SAW Notes

  • 03/17/2014 10:41 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)

    (In Part I, songwriter Jon Carroll introduced his analysis of Lou Reed's "Dirty Blvd.")

     

     

    Now with some notes, just for fun:

    (And it need not be said that these thoughts, interpretations and suppositions are this writers alone. Its perilous to analyze songwriting. Most writer dont enjoy doing it to their own work, and I apologize if the reader is repelled by this overstep. On the other hand, step offits just a song, a really good song.

     

     

    Dirty Blvd.

    (Lou Reed)

    Pedro lives out of the Wilshire Hotel

    He looks out a window without glass

    (The stage is economically set within 5 seconds with these first two lines.Taken literally: abject poverty. Figuratively, it might suggest there is no lens or protective layer of shelter between outside and in: One reality. Pedro doesnt live IN the Wilshire (will share?) Hotel, he lives out of it.

    The walls are made of cardboard, newspapers on his feet

    His father beats him 'cause he's too tired to beg

    (Further establishing the environment as deprived, abusive, flimsy to the point of ephemera)

    He's got 9 brothers and sisters--they're brought up on their knees

    It's hard to run when a coat hanger beats you on the thighs

    (The begging is reiterated as we learn there are many others there, and they are brought up on their knees, raised to believe that they are lower and worth less than most)

    Pedro dreams of being older and killing the old man

    but that's a slim chance he's going to the boulevard

    (Back to Pedro, he dreams. To wit, his pathetic visionary aspiration is to one day murder his parent. And our credibly world-wise narrator dryly and jarringly dashes even that demented hope as futile, pointing out that Plan A is sadly:

    He's going to end up, on the dirty boulevard

    He's going out, to the dirty boulevard

    He's going down, to the dirty boulevard

    (The signifiers here are quick and potent: end up, going out, going down)

    This room cost 2,000 dollars a month, you can believe it man, it's true

    Somewhere a landlord's laughing till he wets his pants

    (Reed introduces what will be a recurring device here and elsewhere throughout the album, using defecation as a handy expression of a total lack of dignity and respect.)

    No one here dreams of being a doctor or a lawyer or anything

    They dream of dealing on the dirty boulevard

    (Here again is the insistent mention of dreams, a term for aspirations, but now they lead irrevocably back to the dirty boulevard, perhaps as Robert Frosts After Apple Picking refers to the hauntingly perseverating images which cannot be dispelled by an exhausted laborer at the end of a long day)

    Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I'll piss on 'em

    That's what the Statue of Bigotry says

    Your poor huddled masses, let's club 'em to death

    and get it over with and just dump 'em on the boulevard

    (Boldly animating--then desecratingundefinedthe Lady in the Harbor, taking four lines to further dehumanize the immigrants to so much rodential detritus thereby conflating to national policy the landlord laughing while he wets)

    Get em out, on the dirty boulevard

    Going out, to the dirty boulevard

    He's going down, on the dirty boulevard

    Going out

    (Now we are introduced to the third act which offers some specificity to the job descriptions on the boulevard. Going out is a streetwalkers standard pitch, while going down is often at offer)

    Outside it's a bright night, there's an opera at Lincoln Center

    Movie stars arrive by limousine

    (We stay out, outside Pedros world, and the privileged and well-heeled are antithetically busy in theirs. Their night is bright, although Lou slyly and seductively reforms the word limousine into the name of a drug like mescaline or Dexedrine. Just as this listener is thinking this, the following lines affirm the theme):

    The klieg lights shoot up over the skyline of Manhattan

    But the lights are out on the mean streets

    (No explanation required.)

    A small kid stands by the Lincoln Tunnel

    He's selling plastic roses for a buck

    (I discovered that The Robert Frost poem alludes to “stem end and blossom end” as well as other salient images and themes that correspond not too remotely.)

    The traffic's backed up to 39th street

    The TV Whores are calling the Cops out for a Suck

    (A vivid scene,with metaphors for those who are looking. Economical phrasing right down to numbers and acronyms.)

    And back at the Wilshire, Pedro sits there dreaming

    He's found a book on Magic in a garbage can

    He looks at the pictures and stares at the cracked ceiling

    "At the count of 3" he says, "I hope I can disappear"

    (The cracked ceiling: figurative, literal with multiplied metaphoric weight and now, after all, Pedros dream and hope, is to disappear)

    And fly fly away, from this dirty boulevard

    I want to fly, from dirty boulevard

    I want to fly, from the dirty boulevard

    I want to fly, fly, fly, fly, from the dirty boulevard

    I want to fly away

    I want to fly

    (The Doo-Wop style backsing remember the doot da doot in Walk On The Wild Side--function as Greek Chorus and Uriah Heep, ushering the listener, and Pedro to whatever comes next. Another voice (a grown man) assumes Pedros persona with the vociferous desire: I wanna fly)

    This song is a wonderful example of how a simple, thoughtfully considered lyric can achieve amazing and transporting results.

    ManyThanks, Lou.

    ~JC

  • 03/17/2014 10:24 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)

    by Jon Carroll

    Local songwriter and musician, Jon Carroll is famed for his work with Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Starland Vocal Band. He is a frequent Wammie winner and contributed this fascinating essay to SAW.

    Anyone nominally familiar with the mystique and work of Lou Reed would be aware of his status as a primary progenitor of the “new honesty” in rock: an unflinching stylistic trend that preceded "punk" in the mid to late 70's. Ian Hunter & Mott the Hoople, David Bowie, NY Dolls, Iggy & The Stooges, Alice Cooper, etc. were fresh new voices that returned to and embraced a stark expressionism. Vivid and lyrical, it was not altogether nascent, but a return to the blunter styles of early blues and rock. Eric Burdon & The Animals, early Rolling Stonesundefinedperhaps even Buddy Holly-- were ‘punk’ in that the delivery was direct, the message deliberate.

    Many a statement was brusquely made by sheer virtue of--indeed with and withinundefined the delivery itself: forthright and unadorned, stripped down to big notes and sounds with a won’t-run-can’t-hide mainline express approach that torched all chances for misinterpretation.

    Since then, the tradition continues from mid to late 70’s to now with New Wave/Punk icons The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Patti Smith, Black Flag (continually Henry Rollins…) into the Post-Punk 80’s & 90’s with B-52s, Talking Heads, Gang of Four, Severed Heads, R.E.M., Mission of Burma, U2 and on to post-punk revivalists like The Strokes, Social Distortion, naming but a comparatively prominent few: those who embrace a more direct style to convey many and varied themes, tales, rants and laments, the last of which may hazard to be romance and love if those particular yarns were abjectly truthful, proud and with no nod to vulnerability. Sweetness for its own sake was elementa non grata.

    Lou Reed was the principle writer of the Velvet Underground before a long career of collaborative adventure and solo works, and among the first of these artists to expound unabashedly on and of society’s underbelly, its underdogs, the underserved and underrepresented in and out of the drug culture, moreover, sub-culture and alternative lifestyle writ large with multitudes theretofore underexplored. His social commentaries were, for the most part, delivered through the lenses of vividly drawn characters, although he’s also known for not-so parenthetic rants directed at society’s soulless and villainous entities, albeit usually uttered in tones of street-corner commiseration.

    "Lou Reed doesn't just write about squalid characters, he allows them to leer and breathe in their own voices, and he colors familiar landscapes through their own eyes. In the process, Reed has created a body of music that comes as close to disclosing the parameters of human loss and recovery as we're likely to find. That qualifies him, in my opinion, as one of the few real heroes rock & roll has raised." Mikal Gilmore, Rolling Stone, (1979)

    Mainstream Pop music, as with film or any other medium, might include the merely sincere among its myriad characteristics, but it was Punk that flipped the switch refreshingly back to Rock and Roll’s original proclamatory (and in the purest sense, mandatory) adherence to the ethos of “saying what you mean” with as little incidental packaging as possible. The superfluous is an obstruction, no lightweight consideration especially when constructing a narrative arc no longer than a 3 minute record.

    During his final few years alive Reed returned to radio, hosting--along with old pal producer Hal Wilner--the gleefully received eclectic weekly 5 hour New York Shuffle on Sirius-XM which still continues, with the implicit “you’re welcome if you’re doing something interesting” playlist policy. His broad-scope spin choices reveal other interesting aspects to his top-shelf artistic taste.

    Throughout his artistic life Lou Reed maintained a loyalty to all that is straightforward.

    He mostly recorded and/or performed sure-handed cleanundefinedor broadly dirtyundefinedpresentations and portraits that relied on his deft ability to wrangle as much potency from a cunningly considered lyric, a true gift to be appreciated again and again in multitudes of well-turned phrases.

    During his early growth as a student of journalism, film-making and creative writing he was profoundly impressed by the high-octane possibilities of well deliberated minimalism, propelling his lyric writing ever more toward that ideal.           

    The basic, aurally strong-boned construction of Punk provided the perfect accommodation for Reed’s glib style which stands starkly and undeniably expressive, with imagery abiding in scandalous cahoots with primal rhythms and multi-entendre word craft.

    It’s this hybrid brew of narrative styles that that I find the most effecting throughout the Lou Reed catalog. It’s sneaky, as though there may all the while be one continuous chaotic sub-text, a slip-stream cum river raging beneath a mundanely dead-pan commentary. I find Reed’s dryly elegant effusiveness a deceptively rich archeological terrain begging to be upturned for closer scrutiny.

    One of my very favorite songs can be found on his 1989 album release New York, a contiguous three-act collection that was performedundefinedsometimes stubbornlyundefined in its entirety during its initial promotional tour.

    For those allowing the indulgence, I’ve chosen the song Dirty Blvd. for a somewhat granular and reverent, if you will, unpacking: an “under the hood” look at why I consider it an exemplary piece of great songwriting, its layout so vivid and masterful that I had somehow managed to overlook it’s mostly spoken delivery for years. That was until last Spring when I listened with a college class of young aspiring songwriters. One student exclaimed that it was “the weirdest rap song” he’d ever heard.

    Its urban universe revolves around the ambiguously young, cursedly poor, dreamily wistful Pedro. Within this relentless and cruel environment his pragmatic coping devices will inevitably, one might deduce, mature along with his hopelessness into an illicit and morally deficient existence.

    Bleak? Undoubtedly. But truthful and credibly fashioned as only a native empath of “the mean streets” would manage. Over the years the haunting tale would come to wrap ever closer around my head much as this harsh reality would tighten intractably around the pitiful boy’s choked future. See if you might experience the same reaction.

    First, the lyric only:

    (The mix of the recording is wonderfully narrator-centric, as if the storyteller waits just out of the frame during the compellingly simple guitar intro before stepping in, immediately nose to nose with us listeners)

    Dirty Blvd. 

    (Lou Reed) 

    Pedro lives out of the Wilshire Hotel

    He looks out a window without glass

    The walls are made of cardboard, newspapers on his feet

    His father beats him 'cause he's too tired to beg

     

    He's got 9 brothers and sisters--they're brought up on their knees

    It's hard to run when a coat hanger beats you on the thighs

    Pedro dreams of being older and killing the old man

    but that's a slim chance, he's going to the boulevard

     

    He's going to end up, on the dirty boulevard

    He's going out, to the dirty boulevard

    He's going down, to the dirty boulevard

     

     

    This room cost 2,000 dollars a month, you can believe it man, it's true

    Somewhere a landlord's laughing till he wets his pants

    No one here dreams of being a doctor or a lawyer or anything

    they dream of dealing on the dirty boulevard

     

    Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I'll piss on 'em

    That's what the Statue of Bigotry says

    Your poor huddled masses, let's club 'em to death

    and get it over with and just dump 'em on the boulevard

     

    Get em out, on the dirty boulevard

    Going out, to the dirty boulevard

    They're going down, on the dirty boulevard

    Going out

     

    Outside it's a bright night, there's an opera at Lincoln Center

    Movie stars arrive by limousine

    The klieg lights shoot up over the skyline of Manhattan

    But the lights are out on the mean streets

     

    A small kid stands by the Lincoln Tunnel

    He's selling plastic roses for a buck

    The traffic's backed up to 39th street

    The TV whores are calling the cops out for a suck

     

    And back at the Wilshire, Pedro sits there dreaming

    He's found a book on Magic in a garbage can

    He looks at the pictures and stares up at the cracked ceiling

    "At the count of 3" he says, "I hope I can disappear"

     

    And fly fly away, from this dirty boulevard

    I want to fly, from the dirty boulevard

    I want to fly, from the dirty boulevard

    I want to fly, fly, fly, fly, from the dirty boulevard

     

    I want to fly away

    I want to fly 

     

    To read Jon's analysis, continue to Part II...

  • 03/10/2014 7:49 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)

    Music for Life provides after school guitar lessons for youth who otherwise do not have the opportunity; primarily low income. They were recently awarded United Way grants to expand their program in Arlington and Loudoun Counties in Virginia and Washington DC. They’re in the process of opening new class locations and are looking for volunteers to teach. Classes are for beginners and no prior teaching experience is required. Classes are on weeknights, once a week for an hour and usually start around 5 pm. You can learn more about them out at www.musicforlife.org.

    New locations include Lubber Run Community Center, 300 North Park Drive, Arlington, VA 22203 on Mondays; Douglas Community Center, 405 E. Market St., Leesburg, VA 20176 on Wednesdays; Sterling Community Center, 120 Enterprise St., Sterling, VA 20164 (day/time to be determined); Lamond Rec Center, 20 Tuckerman St. NE, Washington DC 20011 (day/time to be determined); and Sherwood Rec Center, 640 10th St. NE, Washington DC 20002 (day/time to be determined). If interested or want more information contact Skip.Chaples@gngnca.org.

  • 03/10/2014 7:41 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)

    Michael Smith, the internationally celebrated songwriter and performer now offers Songwriting Workshops in addition to-and in conjunction with-musical concerts. He has taught songwriting at conferences and hundreds of venues over his five-decade career including the Kerrville Folk Festival, Old Town School of Folk Music, and Lamb’s Songwriter’s Retreat. This self-taught musician is a Tony and Jefferson award-winning composer and contributes original scores to the finest theaters in US. Michael adapts his presentations for small groups, on-going classes and for conference-size gatherings. Speaking engagements on are available as well.

    March 19, 2014 | 1 p.m.
    1749 Dressage Drive | Reston, VA 20190

    Registration required

  • 01/27/2014 1:42 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)

    On Saturday, January 25, nine wonderful volunteers from SAW including President Rob Veale and VP Larry Mediate, cooked and served a hot beef stew dinner for over 80 clients at the Embery Rucker shelter in Reston VA. This shelter houses both families and singles (men and women). The staff there treated us very well, and the clients were happy for the home-cooked food and the tunes we provided after the meal. We were invited to return, and we probably will go there again. SAW Serves has now provided local shelters in Maryland and Virginia, over 200 hot meals and three concerts. We fill the tummies and then feed the soul with music!


  • 01/26/2014 11:09 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)

    MASC Grand Prize winner Becky Warren was a special guest at the January SAW Toolbox Session. Becky’s “I’ve Been Thinking About Mexico” took Gold in the Adult Contemporary category and also the Grand Prize. As an additional surprise, her touring companion, Ben de la Cour also shared the “dais” at the Toolbox. Both are based in Nashville and performed that evening at the Iota Club.

    Becky and Ben shared many insights into their songwriting lives. While differing greatly in their writing process, the two share a strong admiration for each other’s work. By the end of the session, that sentiment was widely shared among the 20 or so attendees.


    Becky’s songs are earthy and concise, deceptively simple and finely tooled. She played a couple of songs from a concept album she is writing about a returning veteran, a subject about which she is passionate.

    Ben’s songs are somewhat more impressionistic, although also carefully crafted. Both struck this writer as exceptionally literate, articulate, and wise beyond their years.

    The SAW Toolbox is held every fourth Saturday, hosted by Kevin Dudley at the Convergence Lab in Alexandria . Check the SAW Calendar for details.

  • 01/26/2014 10:56 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)

    Dear SAW  Family,

     

    We’re off to a fantastic start in 2014 – if you haven’t been following the SAW web site or Facebook, you’ve missed out on what your SAW has been up to.   The 30th Mid-Atlantic Song Contest (MASC) GALA Awards Program at Jammin’ Java was a huge success  thanks to our own Loralyn Coles, MASC Director and her Assistant, Suzanne Ives.  If you were in the audience, you’d never know the hundreds of minute details our MASC directors have to coordinate for it to come across so professional  – everything from communicating with sponsors and judges,  coordinating volunteers,  creating award certificates, designing the award program, writing the script, producing and distributing the compilation CD and so much more.   Simply outstanding ladies!  I also want to thank everyone who helped throughout the evening from the front door to back stage, from ticket and CD sales to Facebook posting – it was a great effort by everyone.

     

    To top it off, yesterday seems to have been a SAW day for me.  I began by attending the Songwriter’s Toolbox hosted by Kevin Dudley – it was an outstanding program with guest artists Becky Warren and Ben De La Cour, both from Nashville.  Then at 2:30 I drove over to a homeless shelter in Reston to join more SAW members at the SAW Serves “Feed and Play” that our own Ricardo White coordinates.  Ricardo will tell you more about that in a minute – it was both rewarding and priceless.   

     

    I hope each of you can find time to participate and enjoy in many of these activities – for the shortest month of the year, Feb. can seem a little long at times so check the SAW calendar and participate in one of our many events to brighten up the month!  

     

    Speaking of the SAW web site, our calendar, Facebook, and keeping in contact with you,  your Board recently voted to implement a new communications plan that will give us a new look and feel.  We’ll keep you informed with the transition but you’ll notice that it’s going to be more interactive, more timely, and more member-focused.  As always, if you have suggestion as to how SAW can better meet your needs, let us know.

     

    All my best ,

    Rob Veale

    SAW President

  • 12/30/2013 9:15 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)
    A packed crowd of SAW “Boardies” and friends turned out to honor Jean Bayou for her long service to SAW at a special SAW Board Meeting and celebration at Epicure Café on 22 Nov. As a former Mid-Atlantic Song Contest Director and SAW President for the last 8 years, Jean was honored, roasted, and serenaded well into the night. Following a great dinner and short business meeting the festivities and Bayou-roasting commenced. Current and former board members, SAW Associates, and close friends made this a super special occasion.

    As Jean reminded us, we seek the comfort of coming together in song. I wish everyone could have been there. 

     
     
  • 12/30/2013 7:29 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)
    Dear SAW Family,

    Hope you all had a very wonderful Holiday Season and you’re ready for a great 2014. Over the past year, many of you had a hand in making SAW what we are and it is only through your contributions of time and talent that we were able to offer so many wonderful events. I’ve seen the commitment to continue in 2014 and I think we may even do this year improving our craft, sharing our talents, and giving back to the community.

    By the time you read this, the winners of the 30th Mid-Atlantic Song Contest should be announced. Check out the web site because you’ll see a notice that the 30th MASC Award Night Gala is scheduled to take place at Jammin’ Java in Vienna on Sunday, January 19, 2014 starting at 6:30 p.m. It’s always a magical evening of music, camaraderie and fun! Congratulations and thanks to all whom entered this year’s song contest! Mark your calendars and get your tickets now.

    The short notice, 2nd Sat Open Mic Holiday Party in Dec was a great success in spite of the weather. I know that there were more than a few of you who wanted to come but were thwarted by the weather. It was such a great evening that we came to the realization we should try to have more SAW events for the membership, other than just our annual membership meeting. That said, we are starting to plan something for the spring. If you have some ideas or want to help in the planning, please contact me. 

    I’m excited about 2014! We’ll be expanding our SAW Serves Mission and that will present some great opportunities to participate, perform, and show our community that we care. We will also continue to pursue opportunities for us to hone our songwriting and performance skills. Don’t forget the SAW’s Toolbox Sessions on 4th Saturdays, our Critique Session and Open Mic on 2nd Saturdays, and all the other Song Circles, open mics, and showcase opportunities. Please, please, please . . . Check the calendar at saw.org regularly!

    All my best for the New Year. I look forward to seeing you soon!
    Rob Veale, SAW President | president@saw.org

  • 12/30/2013 7:25 PM | Steve Coffee (Administrator)
    By Amy Lowenstein
    On November 23rd, SAW sponsored a concert to benefit the Lyons, Colorado Community Foundation. (http://lyonscf.org/) Lyons was devastated by flood waters on September 12th 2013. Lyons is the home of Planet Bluegrass (www.bluegrass.com) and a vibrant music community. Many of us have strong ties of friendship and respect for that community of fellow musicians. The concert generated over $1,000 in donations for the Lyons Community Foundation. The concert was produced by Larry Mediate with the assistance of Amy Lowenstein.
    SAW members Siobhan Quinn and Michael Bowers related accounts of the near total destruction of the town’s infrastructure during their SAW concert series performance in September. A brief phone conversation between Larry and SAW Serves coordinator Richard White was all it took to get the ball rolling. It all came together as planned although Cindi Slaughter was unable to make it to Northern Virginia for the show as scheduled, Ladies Done Waiting graciously filled in with a great set of music.

    Gratitude and respect to these performers and volunteers:
    Ladies Done Waiting (Chris Anderson, Kathleen
    Hubert, and Kim Melton)
    Jean Bayou (with Jim Clark and Ron Goad)
    Tom Bodine, Marcy Cochran and Scott Malyszka
    T. Edwin Doss
    Jim and Ashley Cash
    Michael Bowers
    Larry Mediate, Jim Clark, Niels Jonker (with Ron
    Goad)
    Caron Dale (Master of Ceremonies)
    Jim Johnson (Stage Manager and live sound mix)
    Richard (Cardo) White (Live sound mix)
    Ron Goad (Percussion and color commentary)
    Amy Lowenstein (Logistics and attention to detail)
    Larry Mediate (Sound / lighting systems and volunteer
    coordinator)
    Special thanks to Pastor Stephan Smith-Cobbs and
    Trinity Presbyterian Church of Herndon.

 

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