I love this song, and I hate it. We’ll start with the positives: First and foremost, it still feels like a real song. It’s got all the right moves — the whoa-oh-ohs, that descending bass-riff between the verses (which is lovingly lifted from “I Fought the Law” by the Clash), and even though it lacks a traditional chorus, it has a bridge section that breaks up the action a bit. Considering how many unrequited-love songs have been written over the last century, I still think I came up with a unique take on the subject. I’m proud of all of that. But I still don’t like listening to it.
So, the negatives: I’m not sure what kind of singing voice would have worked best here, but it’s definitely not my own. (Now that I think of it, Joey Ramone would have absolutely crushed this song. The whole high-school puppy-love thing was right in his wheelhouse.)
Then again, maybe my voice is too perfect for the song. ”Most Likely to Succeed” is written from the perspective of a timid high-school beta-male (i.e., myself when I was that age), and that’s exactly what I hear when I listen to myself sing it, and that’s what I hate about it. It’s like looking at a photo of myself at age 16, awkward and physically underdeveloped, hover-handing next to a girl I was too afraid to actually touch. I wouldn’t call a song like this “emotionally bare,” but it’s just a little too real for comfort.
By the way, the girl at the end of the song who’s “still rotting away in med school”? Pretty sure she’s a doctor now. But damn, she looked good too. She really deserved her own song.
After the jump: A nice instrumental that never found its lyrics, with great production by Paul Knegten. Video image by Amy Vangsguard.
And once again, props to Little Pioneer for recording most of this stuff.
I met Melina on MySpace. She made the first move. We parlayed a rather bizarre first date into a year-long relationship in 2005. Then one day, I decided there were things I didn’t like about her and I ended it, just like that, and never spoke to her again.
When you’re young, you make life-changing decisions without a second thought, and you lack the perspective to understand how life-changing they are until much, much later.
During the time we were together, I told Melina I loved her, and it felt honest when I said the words. But it wasn’t love. It couldn’t have been. Love doesn’t suddenly flicker out like a candle. True love lasts forever. That’s actually the best thing about love, and the worst thing. And telling someone you love them and then splitting out of the blue? That’s a betrayal, and I still feel pretty bad when I think about it.
“Melina” was recorded in mid-2005 as a birthday present. She hadn’t heard the song before I gave it to her, but I must have told her I was recording a song for her birthday, because she requested that there be a cowbell involved, and that’s why a cowbell pops up during the instrumental section. I laid down a simple acoustic version (which you can listen to above), and then an electric version, which is in a different key, and contains a pretty slick harmonized-guitar part in the middle.
Remember how we were talking about how every song I wrote back then contained at least one “borrowed” element from another song? In “Melina,” every line is taken from another song. That’s the point, actually. I realize now that most of the songs I wrote were, on some level, novelty songs. Not in the Weird Al sense — with food-puns, and kazoos and fart sounds in the background. But a lot of these songs were based on a joke, or an extended metaphor, some conceit that gave me a structure I could color in.
Our breakup happened in mid-December 2005, uncomfortably close to Christmas. (Again, I’m a total asshole.) The holidays came and went. I made a vow to myself to stay single for a while and just cool off on the relationship thing, because my year with Melina had come directly after a previous stint with a girl name Sarah. In fact, those two relationships kind of overlapped for a few weeks. (AGAIN, I’M A TOTAL FUCKING ASSHOLE.) Bottom line, I think I owed it to myself to be on my own for a while.
The very next month, I met Rachel in a bar — just a couple of dumb-assed kids from the Midwest on the rebound, with nothing to lose. That was seven years ago. We’ve been married for over three years now and have a beautiful son together. And my love for her is real. I know it is. But I can’t help thinking about what would have happened if I had met Rachel when I was, say, 23 instead of 25, back when I wasn’t quite mature enough to care for somebody else’s heart, back when I thought that identifying a flaw in somebody was enough of a justification to dump them.
And what if I didn’t answer my phone when my friend Jon called me that fateful night in January 2006, saying he was drinking at the bar downstairs from my apartment, and I’d better get down there? Most likely, I was sitting alone in my bedroom when the phone rang, aimlessly strumming my guitar. I threw on a hoodie and went downstairs, unwittingly walking into the rest of my life. And it occurs to me now that I wouldn’t be here right now, writing this, if Jon and I decided to stand near the back of the bar, rather than the front, where Rachel entered my proximity at a specific, crucial moment in time, and going against character, I decided to talk to this pretty girl standing next to me.
It’s scary when you think about it. Chaos is the order of things.
After the jump: The electric version of “Melina,” and the song’s lyrics, with links to every other song it references.
(This is Part 2 of a short blog-series about songs I recorded in 2004-2006. Part 1 is here.)
I can’t remember exactly when I first heard the phrase “mosquito bitch.” I think one of my friends used it in reference to a girl who wouldn’t leave us alone at a party. It seems a little mean-spirited now, but it was funny to me at the time, and it inspired me to write a song in which I tried to extend the ‘mosquito/bad woman’ metaphor as far as it could go. The end result was sillier than I intended. I’m okay with that.
Every one of my old songs contains at least one element that’s blatantly ripped off from another, much better song. (I like to think of it as tribute rather than theft.) That stuttering “m-m-m-m-m-m-mosquito…” part comes directly from “Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways, and of course the line “You got to pick up every stitch” — which makes absolutely no sense in the context of this song, but sounds cool anyway — is lifted from “Season of the Witch” by Donovan. And since we’re on the topic of
theft tribute, the opening riff to “Bad Decisions” is essentially just a sped up version of “Sister Ray” with a slightly different rhythm.
I also recorded an electric version of “Mosquito Bitch” around the same time, but you’ll probably never hear it.
After the jump: Another cover song, this time an acoustic run-through of “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” by Dntel. I always liked the lyrics to this one, because they really do feel like a dream. It’s a series of barely-connected images, and when it’s over, you’re not quite sure what happened or what any of it meant.
Back in 2004-2005, I decided I was going to write some songs on my guitar. It went well, for a while at least. I kind of ran out of ideas all at once. Plus, I started dating Rachel in January 2006, so I began to spend less and less time alone in my bedroom, fiddling with my guitar. It happens. I guess this is growing up.
I recorded a bunch of my songs at the Little Pioneer Cider House, run by the always-pleasant, ever-patient Craig Levy. And while I’d be embarrassed to show people most of the recordings that came out of those sessions, there are a few exceptions, which I’ll be posting here over the next couple weeks.
First up: “(Lets Get Wasted and Make Some) Bad Decisions,” one of my hardest-rocking tunes, and easily my best. The lyrics are silly, but the riff is great and that solo part that starts at 1:59 still makes me proud, especially considering I improvised it in one take, and I never really learned how to play the guitar in the first place. Yes, that title is a Wedding Crashers reference. Crazy times. Also, this song is extra-special because while I recorded the guitars at the Cider House in Brooklyn, I recorded the vocals months later while visiting my friend Paul in Tel Aviv, and Paul recorded the drums back in Chicago, sometime after that. It’s a very well-traveled piece of music.
You can listen to “Bad Decisions” in the video above. After the jump: My acoustic cover of “Joga” by Bjork. My favorite part is the finger-picking at the very end. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more.
I first met Dave “Disco D” Shayman in 1998, when we were neighbors in the University of Michigan dorms. Even back then, he was an impressive character — already a professional DJ while still in his teens, far more motivated that the rest of us freshmen, brilliant, charismatic, a schemer in the best possible way.
After graduation, we both moved to New York to pursue our careers, and we kept in touch here and there, mostly over IM. I would occasionally visit his studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where we’d listen to his latest songs, talk about the future of the music business and social media — his ideas were visionary, and prophetic — and kick around the outline for a screenplay we were going to co-write about a drug-mule-turned-rapper named Wochintom, who came up bloody from the favelas and made a name for himself. (Think 8 Mile meets City of God.)
In January 2007, I was leaving a job interview when a mutual friend called to tell me that Dave had committed suicide by hanging himself in his mother’s basement. Later, I would learn more about the extent of Dave’s battle with depression and bipolar disorder, and that would serve as a partial explanation for what had happened, but in that moment I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Dave was one of the most outwardly-positive people I’d ever met. He was passionate about life. I felt inspired every time I spoke to him.
I was thinking about Dave today, and I dug up this old interview we did together in 2001. At the time, I was writing for The Michigan Daily (U of M’s student newspaper), and Dave had just released his first official album. He was 21 years old, I was 20, our lives stretched out ahead of us. We got together at the Mongolian Barbecue on Main Street one afternoon, I turned my tape-recorder on, and we pretended to be grown-ups — a journalist and a rock star.
I knew from the beginning that Dave was destined for great things, and I was right. He achieved so much during his brief time in this world. He started record labels, produced tracks that brought him both acclaim and infamy, got engaged to a former Brazilian Playboy cover girl. The kid had it together. But it didn’t last.
I miss having Dave in my life. He challenged me and encouraged me; I think anybody who ever knew him could say the same thing. And maybe someday I’ll dig up that screenplay and finish what we started. Much love, bro. This one’s for you…
My ‘Almost Famous’ interview series for Giant magazine, published in 2004-2006, featuring Stephen Tobolowsky, James Rebhorn, Jon Polito, William Fichtner, David Patrick Kelly, Frank Sivero, Peter Stormare, and Ethan Suplee.
(For full-size versions of the images, click them, drag/save to your computer, and enlarge as necessary.)
(Doesn’t he look happy? Man, fatherhood is such a gift.)
By Ben Goldstein
Although having a four-month-old son means I spend most of my days red-eyed and disheveled, fatherhood has also whipped me into the best physical shape of my life. There are two logical explanations for this: 1) The gym is my only refuge from Babyland, and I try to sneak off there whenever my wife’s not looking, and 2) I’ve begun to develop “dad strength”—the mythical power that comes from constantly lugging around a human bowling ball and all of his possessions.
Achieving dad strength isn’t an easy process. The physical grind of child-rearing will leave you with an impressive array of aches and pains if you’re not ready for it. So whether you’re a new father or if you’re expecting a bundle of joy in the near future, do yourself a favor and add these three exercises to your workouts at least once a week. Someday, your kids will thank you. [Ed. note: They won’t.]
Read my sage advice on MensFitness.com…