I met my latest bête noire when The Love Songs shared a bill with Bay Area bashers, Year Of The Fist. I don’t want to brag but we were headlining the Tuesday night bar show, and yeah, there was a touring band so you can rest assured that we were raking in somewhere in the neighborhood of four drink tickets for that top billing.
Because we were playing last (since we were the headliners – only the most respected bands get to headline on a Tuesday night and that band was us, the headliners) YOTF played before we had a chance to do our thing.
Right away I noticed their singer/guitarist unwittingly copping all my Stu Manu’s (“Stu Manu” being our shorthand for “Stupid Maneuver”). She was shamelessly executing back bends and leg kicks. She was playing the guitar only when she wanted and not necessarily when it was required. She even deployed my super obscure “making eye contact with the bass player” trick. The more I became attuned to our similarities the more I was able to predict what she was going to do even before she did it.
Behold the uncanniness…
George Harrison once confessed to how sloppy The Beatles were live. He cited “Paperback Writer” as a prime example. Whenever they came to the a cappella harmony at the end of each chorus George would lift his guitar a little and shake his hips, knowing full well the audience would go nuts and audibly overshadow whatever mistakes the band was making. Moreover, he said he’d learned this from Elvis, making this Rock ‘n’ Roll slight of hand a timeless tradition. I knew none of this when I first started making stupid faces while I played. I wasn’t trying to nail a four-part harmony; I was just trying to divert my fellow high schooler’s attention away from my bumbled efforts at playing DRI’s “Suit and Tie Guy.” Couple this deflection technique with me being a hyperactive clown and a concert full of Stu Manu’s was a forgone conclusion for me.
Back to this woman onstage playing the show where we were the headliners… I didn’t know her origin story or how she came to be doing a better version of me, but it did occur to me that I had perhaps just encountered a bona fide adversary, a nemesis, a rival.
However, before I had a chance to enact Operation There Can Be Only One we crossed paths at the merch table and wouldn’t you know it, every one of those assholes in Year Of The Fist turned out to be cool, fun, funny, and friendly. Seriously… what a bunch of jerks, on top of pre-empting my schtick they were now sabotaging my war efforts against them.
So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
That singer’s name was (and remains) Squeaky. And like me, she also spent a large chunk of her adult life in pursuit of the filthiest Punk house floor at which to look and immediately declare “I call sleeping in the van!”
When the world first shut down and neither of us had access to our respective bands, she and I took a stab at e-collaborating on something. Would we be greater than the sum of our parts, or would I hate her for some of her farts? The song I selected was by the ’80s/’90s L.A. Alt-Country band, Mary’s Danish. It was a litmus test for whether Squeaky and I would gel or combust.
Results: we gelled like so much Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel.* Even Mary’s Danish gave us props, which was pretty cool. (That first effort is posted at the bottom of this column.)
So how about a sophomore collaboration? Better yet, how about a sophomoric sophomore collaboration?
Enter The Undead… **
When Bobby Steele quit/was kicked out of The Misfits he started a similarly horror-driven punk band called The Undead. It’s exactly what you’d imagine if one of the non-bodybuilding Misfits started a Ramones-inspired Garage band, right down to the three-chord maximum and veiled misogyny. (Speaking of gender roles, I hoped that by changing this particular song into a duet it would make it more like a story of two people deciding not to hook up, and less like a story about some dood looking at a naked woman while thinking about capitalism and then not being able to get it up but then blaming her.)
So here’s Squeaky rejecting me, while I’m rejecting her, and all while her husband, Hal, plays drums behind us:
Listen to/download the song here:
And here is our original collab:
Download/Listen to it here:
* This is a must for anyone touring in the summer. It makes wherever you apply it behave like Clark Griswald’s snow saucer in Christmas Vacation.
** Never enter the undead, that’s gross
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