Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tales From The Bonus Round: The Package Pt. 2

L.A. MAY 1996

Previous entry: The Package Pt. 1

The knock on the door seems so dramatic in retrospect
But he barely mentioned it in his diary
The Crixivan was just another drug
In a long line of drugs

Another punishment
In a long line of punishments

Instead, he wrote about his friends

A woman he nursed after she got too drunk at the ASCAP Awards

And the strangers
Who were slowly discovering him
And each other
On this new thing: The Internet

About "Bro. Jerry,"
A minister who used his lyrics
Going It Alone
In a sermon
Because a parishioner's son had died of AIDS

A sermon?

It had been years since he had even been inside a church
He thought of himself as the
Worst of the Worst kind of human being
Ashamed and angry and pissed off at churches

Why would a minister use the writings
Of a queer dying of AIDS?
In the pulpit

About meeting, online,
A 20-year old straight boy with AIDS
Named Shawn Decker
The Positoid

He wrote about his ears
Now painfully blocked up

About strangers whose lovers were dying

Locally, his music and his diary were being discovered
LA legend, Al Martinez in the LA Times
Before running it, he mentioned the song
"Are you SURE that was Anson Williams [Potsie]
In the Waiting Room?"

(Later, he would make a primitive video
where he unsuccessfully tries to lip sync.)

It was almost in passing,
That he mentioned the package arriving
The FedEx knock at the dorr
He had almost forgotten about it because
Of mix-ups in the paperwork

Crixivan arrived May 22, 1996

He simply wrote that he had to take it on an empty stomach
And another drug on a full stomach
"..if I take the Crixivan at 6, 2, and 10, then I'd have to eat (and take the Saquinavir) at 7, 3 and 11. LUNCH AT 3? Dinner at 11? But I suppose I could eat lunch at 12, take a snack at 3 with the Saquinavir, dinner at 7, Crixivan at 10, and eat a snack with the Saquinavir at 11..."
But would any of it work?
Nothing had, so far
But he was determined to work it
He was a happily compliant patient

Meanwhile, he was wasting away
Nobody wanted to say it out loud
But he was dying

His doctor decided to put him on TPN
Total Parenteral Nutrition

He was being tortured by a daily friend
The Thing That's Killing Me
(complete with link)
Because his digestive system had just stopped working

He was wearing diapers

TPN, someone said,
Is what they give people just before they die
To give them a few weeks
To say goodbye to friends and relatives

A PICC line insertion into his veins
Which terrified him
Nutrition infused directly into his blood

Meanwhile, the would-be producers of his musical
Are demanding rewrites to the score
Jim was starting on his fourth draft of the book
And they still had no theater and no money

Finally, the PICC line was inserted into his arm
A tube ran up his vein to his heart
He was ready to be fed

Then, a foul-up in his health insurance
He had the line in his arm
But no way to get the food

So, he drove to the agency and,
Sick as a dog, was herded
From one window to the next
Until someone gave him a phone number
"Another phone number?"

His arm throbbed.
His ears were blocked.
His stomach hurt.
His diaper felt moist.
The pay phone didn't work.

He desperately raced home
On the phone, paged through the system
Until he found a human voice
A woman
A voice that actually helped him
He fell in love with her
The nutrition would arrive the next day

Exhausted, his newly-ported arm throbbing,
He laid down to sleep
"I had this really weird dream last night, too. The weirdest I've had in a long time. Some dictator had taken over and we knew him and he wanted something from us. But I didn't have any AIDS meds left so I got sicker and started dying. The weird part is that I smiled at the thought that I'd thwart his plans by dying. I was triumphing in death."
It was his and Jim's 11th anniversary

NEXT: Things start to change. Plus, a little accident in front of Tim Curry.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tales From The Bonus Round: The Package Pt. 1

L.A. 1996

(Read the previous entry here.)


After he got home from
The Last Cruise of His Life
After he had accepted that he was dying
With New infections taking over
Ear infections
Parasites defeating his immune system
All he had left in life was Jim,
Thurber the cat,
Jim’s childhood piano
A Radio Shack cassette of his songs
Recorded by himself in a single hour
And a desire to see his show
Just once

And the Internet
It was a new thing at the time
Like many desperately ill people
Needing help
Needing information about their disease
Needing community
Some trapped alone
Some with an abusive spouse
Some searching for alternative therapies
He went out onto the Net

And just told his story
About just being a patient
How being a patient makes you a nurse

People wanted to hear his healing music
So he gave the Radio Shack cassettes away
He signed and numbered them
“Remember me!” he sang. “I existed!"
He always gave it all away
He’d sing for anyone, anywhere
No matter how sick he felt
And, since he had nothing left to lose
He just told everyone that someday
He’d be in the rock and roll hall of fame

Or win a Tony
But right now, what he wanted most in life
Was to see his musical just once
One time before dying

But he knew little about theatre
He was just a guy with a cassette
It was Jim that made his songs into a musical
And Jim who filled the stage with people
People from the dying man’s life
Created The Last Session

How do you get something like that produced?
His cassette of songs
“the score” they called it
Recorded in a single hour of studio time
Of him singing the songs himself

Where are the orchestrations?
What are the harmonies like?
Which characters sing which songs?

He didn’t know
What he did know was that his ears were blocked
His throat was sore
This stomach hurt
They were burning things off his skin
He had massive diarrhea
He was eating only the BRAT diet

The BRAT diet

And the clock ticked away
Time had made him its numbering clock
He had wasted time
And now did time waste him

NEXT: The knock on the door

Saturday, May 25, 2013

This Weekend is Jim's and my 28th Anniversary.

We are spending it sleeping in front of the TV after doing laundry.

The gay agenda in action!

A Sacred Duty.

She asked me very apologetically, "Would you mind going out to Queens and helping me pick out a piano for my new apartment?"


There is no more sacred duty in all the world.

"They're having a warehouse sale on Steinways in Queens. I hate to ask anyone."


I could try to put my love of pianos into religious terms, but who needs another religion? 

I could try to put my  personal depth of feeling that I have with every single one I've ever played, including the sad, broken piano with only 10 good notes at a youth center in Columbus, Ohio -- or was it Cincinatti? -- where the sad, not yet broken glbt teens lined up to hug a very hubbable Martha because they had never met a mom that loved their gay kid before.

But if I expressed the true depth of my personal feeling about each piano I meet, I would sound like a pervert.

I walk into a room and, if I see a piano, everything else in the room disappears. 

There she sits. A virgin to my fingers. A virgin to my ears. No matter how many men or women she's allowed entry before, I see only an untouched landscape of richly emotional places to finger.

See what I mean? 

But that's actually what I feel. I want to touch her so that she makes a sound. And I want it to be the most tender, honest sound she's ever made.

Every piano is different. A splinter here, a well-worn pad there. All affect her sound. 

And somewhere in the midst of all that is the sweet spot. Where she sounds so much like herself that she is the most beautiful of all. Because no one else will ever sound exactly like that. 

It's perfection.

You feel it in the gut. It's pours from the interior of the instrument as you tune into the perfect set of vibrations. Totally scientific, I'm sure. And yet, something else.

For me, a song is usually born. I want every songwriter after me to know I've been there. Oh, they'll try to co-opt the sound for themselves, but it won't work.

She and I will have made our mark together.

Do you have any idea what "Imagine" sounds like when you're playing John Lennon's Imagine Piano, the most expensive piece of rock memorabilia? Like you never heard it before.

Help her pick out a piano?

Off we went. Rainy day. Since she didn't know I would bring a camera, I won't embarrass her by showing her face. I'll just say that she's a good friend of ours. (Click on pics to enlarge).

 It was a rainy day. We took a taxi over the bridge.

Over the East River. And through winding roads, Steinway & Sons with their old fashioned doorway.

If I get 70 virgins when I die, I want these:

We weren't planning on spending a lot of money, but we couldn't resist playing around on this brand new one. Jane plays! She whipped out a sheet of classical music and totally went to town. Who knew?

 Anyway, we were going from piano to piano, just trying each one out. Some we hated. It was a mix of off-brand pianos like Boston or Essex,made by Steinway, inexpensive for beginners. I found one of the Boston pianos to be quite adequate for her purpose; enough to fill her new apartment on the east side.

Then, as she was playing, we heard other pianos being played. One sounded pretty good. We looked around and saw it was a kid about 11 years of age with his mom. We asked her if it would be okay if he played the Steinway, partly because he actually was good, but also because Jane couldn't hear it if he was playing another piano elsewhere. The cacophony was too Ivesian.


It was the best day ever.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How To Host A Party Full Of Celebrities.

Charlotte Rae poses next to an image of herself from an old "Car 54, Where Are You?"
Not that you want that. But if you do, we stumbled onto the secret.

Myself, living in the bonus round, since I don't know when the bell will go off, I am trying to meet all the people I have admired over my lifetime. So, getting them all into the same room is a great shortcut.

So how did we do it? We aren't famous ourselves except among a few theater folk. And we certainly are not wealthy. So, how did we do it?

It all happened by accident. We invited a friend over and told him to ask a few friends to join us.

First of all, it helps to know at least one celebrity. Being in show business your whole life, you're going to meet some celebrities (not that celebrities are the be-all and end-all of anything -- in fact, usually they aren't; they're just people who got famous for one reason or another, but this post is about celebrities and we've been asked, so here it goes).

In our case, Jim has been around theater all his life. It also helped that our three Off-Broadway shows were popular in New York among entertainers, getting great reviews and even a few awards here and there. So, that gives us a little bit of a leg up.

The first one happened when we became friend with Robert Osborne. You know him even if you don't know his name. He's on TV every single day as the host on Turner Classic Movies. Bob is a great person. Smart, kind, knowledgeable and beloved. Somehow or other, he saw one of our shows, probably Zero Hour, and we became friends.

But, he travels around the country a lot and, until recently, was in New York very infrequently. When he did get into town, he struggled to see all his New York friends. So, we told him one time, just off the top of our heads, "Why don't you let us have a small reception at our apartment and you invite all your friends that you want to see? That way you don't have to run all over town. You can see them all in one place."

And he did.

The next thing you know, Angela Lansbury and a host of other people are standing at our front door.

Another great friend is Charlotte Rae, who also became a fan of our work. Charlotte lives primarily in Los Angeles. A year or two ago, it was her birthday, so we invited her to have her birthday party here and just invite all her friends. Soon, we were packed with celebrities, all having a drink and dipping hummus and chatting like magpies.

We repeated this for Charlotte this past Monday night when she was in town. Since it was her party, we let her control the guest list. This way, if any of our own friends felt left out, it wasn't our fault. We weren't doing the inviting!

Charlotte Rae with Steve Schalchlin.
Broadway star Annie Russell, Alicia Stein (widow of composer Joe Stein),
renowned photographer Margery Gray Harnick & legendary lyricist Sheldon Harnick.
Broadway legend Lee Roy Reams with Jim Brochu.
Charlotte Rae with my doctor, Anthony Urbina, MD.

Dance legend Marge Champion with Charlotte Rae.
Radio and TV personality Frank DeCaro with partner, Jim Colucci with Jim Brochu.

Jim Brochu with Cagney & Lacey star, Tyne Daly
"All My Children" star Jennifer Bassey, Jim Brochu, actress ("Tootsie") Barbara Spiegel.

Tyne Daly, Charlotte Rae,
singing legend Marilyn Maye (who holds the record for most appearances on Johnnie Carson Show).

Actor/comedian Taylor Negron.
Jim Colucci, Marilyn Maye, Frank DeCaro.

Famed musical director and pianist David Lewis, Broadway Tony winner Karen Ziemba, Lee Roy Reams.

Tony nominee Tony Sheldon with world famous singer/songwriter Steve Schalchlin.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm So Mean.

I was really mean to Kim Kardashian in my previous post about the Celebrity Nullification Game. I'm sure she's a very nice lady. I think I'm just allowing her to embody the kind of TV celebrity most of us love to hate. Hey! They put themselves out there. Jeering from the sidelines is part of the show, isn't it?

So I was mean. But it totally subverts my angelic sweet guy image.

In acting class, I learned that I've not been speaking with my real voice. That what I think is my real voice actually sounds like a phony voice and me speaking in very low tones is actually my real voice which sounds like my fake voice (to me). It's a trick that played by your cranium.

That's why we hate recordings of our own voice.

So, I need to find my true voice! It's so weird to think that my real voice is not my real voice, but a phony voice that's hiding the real voice.

Today, we were at a memorial service for a Broadway actor named Kevin Gray. I didn't know him. But there's a kind of communal spirit in theater that's similar to church. Traditions they hang onto that tell them who they are. These memorial services are done sparsely. Usually in an afternoon. By permission or even a donation by the theater owners and performers. No one is ever "introduced" before coming onto the stage. They just come to the mic and speak: co-actors, friends, family.

The story they told of Kevin was that he was a most fearless and powerful singer/actor/dancer who changed a lot of people's lives in the theater by being a generous actor, and hilarious and fiercely professional. The stunning revelation was a video of him with Marie Osmond in The King and I. She was fantastic! And there's a clip where she talks about how he really just made her so comfortable. In the clip, I saw it. The way his King was more aggressive in taking Anna's waist. Pulling her closely with a strong jerk. Taking control. Brilliant.

When your entire life depends on going from show to show, stage to stage, as a gypsy, you find these rare people who simply make you happier because you get to be around them. A community is passed on, one person at a time. His death was shocking. A heart problem. He was still young and about to go into teaching, and he dropped dead shoveling show.

The heartbreak in the room was palpable. This was one of the good guys.

While waiting for Jim, who was having lunch with his Character Man team over a bowl of soup at the Polish Tea Room, I paced in front of the Majestic Theater, and like a prayer, recited my Richard II scene in my low voice. I sent Jonathan Marro an email about it and he said he was also practicing his very low tones. We're both looking for our real voice and we're gonna find it.
I wasted time and now doth time waste me
For now hath time made me his numbering clock
Yes! Do it now! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Celebrity Nullification Game.

Celebrity Nullification, the game. My new favorite game in this overly-connected world.

THE RULE: Identify a particularly obnoxious, untalented and ubiquitous celebrity while they're on the rise and then avoid ever hearing them speak until their celebrity cycle has run its course.

A perfect celebrity example would have been Paris Hilton, but I wasn't playing the game back when she was famous for doing nothing.

So, you have to be ready with the remote because they're likely to appear on commercials, the Internet, their own manufactured reality shows or talk shows.

If you ever hear their voice, even one time, you lose the game.

The current celebrity: Kim Kardashian.

I have never heard this woman's voice, nor have I watched a single second of her on TV except through imitators on Saturday Night Live. So, the only Kim Kardashian I know is the one making fun of her.

They almost caught me when I saw her face pop up on a commercial for California -- really? They think people will want to vacation in California because Kim Kardashian told them to? But I managed to hit the mute button on the remote just in time.

I have never seen one second of her TV shows. I do not wish to "Keep Up..." with her or her ridiculous family members. And it's amazing how the world looks when you see the face and body plastered on the cover of almost every grocery store check-out stand magazine and you still have no idea who she is or why she's famous -- and that becomes part of the game, too.

To figure out why is she famous. What does she do? I still don't quite know since I only know her through tabloid headlines.

She is also, apparently, a vampire.
Apparently, she's famous for her ass and is obsessed with being "pretty."

She has a mother who is competing with her for attention and is terribly jealous. Sisters who may or may not be going through the horror of being fatter than she is and who are also competing for attention.

She either hates her big ass or is proud of it. She is pregnant by some rich and famous entertainer of some kind and is going through all kinds of angst over her newly ballooned body. One week she hates it. The next week she's showing it off.

She is also, apparently, ridiculously stupid and untalented.

Our first Celebrity Nullification object happened by accident. It was when we were flooded with some celebrity on a show called "Kate Plus 8." It was a mother with 8 kids. And we could tell just from the flood of publicity we were not going to like this person, who seemed to be getting more airplay than anyone in the US -- for no apparent reason other than she had 8 kids and was divorcing her husband.

We hadn't necessarily intended to nullify her. It just kind of happened. She was suddenly everywhere and we didn't know why. Then we decided we never wanted to know why and started flipping the channel whenever she was announced to be on something.

Finally, though, I lost the game when I accidentally heard her while flipping past a talk show called The View. She was a co-host and I heard her voice.



And now she's gone from the airwaves. If I could have just held on a little longer, I might have made it through her entire celebrity cycle.

If any of you are inadvertently playing the Celebrity Nullification Game, please let me know which celebrity you are nullifying. I'd love to know I'm not alone.

Manhattan Video Diary -- April 2013 Pt. 2

A walk up Broadway from Union Square. A bus ride to the United Nations building, a trip out to Coney Island for a fundraiser and much more!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Inside Every Piano Is A Song

Inside every piano is a song
A song only this piano can play
There's a soul of the guy who got drunk one night
Or the girl who threw up in his lap
A songwriter pounding the last songs before he dies
That spinster in her turn of the century dress

A barefoot kid just noodling around

A wannabe Bernstein
A wannabe John Lennon
A wannabe
A wannabe Next

And all these people
Remain in the strings by the small damages
Each one does during the playing
A loosening of a peg
Wear on the moving parts
Each person hurts it a little
But it all adds up to a sound
Based on woulds
And a sound is a soul
And soul is a sound

I actually believe this

People are constantly asking me what I believe
I believe this

That there is a song in every piano
And if I don't find its song
I might miss out on having written
the Song
The song that will heal the world


Over on the west side of manhattan
She is waiting for me
She does not know I'm coming
We have flirted with each other
We have even slightly kissed

But she will not remember me
She will never remember me
And she will have been with many others

Church girls
And folk guys in their cut-off jeans
And hairy chins
Jazz pros in porkpies
Classical students with backpacks

And yet, when I saw her,
It was like she'd been forgotten
Stuck in a corner in a tiny booth

All for $125 per hour


They asked if I wanted her tuned
NO! For god's sake
And suck out all the soul?

She's been pounded, beaten, stroked, massaged
Felt covered mallets, dampers and pedals
Like driving a car
Like riding a bike
I even brought songs to get her started

Inside every piano is a song
That only it can play
A sound that only it could make
And I look for the sweet spot

It may be anywhere on the keyboard
But when I find it
When the vibrations in that spot start to line up
In that way that makes my body feel
Suddenly cleansed
Like a river of woodsound
Pouring into my lap
And up into my body

A song gets born
Because the sound begets the song
And those two beget a generation
Of still breeding vibrations
And those vibrations make more vibrations
And it's all specific to her
The imperfections are what make her beautiful

I've played the Antarctic Suite
On many pianos
But it only truly sounds like itself
On the lounge piano of a certain ship
At 7am approaching Antarctica

And Connected
On Jim's old piano now in residence
In Southern California
In the home of a treasured family


So when I sit with you
My virgin bride
My job's to find the sweet spot
The spot that makes you jump
Right into my skin

let us find each other in the dark
I'll be there on the 15th

And I'll bring the $125 per hour
You won't remember me when I'm gone
But the others will know I was there


"I've booked two hours and I'm going to record an entire album." I said to choir members this past Sunday morning, some of whom looked at me like I was some kind of nut -- and others who gave me a knowing smile, like "Yeah. It's about time."

The normal procedure for making an album is you spend hours and hours on each track, adding things, multiple takes, etc. working feverishly to process every bit of sound until it sounds and feels machine-made. It costs gajillions of dollars and me standing in a vocal booth, walled off from humanity. (Some a genius at it. I'm like a statue.)

So, I'm going to simply sit at this piano and get to know her.

Whenever I walk into a room with piano, I have to put my hands on her. I have to play something. I can feel this physical excitement coming from my mid-section. The vibrations of a piano -- string against wood -- bathe you. Embrace you.

So, he's gonna hit the ON button and I'll start playing. And we won't stop between takes unless I just need a break.

The songs from this album will have been written for various projects, but have mostly been sung by others, such as the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and various singers (internationally!) who write and request material.

I wanted to find the most personal of these and do a definitive "Steve" recording, if only for myself, to remind myself what they sound like in their purest form.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Manhattan Video Diary - April 2013 Pt. 1

A great story about Milton Berle, a little Marilyn Monroe from them who was there, and meet my foot doctor plus lots of Manhattan and Jim and Steve take their daily exercise.

But we start with a cat in a pizza box.

Jim Brochu sings with the Great Marilyn Maye

This was completely improvised. Billy Stritch on piano. Marilyn Maye is a national treasure. They were raising money for Zani's Furry Friends, a pet rescue group.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Landfill Harmonic.

This is the kind of thing that brings tears to my eyes and takes my breath away.

One New Hell (the original).

I received a request through Facebook yesterday by a guy named Nick Pierce, had posted a youtube of "Save Me A Seat" on his wall.
Hi steve it was great finding you! I just had to post that song on my wall. I found it looking for one that was not in the Last session but was on a CD i got at a performance of Living In The Bonus Round before it transformed in The Last Session. I had the cd up until about 5 years ago and i have not been able to find the song. 
a line in the song goes..."I'm living one new hell after another...."
So, I went back through my folders, looking for "One New Hell" and was unable to find it. I thought it was on the Bonus Round Sessions CD, but it wasn't there. And then I remembered...

First of all, "One New Hell" was featured in "The Big Voice: God or Merman." But it was a rewrite of the earlier version, which is the one he was talking about -- which was featured on the very first CD I released called "Living in the Bonus Round with Steve S. and Friends."

Only 1000 copies of that CD were made and quickly sold or given away. It was a quickie I threw together even before the first NY production of The Last Session, using whatever demos I had lying around at the time. A few of those tracks were repackaged when I re-recorded most of the main songs, and added a bunch more, the CD that became The Bonus Round Sessions. (This is what you get when you are your own record label and everything is homemade -- stuff gets lost).

I looked everywhere for that version, and finally found it on the last pristine copy of that initial CD in the big bag of stuff that producer Carl White gave us last month. You can see it in the video diary from March 2013. I even mention in the video, when it popped up that I didn't have a copy of that CD.

And there it was. Wow! I had forgotten all about how blazing hot this performance is. I was all over that piano. It's a hard rocking song -- and the original lyric was based on an essay by a punk rocker named Billy Valentine in San Francisco about his time as a hustler/drug addict. I tried searching for him online, but to no avail.

Amy Coleman also recorded a version of this when we did the TLS-Souvenir CD featuring the L.A. cast, speaking of blazing hot.

I don't know why I left it off the repackaged Bonus Round Sessions. I guess I just thought it wasn't relevant to what was going on, or we had run out of space.

So, for you, reader, if you are interested here is a link to a download of the original ONE NEW HELL. Enjoy!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Think-piece on sitting at a piano alone and just playing music.

Yesterday, I sat at the piano, cleared my mind, and just started playing songs in no particular order. Jim had gone out to see Mark Nadler's new show at the York -- a last minute invitation and I was too exhausted from a long day of walking and socializing with some friends.

So, he went off to see it (and said it was fantastic). I knew Mark Nadler way back when, doing piano bars in the Village, a job for which I was not suited but wasn't bad at. At long as people could talk and drink, I was fine to have in a corner. Mark was more ambitious. I had no idea how be a night club entertainer. Did I mention Jim said it's great?

So, I was home. I watched a bunch of "Arrows" episodes, which put me in a zen mood and then I went to our little upright -- or, rather, Sylvia's upright. Barbara Spiegel's mother. She lived here until she died. Barbara says she would love knowing her piano is being used and sung around.

Knowing I'm going to be singing "Rescue" and "Lazarus Come Out" on Saturday, I started with them. Cindy Marchionda, from my acting class wrote me and said she wanted to be part of the Bonus Round Band that night. She asked, "How many are there?"

I said, "I don't know. Maybe just you and me."

That morning, I had worked out a duet arrangement for us and revised a "Lazarus" score. She'll lead the audience plus anyone else who comes to be in the band. (She didn't know she'd be the band leader. Never volunteer for anything; they may make you do something). So, I knew I needed to review those changes.

We're gonna turn "Rescue" into a love ballad. Not change any words. Just have a little fun with the animalistic imagery. And "Lazarus," it needs a new score. I've learned so much with Mark Janas as my musical mentor. Now I can look at it and know exactly how to write out the score.

But I didn't want to think about any of that.

I wanted, last night, to return to the original source. Open my heart and sing whatever came into my head. That's what I did with The Last Session. Over and over. And I still love singing those songs. They've become richer and more meaningful to me over time. I will sing them until I die (again).

And I didn't want to think about "shows." I wanted to play the songs that turned me on the most. And I'd know them because they'd be the ones to rise to my consciousness as I finish the current one. But that was my starting point.

Rescue -- and because we're making it a medley -- play a segue right into "Lazarus." Which, when I tried it, worked beautifully. Rescue is in E, so the B is common to the key of G, which is where we're going to get to "Lazarus." So, instead of playing an E chord at the end of "Rescue," I played a G chord, downshifting into the octave pulse in the left hand.

I thought about the show. That's how we'll do it. Easy.

Then, I sang it and tried to forget about Saturday's show. I am singing "Lazarus," but I"m thinking, "What song do I want to play next?"

Then I remembered "The Craving."

"The Craving" is a very dark song. It's about addiction. But there's something in the music that haunts me, and it reaches some very deep levels of sadness, which made me think of "Dead Inside."

Suddenly, I'm Tom Waits, I guess. Can't find the downside of low.

There I go again. For my next song, the Downside of Low by Roy Orbison.

Rescue Lazarus Come Out

The Craving
Dead Inside

Well, as long as we're in hell, we might as well go for the jugular.

Holy Dirt

Holy Dirt, the anti-hymn. The place where everyone dies. Now, normally, in New World Waking, we would go into "Lazarus Come Out." But I've already sung it and Holy Dirt is so very D-flat. I love D-flat. What else do I have in D-flat. And there it was, like a gift from above.

At A Hospice, In the Atrium

The sound of sadness. The comforting sound of letting it all go. Of being nothing. 

Richard II: No man with nothing shall be pleased until he be eased by being nothing.

"Hospice" ends on a healing note. So, time for change of pace. 

Franco Ate The Paperwork
He’s Coming Back

My Thanksgiving Prayer
War By Default

And then I got tired of not remembering the words to War By Default. So, went back and sang "Rescue" so review the changes. It'll be nice doing it as a duet.

That was the approximate order, at least as how I could reconstruct it. I didn't turn on anything to tape it nor did I stop and take notes. This was just what I wanted to hear at that moment. I was actually surprised that there were so many.

"Franco" and "War By Default" are from New World Waking. I was shaky because I couldn't remember all the words, but what was interesting to me, as a musician, was how I jammed on the music instead of playing them as written out in the piano part of the score.

This used to intimidate me when I was making the transition from singer/songwriter to "composer." How I never played any song the same way twice, because I've always played according to how I felt at any given moment. The emotion would color which octave I'd play in, and the tempo. 

And I felt this put me at a disadvantage in the world of theater because the goal there is to write down something very specifically for the musician/accompanist who is looking at it for the first time. In bands, we just wrote down chords. And you can do that, to a certain extent in score music, but for the most part, the more specific about which note, where, the better a chance that it will be played in a way that won't make you cringe.

A choir or chorus needs specificity.

I felt like a bit of an idiot when I began with TLS. I didn't know how to write any of it down except for the most rudimentary notes and chord symbols. And in that first workshop run, on Melrose Avenue I didn't "arrange" the vocals. We just made them up on the spot.

Then, one day, you wake up and someone says, "The producers would like to see a score."

Gulp. I don't think I had ever even seen the score to a show, much less have the knowledge to write it out to professional standards.

So, when others came along and began arranging and playing and changing things, I was utterly lost. Even if I didn't like something, I didn't know how to tell them what was wrong or how to do it right. And I'm not blaming them. This is what was in my own head. I was an amateur to the process -- and I was dying, a not insignificant part of the story. 

We didn't have time to teach me four years of music theory.

But, before all that. Before The Last Session was even conceived as a "show," there was just me at a piano playing what came to me with no rules, no expectations. They came from me in a flow. 

They were nothing. Just songs I had to write. Like any of another million gazillion songwriters. 

But they were things I need to say. Things I needed to express, and all I had was my mind, my voice (which is really the whole body) and my piano. (We always picture "throat" when we write "voice," but the voice comes from the whole body).

Just songs that I had to write. Songs I needed to write. Songs that, when I was in the pocket, actually heated me up from the inside. A furnace fires up when I'm just playing what comes when I think no one is watching.

When I go into the studio on the 15th, even though there will a guy at the board, and maybe a friend of two, I'm going to try to get into that head space and just play it like I'm feeling it. Shut out the rest of the world and just go in. Feel for the inner heat and then follow it like a puppy dog.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

First New Bonus Round Recording Session, May 15.

I feel like Gideon in The Last Session. I have now booked a studio for two hours, two weeks from yesterday.

Two hours with John Kilgore in his studio here in Manhattan. We met briefly yesterday when I went over to check out the piano, a deliciously seasoned Yamaha grand. John, a veteran on the New York scene, knows all about live studio recording, so the plan is to be relaxed and just get a real performance.

He asked if I wanted it freshly tuned. Oh hell no. Absolutely not! And kill all the soul?

It's tucked into a corner of the studio. I sat down. Started playing Db chords. Actually, I was playing "At A Hospice, In An Atrium." The sound was rich and full and loose. Yummy.

At some point, I'm definitely going to invite a Bonus Round Choir. But, perhaps, for this first session, since it's only two hours, and this is a new environment for me, that might be asking too much. Or maybe not. Like I'm going to try to control this? Oh hell no. Absolutely not!

Now to choose a song. "Atrium" is the one that is calling out to me, but that may be because it's probably the newest-ish. But I really want to play and sing "Holy Dirt." Or "Lazarus Come Out!"


Wednesday, May 01, 2013