I had dinner tonight with my friend Mark Mallman, who is a wonderful singer-songwriter. He always reminds me of Harry Nilsson, even when he doesn't sound like Harry Nilsson, because he also has a subliminal Randy Newmanosity--in a good way.
And Nilsson and Newman are forever fused as one in my heart, because the best thing either of them ever did was "Nilsson Sings Newman".
So many people are better when singing someone else's songs. I think they feel more confident, because it's not their songwriting on the line. They feel braver. This particular match was charmed because, as it happened, Nilsson's weak point was his songwriting, where Newman's was his delivery. He's just not sexy.
I like Mark's new album, "The Red Bedroom." He has two major strains in his songwriting: The singer-songwriter confessional, and the more Tom Waits-inspired story-song. I prefer the confessionals, but a songwriter has got to write what he's got to write.
I first met Mark when Hillary and I were called "Candygirl," and we were the backup singers/cowbellers for The Odd, a fucked-up glam/Stonesy circus that was, for ten minutes, the most exciting band in the world. OK, in Minneapolis.
The band was falling apart as Hilly and I joined, and we only had one gig with Mark--on the mainstage at First Ave. Mark told me the only way to play the cowbell was with complete conviction. He was really bossy and I hated him, but I knew he was right. And that's why I hated him even more. He knew the only way to play cowbell, or guitar, or keyboards, or anything, is with complete conviction. This is why Mark is better than a million other piano-based singer-songwriters. In his live shows he has the fury, chaos, and emotional grandiosity of a rock star. The Odd sucked after Mark left. (With all respect to Tom, the sweetheart leader who looked like the blondie from the Sweet, wore dresses and sang like Iggy imitating Mick).
Tom and I drank beers once driving to a gig. We were in this fucked-up van, and he popped open a couple cans and started the car. I was so impressed.
After dinner tonight, Mark and I went to Cheapo records and I listened to a bunch of freaked-out vinyl: Billy Squier, Split Enz, and the 1981 soundtrack to "Electric Dreams," which featured original compositions by Jeff Lynne and Culture Club. It's horrificifally cute: Jeff Lynne is trying to get with the times, and do a new wave song called "Video" (classic Cosmic Slop territory), while Culture Club is trying to do old-school R&B, with a really fine song called "Love is Love" ("...and love means everything to me").
I ended up buying an Eddie Money CD just for "Baby Hold Onto Me." The handclaps on that songs just won't quit.
I also bought an Argent tape out of curiosity. It is gruesome. It's like some Third World policemen tortured and brainwashed Rod Argent by tying him down and forcing him to listen to Steely Dan for two months.
In two weeks I am supposed to go and sit in on Cosmic Slop. The guys told me to compile a wish list, and said they'd play it and talk about the songs throughout the whole show.
Can you even believe?
The list is huge and spans from Dory Previn's "Mythical Kings and Iguanas" to Rick Springfield's "Love Is All Right" to Dwight Twilley's "You Were So Warm." (Why that song wasn't a huge hit is a total mystery to me.)
Gonna shut up now and go to sleep, and try to dream of the secret chord and buttery popcorn.
Love n stuff
oh, PS: I saw this new movie called "Lovely and Amazing" tonight, which is a valiant but flawed effort. In the bedroom of this 17-year-old boy, there were about 4,000 flyers on the wall from Tsar, my friends' awesome L.A. band. Isn't that cool?
oh my god, PPS: So, my friend Mark Baumgarten, a.k.a. "Wonderboy," went up to the front to get autographs after the White Stripes show last week. (I totally forgot to do that, but I think it was an intentional forgetting, because I cannot bear the thought of actually meeting Jack. I think I would start crying.) Anyway, so Mark's friend is this really absentminded guy who always loses his ID. So in order to get into the Stripes show, he brought his high school year book to prove he's 21. I told him before the show, you should have Jack sign it.
So the guy goes up and asks Jack to sign it. Jack takes it and writes, "Have a great summer! Love, Jack"
Then he hands it back to him and shakes his hand and looks him in the eye and says, "Don't ever change."