About 4 years ago, mid-winter of 2004, I came home from a dreary, massively depressing meeting with some financiers during which the funding for Delirious fell through completely for the 5th time. I entered my apartment. It was late afternoon. No one was home. Which was good because the mood I was in all I was thinking about was killing myself or somebody else.
Instead, I did something kkraaascczy.
Flashback even a few more years. Some of you may be interested in, or completely indifferent to the fact, that I mess around with music in my “spare” time. It sort of keeps me sane. Dr. Owen encourages it in combination with the Thorazine and Nembutal booster shots he administers on religious holidays.
One day in 2001, I was somehow inspired to record my own version of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s classic “16 Tons”. I laid down a hip-hop drum pattern, a finger snapping bass, some bongos and recorded myself singing the song. I’ve never sung in front of anyone but I was pleased enough with the result to not instantly erase it. I kept tweaking the piece whenever I had a free moment during the intervening years it took to get Delirious going.
Now. The money’s fallen through on Delirious for the 5th time. I’m alone in my apartment. I’m fluctuating maniacally between suicide and homicide. Suddenly I turn on my computer, open my version of “16 Tons”, and I begin wailing. I cracked open the middle of the song and injected a section with me counting down the tons from 1 to 16, each ton getting deeper and deeper into my very particular state of mind. It never quite got to a primal scream but it was close; as close as I’ve ever gotten verbally to expressing what it feels like to contend with the sucker punches and gut-dropping disappointments eternally smashing into you in this business.
It is like working in a coal mine; digging and scraping away at bare rock with your fingers for years just to have some jerk say, “Hey, you know what? No thanks, pal; but go ahead and keep diggin’.”
Through this blog I have met some hugely supportive and talented people. One was Will Crewdson who originally wrote me inquiring about Delirious being released on DVD in the UK. He called the UK distributor on his own to find out what was going on. You will see from Will’s website he is an accomplished and versatile musician. At my request he sent me some of his own compositions. He turned me on to the awesome Johnette Napolitano CD “Scarred” with Will playing solo guitar on the title track. He also produced the CD and played most of the instruments on all but 2 tracks.
I was very impressed. Impressed enough to send him something of my own 2 weeks ago: “16 Tons“. It struck me that the whole middle section of the song I’d laid down in my fit of snarling despair would be the perfect place for him to do his magic with the guitar. To my astonishment he responded positively to the song and immediately commenced to work. He ended up laying down all the guitars on the track, adding some cool percussion and introducing a female vocalist, Geeta Sparkle.
You can listen to the result HERE. If you like it fine. If not, don’t worry about it. I might only suggest listening to it on a good system or headphones to appreciate the work that went into the mix. What I am the most proud of and inspired by is the melding of musical sensibilities between two people who have yet to even meet each other or speak on the phone. If we made an album the cover would look like this:
I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine.
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine.
I loaded 16 tons of number 9 coal
And the straw boss said, “Well, bless my soul.