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JP1000


If I could offer one bit of advice to songwriters, whether it’s as a lyricist, composer, or both, they need to know that even on the most minor and uncompensated level, you are surrounded by parasites whose spiritual essence would make a rat-infested, feces-dripping sewer look like sunny Acapulco. People who make you want to bathe in carbolic acid to remove any residual filth you may have picked up from merely talking to them. People so devoid of integrity or scruples that you wonder if they were birthed by anything of this world. People so singularly obsessed with dreams of stardom that they would literally fuck their own dog for 10 minutes of fame. That what you perceive as an artistic drive, something that you would do without any remuneration for your efforts, they see only as a stepping stone, a necessary evil on the road to “success” – that all important elixir of life that they believe cures all ills & pain and gives you eternal heavenly bliss.

I have no doubt that this is also true for people who pursue other creative endeavors such as novelists and actors, but my experience has been as a songwriter and performer, so that’s the area I’m speaking from.

Let me share with you some of the sordid details of the two-legged critters I've encountered.


BE WARY OF THE ASPIRING WRITER

About 10 years ago I met a young woman who had written some lyrics. She didn’t play an instrument, wasn’t familiar with chord structures, and didn’t know how to craft a song. So I, being someone who genuinely loves to write songs, offered to help out. She showed me some of her words and I began to craft songs from her writings. While my initial reaction was that the songs could have been stronger, she was very enthusiastic about what we had created.

When I say that the songs could have been stronger, I mean that my process for songwriting – when I’m writing both words & music – entails juggling several things:


·         The subject matter should be interesting
·         The words should sound familiar but not cliché
·         It should convey something inspired and intriguing
·         It should have a hook (whether it’s word-play, syllable/consonant-play,
stand-out lines, or repeated phrases)
·          It should be memorable (hopefully, unforgettable)

ALL those elements are being juggled in my mind when I’m writing a song or else the whole thing may fall apart. If I have so much as one line I’m not happy with I’ll drop the entire song. In other words, I take songwriting seriously.

So, back to the aspiring writer.

She had written several pages of words that she wanted to turn into a musical. I read through it and began fleshing out the words into songs. We spent a couple of months on the project, at the end of which I thought some of the songs were genuinely strong. When it was completed, she submitted it to a contest where chosen musicals would be awarded funding. I knew it was a long-shot since the songs were recorded on a laptop with only vocals & acoustic guitar, instead of getting a quality studio recording. So, long story short, the musical was not chosen and I moved on to other projects.




A few years went by and I hadn’t kept in touch with her. One night while copyrighting some of my songs on the copyright.gov website (which I highly recommend for anyone who writes anything), I decided to look up her name. Sure enough, there was her name – and there were all the songs I’d composed music for with her name listed as the composer. Now, bear in mind, this was someone I never had so much as an argument with, yet for reasons I will likely never know (other than the obvious, self-serving ones), she decided to do something incredibly vicious and be an unbelievable back-stabber. While I knew that she had great dreams of “stardom” while working with her, I never could have imagined she was that utterly loathsome and repulsive a human being.

TAKING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS UNDUE

As I said before, I take writing songs seriously. It’s one of the only things I think I got right in this life (that and taking care of my animals). As such, I take recording my songs just as seriously. Only on my first album in 2007, which was my first time in the studio, did I seek advice on production and arranging.

Let me preface this by saying I have had the great fortune of having several extremely gifted vocalists record with me and I’m always very appreciative of their contributions.

Not long after my experience with The Aspiring Writer™ who copyrighted my music, I recorded a couple of tracks with another performer. This person supplied backing vocals to songs I had written. After the songs we cut were released, I began seeing things written online & in interviews that this person had 'produced' my songs. Not only that, I learned that I had specifically contacted this person to produce me. Once again, not only wasn't this true, but this was someone I had no reason to believe would try to take credit for my work.

All I can say is the recording speaks for itself. If you listen to what was recorded before any vocals were added, there is absolutely no difference in the production.


WANNA COLLABORATE?!

I believe there are 2 types of songwriters:

1)   People who have an inescapable drive and motivation to create songs. People who will write even when there's no other reward other than the song itself. People who keep writing even when
they're at the end of their rope and all hope is lost (ie. Stephen Foster, Hank Williams). People with a creative, inspired impulse to tell stories, express joy and sadness, that is a true life's calling.

2)   People who see songs as a product to be sold like a rhinestone-studded dildo for money and fame.

Over the past several years I’ve had people contact me through my website with the stated goal of collaborating. It usually begins with, “Hey, I really like your music! I write lyrics! Wanna collaborate?”

A woman in Brooklyn sent me several sets of lyrics a few years back. The thing about her words that I always enjoyed for no good reason was how she ended every line with an exclamation point:


                          The years we are living!
                          This time that we have!
                          This world where we find ourselves!!

After working with her for a short period of time, though, she made it clear her intention was to use my music contacts to record “our songs”. Sorry, honey. NEXT!

Last month I received another, “Hey, I really like your music! I write lyrics! Wanna collaborate?” email from a guy claiming his songs had been recorded by artists such as Dusty Springfield, Patti Labelle, Cher, and (insert any vocalist name here – it’s irrelevant). Once again, I wasted time composing music to someone else's lyrics, when the “lyricist” was only interested in using me to get a female singer friend of mine to record his songs.

If you spend just a few minutes on my website, particularly the Archive pages, it's clear that I have an extensive catalog of songs going back over 3 decades. Why, exactly, would I want to hustle someone else's songs, let alone strong arm friends to record someone else's songs?

After awhile, it really makes your skin crawl how craven and whorish people are in their desperation for the limelight. To be able to say, "You see track 16, on Marie Osmond's independent release 'Silicone Lips', the one titled, 'Hold Me, Shave Me, Rim Me'? Look who's listed as songwriter number 3 after Goebbels/Braun!! That's ME, baby doll!! Funklestein!!"




DID PICASSO CO-PAINT?

I guess because I have been a passionate, dedicated songwriter since I was at least 14, sitting alone in the school library and study halls writing page after page of lyrics, honing my craft like an addict craving the perfect high, I still take other people who call themselves “songwriters” seriously.

I shouldn't.

Neither should you.

My advice? You may encounter someone that can accentuate your songwriting gifts. God knows, the collaborations of Richard Rodgers with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein show it can be invaluable. But if you're an inspired writer, you're probably better off on your own.
As the late Roger Miller responded when it was suggested that he collaborate late in his career, “Did Picasso co-paint?”

At the end of the day, I believe you have to block out the ugliness around you and get back to that place you were as a child in order to write. The inner voice that guides your inspiration. That intangible something that can’t be bought or sold – what Bruce Springsteen calls “that 3rd thing that you don’t completely understand".

Life is a short proposition.

Be proud of what you leave behind.

If it's good it will last longer than you did.
 
 
JP1000
18 November 2015 @ 10:30 pm
If this doesn't make you smile, check to see if you have a pulse.

 
 
JP1000
11 November 2015 @ 09:47 pm
The United States of America circa 2015

Tell Santa Claus to watch his ass


 
 
JP1000
20 October 2015 @ 02:40 pm


His name was Mickey Manos.

I adopted him, along with his sister Sylvia, 18 years ago yesterday on October 19, 1997.

He had more love in his little heart and more depth to his soul than any human I have ever encountered.

The first time I saw him he was only a few weeks old. He was in a room full of cats up for adoption and he caught my eye immediately. His gold color was as vivid and bright as a goldfish. He looked almost fluorescent. When I told the clerk I wanted to adopt him and his sister she said someone else had already asked for the male cat. I said, “Could you please call them because I want to take him home today?”

Luckily, I was persuasive enough that he became my little boy and his sister my little girl.



When he was 2 years old he got us kicked out of the high-rise we were living in because he would sit in the window all day waiting for me to return. The building had a “no pets” policy and I couldn’t keep him out of sight. He never sat in the window when I was home, only when I was gone. Apparently, he would wait there all day for my return.

He loved to fight with his sister. Despite the fact that he was bigger and stronger than her, he would let her win some times. I’d put my hand between them to break up a fight and I’d always find Mickey’s claws were retracted while hitting her.

If I ever raised my voice at Sylvia for any reason, Mickey would immediately run over and get in between us to break it up and protect her. He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.

One of the things Mickey loved most in this world was watching the toilet flush. He would come running into the bathroom at full speed whenever he heard the flush begin. He would put his front paws on the toilet seat, watch the water spin ‘round & ‘round, and then he’d look up at me as if to say, “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” I always agreed with him and said, “YES! Wasn’t that GREAT, Mickey??!!”

I have never known another cat who didn’t cry to be fed at least occasionally, but in his entire life Mickey never once cried to be fed. If I fed him he ate and if I didn’t he wouldn’t complain. I used to tell him you don’t have to be so good all the time, but that’s who he was.

The only thing that made him cry was when I needed to go to sleep. It wasn’t that he didn’t want me to rest it was that he didn’t want me to stop talking to him. He loved me more than anyone I have ever known in this world. I never took him or his love for granted. I knew from the moment that I met him that he was a very special individual.

When I found out 2 years ago that he had gone blind it was devastating news. Although he was still strong, he could no longer run, he could no longer chase after his sister, and most importantly, he could no longer watch the toilet flush. It was heartbreaking. Yet, true to form, Mickey never complained about anything. He just dealt with it; occasionally walking into walls, falling off the bed, then picking himself up & moving on.



In August, Mickey was diagnosed with cancer. Over the past several weeks as he grew thinner and weaker he cried a lot, particularly at night. I would cradle him in my arms which would stop him from crying. While holding him he would always reach over and squeeze my shoulder as if to say, “Thank you.”

I honestly cannot remember what it was like before he was in my life.

When I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to have him put down last Thursday, August 15th, I knew I was having a pure, unconditional love removed from my life forever.

The void he has left is immeasurable.

Yet the world keeps right on turning and I don’t know what to make of that.

In the truest sense, I feel that a part of me has died.

He had a sweetness and innocence that never changed from the time he was a kitten.  His body grew old – but he never did.

                       x------------------------x

Sylvia and I will never forget you, Mickey.

You were an angel that can never be replaced.

You made life tolerable in more ways than you could ever imagine.

No one ever loved me more than you did.

And I’ll never love anyone more than you.

Thank you so much for spending your life with me, monkey man.

 
 
JP1000
07 October 2015 @ 09:40 am


“Hello, sir! Can I help you find anything?

“Yes, where are your 22 inch bronze boat nails, my good man?”

“Right this way... Are you looking to do some repair work on your boat?”

“No, no… Saturday night I am planning on torturing and killing an African mole rat I found scurrying about my backyard. It’s very important that this is excruciatingly painful for the little rodentia, so I will also be needing your finest 4x4 Brazilian teak wood with which to nail him to. I want one nail to go straight through his stomach, splitting his spine, and impaling him to the wood. As he screams in horrifying agony, I will use a 2nd nail to pound his larynx flat against the teak wood, thereby crushing his vocal chords.”

“I see, sir… You should know that killing an African mole rat in that manner is considered animal cruelty and is against the law in this state.”

“...Alright.... You got me. It’s not for an African mole rat…. My neighbor leaves her infant son in a playpen outside my living room window every afternoon where he cries incessantly as I attempt to watch my stories. I measured the 22 inch bronze boat nails and found that that would be more than suitable to go clear through his abdomen into the wood boarding. Of course, crushing his larynx and vocal chords are simply icing on the cake…. I feel it’s the only way I can impress upon this young lady that, should she decide to carelessly have another child, there is a substantial price to pay for degrading the quality of life in this neighborhood.”

“I see, sir….. You had me worried for a second.”

(All around laughs)

“Might I also suggest a butcher smock to avoid any unseemly blood splatter?”


[End Scene]
 
 
 
JP1000
21 August 2015 @ 03:22 pm
LAST NIGHT’S GARDENIAS
Words & Music Sam Coslow ©1940

Last night's gardenias have wilted and lost their bloom

But somehow their faint perfume is lingering in my room

For last night's gardenias are lonely and so am I

Tonight I can hear them sigh

They echo your last goodbye

Their lovely fragrance follows me everywhere

I close my eyes and suddenly you are there, darling

Last night's gardenias will never be tossed away

I'll keep them in my bouquet of dreams




Shirley Deane, vocal, accompanied by Bobby Sherwood and his Orchestra
 
 
JP1000
edgewaterfire

My Precious Beulah,

Your sweet and consoling letter of 15TH January came today and brought such joy and comfort to this poor, weary heart of mine. Oh, the bitter irony that such lovely words should arrive on a day filled with darkness and woe.

As I lay here in the smoldering ashes of the once majestic River Road, I recall so fondly the day we spent gathering milk curd and brie on Weehawken Hill, then arguing with the pusillanimous stewards at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on Harbor Boulevard over the unseasoned surf n’ turf they audaciously claimed to be their ‘Daily Special’.  Your reprimand to them still fresh in my ears, “I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted! Seems like only a fortnight ago, my lovely.

If there is any good news to come out of this raging inferno where I once lay my head, it is that we found there was a Yankee traitor living amongst us! A snollygoster named John Sterling who claimed he was the ‘Radio Voice of the Yankees’. (Spit!) “Woe unto you!,” I said to him standing amongst the rubble. “I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze!His bewildered countenance was priceless, dearest Beulah.

I must close now for fear of not getting to send my letter off, precious one. Write often and I will read them forthwith… or whenever I get a chance. Do not be uneasy when you do not get letters, for I now must spend my days scouting amongst the briars and the brambles for a new hearth to call my sanctuary.  But I shant pay more than $2500 per month 'cause it ain't worth it.

A thousand kisses to you, my love, sweet Beulah.

As ever, your beloved,

Thaddeus B. Hargrove III
 
 
JP1000
09 January 2015 @ 03:14 pm
Ozzie Nelson does not get the credit he deserves for making rock n’ roll acceptable in Eisenhower’s America.

Other shows of the 1950’s like The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show, The Milton Berle Show, and Ed Sullivan provided a platform for the music, but The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriett showed that rock n’ roll fit in perfectly with the backyard barbecues, white picket fences, and lawn mowers of post-war America (if there ever was such a time) .

I recently excerpted this from a 1974 interview with Ozzie Nelson. This was a man who had much more wisdom and insight than his bumbling, absent-minded TV character portrayed.




                         
 
 
JP1000
29 July 2014 @ 02:28 am
I was listening to a podcast/interview recently with Dick Van Dyke where he was asked which of his movies he was most proud of. While he said he was aware when they were making ‘Mary Poppins’ that he was involved in something magical, and that ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ had launched his career, the two films he wished more people had seen were ‘The Morning After’ (1974) – a made for TV movie about alcoholism which I have always thought was the best movie ever that dealt with that issue, and ‘The Comic’ (1969) – a movie which I had never seen.  After searching the internet for a copy, I was surprised to find an HD print which I watched for the first time last Friday. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece.

‘The Comic’ deals with the turbulent life of fictional silent screen actor Billy Bright. It was apparently based loosely on the life of Buster Keaton, but also paralleled the life of other great actors of the era like Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin. Surprisingly, it was written and directed by Carl Reiner, the creator of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, but this film bears little resemblance to the lighthearted Rob Petrie. Much of the movie is perfectly matched to Van Dyke’s rubbery agility and slapstick antics during the character’s early film years, but it’s his bitter, late-in-life persona, with his horrible comb-over, dingy low-rent apartment, and unrequited love for his former leading lady, Mary Gibson (Michele Lee), that is mesmerizing to watch.

I uploaded the final moments to YouTube, but you really need to see the entire film to appreciate the poignancy of Van Dyke’s performance.



MICHELE LEE

After watching ‘The Comic’, and being very impressed with Michele Lee’s performance, I decided to check out her debut film released two years earlier, ‘How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying’ (1967), which I also had not seen. I honestly was not overly impressed with this film (I guess any film that gives Rudy Vallee too prominent a role tends to lose me), but the stand out moment for me is Michele singing, “I Believe In You”, which she apparently also sang in the Broadway production in the early 60's. Leave it to a brilliant writer like composer/lyricist Frank Loesser to capture so beautifully what many men no doubt dream of;  an inspiring, vivacious woman telling a beaten man she believes in him and what he’s doing even if he does not.


 
 
JP1000
14 April 2014 @ 10:44 pm
larry-box


I’m pitching a new book idea.  At a high level, it’s about the CIA’s involvement in Central America beginning in 1981 in Nicaragua, when President Reagan subverted the Constitution to illegally arm the Contras (after Congress had denied funding to the pro-Somoza terrorist organization), right up to our present day covert operations under President Obama. If you thought Edward Snowden's revelations were jaw-dropping, wait until you see the dirt I've got on our government! YOWZA!

A lot of titles were bandied about, but for obvious reasons I kept coming back to “Your Arms Too Short To Box With Larry”.

Note: Unlike Snowden, I will accept money to keep my mouth shut. Let's talk!