Saturday, October 15, 2016

Shot of Happiness

Musical accompaniment

Mickey Logan carried his brand new Takamine 6-string guitar into the "1-4-5" studio, which was actually a former bedroom, turned study, and now turned recording studio in the residence of one Peter Underdog, in the town that brought forth the Mass Aggies in the year of our Lord (not to be confused with Lord Jeffrey Amherst), 1863. Mickey had just traded in some random amps, cheap guitars and cash for his new baby.

"Sorry I'm late, I had a ton of shit to do before I could get here", he said in his Irish tenor voice. He left out the fact that the ton of shit didn't start getting done until well after his 11:30 am wakeup time. "No worries, man", said our hero. "I was just finishing a trance gate on this keyboard track". The trance gate was an attempt at making a tune they were about to record less classic rock, and more EDM, although they were both classic rockers at heart. "Speaking of trance", said Mickey, "I've got the merchandise we talked about". He handed over a mini ziploc bag decorated with pumpkins, that looked like something you might hand trick-or-treaters. Inside the bag were two neatly rolled bones, and a brand new BIC butane lighter -- a little bag full of organic chemistry!

Butane is a single chain hydrocarbon, an alkane to be exact:

And now, introducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC as it was probably called when McGruff the wonder dog came to your school and warned you about the evils of this stuff.

That molecule looks like it was designed by someone with some serious issues with those aromatic rings, double bonds, hydroxyl, methyls, and a little chain of butane hanging off.

After some musician talk about jazz chords, tensions, and "magic voicings", they got down to business, which was to lay down a guitar track for Bruce and the Hiwatts' latest attempt at cracking the Billboard charts, entitled "Shot of Happiness"

The song itself, which Peter Underdog was still in the process of composing, was an amped up 115 bpm dance track that would sound good on the dance floor of Divas, a skeevy dance club down the road from 1-4-5 and across the Calvin Coolidge Memorial bridge, named for the taciturn man who, on the other side of that bridge, began his epic political ladder climb that culminated with his ass in the chair behind the Oval Office desk that, a few decades later, JFK Jr. would play under.

Our hero rolled the instrumental track, in its current state, as Mickey fiddled around with some strumming patterns that might fit in among the trance-gating synths, and Pet Shop Boys bass line.

After a few attempts, with our hero calling out chord changes a la Paul McCartney in Let it Be teaching the lads Maxwell's Silver Hammer ("E minor" in that Liverpool accent) they had in hand a guitar track replete with funky strumming and interstitial blues/country flourishes. With a little compression, EQ, stereoizing, and reverb, Mickey's Takamine jumped out of the mix.

Mickey packed up the Takamine as he had to run off for a duo gig with Bruce at the Waterfront in Thorndike. 

"When you smoke it, don't forget to carburate. Get some oxygen in your lungs first or you'll cough them up ". Our hero, up to this point, had been strictly a second-hand smoker of any substances of a mind-altering nature. Second hand smoke could be mind-altering enough, for example, on the Town Common during the annual "Extravaganja" rally.

After Mickey rolled off to his gig, our hero listened to the fruit of their labor a few times, hoping to get some lyrical ideas. The track was in progress to the point that the arrangement had not been finalized and at the point of what was supposed to be a breakdown with a sequence of jazz chords, it simply broke down into a chaotic mess of sequenced synth pops.

A few lyrical attempts yielded mostly scratched-out phrases of awkwardity. Our hero left 1-4-5 and headed for the TV to watch the rest of ABC News With Spokesmodel Dakin Moire, and then a rerun of Modern Family.

Jay and Gloria were checking out a crypts in a cemetary where the corpses resided for eternity in file cabinet like spaces which were valued and sold like condos. The "residents" aka the deceased were expected to abide by the rules of the community or they would be shunned by their fellow corpi dilecti. 

Our hero turned off the TV perplexed at what fellow humans considered entertainment and now turned his attention to that Halloween candy. He had asked Mickey to score him some 'moichendise', hoping that it would help with the pain of recovery from open heart surgery, which was now centered on the sternum which was knitting itself back together. In addition, (lagniappe if you so prefer) it might facilitate getting some lyrics written. A picnic table in the backyard at dusk would be where he would lose his drug virginity.

He was way past being the 40 Year Old Pot Virgin, had many opportunities to get lit up in all those bands over the years but remained a stoic second-hand smoker. His doctor even upbraided him once for being a musician who didn't smoke weed.  

The bone was carefully and lovingly rolled with one end clearly the smoking end, and the other clearly the business end. He fired up the butane which burned blue for a second and lit the business end. Moment of truth. The red glow on the business end faded to a little wisp of that well-known aroma before going out. Shit. 

Once more with feeling. He lit a little more of the bone this time, trying to strike a balance between burning off too much goodness and having another flame-out. Success. Here we go. He took a partial breath followed by a toke. The smoke felt hot but pleasant as he held in, but that good feeling then morphed into a hacking cough. Not enough carburetion he thought.

Toke two. More air less smoke, held in, so far so good. A couple more. This is getting easier. Ok, Mickey said just try a few then stub it out, which he did with his fingers. He went back to Modern Family. Somebody wore someone else's new sweater and ripped a big hole in it, so a parental unit proceeded to go on a wild goose chase looking for an exact replacement. Funny stuff!!!! Or was it the cannabinoids beginning to work their magic. TV off, back to lyrics.

Our hero had scratched out one prototype line in his notebook, along with some chords. 

Hey you out-of-towners
You mood swing up and downers
Come and get a shot of happiness

The shot of happiness was supposed to be the song itself, given to those in need for whatever reason. The rest of the lyrics would be snowcloned from that, in the same way that X is the new Y, or X's hair makes Y's hair look like Z's hair (tip of the pin to the Zipster for that last one). Hey you X, you Y, come and get...

So how do you solve for X and Y? Brainstorm. Sticks and stoners, bitchers and moaners, down and outers, data in the clouders, freedom fighters (as in those who are opposed to freedom), lefties and righters, 420 smokers (how did he think of that one??!!), poppers and tokers. The words were flowing like old man river. We do the jazz break, then repeat the whole song at double speed in reverse and done!

After that flurry of writing and toking and and sticking and stoning, and data in the cloud (in this case, from a yellow legal pad to Google Drive), our hero thought to himself through his aromatic hydrocarbon haze:

"Who IS Peter Underdog?"

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