Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gay Public Bathroom Etiquette: An Interview with Kevin Posey

(This post was supposed to be published around the time of the Larry Craig scandal - around Oct 1, 2007 - but it was too racy. Hmmm, I wonder why?)

At first I was amused. Another Republican Senator caught in a seedy homo act! And one who had voted in a hypocritical and self-hating way on marriage and hate crimes. I was amazed at the press conference where Larry Craig professed that he wasn't gay, over and over again. I laughed at the parodies of the scene from the Minneapolis airport bathroom stalls.

But then I started getting tired of it, and angry. Especially
after reading about all the right-wing pols and commentators foaming at the mouth trying to distance themselves from him--like playing footsie in a public bathroom is way worse than Senators aiding and abetting a corrupt and criminal administration.

Plus, I kind of feel sorry for Sen. Craig, that he had to lead a double and closeted life. How horrible must that be? I know, I know, the Foleys and the Haggards get what they deserve, but still... I think it's tired and cheap to keep poking fun.

The family-values bloggers have been using the Larry Craig incident to confirm their fear and loathing of gay men as sinful sexual predators. Sadly, since the Senator didn't feel like he could carry out his business openly (on, say, the Rosie Cruise) he had to be sneaky and yucky about it. But that doesn't mean he's a predator. He was looking for other gay men who knew the protocol, which includes the foot-tapping undercover cop who arrested him. Shouldn't he have been looking out for terrorists instead of closeted old gay men?

Anyway, this whole thing has got me wondering: What exactly is the protocol for sex in a public bathroom? I decided to ask fellow musician and makeup artist to the rock stars, Kevin Posey. I somehow thought he would know.

Jill: Kevin, if I was a closeted gay Republican who wanted sex in the Minneapolis airport bathroom, how would I get to it?

Kevin: Well, Jill, if you happened to be a closeted gay Republican looking to get your rocks off in a public forum, you would just need to decide a couple of things. First: shopping mall, or any type of mass transit venue? I'm not certain what it is about these specific places that brings out the gay in guys but I have a few theories. Shopping with their girlfriends or wives leaves them bored, as they've suppressed the "gay" gene so hardcore over the years they can't relate to shopping and therefore must go to their most base animal instinct: f***ing. Traveling tends to make everyone anxious, and the need to go to the loo occurs more often due to anxiety. And nothing relieves tension like busting a nut.

Jill: Let's move forward and say you've chosen your bathroom locale, as I don't want to lose sight of the objective here--which is getting your faux closeted Republican ass some action!

Kevin: If you want to engage in more than a simple stroke fest with a buddy, I suggest that when you enter the restroom, you walk past the urinals when you and pick a stall--any stall will do. If you aren't a germ-phobic closeted 'mo, sit your horny ass down. If you are, put down one of those weird toilet-seat-shaped covers and then sit your ass down....and wait. Eventually someone will sit down in the stall beside you. Once that occurs, it will soon obvious by scent and sound whether they are there for the real reason the restroom was invented, or for a little man-on-man action.

Jill: Are their certain signs or codes one would give to indicate his preferences?

Kevin: The signs that "it's on" are so varied -- but let's focus on the basics. The one that got our dear old friend in trouble is a tried and true method of gettin' some in a restroom: the foot tap. The foot tap should occur with the tapper's foot slightly invading the other stall... then you wait... then, if the other person taps his foot, proceed. The next action depends on whether you are a top or bottom.

If you choose to reach a hand under or roll a finger along the bottom of the stall divider, you'll be offering up your hand (or mouth and I've even heard ass! though I'm unsure of how this actually occurs by constraints of space). This would put you in the submissive position. If you prefer being serviced, then you sit and wait it out till someone offers up said hand or finger... then give that bitch what he wants!

This will absolutely assure you some action and possibly an arrest if the police are feeling like a little entrapment that day, as there is absolutely no way that anyone following these steps --especially if they have so much to lose--would ever engage in anything without the go-ahead from the other side. Well, unless they happen to be high on meth and then that's a completely different subject altogether and a far more destructive element in our culture than someone trying to get off!

Jill: So, would you say most the men cruising, in these public places, are sad closeted married men, or out gay men who just find that kind of pickup sexy?

Kevin: I have to say that the peeps looking for "love" in the restroom setting are a varied mix of older closeted Republican fart knockers who have voted against the core of who they are, gay boys out and proud but looking for a little kink, jock straight (or str8) guys who want to re-live a bit of the old locker room stroke fest they had in high school or college, and everything in between, really... dudes are horny retards when it comes to their wieners and honestly will nut whenever the need arises... pun intended!

Jill: Have you ever engaged?

Kevin: Yes, and I have a ton of reasons why... I am a kinky weirdo that gets off on the thought of some stud blowing me and then leaving the bathroom to finish shopping with his wife or girlfriend... it makes me feel sexy. I am more of a rub one out with a bud at the urinal though as that was something I did as a young guy in school first realizing I liked guys.

I would like to say that just because this sort of thing occurs it absolutely does not mean that I, Mr. Craig, or (most) any other person engaging in this particular past time is out to f*** some infant up the butt! I mean... give me a break, already. My being a proud gay man with a perverted streak does not mean that I am a lecherous turd or a blight on society. If being supportive of a corrupt government makes me an upright citizen then I prefer to be on the fringe please... and thank you.

Jill: Thanks Kevin. This has been a swell time and educational too.

So Long For Now, The Provacateurs

(Final post by Jill and Michelle on Feb 25, 2008)

Well, we kind of knew it was coming. We didn't quite fit. We were a square peg in a round hole (or is it the other way around). But it was a good idea --to mix music with politics and social issues. I knew we could never compete with the popularity of posts on, say American Idol or Britney (although I did do one semi-pandering one on her--and had to quote NPR, so as to not appear that…desperate), but we were happy to stay as long as we did.

I had a great time. Yahoo pretty much allowed us to write whatever we wanted--except for the dirty post by my friend Kevin, after the Larry Craig incident, on the etiquette and joys of gay public restroom sex. Admittedly it was a stretch.

I got to hear and converse with people that I would never, on my own blog, encounter. What's the point of preaching to the converted? On our last post on Evangelicals and gays, we did encounter some nut jobs, but we also heard from intelligent and thoughtful Christians. We actually had peaceful dialogue, which is so rare in these black and white days. And that's what I hoped to do. I learned so much from the commenters (by the way, is commenters a word? Spell check gets me anytime I type it).

So, I want to thank Yahoo (especially Bob), and all of you for these last six months. I learned; I had fun, and actually became sort of disciplined.

Don’t fret, for one day soon we shall rise like the Phoenix, rise like Lazarus, and rise like John Travolta did after he did Pulp Fiction. You have not heard the last of The Provocateurs. Or as a Martin Mull lyric goes:

“It's so hard to say Au Revoir

So Let's just say Hors D'ouerves."

In the meantime you can go to my myspace or (on there is no place to comment, but that will soon change). And don't forget (I might add a place to talk there too). I think I need to consolidate-–does anyone out there have any suggestions?

I will end with this song sung by Tom Waits:"somewhere "

And now, I will have Michelle Lewis, the other Provocateur, bid you a Yahoo Music goodbye.


Hi... I have the odd sensation of speaking at one's own funeral right now. Must shake that off ...

One of the many great things about being friends with Jill Sobule is that, when you're with her, you often end up someplace you never imagined being. My short list of random, unimaginable places includes an activist poetry reading, Norman Lear's private jet and a recording studio with Arianna Huffington. You get the picture...

So when Jill was over at my house last summer and was telling me about this music and politics blog she might be doing on Yahoo Music, I readily volunteered to help (did she even ask for help? my memory is fuzzy on this). I had no real blogging experience, but I did have a laptop and an opinion... about music...AND politics. Also, since I was on a kind of maternity leave from my "day job" as a pop songwriter, I knew I wasn't going a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e soon. Therefore, I could hold the fort and keep things rolling whenever Jill was on tour or something.

Looking back on the early Provocateurs' planning meetings with Yahoo, I realize now what we were thinking--we thought that getting a blog was like getting your own TV chat show or variety show. We thought ours would be like The Daily Show meets Donnie And Marie. We had big plans for regular segments, guest stars, video interludes and of course, a theme song. We are still the only blog on Yahoo Music with its own theme song--which I will post here one last time for posterity:

Jill Sobule & The Provocateurs: "The Provocateurs Theme Song " (MP3, 1:07)

I also remember our friends at Yahoo looking at us as the meetings progressed with somewhat concerned looks on their faces... as in... "You guys still don't really know what you're doing here? Do you?" Well, um, no. But we were having fun--making up songs about topical events and picking friendly fights with some of our more conservative readers (aaah, good times).We also were having some truly memorable conversations and meeting some truly wonderful folks.

Now that the Provocateurs, Part One is ending, I'm realizing that maybe Part Two SHOULD be a TV show!!! What do you think, Jill? Should we start pitching it?

OK, so while we're taking meetings at CAA, we'll also be archiving our 6 months of posts (and maybe posting some new ones) here.

Rock on....xoxo - Michelle

Evangelicals less tweaked about Homosexuals?

(Originally posted by Jill on Feb 18, 2008)

It used to be that gay marriage was the big scary thing that the Republicans (Bush and Rove) could use to galvanize the reborn or evangelical vote. The fear of, for example, two men saying I do, promising to love each other forever and having a kick ass yet tasteful wedding party, might just have cost Gore and Kerry the elections.

Now there are signs that this Christian community has become more diverse and maybe less focused on the traditional hot button issues (abortion and gay marriage). There are growing concerns about the war, torture, the environment and social justice – not very Pat Robertson or Dr. Dobson like.

A recent poll by Beliefnet showed that 80-percent of respondents saw reducing poverty as "very important", where as only 49- percent chose stopping gay marriage.

It seems also that the younger generation is not as judgmental, threatened. They probably all have seen old episodes of Will and Grace or the Ellen show; they probably all have a friend who bought a Rufus Wainwright or a Scissor Sisters CD.

Jim Wallis, an influential progressive evangelical stated "The religious right, their dominance is finished, their monologue is over. They have a voice, but they're not the only voice now."

What is happening when even a former Republican sports star ( a profile not known for pro-gay pronouncements) is calling for a change in the guard? My new hero, Charles Barkley, in an interview last week, on reasons why he is supporting Obama:

"I've got great respect for Sen. McCain, great respect, but I don't like the way Republicans have taken this country," said Barkley. "Every time I hear the word 'conservative,' it makes me sick to my stomach, because they're really just fake Christians, as I call them. That's all they are."
"I think they want to be judge and jury," Barkley said. "Like, I'm for gay marriage. It's none of my business if gay people want to get married. I'm pro-choice. And I think these Christians; first of all, they're not supposed to judge other people. But they're the most hypocritical judge of people we have in the country. And it bugs the hell out of me. They act like they're Christians. They're not forgiving at all."

We here on Yahoo Music have a very diverse crowd. I wonder what our Christian readers think.

Vibrator Laws Suck. Free The Rabbit!

(Originally posted by Jill on Feb 19, 2008)

On one of my last Yahoo blogs, I posted about the insanity of our drug laws - specifically mandatory minimums and three strikes. Many of the commentors had no sympathy and disagreed - "if you know its illegal, don't f**king do it. You do the crime, you do the time."

Well, what about this law?

"Alabama's Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act prohibits, among other things, the commercial distribution of 'any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for any thing of pecuniary value.'"

Alabama is a vibrator – free state! That's settles it. That is where I am going to raise my family.

So, you can sell a semiautomatic rifle to a depressed teen, but if they catch you (under the table at the gun store) also peddling the latest Hello Kitty pocket rocket or dildo, you are going to the slammer, buddy!
That's right, folks, " You do the crime, you do the time."
Seriously, you could actually get a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

There is one loophole through:

"The law contains an exception for sexual devices sold for medical and scientific purposes, and many adult stores have continued sales after posting signs saying their merchandise falls within the exceptions."

I want to know what “medical and scientific purposes” they came up with for peddling the "Daring Dolphin", the "Turbo Stroker", and of course…"the bend-over beginning kit".

I also bring up this unjust law as, last week, a federal appeals court overturned a statute outlawing sex toy sales in Texas. So now it's just Mississippi and Alabama.
So, I say instead of all this anti-war and campaign nonsense, we do something for our oppressed brothers in the Cotton State.
Let's all go down to Huntsville and do a "rabbit" freedom march.
Are you all with me???


(for those that don't know - the Rabbit is a best selling vibrator that, I just saw, has it's own Wikipedia entry)

Pro-Anorexia songs? "Lucy at the Gym" and "Supermodel"

(Originally posted by Jill on Feb 13, 2008)

A couple of months ago, I Googled myself (not the coolest thing to do). It's surprising and strange what comes up, especially when checking out the blogs. Some of the more interesting, or rather disturbing hits I get, are on "pro-ana" sites. Now, for the unaware - and I was until I found two of my songs listed as "thinspiration" - pro-ana sites are forums for mostly young girls who have anorexia or bulimia... and see it as a good thing.

They are pretty stunning and...very twisted. They have adoring pictures of rail-thin celebrities like the Olsen Twins and Posh Spice. There are recipes (?) and tips on suppressing hunger pains: "You can train yourself to forget hunger by gently punching your stomach every time you get hungry because you'll hurt too bad to eat."

I think now I should tell you that I, Jill of Provocateur semi-fame, suffered with an eating disorder in the 80s. It was miserable, and a waste of six years. However, it has, as well as other youthful troubles, made me who I am today. My art and song-writing, I am sure, has also been marked by those years. "Lucy at the gym", and "Supermodel"(from the movie, Clueless), would not have been born, if not for it.

So, Lucy, the star of my song, is a girl who won't eat and can't stop exercising. I have great empathy for her, but this is no "pro-ana" song - in fact, quite the opposite. I was curious why some saw it as such, so I emailed Terra Atril, who writes, on why she added the song to her top 10 list of "pro-ana" songs. Here's what she said:

"Well, I could put some real thought into this, or I could go with instinct basically just blame it on a cross between the lyrics and young-eating-disordered minds being fickle. People truly in the thick of an eating disorder have a combination of suicidal tendencies and god complex. "Lucy" is a character who can be seen as a deity, an example of how to live, and maybe die."

Amazing. But what is also of interest is how thoughtful and smart this "pro-ana" Terra Atril is. She went on to say:

"people read into lyrics BIG TIME and people with mental illnesses, especially, are capable of seeing any meaning possible from literally any combination of words. Another example I didn't include would be Radiohead's 'Creep'. It's obviously not about eating disorders, but the lines, "I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul," just hits people the right way, I suppose.
I was originally planning on the inclusion of "Supermodel," but "Lucy...." just seemed more apt and what the masses (as it were) would be looking for. Plus, "Supermodel" could be construed too easily as tongue-in-cheek and honestly, the last thing people with eating disorders need is to feel mocked."

By the way, other "pro-ana" songs on the list were "Ana's Song" by Silverchair and Fiona Apple's "Paper Bag".

Now before I gross you out with a youtube video of "Lucy at The Gym" posted by some poor sick girl, I should tell you that the song has also been used in a more positive therapeutic way. In February, which by the way is Eating Disorder Awareness Month, a director from an eating disorder clinic asked permission to use the song:

"I think that "Lucy at the Gym" is a very powerful song. I am using it in a slideshow to illustrate to others what it feels like to have an eating disorder. I think it is the perfect song because of the honest depiction of "Lucy". I think the song along with pictures of calorie counts, the word diet in cereal, and the scale show the real torment of eating disorders. I am planning on showing the slideshow in a presentation at the University of Texas at El Paso.
I hope to use the song to assist in raising awareness and promote the prevention of eating disorders."

Phew! Well, at least most people, I hope, get the intention of the song. Anyway, here's the lyric to "Lucy at the Gym", followed by a completely disturbing video. And, no I don't approve of this youtube.

Lucy at the gym. She's there every time I go
and I don't go that often, so she must live at the gym
I stare at her ribs they show through the spandex
Her little legs are working, she's going somewhere
She's climbing up the stairs and when she reaches the top
her dreams will be there

Lucy at the gym. Lucy on the scale for the third time
Thru thick and thin, Lucy's at the gym
She's staring at the clock and like the 2nd hand she never stops
She's Lucy at the gym

When she takes a shower, after all the hours
Does she have a place to go.Is there someone waiting
Or is Lucy all alone

I'm at the gym and Lucy's not there
It's got me kinda worried so I imagine the worst
She's made it up to heaven
And when she met her maker, he said "come right in"
"I'll show you around the gym"
"Everyone's beautiful and thin"
"And here there's no sin, and your life can begin
Lucy at the gym"

Grammy Awards Voter Fatigue

(Originally Posted by Michelle on Feb 10, 2008)

Soooo, the Grammy's are on tonight. Sigh. I'm sitting here trying really hard to care. As a voting member of NARAS, I probably should care. But I didn't vote this year. I tried to. You wanna know why I didn't? It was too boring.

Seriously. It's an on-line voting process where you log on with your NARAS number, which takes you to a secret page of all the nominees and categories and their corresponding numbers, which you then darken in on your ballot as you make your choices.

The first time I logged in, I was bored by page one. I thought, "Well, maybe I just need to take a nap." So I did. A week later I tried again. This time, a spinning rainbow ball on my lap top screen was all it took to get me to decide, "f**k this, I'd rather eat a snack." Figuring the third time was the charm, I grabbed some coffee and a preemptive nosh and sat down at my computer, determined.

The thing is, I like Amy Winehouse

and Kanye and Feist, etc. But whom are we kidding here? This is pop culture we're talking about... and so, even if I don't necessarily find the artists themselves boring, these mind-numbingly banal categories make me want to slip into a boredom coma. Did you know that there is still a Best New Age Album category? New Age has been called "New Age" for almost 30 years. When does it become "Old Age"? And Best Instrumental Pop album? Really? Anyway, I bailed on voting for the third and final time, and while drinking my coffee and eating my snack, scanned the Huffington Post for info about the REAL voting we have coming up instead.

And yet, I'm not one to merely complain without offering some possible alternatives. So here are some of my suggestions for some Grammy categories that might be more fun to vote for next time...

Most Pandering Pop Song -
Best New Artist Under 12 -
Best Song as an iPod commercial -
The "Oops -we-dissed-you-when-you-were-relevant" Grammy -
Best Theme song for Republican Nominee -
Biggest Commercial Success/Critical Flop -
Biggest Critical Success/Commercial Flop -
Best Female vocal (for an actress) -
The "This-is-what the-kids-are-listening-to???" Album of the Year -

Most Cynical Album -
Best Computer Voice Narration -

Oh, wait, that one is real...check it out...

Anyway, feel free to cast your votes!

Jill added: "I will be watching the Wire instead of the Grammys"

The Britney Economy and the Real Story:

(Originally posted by Jill on Feb 7, 2008)

I can't believe that I am writing about... Britney Spears. In fact, I never think about her at all. Whenever there is any news item on her, I automatically bypass it. . I think it is the biggest waste of news space ever. It's not that I am too snobby for tabloid scintillation. I admit I have watched the video of Amy Winehouse on the pipe-but I think she is a real talent - thus, I guess, worthy of the youtube hits. Let's me just reiterate and say that ... I don't give a f#&k about Britney Spears.

That being said, I was fascinated be by the recent report on NPR. Britney, herself, still rakes in around $9 million a year. But according to Portfolio magazine, it is "chicken feed compared with the overall Britney economy."

It estimated that a single photo of her can go for up to $100,000 or more - the exclusive bald pictures went for around $500, 000. They calculated that she makes up 20 percent of the paparazzi biz.

Britney was on the cover of the tabloids (US, People, OK!, etc.) 175 times in just 78 weeks. She has also topped the most searched on our Yahoo for six of the last seven years (I still don't get it).

The article concludes by saying the estimated Britney Economy is $110 to $120 million. Dang!

This all got me thinking: Is she a drug addict, bi-polar, or crazy like a fox? Here is my sick fantasy:

The Real Britney

Britney has finally been able to get past the camera flashes to open the front door of her Beverly Hills mansion. But not before she has randomly picked, out of the hordes, a euro-trashed looking Paparazzi named Mario to come inside with her. The door is closed. The media is all abuzz.

Britney: God, Larry that was just awful, wasn't it? Now whose move was it?

(they are in the middle of a serious chess match)

Larry, aka. Mario: How about before we do, I get an audio tape of you, with maybe a Ukrainian accent, acting insane again? That would be good for another $400,000, No?

Britney: A scathingly brilliant idea. Well let's get it over with as I do have a deadline for the Obama speech.

Larry: How is your book on String Theory going?

Britney: Checkmate!

The End

"Fame is proof that the people are gullible."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A provocateurs quiz: Who said (and in what movie) "A Scathingly Brilliant Idea"?

a song about Super Tuesday?

(Originally posted by Jill on Feb 5, 2008)

I have spent way too much time clicking from MSNBC to CNN and even (gulp)…Fox News. In the car, I have forsaken my ipod and favorite college music station for NPR and bad talk radio. Conversation has become one-dimensional: Experience vs. change? Limbaugh vs. McCain? It's Super Tuesday, and I can't stop yet!

This morning I was asked back on the Bryant Park Project to perform a Super Tuesday song. Since it was last minute, and as I said my muse has been on hiatus, I thought I would ask my buddy and slam poet Rives to help out.

Here it is: It's Super Tuesday

Oh, and since it was live, please ignore my mistakes.

The worst lyrics ever and…The Provocateurs' Presidential endorsement

(Originally posted by Jill and Michelle on Feb 3, 2008)

I consider myself a pretty good lyricist, but I also know that I have probably written a couple of stinkers. Hopefully none of them are quite as wrong as these:

1.Sade's "Smooth Operator"

"Coast to coast
L.A. to Chicago"

(shouldn't that be...Coast to Great Lake?)

2. Madonna's "I Love New York"

"I don't like cities
But I like New York
Other places
Make me feel like a dork"

("dork" could be funny, but not by Madonna)

3. Barry Manilow's "Could it be Magic"

"Lady take me
high upon a hillside
High up where the stallion meets the sun"

(bad sexual pretty pony imagery)

4. Kiss's " C'Mon and Love Me"

"She's a dancer, a romancer/I'm a Capricorn
And she's a Cancer"

5. Paul Anka's "Having My Baby"

"Didn't have to keep it
Wouldn't put ya through it
You could have swept it from you life
But you wouldn't do it. No, you wouldn't do it
Having my baby"

Michelle adds:

6. Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps"

The line "my lovely lady lumps" made me gag a little every time.

7. Train's - "Meet Virginia"

"And she wants to be the queen
And she thinks about her scene
Pulls her hair back as she screams
I don't really wanna be the queen"

And that guy is also responsible for the most truly unforgivable line in "Drops of Jupiter" - "the best soy latte that you ever had and me."

8. Back Street Boys' - "I Want it That Way"

"Tell me why - Ain't nothing but a heartache
Tell me why - Ain't nothing but a mistake
Tell me why - I never wanna hear you say
I want it that way"

Um, what way?
Seriously, does this song make any sense to anyone? You know what? It isn't meant to. It is a well-known fact among us songwriters, that the president of the BSB's label made a major attempt at replacing those lyrics with ones that actually "meant something". The professionals were called in, one try got particularly close (by the guy who wrote "Genie in A Bottle,") but nothing beat the "English as a Second Language" lyric writing of the original Swedish songwriter. In fact, this could be a category unto itself - along with "Hit Me Baby One More Time" and "Since U Been Gone."

Finally, because our collective attention span is too short to even get to the requisite list number "10," we will turn to our friend Mike Daly for a few heavy metal gems -

9. Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

"For a hill men will kill.

10. Iron Maiden's "Only the Good Die Young"

"Measure your coffin,
Does in measure up to your lust?"

11 .And finally - W.A.S.P.'s "Evermore"

"Only those who stand within
Can hold the keys that let us in"


We know it's hard to top, but we ask you, the readers, to go ahead and continue this list...

And now, The Provocateurs are announcing their choice for President - Barak Obama! (like you didn't already know).

In the words of the recent LA Times endorsement:

"In the language of metaphor, Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility. Clinton would be a valuable and competent executive, but Obama matches her in substance and adds something that the nation has been missing far too long -- a sense of aspiration."

Again, lyrics come up - but good ones this time. Lyrics that can rouse the independent, the cynical artist and that ever-promising youth vote. We also think (and what do we know?) that he has a better chance of beating a Romney or McCain. So our decision is not just kumbaya, but strategic.

Our endorsement for Vice President: Hillary?

But of more importance is our choice for NFL champs - The NY Giants! We like the underdog.

added note: Sting's "If You Love Sombody Set Them Free" always skeeved me out. And a secret...I actually do like Manilow.

The Saddest Songs Ever

(Originally posted by Jill and Michelle on Jan 28, 2008)

I have asked my French friend, Yves, who has been sad more than a few times (he's French), what are his favorite songs of despair, isolation, and love gone horribly wrong.

Here's his list with some sad lyrics included:

1. Hank Williams -- Alone & Forsaken
"She promised to honor, to love and obey
Each vow was a plaything that she threw away.
The darkness is falling, the sky has turned gray
A hound in the distance is starting to bey
I wonder, I wonder - what she's thinking of
Forsaken, forgotten - without any love"

2. Bright Eyes - "messenger bird song"
"so you made me come_then you sent me away_like a messenger bird_and i circled the earth_blown away in the wind_but i always returned_with some new little song_some sad story to tell_of a brief love affair_with a girl I compared to you and she failed"

3. Buck Owens - "Cryin' Time"
"I can see that far away look in your eyes
I can tell by the way you hold me, darlin'
That it won't be long before it's cryin' time"

4. Leonard Cohen - "Famous Blue Raincoat"

"Ah, the last time we saw you, you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without lili marlene
And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife"

5.Beach Boys - "In My Room"
"Now it's dark and I'm alone
But I won't be afraid
In my room, in my room"

6. Billy Bragg - "The Saturday Boy"
"She never came to the phone
She was always in the bath
In the end, it took me a dictionary
To find out the meaning of unrequited
While she was giving herself for free
At a party to which I was never invited
I never understood my failings then
And I hide my humble hopes now
Thinking back she made us want her
A girl not old enough to shave her legs"

7. Patsy Cline - "Walking After Midnight"
"I'm out walking after midnight
Out in the moonlight
Just hoping maybe
You're somewhere walking
After midnight, searching for me"

8. Loudon Wainwright III - "Motel Blues"
"I'll buy you breakfast,
They'll think you're my wife
Come up to my motel room
Save my life"

9. Billie Holiday - "I'll Be Seeing You"
"I'll find you
In the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon,
But I'll be seeing you"

10. Tom Waits - "9th & Hennpin"
"And the girl behind the counter has three tattooed tears 'One for every year he's away,' she says. There's nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars won't fix. She has that razor sadness that only gets worse. With the clang and the thunder of the Southern Pacific going by"

11. Bob Dylan - "North Country Blues"
"The summer is gone,
The ground's turning cold,
The stores one by one
they're a-foldin'.
My children will go
As soon as they grow.
Well, there ain't nothing here
now to hold them"

12. Sam Cooke - "Lost & Looking"
"Crying for my baby, crying all alone
I'm lost and calling for my baby
Baby won't you please come home
I'm lost and calling for my baby
I need you 'cause I'm so alone"

And let's not forget Oscar Wilde's timeless words -
" the whole of celtic myth and legend where the loveliness of the world is shown through a veil of tears..."

Thank you Yves. Well, here's a semi-list of mine (in no particular order).

1.John Prine - "Hello in There"
"Ya' know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder ev'ry day.
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, 'Hello in there, hello.'"

2. Ricki Lee Jones - "Skeletons"
"Some kids like watching Saturday cartoons
Some girls listen to records all day in their rooms
But what do birds leave behind, of the wings that they came with
If a son's in a tree building model planes?
Skeletons, Skeletons"

(I'm not sure what that all means, but it bums me out)

3. The 5th Dimension - "One Last Bell to Answer"
"One less bell to answer
One less egg to fry
One less man to pick up after
I should be happy
But all I do is cry"

(It's corny, pre-feminist, but that "one less egg" gets me everytime)

4. Radiohead - "No Surprises"

"I'll take a quiet life/A handshake, some carbon monoxide."

5. Ben Folds - "Fred Jones, part 2"
"there's an awkward young shadow who waits in the hall.
Yeah, he's cleared all his things and he's put them in boxes;
things that remind him that life has been good.
Twenty-five years, he's worked at the paper,
the man's here to take him downstairs;
and "I'm sorry, Mr. Jones, it's time"

6. George Jones - "He stopped Loving Her Today"
"He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they'll carry him away
He stopped loving her today"

7. Danny O'Keefe - "Outlaw"
"You can try to beat the odds
By never keeping score
You can meet the Stranger's stare
You can always face the door
But you can't be an Outlaw
If you ain't wanted anymore"


8. Peggy Lee - "Is That All There Is"
"I know what you must be saying to yourselves,
'if that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?'
Oh, no, not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment,
For I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
When that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath,
I'll be saying to myself,
'Is that all there is?'"

9. Joni Mitchell - "Down To You"

"Love is Gone"

10. Flight of the Conchords - "I'm Not Crying"
"These aren't tears of sadness because you're leaving me
I've just been cutting onions.
I'm making a lasagna for one
Oh, I'm not crying. No.

I could include anything sung by Mark Eitzel, Elliot Smith and Karen Carpenter. There are so many more. I could go on all day.

How about your favorite sad songs?

Giving My Inner Cynic a Time-Out

(Originally posted by Michelle on Jan 30, 2008)

Giving My Inner-Cynic a Time Out

"It's hard to argue against cynics - they always sound smarter than optimists because they have so much evidence on their side"
Molly Ivins

"The opposite of creativity is cynicism"
Esa Saarinen

As a born and raised New Yorker, born to and raised by other New Yorkers, I would have to guess that cynicism is in my DNA. It's in the water there. In fact, the reason we moved out of the city when I was 11, was that my parents realized I had already become way too jaded. ("Ugh, Lincoln Center AGAIN!?!?")

I've been thinking about the nature of cynicism a lot lately, because I've actually found myself feeling... um, what do you call it? Hopeful?!? (Full disclosure here: I have an eight month old baby, and it's HARD to be cynical around a baby... even for me!) I'm starting to feel like maybe it's time to lose the "been there, done that" attitude and maybe look forward to some things for a change...

I think Saarinen is right. As an artist of any kind, you have to be hopeful in SOME way. I mean, if I felt cynical every time I sat down to write a song, I wonder how many songs I would ever get written? So this is a song I wrote with my friends Kay Hanley and Kara DioGuardi for our band The Dilettantes, which kinda sums up what I'm trying to impart here.

The Dilettantes: "What’s To Come" (MP3, 4:19)

Now I'm not know... "drink the Kool-aid." I'm just saying, let's be open to the possibility that things can change for the better. Yes, I'm talking about the upcoming election. But I'm also talking about the Green movement, which seems to moving out of Vermont and Santa Monica and into the rest of the country. I'm talking about music, and film and television... which we now have the power to say yes or no to. ( I mean, look at what Jill has done with her website for her next record! That wouldn't have happened 5 years ago! ) Oh, the economy is rotten and we're still in Iraq and the healthcare system is completely, utterly f**ked. There's a litany of reasons to be bummed out. But let's not!

Who's with me?

addendum: after the other night's State of the Union address, I am no longer with me. But I'm going to post this anyway, because maybe you readers can tell me why you think things may be looking up (other than "cuz it can't get any worse." I've already thought of that one.

Primary Chatter with Jill and Michelle

(Originally posted by Jill and Michelle on Jan 25, 2008)

From Michelle -

"I've had all I can stand, and I can't stands no more!" Popeye

Anger is an amazing motivator. Yes, it might be smarter to move into action before the emotional dial gets to "outrage", but look, everyone is busy. There's other stuff to do - like, make a living or raise your kid. Then ultimately you get to a point when the passive victim shit gets old... and while I can kvetch along with the best of them, after a while, merely complaining becomes part of the problem.

On Sunday, I went to a house party for Barack Obama - literally three houses down on my street and talked to a bunch of my neighbors...for the first time after 5 years of living here.

My neighbor Estee!

While Obama was a topic of conversation, most of us were talking about what "the point" was for them. This was no SDS meeting, not your typical activist-types... these were your average neighborhood folks - a teacher, a film producer, an ex-minister, a woman who was 8 months pregnant, etc. Their reasons were as varied as - the war in Iraq, the 2000 (stolen) election, a job loss, prohibitively expensive health care and equal marriage rights. By the way, for me, the "point" was getting a $10K bill for having a baby, WITH health insurance. Hmmph.

So here we are, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, schmoozing about politics and the state of our state (California). You see - we've got a big primary coming up on February 5th and since CA has so many delegates, the winner could very feasibly become the Democratic nominee. There's no there's a real sense that phone banking and canvassing and all those old-school grass-roots ways of getting folks elected...could actually work.

I've never worked for a candidate before. As much as I love the whole political theater thing, I'm waaaay too cynical to believe that any one politician is worth working for! Except now, I'm thinking about it. I guess this is where the anger comes in... and why I'm now personally motivated to not only vote for a guy who is everything opposite of GW Bush, but to try to get others to do the same.

By the way, the other day I heard yet another cringe-y Bush speech strangling as he was talking to a bunch of our troops in the Middle East - "When the pages of history will be written, you were on there as the winners."

This has to stop, people.

And speaking of stopping... this is from Jill:

"Stop it Bill!"

I have stood by you for years. You got a bum rap. And... there was a right-wing conspiracy. Sure you lied, but in comparison to today, it's so so quaint. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, "Come back Bill...all is forgiven". Oh, and here's one of my favorite Jon Stewart quotes: "And I will say this: Hurricane Katrina is George Bush's Monica Lewinsky. The only difference is that tens of thousands of people weren't stranded in Monica Lewinsky's vagina."

So like I said, I have always defended you (except for deregulating the media, making radio a big consolidated bore, and I could go on, however...) But even more so, I have loved the distinguished ex-prez who moved his office to Harlem and has worked for Aids and Africa. I saw you speak last year, and was truly moved, even as I aware of your ability to manipulate when seen live.

And now, here you are all red-faced, fighting dirty with Obama, and telling the press that they should be ashamed. It's not becoming; it's not as the Chinese call you, "sexy President."

Just stop it! Get off the campaign trail. You are not helping Hillary and not helping your legacy? Don't blow it.

Oh, and another thing - since The Provocateurs theme song has only been up once (on the very first post), I thought I would bring it back. We spent a lot of time on this silly song.

Jill Sobule & The Provocateurs: "The Provocateurs Theme Song " (MP3, 1:07)

"Cinnamon Girl - Women Artists Cover Neil Young"

(Originally posted by Jill and Michelle on Jan 22, 2008)

"Cinnamon Girl - Women Artists Cover Neil Young"

The first song that I tried to learn the guitar solo on was Neil Young's "Down By the River." I never had heard anything quite like it before. It sounded like a cross between a machine-gun in slow motion and a rat (I'm not sure what that means). And more sounded like I could play it - the first 4 measures were pretty much just one note.

As much as I tried, I could not imitate the kind of ham-fisted tone and beauty of that single note. To this day Neil Young is not only one of my favorite singer/songwriter types, but is also my favorite under-appreciated guitar genius.

So when I got the email asking if I wanted to contribute a song to a Neil Young tribute, I was thrilled, said yes, and knew what song I wanted to do. Plus, the compilation included other women artists who I have admired for a long time: Tanya Donelly, Kristen Hirsh, and Lori McKenna, among others.

I asked Tanya (whose "Heart of Gold beautifully opens Disk One) and Britta Phillips (whose "I Am a Child" is one of my favorites) some questions about Neil - basically, if they were Neil Young fans, and why they chose the songs they did.

Oh, by the way, I covered "Down By the River" and played the solo...on banjo.

I have always been a big Neil Young fan. Since Jr. High School. But I had never heard "I Am A Child" before I was sent the list of available songs to cover for this compilation. I chose this song because it seemed to fit one of the styles that Dean and I have been interested in exploring on our last two albums. Neil Young's version is sort of country, but it has a definite pop element to it as well as simple but beautiful and sophisticated-sounding chord changes, like a lot of Lee Hazlewood or Bobbie Gentry songs. The music is happy and beautiful and the lyrics are a bit complex and dark. This combination always gets me. I also love the drum & bass groove and really wanted to try and recreate that soothing retro feel in my home studio. Just me and my computer. The end of the song turned into this late 60s/early 70s psychedelic/pop/country thing. I love how pop songs back then really crossed over genres.

His (Neil's) voice was all over my childhood - he was my folks' favorite - and then I rediscovered him for myself in my late teens, when I was ready to really hear him. I always want to hear everything he has to say. He makes me feel better. I just love this song ("Heart of Gold"). I think it's perfect, actually - structurally, lyrically, musically. There aren't very many words, but they say everything and I can relate to every single one of them. I love that such strong images and heartbreak and hope all come through in a few lines, and that harmonica is a killer. I just love it.

Right before I was about to post this, I heard back from Leigh (Watson Twins) on the haunting cover of "Powderfinger" and Darcie Miner on her fab cover of "Ohio.

Neil Young came to me via CSNY (Crosby, Stills, Nash &Young). I was taken by their harmonies and the intricate musical progressions. That perfect combo made me a fan not only of them as a group, but them as individual songwriters. Neil Young is a master when it comes to story telling, I think for this reason "Powderfinger" stands out in his catalog. The song also carries Neil's infamous guitar lead. We felt that trying to emulate this guitar master might be tough, so my sister and decided to recreate this hook vocally. It was fun and I feel like it really worked for our cover of the song. We slowed things down to try and make the focus the lyrics. We're from Louisville, KY, a river city, so the imagery is something that we could connect too.

Darcy Miner:
Yes, huge Neil Young fan! Harvest has been one of my favorite records forever. And I think one of the first songs I learned to play and sing was "Old Man." I chose "Ohio" because it's one of the darkest songs ever written about one of the worst things to happen in the U.S. at the time. The lyrics are fearless, and i have a deep appreciation for that.
I have a thing for the dark side i guess - ha.

"Cinnamon Girl - Women Artists Cover Neil Young" will be out Feb. 14, but I think you can order it now. Oh, all the proceeds go to CASTING FOR RECOVERY, a national non-profit support and educational program for women who have or have had breast cancer.

Side note: I asked John Doe to help out on my version of Down By the River.

He is the only boy listed. I think he may like it like that.

Help me make my next record...

(Originally posted by Jill on Jan 18, 2008)

How would you like to be an executive producer at a promising new record company (or at least buy a tee-shirt that says you are)? What about having your own theme song? Have you ever wanted to have a concert at your house with a semi-famous singer-songwriter? And…how would you like to sing with me, despite your (possible) lack of talent, on my next big hit?

Okay, I know this blog is really not supposed to be about me. I am very happy about that…really. We have been talking a lot about politics, but because this is on a music site we touch on music too (like Huckabee's views on the Scissor Sisters).

As we all know, the music biz is in turmoil. A lot of folks are bummed out, losing jobs, and confused about what the next business model will be. But as an artist, I find this an exciting time. We can be pioneers and start having more control of our own careers. That's what I'm thinking.

A bit of history: I have put out 6 CDs and been on four labels –two disappointing majors, and 2 indies (both of which went bankrupt). My personal favorite CD, "Happytown" (on Atlantic) was discontinued, and since I don't own it, I cannot re-release it. One would think that after a couple of hits ("Supermodel" and "I Kissed a Girl"), that I would be living the high life or at least flying business class constantly. But I hate to tell you…I still live like a freshman. The record deals that I signed were not moneymakers...

Now, I'm not complaining. I have been blessed and have played music for over 14 years without having to have a real job - which is a good thing because I have no marketable skills to do anything else. And right now, I have a bunch of new songs and finally feel ready to do a next record.

The problem is that I don't have one of those nice big advances from a record company to pay for the studio, musicians, producer, marketing, publicity, etc. - much less the illegal payola.

So, I have come up with new business model:

You guys - well, fans and companionate friends - invest in me. You fund my next CD (digital release, 8 track cassette, etc.) in exchange for gifts, services and participation.

Here is the site:

So far the response has been pretty great and surprising. Let me know what you guys think. I'm here to please.

Now back to Huckabee.

Why the Hate for Hillary?

(Originally posted by Jill on Jan 15, 2008)

While chatting with my Republican brother (the only one in the family), even he agreed that the white-hot hatred that most of his brethren feel for Hillary... is a bit over the top.

But as soon as he got there, he said, "but it's the exact same thing that you all have for Bush. You either say he is evil personified or a complete idiot." Well, he had a point. Then I said something like, "Well, Hillary may not be my favorite pantsuit wearer, but she certainly didn't get us into an unnecessary war that killed thousands of Americans and many, many more innocent Iraqis (although some would say that she is responsible for her part in voting for it). And she has not single handed-ly taken the goodwill that we had from the world after 9/11, and thrown it down the tubes. I could go on, but I won't."

My new smart and thoughtful conservative friend, who we will name, "The Benign Conservative" (he has a sort of famous other career), is also bothered by Hillary's personal life. He says she is a terrible role model (for say, someone's daughter). After having been cheated on and humiliated several times, she still took the bastard back.

He does have a point, but I do find it funny when, all of a sudden, people on the right turn into ardent feminists. Personally, I think forgiveness is a great thing, but more importantly, I could care less what the White House couple do to each other. I just want someone to do a good job, or at least fair to middling.

Anyway, the benign conservative has given us at the Provocateurs his latest take on Hillary and her display of emotion last week. Next post, we will hear from

"The Weepies"

By The Benign Conservative

Heck, we all get them. I can watch Field of Dreams 100 times 100 and still get misty at the end. Heck, I know it's his dad and I know they are going to play catch. But this red-meat eating red stater can't help it. Or the Friday night shabbat prayer and blessing of the children, (I'm not Jewish but it still touches me deeply when I am invited for sabbath). Or talk of my sainted grandmother or my cursed San Diego Chargers. Tears are not a bad or evil thing but cleansing and human.

So why does the sight of Hillary getting vaclempt make so many people's teeth itch? Because the moments of emotion I describe are all external. For a President, (or their many wannabes), tearing up over wounded or deceased soldiers, the suffering of others or even how fast their children have grown is acceptable. Maybe even expected.

Hillary cried for herself. That a campaign is hard. Oh, so very hard. For her. The enemies, her enemies, are everywhere. The corn-husking morons of Iowa who are unable to see her as the clear and obvious presidential heir apparent. It was so very, very Nixonian. If you listened closely you could almost hear the faint ringing of bygone political self-pity, "Think of what you'll be missing: You won't have Hillary to kick around any more".

Unfortunately, it seemed to work. Women voted in record numbers in New Hampshire. Many in exit interviews noting "we saw the real Hillary". For what? Ten seconds. Then it was back to transformer woman.

And if the result was to unveil a self-pitying, paranoid politician why in the name of feminism did it work?

Thank you, Mr. Benign Conservative

I bet some of you out there have an opinion on this.

Side note: Curiously, how many of you have been cheated on? And if so, did you forgive or move on? Or, the other way around. I want to know. I'm not sure why.

Also, are you all going to watch the debates tonight? I bet they won't be as nasty.

Kickin' It Old Skool - The New Hampshire Primary, Part 1

(Originally posted by Michelle on Jan 10, 2008)

Cue the Dr. Dre and the Soundgarden.

Dust off your flannel shirt and pop "Singles" in the VCR. Is it the 1990's? Clinton and McCain?!?! I know McCain was a 2000 candidate, but it FEELS so10 years ago. Jeez. What is UP, New Hampshire???

A paradigm shift took place last week in Iowa. I know a lot of people felt it - what was that feeling? It was the weight of cynicism lifting off of their shoulders. Obama had stirred something up... just the idea of him is stirring. If Hillary were truly interested in the future of America, she would have signed on as a Mama for Obama right then and there. But no. She had to go play the "don't listen to those crazy kids" card in New Hampshire. And now we're back to 1996. Because you know what comes after another Clinton? Another Bush. God for-f**king-bid.

Bush, Cheney and Co have always struck me as perfectly cast for a McCarthy-era spy movie, in black and white of course.

They'd play the evil government conspirators who try to squash progressive thought and free speech, strip away the Constitution, build up the military and concoct a war for their own financial gain ... oh wait, that's not a movie.

Look, how could we NOT be cynical after the past 7 years? How could we NOT distrust politicians? It's just self-preservation at this point!

This isn't Hillary-bashing, by the way - I've always been pro-Hillary. I voted for her to be our senator when I lived in NY and always thought she'd make a good president. I still do actually. But after all the old skool politics we've been subjected to, isn't it time for something a little new?

Gary Hart gets to the crux of the issue in this morning's Huffington post. Casting all of the aspects of race and gender aside (amazing that we can even attempt that now!), he discusses the basic decision the Democratic party has to make this year (notice the radio silence on the McCain win? Its like, "yeah...and?"). As the so-called party of progress, do they take a leap or a step?

Anyway, I guess that's what we'll all be considering over the next few months... interesting times, huh? I was kidding about the flannel shirts, by the way. Lets not bring those back!

Girls with Guitars" - Exclusive Video and Interviews!

(Originally posted by Michelle on Jan 8, 2008)

Girls With Guitars:

We begin with a video made for The Provocateurs from our favorite slam poet and storyteller: RIVES

Now about me... (it always comes back to me, doesn't it?)

I first picked up the electric guitar when I was 8 or 9. My first gig was in 6th grade with my band "The Igloos"(pretty great band name, I must say). The Igloos only knew two songs: "Hey Joe" by Hendrix and "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple.

As you can see, from the start I fancied myself a hard rocker, a shredder, a guitar hero (decades before the game). The problem for me, way back in the late 70s, was that it wasn't that cool for a girl to do it. The other girls thought I was weird, and though the boys liked me, it wasn't in the making out kind of way.

I wanted to be Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and George Harrison. As far as female role models...there were not many. Oh, we had Nancy Wilson from Heart, Joan Jett from the Runaways, and before them, June Millington from Fanny

...but that was about it. Oh, I forgot, Bonnie Raitt.

Despite it all, I continued to be the best "lead" guitar player in my town (um, neighborhood), long before I decided to do that singer-songwriter stuff. What a bore! Still, I have been known to put my amp on eleven, stomp on my favorite fuzz pedal (the Swollen Pickle) and...shred

Anyway, Rives' video got me thinking about how other "girls with guitars" might have felt... so I came up with some questions and found a bunch of friends to ask - They are: Kat Dyson (guitarist in Prince's New Power Generation and with Cyndi Lauper); Charlotte Caffey (the guitarist from the GoGo's); Kay Hanley (from LettersTo Cleo); Nina Gordon (of Veruca Salt); Tracy Bonham (singer, songwriter and musician); Wendy Melvoin (of Wendy and Lisa, Prince, and composer for the show "Heroes"); June Millington (from the legendary girlband Fanny), Marla Sokoloff (an actress, singer, songwriter and guitarist. She also makes really pretty custom guitar straps called Kiss My Axe); and Dayna Kurtz (a New York singer/songwriter, known for her unique slide guitar style).

My questions are:

How old were you when youfirst picked up the guitar? Was it electric? Acoustic?

KD - 9 years old....acoustic....

CC - I was 15, but I was 17 before I played an electric

NG - about 6 years old, 17when I played electric

TB - I was 5 when I learned A, D, and E - Kumbaya, was it? I didn't really teach myself guitar until Iwas 24. I started to rock out on electric at age 26. I found that distortion could hide the fact that I couldn't really play.

WM - I started playing guitar by default when I was six.

JM - I was just turning 13 when I first touched a guitar.

MS - 12, My first electric was a Fender Strat

DK - 12 - an acoustic guitar my big sister had begged for several years earlier and left in her closet- A Yamaha FG 110 acoustic. The action was so high and it was so hard to play, I thought bar chords were for the super advanced and had to work around it.

Did you get much support for playing from your parents and friends?

KD - My mom was all for it from day one...It took my dada few years to get into it. Theboys in my neighborhood used to tease me and say I was wasting my time. Thegirls used to be kinda jealous because their boyfriends were turned on at thesight of a girl rocking out!

CC - No, and as far as I remember, no other girls I knew played guitar.

NG - Totally. The acoustics were my dad's guitars, the electric was a gift from my brother

TB - Peers gave me much support. They said I had a certain "sound". I thought it was called "ham fisted" but OK, I have a "sound". In the 90's it was considered cool for a chick to play electric guitar.

WM - My older brother Jonathan at the time was playing drums and had some really interesting teachers come to the family house and give him lessons. I wanted so badly toplay the drums too, but my folks just didn't pay that much attention to my musical desires. They really just thought i was being competitive with my bro.Xmas of that year Igot a was a Yamaha D7 or something. I just flipped out I loved it so much. The only time I remember not playing as a kid is when I broke my arm, at 10 years old, skateboarding down ours treet, chasing the older boys to keep up with this new fad... I failed. I had a cast put on that took me out of the game for 4 months... I lost my calluses, and grew black hair on parts of my arm, that never saw any. It took a total of 6 or 7 months before I played again and haven't stopped at all except for the occasional "I want to be a bass player" or "I want to be a drummer now" or "I want to produce now" faze.

JM - hmmm. Well, before Bonnie (Raitt) .... not a one, on guitar. I mean a woman on electric guitar didn't exist as a role model in the 60's ~ although now I know there were a few on the blues and country scenes, and I wish I'd known. So I and other girls in the band just made it up as we went along, out of sheer chutzpah you could say. As far as guys, Jimi Hendrix would have to be at the top of the list. Then there'd be Lowell George, who taught me so much and was a good friend and ally. And there were other guys whose names no one would know but who helped so much with licks here and there, and especially sounds. We all just really experimented a lot, there were no gimmicks then so it was pure tone and understanding the intent behind every note you played. I mean, get it out there.

MS - My mom thought it was another phase because I had already attempted a few other instruments but all my friends at school thought it was pretty bad ass. At least I think theythought that ;)

DK - I was considered pretty weird regardless. It helped a little, I think. Not with boys, though. Nothing helped with that till my boobs came in. And even then, I was pretty much thought to be a freak, and not in a good way. My mom loved it. I think my dad liked it until it became clear that I wasn't going to stop and do something more sensible like get a graduate degree or marry a lawyer. Then he worried.

Who were your role models?

KD - Odetta (my mom loved her; she was the first black female guitarist to play Carnegie Hall; Marianne Faithfull (for hersongwriting) also, Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Rolling Stones,Led Zepplin, Yes, Carlos Santana ,Allan Holdsworth, Jon Scofield; and for rhythm and funkiness: Sly and the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield; all of the James Brown guitar players and last but not least, Tower of Power.

CC - there definitely weren't any girls-but my idols were John Lennon, Jimi Hendricks-way into Led Zepplin and Jimmy Page-my first 2 concerts were The Beatles in 1966 and Led Zepplin in1969 (their first tour) -so that pretty much set the stage right there..

TB - My role models on guitar were and still are George Harrison, Jonny Greenwood, Thurston Moore, and Joey Santiago of the Pixies.

JM - Back in the Day - there were no all-girl bands to emulate, heck there were no girls on any of the cool instruments. But from the family, pretty much the women - my mother Yolanda and my beloved aunt Cora. They adored anything we did, which is more valuable than people think. Peers? We didn't have peers. As I said, we were making it up as we went along. So when we bumped into other girls who played, naturally we were all supportive of each other. One girl was Addie Clement who was in the California Girls out of Palo Alto but joined our band the Svelts (Sacramento). And then there was the band Birtha whom we met in L.A. when we already had a record deal. They got one subsequently, and we hung out a lot, were all girlfriends. Their guitar player was kick ass, seriously, but they never got the attention we did somehow. They were great, tho (and their bass player is the woman singing on "Running On Empty" with Jackson, which was at least a decade later).

DK - My world was seriously rocked by Joni Mitchell, especially. Also, her use of open tunings helpedsolve my cheap warped guitar problems, as you can do less and sound like more in an open tuning. I still mostly play open tunings today. In high school, I was desperate for girl musicians -I loved Joni, Heart, Rickie Lee Jones. I remember in the 80's buying absolutely anything with tits that wasn't bullshit pop, because it was still so damn rare. The Eurythmics, The Motels, Tina Turner's comeback, Til Tuesday.

What was your favorite song to play on guitar?

KH - My go-to song when I have a Gibson Les Paul and a super loud amp to play it through is "LuckyGuy" by The Muffs.

NG - favorite first song to play as a kid was "Keep On Singing" by HELEN REDDY!!! So corny, it hurts to admit favorite was "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac -- phew! Way better.

WM - When I was 12, I was taking lessons when my teacher at the time asked if there was any song I would like to learn.Well, I said yes to "Amelia" by Joni Mitchell - from her Hejira record, not realizing that it was open tuned and that my teacher was not a fan. He went home that week to learn the song and then feebly taught me his rendition. I played it his way till I was 16 and then discovered open tunings on my own and happened on that particular tuning from a song. I was writing at that tender age, and my world changed forever. Guitar playing has never been the same since for me since...

JM - "Stop! In the Name of Love" (nice piano chords, it was the first time I realized you could play a chord with its third in the bass), anything super-funky like "In the Midnight Hour" or "Hold On! I'm Coming", even "Walking the Dog"; Beatles Beatles Beatles; girl group songs - "Heat Wave", "Dancing in the Street", "Somebody to Love" by the Jefferson Airplane (Addie played all the leads, I didn't get off strictly rhythm 'till we got to L.A. and she quit the band - yipes!) and "Sunshine of Your Love" were both great tracks to learn when they were still hits, just an absolutely rollicking time; "Do You Believe in Magic", wow, and a shuffle too; you had learn to do songs like "Louie, Louie", that basic rock thing, but we didn't stay on them long as everyone else was doing them and the 3 chords didn't really hold our interest - what set us apart was the ability to do the vocals that girls sang, or turn gender around on others ... boys didn't switch it around too much like that; and of course a good ballad always tore my heart out, we loved them. Examples would be "To Sir With Love", "Alfie" (I know, not a guitar song but we did it anyway, and learned a lot), "I'm On the Outside (Looking In)", "Baby I'm Yours", Walking in the Sand", "Our Day Will Come" by Ruby and the Romantics, and "Walk On By" - what a track!!.

And why did you want to play guitar in the first place?

KH - I started playing guitar because I was in my first band and was restless to write songs on my own as opposed to having to wait for band rehearsal nights when the guys would strum the chords for me. This was 20 years ago and I'm still not very good.

JM - I had no choice. The minute I heard one at the convent in Manila (7th grade, a few months before we moved to California) I was hooked, smitten even. I knew immediately that it was a force bigger than I and could't resist, it consumed me ~ it was rock 'n roll destiny!

MS - Because Joni did. I also really wanted to write songs about how much my parents sucked andplay them in a band to embarrass them.

DK - I don't know if girls pick up a guitar for the same reasons boys do (to get laid, to be cool). It felt like pretty uncharted territory at the time, but Ifeel like it kind of saved my life, in retrospect. It gave me a similar kind of confidence and grace that playing sports gives to other girls.

Anything else?

TB - I play with one finger alot.

Musicians can act, but can actors be musicians?

(Originally posted by Jill on Jan 3, 2008)

I have brought this up more than a couple of times at dinner parties when the conversation lags: "Can you name any actors or actresses in the last, say, thirty years who have successfully transformed themselves into good singers, musicians or songwriters?"

Most people are at a loss to come up with anyone.

Or, they come up with confusing answers like "Jamie Foxx." But was he a comedian, an actor or a musician first? I went on Wikipedia, where all the secrets of life can be found, and discovered that he studied music at Julliard. So Jamie doesn't count. He's a cool throwback to the days when actors had to also be song-and-dance men, like Sinatra.

It's easier to answer the question the other way around, musicians to actors: How about Tom Waits, Kris Kristofferson, Bjork, Ice Cube, Cher, Mos Def, John Doe and Mark Wahlberg, to name a few (Madonna not included).

But when I think of actors-turned-singers, I think of Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy (with "My Girl Likes To Party"), Keenu Reeves (Dogstar), David Hasselhoff, and my favorite…Steven Seagal. And don't forget the tabloid-celebs-with-record-deals: Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton.

Okay, my friend Michelle has just reminded me of one actor-turned-musician whose music career has eclipsed her acting one: Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley).

I know there are more. Can you all help me?

For fun, I'll leave you with a quote from Steven Seagal:

"I don't consider any actors to be real musicians… I'm probably going to get in trouble after saying that. I think Jeff Goldblum is the only good musician."

Michelle’s note: This post hits a little close to home for me. In my day job as a songwriter-for-hire I’ve actually worked with quite a few of the “celebs-with-record-deals.” Maybe I’ll write about that for our next post? Also, some recent examples I thought of… Mini Driver, Juliette Lewis, Billy Bob Thorton and Jared Leto. Oh, and I LOVED Lyle Lovett in The Player.

Jill: Michelle, will you please tell that story of the unnamed but obvious starlet with drug problems?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Huckabee, The Gays, Predictions, And A Song

(Originally posted by Jill on Dec 31, 2008)

I just saw a clip of Mike Huckabee on Face the Nation yesterday morning. I like his demeanor- his easygoing manner. He seems like such a nice guy.

And, he has a sense of humor-as opposed to Giuliani whose only funny moment in the campaign, so far, was wearing the red vest in his Christmas ad. It was not intentionally funny, I think. Huckabee also seems more of a populist than your average creepy greedy tax cutter. And, Huckabee did have a more humane stance on children of illegals (well, compared to the other Republican hopefuls). Although in the last few days he has flip-flopped and has become more hard line, tying the Bhutto assassination to illegal immigration.

Okay, so he doesn't have foreign policy savvy, but he can hire someone who does…like Bush did (yikes!).

So what's my problem with Huckabee?

Well, I am not usually a one-issue kind of person, but I do have one test:

How one feels about… the gays.

I think it says a lot, no? And, my stance has some leeway. For example, if I have to, I'll accept Edward's statements about not being ready for gay marriage. But he is against a constitutional amendment, as well as against job discrimination and "don't ask, don't tell". And, he is fine with civil unions.

Huckabee has gone far and beyond the usual "marriage is just between a man and a woman". Here is a good quote from 1998 that Russert brought up:

"It is now difficult to keep track of the vast array of publicly endorsed and institutionally supported aberrations—from homosexuality and pedophilia to sadomasochism and necrophilia.”

I love how he compares, say, boring lesbian couples that have been together for years, to going all the way with a dead person. Here's another one from back in the 1980s where he believed we should quarantine Aids patients:

"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague..."

And another:

"I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."

Okay, so these are his religious convictions, and some say I need to be more tolerant. But, is that like being tolerant of Mel Gibson's dad's church where they believe that the Jews are still responsible for killing Christ?

And, I so wanted to like this man from Hope Arkansas…like the other ex-governor from Hope.

So, do any of you have any predictions for Iowa? I have no clue like everyone else, but I'll just take a stab: Edwards and Romney? No, I just can't commit.

Oh, here is a very short old song of mine on the evils of the gay agenda:

"under the disco ball "

My New Years Resolutions

(Originally posted by Jill on Dec. 28, 2008)

New Year's resolutions:

1. I am going to eat better: My dietary habits have not changed since I was 8. Sure, instead of a Butterfinger, I will go for a, say, a Cliff Bar, but it is basically the same sugar crap -- but not as tasty. I skip meals (usually breakfast), snack A LOT, drink Diet Dr. Pepper and like to eat right before I go to bed. I also eat out too much. It's expensive and not as healthy as eating in, they say. But... I have kitchen phobia. I don't cook, and think if I did, I would be terrible, and no one would want to be my dinner date. This is all gonna change. Maybe I will by a cookbook. Do you guys have any good easy recipes for special needs cooks?

2. I am going to get more sleep: I average 6 hours. I like to stay up late and read. It's my no worry peaceful time. The problem is that I like to get up early. The morning is also my no worry peaceful time. The bigger problem is that the rest of the day sucks; I am tired, spacey and cranky. Plus, the crystal meth is just not as fun as it used to be.

3. Better work habits: More time with pen and paper and less time writing on my computer. When I start on my computer, I say to myself, "oh, before I get to songwriting, why don't I check my mail, then go on a couple news sites, then a couple of blogs, then go on Wikipedia to read up on, for example, who are famous Scientologists." Before I know it, two hours have passed and I am too tired to write a song. Plus, I didn't get enough sleep.

4. Be brave and face the DMV: I have a Denver driver's license and have not lived there since 1987. It's part laziness, but mostly fear of having to take the test again, especially the driver's one. I don't know why it frightens me so, but it does. So, I made an appointment for next week at the Hollywood DMV. Wish me luck.

5. Finally put out my next CD: I have been holding out for too long and have been a bit tentative. Will it be as good as my last one? Will I be heartbroken again? My last two CDs (which I am very proud of) were on two labels that went bankrupt. Sure, a lot of folks heard them: I toured tons and did what I could do on my own, but they were never properly promoted and marketed. I will be recording it in February -- yikes!

6. Be a better person: I will try to be less self involved, more active in the community (maybe feed the homeless with my new recipes), be more tolerant of people with different political views (hmm, that's a tough one), and live life with less fear and with more love and adventure.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you.

Oh, here is an old song of mine that is sort of applicable:

one of thesedays

Shoplifting on Christmas - A Song And Parable

(Originally posted by Jill on Dec. 25, 2007)

The one and only time that I have ever shoplifted was on Christmas Eve day. I was working at Barneys Department store on the third floor in co-op shoes. The Co-op, for those that don't know it, is supposed to be the less expensive department. So shoes are $400 instead of $1000.

For weeks I had been eyeing this hat on the first floor. It was a knit tam: black and white striped with a red ball on top. I was waiting for it to maybe go on sale, as even with my discount it would have been $200. $200 for a knit hat that kind of looked special needs. And, $200 was way more than what I made a week selling high- end shoes (I never made employee of the month).

Never-the-less, I still had hope. I brought up the hat to the third floor to show my work mates. They all thought it was cute but hardly worth the money. Customers started coming in, so I put the hat down by the register and went out to the floor. It was crazy busy with last minute wealthy shoppers.

Side note: I did sell shoes to Barbara Streisand that same month.

7:00 came, and as I was preparing to check out and leave, the manager told me that it was starting to snow, so I should put on my hat-she was pointing to the coveted one. She obviously didn't see the price tag that was still attached.

What could I do? The manager told me to do it; she gave me permission. And…if I did walk out, I was stealing from the "man". It was not the hat of some poor individual. No, it was from the most pretentious of all department stores ever—Barneys.

This is what I said to myself as I walked, with hat on head, past cosmetics and perfumes toward the door.

I made it!

Two days later: I left it at a diner. I realized it about a half and hour afterwards. When I returned, it was gone. Someone had stolen it. The nerve. How awful that someone would do such a thing. It was just a hat.

jill: "that hat " (MP3, 3:32)

That Hat

Department store windows
cashmere and corduroy
aluminum snowflakes on strings
We move to the next one
and there is the hat you want
mechanical angels all sing

Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me
I wish that I could buy that hat
if only I had the means

The next day I come back
alone just to take a look
the more that I look I get sad
But still I ride up
to apparels-accessories
thinking of you in that hat

Blessed be the poor like me
who never has asked for much
I’m only thinking of the joy
I’ll bring to the one I love

Right there before me
in black felt and velveteen
I feel my heart start to pound
The store clerk ignores me
for more well-dressed customers
the moment that she turns around

Hark I hear the angels sing
nobody has to know
I take the hat under my coat
and pray for my journey home

I made it home.

Jill Sobule/Bill Demain