SONG OF THE WEEK: "Blue Moon" (1996):
Preparing to record a cover song is like climbing the ladder up to the diving board. I ascend to the platform, I see the pool. At the point of execution, I command my moment of performance with total commitment to what follows, without distraction. Uncertainty be damned; to hell with the rules. Dance, fly, turn, whatever you can pull off, but just make a good landing.
In the spring of 1996, Gary Frenay asked me to build a track behind a guide of him singing and playing guitar. He planned a cover version of “Blue Moon” from the Big Star Third album, and it had a place reserved on his next CD. Gary is from Syracuse, and his band The Flashcubes are legendary power pop kings of the late 1970s and beyond. I remember at 14 years old having an ice cream with my Dad. Outside the Baskin-Robbins, I looked up to to see a Flashcubes flyer stapled to a pole, and though I’d never been to a club, I knew then that I wanted to see or play in bands. There was no way I was going to that particular show, but within a year or two I was using a fake ID and getting into clubs. This was when a NY driver’s license was just a piece of paper that didn’t have a picture on it. We could have printed counterfeit money back in those days.
My first two albums came out on Heyday Records, founded by Pat Thomas, who released his records with the promotional slogan, “The folk revival starts here.” The label’s name was inspired by a Fairport Convention album. The idea of a recording artist with his own label impressed me. A few years later, Ron Gompertz, a local SF entrepreneur, invested in Heyday and ended up owning it. The roster then changed a bit from Barbara Manning, ex-Green On Red members and musical friends of Pat to an eclectic mix of local artists, including Connie Champagne and Jerry Shelfer. I like to believe it was me that drove Ron to leave the music business.
Ron once told me that with Heyday, he wanted to bring to full circle the original line up of artists that performed at the Acoustic Music Project show at the Full Moon Saloon in 1989, featuring several Heyday artists plus Mark Eitzel, Chuck Prophet, and a reformed Translator. A CD of the show was released with some more tracks recorded by Oliver DiCicco at Mobius Music (now the home of Decibelle Recording). It was an AIDS benefit, an idea cooked up by Ron and Denise Sullivan. They both had shops in the Haight–Ashbury and were music fans with some connections to the local scene. I was not invited to perform, but then neither was Aldo Blissboy Perez. Barry Simons got involved, brought in Alex Chilton.
Everyone loves a re-do, a make over, another chance. They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, you can’t go home, nothing deader than a dead love, no ins and outs. I put this in the same boat as having reached the point of no return.
If only I could have gone back ten or twenty years and changed a few choices, made better use of time, avoided some people, learned a couple languages, maybe I’d be better off. I could go back a month in time and change something I’d done and I imagine that would set me up so much better for this week.
If we had time machines, or an “undo” function. All I can imagine is all the bad luck that could creep in. Playing back last week alone, redone– I’d fall in front of a BART train, I’d poke my eye with a guitar string, an old lady would back her car over my foot, or I’d eat the salmon mousse after it had gone bad. I’ll keep last week, along with the cold I caught.
In my dreams, I can never throw a punch. My arms move slowly and stop before connecting. Maybe everything in dreams is slowed down. Last night I dreamt I was shaving and cut open my chest, and inside the wound, I saw my heart beating. Either I need a new razor, or I’m trying to get something out.
My school bus ride as a kid was short in the morning, since they picked us up after doing a loop along the river, but nearly an hour going home. I could walk the three miles in less time, and certainly less hassle. My brother was already a marked target for mild abuse, and so they had it in for me on my first day of middle school. One day I was hit on the back of my head with a hammer. A steel hammer, to the head. If everyone on the bus was hit once with the hammer, I might not have taken it personally. I later took my revenge on the bus seats, slashing them open with a knife.
Chris von Sneidern is a musical artist living in San Francisco.