January 20, 2008

Suede is smooth but let's slide back to Delirious for a moment. It is actually the event that prompted this blog in the first place.

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:

16 Tons

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.

Hey Tom,
Just saw your reply to my post. It was great meeting you and working with you. Your advice was much appreciated. I will make my desperate plea for that song… and I have another key song that’s a piece of pop culture now… “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” by Poison… yes I was a Poison fan… I admit it! It’s another problem for me… but I have to work it out since these pieces of music are so instrumental to my film.
And since you know I live in NYC, I’ll be awaiting your DVD release.
I hope you’ll have a commentary track on it.
Hello there Mona,
Sooo nice to hear from you again. Laundry always comes before filmwatching. Always.
Glad you liked the song. Will and I had a great time with it. Got another one going with him tht I wrote.
Will I post it?
Let’s wait and see.
I hope you are well.
He’s a musician now?! It sounds phenomenal. Way to go! And a great choice of song.
I just got Johnny Suede in NetFlix and decided to pop back in for a hello. (Haven’t watched it yet, got laundry to do)
Hey Vitaly,
Good luck on your feature. If you really love Ford’s version go for it. Plead your case. Try to get past the legal gatekeepers and make a personal appeal. You should be able to get it for a reasonable fee. Give them a share in the back end–what do you care if you love the music that much?
You didn’t say where you were from. I only know the DVD release dates in the US right now. Where do you live?
Hey Marta,
Thanks for listening. I’m glad you like it.
Will and I are working on another song. So keep your ears open. And tell your friends.
I like it. I like it. It’s incredible. You are incredible. The best. Thanks.
From Spain
I can’t believe you chose 16 tons… I’m shooting my first feature for a much more paltry budget than you shot Johnny Suede for and that is such an instrumental song in my film to introduce the character… hopefully Ernie Fords people didn’t extend the copyright! Let me know when you get Delirious on DVD, you’ll have my order.
Steve T.
Your brother Steve did have a penchant for impromptu metal bending, probably related to his artistic interests. At least we didn’t have to worry about those annoying airbag bruises and abrasions! I’m outside of DC in Maryland.
See yah.
Hey Good People,
Congratulations to you for not only getting your first feature made but surviving it to begin making your second.
I’m glad you liked the song. I think the combination of sensibilities of me and Will was pretty fruitful.
And you’re right, being an actor and director is quite an accomplishment. My only suggestion would be to understand that it is not what people do but who they are. Some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met are not involved in the “Arts” at all. They are just people.
And that is good enough too.
Well, bless my soul Mr. Treado,
How great to hear from you. Where are you living these days? I have some great memories of our times in highschool together, in particular the night my brother wrecked my father’s car with you and me inside of it.
The fact we are still alive is a miracle.
Delirious has finished it’s theatrical run. It will be released on DVD in March and then again in April with a bunch of extras on it.
I shoot you an email.
Very cool. I wish I was musically talented. However I guess I’ll stick to acting/directing. It’s more than most people have!
You definitely shouldn’t worry about singing in front of people, this song was impressive and I will definitely be following Will’s work.
Isn’t the internet amazing? The incredible potential it holds, if used to do something other than play solitaire or halo is astounding. Hopefully I will make 2008 a year to harness the full potential of the net. This is a good start, I mean, here I am a director and actor in Baltimore working on my 2nd independent feature film and I have an open dialogue with you…. Very exciting times!
I have Delirious in my Netflix queue… can’t wait to see it.
Keep the stories… and songs coming! 🙂
Steve T.
Hey Tom,
I just found your site. Its pretty cool reading about your film life and hearing your Tennessee Ernie Ford cover. You’ve done old G-F up proud. Haven’t seen Delirious yet, but I’ll try to find it.
Steve T.
Hey Victor.M,
It is my voice. Or least the one I used for the singing. I sincerely appreciate your appreciation. I passed your compliment about the guitar solo on to Will. You can do so personally if you like by going to his site in the blogroll.
I totally agree with you about his solo. It pulls the entire song together.
I will keep giving you new English words to include in your vocabulary. Here is an absolute necessity: “talking to my shorts.”
I will explain. Shorts refers to your underwear, specifically men’s underwear if you wear them. Some men don’t. The word ‘shorts’ connects visually to the fact that your underwear is somewhat small in nature; in other words not as long as regular pants or trousers.
So, if you see an pleasant, attractive chica walking toward you and you are with your parents, or grandparents, what you would say is, “Dios mio, that girl is really talking to my shorts.”
I believe you will find this useful. Thank you so much for listening to the song. Your reaction is very helpful.
very best,
Wowwww!!! Fantastic cover. Is that your voice, Tom? Incredible. I didn’t know this facet yours. I like all the song, but specially I love at 3:37 with the amazing solo guitar by Will Crewdson. Great job. The song could be in the soundtrack of your next film.
Best, Víctor.M
PS: Indeed, I’m learning english in your blog thanks to you, what privilege.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician