Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Overrated White Duke

The singer has moved far, far away, and the bass player has quit to concentrate on directing theatrical productions and playing covers for actual money, The Freudian Sluts are no more, and The Stonking Novels can’t play live because Isambard’s stroke makes it difficult for him to remember phrasing even if he has the lyrics on a music stand in front of him. I do enjoy playing live, though — there is no pleasure quite like seeing hundreds of faces beaming up at you rapturously! — and so thought I would recount my musical resume here in case someone wishes to hire me.

I first realised my innate muscality at age six, when I lived with my parents in the San Fernando Valley. We had no garage, but only a carport, in which Pop was polishing the family Buick (Pop  liked the iconic portholes) therein, listening to the radio one day when I began singing along so beautifully with Eddie Fisher on the radio that Pop paused in his polishing to marvel at the beauty of my voice. Neighbours urged him and Mama to get me an audition with the Vienna Boys Choir, but we weren't Austrian, and Mama wasn’t comfortable with the idea of my singing Christian liturgical material. None of this is true, except the part about Pop's love of Buicks.

At elementary school, I sang the National Anthem so beautifully before assemblies that the principal commonly took a minute or two to compose herself before taking her position behind the dais and scolding us for not being more mature, this in spite of under-10s composing around half her audience. This paragraph contains brazen falsehoods, though not about the principal, who was most assuredly not my pal. 

In junior high school, I played percussion in Senior Orchestra, which involved pretending to be able to read music. Once having noticed that I was only pretending, Mr. Bright gave me the cymbal, tympani, or triangle parts, and assigned the trickier snare stuff to one of my colleagues, whom I of course resented mightily, and quite unreasonably. I enjoyed the Vivaldi piece we performed at a big city-wide competition. Standing up there with the other percussionists, I thought we must be one of the best orchestras on earth. Years later, listening to a recording of our performance, I realised I’d been woefully mistaken. 

Once having seen A Hard Day’s Night, I formed a group, The Fogmen, at Santa Monica High School with various members of the school’s supposedly highly regarded jazz band, and everyone else whose charisma I thought might make us more irresistible to girls. The jazz band guys noticed that I couldn’t actually play the drums, though I remembered from junior high how to hold drumsticks, expelled me, and went on to star in The Inrhodes, sort of The Beatles of Santa Monica. 

As a young adult, I composed, recorded, and performed original music with a band tsigned first to United Artists, and later to Warner Bros. Many believe that David Bowie, on his first visit to Los Angeles, jammed with us on what had once been Charlie Chaplin’s soundstage, but in fact no improvisation was involved.  We played a couple of very easy Velvet Underground songs. Once back in London, Bowie participated in a Melody Maker poll, apparently because the MM couldn’t get enough better-known recording artists to respond to their questionnaire, and, a little bit surreally, named my band his third favourite singer. I played a lot of tennis with one-time Velvets violist John Cale. I was as good at tennis as at sight-reading complicated snare drum parts. I was never that avid a Bowie fan, though he was a nice guy, and have come to regard him as the wildly overrated white duke. 

Later in that decade, I wrote all the songs and was the front man for a sort of ill-conceived power pop band called The Pits. The three instrumentalists, hotshots all, deserved a far better singer than I. Not even Eddie Fisher’s “O Mein Papa” moved audiences, except toward the exits. 

Decades whooshed past. I recorded many little demos on a TEAC 3340, and later on an Atari computer, and later still on Apple computers. Please buy the below-depicted compilations. I played the drums in a Los Angeles band called The Romanovs, and then in the SW London-based Freudian Sluts, a little better than I had with The Fogmen. I can sort of sing harmony parts unless others distract me, and, frankly, am not as sexually charismatic as when in The Pits, though I might be a marginally better person. 

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