Posts Tagged ‘The Left Banke’

Yanking the page

I’ve written about typewriters before, particularly how you had to cut your manuscript with scissors and tape it back together if you had a big idea in the late innings and wanted to rearrange your plot.

These days, of course, rearranging your writing is so simple and quick that you can do it at the merest flick of an idea and then change it again and save your file and then doubt what you did and get lost in your changes until the Undo command is no longer helpful. What technology gives us with one hand it subverts with the other.

So it was today with Chapter 5, in which a group of my characters (and you, the reader) take a ride on my railroad. This is my setting and I want to make sure readers can follow the action as my book lurches forward. But Chapter 5 was beginning to extend itself as if Ken Burns was making an award-winning series about trains, minus the awards.

Using the power vested in me by cut and paste, I broke the chapter up and suddenly found myself in the middle of Chapter 6. Then I broke it again and found myself in the middle of Chapter 6 with the beginning of Chapter 7. I then asked myself, well, how did I get here?

I don’t know, but I decided, for the purpose of this Write-a-thon, to give up on my desire to get everything right the first time and just write the damn story. I can go back six weeks from now and create cliff-hanging chapter endings involving snakes at the bottom of a pit or the wrong people in the same bunk. My guess is that I have 25 chapters to write and I’d dearly love to break into double digits soon.

That’s today’s report on the Clarion West Write-a-thon. (Here’s the link if you’re interested in who’s teaching at Clarion this year. The Class of 2013 is in the middle of their first week.)

Random Pick of the Day
Get the Blessing, Oc Dc (2011)
This jazz album is so-so, to my ears, although lots of it sounds like old-school soul or early-’70s funk. Know who would be right at home on this disc? Classic Rock instrumental dude Dennis Coffey (“Scorpio,” “Taurus”).

I’m recommending this album solely for the title track. I’ve played “Oc Dc” every day for a week! I love hand-clapping. If you don’t love dissonance, you’ll exit at 1:39.

Random Pan of the Day
Orpheus, Orpheus (1968)
The two male singers in Orpheus weren’t The Righteous Brothers, Jan and Dean, or even Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. This never stopped non-singers like Sonny and Cher, and sure enough, Orpheus produced one chart success, “I Can’t Find the Time to Tell You,” a barely passable mix of psychedelia and bubblegum.

The rest of Orpheus ain’t much. Their assault on The Left Banke’s “Walk Away, Renee” cannot be forgiven. But I liked how they almost turned The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” into a lounge act, particularly the drumming and the bass solo underneath the nonsense syllables. I rated Oc Dc as a Pick based on one song, but Orpheus, based on one song, didn’t charm me.


Superheavy (I’m already tired of typing that) is a supergroup with the following super members:

Joss Stone – English soul singer with super hair.
Damian Marley – Reggae musician and son of Bob Marley. Also has super hair.
Dave Stewart – With Annie Lennox, he was The Eurythmics.
A.R. Rahman – Indian composer of film and orchestral music.
Mick Jagger – Whoever this guy is, he does a pretty good impersonation of Mick Jagger, even better than Billy Idol’s impersonation of Billy Idol in The Wedding Singer.

This cross-pollinization of cultures and genres fails to germinate, except for the track “I Can’t Take It No More,” which is almost bearable. The other songs fade from memory while you’re listening to them. Despite its super-heavy origins, Superheavy is nowhere near as good as Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Wayne Shorter’s Super Nova, or Rick James’ “Super Freak.” I’m willing to bet it’s inferior to Liberace’s Super Hits, but I’m unwilling to do the research to find out.

Cover of the Week
Eels is a one-name underground indie god best known for “Novacaine for the Soul.” I was surprised to discover his cover of The Left Banke’s “Pretty Ballerina,” but I guess you’re never too cool for ’60s pop. Eels retains The Left Banke’s baroque string flourishes, but he speeds things up (his version is about 15 seconds shorter) while plinking away on what sounds like Schroeder’s toy piano. The original featured a male falsetto; Eels is quite hoarse. He sings “Pretty Ballerina” to a crowd that not only doesn’t laugh him off the stage, they cheer. I did too.

“Pretty Ballerina” was released in 1967 when I was a dreamy 12-year-old who didn’t know the difference between love and lust. It took me decades to figure that one out. Hearing the original always zaps me back to junior high, so I’m relieved to have Eels’ tough-love interpretation to drag me home.

The Left Banke had another, even bigger hit with “Walk Away, Renee.” The Four Tops covered this one, though on the chorus they sound like they’re channeling the Baha Men (“Who Let the Dogs Out?”). Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy on Adieu False Heart combined their beautiful voices on “Walk Away, Renee.” It’s too gorgeous – as much as I love this song, I have to say that The Left Banke don’t deserve it!

Fans of ridiculous pop bands that experiment with classical music are asking themselves right now, Should I go back to The Left Banke’s catalog and see what I missed all those years ago? No you should not. This time I did do the research. I can report that “Barterers and Their Wives” is a mildly entertaining juxtaposition of classical music and psychedelia. One song will surprise you: “What Do You Know.” It’s country, there are two guys singing instead of the usual high-pitched male lead, and they’re both slightly flat. I can’t tell if this was meant as a joke.

Steve of the Week
I forgot to list my latest post at The Nervous Breakdown! I write about typewriters, mimeos, and other machines that once decided the fate of empires. I hope they are not coming back.

Kristin of the Week
My friend Kristin Thiel is reading with two other writers on Friday, October 7 at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, here in Portland (our fair city). This event is part of Wordstock, you philistines. Kristin and her colleagues all have stories in a new anthology I can’t wait to read, Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience. I’m certainly going to be at Powell’s on October 7. I’m hoping Kristin can clear up a few issues for me.