Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I've been wondering: how does watching bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and self-proclaimed golden gods Led Zeppelin turn into what are undeniably old men affect our view on aging? I mean, look at these guys:

Let the sun beat down upon my face

They're old. (Well, three of them are.) They look great, each in their own way. Jimmy Page looks incredibly cool (if incredibly sweaty), John Paul Jones appears to be a decade younger than the others—closer in age to whippersnapper Jason Bonham—and Robert Plant looks like one badass beach bum who's barely been out of the sun since the 70s. He looks cool. He looks great. But he's old.

Does seeing the cute Beatle get increasingly jowly and obviously dye his hair make us feel our mortality all the more, or is the fact that he's still playing (wonderfully) to stadiums full make us feel like there's no need to get put out to pasture at the ripe old age of 64?

I don't know. And I'm not really going anywhere with this. I just wonder what effect, if any, it's had on those of us who grew up listening to rock and roll as time marches on, both for us and for the bands we listened to back when we was young.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Here Comes the Flood

Sure, PG was using it metaphorically, but even there, the need for community shines through.

Lord, here comes the flood 
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood 
If again the seas are silent In any still alive 
It'll be those who gave their island to survive 
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Road and the Sky

For my peeps on the east coast. Stay dry, my friends.

Now can you see those dark clouds gathering up ahead? 
They're going to wash this planet clean like the Bible said 
Now you can hold on steady and try to get ready 
But everybody's gonna get wet 
Don't think it won't happen just because it hasn't happened yet

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sugar Ray Macca

I like pop. Melody is, as no one says, my jam, and pretty much regardless of style or trends, in the modern era, at least, pop equals melody. The beat may vary, the production certainly does, but melody is a constant in the majority of pop music.

So I liked Sugar Ray. What can I say? I did. Not enough to give them any money, but when one of their three or four songs I knew came on, I enjoyed them. I know it's not cool to admit it—hell, it wasn't cool to admit it back when they were selling millions of records, it certainly ain't cool now. But it's been a mighty long time since I cared what people thought of my taste in music, and back when I did care, I had the metabolism of a jackrabbit and, what the hell, even back then, back when I cared, I really didn't care much. I mean, listen to this intro:

It's "Ventura Highway" with a nice groove and less ridiculous lyrics. And if the band's sense of humor isn't exactly on a Monty Python level, well, I give 'em credit for not just trying to look cool. Is frontman Mark McGrath kind of annoying? Sure, but a lot of that may just be how much I wish I had his looks (certainly his hair and his abs). And, yeah, his voice is kinda nasally, but on the other hand, I found out not too long ago that he lived, for at least a little while, in the same small Connecticut town as me at the same time. So, you know: represent, my brotha.

Same goes with (what I think was?) their last hit:

Again, catchy melody, decent enough lyrics, prominent acoustic guitar set against a cool beat: for a guy like me, what's not to like? (Answer: the silly Robbie Robertson-like conducting of the other band members during the lovely acappella intro.

And here's my point. Tonight it hit me that Sugar Ray's basic DNA can be found right here:

Oh, sure, sure. I know, I know. "Band influenced by Beatles" isn't exactly news. Even to be influenced by a former-Beatle's post-Beatles work isn't exactly earth-shattering. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about having been influenced by the Fabs, although clearly the band was. I'm not even talking about having McCartneyesque influences or bits and bobs. I'm talking about this specific post-Beatles Paul McCartney song being the basis for Sugar Ray's biggest hits.

It's all there, save the nasally voice. That's Sugar Ray's entire hit template, one sub-3:00 tossed-off ditty, later sped up slightly. I mean, jeez, listening to the section from about 1:42 until the end, it feels like Sugar Ray owes a certain British knight royalties.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Newbie's Live Dinosaur Jr Primer

So my old college roomie, Dave, is going to go see Dinosaur Jr in a few weeks. Once I was able to get past the blinding jealousy, I was filled with excitement for him, getting to see one of the great American bands of the 80s and 90s and, what the hell, this century so far, not to mention the absolute best band reunion ever—I don't think it's even close.

Dave knows some Dino Jr and obviously likes what he's heard 'cuz duh how could anyone not? But as he's not a huge, long-time fan, I looked at recent setlists and decided to put together a very brief primer for someone going to their first DJ show: just a handful of tunes he's likely to hear live, maybe a third of their total set.

Let's start with their current single, the delightfully crunchy yet as always ever so melodic "Watch the Corners," with the brief, sudden and (hitherto) unexpected acoustic interlude, from their new album, I Believe in Sky. 

They've also been playing the slower, grindier "See It On Your Side" a lot this tour, again from the new album.

Going back to their second album, they almost always play "The Lung." (My writing that, of course, means they're probably about to drop it from the set.)

But they go even further back, playing "Forget the Swan," off their 1985 debut, almost every time out, including an oddly large percentage of TV appearances.

Maybe their best-known song—other than their utter killer cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven"—is their sadly autobiographical yet utterly transcendent "Freak Scene."

'cuz when I need a friend it's still you. Now you're fired. See you in fifteen years. 

And that's about it. I could add the insanely catchy "Little Fury Things"—the very first Dinosaur Jr I ever heard and three seconds in I swear I knew I was going to be a fan for life—or "Out There" which, if not my very favorite DJ song ever is certainly Top 3. I could say to prepare to be amazed by the ferocity and dexterity of J Mascis's soloing or how he wears his heart on his sleeve in his lyrics yet can barely seem to be arsed to actually sing them, much less talk to the audience, or the bizarrely chordal bass playing of the much more outgoing Lou Barlow who never seems to have been told that the bass is traditionally plucked and not strummed. And Murph's drumming? How he seems to want to destroy his drum kit as quickly and violently as possible? His glorious tonsorial style? His overall diaphoretic appearance? In fact, I could go on for hours about Dino Jr, something Dave well knows.

But I won't. Instead, I'll just leave with one last, incomparable and utterly perfect pop song.

Good golly. I may need to borrow her cigarette.

Oh...and bring earplugs. Seriously, trust me on this. You're welcome in advance.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

God Bless the Child

(NOTE: Out of respect for some of the people mentioned in this post, many of whom I haven't been in touch with for 15 years and wouldn't know how to get in touch with today, I have changed their names. Just FYI.)

About 15 or so years ago a friend of mine got me involved in doing some acting for a local theatre company. I hadn’t acted since high school and, well, I wasn’t exactly a star back then. In fact the last show I had been in before 1996 was 10 years earlier during my senior year of high school with “Anything Goes,” (Scott was in it too, only with a much bigger part) and I was literally in the very first scene and then didn’t appear again before the curtain call. It was not resumé material.

But for whatever reason my friend Kathy, a method-trained actor for whom theatre was not just a break from her job as a therapist but also an extension of it, thought I would enjoy acting and had a part for me to play. It was in an original show called “The Man Who Knew Trotsky,” a Jewish family systems drama written by a friend of ours, and I played a large role as a troubled 30-something Jewish man who was married to a junkie stripper and was having an affair with his estranged older brother’s girlfriend. No, it didn’t exactly hit close to home. I don't have an older brother. (Hee!)

Anyway doing the show was an eye-opener and for a little while I got very into doing plays. I did about five of them in an 18 month period before it was time to take a break. It was indeed therapeutic and fulfilling and felt extremely healthy.

But the last show I did with Kathy was a show she had been wanting to do for years and years, a show about the Vietnam War. It came to be called “Who By Fire,” named after the haunting Leonard Cohen incantation, and it was the story of Vietnam veterans by Vietnam veterans. That was the hook as well as Kathy’s biggest challenge; she wanted it to star Vietnam veterans who would then tell their own stories. Whether or not they had any formal acting training was irrelevant—Kathy would (and did) take care of that. But it was to be a series of vignettes, 15 to 20 in all, about their tales from combat and their struggles after the war. Many would be them telling their very personal stories, and some would have these vets telling the stories of others. It was powerful stuff.

Kathy was an amazing director and remains an amazing person, and she pulled it off. She found a few Vietnam veterans who were willing to tell their stories. Some were deeply, deeply opposed to the war now and were opposed to all wars and had a intense (and well-earned, it seemed) distrust of the government. All lived with the memories of the war and all were haunted by various ghosts. Kathy drew their stories out of them gently, lovingly, and shaped them into one hell of a formidable acting troupe.

One in particular—we'll call him Bob—was severely troubled by the war and struggled for years and years. Bob was (and I hope still is) a loud, music-loving, ultra-liberal, long-haired, wisecracking force of nature whose experiences in Vietnam scarred him in ways that non-military folks like myself can really never, ever imagine. But he was also a blast to work with and he took to the stage with an almost unnerving natural grace. Many of the stories that made up the play were his own, a couple of them funny but several absolutely terrifying.
At the time I was not yet 30, married but not yet a father, and I was to be both Kathy’s assistant director as well as play a role in many of these vignettes. In one, called “Kid” and based on a story from the book Nam by Mark Baker, I played a deeply troubled kid trying to live with what he saw in Vietnam. In another, Ernie (another vet) and I recited a very powerful poem written by a friend of mine called “A Word With a Hero,” written to a dead enemy soldier whom the author had killed, and containing this amazing bit of writing (which we recited at the base of a model of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall that served as the backdrop for the entire show):

Now the people who sent you there to meet me are gone
And the people who sent me there to meet you are gone…
…and everyone just wants to be friends.
Why didn’t they think of that first?
Before we met that day?

The most grueling part that I was in was also written by Bob, and was the story of a badly under-qualified 2nd Lieutenant (played by me) whose panic and terrible planning got a large number of Bob’s fellow soldiers killed one night. It remains the single hardest thing I have ever done in my relatively brief acting career, and it stays with me to this day.

“All these men are dead because of you!” he screamed toward the end of the scene, slamming my head into the stage while I turned into a puddle laying on the ground. “Because of YOU!”

Again, doing “Who By Fire” was one hell of an experience. But one of the coolest things Kathy did was ask Bob, Don and Ernie—the three main players and all of whom had served in Vietnam—to pick the soundtrack for the show. To score it. They dove into the task with glee, coming up with not just the stuff of the era you may expect (like the Doors “The Unknown Soldier” and Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends”) but also with eclectic choices like Ray Charles’ iconic “America” and B.B. King’s epic “The Thrill Is Gone.”

But best of all is a song Bob chose for a skit called “C.O.” Which was a story told by Don about a conscientious objector that had been stationed in his unit. It was a matter-of-fact story about a man who would not fight and would not carry a weapon, yet who still served his country and served in Don’s unit. He was ostracized by many of them, but he still served, quietly and with a sense of purpose and focus and patriotism that Don made clear to us.

For this portion of the show Bob chose a piece of music that you maybe wouldn’t think would fit, but did so beautifully. Billie Holiday’s wondrous “God Bless the Child.”

Them that's got shall get
Them that's not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don't ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own

Money, you've got lots of friends
Crowding round the door
When you're gone, spending ends
They don't come no more
Rich relations give
Crust of bread and such
You can help yourself
But don't take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own

Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own
He just worry 'bout nothin'
Cause he's got his own

It’s a socially conscious song dating way back to 1941, about poverty and want and the exclusion of those who haven’t got, brought to life by Holiday's angelic voice. But it’s also about being alone and forgotten, and the ability some of us have to deal with that and still forge our way forward. It was written at least a decade before anybody ever heard of Vietnam, but the words seemed to apply 100 percent to this conscientious objector I had never met, yet seemed to know quite well by the time the five-minute vignette had ended.

Because in this specific context it came through as a song about personal dignity in the face of unthinkable adversity, of a sense of pride and perseverance permeating into the darkest reaches of the human soul. He and the other C.O.’s were alone out there, isolated, thousands of miles from home and even farther away from many of those they served with. Still, they carried on. They got their own.

God bless them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

John Denver

This past weekend was the 15th anniversary of John Denver’s death in a plane crash. I can still recall being home from work for the Columbus Day holiday and IMing (ah, those  AOL days!) with a friend about the news. It was jarring to learn, even though I really hadn’t thought about John Denver or his music in years and years.

But certain artists, like certain songs, are imprinted in you, as Scott recently wrote. And once the imprinting takes hold, it very seldom lets go.

[That sound you just heard was Scott doing a Victorian swoon and falling to the floor, unconscious. So stunned to learn that yes, I actually read his posts.]

But with John Denver there was certainly a connection that went way, way back to well before my musical tastes were even formed. It goes back to the early 70s and being barely 6 or 7 years old and hearing his music play in the house. Our house was a split level, with the TV room (we called it the family room) downstairs and the formal living room, sans TV but with stereo speakers, upstairs.

My dad had a pretty expansive stereo system back then and it was also housed in the family room—I recall it being seven different pieces, not including large speakers up in said living room and smaller speakers up on shelves in the family room. But there was a custom-made cherry-wood stereo cabinet that was the size of a couch and maybe four feet high, and in it it held my dad’s turntable, receiver, dual-casette deck and 8-track player (yes, Virginia, it was the 70s), along with separate equalizer and Dolby system components as well as an old reel-to-reel tape player my dad had from, I am guessing, dating back to the 60s. The cabinet also held his entire cassette, 8-track and record collection—there were easily a few hundred of them in there.

But with the speakers upstairs and down, and the general openness of the split level design, a record or tape being played on my dad’s stereo system would be heard throughout the entire house, even up in the bedrooms on the top floor. Easily. If music was on, everyone heard it.

And this is where John Denver (and others) crept into my subconscious, where he still resides today. My parents were big fans of his and his music would play throughout the house on Saturdays and Sundays, or maybe during family events or holidays. And sure, by the time I was 10 I was ready to never hear him again.

But as it is with music, time brings with it revisited and reclaimed appreciation. The same way we can hear, say, “Free Bird” or “Won’t Get Fooled Again” today and recognize them for the sheer musical masterpieces they are (whereas when they played non-stop on FM radio 25 years ago we grew dead tired of them and wouldn’t have minded if we never heard them again), so too can the music of our childhood become desirable again.

The truth is John Denver was a fine songwriter with a very nice, clear voice and a wonderful sense of melody. He didn’t write angry or confrontational and he met no one's definition of dangerous or edgy, but his songs—particularly his love songs—always came through with a sharp sense of confidence, a singer-songwriter in command of his material. His was a decidedly American sound and, born out of the American folk movement as he was, it certainly sounds like it belongs to an American era of the past. But play the songs today and they interestingly enough do not sound dated. That’s impressive in itself.

Case in point—maybe his finest song.

Sure, it’s sentimental and makes a play for the heartstrings. But it’s also honest and on-point, and it possesses such a damn lovely guitar lead and gently moving vocal line that it’s easy to forgive any melodrama that may come with it. And it stays inside you for a long time—it did with me anyway. And the main reason? It’s not necessarily rooted in Pavlovian conditioning or even subdural trickery. It’s way simpler.

It stays with us because it’s good, sweet music. Period. That’s something Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. left as a lasting legacy. And imprinted, I am guessing, in many, many of us.

Thanks for that, sir. Greatly ‘preciated.

Friday, October 5, 2012

It's a Tragedy

So much bad music. So little time to mock it.

OK. As always I overstate. There is so, so much good music out there, in so many shapes and sizes and colors and forms.

But let’s face it—there’s some pretty bad dreck out there too. After all, John Mayer and ABBA are still working.

Again with the trashing of those two? Don’t you have better things to complain about, Dan?

Sure do. Because the type of song I am thinking about today was a particularly noxious genre, one that mercifully largely died out before either of us were born, yet still bubbles to the surface every once in awhile. Or at least did. Fortunately, with one remarkable exception (that to come later) the genre largely ceased to exist by the mid-70s.

I am talking about what was known as “The Tragedy Song.” Not songs about tragedies, mind you. Because there are too many wonderful tunes that deal with death and tragedy to really list here. But the list would certainly include “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “For a Dancer” and “Wreck on the Highway” and even “Ziggy Stardust,” songs that all deal with tragic events and examine them through a lens of anger, regret, fear and the rest of the honest emotional spectrum. Many other examples of really good, really sad songs abound.

That’s not what this is about.

The “tragedy song” was a fad at the turn of the 50s into the 60s, and involved a perfect little story of a perfect little couple so totally and hopeless in love with each other. Only then, one of them dies. End of story.

Only it’s so not. Because here’s the thing—in every one of these songs, and mercifully there weren’t that many of them, but just enough to make it a legit fad—the way in which the person dies is so mindbendingly horrific and irredeemably stupid that the listener really can’t help but laugh at the idiocy. And what’s more, the songs are cloaked in layers and layers of maudlin sap and whiny pap. We’re kinda glad the person is dead because it means the song will soon be done, and we wouldn’t mind the narrator joining the dead love.

My dad was in college during this era and he has confirmed that, yes, these songs were huge and, yes, these songs were ridiculous. He even has a very funny story of a piano player in his fraternity house who turned one of these songs into a rollicking barroom singalong, which always got the room howling. Good!

Case in point is the Mt. Rushmore of musical tragiporn, “Teen Angel” by Mark Dinning in 1959. The couple is soooo very in love and soooo happy. Until one night when their car stalls on some railroad tracks, and a train is bearing down on them. They get out safely, only the girl goes running back and promptly gets crushed to death by the train barreling down the tracks. And why did she do something so stupid?

It really is kinda hard to believe.

What was it you were looking for?
That took your life that night?
They said they found my high school ring
Clutched in your fingers tight.

She ran back to get his high school ring. Which apparently meant so much to here she wasn’t even wearing it at the time!

Somewhere Charles Darwin heard this song—although only if he’s unfortunately in hell, which I doubt—and smiled, nodding. Survival of the fittest is working like a charm.

The song went to Number 1.

Then there was Ray Peterson’s “Tell Laura I Love Her” a year later, which went Top 10, although not to the very top, mercifully. Once again the couple is deeply in love, happy and smiley and ready to live forever. Only Tommy, the hero (for lack of a much, much better term), can’t afford to buy her an expensive wedding ring ($1,000!).

So he does what any sensible young man would do. Finds a cheaper ring? No. Gets a job to pay for it? No. Takes out a loan? Buys it on layaway?  Borrows from his parents??? No, no and NO, Mitt!!!

No, he does what any sensible young man would do. He enters an auto race to win the $1,000 first prize. You really had to ask?

What happens? C’mon, you know what happens!

No one knows what happened that day
How his car overturned in flames
But as they pulled his body from the twisted wreck
In his dying breath they could hear him say
“Tell Laura I love her…”

Also? Tell her Tommy was an idiot and she’s probably way, way better off.

There's plenty more, unfortunately.

In “The Last Kiss” (covered stridently decades later by Pearl Jam) awful driving is again the cause, this time the girl dies because her lover somehow couldn’t see a stalled car in the road up ahead. More bad driving takes the guy in “The Leader of the Pack,” which actually is quite musically enjoyable in the hands of the Shangri La’s, if you overlook the general overwrought silliness of the lyrics.

In Pat Boone’s hideous “Moody River” he arrives for a date to find out that his girl has inexplicably killed herself. Although she was dating Pat Boone so, well, I repeat myself. And in “Patches,” a girl named Patches kills herself and leaves her lover so very sad that Patches is dead. And gives no real reason. Although it possibly had something to do with her parents naming her “Patches.”

Again, it’s not that these are sad songs. Tons of amazing sad songs have been written over the years, ones that stay with us forever. It’s that these are melodramatic little soap operas, designed to lose us in the all-encompassing crippling gloom and not just tug at our heartstrings but to freaking tear the suckers out of our chest. They come with all the subtlety of a Yanni keyboard solo, and they are obnoxious in their efforts.

Fortunately, the trend began to die out by the mid-60s; maybe because the Kennedy assassinations and Vietnam War gave us real things to worry about. Or more likely just because the trend had run its course, just like disco did in the late 70s and glam metal would in the late 80s. (Both of which are preferable musical genres, BTW—yes, even glam metal).

But every once in a while the tragedy song would rear its ugly head again. Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” in 1968 may very seriously be the Worst. Song. Ever. So misogynistic and manipulative and craven in literally every little awful corner of it. “Seasons in the Sun” in the early 70s is so whiny and intentional it leaves us openly rooting for the guy to die by the end of the song. And “Billy Don’t Be a Hero,” well, it's to anti-war songs what Karl Rove is to hip hop.

But, and here comes the big twist I have so clearly telegraphed, there is one song—released in 1992—that returns all of the conventions and pitfalls that once shaped the classic “tragedy song” motif. And actually works well.

Richard Thompson delivers beautifully with “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” because the song is what all those other songs are not—unsentimental, unflinching and unapologetic. James the Bad Guy knows he’s a bad guy and doesn’t care, much like the narrator of Eddie Cochrane’s legendary “Summertime Blues” (in my estimation the first true punk rock song) knows he’s a lazy little bastard but still doesn’t care.

What’s more, James’ love—the lovely Red Molly—knows he’s a bad boy and doesn’t try to change him. She accepts him and his fate, come what may. Plus she gets a really cool bike out of it, something that the corpse girl in “Teen Angel” was never able to promise her fella!

And then of course there is that mesmerizing acoustic guitar work that Richard tears through, so intricate and precise. It’s as good as an acoustic guitar can sound; so much harder than most ballads, yet still soft enough to create a lovely and singable tune.

So thank you, Mr. Thompson, for bringing a forgettable motif back for one final go-round, only finally doing it right.  No sap, no pap, no tears and very, very little human idiocy. Plenty of bad behavior, sure, but at least it’s acknowledged.

Let’s just hope Red Molly wasn’t killed by a runaway train on her way home. Or died in a hastily arranged motocross race.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bastards of Young

With the news that Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson got together and recorded an EP to raise money for their fellow ex-Replacement Slim Dunlop's medical bills, old, vintage 'Mats videos were posted like, well, like a Replacements semi-reunion was in the offing.

The problem is that unlike their friends and peers R.E.M., there's very little professionally-shot live footage available of the 'Mats in their prime. There's a fair amount of amateur stuff but it's...well, it's even more hit-or-miss than the Replacements were live.

Here's an exception. Much, maybe all, of this 1989 concert seems to be up on YouTube, and although it's from a hand-held camera, it's certainly watchable and the sound is surprisingly good. But it's...well, it's live Replacements. Which means for a lot of it they seem to be bored, listless, even when playing then-new songs like "I'll Be You" or covering killer tunes like "Another Girl, Another Planet."

But then there's this. Rather than getting bored halfway through—or even earlier—the band picks up speed as they go, coming out of Slim's solo like rabid gorillas, tearing through the last verse and final chorus. Tommy appears coolly ecstatic in his Kinks outfit, Chris Mars is pounding away behind them vengefully and at one point it looks like Westerberg's playing his guitar so hard he breaks a string, and rips it away before going right back to punching the chords again.

And you watch this and you just think...dammit. If only. If only. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

God's Comic

STORY IDEA! Quick, Scott, take this down!

(Scott shakes head, backs away, runs out door and across parking lot)

Fine, I'll do it myself.

Anyway, the story. God is fed up…and seeking revenge!

That’s right, this is a story of God hisself (or herself, but for arguments sake and to true everything up with what comes later, let’s say hisself. Or Hisself, I guess) looking to get back at all the peeps who have royally fucked up His world.

Like for realsies get back at them. Not just frogs and boils and all that jive that has totes been done before. No, this God is comin’ hard for their souls, stalking all of us ungrateful bastards like a steroided up Omar Little of The Wire.

Fun idea, no?

Even more fun. God in this story isn’t replete with the flowing beards and the glowing and the choruses belting out “Hallelujah” behind him. He won’t even look like George Burns. Or Alannis Morissette. (I’ll leave Morgan Freeman out of this one, because we all know if He is in fact a He, he looks just like Morgan Freeman.) But, no, this God will be kinda tacky. Like waterbed tacky. Like Andrew Lloyd Webber-listening tacky. The kinda Guy who enjoys reclining with a trashy paperback and drinking off-brand cola. It’ll almost be like the Real Househusbands of Heaven. Or mayhap the Republican National Convention.

So that’s what God will look like in this story.

And what’s His plan? How will he get back at the world for all of the upfuckery?

Oh, it’s a sinisterly delicious idea. He appoints a gatekeeper—St. Peter is getting far too old anyway at this point—someone who will have 100% of the authority over Whose Soul Gets Saved and Whose Soul Gets Sent to H-E-Double Hockey Sticks. One dude will own all that awesome power. Just one. Forever.

Only. Only it won’t be no Captain America-Steve Rogers-flag-saluting-squared-jawed-church-every-Sunday-Golden-Boy motherlover, neither. No, God’s Self-appointed sole arbiter of Who Gets Saved is going to be a lousy, shiftless, lazy boor of a drunk, the worst souse you ever stepped over in the gutter on your way to pee against an alley wall. This disgusting, drooling little waste of human oxygen is going to be God’s Bad Cop. And if you want to get into heaven, you gotta get through him.

Kind of a crazy little story, no? But isn’t it kinda one you may want to hear? Or at least have someone try and tell it?

Dear DanWill you get to the point please? Love, Dan.

Well, you’re in luck. Because this story exists, in songform. And it only takes a little more than five minutes to tell, with an acoustic shuffle that ticks along like a drunk taking a stroll in the park, backed with a glompy brass band and a fun little snare to keep it on track. And it works magnificently.

Because it was written by Elvis Costello, as part of his deliriously perverse 1989 solo effort Spike.

It’s called “God’s Comic.” And in a canon of exemplary material he’s been churning out since 1977, it still stands out as one of his finest hours.

Here. Have a listen. And don’t worry; it’s not what really awaits us on The Other Side.

(We think.)