Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Girl #134 Back Story

I got to recalling the other day how I came up with the song. I owe the entire song really to four things: Sixpence None The Richer, Kurt Nickelsburg, Laurie Anne Lessmister, and a TV show called "Time Trax". I'll start at the end and work backwards.

Time Trax was a really lame TV show that aired on one of those "lame" networks. It was a low budget sci-fi show about a guy who travelled into the past (which happened to be our present) to capture criminals that had fled the future and ended up in other time periods. I have only seen one episode, and I think it was during one of those "channel surfing" moments that will most likely prove to be one of the leading causes of the decline of Western Civilization. So I was watching this episode featuring John Delancie, who is most famous for his role as "Q" in a number of Star Trek incarnations. He played a fanatical , er, fan of a musician who happened to live in the 20th century. So Q had travelled back in time to the twentieth century to steal some memorobelia from said musician before she made it big. I guess the idea was that it would be easier to steal her boots if he got to them before she was a sensation. Oh, note: I guess her music is HUGE in the future. So the hero of the show is dispatched not only to round up the criminal and return him to his proper time period, but also to offer protection to the musician... who happens to be a hot chick. Big surprise, along the way, he falls in love with her. In typical "back to the future" style, the hero of the show actually ends up accidentally helping the musician chick write the song that goes on to be the single that forever secures her position as a rock legend. So the two of them are sitting on a couple of hay bails, and she's playing a "work in progress" song for him that she just can't seem to quite finish. The hero of the show happens to play guitar, and makes some recommendations about how she can make the song better, and finish it. The ONE thing I remember from this episode in detail is this sequence, because he said something that I found interesting. His recommendation was to invert the chord progression that was used in the verse for the refrain. I thought that was a nifty idea, and made a lot of sense. While in the middle of writing Girl #134, I decided to employ this tactic. Slight modification followed, but the inversion is the thing. That's the end of part 1.

Laurie Anne Lessmister was a girl I was dating at the time. I've spelled her name incorrectly here so that it won't show up on a google search of her in case someone tries it. I met her at Santa Monica College, and we dated briefly. Since it was college, I was seeing a couple of different girls at the time, and had just come out of a relationship or two. But she was always particularly interesting because she was so hard to figure out. More on this in a minute.

Kurt Nickelsburg was a dude I was living with at the time. But not in THAT way. We were just roomies. We had a three bedroom apartment in Irvine. He and his lady were in one room, I was in another, and his brother and HIS lady were in the third. Kurt and I often chatted about girlfriends, who we were dating, and whatnot. One day, in the kitchen, kurt asked me how "the girl I met at SMC" was. I said I didn't know, as I had not heard from her lately. He asked me what her name was.

And that's when it hit me: I did not know. I could not remember. It was the weirdest thing in the world. I thought I had been struck down by an instant case of Alzeimers Disease or something. I stood there in the kitchen, scraping the insides of my brain(s) trying to figure out what her name was. How could I not remember the name of a girl I was dating????? I kind of went silent for a moment, and Kurt started laughing. The ONLY thing I could remember about her at that instant was which NUMBER she was. Ie, she was the sixth girl I had dated. Or the tenth, or whatever. For conversations sake, she was NOT the 133th or 134th girl I have dated.

I found the fact that I could only remember her by a number to be terribly de-humanizing and insulting to her. Reduced to a number. How can one person be so detached from a girl he dated? Unknown. I pondered this feeling, and realized it was great song writing material. Not so much because of the fact that I felt it, but because I beleived that if extended to a much more extreme degree, it would REALLY be a kicker.

Finally, there's Sixpence None The Richer. A one hit wonder from the nineties that produced the toe tapper "Kiss Me". It's playing in your head right now. Am i right?? I wasn't really a big fan of the song. In fact, I disliked it. But what I disliked about it more than the song itself was it's blatant and dramatic OVERUSE in movies and TV shows. There was a period of about five years where ANY time two people were in a romantic situation, or were bout to kiss, or were on their first date, or maybe the guy finally caught up with the girl at the airport right before she left for her summer in paris, they would cue that song. I'd love to see a list of all the places it showed up. Must be hundreds of movies and TV shows. I'm sure those SixPence kids are all rich off royalties. this got me thinking. There's lots of songs like this one. The one they play when the lead characters are entering a romantic scene. Each decade seems to have two or three of these. It occurred to me that the opposite does not exist. We need a "go to" song for all those scenes when heartbreak is taking place. That scene when Bobby is going away for college, and is leaving his high school sweetheart behind in favor of all the hotties he's going to pull when he arrives at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Or the scene were Suzie realizes that Jim is just holding her back from achieving her dreams of becoming a professional dance choreographer. Etc. Someone needed to write that song.

So I headed up to the third room in that crowded Irvine apartment, and in about a half an hour had the song completed. Save for a minor lyrical adjustment by Bill Fischer a few weeks later, the song was birthed fully formed. I don't know how I came up with the number 134. It was just a random number that didn't seem impossibly huge, but was insultingly large. I recall the refrain came together VERY quickly. The verse took a little more work, but it still came out pretty quick.

RATS. Just remembered yet another influence. Also channel surfing related. There's a song called "Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls" by the chick group "TLC". I don't like the song at all, but i saw the video once. The image that struck me was at the very beginning. It's on YouTube if you want to see it. It's pretty much the direct inspriation for the first few lines of my song. It shows some swarthy, model type dude rising from a bed and heading over to a mirror. In the background, you see some woman, still sleeping, wrapped in the remnants of a white sheet. The dude looks into the mirror and seems both disgusted with himself and bewildered. Kind of that "how did i get here?" look on his face. I really liked that image, and used it to start off the song.

POST AUTHORING UPDATE: I did a little digging around, and found the video on youtube. Turns out, my memory of the video changed shortly after I saw it, but so what. I guess I remembered it differently than it actually was, but ain't that always the case. Oddly enough, the part of the video that i was thinking of is actually the story of a guy who dies of aids. here's the video. Fast forward to about 2:45.

DOUBLE RATS. Just remembered another influence. I have buried in my memory a really awful movie named "Flatliners". Only saw it once. Directed by Joel Schumacher, featuring one of the baldwin brothers. Said brother plays a guy who is down with the ladies, and makes a habit of surreptitiously video taping himself and a lady doing the nasty. (insert stickmen joke #3541) So the premise of the movie is that when you have a near death experience, you release into the real world living embodiments of your own personal demons. Baldwin's demons turn out to be dozens of women who hunt him down and call him to the carpet on his shenanigans. In one sequence, dozens of women are attacking him and repeating to him the lines he used to pick them up. One woman says "I didn't pick you up, I picked you out". Nice. The second half of that got translated directly into my song, in the second verse. You know "I pick you out, call you sweet and sincere".

So there you have it. The entire song is nothing more than a patchwork quilt of memories and experiences lifted from cinema, television, music videos, and my own crazy life.

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