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Many songwriters are guilty of asking us to “shake” something, but how come they so often ask us to shake something that’s not supposed to be shaken. For example:

Andre 3000 sings “shake it like a Polaroid picture”, which Polaroid insists is a terrible idea and will ruin your photographs

Sam Cooke sings “shake it like a bowl of soup”, which sounds less like a recipe for success, and more like a recipe for a mess.

Ray Charles sings “shake your tailfeather”, which is a nice in a metaphor kind of way.

The Gap Band sings “shake shake shake shake shake your booty at the disco”, which is repetitively literal.

The Bar-Kays sing “shake your rump to the funk”, which is even more explicit, though they should probably say “disco funk”.

Elmore James sings “shake your moneymaker”. We’re back in figurative land here, at least for most of us, but I can get behind this one, in a classic sense.

The Jacksons ask you to “shake your body down to the ground”. (Man, the late ’70s had a real resurgence of shaking. Or maybe I just have easy access to too much late ’70s music…)

And blues, because in addition to Elmore James, we have:

Lightin’ Hopkins asking his baby to “shake that thing” and Howlin’ Wolf asking to “shake like jello on a plate” and more simply “shake it for me”.

And of course, “shake your rump” was revitalized in the early nineties, when Wreckx-N-Effect dropped “to the funk” and added a bunch of nonsense syllables.

 

Shake!

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Sammy Bananas has an “Anna Stesia” meets Garth Hudson moment on Miss Fairchild’s forthcoming release: Thesis. Antithesis. Parenthesis. (Working Title).*

Daddy Wrall films from the closet.

*Please don’t take this as representative of the state of our music. When you have a genius like Mr. Bananas in the fold, you have to let him breath a little, before reigning in his brilliance. The final record will reflect this editing process…

James Brown has a song called “I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)”. It’s fantastic. We’ve loved it for a long time. In fact, we nearly covered it way back in our high school days, when my brother was our saxophone player, and the keyboardist from our local version of Marty Culp* sat in with us. The pocket is just ridiculous. Listen:

*He was so much more, though. He had a van outfitted with a PA system, so when local churches had fairs, he could park on the street and perform “On Broadway” and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” with his wife. He played organ at the local Catholic church. He had a lot of soul for a middle aged white guy, and Wrall rescued his musical note suspenders from the dump when he moved to Florida. He added a lot to our band and we love the guy.

Recently, we discovered the James Brown singles series, Volume 5 of which features “I Can’t Stand Myself”. The exciting part of this series is not even the music, because we already have most of that.* There are liner notes from that amazing resource Alan Leeds, James’ tour manager in the ’60s and early ’70s. He knows a heck of a lot about this stuff and can shed light on a lot of murky subjects. One murky area has always been The Dapps, the all white funk group that James “discovered”. Well, it turns out they play uncredited on this song, bringing hope to white soul musicians everywhere.

*Except the copious instrumental “singles” featuring James’ off key organ solos. Very entertaining in small doses; not so amazing for extended periods.

Well, there is one more thing that’s great about The Dapps: their guitarist plays the same guitar as me, color and all. It’s a fairly rare finish, so I couldn’t be more excited. Check it out:

jbsd

parentheses

 

Star Band.

We’re thinking of:

Thesis. Antithesis. Parenthesis.

Yes?

 


So, Daddy Wrall’s car got stolen.

Not recently–this was years ago, say 2000 or so. He had just finished playing a show with some friends of ours and pulled his car around in front of a venue to load out. He was carrying his drums* out one or two pieces at a time and loading them into the way back of his ’91 Chevy Blazer. The hatch was open on the back and just as he was about to put in a few more drums, the car started moving. Someone was inside and driving off with his car–drums and all!

*Yes, once upon a time, the front man from Miss Fairchild was a drummer.

At first, he figured it was a friend of his who was just going to drive around the block and return the car, but soon enough, he realized that his car wasn’t coming back. Wrall walked down to the police station and told them what happened, mostly to no avail. He called the taxi companies to ask them to keep a look out. He looked all night. He called in sick to work the next day. He and his step father drove to the far corners of the island looking for his car.* They drove on all of the public access beaches. They went to all of the cliffs that the car could have feasible been driven off of.

*Seriously, they weren’t going to pay to put the thing on the boat and risk getting caught. This had to be a joyride.

Eventually, after hours of searching in daylight, Wrall was about to give up. He was returning from 40th Pole, a beach that often has nighttime parties. His step father was driving down Cliff Road when Wrall spotted his ride in the parking lot of a local sandwich joint. The hatch was still open. The drums were still in it. Nothing was missing. Except…

A Case Logic CD holder with 100 CDs in it. At the time, Wrall had two CD cases with all of his CDs in it: a 100 disc holder, completely full, with a mix of soul and rock, which had been in the car, and was now gone forever, and a 200 disc holder, three quarters full, with exclusively gangster rap.* I’m talking 150 CDs by Tupac, Snoop Dogg and E-40. But not just the popular acts. We also had Yukmouth, Spice 1,  everything available by all members of Tha Dogg Pound,  B-Legit, C-Bo, all of DJ Quik’s protégés, including AMG, Suga Free, Mausberg, 2nd II None, Darkside, Playa Hamm, and much much more. Wrall was left with nothing by gangster rap to listen to, which consider his organizational methods, seemed to be just fine with him.** 

*To review: 100 discs of all kinds of music except gangster rap, full, with no room for growth, and 150 discs of gangster rap, with room for 50 more. Wrall had given up on all music except gangster rap, it would appear. That’s the area in which he left room for growth. No jab to gangster rap, but isn’t this a little limiting?

**Also to be noted, Wrall had just bough the newest record by Too $hort, which was in the car’s CD player at the time, leaving him with yet another gangster rap offering to choose from.

Now, I’m not really sure what this all means, except that it’s important to note the following: starting in the fall of 2000, Wrall was fully committed to gangster rap, partially by his choice and partly by the choice of this joy-riding thief. Somebody decided that they didn’t need to the car, didn’t need the drums, didn’t need anything else of value from his car. But they did need to leave him with a whole lot of gangster rap and no listening alternate.

A little info for y’all, just in case you were interested.

This is incredible. Not only did Daddy Wrall and I have a surprising conversation about 9th chords, but then I found this when searching around for something. Incredible and amazing. I love the internet more everyday.

I’m not even going to post a screen shot or a description. You have to do that yourself.

Okay, fine. I’ll put a video here:

We got some blog love yesterday for our show in Portland, ME last Saturday from our friend over at L’Esprit d’Escalier. I know she’s a hard sell on this whole music thing, so it’s good to see that we succeeded in impressing her. I have to warn you that the post isn’t all about us, and though she she seems to be doing really well, contains a personal story that might bum you out a bit. The author writes really well about the whole thing, and the comment calling it “black comedy” is dead on it.* Have a read, because she writes good.

*As in, “the only good rapper is one that’s dead. On it.” (As if Prince would know…)

And she takes a good photo. Here is the one from her blog (clickable):

 

Photo courtesy of The Wit of the Staircase

Photo courtesy of The Wit of the Staircase

By the way, Dan, today at work we sampled buffalo jerky, which I wasn’t sure about at first. Did the “buffalo” mean that it was buffalo meat, or that it used buffalo seasoning? Or both?* Considering that question led me to think of the famous sentence, “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” It’s a classic grammatical formation that I learned about from my friend Jack. Here’s a translation, via Wikipedia, using “bully” for the verb and “bison” for the noun: “Buffalo bison Buffalo bison bully bully Buffalo bison.” Or, with a few extra words: “Buffalo bison (whom) Buffalo bison bully (themselves) bully Buffalo bison.” That’s a good way to learn what it means, but in the end, it’s better to stick with the original [say it out loud this time]: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

*Apparently the former.

When this topic came up at work, no one seemed to know anything about it. I wanted to talk about it with people, but my precise understanding of the phrase was hermetically sealed in some nook in my brain, along with the proper use of augmented sixth chords and logarithms. I used the opportunity to burnish this nugget through constant usage, basically walking around saying, “Hey did you know that Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo?”* At least one of my co-workers gave the requisite, “please stop”, and it’s as likely he was not kidding as he was.

*I’ll have you know that I’m retyping the sentence “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” every time, not just copying and pasting it. If you have to keep reading it, thereby stripping the word of all meaning, then I have to keep writing it, causing the mere combination of letters to become an abstraction. In fact, I beseech you to read the sentence each time to give my work meaning. Treating each recurrence of the sentence as some kind of metaphorical ellipsis in the writing only delays the inevitable, as I plan to write the sentence at least a half dozen more times.

I was not engaging in mindless repetition of the phrase, “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo,” but truly trying to get people to understand it. Once you deconstruct it so that it makes sense, it’s a kind of joyous moment. “Something abstract became tangible! Yay!” We often experience a sense of consternation when confronted with something so abstract, thinking that it’s beyond our grasp, so situations like this are great opportunities for some joy: “I learned something!”

But back to the actual story. My post today is less about how Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo and more about something else that happened at work. I’m struggling a little with how to relate the story without being either crass or spiteful. You see, today was a fantastic day. I had a lot of wonderful customers with a lot of wonderful knowledge and stories. Some people I knew already and some of them I met for the first time today, but all of them made a positive impact on day that lack of sleep could have hampered.

One customer (my last customer before departing, in fact) made his best effort, through an arrogant and generally nocuous attitude, to set me off. Typically, when a customer treats me badly I give the benefit of the doubt. The person is probably having a bad day and I want to change that, not reinforce it. If they have a complaint, I’m there to listen, and if they have a need that I can meet, I will meet it. At the very least, I will smile and say “thank you” because that’s what I do. I had a customer today, though, who tested my limit. In the “who knows what’s good or bad?” department, though, we might have gained a new catchphrase. Here’s the story:

I was just about leave for the day and had my apron half removed when a customer approached with some recyclables: “Will you empty the plastic bottle machine for me right now?”

I responded, “Actually, I’m not sure that it’s full. We’re having a lot of issues with false full messages lately. We’re hoping to have that fixed. I can take those bottles here, though, and give you your deposit back.”

“No. I want the machine emptied. Now.”

“Well, I can check, sir, but I think it’s just not working properly.”

He indicated that he wanted proof that it was broken, and for it to be fixed immediately. I had checked the machine the day before, and being only half full, I was fairly certain that it was not full.

I was wrong, of course.

After getting the keys, and a sanitizing wipe to clean the electric eye that tells the machine whether it’s full or not, I walked out into the cold with the man and opened the receptacle.

“See?! It’s full. Just like I said. Full.”

He knew which buttons to push and I was getting a little annoyed. I pulled out the bin and started to empty it.

“You have to admit that I was right.”

I stopped what I was doing, stood up from my kneeling position, turned around and looked him in the eye, “Sir, I admit it. The machine was full.”

I turned back to the task as he said, “You guys are going to have to empty this now.”

“Oh, there’s no you guys. There’s this guy,” I said, pointing to myself.

It’s not a difficult task. I emptied the machine, declining his offer to help for fear that he would injure himself and sue. I brought the full bag to the recycling area around back, then returned past him on my way to getting a few empty bags. When I returned, one of my co-workers was telling him that we would be happy to redeem the bottles inside for him at the customer service booth (where we had initially met). He declined. I filled the bag and watched as he put in his four bottles. Yes, I said FOUR bottles. 4! As in the number between three in five. As in the number of aces in the deck, leaves on a lucky clover, score (along with 7 years) between the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, Tops, squares in Four Square, and Beatles not including Billy Preston. 

He explained that the bottles he was depositing only worked in that machine because he had made the extra effort to call the company that services the machines and have them add the UPCs. Without him, people throughout the state would be unable to deposit their Kombucha bottles!

Then (and here is the moment that I want you all to remember) he said, “As a former town recycling chairman, I blah blah blah.”

“As a former town recycling chairman”? “A former town recycling chairman”? Now, I’m as familiar as the next guy with taking yourself too seriously, but I would say that takes the cake. I’m VERY serious about recycling. I dig through the garbage at work, and enforce rules that make others do the same, but I’m not going to invoke language like that to describe it.

In fact, next time I take myself too seriously, I want whomever is with me to say, ” I know you are a former town recycling chairman and everything…” and then proceed to put me in my place. That is, if I can hear you over our laughter.

I didn’t give A Former Town Recycling Chairman the business like I wanted to, but I didn’t let him buffalo me either. Only Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Schuyler Dunlap.

So, we’re going with a hipster tuft. Thoughts?

tuft