a PDF of the book. I thought it was still in feedback stage. Something to be released in the coming spring or summer. I tried reading that PDF and stopped rather quickly. My brain started to ache, overwhelmed by the avalanche of goodness. In part it was the book itself—tons of dense, pop culture rich reading. In part it was my aversion to reading anything longer than a paragraph on a computer. (I’m forever missing bits of emails because I end up skimming them and overlooking the later parts, which are often the main purpose of the email.) In part it’s my shock and dismay at receiving a Rev. Norb book. For years I’ve talked with friends about the idea of Rev. Norb book. I've hoped for a collection of Maximum Rock and Roll and/or Razorcake columns. I remember Sean Carswell saying he’d mentioned such a book to Norb but it never came to fruition. Or maybe it was Todd Taylor. In either case I don’t think many of the columns—written from the mid ‘90s forward—survive in workable formats.
So today I have The Annotated Boris. I got as far as the back of the title page before stopping to reach for my notebook. I noticed that Norb used “I,” the upper case version of the pronoun. Norb is a legendary proponent of lower case “i.” I’ve never understood why he makes this choice. I think I asked why once. I don’t recall his answer. Regardless, the deviation from the norm, the use of upper case “I” caught my attention. Here’s the scenario that unfolded in my head: The use of “I” signified that Norb, the writer, the person, the civilian was stepping out of character. (“i” = punk rock frontman, zine columnist; “I” = the real Norb, the actual Norb) I glanced at the facing page. I saw an abundance of “i”s. Aha, I thought, the use of “I” was deliberate, a conscious choice. It was not merely a formatting issue. (Nor was it, I assumed, a norm imposed by an editor or publisher because The Annotated Boris appears under the “Bulge” banner. In essence a self publication.)
In that fleeting moment I tried to conceive of aspects of Real Guy Norb. Wherein lay the differences? A change in voice, lower in register? A change in deliver, less manic? A change in attitude or outlook? I got stuck on these variables. I didn’t want—wouldn’t want—them to change. I dig immensely what I’ve read from Norb lo these many years. The confidence he projects, the precision of his thinking, the unapologetic genius level of recall—I see in these attributes an idealized “some day” version of myself. And all the while, over the course of hundreds of columns, I’ve operated with the idea that Writer Norb is equivalent to Real Guy Norb. I assumed I’ve been getting the peek behind the curtain version. That’s been the point. He digs into what’s really there and lays it out with a level of spontaneity and insight that's perfect. (Lenny Bruce meets Jack Kerouac meets Lester Bangs meets Rev. Norb (yes, there are precedents and predecessors but there’s but one Norb).
I’ve found my book for the holidays.
By Mike Faloon
Toys That Kill
I’m confused by a great number of things. Most of them are of little consequence. But the size of a conundrum has little impact on how often said head scratcher pops into my mind’s playlist — magnitude and frequency are different variables, right?
For years I couldn’t understand how people could dig tunes sung in a language they didn’t understand. I’d read about how an American or English band had topped the charts in Spain or Japan or Egypt and wonder how that happened — what did those audiences get from those songs? (Dark Side of the Moon went Top 10 in Algeria? How?) My relationship with music was literal, especially when I was younger. If I couldn’t understand the words, how could I understand the song? I was the kid who always skipped “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” on the Beatles Something New (even though I knew the English version).
Later I loved “La Bamba.” Still do. I thought my high school Spanish had given me enough to understand what Los Lobos were singing. In truth I’ve never gotten past translating “Yo no soy marinero.” (Hey man, I’m no marinero either!) What should have opened my eyes slid into the “exception to prove the rule” bin.
Over time, though, I’ve realized just how few songs I’m able to sing along with from start to finish. Phrases stick, certainly, but there’s an embarrassing amount of mumbling. I’ve listened to Superchunk for 20 years and only in 2010 did I finally start to figure out whole verses. Lately my kids have been into “Pink Shoe Laces,” the 50s tune by Dodie Stevens. It’s taken a concerted effort to remember the lyrics; my kids were chiming along long before I was. Sounds make a big impression on me. Likewise for rhythms and structures, harmonies and melodies. I seldom dwell on a song’s meaning.
All of this gained a new level of clarity when I tried to figure out the appeal of Toys That Kill’s latest album Fambly 42.
Fan Interference: A Collection of Baseball Rants and Reflections, an anthology from the pages of Zisk edited by Mike Faloon and Steve Reynolds