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M - Z
Married Man
My former Blind Dates bandmate Jason is a closet metal-head who has never seen a foreign film (well, maybe Godzilla) and would rather swallow his own tongue than kick back to some serious Simon & Garfunkel. The fact that "Married Man" is his favorite SeanSong is scientific evidence that I was successful in condensing my post-divorce rage into a three-minute knuckle sandwich of hard rockin' splendor. Hooray for me, and God love the $50 distortion pedal that enabled me to achieve that mongo fuzz and perpetrate my desperate nails-on-blackboard sonic assault. I wrote this one in early 1994, still technically a husband, but waiting for the judge to stamp "Divorced - Damaged Goods Within" onto my forehead. The lyrics revel in the absurdity of being a married man with no wife and no husbandly duties to discharge -- just the lame keeper of an empty title.

Jeff spit out the bitchin' vocal drums onto his rinky-dink four-track in a Tokyo hotel room. I transferred a stereo drum mix to my NYC eight-track, cranked up the fuzz box to eleven and screamed 'til the meters gushed blood and pus. I especially enjoy the recurring "sloshing-through-muck" sound, which I achieved by harmonizing down the sound of me languorously smacking my lips. When the noxious gas cleared in June of 1994, I knew I'd done my soul good and added both length and girth to my spiritual phallus.

SeanDEMOnium's "Marry Me"/"Married Man" segue is one of my proudest yin/yang moments. If you listen to this song at anything but ear-splitting volume, you suck.
Marry Me
It was the first night of Passover -- April 3, 1996. In the taxi ride back from the seder, I heard one of my favorite songs of the 1980s: Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." I was still humming that mournful tune come bedtime. The stew of Jewish culinary delights and sickly-sweet wine festering in my stomach caused some weird brain/heart/gut reaction, and I buzzed into a sublime, creative malaise, perfect for composing a romantic ballad. Lying on my bed, my classical guitar resting on my distended, Biafran-baby belly, I conjured the music and lyrical concept in one fell ten-minute swoop. I finished the words on a Miami-bound plane in July, 1996, and started the demo soon after.

I originally envisioned an a cappella treatment for Rockapella, but when I quit the band I decided to combine my vocal back-up ideas with a traditional guitar arrangement. My friend (and former Rockapella videographer) Paul Wohlstetter laid down two guitar parts, acoustic and electric and, because I didn't have a bass in my house, he added a "fake bass" -- a single-line guitar part played through a low-octave harmonizer to approximate a real bass. I used Barry Manilow's fave last-chorus device -- the orgasmic modulation.

Lyrically, this song reminds me of "Come My Way" in that each chorus keys on one hooky phrase ("Marry Me and...") followed by various romantic-metaphor couplets, each lovingly dredged from the crusty bowels of my tattered soul:

Marry me and we'll pound our hearts to life
Marry me and we'll slice on heaven's knife

comes from the same place as

Come my way, I'm crushing you diamonds from coal,
Come my way, I'm turning your tin dreams to gold

don't ya think?
Miserable Destiny
In the aftermath of my mini-marriage, I read lots of self-help books and got lots of advice on the subject of post-divorce dating. The term "transitional relationship" kept popping up; you know, a get-your-feet-wet-and-rewet-your-wick girlfriend who is meant to prep a man spiritually for his next wife. I love the idea that this woman is simply a means to an end; she is, by definition, disposable - just another link in the eternal daisy chain of pain. In this pop-psychology mind-set, on a wintry January night in 1995, I conjured the bouncy chant ("Bon shay bon...") and chorus melody and lyric:

It's my miserable destiny
The one piece of future that I can see
Well it's my fate, my doom, my guarantee
To hurt you, baby, the way my baby hurt me.

That August, Scott Leonard and I broke with our work-alone tradition, scheduled several collaboration sessions, and attempted to fuse our writing styles to best suit the needs of Rockapella's repertoire. Scott liked what I had for the then- unnamed ditty, and he dug the lyrical concept as well. After I played Moxy Fruvous' quirky "Video Bargainville" for him, we decided that Scott would write similar tongue-in-cheek, nerdishly rapped verses to flesh out the song.

He recorded the funky vocal-drum groove on his eight-track and brought the compatible-format cassette master to my house, where we finished the a cappella demo on my Tascam 688. Our efforts remain intact on seanDEMOnium. That's me doing the bass vocal and chorus lead vocal. Scott sings the high-octave bass, all the chorus backups, and the great rapped verses. Together, we performed the "bon shay bon"s, the "way my baby hurt me"s in the outro, and the wacky bridge, which reminds me of the breakdown from Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart."

I believe this song could have been a Rockapella classic, had the group ever recorded it. Someday, perhaps.
My Parents' Son
I wrote the verse and chorus melodies and the line "lucky to be my parents' son" sometime between 1990 and 1992, and I composed the bridge during my Hawaiian honeymoon in July, 1993. That autumn, David Yazbek, Billy Straus and I began working on the CD Carmen Sandiego: Out of This World, which featured Carmen TV host Greg Lee. I knew Greg was a country-folkie at heart, so I wrote these fractured country lyrics for his singing enjoyment.

PBS made me tone down a couple of the lyrics from my original demo, which appears on seanDEMOnium: "My folks were the only thing kept me from falling to hell" was diluted to "My folks were the only thing cranking me up from the well." Similarly, "Don't you believe that jury of my peers -- I thought that man in Vermont was deer" became an accidental dog-shooting instead. No matter, though; Greg's performance was stellar, and my fave lyric survived: "Five years in the big house made life a bit clearer through the visitors' Plexiglas, Mama 'Come home, son.'"

The guitar on the demo was played by my old college pal Hugh Browne onto my decrepit Teac 144 four-track cassette in October, 1993. The Greg version was recorded a month later at Kampo Studio in NYC, and includes Billy on guitar, Yazbek on melodica, bassist Chris Smylie, me and Greg on backups, and some drum machine.

I still fantasize that this song will be snatched up by some Nashville star and earn me some prize Holstein bucks. Yee-hah.
Polly Gets
I've always been a fan of the Kinks, and this is as close to a Ray Davies tribute as I can muster. On May 30th, 1995, I was on a 45-minute bus trip to New Jersey. The bus was empty but for the driver and a few passengers. A new Kinks-y guitar riff was churning in my head when the blessed lyric gods suddenly delivered the following big fish:

When Polly lies, her engine purrs
The polygraph was named for her

I had that mama-jama hooked, and I didn't want to risk losing the sucker to the dreaded memory-loss undertow. Screw me, though, as I had no micro-cassette recorder, no pocket computer, and no writing utensil - not even lipstick! If I'd had the foresight to carry a knife I could have scrimshawed the lyric into my teeth or made a rudimentary blood-pen, but no such luck.

Two rows behind me, a frumpy sixty-something woman was penning a letter. "Saved..." I thought, as I leaned over my seat and politely asked if I might borrow her pen for a brief moment. To my utter shock, she refused. Convinced that she had misunderstood my question (maybe she thought I had asked to borrow her dentures), I asked again, reassuring her that I only needed her pen for thirty seconds.

"I heard you the first time, and the answer is still no."

"Excuse me, ma'am, but why not?"

"You should have brought your own."

"Yes, you're right, but I didn't, and I only need yours for a brief moment."

"You're not from around here, are you?"

"What does that have to do with me borrowing your pen?"

"You're from San Francisco, aren't you?"

I suddenly comprehended the severity of the crotchety land-crab's dementia; hers was an exquisite case of geriatric homophobia! She viewed my mess of braids as proof of some depraved, sexually deviant, oozing infection which might invade her pristine blue blood via her ballpoint! I almost laughed through my rage and disgust. My pulse climbed so fast that I don't even recall what I said to her, although I hope I expressed my wish that her post-menopausal once- reproductive organs explode.

That nasty brush with senescence allowed me to harness my anger and write a cohesive set of lyrics for "Polly Gets." She's a hodgepodge of black-widow- deadly women from my past and future: young, sultry, aggressive, pearl-skinned, and wickedly sluttish. In my head, Polly's a lean, leggy, raven-haired, insatiable leather dominatrix; basically, Satan's fave handmaiden. If this sounds like you, send a full-body photo to me at 200 East 10th St. #490 / NY, NY 10003, so I can visualize a face when I perform the song in concert.

For the seanDEMOnium recording, Jeff Thacher spit the mouth drums onto my Tascam 688 in the spring of 1996. A year later, my pal (and occasional Rockapella videographer) Paul Wohlstetter played the two electric guitar parts on my other friend Hugh Browne's Gibson hollow-body. Paul played Billy Straus' bass through my distortion box to achieve that trashy "You Really Got Me" bass sound. David Yazbek added the groovy tambourine and second-verse wood block. The three-part vocal harmony on the last chord is vintage "Taxman."

I'm particularly proud of the seanDEMOnium lead-in to this song, "Elektra," in which I try to get signed to Elektra Records over the phone. I think this is the most delicious segue on the album.
On April 23rd, 1995, I wrote the verse and chorus music to "Person" in about one minute while walking southbound on the Bowery, en route to buy a new light fixture for my bathroom. I stopped at a pay phone and called the idea into my phone answering machine. When I got home and listened to it, I knew I was onto something wicked good; the bathroom fixture fit nicely, too.

Jeff laid the vocal drums at my house on my eight-track Tascam cassette thingie, and I finished the demo in my Carmen Sandiego dressing room on June 14, 1995. On the bridge, I used a burly distortion effect on one voice to add the necessary wall-of-sound dirt.

Many folks think this is my best song, and that's why I put it first on seanDEMOnium. A NYC band named Fuzz Bubble liked it so much that they cut a grungy rock version of it to play for their record label. I can't wait to record this one with full rock instrumentation.

The lyrics? The verses are cryptic enough, but I think that the chorus pretty much spells it out to the chick who jettisoned my sorry ass from her love orbit: "I'll neither forgive nor forget you."
Pretty Baby
I wrote "Pretty Baby" in NYC during the winter of 1995-96, and I finished the demo in March, 1997. My memory is hazy on this one, but I know I let the first two lines simmer (or fester) for months before I finally got around to writing a full set of lyrics.

This is one song whose demo exceeded my expectations; I think the a cappella treatment serves this song very well. I used my fave bridge device -- the mammoth-wall-of-sound-Marshall-stack-approximating distortion box. In Eddie Van Halen's absence, I was forced to sing the grungy guitar part, and it adds just the right amount of muck to the otherwise fussily pretty arrangement. I'm also proud of my vocal bass -- lots of big swoops and roundhouses, and a balls-scraping low octave added for extra machismo. Best of all, the song is only two minutes and nineteen seconds long. Get in, get out; that's the way I like it, friends. It's called a "surgical pop strike."
In January of 1996, I wrote the music and the chorus lyric "Rebecca, why you cry?" I knew I wanted to interchange the name "Rebecca" with "Becky," but other than that I had no idea what the song would be about. In May of the same year, Jeff Thacher laid the mouth drums onto my eight-track cassette Tascam 688, where the song festered and stewed for nearly a year. The remainder of the words eventually rallied around the first line: "I'm chameleon man, I can change with the breeze." I got in touch with my simpy, malleable, submissive side and recalled all the times I've been a total putty-soft wuss while trying to win an elusive girl's love. I like the twist, though: this girl's a slut! I guess I fancied myself Don Quixote to this trollop's Aldonza (never read Cervantes, but I saw Man of La Mancha).

My pal and Rockapella's occasional videographer Paul Wohlstetter made the recording come alive with his breezy, Eagles-y guitar/bass parts, performed in April, 1997. Techno-wonks may appreciate the fact that the lead vocal is totally dry. This recording, which enjoys ID #14 on on seanDEMOnium, is the surprise out-of-the-box favorite of many friends of mine, including my sometimes collaborator Billy Straus.
Tryin' To Forget You
Of all the lyricist hats I wear, I think the bitter-vulgar-cretin sombrero fits best. Sure, sensitive girly-man lyrics are nice, and I do enjoy an occasional dip in the sissy pool; but nothing makes my manhood swell quite like a good ol' "fuck you" lyric. For me it's the artistic equivalent of the John Holmes Penis Gym; a few pumps and I feel like I could slay all dragons with the pen of my schvantz.

On the December 1998 one-year anniversary of my muscular band, I came up with the headbanging guitar riff that propels this bolt of power-pop thunder. The riff is anything but new; in fact I can immediately point fingers of debt toward The Kinks, The Knack, Billy Squire, The Clash and my own "Polly Gets."

But my live set plainly needed another leviathan rocker to offset my plentiful sweeter material. The music business is about tough choices; plainly one tumescent rock number called "Dick About Me" does not a he-man make. This song has been just the testosterone injection that the rock doctor ordered.

What gives? What for?
What possible reason for me banging down your door?
We're through, but I'm tryin' to forget you

Lyrically, this sits really well with my current state of mind: five long years after a painful divorce and I still sport a stanky monkey on my back with my ex's pretty head (wicked new song coming with this theme).

I'm shot. I'm gored.
My shrink thinks I'm a pussy
& my friends are just bored
What's new? Just tryin' to forget you

This song bears an uncanny likeness to numerous therapy sessions from six months ago, but with a heavier beat and a more attentive audience. In fact, I had become painfully aware of how wimpy my couched whinings sounded and of how my friends' eyes would glaze over at the mere mention of my ex-wife.

It's not like you were even worth it
It's not like you were any better
Than any of the plenty that I've had since you
Oh if you only knew, how many I been through just
Tryin' tryin', just tryin' to forget you

My predicament is all the more inexplicable and pathetic given the bevy of truly remarkable women whom I've somehow managed to bed. Plainly, the only thing She's got that the rest of them lack is the honor of having dumped me. How fortunate that I'm in the business of exorcising my personal demons via power- pop! Instead of feeling shitty about my misguided obsessions, I'm able to embrace them, revel in their muck, and turn my neuroses into cool cash.

Or am I? In a hopeful wink to the loyal audience which has enjoyed many other "poor me" SeanSongs, I conjecture about my public's tolerance for more of the same, while giving them a chance to loudly berate me:

I'm sunk. I'm stuck.
Even people in the audience are shoutin' "You suck!"
I'm screwed. Just tryin' to forget you

12/98 NYC: Played riff idea with band, who dig it.
12/25/98 Merry Xmas. Verse B idea @ the gym. Finished words & structure on Amtrak to Boston.
12/29/98 Rehearsed w/band.
01/07/99 Debuted @ Arlene Grocery.
02/04/99 Recorded drums @ Treehouse Studio for alt.mania.
04/09/99 Wrote this SongNote.
04/99 Recorded guitars & bass @ Billy's; vocals @ home.
Unhappy Anniversary
On 7/9/98, Noel Cohen and I had just completed our first song collaboration -- a tender ballad called "My Love's Roses" -- and we immediately started working on a title idea of mine: "Unhappy Anniversary." To get us in the appropriate maudlin mood, I popped in Chris Isaac's haunting "Wicked Game." We puttered unsuccessfully for two hours before hitting on a simple and singable melody. The lyrics, of course, are the hardest part of collaborating, probably because there are so damned many of them. We worked three times over the next few weeks before we finally hammered out a set of words we both liked. I'm particularly proud of this song because it touches me deeply (spiritual satisfaction achieved), and yet still has universal appeal (financial satisfaction achieved). It's like two (click), two (click), two mints in one!

The song's appeal is so universal, in fact, that its first public performance proved a commercial bonanza: my old Blind Dates bandmate Josh Deutsch, now a fancy Elektra record exec, saw my Fez show that night (8/3/98) and immediately asked me for a demo of the song. With Matt Detro on guitar and Noel on bass, I rustled up a respectable demo on my new 8-track digital home studio. Within a few months, Deutsch's latest signing, lovely chick popster Colleen Fitzpatrick, had recorded a driving pop version which will likely appear on her soon-to-be debut album. As an added bonus, I even sang backup. My own band's version will appear on the forthcoming alt.mania. My good pal Ivy Markaity has also begun performing the song. This heartache shit really sells.

My fave lines, for their pathetic mean-spiritedness (Colleen will likely avoid these):

I know it's such bad form to still be broken-hearted
I should screw her best friend to ease my pain
I drink up, and think up a toast to numb the hours
No silver, no diamonds, just flat champagne

And the last verse/chorus, autobiographical in its "tears of a clown"-ness:

And now it's near midnight. A few more minutes & I
Can backtrack & get back my former cheer
A happy-go-lucky, example of contentment
I'll feast 'til, at least 'til this time next year

This is my unhappy anniversary
But I lie... sayin' it's just another day
Here's to my unhappy anniversary
But I smile... like it's just another day
Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
In 1991, Rockapella was cast as the house band for the fledgling daily PBS TV show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?. Our first task was to come up with original background music and, most importantly, a theme song. From the corner of Lexington Ave and 23rd Street, I phoned a now-familiar couplet and tune into my answering machine: "Well she sneaks around the world, from Kiev to Carolina, tell me where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? / On a jet plane to New York or a slow boat to China, tell me where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?" Oh, how I treasure that wee micro-cassette!

I brought that idea to my friend and musical mentor David Yazbek, who had much experience composing for television. With masterful song-doctoring on his part, we expanded the verse melody and added an ingenious descending chromatic bridge. At David's suggestion, we copped the groove to the alt-rock song of the moment -- Jane's Addiction's "Caught Stealing" -- hammered out pun-laden lyrics in a couple of sessions, and cranked out the a cappella demo at his house. Rockapella liked the song, we submitted it to the Carmen producers and, voila, one of the most famous ditties in kids' music history was born!

David and long time friend/producer Billy Straus produced Rockapella's TV version at a midtown jingle studio called Marathon. The recording was a sneak preview of many sonic features that would become mainstays of the Rockapella sound: Scott Leonard and I trading verses and singing in octaves; Elliott Kerman, Scott and I singing Persuasions-y doo-wop backups in a low register; Barry Carl's thundering solo phrases; and a song-ending "party track" in which we all whooped it up around an expensive microphone.

Every episode of the TV show concluded with the studio audience pointing skyward and bellowing "Do it, Rockapella!" whereupon we would lip-synch the song and mug shamelessly for the camera. Within weeks of the first airing, strangers were singing the hook to me on the street! Hello royalties!

The song's popularity led to the birth of the Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? album (BMG), which featured the theme song and other SeanSongs including "My Home," "Everything To Me" (both co-writes with Yazbek), "Indiana" and "Capital." The same recording was again immortalized on TVT Records' Television's Greatest Hits - Cable Ready compilation in 1996. European versions of the TV show perform the song in their native tongues. For Rockapella's indie CD Primer, we re-recorded the song, live- in-studio, at Sonalysts studios in Connecticut.

The song has been re-worded for corporate clients ad nauseum, parodied on Saturday Night Live, quoted on The Mommies, and fractured to "Where In The World Is Matt Lauer?" for the Today Show (NBC). A Disney flick featuring Jennifer Lopez is in the works, so I'm keeping my love handles crossed that the song will rise again and continue to pay my rent. Still, my fave alternate lyric remains Yazbek's: "Where In My Dick Is Carmen Sandy Prostate?"
You're Mine
This is one of the first songs I wrote, and the earliest evidence that searing pain, in or about the heart, inspires me to compose lovely ditties. During the spring of 1987 I broke up with my girlfriend, reconsidered, and then attempted to weasel my way back into her lovin' arms. At first she resisted; and I squirmed, groveled, pined and cajoled for an entire summer before making any headway. I gradually wore her down with phone calls, gifts, and home recordings of me singing Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways" and "Every Day," an Elvis standard called "Love Letters," and a haunting version of "My Funny Valentine." Elliott Kerman played piano on the latter two recordings.

I conceived "You're Mine" on a tennis court in Maryland, where I was vacationing that summer with my Dad. I sensed that I had finally won her back, and I mischievously reveled in the fact that I was able to take her or leave her at will. It almost seemed as if she had no choice in the matter, a bedazzled creature under my spell. I did win her back that summer, but she got her revenge six years later when, as my wife, she dumped me, rendering the song a false prophesy. Ironic? You betcha!

I made a rough demo in 1988 with my friend Hugh Browne on guitar. Mr. Ikeda, Rockapella's A&R guy in Japan, always like the song, and he hoped that I would arrange it a cappella for Rockapella Four: Vocobeat (1994) or Rockapella Five: Out Cold (1995). I missed those deadlines, but when Jeff Thacher laid mouth drums onto my Tascam 688 in the spring of 1996, I was finally determined to fashion an all-vocal treatment. Alas, I quit the band before I got around to it. I instead, Hugh Browne resurrected his role as guitar hero, and I further embellished the seanDEMOnium demo with lush vocals reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy In New York." The bass vocal performance, aided by an octave-splitter, is one of my best.
SongNotes A-L
SongNotes A-L

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