You may know of Led Zeppelin (and other bands as well) having had practice sessions in Clearwell Castle following Robert Plant’s personal tragedy, but you may not be aware of the band Helium Submarine and their lower-budget recording sessions high in the Rocky Mountains. As I complete my research and begin writing the script for the major motion picture based upon their story, I’d like to invite you to crack open a fresh bottle of whiskey and bring yourself up to speed on one of the greatest rock-n-roll fables never told.
The fabled band, having begun as a side project of three roadies from Black Sabbath, the next-door neighbor of an ex-girlfriend of a guy who changed the oil in Deep Purple’s tour bus, and a guy who knew the guy who scored the pot for a batch of brownies that never made it backstage to the band Sweet, Helium Submarine began as a cover band, but soon found their sound and inspiration via a shared interest in Pre-Columbian history, Biologist Trofim Lysenko, and Tesla’s third cousin Lepzig, inventor of the “Purple Nurple”. Composing such epic tracks as “Overcoming Gravity: The Pharaoh’s Phallic Pleasure Palace (The Ballad of Hefferendendanum, Stone Mason and Footballer Extraordinaire to the One and Only True Descendant of the Beer God, Pete)”, “Hybrid Turnip Yield Failure”, “Lysenko VS Mendel’s Giant Pea in the Lair of Common Sense”, and “Jacob May Have Had a Ladder, But I Have a Really Long Fireman’s Pole, But It’s More for the Chicks” (Parts I-VII), which in and of itself comprised three sides of the quadruple concept album …and a side of open-mindedness for my date, please (which tells the story of an astral-projection date gone terribly awry when one of the couple’s silver threads becomes entangled in the power lines following a time-traveling misadventure), the band was not getting commercial radio play, most likely due to the length of their songs (27 minutes on average). Or perhaps an affinity for screaming the word “pisspussy” repeatedly each time a cymbal would crash following a piccolo solo in an arrangement. By their second major release, “Captain Squeaky’s Sandwich Disaster”, the band was pursuing new roads, accidentally inventing “sampling” when they had a tambourine stolen, and the sole remaining recorded track of the missing membranophone was found to have, in the background, their neighbor, one Ms. Elsa Sheranislovsky yelling at her cat to stop peeing on the rug (and thus the birth of the aforementioned catchphrase “pisspussy”).
In any event, their A&R guy, Jerry Bettleford-Volume (heir to the Volume Family fortune – his great-Grandfather was one Chas. Whitwether Volume II, inventor of the volume knob, and who, having the foresight to not only Patent the device, but also managed to retain the forward rights for all future inventions, including what he described in 1904 as a ‘moving picture box” 1, was able to leave a very sizable empire and thus provide a comfortable life for his family to engage in pointless endeavors such as being an A&R guy) had suggested that the band try a more “radio-friendly” sound, and the band sought to head to the famed Clearwell Castle. Naturally the label denied the trip on grounds of “absolutely zero budget”, and as DoubleCross Records Senior VP Sol D. Seitowicz was quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t trust those morons in a garden shed, much less a castle.” Ever forward-thinking, Bettleford-Volume bartered with a neighbor to use a cabin that he had won in a game of high-stakes Hungry Hungry Hippos after-hours in the zoo he worked at, located in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains, deep in what is now known as Colorado, just slightly upriver from where Coors gets its water. The cabin, of course. Hippos cannot survive in the mountains. Not for lack of trying, mind you. We’ll cover that in a future post, “Noah’s First Ark: Big Waves Tend to Carry Things a Long Way From Home” (Scholastic Designation: “The Engineering of a Storm-Induced, Sea-Faring Vessel, While Having Obvious Similarities to a Regular Ship, Like Say for Instance a Barge or Something Like That, Would Logically Dictate Notable Structural and Functional Differences From One Designed to Endure a Storm of Sea-Making Potential While Carrying a Pair of Every Known Species for an Undefined Period of Time, Allowing for Storage of Fecal and Other Matter of an Undetermined Prior Mass in Advance of Setting Sail and Thus Begs the Question as to Just How Many Versions of Said Ark There May Have Been Before Noah Got it Right, and Just How Many Really Cool Animals Didn’t Survive to Make That Final Journey, Assuming That Said Animals Weren’t Just Complete Douchebags, and That Then Begs the Question of Whether or Not it Weren’t Simply a Case of Choosing the Wrong Animals to Bunk with One Another, as We Have No Record of an Official Bill of Lading for Any of Said Ark Versions, Or the Ship’s Crew, Most Notably the Social Director”; Remedial Title: “Big Animals on a Boat”).
What was to come of that trip is now a part of Rock-n-Roll folklore. At nearly any festival, you can hear it being re-told in hushed tones over the hypnotic crackling of a campfire roasting Fritos and S’mores-flavored Hot Pockets… and the gasps for fresh air between breezes carrying the foul body odor of the attendees far along to the next campsite.
Following a two day hike to the cabin (which, had it not been for lead singer Ashton Mung’s severe leg cramps and the band’s insistence on using a place mat treasure map taken from a Denny’s near Loveland Pass as the only form of navigation, would have taken approximately nine minutes from the frozen lake their plane had set down upon), the band settled in, and began writing what was to be their first commercial album. According to the manic scratchings and crudely-rendered cartoon penises in bassist Paul-Jean-Pierre Gowenbrowski’s journals, many of the songs were of an absolute genius not seen or heard since the Beatles and their secret “K-Mart” sessions, which bred over 4 million hits worldwide. The band had truly found their stride. Drummer Steve “Ukulele” Marzipone was experimenting with new forms of rhythm, as well as time signatures based on the numbering system for describing sexual positions. Lead guitarist Todd “Lozenge” Lozengensen was discovering new sonic frontiers alongside the string section they had liberated from a Czechoslovakian cover orchestra (hailed in their time as “The Closest You Can Get to the Philadelphia Philharmonic Without Having to Deal With People From Philly”), and rhythm guitarist Jim Freuchelisnki was working to harmonize with synthesizer wizard Vinny “The Organ” Quinn. The lyrics were of a deep personal nature to lead singer Mung’s heart, but dumbed-down just enough to rhyme and repeat per and over again, making them ideal for radio and the idiots listening to it. Things were progressing beautifully. Even the dozen oil painters brought along to create cover art were finding inspiration in the spectacular views and many varieties of hallucinogenic plants growing in the area.
Then it all fell apart.
As storms blew in, the band refused to leave. While ninety four of their entourage sought refuge in the town at the base of the mountain, and the remaining seventy-seven musicians brought along left on planes over the next three days, the band pressed on, writing and arranging their magnum opus. During this time, the weather worsened, blowing in Arctic air and temperatures reaching 70 below zero… But not before dumping forty-nine feet of wet snow upon the tiny two-room cabin.
Over the next five days, travel was impossible, and the resulting horrors I will spare you here. Having burned all nine of the drum kits, Marzipone was close to a percussionary breakthrough, using the skin and bones of Quinn; it being decided that his services were no longer needed, especially with the power being knocked-out and all. Suffice to say that in a Donner-esque turn, only one band member was to survive the ordeal… although left an empty shell of the fun-loving poet genius he entered that cabin as.
The resulting solo album, 1-8-5 (the cover art was an assemblage piece; a collage of the surviving pages from the journal that escaped burning on day two, and released overseas as Wiping You Away) has been hailed as a “remarkable work of lyrical inventiveness and very unique arrangement, paying little, and at times absolutely no attention to things like music theory”, and rare copies can be found in the bargain bin at weird little record stores that you wander into named “Spinners” or “Deep Tracks-n-More”, thinking that they may have a public restroom you can use while attending local art fairs and drinking far too much lemonade.
1I should write a bit here about the controversy surrounding the demise of the volume knob, and the resulting drama surrounding that, more commonly referred to in scientific circles as “The Great Volume Button Controversy”, but let’s be honest here, and accept that this has gone well beyond where it needed to, and save that for another day, shall we?
Jinn and Juice.
Great duos make the movie sometimes. Consider Marty and Doc. Tango and Cash. Kirk and Spock. Jake and Elwood or John Connor and the Terminator, or Riggs and Murtaugh… How about Vincent and Jules, or Hansel and Zoolander? You get the drift. Much like Han and Chewie (or even Hall & Oates, if you’ve read my notes for a toe-tapping Star Wars reboot — oh, they do write themselves), the pair should have balance in their differences and similarities. While one is always the “by-the-rules” straight-laced character, the other does things his own way.
Keeping with the Star Wars re-boot idea, I humbly suggest scrapping the prequels, and taking a page from every cop duo ever, and putting Qui Gon Jinn and OJ together to “negotiate” with the Trade Federation, and then taking down the Empire, one wrinkly shitbag after the next.
I even have taglines:
“One is a Jedi Master; the other a washed-up football player with a mean streak.” “Jinn uses the lightsaber, while Juice prefers something a little more traditional.” “One just wants peace and order in the Republic, and the other simply wants his trophy back. Together, they’re the action duo of the Summer’s biggest action blockbuster!”
*side note: There is a reference in Episode I to “Juice”. Bonus points if you know it without the aid of a search engine.
For years, I’ve been thinking about writing a series of short stories (or short films!) all with plots based strictly on band names, and while I may never get to them, I figured it best to throw the idea out there, and ask for a percentage of sales, should you be so inclined to tackle the idea yourself.
Consider that “Thurston Harris and the Sharps” could be the gripping tale of a germaphobe janitor working in the ER of a busy hospital in the inner city. Or “Butthole Surfers”, which has “animated feature” written all over it. Making a tapeworm appear personable may be a challenge for some animators, but we can always consult with Obama’s people for tips.
Mind you, there is a band named “Evil Edna’s Horror Toilet”, which is fucking brilliant (and we haven’t even mentioned their cover art for their EP “Too Much Gristle In The Blancmange”, which features a creature with very ambiguous genitalia, sparking the question as to which toilet it might use in the first place… which, in retrospect, may be just the horror of it all to begin with). I’m just going to leave that there. Along with “Midget Handjob”.
Although “Insane Clown Posse”, if written as a 1940’s serial would be awesome. They could hunt Nazis, and we could tie it in with “Adolf Hitler’s Nipples” (BETTER: A time-travel, space opera that crosses over into “Disco Tits”, “Jefferson Starship”, and finally “Frankie Goes to Hollywood”, the tale of a one of the posse who splits off all Lancelot-style, to become a third-rate actor who makes it big playing cadavers in true crime period works, only to have his career become the spark of a never-ending war, culminating in a three-hour Peter Jackson adaptation of the second paragraph of the story, which merely involves Frankie going to the store for deodorant… Having the whole thing (finally) wrap up in grand Arthurian style with it being revealed that Hitler is Frankie’s father, and a whole “father-kills-the-son-and-the-son-mortally-wounds-the-father” sort of tradgedy, but with a little Shakespearean twist involving an affair and many made-up words).
As fun as that would be, one that has me fascinated as a title is “Suburban Kids With Biblical Names”. OK, and “Son of Dork”, which my son could write. We’ll leave the easy ones, like “Supertramp”, “Buster Poindexter”, “Bronsky Beat” and “Ned’s Atomic Dustbin” for later. “Adam and the Ants”, while a great comic book title, may work even better as a side project of this side project; I could take a band, and follow it as they splinter-off, writing tales based upon the names of the new bands formed. Imagine “Bow Wow Wow” as a sort of William S. Burroughs tale (there would be a sort-of precedent here, seeing as Steely Dan is named after a marital aid in “Naked Lunch”, which really brings this idea full-circle). However, there is a guy who wrote stories based on Springsteen songs, but those work from, well, imagery already there, so this is off in a land all its own, and probably begging for a cease and desist or two.
…and don’t even get me started on the potential of “Chumbawumba”. Or “Sha-Na-Na”. Either of these in the style of Clive Barker would be fascinating.
As a fan of pushing the limits, and making the most of one’s talents, I have to admit that while I may not like shows such as “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent” or “The View”, there is something to be said about taking amateurs with little (and often misguided) vision and strapping them into a vehicle that could rocket them to fame, no matter how lacking they may be in the content department. Sit back and drink in the magic of going from a nobody to having YOUR OWN VEGAS SHOW! Your name in lights… tickets being sold at a deep discount at a kiosk outside of a hotel on the Strip where people stop abruptly to take photos on an overpass amongst the homeless. It’s what dreams are made of. Or at least the outer lying fringes of dreams… but with far more talking animals, strange indoor weather and a smell that you can’t quite put your finger on (and live in fear that you may have stepped in). And, should you recall my earlier dream of becoming a world-class Olympic Figure Skating Choreographer, well, this just builds toward that, my friends.
That said, in keeping the underlying “solo sex tape” theme from a prior post, let’s really stretch this out, and throw down a tribute to Liberace. After all, the man personifies the Vegas of old, so it just feels right. But as a traveling, one-man show that would one day find its way into a theater in Vegas, baby! We set things as a retro-looking piece, inspiring the glory days of that city in the desert, featuring Brian, Master of the Hands-Free Piano. A jaw-dropping spectacle that’s loads of fun for everyone. Can you see it? I can:
“He really works to put the ‘penis’ in ‘pianist’. Really an eye-full!”, raves Variety.
“Re-MEMBER your favorite classics as Brian tickles the ivories with his giggle stick!” —People Magazine
“A festival of testicles… and something else we weren’t sitting close enough to get a really good look at.” Entertainment Weekly
“It was all over so fast. And pretty much all over.” — Clarice Gimbalson, front row, center at the Harrisburg YMCA show
The show, in a nutshell: I take to the stage, riding atop one of the old Siegfried & Roy Tigers, decked-out in roller skates and having a gold-plated chicken on its head (at the matinee shows, we’ll have matching gold-plated chickens). The chorus will rise into an a cappella version of the “Axel F” theme from Beverly Hills Cop, and little custom Skittles, coated to look like Cialis will fall from the ceiling into the crowd. I’ll pound-out classics like “I’ll be Seeing You”, “The Beer Barrel Polka”, and “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing”, and putting my own spin on favorites with versions like “Begin the Big One”, “Everywhere My Love”, and “Spellbound Cockcerto”. We’ll use the intermission as a refractory period, and allow for a costume change (and a cleaning crew to, uh, do their thing). Come to think of it, if we can get Clorox on board, this will be great. Ponder, too, the sheer genius of having the theater lit by blacklight, and then incorporating a laser show… We could do a planetarium tour, and change-up the show with some Pink Floyd. This is going places.
Actually, I jumped the gun there. We save the cleaning crew for AFTER the finale, which would be a back-light and laser light spectacular! Sequins and ropey jets all aglow, the relentless pounding of the ivories, a triple-stacked set of grand pianos and a trampoline are but the beginning! Axl Rose will join me in a gut-wrenching duet of “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”, on which we’ll have to write our own lyrics, but he’s good like that. We’ll drift into a medley, highlighted by my unique spins on classic with “Semen Mixer”, “Brian Rag” and the visual tour de force “El Cockbanchero”, finally closing it all with a reprise and disco remix of “I’ll Be Seeing You”… and a walk through the gift shop, thank you very much.
I want people to think of this as not only a tribute to the days gone by in showbiz, and not just a cross between Zumanity and a Gallagher show from the 1980’s, but a commentary on what people perceive as celebrity. It’s everything that you never imagined Vegas could be.
Ponder the genius of this being televised on New Year’s Eve, and the natural tie-in to the ball drop. Naturally, we’ll have to stage this someplace much warmer than Times Square, but sometimes we have to make concessions. Suck it, Seacrest.
With only about four years remaining until the next Winter Olympics, I thought it best to get working on getting qualified. Oh, not as an athlete. There seems to be a lot of those, and that means having to compete in a very tough field. If you’re going to be a stand-out, head for the area with more empty seats, I always say.
I’m throwing my hat (as soon as I find the right one for my sort of oblong, strangely misshapen, yet endearingly goofy head) into the rink (yes, “rink”) as a Figure Skating Choreographer. I mean, I like music, sure. I like seeing people flail around to it. And when you strap some skates on those bastards, you have my attention. Yet, it just all seems so, well, limiting. I can’t have that. Thus, like all great enterprises, I’m going at this with some passion, and with an effort to be disruptive in a stagnant environment, and hoping to have my contribution to a sport memorialized in a car commercial set to a shitty song. That said, ask yourself:
What makes figure skating, for lack of a better word, “boring”?
The answer, my friend, is that the skaters perform to oddly-chosen musical pieces. OK, that, and the fact that the triple sow cow does not involve a rabid bull chasing anyone around the rink.
Ponder the genius that will crown me the Visionary Figure Skating Choreographer:
Themed story-telling. Essentially, it’s Ice Capades, but with medals, and more foreign people.
First round, you open the tale. Each additional round, you complete said tale. Imagine… That giant Simon Shnapir and his partner Marissa Castelli performing “Jack and the Beanstalk” or even “King Kong”. We set the tale, incorporating fresh moves, such as the “pick up the magic beans”, which we can alter for use in the latter idea as the “Oops, I Dropped the Map to Skull Island”, or even the “Here, Allow Me to Fetch the Camera You Dropped While Being Eaten by Giant Bugs”… or perhaps the “Hiding From the Giant”, which would bring props into the equation, moving into an act in which the tempo builds, and, via a series of lifts and tosses, our characters bring the monkey back to the mainland (or, should you be more partial to that beanstalk idea, it’s a lot of hiding and throwing). In the final round, he plays the Empire State Building, as she ascends him, and swats at his Lady Gaga-designed airplane headwear… (sadly, it would take too long to describe my idea for the Battlestar Galactica motif… or my Collage O’David Cronenberg. My “Scanners” homage would lead to huge sales of lingonberries and Clorox, I’d have to imagine. It’s mostly visual.)
Not enough? Then try Triples Skating. Ponder THAT. “Up next, the French team, and their tribute to the Three Stooges. This routine has an added difficulty level of 11.7, as it involves a hammer to the forehead.”
All I need now is a funky accent to lend credibility.
And that hat.
While I mainly go to IKEA for the umlauts and other groovy punctuation, it’s those… how shall we say it? “Other People” that ruin the continental flair and experience.
For your consideration: I find myself in need of a new desk (don’t ask… that story, my friend, will be in the book), and, being on a budget (read as “I draw shit for a living and seriously re-live my vocational missteps every hour on the hour”), well, Scandanavian press board and clinical depression are my decorating themes. Some dudes build cool cars and wear $400 shades. I cry a lot and build my furniture with really small Allen wrenches. But that’s not the (whole) point here. Anyway, fitting some European Shopping Extravaganza into the day requires some planning. Ours went like this:
“Mmm… that was good dinner. Hey, you know that lean-to that I call a desk? The crunching noises from within have grown louder, and my monitor is showing a serious starboard list. I’m about out of room to prop more mailing tubes and boxes under it. I fear for my life, if not my legs.”
“Let’s get you a new desk. By selling your body last weekend, we have almost enough gas money to get there and 2/3 of the way home. Do it three more times, and we can get blueberry waffles next time.”
Off we head, post meal-time to IKEA, getting there about an hour before closing. Enough time to round up the 89 separate, but flat-packed boxes that make up the desk top and leg-like fixtures (no, we didn’t opt for the “In This Combination” serving suggestion, as we don’t have anything nice enough to display on some fancy “shelf”). We’re headed to the check-out in record time. Mind you, I’m enjoying the shit out of the near-empty store, and still managing to get caught behind the slowest walking human being on the planet. It did give me time to check out a lamp that looked eerily like my Grandma’s bathrobe, though.
We arrive at the checkout, and I quickly move to the register with only one customer, completing her purchase. Score!
“Not so fast!!” booms the universe. “…and don’t bother to bend over or remove your pants. I’ll just have my way with you as you are.” The universe and I have a sort of thing like that. I exist, it treats me like its bitch.
For whatever reason, this customer ahead of me has identified an issue, and is making the plans to fix it. By now, the line next to us has grown to a near half-million souls. Or at least eight bodies, three possibly holding souls, one not of their own. But I digress. This customer is now having the cashier contact some department. Now, you’d think that, at damned near 8:30 PM on a Monday night (a Monday night with an eclipse, no less!) that this woman would really have her shit together. I mean, she obviously had a list and some design sense, considering the mish-mash of random shit she threw in her cart, so this question must be of burning importance. I mean, she looked kinda all-together.
While we never did find out what the issue was, we did, however, spend ten minutes watching the situation unfold, and saw not only the inter-departmental phone get used a couple of times, but a cell phone was brought into the endeavor, and at one point, a slide rule. You could hear, literally, the cashier’s soul breaking into a thousand splinters of sorrow. Ironically, that is my family crest: A thousand broken splinters of sorrow on a field of blue tears.
Now… the point here is that in any normal place of business, someone would have said “Hey! What say you step on over to the Customer Service Desk (“Boopinscorpin Skeepinskoobin” for those of you who speak Swedelandish), and have them try to figure out just what in the fuck it is that you’re making so complicated. I mean, after all, look around. This place ain’t exactly the Engineering Lab at MIT. Our motto here is, um… something in Swedish or Danish or some shit, but I’m betting it has to do with shutting the fuck up and going over to Customer Service so that this line can get a move on. Thanks, and try the meatballs! Oh, wait, you can’t, because you took so long with whatever the fuck the problem was, and now the restaurant is closed! You’ve ruined it for everyone. Tell your cats we said hello.”
Suffice to say, dejected customer lady scowls off, and we manage to check out with only the issue of me having to move the pushy broad behind me back enough to actually scribble something illegible on the credit card thingie (“Kredishmoopoo Florgin”, again, for those of you speaking the language of the muppet chef), and complete said transaction in less than three minutes.
In conclusion (or, as the foreign would say, “Fin”), we managed to traverse the Valley, find our purchase and make it to the register in record time, only to be right back in our rightful place on the moebius strip. Right behind Jane Q. Slowwalker and her confused friend Ingrid. Moral of the story: Adopt some Zen into your workplace, and do without the fucking desk.
I was stoked (and honored, and humbled, and still kind of speechless) to be chosen by the great crew at Speedhunters.com as the subject of an interview for their recent “Inspiration” theme! Go figure… me.
Keith from Speedhunters dropped by the studio for the afternoon, and we had a blast, talking cars, design, inspiration… We talked about workflow, and the past year, which was incredibly full of good things. To say that I am still floored by of that would be an understatement.
I wanted to share the article here as an opportunity to hopefully inspire anyone out there who may find themselves in a similar situation as mine. I truly hope that it inspires anyone who is ready to simply pack it in, or move on and leave a dream behind to hold on, and push ahead. To follow through, no matter what obstacles may get in the way, and to find a way through, around or over them. Granted, I’m no poster boy for having a positive outlook, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some great friends and family who push me non-stop, and have far more patience than I ever will. It’s been a long road, and there’s certainly a lot further to go, but I’m learning to keep at it, no matter what. While it’s hard to make something this private a public topic, if it helps just one person make a go of it, well, that’s brilliant.
That said, take a look, if interested, and please share it with someone you know who could use a little boost to get over that hill, or to know that there’s always a way forward. You simply have to make the most of the hand (or hands) you’re dealt. Check it out here: www.speedhunters.com.