please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Trimming the Fat off the Ham

When I was first approached about the project that would eventually gain the name Gittin' Wimmin ', I was working at a rock show, as a security guard. A co-worker of mine was embarrassingly kissing her boyfriend, at length, after the show. I wanted to talk to her, but since she was unavailable for that sort of thing, I got her boyfriend's friends, who spoke to me at length about music.
"Would you want to join a soul-influenced punk band?", they asked.

Well, that sounded stupid. I did not yet realize that this sort of thing was already a sub-genre of its very own, here in the year 1999. The Detroit Cobras, The Dirtbombs, and most importantly, the soon-to-be-very-famous White Stripes had decided that such a thing was where popular music was headed. For the moment though, I was still stuck in the experimental noise/pure depressed '60's pop stuff I'd been playing forever. I said yes to this idea as a lark.
Well, for one thing, it had been years since I'd taken on any project that required skill as a drummer. Anything that smacked of training or proficiency just seemed a little too try-hard-y, you know? Maybe just maybe I needed a genre of music that required accuracy and speed. Maybe I needed a little science in my art.

Above all else, what you could more accurately call this sub-genre was neo-garage. This was taking up where some of the rock n' roll pioneers of this very region left off. The Sonics, The Wailers (not of the Bob Marley variety) and especially The Kingsmen (of "Louie Louie" fame) all had been minor hitmakers of the early '60's, and all had been from Here, roughly speaking.
The sort of music they practiced was of a highly primitive sort, just as Rock was about to move into its perhaps most pretentious period. They played popular music as if it could still be done by a bunch of kids in garages, which is of course what made the whole enterprise attractive in the first place.
A quick listen to the compilation records compiled by one Kearney Barton, a producer of the time, reveals people who on one hand want to be primal and explosive, but also want to make a buck, and are actively trying to sound like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Them, Donovan, etc. The artists on all (ten?) of the records are from Portland, Tacoma or Seattle, and most of them are forgotten (though "Louie Louie" will live forever, and "Flash and Crash" by the Sonics was recently featured on 'The Sopranos'). The major breakout act of this scene was a quartet of weirdoes practicing space-age pop, surf and incredibly strange covers of standards named The Ventures.

Well, I liked that stuff, in as much as I'd heard it. More to the point, I was looking for something to do, and this seemed like just the thing. After one afternoon jamming with the kids (a boy-and-girlfriend combo, plus the guy who'd been kissing my co-worker), we decided that we were a good match. Now it was time to pick a moniker for ourselves.
We threw around a bunch, but the major one that stuck was Gittin' Wimmin'. "Oh," I said to the only woman in the band-the one who had suggested it-"that's an awful name."
"Yeah, well...Why do most people join bands?"
I had to agree. Mind you, my suggestion for the band's name had been Tennessee Penis Ford (or Tennessee Ernie Penis, or Penis Ernie Ford, on various evenings, scheduled for rotation).

We played a number of shows around town, and were liked, for what we were. Our lead singer was not one that could be said to be capitalizing on her sexual appeal. The lead guitarist was a strange, though handsome, man who unfortunately was tethered to said lead singer, and our bass player looked like a damn kid. At age Twenty-Nine, I was the oldest by several years and was said to be the 'mascot' of the band, considering that I was sleeping with four (sometimes five) separate women concurrently during this period.
"I hope," said Miss Kitty during this time, "that you'll one day look back on this period in your life, and feel lucky."

I suppose so. I was in a band that had not one but two theme songs (although the second one, 'Everybody Counts With Gittin' Wimmin', was just a crowd participation song in which we led everyone in counting up to Eight). All the musicians were good at what they did; I personally re-learned how to be exact and quick on the drums.
The lead singer and her boyfriend, having been in such Champaign-Urbana legends as Lit (no, not the famous one) and Bantha, had years of inside jokes transmogrified into songs. These days though, his still skewed toward the jokey and hers were of the sort that younger women write: all addressed to an un-named 'You' that is responsible for everything bad. This marred even our funnier songs. The bass player had written an entire song cycle about the Utah practice of renting llamas for daily rates. It was strange, but cute.

Yeah, we were doin' okay. But the side project I really wish we'd gotten into was 'Booshy' Buchet and the Happy Birthdays.
That was just gonna be me and the two other fellas. The idea there was a sleazy lounge combo of recovering alcoholics, mostly singing songs about our disgrace and redemption. We would wear filthy white tuxedoes (one of us with a big dark footprint on the back, hopefully), and each be named for our facial hair. Mine would be Kinky Burns.
Matter of fact, I don't really write songs very often because I find that I inevitably have to sacrifice meaning to the rhyme scheme, and I hate that. But I wrote one here: a note regarding my particular dislike of malt liquor called 'Kinky Don't Take No Malt'.
"Carpal tunnel is for losers
malt liquor is not fun
I'm just here to spread a message
of joy and peace to everyone
and Jesus loves me this I know
that's what makes my garden grow
and hippity hoppity Easter's on its way.
After the intro, I kind of drag it back to the main point, but you see what I mean. All good fun.

Booshy himself had a great one called 'I've Shaved My Ways (No More Booshy Days)':
"I remember two Easters ago
trimming the fat off the ham
I knew I shouldn't have spoke
to your mother that way
I said it was the fortified wine
Oh, but it was Me, all the time."

Pure gold. And the bass player, the most baby-faced of the three ("Peachy Fuzz"), would step up timidly to the mike, holding his li'l bass guitar as we hurled invective at him.
"Sing yer little song, Peachy!"
"I found you in that fuckhole in Kankakee, and I can put you back!"
And then, in a tiny voice, he'd begin to sing:
"You...Can be...Such a cruel, cruel me...Can't you see?" Tears to the eyes. Even now.

Ah, there's really too many stories about all the above. We made an album. I'm told it sucked. I moved to Ashland...Aw. Bands're stupid. Haven't been in one since, myself, although I know the rest of them have. Still though, I look back fondly on sitting around in our basement up on Mt. Tabor, doing the call and response numbers:
"If y' fry it in baaacon grease!"
"You'll 'turn up' dead in a lake!"
and the chorus:
"Whatcha think about that, Booshy?" I would solo, in my deepest basso profundo. Things like this are what make it all worth while, sort of .



Blogger CatsDigMe said...

I love old banned stories. I wont go for the obvious glory tale here and tell of buying beer for Kurt Cobain when he was still in his garage band days. Instead your post brings to mind my old friend Phil Overbay. In the early 80's he and his band mates were going nowhere singing Loverboy and Blue Oyster Cult covers. This inevitably led to the drunken decision to don black leather jackets, shave their heads bald, and rename themselves Phil and the Four-Skins. It was a punk rock sensation Portland had rarely seen. The group's main claim to fame was "gettin kicked outta every bar they ever played, preferably through the front window" Ah. Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end...

8:56 PM  
Blogger Cephas said...

who are you? First of all the band was never named Phil anything, though it does not surprize me that he may have said that to someone? The fact is that he may even have played before but what and with whom I have no idea as could hardly hold a bass much less play it when we all met.
As for his "band mates" well we were all from Los Angeles and picked him up in Portland after our drummer and bass player had gone home. We we already called the four-skins when we got to Portland.
And he was intreduced to us by a girl who was in and out of the "rubbers" which was a Portland local band. wonder if Phil is still alive? if so Tell him mark is looking for him he'll remember don't know who you might have beenb

11:26 AM  

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