Thursday, January 6, 2011

Novel Songs #3 What I Wanna Know by Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder came to my neck of the woods -- in fact to the Great Northern four blocks away -- not so long ago. I was just beginning to pay attention to guitar playing, singing, performing. She astounded me. And not just for her fringe leather dress. She was alone on the dive bar stage, only a couple feet above a crowd of cell-phone lofting girls and beer-sloshing boys, and somehow, mysterious and awe-inspiring, she commanded that seething bar. Just her. Just a little guitar and that great dress. At one point, she promised more if only someone strong and willing would bring her a sheet of plywood. Someone, of course did, and then she did.

Buy It!

I kinda fell in love with her.

Although most of the songs in this novel are old and easily conjured by anyone near my age, this one is not.

After her performance at my local dive bar, I downloaded three of Ryder's songs and inserted them on some writing playlist or another. I fiddled with many songs as I worked on Starr's first scene, but this one kept coming back, kept insisting I break my rule of choosing readily recognizable tunes. The pathos just fits too well for Starr, and the music -- so simple and passionate -- are too fitting for where Starr's is at as the reader meets her.

Here's bit of how I use the song ...

Starr kicked the crowbar loose from the frozen ground. “Hey, Jimmy,” she said, and felt the ground flatten and still.

I can't shake the pictures
You've locked in my head

I got desperation
Tearing up my voice

The goat broke forward.

When Starr swung, she swung at everything.
At Tim dying and leaving her with the farm, the kids, the endless chopping, weeding, canning. At her needy silence that had taken her only friends.

The crowbar met the side of Jimmy’s neck. He stumbled sideways.

Starr choked up on the iron and swung down on the top of his head.

Blood sprayed from Jimmy’s nostrils and over Starr’s bare legs as he went down. Starr stood above him, crowbar raised. He didn’t move. Not a twitch.

What am I, what am I
what am I to do

Who am I, who am I
Living without you

Starr reached for the photo and brought it close, her breath falling on it in plumes. Was it that simple? Lose a husband, whack the goat twice with a crowbar, and you can go back?

She brought the weight of the crowbar and the smell of sour blood across the yard, threw the crowbar into the back of the Scout, and headed into the cabin.

So the third song for which I want complete rights to reprint lyrics and, hopefully, maybe, include in a novel album. Serena?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Novel Songs: #2 Waiting for the Miracle

The second Novel Song I'd like free rights to use is Leonard Cohen's Waiting for the Miracle. Cohen is probably my favorite song writer. In fact, we wrote a novel (Beautiful Loser) that's lyrical and worth the strangeness. I'm sure he decided that applying his talents to songwriting was more profitable and satisfying.

Although I'm not given to enjoying concerts, my husband and I made a pilgrimage to Calgary to see him last year. He's in his 80s and we live in the sticks so we worried it would be one of our last chances.

This youtube concert footage looks like it's from the same tour.

Still sexy after all these years. I remember a couple of Cohen songs in the 80s; I think it was the 80s, but I didn't like either of them. I wasn't until I was well into my thirties, that I somehow rediscovered Cohen and fell in love. If I had to listen to one voice and one songwriter for the rest of my life, he could be it.

You can buy the song here. I've included most of my favorite Cohen songs, but only a couple are featured in the book draft.

Here's a tich of how the song is integrated in my W.I.P.

Her blue guitar gleamed; it’s steel strings, catching the snow-bounced light pouring in the rows of windows. She ran her thumb across the calloused pads of her left hand and slipped out of the pew. She walked cautiously down the center aisle toward her guitar, a processional of memories moving with her. They always did when she played... Sometimes she even played their songs — the thirty-three they’d chosen for the first gig — and sometimes she imagined there was nothing to forgive and she’d never lost them. She could call up Nikki or Starr and…but it had been too long for a long time. Construction light blared through the window. She could not forgive. Herself. Or them. Lauren slung her guitar across her hips and strummed the opening chord of the song that had been humming since the drive home, number twelve on the list.

I know you really loved me.
but, you see, my hands were tied.
I know it must have hurt you,
it must have hurt your pride
to have to stand beneath my window
with your bugle and your drum,
and me I'm up there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

The chords sounded thin and bare unplugged. Snow fell and slid in a wet whisper on the pitched roof. She walked a progression up the neck and felt it. Something crushing inward inside. She’d been menstruating for, what, thirty years. She knew, she wasn’t pregnant. Doctor Millner had told her this would happen. Her clockwork twenty-eight-day cycle would go off — twenty-four days, thirty. It was day thirty-one. She hadn’t even been pregnant; she’d used up all her chances.

I didn't see the time,
I waited half my life away
There were lots of invitations
and I know you sent me some
but I was waiting
for the miracle

for the miracle to come.

Lauren paced back down the aisle to her pew and lifted the rejected cigarette. Guitar still swaddling her hips, she pushed out The Church door. She lit the cigarette and stared through pooling smoke and veils of confetti snow at the accusing whore car. Dead calm, she knew. Even part-time smokers have a special relationship with wind. Lauren knew it was dead calm. She inhaled. She was glad; she didn’t want to be bound to him like that, like new baby binds you to a man, to the life you’ve ended up with. If she wasn’t going to have a baby, at least she’d have the possibility of freedom.

Ah I don't believe you'd like it,
You wouldn't like it here.
There ain't no entertainment
and the judgements are severe.
when you're waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.


Lauren touched Starr’s face in the photograph. Starr had swooped into Lauren’s life, twigs and drums, and saved her, at least that’s what Lauren had thought all those years ago. Lauren blew a jet of smoke out her nose. She’d been wrong about a lot of things, beginning with Starr.

Nothing left to do
when you know that you've been taken
Nothing left to do
when you're begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do
when you've got to go on waiting
waiting for the miracle to come

The rational thing would be to ask Matt to fingerprint the photo, but Lauren couldn’t afford rational. One of them must have sent it. Probably not Starr.

The Church darkened; they’d switched off the construction lights. But they’d be back at it tomorrow and the next day, blasting and digging at the mountain.

Ah baby, let's get married,
we've been alone too long.
Let's be alone together.
Let's see if we're that strong.
Yeah let's do something crazy,
something absolutely wrong
while we're waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Lauren shuddered and stepped off the boardwalk, a solitary figure, letting the snow fall on her shoulders, on her blue guitar, on the photo. The first flake fell on her immaculate face. The moisture worked a truth serum; smooth skin buckled, flush lips contracted, a black-lashed eye smeared. She watched that night play again in her hands. Whoever sent it, whatever it meant, Lauren wasn’t up for it.

* * * *

So Leonard, if you'd like to give me the rights to use Waiting for the Miracle in my WIP novel, just say so.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Playlists -- Strippers

This playlist is too precious to pass up.

The author explains his playlist more eloquently than anyone could.

After years of slinging singles at scabby strippers on Wednesday afternoons, sometimes it takes more than just visual stimulation to make that free brunch buffet worth the trip to the club. Luckily, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of tunes to inspire your favorite ladies to work that pole a little harder. If hearing these tracks doesn’t send shivers flying down your spine, and bills flying out of your wallet, you wasted your junior high years. Or grew up in Utah.

I suppose I should not be surprised that folks have websites and blogs devoted to panty-stripping songs, but this one is for professional panty-droppers.

Before I get my granny panties on, we may as well start the playlist.

Get a playlist! Standalone player

I got no idea who Maxim is or why he/she is promoting these tunes as stripping anthems. They aren't sexy. They're the kind of songs the guys we dated before we knew that real men drove Hondas and Toyotas had playing in their Camaros and El Caminos when they picked us up for dates. (Okay, I only dated one guy cool enough for an El Camino, the rest drove Subarus. But I did my dating in Alaska, and I married the guy who picked me up for a first date in a Ford Maverick with no heater and a funny smell.) We knew, even then that these guys had no tangent line they could whip out to touch the female mind. We kinda knew their moms were hands-off; if they were past nineteen, we knew they still lived in the folk's basement.

Any stripper trying to lure dollar bills from the wallets of guys who get hot with these songs might as well go to his mother --who he still live with and who gave him all those singles because he told her he needed them for career aptitude testing, and when she asked him why the career counselor wanted payment in ones, he blew the hair out of his eyes with a big pfft, shifted the little foamy bead things in his bean bag, and said, "Why are you always up into my shit, Mom ?"

Despite the decrepit -- and poor -- nature of Maxim's playlist target guy, I think there is something worthy here for the writer trying to tame a scene in which a stupid man-boy thinks he's seducing the object of his ineptitude with songs girls think are stupid.

Also, if a girl says otherwise, she's just trying to get a dollar out of your pocket. With the exception of Wild Thing by Tone Loc and You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC -- both very cool songs.

P.S. In case anyone doesn't actually visit, I must steal these bits of costume advise from "Maxim."

Proper accessories for stripping to Aerosmith's “Sweet Emotion" -- frayed jean shorts, scarf, track marks. (What kind of track marks? There's so many.)

Proper accessories for AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long": Schoolgirl uniform (bottoms optional)

When dancing to Def Leppard's “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” you'll need an oversized lollipop

“Cherry Pie” by Warrant requires "three pounds of red lipstick."

“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne requires a bat costume

“Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake requires six-inch-tall bangs (what's that?), a loose blouse, and a car hood.

It's all fodder. But this stripper playlist only put me in the mood to kill a character.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fetid Keyboard: Let's Write About Sex

I can hardly type the word "vagina." (That actually took me six seconds.) And I can especially not write other V-related words. I wrote the C word once in my last book and it took me two days. I actually looked away the other weekend while at a women's run when the woman in front of me had a "Vagina Monologues" t-shirt on. I just don't like the word; I don't like how it sounds or the visual of the composing letters. It's really just not a good word. And neither are any of the other, worser words.

So sex scenes are tough.

I'd like to lay my issues completely at the foot of this sorry word, but I'm afeared it goes deeper. My first passes through sex scenes are always either completely pornographic or drippy with euphemistic cliches. It's a terrible thing and I often wonder if it's because I don't go in for sex talk during actual sex. Thus when I come to the page, I got nothing word wise.

What's worse is that my work-in-progress kinda has to have several earth-shattering sex scenes. So I turn to music, which sometimes, somehow bridges the porno and the romantic.

We may as well start the play list so you have something other than my blathering to get you in the mood to write whatever sort of sex scene you gotta write.

Get a playlist! Standalone player

My husband came into my lair (office) after work and I proudly played this playlist. He looked at me strangely and said, "Those songs turn you on?"

I sputtered, "Well not really turn me on, but, um, help me write about, um, being turned on, or about characters being turned on. Or off, as the scene requires."

He said, "Barry White. I know Barry White turns you on."

"It's not about that," I explained.

He said something like, "Those songs don't turn guys on."

"It's not about being turned on." My voice may have gotten shrill when I said, "It's about CHARACTERS! WRITING! ART!"

He, again, looked at me strangely, offered to refill my wine glass, and said he had a few songs to add to the list. He said something like, "You know there may be some men who write sex scenes, too."

Then he said something asinine about I Want to Kiss You All Over and Over Again being a dorky line. And I said something about Led Zeppelin never having written a sex lyric. He said, "We'll see" and got that look in his eye and ignored me as I went on about characters and writing and nuance.

His sex scene songs are mostly at the bottom of the playlist. I want to state that they do not turn me on. I need a deep male voice and a hip-groove. But this isn't personal; it's about our characters. Although my husband reminds me that now that our playlist is portable through the magic of our home network and that we can play the sex-scene playlist in the living room, and, gasp, in the bedroom.

There's a lot of different sorts of sex-scene songs here. So try writing a sex scene to the songs here that hit the undercurrents you need.

Also I want to point out that not a single word in any of these song lyrics is "vagina."

Feel free to let me know of your favorite sex scene songs. If I like them, I'll add them to the playlist.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Girl Band Discovery Park: Emily Wells

Emily Wells, the outcast of, well, everything.

Wells eschewed record company deals to build her own recording studio -- digesting all those knobs and sliders, along with several courses of instruments -- to lay down mutli-instrument tracks and her own start-to-finish recordings.

A classically trained violinist, Wells became enamored with hip-hop and using the violin in manner to which it was unaccustomed.

Here's a favorite. Barrel of a Gun

Buy the song here.

Well's NPR interview here.

Download Discovery Park thus far:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Novel Songs: #1 Rebel Yell

I know it's stupid but I'm going to try to get permissions to use lyrics from 33 songs in my current WIP novel. It's about four, forty-something women who reclaim the girl band they'd had in college.

The first song I want to use the lyrics for is Billy Idol's Rebel Yell. I'm not sure who owns the licensing rights, but I want them -- for free.

Here's Mr. Idol performing the song recently with just a guitar backup:

Here's Mr. Idol performing in 2007. And look his body is actually better now! At least better than the poster my sisters and I bought in like 1985.

Billy Idol wrote Rebel Yell with guitarist Steve Stevens. Apparently he was inspired by this Tennessee bourbon label:

The song, released in 1984, only reached #46 in U.S. charts, but twenty-five years later, it's still a mainstay of bar bands.

Here's a little of how I use the song:

The red Jeep screams north on Highway 89. Blacktop unwinding over a basin of soft Mesozoic sediments laid down along the undulating west coast of the Inland Sea and past derelict homesteads, shedding roofs and walls into the prairie grass, slacking east with the prevailing wind. When the road straightens, the driver unclamps string-calloused fingers from the wheel and hits rewind on the tape deck. The tape screeches backward; the Jeep rushes forward and four girls sing, again.

In the midnight hour she cried more, more, more
With a rebel yell she cried more, more, more
More more more

Canvas top unzipped and snapped down, hair blowing, the moon pasting the road with light, hands flutter a rhythm on the seatback; fingers form chords on bottles or thrum air guitars. “We did it!” one of them says. We did. It’s like we can do anything. To our future. To the band. To tomorrow night. To us. Four girls in a red Jeep at the end of a big night raise and clink their bottles together, and the driver swerves to miss a porcupine waddling across the shoulder line.
The land here has been losing itself for millions of years, eleven thousand feet and counting, revealing an ancient subterranean fortress of volcanic intrusions — stocks, dikes, sills, diatremes. Younger, harder it rises from the worn-sediment basin as the Crazy Mountains. Few roads carve the fortress and these rarely traveled. Forest Service Road 419, once a prospector’s trail, then a wagon trail with a couple of small strikes, dodges off the blacktop, and the Jeep’s tires tread a skidmark making the turn. One of the girls squeals and sways, bumping against another in the backseat. Her wine cooler splashes Very Berry, dousing her thigh-squeezing cutoffs and the wad of graduation gowns and caps trampled on the floorboard. The Jeep claws up a hairpin switchback notched into the granite belly of the mountain. Then another.

What set you free and brought you to be me babe
What set you free I need you here by me
In the midnight hour she cried more more more
With a rebel yell she cried more more more


So, Billy, feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fetid Keyboard: Sentences X-rated

I have never been so in love with, and, frankly aroused by, the basic sentence as in the immediate hours after reading:


DISCUSSED: The Forlornities of Life, Overliteral Pronunciation, Books as Props, Books as Reliquaries, The Scrunch and Flump of Consonants... Narratives of Steep Verbal Topography...Consummated Language....

If your sentences don't get a bang from this, it's only because you're stupid or afraid of being smart. (Or your sex life is in jeopardy.)

Off to write the best sentence of my life, or, the fallback -- try to think in complete sentences while enjoying my husband's better qualities.

Fetid Drill
Read the whole essay. Immediately write a sentence that's not about sex, doesn't have any sexual content, and yet.... Post it if you'd like.

P.S. If you've any idea why this essay is so, well, sexy, please tell me. Please do not tell me that this essay is not sexy. That would make one of us weird. Achem, and I know it's not me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Girl Band Discovery Park

Girl Band Discovery Park

This regular feature of Fretting the Keyboard highlights a girl band or female performer I like.

I hope you'll use Girl Band Discovery Park to find and buy the music of all-girl bands.

Katzenjammer, which means discordant, drunkardly.

Listen to my favorite song, A Bar in Amsterdam, while I tell you a little about them.

A little about them, swiped from their myspace page.

All-female Norwegian band — Solveig Heilo, Anne Marit Bergheim, Turid Jørgensen and Marianne Sveen. Together they play 29 different instruments, thus far. On stage, they swap and trade instruments — tuba, balalaika bass, drums, harmonica, piano, banjo, accordion, mandolin, guitar, melodica, and even managed to pass a trumpet to every member.

They say their self-taught sound is folk, gypsy, country, and rickety-rock pop. I call it a carnival, spaghetti western, rock-a-billy.

Support girl bands: Go listen to Katzenjammer and buy your favorite song.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Marmalade Superlove's first performance

We did it. Nine months after we started practicing, and many of us started playing our instruments, we performed three songs at the Craggy Range's open mic.

I didn't fall off the stage, which was my big goal. We had fun and are quite proud of ourselves.

We started with Scarletta and I (Sable) doing Bobby McGee.

Next we performed Kleveland's original I Wanna Smell Like a Bad Girl. I do not know why my guitar sounds so bad.

We finished with Dr. Stacks singing Jose Curervo with original lyrics appended. The camcorder shut off before we were done.

We're adding two songs and shooting for another try at the end of January.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We’re doing it!

Marmalade Superlove’s first performance is this Wednesday, sometime between 8:30 and 11 at the Craggy Range in W.F.

Most of us are terrified. If any friends come, please be rowdy, sing along, dance. And refrain from any eye contact with the band. We have not yet learned to gaze upon the audience without vomiting.

Song line up:

Bobby McGee — Scarletta on vocals; Sable on guitar
Smell Like a Bad Girl (Kleveland original) sung by Kleveland.
Jose Cuervo sung by Dr. Stacks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Inspired by Serena Ryder

Serena Ryder came to a bar up the street, The Great Northern, not long ago and blew me away with her girl-and-guitar performance. (This video features her with her band, but she played all on her own at the Northern.)

I loved her dress (same one as in this video). Loved her little guitar as I had no idea they came in smaller sizes. As my acoustic now has two cracks and rattles when it's cold, I will definitely look for a smaller guitar when I'm ready for a new purchase.

Also loved her presence and unique voice.

I intend to learn this song next.

While searching for the perfect YouTube of Ryder, I came across a performance she did with Adam Cohen. Adam is the son of my favorite songwriters, Leonard Cohen. To see them together is a treat.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We have a drum set!

It’s one of those small miracles that restores faith in the big stuff.

Poor Scarletta has been playing everything on a measly snare drum. We’ve posted pleas on Craigslist, scrounged ebay and pawn shops. And still an actual drum set eluded us because we’re so cheap.

Enter Kleveland. (As you may remember, she is actually a teacher at a real music school.) She discovered that the music school’s drum set was languishing in a former student’s basement, that the music school didn’t want to house the ponderous thing. She offered my garage, which is half a block from the music school, and poof, we had a drum set in my.

Scarletta and I have already practiced twice. The garage looks very band-ish, as the drum set is certainly as big as my husband’s Mini and approaching my RAV4. We’ve got all sorts of wires and mics and speakers, two guitars, a keyboard, a carpet and a chair. If you tried to load all our band paraphernalia, it would take creativity and both tiny cars. The band members would have to rent a limo.

The drums are glittery burnt orange, which, to me anyways, screams Marmalade SuperLove. I’m still trying to talk Scarletta into letting me make her a drum-seat cozy in furry orange with gold lightning bolt appliqués. I do believe she’s agreed to letting me add a drink-cup holder to one of the tom-toms.

We’re practicing tomorrow and will schedule our first open mic performance. Please, disregard any time and date info I divulge in the next blog if you’re a friend of Dr. Stacks, who does not want to perform in front of anyone she knows. Namely, Deb and friends.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I’ve got a really cool electric guitar…

I didn’t know this. My husband let me use his old guitar. He got it in college from a pawn shop, cheap. It’s old, heavy, wood and doesn’t have any cool swoopy parts or flashy colors. Don’t get me wrong; I like it. It stays in tune and sounds good even when I play it. But we both figured it was the lowest end of the low end.

I’d been fondling new red, light, and swoopy guitars at the music store. They were so pretty, so rock star-ish. When my husband and I had been in to buy me a distortion box for my birthday a few weeks ago, the music store guy, we’ll call him George, asked what kind of guitar we had.

My husband hung his head and said, “Oh a real cheap Ibanez I’ve had since college.”

George hung his head, too. “Yeah, we all have one of those beaters.”

A couple weeks later, I broke a string practicing bending. My husband was out of town and I haven’t learned to restring so I took my old Ibanez into the music store to get it restrung. I set it up on the counter and opened the case…

George gasped. “Is the Ibanez your husband was talking about?”

I nodded.

“Oh, man,” he said.

“What?” I said.

George ignored me and yelled to the three or four other customers in the store. “Hey, come look at this.” Apparently they were all guitar heroes. Within seconds, they’d crowded around my guitar, crowding me out.

I could hear snippets of what they were saying as I tried to peer around them to see what they were doing with my guitar.

From the ‘70s. I’ve got a dozen guitars and my 70s Ibanez is my favorite. Yeah, the Japanese knew how to make them back then.

Soon they were taking off the cover of a little compartment in the back. I hadn’t even realized there was a compartment in the back. They were fingering some electrical connections in there. They were talking about the bridge construction. About materials. Workmanship.

I finally pushed my way through them and took a look at my guitar.

“This your guitar?” one of the heroes asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“You got a cool guitar.”

“She’s in a band,” George said.

They all looked at me, nodding. Before when I’d told people at the music store I was in a girl band, they’d grimaced.

I didn’t even glance at the new, red, swoopy guitars hanging on the wall as I left, carrying my super cool, cheap, pawn shop Ibanez.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My First Song Pick

We had a drum set snafu and didn't perform. We'll try again in three weeks.

Meanwhile, Scarletta has picked Bobby McGee as our next song to learn.

I get to pick one, too.

I'm trying to decide between.

I Need a Man by Eurythmics
(Love the lyrcis and the voice.)
Putting Out Fire by David Bowie
(This one has been a favorite since my teen years.)
I Hate Myself for Loving You by Joan Jett
(Think I'm getting a crush on Ms. Jett.)

Listen and help me decide.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Craigslist Mockery

In an effort to get Scarletta a drum set, I posted this on Craigslist last night.

My post

This morning, when checking my listing, I see this posting:

Mockery post

Sunday, June 14, 2009

First Open Mic -- Eeegads!

Marmalade Superlove is going to perform!

We’ve set a date, this Tuesday, June 16th, at The Great Northern.

Note: Previously I used initials to designate our members, but now that we’ve picked stage names, I’ll be using these:

D is now Dr. Stacks
M is now Scarletta
K is now Kleveland
I am now Sable

I’d been wanting to set our first open mic date for weeks. Now that it’s real, I feel like old white jeans in a washing machine stuffed with new red blankets — sure to come out alive but forever an exposed-organ pink.

We’re in a bit of a rush as Dr Stacks, our keyboardist, will be out of town for three weeks. If we don’t do it now, we’ll continue uninterrupted “our dreary little lives,” as drummer-girl, Scarletta, would say.

We had several options. (It still amazes me that our little valley is so ripe with venues for would-be bands. We had narrowed our choices down to The Packer’s Roost, The Craggy Range, and The Great Northern. A couple of us wanted The Packer’s Roost because it’s out in no-man’s land of Coram and has a rep with the kind of people we don’t hang with. We figured it would have little crossover into our real lives as music teacher, college professor, regular school teacher, and novelist. The risk would be minimized.)

This sounded good to me. We were in my garage, newly refurbed as a girl garage band haven. We’d just been through our three songs with mixed results from our three audience members. There was T, a non-band member friend who’d I’d invited over before I remembered we had GB practice. There was Dr. Stacks’ son, who was a great sport about the whole thing, especially considering some of our lyrics are not, well, appropriate for his age. Then there was MAG, miscellaneous alley guy, who walked by the open garage and gave us one of those rock-on hand symbols.

But then I said, “Let’s forget practicality for a minute. In your GB fantasies, where do you picture playing for the first time?”

Kleveland immediately. “The Northern. I’ve always wanted to play The Northern.”

Scarletta ducked her head and admitted that was her fantasy, too. Dr. Stacks agreed.

So The Northern it is. This Tuesday. That leaves me two days to practice — Day 1 of which I broke a string and will have to use up a good part of Day 2 driving to Kalispell to purchase a new one.

We still don’t have a drum set for poor Scarletta. And since she gets queasy when I mention beating on bowls and buckets, Kleveland has promised to work her musical network to get a drum set on stage.

We are also supposed to perform in our costumes, which we aren’t sure of yet. This will be the subject of the next entry, about which I’m brimming with things to say.

Listen in to the songs we’ll be doing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Breakthrough RGB practice

RGB practice last night was rife with breakthroughs.

1. I made my first lead sheet. I didn’t know what a lead sheet was until last practice when E suggested we all make one. It took me three hours, but I now have all of Fine & Mellow on one paper. I no longer have to turn pages, which has drastically reduced the frequency with which my guitar strap gets caught behind my left breast. I tried capturing the glee I felt at this accomplishment for the FGB, but determined it was boring and should remain, largely, a private conceit.

2. We started a second song! We figure only thirty-eight more before we can attempt to get an all-night gig. We knew we were ready to attempt another song when my husband actually stayed at the house during practice, if we count the porch.

3. We’re writing lyrics. Our new song — Jose Cuervo by Shelly West — has some lame verses. So each member told me a tequila-inspired experience and I wrote them up in verse form. After several celebratory shots of Jose, we came to believe our verses far superior.

4. We’re now working on performance. This is E’s doing. Apparently happening bands need costumes and stage names. M will be a girl pirate; I will be Sable, a gunslinger; E is Cleveland a biker babe; D, well, D had trouble grasping the concept. We’re mulling three performance enhancement ideas — passing out cheap tambourines to the audience, slinging and shooting potato guns, and writing sudden-death Cuervo lyrics based on audience stories.

Meanwhile the FGB has run into some problems while preparing for their first big gig. They’re rocking their songs, but I had to leave them on the edge of a shootout last night to make dinner and prepare for RGB practice. I’m afraid someone will die.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

RGB Origins

This is an attempt to explain how three late-30s, early 40s, respectable, professional women came to start a Girl Band.

It began on one of those nights. I was out dancing with a couple girlfriends. One of them, we’ll call her M, kept going on about how she’d “always wanted” to be a drummer. And she kept air drumming and swooshing her hair around. She has mounds of big hair, and as I watched her, images from the 80s of big-haired drummers drum smashing and hair flipping came thick and fast. She looked like a drummer.

I should mention before we move on, that this was not the first time M had blurted out always-wants. Although she was a relatively new friend, I realized that night that she had far too many always-wants.

We all have some.

I want to play guitar — just well enough to sit around the campfire and strum “Froggy Went a Courting” and an Eagles song. I’ve pursued this want. I got a guitar, downloaded Eagles songs. Over the years, I’ve had several bouts of playing steadily for a few weeks at a time; I’ve kept the guitar where I can see it. Thus I can’t say I’ve always wanted to play guitar; I have to say I’m learning to play extremely gradually.

I’m sure I have always-wants, but I can’t think of one right now. I want a PhD in archeology, but I have a plan so it’s not an always-want. Once the little one is off to college, I intend to follow him and enroll. I want a perfect hat, but, again, I’m trying. I’ve bought several that didn’t work out and I keep looking. I don’t sheltering a list of always-wants. I error on the other side — ill-advised action. It’s one of my superpowers — that and being able to change clothing inside the clothing I’m wearing.

I have a theory that when you let the always-wants stack up, when you have decades of them in the cupboards, something bad happens inside you. Your little light starts to sputter; it grows dim.

I thought all these things watching M air drum and hair swoosh. It made me sad. So I blurted, “We should form a Girl Band!”

I should mention that my other friend, we’ll call her D, played the piano as a child and had her grandmother’s beautiful piano living room collecting dust. I should also mention that in my opinion, D had been growing restless over the last couple years. She’d earned her PhD, her son was old enough to make his own breakfast, and her husband was working out of state. She seemed to need something more, and I had watched her flounder a bit as she searched. The Girl Band would help her, too, I thought. Scratching itches and all that.

It would also force me to do something I’m terrible at, which is a tremendous way to build character. And, since we know character is destiny, build my destiny. I could certainly do with more destiny.

We were all drink and sweat soggy and thought the Girl Band a tremendous idea.

Except the next time we got together, no one remembered but me. D and I went for a run together, during which she asserted that she hadn’t even been out with us that night. M remembered but pretended not to.

Actually, I didn’t think we were serious either. I just liked to talk about it because when I said the words “Girl Band,” they felt good on my lips, kind of like swearing does but without the danger of your son begging you to stop swearing so much.

Also I still had this feeling that M, D, and I all needed something — fewer always-wants, more character, more destiny.

A couple weeks later, my husband and I went out dancing and ran smack into more destiny than I was ready for.

We fell in with an odd little group of people who were groupies of a local legend in the music scene. Before we knew it, we had an offer to use a recording studio, a practice space, and a private plane trip for the band to Las Vegas so we could check out some concert. A guy my husband had picked up hitchhiking invited the Girl Band to come and listen to his new band’s first gig.

So M and I went to see what the scene was like for a new band. Hitchhiker guy announced to the entire bar that we were a hot new Girl Band in town and that we were really good. We hadn’t practiced and two of us didn’t think we even were a Girl Band, and here we’d been announced to the public.

But destiny wasn’t finished. I went to a Christmas party where I ran into the piano teacher my son and I had taken lessons from the year before. She heard about the Girl Band and wanted in. Now she, let’s call her E, is a real musician, with a degree in music and teaches professionally. Also she’s in her 20s. I told her that even if we were really going to be a Girl Band, none of knew anything and completely lacked talent. (She must have known I wasn’t simply being demure because she’d listened to me pound the piano for a year.)

E still wanted in. She told me she had leather pants and when she put them on she could shimmy really well. She told me she would ride her motorcycle up on the stage. She told me she knew how to transpose and arrange music. I pretended I knew what that meant. I told her she was in. She told me she’d play base.

When I called M and D to inform them about our new member, destiny had been at work on them, too. They started to say things like “band practice.”

After the holidays, we set up our first Girl Band practice, at which all we did was scrounge music sites for a likely first song while drinking box wine. I felt our little flames stand taller, our characters build, and my ill-advised-actions superpower puff out its chest.

We had become a RGB.

Friday, April 24, 2009

GB Beginnings

It's hard to say which came first the real Girl Band or the fictional one.

I can say that the idea for a real band certainly came first, but since we didn't actually set up a practice until after the fictional band had taken some sort of form, I'm at a loss as to whether life is following fiction or fiction is following life.

This blog is going to be largely about the messy crash between the two.

The point is three friends and I have I've started a Girl Band. At present our name is fluctuating. We like Marmalade Superlove right now, but have learned that we're really good at coming up the Girl Band names. Meanwhile I've started a new novel about a Girl Band, the members of which have named themselves Gothic Cowgirls (for now).

Points of intersection:

1. both bands are in Montana

2. both feature late-30s, early 40s band members

3. both have never done something like this before

Points of divergence

1. the FGB (fictional girl band) actually has talent while the RGB (real girl band) has lots of talent but not necessarily musical in nature

2. for the members of the FGB the girl band experience will change their lives forever within just a few months. for the RGB it may take decades

3. the RGB members are neither as messed up nor as desperate as the FGB members.

Let me just add that neither the FGB nor the RGB began with anything like intention or thought. I'd been writing my second novel for a couple years and just felt it didn't have the heart it needed. About the same time I was becoming frustrated with Novel Two's progression, I went out dancing with some girlfriends.
The origins of the RGB will be discussed at length in the next installment. Right now, I will just say that shortly after the RGB idea came up, late at night, while working on heartless Novel Two, my fingers just sort of flipped a clog and began typing a different story -- the story of four women who've lost their bearings and find each other and their lives again when they start a Girl Band. I could tell right away my heart was in this one.

Right now, I've got half a rough draft (shitty rough draft, as Anne Lamont would say) with lots of heart.

The RGB and the FGB get kind of mixed up in my mind and beneath my fingertips. I'll just have to see what happens as they intersect.