updates posted weekly
last update 05/04/2010
As in the old saw about the kingdom and the nail, things often depend on chains of circumstance. The more tenuous the link, the more tangential the connection, the more likely that something interesting can happen. Often the smallest event, the tiniest detail, can cause the largest change as the ripples spread outward.
Science theorizes about parallel worlds, about a multiverse, where each daily event can spawn whole new continua in a bewildering panoply of possibilities. Perhaps it is so. Maybe that’s where the missing sock or that pen you had a minute ago end up at.
It’s possible that, one night in the early 1970s, an earring fell to the floor. A young man, overwhelmed by drink and the pills he took to help him sleep, rolled over in bed to look at it, retched, and spewed the contents of a bottle of red wine onto the carpet. He went back to sleep and lived through that night.
She moved away in a rustle of baby blue nylon. His breakfast sat untouched before him, the coffee growing cold, the omelet running. He put the sports section down and lifted a forkful of fried potatoes and onions into his mouth to at least quell the humming.
This reminded his stomach that he was hungry and he attacked the food. The chord progression that he had been humming continued to run through his mind, and there was still something wrong. Something, one chord, maybe one note, kept it from flowing properly, from being memorable and melodic and instead of majestically ascending to the chorus it kind of fizzled.
Looking out of the plate-glass window at the vehicle traffic on Archer Avenue, Roger doodled on his napkin. The napkin was already covered with doodles that looked like algebra but were in fact chord sequences.
The waitress, Diane by her name tag, reappeared. “You’re humming again. More coffee?”
He stopped humming long enough to ask for the check.
It was a short walk back home…he took his time, looking in the shop windows at bowling balls and toys, stopping in to buy a copy of the paper and some cigarettes to leave partially smoked in the ashtray in his studio.
Humming under his breath, he unlocked the deadbolt and entered the apartment. A pile of unwashed laundry occupied center stage in the living room, straight ahead through the short entranceway. He ran a hand through his mop of chestnut hair, eyed the mound as if it were harboring a fugitive, and skirted it, taking a right turn down the hall toward the bedrooms. On the right-hand side was the room where he slept, smelling as if it had hosted a smoker’s convention. On the left-hand side he had a home recording studio, replete with all of the latest and greatest gear and redolent of the dregs of the convention.
It was to this room and his waiting piano that he repaired.
Taking off his jacket, he tossed it into a corner and sat down at the bench before his venerable Baldwin spinet. The snippet of song that he had been humming was coaxed from the instrument, and he resumed his labor, trying to find the chord or note or rest that would make the piece a song and not a disconnected series of notes.
He recalled Lennon and McCartney getting together and saying “Let’s write a swimming pool.”
“Let’s write a box of crackers,” he said, and moved to pick up his acoustic guitar.
He bent over the guitar, watching his fingers move, his ear inches away from the soundhole of his Washburn. “C sharp seventh, sorta like Day Tripper, good…catchy, nice. Should double that with the bass…hmm.” He essayed a fingerpicking imitation of the bassline on the E and A strings. “Definitely…that works fine,” he said around the plectrum, which he had stuck between his front teeth.
“Strum the verse, alternate,” he continued, doing so. “Chorus is blues-style, ends with the G sharp…” He played that progression. “That just sounds so, I dunno, normal. Common. Doesn’t fit the mood I need.” He continued playing the chorus until the phone rang.
Carrying the guitar, he continued to strum the chorus sequence. Pausing to adjust the strap, he walked across the hall into his bedroom and picked up the phone. His left hand slipped upward a half-step as he did that, playing the C seventh chord.
“Hello?” He said. “Yes, this is me.” He frowned. “No, I’m not interested.” He broke the connection by hanging up.
His fingers were still in the third position, holding down the notes of the C7. He removed his pinky finger and played the C. Went back down to the C sharp, back up to the C.
Sitting down on the edge of the unmade bed, he played that sequence over a few times, finishing with the open-position G chord. “Do what you want, ” he sang over the new progression, “do what you want but don’t do it to meeeeeeee.” The open G sounded along with the last word. “Eureka!” He cried. “I have found it…a eureka moment, a sonic epiphany! Hooray for me!”
Over and over he played the new sequence, taking it from the top. “That sounds so jazzy and NOW!” He cried. “Gonna need a middle eight but yeah, that’s it!”
Still playing, he moved back into the spare room. Picking up the end of a cable from the floor, eyeing it to see where it went, he plugged it into one of his electric guitars. Plucking the low E string on his acoustic, he tuned the instruments to the same pitch.
“Let’s give this a shot,” he said, unstrapping the acoustic and picking up his SG. He slung the guitar strap over his shoulder and attached it to the guitar. The other end of the lead was plugged into his new Marshall amplifier. Turning down the volume knob on the guitar, he switched the amp on, moving the master volume to three and the drive to six.
Thick distorted tones issued from the speakers as he turned the guitar volume up. There was a fresh reel in the tape deck. He reached over and hit “record”.
By the time dusk had begun, Roger had managed to record a demonstration tape and dub it onto a cassette. The middle eight bars had fallen into place as he jammed on the progression. The coda ended with the signature E seven sharp nine chord that had made Hendrix a household word fifteen years before and continued to serve him well even in these times.
Tonight was jam night, and Roger couldn’t wait to bring the piece to the band. They needed material for their next album, and he was certain that his new song would find a place of honor on that record.
He lovingly wiped down his white Gibson with a clean chamois, placing it in its case and locking it. Leaving a trail of dirty clothes behind him, he undressed on the move and headed for the shower, singing the lyrics and humming the instrumental breaks. “It sounds even better in here, ” he managed to say around a mouthful of water.
Clean, dressed in spotless jeans and a black t-shirt, he made himself a sandwich out of odds and ends in the fridge and fixed a half-pot of coffee. He listened to the demo while allowing himself a few tokes of some special redbud, relaxing before he had to head for the rehearsal space on the other side of the city in Wrigleyville.