Lyrics Poetry & Prose
“THE MONGREL” by Richard H. Chapman
To be more than this, more than just a memory, this perhaps is the single redeeming quality of all humanity. This is the elastic that draws great people together and the fuel, which propels us up and out of the muck.
The very fabric of the universe itself just might be the largest recording mechanism ever devised. Like ripples on the surface of a pond spreading outward from a disturbance or sounds written to tape as magnetic squiggles, our quantum fabric of quarks and muons which only pretends to support our feet, awaits patiently to record all of life’s happenings large and small, all events forever linked in space and time.
Stories of life and death, love and despair, all written eons ago into the annals of our cosmos, and available for viewing for all eternity. It is written that, at the ending of all things, our human goings on will be played back for the universe to witness and for all to judge our actions. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?
When I go
Let me slip quietly into the night
Don’t linger over me, and
Don’t fear the darkness
I am well and it’s good to be free
And then, when my god speaks, finally, it’s in a high squeaky voice and I think “What the…”
Shards of monolithic chaos, monstrous pieces of geometric crystal crashing together and flying apart without regard for any proper sense of reason, what was happening here? A world in a dream smashed to bits and left in disarray, but for what purpose? Sigmund is never around when I need him.
We were having the dream regularly. So many times now, maybe fifty or one hundred? Wizard had lost count; it had been going on for so long, since early childhood. Can’t get any decent sleep anymore, the dream precludes all other restful thought. Only work works to calm.
It’s all about the folding, you know, not unlike the surface of the brain’s cortex. So many folds, so much surface area, a memory can really get lost and forgotten in all that vast shelf-space, perhaps only making itself re-known once again in a lifetime. As a carnival ride circles endlessly, passing by near and far but not stopping, only to alight at the last real moment in time, one last second to see the truth before the end.
THE YOUNGEST ONE
Silvio’s skin was grey and cold. It was the new century, and early in the morning on the Fourth of July. Mio was the first to discover this, and angry perhaps at the injustice of it all, but the National was far from his thoughts on this day.
Like it or not
Pain’s hard on anyone
Simple relief is the best I can do
If my efforts manage to remain
Just add ‘Country Doctor?’ to my name
It’s time now to get back to the Doctor. The thought is daunting. Summers are way too hot and speaking only in rhyme? But then again, there are still so many sleepless nights left to go, and we must “Do What Must Be Done”.
And so it goes, lives forever entwined.
Silvio needed a fix. Not much left to sell, now, of the Wizard’s gear. There’s still that old National, but Mio will surely be angry when he finds out.
Well, it’s your last (last) chance
To get some gasoline
Your last (last) chance to grab some smokes
Yes, it’s your last (last) chance
To see old Raymond
At The Last Chance Store on the edge of town
Twenty-seven cents a gallon
For sure the best price around
It’s your last chance to grab some gum
Listen to that old Coke cooler hum
Say “Hi” to Ray for me
I might still owe him a dime (from 1959)
The Last Chance Store
They got what you need
DEAD AHEAD WHERE THERE AIN’T NO ROAD
I had a choice. Or did I? As with so many crucible-like moments in my life, I seem to find myself dropped into the cauldron, the cooking process having already begun. Fate? Some universal joke, perhaps? Only time can sort this out.
In the workshop I had up north, I built things; amplifiers, mixers and speaker systems. A great deal of the sound of my early bands had to do with what I was building at that time, bigger speakers, louder amps and the occasional sound morphing device. In those days of The Who and Cream, all the power of the band was on-stage with you. It was powerful and it felt great. I’m lucky I still have my hearing.
This was different. Southern and acoustic, warm and biting stories told in song. Doctor, what say you? Is there an open chair for The Wizard, the man behind the curtain? Well, I’m not sure I was actually allowed to speak to the Doctor for quite awhile, so involved in thought was he, but one day soon…
Everybody’s needing a blanket and beans
And time to think it over
“THE DOCTOR”, ..WHO?
Dallas, at last, ‘Jewel of the South’. I’d heard a lot of good things about it. Not just on this particular trip, but always as a regular topic of conversation among friends and neighbors. “Y’all come back now, hear?” How funny it all sounded to my northern palette, and yet it haunted me, as it’s done for a long time.
Music was drifting out of the back room… a tiny place, bead curtains, more friends and acoustic guitars. So this is Dallas.
Green apples make the tree hang down
Another apple on the ground
A bushel bag of apple seeds
More than you’ll ever need
You can have yourself an apple tree
Hmm… memories of home, easily the first time in four years I’d thought about such things. That all seemed so far away and long ago, sort of like looking through a tunnel. Here were pieces of my childhood, laid out in song. Who is this prescient soldier of songwriting? If only I had an instrument of some kind, I could see myself at home here, in this foreign land, playing these songs, these vivid stories of life and humanity, to anyone who will listen.
Sitting on top of the world, that’s what it felt like. Hoover Dam was phenomenal, the biggest single object I’d ever seen. Standing on top, you could feel the weight of gravity pulling you one direction, while in the night sky overhead there was Kohoutec with its long tail, tempting my mind outward. Or, that might have just been the orange micro-dot.
I hadn’t seen skies like this since I left my Pennsylvania homeland years earlier.
That old house on a hill, burnt now to a cindery crisp, sat atop an old coal mine, where a century earlier seventy-one miners lost their lives in a tunnel collapse. The Tipple Mine, a long time gone, now.
D.R. used to trick me into the most extraordinary situations. I was once sitting on someone’s apartment floor, surrounded by a loud party, mostly military brass. Musical instruments were continually handed off in my direction. I was surrounded. What was I doing here? I was unable to play a note. Help!
Just who is this ‘Southern Dylan’ they keep talking on about? What have I done with my guitars? I have nothing with me from my former life with which to remember myself. Nemesis, Raintree, Pratt, where are they all now? It was just four years ago, but time bent in on itself and somehow I forgot.
Having been recently discharged from the Army, and without much of significance going on for myself, I was set adrift. Life in San Francisco had been a big party. We were living a Hunter Thompson novel, and I dread to think what nonsense I had perpetrated on my fellow workers at the Army HQ while out of my mind on LSD. Needless to say, life was a blur.
Marijuana grew in the streets and Patty Hearst lived down on the corner with the SLA. You just never knew what was going to happen next.
One fine spring day I woke up to find my neighbors loading their truck with bags, the contents of which I could only guess about. A brief scuffle ensued, at least that’s how I remember it, because next I found myself in the back of the truck, among the bags smelling heavily of only the finest. “Boy, it’s ‘bout time you seen Dallas.” I remember hearing. “There’s someone there I want you to meet.”
“THEY SAY IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY”
Attendance was mandatory. A campfire, friends and music. I don’t know what evil twin decided we would be drinking gin this night, but I’m open, it’s my last night in town. Anything could happen out here under the northern sky. The stars were clear and bright, just right for Wizard’s twenty-first birthday party.
Why is my leg wet? We were driving into town to get more of something (hopefully it wasn’t more gin) and then suddenly it’s raining on me and my leg is submerged in a stream of running water and mud. I can hardly stand up it’s so slippery. Cars are going by on the road above and I’m down in this ditch alongside the road, my ride apparently long gone. God help me, not this again. Happy Birthday to me.
NEMISIS, BAND OF MISFITS
Vince was unresponsive this time. The butcher knife incident had not gone unnoticed, and fortunately for all, Jenny was unharmed. She taught me how to make real coffee, the kind where you felt the spoon could almost stand up by itself if you let go. Up all night, that was the norm for Vince and the Wizard.
On the last gig, Willy severely injured his hand moving some damn piece of furniture. It was a bad bit of luck, and yet it was the first time he played slide guitar. It was the only way open for him to play at all that night. Some things are only discovered through accident and pain.
The mouth-guard was cold, and it felt used. Why should they care about something like that, after all? It was only electroshock therapy, and afterward, Vince wouldn’t remember the indignity of the treatment. It was bright, then dim, and then bright again. Not a single loved one was present to witness this dark travesty of medicine, brain erasure. Whoever thought humans needed a reset switch? It could just as easily be any of us on that table.
This band of misfits
Brothers, to most apparent
Some left for the coast
Others lived fat and happy lives
One went to live
In a low, dark basement
In the bowels of a crazy farm
And never came back
Can I come sleep on your couch
Vince asked once
But Wizard couldn’t be bothered
With little things like that
Dead ahead where there ain’t no road
And the water runs upstream
Blue cold, shakin’ them bones
Keep on kicking up sweet dreams
There was a finite amount of intelligence to go around, spread amongst all of humanity. In the beginning, our own Adam and Eve held the full vast knowledge of the universe, but in not truly understanding that, were easily tricked by the dark one into thinking there must be more. We are what happened after that.
Memories, the ones that stand out, are like spires shooting up from the Gaussian noise floor of that otherwise dusty plain, which is life.
When the ships came, it was quiet. How could it be that no one else saw them? The normal lapping of the waves could not be heard. Just a thick fluid blanket, warm and inviting, seemed to be everywhere. A mother sings to her son.
Sometimes, I sing a strange melody
Without you, I’m out of tune
So, tell me you love me, just one more time
I’m in love with you
Far off in the distance, in the vast emptiness over the hill, dense fog rolls in, hiding the huge sleek structure from prying eyes.
It has started.
THE HEADPHONE GENRE
When I got to college some guy down the hall had a reel to reel tape recorder when everyone was listening to a radio or maybe a record player. There were a few stereos around, but in a dorm they probably were stolen or quickly broken. Anyway, this guy was just listening to this machine with headphones. I remember the music was Hendrix Experience, but it was the headphones that really got to me.
As soon as I could start playing music under phone I did. WoodEye? in all of its incarnation practiced under phones. Now I must admit there is nothing like have the kick drum and bass thump you in the chest when everyone finally gets in the pocket, but as a singer/songwriter I had never had the chance to compete with the rhythm section until I was really able to hear myself. It is almost the key to developing your style. Not to mention the endless repetition of drummers as you rehearse. With all due respect to drummers.
I noticed that many folks began to really start the audiophile era when headphones began to enter the market in the mid-seventies. There were many European models that were heavy duty, and tight fitting to your head so you could sustain the amount of movement that musicians often have when they play. You gotta move to the music, and when you start creating your own style the range of motion increases.
I believe it so influenced many players that it created its own genre. There were many bands that sounded so good in the phones. Producers were quick to add more processing, and quirks to the recording that, in my opinion, allowed people to hear new things in the recordings for a long time. I have had people tell me they had just heard some of our background vocals after listening for a year. I have experienced that same phenomena. That is what makes producing an album fun.
Hayden Hughes WoodEye?
American Audiophile 1978
I am sure it happens to everyone. That moment when your commitment to your passion screams at you. However, it seems that artist kind of get it in spades. I would assume that because you are exposing your innards the vulnerability lays open such an exposure people just go nuts. I have always made a distinction between entertainers and artist. To my knowledge Elvis never recorded or performed any material he created. His was an enormous personality, and the public just ate him alive in twenty years as an entertainer. My song Entertainer deals with that. That first verse:
I don’t ride at night, suspicion is the moon’s delight.
Riches wine and pain, you sell you soul or you try in vain.
I was 21 years old, and I was already running from the spotlight. There are million of songs about being on the road, but the decision has already been made. The target is on your back.
When Jon Daniel and I got to the studio I became and artist. You’ll have to ask JD about his concept. There is one artist that seemed to torment me more than anything. Townes Van Zant was like Van Gogh to me. I opened a show at a pub in DFW for him, and we talked a bit before I went on. He was such a gentleman, but his eyes, as he said, as hard as kerosene.
They call it the crossroads, the deal with the devil or just a bargain with yourself that ‘it’ comes first. That leaves a lot of debris behind. Like love, touch, trust—you pick the word.
Billy Bob’s newsletter 1981
Reel Music MagazineWriting for independent music magazines for four years did not prepare me for WoodEye? I am used to going to a couple of gigs, getting a few free drinks and wrapping up my vision of the band by falling asleep to some of their recorded music.First, WoodEye? doesn’t gig which means I do not like them in the first place. Second, when I had to run down Hayden Hughes because he doesn’t like to do phone interviews (as it turns out he does not like interviews, period), that insulted me. And third, I was summoned to their studio to listen in the environment of their choosing and NO free drinks!Jon Daniel scurried off into their control room while Hughes and I gathered some coffee, and wound our way through room after room back to the main hall in the studio. I was going to burn these guys to the ground. They didn’t even look like musicians. Hughes was wearing jeans, clearly made to measure boots, and a UCLA basketball jersey. JD wearing the uniform of flannel shirt, jeans and sneakers waved us back into the control room; and before I could ask where to sit, the music exploded. I am a component stereo freak, but this was other worldly. I was inside the belly of their beast, and it was hard to tell reality from my job as critic.I asked to take a tape home. There was a long……..pause. JD said, “Give her a break, what’s she gonna’ do?” I grabbed the dubbed tape and raced to the door without saying goodbye or thank you. I was going to burn these geeks to the ground. My article was due in five days. I would give another listen, and burn these guys to the ground. Give her a break, indeed.I started in on them immediately. You can hear what they are doing. The background vocals sound contrived, and the meter is awkward. I did find merit in some of the lyrics, but I did not write it into the story. I scuffed them up real good and mailed the story to two rags. I got $275 bucks from the best magazine and never heard a word. I do not read my work, except to edit the editor in case I have to insist upon corrections. IT was over. A flash fire and WoodEye? was done. The pretension of a ? in their band name. Barf???Then it happened. I was in Utah on vacation, and I heard a band perform a WoodEye? song. I felt embarrassed. How had something I left in a hunk of burning sarcasm skulled its way 1800 miles from Texas? It ruined my trip. I returned home and scrambled through an old box of interview tapes. There it was. The bastards had only given me four songs of some fifty they had recorded. How could I blame them I thought after setting fire to their efforts.I racked the tape and heard the song I had blushed to in Provo. My God this is good. I had heard it three times. In the other worldly studio, on my decent home system (in a bed mood), and in a stinky, hot club drinking micro-brewed beer in a state where they do not drink! What had I missed? What had I done? I called Hayden Hughes the next day. To my surprise he answered the phone. I announced my name and had to remind him who I was. It has been a year since the bonfire, and I was sure I was getting the coldest of shoulders.“I am sorry, Miss Murray, I never saw your article. I don’t read much, and I really don’t listen to much music. I am used to three verses and a chorus. However, I can activate my mind with three words,” he said. I still had the urge to puke, but I had heard something where there was nothing before. I told him about the cover band in Provo, and how he and JD had made the playlist.He laughed. “I met those guys when I was on a trip to Denver, and I like their tunes. They sent me a tape so I returned the favor. They sent me a copy of a live set where they played two of our tunes. I was flattered. Not many of my peers play our songs,” he kinda’ sighed. “We have covered some songs for practice and some songs because we loved the song.” He continued, “It is hard for your peers to really put a value on what you are doing until someone else says it is supposed to be good. Therefore, I just do what I do.”I told him I had written a very critical article, and I would like another shot. He said, “NO THANKS.” “I think I did you wrong,” I said. “To whom?” he answered. “I made a mistake. I wronged myself. I have now listened to WoodEye? for weeks. In Provo, I had heardUntil Someone’s Light Shines on the Good Side of the YouYou Used to KnowYou’re Gonna Do Some Hurtin’ and You’re Gonna Lie Some.It had gone through my ears and out my soul. “It is all I hear,” I begged. “Well, good for you. I have heard this story many, many times. It is no harm, no foul,” he shrugged with his voice. Plus, I had never heard such a term. “What does that mean?” He explained that it was an old basketball expression. No harm. No foul. “Then I had committed a foul.” I asked again. “Let me write something and I will let you look it over.” “You do what you want to do, that’s your business. We do have several new songs. Want to hear a couple. Same rules.”Three days later I was back in their world. There was a new redwood wall, a black leather sofa and two canvas chairs that felt like you were sitting in a Porsche. They played me a song that moaned of the Atlanta child murders, a friend that did not survive his return from Vietnam and a refrain blessing our Country with a mantra of cities backed with a wailing saxophone. Then they played this sweet intricate acoustic song of love and pictures of everyone’s favorite beach. It pleaded for mutual respect between a man and a woman naming him her Valentino. A hero of their time. I cried.Then he disappeared for a moment. When he returned, he carefully handed me a sheet a paper with what appeared to be a poem partially typed and partially hand-written. “Want to be the only person that ever hears a failure?” Hughes and Jon Daniel both hung their heads as if in defeat. They played the music that accompanied the poem. The tale of a real life Country Doctor. A small town Texas doctor that had seen too much. The prairie dust wafted from your clothes. Your mouth became dry. I have reprinted the lyrics by permission. I heard a masterpiece. It was clumsy. It was not perfect like some of their other material, but this was real. It was great.
I left. I did not write another article until I gained the strength to sit down and tell the truth. I was a peer. Hughes said do what you want. It was what I had done before. I hope music fans will see this. Want to hear what they see. I want no money.
Turkey Trot, Texas DJ
I’ll tell you my favorite story about Hughes. When you traveled out of Austin workin’ as a musician, you drove up and down I-35. That led them all through Waco. I had a great time slot. After all the church ladies went to bed. I’d play Laura Nyro, Terry Reid and James Gang all in the same set. Hughes came in the studio one night, and he even brought a guitar. He rarely played a live tune for me, but he always had a new recording. He was the first guy I ever saw that had digital recordings. I mean 15 inch reels and the first CD I ever saw.We were sipping coffee, and talking about what was the latest when we got to laughing about all the acts in the Austin area that their manes began with W. Now this is 25 years before ‘Dubya’. There was Willie, Waylon, Walker, Weir, Willis and I don’t remember them all, but we were in stitches trying to recall them all when all of a sudden I looked at him and said, “Hey man, What about WoodEye?” He had this Oh Shit look on his face, and he said. “ I guess I never thought of that before!!”I mentioned that every time I played a WoodEye? tune for months. Oh yeah. That night he played a song on the acoustic. He said he was just getting started. It was Chico. 1977
The Scarlet Letter – by Toby and Cody
The ‘Making Of’ contributions to the film industry have become a foundation and mainstay for both audiences and students with production dreams. When we received our now infamous ‘Red Letter,’ we suddenly found ourselves caught between a practical joke and what could be good fortune rap, tap tapping on our chamber door.
SeaKings Creative Studios found itself sliding down the so-called rabbit hole. Once we decided this missive was for real, we encountered what separated this ‘making of’ project from all the rest we had heard of . . . . It was from an anonymous source, and the conditions were that the creative forces behind the enclosed instructions and music were to remain that way. We were invited to become Official Members of the Phantom’s Private Reserve. We asked, out loud to one another, ‘what does that mean?’
The package contained the short story, ‘The MONGREL,’ a tale of a boy’s vision of his rural Texas family, a mysterious uncle and his beloved mongrel named Potato. None of the story’s main characters fit the mold of their family’s expectations of normal. All families have secrets. All families have heroes waiting to pull the family up the rung of being kinder to one another. The MONGREL was to be the essence of Episode Two. It would star the ‘voice behind the Green Curtain’s’ cherished golden retrievers. Instructions came that a ‘special’ handler would bring the bounding goldens to a private Texas farm. “Shoot the film and leave,” the handler grunted. To this point in the production, there is still a running bet on whether or not the ‘special’ handler was the author of the scarlet letter.
Next, we encountered the song CHICO. It was the score for Episode One. It was poetry set to pop music that reeked of layers of interpretation, and stared unflinchingly into the eyes of the age-old range war of the Rio Grande boundary. Who gets in, and who does not. Political rhetoric was not our specialty; and the prospects of having a ghost guiding the way in a story of Manifest Destiny turned on its head, did give us pause. However, CHICO rang of the hard concrete streets in its determined guitar intro, and then glided the listener into the heavenly Hill Country on strings of angels.
There were scant instructions, but Episode Two did imply at least an Episode One. We were hooked, but our production company being the SeaKings did offer the possibility that we had hooked something from many leagues below the sea.
A second scarlet envelope arrived and completed the trilateral expectations of this haunted person or persons drawing us into a walk through an artist’s psyche that wished never to be seen. Ironically, the third piece called, NEVER MET A STRANGER, whispered the wishes that those once loved still were valued and forever maintained their inspiration. It was to be a montage of black and white, with one glimpse of color.
Animation was required. A private mailbox in Swan, TX was provided. We were asked for a bid on the project. We sent the bid. We received an OK and ½ the production budget. We were right. There would be an Episode One, Two and Three. We began.